Labour’s in trouble as well [Next planned update – Friday]

Labour’s in trouble as well [Next planned update – Friday]


    Blair needs a clear poll lead to avoid a hung Parliament

The fact that only the Guardian seems to be reporting that all is not well with Labour does not mean that it’s not in electoral trouble. Support down by a quarter since the General Election; membership at a 70 year low having lost almost half of those that were there when Tony Blair came to power in 1997; a collapse in the popularity of the Prime Minister, and an article like this one by former minster, Peter Kilfoyle, in the Guardian on Monday on the disappearance of the Labour activist.

    For the party to be losing its activist base could be highly dangerous. Labour’s always found it harder than the other main parties to get its vote out and we might have to consider applying a discount when assessing its poll ratings.

This week’s Populus Poll in the Times has Labour down at 32% – the same as the Tories who’ve put on 4% in a week and a half. The Lib Dems are back at their pre-Leicester South 24%. Amazingly the politicians (including the Tories), the media and political punters cling onto the belief that the figures mean that Labour will win a majority. They go to Martin Baxter’s famous “seat calculator” and get the following seat figures from the polling data.

LAB 331 seats (32%) CON 208 seats (32%) LIBD 76 seats (24%)

    We believe that this is giving a false picture and will go on giving it right until the election day.

The Baxter process works out an average of the latest polling data and then does a computation for each of the 646 seats based solely on what happened last time. It does not take account of special factors which can produce “Non-Baxter change seats“. If we can identify and quanitfy these there’ll be money to be made on a range of betting markets. SELL Labour at 346 in the spread markets and BUY the Lib Dems at 68. We think the Baxter prediction will be out as a result of three factors

  • It assumes that anti-Tory tactical voting will continue as last time. WRONG.
  • It asssumes that Lib Dems gains will be limited to the poll swings. WRONG
  • It assumes that Labour has the activists as last time to get its vote out. WRONG.
  • We think that the anti-Tory tactical voting that saw Labour supporters voting Lib Dem will continue. But we are much less certain that Lib Dems will carry on switching their vote to Labour in the pattern that saw the the Tories lose 25-40 seats at the last two elections. With the war, issues like tuition fees and the decline in trust in Blair many of these voters will return to their own party which is itself moving forward?

    Thus the Tories could regain St. Albans WITHOUT increasing their vote. There the Baxter calculation puts the Tories 1.4% behind. In 1997 and 2001 many times that number Lib Dems voted tactically for Labour. It does not require that many to stay loyal and a Non-Baxter gain occurs. The same factor applies in several Hertfordshire seats including Welwyn Hatfield which is included as a gain by Martin Baxter and so not a Non-Baxter seat.

    Applying the latest Baxter calculation to Cambridge , another category of constituency, Labour’s 20% lead in 2001 becomes a 5% lead over the Lib Dems. There are enough Tories to squeeze for a further Non-Baxter Gain

    The Labour poll decline of about a quarter and the Lib Dem increase by about a third opens up many new target possibilities. We are in uncharted territory because Labour hasn’t been down at these low levels in the polls for a generation. What’s confusing is that the media focus has been almost solely on the inability of the Tories to benefit and there’s an irrational assumption that the electoral system will somehow see Labour home. But if Labour lost 20 seats to the Tories on the tactical vote unwind and 25 to special Lib Dem targeting then the Baxter projection from yesterday’s poll would look like this.

    LAB 286: CON 228: LIBD 101

    Given that this is based on the two main parties getting the same number of votes Labour would still be 58 seats ahead but would be 37 MPs short of a majority. That’s a far cry from the current spread ranges of:-

    LAB 346-354: CON 210-218: LIBD 64-68

    We believe that almost everybody is reading this wrongly and we are reading it right. With Non-Baxter seat losses to contend with and a diminishing activist base Labour needs a big poll lead to be secure a Commons majority at 324 seats or more. At the moment it’s not got one.

    Mike Smithson

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