End of year round up

When commentators write about polls they often fail to resist reaching for the cliche of saying the polls are extremely volatile, or even that there is unprecedented volatility. Often what they actual mean is that differences between pollsters or normal random sample error are spitting out apparently contradictory figures. Polls are not normally particularly volatile over the short term, the pattern of public opinion is normally pretty steady with occassional step changes in opinion. In that sense I was almost tempted to say that this year was particularly volatile… until I looked back at last year, compared to the sharp reverses of 2007, 2008 was pretty staid.

Nevertheless, There were two big step changes in support during 2008. The first happened in the spring and, while it is never possible to pin these things down exactly the polls seemed to turn around the budget. There were no particularly unpopular measures in the budget and the polls showed that the majority of people supported the measures in the budget. I suspect the reason it was followed by a drop in Labour support is that it made the economy troubles real for the first time and, as I argued in this post last week, Labour’s summer travails and autumn recovery do seem to have gone hand in hand with the public’s hopes and fears on the economy.

The turnaround in the spring was not, however, all about Labour. The local and London elections also contributed to that shift – the halo effect around the Conservative victory in London and the Crewe and Nantwich by-election saw their ratings jump upwards. Heading into the summer we saw some huge 20 point leads in the polls as the government’s dire position was compounded by leadership ructions breaking into the open. In Populus’s annual conference poll the percentage of people who thought Labour were united had fallen to 23%, thirty points lower than a year before. There were bigger opposition leads in the mid 1990s, but they were from pollsters who had yet to make adjustments after the 1992 debacle. If you look at ICM, the only pollster who uses more or less the same methods now as they did back in 1993-1997, the Conservative leads in summer 2009 bore comparison to the Labour leads when John Major was in office.

Then everything changed.

When I did my round up last year I said I doubted that it was possible for Labour to regain a lead in the polls under Gordon Brown unless there were “events [that] changed the whole world around”. Strictly speaking, Labour haven’t regained a lead in the polls, but an “event” did happen, and it did indeed turn British politics around.

The bail-out of British banks resulted in a miraculous turn around in Gordon Brown’s ratings and Labour support in the polls. If you look at the polling figures it appears that Labour’s recovery dates from conference – but I think that’s merely a result of how granular voting intention data is. If you look at the only daily data that’s available, the Phi5000 tracker on PoliticsHome, you can see that Labour and Brown’s conference bounces were already receeding from their conference increase when the bank rescue came along and up they went again, and have kept on upwards since then.

Since the bank rescue all the polling trends have been positive for Labour. The party’s share of support in voting intention polls has risen, Gordon Brown’s own ratings have shot upwards, with growing proportions of people once again seeing him as strong and capable. The Conservative lead on the economy has vanished. Labour’s rebels have melted away and, while I haven’t seen it asked, I would be amazed if polls didn’t show that people think the Labour party are united again. We shouldn’t overestimate the change – Labour are still behind in every poll, government approval ratings are still negative, but the turnaround is still stunning.

So, what about the way forward? Anyone who has read my article before Christmas about the economy will be able to guess what I expect to happen next year. There are several ifs, but if the recession bites hard next year, companies continue to fold and unemployment and repossessions rise, my expectation is that this recovery in Labour’s support will reverse. Labour’s increase in support corresponds with an increase in economic optimism over recent months – as Britain falls into official recession and the bad news keeps on coming, that will fall and those people who have supported Gordon Brown in the hope that he can limit the damage will be disappointed.

That’s just my guess. I wouldn’t have guessed that Labour would have recovered to the degree they did after the bank bailout, and this is very much uncharted territory, so while I think next year will be bad for Labour, here are two alternate ways that it could play out that are more positive. Firstly, while I expect Labour’s support to fall again in the face of economic bad news, I don’t know how long that might take. The last two YouGov polls indicate that perhaps the trend is already reversing, but it not Labour could continue to gain. Temporary blip or not, if they start to record poll leads over the Conservatives then the pressure really would be on the Tories and the media narrative would be even more in Labour’s favour. Say the economic bad news takes months to sap Labour support, say for the next few months Labour continue to go up in the polls, say they are still ahead at the end of April and Gordon Brown goes for it, calls and wins a general election. It’s possible.

Another alternative would be if the government’s economic policies actually do work better than everyone expects. Everyone seems to be predicting that the economy will be very bad indeed next year, but I’m no economist. If there aren’t lots of companies folding, unemployment is kept to reasonable levels, the economy really does return to growth in the third quarter of 2009 – more importantly, people are never given cause to lose their newly-regained faith in Gordon Brown’s handling of the economy. As I said before, the passing of the crisis isn’t an automatic win for Labour – it could mean people are more willing to risk a novice – but that’s far from a given.

My own opinion remains that this is a brief recovery in the government’s popularity and that bad economic news will grind their support away next year. What I think is clear however is that things are far less certain than they appeared a year ago.


85 Responses to “End of year round up”

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  1. Okay – I’ve chopped a lot of partisan guff out of the discussion from people who are not new posters and should know the level of discussion we have here.

    Calling Gordon Brown a clown is not non-partisan, neither is outright picking arguments with people for having opposing views on the economy. The bottom line is that posts should be in the SPIRIT of non-partisanship, so there’s another one that got blocked for a “well done for winding up the Tories”. If people respond to a post in a partisan manner, don’t get into a debate with them. Secondly, whining about how everybody else is partisan is itself partisan, and frankly contributes even more to a them and us sort of discussion.

    Anyway, turning back to James’s original point. A lot of people have responded by saying there are credible arguments that the situation was not a simple “too much free market”, indeed, there are some arguments that the root cause of the toxic debt in the USA that caused the problem was intervention by the Clinton government forcing US banks to lend to people with poor credit.

    That isn’t really the issue though. James is certainly right to say that the currently prevalent view seems to be that it was a problem of too much freedom for banks and that more regulation is the cure. For our purposes, discussing public opinion, it doesn’t really matter if that is actually true or not – if the public’s opinion, informed or not, is that more left wing solutions are the answer, that could be good for Labour.

    Where I would be wary, however, is the assumption that the public used to be pro-free market and have changed. I would advise against viewing polls now showing people think there should be more regulation of banks and so on and thinking that it shows public opinion has moved in that direction, unless you’ve got figures from a couple of years back to compare them with.

    Actually, the general public always tended to be pro-regulation, anti-big-business, suspicious of profits and shareholders and so on anyway. The fact that parties generally supportive of free-market economy have won elections doesn’t necessarily mean that the public are very right wing on the economy. It may be that they haven’t a clue about macroeconomics, and have instead voted on issues of tax and spending, public services, crime, etc, etc and when they have considered the economy, have based their judgement not on the economic mantra put forward by a party, but on how well the economy has done under a government.

    FWIW, in Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter – essentially a critique of democracy published in 2007 (so the polling evidence therein was long before the credit crunch), he argued that democracies chose bad policies (that is, policies that economists disagreed with :) ) because the public are systemically biased against free-market economics, and in favour of regulation, protectionism, makework jobs and so on … and that was using polling of the American public, who if parties did reflect the public who elect them one might have expected to me more economically right wing than the British public!

  2. James,you said you were not a lefty,so i said centre-left,i called you Mr Thurston also.

    If you beleive that is aggressive,well that is up to you,you choose to ask questions,you received answers that you didn’t want to reply to,your choice,my answers were not for you,they are for the other people reading the different opinions,and i hope to change their minds,to my way of thinking,by pointing out the incompatence of the Brown Government.

    Discussion over.

    Good day to you Sir.

  3. I think we need a poll asap for everyone to get their teeth and partisans in to.

  4. Richard – “i hope to change their minds,to my way of thinking,by pointing out the incompatence of the Brown Government.”

    Richard, maybe you haven’t been posting here for as long as I thought. These comments are specifically NOT for comments like that, they are to discuss polls and public opinion in a non-partisan environment. If your aim is to promote a political message this is not the place to do it.

  5. ANTHONY WELLS,

    well i will no longer post on your site,

    I will however say this,Politics is about opinions.

  6. Thanks for bringing us back to sensible analysis Anthony.

    The closing Polls of 2008 were certainly intriguing.

    William Rees-Mogg in MoS describes the voters mood as “complacent”. I’m not sure I agree with this and favour “self interest in a crisis” as the motivating force as we go over the cliff into 2009.

    It is very clear that the public are saving cost in their expenditures in a very big way.-shifting to Lidl/Aldi is just one sign. Paying down debt is another.The post Christmas analysis of pre-Christmas sales volumes is reportedly looking dire-and we know that margins were hammered.

    ie the public are reducing their financial vulnerability as they wait to see how bad the recession will be & how they will be affected personally.

    In those circumstances , it seems to me , voters will support anything which looks like help for them-regardless of more objective feelings about the sort of society they want from their government.

    Government action is producing clear winners & losers-Borrowers vs Savers & Private Sector vs Public Sector are two which come to mind.

    Voters are being polarised & the net result seems to have been a gain for Labour.
    4million people with VR mortgages whose cost has fallen by £200 to £300 pm will not be falling over themselves to change the Government.
    5million Public Sector workers will not volunteer to have their jobs & pension rights exposed to the storm which is approaching their Private Sector counterparts.

    I know that we are cautioned on this site against reading too much into the Poll results for sub-sets.

    However it would be very interesting to have an analysis of the movement in sectional interest opinions during the last part of 2008, and into the New Year.

  7. Suspect the issue of public sector pay especially management will be an issue this year. The Daily Mail seemed to be very upset about a nurse earning over £100 000 and East Anglia appears to be overrun with women managers of apparently dubious merit earning vast amounts of money.

  8. I haven’t read all these comments, just scanned it.
    Couldn’t be bothered, so apologies if I’ve missed anything.

    But it does look like some have been allowed to post a lot of partisan comment (plus Thomas in various threads) whereas some of those who basically replied to it have been treated harshly.

    I for one, hope Richard, does continue to post, as I’ve found his discussions on the seat threads, particularly with his manufacturing and northern background, very useful, and I doubt I’m alone.

  9. Does anybody know when the next poll is before this place implodes?????

  10. “What I think is clear however is that things are far less certain than they appeared a year ago. ”

    This is an interesting point – in fact the standing of the parties is not that different to early 2008 when several polls showed the Tory lead falling, and some Labour improvement.

    Labour seemed to really enter trouble when the 2007 budget was implemented in April 2008, the 10p, and the elections in May gave the Tories momentum as economic news worsened.

  11. John,

    “You focus on the same issues that the press and your opponents would.”

    Of course I do, an opposition that has found it’s feet is focusing on what people aren’t happy with as are the press. if they are to make progress that is what they have to do and if the SNP want to thwart that then we have to take it seriously.

    That doesn’t mean we need to change course or policy, but we do have to be better and meeting them head on with good answers.

    That’s one of the lessons of Glenrothes, we didn’t take enough heed of the attack on care charges and when it did become clear it was a problem we didn’t close it down as we should have.

    “One issue that is dormant just now and will be for most of 2009 is nuclear power/WMD where the UK government will lose especially if they win.”

    These won’t be important issues in 2011. Neither even now is high on the public radar and most people who have a strong opinion chose a party that reflected it long ago.

    Look at the MORI figures and you’ll see crime runs in the thirties and forties while nuclear issues rarely get above 2%. If the SNP was to make a big issue of WMD or nuclear while Labour and the Tories headlined on crime we would be in trouble.

    Oddly enough this weekend the Tories where having another go on one of their recurring themes; discipline in Schools. With crime, Youth behaviour and education all high on the publics agend it’s one where they are bound to get noticed.

    The key for the SNP is to address the issue with a good reasoned response highlighting the true scale of the problem and how it is being dealt with. what we shouldn’t do is what labour have done; try to out tory the Tories, or whta you seem to be suggesting, ignore the issue and leave it to the Tories.

    Neither response would be good tactically.

    Peter.

  12. JJB,
    call me provocative, but don’t call me partisan.

    If the partisans can’t respond in a mature way which reflects the evidence available their comments fall over and they do themselves injury.

    With ~10% of polled respondents consistently rejecting all three major parties and >30% stubbornly non-voting, we should look beyond our own blinkers.

    All partisans should be wary of what remains a large untapped supporter base, and the focus of chatter among this neglected class will continue to do much to shape our politics.

  13. Indeed, Joe James B! And the economic news is set to worsen again.

    Brown has described the Cons as the do nothing party. But what more can Brown do this year that he has not done already? Not a lot more without appearing to be even more wreckless. As things get worse he will be able to do little more than refer to what he has already done.

    Regarding the VAT cut, it has been recently criticised widely as being ineffectual.

    Brown has been seen to have written off an election this year which may be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

    Along with the end of the holiday good feel factor I think there is a good chance the Cons will be leading by 6 or 7 points before the end of the month.

  14. There are two major parties, not three.

    On Philip’s point, the economic news is likely to re-open a Tory lead of 10-13% by April, although I hope the economic news is not truly catastrophic.
    I just think, given the debt bubble that has built up, some downturn (perhaps 3% GDP from peak to trough is inevitable. It has probably shrunk just over 1 per cent already).

    If Labour, against the most likely oddds, actually can increase their support further, it would probably be because they successfully paint the Tories as the do nothing party (the kind of posts from James earlier on).
    I disagree with their view, and agree that VAT is probably not the most efficient way to stimulate the economy, when retailters are slashing prices desperately anyway. Better to save the money or use it for something more useful/cut taxes directly.

  15. Peter:

    I wasn’t suggesting that you ignore negative arguments from your opponents, just that damage limitation by itself won’t take you or anyone else very far.

    What is interesting about the rural issues is that they are overlooked the sources of information urbanites have. It’s not so much that pig farmers and the rest will be drawn to the SNP because you have helped them, but because those who are interested in rural niche issues havn’t till now had a government that takes a serious interest in these issues – and they all live in your target seats.

    The point at when I became certain that the Conservatives would be ousted was when I realised just how angry oboe and bassoon teachers, and their pupil’s parents were about the decline in instrumental instruction. You don’t get smaller niche interests than that, but if the mood for change sweeps into corners like that, it must be everywhere.

    I think you will be favourably surprised North of the central belt, and there will be little if any change in Glasgow.

    Nor do I suggest that you should raise the nuclear issue. Sooner or later the Westminster g

  16. government will do that, and the SNP will be the winners whatever the outcome and perhaps especially if they lose the argument and the power stations or Trident are located in Scotland.

    I reckon that’s the shortest way to independence, but don’t let me put you off trying.

  17. Joe James B

    I think a 3% peak to trough reduction in GDP could well be optimistic. I’m betting more like 5% before this thing is over.

    The Q4 figures for 2008 will be out in Jan. If they show a dip of near 1% which is entirely possble then we would be around 1.5% down already with the whole of 2009 to come.

  18. “But what more can Brown do this year that he has not done already?”

    Lots Philip.

    Doing things ( as opposed to ” not doing things” ) is his policy.He is on a treadmill of his own making-Peter Riddell today in the Times presages a blizzard of interventionist measures.

    The big question is -will any of it have any effect.

    ….No-the big question is -will anyone be able to tell whether it has had an effect .

    …No the big question is will the electorate think that “doing things” is , of itself , a policy to be supported.

    Of course GB -on Marr- was most carefull to spell out his escape clause-“doing things” will only work if the rest of the World ” do things” together.

    So the escape clause will read-It started in America, and America/France/Germany ( insert as appropriate) didn’t do the “right” things -so we were stuffed by The Rest of The World.

  19. Colin,
    I disagree. Brown has had plenty of effect – much of it bad.

    Look at the housing market: mortgages are going down, but so are house prices with mortgage-lending.

    Voters are feeling all shook up by these falls, so I predict recent volatility is likely to continue until we get our voices heard.

    Between now and the start of the next election campaign (ie the locals/counties in May) everything is up for grabs. So Obama’s first 100 days will be vital in setting the new agenda.

  20. Thomas-not sure what you are disagreeing with.

    I didn’t say Brown has had no effect-but that it might be difficult to judge what the effects have been.

    Wedgewood is a tragedy-the prices on Antiques Roadshow will rocket!

  21. Colin,
    Brown’s effect on the housing market is plain to see, just as it has been in retail and will be in jobs.

    The initial effect on the polls may be mixed, but the accumulated pain of a succession of knocks is unavoidable.

    The question is how the damage will be spread and how this translates into differential swings.

    Since Labour has been traditionally dependent on it’s large tribal vote polarising opinion is a dangerous game in a crisis.

  22. Thanks Thomas-I was actually refering to the counter-recession measures.

    Brown’s general effect as Chancellor & PM is indeed visible , I agree.

  23. I didn’t think I wasn’t disagreeing!

    Brown’s initiative to create 100,000 jobs looks like an admission he has failed to prevent an official recession, although even as a pro-growth measure it is a badly planned gamble – bringing forward spending is just borrowing against the future.

  24. Blimey! I don’t want to get into the above debate but James Thurston makes an overlooked point about the election of Obama.

    By and large when there’s a Democrat in the White House, you tend to get a Labour PM shortly afterwards. Take a look at this list (US dates are when the administration takes office but it applies equally as well when you look at election years – remembering, of course, that US elections are at the end of the year in question):

    1993 and 1997 (Democrat) and 1997 (Labour);
    1965 (Democrat) and 1966 (Labour);
    1961 (Democrat) and 1964 (Labour);
    1949 (Democrat) and 1950 (Labour); and
    1945 (Democrat) and 1945 (Labour).

    Only time since WWII when there has been a Democrat in the White House and a Tory subsequently elected in the UK is 1977 (Carter) and 1979 (Thatcher) – and that was with a weak President swimming against a global monetarist tide towards the end of his term of office.

    Given that Obama is likely to look, well, Presidential over the next year or so, what are the chances of this rubbing off on Brown? I think he could pull it off a la Wilson in 1964 or Attlee in 1950.

    Oh, and a happy new year one and all!

  25. Osbak – Another thing Obama has given Brown and it will be repeated many many times when he comes over to the UK.

    His idea that “Cameron is a political lightweight”.

    I wish I can have a pound for every time that gets mentioned when he visits here.

  26. Well, the economy has dominated the headlines for most of the past few months, and as we slide (fall?) further into recession, it ain’t gone disappear anytime soon. Whether this is good or bad for Brown depends on where the pain is being felt most.

    The probability is that the gap will get wider over the next few months – quite how wide depends on how badly the figures turn out at Budget-time in March.

    That may be why Brown has apparently ruled out an election this year – though quite what he hopes to gain by delaying beats me.

    Leaving aside the polls for the moment, we do have two definte nationwide elections in June. These Elections in 2009 are two very different sets and need to be looked at individually. They also need to be treated with caution.

    First: – “Local” elections are for Shire County Councils plus a handful of Unitaries – only about 40 Councils voting with a mere handful likely to change control. (none in Scotland, Wales, London or any big urban areas)
    These seats were last fought in May 2005 – same day as General Election. In theory, these should give us a good guide to what may happen at next GE, but, because they are predominantly rural in nature, they are heavily skewed in favour of Conservatives and LDs, and against Labour. Note that on the same day that Labour won the GE 36/33/21, the results in these elections were 25/40/28, with Cons winning a majority of County Council seats and largest number of Unitary seats.

    Looking ahead, I would expect the Con share to firm up to mid 40s with small decline in both Lab and LD shares, but limited impact in terms of seats or Councils won/lost.

    Euro Elections are not comparable to other types of UK elections because they are fought on regional list system. This eliminates any element of personal or tactical voting which may be present in local or parliamentary elections, and also favours minor parties in terms of winning votes – but not seats, unless they can cross critical threshold of between 7-10% in any region. The share needed to win one seat varies depending on (a) number of seats available in each region – ranges from 3-10; and (b) share of votes taken by other minor parties. Thus, it is easiest for minor parties to win a seat in the largest regions (S. East, London & N.West) where 7-8% may suffice, whereas in the smaller regions even 15% may not be enough.

    Euro Elections were last fought in 2004, when UKIP made a dramatic breakthrough, out-polling LDs to take 16% and win 12 seats. However, since then, UKIP has almost disintegrated. Their share of the vote is likely to fall significantly and they will be lucky to retain one MEP in each of the four regions where they won 2 seats in 2004.

    Despite coming fourth nationally, LDs did rather well in 2004, increasing their share of the vote from 1999 and gaining two seats. At 14.9% nationally in 2004, they may see their share slip back slightly this year, and could lose one or two MEPs. If their share fell to 11-12% nationally, the impact in seats could be much worse.

    Both Conservatives and Labour were big losers in 2004, each losing votes and seats compared to 1999. More interestingly, both had lost about 6% each compared to the 2004 local elections in England just a month previously. This highlights the difference between Euro elections and “normal” UK elections. At 22.6%, Labour’s 2004 result was the lowest for either of the main parties in a national election, while the 26.7% recorded by the Conservatives was at a level with the darkest days of mid 1990s. Given recent polling trends, then, barring accidents, such dire results for either party are unlikely to be repeated.

    So, easy prediction, both Labour and Conservatives will make gains in the Euro Elections this year. Big question, by how much will their votes recover, and what impact will this have on seats won ? In my view, their actual results may be about 10% (3-4%) below their national standing on the day – i.e. each will record c90% of what they would have got were it not a Euro election. However, Labour is likely to suffer more as Conservative turnout may be boosted by County Council elections on the same day. In other words, if the Government were hoping to avoid embarrassment by moving the County Councils to June, then it is unlikely to work, and may indeed back-fire by skewing the Euro results in favour of Conservatives.

    Of the other parties:
    SNP and Pl Cymru will each be looking for their share of the vote to rise, but expect no change in seats.
    UKIP (as noted above) could lose at least half, and possibly all, their MEPs
    Greens will struggle to hold their 2 MEPs (S.East & London)
    BNP may well see its share of vote improve on 4.9% achieved in 2004, but probably not enough to win any seats. Their best hopes are in London and N West.
    Little change in N. Ireland, but Conservatives will record a (notional) gain of 1 seat as Con/UUP stand on a joint platform.

    Final comment – Should Gordon Brown confound us all by calling a GE in early spring – or worse still, on 4 June – then this could throw a spanner in the works for County Council and Euro results. I have a feeling that this is his (or perhaps Mandy’s) plan, for a number of reasons – not least that Labour can’t afford three national campaigns in the next 18 months.

    We shall wait and see.

  27. Osbak,

    Your comparison of US/UK election results is tenuous. Just to posit the counter argument, Republicans were elected to the White House in 1972, 2000 and 2004 whereas Labour won the following elections (1974, 2001 and 2005). Does that mean that because a Republican was not elected that Labour will lose ?

    Plus, since US elections are in November, the 1950 Democrat win preceded a Tory win in 1951, not the Labour hold earlier that year.

    As to whether Obama will want to “lend” his support to Brown in any election this year, that is most unlikely – however much Brown may wish for it.

    While Obama may not be the most experienced US president to date, he does not appear stupid. He will know that there is a strong possibility of him having to work alongside Cameron for most of his presidency, and will not want to be seen “interefering” in the domestic affairs of a critical ally. Moreover, Brown’s refrain that the downturn started in the US does not play well with Americans.

  28. Do we have a national projection anywhere for the 2005 County Council elections?

    I guess this Lab 25/C 40/LD 28 must be on the areas which voted only, (as I’ve seen something like that before.)

    I guess the CC elections gave Tories and LDs a larger figure, most certainly, but not Labour on 25% if it’s a national projection.

    I suppose analysts never do a national projection on local elections when there is a General Election anyway.

  29. Paul H-J: “Plus, since US elections are in November, the 1950 Democrat win preceded a Tory win in 1951, not the Labour hold earlier that year.”

    The Democrat win was in 1948 (taking office in 1949) as stated in my previous post, so it was followed by a Labour win in 1950 (granted, not a great one but a win nevertheless).

    I can understand why some people would be reticent about the link between Democrats winning and Labour winning – because it could indicate a Labour win later this year – but the comparison is actually a pretty strong one: as I said in the original post, since the War, whenever a Democrat is elected in America, a Labour government is subsequently elected in the UK – with the one exception of 1977/79.

    I wasn’t making a point about Republicans getting elected, because (I hope this isn’t a controversial point!) a Democrat was elected in America . . . (Just for interest, there isn’t a similarly strong relationship between Republican presidents stimulating wins for Tory PMs – so something must be going on . . .)

    As for whether Obama lends support or not, that’s not the point. US presidents rarely lend explicit support to leaders of either party as – as you rightly say – they’ll have to work with whoever is elected. But the point is that the mere presence of a Democrat President helps set the international tone. It’s a tough one, but just saying ‘it isn’t so’ doesn’t make it go away!!

  30. Osbak

    I totally agree with the premiss of your argument.

  31. Osbak,

    What you fail to establish is any kind of causal link or indeed a theory as to why it should be.

    Over the last few years I’ve noticed that it nearly always rains why I have a BBQ.

    However, I am not going to say that I shouldn’t have BBQ’s or indeed that my BBQ’s make it rain or indeed that I have the secret to making it rain by using my amazing rain making BBQ.

    Peter.

  32. blimey – I won’t be coming to yours then for a kebab!!

    yes, agree – just cos it happens, doesn’t mean it’s causal. But – as I said above – “the mere presence of a Democrat President helps set the international tone”. So, that’s my theory! Not causal, but a reasonably strong association – though of course, Brown could be Callaghan and Obama could be Carter . . .

  33. Osbak,

    I noticed I’d got my years wrong in 1948/49/50 after psoting, so sorry for that.

    However, your premise would make more sense if one were comparing a change of president in the the US leading to a change of government in the UK.

    In fact, the track record if you compare when the white house actually changed hands, as opposed to an incumbent being re-elected, makes your theory even weaker.

    In 1944, 1948, 1964 and 1996, the Democrats retained the White House, while in 1956, 1972, 1984, 1988 and 2004 the Republicans retained the White House.

    In 1952, 1968, 1980 and 2000 the Republicans won the White House from Democrats, while the reverse happened in 1960, 1976 and 1992.

    The only instances where the election of a new Democrat President led to a Labour victory at the subsequent UK general election was in 1964 (which almost coincided with the re-election of Lyndon Johnson a matter of days later.) The correlation between Republican victories and subsequent Tory victories is similarily weak, but Nixon’s victory in 1968 preceded Heath’s win in 1970

    On the other hand, there is a better argument for saying that Tory victories in 1951 and 1979 enabled Republicans to win back the White House, while the Labour victory in 1974 helped Carter win in 1976.

    In other words, there is no meaningful correlation, and certainly no causal link, between elections in the UK and USA (or any other country for that matter).

  34. Osbak

    Again I would be inclined to agree with you last post!

  35. Paul H-J: I know we’re going round in circles here, but just for the record I’d point out that Clinton won at the end of 1992 and the next UK election was 1997 – when Labour won. So even when looking at whether Democrats clawing back the White House from Republicans stimulates Labour victories against Tory governments in the UK, it’s two out of three (while it’s one out of four for Republicans and Tories).

    Anyway – there are other threads to be looking at how so I’m signing off from this one!
    :-)

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