Archive for June, 2011

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Continuation thread – Inverclyde

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

STV says Labour 50%, SNP 35%

Turnout 45%



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Will the “official” campaigns become even more important?

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Are voters waiting longer to decide?

It is received political wisdom that most general elections are won or lost not in the three or four weeks between the dissolution of Parliament and the day of the election, but in the months and years beforehand.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that this is true. Even in 2010 where the performance of Nick Clegg in the first leadership debate shook-up the polls, betting markets and media commentary, it is still worth reflecting that Labour’s 30% GB share was exactly the same as the average of all the polls conducted in the first week of the campaign and the Tories eventual 37% was just down one percentage point from the start of the campaign.

Nevertheless, election after election more and more people are leaving it later to finally decide how to vote. In 1983, on the eve of election night 10% of voters said they still “might change their minds”. In 1997, this figure had doubled to 21%. In 2010, it had reached 30%.

If we see this trend continue at the next general election, it would be a brave politician – or pundit – to believe the election is a foregone conclusion before the real campaign begins.

Mark Gill is former head of political research at Ipsos-MORI and co-author with Bob Worcester, Roger Mortimore, Paul Baines of Explaining Cameron’s Coalition



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Why Huntsman’s candidacy matters

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Is he more important as a foil for Romney?

Nothing would make me happier than for Our Genial Host to better his May 2005 50/1 bet on Barack Obama to become the next POTUS by seeing Jon Huntsman win him the 200/1 bet made in November 2008.

I still don’t think it likely – the Republican Party has not yet served its ‘Time in the Wilderness’ and been brought back round to the hungry pragmatism that oppositions need to generate in order to overthrow non-vulnerable incumbents. I would consider the GOP to be in a similar position to the Tories at the end of Iain Duncan-Smith’s tenure – not as inclined to pitch exclusively to their base (Hague’s “9 days to defend the pound”, the 2006 midterm Tea Party campaign), but not yet resolved to unite around a strong pragmatic compromise candidate who can lose with dignity (Kinnock 1992, Howard 2005) and prepare the ground for the sort of centrist who can modernise the party and win (Blair, Cameron, Jon Huntsman/Mitch Daniels/Chris Christie).

    So why does Huntsman’s candidacy matter? I think it’s biggest impact will be to help Mitt Romney in his quest to seal the nomination. Romney had, I thought, a very strong campaign in 2008 – whilst he narrowly lost in total delegates to Huckabee, he did well to come in the top 2 in almost all of the early states: from Iowa and New Hampshire, to Michigan, to Nevada, and Florida. Accusations of plasticity aside, Romney was the “Conservative for All Time Zones” and I don’t think that’s so different this time around either.

He has an inbuilt advantage – most of the rational sane candidates are sitting out 2012, and with Obama likely to be unchallenged in the Democratic primaries, plenty of Independent voters will exercise their votes in the Republican primaries. The money, the name recognition, and the weakness of the field could well conspire to give him the nomination.

Romney’s greatest personal weaknesses are far from insurmountable, although they often rely on favourable comparison to be ameliorated. His boringness pales into insignificance with the unbearable blandness of Tim Pawlenty. His slightly artificial look is easily trumped (if you’ll pardon the pun) by Rick Perry’s hair. Which leaves his Mormonism.

Make no mistake – there is real hostility to Mormonism as a creed in much of the Religious Right. Many do not consider it Christianity at all, and the strength and importance of the Southern Baptist Council and their ilk are not to be taken lightly. It could be made to work in Romney’s favour – like Herman Cain, he gives the GOP the opportunity to demonstrate that it is capable of overcoming its prejudices – but it needs a process of normalisation that Romney will not only want to avoid, but is (as a Bostonian son of the former Governor of Michigan) not perfectly equipped to do. The process of normalising Mormonism in Republican politics would better fall to a candidate whose Mormonism is intrinsic to his previous political appeal – perhaps a popular, two-time Republican Governor of that most-Mormon of states, Utah?

Huntsman has the chance to affect the primaries in two key ways. His general civility makes it harder for the more extreme personalities to turn in apocalyptic performances – Bachmann, Palin, Perry are all capable of going off the deep end, but they tend not to do so if in debate with more moderate performers: Palin’s best public performance to date was her measured and civilised debate against the then-Senator Joe Biden in 2008.

    But beyond civility, Huntsman helps normalise the notion of a Mormon candidate for President. Having one Mormon in the race will attract hostility, or at least questions as to the severity of the handicap. It is harder for the media to write off a third of the viable field for such a handicap, and the issue becomes less toxic for them both.

Romney still has much to overcome, not least his accidental grand-paternity of Obamacare and his transparent, even naked, flip-flopping on social issues such as abortion. But having Huntsman in the race gives him the flexibility to take on a field protected from their tendency towards rampant incivility, and also stops Romney from being “the Mormon candidate”.

Jon Huntsman does have a (very slim) chance of the GOP nomination, and is probably the one Republican capable of beating Obama in 2012. But whether or not he gets that chance, and whether or not his eyes are geared towards a head-start on the Rubios, Christies, Daniels and Cantors in 2016, he can still have an impact on this race. He can do what no other candidate can do, and make Mitt Romney seem normal.

Morus



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Marf on the strike

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

More of Marf’s work can be found at www.londonsketchbook.com



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Have you invested in Inverclyde yet?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011


Ladbrokes

Will this be a Glasgow East – or a Glenrothes?

There’s just one day of campaigning left before the polls open in what’s becoming a hard-fought by-election in Inverclyde – on paper, an easy hold for Labour, but that was before May’s Holyrood election saw most of the Scottish electoral map repainted in SNP yellow, and it goes without saying that a poor result here will put even more pressure on Ed Miliband.

Political big guns have been visiting the constituency, in the shape of Alex Salmond, both Milibands, Gordon Brown, and soon to be ex-leader Iain Gray, as well as Ed Balls. Posters on PB have been hinting at a tightening race, while the Guardian’s Scottish correspondent reports “growing suspicion” that the SNP could pull off a remarkable win, having fallen about 500 votes short in the equivalent Holyrood seat last month.

    Ladbrokes have provided a range of markets for the by-election, with the winner market above. I note however that as at Tuesday night, the SNP are a significantly longer price on Betfair, available to back at 6 or 5/1 in “old money”. As well as this, you can also bet with Ladbrokes on the turnout (I like the look of under 40% at 5/6), as well as the size of the Labour majority and a handicap market.

This may well be one of the last elections to bet on for a while, unless your “international net” spreads quite wide, so have you had a punt and who’s your money on? Might you be tempted to make this your first foray into betting on politics?

Double Carpet

Entries for the Inverclyde election game close at 7pm BST today.



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Will the public ever learn to love the Conservatives?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Is detoxification harder when the party is in power?

One of the lessons from the 2005-2010 Parliament was the need for the Conservative Party to go much further in tackling its image problem – “detoxifying” its brand – before it was able to develop (or at least articulate) a detailed programme of serious policy commitments. This was a strategic decision taken long before the economic collapse resulted in the parties necessarily having to rethink their policy goals.

The evidence from polling suggests the rebranding of the Conservative Party was at best mixed. True, compared with 2005, by May 2010 fewer people selected “divided” (23% to 13%), “out of touch with ordinary people” (32% to 25%) or “will promise anything to win votes” (45% to 29%) as characteristics they would pick to describe the party. However, taking together the full image descriptions Ipsos MORI use, the party only attained parity rather than positive attractiveness in the public mind.

And using a different more general “likeability” measure, by April 2010 the Conservatives’ “net likeability” score was -19: hardly different from the -22 recorded in 2007. In contrast, Cameron’s own personal net “likeability” moved from -8 to +11 between 2007 and 2010.

If as many suspect the tough economic and spending decisions hurt the Tories’ brand over the next few years, then will the party be even more reliant for its electoral success on a relatively popular and charismatic leader come the next general election?

Mark Gill is former head of political research at Ipsos-MORI and co-author with Bob Worcester, Roger Mortimore, Paul Baines of Explaining Cameron’s Coalition

  • Mike Smithson will be back from holiday next Monday


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    Can Cameron afford to take on middle class women?

    Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

    Henry G on Tuesday

    There is nothing more terrifying in politics than middle class women. Men grumble, shout at the telly or newspaper, frequently swear and eventually forget what was bothering them. Middle class women are entirely different. They get organised, set up campaign groups, use the internet, issue press releases, harangue their MPs and challenge national politicians in front of the nation’s media without batting an eyelid. And they remember.

      As Sir Humphrey would point out, David Cameron and George Osborne are ‘courageously’ intending to propose increasing pension contributions in the female dominated public sector, make women work longer only for them to receive less when they do retire. The institutions and sector many middle class women work for are derided by Conservative MPs and denigrated by a right-wing press. The services they disproportionately use are harmed by cuts, their family benefits are being limited and the living standards of their families are being squeezed.

    You don’t need to be Germaine Greer to notice the unevenness of the impact of many of government policies between men and women – implemented by a Cabinet overwhelmingly made up of men and who are, for want of a better description, millionaires. The resentment levels appear to be starting to take their toll on David Cameron’s party with a large proportion of women already shifting away from them according to the polls. Their substantial lead a year ago has already evaporated – still with 4 years to go until the expected date of a general election. Even ConservativeHome is reminding its readers ‘the Conservatives have never won a general election without gaining a majority of female support.’

    The strike action on Thursday involves three education unions in sectors with twice as many women as men and each with a female leader. They are professional and articulate middle class women. ATL’s Mary Bousted is no Arthur Scargill. Put her in front of a TV camera and she’ll speak directly to millions of other middle class women in a reasonable but determined manner.

    What should really worry the Government is not the planned industrial action on Thursday. How many take part or how many schools are closed is of course of interest as is whether parents without CRB checks will take-up Michael Gove’s controversial suggestion to run the classes for a day. Arguably what should be keeping Conservative Ministers awake at night is the inevitable electoral fallout if policies which disproportionately affect women continue to be implemented. Do they really want thousands of women in marginal constituencies to be reminded in every payslip they are paying an extra £100 for their pension for less in return? They are the ‘squeezed middle’ and will be livid. If Labour’s lead among women grows then a Conservative majority at the next election could soon be out of their grasp regardless of how the economy performs.

    Thursday’s planned industrial action is not a re-run of macho union struggles of the 1980s. This is Mumsnet with placards. The government’s proposals are of electoral significance and the beginning of one hell of a headache for David Cameron.

    Henry G Manson is a Labour activist (Twitter @henrygmanson)

  • Mike Smithson is on holiday until July 4th


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    Will the leaders be crucial again in 2015?

    Monday, June 27th, 2011

    Ipsos MORI’s research over the past few general elections has shown that voters themselves placed more weight on the parties’ policies (46%, for example in 2005) than on the image of the leader (31%) or party image (23%) when deciding how to vote.

      2010 was different. Even before the leadership debates, in February 2010 the public were giving equal weight to the importance of leaders and policies in their voting decision.

    The question looking ahead is whether the increasing prominence of the image of the leaders represents a further “presidentialisation” of British politics, or if the circumstances of 2010 were unique?

    One of the reasons for the higher weight given to the image of the leaders in 2010 was that none of the parties established an advantage on the issue that dominated the election – the economy.

      If by 2015, either Labour or the Conservatives have a clear advantage on the issues that most people will vote on then we may see the importance of “issues” at the election rising again.

    If not, and with the likely return of leadership debates at the next general election, then the image of the party leaders may again be crucial. By leader image we do not mean the hair style or the cut of their suits, but important characteristics such as the public’s view of their competence, belief in their understanding of the problems facing the country and the world, and confidence that they listen to the views of the ordinary person.

    Mark Gill is former head of political research at Ipsos-MORI and co-author with Bob Worcester, Roger Mortimore, Paul Baines of Explaining Cameron’s Coalition