Archive for the 'By elections' Category


Polling analysis: Rochester is a far far bigger challenge for UKIP than Clacton

Monday, October 20th, 2014

UKIP is not winning the 2010 Tory vote like it did in Clacton

Reckless has nothing like the personal support as Carswell

The outcome could be on a knife-edge

I’ve become totally absorbed by the Rochester by-election the outcome of which, either way, will have a dramatic affect on the political environment in the six months to the May 7th general election.

Over the weekend I’ve had a look again at the only poll so far which was from Survation. This had UKIP’s Mark Reckless with an 8.7% margin a large part of which was made up of non-voters from 2010 and a disproportionate number of those saying they voted for “others”.

    In fact if standard ICM methodology, rather than Survation’s, had been used with the same data then the main two protagonists could have been almost level pegging with Labour not far behind. This is because ICM discounts the views of non-voters from last time by 50% and also re-allocates part of the “will vote -won’t say” segment to the party they supported last. Also 2010 “others” would have been scaled down.

UKIP, of course, gave Reckless a free ride in 2010 so there’s no 2010 data relating to the party to link back to.

Lord Ashcroft, who hasn’t polled this yet, is much closer in his approach to ICM and when he does he’ll be naming the candidates in his survey.

Survation was first off with a Clacton poll and followed that up a fortnight ago with its Rochester survey. Apart from the voting ones questions were almost identical allowing us to compare the two sets of data to identify the differences.

The key ones to me are how much worse Reckless’s defection is viewed in Rochester compared with Carswell and how in Rochester the Tories are hanging on to much more of their 2010 vote. The comparisons are shown in the two charts and do not look good for UKIP.

I still think that Reckless is favourite but nothing like the 78% chance that he’s being rated at on Betfair.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Rochester punters unmoved by the CON primary and Cameron visit: UKIP still a 77.5% chance

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Is Reckless right to complain about the CON primary?

We are just five weeks away from the Rochester & Strood by-election and today David Cameron visited the area to meet local businesses as well as the two women competing to be the CON candidate.

Last night the Tories staged hustings and voting papers have now gone out by post to every single elector in the constituency, not just Tories, so they can vote by post on who should represent the blue team. It will be next Thursday before the party is able to announce which one has got it.

    Meanwhile a legal argument has started about the status of the primary process and election expenses. Will all or part of the costs have to be set against the overall limit that’s imposed on candidate during elections? The CON argument is that official expenses are triggered once the candidate is chosen. UKIP believe this is unfair because details about the two Tory contenders are included in the mail-pack that has gone out with the ballot forms.

UKIP and Mark Rekless have to be careful about how they handle this. As C4′s Michael Crick writesit’s hard to complain about a move which seemingly makes the process more democratic”.

Meanwhile punters remain unimpressed. UKIP remains a 77.5% chance on Betfair to win.

What will really set the betting alive is a new poll, perhaps from Lord A, in which the candidates are named. That’s probably a couple of weeks off.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The key group in Rochester – the women who’ve yet to make up their minds

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Will they be more likely to vote for a woman?


And so to Rochester & Strood which has become a “must win” for both the Tories and UKIP

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Will the CON all postal primary get them into the game?

Inevitably UKIP go into the upcoming Rochester & Strood by-election with their tails up high. Clacton, and even more so, Heywood have given the party the “big mo” which they hope will carry over to the next contest.

Although the only public poll had them 9% ahead the demographics of the constituency make it a much bigger challenge than Clacton. Carswell, as the massive early poll leads showed, never looked beatable and the Tories from the start treated it as a damage control operation.

In R&S this will be very different. The blues want to stop the rot here and have already shown their intent by announcing a full postal primary to choose their candidate in which every single elector will get a ballot pack and be able to vote. This is a very costly exercise which the blues hope will give them an edge.

    The intention is that the primary will raise the profile of whoever wins who will be presented to the constituency as the “people’s choice”.

Then the campaign will take on the intensity that we saw in Newark in June when for the first time in 25 years the party successfully held onto a seat in a by-election while in government.

Already this is being talked up as a make or break moment for Cameron with suggestions from the Speccie’s James Forsyth at the weekend that the PM could face a leadership challenge if the battle is lost.

This is also massive for Nigel Farage. For a failure by Mark Reckless to retain the seat would seriously dent UKIP’s remarkable surge and make it far less likely that other CON MPs will jump ship.

Whichever way it goes R&S will, have an impact on GE15.

LAB appears to have decided not to take this too seriously and, like in Newark, not to put the resources in. The LDs expect their usual lost deposit.

The betting is very much on UKIP which I think has moved in too far. I’ve put a bit on the Tories.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


To Clacton and beyond, but just how far is that?

Saturday, October 11th, 2014


David Herdson on Thursday’s dramatic elections

Revolutions are best viewed through the wide-angled lens of history, not the microscope of journalism.  Even in the most turbulent times, occurrences that would have seemed literally incredible just a few years earlier are taken almost for granted after the conditioning of intervening incremental events.

So it is with UKIP’s successes at this week’s by-elections.  Douglas Carswell’s victory was expected by all sides and duly delivered.  His colleague in Heywood and Middleton came very close to an even more spectacular result, yet it is likely to be forgotten much more quickly as you don’t get anything for second places under first-past-the-post (except perhaps a launch pad for next time).

If anything, the scale of UKIP’s success yesterday has not yet been fully appreciated due to the numbers being overshadowed by the novelty.  UKIP’s first Westminster victory was always going to be a story whether the majority had been twelve hundred votes or twelve thousand; indeed, it was always going to be the story.  But the sheer scale cannot be ignored: Douglas Carswell won more votes than any other candidate in any Westminster by-election since Mark Oaten re-secured Winchester for the Lib Dems in 1997.

Clacton was one thing; Heywood & Middleton another again.  For UKIP to win more than a third of the vote and very nearly take the seat from near enough a standing start, against an opposition incumbent and when the by-election wasn’t caused by some scandal was an extraordinary achievement.  This was no Bradford West, where there were unusual local circumstances and where the candidates had a very significant impact on the voting; this was about party popularity and unpopularity.

Despite all that, the political and media establishment remain slow to accept the scale of the change that is taking place.  David Cameron’s response was to repeat the line that a vote for UKIP will let in Labour.  Ed Miliband almost endorsed that view, with his assertion that the Conservatives cannot now win.  But the key point is that both see the game through the two-plus party filter.

Defining that ‘plus’ is one of the key variables as the General Election draws ever closer.  Ofcom maintains a list of “major parties”, which is currently the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems alone for England, and those three plus the relevant nationalists for Scotland and Wales.  Will they now change it in the light of these results?  It is increasingly difficult to justify both including the Lib Dems and excluding UKIP based on everything that has happened since 2010, and particularly since 2012.

The simple fact is that across much of the UK, the Lib Dems are at best of minor significance.  They have lost their deposit in eight of the thirteen Westminster by-elections since the start of 2012, against just two for UKIP.  They polled fewer votes (though won more seats) than Farage’s party in the local elections both this year and last, and finished fifth behind the Greens in the European elections.  Their trump cards remain their sizable number of MPs and the fact that they proved themselves capable of defending one when it became vacant.  Still, it’s a brave assertion to claim that outscores everything else, particularly as UKIP have now won one too.  On the other hand, it seems early to give UKIP major party status with just one MP.

A logical move would be for Ofcom to review their categorisation for parties and define an intermediate level:

  • Major parties: those who could realistically lead the next government, provide the next leader of the opposition, or have support equivalent to those parties which will.  A rule-of-thumb qualification might be a minimum of 20% support.
  • Secondary parties: those with wide-scale national support or which are likely to return a meaningful number of MPs.  Say, at least 10% of votes or 20+ MPs.
  • Minor parties: other parties with an electoral presence – perhaps 100+ candidates, or 2% support, or 2+ MPs.

Why does this matter?  Because the air war is still how huge numbers of votes are determined and having a seat at the table – or a representative at a debate lectern – could prove crucial.  In 2010, the Lib Dems’ polling shot up by about 10% overnight after the first debate.  True, that didn’t fully carry through to election day but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real at the time.  With so much discontent in the system as at the moment, an outsider like Farage would stand a chance of doing the same – if they happen at all, something that now has to be less likely for precisely that reason.

The consequences of this week’s votes will not of themselves be huge but the consequences of the change taking place of which the results – and indeed, defections – were a factor, will.  However, because that change is relatively slow and incremental, it’s easy to dismiss each additional step as understandable given its context (or contradictorily, as a flash in the pan).  Those that do so without thinking about the bigger picture are liable to wake up one day and ask, bewilderedly, ‘how did that happen?’.

David Herdson


One thing about tonight’s for sure – my chapter on by-elections in the Politicos GE2015 Guide will look totally out of date

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Just got back from an enjoyable holiday near Malaga to find my copy of the Politicos Guide to GE2015 waiting for me. Like its predecessor on the 2010 election I’ve contributed a chapter on by-elections in this parliament the text of which was finalised before Douglas Carswell made his dramatic switch and resigned forcing today’s by-election.

What I wrote at the end of July now looks terribly out of data because tonight we are going to see a sensation. UKIP is going to win its first Westminster seat. The big question is how big will the winning margin be.

Survation had it at 44% while a few days Later Lord Ashcroft’s poll put it in the low 30s. Whatever anything above 25% is a great outcome for the purples.

First up, though, will be the Heywood & Middleton result which if it went anyway other than Labour would be a sensation.

Enjoy the night. I’m off to bed but will be up in the early hours.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


What the Rochester poll would look like without the 2010 non voters

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

The race becomes a tie – but Labour could snatch it

Thanks to Mike for alerting me to the fact that 23.4% of the UKIP support in the survation poll were people who did not vote in the 2010 General Election.

History has shown voters who did not vote in the last general election are the less likely to turnout in the next general election. One of the reasons ICM has been consistently the most accurate pollster is one of their adjustments is to discount the view of non voters by a 50%.

The one thing that may give comfort to Reckless/UKIP is that there was no UKIP candidate in 2010, so some of these 2010 non voters were probably Kippers who didn’t have a bona fide UKIP candidate to vote for and therefore stayed at home.

But given the resources and effort the Tories are expected to throw into this by-election, it should be a lot closer than the 9% lead than the headline figures suggested last night.

The most intriguing element is Labour being just six points behind, with a strong campaign they could win it. That might be David Cameron’s best result in this by election. He could point out this is a harbinger of the 2015 General Election, go to bed with Nigel Farage and wake up with Ed Miliband.

14/1 on Labour winning the by-election looks very tasty, in light of the above, but I think most of my money today will be going on a Tory hold.




Survation Rochester Poll has UKIP 9% ahead

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Whilst UKIP will be delighted by this, there’s a few things to note

  1. Mark Reckless’ share of the vote is down nearly 10% from the general election
  2. A lead of 9% compares poorly to the 44% lead UKIP/Douglas Carswell had in the Clacton Survation poll

This leads me to conclude that my assumption that Mark Reckless is no Douglas Carswell in terms of popularity in his seat the way Douglas Carswell is regarded in Clacton.

I expect the Labour supporters to get bombarded by the Blues and Purples for tactical votes. what will we see? Tactical anti-Tory voting or Tactical anti-UKIP voting? Both the Tories and UKIP will think they can win. Brace yourself for one of the most fiercely contested by-elections in history.

I’ve not got the fieldwork dates to hand, but I’m expecting this was conducted in the aftermath of the Tory conference, UKIP had a 9% lead, the bookies making Reckless favourite seem about right, however Mike Smithson said he understood prior to Reckless’ defection, there was polling showing Reckless having a double digit lead, so there may wall be worry for the purples that the trend is not their friend.

Also, I would like to see the polling once the Tory candidate has been selected.

Meanwhile YouGov sees the Tories extending their lead.

As ever, conference polling can be erratic and volatile, the most interesting finding from this is the Tory lead on Education. Looks like a good move by Dave to move Michael Gove out of the Department of Education