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If the Tories get a good turnout in the Rochester all postal primary it’ll be a pointer to the by-election itself

October 21st, 2014

But what is good – this is a by-election first?

On Thursday we’ll get the results of the unique all postal primary that the Tories have carried out to choose their Candidate for the November 20th Rochester & Strood by-election. This is the first time that any party has chosen a by-election candidate in this manner and for me the key number will be how many of the 70k+ electors in the constituency have actually participated.

Only two such primaries have been carried out before. At the first at Totnes in Devon in 2009 ahead of the 2010 General Election 24.6% bothered to fill in the postal ballot forms and return them. A month or so later in Gosport the turnout was 17.8%. The big differences between Rochester and those two are that the process is taking place over such a shorter period and, of course, turnouts in by-elections themselves are almost always lower than at general elections.

    Taking everything into account if participation in Rochester is in the 15-20% region then the blues can be pleased.

What the primary process has done is to increase awareness of the election and the two contenders. Whoever wins, of course, is fighting the incumbent, Mark Reckless, who has had huge media coverage following his defection to UKIP. There can be little doubt that the massive success that Douglas Carswell had in Clacton will have provided a boost to Reckless and his party. The momentum generally had been with UKIP since as we’ve seen from record Westminster polling shares for the party.

Ladbrokes and SkyBet have been operating a markets on the primary and Kelly Torworth, the one on the right in the picture, is odds on favourite.

All the counting and election processing had been carried out by the Electoral Reform Society. The turnout will be a pointer to how much interest the Tories have been able to generate in their campaign.

One thing’s for sure – the turnout level will be higher than the South Yorkshire Police Commissioner election taking place next week.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble





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PB Nighthawks is now open

October 20th, 2014

Home of the web’s best political conversation

Why not relax, and converse into the night on the day’s events in PB NightHawks.

If you’re a lurker, why not delurk, It Only Takes A Minute to delurk, I’m sure you’ll Shine with your contributions. Never Forget, we were all lurkers once.

The round up of recent events (click on the links below, and it will bring up the relevant link)

  1. Polls can shape reality, not just reflect it. The pollsters and the media have to make decisions based on public opinion – but those decisions can then shape us.
  2. England’s awkward answer to the West Lothian Question
  3. What does history suggest will happen in the polls? Encouragingly for Cameron, since 1979 the party in power has often won support in the year before the election.
  4. Have the Greens really overtaken the Lib Dems in the polls?
  5. You want constitutional change? Fixed-term parliaments have already done the job. Why our politics could be in chaos after the next election
  6. Scottish independence referendum: what we learned about bookies vs pollsters.
  7. The Tories lie about the NHS in Wales to distract us from what they’re doing in England
  8. Middle-class families hit by Labour’s mansion tax. Ed Miliband faces criticism over his plans for a ‘mansion tax’ from Labour MPs in London who say policy is ‘dysfunctional and misconceived’
  9. Why did Britain’s political class buy into the Tories’ economic fairytale?Falling wages, savage cuts and sham employment expose the recovery as bogus. Without a new vision we’re heading for social conflict
  10. Tackling tax avoidance should be a top manifesto issue 
  11. Ukip does deal with far-right, racist Holocaust-denier to save EU funding. 
  12. Parliament has more important priorities than this spiffwaddle
  13. Blind defenders of ‘free movement’ sound like US gun nuts
  14. Turkey in Europe? Now there’s a migrant backlash waiting to happen
  15. France to use Britain’s ‘illegal’ plans to cut EU migrant numbers
  16. Prison whistleblowers being threatened with dismissal
  17. ITV News Called Ed Miliband The “Labour Party Lady”
  18. “UKIP Calypso” Might Be The Most Cringeworthy Political Anthem Ever
  19. Yesterday was the 2,216th anniversary of the Battle of Zama, when Hannibal despite outnumbering his opponent, was exposed as the inept and overrated military commander most people knew him to be.
  20. Today is the 41st anniversary of the Saturday Night Massacre.
  21. Tomorrow is the 209th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. 


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The Lib Dems fall into 5th place in this week’s Ashcroft National phone poll

October 20th, 2014

Earlier the Populus had Lab 36 (+1), Con 34 (+1), LD 9 (-1), UKIP 13 (-1) GRN 5 (+1)

This 3% jump in a single week is a remarkable move by the Greens who now seem to be taking support from across the board but most particularly LAB and the LDs which could conceivably help the Tories in the battlegrounds.

    Like all moves that are out of the ordinary we would have a lot more confidence if it was supported by other surveys and today’s Populus had them on 5% four full points behind the LDs.

For some reason the Ashcroft poll generally reports the highest figures of all for the Greens.

My reading is that none of the so-called “major parties” and their leaders are doing well at the moment and inevitably other forces are coming in to fill the vacuum.

We are in uncharted territory and no one can really predict where this is going. The Lord A data shows that the Greens are now taking more 2010 LD support than UKIP.

What will worry LAB is that the proportion of 2010 LDs voting LAB appears to have fallen as the GRN share has risen.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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Polling analysis: Rochester is a far far bigger challenge for UKIP than Clacton

October 20th, 2014

UKIP is not winning the 2010 Tory vote like it did in Clacton

Reckless has nothing like the personal support as Carswell

The outcome could be on a knife-edge

I’ve become totally absorbed by the Rochester by-election the outcome of which, either way, will have a dramatic affect on the political environment in the six months to the May 7th general election.

Over the weekend I’ve had a look again at the only poll so far which was from Survation. This had UKIP’s Mark Reckless with an 8.7% margin a large part of which was made up of non-voters from 2010 and a disproportionate number of those saying they voted for “others”.

    In fact if standard ICM methodology, rather than Survation’s, had been used with the same data then the main two protagonists could have been almost level pegging with Labour not far behind. This is because ICM discounts the views of non-voters from last time by 50% and also re-allocates part of the “will vote -won’t say” segment to the party they supported last. Also 2010 “others” would have been scaled down.

UKIP, of course, gave Reckless a free ride in 2010 so there’s no 2010 data relating to the party to link back to.

Lord Ashcroft, who hasn’t polled this yet, is much closer in his approach to ICM and when he does he’ll be naming the candidates in his survey.

Survation was first off with a Clacton poll and followed that up a fortnight ago with its Rochester survey. Apart from the voting ones questions were almost identical allowing us to compare the two sets of data to identify the differences.

The key ones to me are how much worse Reckless’s defection is viewed in Rochester compared with Carswell and how in Rochester the Tories are hanging on to much more of their 2010 vote. The comparisons are shown in the two charts and do not look good for UKIP.

I still think that Reckless is favourite but nothing like the 78% chance that he’s being rated at on Betfair.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter




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Andy Burnham rules out standing for the LAB leadership – get your money on Andy Burnham

October 19th, 2014

EdM’s successor? Could be

In the closing seconds of his interview on the Marr show this morning the shadow health secretary and 2010 leadership contender, Andy Burnham, was asked if he’d rule out standing the the job “in due course”.

His denial was, to me, less than convincing.

He’s come on a lot since his first leadership bid and I was quite impressed with the way he handled the interview.

Both Ladbrokes and PaddyPower have him at 6/1. If EdM does stumble on the the way to May 7th or in the aftermath Burnham looks a good bet.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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When ComRes tested impact of prompting for UKIP the views of women barely changed. Male support however jumped by 8%

October 19th, 2014

Two pollsters, three polls, and UKIP shares between 16% and 24%

With all eyes on UKIP polling shares following their by election successes the online survey by ComRes for the Indy on Sunday and Sunday Mirror carried out a test to see whether, as many purple enthusiasts argue, their shares are understated by firms that don’t specifically prompt for the party.

So the ComRes sample was split in two with the first using the conventional approach and the second including UKIP in its main party prompts.

The problem with this is that the sample sizes became so small, down to 782 in one case, that the margin of error increases substantially especially when trying to analyse the UKIP voting subset.

In fact the difference between the two approaches can almost all be explained as standard margin of error.

    With that caveat a big move was apparent between the two ComRes polls. The views of women barely changed when UKIP was prompted – men, however increased their support by 8%

Read into that what you will! Maybe prompting says more about how men and women respond to online polling than it does about UKIP support.

Another difference was that non-2010 voters amongst UKIP support amounted to 7% in normal poll, but 13% in the prompted one.

Meanwhile the latest YouGov, with a later fieldwork period than ComRes, has UKIP down 3% from dizzy heights of last week to a more normal looking 16%.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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If Stephen Fisher’s latest GE15 forecast is right LAB could win most seats with just 31.3% of the vote

October 18th, 2014

CON with 2.7% more votes in the forecast get 7 fewer seats

We’ve been here before and we’ll be here many times in the next six months – the way that on national vote shares at least the “system” seems to favour LAB so much.

The latest from Oxford’s Stephen Fisher is in the panel above which illustrates a scenario that could happen.

This is all because the aggregate national vote shares are irrelevant when determining the outcome. What matters, as I keep on saying, is what happens in the 650 constituency battles each held under first past the post.

The rise of UKIP as a fourth force means that the aggregate LAB+CON vote share could be lower than ever before and many seats could be won with fewer than 30% of the votes. The key driver in most of the key battlegrounds is the relative position of LAB and CON.

Much of the apparent bias in the system is down to much reduced vote shares in Labour’s heartlands where the red team finds it difficult getting its supporters out as we saw in the Heywood by-election. Another driver of the bias is that LAB seats have on average smaller electorates than CON or LD ones.

On top of that there’s the effect of tactical voting which could be higher and more complex than ever before. At previous elections LAB voters have been ready in LD-CON battles to use their vote to stop the Tories thus depressing the national LAB vote share. I don’t rule out at GE15 some LAB switching to CON to stop UKIP in certain seats.

    A LAB “victory” on just 31.3% will surely raise questions about the legitimacy of whatever government emerges.

Ladbrokes are currently offering 3/1 on LAB securing most seats and CON most votes.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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A Con-UKIP electoral pact? Forget it. It isn’t going to happen

October 18th, 2014

Westminster twlight

Too much pushes the blues and purples apart

Split parties do not win elections, so the saying goes.  Nor, by extension, do parties whose natural support base is divided between parties, particularly under FPTP – which is why from time to time we hear calls from some on the right-of-centre for an electoral pact between the Conservatives and UKIP, who look at the 45-50% that the two parties poll between them and dream of landslide governments rather than impotent oppositions.  It won’t happen, not least because such dreams ignore certain inconvenient realities.

One such reality is that there is a very clear message from history as to what electoral pacts mean, which is the end of at least one party as an independent entity.  That may come through merger, takeover or reduction to irrelevance but come it invariably does.  Where one party is clearly the dominant member of an alliance, a pact effectively means a delayed takeover.  The Conservatives have particularly strong form on this, having taken over the Liberal Unionists that split from Gladstone, the National Liberals that split in 1931, and dominated the Lloyd George-led government between 1918 and when it fell at a time of their choosing.

That, of course, is one of the main reasons why the larger party agrees to it in the first place and why those Conservative supporters who advocate it now, do so.  UKIP would in effect be given a certain number of MPs while their capacity to operate independently would be slowly extinguished.  The dynamics are simple: once there are several dozen (say) UKIP MPs whose future presence in the House relies on continuing to be given a free run by the Tories, it becomes extremely difficult for them to act in such a way that would provoke an ending of the alliance.

However, that self-same dynamic is also the biggest stumbling block to such a deal.  Many UKIP activists left the Conservatives because of disillusionment at the policies and tone of its leadership.  Why then set their new party on a course back to where they started?  For those who left a party of government for one on the fringes, a share of power alone is an insufficient inducement otherwise they’d have stayed in the first place.

This is before you add in the antipathies, egos, pride and other personal factors that would prevent the two from working amicably together.  Not the least of the problems would be identifying which party would stand in which constituency; decisions that are fraught with the capacity for upsetting the candidates and foot-soldiers of each party alike.

That’s compounded by the fact that many UKIP voters – and to a lesser extent, activists – don’t identify with the Conservatives as fellow-travellers who’ve simply slipped from the right path.  An increasing number are ex-Labour or at least have values that align with where Labour once was.  We know from the polling that a sizable minority prefer Labour to Tories and in the absence of a UKIP candidate (which would be the case in most constituencies were there a pact), those UKIP votes would transfer red rather than blue, if they get cast at all.  The electoral benefits of any Con-UKIP pact would be far lower than a simple sum of the scores would suggest.

    There is one alternative that may prove attractive, however, if the Tories have the ambition and audacity to seize it: a pre-election advocacy of PR. 

If implemented, it would do away with the need for pacts.  It would also greatly diminish the effectiveness of negative campaigning and tactical voting – two aspects of modern politics that have proven so corrosive to public trust. Getting in ahead of the game may also be tactically wise in case the election produces a particularly unfair result.  On the other hand, if a hung parliament results, virtually all the minor parties might be expected to view PR with favour and with a manifesto commitment, there’d be no need for a referendum.

The new four-party line-up also fundamentally changes the political battlefield, as the Conservatives now have one potential ally to either side of them on the spectrum while Labour doesn’t.  That might change if the Greens could up their support but on their current polling they’d still be of only marginal significance under most systems of PR.

What is clear is that despite the damage FPTP does both parties, there won’t be a pact before 2015: there are just too many things pushing UKIP and the Tories apart.

David Herdson