Why the scales are so tilted in Labour’s favour?
In spite of the aftermath of the Iraq War, a sharp decline in personal popularity for Tony Blair, and poll ratings for Labour that are 10-15% below where they were at this stage before the last General Election, we continue to CALL LABOUR for the General Election. At the heart of this is the UK’s electoral geography and this is going to play a huge part as we approach polling day – expected to be on 05-05-05.
Last November, just after Michael Howard had taken the Tory leadership, Peter Kellner of YouGov produced an excellent analysis on how the electoral system is biased in Labour’s favour. Kellner’s starting point was that if Labour and the Conservatives had won exactly the same number of votes as each other, and the Lib Dems won the same as last time the seat distribution in 2001 would have been:-
LAB 364 seats: CON 224: LIBD 43.
Kellner identified the following factors.
13 extra Labour seats because of over-representation at Westminster of Scotland and Wales which have on average 55,000 and 57,000 electors per seat compared with 70,000 in England. The Scottish anamoly will be changed at the General Election but not Wales.
8 extra Labour seats because they have on average 6,000 fewer electors than Conservative ones because boundary changes have not kept up with population movements.
10 extra Labour seats in relation to overall votes cast because turnout is 6% lower than in Tory seats.
28 extra Labour seats at the expense of the Tories because of anti-Tory tactical voting in their target constituencies.
15 extra Lib Dem seats at the expense of the Tories because of anti-Tory tactical voting in their targets
10 extra Labour seats because Labour incumbent MPs did better than the national swing in 2001
All the above are based on Labour and the Conservatives having the same share of the national vote and the Lib Dems retaining the vote share that they got last time. Apart from Scotland, which is being changed, almost all the factors identfied by Peter Kellner remain.
The key area that could change is tactical voting. Will it continue as last time or will Lib Dems vote for their own party or even the Tories? Could it be, even, that there is anti-Labour tactical voting. Could we have a mixture of all of them? This is a hard one to call.
Even if all 28 tactically-vulnerable Labour seats went to the Tories that would cut the difference between the parties by 56. Add in the 9 lost Scottish seats and that reduces the gap to 85 which is still a mountain for the Tories to climb.
We are not convinced that many Lib Dem seats won with a tactical element will switch. But Labour could be vulnerable to anti-Labour tactical voting where Tories vote Lib Dem in Labour’s heartlands.
Taking everything into account it’s hard to reduce the structural gap to below 75-80 seats which is equivalent to a Labour vote lead of 7%. That is why our strong LABOUR CALL remains.
The issue is not the outcome – but whether you can get a good price on Labour. Last week William Hill had Labour at 1.4 until we pointed it out as good value. It will probably slip back.