Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Why the Conservatives may fall short of their hopes

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017


A guest slot by Harry Spencer

Calling an early General Election is, by definition, something usually undertaken by a government confident of winning. And with opinion poll leads well in double figures, and an utterly hapless opposition this is certainly a pretty fair assessment.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea the Conservatives will win a much-expanded majority, but precedent for snap General Elections is…mixed.

Defining snap elections as early elections voluntarily undertaken by a government which already has a majority, the recent precedent is as such:

If one were to expand this out to other countries there is a similarly mixed record – parties which voluntarily held elections anticipating they would strengthen their position have been mistaken not just in the UK in 1974, 1951 and 1923, but also in Australia in 1974, 1984, 1998, 2010 and in Canada in 1984 (spectacularly so) and 1997. Equally there have been plenty of occasions in which parties did strengthen their position in snap elections, although often by modest margins.

None of this means the Conservatives are necessarily making a mistake this time, and their polling position is probably stronger than in any of those precedents, but this is a reminder that politics is inherently unpredictable and plenty of astute politicians have misjudged the mood in the past.

In addition, there’s a few reasons why the Conservatives may undershoot expectations this time:

  • Election Fatigue. There is a body of literature which shows that voter turnout can suffer if elections take place too often (although the more important the elections, the less pronounced the drop-off is). Brenda from Bristol’s initial reaction of “oh for god’s sake” may well be shared by a large number of the population, which could drive down turnout. There is also some evidence that parties which call early elections are penalised. For instance, in snap elections within the UK, the change in the governing party’s share of the vote in polls over the course of the campaign has declined by more, on average, than in usual elections. This may be the case elsewhere too, but I have not been able to verify.
  • Violating a sense of Fair Play. One reason calling an early election might be penalised by the public is it can be perceived as being in the party’s interest, not the country’s. There are other events which risk contributing to such a perception in this case. For instance, the apparent refusal to take part in TV debates might create a perception that the Conservatives are not playing fair. Another story which could do so is the possible prosecution of a number of current Conservative MPs and agents over alleged election expenses fraud in 2015.
  • The Crushing of the Saboteurs. While the bulk of the Conservative vote is comprised of people who voted to Leave, roughly 15% of the electorate currently reports that they voted to remain in the EU but intend to vote Conservative. The Conservative campaign needs to be careful about not alienating these voters – if they do not turn out in the numbers expected, or switch to alternatives, then the Conservatives will not win a majority of the size they hope. More headlines like the Daily Mail’s today would be actively unhelpful for the Conservative campaign.
  • Brexit means Brexit? Calling an election campaign to secure a mandate for your approach to Brexit may make sense, but only if you actually have an approach to Brexit. There is an obvious risk that inviting scrutiny of the government’s Brexit plans may highlight the ephemeral nature of that strategy. The Prime Minister is seeking a mandate to manage the negotiations but on the basis of a dozen different priorities which may not be compatible.
  • The lack of any credible threat. The Conservative success in 2015 would not have been possible without the highly effective threat of a Labour government in coalition with the SNP and/or Liberal Democrats. This time, I don’t know a single person who thinks a Labour government is a credible possibility. Perversely that makes it easier for disaffected Labour voters to stick with the party, as it isn’t seen as risking Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, and also makes it easier for the Liberal Democrats to sell themselves to soft Tories, something they have decades of practice doing successfully.

None of this means I think the Conservatives will fail to win – but they may not get the margin they expect.

Harry Spencer is a consultant and Electoral Analyst at Edelman Public Affairs, he writes in a personal capacity


No one knows anything. What to do if/when Mrs May wins today’s vote

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

In 2011, Ruth Ellen Brosseau was a bartender in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.  Some of her regulars were political activists for the New Democratic Party and when the federal election was looming, they twisted her arm to stand as a paper candidate in a no-hoper constituency in a heavily French-speaking area of Quebec.  She didn’t campaign (just as well, since her French wasn’t very good), she didn’t even visit the constituency.  During the election campaign she went on holiday in Vegas.

2011 was a breakthrough election for the New Democratic Party in Canada.  They supplanted the Liberals as the main opposition, taking 103 seats when they had previously held only 36.  Among those 103 MPs was a very surprised Ms Brosseau.

The 2017 general election in Britain also looks likely to be a mould-breaker.  The Conservatives currently look set to make sweeping gains. If so, uniform national swing (UNS) is going to be of limited value.  It works well when considering smallish movements in the polls.  The bigger the swings, the more unevenly distributed those swings will be.  In 2015, the swing from Labour to the SNP in Scotland was 23.9%, but the swing to the SNP reached 39.3% in Glasgow North East (and only 10.9% in Edinburgh South, which Labour held onto).

Even smaller swings are usually unevenly distributed. In 2015, Labour obtained a 0.4% swing from the Conservatives, but this concealed substantial variations – the Conservatives obtained a 3.9% swing towards themselves in Vale of Clwyd, while Labour benefited from a 6.4% swing in Ilford North.

As at 18 April, when Theresa May announced the election, three different polls found that the Conservatives had a 21% lead over Labour, representing a 7.5% swing from Labour to the Conservatives (though separately Opinium found only a 9% lead).  If that projected 7.5% swing to the Conservatives is replicated at the general election, we might easily see some seats with no swing to the Conservatives and others with a 15% swing.

Overlaying that, the EU referendum has upended previous loyalties.  The Prime Minister is seeking a mandate to deliver Brexit and the Lib Dems are seeking votes from opposing it.  Labour is seeking a policy on it.  It is likely that this will make the effects in different constituencies lumpier than usual, as some voters switch allegiances in order to back the party they judge will best deliver their preferred referendum outcome.

So the election will be wild.  The most obvious consequence is that no one will really be clear which seats are in play and which seats are foregone conclusions.  With the sort of leads that the Conservatives are enjoying, they will be looking to take seats in which their party membership is not strong and where they will not have the intensively-gathered information that they have accumulated in the seats vital for gaining power.

Meanwhile Labour need to decide where to try to construct a firewall.  A 7.5% adverse swing sees Labour lose 67 seats to the Conservatives.  Labour could not sensibly seek to defend all of these (and would be daft to try on current polling).  They will need to focus their efforts.

But they will also need to keep an eye on seats that fall to a greater than 7.5% swing.  135 Labour seats are vulnerable to a 15% swing to the Conservatives (some of these are vulnerable to other parties on smaller swings as well) and, as I note above, if some seats have a less than average swing, others will see a greater than average swing.

I haven’t begun to talk about the Conservative-held seats that Labour should be taking aim at.  Right now, those don’t look like a priority.

The risk in these circumstances is always that the defensive party is too optimistic.  It does Labour no good to keep the adverse swing down to 6% if the Conservatives only need a 3% swing to take a seat.  Meanwhile, if a seat that is safe up to an 8% swing gets a 10% swing, that’s two seats lost where one might have been saved.  But it is very hard to tell a sitting MP that he or she is not going to be supported. 

The Lib Dems were nearly wiped out in 2015 because they were too optimistic in such circumstances, despite being pretty disciplined about these calculations.  This stuff is hard, emotionally but also strategically. 

So Labour have some excruciating decisions to make about prioritising.  With a membership of hundreds of thousands, they have the troops to mount a campaign but they need to deploy them effectively.  This is going to take detached judgement, ruthlessness, discipline, focus and unity.  These are not qualities that Labour are currently noted for.  I expect Labour will either be far too optimistic or, perhaps more likely, that it will never get as far as drawing up a defensive strategy and leaving every constituency for itself.

My expectation, therefore, is that Labour will probably do significantly worse than uniform national swing suggests, as they fail to keep the seats that they are actively defending and see greater than average swings in some seats that they haven’t actively defended that could have been saved.  As to which seats those are, I don’t know either.  No one knows anything.

Alastair Meeks


GE2017 looks such a certainty that it could end up like GE2001 – boring with a low turnout

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

Many of the Labour MPs who will be voting for a general election this afternoon will be doing so in the pretty certain knowledge that they are ending their political careers earlier than planned.

Turkeys will indeed be voting for Christmas and I just wonder how many will not participate in this afternoon’s vote.

The numbers for the party are just calling and it is very hard seeing how there can be any change over the next seven weeks that. But one thing we’ve learnt over the last couple of years is not to rule anything out.

    Another group of MPs who will be voting for the election motion with a heavy heart are those CON ones who are subject to the ongoing expenses investigation from the last general election.

With that hanging over them there are questions over how they can put themselves forward as candidates for June 8th but we cannot rule anything out. The CPS should be reporting before polling day.

The Lib Dems are going into the election positively with the hope that their specific strong anti Brexit stance will make them distinctive and attracts voters. We do know from the Conservative Party private polling of CON seats won last time from the Lib Dems that many of those could be won back by the yellows

The LD-LAB Battle ground is one that looks interesting. Quite a number of seats were lost in the post coalition election and the yellows might be able to snatch some back. Could we see Simon Hughes back

The party goes into the election with the highest number of members for decades, a lot of fired up activists, after a good winning streak in local by elections.

After today’s vote in the Commons expect quite a lot of interesting and new betting markets to be put up.

UKIP looks set to struggle but who knows – this might be the General Election when Nigel Farage becomes an MP.

Mike Smithson


Looks like Mike Smithson was right about his theory about the reasons for an early general election

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Charges during the election campaign could damage the Tories and Mrs May.

Note: 30 individuals might not mean 30 MPs, it might mean 15 MPs and 15 agents



GE2017 – the first polling

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

First GE2017 poll from ICM – post announcement
Con: 46% (+2)
Lab: 25% (-1)
LD: 11% (+ 1)
UKIP: 8% (-3)
Green: 4% (n/c)


Was this the reason for TMay’s election decision?

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Candidate selections in the seats could be interesting.

What about George Osborne – an opportunity for him to stand down in Tatton?

And what about Douglas Carswell in Clacton – will he try to get returned as an independent?


Theresa May breaks her word and calls an early general election for June 8th of this year

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Will Labour agree to an early election?

Given the polls I can understand why Mrs May is calling a general election, but there’s a few major issues to sort out

  1. Can she satisfy the fixed-term parliament act in the vote tomorrow?
  2. Will Mrs May receive any backlash, like Gordon Brown, for going back on her word on holding an early election
  3. If she loses the vote, what then?
  4. If the SNP put in their manifesto Scotland should have Indyref2 next year, and they win a majority of votes or seats in Scotland, how can Mrs May refuse, Mrs May might have put the Union at risk. (It also damages her argument against holding an Indyref2?)

If Corbyn gets creamed at the general election, will he continue as Labour leader? This might be the easiest way for Labour rebels to get rid of Corbyn.


Update Corbyn backs an early election


Update – Here’s what Mrs May used to say


Dissecting Theresa May’s popularity and you find out she has the potential to be Gordon Brown Mark II

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

This week YouGov released some fascinating polling on Theresa May and her popularity. As we can see from the above chart it helps explains why Mrs May has such a colossal lead over Jeremy Corbyn on who would make the best Prime Minister and why if Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader at the next general election, the 2020 general election is going to be the electoral equivalent of the Anglo-Zanzibar war.

But is her popularity down to Mrs May not being Jeremy Corbyn?

YouGov went onto dissect Mrs May’s popularity rating further, is her popularity down to herself or not being Jeremy Corbyn.

YouGov say that

Among those who think she would make the best Prime Minister, there is a nearly even split between those who that say it is because of her strengths (47%) and those that say it is because of Jeremy Corbyn’s weaknesses (46%). Whilst some, including many traditional Labour supporters, see Theresa May as the better of two evils this could quickly change with a more popular opposition leader.

The second threat is that were a few slip-ups or crises to occur, perceptions of her could quickly change – and this is where the comparison to Gordon Brown is perhaps apposite. At the start of his Premiership he was also seen as being strong but cold and also enjoyed a decent “honeymoon” period. Yet within a year of taking over, just 18% saw him as strong and 14% as decisive as his reputation was harmed by the financial crisis and his decision not to call an election.

Labour went from being 5-10% ahead in the polls to lagging the Tories by 15-20% and eventually lost the general election. Now, ten years after he took over, a quarter (26%) still think Gordon Brown was a “terrible” Prime Minister with a further 31% rate him as “poor.”

While history doesn’t always repeat itself, there are many potential crises on the horizon – whether it’s the complicated Brexit negotiations, economic challenges, or pressure on the NHS. If Theresa May can navigate them she could – like Margaret Thatcher – be remembered by many as a strong and decisive leader who has what it takes to get things done. But as if she fails then then in the public’s mind she could risk being seen as another Gordon Brown.

So if Labour do come to their senses and replace the electoral liability that is Jeremy Corbyn with someone more popular & competent coupled with a poorly handled Brexit negotiations or recession which is blamed on Mrs May and the Tories then Labour’s chances at the next election could improve significantly, after all on current boundaries, it only takes a swing of 0.88% to deny the Tories a majority.

With Sir Lynton Crosby’s polling indicating Mrs May would undo David Cameron’s hard work in obliterating the Liberal Democrats in the South West, so instead of Theresa May being spoken in the same bracket as Margaret Thatcher, Mrs May could be bracketed as the Tory Gordon Brown, but with Liam Fox, David Davis, and Boris Johnson working hard on the Brexit front, I’m sure Mrs May has nothing to worry about.