Archive for November, 2006


Labour lead Tories by 54-15% amongst politics dons

Thursday, November 30th, 2006


    And 53% predict that Labour will win a fourth term

Full details are now out on the Ipsos Mori site of the poll of members of the Political Studies Association which was prepared for their annual conference this week.

Although no voting intention was asked the 283 respondents responded were questioned about what outcome they personally were hoping for at the General Election. These were the shares – LAB maj 54%: HUNG 21%: CON maj 15% so it is reasonable to assume that 54-15 would be the LAB-CON split.

The shares are remarkably similar to their predictions of what they thought would actually happen LAB maj 53% : HUNG 28%: CON maj 18%. Clearly a lot of the 54% of Labour supporters were amongst the 53% predicting a majority Labour government.

On their choice of “most capable PM” the group went 49-10 for Brown over Cameron. On “most capable” Chancellor it was Brown 68: Cable 8: Osborne 4%.

Obviously few PSA members are active on the General Election outcome betting markets where their overwhelming prediction, a Labour majority, is the least favoured by punters prepared to risk their money. The latest prices are LAB maj 2.6/1: HUNG 1.38/1: CON maj 2.3/1.

Mike Smithson



Will Gordon get seats like Withington back?

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

John Leech Withington.jpg

    Who’ll win battles between Labour and the Lib Dems?

While most of the focus has been on the Tories and Labour we should not forget the other major battle-ground at the next General Election – those seats where Labour and the Lib Dems are slugging it out. And for me nowhere is more interesting than Manchester Withington – where in May 2005 John Leech for the Lib Dems turned round a Labour majority of 11,500 votes increasing the party’s share from 22% to 42.4% in the process.

Such was the scale of the Lib Dem victory here that it even took the bookies by surprise and I cannot recall there even being a betting market.

    A feature in May 2005 was the level of tactical voting by Tories. On a day when the party was increasing its vote nationally the Tory Withington vote dropped by nearly a third to 10.5% – a move that played a big part in Labour’s defeat.

Manchester Withington is a classic university seat where a significant part of the electorate either works or studies at one of the city’s massive universities. It also has large Muslim populations all adding up to attractive targets for the Lib Dems in the post-Iraq War and post university top-up fees situation.

    But will those conditions exist next time? Will a Brown rather than a Blair-led Labour be less alien to large sections of the electorate ?

Certainly a consistent feature in the polls over the past year is that a sizeable number of those who supported Charles Kennedy’s party in 2005 say they would vote for a Brown-led Labour. And Iraq, surely, will be much less of a problem for Gordon than it has been for Blair? After all the Chancellor was not the driving force behind Britain’s decision to support George Bush.

In those ex-Labour seats that the Lib Dems now hold, though, even the overall changed political environment might not be enough. The squeeze on the Withington Tories in 2005 shows the potential for tactical voting and you cannot imagine the local Conservative party putting in much effort. After all it is in David Cameron’s strong interest that seats beyond the reach of his party should not go to Labour.

The tactical voting proposition is harder to make where the Lib Dem is not the incumbent and the party might find it quite challenging in seats like Oxford East where it is head to head with Labour but was just behind in 2005.

On a personal note I have very close links with Withington. It is where I was born and brought up and where at the tender age of 16 I was elected to my first political office as Vice-Chairman of Withington Young Socialists. In those days, of course, Withington was solidly Tory and remained so until the 1987 General Election.

  • YouGov poll. The reason, I am reliably informed, why we have no news of the November YouGov poll in the Telegraph is that the survey has been taking place this week and not last, as was thought.
  • Christmas Books. If you are planning to give political books as Christmas presents this year please could you consider using Politicos. We’ve come to a special arrangement so that your purchases will help me recoup some of the costs of running Politicalbetting. Please use the link. Many thanks.
  • Mike Smithson



    The Indy’s CR poll methodology under “constant review”

    Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

    communicate - the indy1.jpg

      Encouraging response to PBC’s observations

    Following yesterday’s article and thread on the methodology being used for the new month Communicate Research poll in the Independent I have had an encouraging response from both the pollster and the newspaper.

    I wrote to both making the same point: “What convinces me about the need for past vote weighting is the sheer consistency of the figures that both Populus and ICM get when they ask how people voted last time. I’ve been monitoring this since the General Election and although there might be the odd spike in almost every three month period on a rolling average since May 2005 the proportion from both pollsters recalling that they voted Labour has not strayed outside the 44-45% range. Given that 36.2% actually voted for the party on May 5th 2005 there would seem to be a strong case for some sort of remedial measure.”

    This is a point I have been making irrespective of the poll shares that the surveys produce. The same observation appeared last month when there was a Tory lead as this month with Labour ahead.

    This is the response I have got from the paper’s political editor, Andrew Grice. “We will take the point you make into account. The Independent worked out and agreed the methodology jointly with Communicate Research but we have an open mind about it and keep it under constant review.”

      This is clearly very welcome and should be applauded. We should also be delighted that the paper has now decided to commission a poll every month adding to the overall amount of polling information that will be available.

    Although I have been critical of CR about the lack of past vote weighting the pollster is using some innovative measures and it will be fascinating to watch how these pans out. The firm also gets it detailed poll data out on its website very quickly which is very helpful.

    Mike Smithson


    Did Blair get value from the controversial election loans?

    Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

    labour 2005 ad.jpg

      How much did the bill-boards help Labour to victory?

    There is something rather ironic about the fact that a big part of the money Labour borrowed in the run-up to the 2005 General Election was spent on bill-boards like the one above promoting the Government’s successes with the economy and interest rate policy.

    This was a key theme in the huge advertising blitz in the run-up to May 5th and on which a large part of the borrowed money was spent.

    These are the loans, of course, which are at the heart of Labour’s current financial crisis and, possibly even more seriously, are central to the Scotland Yard’s “honours” inquiry.

      But were the financial consequences that we are now seeing and having to deal with the police investigation worth it? Will Labour’s reputation for economic competence be affected by the party’s current financial turmoil? Were those posters really worth the price?

    Compared with the election land-slides of 1997 and 2001 the 2005 General Election was a close result. Labour lost one in seven of its 2001 votes and ended up with a margin on votes of just 3%. Yet in terms of seats the 36% national vote share produced an overall Commons majority of getting on for 70.

    It is hard to say, of course, what finally caused the electorate to vote in the way it did. But one thing seems certain after the party funding row – billboard campaigns like the one featured will not be used on anything like the same scale next time.

      If strict national spending limits are imposed, as Labour is reported to want, then the big poster campaigns will surely be the first casualty.

    The best way to invest precious campaigning cash is probably on things like the centralised direct marketing operation that the Tories established and utilised so well in 2005. They were able to supplement weak local parties in key seats and target spending where it was going to be most effective.

    A good measure of the effectiveness of this approach was that the Tories ended up with 15-20 more seats than the seat predictors were suggesting and those who “bought” Tory seats in the final week on the election spread markets made nice profits.

  • Yet again the November YouGov poll is not featured in the Daily Telegraph. If, indeed, it has been held over then it is likely to be a little old when we get it.
  • Mike Smithson


    Communicate Research: polling in the old fashioned way

    Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
      Labour ahead in the paper that brought you the Harman poll cock-up

    Back in 1992 they used to run polls like the one by Communicate Research that appears in the Independent this morning. That was the year of what Nick Sparrow of ICM calls “the great polling debacle”

    The final opinion polls gave the Conservatives between 38% and 39% of the vote, about 1% behind. On the day itself exit polls were carried out and everything was pointing to a hung parliament. But when the votes were counted the Conservatives, under the leadership of John Major, had a margin of 7.6% over Labour.

    Much work was done by pioneering pollsters like Nick Sparrow after that disaster and now all the firms, bar Communicate Research, carrying out telephone surveys use a system known as “past vote weighting” to ensure balanced samples.

    For the big challenge is that the process of telephone polling almost always seems to produce many more people saying they voted Labour at the previous General Election than actually did so.

      Thus in all the published data in the year after the 2005 General Election from the two polling firms that ask how respondents how they voted last time an average of more than 44% said Labour – compared with the 36% that the party got.

    Thus, for whatever reason, getting on for a quarter more people say they voted Labour than did on May 5th 2005 and this pattern is repeated in poll after poll.

    ICM and Populus adjust their figures to take part of this into account allowing for a level misremembering. Communicate Research, which has just started regular surveys for the Independent, does not.

    When their first Independent survey appeared last month showing a 6% Tory lead I wrote: “This is quite remarkable given the findings. For the main impact of past vote weighting is usually to reduce the level of Labour support because telephone surveys, for whatever reason, invariably find many more people who voted Labour last time than actually did.”

    All this is by way of preamble to today’s CR shares which are: CON 34%(-4), LAB 36%(+4), LD17%(+3). Clearly, as we saw in last week’s ICM poll, there has been a move away from the Tories in the past month.

      I think it is a sad and retrograde step that the Independent should now be commissioning polls in a form that was so discredited a decade and a half ago.

    I am emailing Andrew Hawkins of Communicate Research to ask if he wants to respond.

    Mike Smithson


    Was the Independent “conned” on the Harman poll?

    Monday, November 27th, 2006


      YouGov’s actual figures were neutral for Harriet and bad for Brown

    We’ve now got the full data from this morning’s poll by YouGov that was reported in the Indpendent – and my warning that “.. we need to see the full detail of how the survey was carried out before coming to firm conclusions” could not have been more right.

    For the actual numbers do show that 15% of respondents said they were “much more” or a “little more” likely to vote Labour if Gordon Brown was leader and Harriet Harman was deputy.

      But here’s the rub. The Harman spinners conveniently ignored that an equal proportion, 15% – said they would be LESS LIKELY to vote Labour with these two in the job.

    When the Brown-Benn option was put 12% said more likely and 12% less likely. All the other candidates reported negatives when paired with Brown. Hain was 9%-16%; Blears was 8-16%; Johnson 8%-17%; and Cruddas 6-14%.

    So not one of the pairings involving Gordon Brown showed any extra potential support for Labour. The best that could be said was that Benn and Harman would have a neutral affect.

    To each of the pairings 15 or 16% said the line-up would make no difference because they would vote Labour anyway and in each case 43% of respondents said that would not vote Labour anyway. The “we’ll vote Labour” anyway numbers look remarkably small.

    The Independent which carried the story this morning should have asked a few more questions. The actual figures suggest that they might have been conned.

    Mike Smithson


    Will Labour be saved by the “90 minute nationalists”?

    Monday, November 27th, 2006

    Andy Nicol with calcutta cup.jpg

      Could retaining the Calcutta Cup impede Salmond’s party?

    With the weekend ICM poll showing support for an independent Scotland both north and south of the border the conditions for a strong SNP performance in May’s election for the Scottish Parliament could not be better. Judging by the fierce attacks on Alec Salmond’s party by both John Reid and Tony Blair in the two days there can be little doubt that Labour is worried.

    There is a Glaswegian friend of mine who has this theory, which I am sure that others have put forward, that the SNP does well in Scotland when the country is having a bad time on the sporting front – particularly against England. At one stage he was planning a PhD thesis on the subject and had assembled a mass of data which appeared to support his case.

      His argument was that if “England have been stuffed at Murrayfield or Hampden Park” then Scottish self-expression has been satisfied and there’s less need for the SNP.

    He had an elaborate theory that one of the biggest boosts to the party was the ending of the annual Home Nations Soccer championship in the 1983-84 with its annual Scotland-England match. This took away what had become an annual Scottish ritual which left a void that only the SNP could fill.

    It is interesting to correlate the SNP’s performance with the Scotland-England rugby union.

    1980 District Council Election – 15.5% – 54 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1982 Regional Council Election – 13.4% – 23 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1983 General Election – 11.7% – 2 seats (Scotland win at Twickenham)
    1984 District Council Election – 11.7% – 59 seats (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
    1986 Regional Council Election – 18.2 % – 36 seats (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
    1987 General Election – 14.0% – 3 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1988 District Council Election – 21.3% – 113 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1989 European Parliament Election – 25.6% – 1 seat (Scotland lose to England)
    1990 Regional Council Election – 21.8% – 42 seats (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
    1992 General Election – 21.5% – 3 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1992 District Council Election – 24.3% – 150 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1993 (Scotland lose to England)
    1994 European Parliament Election – 32.6% – 2 seats
    1994 Regional Council Election – 26.8% – 73 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1995 Unitary Authorities Election – 26.1% – 181 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1996 (Scotland lose to England)
    1997 General Election – 22.1% – 6 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    1999 Scottish Parliament Election – 28.7% – 35 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    2000 (Scotland win at Murrayfield)
    2001 General Election – 20.1% – 5 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    2003 Scottish Parliament Election* – 23.8% – 27 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    2004 European Parliament Election – 19.7% – 2 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    2005 General Election – 17.7% – 6 seats (Scotland lose to England)
    2006 (Scotland win at Murrayfield)

    So if there is something in the theory then Labour will be hoping for big improvements the England RFU team. Could Gordon be shouting for the old enemy with the oval ball as well?

    Mike Smithson


    YouGov boost for Harman’s deputy bid

    Monday, November 27th, 2006
      Poll suggests that she could win 15% more votes for Labour

    harman border.JPGAccording to a YouGov poll reported in the Independent this morning 15% of voters said they would be “more likely” to support Labour if Harriet Harman was deputy leader.

    Hilary Benn was in second place on this measure with 12% saying they would be more likely to vote Labour but none of the other contenders got into double figures. Hazel Blears – the party chair and other potential female candidate – was, according to the report, down at 7%.

    It’s not clear from the newspaper who commissioned the survey and it might well have been a private poll produced by the Harman camp. If it was then we need to see the full detail of how the survey was carried out before coming to firm conclusions.

    Political gamblers who risked their money on the Liberal Democrat leadership will recall how contenders tried to influence the race with private surveys and that by asking a different range of questions it is possible to come out with different results. With private polls the only information that’s likely to be made available is that which supports the line of the person or organisation paying.

    Whatever this poll could put University of York graduate, Harman, into the favourite’s slot in the betting.

    After the 2005 General Election Harman became a Minister of State in the Department for Constitutional Affairs with responsibilities including constitutional reform, legal aid and court processes.

    In March this year she relinquished her Ministerial responsibilities for electoral administration and reform of the House of Lords to avoid any potential conflict of interest after her husband, the Treasurer of the Labour Party, Jack Dromey, announced that he would be investigating a number of loans made to the Labour Party which had not been disclosed to party officers.

      Maybe a women doing well in the deputy race could prompt Betfair to open a betting market. So far the betting exchange has ignored repeated pleas from punters. Come on Betfair.

  • There’s no sign in the online edition of the Daily Telegraph of this month’s main YouGov voting intention survey. This must be due any day.

  • Mike Smithson