Archive for the ' General Election' Category


After last week’s shock YouGov 4% CON lead LAB edges back ahead

Friday, February 16th, 2018

And the female split is with the red team once again

One of the things that always seems to happen is that when a shock poll comes out it that people try to rationalise it with their own reasons and theories.

So the analysis of last week’s YouGov 4% CON lead poll showed that there had been marked move by female voters towards the Conservatives. All sorts of ideas were put forward including that maybe Labour, and Mr Corbyn, were being hit by the “MumsNet” effect because of support in the trans debate by the party.

I am told that there had been a fierce debate on Mums Net about the trans issue with huge threads and strong views being expressed.

I pointed out at the time that YouGov was alone with its women moving to CON trend and we should wait for other data.

Now we have it in the form of another YouGov poll with different top line results and gender voting split.

What we are seeing is the limitations of polling and the dangers of taking a cross tab and looking at it in isolation.

At this stage in the electoral polls are not seeking to predict the next election but acting as a barometer on current opinion.

So essentially we are where we were with the two main parties very much level pegging.

Mike Smithson


The hard way. Gaining votes is not enough

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

In some ways, the 2017 election went as expected for the Conservative party. When the election was called on 18 April, the seven polls that had been published so far that month had averaged 43.3%. When the election was held on 8 June, the Conservatives tallied 42.4%. Any soothsayer would have been happy with that degree of accuracy. This represented a net increase of 5.5% of the vote share on the 2015 result. Clearly the Conservative message gathered new recruits.

Yet the Conservatives lost seats, lost their majority and came perilously close to losing their grip on government. This was not part of the plan.

What went wrong? It’s important to note that the problem for the Conservatives was not on the vote-gathering side. For all the criticisms of Theresa May’s election campaign, the Conservatives gained votes and, as noted above, polled pretty much what you would have expected them to at the start of the campaign.

No, the problem for the Conservatives was that Labour, completely unexpectedly, got their act together. Labour’s average in those same seven polls in early April 2017 was 25.4%. On 8 June they tallied 40%, increasing their vote share by 9.6%. In the meantime, both the Lib Dems and UKIP collapsed. In early April, those two parties looked set to get more than a fifth of the vote between them. In the end, UKIP and the Lib Dems together didn’t get into double digits.

The Conservatives will reflect that winning additional support is a Pyrrhic victory if the price for doing so is to see their opponents make greater gains. One more such victory and they will indeed be lost.

What we have seen is a re-emergence of the two party system. 82.4% of the electorate voted for one or other of Labour and the Conservatives. Their combined vote share last exceeded their 2017 tally in 1970 (who knows, perhaps EU membership caused party fragmentation). This is a truly remarkable shift, given that Labour and the Conservatives last exceeded 70% combined in 2001.

It appears that Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn have between them converted most of the None Of The Above into One Of The Above, whether for positive or negative reasons. Labour have co-opted aggrieved Remain supporters and those enthused by Jeremy Corbyn and his policies. The Conservatives have brought excited Leave supporters and those horrified by Jeremy Corbyn into the fold. (Aggrieved Remain supporters who were also horrified by Jeremy Corbyn and excited Leave supporters who were enthused by Jeremy Corbyn appear to have broken mainly for Labour in each case.)

The net effect has left Labour and the Conservatives at something close to parity. Neither on reflection should be particularly happy about this state of affairs. The scope for squeezing other parties further looks limited outside Scotland. There is always the possibility of converting non-voters into voters, but 2017 non-voters are going to need to be given a reason that they did not then possess for getting out to the polling booth. The nature of such a reason is not immediately obvious.

So for either to be able to gain a solid overall majority, in all likelihood it is going to need to see the other main party’s 2017 coalition disintegrate or at least flake away. And this needs to happen while they hold their own coalition together. That is quite a balancing act.

There has been a lot of commentary on the static nature of the polls at present. Why is this surprising? The two drivers of votes last year, Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn, remain much as they were. Britain has not yet left the EU, the terms on which it will do so have not yet been agreed and so few have changed their minds about the merits of Brexit. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn remains in situ.

By the time of the next election, the date of Brexit will in all probability be a historical event. Britain, however, will probably still be in the throes of negotiating its longterm deal with the EU. That process hasn’t actually started yet, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. If you’re sick of hearing about Brexit now, I suggest you stock up on antiemetics for the next decade.

Will the public have decisively changed its mind about Brexit? Candidly, I doubt it. The two sides have become ever more entrenched and the government has done nothing to heal divisions. I can easily imagine Brexit being as strong a driver of votes, especially on the Remain side. One B-Day has passed, Leavers might, however, move onto other subjects of concern which might not be so naturally addressed by the Conservatives. This looks distinctly awkward for the Conservatives.

What of the other vote driver, Jeremy Corbyn? He will by 72 by the time the next election is due. Will he really stand for a five year term as Prime Minister in 2022? It can’t be ruled out but my guess is that he would prefer if he could to pass the baton onto a reliable member of the next generation.

If I’m right, both the pro-Corbyn part of Labour’s coalition and the anti-Corbyn part of the Conservatives’ coalition will be far shakier than before. That would probably be riskier for Labour than the Conservatives, given Jeremy Corbyn’s seven nation army appeal to younger voters. If I’m wrong, Britain will see stasis on the other vote-driver from 2017 as well.

To sum up, after a period of volatility Britain might be about to see a period of trench warfare, with neither side making substantial advances and both struggling to consolidate their recent gains. If so, we can expect to see both sides going over the top regularly and a constant feeling of senseless waste.

Alastair Meeks


Case Not Proven: The suggestion that there’s been a LAB>CON shift amongst women

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

This has only been picked up by YouGov

With the apparent sharpish shifts that we’ve seen in recent days in the polls to the Conservatives there has, inevitably, been a lot of examination of the detailed data.

One thing that’s featured is there’s said to have been a noticeable move by women voters from LAB to CON who, in recent times, have mostly leaned more to Labour. This has led to a lot of speculation as to why this has happened including one suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn had alienated the Mumsnet audience over transgender issues!

The discussion come out of detailed analysis of the latest YouGov/Times poll that had CON overall 4 points ahead.

In order to establish whether others pollsters have found the same I’ve produced the above chart based on the datasets which have just come out.

This is based on the three polls so far in February:

Opinium/Observer; fieldwork Feb 6-8; sample 2002
YouGov, fieldwork Feb 5-6; sample 2000
ICM, fieldwork Feb 2-4; sample 2021

The chart is self-explanatory. YouGov is showing very different gender splits from ICM and Opinium. It might be that YouGov is supported by other polling but at the moment there’s nothing to reinforce the analysis based on one poll.

There’s an aspect of male-female splits in polling that is quite important. Women have a tendency to be less certain about their likelihood to vote which means their responses are discounted in the certainty computations. So the numbers we see have a male response bias which is not supported by actual voting behaviour.

Has there been a move as described? Maybe. Maybe not. We need to see it in more polls.

Mike Smithson


The star who plays a LAB MP in tonight’s new BBC political thriller is worried about state of the party

Monday, February 12th, 2018

Why Don Brind thinks he shouldn’t be

David Mars is a Labour MP worried about the state of his party and at odds with his leader. Described as a “frustrated but hard-working member of the shadow cabinet” the central character in tonight’s BBC2 thriller Collateral “despairs at the state of the Labour Party and many of its policies .. he’s not afraid to be outspoken and on more than one occasion he finds himself in hot water with the party leader.”

John Simms, the man who plays the fictional MP, is also worried about what he sees as Labour’s ineffectiveness. He told the Big Issue  “Everything is all fucked. And until Trump leaves the Oval Office, I will not think we are not fucked,” he says.

“Every day I am expecting the end of the world. It is terrifying. I despair. Like most people, I am horrified by all of it at the moment.

“This government is in disarray, and I can’t see any immediate challenge from Labour, really. They are standing in front of an open goal and no one is really putting it in the net.”

You wouldn’t have to go far at Westminster to find a real life Labour MP to echo the worries of John Simms and his character. Even before the run of recent polls showing the Tories in the lead there was a nagging concern that Labour is level pegging with this uniquely incompetent government.

“Why, then, is the leadership not more depressed? The question is posed and answered by the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush, the journalist you turn to for the best insights into what is going on in Team Corbyn.

The leader’s inner circle, he says, reckon last year’s election realigned politics – the trouble is “that realignment wasn’t enough to deliver a Labour government.” The reason they remain upbeat, says Bush, “is a belief that time favours Labour. The government will have to deliver a Brexit deal that falls short of May’s rhetoric, the public realm, particularly the NHS, will continue to be under growing pressure, and the housing market will continue to shut out growing numbers of voters under 45.”

    Another way of putting it is that Team Corbyn believe are doing the right things and will eventually get the reward.

For instance, having recently chided Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott for not campaigning hard enough on crime I was delighted to see her boss get stuck into the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions – winning this plauditfrom Tony Blair’s biographer John Rentoul: “ I never thought I’d say it but Jeremy Corbyn manipulates PMQs brilliantly. Simply by raising the subject of crime, Corbyn is winning.”

More substantially there is a great deal of policy development going on, some of which was on show at last weekend’s Alternative Models of Ownership conference. The top line was the assertion by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell that public ownership would have zero cost for taxpayers.

A friend who attended the conference was mightily impressed by John McDonnell’s “careful and reasonable-sounding presentation”.

For the record, my friend is not easily impressed – definitely not a Corbynista rather a very savvy, business-friendly former MP.

What came across was that “while the Tories were obsessing about Brexit and who was going to be their next leader, Labour was putting together a serious agenda for government.”

The plan is to use Labour’s powers at council level effectively (especially if Labour win more in May’s elections) to make the blueprint for municipalisation work. “This would improve Labour’s electoral chances even more.”

On the issue of privatisation and outsourcing “McDonnell accused the Tories of dogma and an ideological commitment to an idea they knew didn’t work. The alternative model being presented was free of dogma and ideology but was looking at “what works” (very Blair).”

The verdict on the conference — “The Labour Party seems to have a very clear strategy of what it needs to do between now and the general election while no-one else seems to.

So how to answer John Simm’s point that Labour can’t put the ball into an empty net? What more could Team Corbyn be doing at the moment?

The answer, rather boringly, is Not Much.

Don Brind


A third pollster now reports that TMay’s Tories are in the lead

Saturday, February 10th, 2018


This’ll make it harder to oust TMay

After a period since the Jube general election when LAB toppped just about every published poll there’s been a sharp change in February.

Latest out is Opinium for tomorrow’s Observer. These are e numbers with changes on last month.

CON 42 (+2)
LAB 39 (-1)
LDt 7 (+1)
UKIP 5 (n/c)

So three separate polling organisations all have the direction of travel moving to the blue team.

This will help reinforce the beleaguered PM as she tries to hang on but LAB, no doubt, will carry on with the man who barely talks about the issue of the moment – Brexit.

Mike Smithson


Eight months on from GE17 how LAB doing is performing in the polls compared with earlier main opposition parties at the same stage

Friday, February 9th, 2018

David Cowling, the leading election analyst and former head of BBC political research, has produced an excellent paper which asks the question of why Corbyn’s Labour is not doing better in the polls.

The response that is coming from the party to recent surveys is to refer back to the polling what happened on June 8th and the fact that party did better than most, though not all, of the surveys on the day itself.

The concluding part of the Cowling analysis looks at how other main opposition parties have been doing in the polls eight compared to the election outcome. He concludes:

“… one is left to wonder at the under-performance of Labour, post-2017, especially given the state of the Conservative party that they are facing. Mrs May still has higher ratings as the best candidate for Prime Minister than Mr Corbyn. The Labour leader has never once achieved a positive rating in the Ipsos MORI time series on satisfaction/dissatisfaction with party leaders, unlike every other Labour Opposition leader since the 1970s. The Conservatives are still better regarded than Labour in terms of managing the economy. And, despite the fact that a clear majority of voters believe the Conservatives are handling the Brexit negotiations badly, they are still preferred over Labour as the party most likely to secure the best outcome.

Labour can justifiably point to a number of issues where they are preferred to the Conservatives, including the NHS, Housing, Education and Unemployment; and they are seen as the party most on the side of ‘ordinary’ people. But why does this not translate into increased political support? It is not as if Labour is currently struggling against other strong contenders for Conservative votes: UKIP has totally collapsed and the Lib Dems have only reached double figures in one opinion poll (out of 68) since the 2017 election.

The Westminster graveyard is littered with the corpses of party leaders who claimed it would be “alright on election night”. As increasing numbers of people are observing, if Labour cannot put the Conservatives on the canvas when Mrs May is leading them, then what chance will they have against another Conservative leader? Labour has been lucky that everyone’s attention has been on Conservative woes. That luck will not last forever.”

Mike Smithson


What LAB has not factored in is that TMay’s successor will get a huge polling boost and won’t surely be as bad

Friday, February 9th, 2018

A new CON leader will be a very different proposition for Corbyn

The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has an excellent piece linked to above on how the red team is viewing their little polling hiccup. It is staggeringly complacent with some in the party, apparently, believing that because some, though by no means all of the polls got GE17 wrong then the same could be happening again.

Certainly LAB was helped last year by the very long, seven week, election campaign which meant that the period under which the broadcasting balance rules prevailed was far longer than usual. That won’t happen in 2022. Even if the election is earlier the campaign period will be far far shorter.

    But there is one factor that nobody has mentioned and which could play a very big part. We must assume that the Tories will not going into the next election with Mrs May as the flag carrier. There will be a new leader and that leader’s great strength initially will be that he/she is not the failed Mrs May

Previous experience tells us that when prime minister’s are replaced midterm then their successor gets a big polling boost. It happened in 1990 and early 1991 when John Major took over from Mrs Thatcher who had seen a Tory polling collapse. He had one great thing on his side which stayed with him until GE1992 – he was not Maggie.

Another example is June 2007 when Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair. The first few months of his leadership were dominated by a dramatic recovery by Labour in the polls and leader ratings with Cameron looking as though he was a loser It seemed a breath of fresh air that the Prime Minister was no longer Blair and Brown was judged in a very different way. That ended, of course, with the election that never was in the October.

We also saw the same turnaround in the polls for the Tories when Mrs May took over in July 2016. For nearly a year she could do no wrong with her honeymoon polling boost continuing really up to General Election day and the exit poll coming out.

Prime ministers starting in these circumstances are judged against the person they are replacing which, given what we know about TMay, should be an easy challenge.

That, of course, might not last all the way until the general election but it could. Who knows how Brown would have done if he had not let early election speculation get out of hand in 2007?

Mike Smithson


Those from elite schools continue to dominate the betting to succeed state-educated Theresa

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

It is perhaps worth remembering that for a 40 year period, until David Cameron was elected, the Tories made a point of choosing as leaders those who were from more humble backgrounds. So general election winners Heath, Thatcher, and Major all went to state schools – the latter not even going to university.

How things look so differently now as we contemplate who will succeed TMay who went to what is now a comprehensive near Oxford.

Rees-Mogg and Johnson, first and second favourites in the betting, are old Etonians. Next one down, Amber Rudd was at Cheltenham Ladies College.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has a weird entry in his Wikipedia listing on his prep school.

“Living in Somerset he regularly commuted to his family’s second home in Smith Square, London where he also attended independent boys’ school Westminster Under School.”

So the Rees-Moggs were not ready to put their son into the Somerset schools.

Going down the betting Hunt was at Charterhouse before going to Magdalen Oxford.

Does this all matter? Well it certainly makes it harder for them to paint Remainers as being the “elite”. There is nothing more elite than going to Eton.

Mike Smithson