Archive for February, 2011


Libya – How’s it all going to end?

Friday, February 25th, 2011



Could Boris versus Ken save the taxpayer GBP32m?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Why not switch mayoral elections to FPTP?

On May 3rd next year more than one in eight of UK adults will be able to vote in what is the biggest election before the general election. At stake is a position that arguably has more political power than anyone apart from the prime minister.

With Ken bidding to return to his old job and Boris trying to hang on in less than clement conditions for the blues this will be a massive and absorbing fight as well as a big political betting event. And what’s relevant at the moment is that like on the past three occasions the election will be held using a voting system that is a near as anything in the UK to AV.

The ballot form reproduced below sets out how it works. You put a cross in the first column by you first choice and a further one, if you so wish, indicating your second choice in the next column.

I can’t see how the cost of administering and counting will be much less than using the AV system that we’ll be voting on in the referendum.

Given the £250m estimate from NO2AV for running AV nationally on a pro rata basis a first past the post London mayoral election would save £32m – and that could provide a lot of body armour for British troops and help maternity services.

I am surprised that NO2AV hasn’t latched onto this already. They must, surely, have looked at the costings and operation of these specific elections in some detail when calculating the £250m figure.

In the past three London mayoral elections the second preferences have made no difference to the final outcome but if it’s tight next time then they might do. My guess is that Ken would stand to benefit more than Boris.

London is not the only place that has elected mayors – there are currently thirteen in total throughout England – so a change to FPTP could achieve even bigger savings.

Mike Smithson


Why’s the government looking like a shambles?

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Would it have been better under Coulson?

It’s half term, parliament’s not sitting, and most people in the Westminster village, it seems, are taking a short break.

But does that explain the total Horlicks that the government’s PR machine is making of current events.

There’s a massive global story with strong British links and the government operation should, surely, appear as though it is handling things competently.

Most people, I’d suggest, appreciate how challenging it must be dealing with Libyan – a country where everything is falling apart. Certainties like whether planes will be allowed to land are not there but this is not being communicated. It just appears a mess and ministers come over as being inept.

This could be politically dangerous and confidence could wane very quickly.

This has the feel of the lost computer disc stories that so damaged the Brown government in the aftermath of the October 2007 decision to abort the early general election plan. The government’s information machine was just not on top of it and the poll ratings bombed.

I wonder whether what we are seeing is down to the departure of Andy Coulson. He, surely, would have seen the dangers.

Mike Smithson


Penddu on that other referendum…in Wales

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Yes – No – Quick Quick -Slow

It is part of Britain’s unwritten constitution that referendums are held whenever there is a constitutional issue at stake that crosses party lines. So this begs the question why the Welsh Powers referendum being held on March 3rd is being held at all.

This referendum is not on a major constitutional change as Wales has had primary law-making powers since 2007, and the issue at stake is only a technical one as to how further powers are drawn down.

To explain: when the original Welsh Assembly was established in 1999, it had no primary law-making powers. Legislative powers were then granted to the Assembly in the Government of Wales Act in 2006, which listed a series of specific areas where the Assembly could now legislate. The Assembly could also request transfer of further powers from Westminster on a case-by-case basis using a mechanism of Legislative Competency Orders (LCOs), and this process has resulted in a gradual transfer of further powers. However the process has proven to be very convoluted and time-consuming and has very few friends outside of the legal community.

The Government of Wales Act 2006 also stated that this piecemeal approach could be replaced by a single transfer of all powers in the 20 devolved areas following a successful referendum vote, so the real question in this referendum is simply whether to transfer powers quickly or slowly. The powers already exist and will continue to grow whatever the outcome, and this is causing both sides some problems with their campaigning message.

The Yes side has the unanimous support of all Assembly Members, with the backing of all 4 major political parties in Wales, the trade unions, the Church in Wales, and various other groups. It has a large number of volunteers and is well-financed, but has struggled to deliver a coherent positive case for change.

it is difficult to inspire people with a technical argument, and so its campaign has largely focussed on appealing to Welsh national sentiment and the simple line that laws that affect only Wales should be made in Wales

The No side has much narrower support, backed by UKIP, BNP and a campaign group of disaffected labour activists called True Wales which seems to consist of two spokesmen from Gwent and an inflatable pig. However they have been very vocal and have been quite successful in spreading negative messages – notably ‘slippery slope to independence’ and ‘anti-political establishment’. Their messages are not very credible and do not stand up to scrutiny, but they have nevertheless achieved some traction with undecided voters.

So how will the people vote? All of the recent opinion polls show Yes leading No by a margin of 2-1 but I expect this lead to close up as the undecided voters tend to stick with the status quo, and I predict a result of 55%/45% in favour of Yes.

At the last referendum in 1997, there was a clear East-West split with the Yes vote concentrated in West Wales and the Valleys, and the No Vote in Cardiff and East Wales. I expect a similar pattern this time except that Cardiff and a few other areas will now vote Yes. But the biggest issue on the day is likely to be turnout, which will probably be below 40% and will encourage the losing side to challenge the result. But I guess it was always going to be difficult to inspire voters with such a technical issue which results in almost the same outcome irrespective of the vote.

Penddu is a long-standing PB regular


Who’s got most to worry about with their leader ratings?

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The above are from this months Ipsos-MORI monitor for Reuters and records the trends in the leadership approval ratings for Dave/Ed/Nick.

I tend always to focus on the satisfaction numbers which have been a good predictor for general elections over the three decades that MORI has been asking these questions.

The trends are in the charts above.

Mike Smithson


Ipsos-MORI has 12 point YES lead amongst those certain to vote

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

And it’s no change on standard voting intention

In its first public survey on the coming referendum the February MORI monitor for Reuters has YES on 49% and NO at 37% amongst those who say they are certain to vote.

So far we have only seen the headline figures and I’ve no idea about the form or wording of the AV question.

The firm always restricts its headline figures to those who say they are certain to vote and we’ll have to wait until the full data is published to see what the overall figure was.

This is very good news for the YES camp because in what’s likely to be a lowish turnout election the question of voting certainty will be critical.

If MORI is right it suggests that those who want change are more committed to to going out and voting for it.

So this week’s three polls on the referendum have produced very different pictures. YouGov has NO 7% ahead, ICM has the two sides even but when turnout weighting is taken into account its 51-49, and now MORI has a big YES lead. YouGov was using an old question and unlike the two phone pollsters, ICM and MORI, does not screen for turnout.

The pollsters’ fight to win the referendum polling race looks set to be almost as intriguing as the outcome itself.

The firm’s standard Westminster voting intentions show Labour still with a 10 point lead. The shares were CON 33: LAB 43: LD 13.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s PAPA – the Politicalbetting All Pollsters’ Average

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
Poll/publication Date CON % LAB % LD % OTH %
ICM/Guardian 20/02/11 35 38 18 9
Populus/Times 06/02/11 36 39 11 14
Ipsos-MORI/Reuters 23/01/11        
ComRes/Indy on Sunday 10/02/11 36 42 11 11
YouGov/Sun 23/02/11 36 44 11 9
Angus Reid/ 10/02/11 34 40 11 15
***PAPA*** LATEST 35.4 40.6 12.4 11.6

With every new poll PAPA – the Politicalbetting All Pollsters’ Average gets updated and can be found on its own dedicated page.

It’s not often that it heads the main site but it’s a useful reminder of where we are with all the pollsters. The big change today has not been a new poll but, rather, that the Ipsos-MORI January numbers drop out of the calculation because they are now a month old.

Labour is maintaining a steady lead though not quite on the scale of the end of January when two firms had them with double digit margins.

Mike Smithson


Has YouGov’s AV polling question been overtaken by events?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Shouldn’t last week have led to a re-wording?

This is the precise wording of the YouGov AV referendum question that was asked yesterday and the results published last night.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government are committed to holding a referendum on changing the electoral system from first-past-thepost (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV) At the moment, under first-past-the-post (FPTP), voters select ONE candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. It has been suggested that this system should be replaced by the Alternative Vote (AV). Voters would RANK a number of candidates from a list. If a candidates wins more than half of the ‘1st’ votes, a winner is declared. If not, the least popular candidates are eliminated from the contest, and their supporters’ subsequent preferences counted and shared accordingly between the remaining candidates. This process continues until an outright winner is declared. If a referendum were held tomorrow on whether to stick with first-past-the-post or switch to the Alternative Vote for electing MPs, how would you vote?

Just compare that with the simple two stage question that ICM asked at the weekend. The first part is non-judgemental and is on turnout.

Q1. “Parliament has confirmed that a referendum will take place on 5th May 2011 on possibly changing the voting system for electing MPs to the House of Commons. Many people we have spoken to have said they will not vote in that referendum, while others have said they will vote. How certain is it that you will actually vote in the referendum?”

Then the second question uses the precise words that according to the act passed last week will be on the ballot.

“At present, the UK uses the first past the post system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the Alternative Vote system be used instead?”

Mike Smithson