Archive for February, 2014


Miliband’s five hurdles

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Ed with No 10 collage

What can stop Labour’s cruise to victory?

To say there’s been no movement in the opinion polls over the last two years would be untrue.  Most obviously, UKIP’s average share doubled between early 2012 and the time of last year’s local elections, pushing the Lib Dems into a regular fourth, which remains the case despite a slight drop off for the Purples.  There’s also been a small narrowing of the gap between Labour and the Conservatives, but at a glacial pace.  As things stand, Labour is cruising to a comfortable victory.  So what might prevent that?

1. Scotland

If the referendum in September results in a Yes – something the polls have been equally insistent it won’t – that would severely dent Labour’s chances.  Scotland returned 41 Labour MPs in 2010, against just one for the Tories, 11 Lib Dems and 6 SNP.  The consequences of a Yes would go further than just the raw numbers though, and would massively affect the political debate, as well as how the country, and each political party, saw itself.

2. Lib Dem switchers returning or defecting elsewhere again

Labour gained a substantial portion of 2010 Lib Dems early on in the parliament and they’ve been solidly in the Red column ever since, but then the Lib Dems have been solidly in a Con-LD coalition ever since.  Polling and anecdotal evidence suggests that the switchers see themselves as likely to stay there.  Labour must hope they do as they account for more than the party’s whole polling lead; there has been virtually no net direct swing between Con and Lab.

3. UKIP voters switching to Con

The big story of the parliament has been the rise of UKIP.  That story may climax with the 2015 election – or they may fade like other smaller parties who’ve polled well in mid-term, such as the Alliance in the 1980s.  An implosion from UKIP, a positive reason to go Blue or a negative reason to keep Red or Yellow out could all be factors, though again, the consistent strength of UKIP polling suggests a keen motivation.  On the other hand, from Labour’s view, it’s revealing that despite their being the only major party of opposition, so many voters are still looking for another option.

4. The economy

By the time of the election, the economy will have been recovering for two years if there aren’t any bumps in the road between now and May 2015.  That should have fed through into a nascent feel-good effect, as well as giving the justification of “they worked” to the government’s policies.  By contrast, Labour’s economic policies have been all over the place during the parliament.

5. Leadership perception

One reason that parties outside the big Westminster three are doing so well is because the leaders of those three are regarded so badly: they had a combined rating of -101 the last time YouGov asked the “doing well/badly question”.  However, apart from the perception of being ‘in touch with ordinary people’ (where he still only rates in the mid-twenties), Miliband’s characteristics still score particularly poorly.  The leadership question was significant in the rapid and late turnaround in the 2011 Scottish election and if debates are as prominent in the 2015 campaign as in the last one, there may be a lot of votes up for grabs on that score.

There are of course other hazards that Miliband will need to navigate but if he can overcome the big challenges, the small ones should naturally take care of themselves.  The question is whether the moderately favourable mid-term picture can be sustained through to polling day.  Of the five, the first three look quite hopeful for him; the final two, less so.  That tension is why I think current polling is still in a transitional, mid-term state and why we should see more movement in voting intention in the next year than we saw in the last.

David Herdson


On this day exactly two years ago YouGov had CON in the lead on 40pc

Friday, February 28th, 2014

How it looked for the blues before the rise of UKIP & Osborne’s March 2012 budget

At the end of February 2012 the Tories were still getting the benefit from the after-glow of what became known as the “Veto-gasm” – the polling boost that followed from David Cameron’s famous Brussels veto.

The positive mood was seen in the betting. In mid-January 2012 the Betfair price on a CON overall majority tightened to a 41% chance while Labour was rated at 28%. Things looked good.

Then we had March budget which seemed to produce one problem after another and within weeks the Tory poll position slumped.

This was the prelude to the the UKIP surge which continues to have a major impact on the political environment.

Labour edged up into the 40s but have edged back a touch and now with YouGov remain pretty solidly on 39% or thereabouts. The LDs continue to poll in the 8% – 10% range.

The most interesting feature in the chart above can be seen in the change tab. That tells the story of the past two years.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Let’s kill this myth once again. Cameron never had the chance of a minority government in May 2010

Friday, February 28th, 2014

May 11 2010

The Tories hadn’t won & there was need for Brown to step aside

I’ve made this point before but Gord had all the cards in his hand on May 7th 2010. The Tories had failed to win a majority and there was no obligation on him to go to the palace and recommend to the Queen that Cameron should be invited to form a government.

It is this central constitional fact that the “Dave should have gone for a minority government” faction ignores.

The main pressure on Brown was to get some sort of arrangement in place before the Queen’s speech due a week and a half later.

    If Cameron had not made his offer to the LDs and had tried to hang on for a minority government the blues would have been pushed out of the picture.

Instead there would have been intensive discussions between LAB and the LDs in which it became clear that there would be no support for Labour to continue in power while Brown was still at the helm.

This would have led, however reluctantly, to Gordon agreeing to step aside maybe after a leadership contest to find a successor had been completed. The LDs would have won some concessions perhaps to allow a supply and confidence arrangement to be agreed. The Queen’s Speech would have been approved by the new Commons.

That government would have struggled on for a few months because the numbers were extraordinarily tight. Brown’s successor, probably David Miliband, would have gone to the country in October 2010.

The point, of course, is that in May 2010 the chances are Cameron would never have had the option of pursuing a Conservative minority government.

It was only because of the coalition deal on Tuesday May 11th 2010 that Brown had to go to the palace to advise Her Majesty that Mr. Cameron be asked to form a government.

Mike Smithson

Blogging from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble 2004-2014


Local By-Election Preview: February 27th 2014

Thursday, February 27th, 2014


Scotter on West Lindsey (Con Defence)

Result of last election (2011): Con 21, Lib Dem 11, Ind 3, Lab 2 (Conservative overall majority of 5)

Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,164, 934
Independent 623
Liberal Democrats 332

Result of by-election held on December 19th 2013: Non Party Independent 529 (51%), Conservative 219 (21%), Liberal Democrats 148 (14%), United Kingdom Independence Party 138 (13%) (Non Party Independent GAIN from Conservative)

Candidates duly nominated: Pat Mewis (Conservative), Keith Panter (Liberal Democrats)

Harry Hayfield


UKIP no longer odds-on betting favourite to secure most votes in May Euros. LAB now in top slot

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

The Wythenshawe outcome seems to be depressing expectations

One thing that I’ve missed in recent weeks has been the growing sentiment on the betting markets that Labour will win most votes and that the task facing UKIP is going to be harder than many predicted.

    At the start of the year Ladbokes made the purples a 55% chance to win most votes. That’s now moved to 42%. Labour, meanwhile, were a 34% chance in December and have now hardened up to a 48% one.

Looking at the historic prices from a range of bookies it seems that the Wythenshawe by election, where the purples were saying very bullish things, was the turning point. Their 18% vote was good but nowhere near the expectations that were being set at the start of the campaign.

We’ve also seen much greater scrutiny by the media of the party and its leadership. It’s not going to be as easy as in 20014 and 2009.

My main bet is 10/1 on the Tories which I still think is a possiblity.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 35 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Newly published Ipsos-MORI polling finds fewer voters hostile to LAB than the other main parties

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

And there’s a whiff of good news for the LDs at the Euros

What I’ve found to be a fascinating piece of polling for the British Future think tank has just been published by Ipsos-MORI.

Rather than the conventional voting intention questions interviewees were asked for views of the four main national parties and whether they’d consider voting for them in both general elections and the Euros, general elections only, the Euros only, or whether they’d never consider voting for them.

    The big message is that there fewer anti-LAB voters out there than those opposed to the other three parties.

I’ve tried to extract the headline figures in the interactive chart above. Note that the don’t knows are excluded from the chart. So in the case of the Tories 26% said they’d vote for them in both elections, 7% said GE only, 3% said Euros only with 26% saying don’t know.

What’s not surprising is that UKIP do well for the Euros with 14% saying they’d consider supporting them in both sets of elections and a further 12% saying the Euros only.

Interestingly, given the way that the Lib Dems are planning to fight the May Euros 8% said they consider going yellow for those elections only. Clegg’s gamble on there being a specific niche market for being “the party of In” appears to be supported by these figures.

There’s lots of other data in the polling which I’ll probably return to. This post is about the headline figures.

  • Ipsos MORI interviewed 2,244 British online adults aged 16-75 between 6-11 December 2013. Interviews were conducted on Ipsos’ online panel. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.
  • Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


    Nighthawks is now open

    Wednesday, February 26th, 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, Tonight’s the Night, you should delurk.

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

    1. Sorry Len, Labour shouldn’t rule out a coalition with the Lib Dems
    2. Miliband rhetoric worries Labour’s business backers
    3. Britain’s main opposition party, Labour, is allegedly looking to offer voters a referendum, on whether the UK should stay part of the European Union, should it win the general election in 2015.
    4. Britain should keep open possibility of joining euro, says Labour frontbencher
    5. The UK’s latest “opt-out” in Europe? Foodbanks…
    6. Tory group Renewal sharpens the case against a Conservative-UKIP pact
    7. Billionaire Tory donor pulls plug on Cameron over equal marriage
    8. The government’s private assessment of Labour’s energy price freeze
    9. Peter Mandelson’s backing for Ed Balls is all for the aid of the party. The oleaginous peer is a Labour partisan who wants it to win, even if it requires burying the hatchet with an enemy
    10. David Cameron cannot admit the Coalition was a mistake, but he knows it must be put out of its misery 
    11. David Cameron’s Only Hope in 2015 Is to Destroy Nick Clegg
    12. Nick Clegg condemns talk of minority government as preposterous, Lib Dem leader condemns Labour and Tory ‘tribal’ talk of ruling without a coalition as destabilising and bad for UK
    13. A threat by Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson to resign over the collapse of the murder case against republican John Downey has brought warnings from his party that politics in Belfast is in crisis.
    14. Peter Hain: Allowing John Downey to walk free was part of our Northern Ireland peace deal. Putting a lid on atrocities such as the Hyde Park bombing of 1982 is never easy. But I make no apologies for how we dealt with ‘on-the-runs’
    15. Prince Charles is a ‘natural’ Conservative environmentalist, Michael Gove suggests
    16. PMQs: Ed Miliband wants belief in climate change to be an article of faith
    17. Alex Salmond: Why should Scotland let itself be ruled by the Tories?
    18. Russia puts military on high alert as Crimea protests leave one man dead. Ukraine acting president draws up new cabinet as Putin orders armed forces drills near border
    19. Angela Merkel has Britain’s future in her hands
    20. The America-Israel lobby must fully back Kerry’s Israel-Palestine initiative
    21. Joe Biden: Hillary Clinton’s decision won’t sway my 2016 plans
    22. Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the rather awkward case of the shadow moustache
    23. After watching this video, no one will support nuclear weapons if this is the effects of them.
    24. How living on one of Britain’s rudest-sounding streets could save home buyers up to £84,000
    25. Tomorrow is the 114th anniversary of the forming of the Labour Party.



    Labour’s deficit in the cuts “blame game” tracker drops to just 4 points

    Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

    At one stage the gap was 30%

    One of the non-voting trackers that I’ve been monitoring closely since the coalition was formed in May 2010 has been the above one from YouGov on who is to blame for the cuts.

    For nearly four years whenever this question has beens asked at least twice a months and every poll has found the last LAB government getting the blame sometimes by big margins.

    In the early days the proportion of those blaming LAB almost touched 50% with fewer than 20% blaming the coalition. That has been narrowing and the latest YouGov finding has the margin down to just 4 points – the lowest it has ever been.

      This suggests that the “blame the last Labour government ” rhetoric, that we hear so often, is losing its potency.

    As I’ve argued consistently over the past four years the perception over who is to blame was highly damaging to Labour and could threaten it’s general election chances.

    We’ve seen it so often. Whenever the coalition comes under attack from Labour on economic matters Cameron/Osborne/Clegg almost always resort to chucking it back by referring to the “mess that we inherited”.

    If this approach is now being believed less by voters then it is going to make the Tory challenge that much harder.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble