Archive for June, 2013

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Lord Ashcroft is on the look out for interesting ideas for polls

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

This is one I suggested this morning

In a Tweet before the weekend the biggest commissioner of private polling in the UK, Lord Ashcroft, suggested that he was looking out for interesting ideas for political polls.

One I put forward is in the Tweet reproduced above – CON-LAB battlegrounds where the LDs performed well in 2010.

Given that know that a large part of the yellow vote at the last election has migrated to Labour it would be really interesting to get a sense of what they are doing in the marginals.

As was mentioned on the thread this morning the standard approach of projecting seats from poll shares might not be that relevant. All that does on CON-LAB marginals is look at the change between the two main parties.

    If the LD vote is disproportionately holding up in these seats then that is good news for the blues. If the other way then EdM is one step nearer Number 10.

I’m a great fan of Lord Ashcroft’s polling and I think we should welcome his openess in asking for ideas.

Mike Smithson

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Kellner says an overall LAB majority looks less likely after YouGov reports its lowest lead of the year

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Why a 5% LAB lead might not be enough

Today’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has the LAB lead down to just 5% it’s lowest point since November 2012.

This has set off the talk once again that an overall majority for Ed Miliband in 2015 might be not as much in the bag as it appeared. For all though the shares in the poll should, according to the seat calculators, produce a comfortable majority there are reasons which it might be tighter.

YouGov’s Peter Kellner writes in the Sunday Times:-

“.. If we apply the vote shifts since 2010 to every constituency — Labour up eight points, the Tories down four and the Liberal Democrats down 13 — then Labour triumphs with 354 seats and a majority of 58.

That is misleading, however. This calculation projects the Lib Dems losing 34 seats, 18 of them to Labour. That is improbable. Lib Dem MPs tend to have personal support that transcends party labels; this will not save those with tiny majorities but it will limit the party’s losses.

Recent elections suggest new MPs tend to do better than the national average when they first seek re-election. This applies to almost all the Tory MPs Labour is seeking to depose in 2015. I would expect Labour to win fewer Conservative-Labour marginals than one might assume from the national swing.

There’s another factor here which Kellner doesn’t mention – Scotland.

At GE2010 Labour was losing vote share and seats all over apart from north of the border where its vote increased by 2.5%. The party came away with 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats and part of the reason, it was argued, was that the then leader, Gordon Brown, was Scottish.

The Lib Dems, who had moved from a Scottish leader, Charles Kennedy, to an English one, Nick Clegg, saw a fall in its Scottish vote share against the overall national trend.

It is hard to see how Labour, even with the progress made since 2010 nationally, can hold on to 70% of the Scottish seats.

Apart from YouGov there was the ICM Wisdom Index for the S Telegraph – a poll in which those sampled are asked to predict the vote shares for the main parties.

There’s also an Opinium poll about for the Observer for which we don’t have the details yet. One finding that has been revealed is that 46% said that they blame LAB for Britain’s economic situation while just 29% blamed the coalition.

Mike Smithson

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Final vote tally from last month’s locals shows UKIP in second place in seats contested

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Thanks to Andy JS who has done a brilliant job collecting and recording the data from each of the 2,208 seats that were fought on May 2nd.

    In addition to the numbers I’ve included as an option on the chart’s dropdown the shares from the ComRes local elections poll. Compared with the overall vote totals this overstated LAB and UKIP but understated CON and the LDs.

    These figures differ considerably from the notional national vote extrapolations put out by the broadcasters and Professors Rallings and Thrasher on the night and on the following two days. They were serving a different purpose trying to relate the elections to a general election.

    The reason that Labour appears to have done so poorly in these figures is down solely to the nature of the seats contested. These were very much in Tory territory – mostly the shire counties – where you would expect the blues to do well.

    Mike Smithson



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Leadership ratings: a good guide but not a magic measure

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

And in any case, it’s too close to call right now

It’s sometimes said that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them but that’s only true to a degree.  A popular and effective government will always win re-election because in such circumstances, the swing voters in the electorate will have little reason to listen to the opposition, little to gain and potentially much to lose by voting the government out no matter how good the opposition, and in all probability the opposition won’t be that good because oppositions facing popular governments tend to suffer from internal divisions and criticism of the leadership.

On the other hand, while an unpopular or ineffective government gives an opposition a chance to be heard, that party still has to make its case.  Even when a government drops the ball, the opposition has to pick it up cleanly.

In an increasingly presidential age, is this equally true of party leaders?  In Lord Ashcroft’s recent poll, there was a substantial amount of opinion data on how the public see David Cameron and Ed Miliband, and on various other cabinet ministers too.  As Mike noted yesterday, just because Boris Johnson’s figures are through the roof, it doesn’t mean that the Conservatives would necessarily benefit from his leadership.

That’s where the skill of the analyst comes in.  How much of what people are saying is a proxy for something else, how much is because they’re bored and tired (the poll asks a great many questions and respondents could be forgiven for paying less attention as it goes on), how much represents true but non-transferable information i.e. just because someone says Boris is up to the job of mayor, it doesn’t mean they’d think the same were he an option for PM, how much is distorted due to respondents not understanding the question or being insufficiently informed to answer, and how much is their genuine belief but one which is likely to change between now and when it matters?  Also, which measures matter most and which are relatively trivial?

Of the nineteen attributes questioned upon, Miliband edges Cameron by ten to nine, with the Labour leader consistently seen as a nicer person – one who listens, is fair and ‘on my side’ – as well as more understanding of Britain’s problems and in touch.  By contrast, he is seen as weak, indecisive and out of his depth compared to Cameron.

Another old saying is that it’s better to be respected than to be liked.  Indeed, at times the Conservative Party behaves as if the two are mutually exclusive, which they’re not.  Even so, for individuals as much as parties in opposition, in order to simply get a hearing, not only do they have to be up against a government with some weaknesses, they also have to be seen as a credible alternative.  Much has been made of the fact that in 1979, Callaghan outpolled Thatcher on leadership head-to-heads but the Tories still won.  True, but when both are seen as PM material, that matters less.

To state the obvious, it’s also significant how big the gap is in the ratings, much more so than whether one or the other is marginally ahead.  For the moment, it’s even-stevens: Miliband is seen by a substantial margin as more likeable while Cameron has a smaller, but still clear, lead on the strength and competency questions.  It’s also only one part of the equation: Hague out-scores Cameron on every question (and beats Miliband on two-thirds of them) but would the Tories’ fortunes improve if Hague were to return for a second spell as leader?  I have my doubts.

It also crucially matters who sees each person in a positive or negative light.  Boris’ sky-high ratings even with opposition voters only just saw him scrape in last year, albeit with way more votes than his party.  Likewise, being adored by the party faithful or hated by the opposition’s won’t shift many votes, though it may affect internal party politics.  On the other hand, if nominal party identifiers are only giving weak support to the leader, it’is a good indication that the party’s vote is soft.

With less than two years to go, both Cameron and Miliband have significant work to do.  For what it’s worth, I think that Cameron’s weaknesses with the public are both more readily fixable and less significant than Miliband’s.  That, however, is a personal view.  What’s clear is that unlike at this stage in most recent parliaments, neither leader is remotely close to sealing the deal yet.

David Herdson



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Nighthawks is now open

Friday, June 28th, 2013

 

Home of the web’s best political conversation

Why not relax, and converse into the night on the day’s events in PB NightHawks.

If you’ve always been a lurker, and you’re thinking I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, why not Delurk tonight.

The round up of recent events (click on the links below, and it will bring up the relevant story)

TSE



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The Coalition has left it too late to benefit from infrastructure

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Henry G Manson on the week’s big political news

This week Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander trumpeted a raft of infrastructure investments totalling £100bn. There are some reasons to question with the overall figure. As the Independent says ‘some of the projects, in the best tradition of political spin, had already been announced. Others, it turned out, may never be built at all. But a few could, with a fair wind, perhaps transform Britain’s ageing roads, railways and power stations for the 21st century.’ Either way, the gusto with which the Coalition (and Lib Dems in particular) celebrate this £100bn of ‘spending’ is politically significant for the Coalition.

Three years ago Danny Alexander made much of his cancellation of just £2bn of government projects including new schools, the building of a new hospital, new libraries, a loan to Sheffield Forgemasters and extension of the Future Jobs Fund. He added described it as “pre-election spending spree in the full knowledge that the government had long since run out of money”. Long since run out of money? Really? What’s changed since then?

The government now seems to increasingly accept that public investment has a role to play in economic growth and that cuts alone are not the cure. We may not now have had a double-dip recession, but economic growth has been miserable. While Labour is being pulled in all directions over welfare, the Coalition’s move towards infrastructure is a victory of sorts for the Opposition and one they really should exploit. Liam Byrne’s notorious note aside (which by itself should have been a sacking offence from the Labour front bench on the grounds of political and economic stupidity) the Labour view at the time was that the Coalition’s decision to cut capital spending would cost jobs, undermine key sectors and slow down growth. And they were right.

Vince Cable in particular knows the importance of infrastructure investment. In March this year he argued “the more controversial question is whether the government should not switch but should borrow more, at current very low interest rates, in order to finance more capital spending: building of schools and colleges; small road and rail projects; more prudential borrowing by councils for house building. This last is crucial to reviving an area which led economic recovery in the 1930s but is now severely depressed.” However this comes almost 3 years into the government in which he is a senior Cabinet minister of. Has he had to watch Osborne’s austerity fail before he could intervene and make his case publicly?

This government’s press release this week explains how there will be ‘an additional £18 billion of investment over the next parliament.’ We hear that ‘by 2020 to 2021 the government plans to triple the money spent on roads compared to 2013’. In addition ‘superfast broadband provision will be expanded so 95 per cent of UK premises will have access to superfast broadband by 2017.’

    What do they all have in common? They’re after the next election. With less than two years to go, there are relatively few projects that will be up and running by the time the Conservative and Liberal Democrats go to the electorate. How will they benefit from something that has yet to happen?

Finally doesn’t this all confuse the Coalition’s core political message? We either have ‘no money left’ or we have £100bn for public works schemes. Borrowing is cheap and the returns make sense. Yet voters (and some MPs) can be forgiven for being increasingly perplexed as to why ministers can find an extra £10bn for HS2 while £11.5bn is cut from local public services. Incidentally Labour might be in favour of HS2 but it shouldn’t be in favour of a blank cheques. They should get after the government right away on this issue alone.

The Coalition’s investment in infrastructure is significant and the right thing to do. But publicity with hard hats won’t be enough to ensure they’ll politically benefit from it in 2015. Labour frontbenchers should also take note.

Henry G Manson



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Lord Ashcroft’s mega poll suggests that Boris NOT the magic bullet that would win GE2015 for the Tories

Friday, June 28th, 2013

“In his London campaigns Boris undeniably attracted voters who usually support other parties. As our research shows, this would be less likely to work in a general election. Otherwise Labour and Lib Dem supporting voters backed Boris as Mayor on a personal mandate and a personal manifesto; for many, the fact that he was a Tory was incidental. Asking them to vote for a Conservative government, inhabited by the Conservative Party and implementing Conservative policies but with Boris at the helm, would be a rather different proposition. The uncommitted and uninterested, meanwhile, would give him a hearing, but Boris alone would not be a good enough reason for them to vote Tory.” – Lord Ashcroft

I’ve not had chance overnight to go through the 100+ pages of data in the full report but it does appear that the Ashcroft conclusion is correct.

The question is what this set of comprehensive research is going to do to the Mayor’s chances of becoming Cameron’s successor. Overall it is not the boost that many Boris supporters might have been hoping for. In any case I’ve always felt that the Tories are not going to replace one ex-Etonian ex-Bullingdon Club member with another one.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news




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Harry Hayfield’s Local By-Election Preview

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Billericay East on Basildon (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Con 25, Lab 15, Lib Dem 2 (Conservative majority of 8)

Current Electoral Cycle Election Results

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Conservatives

4,084

61%

2,626

65%

1,502

58%

Labour

737

11%

567

14%

383

15%

Liberal Democrats

1,360

20%

528

13%

316

12%

UKIP

308

5%

346

9%

409

16%

BNP

196

3%

In the annals of electoral history, nowhere screams louder than Basildon. 1992’s Conservative HOLD of the Basildon constituency was the clearest sign that the Conservatives had won the general election and ever since it has held an almost mythical reverence in Conservative party circles. A reverence continues to this day as for the whole of the 2003 – 2012 electoral cycle that I have data for, not once has Basildon council not elected a Conservative majority. It started off small in 2003 with a majority of just 4 (Con 23, Lab 14, Lib Dem 3, Ind 2), but steadily climbed reaching a peak of 16 in 2008 (Con 29, Lab 10, Lib Dem 3) and was only reduced to its current eight at the 2012 local elections.

Farnsfield and Bilsthorpe on Newark and Sherwood (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 22, Lab 15, Ind 6, Lib Dem 3 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 2)

Result of last election (Emboldened indicates elected)

Political Party

First Candidate

Second Candidate

Third Candidate

Conservatives

1,752

1,619

1,698

Labour

1,181

1,234

1,142

Newark on the other hand has been a right battleground. 2003 saw a completely hung council (Con 23, Lab 13, Ind 6, Lib Dem 4) and it was only the collapse of the Labour vote in 2007 that allowed the Conservatives to gain overall control (Con 26, Ind 10, Lab 6, Lib Dem 4) but the fact that Labour were unable to gain control in 2011 (making nine gains overall) maybe suggests that in the heart of the former coal mining areas of England, the one nation Labour party still has some work to do

Southway on Plymouth (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2012): Lab 31, Con 26 (Labour majority of 5)

Current Electoral Cycle Election Results

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Conservatives

2,183

 36%

1,839

 47%

967

 29%

Labour

2,160

 36%

2,096

 53%

1,845

53%

Liberal Democrats

1,029

 17%

UKIP

678

 12%

785

 24%

BNP

Plymouth is a classic example of what happened to Labour in local government during the time of the last Labour government. In 2003 Labour had a majority of 15 on Plymouth, a majority that was wiped out in the 2006 local elections and saw Labour pushed onto the opposition benches in 2007 (as the Conservatives gained control and kept control until the 2012 elections, when Labour retook control)

Ketton on Rutland (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 16, Ind 8, Lib Dem 2 (Conservative majority of 6)
Two Conservatives were elected unopposed in 2011

Rutland is the smallest county in England and as such has a large number of Independents (six in 2003, five in 2007 and eight at the last elections in 2011) so despite the Conservative majority in all three elections, the Independents have always been the main opposition on the council

Cleadon and East Boldon on South Tyneside (Con Defence)

Current Electoral Cycle Election Results

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Conservatives

2,082

42%

1,590

41%

1,692

54%

Labour

1,978

40%

1,931

50%

1,443

46%

S Tyneside Progress

776

16%

238

6%

BNP

165

3%

Independents

88

2%

Primrose on South Tyneside (Lab Defence)

Current Electoral Cycle Election Results

Local Elections   2010

Local Elections   2011

Local Elections   2012

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Votes Cast

% Share

Conservatives

300

9%

164

8%

195

11%

Labour

1,723

53%

1,157

53%

1,284

75%

Liberal Democrats

422

13%

BNP

478

15%

227

13%

Greens

63

2%

Independents

285

9%

767

35%

Non Party Ind

93

4%

Last Local Election (2012): Lab 48, Ind 4, Con 1, UKIP 1 (Labour majority of 42)

South Tyneside is a Labour heartland worthy of the title. Never falling below 36 councillors, Labour’s majority on the council has been solid since 2003. However as we have seen in past recent local by-elections a massive majority is no promise of holding a rock solid seat.

Newtown on Dartford (Con Defence)
Last Local Election (2011): Con 31, Lab 9, Rates 4 (Conservative majority of 18)

Result of last election (Emboldened indicates elected)

Political Party

First Candidate

Second Candidate

Third Candidate

Conservatives

951

938

898

Labour

842

733

679

English Democrats

265

225

213

Dartford at the parliamentary level is one of the seats that Labour gained in 1997 as part of the absolute demolition job they carried out on the South East of England at that election, however despite making a impressive recovery from their disaster at the 2007 local elections nationally in 2011, this was not reflected in Dartford as the Conservatives made five gains taking three seats from Labour (against the national tide). Is Dartford one of several areas that are cocking a snook at traditional political moves or was 2011 just a one off that Labour hope to prove at this by-election

Stourport on Severn on Worcestershire (UKIP Defence)
Last Local Election (2013): Con 30, Lab 12, UKIP 4, Lib Dem 3, Green 2, Ind 2, Health Concern 2, Lib 1, Rates 1 (Conservative majority of 3)

Result of last election (Emboldened indicates elected)

Political Party

First Candidate

Second Candidate

% Vote Share

Conservatives

984

964

21%

Labour

1,141

894

22%

UKIP

1,385

1,151

27%

Health Concern

1,335

1,167

27%

Greens

195

2%

Stourport on the river Severn is part of the Wyre Forest constituency, a constituency which in 2001 came to national fame as it elected the first true Independent MP for over 50 years (closely followed in 2005 by Blaenau Gwent) and although both Independents lost their seats at the 2010 general election, Wyre Forest still has a stubborn Independent streak running through it (polling 21% at the recent local elections in the district). However, UKIP (who polled 24%) proved that they are just as capable of getting into the minds of the discontented as demonstrated in this ward gaining a seat from the Independent Health Concern grouping, but as part of the mass of UKIP candidates who Nigel Farage admitted swamped the UKIP vetting process, it should come as no surprise to hear that this by-election has been caused by something Cllr. Kitson wrote before his election that a good vetting process would have picked up on and denied him being a candidate. So will the Health Concern group be able to retake what they must think if rightfully theirs, will UKIP be able to demonstrate that the counties were not a flash in the pan or will Labour reflect their recent poll recovery and win their first seat on the county from Wyre Forest for over eight years?