Archive for the 'Oldham E & Saddleworth' Category


David Herdson says 2016 could be a good year for the GOP to pick a loser

Saturday, December 12th, 2015


The lessons of a Trump defeat would resonate for decades

Only one person has set the race for next year’s GOP nomination alight and that person is Donald Trump. Behind his blaze of controversy, energy, self-publicity and populism lies a field strewn with the bewilderment of his rivals: how has he lasted so long? Why have his gaffes not brought him down? How can he be effectively taken on? As yet, they have no answers.

That was painfully apparent in the professional candidates’ responses to Trump’s comments on border controls against muslims. Rather than call it out as contrary to America’s best traditions, rather than take apart the impossible practical implementation of such a policy, their responses ranged from Rubio’s faint damnation – “not well thought out” (implying that the only problem is the detail) – to Bush’s simple abuse: “Trump is unhinged”. Neither is likely to win their own campaign support.

Meanwhile, Trump goes from strength to strength in the polls, twice breaking through the 40% barrier this last week in national GOP nomination polling. The only blip was an Iowa caucus poll that dropped him to second, behind Cruz, which is out of step with the national swing but is worth noting all the same.

In fact, Trump and Cruz ought to be the two front-runners in the betting now just as they are in the polling. Why Rubio cannot be backed longer than 13/8 (Ladbrokes) is something of a mystery and only rationally explained by weight of money. It’s true that Rubio’s scores have ticked up over the last three months but he’s still more-or-less tied with Cruz and the fading Carson with about one vote in eight, while Trump attracts as much support as those three combined.

I did tip Cruz and Trump at 20/1 and 5/1 respectively back in October and while obviously that value is no longer there, their current best odds of 5/1 and 3/1 are still worth taking. The question to ask there is: is the rest of the field really 5/7, and the only realistic answer is ‘no’. There might still be over a dozen declared runners but there are only three heavyweight contenders at the moment and the chances of Bush, Christie, Carson or one of the rest breaking through (or back through) seem slim at best. Why would they?

At which point it might be worth asking whether the GOP hierarchy will really be having kittens at the thought of Trump representing them on the biggest stage, to which I think the answer might well also be ‘no’, though not necessarily for the best of reasons.

Trump is quite likely to win the GOP nomination. Assuming that he comes through the final debate of 2015 in one piece, he’ll go into election year with a commanding lead. Don’t take too seriously the commentators who note that there’s still 60-65% of poll respondents against Trump; that’s to be expected in a field so large and while many are consciously anti-Trump, not all are by any means (the correlation of Carson’s recent decline and Trump’s further boost being one good demonstration). Besides, if he can take three early wins in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, while there still is a wide early field, the momentum alone from those victories will have a powerfully reinforcing effect for Super Tuesday.

If he does win the nomination, can he go on to win the White House against Hillary? Almost certainly not. Even leaving aside the possibility of a third-party candidate such as Bloomberg splitting the vote (though meaningful third party candidates are much rarer than talk of them), Trump’s ratings with too many important demographics are dire. At the moment, that’s probably a more significant indicator than the head-to-heads, which give Clinton only a narrow lead. Hillary is not popular but her unpopularity won’t be a blocker (unless something really damaging comes out of the e-mail imbroglio); Trump’s will.

So why would the GOP big wigs go along with him? Firstly, they may have no choice: if he’s elected then he’s the candidate. Also, if not him then who? Cruz is not really that much more likely to appeal to the centre than Trump, while Rubio has underperformed so far as against expectations which doesn’t auger well for November, though some may well be looking further ahead in his case.

But perhaps the best argument for focussing funding on Congress rather than the White House is that Hillary would be extremely vulnerable in 2020. It is always dangerous to believe that there’ll be a better election to win down the line but that risk is tempered in the US if there’s gridlock down Pennsylvania Avenue. In the meantime, Hillary would in all probability be coming to office with relatively low ratings by historic standards, which experience suggests would only get lower as time went on. Precedent also goes against her: not since the 1940s has one party won four presidential races in succession, and not since Jefferson, Madison and Monroe have two or more candidates from the same party each won back-to-back terms (though McKinley and Roosevelt could have, had Roosevelt not prematurely ruled himself out of the 1908 race).

One final, but perhaps compelling reason, for the Republican establishment not to fight the rising Trump tide too hard is that were he to go down to a relatively weak Democrat candidate, it would establish a new Goldwater moment, though without the landslide defeat Goldwater suffered. Republican voters have flirted increasingly with Tea Party tendency candidates in recent races, in the clear face of what’s electable on a wider scale. Demonstrating to a new generation how counter-productive that indulgence is might well pay dividends for decades to come.

David Herdson


What are the lessons from the OES call-back poll?

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

How did you actually vote in the by-election (Populus) CON 2010 % LAB 2010 % LD 2010 %
Conservative 49 0 3
Labour 5 91 29
Lib Dem 33 5 55
UKIP 9 1 7
BNP 2 1 0
GREEN 1 2 4

Is UKIP starting to benefit from the coalition?

The Tory peer and benefactor, Michael Ashcroft, funded a call-back poll in Oldham E and Saddleworth and the key voter churn figures are featured in the table.

This showed the proportion of Lib Dem general elections voters switching to Labour at 29% of the total – a figure that is almost exactly in line with recent national polls. The 7% of yellows going to UKIP seems quite high.

The Tory vote did fall sharply but not all because of blue-yellow switching. UKIP picked up nearly one on ten of Tory general election voters. A third of all Tory voters from last May moved to the Lib Dem.

Interestingly Populus asked why those who had voted tactically had actually done so. Fewer than one in ten said it was because of the Lib Dem campaign but 65% said it was because of the result of the last election. Whatever they said I reckon a lot of the awareness of the general election result – Woolas by 103 votes – was down to the famous bar-charts.

Could the blues have won if they’d tried harder? Lord Ashcroft, in his commentary, reckons not.

Mike Smithson


It it wrong to assume that all Tory losses went to the LDs?

Friday, January 14th, 2011
Populus cross party splits CON 2010 % LAB 2010 % LD 2010 %
CON by-election 46 2 3
LAB by-election 12 89 31
LD by-election 34 3 55

Or was the party churn more complicated than that?

In the aftermath of the OES result a widespread assumption has developed that all the Tory votes lost last night went to the Lib Dems. This looks a simple straightforward answer and apparently explains everything.

But does it? For the Populus poll of the constituency, taken last week and published last Sunday, seems to point to a more complex range of behaviour which I have reproduced in the table above. The columns represents how respondents to the survey said how they voted at the general election and what they planned to do in the by election.

Clearly this is not an accurate representation of the voting dynamics yesterday but given the broad overall accuracy of the poll it does provide a pointer to what might have happened. In any case it’s the best data that we have got.

So the first column shows that 46% of 2010 Tory voters were planning to do so again; 12% were planning to vote Labour while 34% said they were going Lib Dem. The balance went to other parties.

Clearly this is all guestimates but broadly about two thirds of the Tory losses went to the yellows. That’s a lot but is not everything. As can be seen as well the Tories the losses were party off-set by small gains from the other two main parties.

The bulk of the Lib Dem losses went to Labour but not, by any means all. And the yellows benefited by a small group of Labour general election voters switching.

Hopefully there might be further research on this.

Mike Smithson


Do the slimmed-down Tories hold the key to tonight’s result?

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

How much weight should we give to Blue>Yellow switching?

There are two factors in today’s election that could just possibly cause an upset:-

Differential turnout in each of the main party support groups. Will the red team manage to get the same proportion of its known backers to the polling stations as Team Watkins? In the past Labour has tended to come out with lower shares than by election polls suggested.

What will wavering Tory supporters do especially following the ICM and Populus surveys suggesting that their man doesn’t have a chance?

Those polls pointed to a large proportion of general election Tory backers having already decided to move when the fieldwork was carried out last week. Will this trend have been accentuated in the closing stages of the campaign as all the effort from the yellows has been on persuading them that they could hold the key to stopping Labour?

The Lib Dem and their notorious bar charts are used to putting the squeeze on the weaker party in encounters if they can get over that they are in second place. Normally that’s not based on proper polling evidence – in this case it is.

The problem is that there’s much less of a record of blue backers being ready to go yellow than there used to be with Labour supporters where the Tories were the target. Will the fact of the coalition and Cameron’s less than overwhelming support for his man in OES make a difference?

This is a very hard one to call and even if the blues are reduced to single figures it might not be enough to make a difference. For the polling gap reported at the weekend was 17% and it’s hard to see a switch on that scale.

So it’s here that turnout comes into play – how effective will Labour’s GOTV (Get Out The Vote) operation be today?

  • Tonight I’m taking part in the BBC TV election programme which is going out on the BBC news channel as well on BBC1.
  • Mike Smithson

    (Double Carpet writes:)

    The Election Game predictions for Oldham East & Saddleworth have now been crunched. With 110 entries in, the split was Labour 95 and Lib Dem 15, while the overall average majority (ie treating a Lib Dem majority as negative) was Labour by 2,731. Detailed player-by-player predictions are available here – many thanks and good luck to those who took part.


    Will being forced to stay positive have hurt Labour?

    Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

    But hasn’t this taken the edge off their message?

    The events that led up to this by-election have put a series of constraints on the red team which is certainly showing itself in the final couple of days.

    For the one thing they’ve been unable to do is put out anything that could be portrayed as a smear against the LD’s Elwyn Watkins – the man who took the Woolas campaign to court leading to the ex-minister being disqualified.

    The result, I think, is that their material has lacked bite. The “send a message” theme featured above is hardly a compelling closing proposition

    This has been accentuated by the way the yellows have run their campaign. For as I suggested last week they have been able to make it about “Brand Watkins” rather than “Brand Lib Dem” with the candidate presented as the “No nonsense northerner” who “speaks his mind” and “does what’s right“.

    In a by-election where the government of the country is not at stake the personalities and images of the contenders take on a new importance. It can become less about party and more about who is best able to “fight” for the area at Westminster.

    Labour must have found it infuriating not to be able to take on Elwyn directly.

    Will this matter tomorrow? My guess is that it will to some extent – for the purpose of the closing part of a campaign is less about making converts than getting your activists fired up and ensuring that supporters do actually turn up at the polling stations.

    This is one of the reasons why I think the result will be closer than the ICM and Populus polls were suggesting.

  • The PB Old & Sad prediction poll: If you havn’t registered your prediction there’s still time – it will be closed at noon.
  • Mike Smithson


    Do voters really care about who is most local?

    Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

    Is Watkins trying to do to Labour what Woolas did to him?

    One of the elements of September’s election court ruling on Phil Woolas was over the then Labour candidate’s claim that the Lib Dem was not telling the truth over “being a local”.

    Now, in the final couple of days of the campaign the yellow standard-bearer is trying to make an issue over the veracity of his Labour opponent’s claim to “be local”. In a leaflet he picks up on statements made by Debbie Abrahams last year when she was fighting trying to become an MP at Colne Valley at the general election when she said she lived in Huddersfield.

    This was always going to be an issue for Labour because, inevitably, if a candidate has stood somewhere else before then everything said during the earlier campaign is going to be scrutinised.

    Maybe Watkins knows only too well the potency of this line of attack because he was a victim last May but doesn’t it make you despair. Should this really matter and is this something that electors care about?

    But the lines of attack by Woolas then and Watkins now are not the issue itself – but what it says about the trustworthiness of their opponents.

    The Tories obviously feel sensitive about localness as well because their main slogan about their man, Asif, is that he’s “Oldham born and bred”.

    Maybe I’m being naive but wouldn’t it be great if we could have some grown-up politics where this is irrelevant.

  • The copies of the campaign material reproduced here are from the excellent Election Leaflets website.
  • Mike Smithson


    Jonathan’s weekly slot: Tonight a rant about turnout

    Monday, January 10th, 2011

    Ged Wilmot/Saddleworth News Facebook page

    What can be done to get more people voting?

    As the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election reaches fever pitch, I wanted to use my regular slot to rant about turnout. A truly fascinating subject, I am sure you agree! How many electors do we think will vote next week? Does it really matter if the turnout is low? And if it does, should we be doing anything about it?

    At the general election, turnout in OE&S was 61.2%, just below the national average. On Thursday t will be lower. On a cold, dark January night many will stay at home. The current weather forecast predicts rain. However, the election is competitive and controversial. Therefore turnout should be above the 20% seen when Hilary Benn won Leeds Central in 1999. Let’s be generous and predict that turnout reaches 40% next week.

    If it does, is that acceptable? Will it matter that 60% of the electorate didn’t vote? Whoever is celebrating on Friday will only have won the support of a fifth of the electorate. A whopping 80% of people will have stayed at home or voted for someone else. As a democrat, I am bothered by that. The problem goes beyond by‑elections. At the general election 75% of the electorate did not vote Conservative. No wonder people complain. What can we do to fix this?

    AV is mentioned as the cure to all of our ills. Would AV have fixed this? Probably not. AV is designed to ensure that MPs are elected with 50% of the vote, not 50% of those eligible to vote. Under AV it will still be possible to become an MP with only 15% of the people behind you. Supporters of AV suggest that in safe seats, previously indifferent voters will flock to the polling booths because their third preference could count. I am not convinced.

    We have to do better. It is dangerous for politics to be dominated by an increasingly unrepresentative minority. Democracy only works if everyone is involved. I am against compulsory voting, but isn’t it time for us to go back to voting at weekends. Or, for general elections, why don’t we have an extra bank holiday. If we can celebrate a royal wedding, surely we can celebrate our hard won right to vote as well? We would all be better off in the long run and it can’t hurt to try. It would certainly be more effective than AV. Perhaps you have a better idea.

    Jonathan is a Labour activist in West Sussex


    How much will the polls themselves influence how people vote?

    Monday, January 10th, 2011

    Is this why by-election polling can be so challenging?

    When the three Old & Sad polls were coming out on Saturday evening an astute observer on UKPR wrote that we won’t really be able to compare these surveys against the actual result because the fact these three polls have been published could itself change people’s votes. That’s spot on and why all three parties were very jumpy as news of the numbers trickled out.

    The Labour strategy in the days leading up to the weekend was to talk up the Conservatives and we saw one national commentator after another buy their line that the blues could be runners-up. If Labour’s data did indeed suggest that the Tories were in second place then what does it say about the veracity of their numbers?

    This was, however, a sound approach for as I’ve been arguing for some time the real threat to red team comes if the “pro-coalition” vote does not split but polarises round the candidate best placed to take on Labour.

    Well all three surveys have certainly done that and the question in the final days is how much of the Tory vote will switch to Watkins on Thursday and will that be enough to overhaul what are with ICM and Populus pretty hefty Labour margins?

    For although newbie pollster Survation had Labour just one point ahead the established firms – ICM and Populus – each reported leads of 17 points. The red camp must feel pretty comfortable.

    We’ve yet to see the detailed data from ICM but when that’s out I’ll carry out a detailed look to see if there is anything else within the surveys that might help.

    At the end of the day it could all be down to turnout and the effectiveness of the red and yellow GOTV (get out the vote) operations.

    Mike Smithson