If Ed Miliband wasn’t polling so badly then what’ll happen on May 7th would be a lot clearer

October 12th, 2014

The question is how much of a liability is the LAB leader

Last night more polls were published than on any day since GE10. We had surveys of all sorts from YouGov, ICM, Opinium, Survation and Lord Ashcroft and it is hard to draw any conclusions.

In the voting polls LAB was ahead in all but Survation which recorded the biggest share for UKIP ever and had the two main parties level. The cross sub samples (all the usual caveats apply) had UKIP the top party on 37% in southern England leading to a projection by John Curtice that UKIP could take 128 seats.

Like in all cases when numbers seem to be out of line the best advice is to wait to see if other polls have the same trend. Tomorrow we should have the October ICM phone poll as well as the regular Populus and the Ashcroft weekly phone survey.

Given the electoral geography any LAB lead or even level pegging would normally point to the party coming out with most seats and most likely a majority.

    But it is the ongoing poor figures for Ed Miliband that make me cautious. Will at the end of the day people vote for a party if they view the leader in such a negative light?

YouGov found by 9 to 1 that those sampled think the party would be better off without him. LAB voters by 46% to 13% also think it would be better off if he quits. But how come LAB leads continue in the voting figures? You’d have thought this would be priced in.

On top of all of that we have some very negative views of Cameron from the biggest group of swing voters – those now supporting UKIP. Just 10% of them, according to the latest large sample Ashcroft poll, are satisfied with Dave.

But killer point for the Tories from Ashcroft is that 92% of UKIP voters say they aren’t feeling the effects of the recovery. That suggests that its going to be hard squeezing the UKIP share into single figures.

Confused? I am.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The Saturday night rolling polling blog

October 11th, 2014

The big polling question tonight is why there’s such a big difference in the UKIP shares. Opinium 17%, YouGov 16% with Survation on 25%.

Chart updated to include Survation with UKIP on record 25% for any poll and YouGov for Sunday Times.

For ICM’s Wisdom Index those sampled are not not asked who they’d vote for but to give their predictions of party %ages, At GE10 it was said to have been more accurate than any other poll.

The Opinium poll has changes of CON -4, LAB +1, LD +2, UKIP n/c, GRN n/c. Most of the fieldwork took place BEFORE Thursday’s by-elections. I’d expect any surveys polled afterwards to show UKIP boost.


Four months before being elected Tory leader Margaret Thatcher was a 50-1 shot

October 11th, 2014

Did you get on? I certainly didn’t

The BBC Parliament Channel has been re-running the October 1974 General Election results programme as part of its intermittent series of playing back old elections. I love them and you learn so much simply from seeing how things were seen then.

A common feature of these programmes as they draw to their close is speculation about what will happen to the losing party leaders. Inevitably defeat focusses the mind and it was clear in October 1974 that Edward Heath’s tenure as CON leader wasn’t going to last.

For me the most striking feature of the October 1974 programme was that captured in the screen-shot above. The betting prices on who’d be Heath’s replacement. Maggie was at 50/1.

The interesting thing is not the long price on Maggie but that she figured in the betting at all. Just about nobody was tipping her and I certainly was not attracted to a bet. As I recall my money was on Willie Whitelaw.

Mrs. Thatcher was elected leader on February 11th 1975. She remained until 28 November 1990 aftet winning three successive general elections.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


To Clacton and beyond, but just how far is that?

October 11th, 2014


David Herdson on Thursday’s dramatic elections

Revolutions are best viewed through the wide-angled lens of history, not the microscope of journalism.  Even in the most turbulent times, occurrences that would have seemed literally incredible just a few years earlier are taken almost for granted after the conditioning of intervening incremental events.

So it is with UKIP’s successes at this week’s by-elections.  Douglas Carswell’s victory was expected by all sides and duly delivered.  His colleague in Heywood and Middleton came very close to an even more spectacular result, yet it is likely to be forgotten much more quickly as you don’t get anything for second places under first-past-the-post (except perhaps a launch pad for next time).

If anything, the scale of UKIP’s success yesterday has not yet been fully appreciated due to the numbers being overshadowed by the novelty.  UKIP’s first Westminster victory was always going to be a story whether the majority had been twelve hundred votes or twelve thousand; indeed, it was always going to be the story.  But the sheer scale cannot be ignored: Douglas Carswell won more votes than any other candidate in any Westminster by-election since Mark Oaten re-secured Winchester for the Lib Dems in 1997.

Clacton was one thing; Heywood & Middleton another again.  For UKIP to win more than a third of the vote and very nearly take the seat from near enough a standing start, against an opposition incumbent and when the by-election wasn’t caused by some scandal was an extraordinary achievement.  This was no Bradford West, where there were unusual local circumstances and where the candidates had a very significant impact on the voting; this was about party popularity and unpopularity.

Despite all that, the political and media establishment remain slow to accept the scale of the change that is taking place.  David Cameron’s response was to repeat the line that a vote for UKIP will let in Labour.  Ed Miliband almost endorsed that view, with his assertion that the Conservatives cannot now win.  But the key point is that both see the game through the two-plus party filter.

Defining that ‘plus’ is one of the key variables as the General Election draws ever closer.  Ofcom maintains a list of “major parties”, which is currently the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems alone for England, and those three plus the relevant nationalists for Scotland and Wales.  Will they now change it in the light of these results?  It is increasingly difficult to justify both including the Lib Dems and excluding UKIP based on everything that has happened since 2010, and particularly since 2012.

The simple fact is that across much of the UK, the Lib Dems are at best of minor significance.  They have lost their deposit in eight of the thirteen Westminster by-elections since the start of 2012, against just two for UKIP.  They polled fewer votes (though won more seats) than Farage’s party in the local elections both this year and last, and finished fifth behind the Greens in the European elections.  Their trump cards remain their sizable number of MPs and the fact that they proved themselves capable of defending one when it became vacant.  Still, it’s a brave assertion to claim that outscores everything else, particularly as UKIP have now won one too.  On the other hand, it seems early to give UKIP major party status with just one MP.

A logical move would be for Ofcom to review their categorisation for parties and define an intermediate level:

  • Major parties: those who could realistically lead the next government, provide the next leader of the opposition, or have support equivalent to those parties which will.  A rule-of-thumb qualification might be a minimum of 20% support.
  • Secondary parties: those with wide-scale national support or which are likely to return a meaningful number of MPs.  Say, at least 10% of votes or 20+ MPs.
  • Minor parties: other parties with an electoral presence – perhaps 100+ candidates, or 2% support, or 2+ MPs.

Why does this matter?  Because the air war is still how huge numbers of votes are determined and having a seat at the table – or a representative at a debate lectern – could prove crucial.  In 2010, the Lib Dems’ polling shot up by about 10% overnight after the first debate.  True, that didn’t fully carry through to election day but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real at the time.  With so much discontent in the system as at the moment, an outsider like Farage would stand a chance of doing the same – if they happen at all, something that now has to be less likely for precisely that reason.

The consequences of this week’s votes will not of themselves be huge but the consequences of the change taking place of which the results – and indeed, defections – were a factor, will.  However, because that change is relatively slow and incremental, it’s easy to dismiss each additional step as understandable given its context (or contradictorily, as a flash in the pan).  Those that do so without thinking about the bigger picture are liable to wake up one day and ask, bewilderedly, ‘how did that happen?’.

David Herdson


The day after: Betting and other by-election round up

October 10th, 2014


Marf on the morning after at Number 10

October 10th, 2014

morningafter (1)

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.

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    By-Election Results: October 9th 2014

    October 10th, 2014

    Waterloo on Blackpool (Conservative defence)
    Result: Conservatives 406 (34%), UKIP 372 (32%), Labour 347 (30%), Liberal Democrats 34 (3%), British National Party 17 (1%)
    Conservative HOLD with a majority of 34 (2%)

    Bicknacre with East and West Hanningfield on Chelmsford (Conservative defence)
    Result: Conservatives 649 (56%), UKIP 359 (31%), Labour 80 (7%), Greens 35 (3%), Liberal Democrats 34 (3%)
    Conservative HOLD with a majority of 290 (25%)

    Southgate on Crawley (UKIP defence from Con defection)
    Result: Labour 733 (44% +3%), Conservatives 642 (39% -5%), UKIP 277 (17%), Justice Party 10 (1%)
    Labour GAIN from UKIP (Conservative) with a majority of 91 (5%) on a swing of 4% from Conservative from Labour

    West Heath on Rushmoor (UKIP defence)
    Result: UKIP 662 (51%), Conservatives 312 (24%), Labour 196 (15%), Liberal Democrats 130 (10%)
    UKIP HOLD with a majority of 350 (27%)

    Brightlingsea on Essex (UKIP defence)
    Result: Conservatives 1,809 (34% +9%), United Kingdom Independence Party 1,642 (31% +1%), Liberal Democrats 1,199 (22% -5%), Labour 524 (10% -2%), Greens 200 (4% unchanged).
    Conservative GAIN from UKIP with a majority of 167 (3%) on a swing of 4% from UKIP to Conservative

    Clacton Westminster By-Election (UKIP defence from Con defection)
    Result: UKIP 21,113 (60%), Conservatives 8,709 (25% -28%), Labour 3,957 (11% -14%), Green 688 (2% +1%), Independent 205 (1%), Loony 127 (0%), Independent 56 (0%)
    UKIP HOLD with a majority of 12,404 (35%) on a notional swing of 44% from Conservative to UKIP

    Heywood and Middleton By-Election (Labour defence)
    Result: Labour 11,633 (41% +1%), UKIP 11,016 (39% +36%), Conservatives 3,496 (12% -15%), Liberal Democrats 1,457 (5% -18%), Green 870 (3%)
    Labour HOLD with a majority of 617 (2%) on a swing of 18% from Labour to UKIP


    A week a long time in politics. Last Friday CON celebrating 1st YouGov lead for nearly 3 years

    October 10th, 2014

    But the real sensation, as Carswell said, was UKIP getting so close in Heywood & Middleton

    Clacton was in line with the polls: In Heywood UKIP beat the polls by some margin

    What a night and how British politics has changed. Carswell, as seen in the Sky clip above, was hugely impressive and looks set to be a very major figure perhaps eclipsing Farage himself in the not too distant future.

    But the big result came through earlier. UKIP getting so close in Heywood and Middleton – an outcome that’ll be used time and time again whenever Tories say that a vote for the purples lets in Labour. Heywood raises all sort of questions about the LAB election machine. The low turnout suggests that the red team failed to get their vote out which is serious.

    What’s hard to work out is what happens next. Are we going to see other Tory MPs take the Carswell plunge and could we have a rolling series of by-elections in the run-up to next May?

      The idea that Labour was invulnerable has been smashed by the Heywood numbers. Could that add to the question marks over Miliband’s future? There’s no doubt that the Miliband-doubters have got a substantial new weapon in their hands.

    My problem with the Labour leadership is identifying an alternative. I just wonder whether now could be the spring-board for Andy Burnham?

    How are the Tories going to handle the new situation? Exactly a week ago the big polling news was that YouGov was showing a CON lead for the first time since early 2012. Suddenly CON prospects for GE2015 took a turn. But what now? One thing’s for sure – the Rochester by election is going to be massive. The blues simply cannot let this one go.

    A big thanks to TSE. I’ve just returned from my holiday in Spain which was put back because of the IndyRef. ISE has done a great job running the site in my absence.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble