Archive for the ' General Election' Category


How the voters moved on May 7th

Monday, June 29th, 2015

This is a great bit of analysis of how the voters moved on election day from the previous general election, Martin Baxter explains

The graphic shows the various migrations of one hundred typical voters from 2010 to now. Voters who have switched from one party to another are shown moving along the corresponding arrow. “Lost” supporters are shown in grey, and “gained” supporters carry a white plus sign.

There are four key changes: the collapse of the Liberal Democrats; the rise of UKIP; the SNP surge in Scotland; and the growth of the Greens. On the graphic, we see five outbound arrows from the Lib Dems, and several inbound arrows into the three insurgents.

Compared with the pre-election estimates, there are the following differences:

  • The Conservatives gained one per cent support, rather than losing three per cent, and only have four voters going to UKIP rather than five. They effectively lose none to the Greens.
  • There is a net two per cent swing of voters from Labour to Conservatives.
  • The Lib Dem flow to UKIP is two rather than three
  • The Lib Dem to Conservative flow is three rather than two
  • The Lib Dem flow to Labour is seven rather than six
  • Two voters rather than one move from Labour to SNP
  • UKIP gain three voters from “Other” parties, such as the BNP (not shown)

These are direct transitions from 2010 voting choice to 2015 voting. For example, the two voters moving from Lib Dem to UKIP represent the fact that two per cent of the GB electorate chose to vote Lib Dem in 2010 and then switched their votes to UKIP in 2015. In other words, less than one tenth of 2010 Lib Dem supporters defected to UKIP in 2015 (two out of twenty-four).

The full explanation is available here.



Guest Slot: Social media and shy rightwingers

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Dan Hannan Tweet

Tissue Price on the polling errors across Europe

The inquest into the polling disaster at the UK General Election continues. Matt Singh of NumberCruncherPolitics provided an excellent overview of the pollsters’ initial thoughts last week, ahead of the first meeting of the official BPC/MRS inquiry.

Some pollsters think faulty sampling was the principal cause of error, some blame turnout modelling, and one thinks a genuine late swing was the biggest single factor.

Dan Hodges channels Emile Zola in accusing the pollsters of herding, and Danny Finkelstein (£) thinks we’ll never know the true answer.

However Matt’s bet – and mine – is that Peter Kellner is right and that 2015 was a classic case of shy Tory syndrome. Peter chiefly attributes this to the Tories’ image, but I wonder whether his earlier explanation of “social satisficing” – not wanting to admit your views to a stranger for fear of being thought less of – might be nearer the mark, notwithstanding the fact that the majority of UK polls were online.

The reason for thinking this is that similar polling errors have occurred in other national elections this year. In Israel, Likud were predicted to gain 22 seats (of 120) and ended up with 30, and last week in Denmark the blue block were expected to win by 1 or 2% and actually won by 5% – with the populist DPP notably outperforming their eve-of-election polling by 3% (21% to 18%).

On more limited polling, the same pattern can be seen in Finland – with the Centre Party overestimated by about 3% at the expense of the populist True Finns and centre-right National Coalition Party; in Estonia, where the winning centre-right Reform Party were underestimated; in the Croatian presidential election, where the polls didn’t give the narrow winner Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović much of a chance (though interestingly the exit polls nailed it); and in Poland’s presidential election, where Andrzej Duda’s first round victory came as a total shock.

You could even make a case that Ireland’s marriage referendum fits the pattern, with the 62-38 victory for Yes contrasting with opinion polling expecting a 70-30 result.

The social media explanation

Is there a ready (and no doubt oversimplistic) explanation for why people all over Europe, in a variety of elections, might have been conditioned into suppressing their true intentions – even online? I think that perhaps social media – Twitter, and more importantly Facebook – has the answer.

Twitter has long been described as an echo chamber, and undoubtedly has a leftwing bias in terms of the sheer number of tweets. Dan Hannan’s tongue-in-cheek Venn diagram (at the head of this article) is to the point; the FT provided a more aesthetically pleasing proof of the same effect with some very nice network graphs.

However on Twitter you can choose who you follow and what you are exposed to. On Facebook you have to put up with your friends’ opinions. Now I am a fully paid-up PB Tory, with a social circle to match, but even I have some leftwing friends. And they didn’t shy away from signalling their virtue!

That’s anecdotal, but here is some data from the British Election Study posted by Philip Cowley of Nottingham University which confirms that left-wingers were much more likely to post content online during the election campaign:


Bes 2

NB the wider reach of Facebook – it’s by far the more important social network for communicating with the electorate at large. Ofcom estimate that there are about 35m Facebook users in the UK and only 12m Twitter users.

My supposition is that it’s easier – as in, less risk of argument or confrontation – to post left-wing opinion online. Your intentions are assumed to be good and your motives pure, whereas right-wing opinion may often carry a whiff of self-interest in financial matters and might be supposed to be xenophobic or worse in other areas.

So, there’s my overarching theory to explain the multiple failures of polling across Europe this year: an online culture in which leftwing messages get disproportionately liked or retweeted into your timeline might have helped to bring about the emergence of shy Tories. What do you think?

Tissue Price


Guest slot: The boundaries of reason

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Antifrank looks at The boundaries of reason: the possible shape of the 2020 election

I previously looked back at the impact of demographic changes on party politics from 1992 to 2015.  That’s all well and good, but what changes can we expect for 2020?  To determine that we first need to consider what the new boundaries are likely to look like.

It might be thought that the future musings of the Boundary Commissions are imponderable, but we have quite a lot of clues to go on.  We should use them.

The terms of any boundary review are closely delimited in legislation.  The following will occur unless the law is changed or the proposed boundary changes are defeated in Parliament:

1) The election will be fought on 600 seats.

2) There will be two Isle of Wight constituencies, a constituency for Orkney & Shetlands and a constituency for Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

3) The 600 seats will be allocated between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland according to a strict formula based on the number of registered voters as at the review date in each.

4) Except for the exceptions already noted, the seats will have a population of 95% to 105% of the average constituency size (there are size requirements that are relevant only in Scotland and Northern Ireland has special rules).

These are pretty prescriptive rules. There are already rumblings among Conservative MPs that the seat count should be kept at 650.  As we shall see, this may be in the interests of individual Conservative MPs but it is unlikely to be in the interests of the Conservative party as a whole.

The next thing to realise is that the Boundary Commissions have already started looking at this once (until their work was brought to a juddering halt by the Lib Dems ganging up on their coalition partners: as we shall see, this was absolutely correct from a narrow party interest).  So we already can see the general direction of travel.

For the moment I’m going to work on the basis of a 650 seat Parliament to explore what difference the boundary review might make.  While this is not what the law currently requires, it makes it easier to see what difference the impact of movements in registered voters might have.

Allocation of seats around the component parts of the UK

So, what should we expect?  The first thing to do is to determine the number of registered voters in each part of the UK.  This will be set at the end of this year, so we don’t have the precise figures, but the numbers from the general election should provide a fairly decent guide.  We have the electoral commission’s preliminary results:

This gives a national total of registered voters of 46,425,476.

I’ve separated these out into the component parts of the UK:

From these we can derive the following totals of registered voters:

Northern Ireland:1,236,683, Wales: 2,282,297, Scotland: 4,094,784, England: 38,811,712

When the seat allocation is eventually determined, it is done by a broadly proportionate approach.  Since we don’t have the relevant registered voter numbers yet, it is pointless doing anything more than a pro rata approach.  If the seat allocation stays at 650, we can expect Northern Ireland to get roughly 17 seats, Wales to get roughly 32 seats, Scotland to get roughly 57 seats and England to get roughly 543 seats (with one seat up for grabs).  If the seat reduction to 600 seats takes effect, we can expect Northern Ireland to get roughly 16 seats, Wales to get roughly 30 seats, Scotland to get 52 or 53 seats and England to get 501 or 502 seats.  This is almost exactly what the allocation would have been if the boundary review had gone ahead last time.  So much for all the fuss about the voter registration changes.

Either way, English MPs will become still more dominant in Parliament.  This can only be good news for the Conservatives, whose who dominate much of England and rely on it for almost all of their seats.

Allocation of seats within England

Just as important as how the seats are distributed in the UK is how the seats will be distributed in England.  The Boundary Commission for England is not legally obliged to follow the same approach when allocating seats between English regions, but in practice it intended to do so in the last Parliament and I expect it to do so again this time.

The English regions had registered voter totals at the general election as follows:

Eastern: 4,364,656, East Midlands: 3,350,769, London: 5,401,616, North East: 1,941,841, North West: 5,240,724, South East: 6,419,548, South West:4,076,494, West Midlands: 4,140,587, Yorkshire & the Humber: 3,875,477

This would result in the following seat allocations, based on England having 543 seats in a 650 seat Parliament (I have assumed a 650 seat Parliament for ease of comparability):

AF Table

*Plus two Isle of Wight constituencies

Again, this seems to benefit the Tories.  More seats are being added in their strongest areas while the seat count in the North West and the North East, two of their weaker areas, continues to decline.

Putting numbers on these changes

So, what would these movements mean in real seat numbers?  Unfortunately, we cannot simply apply a formula because much depends on how the boundaries are actually set.  Thinking about the detail of boundary commission reviews will need to be the subject for another post, but some general principles can be laid down now.

1) Boundary reviews are bad for incumbents.  The more extensive the boundary alterations, the less of an advantage incumbency gives.

2) Within an area, a seat reduction will increase the advantage of the party with the most support.  To give an extreme example, if Wales were reduced to one constituency, Labour would expect to take 100% of seats in the area.  Considered on a wider scale, it would obviously be to Labour’s detriment to have only one seat within Wales, but within Wales itself it would accentuate its political dominance.

3) With a seat reduction in an area, regional strength of trailing parties will outweigh general strength in the area.  For example, if Wales were reduced to four constituencies, Labour might reasonably hope to take all four constituencies.  But it would probably be most worried about losing a seat to Plaid Cymru because of its regional strength in north west Wales.  The fact that the Conservatives poll twice Plaid Cymru’s vote share across Wales as a whole would not affect this calculation.

4) An increase of seats in an area will naturally tend to produce more seats for the dominant party in the area, but the increased granularity may help another party gain an odd seat where a pocket of support has previously been swamped by the dominant party’s support in previously-attached areas (this is the inverse of the last two points).  For example, Peterborough is a Conservative-held marginal seat comprising a city with outlying areas attached.  Making the reasonable assumption that the city is more Labour-leaning than the outlying areas, I infer that if the seat count in the area were increased and the boundaries are confined more tightly around the town, Labour might hope to pick up a new seat in an area of Conservative dominance.  Incidentally, this will tend to work better for Labour than for the Conservatives, given the way in which Labour support tends to cluster in towns.

With these principles in mind, and without going through the detail of my thought process (which is more art than science in any case), my guess is that if the votes cast in May were cast on the boundaries of a new 650 seat Parliament that I have outlined above, the seat count would be something like:

Conservative: 335, Labour: 229, SNP: 55, Lib Dem: 8, Plaid Cymru: 3, UKIP: 1, Green: 1, Speaker: 1, Northern Irish parties: 17

So I imagine a hypothetical increase in the Conservative majority by ten or so, but it wouldn’t fundamentally alter the dynamics of the next election.  I feel that I have made midpoint assumptions in coming to these numbers.

The impact of switching to a 600 seat Parliament

But as the law stands, the boundary review will be conducted on the basis that we will get a 600 seat Parliament, and that will intensify some of the effects that I have just noted.  The new 600 seat Parliament would be comprised roughly as follows:

Scotland: 52, Wales: 30, Northern Ireland: 16, England: 502, – Eastern 56 – East Midlands 43 – London 70 – North East 25 – North West 68 – South East 83 (including two Isle of Wight constituencies) – South West 53 – West Midlands 54 – Yorkshire & The Humber 50

The seat reorganisation would be relatively minor in the Eastern, South East and South West regions, given the minor adjustments in seat counts, and these are as it happens all overwhelmingly Conservative areas.  They would, however, be very extensive in Wales, the North West and the North East: all Labour areas (Scotland also would be seriously affected).  Of the Conservative-leaning areas, only the West Midlands would see heavy reorganisation.

The consequence might well be that the bulk of Conservative incumbents could see their incumbency damaged in only minor ways, while Labour incumbents would be much more likely to see their incumbency seriously affected.

It gets worse for Labour.  Many of the constituencies with the lowest number of registered voters are in contiguous Labour-held areas.  On a shrinking seat count determined by numbers of registered voters, that is the worst permutation for a party, because there is much less scope to recoup lost seats in the area by taking seats of a rival party.  Leeds, Bradford, Hull and Liverpool are all stuffed full of constituencies with very low numbers of registered voters, all with large Labour majorities.  If the seat count in those areas is reduced, that will probably come straight off the top of the Labour seat total.

Meanwhile, the smaller parties all get hit still harder because of the consequences of reducing the seat count noted above.

My artist’s impression of how the results of the last election might have translated onto reasonably normal boundaries on the new basis is something like the following:

Conservatives: 316 Labour: 209 SNP: 50 Lib Dems: 5 Plaid Cymru: 2 UKIP: 1 (maybe) Greens: 0 Speaker: 1 Northern Ireland: 16

By this stage, the Conservative majority, now hypothetically 32, is starting to look very solid given the smaller size of the House.  Again, I don’t feel that I have particularly stepped out in one direction or another.

So if you want to see why the Opposition (and the Lib Dems in particular) might seek to block the boundary review, this is why.  Their task is hard enough, without the Conservatives being given a still greater head start.



Antifrank compares 2015 to 1992

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

We spend much time looking at the most recent developments.  But every now and then it is profitable to stand back and look at longer term trends.  That is most easily done by comparing elections which produced quite similar overall results and then looking at the detail.  The 1992 and the 2015 election results are sufficiently similar overall to make that a valuable exercise.  Except in Scotland.

The overall result in 2015 was as follows: Con 330 Lab 232 SNP 56 Lib Dem 8 Plaid Cymru 3 UKIP 1 Green 1 Speaker 1 Northern Irish parties 18

The result in 1992 was as follows: Con 336 Lab 271 Lib Dem 20 Plaid Cymru 4 SNP 3 Northern Irish parties 17 (The outgoing Speaker had retired).

As you can see, the Conservatives tallied much the same seat count in both elections, Labour did considerably better in 1992, as did the Lib Dems, while the SNP went from nowhere to third place.  For Lib Dems surveying these two election results, it must feel like clogs to clogs in five elections.  They have fewer seats now than they had then. The only seat held in both elections is Orkney & Shetland.

Let’s start with the big point of difference, Scotland.  In 1992, the SNP were nowhere.  They had fewer seats than Plaid Cymru.  It is easy to forget, but the Conservatives as well as Labour and the Lib Dems had substantial seat numbers in Scotland.  A generation on and the landscape is unrecognisable.

Scotland’s seat count has declined by 13, reducing its numerical significance in Parliament even as demands for independence and further devolution have catapulted up the political agenda.  And the SNP have effectively wiped the other three parties off the map.  In the same period, Plaid Cymru have gone nowhere.

This is, of course, a disaster for Labour who at a stroke have lost a large block of MPs.  They will either need to be recovered or replaced elsewhere.  Right now, the latter looks much more achievable.

 If we look at just England and Wales, the results converge:
1992 Con 325 Lab 222 Lib Dem 11 Plaid Cymru 4
2015 Con 329 Lab 231 Lib Dem 7 Plaid Cymru 3 UKIP 1 Green 1 Speaker 1

These results are as close as you will ever get any two election results.  So substantial differences in the detail will have real meaning.

There were 11 more seats in England and Wales in 2015 than in 1992. But the distribution of the seats has been uneven. Despite the rapid population growth of London, there are 11 fewer seats in greater London now than in 1992 (the newcomers must in large part be non-voting immigrants). There are five fewer seats in the north west and the north east combined than in 1992 (regional boundaries were a little different then).

Meanwhile, there are seven extra seats in the south west, four extra seats in the east midlands, an extra seat in the west midlands, two extra seats in Wales and 13 extra seats in the south east and east. The seats have been accumulating in more Tory-friendly areas over the last 24 years.

And this is the real story. Labour are not taking fewer seats now than in 1992 in the south. They took ten seats in the south west, the south east outside London and the east in 1992 and 12 seats in the same areas in 2015. But the Conservatives, benefiting from this southwards drift of population, are taking 20 more seats in these areas. Labour’s failure to find a message for southern England is becoming ever more damaging to their chances.

We see the same picture in the east midlands, where Labour have the same seat tally as in 1992 but the Conservatives have gained ground, pocketing all the increase in seat count in the area. Only the west midlands have decisively swung away from Labour.

In Wales, Labour have lost a quarter of its vote share in under 25 years (and 40% of its vote share since 1966).  So far it has not significantly affected its seat count, though it is drifting down, because the rest of the vote is still more fragmented with the rise of UKIP.  But Labour looks vulnerable in Wales in the longterm if this trend continues.  The example of Scotland should be fresh in their minds.

If Labour have underperformed in these areas relative to 1992, there are areas of outperformance too. They have increased their stranglehold on the north east and the north west, getting four more seats in these regions even with a reduced seat count to aim at. Most strikingly, they have conquered London, holding 60% of the seats now as opposed to the 40% of seats that they held in 1992.  But again, there are fewer seats in London than there once was.

It is anachronism to refer to the Core Cities in 1992, since this grouping of the largest cities outside London was only set up in 1995.  Labour always found strength in the larger English cities, but Labour have strengthened their position in the English areas now covered by that grouping still further.

In 1992, the seats in what is now covered by the Core Cities in England divided as follows: Labour: 82 Con: 31 Lib Dem: 2

Now, the split is:Labour: 83 Con: 16 Lib Dem: 3

The seat count in the Core Cities in England has declined, but Labour are getting ever closer to a whitewash.  55% of all Labour seats are now found in an English Core City or in London.  The perspective of the average Labour MP may be unhealthily influenced by concerns of constituencies that are not particularly representative.Wherever they have strengthened over the last 23 years, Labour are getting a larger slice of a smaller cake. Meanwhile, the Conservative-dominated areas of England have gained seats, benefiting the Conservatives by default. Labour risk being on the wrong side of longterm demographic trends.

There is another way of looking at this.  Twice at low ebbs Labour have been reduced to nominal seat counts in the rural south, but in better times in the interim they have picked up a lot more seats in those areas.  They simply need to rediscover that art.

Even in good times, however, the Conservatives have found themselves progressively squeezed further out of their weaker areas and are losing London.  Labour have an immediate demographic problem but the Conservatives have a much more enduring demographic problem.  Their room for further progress is limited unless they can unlock more seats in areas that have been turning their backs on them for a generation.

Meanwhile, the distance that they could fall is much greater.  George Osborne is developing policies such as the Northern Powerhouse to appeal to the Core Cities.  Will they be enough?  We shall see, but I doubt it.  Both main parties are facing longterm trends that should trouble them deeply


Antifrank is a long standing contributor to PB and blogs at News To No One, where this piece first appeared.


Betting on a David Miliband return could make sense

Sunday, June 7th, 2015


Having left British politics a few years ago, David Miliband is making a comeback of sorts, less than a week after Labour’s conference in September (and less than a month after Labour’s new leader has been elected) as he will be the keynote speaker at the Institute of Directors’ annual convention.

I get the feeling, after declining to remove both Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband before they led their party to defeat, the next Labour Leader might not be so fortunate as the party will ditch any poorly performing leader before the general election, so anyone with leadership ambitions not fulfilled this year might not have to wait until 2020 at the earliest for the next Labour leadership election, perhaps that is how David Miliband sees it as well.

The next Labour leader might fail their first electoral tests, which are scheduled for next May, whilst no one would blame the new Labour leader for the expected shellacking in the Scottish elections next year, winning back the London Mayoralty is priced in because of Labour doing well in London recently and Boris not being the Tory candidate.

Where the new Labour leader might struggle is the English council elections scheduled for next May, they were last held in 2012, when the Tories were at their nadir in the last parliament, and were struggling with the aftermath of the omnishambles budget, and a significant chunk of their support defecting to UKIP. Back in 2012 David Cameron had to apologise to the councillors who lost their seats, as the Tories lost 324 councillors and control of 10 councils, whilst Labour gained 534 councillors and 22 councils.

Labour were polling up to the mid 40s and had regular double digit leads in the run up the elections in 2012, it is possible next year the Tories will do better and Labour worse in these elections than they did 2012,  headlines like “You did worse than Ed Miliband” will not be good for the new Labour leader.

William Hill are offering 7/1 on David Miliband becoming an MP before the next general election.



Polling Matters/PB Podcast: Professor John Curtice discusses the Exit Poll

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

In a slightly shorter version of the Polling Matters podcast (14 mins 23 secs) Keiran discusses the exit poll with Professor John Curtice. We discuss how it was done and how Professor Curtice felt when he realised it was about to say something very different to what the opinion polls had said.

Keiran Pedley is an Associate Director at GfK NOP and tweets about polling and politics in a personal capacity at @keiranpedley


The final spread levels on general election day had a CON lead of 19 seats, 80 seats short of what actually happened

Friday, June 5th, 2015

May 7th 2015: The afternoon when CON seat buyers panicked

A lot has been written about the predictive nature of betting markets – a theory I do not subscribe to.

Just look at how the Commons seats spreads moved on general election day and the comparison with the actual result.

My understanding is that there was a huge panic on the afternoon of May 7th which led to a huge amount of selling by punters who had long CON buy and LAB sell positions. This led to a change in the prices reducing the CON lead on the market from 25 seats to 19 seats.

As we all know the election produced a CON seat lead of 99 seats and an overall majority.

Mike Smithson


CON takes 12% lead in ComRes/Mail poll which uses new methodology to deal with turnout

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

In its first post GE15 phone survey for the Daily Mail ComRes is reporting a 12% CON lead. In an attempt to learn the lessons of May 7th the firm has developed a new Vote Turnout Model which seeks to refine the standard likelihood to vote questions that are common across many firms.

This is how the firm describes its new approach:-

“Our approach has been to look at the polls from an “external” perspective. That means looking at other data – actual results, census data, population projections, and so on – to ensure external anchor points for the design of our voting intention surveys.

By using this non-survey data we have now established an important principle: that the extent of this overstatement varies among different demographic groups.

In particular, our modelling of the election result, based on constituency-level turnout data as well as ward-level turnout data from local elections held at the same time, strongly suggests that less affluent voters are more likely to exaggerate their turnout likelihood.

Some have called this ‘Lazy Labour’, an unfortunately pejorative label, which also focuses too much on its effect on one party. In fact, when we looked at the 2010 results, we saw much the same level of overstatement in less affluent areas – especially those with high levels of ‘multiple deprivation’.

The modelling also identified a clear correlation between age, social grade and deprivation and turnout levels (particularly at the extremes of the scale), giving us a better idea of what the voting public actually looks like…”

Well done to ComRes for being the first pollster to publish a poll after looking at what happened at GE15. I know others are also working at it. This does appear to be on the right lines. Clearly the issue from May 7th was that significantly more people were telling pollsters that they were voting LAB than actually did so.

My own concern with phone polls concerns the sampling and whether those who respond and agree to take part are representative of the electorate as a whole. No doubt that and other issues will be looked at by the BPC inquiry.

Mike Smithson