Don’t confuse votes with seats..

Don’t confuse votes with seats..

………and don’t confuse seats for votes.

A consistent theme on is that political gamblers should not confuse votes for seats. We’ve repeatedly pointed out that because of differing turnouts and the way the Westminster seats are distributed Labour can still win a Commons majority even if its vote slumps by 10% at the next General Election.

    But there’s another danger that was repeated by the Guardian in its main leader yesterday – do not confuse Labour’s healthy Commons seat position with votes and popular support.

The Guardian uses the most recent ICM poll to argue that Tony Blair is not harming Labour General Election chances and goes on:-

In our most recent ICM poll, Mr Blair’s overall rating is very bad, minus-20. Yet Labour still leads the Tories by five points; Michael Howard has made a big impression at Westminster, but he has not yet connected in the country. In view of the grim current political mood among Labour supporters it is instructive to apply these latest figures to the 2001 election results. On a uniform swing in an election today, Labour would stand to lose just 13 seats, 11 of them to the Tories, who would in turn lose four to the Liberal Democrats. Labour’s overall majority, on current figures, would be around 136.

The Commons seat position in intrinsic to the current UK political environment and has nothing to do with the qualities or performance of the party leaders. Michael Howard, or any Tory leader, has a huge mountain to climb largely because it’s so hard for the Tories to translate votes to seats. For the same reason Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or any other Labour leader, has a huge General Election cushion.

On the polls several observers, including and other commentators are questioning ICM over the weighting it gives to non-voters in its polls. If ICM adopted the same policy as the MORI political monitor in counting only those saying they are “certain” to vote then the poll would show the Conservatives ahead.

    A good indicator of what is happening on the ground in British politics is to monitor the local council by-elections that take place every Thursday up and down the country. Because of very low turn-out parties win these elections if they have good organisation and enthusiastic volunteers. They are a great litmus test of the morale and strength of party organisation.

For several years the Lib Dems have been making the running and this is now reflected in their opinion poll position. But in 2004 the big story has been the advance of the Tories . These are the parties performances in 2004:-

LAB 15 seats (-6)
CON 37 seats (+7)
LDs 23 seats (+0)

This does not bode well for Tony Blair on June 10.

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