Archive for the 'Guest slot' Category


Guest Slot from Peter the Punter: Matthew and Peter Go To The Seaside – with a Marf cartoon

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Clacton doesn’t look like being the most exciting of elections.

Matthew Shadwick [Shadsy] of Ladbrokes was kind enough to invite me along on a visit to the scene of one of tomorrow’s by-elections. I wondered whether he might need help collecting a flood of money, or maybe he just wanted some company while he stood outside the firm’s shop on Pier Avenue with his board optimistically offering odds of 1/50 UKIP, 14/1 Conservative and 33/1 Labour. We’d arranged to meet at 10.30 am. I got there at midday and still felt it was an hour too soon. There was a queue of about a dozen people, but that was for the bus. The driver was taking rather more money than Shadsy.

On the way I’d asked directions from a couple carrying UKIP boards. No, they couldn’t help; they were strangers here too. The locals looked disinterested. Even the seagulls looked bored.

Over a leisurely lunch we discussed the contrast with Newark where there was a lively atmosphere and a steady stream of (ultimately unsuccessful) UKIP backers. Perhaps the re-election of Douglas Carswell in UKIP colours is just too much of a foregone conclusion. Perhaps too little rides on the outcome. Perhaps the voters of Clacton just don’t like that kind of thing. They couldn’t even be tempted by Shadsy’s generous offer of 25/1 against Charlotte Rose [Independent] to beat the LibDems. “I mean, if she can’t beat the LibDems, who can she beat?”

We caught sight of the Sky TV crew, leaving early. A local MP, down in support of Giles Watling [Conservative], kindly spared us some time but was unable to offer any insights, or even a bet. Labour was nowhere to be seen.

On the way home I passed the UKIP offices, festooned with Carswell banners. It looks like tomorrow will be a coronation. What will be his vote share? Ladbrokes go 11/8 against 50-60%, 5/2 60-70%, 11/4 40-50%. Yesterday gave no clues as to where the value lies.

Turnover at Under 50% might be a bet. Shadsy will give you evens. I see from my betting notes that I went for Over, back in August when the market, like the weather, was a good deal warmer.

All right, we all make mistakes.

Peter the Punter


Corporeal looks at electoral precedent

Monday, September 29th, 2014

The next election result is likely to be a strange one, as the following Ipsos-Mori tweet alludes to

(On a follow up tweet they noted that it should read no majority government, Wilson’s calling of a swift 2nd election in 1974 produced a small uptick for him).

Indeed if all those rules are fulfilled it might be the weirdest result of all (the Conservatives losing votes but dramatically improving their efficiency of transferring them into seats, the greater number of Lib-Con seats might help with that, but unlikely to be enough).

So much of our image of natural politics is seen through the last 70 years, 1945 might as well be year zero for the dividing line it is used as for meaningful historical comparisons. Historical facts like these are sometimes trotted out, ranging from the useful to the interesting to the extremely tenuous.

Perhaps over time we’ll come to see the post-war years as if not an anomaly, just one more period of British politics rather than the natural definitive state.

‘England does not love coalitions’ is the famous and (since 2010) commonly quoted declaration by Disraeli, which is a quote that doesn’t bear up to much scrutiny.

(In place of scrutiny I’ve put together a cheap bar chart, see end of article for proper scrutiny)

In 1918 Margot Asquith faced with a divided Liberal party, one half in Coalition with the Conservatives and a nascent Labour party, wrote that things would be better as soon as we get back to “normal politics”. Obviously the situation had shifted and normal politics never came back.

A few years back Iain Mclean wrote an excellent piece delving more deeply into the coalitions in the UK that I’d encourage people to read or re-read by clicking here. (That’s the good scrutiny I mentioned earlier)



Corporeal on constitutional reform

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

If there’s a consistent tradition in British constitutional reform, it’s a philosophy of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” (and usually to make the fix a patch up of the specific problem, or what Toby Fenwick dubbed an ‘inelegant fudge’). If you wanted to squeeze it into a metaphor (always fun) then it is a long-standing mansion. Ancient in parts, with extensions and alterations added through the years.

Bits have been built, rebuilt, done up knocked down, expanded, downsized, redecorated and re-purposed as the needs of the inhabitants have changed. But the traces of history are plain to see, and how some things are only makes sense if you realise where they came from. A group of Americans may have gone from a blank sheet of parchment to blueprint of government within months (which has of course been revised since), but perhaps modern politicians might envy them the clarity of their starting point.

Reform has usually been a response to a crisis rather than the result of a peacetime re-evaluation of theoretical principles. One of the problems of the Yes to AV campaign was that it was a solution that didn’t have a problem that was really resonating on any great level. Elections to the House of Lords show generally positive polling but there isn’t exactly a clamour for it to be on the immediate agenda (it’ll be interesting to see if what might well be an even more disproportionate result in GE2015 will change that at all).

I tentatively subtitled this post the obligatory devolution thread (since everyone else has one, and got quite attached to “Devolution – keeping up with the McJoneses”), we might actually have a constitutional crisis in a deeper sense than dramatic headlines. Calls of English votes for English laws are starting to rumble in the shires (in the interest of full disclosure this is a wild bit of figurative language to refer to England rather than a study of regional sub-samples). This is not primarily driven by a principle of whether MPs should vote on things that don’t directly affect their constituency, which falls apart (or rather spreads to the horizon) as soon as you open it up. It’s an inevitable result of the current electoral system of small FPTP constituencies. Inner-city MPs vote on rural policy, MPs that represent constituencies many miles from the sea have their voice heard on coastal matters. Such is the way of things.

The force behind the West Lothian question is not that political principle, but a sense of injustice and inequality. After being subjected to a loud debate on the need for more powers for Scotland (with a much quieter bit of background music about Wales) there is a feeling of a left behind and overlooked England, similar to the feelings that drove devolution in the first place.

The traditional strategy has been to fix each problem as it comes or, if you feel more charitable, to tailor the solution to those it will affect. What is the point, after all, of looking to empower people through devolution if they oppose the form it takes. So the various parts of the UK have had power devolved in different ways and at different paces. This is true in terms of Wales and Scotland, but also London and the areas that voted yes to directly elected mayors. Cornwall has attempted to tunnel upwards to devolution via a unified Cornwall Council. Northern Ireland operates almost in its own context. But with each tailored solution you increase the uneven and untidy nature of the overall picture.

The planned Labour solution to the growing disparity was regional assemblies across England, resulting in some at least vaguely uniform sized set-ups alongside the Celtic Nations. A heavy defeat in the North East referendum stopped that plan in its tracks, alongside plans for two further referendums. One wonders what would’ve happened if a successful referendum in another region had happened first, would things have turned out the same or like elected mayors would we have had some regions claiming devolutionary power while others rejecting it?

What this would have given us is an extension of what Westminster now is which is a sort of government of the gaps, a polyfilla parliament filling in the unevenly shaped places between the powers that have departed to Brussels, Edinburgh, etc (although that image probably understates Westminster’s level of power somewhat).

For that matter was the North East defeat an opposition to devolution altogether, regional devolution itself, or just the particular form that the assembly was proposed to take. Referendum results always come in such a vaguely specific form that they leave a lot of gaps to interpret them.

Is the rejection of one region sufficient to kill the entire scheme for a generation? Will we hold other schemes to the same standard?

That leaves space for the resurrection of regional assemblies which has been floated in some quarters, a solution that prizes tidiness over tailoring, and political preferences over popular will (well, maybe, depending how you interpret those results).

On a grander scale an English parliament to sit alongside the other national bodies has some apparent symmetry to it. But the sheer size and dominance of England within the UK creates the potential for other conflicts. With significant issues devolved an English parliament would rise to be a competitor to the UK parliament, and have a potentially destabilising dominance over what remains of the Union.

Is more politicians something you can sell to the public, the infographics of “this could pay for…” pretty much write themselves. Abolish the Lords, reduce the number of MPs (that’ll be a fun vote), could we be ready for the Great Constitutional Convention (fulfilling the dreams of wonks) called for by Miliband and Clegg (after the election of course) and once and for all (until something else crops up) line up a clear vision of government in Britain from parish hall to palace of Westminster.

Or we could, you know, work through a few options to restrict voting rights at various stages of a bill in the House of Commons, overlook having various different classes of MPs (and depending on how hard or soft you want to make the restrictions this could lead to a lesser version of the conflicts an English parliament would have, alongside the technical decisions of what each could vote on, and who makes those decisions). Tweak your way around problems as they come.

This is because ultimately the importance to people is not the technicalities of comparative devolution, it is once more a matter of identity politics combined with a feeling of unfairness and a sense that something must be done. The force of there being a problem is there, now politicians will try to ride that into their something being its outlet.

So, anyone for fudge?



Guest Slot: All publicity is good publicity? Maybe not when Ed Miliband is on TV

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

UK General Elections, we are told have become increasingly presidential. And how each party leader comes across, particularly on Television, is important. Ed Miliband has faced criticism for his style and communication skills – It’s probably fair to comment that he’s not a natural TV performer. But what if it’s slightly worse than that? What if his television appearances have, overall, a slight negative effect on Labour’s vote share in the polls?

We should look at the evidence – What is the effect of Ed Miliband being on Television, overall?

There are 2 parts to this. First, Labour’s vote share in the polls. This is easy to track, and the data is freely available. How do we measure “Ed Miliband Television Time”? This is not obvious, without access to expensive media databases. We can however, use a proxy. It’s clumsy and it’s crude, but it might serve as a guide overall.

Sky News keep their main stories in a searchable archive.

You can search for stories featuring “Miliband” and see how many you get for given day.

Like with this link

We can see how many stories Sky News has archived, searchable by “Miliband”, on a given day.

This generates a fairly “noisy” sample. But if we look at the 3-line summary of each story, we can count the ones that explicitly feature “Miliband” in the summary.

This lets us focus on the stories that feature Ed Miliband prominently, rather then Labour generally. A quick scan of the stories suggests that this might be a useable if crude proxy for “Ed Miliband on Television” – The stories are concentrated at times when Ed Miliband is on the news, either “intentionally” – when he has a big-ticket press conference or announcement – or when he’s naturally part of the story, such as the Falkirk scandal.

It’s only one channel, but Sky News coverage will tend to correlate with coverage from other TV channels. And it’s a written archive, not an actual TV archive, but it will still broadly match TV Coverage. So, we can tabulate Ed Miliband’s high-profile Sky News appearances

Let’s look at the Sun You Gov polling of Labour’s vote share – 4 samples a week.

Every time Ed is reported on Sky News, we’ll give the message a day to sink in, then we’ll look at the You Gov Polling starting in 2 days (You Gov generally poll over 2 days, so we’re looking at the first day of polling, not the publication day).

Our Polls are only available 4 days a week, and many days will show no change in Labour share – So we need to fill in the blanks. We can attribute for every single day, a value “CurrentOrPendingPollChange” – So on any given day, we can say what the next change in the polls will be, when it comes. “Current” if it’s today, pending if it’s the next change.

In the Spreadsheet (click here to view the spreadsheet), we can see the effect on the polling 2 days later.

And of the 80 days that ED was mentioned, the effect on Labours Polling 2 days later was

“Current Or Next Poll Change Positive:” 34

“Current Or Next Poll Change Negative:” 46

So – does this mean anything? It’s not anything like conclusive, but it does add weight to the suggestion that Ed M on television has more often, a negative rather than positive effect on Labour’s share of the vote.

If we accept that (and it’s a big “if”), it must give Labour something to think about with less that a year to the GE.




Guest Slot: Rod Crosby: The bell tolls for Labour and Miliband

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Last week Labour beat the Tories in the local elections by just 1%, according to the Rallings and Thrasher NEV (national equivalent voteshare) calculation. This is the last set of locals before the general election. Is there anything we can divine from this performance?

Yes, it looks like Labour will be soundly defeated next year. The following graph tells the tale (general elections bordered in white).

We see that, going back to 1979, no party with such a minuscule lead has gone on to win. In fact Michael Howard, William Hague and Neil Kinnock all performed better in the local elections than Ed Miliband, but still lost.

The winners, Thatcher, Blair and Cameron, all had leads in excess of 5% in their last local elections as Leader of the Opposition, and had all built consistent and solid leads greater than 15%-20% during the mid-term locals. Miliband’s NEV lead scorecard is pathetic in comparison… -1%, +6%, +4%, +1% …

Taking a more statistically robust regression of the average NEV lead while in Opposition against subsequent General Election performance, Labour are forecast to lose by 8.4% next year, as can be seen in the following graph (the large red blob).

Is this a wild forecast? Hardly. It is broadly in accord with the Lebo and Norpoth PM approval model and Stephen Fisher’s polling model, among others. And as we know, polling ‘crossover’ has come early for Labour, a full year before the election. Barely avoiding third place (in England by a cat’s whisker) in the Euros offers little comfort to Labour. Neither does them underperforming 9 out of 10 of the final polls when it came to real votes cast.

So it seems clear now – the Tories are set to win most votes, probably most seats and have an outside, but not insignificant chance of a majority in 2015.

Rod Crosby


Harry Hayfield: YouGov have had their say, now it is my turn

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Since the start of the year, I have been tracking all the polls that have been published about the Euros and taking sage advice from Mike’s postings about polling companies not prompting for the Greens and taking in account all the discussions about what “An Independence from Europe” may have on UKIP, I have come to the following conclusion. It’s too darn close to call.

European Elections 2014 Forecasts

Based on all the polls, I am having a very hard time separating Labour and UKIP so agree with YouGov that come Sunday night we are in for a humdinger of a night, however I disagree on the number of MEP’s elected

European Elections 2014 Forecasts

I believe that Labour will just have the edge winning 21 MEP’s, the Conservatives will see 20 MEP’s returned and UKIP will have 19 MEP’s elected, but whichever way you look at it the “Party of IN” is going to wish that it was “OUT” with the prospect of not only finishing behind the Greens in terms of share of the vote but also having fewer MEP’s than the Greens.

European Elections 2014 Forecasts

So there we have the forecast both national and by region, in other words a triumph for UKIP (even if they do come second in terms of popular vote), a disaster for the Liberal Democrats and (if these forecasts hold) a bit of a niggle for the mainstream parties and they face an electorate ahead of the general election next year who are liable to say “Push off, you’re all the same!”

Other MEP’s elected: SNP 3 (+1), Greens 3 (+1), Plaid Cymru 1 (n/c), An Independence from Europe 1 (+1)

Harry Hayfield


Guest Slot: Five reasons to bet on Labour winning the Euros this Thursday

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Predicting an election when the three top parties could well end up within three or four points of one and other and in any order of gold, silver and bronze is likely a fool’s errand. But finding value in the betting market before Thursday isn’t.

There’s big reasons for Labour to rightfully worry about UKIP this Thursday (the continued erosion of its blue collar base, UKIP in-roads on Labour-identifying non-voters etc, the immigration issue etc). But there’s also small things that disadvantage UKIP come Thursday and may well make Labour the value bet.

Here’s five of them:

1) ‘The Literal Democrat’ effect: UKIP will lose an unknown number of votes to the decoy not-UKIP party “An Independence from Europe” – a breakaway offshoot of UKIP that will top the ballot paper in all English regions. Combined with the similar styling that will visually indicate ‘UKIP’ to some voters, the advantage of coming first in the alphabetical order of ballots might cost le vrai UKIP as much as a point or two.

2) The Tory revival and Osborne’s budget: the Conservative’s small uptick in the polls and the recapturing of the Tory grey vote from UKIP thanks to Osborne’s pensions reforms may well erode UKIP’s Thursday showing too.

3) Differential turnout: as Mike Smithson has noted, 58% of voters don’t just have Euro elections but locals too. These areas tend to be more urban and Labour than rural and UKIP. What’s more, in London and Manchester and other big cities where Labour councillors actually did well in the 2010 council elections, you have incumbent Labour councillors, well dug-in with strong local machines driving up the Labour vote. Which leads me to…

4) Labour has ground game, UKIP doesn’t: last Saturday alone the Labour Party spoke with 157,000 voters face to face. I’d be surprised if UKIP managed to deliver that many leaflets in a week. In a tight election GOTV makes all the difference.

5) UKIP’s momentum may have broken just in time: whatever the reason (from Romanian remarks or Newark nastiness) the polls have by and large shown a UKIP dip just in time for polling day. For a party that lacks organisation to win, momentum is key. And UKIP’s momentum may have run out just in time for Labour to pip it at the post.

Inevitable caveat time: yes, I know: UKIP were leading in the polls when postal votes were sent out, Labour’s Euros free post went out after UKIP’s, the polls are too close/weird to make too much sense of etc. So of course if UKIP triumph despite these structural disadvantages that will make their success all the richer – and worrying for Labour. But in the meantime, if you want to find value in your last minute betting, here’s where I think it lies.

At the time of writing, the best odds on Labour winning the Euros is 5/2

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts is Deputy General Secretary of the Fabian Society and is the author of ‘Labour’s Next Majority: the 40% strategy

UPDATE – Some more Euro polls out



Do the size of ministers’ majorities matter?

Friday, June 7th, 2013


One of the charms of the Westminster system is that Cabinet ministers still have contact with the electorate through their surgeries and case work. It’s a reality check. In other electoral systems Ministers are not constituency MPs. However the make-up the voters that have the ear of Cabinet and Shadow ministers matters and they’re not always representative.

Earlier this week Patrick O’Flynn at the Express argued how some of the Conservative Party’s current problems related to the fact that hardly any of their Cabinet Ministers weren’t in marginal seats.

In fact only 3 of 24 Conservatives who attend Cabinet have a majority less than 10,000. According to O’Flynn this means that they don’t have the same feel for the concerns of swing voters and end up down electoral cul de sac by spending political time and capital on issues such as ‘gay marriage’ rather than addressing the cost of living. It’s an interesting argument and raises wider questions.

Why would party leaders pick their top team from people who don’t represent the type of seats they need to retain and win? From day one the political advancement game is geared up for those MPs with safe seats. I

f you have to spend every weekend campaigning and being visible in the constituency then that takes you away from raising your profile at think tank events and conferences, speaking at other Constituency Associations or CLPs or having the time to write a pamphlet on this or that, no matter how much you’d be keen to do that.

Tough choices have to be made and most MPs with a small majority will opt for self-preservation over self-advancement.

Reaching the top doesn’t happen overnight but is the product of furious lobbying, schmoozing, self-improvement and hard graft. But what plagues many MP’s doors is the raw electoral risk of losing the seat on your way to the top. The ebb and flow of elections – a 5% swing here, a 3% swing there has wiped out many MP’s promising careers before they’ve begun.

Whereas over half of MPs effectively have a job for life and political longevity is fundamental to success. As your government becomes less popular in office, a minister with a slight majority inevitably becomes a bigger target and potential scalp for opponents.

There are some parallels between from O’Flynn’s analysis of the Tories and with the Labour Party. I can see some of the risks already. As important as the bedroom tax, benefit changes and unemployment are, they’re bigger issues in the poorest areas – those that tend to already return Labour MPs with big majorities.

That’s not to say there isn’t a moral case for Labour raising but that it’s about recognising it’s going to resonate differently. The red team shouldn’t rely on the experiences of their own constituents being enough to drive voters elsewhere back into the party’s bosom. However the parallels aren’t quite the same.

Although Labour Most Shadow Cabinet members have very large majorities – a significant number don’t. Ed Balls has a majority of 1,101. Sadiq Khan 2,524, Ivan Lewis 3,292, Mary Creagh 1,613, Vernon Coaker 1,859 and Owen Smith 2,785. Now if you asked any of them if they’d prefer to add 10,000 to their majority they’d bite your arm off.

If O’Flynn is right then having some Shadow Cabinet members with marginal majorities could be a useful advantage for Labour to have over the Conservatives and keep some of their colleagues in touch with the sort voters that will determine elections.

Henry G Manson