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Well done to ICM and Ipsos-MORI for now providing England only numbers

January 24th, 2015

As can be seen the picture is very mixed

In December I met some pollsters and some of their clients at the BES launch event and suggested that what would be enormously helpful was a breakdown of the England only figures. Whether it was my suggestion or not I don’t know but Ipsos-MORI and ICM are both now following Lord Ashcroft in providing this data.

These are, of course, only sub sets but England does make up about 87% of the samples in each poll.

There’s also the addition of separate England only table in the Wikipedia polling pages.

As the table above shows there’s a very mixed picture on England coming from the pollsters and it is hard to come to any firm views yet.

The only big trend is that none of the surveys have the Tories getting anywhere near the 11.5% England lead of 2010. Thus if the parties are level-pegging in England that is a 5.75% CON to LAB swing.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble





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The 7-7-2 debate format is just inviting a court challenge

January 24th, 2015


The “worm” from the 2nd 2010 debate

Maybe judges killing them off is what the broadcasters really want

It was so easy last time: three major GB parties and no other vaguely serious contender. With the SNP messing up their legal challenge, the invites to send more-or-less wrote themselves. As is already clear from the saga so far, it’s a very different situation this year.

What’s striking to me about the latest proposals is not so much the unwieldy scale of seven parties proposed for two of the debates but the invite to Plaid. You can see how it’s happened. On one level, it follows logically that if the SNP are invited then their Welsh counterparts should be too. Except that while Plaid might be the SNP’s approximate ideological counterparts, they’re far from their psephological ones.

The case for the inclusion of the SNP is that they might have a significant role in determining who ends up in Downing Street after May given the number of MPs they may well then hold, going by current polling and by actual elections in Scotland since at least 2007 (with the sole, if notable, exception of the 2010 vote). There’s certainly no case based on the number of candidates stood, nor really on the number of votes cast. By contrast, there is a very strong case for UKIP and a much weaker one for the Greens based on their respective national presence in candidates and their performance in real or virtual votes.

Plaid, however, is a different kettle of fish. Unlike the SNP, they have experienced no upsurge in support, finishing fourth in last year’s Euro-election and only just holding on to their seat. With only 3 MPs at present and no realistic prospect of significant gains, their invitation rests on a very tenuous basis.

And therein lies the problem: if you ignore the published major/minor party lists, where do you then draw the line, and on what basis? If Plaid gets an invite with three MPs and 165k votes in 2010, why not the DUP who returned as many votes and more than double the number of MPs? But if the DUP get an invite, surely Sinn Fein has to have one too, both for balance and because they won (slightly) more votes than their unionist opponents. It may be that because Northern Irish politics is so divorced from that of Britain that they will let that point pass but it’s still illogical and iniquitous.

On the other hand, relegating the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dems into the also-ran division makes the Yellows the biggest losers in these proposals and consequently may invite a challenge from that direction. Loading the stage with five left-of-centre candidates and four other non-Blue/Red leaders dilutes greatly the Lib Dem distinctiveness in a format where it was already going to be hard to both take credit for government achievements while distancing themselves from the Conservatives. UKIP too have reason to feel aggrieved that having forced open the door, three others have rushed through.

I can’t help but wonder whether the reason that there are so many angles of attack against the format is because the broadcasters don’t really want it but that they do want an authoritative and external decision ruling out the idea, enabling them to return to something more televisually appealing without taking any of the blame for the exclusions.

David Herdson



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And on the day that the Saudi King died here’s Marf

January 23rd, 2015

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.


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    The debates: The broadcaster up the ante and threaten to empty chair Cameron

    January 23rd, 2015

    The broadcaster have just issued a joint statement on the debates. The sting is in the tail.

    “The proposed dates for the debates are 2, 16 and 30 April. The order of the debates is to be discussed with the parties.

    “The party leaders will be formally invited to take part in these debates. In the event that any of the invited party leaders decline to participate, debates will take place with the party leaders who accept the invitation.”

    Mike Smithson

    For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    Latest polls bring just a little bit of relief for LAB but it’s going to be a struggle to win most seats

    January 23rd, 2015

    But still this battle is mighty tight

    At the end of a week that has seen the worst LAB polling shares since GE10 the latest two polls from Populus and YouGov will come as something of a relief. As can be seen leads of 4% and 2% are recorded.

    Ed Miliband’s prospects are so tied up with Scotland and the overnight local by-election news form a ward within Gordon Brown’s constituency won’t have helped things.

    On the polling I don’t know what’s coming up this weekend apart from the usual YouGov Sunday Times survey.

    The betting, meanwhile, reflects the polling.

    LAB & CON still level-pegging on Sporting Index spreads
    Mid-points
    LAB 282
    CON 282
    LD 28
    UKIP 8.5
    SNP 32 -new high

    Mike Smithson

    For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    Local By-Elections: January 22nd 2014 – Harry Hayfield

    January 23rd, 2015

    This was Harry’s ward description before the result.

    Kirkcaldy East on Fife (SNP defence)
    Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 35, Scottish Nationalists 26, Liberal Democrats 10, Conservatives 3, Independents 3, Non Party Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 5)
    Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
    Labour 1,111, 745 (50%)
    Scottish National Party 610, 742 (36%)
    Conservatives 224 (6%)
    Pensioner’s Party 180 (5%)
    Liberal Democrats 104 (3%)
    Candidates duly nominated: Peter ADAMS (UKIP), Edgar COOK (Con), Liz EASTON (Lab), Ronald HUNTER (Ind), Callum LESLIE (Lib Dem), Alastair MACINTYRE (Ind), Marie PENMAN (SNP), Claire REID (Green)

    Fife, along with the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Highland and the island councils, came through the reorganisation of Scottish local government in 1995 remarkably intact in fact it doubled in terms of membership of the council increasing from 46 members at the 1994 elections to 92 in the first unitary elections in 1995. At the local elections in 1990, Fife was a literal Labour fiedom as they won 30 seats and an overall majority of 14, the majority fell to 10 in 1994 as the Liberal Democrats made two gains but everyone knew that when the unitary authority was elected the following year if Labour failed to get a majority it would be a shock. As it happened Labour won 54 seats in the new enlarged council chamber and won with an overall majority of 16. By the time of the 1999 local elections, it had become clear that Fife was too big and so for those elections 14 councillors were given the heave ho, but Labour still won an overall majority on the new reduced Fife of 8 but the Liberal Democrats were by now becoming the clear challengers to Labour and in 2003, when they gained Inverclyde from Labour, they managed to knock Labour out of control in Fife but Labour were still the largest party on the council and were able to carry on in control, that was until 2004 when thanks to the Labour / Liberal Democrat coalition STV for local government was introduced and when the wards for the next elections in 2007 where formalised, the notional calculations for Fife shook Labour to it’s core. Labour would have won 31 seats, the Liberal Democrats 19 seats, the SNP 17 seats, the Conservatives 7 seats, with the Independents winning 4 seats. In other words, the Liberal Democrats, SNP and Independents would have enough seats to control the council and when all the votes were counted and seats allocated the effect of STV was clear. Labour only won 24 seats (-7 on the notional calculation), the SNP were on 23 (+6), the Liberal Democrats on 21 (+2), the Conservatives on 5 (-2) and the Independents on 5 (+1). In the five years between that election and the next in 2012, the SNP won and then gained an overall majority in Holyrood and everyone was thinking that time was up for Labour in Fife, so you can imagine the suprised faces when Labour actually gained seats (nine to be precise) in those local elections with the SNP only gaining three. For the Liberal Democrats those elections were a disaster as they lost eleven seats. The Conservatives lost two and the Independents lost one. This ward is part of the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, that in May will not have Gordon Brown as the Labour candidate, but Labour know that they if they can gain this ward from the SNP, then Alex Salmond’s plan to lead the Westminster contingent of SNP MP’s into government might come a cropper.

    Crowborough West on Wealden (Con defence)
    Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 47, Independents 5, Liberal Democrats 3 (Conservative majority of 39)
    Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
    Conservatives 1,387, 1,225 (83%)
    Labour 517 (17%)
    Candidates duly nominated: Simon STAVELEY (UKIP), Jeannette TOWEY (Con)

    Wealden council covers most, if of all, of the Wealden parliamentary constituency and like the seat that has voted Conservative all of it’s history the council is the same clocking up 34 Conservatives out of 55 in 2003, the same in 2007, and 47 in 2011 and thus creating a virtual one party state and as we have seen in past local by-elections, virtual one party states are a prime area for UKIP to make a statement and whilst UKIP did indeed win Wealden in the Euros, they only did so by 3% (on a 9% swing from Con to UKIP) inline with the regional swing in the South East a good deal less than the swing in neighbouring Lewes, Eastbourne and Rother suggesting that UKIP’s best hope here is to inflict a swing of 30% from Con to UKIP.



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    TV debates plan B+1. Is Number 10 going to agree this time?

    January 22nd, 2015

    Seven participants is just too many

    Not long to go before the election campaign starts and this afternoon the broadcasters put forward a new proposal on leaders’ debates which, for the first time, brings in SNP/PC as well as the Greens.

    Two of the debates; those hosted by ITV and BBC would feature all seven parties – the third, Sky’s, would just be Miliband and Cameron.

    Seven participants is quite simply far too many. We see such sessions take place in the early stages of the US presidential election primaries and having so many on the stage hardly makes for good TV or help inform voters.

    The big question is whether Number 10 will block this latest plan and, if so, for what reason.

    My view remains. Cameron and his team don’t want them and will find a reason not to co-operate.

    Mike Smithson

    For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble




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    To mark the Central European Bank’s massive QE programme a Marf cartoon

    January 22nd, 2015

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.
  • Polling UPDATE: TNS has LAB & CON level pegging