Archive for the 'UK Elections – others' Category


Professor Michael Thrasher introduces The Elections Centre

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

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When Rallings and Thrasher established the Elections Centre in the early 1980s the principal aim was to collect and publish local election results in the same way that F.W.S. Craig was covering the parliamentary equivalent. In establishing the website,, the aim is to provide easier access for a wide variety of users to the huge amount of data compiled over the intervening years.

Many readers of Political Betting will already be acquainted with the site but a glimpse of future plans can be had from visiting the new interactive pages relating to council political compositions.

The current party political composition of most councils is generally available on their own websites although in many cases it takes a bit of finding. There are also individual data-gatherers that have consolidated these, meaning that listings for particular years are available. Some months ago we took the process a stage further and posted files that enabled users to examine for each year since 1973 (1964 in the case of the London boroughs) the full range of councils across post-reorganisation Britain.

This approach was useful if users were interested in what happened in year ‘x’ but was a bit tiresome if the interest was primarily in council ‘y’ and how its political control had altered over time. It also required a knowledge of spreadsheets which is far from ideal.

Now, we are introducing interactivity (hats off to Robert Merrison-Hort for assistance) on to the website. By clicking on the link the user can simply type in the council name and then see its full council history presented from its origin year to the present.

Because the file that supplies the data is currently about 21,000 rows long (hard-core fans can download the entire file) it takes a little time to load and to have the results displayed. Because the application also searches by text it will provide multiple councils if the user simply inputs words like ‘south’ or ‘shire’ for example. But by the same token it will only find Barking & Dagenham if ‘bark’ is typed.

Data are organised into columns – authority name, year, council (total number of seats) and then the seats won by the various parties are shown. The final column states the type of control, including NOC for no overall control. We are strict about whether a council is majority run or not – only if a single party has more than half the seats. While hardliners prefer to include the ‘mayor’s casting vote there is no possibility of knowing this for all councils over a half century or longer. For the same reason our files do not allow for occasions when councillors are elected for one party only to defect to another or to sit as independent. Even with those caveats in place there is still scope for differences between our file and the information published elsewhere but nothing is perfect.

The selection of parties may upset purists. Additional to Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat (including all other predecessors but now excluding current Liberals) and Nationalists (SNP and Plaid Cymru) there is the ubiquitous ‘Others’. More than anyone we know that local government has its Independents and a whole raft of smaller parties but this is time series, big picture stuff. The alternative was to have many more columns to display.

Because the data are organised by columns this provides the user with possibilities other than simply listing a particular council’s composition. So, if someone inputs ‘2015’ only council compositions for that year appear. If ‘2015 NOC’ is typed then only councils currently under no overall control in 2015 are displayed, while the text ‘Ply Lab’ would only display a list of the years when Labour had majority control of Plymouth.

It is also possible to sort the data in each column. This is particularly useful if there is a desire to know the best (or worst) year for any party.

This is our first venture in making the data available interactively but we hope that it attracts interest not only from election watchers but also from a wider public. Feedback and suggestions for other data presentations can be sent to but we’d like users to subscribe so news about up-dates can be sent automatically.


The task for Corbyn’s LAB on May 5th: Match previous opposition leaders in non general election years

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016


Kinnock 1984 Net gains LAB in locals
Kinnock 1985 Net gains LAB in locals
Kinnock 1986 Net gains LAB in locals
Kinnock 1988 Net gains LAB in locals
Kinnock 1989 Net gains LAB in locals
Kinnock 1990 Net gains LAB in locals
Kinnock 1991 Net gains LAB in locals
Smith 1993 Net gains LAB in locals
Smith 1994 Net gains LAB in locals
Blair 1995 Net gains LAB in locals
Blair 1996 Net gains LAB in locals
Hague 1998 Net gains CON in locals
Hague 1999 Net gains CON in locals
Hague 2000 Net gains CON in locals
Duncan Smith 2002 Net gains CON in locals
Duncan Smith 2003 Net gains CON in locals
Howard 2004 Net gains CON in locals
Cameron 2006 Net gains CON in locals
Cameron 2007 Net gains CON in locals
Cameron 2008 Net gains CON in locals
Cameron 2009 Net gains CON in locals
Miliband 2011 Net gains LAB in locals
Miliband 2012 Net gains LAB in locals
Miliband 2013 Net gains LAB in locals
Miliband 2014 Net gains LAB in locals
Corbyn 2016 ????

We are just two months away from the May 5th set of elections which looks set to be a good test for the parties with new leaders- LAB and the LDs.

As well as the London Mayoral election, Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly there are police commissioner elections throughout England and, of course, the usual round of local elections. It is the latter which should give us an indication of party popularity and activist morale.

A key indicator for Labour is whether they achieve net council seat gains. As the table at the top shows the main opposition party has made net gains in every set of locals in non-general election years since the Falklands war in 1982.

So the challenge facing Mr. Corbyn is at the very minimum to maintain the record and come away with net gains.

This could be quite hard because many of the seats being contested were last fought in 2012 weeks after Osborne’s “Omnishambles” budget when Labour was riding high.

Corbyn needs a good May 5th.

Mike Smithson


Zac to win mayoralty, Corbyn to survive, Trump to fail: Ipsos MORI poll on what people think will happen in 2016

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Welcome 2016 – Prediction Time

It’s that time of year when people look to the next year and start making predictions. One new development on this that I don’t recall seeing before is a national phone poll as seen in some of the charts above from Ipsos MORI.

On the political list the one that is out of line with the betting markets is who’ll replace Boris as London Mayor. The poll, as can be seen, has Zac as the strong favourite. Punters make Sadiq a strong favourite. On this we need to remember that this is a national poll one not just restricted to London. My guess is that a survey confined to just those living in the capital would have a different view.

Corbyn to survive is broadly in line with the betting as is for Donald Trump not to become US president.

Mike Smithson


Mayoral elections are so much more about the popularity of individual candidates than their parties

Friday, October 2nd, 2015


The big news today was that Zac Goldsmith was selected as the Conservative candidate to contest the London Mayoral election next May.

This was a postal ballot of members of the Conservative Party in London plus others who had been prepared to stump up £1 for a vote. The turnout of 9.277 was a disappointment and compares unfavourably with the votes that Sadiq Khan chalked up in the LAB selection three weeks ago. In fact Zac’s CON mayoral vote of 6,524 votes (70.6%) was 1,700 fewer than 4th place David Lammy (8,255 votes) in LAB’s London contest.

The big thing to remember about mayoral elections is that the candidate is so much more important than the party they represent. Remember in the very first London Mayoral election in 2000 the official LAB candidate, Frank Dobson, came in third. Ken Livingstone had resigned from the party after failing to get the nomination and stood as an independent. He was invited back into the party in 2004 but lost, of course, to Boris in 2008.

In that election things were so good for the Conservatives nationally that it was hardly surprising that Boris Johnson manage to win. Four years later things were very different. The mayoral election took place a few weeks after George Osborne’s of famous “omnishambles” budget and LAB enjoyed very large leads in the national polls. Notwithstanding Boris went on to win a second term.

There’s no better illustration of the fact that candidates matter much more than their parties than what happened in Bedford, where I live, on General Election day. Alongside the standard parliamentary ballots there was the four yearly election for mayor.

Even though the Liberal Democrats were getting smashed absolutely everywhere else in the country and that in the parliamentary elections within the borough they struggled to get more than 6% the incumbent Lib Dem mayor had an overwhelming victory by 35000 votes to 26000 over the Conservative.

In this coming London fight so much depends on how Khan and Goldsmith resonate with Londoners. Their party labels are less relevant.

Mike Smithson


Next year’s London Mayoral election next will be the big test for the Corbyn leadership.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015


Don Brind on the day the CON Mayoral candidate will be announced

“Sadiq. Wow” said the text message that came in as I was walking down an Italian hillside. It alerted me to the fact that Sadiq Khan had won the Labour London Mayoral selection by a decisive margin.

The friend who sent it knew I was heavily invested in Khan stocks. Not only is he my local MP – and a brilliant one too – but no less than six years ago I had called for him to be Labour’s mayoral candidate in place of Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone had been a very effective Mayor but his defence of the job in the 2008 election was woeful. As a member of the party’s media team I looked on as he failed to nail Boris Johnson’s weaknesses. My article suggested that for the 2012 election Labour should pick an ethnic minority candidate to reflect the capital’s diversity. My journalism ensured that I wasn’t invited to rejoin the media team. Ken duly lost.

This time round the former Mayor gave his blessing to Khan in preference to Diane Abbott. Khan had nominated Corbyn to get him into the race but – unlike Abbott — he didn’t vote for him. Abbott came in third and it was the transfer of votes from her to Khan that took him past Tessa Jowell.

Thus Khan was the main beneficiary of the Corbyn surge in London.

In his role as elder statesman of the Corbynistas Livingstone has, in my view, made a shrewd judgement in backing Khan. Labour victory in London next year is vital for Corbyn. Defeat in the party’s strongest region would cement the widely held view — at Westminster and amongst longstanding members — that their leader is unelectable and that with him defeat in 2020 is inevitable.

A Khan victory would hush the doubters. And on the face of it he ought to win. He was the party’s campaign chief in the capital in 2014 when Labour gained ground in both the European and borough elections and in the General election in May.

    But the Mayoral election involves a different challenge. Under the Supplementary Vote voters can indicate a first and second preference. In May there were 1.5 million Labour voters. The Tories trailed by 300,00 with 1.2 million. That gave Labour 45 of the capitals 73 seats. But there 285,000 Ukip voters, 270,000 Lib Dems and 170,000 Greens. Next year the hunt for second preferences amongst supporters of the also-rans will be fascinating.

Khan has made it clear he knows it won’t a “shoo in”. He plans to make the election a referendum on London’s housing crisis. He promises to be a green Mayor and a business friendly Mayor. The environmentalist Euro sceptic Zac Goldsmith is not an indentikit Tory.

But as well as policies election are about the candidates’ characters and life stories. I think this will give Khan the edge.

Am I biased? Just a bit. I was the chair of governors at Ernest Bevin school Tooting in the 80s when we appointed the first Muslim head of a London school. That head, Naz Bokhari, became a role model and mentor for the young Sadiq, the son of a bus driver who had migrated from Pakistan. Goldsmith, of course, is an old Etonian, who inherited millions from his financial wheeler-dealing father.

Khan will highlight that contrast but he will be careful to make it a story about aspiration and opportunity rather than about class. He hopes his personal narrative — of working hard, getting to university on his merits, running a law firm employing 50 people and then becoming MP for his home patch — will resonate with the ambitions of Londoners for themselves and their families. And crucially, he will take every opportunity to underline that he is his own man, independent of the new Labour leader.

He is likely to be ruthlessly hard-headed in involving the Jeremy Corbyn in his campaign only where his impact will be positive.

The negatives that stem from having a a leader who celebrates his own authenticity whatever problems it causes for his colleagues was demonstrated by the wholly unnecessary row over Trident. It overshadowed Khan’s speech, as well as excellent final morning speeches by the Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer, the Health team Luciana Berger and Heidi Alexander, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell and deputy leader Tom Watson. Taken together they were a demonstration that Corbyn has established a “big tent” with a team that is more united and ready to take on the Tories than many had feared.

During his own speech Corbyn got the loudest appluase for his attack on cyber bullying: “I want a kinder politics, a more caring society. Don’t let them reduce you to believing in anything less. So I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks. The cyberbullying. And especially the misogynistic abuse online. And let’s get on with bringing values back into politics.”

To his supporters who are looking for a fight, the leader’s message was: Not In My Name. It needed saying.

Don Brind


Why Sadiq could be quite hard for Zac or any other Tory to beat

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Just ask Lynton Crosby. Winning the London mayoralty is all about getting your own supporters out to vote in an an election that has struggled in the past to attract turnout levels of more than 40%.

In early August there was some interesting pulling from Survation which got very little attention. Its aim was to try to work out the different ethnic approaches to a Zac vs Sadiq contest.

First of all those sampled were asked whether they supported a generic Labour or Conservative candidate. Then they were shown videos of Zac and Sadiq. Then they were asked again assuming that these two were the main party candidates.

The differences between the two sets of responses were quite startling.

White Respondents

Looking at voting intention in the polling by ethnic group, before the video clips White British respondents split 42% to an unnamed Conservative candidate and 34% to an unnamed Labour candidate.

After the video clips, now naming Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith as Mayoral candidates for their parties head to head, both get a boost – 45% to Goldsmith, 40% to Khan. Khan gained 6% to Goldsmith’s 2%.

Black Respondents

Black respondents break 77% to an unnamed Labour candidate and 14% to an unnamed Conservative candidate. After the candidate names are introduced and post the video clips, this grouping breaks 73% Khan and 22% Goldsmith – Khan -4 and Goldsmith +8

Asian Respondents

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Asian respondents initially break 56% to an unnamed Labour candidate and 29% to an unnamed Conservative candidate before the clips and candidate names are introduced.

Post the naming and video introductions though, this grouping breaks 71% Khan (+15) and 23% (-9) Goldsmith, showing a very sizable swing toward Khan amongst this group – the largest broad ethnic grouping in London, representing 18.5% of the mayoral electorate.

If the capital’s Asian communities have disproportionate turnout levels then Sadiq could be very difficult to beat.

Mike Smithson


After yesterday’s dramatic Scottish polls LAB braces itself for the South Yorks PCC result

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Is this another victory for the purples?

The big news this morning should come from South Yorkshire where counting takes place in the Police and Crime Commissioner by-election – only the second to be held since these new elected positions were created two years ago.

This has been set against the background of the Rotherham scandal which UKIP (see above) has been featuring strongly in its campaign. The area is largely dominated by Labour strongholds which in normal times should have been enough to guarantee the red team victory.

But these are not normal times as we saw in the Heywood and Middleton by-election at the start of October. UKIP is making serious inroads into place like this and yesterday’s election presented a huge opportunity. We’ll know later this morning whether they’ve managed to pull it off.

    If UKIP have ended up as victors it will add to the party’s momentum in the final three weeks of campaigning in Rochester where the polling and the betting suggests that it is heading for a comfortable victory.

A UKIP defeat could just take the edge off the party’s progress. South Yorkshire is much more challenging than Rochester where the sitting MP, Mark Reckless, stepped down to fight the seat after defecting to Farage’s party.

What could make today’s count and result interesting is that the election is not held under first past the post. If on the first count a candidate has not secured 50% of the votes then second preferences will be taken into account.

  • Note I’m away for most of the day and will be posting on the result and its likely impact later.
  • Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


    YouGov has Tessa Jowell leading the way in London as next LAB candidate for mayor

    Monday, June 23rd, 2014

    One of the great political betting events is the fight every four years for Mayor of London and the next contest is just 22 months away.

    Coming up in the next few months will be Labour’s selection process for their nominee who, given the party’s huge success in the capital on May 22nd, should be in with a strong chance. London was where they did best of all and within the party a lot of the credit for that has gone to the shadow minister for London, Sadiq Khan.

    Back in March 2013 Henry G Manson tipped him here when Khan was an attractive 33/1. This is what he wrote then:-

    “What puts Sadiq Khan in such a great place for this contest is that Ed Miliband also made him Shadow Minister for London… This remit will enable him to meet, speak, campaign, engage with the whole London electoral college for this selection ahead of elections in 2014 and the general election a year later.”

    Sadiq’s now 8/1 which I think is still good value.

    As to the polling this is little more than a recognition issue. Tessa has been about for many years and is far better known. My reading is that Sadiq would b in with 50-50 chance of beating her for the selection.

    As to the actual election a lot depends on what Boris plans to do.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble