What went wrong

In the fullness of time I am sure much more will be said about why the polls overestimated the level of Lib Dem support at the election, but there was an interesting nugget from Andrew Cooper of Populus on More or Less on Radio 4 earlier. Populus’s final poll, conducted on the Tuesday and Wednesday of election week, had the Lib Dems on 27%. However, according to Andrew in the fieldwork conducted on Tuesday the Lib Dems were in the high twenties, in the fieldwork conducted on the Wednesday they were on 24%. That looks like evidence of late swing – that the polls weren’t wrong, people just changed their mind right at the end.

However, there is also some evidence that casts doubt on late swing. Because they published in the Evening Standard on Thursday and had a later deadline Ipsos MORI’s final poll of the campaign had the latest fieldwork of all the pollsters – all their fieldwork was conducted on Wednesday… yet they still had the Lib Dems at 27%.

Also illustrative is Ipsos MORI’s post-election poll. Most companies use some form of past vote weighting, so their post-election polls will be calibrated to the new results and won’t really be directly comparable to pre-election polls. Ipsos MORI however don’t use any political weighting, so their post election polls should be conducted in exactly the same way as their pre-election polls. In their post-election poll for the News of the World MORI asked how people had voted in the election on May 6th, and found figures of CON 35%, LAB 31%, LDEM 28%. No sign there of a big drop off in Lib Dem support compared to pre-election polls.

Of course – we know all about the problems of false recall, there may be people claiming to have voted Lib Dem who didn’t actually do so, so this isn’t conclusive either, but it isn’t screaming out late swing.

410 Responses to “What went wrong”

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  1. AMBER.

    Points well taken.

    Actually I like him ( have no time for any of the others though)

    One of my caveats would be that he has always seemed a little semi-detached-as though it was all a bit of a game-that wry smile when an interview went badly-whereas others would just blag it. I was never sure whether this was attractive honesty & lack of guile-or naivety & lack of authority.

    There was one occasion in HoC I remember though-when his brief was health. Can’t remember the question he was answering from Cons-but he got cross in a quiet sort of way-and made his point very strongly. He communicated belief & sincerity that day -to me anyway.

    He should do more of it-he is at least a human being-unlike the others!

    But surely he needs to tell you lot why he is the best candidate-what he believes?

  2. Collin

    FF was never going to cross the floor of The House.

    He was going to join a Government Poverty Commission-might not happen it would seem-because he can’t chair it.

  3. Any thoughts on the fact that 80% of the members of the coalition cabinet are millionaires? To steal a line, have to say I am intensely relaxed about it, but will the fact have a bearing on polls when it becomes widely known, as the cuts bite? The fact is they actually do feel rather poor, according to The Sunday Times article, because in the social circles in which they tend to move, that is what they are.


    “The fact is they actually do feel rather poor, according to The Sunday Times article, because in the social circles in which they tend to move, that is what they are.”

    I expect they do-18 Cabinet members with £50m wealth= £3m average.
    Tops was £7m I think-most just sneak into the millionaire category.

    A decent house in London & a few savings gets you to £1million. This Cabinet is not related to Croesus by any stretch of the imagination.

  5. Amber Star,

    My feeling is that the opinion of the parliamentary party (possibly excluding new intake) is most relevant to chosing the leader (authority in HoC). Will their opinion influence the membership/unions?

  6. @ COLIN

    But surely he needs to tell you lot why he is the best candidate-what he believes?
    It’s absolutely clear to me what he believes… pretty much the same as me.

    A socially responsible private sector that generates wealth for everybody, not just a priviledged few at the top.

    A strong public sector – particularly the NHS & social housing.

    Aspiration being about merit & achievement not just making money; & the opportunity for ordinary (working class) people to shape the media, law, politics & business via real inclusion – not on-line, x-factor votes.

    Support being geared towards those who have worked & contributed but are facing hard times.

    And his comments on immigration are also exactly in accord with my own. On Marr, he talked about reciprocity with a personal example. Members of his own family worked in Germany during the ’80s recession.

    Furthermore, he is a team player – no Blair/ Brown, split administrations for him. Meritocracy, inclusion & team-work.

    And I too, like the fact that he is not ‘above’ getting a little cross when it is warranted. ;-)

  7. @ Billy Bob

    My feeling is that the opinion of the parliamentary party (possibly excluding new intake) is most relevant to chosing the leader (authority in HoC). Will their opinion influence the membership/unions?
    IMO, you are correct, the MPs themselves do have the greatest influence. We will not get a leader they are opposed to.

    That’s why it will not be Diane or John. Neither have gravitas or evident leadership qualities. Being likeable isn’t enough.

  8. Colin

    Exactly, If you are in any way particular about the neighbourhood, then finding a house for under a million is almost impossible in London. The Lab cabinet had one seriously wealthy member that ‘skewed’ the average (Sunday Times), but even so the coalition represents a big step up (a long way ahead of national averages). Thought it was interesting they take that line anyway.

  9. @ Colin

    I’ve never claimed that there weren’t savings to be made in government – you only have to read my two comments for that. In fact I even suggested that they abolish a new quango, IPSA – though I suspect they’re scared of more attacks from the press on MPs expenses if they did. The public would be more rational.

    The reason why I’m afraid that the “bonfire of the quangos” is both ideological and doomed to failure (certainly in terms of saving money) is that that the language and content of the attacks (such as “bonfire of the quangos”) doesn’t suggest much practical thinking has been involved.

    Actually most of the bodies involved aren’t quangos but “Agencies”. These go back to Conservative times but were massively expanded by Labour, partly to remove ministers from responsibility; partly to “reduce” civil service numbers; and in some case to prepare them for privatisation.

    As the name agencies suggests these bodies actually do something. You can’t just put a blue line through the agency and have those functions magically disappear. When you do reallocate things there will be costs associated and continuing. Just because something costs £x million to run it doesn’t mean you will save £x million by abolishing it.

    These people may be “highly educated”, but I’m afraid preferring dramatic gestures over cautious evaluation rather goes with politicians. My favourite example is when Blair and co (all of them highly educated and in an almost identical manner to Cameron etc) decided over one weekend that he would abolish the Lord Chancellor. Ten years later he’s still there.

    I certainly do understand the need to cut back on government expenditure; that’s why I want it done properly. But I also understand that the deficit won’t be eliminated by a few little cuts here and there. Taxes will also have to go up to cover at least half of it. Oddly the public seem more aware of this than politicians at the moment.

    @ Roland

    I agree with you about the Fundamentally Supine Authority (as Private Eye always calls it). But you’ve got to remember that they suffered both from New Labour’s zeal to be super-“business friendly” and from attitudes in the British Judicial system that make it incredibly difficult to prosecute fraud cases of any complexity (so no one takes you seriously). I’m not sure the Bank of England would have been much better.

    The important thing is to revise the systems from top to bottom, but after nearly two years of inactivity and with Osbourne in particular not looking enthusiastic (and keeping anything to do with the banks away from Cable) I do have my worries.

    By the way I don’t think Andy Burnham does use mascara – he’s what the Americans call “black Irish”, it’s his natural colour. Never mind, he’ll go white in a few years and you can stop being jealous. :)

  10. ROGER

    ” Taxes will also have to go up to cover at least half of it.”

    The ratio being used by the Government is around 20/80:-
    Tax rises /expenditure cuts.

  11. @ Colin

    Cuts v Taxes – it will end up 80/20 the other way. Anything else will send the economy into a death spiral.

  12. Roger,

    3 excellent posts. My thoughts entirely. I would be wasting your time to say more it would just be to repeat your argument.

  13. Amber,

    IF it came down to looks and likeaility it would be Andy Burnham every time…

    Balls aint pretty but he has got a set :)


    Social mobility featured prominently in the coalition’s programme for government. which is interesting given the number of millionaires in the government. Readers of this blog may find the latest Sutton Trust report on the background of the MPs elected in May 2010 interesting.


  15. @ Eoin,

    I’m hoping for Ed Balls as [shadow] chancellor. He would slice ‘n’ dice Osbourne & his LibDem Axeman, IMO.

  16. Anthony

    Why have I suddenly become a moderated person for perfectly reasonable posts?

    [DB – it had a link in, all comments with links in get automatically moderated. No idea what happened with one of your comments yesterday, sometimes the spam filter just takes a random dislike to them – AW]

  17. Amber
    Tax rises should be kept to a minimum and expenditure cut as deeply as possible. This is because taxes bear down on the productive (private) sector which is the only place a recovery can come from.
    It’s just like a big version of a household budget. If you’re in difficulties, you cut spending and get a second job or a promotion to earn more money. What you don’t do is look for another credit card to max out.

  18. PETE B

    Taxes are the equivalent of “earn more money”.

    And, reducing taxes doesn’t automatically increase the private sector. Why would it? If the private sector doesn’t see a profitable business opportunity, they are not going to expand just because the government wants them to.

  19. Amber,
    You are confusing the government with the nation. This is the classic mistake that Labour makes. It is the nation that needs to earn more money. If this happens, the tax take, and the government’s income will automatically rise without inventing new taxes or raising the rates of existing ones.

    If taxes are raised without the productive economy expanding, there will be less money in the productive sector to be able to take advantage of new opportunities or take extra people on.

  20. Frank Field to sit on the Government Poverty Commission. Is this the second new quango?

    @Pete B – most, but not all, of the examples of governments closing down a deficit quickly have been based on more spending cuts than tax rises. However, on most, but not all, of these ocassions the fiscal tightening has been done during a period of significant global economic growth. In less benign times (such as now quite possibly, with a very weak Eurozone) there is a stronger case (although not by any means definitive) for bearing the burden of the deficit for longer and allowing taxes to play a bigger role at the expense of some reduction in longer term growth.

    The £6B of cuts tomorrow is entirely political. Last weeks borrowing numbers for 2009/10 were £7.5B less than expected and £2B less for April. Darling has therefore handed Osborne a £9.5B bonus, along with the forecast extra £10B in income tax revenues this year from previous changes and higher than expected employment and earnings.

    By all means cut waste – we’ll all agree on that – but there is a real need to help companies invest and export and diverting wasted expenditure into effective business support and development is one way to generate the growth that will ultimately cut the deficit.

  21. @Alec,

    That is the third new quango :)

    I’m gonna keep a tally on them

  22. Amber,

    If DM wins then EB can kiss his career goodbye…

    If EM wins then EB can breathe a sigh of relief…

  23. @ Éoin,

    Agree – AB is the most likely to unify the Party & has fewest ‘enemies’ IMO.

    I have heard that Unison are likely to recommend him to their members – which seems to have come as a bit of a surprise to some folks.

    I’d rather have Unison endorse me than Neil Kinnock 8-)

  24. Alec,
    I take your point, and agree that the £6bn is political. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about when the annual deficit is something like £160bn. £6bn is a start, but hardly worth getting worked up about when there’s at least another £150bn to find from somewhere.

    Our debt is as bad as Greece’s I understand. Unless some fairly drastic action is taken, our credit rating will drop, thus raising the interest rate that the governmrnt has to pay, making it even more expensive to pay back. It could quickly become a vicious spiral and we could end up defaulting.

  25. The other day I raised the question of Burnham being a Catholic, but I don’t think it was answered. I know it all seems archaic and ridiculous to many people, but there does still seem to be a problem. Otherwise why did Blair delay his conversion till after he’d resigned?
    Does this not worry Labour supporters- that your leader might be unable to become Prime Minister?
    My understanding of the reasoning behind this prejudice against Catholics in High Office is that the Pope is a foreign Head of State (albeit a small one), and there could be some doubt over whether a Roman Catholic was more loyal to HM or the Pope.

  26. Amber Star

    “@ Eoin,

    I’m hoping for Ed Balls as [shadow] chancellor. He would slice ‘n’ dice Osbourne & his LibDem Axeman, IMO.”

    Oh, please! Ed Balls is one of the most pointless creations ever. He wouldn’t even stand a cat’s chance against Osborne, who isn’t great, but Laws (or Cable) would rip him apart, spit him out and go looking for something worthwhile to eat

    Balls is loathed in his constituency (I have friends in Leeds who voted Conservative tactically to try to get him out) and that’s why he nearly lost his seat. Noone takes him seriously.

    That some Lab MPs have supported him as leader shows how out of touch they are. He would lead them into a long term in opposition.

  27. @ PeteB

    Okay, now you have pushed me to risk moderation.

    Your assertion that a Catholic cannot become PM is utter nonsense.

  28. @ Tony Fisher

    Do tell. Why is Ed Balls “hated”? Have you a reasoned point to make rather than just asserting he is hated in a constituency which he won?

  29. @ PeteB

    After a quick bit of googling it appears that a Roman Catholic can become PM (or I suppose vice versa) but in that case would be unable to be involved in appointments in the Church of England. Which is fair enough if you think about it.

    The PM has been playing less and less part in choosing bishops over the last few years in any case. It does still make you wonder why Tony Blair hung on till afterwards. Maybe he was saving up all his sins.

    However this is one of those topics that looks like a long dead volcano but isn’t. The current Pope is becoming increasingly interventionist and Catholic politicians in the US have been refused sacraments because of political votes (rather than personal actions) on things like abortion and gay marriage.

    There hasn’t been much fuss on this yet, because those most likely to attack the Pope tend to agree with him on these topics. But if this sort of thing continues, the question of whether a Catholic represents his constituency or his church is bound to arise.

  30. @Roger,

    The pope gave up on England a long time ago. He would let my favourite Liverpudlian govern of his own accord. Pete B is right to eplore the ramifications vis a vis the great and gloriosu 1688 settlement. It would be tight one… sure aint there diffs over my second favourite member of the royal family Ms Camilla?

    @Tony Fisher,

    Aside from anything, Ed Balls is not pointless. He is a loving father and a husband…. :)


    Andy would be a great unifyer.. but I still think Ed B wud bring a bit more intellect and iagination. 8)

  31. @ AMBER

    “it will end up 80/20 the other way. Anything else will send the economy into a death spiral.”

    No it won’t Amber.

    Been done in other places-has to be done.

  32. @ AMBER

    “Taxes are the equivalent of “earn more money”.

    THat statement tells you all you need to know about how the opposition would have coped with this.

    A very memorable phrase Amber ;-)

  33. “Darling has therefore handed Osborne a £9.5B bonus”

    Erm….no-he has handed him a £140 BN deficit-and the prospect of £500BN MORE deficis through this parliament.

    You sound like Polly Toynbee Alec-whooppee my overdraft is only £140k, rather than £150k-I can relax now!!

  34. I wonder if Labour’s 4-5% rise in the polls will be sustained this week?

    If a new leader bounce followed it would comfortably put them in first place.

    If the budget damages the governing coalition, I wonder going forward if it will do so in equal measure?

    Do Queen’s Speeches provide a boost for the government? My own hunch is that they do.

    I will go away and dig up some data on Queen’s Speech boosts……

  35. As an indicator to how future voting blocs might work

    all 27 Celtic MPs will be represented in a tri-partite meeting today headed by the three first ministers. The idea is to provide a united front to meet cuts proposals head on.

    These types of pan-nationalist approaches have not been witnessed since 1910. It is a strong indicator as to how the Celtic Fringe intends to develop in the post-modernist age.#

    I wonder is a change in polling methodology/UNS required to take a account fo this. NI is excluded from our national polls anyway right? So I guess SNP/Plaid is too insiginficant on the overall impact to make much of a difference?

    Nevertheless, it is something to bear in mind when Calculating potential coalitions/marjorities

  36. Colin – I don’t understand why you are so sure you are right about the economy.

    When others on here pointed out that Labour’s economic plans had reduced the deficit by 9.5 million – more than Osbornes cuts – why were you so dismissive of that?

    Why are you so sure all those economists who said “wait to cut” were wrong? Why are you convinced Osborne can avoid a double dip recession?

    You are incredibly dismissive of Amber’s statements for instance, yet she is a financial analyst?

    Why does it “have to be done” when other countries with similar levels of debt believe it can wait? Why do those calling for cuts compare our debt with Greece when our economy is absolutely nothing like Greece’s?

    You got very cross with me for saying you seemed gleeful about the cuts, but you do, if not gleeful, then is it not simply ideological? You wouldn’t explain why the word “glee” made you so cross, but are you not delighted that these cuts are now on the cards? I wish you could explain to me why you’re so sure cuts won’t make things worse.

    I’m not being inflammatory, i genuinely want to know.

  37. Obviously 9.5 million should read 9.5 billion

  38. Nick Clegg warns that today’s cuts will be painful. But if they are simply cutting out “irresponsible waste” caused by Labour then surely the cuts should be very welcome ?

  39. @Eoin & Sue

    Who’s your preference for Labour leader?

    My vote goes for:
    1) Milliband D
    2) Burnham
    3) Miliband E
    4) Balls
    5) Abbott
    6) McDonnell

  40. Christopher – I’m pretty much with you except I’m leaning towards swapping the first two, so Burnham, then Miliband D.

  41. @Christopher-

    Thanks for your input… Even those of us on the left of the party would abide by DM. What is democracy after all if it not acceptance of the will of th emajority…

    But until 25/09/10, I’ll be gunning for ED/EM :)

  42. Eoin “…Even those of us on the left of the party…”

    Ah, you give yourself away.

    So, at last I know your political allegiance.

  43. DM is by far the best candidate IMO.

  44. @Cozmo,

    “Nick Clegg warns that today’s cuts will be painful. But if they are simply cutting out “irresponsible waste” caused by Labour then surely the cuts should be very welcome ?”

    All politicians talk about ‘cutting waste’. We all know that waste is a just a more palatable way of saying ‘cuts’.

  45. @Mike N,

    When I say left, I would probably put Red Ken to shame ;)

    But I am a democrat 8)


    With all due respect, blues would say that :P

  46. I have to say the impending £6 billion in cuts, whilst a start, is hardly going to resolve the UK’s massive debt problem. I guess the thinking behind it is twofold:-

    1) They want to start tackling the debt problem now, but fear that a massive debt reduction programme this year will compromise economic growth. Dealing with the problem in this way will enable them to balance both interests.

    2) They want to put off the very unpopular decisions (i.e. cuts) until further into their parliamentary term. They don’t want to become unpopular from the very beginning.

  47. @Eoin,

    “With all due respect, blues would say that :P”

    True, but my opinion is based on charisma and leadership skills.

    I would much rather Labour choose one of the other candidates. ;)

  48. @Matt,

    If that is the case would DM be a good leader of the blues?

    Surely the polciies have to fit?

  49. @ Sue

    It’s lovely to see you – you were missed when you got too busy to comment for a while there :-)

    “Obviously 9.5 million should read 9.5 billion”

    Or billions – to remind us of Gordon ;-)

  50. Another way of, perhaps, looking at it, though, is that the UK’s recent economic situation is part of a wider, worldwide crisis. This would make Labour less culpable.

    If you take this view (which I do to a large extent, I must admit), it also would mean that Labour’s strong economic performance from 1997 until mid 2008 must also be questioned as merely part of a worldwide trend of strong economic growth. Therefore, I personally think that Labour can neither be blamed for, nor accept credit for its record. ;)

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