Archive for June, 2010


Has the Observer been conned by the MiliEd campaign?

Sunday, June 27th, 2010


Did the paper even see the full data?

The big story in the Observer, under the heading “Half of Liberal Democrat voters ready to defect after VAT rise” is based, though it is not immediately obvious, on private polling that was carried out by YouGov for the Ed Miliband campaign.

There were two questions which are being made public (because it’s a private poll YouGov does not have to reveal the rest) and the first was on the child benefit level freeze.

The introductory words were: “Below are a series of measures set out by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition in this week’s budget. For each one, please indicate if these would make you more or less likely to vote for the Liberal Democrats, or if it would make no difference?”

The question then read: “The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats plan to freeze Child Benefit for three years. For a typical family with one child, this will cost them up to £109 a year.” As can be seen below the response from Lib Dem voters was positive – 29% said they would be MORE likely to vote for the party and 25% said LESS likely.

Child benefit question All Con Lab Lib
Much more likely to vote Lib Dem 7 7 2 11
Somewhat more likely to vote Lib Dem 10 9 5 18
Somewhat less likely to vote Lib Dem 10 7 9 14
Much less likely to vote Lib Dem 13 6 21 11
Would vote Lib Dem anyway 9 5 4 24
Would NOT vote Lib Dem anyway 37 53 48 7
Don’t know 15 13 11 14

The paper however reported only the 25% less likely ignoring the bigger proportion saying more likely.

The next question was worded like this: “During the general election campaign the Liberal Democrats specifically promised not to raise VAT, calling it a ‘tax bombshell’. In this week’s Budget the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats outlined plans to raise VAT to 20%.” That surely is somewhat leading and the preamble inaccurate.

Below is the response and once again the paper only recorded those “Less likely” and not the “more likely”.

VAT Question All Con Lab Lib
Much more likely to vote Lib Dem 2 3 1 2
Somewhat more likely to vote Lib Dem 5 7 2 7
Somewhat less likely to vote Lib Dem 13 11 6 26
Much less likely to vote Lib Dem 21 9 32 22
Would vote Lib Dem anyway 8 5 3 23
Would NOT vote Lib Dem anyway 37 52 48 8

One of the great things about the polling transparency rules is that this information is made available by the pollster even for privately commissioned surveys.

I wonder whether the Observer saw the detailed spread-sheets from the pollster or was the report based on what the Ed Miliband campaign told them?

Mike Smithson


Are we heading back to two-party politics?

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Is the flow of the past decades being reversed?

At the general election on May 6th the proportion of the electors voting for the two main parties hit an all-time low. The total number of voters going blue-red was fewer than two in three of all votes cast.

But are the exceptional circumstances of 2010 creating an environment in which two party politics can return?

In the overnight polling ICM’s C41-L35-LD15 had the aggregate at 76% while YouGov’s C43-L36-LD16 put this at 79%.

For not only are the Lib Dems being totally squeezed but the total for “others” is also sharply down. At the general election, excluding Northern Ireland, this was almost one in ten – YouGov now has it at almost half that.

Just look at this in a historical context.

Election Conservative+Labour %age
2010 66.7
2005 69.3
2001 74.7
1997 75.8
1992 77.2
1987 74.3
1983 71.8

Of course we’ve only had two polls and we’ll need more polling evidence but if YouGov and ICM are supported by other polling then we might be witnessing a step change.

Both main parties are in the process of re-inventing themselves. Labour is going through its leadership election and what will emerge will be post-Blair/post-Brown. The Tory party, to gain power, had to do the deal with the Lib Dems and is following a policy agenda not entirely of its own choosing.

What we will see, surely, is both the reds and blues trying to position themselves in order to win some of the 23.6% of votes that the Lib Dems secured last month.

For what I find hard to work out is the proposition that Nick Clegg’s party puts to voters at the next election. The best I can think of is “vote for us so we can ensure that the Tories don’t revert to their basic instincts and Labour doesn’t return.

Maybe that is their future role.

Mike Smithson


Lib Dems take huge hit from both ICM and YouGov

Saturday, June 26th, 2010
Fieldwork Pollster/publication CON LAB LD
23-24 June ICM/Sunday Telegraph 41 35 16
24-25 June YouGov / Sunday Times 43 36 16
22-23 June YouGov / Sun 42 34 17
20-21 June YouGov / Sun 41 33 18
18-20 June ICM / The Guardian 39 31 21
18-20 June Ipsos MORI/Reuter 39 31 19
17-18 June YouGov / Sunday Times 39 34 19
16-17 June ComRes / Indy on Sunday 36 30 23
10-11 June YouGov / Sunday Times 40 32 18
10-11 June BPIX (YouGov) / Mail on Sunday 39 32 19
1-9 June Harris/Metro 36 30 25
28-31 May ComRes / The Independent 37 33 21
21-23 May ICM / The Guardian 39 32 21
20-21 May YouGov / Sunday Times 39 32 21
13-14 May YouGov / Sunday Times 37 34 21
12-13 May ICM / Sunday Telegraph 38 33 21
12-13 May ComRes / Indy on Sunday 38 34 21
  General Election GB figures 37 29.7 23.6

What’s this going to do to party nerves?

There are two absolutely devastating polls tonight for the Lib Dems – both showing shares where they haven’t been for a very long time.

What will hurt most is the ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph because its past vote weighting methodology is probably more helpful to the yellows than YouGov. ICM was right at top of the 2010 polling accuracy table.

These numbers will reinforce the coalition doubters within the party and could put Clegg under some pressure. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The fact that two pollsters are in the same ball-park will add to their woes and could lead to a re-think of sorts.

It will be interesting seeing the detailed data to look at the churn and retention numbers. The 16% share is nearly eight points down on what they got at the general election.

The ICM share is the lowest the part has has since before Nick Clegg became leader in December 2007.

Mike Smithson


Ken picks up the UNITE endorsement

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

The 2012 race for the London Mayoralty has seen two developments in the past 24 hours: Lembit Opik has said he’ll go for the yellow team’s nomination while the big uniion with massive influence in the Labour movement, UNITE, has said that it’s endorsing Ken.

Voting amongst London party members and levy-payers in the trade unions will take place at the same time as the election for next Labour leader.

This is further good news for the former Mayor who will reach his 67th birthday a few weeks after the 2012 election.

I think he’s unstoppable for the nomination and backed him initially at 5/1. Ladbrokes now have that at 2/5.

As for Lembit – no way.

Mike Smithson


How big a risk is it for Dave to speak here?

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Could this plan go horribly wrong?

At the end of what’s been the toughest week for the coalition comes news that plans are being considered for the Cameron and Clegg to speak at each other’s party conferences in the autumn.

According to the Guardian the idea will be discussed at a joint political cabinet next month when the two parties will also decide how to co-ordinate policy announcements and how to sell the success of their first few months.

The plan sounds fine on paper but couldn’t the two leaders be taking a massive risk? The whole media pack, surely, would be looking for any sign of dissent.

What happens, for instance, if just a few in the audience start booing?

And given that the first event, the Lib Dem one, is in Liverpool wouldn’t the PM’s appearance be the target for massive demonstrations outside the hall by civil service unions and others opposed to the coalition’s public sector cutbacks programme?

My guess is that Cameron and Clegg are gambling that conferences are by their nature very tribalistic – they are attended by the most committed – and there is a tendency to get behind their leaderships. That certainly happened at the special Lib Dem conference on the weekend after the coalition deal last month.

There is another big reason why the PM and his deputy might be attracted to the idea – it could over-shadow the impact of Labour’s leadership election – the result of which will be announced on the following Saturday.

For as happens every year the red team’s annual get together is sandwiched between the yellows and the blues.

On support for the coalition generally the Guardian carries a report of a survey it has carried out of Lib Dem MPs. This has found that while there is unease amongst some about aspects of the budget there is backing for the leadership.

Mike Smithson


Is Banana-man becoming unstoppable?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

The shopworkers go with Mili-major

At the end of September it will be the second anniversary of the famous picture of David Miliband with the banana which could coincide with his victory in Labour’s leadership election.

For whatever you think of his unworldliness you cannot but admire the efficiency with which he has gone about his campaign.

He roped in the most MPs to nominate him and now he’s opened the rush to get union support with a decision today by the shopworkers’ body, USDAW, to give him their backing.

This of itself does not produce one single vote – for in all three sections of Labour’s electoral college the voting is by STV AV in a secret postal ballot that takes place in September. But this is creating a sense of momentum that could take him to victory on September 24th.

The critical thing, given the complexities of the voting system is for him to secure an unassailable lead on first preferences. The voting in all three is by STV and he has to avoid the fate of Alan Johnson in the 2007 deputy race who was pipped at the post by Harriet Harman after failing to pick up enough more second, third and fourth preferences.

Miliband is rightly the odds on betting favourite. Whether he is right for Labour in its current position is a different matter.

Mike Smithson


Will the pay-wall kill off PoliticsHome?

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Have you signed up for £19 a month?

Guido had a good piece overnight on what’s happened to traffic on the Times site since the pay wall came into operation. For even though you can still get on for nothing during the “preview” period the numbers of hits its getting has dropped sharply.

Heaven knows what will happen when the £10 a month charge comes in for there is a big issue as well as the cash. The site has gone through a major re-design where the emphasis has been on what it looks like rather than usability. I simply can’t be bothered learning to navigate it.

On top of this stories from the paper no longer feature on Google news search engines. So for me, like many others, the Times has simply ceased to exist.

But is the same going to happen with one of the country’s most popular politics sites, PoliticsHome, that is going behind a paywall on July 12th in a completely separate development?

Initially this was promoted as a £195 a month service with big discounts for those who signed up early. I don’t know what happened to that because I’ve continued to get the beta version of the “Pro” service for free.

Now there’s a “PoliticsHome Lite” offering at £19 a month that starts on July 12th and users have been told that there will be no free access after that date.

The site’s main role is as a news aggregator so you can spot immediately what’s happening both in the media and on the blogs. It’s updated frequently and I visit several times a day. It’s particularly good at highlighting the best political comment pieces and monitoring TV and radio programmes.

But is it going to be worth the money? I don’t know but it has massive competition now from Twitter and, of course, sources like PB threads.

My initial plan is to see if I can get along without it.

Mike Smithson


Will making families poorer really boost the blues?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Was Osborne’s aim to stop Labour doing this again?

For me the above Labour PEB was by far the best piece of campaigning by any party at the election. It was designed to sow doubts about what a Tory government would do by focussing on key issues that affect middle income voters. The child credit was its first main point.

If there was a single reason why Labour recovered so well in the closing days campaign it was because they got this message over.

In an absolutely must-read feature in this week’s Spectator James Forsyth looks at the role of Osborne and how cutting benefits like this was the first stage of his strategy to secure an overall majority at the next election.

He writes: “…During the election campaign, nearly every Tory candidate despaired at how so many families on £50,000 a year were voting Labour to protect their £545 child tax credit — despite the overall cost of a Labour government to them being far higher than that. Osborne’s Budget dealt with this directly. Within two years, no family earning £30,000 a year or more and with one child will receive tax credits. That class of wavering Labour voters, so irritatingly prevalent in marginal seats, will be no more.

Labour may well pledge to restore the tax credits. But they’d also have to explain how they’ll pay for it — and Osborne plans to make sure that they do. In the same way that Brown and Balls translated every proposed Tory tax cut into the number of nurses and teachers that would have to be laid off to fund it, the Tories will claim that every Labour move will lead to a rise in tax..”

Later on Forsyth writes: “..During the coalition negotiations, he told Tories who were jittery about governing with the Liberal Democrats that only from inside government could the Tories tilt the country in their direction. The argument was that the coalition was a necessary stepping stone on the way to a Tory majority. To him, that has always been the prize…”

It’s an interesting concept – take away a popular benefit that Labour threatened would happen in the hope that this takes away a key part of Labour’s armoury.

What’s intriguing is how being in government, if only in coalition, was to central to Osborne’s plan. No wonder they were ready to offer so much to the Lib Dems.

Mike Smithson