Archive for the ' General Election' Category


David Herdson asks: Where’s Cleggy?

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Solving the riddle of the election’s missing man

Two Kings and a Joker is the hand the media traditionally aims to deal the public in their coverage of general elections. They don’t always manage to do so as it depends on the real-life characters available but the battle for No 10 is usually best told as a contest between two big parties with a wild-card element thrown in.

That wild-card has usually been the Lib Dems, or the Liberal-SDP alliance before them. Would they ‘break the mould’, or at least make substantial gains, and if so, at the expense of who? Several times it looked as if they might; usually they didn’t. Most spectacularly, Nick Clegg’s party led several of the campaign-period polls in 2010 following his success in the first debate only to wind up with fewer seats than they’d started off with once the voting had taken place. But that’s to get ahead of ourselves: the point is that the Lib Dems’ progress was a central part of the coverage of that campaign. By contrast, this year, both Clegg and the wider Lib Dem team are notable only by their absence.

The reason is simple enough: there’s a different Joker. For a long time it looked as if Nigel Farage was being set up for the role. The election of several hundred UKIP councillors in 2013/14, their victory in the European elections and the two MPs defecting to them – consolidated in by-election wins – all pushed UKIP to polling scores regularly in the higher teens and sometimes into the twenties, scores which would have seen them make further Westminster gains if realised on May 7. Since the New Year, however, UKIP has gone backwards and now looks at least as likely to make net losses as net gains. No story there then even if, as is still probable, they finish third in the popular vote.

Instead, of course, it is the SNP which has produced the Joker and to which the media (and rival parties) have turned their attention – with good reason. Virtually every poll since the referendum has pointed to the kind of landslide swing in voting intention for Westminster that the SNP has already achieved at Holyrood. There’s a strong probability that they’ll have the third-most MPs after the election and will not only sweep Scottish Labour from the pre-eminence they’ve enjoyed at UK general elections since the 1960s but reduce them to a taxi-cab of a delegation. It’s the kind of dramatic story that none of the other potential Jokers – nor the Tories or Labour for that matter – have been able to deliver.

Sturgeon gate-crashing the party hasn’t changed the Two Kings and a Joker formula though, with the result that the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Greens have received only perfunctory coverage. Nick Clegg might have been granted the occasional TV appearance but the Lib Dems still have five other cabinet ministers: when was the last time you saw or heard from any one of them?

Does that matter? Apart from the question of lost deposits, you might think not. After all, the seats they’re really interested in are those they hold and those they think they can win; constituencies where they’ll already have a very strong ground game. Considering that Cleggmania didn’t help them particularly in those sort of constituencies in 2010 the reverse ought to hold true this time: a collapse in national support among those who have little direct contact with the party will not necessarily feed through to places where the party is strongly established – or at least, not to the same extent. On the other hand, the lack of any national media presence or policy impact has reduced their candidates to effectively a collective of independents.

A more pertinent effect will be the indirect one on the Con/Lab battles. With no means of attracting them back, the dissipation of the 2010 Lib Dem vote is now hard-wired into the voting patterns in those constituencies. In effect, Sturgeon might be causing Labour havoc north of the border but she’s done them a favour south of it.

David Herdson

p.s. One factor not being sufficiently taken into account in considering what might affect voting during the remainder of the campaign is the royal birth. Reports suggest that this will very probably happen before polling day and if so will be the lead story for two or three days. Obviously campaigning will continue but for those swing voters, particularly those whose involvement in politics extends to casting a vote only once every five years, a lot will have their own attention distracted and all will see far less that might make them change their minds.


Latest wave of Ashcroft seat polling sees UKIP taking Thurrock but losing Rochester

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Like in all Ashcroft seat polls the names of candidates were not included in the voting questions.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


LAB lead up a notch with Populus and not much change in London

Friday, April 24th, 2015

The morning’s polling news

Voters think there’s too much emphasis on Scotland


The three 4% CON lead polls this week cannot all be dismissed as outliers

Friday, April 24th, 2015

But only 1 CON lead from YouGov in a fortnight

The final poll to come out last night, YouGov’s 2% LAB lead, will have eased some nerves amongst the red team. But inevitably they should be worrying about the fact that we have now had 3 surveys in 6 days which have had the Conservatives 4 percent ahead.

At the same time the blue team must be concerned about the lack of progress with YouGov and some of the other online posters. Of the past 14 polls for YouGov there have been 10 LAB leads, three ties and only one showing the blues ahead and that by the narrowest of margins.

That is not easy to dismiss and remember that last time out in national elections, the May 2014 Euros, YouGov was the top pollster with ComRes and Survation trailing quite a way behind.

The two big question marks hanging over this election are whether we are seeing a real CON improvement and how do we work out what national vote shares mean in terms of seats.

Today the pollercoaster continues with the Friday Populus survey and, most likely, another batch of constituency polling from Lord Ashcroft.

My own view is that this election remains too close to call but that LAB still have the electoral system on their side. Even with the Scottish disaster LAB will chalk up more seats than CON with the same vote share.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


A Marf cartoon at the start of what’ll be a busy polling night

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015


UPDATE Survation/Mirror poll has CON 4% ahead

First up this afternoon was Panelbase

New ComRes phone poll out at 10pm

Survation for the Mirror is due.


On election day 2010 the betting markets had CON with a 100 seat lead – it finished up at 49 seats

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Actual seats won: CON 306, LAB 257, LD 57

One thing that really annoys me is when people start suggesting that betting prices are the best guide to what is going to happen.

If this were the case then favourites would always win. They don’t. In the two TV debates during this campaign the betting markets made Nigel Farage favourite to be judged the winner in post debate polling. He wasn’t.

But a better example of the shallowness of the perception is 2010. The above panel was published on PB just as the polling stations were opening. As can be seen the markets over-stated the Tories and LDs and over-stated understated LAB.

    So we had the extraordinary position that the spreads had CON with a 100 seat lead – compared with the 49 seat one that they actually achieved.

I don’t bet to provide a prediction tool for journalists who can’t be arsed. I bet to try to win money. My bets are not predictions but personal assessments of value. Are the chances of something happening better in my view than the odds being offered. Sometimes I get it right – sometimes I don’t.

Betting prices are NOT a good indicator of political outcomes

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


For reference for two weeks today: The key LAB-CON battlegrounds in England and Wales (Sortable table)

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Listed above are all the constituencies in England and Wales which would change hands on swings between 2% and 6% from CON to LAB.

In most of them Lord Ashcroft has at some point in the past year conducted constituency specific polls. The least marginal, Crewe and Nantwich was polled earlier in the month.

My working assumption is that almost all of Labour’s Scottish seats are going to go and my focus is on the CON-LAB battlegrounds in England and Wales.

Remember that in terms of plurality each LAB gain from the list offsets Two losses to the SNP in Scotland. This is because each of the above seats going sees the LAB total going up by one and the CON total declining by one. So the gap moves by two.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Marf for the evening and David Herdson with the half-time PB Poll Average score

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015


But it’s still very much in knife-edge territory

The profusion of election-period polls means that it’s now possible to produce a PB poll average figure for shorter periods than before. Consequently, I’ve split the period from April 1 to May 6 into two parts and am using these instead, the first of which is for the scores for up to April 21:

Con 34.5 (n/c)
Lab 33.7 (-0.4)
UKIP 11.4 (-0.8)
LD 8.5 (+0.6)
Grn 5.8 (+0.1)
Oth 6.1 (+0.4)

Good news for the Blue team? Perhaps. Certainly the headline figures are relatively positive with the highest Tory lead since October 2010 and a decline in their two main rivals but CCHQ shouldn’t get too carried away for at least three reasons.

Firstly, a lot rests on that early April ICM poll which put the Tories six points clear. That wasn’t a result wholly out of line with their previous polling but was still some way top-side of what anyone else is reporting, or that they have previously and subsequently found. That doesn’t mean it was wrong but we ought to be sceptical. Having said that, even if we exclude it (which we shouldn’t), the overall Con lead would still be up on March.

Secondly, how much further will UKIP fall – if at all? Their share hasn’t been lower since February 2013 and means they’ve lost almost a third of their votes in half a year and it’s probably more than coincidence that their decline coincides with the recovery in the Con share. In one sense, there’s scope for further reduction: their current rating is still well over treble their 2010 total. In another, it means peeling off voters who’ve been with Farage and Co since midterm. Perhaps the SNP question will help Cameron there but it’s late in the day now.

And thirdly, a 0.8% lead is not much to write home about in the big scheme of things. Remember that the Tories were 7.2% ahead across GB in 2010, so the polls still suggest a net 3.2% swing to Labour overall, and substantially higher in England. Unless that’s inefficiently distributed – and previous Ashcroft polling suggests the opposite – Labour would probably just end up ahead even after losing 35 or so to seats the SNP, but Miliband would have far more supporters in the Commons.

Elsewhere, the Lib Dems return their best score this year but 8.5% is still only just over a third of their 2010 score. Indeed, in terms of vote share per constituency contested, it would be their worst ever at a general election. Incumbency may help to an extent but they do seem to be looking at a sizable cull given that there’s now precious little opportunity for the Yellows to make a mark on the campaign.

With just a fortnight of campaigning left, can anything deliver the country from a deeply hung parliament? Barring a dreadful error from one side or another (including the pollsters), it seems unlikely.

David Herdson