This morning the Communication Workers’ Union released a Survation constituency poll of Hartlepool, the first one we’ve seen (earlier in the campaign figures were released from a Focaldata MRP of the North, but you can’t really use MRP for a by-election – it doesn’t pick up the unique circumstances). Topline figures with changes from the last election were are CON 49%(+20), LAB 42%(+4), NIP 2%(+2), GRN 1%(+1), LD 1%(-3), ReformUK 1%(-25).

I should start by saying that constituency polling is difficult. It is mostly done by telephone and often has small sample sizes (in this case, the sample was 500, but the actual voting figures are based only 302 who gave a response). Its track record has sometimes been patchy. Nevertheless, it’s the best evidence of where the race stands that we are going to get. What can we tell?

The Conservatives are ahead (though the two main parties are within the margin of error for a sample of 302). Compared to the general election the poll suggests an 8 point lead from Lab to Con, significantly better than how the Conservatives are doing in national polls.

It would be extremely unusual for a governing party to gain a seat in a by-election. There have been only two instances in the last fifty years (Copeland in 2017 and Mitcham & Morden in 1982). Few governments poll ahead of their last election performance mid-term anyway, and if anything they do worse than that in by-elections.

The reason the Tories are doing better in Hartlepool than nationwide appears fairly straightforward, and doesn’t offer any obviously transferrable lessons. In Britain as a whole the Brexit party got 2% at the 2019 election. In Hartlepool they got a very healthy 26%. That vote has almost completely vanished, presumably to the benefit of the Conservatives.

As ever, by-elections are extremely unusual beasts that do not necessarily tell much about national politics. Maybe if the actual by-election turns out like this it will be a steer on how other seats with a high level of Brexit party support in 2019 may go… but then, come the actual by-election we’ll have a glut of other data from the local, Scottish, Welsh, Mayoral and London elections due to be held on the same day, so hopefully we won’t be trying to desperately read too much into one single by-election.

Also worth noting that – given this poll was commissioned by the CWU – it also asked about some of the issues that they are concerned about like broadband, Royal Mail privatisation, nurses pay. The answers in Hartlepool were as you’d expect from national polling (people like free stuff & nurses. They don’t like privatisations). It doesn’t tell us anything particularly useful about why Labour aren’t doing better. Don’t assume because the CWU chose to ask about those issues that they are necessarily ones that are driving support in Hartlepool. Maybe people in Hartlepool care more about Corona, or crime, or Brexit, or economic regeneration, or taxes…

Finally, before this poll there was also significant social media buzz about the Northern Independence party having an impact, not least because their candidate is Thelma Walker, a former Labour MP who resigned over the party’s refusal to re-admit Jeremy Corbyn. Realistically a party that hasn’t even been registered yet may be very pleased indeed if they manage to get third place, but nevertheless, the poll suggests they are not significant players here.

UPDATE: The tables for the Survation poll have appeared, and worth adding a further caveat. At the last election the Brexit party got 26% of the vote. Among people who took part in the poll, only 3% recalled voting for the Brexit party. This does not *necessarily* mean its a duff sample – there will undoubtedly be issues of false recall, of people re-aligning their past vote to match with present circumstances (especially since the Brexit party has rebranded itself into ReformUK and no longer exists in its old form), but it should be an extra reason for caution.


There were two Scottish Parliament voting intention over the weekend, one from Panelbase, one from Survation. Topline figures are that both show the SNP continuing to cruise towards victory and on the edge of winning a majority. Both show a tight race for second place between the Conservatives and Labour.

However, these were also the first two to measure support for Alex Salmond’s new list only party, Alba. The Panelbase poll showed them at 6%, the Survation poll showed them at 3%. To understand the significance of these we need to explore the nuances of the Scottish Parliament electoral system.

The Scottish Parliament elects members using an additional member system. 73 MSPs are elected in constituencies using first past the post, a further 56 are elected on a proportional regional list system. The regional list seats effectively operate as a “top-up” to the constituency seats already won, so that overall the seats won should be proportional to the list vote. For example, if party A won 6 constituency seats, but got 10% of the list vote, they’d be awarded another 7 list seats so they had 10% of the total seats. It’s more complicated than that because it’s done by region, meaning there is an effective threshold to get any seats at all, but we’ll come to that.

Crucially people cast two votes – you don’t have to cast your constituency vote in the same way as your list vote, you can vote for different parties.

The SNP did extremely well at winning constituencies at the last election (59 out of 73). This meant that that despite winning 42% of the list vote, they didn’t receive many list seats, because they had already won almost their fair share through constituency seats. Compare this to the Scottish Greens – they don’t win any constituency seats (they barely stand), so there is nothing to set against their list vote and their list vote of 7% translates into 6 seats.

Therefore, the Alba argument goes, SNP votes on the regional list are “wasted” votes, that are unlikely to return MSPs. If a significant chunk of SNP voters voted Alba instead, it would return more pro-independence MSPs.

So far, so good. However, because the Scottish system uses regional lists, there’s an effective threshold to get any seats at all (about 5-6%). There is also already a second pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens. That means in practice Alba could have a positive or negative impact on the number of pro-Independence MSPs elected. If they get over 5% in a substantial number of regions, and do so by taking SNP second preferences, rather than taking votes who would otherwise back the Greens, they will increase the next number of pro-independence MSPs. If they get under 6% in most regions, they are unlikely to win any MSPs at all. If they get under 6%, but in doing so, take votes from the Scottish Greens, they could even reduce the the number of pro-independence MSPs.

Hence, in judging the impact of Alba, the thing to look at is the level of Alba and the Scottish Greens in the list vote, and whether each is above or below that threshold of around 5-6%. The two polls so far paint contrasting pictures – in the Survation poll, Alba were at 3% and the Scottish Greens were unchanged at 11%. In the Panelbase poll Alba were at 6%, the Scottish Greens at 8%, again comparable to their showing in previous Panelbase polls.

So in neither case was there any evidence that Alba were cannibalising the pro-independence list vote by taking support from the Greens, but the evidence on whether they’ll actually win seats of their own is unclear. On the Panelbase figures they may well do (John Curtice tentatively projects 6 Alba seats, with a total of 79 pro-Independence MSPs). On the Survation figures they probably wouldn’t, but the SNP and Greens would get 77 pro-Independence MSPs between them anyway.

And that, in itself, maybe underlines the extent to which this matters. As things stand most polls show the SNP getting a majority or getting close to one. Taking the SNP & Scottish Greens together, there will very likely be a majority of pro-Independence MSPs anyway. Whether Alba manage to scramble over the threshold to win some seats or not doesn’t look likely to change that given their present level of support.

3,381 Responses to “Polling on Hartlepool and the impact of Alba”

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  1. @TOH – “Nonsense. its the biggest gain.”

    Don’t be silly. Of course it isn’t. Comparable to the loss of Singapore in 1942. We won WW2, but it was the greatest loss of UK power for two hundred years. You’ve won Brexit, and delivered a similar decline in global influence.

    The UK’s global influence is significantly restricted, now we are no longer able to exert influence within the framework of the EU.

    Have a look at the US. You probably haven’t followed the moves in Washington to bolster their diplomatic links with the Netherlands in particular, as the replacement for the UK ‘Atlantic Bridge’.

    I’m afraid your just being a bit of a daftie if you insist on regurgitating the myth of UK power and influence growing because of Brexit.

    There is an alternative of course – you could for once try to provide some evidence for your assertions.

  2. TOH

    It’s a bizarre world you occupy , where poorer is richer, where less rights are more rights, where a supposedly irreversible decision by a minority is democracy in action.

    Congratulations you have consumed all the kool aid and truly embraced the stupidity.

    TOH. weather forecast for today it will be light when it’s dark and sunny when it’s raining.

    There’s no arguing with a true cultist.

    So I won’t try.

  3. For Spaffer normal is duplicitous incompetence combined with an etonian fuelled narcissism and the unctuous supplication of our compliant media.

    For Spaffer normal is already here.

  4. Interesting article in the Spectator today suggesting Alba might diverge from the SNP on rejoining the EU should an independence bid be successful.


    Hopefully these shenanigans will bring the malignant influence of McCluskey over Unite and the Labour party to an end.

  6. @ Steve

    “There’s no arguing with a true cultist.”

    Hard Brexit vs Hard Remain.

    Pot, kettle, black.

  7. The Other Howard,
    “Nonsense. its the biggest gain.”

    Then list what we have gained.

    We have fewer rights to travel abroad, but anticiapte allowing in just as many people.

    We have materially worse trading terms with europe, and parts fo the rest of the world – whereas they enjoy the same beneficial terms.

    We have the freedom to conform with rules they choose to make, or break them and place our own industries at a competitive disadvantage. Whereas before we had input into making those rules.

    We have freedom to relax food standards, pollution standards to lesser than EU ones. Really great, this one.

    We have freedom to stop subsidising farms and fisheries, which we will so those industries cease to exist. The freedom to go bust.

    Finance industry is shrinking because we are now powerless to prevent the EU acting against it.

    We have less ability to wield the might of the EU in UK causes. We cannot leverage our EU membership to get us better deals with other parties.

    We can no longer prevent the EU doing things against Uk interest. we can no longer prevent the creation of a european superstate. We no longer have the power to force them to terms beneficial to the UK whenever they want to change rules.

    Leaving the EU is the financial equivalent of militarily leaving NATO.

  8. Alec,
    “As the article says, this really should be our main control mechanism, but governments haven’t really grasped this as yet.”

    So I’ll mention again the R4 interview I heard last year with an expert on disease control who opined that victorians built better hospitals for preventing contagious disease spread because they had better ventilation. You are lucky to find an openable window in a modern hospital.

    You might consider they were disasters waiting to happen, and they did. So many cases ending in death were caught in hospital.

  9. Trevor,

    I think that tells the truth number is telling as any objective analysis would lead one to a different conclusion than the plurality of respondents.

    It shows, perhaps 2 things.

    First, one people have a view about which leader they prefer many will automatically say the one they prefer is better on all issues than the other.

    Secondly, it goes back to my perceived competence trumping integrity with many voters with sadly, for me at least, many voters seemingly ignoring the PMs clear mendacity as they now, due to the vaccine roll out, perceive him to be competent.

  10. Good afternoon all from a grey and breeze Southampton.

    Busted Flush Alba?

    Election Maps UK
    Holyrood Voting Intention:

    SNP: 53% (+1)
    CON: 20% (-3)
    LAB: 18% (+2)
    LDM: 6% (+1)
    GRN: 2% (=)

    SNP: 38% (-9)
    CON: 21% (-1)
    LAB: 18% (+4)
    GRN: 12% (+4)
    LDM: 6% (=)
    ALBA: 3% (+3)

    , 29 Mar – 4 Apr.
    Changes w/ 15-21 Feb.

  11. Alec

    “I’m afraid your just being a bit of a daftie if you insist on regurgitating the myth of UK power and influence growing because of Brexit.”

    Typical silly Remainer response, wait and see, wait and see is my response to you.

    I note you are now using the rather fatuous SJ approach, asking me to prove my assertions. So sill you know I have not intention of entering into such a dialogue.

  12. In the above poll it looks like SNP voters are switching more towards the Greens than Alba on the list .

    A pro indy majority with the SNP on its own or with the Greens looks far more palatable than something involving Salmondella’s Alba.

  13. Steve

    I could be rude to you back Steve, but I just feel sad for you so happy to let you live in your alternative World.

  14. Election Maps UK
    My seat estimate:

    SNP: 70
    CON: 25
    LAB: 19
    GRN: 11
    LDM: 4

    SNP majority of 11.
    Independence majority of 33

  15. Danny,

    Your view of Brexit is as badlky wrong as your view of Covid. There is no meeting of minds I don’t agree with a word you write.

  16. Looks like the Scots are bolting and taking their lettuce with them :):)

    Should Scotland be an independent country?

    Yes 52% (-)
    No 48% (-)


    Thanks for breaking up my posts with twaddle

  18. Ipsos MORI tables

    Alba actually at 2.51%

    Constituency change prediction – SNP gain 4 in South Scotland, 3 in Lothian, 2 in West and 1 in NE.

  19. TOH: I note you are now using the rather fatuous SJ approach, asking me to prove my assertions.

    Backing up assertions with evidence? The very idea! Only remainers would have such fatuous ideas.

    Thank god TOH isn’t a magistrate.

  20. @TOH – I must concur with @Somerjohn. Providing evidence is never, and could never be, fatuous.

  21. Worth a read as to psychological rigidity:
    You may decide for your selves who you believe this might apply to here; I couldn’t possibly comment

  22. @ JJ – “First, once people have a view about which leader they prefer many will automatically say the one they prefer is better on all issues than the other.”

    Whilst I take your point then we can look back a few months on R&W and other pollsters to see Starmer had quite the lead on individual qualities.

    Back then we mused as to why LAB were not in the lead in VI given they clearly had the ‘better’ leader and put it down to the ‘team’ (eg Rishi clearly a boost for CON)

    On your second point them Boris is ‘marmite’, nothing new. IMO he is less of a liability than he used to be but rightly or wrongly he seems to be able to get away with gaffs – ‘it’s just Boris being Boris’.

    Starmer can’t be ‘Boris’ and get away with the kind of stuff Boris does[1].

    There is only one Boris Johnson, one Boris Johnson ;)

    [1] It might seem unfair but with mostly older VI then CON folks are used to mediocre PMs and quite a lot of HMG incompetence. What Boris has in spades is positivity (sometimes too much) and ‘charisma’.

    Blair had that (especially against Major). Starmer doesn’t and the fake Starmer trying to out Tory the Tories, out Boris Boris, is not going to work.

  23. JIB
    The high priest of imaginary federal user state defending the bishop of faux success.

    You guys provide your own pots and kettles.

  24. Alec

    You are asking a cultist for proof .
    It’s like asking the pope to provide evidence of his imaginary friend.

    There’s no point evidence doesn’t matter if you believe hard enough.

  25. Ipsos MORI also ask most important issues in their Holyrood poll (change since Feb)

    Scottish Independence / devolution: 49 (+5)
    Education: 28 (-4)
    Healthcare / NHS: 27 (+2)
    Managing the economy: 16 (-2)
    Coronavirus: 15 (-5)

    Those who mentioned the indirect beneficiary of Alba might be SGP (eg BARDIN1) deserve some ‘kudos’

    “Seven in ten (72%) of SNP constituency voters say they will vote ‘both votes SNP’ by casting their regional list vote for the party as well. The remaining 28% are most likely to say they will cast their list vote for the Scottish Green Party”

    IE Salmond might have made a lot of Indy folks more aware of how to game the list vote but those Indy folks prefer SGP to Alba.

    On ‘satisfaction’ ratings:

    Sturgeon: + 29 (-1.5)
    Sarwar: +26 (new)
    Harvie (1/2 of SGP): +14 (+1)
    Rennie: +7 (+0.5)
    Ross: -23 (-5.5)
    Salmond: -55 (new)

    Well played Sturgeon and SNP.

  26. @Danny – yes, I recall your post on airy Victorian hospitals. One of the few covid related posts of yours that made sense.

    Alongside the application of mathematical statistical analysis to health outcomes, fresh air and infection control was one of Florence Nightingale’s key contributions to medical science.

    Nightingale has since been co-opted by male dominated history as a classic example of the ‘caring female’ trope, whereas she was actually a truly brilliant woman in traditionally male dominated areas that few really understand these days.

  27. Brexit means;

    Moving from an established trading block with negotiated rules and procedures governing internal trade and legislation and relationships with nations outside using a formalised decision making process that defines central and national powers and Sovereignty.


    Adhoc negotiations with existing blocs or individual nations using a range or less developed and loser international rules and institutions which will still mean limits on and shared sovereignty in the hope the greater flexibility will give us advantages.

    Neither option is ideal nor is either what Brexiteers portray them us; The first is not a Federal Superstate, embryonic or otherwise or is it a anti free trade bloc. Equally what we have now isn’t being set free with fully sovereignty to do as we want.


  28. @ AC – Ballot Box reckon SNP would get ~71 which is about where they ‘max out’ (and back to 2H2020 levels)

    “Projecting Ipsos MORI 29 Mar – 6 Apr into seats (changes vs 15 – 21 Feb):

    SNP ~ 71 (-1 / +8)
    Conservative ~ 24 (-2 / -7)
    Labour ~ 19 (+2 / -5)
    Green ~ 11 (+2 / +5)
    Lib Dem ~ 4 (-1 / -1) ”

    and scroll all the way down on:

  29. OLDNAT

    “Alba actually at 2.51%”

    If you read some of the rantings on twitter and on they pro Alba blogging websites they would have you believe Alba was polling 25% on the list.

    2.51% is even looking up to wee Willie. That can’t be good. :)

  30. TREVS

    Looking at Ballot Box’s maps it looks like the SNP could win all but one of mainland Scotland’s seats. There is a wee stubborn blue corner in the South east of Scotland that will hopefully be flushed out sooner or later :)

    I’m going to keep a close eye on Orkney and Shetland. I’m sure one will fall to the SNP in this election.

    Ipsos MORI also ask most important issues in their Holyrood poll (change since Feb)

    Scottish Independence / devolution: 49 (+5)
    Education: 28 (-4)
    Healthcare / NHS: 27 (+2)
    Managing the economy: 16 (-2)
    Coronavirus: 15 (-5)

    That’s quite astonishing for independence to be so high up the agenda. I know it’s a big issue but being so broad an issue and polling that high in importance looks as if people are now looking at the whole indy package as post covid recovery Scotland.

    I watched the SNP’s political broadcast on twitter last night and it was very powerful.

    The lettuces, cough, sorry the Scots look like they are really about to bolt. :)

  32. Ipsos MORI poll

    “If you do change your mind about voting for this party on your regional list vote, which party would you vote for instead?”

    Penny-ante numbers so actual weighted responses instead of %. Might give some indication of how votes might shift during the campaign.

    Current List VI : Alternative VI

    SNP (N=61) : SGP 21, SLab 5, Alba 4
    SGP (N=56) : SNP 26, Alba 7, SLab 6, SLD 3
    Alba (N=11) : SNP 8, SCon 1, SGP 1

    SLab (N=46) : SLD 10, SNP 9, SGP 6, SCon 5
    SCon (N=32) : SLD 6, SLab 5, SNP 1, Alba 1
    SLD (N=26) : SLab 11, SCon 7, SNP 2, SGP 2

  33. STEVE

    “There’s no point evidence doesn’t matter if you believe hard enough.”

    Another absurd post, everybody on this site knows exactly how I choose to post.

    As it happens there is plenty of evidence if you care to look for it.

  34. ALEC, SJ

    “@TOH – I must concur with @Somerjohn. Providing evidence is never, and could never be, fatuous.”

    It is when you know that my style of posting never indulges in what i consider a waste of time. You must have both been told a 100 times.

    You have got me laughing now, so thanks for that, a bit of amusement is welcome at the moment.


    No twaddle from nme but silly remark from you I see.

  36. STEVE
    You are asking a cultist for proof .
    It’s like asking the pope to provide evidence of his imaginary friend.”

    Are you saying Santa isn’t real?!?!??

  37. From TREVS post

    On ‘satisfaction’ ratings:

    Sturgeon: + 29 (-1.5)
    Sarwar: +26 (new)
    Harvie (1/2 of SGP): +14 (+1)
    Rennie: +7 (+0.5)
    Ross: -23 (-5.5)
    Salmond: -55 (new)

    Well played Sturgeon and SNP.

    Great ratings for Sturgeon and Sarwar.

    Interestingly it looks like Sarwar’s approval ratings took a big hike upwards after he told DRoss to “Grow up” :)

  38. In the past, the SNP has been accused of soft pedalling on independence. Not this time.

    Here’s their latest PPB.

  39. More polling…

    You are asking a cultist for proof .
    It’s like asking the pope to provide evidence of his imaginary friend.”

    Are you saying Santa isn’t real?!?!??

    Seventy-one percent of parents with kids ages 10 or under say at least one of their children thinks Santa Claus is real. Another 13 percent say their kids have outgrown the belief, while 12 percent say their kids never believed in Santa in the first place.

    Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of adult respondents believe it’s OK for kids to believe in Santa, although they pick age 10 as the median age at which children should learn the truth.

    Just over one-fifth of parents with kids between the ages of 11 and 17 say their kids still believe in Santa Claus.

    HO HO HO

  40. Vaccine supply

    In the week to 29 March, 271,010 doses were allocated to Scotland. Last week it was 70,200.

    That will have been mirrored in rUK.

  41. [email protected]
    Hate to break it to you but he eloped with the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy was bloody furious.

  42. Allan
    I confused the hell.out of my kids when I pointed out that NORAD track Santa every year and went to the official pentagon website to prove it.

    They were on the cusp of moving on to just accepting that it wasn’t pure chance that their Santa delivered Christmas presents weren’t just coincidentally the same as the ones in the cellar.

    Kids can be perceptive when they’re 23!

  43. AC

    Seems you seem to ask for proof . Perhaps you could supply us with some proof the the SNP would be a good thing for Scotland should they become the actual government of Scotland post any referendum.

    After all there record in government is pretty dismal from education to health they seem to have been moving Scotland backwards.
    I can see after years of brainwashing the party faithful that a independent Scotland is the way forward and I appreciate it would be like asking a cultist for proof ,but what does the future under the SNP really offer apart of course the undeniable right to paint your face blue and run amok down Sauchiehall street waving the Saltire.

  44. @Oldnat – really a very sharp contraction in supply.

    Meanwhile, the EU supply continues to ramp up. Interesting to see the UK media reports of the first Moderna vaccine coming through. On this particular one, the EU was well ahead. They approved it on Jan 6th, started giving it out on Jan 12th, and secured sufficient for 18% of their population compared to 0.5% for the UK.

    One of the successes for the EU.

  45. After all, their record in government is pretty dismal: from education to health they seem to have been moving the UK backwards.

    I can see that after years of brainwashing the party faithful that a brexit Britain is the way forward, it would be like asking a cultist for proof; but what does the future under the Tories really offer apart from, of course, the undeniable right to paint your face red white and blue and run amok down Whitehall waving the Union Jack?

    OK, I admit that like the original it’s rubbish. Shows the quality of thinking, though.

  46. STEVE

    :) :)

    Never too old to believe in Santa. NORAD and the FSB both track ol Santa. He plays havoc with the Russian S500 surface to air missiles over Moscow every Christmas when he turns off his transponders.

  47. Turk

    Yes absurd idea for a country to move away from an authoritarian monarchy and make its own choices.

    Would never happen in Texas!

  48. @Allan / Oldnat

    My take on the Ipsos Mori poll, with constituencies calculated from calc site, and regions via my spreadsheet:

    I’m thinking: “GIRFUY” :D

  49. TURK

    Where was I asking for proof?

    As a Trumping supporter I think you’re the one being brain washed into a morphing redneck.

    Talking of brainwashing flag wavers…Take a closer look at your favoured decrepit regime in Downing street. Other than the vaccine roll out, what key indicators do the Tories perform better than the Scottish government.

    SNP, LAB LIB/DEMS, GREENS all favour the Scottish government over that mess in number 10. It seems to me the dross that are the Union Jack wavers in Scotland are the ones following a cult.

    @Allan / Oldnat

    My take on the Ipsos Mori poll, with constituencies calculated from calc site, and regions via my spreadsheet:

    I’m thinking: “GIRFUY” :D

    Your forecast for Mid Scotland and Fife looks staggering for the SNP. Nearly 65%!! :)

    Looking at your graphs one would think you only had yellow crayons. :) :)

    “GIRFUY” <<<< Bit rude but highly appropriate considering the circumstances. :) :)

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