Archive for the 'Campaigning' Category


Policies not leadership will win this election

Sunday, April 12th, 2015


Last night saw the the emergence of a major policy announcement by both the Tories and Labour, these can be seen as the appetising hors-d’oeuvre before the main course that is the manifesto launches in the early part of this coming week.

The below graphic from some polling by Ipsos Mori in February, which shows leadership isn’t as important policies, as they note, we’ve gone from the most presidential election in 2010, to the least, which explains why the Tory attacks on Ed Miliband haven’t led to sustained Tory leads this week.

Ipsos Mori


So, it comes down to which party has the policy/policies that appeal most to the voters. The Tory plan on IHT is the interesting one, back in 2007, when Labour MPs were publicly saying that “Shortly there will be a [snap] election, in which Labour will increase its majority”

One of the things that stopped Gordon Brown from holding that election was George Osborne’s policy announcement to increase IHT threshold from £300,000 to £1 million which saw a sustained change in the polling in the Tories’ favour.

But that was then, and this is now. The Tories are perceived to be the party of the rich, will this policy reaffirm that, as the cutting of the 50p to 45p in the omnishambles budget of 2012 saw the Tory polling take a dip from which they are only now recovering from.

But finally, we’re moving onto the substantive part of an election campaign, something that will help voters decide which way they will vote and could cause one side or the other to pull away, as fewer voters are decided on how they’ll vote in May than in previous elections.



If you live in the marginals expect US style political attack ads appearing in your youtube feed

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Above is one of the most notorious US political attack ads.

Buzzfeed are reporting that

[The] Tories Bring US-Style Political Attack Adverts To The UK In Time For The Election. Paid-for political advertising on TV and radio has always been banned in the UK. But there’s no such restriction on using YouTube, and BuzzFeed News understands the Conservatives are already spending the money.

Whilst many have doubts the impact of the internet and social media on a general election campaign, this is a further example of a well resourced Conservative Party taking on a not so well resourced Labour Party unable to compete with the Tory advantage. Given the national polling indicates there is very little  between the Tories and Labour, every advantage helps.

As Buzzfeed notes, “However, it is likely that the paid-for YouTube adverts will mainly appear in the roughly 90 marginal seats which the Tories believe are key to an election victory and where they are concentrating campaign resources.”

This may also explain, why the voters think the Tories are having a better campaign so far, YouGov earlier on this week asked the following, “Taking everything into account, how good or bad an election campaign do you think the following have had so far?” Conservatives are on net +4, Greens +3, Ukip -1, Labour -30, Lib Dems -43.

All of this could explain in part, why the betting sentiment is moving towards the Tories/against Labour over on Betfair and the spreads.



CON fights back against UKIP with what’s been a hugely effective voter mobilisation strategy in the US

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Big data giving the personal touch

This morning Tory chairman, Grant Shapps, sent me the above email with an invitation to take part in a conference call with the Prime Minister tonight. Although the text doesn’t say it specifically there’s a suggestion that I could be in dialogue with Mr. Cameron.

    On the face of it this is quite appealing and my guess is that it will get a good response rate.

This form of campaigning is an import from the 2012 White House race. It was seen first in the Romney campaign for the GOP nomination and played a key part in those early states when it was so important for him to underline his front-runner status.

There the “Tele-Town Hall Meetings”, as they were called, structure was honed so that the the issues discussed were tailored specifically to the target voter. I don’t know whether the Cameron approach will be the same or whether there’ll be a common “discussion” for all who participate.

In a low turnout election like the Euros the Tories can really enhance their position by getting their more marginal voters to turnout and to bring back on board some of the CON>UKIP switchers. This is about voter mobilisation and it could help.

I remain of the view that the Tories will do better on May 22nd than in the current online polling.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


European Elections 2009 : Summary of Results

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

European Election Results 2009

UK 2009 Winners

Conservatives 4,193,706 votes (27.63%) winning 272 count areas and 25 MEP’s
United Kingdom Independence Party 2,495,782 votes (16.44%) winning 9 count areas and 13 MEP’s
Labour 2,375,361 votes (15.65%) winning 59 count areas and 13 MEP’s
Liberal Democrats 2,078,723 votes (13.70%) winning 11 count areas and 11 MEP’s
Green Party 1,302,705 votes (8.58%) winning 3 count areas and 2 MEP’s
British National Party 941,491 votes (6.20%) winning 0 count areas and 2 MEP’s
Scottish National Party 321,007 votes (2.11%) winning 22 count areas and 2 MEP’s
Plaid Cymru 123,816 votes (0.81%) winning 4 count areas and 1 MEP
Other Parties 1,340,174 votes (8.83%) winning 0 count areas and 0 MEP’s
Conservative lead of 1,697,924 votes (11.19%) with a majority of 164 count areas and 12 MEP’s

Over the next few weeks I will be outling the prospects for each of the main parties (Con, Lab, Lib Dem, UKIP) as well as the other parties (Plaid, SNP, BNP, Green) in the forthcoming European Elections and based on the polls on the eve of poll produce a forecast map showing not only what districts are likely to go to which parties but also the number of MEP’s elected by region (and the change on 2009).

I am therefore opening the comments section for people to ask what their local area result was in 2009. All of the results have been standardised to the districts being counted this year and all I need to know is the name of the council that you will be electing at the next set of elections in 2015 (for England), 2016 (Scotland and Wales).

Harry Hayfield


The Christmas Game: Part I

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

Many thanks to Harry Hayfield, for providing the fun for Christmas Day on PB.

Below are the The Google Earth outline of five UK parliamentary constituencies.

Can you guess what those constituencies are? The only clue being all the maps are aligned North to South.

The answers will be posted when the thread for constituencies six to ten is published this afternoon.

Have fun guessing one to five.


Constituency One

Constituency Two

Constituency Three

Constituency Four

Constituency Five


At GE2015 the traditional media will be far less important than ever before

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Getting messages across is going to be a lot more difficult

The above is from a Populus/Open Road poll which asked the simple question of which parts of the media people got information from each day.

The poll did not cover the type of information so it is to be expected that percentages consuming what we think of as “news” are a lot lower.

Clearly we’ve seen from newspaper circulation figures how the printed media is falling sharply. What I find interesting is that this drop has not been compensated by increasing usage of newspaper websites which remained the same. Maybe part of this is down to paywalls.

We hear so much about Twitter yet usage amongst the general public just increased by 2% from 13% to 15% over the two years. Facebook is moving upwards but how much of the information that people get impacts on voting? We don’t know.

    So much effort goes into developing and refining messages for general elections campaigns yet the channels for getting these across are getting narrower

All this leads me to observe that the ground campaign is going to be more important than ever before. Direct personal contact with voters in the marginals will be central and this comes at a time when membership of the older parties is on the decline.

Foot soldiers to knock on doors and to push things through letter boxes are at a premium yet there are far fewer of them.

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble since 2004


In the marginals the presumption must that the more marginal voters will vote

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Polling+station+cyclist (1)

Polling turnout filters might be deceptive

It has become standard practice almost all polling firms to include a weighting for turn out particularly in the final stages of a campaign.

Participants are asked to rate the chances of them voting on a scale of 1-10 and the results are used to scale up or scale down their voting intention responses.

The most radical approach is taken by Ipsos-MORI which only includes the views of those 10/10 absolutely certain to vote in its headline figures. ICM adds another dimension and scales down by 50% the views of those who say they did not vote last time.

    Certainty to vote weighting is fine for the country as whole but in the key battlegrounds we have to assume that the party get out the vote operations (GOTV) will get more people out.

This is hardly surprising because after the whole point of the high octane highly intensive campaigning is to ensure that more of your potential voters actually do so.

Elsewhere, in the other 80% of seats, general election campaigns operate at a much lower tempo. Quite often party activists in the non-marginals are encouraged to put their efforts into seats other than their own.

Thus at GE2015 we are going to see a lot more focus on distributed phone banking and the parties are investing in infrastructures to make it simple to manage and ensure that databases are kept up to date – vital on polling day. A lot of this was tested at Eastleigh.

Overall we should be looking at the polls expecting that in the battlegrounds more marginal voters will vote.

Mike Smithson

For the latest polling and political betting news


Henry G Manson – On the Lobbying Bill

Friday, August 23rd, 2013



This Big Brother Bill Belongs to Zimbabwe Not Britain

Hasty legislation usually makes for the lousy legislation. But for lousy and cynical legislation, look no further than the government’s ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill’. It appears to be the latest sinister stunt from a Conservative Party looking to boost its chances in the run-up to the general election by effectively clamping down on dissenting views.

Under this legislation the staff time, office costs and expenditures of thousands of blogs, think tanks, charities and campaigners are all set to be heavily capped in the year before the May 2015 general election. What’s worse is that the regulation of independent organisations will not only come from the state, but even from the political parties themselves.

The Spectator’s Sebastian Payne explains that political blogs that spend more than is permissible would require the permission of political parties. ‘This new regime, unless clearly defined in the bill, could affect political blogs. Not necessarily due to their funding, but because some bloggers write primarily about the ongoings of a particular party, which could be classed as campaigning. This would give Ed Miliband the power to shut down LabourList, or David Cameron to Conservative Home, if he took a dislike to their coverage.’

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations warns that charities campaigning seeking to change views and attitudes risks being classified as electioneering. ‘This means that a charity that published campaigning material on an issue such as housing or healthcare could be considered to be engaging in political campaigning if it shares a point of view with one party but not another, even if its intention was just to inform the public, and even if it did not even mention the election.’

Respected anti-fascist campaigners Hope Not Hate have highlighted  how they will be legally limited to spending just 2% of what the British National Party is able to spend in the year before the last general election under these new proposals. They describe it as ‘nothing more than a Gagging Bill, limiting democracy, political involvement and criticism. At a time when trust in political parties and politicians is at an all-time low we need to increase involvement and participation in the democratic process rather than limiting it.’

Meanwhile the TUC have calculated that to hold their traditional annual Congress in the year before an election would become a criminal offence due to the expenditure involved. Their General Secretary Frances O’Grady damned the bill as “an outrageous attack on freedom of speech worthy of an authoritarian dictatorship” 

So charities, anti-racist organisations, trade unions and political blogs stand to be hit hard by the bill, while decaying political parties including the BNP will be its beneficiaries.

Presumably such a Bill must well and truly cover lobbyists? Seasoned lobbyist and former head of Public Affairs at Bell Pottinger Peter Bingle says no ‘Only a tiny percentage of the so-called lobbying industry will be covered by the bill, and in-house lobbyists are excluded. This is bizarre, as most lobbying of ministers, special advisers and officials is done by employees of corporations and trade associations and not by public affairs consultants. I will not be covered by the bill as it is drafted and nor will most of the major players in the public affairs consultancy world.’

Guido Fawkes agrees adding that ‘a huge amount of the type of lobbying that needs most scrutiny has been let off entirely’.

Politics simply should not be the sole property of political parties. Thoughtful Conservative MP Douglas Carswell asks, ‘If 38 Degrees or the Taxpayers’ Alliance want to get stuck in during an election campaign, why shouldn’t they? What possible reason can there be to regulate the political engagement of institutions in a free society?’

It is a sad reflection on David Cameron, who once described himself as ‘a liberal Conservative’, that his government seems intent on curtailing the campaigning freedoms of others to buttress support. He refuses to admit how many Conservative members have been lost under his watch yet wants to curtail thriving civic campaigning organisations far bigger than his own. His desperate response through this Bill owes more to Zimbabwe than Britain.

For Liberal Democrat MPs to back such Big Brother measures would surely mark a new chapter in the party’s departure from liberal values. It speaks volumes about Nick Clegg’s leadership that it cannot be ruled out. Chloe Smith is the government minister responsible for this Big Brother bill’s speedy passage. Email her at to tell her what you think. While you can.


Henry G Manson