Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Scotland and the electoral system: Why winning the next GE is huge ask of LAB

Friday, August 17th, 2018

The system bias is now strongly pro-CON

We all recall that at the 2005 general election Tony Blair’s Labour won the GB vote by a margin of just 3% but that was enough to give them an overall majority of 64. There was little doubt that the electoral system then favoured the red team.

Things have changed dramatically with the collapse of the LDs and the post-IndyRef rise of the SNP.

Even without the proposed new boundaries the electoral system is biased towards the Tories in that for the same vote share the blue team wins most seats. Thus feeding the recent CON 38% LAB 38% poll numbers into the Electoral Calculus seat calculator and find CON with 21 more MPs than LAB.

That is on the existing boundaries. If the latest Boundaries Commission plan goes through this autumn then the gap would by 40 seats. To put these numbers into context Corbyn’s LAB was seen to have had an extremely good GE2017 making overall net gains of 30 seats but still finished 56 seats behind the Tories.

    Perhaps the biggest reason the system no longer works for LAB is the failure of the party to recover in Scotland where it used to be so dominant as can be seen in the chart above showing the percentage of Scottish Westminster seats by party for each election since GE2001.

    Just imagine how GE2017 would have turned out if LAB had taken 41 of the 59 Scottish seats as it did at GE2005 and GE2010.

At GE2015 the SNP surge saw LAB reduced from 41 Scottish MPs to just one. Last year Corbyn’s party won 7 but the first past the post system meant that the SNP took the bulk of the seats north of the border with barely 37% of the Scottish vote. Scots LAB became the third party in Scotland behind the Tories.

Whatever national polls might be showing the Scotland’s only ones since the general election have had Corbyn’s party in an even worse position than the last election. Current projections based on the latest Scottish polls have Labour once again being reduced to a single Scottish MP.

Without a Scottish recovery the prospect of a Labour majority is very remote indeed.

Mike Smithson


That YouGov CON 4% lead poll looks very much out of line

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

An outlier or the a sign of the trend?

One of the problems with polling analysis is that the outliers tend to get much more publicity and attention than those that are broadly in line with everybody else. We saw that with the latest YouGov poll showeding Labour down at its lowest level since the general election four Points behind the Conservatives.

So I thought it a good idea to try to put it into context by reproducing the latest Wikipedia list of recent UK voting polls.

The two main parties are broadly neck and neck within the margin of error between them. Both Labour and the Conservatives are in the 30s which is somewhat down on where they were just three or four months ago. UKIP the greens and the Lib Dems are up the latter now getting double figures in the majority of surveys.

In terms of translating the current position in the seats Labour needs a margin of at least 2% in order to be sure of winning most seats. A big issue that could affect the outcome of the next election will come in the autumn when the boundary commission finish the report and this gets put to the House of Commons.

Will TMay push this to the vote? It gives her party an extra boost beyond its already favourable position.

Mike Smithson


The planned new boundaries give CON 40 more seats than LAB for the same national vote shares

Monday, July 30th, 2018

GB vote split C38/L38/LD10 on new boundaries: CON 40 seats ahead

This makes Corbyn’s task much harder

One of the big political developments that could have a huge impact on the outcome of the next general election will come in the next two or three months when the final report of the Boundaries Commission comes out.

Under what was agreed by Parliament seven years ago the number of MPs will be reduced from 650 to 600 and each constituency will be about the same size in terms of the number of voters.

For this to come into effect there needs to be a simple vote of the House of Commons and given that the DUP are not, as in earlier plans, going to be penalised then there must be a good chance that this will go through.

The above seat projections are by using the excellent calculator in Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus. They are based on what could happen if the country voted at the next election with Labour and the Conservatives on 38% each and the Lib Dems on 10%. I chose these numbers because they were the shares in the Ipsos and YouGov polls that came out at the end of last week.

    The critical thing here is that the Tories benefit so much more with a significant bias in its favour.

Even without the changes the Tories now benefit most from the system. Without the new boundaries the Baxter projection is that the Tories would be 21 seats ahead on the same 38% vote share as LAB.

About a month before Mrs May made her ill-fated decision to call the 2017 general election I wrote that there was little chance that she would go early because the benefits of the boundary changes were so favourable to the Conservatives that she would want to wait for these to be in force. Alas my prediction about there not being an early election proved to be wrong.

The big question now is whether Mrs May will seek to push the new boundaries through the Commons in the autumn and whether she will succeed. We cannot assume that all Conservative MPs will be happy with the proposal because of the reduction in the overall number and the fact that some might have to fight with neighbouring MPs in order to retain a place in the Commons.

But the gains for the blue team are so great and provide a very comfortable cushion against the prospect of a Labour victory.

Mike Smithson


A second Jewish LAB MP who has dared to criticise Team Corbyn on antisemitism faces party discipline

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

Meanwhile the latest Tweet that’s doing the rounds

This could play out very badly

After disciplinary steps were taken first LAB MP critic of the party’s antisemitism approach, Dame Margaret Hodge, there’s now news that another outspoken critic of the leadership, Ian Austin, is also to face action from the party.

What this does, of course, is keep the row in the public eye and create the impression of a divided party. It suggests that Team Corbyn’s answer to the crisis is get get tough on the internal critics in the party in the hope that this will eventually quieten down. Maybe it will but there’s a big chance that it won’t.

It is noticeable how at recent PMQs TMay has used the row to attack Corbyn and we should expect more of that. It gives the beleaguered Tory leader a peg to raise questions over Corbyn’s whole political background something that failed to resonate during the GE2017 campaign.

Clearly it is in TMay’s interest at this time to portray in Corbyn in the most negative light. The threat of him becoming PM is the main plank of her team’s efforts to maintain the semblance of party discipline during the Brexit split. You can expect a lot more of this in her conference speech.

    Uniting the blue team against the threat of a Corbyn government is made much easier if the actions of the LAB leadership itself provide the material.

It is noticeable that LAB’s lead in the polls has appeared to evaporate and the latest ones from YouGov and Ipsos in the past week both have CON and LAB level pegging on 38% each.

Mike Smithson


LAB takes clear leads in the GB polls but Scotland remains a problem

Monday, July 16th, 2018


Just 8 years ago it won 41 Scottish seats – latest polls have that down to 1

The two GB polls over the weekend from Deltapoll and Opinium were both very good for LAB showing clear leads which weren’t down to its share increasing but the biggest shares for UKIP since GE2017.

Certainly based on these figures if there was an early general election then Corbyn’s party would be in a strong position to become top party although an overall majority might be more of a struggle.

An issue, which I’ve raised before is that Scotland remains a massive problem for the party. We don’t see many Scotland only polls but the Survation one that came out at the end of last week was very much in line other surveys – the SNP progressing, the Tories in second place with Labour in third.

Even at GE2010 when LAB lost its UK-wide majority 41 of the 59 seats north of the border returned Labour MPs. The Scottish seat projections based on the latest polls have this down to a single MP. What used to be a certain stronghold is in danger of being wiped out.

In a House of Commons of 650 seats Corbyn’s LAB really needs to get closer to the LAB 41 seat GE2010 haul in Scotland. Unless it can do the swing needs to be higher in England and Wales.

Also we are just under four years away from the next general election and it is hard to see TMay, or her successor, using the processes laid down in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to go early.

I don’t buy the argument that a new CON leader would press the general election button even if the blue team returned to double digit leads.

Mike Smithson


For all the machinations of the past few days the betting is still on this Parliament running its full course

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It is hard to see the mechanics of an earlier election

Almost inevitably whenever there are big political developments taking place people start to speculate about whether there could be an early general election. It is certainly possible that should Mrs May fail to survive then her successor as Conservative leader might want to cement his or her position with the country by going early.

There is no constitutional reason at all why a new leader would have to call a general election. Mrs May didn’t feel the need to do so when she took over in July 2016 and made clear then that she would continue till the end of the Parliament. It was only after the Easter walking tour in Snowdonia last year that that view changed.

    It is always said, and this was borne out by what happened on June 8th last year, that those that seek to go to the country early risk getting punished by the voters. I’m sure the GE2017 experience has sunk deeply into the Conservative consciousness and that whoever replaces the Prime Minister will be reluctant to make that gamble.

The main reason for Theresa Mays successor to call an election would be to do what she was unable to do last year and secure a majority for the Conservatives. One of the problems with GE2017 is that putting your confidence in the polls is not necessarily a reliable guide to whether you will succeed.

Labour could try to force an early election but it would need to win a majority on a confidence motion against the government and simply the MP numbers are not there. Even if Mr Corbyn could persuade the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and the other small parties to back it he still would not have the votes to exceed the Conservatives plus the DUP.

Corbyn might also find that the likelihood of the SNP and LDs backing such a move has been undermined by Labour’s ambivalence on Brexit.

In spite of all that has happened in the past few days and the potential for even more serious Conservative splits I believe that the next election will be as planned in the summer of 2022.

Mike Smithson


Labour continues to struggle in Scotland where it used to hold 41 of the 59 seats

Friday, June 29th, 2018

But the low-hanging fruit for Corbyn’s party is still there

There is a new Scottish poll out this morning and the picture remains gloomy for LAB. As can be seen Panelbase still has the party in third place behind, of course, the SNP and the Conservatives.

What makes this particularly disappointing for Labour is that for decades Scotland was the bedrock of the party’a support throughout the UK and its dominance underpinned its parliamentary position. So at both 2005 and 2010 Scottish Labour had 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

It was, as we are all aware, the upheaval in politics north of the border in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum that changed everything. Although the SNP lost the referendum it attracted new support in a very major way in the aftermath. In 2015 it took 56 of the 59 Scottish seat.

That slipped back to 35 seats at GE2017 but the Tories were the main beneficiaries.

    But don’t write Scottish LAB off. Many of the SNP seats are held with very slim majorities and could be vulnerable to the red team with quite minor shifts.

In fact the SNP last time did not get above a 47% vote share in any of its 35 Scottish seats.

One of the reasons why I focus on Scottish polls is that there’s the potential for a lot of seat changes following the trend of the past two general elections. It has become the part of the UK with the most political turbulence.

All this this matters to LAB particularly because it needs to be making inroads in its former Scottish strongholds if it is to have any hope of getting close or exceeding the overall Conservative MP total at the next election.

Mike Smithson


Britain’s brittle stalemate

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Lewisham East reveals the essential weakness of all three national parties

Interpreting by-election results is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some, it’s true, are unambiguous in their outcome for one party or another. Lewisham East is not one such.

Labour can happily chalk up that they got the job done without fuss. They won the seat and no clear challenger arose. However, it was nothing like a ringing endorsement. The turnout was dire (only the 16th occasion since WW2 that the turnout in a by-election was less than half the previous general election, as Matt Singh notes in his excellent summary of the by-election). That alone is good evidence that there was no great enthusiasm for any of the competing parties (nor of any great desire to punish any of them either). With Labour’s vote share slumping by more than 15%, this was no great result to write home about. Much has been written about the gains by the Lib Dems but it should also be noted that the Greens and WEP took about 6% between them. Corbyn’s Labour should not be shipping votes to those sort of parties.

Not that the Tories can celebrate. There was the potential to do reasonably well in Lewisham, where the Party’s vote has been solid over the years. A low turnout combined with a 35% Leave share to go at while Labour and the Lib Dems fought on strongly Remain platforms should have formed the basis for holding more share than they did and for making a better fist of fighting for second place. As it happened, Labour’s troubles meant that there was a nominal Lab-to-Con swing of more than 4% but that’s small comfort (that said, Rod Crosby, once of this parish, would have said that fact pointed to a Con majority next election; I remain of the view that such methodology is overly deterministic). The best that can be said of the Tory performance is that there was no embarrassment, which is a low bar.

And the Lib Dems? Surely they had an outstanding result? Well, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, yes, they gained a swing of nearly 20% – the largest for 35 years against a Labour defence while Labour was in opposition – and they quintupled their vote share. However, on the other, these achievements were a consequence of not quite reversing the disasters of 2015 and 2017. Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the campaign, the Lib Dem vote share failed to match their general election share in the seat in 2010. A resurgence, yes, but expensively bought and not one that holds many lessons for broader elections.

The simple truth is that all the parties have serious weaknesses; something which shows up equally well in the opinion polls. There’s surely little doubt that were Labour led by a Blair, not only would the Conservatives not be polling in the forties but they wouldn’t even be in the thirties. Likewise, against a government easily comparable to John Major’s beleaguered administration, Labour doesn’t even have a lead and the Lib Dems are in single figures.

Digging below the voting intention questions gives even better evidence for the general lack of enthusiasm in the options on offer. In the most recent YouGov poll (11-12 June; Con lead +3), some 66% responded that they thought the government’s Brexit negotiations were going badly, including 40% of Tory voters; the net score of -45 for the well/badly balance was the worst yet recorded. Despite that, the Conservatives still had a lead of 10% over Labour as to which party would handle Brexit best.

On the face of it, the impression is of two immutable blocks of voters stuck in mutual hostility: the voting intention figures have barely shifted since the 2017 general election (there was a small swing to Labour immediately after it, which gave Labour a small lead, but that has now dissipated). However, to the extent that that’s true, it’s surely only so because of the number who are locked in because of fear of the other. Were that fear to lessen, not only would some be attracted directly but others, who felt the need to back the Tories out of fear of Corbyn, or Labour out of fear of the Tories and Brexit – for example – could explore other parties or abstaining. The stalemate is hard but brittle.

David Herdson