Andy Burnham rules out standing for the LAB leadership – get your money on Andy Burnham

October 19th, 2014

EdM’s successor? Could be

In the closing seconds of his interview on the Marr show this morning the shadow health secretary and 2010 leadership contender, Andy Burnham, was asked if he’d rule out standing the the job “in due course”.

His denial was, to me, less than convincing.

He’s come on a lot since his first leadership bid and I was quite impressed with the way he handled the interview.

Both Ladbrokes and PaddyPower have him at 6/1. If EdM does stumble on the the way to May 7th or in the aftermath Burnham looks a good bet.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


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

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


If Stephen Fisher’s latest GE15 forecast is right LAB could win most seats with just 31.3% of the vote

October 18th, 2014

CON with 2.7% more votes in the forecast get 7 fewer seats

We’ve been here before and we’ll be here many times in the next six months – the way that on national vote shares at least the “system” seems to favour LAB so much.

The latest from Oxford’s Stephen Fisher is in the panel above which illustrates a scenario that could happen.

This is all because the aggregate national vote shares are irrelevant when determining the outcome. What matters, as I keep on saying, is what happens in the 650 constituency battles each held under first past the post.

The rise of UKIP as a fourth force means that the aggregate LAB+CON vote share could be lower than ever before and many seats could be won with fewer than 30% of the votes. The key driver in most of the key battlegrounds is the relative position of LAB and CON.

Much of the apparent bias in the system is down to much reduced vote shares in Labour’s heartlands where the red team finds it difficult getting its supporters out as we saw in the Heywood by-election. Another driver of the bias is that LAB seats have on average smaller electorates than CON or LD ones.

On top of that there’s the effect of tactical voting which could be higher and more complex than ever before. At previous elections LAB voters have been ready in LD-CON battles to use their vote to stop the Tories thus depressing the national LAB vote share. I don’t rule out at GE15 some LAB switching to CON to stop UKIP in certain seats.

    A LAB “victory” on just 31.3% will surely raise questions about the legitimacy of whatever government emerges.

Ladbrokes are currently offering 3/1 on LAB securing most seats and CON most votes.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


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

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


Local By-Election Results : October 16th 2014

October 17th, 2014

Harper Green on Bolton (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 1,176 (51% -1%), UKIP 777 (33% +15%), Conservative 282 (12% -11%), Greens 38 (2% -2%), Liberal Democrats 28 (1% -3%), Independent 19 (1%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 399 (18%) on a swing of 8% from Labour to UKIP

Towyn on Conwy (Con Defence)
Result: Conservative 143 (25%), Independent (Smith) 116 (20%), Independent (Johnson) 104 (18%), Labour 98 (17%), Independent (Griffiths) 69 (12%), Independent (Corry) 43 (8%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 27 (5%)
Total Independent vote: 332 (58%)

Medworth on Fenland (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 257 (45% -14%), UKIP 201 (35%), Labour 79 (14% -17%), Liberal Democrats 24 (4% -5%), Independent 15 (3%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 56 (10%) on a swing of 25% from Conservative to UKIP

Tudor on Kingston upon Thames (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 1,062 (41%), Liberal Democrats 725 (28%), Labour 314 (12%), UKIP 269 (10%), Greens 219 (8%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 337 (13%)

Helmshore on Rossendale (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 771 (48% -10%), Labour 444 (28% -14%), UKIP 364 (24%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 327 (20%) on a swing of 2% from Labour to Conservative

Oakham South West (Con Defence) and Whissendine (Ind Defence) on Rutland
Oakham South West
Result: Conservatives 240 (52%), Independent 177 (38%), Liberal Democrats 43 (9%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 63 (14%)

Result: Liberal Democrats 192 (52%), Conservatives 179 (48% +6%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Independent with a majority of 13 (4%)

Sheppey Central on Swale (Con Defence)
Result: UKIP 831 (58%), Conservatives 324 (23%), Labour 240 (17%), Loonies 27 (2%)
UKIP GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 507 (35%)

West Thurrock and South Stifford on Thurrock (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 903 (50% +3%), UKIP 621 (35% +1%), Conservatives 270 (15% unchanged)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 282 (15%) on a swing of 1% from UKIP to Labour

Westfield on City of York (Lib Dem defence from Labour defection)
Result: Liberal Democrats 1,804 (60%), Labour 588 (20%), UKIP 398 (13%), Conservatives 113 (4%), Greens 87 (3%), English Democrats 5 (0%)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 1,546 (40%)


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

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


The polling’s not all good for UKIP: See this worrying data for Farage’s party from YouGov and Ipsos-MORI

October 17th, 2014

Last month Ipsos-MORI had them the most disliked & least liked party

Could we be seeing the basis for anti-purple tactical voting?

In a week that has been dominated by positive GE15 voting numbers for YouGov there’s some other data from firm for the Economist, see top panel, that might make uncomfortable reading. The way the party is perceived by a representative sample of voters.

Those numbers are not good for the party and raise the prospect, I’d suggest, of anti-UKIP tactical voting with people not supporting their allegiance but the party most able to beat Farage’s party. It was suggested that this might have happened in the Newark by-election in June.

Several people who were “on the ground” during that by-election have told me how they’d come across quite a level a “cross-over” voting for this purpose with ex-LD and even ex-LAB voters shifting to CON for the election to stop UKIP. We have seen this in the past where the BNP have been strong in a seat.

The conditions for this, I’d suggest, are where it looks likely that the purples might be in with a shout and where highly intensive ground campaigning is taking place increasing overall awareness of the election – Rochester on November 20th perhaps?

Much publicised surges can have their negative side.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Tonight’s Local By-Election Preview by Harry Hayfield

October 16th, 2014

Harper Green on Bolton (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 40, Conservatives 15, Liberal Democrats 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 2 (Labour majority of 20)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Labour 744 (52%), Conservative 325 (23%), UKIP 252 (18%), Greens 60 (4%), Liberal Democrats 53 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jeff Armstrong (UKIP), Rebekah Fairhurst (Lib Dem), Susan Haworth (Lab), Joseph Holt (Ind), James Tomkinson (Green), Robert Tyler (Con)

If a week is a long time in politics, then twenty five years must seem like a millennium and yet, however, in those 25 years places like Bolton haven’t changed that much. Back in 1990, Bolton was a Labour controlled council with 43 of the 60 members elected belonging to Labour and they had an overall majority of 26. However, that lack of change masks a great deal. The first big change came in 2003 when Labour lost overall control, and in 2006 all three main parties were pretty much neck and neck (Lab 22, Con 21, Lib Dem 17), but following that election the tide began to swing towards Labour as they gained control again in 2011, and in 2014 the furst UKIP councillors were elected. So no change on the surface over the last quarter of a century or so, but a lot of changes on the ground.

Towyn on Conwy (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Independents 19, Conservatives 13, Plaid Cymru 12, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats 5
Result of ward at last election (2008): Conservatives 411 (59%), Independent 120 (17%), Green 101 (15%), British National Party 60 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Geoff Corry (Ind), Barry Griffiths (Ind), David Johnson (Ind), Laura Knightly (Con), Beverley Pickard-Jones (Lab), Michael Smith (Ind)

There are a number of councils across the UK where it is simply impossible to create an overall majority, most of these places are areas with large number of Independents and Conwy is one of these councils. It’s been around since 1995 (created when Colwyn and Aberconwy were merged) and ever since no one has been able to get a majority on the council. In 1995, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were tied on 18 councillors each (with the Lib Dems having a 3% popular vote lead), in 1999 Labour had the most councillors (18 again), in 2004 the Independents took the lead with 19 seats, then the Conservatives stormed into the lead with 22 seats in 2008, before the Independents reclaimed the lead with 19 again but everytime way, way less than the 31 needed for an overall majority. So no matter what happens in Towyn, nothing is going to happen to change the fact that Conwy will always be a hung council for the rest of it’s days even if it does merge, or is forced to merge, with Denbighshire (Con 30%, Ind 28%, Lab 23%, Plaid 11%, Lib Dem 7%, Green 0%, Others 1%)

Medworth on Fenland (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 34, Independents 4, Liberal Democrast 2 (Conservative majority of 28)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservative 364 (59%), Labour 194 (31%), Liberal Democrats 58 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kathy Dougall (Lab), Andrew Hunt (UKIP), Erbie Murat (Ind), Josephine Radcliffe (Lib Dem), Steve Tierney (Con)

Ah, Fenland, that rural part of eastern Cambridgeshire that just screams rural idyll and Conservative councillors elected with majorities over Independents that would make even grown men cry at the state of local democracy. So what a good thing we have UKIP to keep people on their toes (and with entire justification as well). In the Euros in Fenland, UKIP not only won the local count area (with 47% of the vote) but thanks to a 23% increase in the UKIP vote managed to clock up a 14% swing from Con to UKIP so now that everyone expects UKIP to win all Conservative seats where there is a whopping Conservative majority on the council, for UKIP NOT to win this (or indeed any other seat where the same rules apply) will be seen as a case for reasoning that maybe the UKIP surge is not all it is cracked up to be.

Tudor on Kingston upon Thames (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 18, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 8)
Result of ward at last election (2014) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,617, 1,437, 1,378
Liberal Democrats 701, 698, 554
Green 629
Labour 561, 511, 455
United Kingdom Independence Party 445
Candidates duly nominated: Ryan Coley (Green), Marilyn Mason (Lib Dem), Maria Netley (Con), Chris Priest (Lab), Ben Roberts (UKIP)

For a council with such an imposing name (the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames) it is perhaps only fitting that the battle for the council has been a battle royal. In 1990, when my records begin, the council was hung (Con 25, Lib Dem 18, Lab 7), but in 1994 the Lib Dems gained control only for the Conservatives to bring it back to being hung in 1998, the Lib Dems gained it for the second time in three elections in 2002 but again in 2006, the Conservatives made a charge but this time it wasn’t enough and the Lib Dems held on with a majority of 2. Up went the Lib Dem majority in 2010 to 6 but (as sure as night follows day) along came the Conservatives in 2014 and managed to gain overall control for the first time in over 25 years. So who’s going to win this by-election? Well, don’t look at me I haven’t got a clue!

Helmshore on Rossendale (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 24, Conservatives 10, Independents 2 (Labour majority of 12)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservatives 1,167 (58%), Labour 846 (42%)
Candidates duly nominated: Granville Barker (UKIP), Emma Harding (Lab), Tony Haworth (Con)

Rossendale (the core of the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, so often mentioned on election night as a key Conservative / Labour battleground constituency) is just as marginal as the constituency it creates. Hung in 2003, it was one of the many Conservative GAINS in 2004 and stayed that way until 2011 when Labour gained it and the result in 2011 proves that, so here’s a good question for the experts pondering the effect of UKIP on Conservative / Labour marginals. Can UKIP help Labour get an 8% swing to gain the seat, or are UKIP just as capable of gaining as many Labour votes as they gain Conservative votes?

Oakham South West (Con Defence) and Whissendine (Ind Defence) on Rutland
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 16, Independents 8, Liberal Democrats 2 (Conservative majority of 6)
Result of wards at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected

Oakham South West
Conservatives 285, 277
Independents 279, 266
Liberal Democrats 178, 131
Non Party Independent 139

Whissendine: Independent 335 (58%), Conservative 247 (42%)

Candidates duly nominated:
Oakham South West: Ben Callaghan (Ind), Richard Clifton (Con), Richard Swift (Lib Dem)
Whissendine: Sam Asplin (Lib Dem), Jonny Baker (Con)

Rutland is the oldest, yet newest, council on the block. Given unitary authority status back in the 1990′s, it re-created England’s smallest county and since 2003 has been Conservative controlled (which explains why Alan Duncan has such a healthy majority in Rutland and Melton) and also explains why the Independents do so well on the council but as with most Indpendents it’s a very personal vote so will the Independent nominated in Oakham South West manage to hold on to the seat and with no Independent defending in Whissendine, where will their votes go? Conservative or Liberal Democrat?

Sheppey Central on Swale (Con Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 32, Labour 13, Liberal Democrats 1, Independents 1 (Conservative majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 911, 871, 838
Labour 664, 618, 557
United Kingdom Independence Party 326
Offical Monster Raving Loony Party 171
Candidates duly nominated: Tina Booth (Con), Alan Henley (Lab), David Jones (UKIP), Mad Mike Young (Loony)

West Thurrock and South Stifford on Thurrock (Lab Defence)
Result of last election to council (2014): Labour 24, Conservatives 22, Independents 3 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 1)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,054 (47%), UKIP 760 (34%), Conservatives 340 (15%), Liberal Democrats 73 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Terry Brookes (Lab), Russell Cherry (UKIP), John Rowles (Con)

If local by-elections were treated like movie trailers, these two would have the following: “From Local Election Productions comes “THE BATTLE OF THE EAST”, where the upstarts of UKIP aim to knock both the Conservatives in Swale and Labour in Thurrock into a cocked hat” and with entirely good reason. Swale is next door to Medway (where a certain Mark Reckless will be defending his Conservative majority for UKIP at the end of November) and Thurrock is a seat that Labour are scared witless that UKIP could gain or enable the Conservatives to gain. Of all the by-elections tonight, these are the ones that will be poured over for the rest of the month

Westfield on City of York (Lib Dem defence from Labour defection)
Result of last election to council (2011): Labour 26, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 8, Greens 2, Independent 1 (Labour majority of 5)
Result of last at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,767, 1,642, 1,540
Liberal Democrats 1,401, 1,397, 1,152
Conservative 561
Greens 343, 260, 253
Candidates duly nominated: Jason Brown (Con), Louise Corson (Lab), Sam Kelly (Eng Dems), Judith Morris (UKIP), Andrew Waller (Lib Dem), Alison Webb (Green)

But, Kent and Essex aren’t the only places where defections happen. The City of York seems on the face of it a normal northern city. Lib Dem controlled in 2003, Lib Dem loss to No Overall Control in 2007, Labour gain in 2011, but over the years since that Labour gain there have been just one or two grumblings from Labour and Cllr. James Alexander (Lab, Holgate) and leader of the council has seen his majority shrink so this by-election, ahead of the general election next year, will be very important indeed. Can Labour protect their majority or will the Lib Dems be able to fight back in an area that looked so promising just a few years ago?