There is an ICM snap poll on the BNP in today’s News of the World, but what’s online really isn’t enough to do a proper analysis – we really need to see what was asked. From first sight, while it’s reported as a “shock horror people agree with BNP poll!”, a glance at the article suggests it actually shows small majorities of people don’t want gay sex taught in schools and think Islam has a poor record on women’s rights, which really isn’t the sort of thing I’d find particularly surprising. Only 10% think there should be a total stop to immigration.

The one surprising finding from the News of the World article is that ICM apparently found a third people agreeing with stopping benefits to British-born people from ethnic minorities to pay for them to leave the country. That seems counter-intuitive, after all, if only 10% of people want a stop to immigration, stripping benefits from British people based on their skin colour and paying them to leave would normally be regarded as a lot more extreme, but the News of the World claim ICM found it was three times more popular. I think we’d better wait and see ICM’s tables, rather than the News of the World’s interpretation of them.

Moving on, the Observer has an article saying that Labour strategists think that UKIP could cost the Conservatives 50 seats at the next election. Quite frankly, while a good performance by UKIP might well disadvantage the Conservatives, the sums here don’t even begin to add up.

If we take the Conservative’s 60 most winnable seats, the majorities range from 31 to 2686 (0.1% to 5.7%). Of course in reality these aren’t the seats that are under question, the Conservatives are going to win these anyway. Different levels of support will give us different distributions of required swing, but since we don’t know what the actual swing will be at the next election, these make as a good an illustration of how the majorities in seats are distributed as any.

If one assumes an even level of support for UKIP across these seats, UKIP would have to take an extra 5.7% of the vote, above and beyond the 2% they got at the last election, and take it all from people who would otherwise have voted Conservative in order to prevent the Conservatives winning all 60 seats. UKIP getting 8% at the next election seems pretty damn unlikely to start with, given they are currently on 4% and have been in decline since their boost at the European elections. In fact, even if they did, it wouldn’t cost the Conservatives 60 seats.

The Observer’s article has that old canard that UKIP cost the Conservatives 27 seats at the last election, if one starts from that basis, 50 seats sounds entirely plausible with a higher level of UKIP support. Unfortunately, it’s rubbish. Firstly, it’s only actually 24 seats where the majority over the Conservatives in 2005 was smaller than the UKIP vote (the 27 comes from lumping Veritas in with them). Secondly, for the Conservatives to have won all of them they would have had to win every single vote that went to UKIP.

In reality, some UKIP voters are people who would otherwise vote Labour or Lib Dem. A large chunk of UKIP’s voters are people who probably wouldn’t vote at all in the absense of UKIP or an alternate fringe party to cast a protest vote for. I’m pretty certain that UKIP take more people who would otherwise vote Conservative than people who would otherwise vote Labour, but once you also take out people who wouldn’t vote, or would vote for another minor party, the difference won’t be massive.

In the Observer’s report, they are assuming that UKIP takes about two-thirds of its support from Conservative minded voters and a third of their support from Labour minded voters – so every 3 votes for UKIP reduces the Conservative performance relative to Labour by just 1. On that basis, UKIP cost the Conservatives all of 10 seats at the last election, and for UKIP to prevent the Conservatives winning 50 seats, would take a performance in marginal seats equivalent to them winning 19% nationally. On that front, we really are into fantasy land.


69 Responses to “ICM/NotW and would UKIP cost the Conservative 50 seats?”

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  1. Seal Pup

    I was quoting Anthony Wells.

  2. The number of votes UKIP takes off other parties, e.g. the Tories, may well depend upon the resources they have available for national campaigning such as production of an effective Party Political Broadcast. I am under the impression that UKIP may be in difficulties about this for legal reasons.

    This said, there are individual seats in which there are rich locals who may be prepared to back a UKIP campaign unless Cameron adopts a clearly Eurosceptic position.

  3. Those figures are wrong. Labour didn’t poll 11.6 million votes in 1997, they polled 13.5 million.

  4. The idea that Labour will get any help from UKIP taking away significant con votes is a straw (or clutch) too far.
    Remember Lab/LD more likely to lose some votes to Greens who are a predominant but not single issue party.
    In fact if Peter’s point of no return in reached for Labour anti-Tory green leaning voters who would have held their noses and voted Labour may well vote Green ‘as the cons will win anyway so I may as well make a statement at least’
    Refernedum Party in ’97 epitimises this ‘games up phenonemen.

    This is why30% is so important for Labour to reach genuinely for a few weeks after christmas.
    Recent 30% scores where either temporary conferences bounces or at the high end of moe.

  5. Labour’s absolute vote

    1974 (October) 11,457,079
    1979 11,532,218
    1983 8,456,934
    1987 10,036,384
    1992 11,559,735
    1997 13,517,000 +
    2001 10,787,000 +
    2005 9,600,000 approx.

  6. Unless turnout rises a lot at the next election, Labour could be in danger of falling below their 1983 total.

  7. Andy

    “Unless turnout rises a lot at the next election, Labour could be in danger of falling below their 1983 total.”

    The turnout at the next GE may well be the same… or higher than that of the 2005 GE…

    It is very possible that the total Conservative vote may rise by 7 – 8%… and that the Labour vote stays steady as those Labour voters who are undecided… or who currently would not turn out to vote… will when faced… in the “Cold Light of Day” with the very real prospect of a Cameron Conservative Government…

    Added to this… there is a likelihood that there will be a fairly substantial rise in the “Others” share of the vote… mainly accounted for by an increase in the total UKIP and BNP vote…

    I firmly beleive that the result of the next GE is very uncertain…

    The nature of the UK electorate… currently… is highly volatile…

  8. Andy,

    Fortunately for Labour, thanks to teh dispersal of aggregate votes (i.e. lots more “others”), they could find that they win more seats than 1983 despite having fewer votes.

    However, if turnout were to rise sharply, and they are unable to retain more than 80% of their 2005 support (which is what current polls show), then they coulkd be in for a catastrophe.

  9. I have always been amazed by the fact John Major won more votes in 1992 than Tony Blair did in 1997.
    14 million people voted Tory, but the day after the election you would have struggled to find one of them.
    My point??
    I don’t think the wave of euphoria that swept Blair into power ever existed.

  10. I think turnout will definitely be up to 65% or thereabouts but the Labour votes will decrease by at least a million (two million wouldn’t be a surprise). I think the Green Party and UKIP will do significantly better than expected. I also think the Lib Dems could lose up to 500,000 votes and the Cons will probably hit the 10 million mark.

  11. It would be good for democracy if turnout could reach 70%, but that may only be possible if the result is in doubt right up to polling day which seems unlikely at the moment, but things could change of course in the next few months.

  12. 70% is credible, but I think at the high end of it.
    I can see the next election attracting big surges in turnout in competitive seats, but just can’t see +9% in lots of safer seats.

    I can see +10 in marginals and +2 in safer (Labour) seats.

    More likely is about +7 in marginals,
    +5 in safer Tory seats, and +2 in safe Labour seats – so unfortunately that still means only about 65%.

    I think I calculated that if turnout reaches 68% and Labour claws back to 31% they would actually keep 9.6 million votes.

  13. The Tories should certainly hope to get much more than 10m votes – they would hope I think to add on at least 3m – and get about 12m.

  14. ConservativeHome is reporting a new poll – ComRes in the Independent:

    C – 40% (nc)
    Lab – 27% (-1%)
    LD – 18% (-1%)

  15. Likely scenario (slightly revised but not much).
    Not certain – could change either way.

    May 2010
    Electorate 45,482,229
    Turnout 65.3% 29,699,917

    UK share% GB share % votes GB % +/-
    Con 40.2% 41.2% 11,939,366 +7.8%
    Lab 30.9% 31.6% 9,177,274 -4.7%
    LD 16.9% 17.3% 5,019,286 -5.4%
    Oths 12.0% 9.9% 2,940,292 +2.3%

    Swing 6.3% from Lab to Con

  16. At present Labour seem set to achieve at most 27 to 28%. This is a quarter down on what they got last time. Therefore, based on the same level of turnout, we should expect Labour to gain at most 7.5 million votes.

    There is evidence from every kind of poll: voting intention, local, euro and by-elections that point to the possibility that Labour could end up gaining as low as 6 million votes.

    A tactical swing to the Lib Dems from those wishing to boot out Labour and minimize a Tory landslide may push their vote up to 6 million.

    But I think the Tories are likely to get at least 9.5 million votes.

  17. In all discussions of turnout, don’t forget the effect of everyone now potentially having a postal vote. Was this available in 2005? I can’t remember. Also, there has been widespread abuse of postal voting in those elections where it has been widely used. I believe that the procedures have been tightened up slightly, but will it be enough to prevent widespread fraud?

    From memory, although I believe that both Lab and Con have been implicated in postal voting fraud, I think that the majority of cases have been by Labour. This could affect the number of votes and seats that various parties will achieve.

  18. I don’t think UKIP will be significant in the next election. But it is a place for disgrumtled Tory activists to go , and I suspect there will be a lot of those in the bear future

  19. Pete B & OLDNAT

    If your parents had been Glasgow University graduates and burgesses of the city they would have had three votes in local elections and it would take half a day to vote in three different places

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