There are new YouGov voting intention figures for the Times this morning, with topline figures of CON 39%, LAB 30%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 3%. The Conservatives continue to have a solid lead and there is no sign of any benefit to Labour from their party conference (fieldwork was on Wednesday and Thursday, so directly after Jeremy Corbyn’s speech).

Theresa May has been Prime Minister for two and a half months now, so we’re still in the sort of honeymoon period. Most of her premiership so far has consisted of the summer holidays when not much political news happens and she’s had the additional benefit of her opposition being busy with their own leadership contest. Now that is over and we approach May’s own party conference and the resumption of normal politics.

Theresa May’s own ratings remain strong. 46% of people think she is doing well, 22% badly. Asking more specific questions about her suitability for the role most people (by 52% to 19%) think she is up to the job of PM, she is seen as having what it takes to get things done (by 53% to 19%), and having good ideas to improve the country (by 35% to 27%). People don’t see her as in touch with ordinary people (29% do, 40% do not) but that is probably because she is still a Conservative; David Cameron’s ratings on being in touch were poor throughout his premiership. The most worrying figure in there for May should probably be that people don’t warm to her – 32% think she has a likeable personality, 35% do not. One might well say this shouldn’t matter, but the truth is it probably does. People are willing to give a lot more leeway to politicians they like. In many way Theresa May’s ratings – strong, competent, but not particularly personally likeable – have an echo of how Gordon Brown was seen by the public when he took over as Prime Minister. That didn’t end well (though in fairness, I suppose Mrs Thatcher was seen in a similar way).

The biggest political obstacle looming ahead of Theresa May is, obviously, Brexit. So far people do not think the government are doing a good job of it. 16% think they are handling Brexit negotiations well, 50% badly. Both sides of the debate are dissatisfied – Remain voters think they are doing badly by 60% to 10%, Leave voters think they are doing badly by 45% to 24%. Obviously the government haven’t really started the process of negotiating exit and haven’t said much beyond “Brexit means Brexit”, but these figures don’t suggest they are beginning with much public goodwill behind them.

Finally, among the commentariat the question of an early election has not gone away (and will probably keep on being asked for as long as the Conservatives have a small majority but large poll lead). 36% of people currently want an early election, 46% of people do not. The usual patterns with questions like this is that supporters of the governing party do not normally want an election (they are happy with the status quo), supporters of the main opposition party normally do want an election (as they hope the government would be kicked out). Interestingly this still holds true despite the perception that an early election would help the Conservatives: a solid majority of Labour supporters would like an early election, most Conservative supporters are opposed.

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A final post on boundary changes (at least until the Scottish proposals next month). This comes from a discussion I had with Mark Pack. Normally the thing we look at with boundary changes is what the party-partisan effect is, how the new boundaries would change the sort of swing that Labour need to win a general election. However, currently Labour are a very, very long way from the sort of polling lead they’d need to win a majority, so a small change in that figure really doesn’t make a lot of difference. More interesting in the current political climate is the effect it would have on Labour internal battle and any potential deselections.

The rules for how Labour will deal with re-selections after boundary changes are yet to be confirmed, so these are based on the rules set out for 2011 in the Labour rule book, on the assumption that Labour’s NEC will use similar rules this time round. A Labour MP has a right to seek selection in any seat that contains 40% or more of the electors in their existing seat. If an MP’s seat is divided up so much that no single seat contains 40% of their old electors then they’ll have the right to seek nomination in a seat with less than 40% of their old voters. If they are the only sitting MP to seek selection in a seat, they are nominated through the normal trigger ballot process. If more than one sitting MP seeks the nomination in a new seat there is a members ballot to pick between them.

Applying those rules to the provisional boundaries we can see where there may be contests under those rules. Note that this list is exhaustive, it contains every case where Labour MPs could compete against each other under the selection rules… but in some cases it will be easily avoided through either agreement (there are enough seats to go round) or retirement (an MP will be well over 70 come the general election and possibly considering retirement anyway). Of the 231 Labour members of Parliament in England & Wales, 142 of them should not face any re-selection difficulties connected to boundary changes – they may well see changes to their seat, but there is a single notionally Labour seat to which they have the sole right to seek selection. What about the other 89?

Avoidable Challenges

There are six places where more than one MP would have a right to seek selection for a seat, but where there are enough Labour seats to go round, so if MPs co-operate and agree between themselves who will stand where, no head-to-head challenge is necessary and no one is left empty handed. These are:
Alfreton and Clay Cross. Nastasha Engel and Dennis Skinner both have the right to seek selection here, but Skinner also has the right to seek selection in Bolsover, so a challenge seems unlikely.
East London. Mike Gapes’ seat is sliced up into tiny pieces, and if the NEC follow past practice he should have the right to seek selection in any of the successor seats. He is the only sitting MP with a right to seek selection in the new, ultra-safe, Forest Gate & Loxford seat so I imagine he will go there. If not, he could challenge Wes Streeting, Margaret Hodge or John Cryer (who could, in turn, seek selection in Stella Creasy’s Walthamstow)
Redcar. Andy McDonald and Anna Turley can both seek selection in Middlesbrough NE & Redcar, but McDonald is also eligible for the safe Middlesbrough W & Stockton E seat, so a challenge is avoidable.
Ashton Under Lyne. Jonathan Reynolds and Angela Rayner are both eligible, but Rayner is also eligible for the safer Failsworth & Droylsden.
Stockport. This is avoidable, but not without some pain for Ann Coffey. Andrew Gwynne & Ann Coffey are both eligible for the safe Stockport North & Denton seat. Ann Coffey is also eligible for the Stockport South & Cheadle seat, but that is far more marginal (that said, Coffey will be 73 at the next election, so may not stand).
Pontefract. Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett are both eligible to seek selection, but Yvette Cooper also has a free run at Normanton, Castleford and Outwood.

Not Enough Labour seats to go round

The following seven areas have enough seats to go round, but one or more of them is notionally Conservative, so there may be a contest for the winnable seat or someone may be left in a seat that is notionally Conservative:
South London. Siobhain McDonagh’s seat is sliced up. Two of the successor seats, Merton & Wimbledon Common (a potentially winnable marginal) and Sutton & Cheam (no hope) are notionally Conservative, so she will have the choice of fighting one of them, or challenging either Chuka Ummuna or Rosena Allin-Khan.
South-East London. Erith and Thamesmead is split up into Erith & Crayford (a Tory seat) and Woolwich. The only option for a Labour seat for Theresa Pearce is to challenge Matthew Pennycook for the Woolwich nomination. Pennycook has the option of seeking the Woolwich nomination, or going up again Vicky Foxcroft for the Greenwich & Deptford nomination.
Coventry. Geoffrey Robinson’s seat becomes comfortably Conservative on new boundaries, but he has the option of going up against Jim Cunningham for the Coventry South nomination. He’ll be 81 by the next election, so I assume he won’t.
Nottingham. Vernon Coaker’s Gedling seat disappears. Half goes into the Conservative Sherwood seat, so there is the potential of a battle against Chris Leslie for the nomination in the Labour Nottingham East and Carlton seat.
Cumbria. The Workington seat disappears. Part of it goes into the very Conservative Penrith & Solway seat, which is unlikely to be attractive to Sue Hayman, leaving her the option of fighting Jamie Reed for the Whitehaven & Workington seat.
Wrexham. Susan Elan Jones’s Clwyd South seat is dismembered. Part of it goes into the elaborately named De Clwyd a Gogledd Sir Faldwyn seat, but that is notionally Conservative. The other part goes into Wrexham Maelor, where she would have to compete against Ian Lucas for the nomination.
Newport. The Newport seats are combined into one. Jessica Morden would also have the right to seek nomination in Monmouthshire, but that’s solidly Tory leaving one Labour seat between her and Paul Flynn. Flynn will be 85 come the next election, so the issue may well be resolved by retirement.

Straight two way fights

There are seven Labour seats where there are two Labour MPs who are eligible for that seat, and that seat only – meaning a straight fight is unavoidable unless someone stands down:
Sunderland West – Bridget Phillipson vs Sharon Hodgson
Newcastle North West – Catherine McKinnell vs Chi Onwurah
Wednesfield & Willenhall – David Winnick vs Emma Reynolds (though Winnick will be 86)
Stoke South – Rob Flello vs Tristram Hunt
Dudley East & Tipton – Ian Austin vs Adrian Bailey (though Bailey will be 74)
Neath & Aberavon – Stephen Kinnock vs Christina Rees
Cardiff South & East – Jo Stevens vs Stephen Doughty

More complicated fights

There are eight areas where there are rather more complicated fights… but where ultimately there are more Labour MPs than there are seats, so something will have to give:

Birmingham. Roger Godsiff’s seat disppears. He will have the right to seek election in four other Birmingham seats, putting him up against Gisela Stuart, Jess Phillips, Richard Burden or Steve McCabe. He will be 73 come the election though, so may choose to stand down.
Islington & Hackney. The change that got the most attention when the proposals were announced. Essentially Meg Hillier, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and Rushanara Ali have to somehow share out the Finsbury Park & Stoke Newington, Hackney West and Bethnal Green and Hackney Central seats. Someone is going to get stuffed.
Rochdale & Bury. Debbie Abrahams, Ivan Lewis, Liz McInnes and Simon Danzcuk are in play, with Rochdale, Prestwich and Middleton and Littleborough & Saddleworth. If Danzcuk remains suspended from the Labour party then the problem presumably resolves itself.
Liverpool. Steve Rotheram’s seat disappears and he would be eligible to challenge Louise Ellman, Peter Dowd or Stephen Twigg for selection in their seats. Rotheram himself is standing for Liverpool mayor, so it won’t be an issue for him. If he steps down though whoever is elected in the subsequent by-election would face the same issue.
Bradford & Leeds. Judith Cummins seat disppears. She is eligible to seek selection for Bradford West (against Naz Shah), in Spen (against Jo Cox’s successor) or in Pudsey, where Rachel Reeves will likely also be seeking the nomination (Leeds West vanishes, but Pudsey takes much of its territory and becomes a notionally Labour seat)
Sheffield. Newly elected Gill Furniss sees her seat dismembered – see is eligible to seek nomination in Sheffield North and Ecclesfield (against Angela Smith) or Sheffield East (against Clive Betts).
Pontypridd. Owen Smith’s seat is dismembered and he will have the right to seek nomination in either Chris Bryant’s Rhondda & Llantrisant or Ann Clwyd’s Cynon Valley and Pontypridd. Ann Clwyd will be 83 by the next election, so it may be resolved by retirement.
Islwyn. Chris Evans’ seat also vanished, and he will have the choice of competing against Nick Smith in Blaenau Gwent or Wayne Davies in Caerphilly.

The deep blue sea

Fourteen Labour MPs do not have a notionally Labour seat they would be eligible to seek selection in. In some cases this is just because of a slight change to an already ultra-marginal seat (e.g. Chris Matheson in Chester notionally loses his seat, but there’s really little change from 2015), in other cases it leaves them with a very difficult fight:

Andy Slaughter would face a Tory majority of 14% in the new Hammersmith & Fulham seat
Gareth Thomas would face a Tory majority of 11% in the new Harrow and Stanmore
Joan Ryan would face a small Tory majority of just 3% in the new Enfield seat
Ruth Cadbury faces a 10% Tory majority in Brentford & Chiswick
Tulip Siddiq faces a 9% Tory majority in Hampstead and Golders Green
Alex Chunningham is only eligible for the nomination in Stockton West, with a 7% Tory majority
Chris Matheson doesn’t actually face much change, but Chester would have a 1% Tory majority on paper
Jenny Chapman faces a notional Tory majority of 1% in Darlington
Madeleine Moon’s Bridgend is merged with the Vale of Glamorgan to create a notionally Tory seat, but with a majority of only 3%
Alan Whitehead’s Southampton Test would have a 4% Tory majority on paper (Southampton Itchen would flip to Labour… but Whitehead doesn’t have the right to go there under Labour rules)
Melanie Orr would be eligible to seek selection in either Grimsby North & Barton or Grimsby South and Cleethorpes. Both, however, would be Conservative.
Holly Walker-Lynch faces a similar situation, under Labour rules she can apply for Calder Valley or Halifax, but they are both notionally Tory.
Finally, in the sorriest situation of all are Margaret Greenwood and Alison McGovern. They are both only eligible to seek selection in the new Bebington & Heswall seat… and even if they do get it, it’s now notionally Tory.

So, by my reckoning there will probably be around 15 re-selection battles where a sitting Labour MP faces up against another sitting Labour MP on the provisional boundaries, though remember that these are subject to change (and it only takes a small adjustment by the boundary commission to shift the number of voters from an old seat above or below 40%). It’s also worth noting that you don’t need boundary changes for a deselection – there is a normal trigger ballot process than can be used to deselect an MP and some of the speculation about deselections – Peter Kyle for example – is not due to Labour seats being merged together.


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I’ve been tied up with boundary changes and having a birthday at the weekend, so this is just a quick post to catch up with some of the voting intention and Scottish Independence polling I’ve missed. Looking at Westminster voting first, I’ve updated the voting intention on the sidebar to include all the latest figures. Overall the Conservative party’s lead remains strong – most polls still have the Tories at around 40% and Labour around 30%.

The two most recent polls, from YouGov and Ipsos MORI, both showed the Tory lead falling a bit – YouGov had a lead of 7 points (down from 11), MORI a lead of 6 points (down from 11). In the case of YouGov, this is actually within the normal range of their recent polling (they had the Tory lead at 7 and 8 points in August too) and the MORI poll is probably at least partially a reversion to the mean after an anomalously high 45% score for the Tories their previous poll. Nevertheless, it may be a sign of Theresa May’s honeymoon continuing to fade.

Two years on from the Indyref we’ve also seen a handful of new polls on Scottish independence. The last time I wrote about polling on Scottish independence was at the end of July. Back then we had seen a couple of polls from Survation and Panelbase taken immediately after the EU Referendum that appeared to show a shift in favour of Scottish independence, but a YouGov poll taken a few weeks later showing no apparent change. We’ve had several more Scottish polls since then, including more recent polls from Survation and Panelbase, as well as polls from TNS and Ipsos MORI. The picture now looks very clear, showing NO ahead with no obvious net movement towards Yes as a result of the EU referendum (though as John Curtice points out there has been churn under the surface). MORI show NO five points ahead, Survation, Panelbase and TNS all have NO six points ahead.


This is the third in a series of posts on the boundary review. There is a general overview of what is happening and why it’s controversial here, a summary of what the effects are and some of MPs who are losing their seats here. This final post has the full, seat-by-seat, estimates of how the votes cast at the last general election would have fallen out on the new boundaries in England and Wales.

Full notional results for England and Wales.

The changes in England and Wales result in the Conservatives losing 10 seats, Labour losing 28 seats, the Liberal Democrats losing 4 and the Greens losing Brighton Pavilion (though notional calculations like these risk underestimating the performance of parties with isolated pockets of support like the Greens and Lib Dems, so it may not hit them as hard as these suggest). The Scottish boundary commission don’t report until next month, but for obvious reasons the Conservatives and Labour can only lose a maximum of one seat each there, meaning that on these boundaries the Conservatives would have had a majority of around 40 at the last election.

The usual caveats I give for notional results apply – this is an accounting exercise, estimating what the ward level vote within each constituency would have been in 2015 (basing the distribution on the distribution at local elections) then reallocating the wards to their new constituencies and adding them back up again. If there is a radically different pattern of support in an area at local and national elections the figures might be misleading, if there are loads of independent candidates in any area (as in rural Wales, North Yorkshire or Cornwall) then the figures won’t be that accurate. If you know an area really well and you think the projections are wrong, then you are probably correct… but hopefully any such errors cancel out.

And a final caveat – this is purely a prediction of how the votes would have fallen out if the votes at the last election were counted on the new boundaries. They are certainly NOT a prediction of what would happen at the next election.


Overnight the English and Welsh boundary commissions released their initial proposals for the boundary changes – the English proposals are here, Welsh proposals are here. If you missed it, I discussed the wider background to the boundary changes and how they work yesterday. The initial proposals are very much as expected – we’ve known the broad strokes of the review since the rules were set in 2011 and the electorate numbers were released in the spring. The review will cut the total number of MPs from 650 to 600, including a reduction from 533 to 501 in England and a reduction from 40 to 29 in Wales. The English losses are disproportionately in the North, where the population is falling relative to southern England, and will consequently hit Labour harder than the Tories. Today’s proposals are about the details – finding out what the specific proposals are and what the specific impact will be.

As usual, I’ve worked out notional projected figures for what the new boundaries would mean at a general election (using a similar method to that used by Rallings and Thrasher for the official notional figures they will produce for the media once the final report it out). The changes are, as ever, a case of swings and roundabouts. A net total of 43 seats are abolished across England and Wales, but the impact is more than just those abolished and created seats, other seats may notionally change hands as wards are moved from one seat to another. Just because a seat held by a party is abolished, it doesn’t mean that party necessarily looses out as parts of that dismembered seats may push neighbouring seats into their column.

Even defining which seats disappear can be debatable (especially when there are contentious selection battles to come). In England there are around 35 existing seats that don’t really have a seat which is its clear successor, 12 of these are Tory seats, 23 are Labour. Looking at the knock-on effects elsewhere, there are around 16 seats where the Conservatives would notionally have won seats they don’t currently hold, 13 seats where Labour would have won seats they don’t currently hold. In Wales the changes are more drastic, given the sharp reduction from 40 seats to only 29. By my calculation Labour lose 7 seats in Wales, the Conservatives lose 4.

There are only three seats in England and Wales that the Liberal Democrats would have won on the proposed boundaries: North Norfolk, Westmoreland & Lonsdale and Ceredigion. I should add a caveat to this though – these projections are purely an attempt to work out what the result would be if the votes cast at the last election had been counted on these new boundaries. It’s purely an accounting exercise, estimating what the general election vote was in each ward, allocating them to their new seats and totting them up. It doesn’t account for the fact that people might have voted differently if they’d been in a different seat – for example, it’s possible that people who voted Tory in Penistone East ward in 2015 when the ward was in Penistone & Stocksbridge might instead have voted tactically for Nick Clegg had their ward been in Sheffield Hallam. For that reason I think such notional figures can sometimes underestimate the Lib Dems. Note that the Liberal Democrats have suggested they might win Cambridge on the new boundaries – this is not unrealistic at all, on my notional figures Labour have a majority of under 200 there.

Aside from Nick Clegg, several other high profile figures face seeing their seats abolished or made tricky to win. Looking at the Conservatives, George Osborne’s Tatton seat is abolished (the largest part of it goes into David Rutley’s Macclesfield seat), David Davis’s Haltemprice seat also goes, mostly into the new Goole seat, the successor to Andrew Percy’s Brigg and Goole. Priti Patel’s Witham seat forms the smaller part of a new Witham & Maldon seat, mostly made up of John Whittingdale’s Maldon seat. Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, also sees his Kenilworth and Southam seat abolished. Some media reports have suggested Justine Greening may also be in trouble: she’s not, her seat has Wimbledon Common added to it but will still be very Conservative.

For the Conservatives, MPs in danger of losing their seat poses a risk to getting the boundary changes through, and it’s likely the party will try to use retirements, peerages and so forth to ensure no current Tory MPs lose out. For Labour MPs the boundary changes take place against a different background and MPs who have opposed Jeremy Corbyn may face difficulties in selections if there are local boundary changes. High profile MPs whose seats are abolished include Tristram Hunt in Stoke Central (divided between Stoke North and South), Ian Austin in Dudley North (his seat mostly ends up in the new Dudley East & Tipton, the successor seat to Adrian Bailey’s West Brom West), Vernon Coaker (whose Gedling seat is divided between Chris Leslie’s Nottingham East and Conservative-held Sherwood). Jeremy Corbyn’s own seat sees substantial changes: Diane Abbott’s Hackney North and Stoke Newington is abolished and split between a Hackney Central seat (mostly made up of Meg Hillier’s Hackney South) and a Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington seat (mostly made up of Corbyn’s Islington North), with a much smaller part going into a new Hackney West and Bethnal Green seat.

I’ll put up full notional results later on today, but looking at England and Wales as a whole, it looks as if the Conservatives would lose 10 seats, Labour would lose 28 seats, the Liberal Democrats would lose 4 and the Greens would lose one (by my calculations the new Brighton North would be a close three-way marginal, with the Conservatives narrowly ahead of Labour). That means at the last general election the Conservatives would have won a majority of 40, rather than the majority of 12 they actually got.

I’ll release full notional figures for each seat later on today.