Archive for January, 2013


Davd Herdson: Cameron must be clear that he might vote No

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

He can’t go on dodging the question?

David Cameron’s speech on the UK’s future relationship with the EU has certainly set the political agenda for the week. Almost as soon as he made it, however, two questions were asked that will dog him if he continues to answer as he did at the time: what specifically do you want back, and what happens if you don’t get them?

One danger that lies in the former is that the list of red lines will be necessarily short, both in order to ‘win’ more should the negotiations take place and so as not to start with too high a bid that the other EU members can’t accept, which will not satisfy the more ardent and insistent sceptics. Another is it’s the wrong question. Cameron’s speech was not really about opt-outs (though he’d probably settle for that should it come to it), but about rolling back the frontiers of the EU to all members; putting the principle of subsidiarity into practice. In other words, it wasn’t about winners and losers or picking and choosing.

That’s important because he is addressing directly the reason why the Tories went from being the pro-EC party in the 1980s to the sceptical one, and vice-versa with Labour, and why – if he is successful in clearing the many hurdles between now and 2017 – it may be again. Put simply, it’s about rejecting the Delors social policy and regulation / standardisation agenda and getting back to competition. Or, if you prefer, it’s an attempt to ingrain a centre-right rather than centre-left agenda at the Commission.

    It is not inevitable that Conservatives will always be sceptical or hostile to the EU but it is inevitable that they will be to the kind of body it is now.

Which brings us to the second question: what if he can’t get his way? The reality is that he’d have no choice but to vote and campaign for No but to do so, having made a passionate case for membership in principle, would be deeply, probably fatally, damaging to him – which is why he almost certainly won’t say he didn’t get his way. The bigger problem would be if his party disagreed and he couldn’t sell the deal to them.

That, however, is more than four years down the line. For the moment, he’ll lose support if he doesn’t at least admit the possibility. Of course no-one goes into negotiations expecting to fail but they do usually know the consequences of doing so. In this case, as everyone else can work out the consequences, it does no harm to admit them. In any case, as Conservative waverers are probably the swing vote in an In/Out referendum, Cameron’s ability and willingness to lead his party on the issue is of no small interest to other EU members.

Will it make a big difference to the outcome of the next election? Not hugely of itself, though a Tory Party united (and hence quietish) on a European policy will improve his chances. Of much more significance are the record rise in employment over the last year, and the fourth contraction in GDP in five quarters, and which one of those trends sustains.

David Herdson


EdM’s oppositon to an EU referendum could ensure that LD switchers are kept on board

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Henry G Manson: Marginal voters matters more

This week’s stance taken by Labour on the EU caused some surprise among one or two folk. The Guardian reported that some Labour MPs were twitchy about it. Many of them had tactical concerns that Labour would appear that it was effectively not trusting the public. That is a risk. Others such as the party’s Policy Review Chair Jon Cruddas had been on the record calling for an EU referendum for some time partly because he believed the ‘political class’ was too distant from voters on this. Some journalists wondered if it was a genuine gaffe for Ed Miliband to be so clear in PMQs about not having a referendum any time remotely soon.

    So far all the articles on polling, principle and political calculation on Europe don’t quite cut it and capture the new thinking among Labour strategists.

They recognise that the formation of a coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has in electoral terms been a once in a generation gift. The majority of those that voted Lib Dem in 2010 no longer supporting the yellows with and the bulk have shifted towards Labour recoiling at what happened. However there is no complacency whatsoever among key Labour figures and they are not taking that support for granted.

There’s one thing former Lib Dems saying to a pollster in 2012 or 2013 that they’re planning to vote Labour, and another thing actually voting in the general election in 2015.

There’s also a small but significant chance that Nick Clegg may decide to stand down as Lib Dem leader and be replaced by someone to the left making them a more attractive prospect once more. Vince Cable or Tim Farron could conceivably boost their party’s appeal and regain some votes from those that have supported the Lib Dems in the past. More of a risk is that Labour could do something that would remind those voters of the reason why they didn’t (or stopped) vote Labour in the recent past.

The most detailed and impressive piece of work on the importance of these voters has come from the Fabian Society. Their findings from last year remain on the mind of several Shadow Cabinet Ministers. Their report essentially argues that if Labour keeps hold of these new voters it won’t need to win considerable numbers of Conservatives to achieve a working majority. There’s something in it.

On Wednesday Steve Richards has made a good argument that David Cameron is less likely to be Prime Minister after his EU stance by making it even harder to work with Liberal Democrats in the case of a hung parliament.

    I’m sure Ed’s response in the Commons was emboldened by the belief that former Lib Dem voters now backing Labour would particularly welcome his clear stance on Europe.

    Just as Cameron was trying to eat into the UKIP tribe of voters, Ed Miliband really wants and needs to keep hold of those Lib Dems that are with him for now.

Whichever leader achieves and retains that broader coalition of support longest is the most likely to win the next election.

Henry G Manson


The speech: Dave sees increases in his personal quality ratings although voting intention numbers have barely moved

Friday, January 25th, 2013


Can we expect referendum boost for the blues in tonight’s LD-CON local election spats?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Harry Hayfield prevews the contests

Highbridge and Burnham Marine (Sedgemoor)

Last Local Election (2011): Conservatives 31, Labour 13, Liberal Democrats 2, Independents 2 (Conservative overall majority of 14)

Result at last election (2011): Lib Dem 782 Ind 705 Ind 543 Lib Dem 528 Con 516 Lib Dem 511 Con 473 Con 471 Lab 451 Lab 379 Lab 351 (1 Lib Dem HOLD, 2 Independent GAINS from Lib Dem)

After last week’s urban dominated by-elections, we travel to the rural wilds for this week’s by-elections. The first of which is held in a part of the country that my grandmother knows very well indeed. Burnham on Sea in Somerset, where as a child she would spend many a weekend and summer holiday in the town. Indeed, Sedgemoor (located just below North Somerset and above Taunton Deane) is home to some of the prime spots that make the county of Somerset such a Conservative / Liberal Democrat battleground at the Westminster level. At the local level though Labour have been starting to make a reappearance. In 2003 there were 14 Labour councillors elected (against 35 Conservatives and a Liberal Democrat). At the next elections, the Liberal Democrats made three net gains all at the expense of Labour suggesting that the Labour influence in Somerset was starting to wane, but then in 2011 Labour gained two seats (with the Conservatives losing four and the Liberal Democrats losing two). The other two gains were Independents and although this by-election is classed as a Lib Dem defence (Cllr. Leach resigning the seat) the Independents much certainly fancy their chances at taking the third seat that they missed a little over 18 months ago by just 75 votes.

Ross on Wye West (Herefordshire)

Last Local Election (2011): Conservative 30, Independents 23, Liberal Democrats 3, Greens 1, Labour 1 (Conservative overall majority of 2)

Result at last election (2011): Lib Dem 617 Con 597 Ind 503 Ind 522 Con 383 Lib Dem 368 It’s Our County 97 (1 Lib Dem HOLD, 1 Con HOLD)

Herefordshire was created as a unitary authority as a replacement for the old Hereford and Worcester county council (with Worcestershire remaining as a county council and therefore up for election in May). In 2003, it seemed to fit the standard history of the Westminster elections as a Conservative / Liberal Democrat battleground with the Conservatives winning 21 councillors and the Liberal Democrats 16 councillors with Labour lagging behind on just 4, but as in many rural parts of the country the Independents held a sizeable block of support winning 17 councillors in those elections and denying the Conservatives an overall majority. By 2007, the Conservatives were on the march gaining ten councillors in those elections and giving them their overall majority. The Independents won 14 seats (-3), the Liberal Democrats won 10 (-6) and Labour won just 2 (-2) with the Greens winning their first seat on the authority. Many people expected that given the Conservative gain of Hereford and South Herefordshire at the general election from the Liberal Democrats that the Conservative domination of Herefordshire would continue in 2011 and that the Liberal Democrats would be wiped out by the Independents or Labour. Acutally the reverse was true. The Conservatives lost a seat overall (to 30) and whilst the Independents did indeed make gains (taking them to 23) and the Liberal Democrats lost seven (to 3), Labour also lost a seat, suggesting that the Independents were moving towards a position of control. Since then however a new party has firmly arrived on the scene with “It’s Our County” making several appearances at local by-elections in the county and even making quite an impact on one local by-election over the past year. So, can they make it all the way to the top of the pile and win in Ross on Thursday? Well, just like last Thursday I shall be monitoring the Twitter feeds from Burnham and Ross and retwerting anything of interest as the night goes on.


Mapping the CON polling bounce following the Cameron EU veto at 0400 Dec 9th 2011

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Correctly there has been a lot of discussion over the timing of the fieldwork for today’s YouGov and I thought it useful to look at what happened on the night of the Cameron EU veto Dec 8/9 2011.

Fieldwork for the poll began on the evening before as per usual and continued the following day. It happened at 0400 on the morning of the 9th and got widely reported in the breakfast bulletins and thereafter.

As can be seen from the chart there was an immediate impact. The CON share went up from 35% to 38% growing over the next few days to 41%.

So that news relating directly to the EU saw an uplift of 6% over a week with a fair bit happening in the poll that was in the field overnight.

Cameron’s bg EU referendum statement was made at 0800 yestrday and was being widely covered in the morning bulletins. Yet there was no change in the CON share on the day before.

Tomorrow morning’s poll could be very interesting. I’m also hoping that we’ll another survey.

Mike Smithson

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LAB lead moves up 2 points to 12 percent in first post-speech polling

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

We need to wait till weekend before getting proper picture

If YouGov were following their usual pattern fieldwork would have started at 5pm on Tuesday evening and continued until 5pm yesterday. We do not know what proportion of the sample was before and afterwards and whether there was any difference in the response pattern.

We’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning before we get the first full post speech survey.

    But the main elements of the speech of were widely reported on Tuesday evening so what Cameron announced yesterday did not come as a total surprise.

On top of that EdM’s comment at PMQs on LAB’s opposition to a referendum came towards the end of the fieldwork period.

Even so the Tories might be a bit disappointed with LAB and the LDs feeling a bit relieved.

We’ll get a better picture by the weekend.

Mike Smithson

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The historic political announcement that since early afternoon has been the 10th most read story on the BBC news website

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013


Miliband might regret ruling out a referendum

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

He should have left himself with some wiggle-room

Having watched the exchange several times I think that EdM might not have been planning to make such a commitment at this stage.

It’s certainly been seen as a slip – and not only by those who’ve been hailing the PM’s speech.

EdM should have had a form of words that got over his message but left some room to change his mind as events develop. He’s got enough smart people advising him and this looks like a mistake.

Mike Smithson

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