Archive for the ' General Election' Category


One of the architects of the worst general election campaign in history gives his thoughts on the campaign

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

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It looks like it was Labour’s ground game was crucial

Sir Lynton Crosby has spoken about the general election campaign which saw Mrs May squander David Cameron’s majority, The Guardian report that

Crosby cautioned against a simplistic analysis of the result, saying commentary had exaggerated the significance of the youth vote.

He said the failure of older voters to turn out for the election was just as significant.

The pollster also warned that the rise of third-party campaigning for Corbyn had a “significant influence” on the campaign. He made specific reference to the Momentum grassroots group, describing the trend of growing third-party campaigns, particularly from the left, as a “warning sign” for politics in Australia and the business community.

“I think that was a very important influence on the campaign,” he said.

“You can have all of the money in the world, and you can have all of the techniques in the world, but at the end of the day … you’ve got to get people out to vote, which means having people out on the ground, knocking on doors.”

I find this analysis interesting because the trend in politics across the world, including in the UK, has been away from traditional knocking on doors towards data driven micro targeting of voters. If we are returning to the traditional ways of campaigning that might be a real problem for the Tories, as they have fewer members than Labour, and that Tory members are generally much older than their Labour counterparts, all things being equal, this gives Labour a real advantage at the next general election.

Sir Lynton also observes ‘against assuming May’s leadership was over, citing the example of long-serving conservative Australian prime minister, John Howard, who was once labelled “Mr 14%” for his poor performance in the polls. “I’m not in the business of writing anyone off,” Crosby said.’ But it is difficult to take that analysis seriously because Sir Lynton thinks Mrs May ‘got a record vote’, when the reality is she didn’t.



Forgot the overall GE2017 main party vote totals – it is CON & LAB’s relationship with each other that matters

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Just a month to the day after the extraordinary general election many Tories, particularly those still loyal to the woman who caused their electoral disaster, continue to point to the overall 13.6m CON votes that were chalked up as though that had some great meaning.

This is real straw clutching and in no way excuses her disastrous decision to break her promise to call an election three years early and then to lose the CON majority.

Sure the Tory vote total was 2.3m up on what Cameron’s party achieved at GE2015 but, alas, it did not mitigate the June 8th failure. The reason of course, is that Labour’s vote total jumped by even more 3.5m.

For it is the relationship with LAB that continues to matter and how that impacts on seat totals.

Both LAB and CON vote totals were helped enormously by the overall increase in the number of votes cast and the 3.27m fall off in the UKIP vote to just 594k. In terms of seats that meant a change of one on 2015 to zero.

A good way of looking at the historical relationship of the main two party vote it as set out in the chart above. This shows the percentage of the CON+LAB aggregate that the blue and and red teams have seen over the past quarter of a century of general elections.

On this measure the Tories were ahead of LAB but the gap has been declining since GE2010.

Mike Smithson


Don’t Diss the DUP. They could help put Labour into government

Tuesday, July 4th, 2017

If Martin McGuiness could work with the DUP why couldn’t Jeremy Corbyn?

That rhetorical question works the other way round too.

If Jeremy Corbyn is to see private prediction to Michael Eavis at Glastonbury that he could be Prime Minister in six months fulfilled he can only get there with the combined votes of all the non-Tory parties – including the DUP. By contrast those 10 DUP votes were enough to give Theresa May an effective Commons majority.

On the surface the dealmakers looks like a natural fit. The Prime Minister emphasised that the Tories are officially the Conservative and Unionist party. And a youthful Labour tweeter declared “The DUP are basically Tories anyway (Tories from the Middle Ages, given their social views). They aren’t going to ever vote for Corbyn.”

But as shadow minister for Northern Ireland, Stephen Pound, reminded me the DUP are a working class breakaway from the official Ulster Unionists who really were “basically Tories”.

On a personal level there are warm words for the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson from Bethnal Green and Bow MP, Rushanara Ali. She is impressed by his work on conflict resolution.

Labour’s shadow NI secretary Owen Smith is a former special adviser to Northern Secretary Paul Murphy. Pound, his deputy served for 13 years on the Northern Ireland Select committee. The DUP’s leader in the Commons Nigel Dodds revealed that there had been contacts with the Labour frontbench in 2010 and 2015.
So the idea of the DUP supporting Labour is not that far-fetched.

On the Tory side the DUP deal has caused widespread disquiet amongst those worried that their “brand” will be re-toxified by the link with the socially conservative Ulster party.

And Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, expressed her anger use of public funds to gain Commons votes. ‘We didn’t need to do it.’ She argued the Tories should have run as a minority government and shown the country what ‘mature, progressive politics looks like’

So why it might be asked would Labour want to repeat the Tory mistake by cosying up to the DUP?

The answer I would give is that a minority Labour could, indeed, give a demonstration in “mature progressive politics”. There would be no deals but there would, of course, be contacts and discussions about a programme for government that would command support among all the non-Tory parties – and many Tory MPs – and crucially be popular with voters.

That would undoubtedly involve extra cash for the National Health Service – and for mental health services, an issue highlighted by the Nigel Dodds in the Commons. He said suicide rates and cases severe mental ill-health in Northern Ireland, were some of the worst in Europe, one of the legacies of 30 years of terrorism and violence. He said part of the cash from the deal with the Tories go to mental health care—extra investment in the health service.

“Is it not time that people recognised that this is delivery for all the people of Northern Ireland, across all sections of the community, and that it is going to help some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Northern Ireland? People should get behind it and welcome it.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s response to such arguments was that “cuts to vital services must be halted across the UK, not just in Northern Ireland.”

Corbyn’s declared aim is to pursue policies benefiting the “Many not the Few.” The vast majority of DUP supporters would undoubtedly qualify as part of the “many”. So, people in Northern Ireland would get the extra resources from a Labour government – not as a “bung” to buy DUP votes – but as part of a drive to improve public services and raise living standards throughout the UK.

One thing a minority Labour government might achieve is a solution to the social care crisis. Theresa May bungled it badly during the because she came forward with a plan that she would impose when she got her landslide. A Corbyn government could be more successful precisely because it would have to reach out to other parties to develop a consensus on a sustainable long term system.

Minority governments are rare but they can work well.

Don Brind


One thing’s for sure post GE17 – incumbent PMs won’t risk skipping the TV debates again

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

This means the debates are here to stay

After the manifesto the other big avoidable mistake of TMay’s GE2017 campaign was the refusal to take part in TV leaders’ debates which became part of the UK political scene at GE2010.

No doubt the decision by her campaign to avoid them was driven by the very comfortable position the Tories had in the polls and that they appeared to be on course for a big win.

Initially the CON leader’s decision was helped by the fact that Corbyn had not indicated that he would be taking part. The BBC said they would be going ahead even if LAB and CON were not going to be represented by their leaders.

Then on the day beforehand Corbyn announced that he would after all be participating which highlighted even more TMay’s absence.

In retrospect not taking part in what is being established as part of how General Elections now happen was a big mistake and reinforced the narrative that she was avoiding situations where she would be put on the spot.

Remember how her non-participation caused stories about her refusal to go on Woman’s Hour and other programmes to appear. The public expect leaders to come under scrutiny at election times and woe betide those who don’t accept that.

Given TMay’s GE2017 experience it is going to be a very brave incumbent prime minister who refuses next time. These will now become an even more established part of UK politics.

    My point is best made by contemplating the reverse of what happened. The future of leaders’ TV debates would have looked pretty sick if in spite of her refusal to participate Mrs May had got her whopping majority

The “audience” for these set pieces is substantially greater than those who watch the programme live on the night. Clips are broadcast on other programmes and now many get their coverage from the commentary and clips circulated on social media.

Mike Smithson


Tactical voting didn’t win it for the Scottish Tories

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

But genuine gains from the Lib Dems and Labour did.

Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister today if the Scottish Tories had done as badly three weeks ago as they did in 2015 (or any of the previous four elections). Without the dozen gains north of the border, a deal with the DUP wouldn’t have given her the numbers and a deal with anyone else couldn’t have been done. It would have been game over.

Given the different nature of politics in Scotland, where the unionist-nationalist split is at least as potent as the progressive-conservative one, that raises the intriguing question as to whether tactical Labour and/or Lib Dem unionist votes – to keep the SNP out – had the unintended but very real effect of keeping Theresa May in.

In fact, no, they didn’t. Indeed, one unremarked feature of the Scottish results was how unchanged the Labour and Lib Dem shares were in the seats the Tories won. In more than half of the 13 constituencies, neither other unionist party put on or lost more than 5% in vote share. In these, the swing must have been dominated by direct SNP-Con switchers.

Of the six seats where there was a change of more than 5% in the Lab or LD share, the common feature is that the change was always a decline from the party which won in 2010 but which lost the seat in 2015. That might be evidence of tactical voting but more likely is that it’s simply the incumbency bonus unwinding. In a few cases – East Renfrewshire or Gordon, for example – there may well also have been an unwinding of a pro-Lab or pro-LD tactical vote from 2015.

In fact, in two of the three seats that went LD-SNP-Con, Labour also polled substantially better in 2017 than 2015 (where they lost, or came close to losing, their deposit), again suggesting a lack of tactical voting. Besides, in only one of the seats (Stirling) was the result particularly close. Even if some of the falls in the shares of the other unionist parties was down to tactical voting, it wouldn’t have been decisive.

In addition, the Conservatives won five of the thirteen seats from third. That’s not wholly indicative of a lack of tactical voting – the previous result is only one factor in determining who is best-placed as a challenger – but it strongly hints in that direction.

So a straight-forward swing on both independence and economic-social axes? Not quite. If we compare 2017 against 2010 rather than 2015, a different picture emerges. That both the Lib Dems and Scottish Labour have suffered disastrously since 2010 is hardly news. All the same, it’s notable that in every single seat the Scottish Tories now hold, both Labour and the Lib Dems have gone backwards, generally by large amounts. Across the 13 seats, the Labour and Lib Dem shares have fallen by at least 5% in 22 of the 26 instances, by double-digits in 14 of them and by at least 20% in seven instances. Both SNP and Tories have gained, roughly equally.

These seats are not, of course, a cross-section of Scottish opinion and we should be extremely wary of drawing general conclusions. All the same, the Tory share in them is up by at least 9% in every seat gained and by much more in most. These gains have come almost exclusively from the Lib Dem and Labour voters of 2010. It might not have been tactical and it might have been a positive vote for the union and against a second independence referendum, but the decisions of these ex-progressive alliance supporters of Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg still resulted in Theresa May rather than Jeremy Corbyn forming a government.

David Herdson


One and a half nations, how a longstanding trend has for now been checked

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Picture: The current political map of the UK (via the BBC)

Britain is a geological seesaw.  After the last ice age retreated, the release of the weight of the ice has resulted in the bedrock on the northern half of the island rebounding, forcing the southern half of the island as a consequence to sink.

It also has a longstanding political north-south seesaw.  The timescales are not quite as long term as the geological seesaw but they have proved enduring and over the last two generations the divergence had steadily increased.  In 1992 the Conservatives secured 161 out of their 336 seats in the eastern, south eastern and south western regions, just under half their tally.  By 2015 those same three regions accounted for 181 out of 330 Conservative seats (55%).  A mass of blue weighed down on the rural south, while Scotland and urban England had headed leftwards.

2017 was a bit different.  The Conservatives’ stranglehold in the south was significantly weakened, losing 12 seats (net).  At the same time, the Conservatives achieved big swings further north, taking seats like Derbyshire North East, Mansfield and Middlesbrough East & South Cleveland, and still bigger swings in Scotland, taking 13 seats, their best performance there since 1983.  53% of their seats are held in the three southern English regions, a small reversal of the previous trend. 

The converse is true of Labour.  They were net gainers of seats and did so in wealthier southern areas.  Seats such as Brighton Kemptown, Canterbury and Stroud are all held by Labour MPs.  After the 2015 general election 55% of Labour’s seats were in London and the English Core Cities (the next eight biggest English cities after London).  That has dropped to just over 50%.

This small move for the country from swathes of red and blue into a more patchwork affair has one conspicuous exception.  In the largest urban centres, the Conservatives continue to be driven out.  They lost Battersea and Kensington, came close to losing Putney and even the Cities of London & Westminster constituency has become semi-marginal.  This new incarnation of the Conservatives has accelerated their extinguishing in London.

This illustrates that this reversal of the previously widening divide isn’t just some form of reversion to the mean.  Both main parties are also becoming less class-based.  Labour continue to improve their support levels among ABC1s, as the Conservatives continue to improve their support levels among C2DEs. 

Ironically, this shift has taken place while both main parties have leaders who embody the stereotypes of their parties.  Theresa May embodies middle class middle England woman.  Jeremy Corbyn is every inner London right-on instinct incarnate.  Neither seems remotely well-suited to taking their parties into new terrain.  Yet under their stewardships, both parties have done exactly that.

That suggests that the shift is bigger than either of them and reflects a deeper realignment.  Brexit is the obvious candidate.  By seeking to own Brexit, the Conservatives captured the support of many voters who sought to ensure that Britain would be represented in negotiations by an able leader.  The price, however, was to drive many of those who were appalled by Brexit into the Labour column, Labour having shrewdly courted such voters with a smart retail proposition.

It also suggests that the opportunity exists for both parties to continue to progress in their new directions if they so wish (in both cases probably under new leadership).  As in the USA, the two main parties are becoming primarily values based.  Their names have long been misnomers.  In 2017, the Dreamers Party (anthem: Imagine) faced the Provincialist Party (anthem: If I Could Turn Back Time).  Both propositions have very obvious defects, to which each set of supporters seems utterly blind.  If those defects are to be addressed, the parties will both need a substantial rethink, Neither party since the election has as yet shown any interest in this.  Perhaps that will come with time.

The very fact of having new MPs in seats with different problems from those faced by the most traditional party base should assist the parties in their rethinking.  Astute party leaderships will listen to their new MPs.  They have much to learn from them.

Why should they do this? Well, the most successful governments since the Second World War have remade the governing party coalitions.  Tony Blair led Labour to make common cause with the English middle classes rather than to seek to subdue them.  Margaret Thatcher led the Conservatives into alliance with the skilled working classes against corporatism and the monopolists of the public sector.  Clement Attlee matched full-blooded socialism with full-blooded patriotism.

If successive recent elections have shown anything, it is that the public are restless for a new direction.  They have rejected bloodless managerialism on every occasion that it has been offered to them.   The parties would therefore do well to offer them something else.  Time to start looking for it in earnest.

Alastair Meeks


GE17 saw the emergence of a new type of “shy Tory” – those opposed to Corbyn but didn’t want a big CON win

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

One of the features of living in a super LAB-CON marginal less than an hour from London that regularly changes hands is that you get a lot of attention at general elections. Corbyn’s first big outside visit after the election was called in April was to Bedford which was a regular port of call by David Cameron and earlier LAB leaders at GE10 and GE15.

So what was striking about TMay’s GE17 campaign is that it was almost invisible here until the final few days and we were not graced with a visit from the leader herself even though the CON incumbent had a majority of just over 1k. My guess is the the seat was seen seen as a certain CON hold right from the start and the PM could focus her attention on Labour’s heartlands where, if some of the polling was correct, she was well placed to make serious inroads.

That this didn’t happen both a PM visit and that the Tories actually lost seats like Bedford was one of the remarkable features of the campaign. This was a massive shock.

Nobody really knows what actually happened and why a party with double digit leads right to the end fared so badly. There’s going to be a lot coming out in the next weeks and months which might illuminate us.

A really interesting analysis is by Ed Smith in today’s issue of the New Statesman in which, amongst many things, he writes about CON Remain supports who, while opposed to Corbyn, didn’t want TMay to get her landslide.

“..When the election was called, initially it seemed like another pragmatic masterstroke; the Tory party, which understands power better than any other party in the world, was doing what it does best: reorganising itself to benefit from the new political reality. Yet there was a different kind of shy Tory during this election: not the shy Tory who doesn’t want to own up to Toryism, but the shy Tory who sought a modest win. Many Conservative supporters I know wanted May to win the election but not too handsomely. They feared a landslide would lead to a resurgent Europhobic Tory right. Far from the original spin that the election was needed to create a bulwark against the hard Brexiteers, Tory-Remain voters feared the opposite. And when lots of your own potential supporters don’t want a big win, you scarcely win at all..”

Quite how these shy Tories voted I don’t know. My guess is that some abstained and that some others actually voted Labour.

Mike Smithson


David Davis continues to be the favourite to succeed TMay as CON leader

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

The big question is whether there’ll be a contest or will TMay hang on

So TMay got her Queen’s Speech through the Commons with a majority of 14 thanks to the DUP and that probably reduces the immediate pressure on the PM.

But without a majority it looks set to be an interesting time ahead. Unlike the CON-LD coalition the DUP obligation to vote with the Tories is limited to very specific issues and the chances are that there’ll be regular Commons defeats.

As long as there are no by-election losses or defections they should just about manage for the short term.

One thing that is likely is that the situation will be very draining on ministers and CON MP who are going to have to be at the Commons for much longer periods than normal. Labour could spring an ambush at any time and will do.

All this makes it less likely that we will see an early CON leadership contest provided that TMay’s health holds up.

Mike Smithson