Archive for March, 2014


The Maggie Thatcher 1979 experience: Why leader and “best PM” ratings are not necessarily the best guide to how people will vote

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

CON GE2015 hopes are too reliant on Miliband’s poor ratings

The Times is leading on polling about Ed Miliband’s PM ratings which are not good for Labour. There is no doubt that on almost every measure when put up against Cameron he does worse – sometimes by quite a margin.

But you have to put these sorts of numbers into context. The PM ratings trend chart above is from the last general election that the Tories were returned to power with an overall majority – May 1979.

As can be seen as polling day, May 3rd 1979, got closer Callaghan’s lead on this measure got wider.

    At the time I was an editor with BBC News and remember vividly how much reliance senior Labour people were placing on the polling gap between Callaghan and Thatcher. This was the straw that the red team was clutching to.

Time after time we were assured that the polling clearly showed that Mrs. Thatcher was unelectable and I have to admit that I found this convincing.

As we all know the Tories won an emphatic victory with an 8% lead on votes and an overall majority of 44 seats and went on to secure majorities in the next three general elections. They remained in power for eighteen years.

Mrs Thatcher, however, continued to trail in the MORI “best PM” ratings for another year until Jim Callaghan stepped down.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


How GE2015 betting since the Budget has moved away from LAB to hung parliament

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014


Ladbrokes open betting on all 57 LD seats and make the yellows favourites to hold on to 35

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

It’ll be interesting to follow the changing prices

This afternoon Ladbrokes put up betting markets in every one of the 57 seats that the Lib Dems will be defending at GE2015.

In 35 of them, all but one of them defences against the Tories, the Ladbrokes opening prices make the LDs favourite and in a further three Clegg’s party is join favourite.

From a quick look down the list the MPs most likely to be still there on May 8th next year are Tim Farron who is priced at 1/20 to hold on to Westmorland & Lonsdale and the Scottish Secretary, Alistair Carmichael, who is at 1/100 to hold Orkney & Shetland. This far out you can get a better financial return putting your money in the building society!

All the party’s cabinet ministers, including Danny Alexander in Inverness/Nairn are priced as odds on favourites.

    Where the yellows face the reds as their main opposition Ladbrokes have in all the seats bar Simon Hughes’ Bermondsey made LAB the favourites. It is hard to argue with that.

It is amongst this group where you can get the longer odds and our friend Shadsy has just tightened the 8/1 that I put £100 on in one seat to 4/1. I’m not revealing which one because I hope to get good value from other bookies.

The best advice here is to use what local knowledge of the seats that you have.

I have bet against the LDs in three seats and on them in three others – all the prices were longer than evens.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


If you are betting on cross-over in Q1 2014 then there are only four more YouGovs remaining

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

How the budget moves fit with the overall trend

Quite a few PBers, I know, have been betting on the PaddyPower market on when there will be a crossover in the five times a week YouGov polls for News International.

Given what’s happened since the budget then their hopes might be riding high but time is running out. For there to be a CON lead only four more surveys remain. Is that going to happen?

Clearly the daily ratings can always be affected by an outlier which is why I maintain the PB Weekly YouGov averages.

    Has the move to the Tories run out of steam or will it have an ongoing impact?

A key driver of current ratings is that far fewer 2010 CON voters now say they don’t know or will not vote. In fact in today’s poll CON and LAB are running almost neck and neck on these measures after a period when the red team was doing better. There are also far fewer 2010 CON to UKIP switchers – down at just 12% this morning.

My guess is that in the short to medium term we’ll the Tories will be rataining more of its 2010 vote which will underpin a better polling position.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


LAB lead down but Tories trail by 5 percent in first phone poll since the budget

Monday, March 24th, 2014

At last for LAB a poll with a lead bigger than 1

After three online pollsters had reported LAB leads down to just one percent there’ll perhaps be some relief at Miliband HQ that tonight’s ComRes phone poll for the Indy has the margin down to 5%

But the trend is the same. In February the gap was 8%.

Asked which of the two biggest parties was most likely to keep the economy growing, 47% say CON and 36% LAB.

Also CON has closed the gap on Ed Miliband’s chosen territory of living standards. Some 43% told ComRes they believed that LAB is most likely to make their family better off, with 37% saying CON. The LAB lead on this measure d has dropped from 10 to 6% since last September.

LAB (48%) is viewed as the party most likely to ensure pensioners have an adequate level of income in retirement, with 34% choosing the Tories. However, George Osborne’s reforms to pensions and savings seem to have appealed to the “grey vote”. Some 49% of those aged 65 and over say the Tories would be more likely to ensure pensioners have an adequate level of income, with only 36% of this group opting for LAB.

So all in all another good poll for the Tories. The big question is whether this will be sustained.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The political role of the purples: As a stalking horse

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Corporeal on UKIP

It’s reasonably common, in these cynical times that we live in, to hear someone dismissively remark that politicians are mainly interested in power. It’s a comment that is both often true and also the basic point of politicians. Politics itself is essentially the exercise of power in society in all its various shapes and forms and the proper use of that power is what politicians are fundamentally contesting. It is less a question of how the world should be, and more how it is and could be made better. The search for practical solutions rather than abstract truth.

Politics is the art of the possible, as someone who may or may not have been Benjamin Disraeli  Otto von Bismarck once said, and as with any practical pursuit getting anything done usually involves getting your hands dirty and your clothes (the clothes here being a cunning and subtle metaphor for principles) a bit roughed up.

Politicians genuinely without any interest in power are simply misplaced philosophers/journalists/loudmouths (delete as appropriately as you like). As to whether any politicians become seduced by the trappings of power, you might say that but I haven’t seen the new series yet.

But power comes in many guises, many of them indirect. The focus on UKIP’s ballot box prospects is in some ways misguided since it is only one means to achieve their general aims. The obvious comparison for them here is the Liberal Democrats, through the 1970s and 1980s there existed in Britain a notoriously polarised political party system. Following the re-emergence of a centrist party, both parties pulled hard back to the centre ground.

The history of the Lib Dems through those years is one of no involvement in government and relatively few MPs, but also of significant influence on the positioning of the political battlefields. Equally you can draw comparisons with other emerging parties (the SNP being a relevant example) being able to exercise influence with a limited number of MPs.

This, for the near future, is likely to be UKIP’s primary route of influence and it is one that shouldn’t be dismissed, they will be the ever-present stalking horse of British politics and we’ve seen before how dangerous they can be. Between the European elections and the next General Election we will probably see opponents try to dismiss them as irrelevant, a protest party, a sideshow, (see my previous article about the likelihood of them being excluded from the TV debates).

They will be cast as a dangerous distraction from the main event that by splitting Conservative votes will damage the Euro-sceptic cause. Come the General Election their votes may not stack up very high, but will cast a long shadow.



Even with poll leads there are still two massive hurdles for the Tories: LAB’s inherent electoral advantage and LD stickiness

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Far more CON votes are wasted where it doesn’t matter

The “boundaries” has become a misleading shorthand to describe the challenge the Tories face with the way the general election electoral system operates under first past the post.

The above three part interactive chart presents different elements where LAB has an inbuilt advantage.

Firstly, from the GE2010 outcome we see that a much higher proportion of the blue vote gets wasted in seats won by 3rd parties

Secondly we see how the average turnout levels in Labour seats are a fair bit lower than in CON ones.

The final one is on the boundaries. The average number of electors in CON held seats is bigger than LAB ones but not by that much.

The blues shouldn’t count on easy pickings from the yellows

There will be two sorts of LD constituencies at the general election:those where they are organisationally very strong where they’ll be putting in a huge effort and those where they are weak where they will be running little more than token campaigns.

In the former category and where the biggest battles will happen they will fight furious high octane campaigns based on significant databases to try to hold on to what is there’s.

Quite simply the mathematical projections based on uniform national swings apply far less in these seats. If they had done in 2010 the Tories would have won at least ten more seats and probably would not have needed a coalition.

The above chart is based on the Ashcroft marginals polling of last September which was very similar to what appeared two years earlier.

The seats polled were current CON ones but give a clear indication of LD strength and also the readiness of LAB supporters to continue to vote tactically.

Is it any wonder that in just two LD held constituencies the bookies make the Tories the favourites to take the seat?

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The LDs would be fools to choose Cable over Alexander as shadow chancellor at GE2015

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014


There’s a little debate going on within the LDs over whether Vince Cable or Danny Alexander should by the party’s “shadow chancellor” at GE 2015. Both are cabinet ministers – Alexander is chief secretary to Treasury while Cable is the business secretary.

My old Oxford colleague and leading Lib Dem blogger, Stephen Tall, is arguing the case for Cable while others in the party say it should be Alexander. The latter are right for four main reasons:-

First the yellows need to differentiate themselves from the blues and having Alexander, a key part of the coalition for four years debating with Osborne would send out a much clearer message than letting Cable do it. Everybody knows where Vince stands and Alexander being critical of the blues would carry much more weight.

Secondly Alexander has worked closely with Osborne since May 2010 and knows where “the bodies are buried“. In fact he’s far better on the detailed numbers than George. It will be harder for Osbo to spin a line if he’s immediately contradicted by Alexander. Danny will act as a dampener on the chancellor.

Thirdly if there is any credit to be had for the recovery then Alexander is in a much better position to claim it for his party than Cable. Alexander’s presence would be a perpetual reminder that this has been a two party government.

Fourthly Alexander is probably more vulnerable in his constituency than Cable and the bigger his public profile the better.

Sorry Stephen – on this one you are wrong.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble