Archive for the ' General Election' Category


At the start of lockdown Johnson’s Tories had poll leads of upto 26% – now the latest two surveys have that down at 6%

Thursday, May 28th, 2020
Wikipedia chart of polling for next UK GE

At this rate crossover might happen quite soon

On the face of it the polling trends look worrying for the Conservatives and good for LAB which is seeing a lot of progress in getting the gap smaller.

However I don’t think we should read too much into this because, of course, the big difference between start of the lockdown and now is that LAB now has a new leader and not the electorally unpopular Corbyn who led the party to its worst result since 1935 at GE2019. It was almost inevitable that a new person would do better and so it has been.

For LAB the really positive thing has been the improvement in the leader ratings. Starmer has yet to go into net negative territory unlike his predecessor who during his whole four and half years in the job recorded net positive rating just once or twice.

The big question is how will this now go? Can BoJo/Dom stop any further erosion or is Starmer’s big ratings progress going to be translated into even better voting intention numbers? We don’t know which is why the polls are getting so much attention. 

The next general election is not scheduled to take place until May 2nd 2024 so less than four years to go. If Boris had gone for an election in early January the next general election who have been May 2025.  Of course the dates could be adjusted by the likely legislation that will repeal the Fixed-Term Parliament. It should be noted that it would be hard to extend the period beyond that because there are special constitutional arrangements for governments that want to use legislation to prolong their life. 


Mike Smithson


Next month it’ll be the 50th anniversary of GE1970 – the ONLY election in modern times when a party with a working majority lost to another with a working majority

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Next month we will see the 50th anniversary of the most extraordinary general election of modern times – 1970 when Edward Heath led the Tories to victory. His party came to power with a working majority beating Harold Wilson Labour which also had a working majority.

For there to be a change of government in such circumstances was actually quite unique. For at no other election in modern times has a party with a working majority taken over from another party which had a working majority.

Just go back over past elections which have led to changes of government and it will be seen how unique June 1970 was. In 1951 when the Tories came in Labour had effectively lost its huge seat lead from in 1951 after its massive majority the year before had been reduced to just single figures.

In February 1974 Heath lost power and Wilson was back at Number 10 heading a minority government. Seven months later in the second general election of that year a small majority was secured. This was not, however, large enough to cope with splits and by-elections and by the time of the 1979 election there was no LAB majority.

When the Major’s Tories lost power to Tony Blair in May 1997 it had seen its small majority been reduced to nothing. At the next change of government in 2010 Cameron came in but without a majority and had to rely on the LDs and have a coalition government.

All this points to the huge challenge facing Starmer. whenever the next election takes place.

My guess is that the excellent series of BBC repeats of its past election results programmes will include 1970 at some point next month. This Saturday we have 1964.

Mike Smithson


New COVID19 polling finds two thirds of Brits saying that the government acted too late

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

But fewer are concerned about the individual threat

Whenever this is all over, and who can predict that, it is clear that the events of the past three months and the actions of ministers are set to have a big impact on domestic politics. Pollster Ipsos-MORI has been asking tracker questions and we can see from the two charts above how things have moved.

The worrying one for Team Boris is the growing percentage who think that action was taken too late – something that is currently reinforced by the death toll position for the UK.

I’m far from convinced about the data in the UK and elsewhere but it does seem at the moment that this country has fared badly.

Fortunately for the government there are no imminent elections. The ones that were due to take place a week today have rightly been put back until next year. The next general election is not scheduled to happen before 2024.

Before then, hopefully, the pandemic will be over but the economic impact is going to take years to shake itself out and here the “did the government act to late” issue could be a constant irritant.

My reading of Starmer is that he’s playing for long-term and the “late to act” charge looks like a powerful ace to be played at the right time.

Mike Smithson


Conducting elections with the great unwashed during and after a pandemic

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

I’ve seen the future and it’s a world with mostly digital campaigning and only online voting

As someone who expects Covid-19 and variants to be with us for at least the near future our lives we will have to adapt to prevent other pandemics and peaks and for election geeks like ourselves that means changes to how campaigns and voting are conducted, because the relentless optimist that I am I fear pandemics are here to stay.

Campaigning – Like the high streets things will move online

It is likely social distancing will be in place until we find a vaccine which may never come, so the traditional campaigning and going out meeting the great unwashed may not happen, who would want to go meet politicians when you could contract a deadly virus? I’m not sure politicians will be enamoured with the prospect of shaking so many hands. and being up close with so many isn’t attractive. Being stuck on a battle bus for a month long election campaign also doesn’t sound like fun.

For the bloody infantry who do the grunt work in elections going canvassing, visiting people, arranging knock and drops, organising stalls, knocking up the voters on election day look rather unappealing during a pandemic, this sort of hard work over many months and years is how elections are normally won. Does anyone want to take the risk of meeting lots of people who don’t regularly wash their hands?

I suspect during an election campaign, especially if you live in a marginal/target seat, then you won’t be able to go online without seeing political adverts. Social media will be the nexus for politicians to engage whether or not the average voter wants to see such stuff.

Elections – Get ready for online voting

I would sooner ring Deliveroo and order salt and pepper bat wings from a takeaway in Wuhan than endorse online voting in this country but we really won’t be living in a democracy if people are scared to go out and vote so that’s why the way voting is conducted will change.

With the demographic of the Conservative Party’s voters I’m sure the government will make it easier for their older voters to vote. I’m sure the Labour party will support online voting as anything that makes it easier for younger voters to vote they will back it.

Going to the polling station may been as playing Russian roulette with your health. Would you really want to go to place and stand in a confined space that hundreds if not thousands of people have stood in hours before?

Spare a thought for those who actually count the votes and have to touch all those ballot papers, at some venues it will impossible to participate in social distancing, and it might end up making the Californian counting process look prompt, I still think California are still counting the 2016 Presidential election.

Increased postal voting really isn’t an option because if people are shielding going out to post your votes really isn’t viable, and feel sorry for the poor counting staff who have to deal with envelopes with the saliva of the voters used to seal the envelopes as well the ballot papers and said envelopes being touched by thousands of voters.

With some form of social distancing in place we cannot expect people to go to millions of household to collect the postal votes, even before we consider what a nefarious person might do or not do with the postal ballots they are supposed to collect.

This means the end of the exit poll but on the positive side we might have all the results in by around midnight on election night so no more election all nighters.

Whilst the next UK wide general election is scheduled for 2024 there’s no guarantee that Covid-19 or other new similar viruses will not be around then there are some pretty important elections taking place before then.

The one that really could be the defining election is the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election which I expect will become a de facto plebiscite on holding another independence referendum.

The ability of voters to participate will be essential in the defining all four nations of this United Kingdom, but a traditional voting experience won’t be an option if we have another wave of this accursed virus coincides with this election. Perhaps Westminster might follow the approach they used in the 1979 Scottish referendum because that turned out so well.

The political party or parties that adjust to the new reality will succeed, the others probably not.



David Cowling examines Cobyn’s claim that LAB would have won GE2017 if it hadn’t been for PLP “coup” move the year before

Monday, April 20th, 2020
Monthly polling averages from GE2015 to start GE2017 campaign

The fact that Jeremy Corbyn was elected Labour Leader despite the majority of the party’s MPs voting against him, was certainly a problem throughout his tenure. However, it seems we have a new twist to the saga: Mr Corbyn now appears to believe this was the principal reason why Labour failed to win the 2017 election – a victory that he was otherwise “absolutely confident” that Labour would have won “because it was all absolutely going our way. What does the evidence suggest?

The open challenge to Mr Corbyn took place on 24 June, 2016, when the majority of his Shadow Cabinet resigned, provoking events that led to another Labour leadership election that he won comfortably in September. There were a variety of reasons why this June challenge to his leadership was mounted: one of them was that in May that year, Labour had lost 13 seats in the Scottish Parliament election after a nine point fall in its vote share (compared with an eight point increase in the Conservative vote that gained them an extra 16 seats). The Labour Party was led by Richard Leonard who was the favoured candidate of Mr Corbyn and his supporters in the earlier contest for the Scottish Party leadership. Also, in Wales, Labour lost outright control of the Assembly, with a near eight point fall in its vote. And in the local elections in England on the same day, Labour made a net loss of one council and eighteen seats. Also, in the EU referendum campaign that climaxed on 23 June, 2016, there had been fierce criticism of Mr Corbyn’s “lacklustre” support for the Remain campaign, despite the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs and party members backing that cause.

What did the opinion polls suggest throughout this period? The table above sets out the monthly average of voting intention polls starting immediately after the 2015 general election, through to the beginning of the 2017 election campaign period. What is clear is that Labour’s poll ratings remained dire throughout this period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership: there was no summit of public approval from which the party was toppled by treachery in the run-up to the 2017 election. When he was first elected, in September 2015, Labour’s monthly voting intention average was 32%: prior to the 2017 election, this share was only bettered once – in March 2016 – when it rose to 33%. The major rebellion against Mr Corbyn among his MPs occurred towards the end of June 2016, yet, in the first four polls of July, before Mrs May became Prime Minister, Labour’s poll ratings remained broadly the same (32%). It was only in the July polls following Mrs May’s election that Labour’s share dropped (to 29%). By April 2017, Labour’s average was 26% (compared with 32% in his first month as Leader; and 30% in the month he was re-elected.

The difficulty in sustaining Mr Corbyn’s assertion that he could have won in 2017 (for me at least) is the fact that in that election, when he was, apparently, undermined by his MPs, the party gained 36 seats (and lost six); and in the 2019 election, when he was in total control of the party and the election campaign and the PLP was quiescent, the party lost 60 seats (and gained one).

Because the polling suggests that, from the outset, the public had a negative view of Jeremy Corbyn that he could never shake off. He is the only Opposition Leader in Ipsos MORI’s monthly series of party leader favourability (begun in 1977) never to have received a positive rating. There never was a honeymoon with the British electorate subsequently wrecked by disloyal and poisonous individuals within the party: the longer voters knew Mr Corbyn, the more dissatisfied they seemed to become.

David Cowling

David Cowling is a political opinion polling specialist. Former editor of BBC Political Research and visiting senior research fellow at Kings College London. A full version of this article incuding several other tables is available here.


After the ice. The Lib Dems’ prospects for 2024

Sunday, April 12th, 2020

Nemesis followed hubris so quickly for Jo Swinson, they were able to pass the relay baton in the exchange zone. No sooner had she mooted the possibility of her being the next Prime Minister than she found herself dumped out of Parliament. It is a short step from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The Lib Dems also went backwards in the seat count. They held 21 before the election, having won 12 in 2017 and benefited from a clump of defections. After the general election, they held just 11.

In truth, the Lib Dems are still on the long road to recovery from their disaster in 2015, when they were reduced to just eight seats. Their problem ever since has been the same one: irrelevance.  

It gets worse. While they have been bumping along the bottom, there has been a lot of churn of seats. They have held just two seats continuously from 2015: Orkney & Shetland and Westmorland & Lonsdale. Of the remaining six seats the Lib Dems held that year, they are now third in two and more than 20% behind the winners in another two. They have no bedrock.

They have comprehensively lost the battle for urban progressives to Labour. In 2010, they won 19 seats where Labour were in contention at the 2015 election. Of those 19, the Lib Dems now hold just two: Edinburgh West and Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross (both from the SNP). Of the other 17, Labour hold 12, the SNP hold three and the Conservatives hold two. Not a single Lib Dem seat features in Labour’s first 250 targets – Labour have maxed out against them.  

The Lib Dems are never going to have more propitious circumstances to fight Labour than 2019. Labour had a leader who was widely disliked and widely seen as extreme. Labour seemed diffident on the main question of the age, Brexit, while the Lib Dems were almost synonymous with one side of the debate. Yet they flunked it. The Lib Dems need to think hard about how they are going to cooperate with Labour rather than fight it if they want to make any progress anywhere.

The good news is that there is now more scope for progress elsewhere.  Their higher vote share coupled with a message geared towards luring cautious Remainers has enabled them to secure a position as the main opposition to the Conservatives throughout much of central southern England. This is reflected in their target list. All bar six of their top 50 targets are Conservative-held. Just as importantly, they are second in all bar three on this list (Ceredigion, Hampstead & Kilburn and North East Somerset).  Only they can win in the other 47, I’m sure their electors will be told.

Not that the Lib Dems should be aiming to win 50 seats at the next election in the absence of the most extraordinary political upheavals. The Lib Dems would need a uniform national swing of 14.5% to take that many seats. Even allowing for the fact that the Lib Dems won’t be fighting a national campaign, that’s way too rich for my blood. At three successive elections we have seen the Lib Dems fail to target effectively and as a result win fewer seats than they might have done. They need to learn at the fourth attempt.  

A 5% uniform swing would yield them just 15 seats. In truth, if the Lib Dems achieved that increase in seat numbers in 2024, they should be exultant.

The Lib Dems have another big decision to make. They made advances in a slew of seats in and around London by taking an avowedly Remain stance over Brexit. They did so at the cost of regaining seats, particularly in the south west, that had previously returned Lib Dem MPs. There are 12 seats in their top 50 targets in the south west, many of them formerly Lib Dem held. On the other hand, there are a further eight seats in their top 50 targets in London, a further 17 in the south east area and a further five in the east of England. The Lib Dems are effectively going to need to pick sides between targeting former strongholds and building on their new brand.

This is not as easy as just looking at the numbers of seats on either side of this dilemma. The Lib Dems will have a good idea of who their lapsed voters are in seats they previously held and have fought for years. Many of their new targets will be much less familiar territory for them. It may well be easier for them to generate bigger swings in well-trodden terrain – in the short term at least.

Set against that, the Lib Dems need to think about why they had the disaster in 2015 in the first place. Essentially their problem was that while they had been a third party in opposition they had been able to be all things to all men. That was impossible in government, when they were branded by their own actions. Their recent modest advances have been achieved by taking a polarising position, one that voters understand in advance, even if they don’t like it.

Durable success is best built by standing for something meaningful. The Lib Dems seem to have stumbled into their trench. They should not desert it now.

Alastair Meeks


Starmer needs a net gain of 124 seats at the next GE to win a majority, here’s that in context

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

As Alastair Meeks pointed out this morning Sir Keir Starmer and Labour need a net gain of 124 seats at the next election for a majority so I thought it would be interesting to see how man net gains each Leaders of the Opposition have made at each general election from 1945 onwards.

Only three LOTOs have made over 100 net gains at at next election, Attlee, Blair, and Cameron, so Starmer will be joining stellar company if he achieves it.

My own opinion is that Labour probably needs to only make around 40 net gains from the Conservatives at the next election and the Conservatives need to lose around 55-60 net seats at the next election for Labour to take power at the next election as part of a rainbow alliance.

Following Boris Johnson and the Conservatives putting a border down the Irish Sea I suspect no other party will back a minority Conservative Government, even the DUP, especially as Starmer isn’t as affectionate towards the IRA in the way Corbyn appeared to be.

Although I won’t be making any predictions on the outcome of the next election until the Covid-19 crisis is resolved.



Starmer gets his LAB victory with 56% of the votes on the first round

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

In the end it was all a bit down beat. The Labour Party announced at 10:45 a.m. that Starmer had become the next leader at having secured 56% of the votes in the first round thus easily beating Rebecca Long Bailey and Lisa Nandy. As expected Angela Rayner has won the deputy race

But instead of making a victory speech to a packed special conference as had been planned the party issued a short video statement from Starmer he had prepared earlier. This was of course, was down to the coronavirus pandemic which meant that the planned conference that Labour had scheduled for today didn’t take place.

The main surprise was the size of his victory securing more than 3% that the best poll for him suggested that he was going to get and second preferences didn’t in the end need to be brought in.

The question now is whether the new leader will be able to take his strong position in this election to reshape the party to be an effective force that will fight the Tories at the next general election. There’s little doubt that much needs to be done in particular dealing with the charges of antisemitism that has so dogged things for the last 3 years.

It is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that LAB leaders, other than Blair, have struggled at general elections. Only five times in the party’s entire history has it won a sustainable working majority and three of those were under Blair.

Mike Smithson