Archive for the ' General Election' Category


CON leads moves to 15% with ComRes online while Corbyn sees 10% drop in his favourability ratings

Saturday, November 21st, 2015


Con 42% (NC)
Lab 27% (-2)
LD 7% (NC)
UKIP 15% (+2)
Green 3% (NC)
SNP 5% (NC)
Other 1% (NC)

And Osbo’s leadership hopes take another blow

The ComRes leader ratings paint a very different picture from that which we saw from Ipsos earlier in the week. This is down to the question. ComRes ask favourability questions while the Ipsos-MORI rating relates to leader satisfaction. The latter found 28% of 2015 CON voters saying they are satisfied with Corbyn – a number which is very telling in itself.

George Osborne has the second worst rating of a UK politician at a net minus 19%. If his hopes of replacing Dave are to be realised then those figures have to improve markedly. Boris continues to dominate.

Only half of Labour voters view Jeremy Corbyn favourably (53%) – this compares to 85% of Conservative voters viewing David Cameron favourably.

40% say LAB MPs should oust Corbyn

What could be worrying is that when asked “Labour MPs should remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party” 40% of those sampled said yes with 31% disagreeing, Of LAB voters 20% say their leader of just ten weeks should be ousted against 56% who say he shouldn’t.

The sample was split 39-39 on whether they trusted Dave to keep them and their family safe. This was in sharp contrast to Corbyn where only 17% said they trusted him on this and 58% said they didn’t.

Overall a very poor poll for LAB and its new leader.

Mike Smithson


Pre “adjustment” ICM has LAB and CON level-pegging – after it the Tories are 6% ahead

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

After “adjustment” Con 39 (+1) Lab 33 (-1) UKIP 12 (+1) LD 7 (nc)

In a note of explanation the pollster observes:

It should be noted, however, that the raw data shows substantive change which our newly strengthened adjustment process disguises. Based on (pre-adjusted) turnout weighted data, the parties are neck and neck, which the manual adjustment converts into a 6-point Conservative lead.

This is due to unusual combination of three factors. Firstly, the sample recalls voting in a Labour government for the fourth time out of six occasions since the last election (which is frustrating, but not the unusual part) but secondly, the level of partial refusal (respondents who told us what they did in 2015 but don’t know/refuse to tell us what they would do next time) this month has cut into the Conservative share significantly. In previous polls subsequent to the General Election, partial refusers have been fairly evenly balanced between the two parties.

Thirdly, the Conservatives are rounded up from 38.5% to 39%, and Labour rounded down from 34.4% to 34%.

In short, the adjustment has offset potential sampling imbalance and has worked to correct data outcomes in exactly the way we intended them to in light of the General Election polling miss.”

We’ll get the first details of inquiry into the GE2015 polling failure on January 19th.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s power within LAB will soon hinge on perceptions of his likely general election performance

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn

He needs to look like a potential winner not a loser

For the moment at least Mr Corbyn’s authority within the Labour Party derives directly from the sheer scale of his victory in the leadership election in September. His winning margin, of course, was even greater than that of Tony Blair’s in 1994.

So whenever questions are raised as is inevitable within the Parliamentary Labour Party given his lack of support there, his team will point to the September voting figures to assert his authority. That will not always be the case.

    For the hard fact is that leaders derive their authority as we get closer to elections from the perception of what that is going to bring.

We saw that during the last parliament with Ed Miliband. Although there were fears that his voter appeal, and therefore Labour’s because of the importance of the leader, might not be as great as the polls were suggesting the voting numbers remained mostly positive. There were rumblings at times during Miliband’s leadership but it was always hard to make the case that things would be better with someone else.

That was unlike Iain Duncan Smith in the Conservative party in 2003. IDS had looked a mistake from the moment he became leader two days after 9/11 in 2001 and never really established any authority. The question was always when he would be ousted not if.

Or look earlier to the dramatic events exactly 25 years ago when Mrs Thatcher looked like a general election loser – a perception reinforced by her party’s defeat in the Eastbourne by-election the previous month. The Tories looked as though they would lose the following election and she had to go.

Fortunately for Mr Corbyn the Labour Party has never had the stomach, for leader defenestrations. Also the rules make it hard. Look at how Gordon Brown was able to to carry on.

Whether that remains the case is hard to say but a leader that looks as though he can’t win is always going to face challenges. With the voting intention polls now having much less influence other indicators like leader ratings and by-elections take on a greater importance.

Mr Corbyn needs a good result in Oldham a fortnight on Thursday.

Mike Smithson


Electoral pacts: the siren voice of destruction for Labour

Saturday, November 14th, 2015


Q Nothing else would so effectively combine surrender with contempt for the electorate

Parties that do badly at elections should always reflect on why that was the case. It’s not an easy question to ask because almost certainly there’ll be tough answers, if the question’s answered honestly. In all probability, those answers will include ‘our campaign was ineffective’, ‘the public did not support our policies’, ‘we did not look credible as a government / force of opposition’, ‘our record in government is disadvantageous’, and the like. Such answers invite blame. One way to avoid that risk is to place the blame elsewhere: misled or selfish voters, rival parties ‘cheating’ (morally, if not in fact); above all, a ‘system’ rigged against them.

So rather than try to address the real causes of failure, parties or their supporters indulge in the distraction of trying to counter-rig the system in their favour. After all, correcting an existing bias must be fair mustn’t it? And it’s in that tradition that Nat Le Roux’s suggestion that Labour should form an anti-Tory electoral pact for 2020 is, like so many similar ideas before it, a grand self-deception.

There are so many errors of analysis in the prescription that it’s difficult to know where to start, but these are the main reasons why Labour would be mad to even consider it:

It’s a surrender

Trying to arranging a pact would be an explicit admission that Labour could not win on its own terms; not now and not in the foreseeable future. Le Roux in fact states this outright. It would be giving up on ever running the country again. It is to essentially write off Scotland and consign Scottish Labour to the bin (because if the SNP were to be given a free run there for Westminster, on Labour’s behalf – see below – then how on earth does Scottish Labour fight as relevant for Holyrood, or for Scottish councils?).

The split vote on the left is a myth

The idea of an anti-Tory majority is one of the biggest deceptions in British politics because it’s true. There is indeed an anti-Tory majority. There’s also an anti-Labour one, an anti-UKIP one, and anti-Lib Dem one, and so on. There’s nothing particularly special about the anti-Tory one. In fact, one of the reasons there is currently a majority Conservative government is that the anti-SNP majority was effectively mobilised in England. To lump UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens in together as a ‘broad-left’ coalition is stretching terminology beyond usefulness. Can we really imagine Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett sitting round the cabinet table together? One suspects that Le Roux knows this but can only make his case if he includes UKIP and their 3.9m votes within his stable. In reality, had the election been held under PR and resulted in the MPs in his table, Britain would in all probability now have a Con-UKIP coalition with DUP support. Even to include the Lib Dems in the column is pushing it, considering their record in coalition-forming.

Other parties would demand a high price

Le Roux also errs when he only considers the arguments just in terms of benefitting Labour or voting reform. To make a viable pact, Labour would have to gain the support of the other parties; parties which have their own priorities and independence. To make sacrificing that independence worthwhile, they would have to be given a very high price. The SNP could reasonably expect a free run in every seat they already hold, plus, presumably, something like devolving referendum powers and FFA to Holyrood. What would UKIP’s price be? A guaranteed referendum on the EU, perhaps, but also a clear run not only in seats where they challenge the Conservatives (of which there aren’t that many), and in a decent number where they were second to Labour. In other words, Labour would have to sacrifice perhaps a dozen or more seats to bring them on board. The challenges of bringing the Greens or Lib Dems into the camp might, if anything, be even higher.

Voters cannot be so easily corralled

And even if by some miracle, the party leaderships could agree on seat allocations (which notwithstanding everything else, the new boundaries would make even harder), the fact remains that voters are not there to be corralled like counters on a board. They have their own minds. One feature of British politics since WWII has been how Con and Lab votes have declined in parallel. When there were only two parties, they polled about 50% each, give or take floating voters. They now poll about 30-35% each. If Britain were to revert back to just two sides, what is to prevent those that don’t like the ‘rainbow coalition’ / ‘herd of cats in a thunderstorm’ from slipping over to the Blue side of the divide and restoring something approximating to parity? Former Lib Dem voters might prefer Con to, say, UKIP; former swing voters who went Labour might prefer Con to, say, Green; unionist Labour might go SCon rather than SNP; former Green voters might well abstain rather than back anyone else. And so on.

The precedent would be hard to break

Le Roux advocates the pact as a one-off but the reality is that once formed it would have a dynamic of its own. Scotland, as already mentioned, is something of a special case but if Labour did have to sacrifice perhaps another thirty seats elsewhere to bring in UKIP, the Lib Dems and Greens, then they would be writing off the chances of a future outright win under FPTP for ever. If they lost in 2020, the logic of maintaining the pact for 2025 would be just as strong, and Labour’s self-weakened baseline would make it all the more necessary. Of course, under the PR that Le Roux advocates, it would be far harder for anyone to win outright meaning that Labour would always be reliant on smaller parties.

What would the coalition be for?

It’s all very well fighting the Tories and opposing what they do in government but suppose the coalition did win. What would it do in power? How does it keep its component parts together and focussed on a common policy? What would education policy be? What about tax, borrowing and spending? International aid? Trident? Alternative medicine? And so on. Even if the parties could campaign independently, they couldn’t govern as such.

It takes Labour’s eye off the ball

In reality, such a coalition is an unobtainable objective. Furthermore, unless it all happens, none of it happens. To the extent that the logic fits together, it only works if all the anti-Tory parties join; if only two or three do, the smaller ones run the risk of seeing their ‘not the other two’ votes slip off to the independent minor parties (and this might happen even if all those named did join – there’d still be others). The dynamic would be that of the National Liberals.

However, for all the parties, there’s a bigger risk. All this navel-gazing would take their collective eyes from what the government’s doing. Simply trying to put the coalition together would involve so much arguing between leaderships, and between front-benches and back-benches, about what their own policy line was that the government would have policies enacted before the opposition had their amendments ready. Lib Dems of a certain age no doubt recall the many hours wasted deciding which of the Liberals and SDP should contest Little Maltingham South and which Little Maltingham North.

But Le Roux has ended in the wrong place because he’s started in the wrong place. His assumption that Labour can’t reach office without the support of the smaller parties is simply wrong: Labour has been in a worse state before and has come back. There is no reason it cannot do so again with the right personnel and policies. His argument is defeatist, it takes the electorate and other parties for granted, and misreads the dynamics of how politics works. Labour has made some bad decisions over the last decade but this strategy, were it adopted, would outweigh them all.

David Herdson


This week’s PB/Polling Matters Podcast explores what it’s like being a losing candidate

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Getting there but not quite

On this week’s edition of the PB / Polling Matters podcast we explore what it’s like running for parliament. Keiran speaks to two unsuccessful candidates from 2015 and asks about their experiences, the pressures they faced and why they thought Labour lost.

About this week’s guests:

Russell Whiting stood in Suffolk Coastal and works as a political advisor for an NGO. You can follow Russell on twitter at @Russell_Whiting

James Frith stood in Bury North and runs his own business ‘All Together’ which provides career advice for secondary school children. You can follow James at @JamesFrith

You can folllow Keiran on Twitter here.


Donald Brind wonders whether Mr. Corbyn really wants to be PM

Friday, November 13th, 2015


An opposition leader’s primary objective should be Number 10

I was rather excited by the recent launch of BBC Store which opens up, for sale and download, a treasure trove programmes dating back to the fifties. My first foray was, however, unsuccessful. I got the message  “Unfortunately, your search didn’t return any results. The title may not be on BBC Store yet. However, we are adding more programmes every day, so please check back soon.” I certainly will.

What I was looking for was The Boys from the Blackstuff, Alan Bleasdale’s brilliant account of the hunt for work on Merseyside in the Thatcher era. I wanted to recommend to Jeremy Corbyn the line from Yosser Hughes, played by Bernard Hill: “Go on, I can do that. Gissa job?”.

When he looks across the despatch box in the Commons Corbyn would be justified in thinking that, for all his bluster, David Cameron isn’t very good at his day job. The sheer ignorance of the effects of his own government’s policies revealed by his row with the Ian Hudspeth Tory leader of Oxfordshire County Council was breathtaking. The county which includes Cameron’s Witney constituency has lost half its grant funding over the past five years. Many Labour councils have suffered far worse. Cuts are “counter productive” says the Prime Minister. You bet they are.

But when he looks in the mirror in the morning does Corbyn see a future Prime Minister? Does he actually want the job? Could he get it?

Yes, he could, says James Meadway, the Corbyn supporting chief economist at the New Economics Foundation.  He’s convinced there is another crash coming although he’s not sure when. Austerity, he says, is dragging down demand and “it’s private sector borrowing that is increasingly keeping the show on the road…. Throw in the productivity slump, a yawning current account deficit, and rumblings from Greece to China and you’re looking at crash in waiting. If the opposition is organised when it happens, it can win.”

For many of Corbyn’s detractors that’s a big “if”. And Meadway himself adds “Could win is a very long way from will win. The uncertainties are enormous.”But does Jeremy Corbyn believe Meadway? I stand to be corrected but I have never heard or read him laying claim to No 10. I have yet to hear him say anything like “I’m Jeremy Corbyn and I want to be Prime Minister — so I can make Britain a better place and help create a more peaceful world”.
It would, of course, horrify the majority of his front and back bench colleagues at Westminster if he did say it. They soldier on in the hope they will go into the 2020 election under a different leader.

But if he does want to be Prime Minister it would involve Corbyn changing his approach to leadership.

For instance, he would recognise that appointments to his private office are not a personal affair. They have an impact on the wider party. Take Andrew Fisher. I actually have a rather charitable view of the youthful political adviser, who has been suspended for allegedly supporting another candidate against Emily Benn in South Croydon in May.
Phrases like “we were all young once” and “there but for the grace of god” come to mind. In the late 60s we had a rather embarrassing Labour MP in my hometown Northampton. Sir Reginald Paget was best known for his support of the white settlers in what was then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Who knows what trouble I might have got into if I’d had the temptations of a Twitter?

I don’t know if Fisher has ever stood for election but what he doesn’t seem to understand is that being a parliamentary candidate involves a huge commitment of time, emotion, energy and cash. I bumped into Emily Benn a few times during the General Election. She was taking time out from her own campaign in the safe Tory seat and doing what loyal party members do — helping out in the adjoining ultra marginal. And she would have shared in the disappointment of the narrow defeat in Croydon Central. There were plenty of other great abour candidates who suffered a similar fate in key marginals. Defeat was a bruising experience for them and their campaign teams.

The young Mr Fisher might not get that. His boss should.


Donald Brind


REMAIN drops 2 in new Survation poll for UKIP donor Aaron Banks Leave.EU

Friday, November 13th, 2015

UKIP youth

The first referendum poll since Cameron’s EU letter

REMAIN 38%-2
LEAVE 43% nc
DK 19% +2

For the first time in two months there’s an EU referendum poll which has OUT in the lead. It was carried out by Survation for the Aaron Banks Leave.EU organisation which is bidding to be the officially recognised referendum campaign against staying in the EU.

Fieldwork for the poll was carried out after David Cameron’s formal move earlier in the week setting out parameters for the negotiation.

The last published Survation referendum poll was for the Mail on Sunday in early September and the changes shown above are with that survey.

The findings would probably have carried more weight if the survey hadn’t been commissioned by Leave.EU but Survation assure me that this had no impact on their approach.

It will be interesting to see if the trend is shown in the next ICM weekly referendum tracker or other surveys that hopefully will come out in the coming days.

What is puzzling about the EU referendum polling is the huge gap between the surveys like this one, which were carried out online and those – ComRes and Ipsos – where the fieldwork is by phone. The latter has had big REMAIN leads all in double figures.

There was also a Survation Westminster voting intention finding that has UKIP moving up.

CON 36% -2
LAB 30% -2
UKIP 15% +2
LD 7% +1
GRN 3% (-1)

Mike Smithson


Antifrank on the impact of the big Lords Individual electoral registration vote

Saturday, October 31st, 2015


It could be more significant than tax credits

The House of Lords revolt on tax credits has got a huge amount of attention.  Less newsworthy, because it didn’t succeed, was an attempt in the House of Lords to delay the introduction of individual electoral registration by 12 months beyond the government’s proposed timetable.  The implications of that vote, however, may be more far-reaching.  What effect will it have?

This post is going to be both long and technical.  That is unavoidable, I’m afraid.

What’s new?

As a nation, we are moving to a system where each voter is personally responsible for registering to vote individually.  The initial gathering of the data was undertaken in 2014, but no names were removed from the register for the general election this year without it being positively verified that it was correct to do so.  The verification process is ongoing and by June this year the number of unconfirmed entries had been reduced from 6 million to 1.9 million.  The process of automatically removing unconfirmed data is to take place next.  Originally it was scheduled for the end of 2016 but the government chose (as it was entitled to do under the legislation) to bring this forward by 12 months by statutory instrument.  It was this statutory instrument that was at the centre of the debate this week.

The government’s decision was against the advice of the Electoral Commission.  Leaving the politics to one side, the question is whether it is more important to have an electoral register in December 2015 with as little inaccurate data as possible or to have an electoral register which is as complete as possible.  The Electoral Commission preferred the latter, given where the data verification exercise is at present.

What is the significance of the December 2015 date?  In the short term, there is a round of elections taking place in May 2016.  These will be conducted on the December 2015 electoral register.  There is, however, a much more important use of this particular electoral register – it will be used as the foundation of the Boundary Commission’s work for the 2020 constituency boundaries.  As such, it will have a direct impact on the next election.

Who is at risk of dropping off the register?

Irritatingly, despite providing a report of nearly 60 pages, the Electoral Commission did not deign to publish the detailed data on the verification process by council, which was up to date as at June 2015.  To their great credit, Hope Not Hate elicited this from the Electoral Commission and published it themselves in an appendix to their own report.

As can be seen, the rate at which the electoral register is being cleaned up is progressing at quite different rates both between regions and within regions.  One can accept that it is harder for inner city London councils (with young and highly mobile populations) to verify their data than rural councils (with older and more settled councils) and still wonder why Hackney had 22.9% of their data unverified while Islington and Tower Hamlets had 6% and 8.2% of their data unverified respectively.  There seems no good reason why Oxford should have only 6.8% of their data unverified while Cambridge had 17% of their data unverified.  Lincoln, a council that has a fair sized student population, has only 0.35% of their data unverified.  Council incompetence or lethargy seems to be playing a very substantial part in failing to get the data cleared up.

Hope Not Hate rather breathlessly describes the potential impact of bringing forward individual electoral registration as “the greatest disenfranchisement in British history”.  Is that true?  This is where it gets complicated.

What might this mean in practice?

Here’s the position as it stood in May 2015 (the voter figures are Hope Not Hate’s), with the rough seat allocation for a 600 seat Parliament that this would produce:

Boundary Review

The right hand column is rough and ready, but suitable for present purposes.

The effect of differential drop-off between regions is outweighed by wider population movements.  Scotland actually increases its seat count even as Parliament shrinks, despite the high drop-off of unregistered voters, presumably because of the increase in voter registration prompted by the referendum campaign.  The north east is looking at a sharp drop in its seat count despite having the best clear-up rate.  So the effect as between the regions is not all that great, if truth be told.

It’s a different story when we come to look at intra-regional trends.  This is especially important in London.  Six London boroughs have unverified records of 10% or more.  At the other extreme, Richmond-upon-Thames has only 0.96% of records unverified.  There seems no doubt that inner London boroughs are finding this a tougher exercise.  These boroughs are solidly Labour, so if their representation is weighted down, this is bad news for Labour.

Barking & Dagenham, Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Redbridge, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, are currently covered by 31 contiguous constituencies, all of which are held by Labour.  On current numbers of registered voters, they would be reduced to 24 constituencies.  This would be a dramatic shrinking in the weighting of these constituencies within London, all of which would be felt by Labour.

The effect outside London would be less stark because the bulk of the worst-performing councils for registration reconciliation are in London.  The same effect can be seen on a much lesser scale in Birmingham, the greater Manchester area and Sheffield, which may result in Labour losing a seat or two in each of these localities.

Some university towns would find themselves attached to slightly larger constituencies than they otherwise would have been (though Durham, Exeter, Lancaster and Bath & North East Somerset don’t seem to have had the same problems that Cambridge had in tracking down student records).  This would make a handful of constituencies a little harder for Labour to take.

Taken as a whole, the effect of bringing voter reconciliation to a halt in December is unlikely to be conclusive of the general election even on the basis of the June figures.  It may put Labour at a disadvantage of an additional ten to fifteen seats – a handicap, but not a noose around their necks.

That is not the end of the story though.  The data clean-up process is continuing.  Let’s assume for now that it will continue on the same course up to the cut-off date.  From July to December 2014, 3.1 million records were cleared up, resulting in a further 1.7 million people being verified as being on the electoral roll.  From December 2014 to May 2015, 1 million more records were cleared up, resulting in a further 460,000 people being verified as being on the electoral roll.  The rate of clear-up is slowing down and proportionately fewer records are being verified as being correct.

In the final phase if the course does not change, we might expect a further 500,000 records or so of the remaining 1.9 million unverified entries to be cleared up, resulting in perhaps a further 200,000 people being added to the electoral register.  If so, that means that at the cut-off date 1.7 million records will drop off the register (only 300,000 of those being verified as incorrect).  This final batch of verified data will be disproportionately in the areas which are currently lagging, flattening the current favour towards rural areas and against urban areas.  New voters will be added to the register, particularly in university towns.

If this trajectory is followed in the final clean-up, my educated guess is that the additional disadvantage that Labour would be under would be fewer than ten seats.  So not all that dramatic, really.

What can Labour do about this?

But the future is not yet written.  Similar alarms were posted before the general election about voter registration.  In the end, we saw a huge surge in registration, with more than 2 million registrations in the last month before the deadline.

With organisation, voter registration could be boosted again.  If Labour were really organised, they could turn individual electoral registration to their advantage, bolstering the size of the electorate in the seats where they most need it and enthusing younger voters.  That is after all Labour’s electoral strategy under Jeremy Corbyn, isn’t it?

Jeremy Corbyn has just set up a new grouping, Momentum.  One of its aims is to “Organise in every town, city and village to create a mass movement for real progressive change”.  If it’s looking for somewhere to start, campaigning to get voters through the process of individual electoral registration might be a very good place indeed.  Over to you, Mr Corbyn.