Archive for the 'Commons seat predictions' Category


How Scotland and the LD collapse almost completely reverse the bias in the electoral system

Friday, May 29th, 2015

The dramatic shift in Britain’s political landscape

As we all know one of the constants in British politics over more than a quarter of a century has been that the electoral system has been “biased” towards Labour. Essentially for a given vote share the red team will have more MPs than the blue one.

Well the big news from May 7th is that that is all over and now the Tories will get more seats for an equal vote share than Labour. This is largely because of the total LAB collapse in Scotland and the Lib Dem decline.

The details are set out in illuminating article by Tim Smith of the University of Nottingham just published. He writes:-

“The largest contributor to this shift was third party victories, which swung from a Labour lead of 21 seats to a Conservative lead of 39 seats. The pro-Labour element of this had been mainly due to the fact that there had been far more Liberal Democrat MPs in seats where the Conservatives would otherwise have won than in those where Labour would otherwise have won. The collapse of the Liberal Democrats to just 8 seats eliminated most of this. Meanwhile, the SNP landslide in Scotland then pushed the bias in the other direction making Labour the primary victim of third party wins…

..In the UK system the boundaries are not deliberately gerrymandered by partisan redistributions, but nevertheless, they now very much favour the Conservatives whose votes are much more efficiently distributed. When the parties’ vote shares are equalized, Conservative wins waste far fewer surplus votes than Labour, with the latter now tending to pile up larger but ultimately unnecessary majorities in safe seats. The reason for this big increase in Conservative efficiency was caused by their very strong performance in the right places, i.e. marginal seats, and this was helped by the large number of first term incumbents standing for re-election for the first time. Labour did best in its safest English seats.”

This means, of course, that new boundaries would make the system even more favourable to the Conservatives.

Mike Smithson


The Thanet S & Hallam polls fail to move the markets & CON a 75% chance to win most seats

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

This is a bet on seat distribution not national vote shares

One of the big things to remember as we get close is that the final seat totals are not governed by national vote share in some apparently pure manner but on the specific outcomes in 650 separate constituency battles fought under FPTP.

Clearly this time the traditional ways of estimating seats from polls numbers have been smashed to smithereens by the political earthquake in Scotland. We should treat the politics north of the Tweed like we do with Northern Ireland which has operated in its own political eco-system for half a century.

In England and Wales where the big LAB-CON battles will take place it is not inconceivable that the party that’s second on votes could come on top.

So much is determined by local activity and strength of the party’s organisations.

When I look at the Ashcroft seat polls where the outcome is tight I always check the voting numbers before turnout filtering comes in. Quite often, like in yesterday’s Ashcroft Swindon South poll the Tories were 2 points adrift before this calculation.

As I’ve observed many times in the key marginals the party machines’ objectives are to ensure that even the most marginal voters vote.

My reading of the most seats outcome is that CON leads but not by very much. We are 55-45

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Even with Scotland will LAB still be able to win more seats than CON for the same national vote share?

Friday, April 17th, 2015

The academic experts are divided over electoral bias

One of the massive questions hanging over the May 7th outcome is the impact of what we are all familiar with – electoral bias that has meant that there’s a long history of LAB getting more seats for the same vote share than the Tories.

A lot of this has been down to Scotland where last time 41 of the 59 seats went to LAB. That clearly is not going to be repeated but what about the rest of the rest? What about in England and Wales?

At the packed Political Studies Association event in Westminster I got very different answers from two if the country’s leading political scientists. Professor Stephen Fisher of Electionsetc said he thought that it did not now exist. But his colleague, Professor John Curtice, said it did.

Curtice pointed out that even with a mass of Scottish losses LAB can win an overall majority with a 5% lead on GB vote share. For the Tories the required vote lead is in the 7-11% region depending on how successful the blue team is in its battles for current Lib Dem held seats.

Both Curtice and Fisher have been and are still are leading members of the small academic team which for the last two elections has produced the almost perfect projections for the exit poll.

I’m with Curtice. I can’t see that things have change so much in England and Wales in a manner that would impact dramatically on seat distribution. Remember that in 2005 the Tories led LAB on votes in England yet the latter won 92 more seats.

At 2010 the Tories had a vote lead in England of 11.4%. Yesterday’s Ipsos-MORI poll had LAB 2% ahead there.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The big GE15 gamble is trying to work out what all the polling means in terms of seats

Monday, March 16th, 2015

And on that there is no clear cut picture

There is a huge divide both between academic groups and others like Martin Baxter’s long-standing Electoral Calculus.

Frankly I find it hard to work this one out and I guess that whatever happens it will be a big surprise on the night.

My long term GE15 bet has been CON ahead on votes – LAB ahead on seats.

Reminder the PB pre May 7th gathering tomorrow. The Shooting Star from 7pm

shooting star


Why the Tories could need to be 10% ahead in England and Wales just to stand still

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

What happened at GE2010 when you exclude Scotland

One of the reasons why the latest Electoral Calculus projection, see previous thread, appeared to be so good for LAB was the way Scotland and England/Wales were treated. This is the response I got from Martin Baxter on the computation:-

“The overall prediction is based on both the national (GB) polls and the Scotland-specific polls. For Scottish seats, the prediction is just based on the Scottish Westminster VI polls, and for England and Wales it is based on the GB polls (after allowing for Scotland).”

As can be seen from the chart the overall GB gap between CON and LAB was 7.3%. But because Labour did so well in Scotland last time excluding it makes a big different.This puts the overall gap between the two main parties in England/Wales at more than 10% which, theoretically, means that a gap at any level below that would see CON losing seats to LAB

The Tories, of course, are hopeful that they can make up some of this from the Lib Dems but as the Lord Ashcroft constituency polling has shown you can’t take gains from the yellows for granted.

Of course elections are not decided by national party popularity contests but by hard fought battles in each of the 650 seats where tactical and incumbency factors can come into play.

I plan to monitor the England/Wales swings closely in the coming four months. At GE2010 the Tories made nearly 100 gains there and they need to hold on to as many as possible.

Mike Smithson

Since 2004 – The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Even though Baxter has SNP taking 47 of the 59 Scottish seats his latest projection has LAB just 5 short of a majority

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

I can’t quite work out how Martin Baxter is handling his monthly predictions given the sharp rise of the SNP. From his latest data, out last night, he appears to have made his usual national computation and then over-ridden the Scottish seat data with his Scotland specific seat calculation.

The result, as can be seen, is that in the model the SNP are set to take 47 of the 59 Scottish seats.

    What is very striking is that even taking out the LAB seat losses to the SNP in Scotland the overall national numbers have Ed Miliband’s party just five off a majority.

The element that is driving this is clear from his polling average on which the model is based. Some good numbers for Labour in several December polls have produced a LAB vote lead of 3.18%.

A feature which will attract attention is that his model does not account for by-elections and puts UKIP on zero seats.

Anyway this is a good way to kick off New Year’s Day. What do people think is going to happen on May 7th – something that we’ll be speculating about right through into the early hours on May 8th.

My guess is that polling accuracy and whether the Tories are understated will play a big part in our discussions. We’ll be reminded of 1992 when the party’s best final poll had them 0.5% ahead and John Major’s party came out with a majority on a vote share lead of more than 7%.

Will GE2015 be another GE1992? I’ll let you know at about 5am on May 8th.

Mike Smithson

2004-2015: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


If you think that GE2015 is getting hard to understand check out Martin Baxter’s battle-ground map

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

BGround (1)

Martin Baxter, the ex-Cambridge University mathematiciion who has been running Electoral Calculus for two decades, has produced the above map that sets out the various outcomes and links them, based on party shares, to what could happen.

I reproduce it above. In a technical note Martin writes:-

” Map only shows movement for the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. It assumes the votes for other parties, including UKIP and the SNP, are fixed at current support levels. UKIP are not currently to predicted to win many seats, so they are not yet a factor in coalition permutations. Since other parties have 28% support nationally, the map is missing the top-right corner where the Conservative plus Labour total would be more than 72%.”

I don’t think that Martin has factored in any constituency polling of which there has been a lot, particularly from Lord Ashcroft. This has, for instance, UKIP holding Clacton as well as winning Thurrock. He also has not factored in the higher retention rate that the LDs are seeing in Lord A’s polling.

Whatever this is an excellent addition to our GE15 resources.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Why CON could still be losing seats to LAB even if it manages to get a 6% lead

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

The first target for the blues – to be doing better than last time

At GE2010 the Conservatives had a GB national vote share of 37% which was 7.3% bigger than Labour’s total of 29.7%.

So under a uniform national swing CON needs to be ahead by that margin simply to stop losing seats to LAB. That is the starting point for the party at GE15 – to do at least as well as they did last time.

    Thus it cannot be assumed that CON lead of 6% is sufficient for them to hang onto all they hold at the moment from LAB.

This all assumes a uniform swing and, of course, the whole political environment is very different with the rise of UKIP. But in terms of the impact on seats it is the gap between LAB and CON that historically has been the best measure. This at GE10 CON moved from being 3% behind LAB to 7.3% ahead.

Note that all the main national polls shares are on a GB basis rather than an all-UK one. For this purpose the Northern Ireland seats are left to one side. Thus it is the GB shares from 2010 that we work from. CON 37, LAB 29.7, LD 23.6.

Of course the Tories have hopes of taking LD seats but here there’s a huge challenge. As is widely known the yellows have a record of outperforming national swing in the seats that they hold, particularly where the existing MP is standing for re-election.

This is being shown again for GE15 in the Lord Ashcroft CON-LD marginals polling. Although on national numbers there’s a huge gap between blue and yellow Lord A’s latest constituency based findings have a LD to CON swing of just 2%. This would curtail many of the expected gains from current margins in national polls.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble