It’s like back to the 90s for the Tories on what is turning out to be Cameron’s Black Saturday

September 27th, 2014

Today reminds me of the 1990s and the end of John Major’s administration.

First up was Mark Reckless’ defection to UKIP and in the last hour or so, Brooks Newmark, the Conservative minister for civil society, resigns after being caught sending explicit photographs of himself to women over the internet. 

For those who were optimistic that the Tories would remain in power post May 2015, today probably extinguished those hopes.

I still think there’s one defection to come, timed for maximum impact for Cameron’s conference speech on Wednesday.

It should be remembered that Cameron’s best conference speech was in 2007, when it looked inevitable that Gordon Brown was going to call a snap election and win, Cameron’s speech and the wider conference stopped Gordon Brown’s momentum.

Tonight’s polling see’s Labour’s lead up four to six points with ComRes for the Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror.


The usual caveats of conference polling apply, in the past, polling conducted during the conferences can be volatile, and sees a boost for the party holding the conference during the week of the fieldwork.

For those hoping that coming up with a solution to the West Lothian Question might be a vote winner, ComRes asked “The government has more important questions to deal with than whether or not Scottish MPs vote on English laws” 57% agreed with that statement, 24% disagreed, and 18% said Don’t Know.

ComRes have also published their unfavourable/favourable ratings, where there is an * next to the name/organisation/party, that means this is the first time they have polled on this topic.

I’m expecting an Opinium poll for the Observer and the usual YouGov for the Sunday Times, I’ll update this thread, when they are published.

Update – Opinium poll is out

Update II – YouGov Sunday Times polling




Tory MP Mark Reckless defects to UKIP

September 27th, 2014

Not the start Cameron wanted before the Tory conference



UPDATE III – constituency phone polling by Survation in Rotherham, Boston & Skegness and North Thanet



David Herdson on whether Miliband can breeze to victory on the strength of not being Tory

September 27th, 2014

Is Labour keeping its powder dry or was that all there is?

Like many a football team 2-1 up in a cup tie with ten minutes to go, a cautious defensiveness seems to have settled over the Labour Party, judging by their conference just gone.  The contrast with last year’s headline-grabbing energy price freeze policy was stark.  The big announcements were to increase the minimum wage by about 4p a year more than the average RPI rate for the current parliament, and to adopt a Lib Dem policy from 2010.

It’s not earth-shattering stuff but then may not need to be.  There’s no need to risk scaring the horses with a big surprise when the present strategy is working well enough.  Labour no doubt have no desire to risk the mistake the Tories made in 2009-10 when the Conservatives rolled out a series of policies, only for them to be ruthlessly attacking by Labour so that instead of the Blues looking like they’d captured the agenda, it looked like policy disarray.  ‘Steady as she goes’ has its merits.

And yet is all seems desperately unambitious.  It’s true that many of the announcements enjoyed public approval but that doesn’t mean they had deep support.  The public agreed with William Hague over keeping the Pound in 2001. For the moment, that doesn’t matter. 

    Labour appears to believe that simply not being the Conservatives will be enough to secure victory: this week was not about preparing for the election, it was about preparing for government, hence Ed Balls’ claimed commitment to clearing the deficit. 

Whether that policy is credible is another matter – the Tories could and should make much of Labour’s spending black holes (but haven’t), but the interesting thing is that Labour chose not to go populist in their last conference before the election.

They may be justified in that confidence.  As has been frequently pointed out, the combination of LD to Lab switchers and the efficient distribution of Labour’s vote puts them in a very strong starting position.  Their biggest concern should be holding on to their former core vote – the by-elections in Heywood & Middleton and for the S Yorks PCC post should give some idea of how real that threat is.  Even so, with Labour less unpopular as a party than the Conservatives, negative campaigning and appealing for tactical votes should also help Miliband.

However, as the Lib Dems have found out, there are limits to how far tactical campaigning can get you.  It only works if you retain your position as least-worst relevant option and it tends to produce weak support that will rapidly drift off if given a reason for disillusionment.  A Miliband-led Labour government elected primarily because it wasn’t the Tories could find itself in an extremely weak polling position very quickly – but it would still be a Labour government and that trumps short-term polling any day.

The big question is whether Labour does indeed intend to try and play electoral keep-ball through to May and just take opportunities to hit on the break as they arise.  As in football, the risk in doing so is that supporters become nervous and that feeling is transmitted to the playing field, while the opposition is handed the initiative and, if they score, the momentum.

David Herdson


Local By-Election Results : September 25th 2014 – UPDATE and a Marf cartoon

September 26th, 2014

Epping, Hemnal on Epping Forest (Conservative Defence)
Result: Liberal Democrats 607 (43% +7%), Conservatives 386 (28% -14%), UKIP 339 (24% +16%), Green 69 (5% +1%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 221 (15%) on a swing of 10.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Lovelace on Guildford (Conservative Defence)
Result: Liberal Democrats 555 (61% +47%), Conservatives 255 (28% -43%), UKIP 63 (7%), Labour 32 (4% -11%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 300 (33%) on a swing of 45% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Frome North on Somerset (Lib Dem Defence)
Result: Conservatives 1,163 (47% +11%), Liberal Democrats 836 (35% -2%), Labour 163 (7% -4%), Independent 139 (6%), Green 139 (6%)
Conservative GAIN from Liberal Democrat with a majority of 327 (12%) on a swing of 6.5% from Liberal Democrat to Conservative

Update – A cartoon from Marf


Ipsos Mori issues index for September is out

September 26th, 2014

The two topics Ed forgot in his speech, remain the public’s top two issues, unsurprisingly, Defence/Foreign Affairs/Terrorism is the biggest riser.

The first Ipsos-Mori issues index was published forty years ago, here’s what the issues were back in September 1974

Here’s what the top five issues have been over those forty years

I’ve noted in the past, sometimes perceptions matter more than the facts, here’s a perfect example of this



Henry G Manson on where LAB stands post confernence and his views on the leadership

September 26th, 2014

“A couple of days ago, after Andy Burnham’s LAB conference speech I emailed Henry to get his views on whether Burnham could replace EdM before GE2015. This is his response” – Mike Smithson

Hi Mike, there’s a few questions to address before we get to whether Andy Burnham will replace Ed Miliband before the election. First of all when would Ed go? It would have to be in the next month or not at all. The new leader really needs 6 months at least to get known, take control and help voters get to know them. I doubt the Labour Party would have a coronation. The threshold for the number of MPs required to be nominated has risen to 15% (currently 39 Labour MPs) which would make it harder for the troublesome hard left to oppose. It would require almost all strands of the party to agree.

Unions now have far less of a say but a number of their changes are yet to be implemented, however as important affiliates and large funders for any general election campaign they would need to be sympathetic. The union leaders would be open to any proposals that would help Labour win the general election right now. They were never in love with Ed Miliband but saw his candidacy as representing a important break with New Labour. Despite Burnham’s popularity with the party membership grassroots there’s no guarantee that if Ed went Burnham would automatically take over.

The process of Gordon Brown’s ‘coronation’ was not viewed as a particularly positive or successful experience and there would be others that fancy their chances. While Chuka Umunna and Rachel Reeves are top of the pile of the next generation and may already be preparing for what would happen if the election is lost, they may find it difficult to sit it out if there was an earlier vacancy. Yvette Cooper would also be an obvious contender and if she ever had any desire to be leader then now would be the time. And here lies the issue – there’s no shortage of people who think they could do a better job and have sufficient support to form the basis of a future leadership campaign. But would any of them put this aside for the good of their party’s prospects in 2015 as David Davis did when allowing Michael Howard a free run? I’m not so sure it would be the case.

Some potential leadership candidates give the impression of being more interested in being well positioned to pounce in defeat rather than doing whatever it takes to ensure victory next year. One fancied leadership candidate has already taken to donating sizeable cheques to parliamentary candidates in winnable seats rather than donate directly to the party, which could be seen as an unspoken attempt to purchase future political loyalty and support with MPs.

There are also noble reasons for being so cautious – personal loyalty to the man who they owe their position and promotions to, fear of a divided party and general uncertainty about whether the risk is worth it. And many politicians and people loathe uncertainty. The film Withnail and I captured the pain of decision-making when rapid judgments are often required with a slowly deteriorating situation. “If you’re hanging on to a rising balloon, you’re presented with a difficult decision — let go before it’s too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope?”

    For as a long as Labour leads the Conservative Party in the polls, it will be hard for anyone to make a move and justify it to colleagues and constituents. However the sense of worry and foreboding is growing.

The way that poll leads shifted so quickly in Scotland has rightly reminded people that public opinion is not set in stone. The weight of sustained attacks on the SNP from business and newspapers in the last weeks of the referendum campaign would be amplified against Labour. The party conference was flat and nervous not bristling with electricity and determination as was the case in the run up to 1997. A lot of Ed Miliband’s supporters are privately disappointed with how the speech has worked out for their man. However activists are always aware of their respective leaders’ shortcomings – they hear all the time what people think. However it would probably take the Conservatives having sustained poll leads and a shock defeat in the Heywood and Middleton by-election for any concerns to turn into panic and create the climate where a leader steps down.

By my reckoning I now think that there is only a 10% chance Ed Miliband will be replaced before the general election. If that happened then there’s about a 60% chance of ‘coronation’ and then a further 60% chance Andy Burnham would be the candidate people unite around. If there’s a leadership contest following Ed’s departure prior to May 2015, I think there’s a 70% chance Andy would win it. But all that leaves with about a 6% chance Andy would be leader at the election and a 90% chance Ed Miliband will be. By historic standards Labour is united.

The plotting isn’t there but planning for what should follow in the event of an election defeat is. This week’s Labour conference was the penny dropping for many in the party, that for all the Tories ‘ problems and the unpopularity of their policies, Labour may still lose a general election some had mistakenly thought would fall in their lap.

Henry G Manson


Local By-Election Preview: September 25th 2014

September 25th, 2014

Epping, Hemnal on Epping Forest (Conservative Defence)

Result of last election to council (2014): Conservatives 37, Residents 12, Liberal Democrats 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 2, Independents 2, Greens 1, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 16)

Result of last election in ward (2011): Conservative 951 (42%), Liberal Democrats 821 (36%), Labour 231 (10%), UKIP 185 (8%), Green 83 (4%)

Candidates duly nominated: Kim Adams (Lib Dem), Nigel Avey (Con), Andrew Smith (UKIP), Anna Widdup (Green)

By-elections held during the conference season can always been very tricky affairs. Who can forget that classic by-election moment in October 1990 when Lady Thatcher poked fun at the new Liberal Democrat logo comparing it to Monty Python’s “This is an ex parrot” only for said parrot to bite the Conservatives in the proverbials when the Lib Dems gained Eastbourne on a 20% swing and the same is true of local by-elections although whether Labour will have anything to cheer about after Ed Milliband’s speech on Tuesday remains to be seen.

In fact, as the UKIP conference starts in Doncaster tomorrow maybe it will be Nigel Farage who gives his leader’s speech and is able to announce not one but two new UKIP councillors to add to the fold. After all, Epping Forest should be prime UKIP territory. It’s in Essex, the seat being defended is a Con / Lib Dem battleground (and we all know what has happened to the Lib Dems against UKIP since 2013) and perhaps more importantly than that, they won the council area at the Euros by 9%

Lovelace on Guildford (Conservative Defence)

Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 34, Liberal Democrats 12, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 20)

Result of last election in ward (2011): Conservative 648 (71%), Labour 134 (15%), Liberal Democrats 131 (14%)

Candidates duly nominated: Colin Cross (Lib Dem), Den Paton (Con), David Sheppard (UKIP), Robin Woof (Lab)

And Guildford could produce the double as it also fits the prime UKIP requirements with the addition of a virtual one party state council and a one party state ward. However, there could be a slight complication to UKIP in Guildford and that is the fact that UKIP did NOT win the council area in the Euros.

There was a 6% swing to UKIP in Guildford, yes, but that was a full 3% below the South Eastern average (9% to UKIP) so does this mean that Guildford is immune to the charms of UKIP? Not entirely, but it does raise the prospect of UKIP having the potential if not to gain this ward, then certainly make it plausible for the Conservatives to lose the ward.

Frome North on Somerset (Lib Dem Defence)

Result of last election to council (2013): Conservatives 28, Liberal Democrats 19, Labour 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 3, Independents 2 (Conservative majority of 1)

Result of last election in ward (2013): Liberal Democrat 1,047 (37%), Conservative 1,002 (36%), UKIP 445 (16%), Labour 302 (11%)

Candidates duly nominated: Adrian Dobinson (Ind), Damon Hooton (Lib Dem), Linda Oliver (Con), Catherine Richardson (Lab), Les Spalding (Green)

Which makes Frome completely out there. Here is a ward where UKIP polled 16% of the vote in, across a county where in the Euros they topped the poll in four of the five districts (polling 34% of the vote) and yet they could not find a candidate to stand in the by-election? If Nigel Farage wants people to take UKIP as a serious political party, then this is something they need to address very quickly indeed.

With some polls putting UKIP support as high as 20% at Westminster, he needs to remember that you only get UKIP votes when there is a UKIP candidate. No UKIP candidate means no UKIP votes and as a result, this battleground could very easily stay with the Lib Dems or flip to the Conservatives.

Harry Hayfield


UKIP claims two more Tories ready to defect: Party secretary says MPs will unveiled within days

September 25th, 2014

Today reports emerged that

Senior UKIP figures are claiming two more Tory MPs are ‘in the bag’ and will be unveiled as defectors within days.

To the alarm of Conservative HQ, Ukip party secretary Matthew Richardson has boasted privately that two turncoats have agreed to switch parties, according to two separate sources. 

Mr Richardson has told colleagues an announcement could be made as early as Ukip’s conference, which opens today in Doncaster.

I have a personal rule, that defections are usually surprises, and the ones that are announced/expected in advance generally don’t happen, usually when they happen it is unexpected, just like when Douglas Carswell defected.

In my opinion, the honourable and principled precedent that Douglas Carswell has set, by triggering a by-election to obtain a new mandate from the electorate, something that other defectors might not wish to replicate, particularly if they have a small majority.

However, if UKIP wanted to really damage the Tories and David Cameron in particular, what better way that announce defections just prior to the Tory conference, or even during the conference, so I do think something a defection is likely.

The bookies have a few markets up on this, How Many Conservative MPs Will Defect To UKIP Before General Election and Next Tory MP To Defect To UKIP

I’ve had a nibble on two or more MPs to defect and Philip Hollobone to defect, at 2/1 and 7/1 respectively.