Archive for the ' General Election' Category

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LAB heavyweight Jim Murphy becomes the 2-5 favourite to be next Scottish LAB leader

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

There are 41 Scottish LAB seats at stake

The key fact to remember when discussing the impact of Scotland on UK politics is that there are 59 seats north of the border of which LAB hold 41. So anything that could weaken the party in the eyes of Scottish voters could have a big impact on GE15. Any LAB losses in Scotland would have to be made up from extra LAB gains in England and Wales if EdM’s hope of securing a majority is to be fulfilled.

Jim Murphy, who at one stage was both defence and Scottish secretaries in the last LAB government, played a key part in the IndyRef campaign with his 100 towns in 100 days tours putting the case for NO. He faced some nasty confrontations with YES campaigners and came out of the referendum with his reputation enhanced.

For some time he’s been one my long-shots bets, at 33/1, for EdM’s successor and would easily be a match for the SNP’s new flag carrier, Nicola Sturgeon. He’s articulate, tough, and like Sturgeon is from Glasgow.

    A lot has been written in recent weeks about the SNP threat to LAB. The big problem Sturgeon’s party has is there there are few seats where at GE10 her party was in striking distance.

The following chart shows every single Scots LAB seat ranked in majority order with those where the SNP is in second place highlighted. The numbers speak for themselves. Labour Scottish heartlands look like tough nuts to crack.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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The battle does seem to be getting tighter: Both tonight’s online panel polls have CON & LAB on 33% each

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

But the big political news..



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The Westminster Big Three: zen-like serenity or zombies in action?

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

How come poor CON/LAB/LD polls are being accepted so readily?

Time was when you could be reasonably sure that a party struggling in the polls would lead inevitably to speculation about its leader’s position.  The media would talk about it, backbench MPs would talk about it and cabinet or shadow cabinet members would let their friends talk about it.  What is remarkable about the last few years is that despite unprecedented combined unpopularity of both leaders and parties, there has been so little such talk never mind action.

Of course, the fact that all three main Westminster parties are so unpopular simultaneously may have something to do with that: it’s easy to console yourself that you stand a decent chance of recovery when your opponents are doing badly too.

Even so, this is very far from a zero-sum game.  All three parties face an existential threat.  UKIP has the potential to replace either the Tories or Labour (but not both) after the next election as the main party in their part of the spectrum if the cards fall well for it.  Neither has a right to exist, never mind to success, and both parties’ former core vote is disillusioned.  At the moment, Farage’s party’s mid- to upper-teens score would probably see them pick up only a handful of seats but were that to be upped to the mid-twenties that would do real damage.

The prospect of such a step-change in UKIP’s polling is far from inconceivable: they have polled up there on occasion, by-election victories between now and April would reinforce their current momentum and the debates – if they happen – provide a further opportunity to advance.

Strangely, a half-reasonable performance may be worse in the long run than a bad one as it’s far harder to fight off the threat while in government.  Clacton has already demonstrated the risks to the Conservatives and Rochester may reinforce that message.  Should Labour regain government, the danger may be even worse, polling as it is in the low thirties with the support of a great many 2010 Lib Dem defectors.  A majority Ed Miliband-led government could easily leak that support straight back on one wing while being assailed by UKIP on the other.  Gordon Brown’s Labour government bottomed out at 18% in the polls; an Ed Miliband one could go further still – and that might drop it to fourth place by vote share.

For the Lib Dems the threat is greater still and more immediate: their party has lost more than two-thirds of their 2010 vote, a level meaning it’s dicing with oblivion.  True, local strongholds appear firm for now but results from the constituency polls sit uneasily with the national ones: my guess is that it’s the national ones and we’ll see Lib Dem support edge up as May approaches and people think more about their local situation.  But it may not and didn’t in Scotland in 2011, where the Yellows lost all but two of their constituency seats (and Orkney & Shetland is just one seat for Westminster).

    With threats to their existence such as the parties have not faced in many decades, if ever, what’s remarkable is how calm the leaderships and parliamentary parties are. 

There is grumbling about Miliband but no serious threat this side of the election.  Cameron has suffered two defections – one reinforced by a by-election defeat – but despite their reputation for deposing leaders, Tory backbenchers have remained unusually quiet on the subject.  Even quieter have been Lib Dems, who are polling worst of all and perhaps have most opportunity for change (their leader has the worst ratings, plausible alternatives are available and one of the causes of their woes – being in government – could be resolved by a well-timed withdrawal).

Will one or more of the parties brake out of their zen-like calm – or zombie-like sleepwalking if you prefer – before the election?  I doubt it.  It’s almost too late now to change strategy or leader and will be by the New Year.  These things need pressure to build and that rarely happens quickly.  It also needs anger, focus and division, and such factors simply aren’t present in sufficient quantity, particularly when there’s the belief that the other side(s) might hand you victory by default.  It is somewhat ironic that the biggest upheaval in the political system since at least the early 1980s has produced so little reaction.  But then maybe that’s the point: the changes are so far outside their experience, they can’t reach for a stock response and like rabbits in Farage’s headlights, produce none.

David herdson



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Best tip on PB in the past year: UKIP at 40-1 to win Cambourne and Redruth

Friday, October 24th, 2014

betsPP (1)

To whoever suggested this my thanks

I’ve just been reviewing my current open political bets and one, which I’d completely forgotten about, was UKIP to win Cambourne & Redruth at an amazing 40/1. It was placed with PaddyPower a week before Christmas.

My recall is that this came out of a discussion one evening and I think Peter the Punter was involved. If I’ve named the wrong person then my apologies.

Five months after that bet an Ashcroft poll of the seat had CON 29%, UKIP 26%, LAB 24%, LD 14%. Currently UKIP are second favourites at 7/2.

Given what’s happening and the possible consequences of a Tory defeat in Rochester then UKIP in seats like this become great value bets.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter




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The best guide to GE15 will come from single constituency polls NOT the national surveys and the seat calculators

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

At what level majority will Lord A find the Tories holding on in the marginals?

In the past year we’ve seen a revolution in British political polling which is totally transforming the way wrong look at General Elections.

Rather than the focus being on national polls from which we can project seat numbers we are seeing an avalanche of constituency polls coming mostly from Lord Ashcroft and initiatives funded by wealthy UKIP donors.

These are serious polls of single constituencies with proper sized samples and should not be compared with the marginals polling of yesteryear. In the Ashcroft ones the standard sample is 1,000 and we get both the specific seat data and the overall aggregate whenever a new round is published

So far we’ve had polls in just under 90 Westminster seats from Lord A, Survation and ICM. and there are said to be new ranges of constituency in the pipeline. Lord A gave us a taster in a recent post:-

“…Labour would become the largest party if results in the seats I have already polled turned into results on election day – and there could well be more to come: while my polling has moved into seats with bigger Tory majorities I have not yet come to the “bite point” at which the potential losses end and Conservative seats consistently start to stay blue.

Research I currently have in the field is looking at some of these safer seats in search of the point at which the damage stops. If and when we find it, that should define the boundary of the real Conservative-Labour battleground.

But other unknowns remain. For example, are there vulnerable but hitherto unpolled Lib Dem seats in England and Wales? Could UKIP be making a significant impact in places we have not yet looked at> And what is happening in Scotland, where the big SNP gains some expect could change the equation significantly, especially if they are at the expense of Labour?..”

I wonder how that bite point will compare with national polling when fed into a seat calculator. Based on what we’ve seen so far there’s a bigger CON-LAB swing in the battleground. In LD held seats it is hard to draw any conclusions. In some areas seat polling is going with national polling – in other areas it isn’t

As I keep on saying general elections are not determined by national aggregate vote shares but by 650 separate votes in individual seats and I for one am hugely grateful to Lord A for helping us see what is happening where it matters.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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When ComRes tested impact of prompting for UKIP the views of women barely changed. Male support however jumped by 8%

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Two pollsters, three polls, and UKIP shares between 16% and 24%

With all eyes on UKIP polling shares following their by election successes the online survey by ComRes for the Indy on Sunday and Sunday Mirror carried out a test to see whether, as many purple enthusiasts argue, their shares are understated by firms that don’t specifically prompt for the party.

So the ComRes sample was split in two with the first using the conventional approach and the second including UKIP in its main party prompts.

The problem with this is that the sample sizes became so small, down to 782 in one case, that the margin of error increases substantially especially when trying to analyse the UKIP voting subset.

In fact the difference between the two approaches can almost all be explained as standard margin of error.

    With that caveat a big move was apparent between the two ComRes polls. The views of women barely changed when UKIP was prompted – men, however increased their support by 8%

Read into that what you will! Maybe prompting says more about how men and women respond to online polling than it does about UKIP support.

Another difference was that non-2010 voters amongst UKIP support amounted to 7% in normal poll, but 13% in the prompted one.

Meanwhile the latest YouGov, with a later fieldwork period than ComRes, has UKIP down 3% from dizzy heights of last week to a more normal looking 16%.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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A Con-UKIP electoral pact? Forget it. It isn’t going to happen

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Westminster twlight

Too much pushes the blues and purples apart

Split parties do not win elections, so the saying goes.  Nor, by extension, do parties whose natural support base is divided between parties, particularly under FPTP – which is why from time to time we hear calls from some on the right-of-centre for an electoral pact between the Conservatives and UKIP, who look at the 45-50% that the two parties poll between them and dream of landslide governments rather than impotent oppositions.  It won’t happen, not least because such dreams ignore certain inconvenient realities.

One such reality is that there is a very clear message from history as to what electoral pacts mean, which is the end of at least one party as an independent entity.  That may come through merger, takeover or reduction to irrelevance but come it invariably does.  Where one party is clearly the dominant member of an alliance, a pact effectively means a delayed takeover.  The Conservatives have particularly strong form on this, having taken over the Liberal Unionists that split from Gladstone, the National Liberals that split in 1931, and dominated the Lloyd George-led government between 1918 and when it fell at a time of their choosing.

That, of course, is one of the main reasons why the larger party agrees to it in the first place and why those Conservative supporters who advocate it now, do so.  UKIP would in effect be given a certain number of MPs while their capacity to operate independently would be slowly extinguished.  The dynamics are simple: once there are several dozen (say) UKIP MPs whose future presence in the House relies on continuing to be given a free run by the Tories, it becomes extremely difficult for them to act in such a way that would provoke an ending of the alliance.

However, that self-same dynamic is also the biggest stumbling block to such a deal.  Many UKIP activists left the Conservatives because of disillusionment at the policies and tone of its leadership.  Why then set their new party on a course back to where they started?  For those who left a party of government for one on the fringes, a share of power alone is an insufficient inducement otherwise they’d have stayed in the first place.

This is before you add in the antipathies, egos, pride and other personal factors that would prevent the two from working amicably together.  Not the least of the problems would be identifying which party would stand in which constituency; decisions that are fraught with the capacity for upsetting the candidates and foot-soldiers of each party alike.

That’s compounded by the fact that many UKIP voters – and to a lesser extent, activists – don’t identify with the Conservatives as fellow-travellers who’ve simply slipped from the right path.  An increasing number are ex-Labour or at least have values that align with where Labour once was.  We know from the polling that a sizable minority prefer Labour to Tories and in the absence of a UKIP candidate (which would be the case in most constituencies were there a pact), those UKIP votes would transfer red rather than blue, if they get cast at all.  The electoral benefits of any Con-UKIP pact would be far lower than a simple sum of the scores would suggest.

    There is one alternative that may prove attractive, however, if the Tories have the ambition and audacity to seize it: a pre-election advocacy of PR. 

If implemented, it would do away with the need for pacts.  It would also greatly diminish the effectiveness of negative campaigning and tactical voting – two aspects of modern politics that have proven so corrosive to public trust. Getting in ahead of the game may also be tactically wise in case the election produces a particularly unfair result.  On the other hand, if a hung parliament results, virtually all the minor parties might be expected to view PR with favour and with a manifesto commitment, there’d be no need for a referendum.

The new four-party line-up also fundamentally changes the political battlefield, as the Conservatives now have one potential ally to either side of them on the spectrum while Labour doesn’t.  That might change if the Greens could up their support but on their current polling they’d still be of only marginal significance under most systems of PR.

What is clear is that despite the damage FPTP does both parties, there won’t be a pact before 2015: there are just too many things pushing UKIP and the Tories apart.

David Herdson



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Polling analysis: UKIP’s hurting CON even more in the marginals than it was 2 months ago

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Latest churn figures from main parties to Farage’s

One of the great things about the Lord Ashcroft marginals polling is the sheer scale of it and the size of the overall samples. He tends to operate with samples of 1,000 meaning that the latest batch involved talking on the phone to a total of 11,002 people which is the equivalent to almost a year’s worth of ICM or Ipsos-MORI polls.

The benefit is that the aggregate data from all the constituencies provides large enough sub-samples on which to do analysis and in this post I look at the breakdown of the UKIP vote. The data in the chart above is produced by taking the total number of UKIP voters and dividing that by the numbers who voted for CON, LAB and LD at GE10.

I did a similar exercise with Lord A’s August round when he was polling CON held seats with smaller majorities.

As can be seen far more 2010 CON voters in these battleground seats have switched to UKIP than 2010 LAB or LD ones.

The comparison between the two two of polling is even more pronounced with the percentage of CON>UKIP switchers in the UKIP total up by more than eight points. The LAB switching is up by nothing like the same scale. LD switching, meanwhile, drops a bit.

How’s this going to shake out on May 7th next year? We do see in this polling that when asked to think about their own seats some UKIP supporters switch to the main two parties but not that many. My reading is that the UKIP will decline because the high-octane campaigning by both the red and blue teams will present the fight as a choice between them.

In other less marginal seats I expect that UKIP will hold up far more.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble