Archive for June, 2014


The Hacking trial: Coulson guilty – Brooks cleared. What if any will be the political impact?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014


Survation finds CON to LAB swing of 7.3% with the LDs dropping to just 2% in four key commuter-belt marginals

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

One thing’s already established for GE15. We are going to see far more different polling types than anything that has been experienced before at a British general election. We are also seeing a wider range of funders like today’s Survation poll in four key London commuter belt marginals which was commissioned by the RMT union.

Clearly the union has funded this for a purpose but the voting questions were asked first using Survation’s normal approach.

The seats surveyed by phone from June 17-19 were:-

LAB target #59: Stevenage (CON majority 8%)
LAB target #70: Milton Keynes South (CON majority 8%)
LAB target #93: Crawley (CON majority 12.5%)
LAB target #95: Reading West (CON majority 12.6%)

These are all constituencies with large communities of railway commuters where the RMT believes that government policy towards the railways could have an electoral impact.

What’s striking about this poll is that the findings are better for Labour than just about anything we have seen in recent months. Also the decline in the Lib Dem vote to just 2% is far far more marked than the national polling is showing.

The Lib Dem share is a direct product of the party making almost no effort in parliamentary seats where it is not in contention. The effect is that we could see huge variations in its performances with, of course, it doing better where it matters – the seats it will be fighting hard to retain.

The poll finds strong support for bringing local rail franchise holders back into public ownership. Just under one half of 2010 CON voters who had a view backed this proposition.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


A month after the local and Euro elections there is no sign that UKIP support is anything but solid

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

So far predictions of its demise have been premature

A very large number of people predicted after the May 22nd elections that as we got closer to next May’s general election then UKIP’s totals would start to fade away.

Well it is now a month after we were digesting those results and the picture is pretty much the same. The evidence from the Ashcroft weekly phone poll is that it is staying solid as can be seen in the chart.

In a poll that didn’t receive much attention last week, TNS-BMRB, Ukip was on 23% – the largest ever share in a national voting intention survey.

Maybe things will start to get back to “normal” after the Scottish referendum and the party conferences. Maybe.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


YouGov has Tessa Jowell leading the way in London as next LAB candidate for mayor

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

One of the great political betting events is the fight every four years for Mayor of London and the next contest is just 22 months away.

Coming up in the next few months will be Labour’s selection process for their nominee who, given the party’s huge success in the capital on May 22nd, should be in with a strong chance. London was where they did best of all and within the party a lot of the credit for that has gone to the shadow minister for London, Sadiq Khan.

Back in March 2013 Henry G Manson tipped him here when Khan was an attractive 33/1. This is what he wrote then:-

“What puts Sadiq Khan in such a great place for this contest is that Ed Miliband also made him Shadow Minister for London… This remit will enable him to meet, speak, campaign, engage with the whole London electoral college for this selection ahead of elections in 2014 and the general election a year later.”

Sadiq’s now 8/1 which I think is still good value.

As to the polling this is little more than a recognition issue. Tessa has been about for many years and is far better known. My reading is that Sadiq would b in with 50-50 chance of beating her for the selection.

As to the actual election a lot depends on what Boris plans to do.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Welcome to SMERSH: Building a New, Better, Election Forecasting Model

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Regular PBer’s will know that five years ago I built VIPA, a model that attempted to look at proportionate swings on a party-by-party basis to model results. This model was – to be quite frank – stolen by Nate Silver, and he used it with much bally-ho. While VIPA did a better job of predicting the 2010 election than UNS (it was noticeably more pessimistic on the LibDems than UNS, for example), it was not perfect.

And so, 11 months away from the 2015, I’ve created a wholly new model for predicting elections.

This post is the preview: essentially it will describe how Smithson’s Marvellous Election Results Heuristics System (or SMERSH) works. You’ll have to wait to see the pieces over the next few weeks to see what SMERSH says about the prospects for the Conservatives, Labour, the LibDems and UKIP.

The basic principle of SMERSH is that UNS doesn’t work well when parties either come from nowhere (like UKIP) or look like they’re going to lose half their support or more (the LibDems). To take the LibDems, you cannot simply subtract 14% from each constituency in the country to see the share, because that would end up with a large number of constituencies where the LibDems have negative vote shares. Something which, I am led to believe, is not actually possible.

SMERSH version 1.0 (which was built to model LibDem losses more than anything else) basically said:

For every vote that a party loses, let us chose completely randomly which seat in the UK (ex-NI) it is lost from – with the important note being that seats with more votes are more likely to have votes taken away with seats with few votes. See this (incredibly simplified) example:

Seat 1: 200 votes
Seat 2: 100 votes
Seat 3: 500 votes
Seat 4: 50 votes
Seat 5: 150 votes
Total: 1,000

Now SMERSH says: Party A has lost 20% of its support (200 votes). So, 200 times we must roll the dice to see where the vote is lost. So, if the first time it say 131, then the vote goes from Seat 1. The second time its 422, and therefore seat 3 loses the vote. Etc.

This – in essence – results in a proportionate swing model, which didn’t unfortunately, match reality as well as I would have liked.

So, I sat down, and decided that we needed to do seat by seat modelling based around the principles of SMERSH 1.0 to calculate curves that looked (roughly) like this:

Constituency vs National Vote Share

The way SMERSH 2.0 worked was to take the data I did have: i.e. vote shares by constituency for 2001, 2005 and 2010, plus local election results in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. It would then programatically place these, and then attempt to fit a curve around the data points I knew.

This almost worked: it failed completely in places where there had been counter national swings, because my line fitting algorithim genuinely believed that in certain places (such as the LibDems in Oxford West and Abingdon) there was an inverse relationship between national and local vote share.

So, now we come to SMERSH 3.0. This is a cruder method: essentially a giant Monte Carlo simulation that assumes the line must always have a positive gradient, and which looks to minimize deviance from known points (i.e. three sets of general election results, the last four years local election results, and the 2014 European election results). My model forecasts absolute number of votes per party on a constituency basis, which does lead to some slightly anomalous turnout results in places where UKIP is strong (and conversely, where UKIP is weak). The end result is forecasts for every party, in every seat in the UK (ex-NI), which: (a) add up to the national share, (b) reflect areas of local strength and weakness, and (c) give a joyously different set of results to traditional models.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to drip feed you guys the results of SMERSH 3.0. (And Nate Silver, please don’t steal my idea again. Please.)

I will also – when I’ve cleaned up the code considerably (which may be some time) – release the Python source code of my simulation. (As an aside: this is seriously computationally intensive. Running my simulation on my home computer took about 50-60 hours to run just a few hundred consistent and correct Monte Carlo results. Big kudos to PythonAnywhere which allowed me to harness the equivalent of a 100 servers to get results back before the 2015 elections.)

Robert Smithson


Free schools could be a bigger negative for the Tories than EdM is for Labour

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Fewer than one in four voters back Gove’s flagship policy

Maybe it is because free schools have been making the news because of the Birmingham developments and the row between Michael Gove and Theresa May but the blue team will be disappointed by the response to this key policy area in today’s YouGov.

The actual wording of the question was whether those pollsed supported or opposed “The creation of “Free Schools” – new state schools set up by parents, teachers or voluntary groups which are outside the control of local authorities?”

This is an area of policy where a segment of voters have strong views on both sides and today’s findings suggest that the Tories have not been getting their big message across.

We do know that the teaching vote has shifted sharply to Labour since 2010 when YouGov found that the Tories had a lead.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


After a year of edging down LAB is starting to move upwards

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Today’s YouGov has CON 32/LAB 38/LD 8/UKIP 14

The chart above is based on the YouGov monthly averages for the past year plus, for June, an average of the past 15 polls.

As I’ve written many times before there are so many YouGov polls (five or six a week) that looking at averages is the best way of observing the trend. Thankfully the firm is making the calculations and is now publishing them. I used to attempt this task myself!

As can be seen the broad trend over the past year has been a decline in Labour’s position from an average 39% a year ago to 36% in May.

June, however, has seen something of a reversal with LAB going up a bit and CON going down.

This is how it looks with the four main parties.

UKIP moving up and the LDs going into a decline over the past quarter.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


EdM might not be polling well at the moment but the idea that David M would have done better is fanciful rubbish.

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Ed Miliband beats David to Labour leadership   YouTube (1)

Quite simply David M showed he was crap at politics

I was very taken by this comment from Edmund in Tokyo on the previous thread on why David Miliband would not have been the winner that his protagonists say he would:-

1) David Miliband wouldn’t have been able to bury the Iraq episode like Ed has. It would have been a serious ongoing problem, even worse as Iraq falls apart, and crippled his ability to win over the 2010 LibDems who have been solid for Ed.

2) David Miliband is utterly shit at politics. His big idea was the individual carbon ration card. He managed to destabilize Gordon Brown’s government by always looking like he was going to challenge him without ever actually doing it. And he wasn’t good enough to win a Labour leadership election… against Ed Miliband”

This is what PB’s Labour columnist Henry G Manson wrote here after David M announced that he was quitting UK politics

David had the capacity to win but it would have meant moving on from New Labour, something he chose not to. It would have meant meeting the unions half way, something he showed disdain for. When once asked about the future of trade unions at a Labour dinner he apparently quipped “do they have one?”

It’s all well and good wisecracking at the expense of unions after you’ve been elected leader, but the mentality to do so beforehand when a third of the electoral college is up for grabs was reckless. There are dozens of similar stories.

That quip about the trade unions is very telling and the polling shows clearly that EdM is popular with the voters LAB has to retain – the 2010 LDs.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter