There can be no getting round the fact that Tories are still being the most hurt by the UKIP surge

July 28th, 2014

And a lot of 2010 non-voters seem to back Farage’s party

The above chart is based on the aggregate data from Lord Ashcroft’s latest round of CON-LAB marginals polling which had a total sample of 14,004.

The first factor to stand out is that much more of UKIP’s current support in these key battlegrounds continues to come from ex-Tories than from ex-LAB voters. This means, of course, that the blues will benefit most should UKIP support fade.

Secondly, given UKIP only got 3.1% nationally in 2010, a very high proportion of current UKIP voters did not vote at the last election.

All this unerpins the claims by LAB in the Telegraph this morning that “Ukip voters will make Ed Miliband Prime Minister”. The report quotes a LAB figure:-

“The Tories lose a lot more than we do from a decent Ukip performance,” said a senior Labour campaign source. “The whole election could hang on how many of their current voters stick with them next May.”

I think that’s right and this will impact on Labour’s approach in the coming months. Ed Miliband’s team will be increasingly resistant to pressure from some in the party to make policy moves to attract UKIP votes.

That means, I’d suggest, no Labour promise on an EU in/out referendum.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


It looks as though Lord Ashcroft could be polling the slightly less marginal LAB-CON battlegrounds

July 27th, 2014

Yesterday my wife was telephone polled for what appeared to be a seat specific survey in Bedford where we live. This is LAB target number 24 and was won by the Tories with a 3% majority in 2010.

Judging by the format of the questions the interview followed the same pattern as all his other marginals’ polling.

To me what’s interesting is that he appears to be moving up the scale to take in seats where the Tories have bigger majorities than those seats which he has polled twice in his first two rounds. This makes a lot of sense.

    The big GE2015 question is at what point will Lord Ashcroft find CON holds rather than losses? This will give us a better sense of what the outcome might be.

We have never had available such deep and intensive marginals’ polling before and it is great that Lord Ashcroft is happy to invest in this. This will really add to our understanding of the election and what is going on.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


While Scottish athletes flourish in Glasgow there’s a big polling blow for independence campaigners

July 27th, 2014

The pollster that last August had YES ahead now has NO 8% lead

In August 2013 there was a sensational poll by the Northumberland-based Panelbase that had YES 1% ahead. Although the survey had been commissioned by the SNP the firm is the regular pollster in Scotland for the Sunday Times which added credence to its findings

Since then the firm has been part of the group including Survation and ICM that has tended to have YES in better positions. TNS and YouGov have usually shown the worst figures.

    So this morning’s Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times will come as a huge disappointment for those campaigning for Scotland to vote for independence in the referendum on September 18th. Time is running out.

Also in the poll 17% said they “would think about emigrating in the event of a YES vote” while 43% said they thought Scotland would be poorer with 36% saying richer.

The serious campaign has yet to start and the hope for YES backers is that this could still turn things round.

Punters, however, are increasingly moving to NO. The last trade on Betfair as I write made NO an 85.5% chance.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


At 4-1 the CON most votes/LAB most seats bet is still the best GE2015 punt

July 26th, 2014

My current reading is that UKIP returnees will gradually boost CON shares while LAB will retain almost all the 2010 LD switchers which has been the bed-rock of their polling for nearly four years.

This means that in terms of national vote shares the outcome will be very tight.

The voting patterns that see much lower turnout levels in LAB heartlands and LAB doing poorly in safe CON seats will continue meaning that EdM’s party doesn’t need to lead on national vote share to secure most MPs.

The Tories, however, are going to struggle to win many of the LD seats that national swing calculations suggest they will. This means that a CON national vote lead of 3%+ is not going to guarantee a lead on seats.

I got on the Ladbrokes bet at 8/1. That’s now 4/1 and still remains value.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Austria, Serbia and George W Bush

July 26th, 2014

first world war posters   Google Search (2)

The descent into WWI is a 21st Century story

Sepia-toned silent images of black-coated or feather-hatted diplomats lend a reassuring distance to the events that plunged the world into war a hundred years ago this week.  It looks like a world long since vanished and in one sense, it is.  However, like much of that story, it is an illusion; all the more dangerous for the complacency that false reassurance breeds.

    Far from being a different age, the threats posed by rogue governments, state-sponsored (or at least, state-cloaked) terrorism and extremist violence are more relevant now than at just about any time since 1914. 

Indeed, when George W Bush had to respond to the Twin Towers attacks, he was placed in a very similar position to the Austrians after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Both outrages were direct attacks against not just the soil and people of the respective great power but represented a symbolic attack too.  Equally, both were carried out by terrorist organisations that enjoyed the tacit patronage of their host governments to the extent that the line dividing them was distinctly porous: they shared objectives and beliefs, and not infrequently, personnel.

Understanding that is crucial to understanding both why the Austrian government sent such a harsh ultimatum, demanding that Serbia allow Austria to conduct its own inquiry.  Quite simply, there was no way a Serbian inquiry could be trusted to investigate properly as if it did, it would implicate itself.  Refusing the Austrian demand that Sebia cede its sovereignty might have given the Serbs a little cover under international law but as the initial act could easily be regarded as a casus belli of itself, only a little.

Here, the parallel switches to Iraq.  Most would now agree that the Iraq War was a monumental blunder on any number of levels.  Many thought it would be at the time, though we should distinguish between those who believed in managing the risk Saddam presented and the views of those who would bury their heads in the sand and try to wish the situation away.  Bush’s problem, like the Austrians’, was that the weapons inspectors were being given the run around in exactly the same way that Pasic’s Serbian government would have given the Austrians had they allowed them in.  Just as Saddam was trying to strike a balance between providing no evidence to the West that he had WMD’s and retaining the belief among his local opponents that he had, so Pasic could not afford to give an outright no to Austria but nor could he allow them to find anything incriminating.  Both countries could sustain the contradictory policies only until the terrorism of 1914 and 2001 changed the game.  A that point, both the Austrian and American administrations decided that a government that couldn’t be trusted on such matters was by definition a sufficient threat to justify war.

Of course, one principal difference between Serbia in 1914 and either Iraq or Afghanistan this century is that neither of those two had any meaningful international support whereas Serbia could rely on Russia, and by extension, France and probably Britain.  That, however, is more a distinction of detail than consequence given the breadth of international sympathy and strength of US feeling in the days following 11 September 2001.  Unlike Nicholas II (or more accurately, his ministers), no modern leader is likely to commit to the suicide of their regime and country on behalf of a bunch of fanatics (not that the tsar meant to either, but foresight of the consequences of a major war is clearer now than then).

Where do these lessons leave policy today?  That’s a much more difficult question.  It’s worth noting that after all the slaughter, it was the Serb nationalists who achieved their aim in 1918-9, not the Austrians; that after years of occupation, Afghanistan is by no means free of extremists even if Al Qaida is much reduced; that the downfall of Saddam has merely replaced one uncertainty with others in the Middle East; that Israel’s policy towards Hamas veers between scratching the sore and sticking a plaster on it but that the sore remains all the same.

Even so, it’s only when the fanaticism of terrorists is allied with the resources and prerogatives of a state that there develops a really serious threat.  The ideal solution is to prevent that alliance in the first place but even that asks difficult questions about external interference in sovereign states, ones that can only really be answered if there’s agreement on both principles and practices among the major powers.  If that fails, it follows that regime change should be a legitimate reason for military action in certain circumstance, even before a threat is made real.  Yet that too is dangerous: many initially extreme governments mellow with power, while war brings the chaos and pain in which extremism thrives.

It’s said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.  The problem is knowing which lessons to learn and heed.

David Herdson

David will not be able to respond to comments today as he’s getting married.


Local By-Election Results: July 24th 2014

July 25th, 2014

Clifton on Blackpool (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 501 (41%), UKIP 362 (30%), Conservatives 283 (23%), Liberal Democrats 33 (3%), Greens 25 (2%), TUSC 10 (1%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 139 (11%)
Turnout: 23%

(Grateful thanks to Blackpool Council for their publication of the result and vote shares)

Edenthorpe, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun on Doncaster (Lab Defence)
Result: UKIP 1,203 (41%), Labour 1,109 (38% unchanged), Conservatives 479 (16% +2%), Greens 160 (5%)
UKIP GAIN from Labour with a majority of 94 (3%) on a swing of 20.5% from Labour to UKIP since 2012
Turnout: 28%

Staplehurst on Maidstone (Con Defence)
Result: Liberal Democrats 609 (36% +24%), Conservatives 603 (36% -21%), UKIP 311 (19%), Labour 117 (7% -8%), Greens 41 (2% -6%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 6 (0%) on a swing of 22.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Longhougton on Northumberland (Ind Defence)
Result: Liberal Democrats 742 (50%), Conservatives 352 (24% +9%), Independents 206 (14%), UKIP 146 (10% +2%), Labour 48 (3%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Independent with a majority of 390 (26%) on a swing of 20.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Southcote on Reading (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 1,019 (59% +3), Conservative 340 (20% -11%), UKIP 226 (13%), Greens 69 (4% -2%), Liberal Democrats 49 (3% -4%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 679 (39%) on a swing of 7% from Conservative to Labour since 2011
Turnout: 26%

Aberaman North on Rhondda, Cynon, Taff (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 356 (39% -42%), Independent 276 (31%), Plaid Cymru 228 (25% +6%), TUSC 23 (3%), Conservatives 20 (2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 80 (8%) on a swing of 36.5% from Labour to Independent

Birchills, Leamore on Walsall (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 1,075 (48% -7%), Conservative 710 (32% -2%), UKIP 445 (20%), Eng Dem 20 (1%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 365 (16%) on a swing of 2.5% from Labour to Conservative

Clewer North on Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (Ind Defence)
Result: Independent 878 (58%), Conservatives 486 (32%), Labour 158 (10%)
Independent HOLD with a majority of 392 (26%)
Turnout: 26%


Ukip sheds 4% and the Tories move up by 3% in the latest Populus online poll

July 25th, 2014

This is the lowest UKIP share since the firm’s methodology change in February

What will really please the Tories is that, like ICM last week, the UKIP drop has been accompanied by a rise in the CON share, It holds out hope that the Tories could move into the lead even though LAB stays constant.

The crazy thing about GE2015 is that it is really about two battles: CON versus UKIP to get the switchers back and LAB versus LD to maintain their switchers.

In the CON-LAB battleground there is very little movement.


Farage could be preparing a surprise for Ed Milband at his September conference in Doncaster

July 25th, 2014

Farage and Miliband (1)

Farage’s party gains council seat from LAB with 41% of vote in EdM’s Doncaster N backyard

There are a lot of places in Yorkshire which spring to mind as good conference venues. Harrogate, Scarborough, York and Leeds would probably be the main choices but not, I’d suggest, Doncaster which is where the Ukip annual gathering takes place in September.

My reading is that this unusual venue has been chosen for two reasons: To flag up that the party is aiming to make inroads in LAB heartlands and, to put personal pressure on Ed Miliband who sits for Doncaster North.

Regular readers of Private Eye will know of the reputation that LAB has had there and until this year Doncaster’s elected mayor had previously been a member of Ukip member.

The man, Peter Davies, has big name recognition in the area and David Herdson has speculated on PB about him being the Ukip candidate in Doncaster North.

    So last night’s Doncaster council by election victory by Farage’s party taking a seat off LAB is especially interesting. Ukip is making progress there.

What better opportunity could Ukip have than to announce a decapitation strategy against EdM at their Doncaster conference in a few weeks time?

EdM could have a fight on his hands?

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter