Archive for June, 2011


Why aren’t the Greens doing better?

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Shouldn’t they be benefiting more from the big boys’ unpopularity?

This ought to be a good time for the minor parties. The government contains two of the three main parties but still consistently registers approval ratings in the minus twenties. Labour is led by someone in whom the public appears to have little confidence, yet is rated higher than his main shadow cabinet colleagues. The government is making cuts across large parts of the public sector but has increasingly appeared vulnerable to well-focussed pressure and conducted several high profile U-turns.

    The last time the three main parties were simultaneously unpopular was during the expenses crisis, which tarnished the entire political establishment. That took place around the time of the 2009 European elections and the minor parties did extremely well: UKIP finished second, the BNP won their first seats and the Greens polled over 1.2m votes, representing an 8.6% share.

Of all the minor parties who might benefit from the Lib Dems’ loss of support since they entered government, one might expect the Greens to gain most, in England at least. Yet the most recent polls of the four companies to have conducted surveys in the last two weeks show them at no more than 3%. That is higher than the 1% they received at the general election but then they only fought half the seats unlike at the Europeans where all voters had them as an option.

In fact, the four surveys show that for each 2010 Lib Dem vote that’s gone Green, roughly two have gone Conservative and about six to Labour. These former Lib Dem votes are likely to be predominantly to the left of centre and contain a sizable number of tactical and protest votes. Considering Labour’s ambivalent attitude to the government’s cuts, one might reasonably expect the Greens to have grabbed a bigger share given Caroline Lucas’ much less nuanced opposition.

The evidence from the local elections this year is mixed. The Greens did pick up a net 14 seats but ten of these were in Brighton alone. However, as they’ll have started from very low bases in many areas, seat totals aren’t particularly meaningful. The data from my own area (Bradford) suggests that there was quite a substantial swing from the Lib Dems to the Greens both in wards where neither works and in ones where they do, and across all types of ward in a very diverse district. I’ve no reason to assume that’s not typical of the country as a whole but equally no evidence to back up that it is.

Unfortunately, we’ve barely any equivalent data at the national level. Of the four GB by-elections called since the general election, the Greens have only contested one (Oldham East & Saddleworth) and that was untypical even by the standards of by-elections.

    The most likely explanation is that they’ve been forgotten about. Despite winning their first seat in parliament last year, they’ve received very little coverage in recent months and so have been able to make little traction out of the unpopularity of the parties of government. That is justified – a party with such a small electoral base doesn’t deserve much airtime – but does tend to serve to entrench the establishment in place. Less likely is their far-left stance. Apart from most voters not knowing about it, minor parties don’t need to worry about the majority who will never agree with them and concentrate on the few who might.

On thing that their failure to break through does do is take some of the heat of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband – the latter two especially. There’s been a spate of elections overseas recently in which long-established parties have crashed spectacularly, often with new entrants doing well into the bargain. As long as Britain’s voters are switching between Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour, they and their parties will be in their comfort zone.

David Herdson


Is this good news for “Huhne out next” backers?

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Press Association via Yahoo News

Police seek possession of speeding tape

As trailed by Guido, the Sunday Times is reporting that it has been ordered by a judge to hand over to Essex Police a recording of Huhne and ex-wife Vicky Pryce discussing the speeding allegations – although the paper is said to be considering an appeal.

If the police manage to obtain the tape, this could bring matters much further forward – will the tape bring new material to light? Might there now be sufficient evidence for a prosecution to be brought, which would be bad news for the Coalition – or will the police decide that the case should be dropped?

    It’s been quieter for Huhne recently in the “next to leave” market, with Ken Clarke and Andrew Lansley in the spotlight, but this will put the focus right back on him – tonight he’s the firm favourite at 5/4 to be out of the Cabinet next, with Lansley at 5/1 and Clarke at 6.

Elsewhere in the Sundays, there’s perhaps surprisingly little discussion of Ed Miliband’s Wrexham speech, which may tell its own story (or else that it came too late for columnists to change their pieces). In the Telegraph, Tim Montgomerie argues that the Conservative 2010 intake is reshaping the party for the better, while the paper also reports ministers’ plans for a new crackdown on unions.

In the Independent, there’s an interview with Jon Cruddas, and a report that Cameron is pinning his hopes on a majority at the next election by going ahead with the High Speed rail project, which presumably will ease the coalition’s lack of “friends in the North” highlighted by Andrew Rawnsley.

Finally, the latest You Gov poll is out – no details on the site yet, but topline numbers are Lab 43 Con 36 LD 9, giving Labour its second best lead for a month.

Double Carpet

(Twitter: @electiongame)

In the 2011 Election Game season, the Inverclyde game is available here – entries close 7pm Wednesday.


Has Ed signed the death-warrant for his leadership?

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

How ruthless will his MPs be?

There is to be a Clause Four moment after all. Perhaps symbolically, it is not to be over a grand symbol of Labour’s policy but an arcane process for selecting the shadow cabinet. It doesn’t matter though.

In taking on this fight, Miliband is placing his authority on the line and challenging his party and his MPs in just the same way.

One can well understand his reasons for proposing the change. Not only would his gaining the change stamp his authority on the party but the ability of the PLP to impose people Miliband does not want and does not rate into his cabinet hardly fosters a team spirit. The ability to select his own front bench theoretically unties his hands considerably.

In practice it might not make as much difference: the obviously capable and willing would still be included, as would those too dangerous to leave out, both groups whose members should be elected anyway. The effective difference is very much at the margins.

Going back to the original Clause Four debate, Blair put his authority on the line party because he knew it was important to demonstrate to the public that Labour was indeed ‘New’ and not the party of the 1970s and ’80s. He also knew that after 15 years in opposition it was restless to return and willing to pay a price to do so. Similarly, he was riding high in the polls and looked a future prime minister. That gave him more to lose but also more reason to assume he’d win: would conference really throw out someone who looked like a winner in an emotional spasm? No, as it turned out, they wouldn’t (though Labour ended up nationalising the railways and a sizable proportion of the banking sector anyway).

Miliband does not have those advantages Blair did. He is also taking on a different part of the Labour movement. Blair’s prime opponents were the unions; Miliband’s are the MPs. That said, to get it through, he’ll still need union support which has implications for policy or prospects elsewhere.

In doing so, he is really engaging in high stakes politics. MPs are just about the only people who bring down party leaders between elections and he is giving them the means to do so. Were they to refuse to give up a right which it’s easy to defend on democratic grounds (and which they did, shortly before he became leader), it would seriously undermine Miliband, possibly fatally: a refusal would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence by the PLP in him.

It’s rather like Miliband handing his MPs a loaded gun and asking them to shoot themselves – they may prefer to direct their fire elsewhere.

Looking at this question a different way, if a Labour MP, disillusioned with Miliband’s leadership and not foreseeing any great prospect of improvement wanted him out, how would he or she go about getting a best case scenario: a clean, swift removal with his replacement untainted in the process?

It all comes back to the question about ruthlessness. The Conservatives would do it and have done it; the Lib Dems proved themselves in the last parliament up to removing liabilities as leader. Will Labour? One thing’s clear: if they don’t take this chance, they almost certainly won’t take any other before the general election.

David Herdson


Are the LDs on the way to regaining Labour tactical votes?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

The Friday column by Henry G Manson

Yesterday Mike asked if the NHS changes are helping Nick Clegg’s party? They don’t appear to be in terms of substantially changing the opinion polls for the yellows which is scraping around 8-12% depending on which poll you look at. However I am increasingly of the view the NHS will bear fruit in future elections and that a fair few Labour people to consider tactically voting for them to hurt Conservatives again in 2015.

Looking back over the last year it cannot be stressed enough how much goodwill was lost from Labour supporters when the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Conservatives. Rightly or wrongly many who voted for the Lib Dems at the last election did so from an anti-Conservative position. So far we’ve seen total support for George Osborne’s budget with Danny Alexander fronting the defence along with spectacular broken pledges on tuition fees. Together it means that tactically voting from reds to yellows is likely to be at its lowest ebb. By no means will it be easy to shift this.

However recent resistance from the Lib Dems over Lansley’s health plans has been something of a breakthrough moment and will not be forgotten – even if the motivation for this originated from the party’s grassroots rather than high command.

Will that alone be enough to grant Labour voters ‘permission’ to vote tactically again? Perhaps not. But if we hear more Lib Dems voices joining Ed Davey in opposing new strike laws then this certainly will help with public sector workers – many of whom are trade union members and had backed the yellows in the past and are repelled by the likes of Eric Pickles.

The biggest challenge to this tactical recovery is that at some point Labour supporters will be looking at the Liberal Democrats for greater flexibility if the government’s economic programme if job creation and growth continues to underperform. It was Chris Huhne who said the government “shouldn’t be lashed to the mast” to its existing programme if circumstances change. Whether the Lib Dems will ever be strong enough to challenge Osborne on the Conservative economic policy remains to be seen. I’m not holding my breath.

We don’t have an abundance of polling evidence on tactical voting just yet, but my instinct is that it’s wrong to judge the yellow team on their current poll standings. They are putting in place building blocks to win back some tactical votes from Labour once more.

Put alongside their reknowned incumbancy boost then this could benefit the Lib Dems in 2015 and keep hold of a number of key seats.

It could well be that these contests are what determine the outcome of the next general election. It’s something worth watching out for.

Henry G Manson is a Labour activist (Twitter @henrygmanson)

  • Mike Smithson is on holiday until July 4th


Mark Gill on the private/public sector worker divide?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

(Mike Smithson is on holiday for the next 11 days and one of the features on PB during his absence is a series of articles by Mark Gill – former head of political research at Ipsos-MORI and co-author with Bob Worcester, Roger Mortimore, Paul Baines of Explaining Cameron’s Coalition)

Does Labour’s lead amongst the latter matter?

Labour are way more popular among public sector workers, but how much does this matter?

One of the benefits of the detailed data tables produced by the polling firms is that it allows us to analyse the views of different segments of the public. Given the scale of the cuts to the public sector and the potential for future massive public sector strikes, analysing VI data by which sector people work in is informative.

Labour thrash the Tories among public sector workers. According to analysis of Ipsos MORI data, more than half (52%) of public sector workers intend to vote Labour in a general election – way ahead of the 21% support for the Conservatives and the 14% for the LibDems. And Labour’s lead among this group has increased over the year – a 5.5% Con-Lab swing since June-Sep last year.(*)

However, this also serves to remind us that the Tories have never been particularly popular among the public sector and winning this group is unlikely to be a requirement for Tory electoral success.

Among those working in the private sector, 40% intend to vote Conservative, 4 points more than the 36% supporting Labour. And crucially, over the year, support for the Conservatives among private sector workers hasn’t shifted. Labour’s gains (up 4) have been at the expense of the LibDems (down 6).

And of course, even though the public sector may be much more vocal in the media; for every one public sector voter there is at least another three who work in the private sector.

(*) Footnote – in conducting this analysis we have combined data from 3 waves of Ipsos MORI’s Political Monitor (Jun-Sep 2010 and Apr-Jun 2011) to provide a more statistically robust base for comparison.

Public sector Private sector
June – Sept 2010    
Con 26% 40%
Lab 46% 32%
LD 20% 16%
Oct – Dec 2010    
Con 24% 44%
Lab 53% 29%
LD 14% 12%
Jan – Mar 2011    
Con 24% 43%
Lab 52% 34%
LD 13% 12%
Apr – May 2011    
Con 23% 41%
Lab 50% 36%
LD 14% 9%
Con -3% 1%
Lab 4% 4%
LD -6% -5%


Can anybody see anything other than a LAB hold?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Could the SNP band-wagon continue?

Exactly a week on from tonight the polls will close in the first by-election of the new parliament caused by the demise of the MP elected at the May 2010 general election.

All the other contests have been either prompted by the courts in one way or another – Phill Woolas/Eric Illsley – or else because the May 5th winner wanted to fight an election for a position outside Westminster – Sir Peter Soulsby in Leicester South and Gerry Adams.

It was the death of the Labour incumbent in Inverclyde, David Cairns, at the age of just 45 that has prompted this contest.

Given what happened to Labour just seven weeks ago in the Holyrood elections there’ve been suggestions that maybe, just maybe, Alex Salmond’s team might be in with a shout.

The party did brilliantly there last month and I’m being told that David Cairns was as hugely popular local MP who had a large personal following.

The other possible factor, I am told, is that there might just be a sharp anti-Labour tactical voting.

I’ve been talking round today and am not convinced to have punt – certainly not enough to risk any cash on the outcome even with 5/2 being available against the SNP. The best Labour price is 2/7.

Mike Smithson


Is the NHS helping Clegg’s ratings recovery?

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011


And shouldn’t Ed being faring better amongst ex-LDs?

As well as this morning’s voting intention figures we now have details of the pollster’s leadership ratings which have been asked in the same form for nearly a third of a century.

As can be seen Cameron is almost at a standstill, Clegg sees an upturn from the previous seriously poor figures and Ed Miliband continues to struggle.

In spite of Labour benefitting more than the Tories in the fall of LD support since the election; Cameron’s approval ratings among those who voted LibDem in 2010 are higher than for the other two leaders – Cameron is on –15 and both Miliband and Clegg on –28.

Could this mean that Labour’s progress in attracting former LibDem voters in VI polls shouldn’t be taken as guaranteed support in the ballot box, especially so long as Cameron is (relatively) more popular.

As to their views of their own leaders these are the party splits:-

  1. Tory voters split 84% satisfied to 13% dissatisfied on David Cameron
  2. Labour voters split 53% satisfied to 36% dissatisfied on Ed Miliband
  3. Lib Dem voters split 54% satisfied to 44% dissatisfied on Nick Clegg

In other findings  Labour has extended its lead over the Conservatives as having the best policies on healthcare. The blues reds have always led on this issue, and the latest data shows the best position for the party for almost ten years.  However, it is nowhere near the dominance that Labour had on the NHS during the 1990s.

The Lib Dems get a higher figure on having the best policies on health than those who say they’ll vote for them.

Mike Smithson


LAB down to its smallest MORI share since December

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

YouGov now looking even more isolated

The June political monitor by Ipsos-MORI for Reuters is out and has both coalition partners moving up at the expense of Labour who are now back in the 30s for the first time from the firm since last December.

Labour are down three at 39 with with the Tories up two at 37 and the LDs up one at 11. The shares are almost identical to the ICM poll that was published on Monday night.

This means that all the pollsters, bar YouGov, now have Labour with a maximum lead of just two points. Last night YouGov’s daily poll reported a Labour lead of six points with figures of 42/36/9.

YouGov is the only firm using newspaper readership weightings which can create sampling issues.

Last month MORI became the top pollster at the Scottish election and was joint top at the general election alongside ICM and Populus.

We have not yet got the key leader satisfaction ratings from the pollster – I expect they’ll be published in the next few hours. I’ll be covering that and the other issues in the poll when we have the full information available.

Mike Smithson