We still haven’t seen a post-election Populus voting intention poll (though to answer Mike Smithson’s question here, I understand they are still doing them, they are just having a quiet period following the election), but Lord Ashcroft has commissioned them to do some polling in marginal seats, with some interesting findings.

Firstly, in Conservative -vs- Labour marginals the Conservative vote is largely unchanged from the general election, but the Liberal Democrat vote has dropped to the benefit of Labour, this means on a uniform swing Labour would gain about 28 seats from the Conservatives (though these would be seats that the Conservatives gained at the last election, so in practice the Tories would be helped by the incumbency bonus of the new MPs).

In Conservative -vs- Lib Dem marginals the Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed towards the Labour party, presumably partially as Labour voters who previously voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats cease to do so (thought it would be interested to know how the questions were worded, since unless prompted people don’t necessarily consider the tactical situation in their own constitency when answering voting intention polls). On a uniform swing, this would give the Conservatives about 30 seats from the Lib Dems. The poll did not cover Lab -vs- Lib Dem marginals.

Populus then asked how people would vote under AV. Exactly how they asked this is unclear from Lord Ashcroft’s report, but the ultimate effect is that the Conservatives hold onto an extra 12 seats in Con -v- Lab marginals (implying that Lib Dems and others’ second preferences broke in the Conservatives favour), and the Lib Dems hold onto an extra 11 seats in Con -v- LD marginals. Once again, we have no indication of what would happen in LD -v- Lab seats.

UPDATE: The full tables are now available on Lord Ashcroft’s website (see the links at the bottom of this document). A few things worth pointing out. First, the AV questions were done in much the same way as the YouGov polls on it – people had AV explained briefly to them, then asked how they would cast their first and second preferences under that system (as opposed to making the often false assumption that people would cast their first prefences under AV in the same way as their vote in FPTP).

Secondly, this is the first AV polling I’ve seen that asked about third preferences. So far only 32% of respondents actually give a third preference (and a third of those were to minor parties who it is unlikely to benefit). At present of course it really isn’t comething respondents will have given any thought to, so it won’t necessarily bear any relation to how people would actually cast their other preferences, but it’s something that would need to be taken into account if AV did come to pass.

Thirdly, the voting intention questions for FPTP were just the standard Populus VI question. That should be okay in the Labour -v- Con seats, but as I’ve said before, I’m not sure how good marginal seat polls in Lib Dem marginals they. Even when the Lib Dems are riding high in the polls they tend to show the Lib Dems doing badly and Labour gaining, probably because some people give their voting intention as their real first preference, rather than their local tactical one. My suspicion is that the FPTP position in those Con -v- LD seats may be unduly negative.

278 Responses to “Populus poll of marginals”

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  1. @Alec
    I was going on Watt Tyler’s web site which may be distorting the facts to make a political point for all I know:
    “Because once you strip out the effects of the various financial sector support operations – which the government insists are temporary – then borrowing in the first 3 months of the current financial year was actually higher than that in the same period last year.” Would be pleased if you would explain what is actually happening – unlike most people who post on here I am far from an expert on public finances.

  2. @Roland

    As an adoptive Scot, I’m not rising to your begging bowl description. I’m sure somebody else will give you the fight you’re looking for ;-)

  3. @Sue
    “Anyone that doesn’t buy that Osborne is to the right on Thatcher doesn’t want to”
    I guess that was pointed at me. Now I do not much like Anglo-Saxon capitalism, but we are stuck with it until it collapses. From that perspective I just cannot see the ideological difference between Thatcher and Osborne. Regrettably I think we are all Thatcher’s children now. If you are saying that because Osborne plans to cut public expenditure more than Thatcher did therefore he is more right wing than her then that is a curious way to define right wing. I would also say let us wait and see how successful he is. I suspect that Mrs T. intended to cut spending more than she actually achieved.
    On other matters all I would say is that this Government talks a different language from Thatcher – and that is not primarily a result of coalition – but of Cameron’s understanding that he had to detoxify the brand and move to the centre. I wonder how many people on here are old enough to remember just how divisive the Thatcher years were, and what an authoritarian climate was created.

  4. @SUE
    I think Gordon Brown gave people like me far to much ammo on this “spend or save” front Sue. I know he is now history but for a long time he refused to accept anything but growth would be the redeemer. Even to the point as we now know, of war with Darling. The others stood by and watched this, and some still think Darling was wrong and lost the GE. It will take a while before the people believe they are economically competent.

    I am certainly not looking for a fight as you suggest.
    However, I am not going to ignore the evidence of my ears and eyes, in order to not risk offence to a race, who have adopted hatred of my country as a national passtime.

  6. I had a peep at Mike Smithson’s site (never read the comments) and he says that polling the marginals is a dodgy exercise in his view. He nevertheless points out that many more seats become thoretical marginals under AV and I point out that ‘more power to the people’ message could be an important slogan next May – previous referendums show that is a message we voters want to hear. The very tribal reactions on here to AV are good adverts for it, so I do hope that these are replicated in the coming debate.

  7. @ Roland

    Still not rising to the bait ;-).

  8. John – I don’t disagree, only with the “vast majority” bit. The average household income is around 36k, average wage 24 ish, but median wage 15 ish. A recent study showed 26k is needed just to buy basic food and pay utility bills and housing costs.

    The NHS treats millions, millions of children are at school, millions suffer the effects of crime and so on. 25-40% cuts have NEVER been achieved or even attempted. These will affect everyone, but you don’t have to be right at the bottom to be destroyed by them.

  9. Johnty – I think it my memory of Thatcherism that reminds me all too well.My problem so far with DC is that quacking like a duck has not turned him into a duck.

    The PR man has created the perception, but not the reality.

  10. @ROLAND
    I never had you down as a sensitive type, but you’re right Roland. I also wish those nasty big hairy Scots would stop hating us English. Some of us are quite nice really. Aren’t we? ;)

  11. Sorry to be pedantic about terminology but the amount we are borrowing has increased and will continue to increase until we run a surplus month/year. The yearly amount we borrow, the deficit, is forecast to reduce over the next five years however the amount we owe, the National Debt, will continue to increase over the whole period.

    According to the Red Book overall govt spending is forecast to increase by 9% over the next five years which translates to about 1.7% pa. If inflation, defined by the govt’s spending basket, comes down to 1.7% then there will be no change in govt spending in real terms. Govt controlling its costs is a viable alternative to cutting services. I never understood how the Olympics were having cost over-runs when the economy was in recession.

  12. @Alec
    I found your post addressed to Johnty at 10.40 am, about public finances, both readable and informative. I think your position is based on an economic arguement that is cohererent and relies on evidence that is available to all. Thank you for that. I hope our right-leaning posters take the trouble to read it.
    I also agree with your later post that Labour were wrong in their attempts to curtail civil liberties.
    Just in case people say I’m biaised!

  13. @Julian Gilbert
    Most of them are quite small from a bad diet and have even worse teeth than the English.

  14. IMO, most people (right and left) have forgotten how right-wing the Tories used to be.
    They have travelled a long way since the 80s.
    We should recognise that.


    “the SCALE of them (enormously more than Labour)”

    As I understand it-£40bn over 4 years= £10bn pa=0.7%GDP=1.4% Total Government expenditure

  16. During the run up to the election we were trying to predict which Event would change the direction of the polls. I thought it would be the Budget but was very wrong because AD tried his unwitting best to get people to vote for other parties, particularly women voters.

    With our withdrawal from Afghan hotspots, I assume it will be something financial but with the ’emergency budget’ being future tense stuff, I cannot think of anything special. Can our resident soothsayers come up with anything before Christamas (sorry I mentioned that but the first get away offers will shortly appear in the press).

  17. Roland
    Your anti-Scottish racism is disgusting and should not be allowed on thiis site or any. My own area has one of the smallest proportions of public spending in the UK or indeed the EU.. Much of the rest of Scotland was propelled into the present situation of having more public spending as a proportion of its economy than the USSR because of a deliberate policy of shock-therapy from which recovery is almost impossible

  18. @Julian Gilbert – “Rightly or wrongly, cuts are seen by most people in the centre as necessary. Maybe when the cuts start to bite, it will be a different story. If Labour doesn’t understand this, we are doomed.”

    Let me put it like this. After the result of the election, and as it became increasingly likely that there would be some kind of Lib/Con deal, I argued that GB should remain as leader of a shadow cabinet or government in waiting (there is even now still the possibility of the autumn election that Ashcoft and others might want).

    However, we are denied the undoubtedly formidable presence and forensic skills of GB at the dispatch box, defending his record and dissecting coalition policy. Even A Darling has taken up the pose of semi-retirement. Remember DC and GO dropped the austerity rhetoric in 2009 when it played so badly in the opinion polls. The only reason that the cuts are ‘seen as necessary’ is that there is no other narrative available atm.

  19. @Alec

    Re:class. I agree with your comments and this issue is not isolated to the UK. I have seen major league snobbery in Manhattan depending on where you went to school, go to shop, which street etc. The Japanese have their Samurai families and there is even a servant class.
    Our classless neighbours of fraternity, equality and liberty fame have their own pecking order. I once made the mistake of sitting two Frenchmen next to each other at lunch. One was an Enarque and the other was the offspring of a pied noir. Sitting George Osborne next to Dennis Skinner would have been less frosty.


  21. “According to the Red Book overall govt spending is forecast to increase by 9% over the next five years ”

    Say what??

    How can that be with 25% cuts?

  22. Colin – All I know is they were going to cut the structural deficit by half (circa 35 billion), Osborne is currently at 112 billion and still going.

  23. If what Aleksandar says in his 12.57 post is correct then there aren’t going to be any actual cuts compared to now because the amount of Government spending is not going to be cut at all but is actually going to increase over the next 5 years in nominal terms and stay the same in real terms.

    “25% – 40% cuts” must therefore mean “cuts relative to proposed increases in spending” not “cuts in actual spending”.

    Why does Sue Marsh think anyone will be “destroyed” by non-actual cuts?

  24. @Valerie
    re your post at 12.46. I presume you are an expert on Government Finance. perhaps you would like to visit Wat Tyler’s website and tell me where he is going wrong. I suspect that he is deducting Quantitative Easing from the Lending figures, but don’t really have the expertise to say for sure.

  25. John Sartoris – Oh It’s OK, now I know there are to be no cuts and in fact spending will go up, I’m fine. (very confused smiley)

  26. SUE

    “How can that be with 25% cuts?”

    Because :-
    1) Debt interest will rise as a function of Total Debt ( which continues to rise for at least 5 years)
    2) Some major spend are ring fenced.
    3) The cuts you keep characterising as “25%” -or whatever they turn out to be-will only apply to the non-ring fenced spend-not to everything.

    As I understand it GO is taking £100bn pa out over 4/5 years-ie £25 bn pa-or around 4% pa of All government spend.
    Obviously this will not apply to debt interest, recession related spend like unemployment pay, and ring fenced departments….so the % of the items it does apply to rises accordingly.

  27. SUE

    “All I know is they were going to cut the structural deficit by half ”

    No they are not.

    You are confusing it with the Labour plan to HALVE the TOTAL DEFICIT in four years-ie approx £75bn. over that term.

    Cons plan is to remove the structural element of the deficit entirely over the same period-a figure of £115bn or so.

    This will still leave us with an ANNUAL deficit of around £30bn pa at the ende of the Parliament :-BUT- The Total Debt will then be falling because a) THe Structural Dedeficit has gone & b) we are out of recession & growing the economy.

    Under Labours’s plan, Total Debt was still rising at the end of the parliament.

  28. @Sue

    The total managed expenditure figures from page 111 of the Red Book are £697bn for 2010/11 rising to £758bn in 2015/16.
    These figures are in cash terms and therefore do not include inflation. This amount will include expenditure that cannot be controlled like interest payments and unemployment benefits. It also includes the sizeable commitment to ring-fence the NHS so the remaining depts take the pain disproportionately.
    Some of the headline cuts are the cancellation of proposed spending. If I decided to buy a car but looked at my finances and cancelled, would that be a spending cut or a cancelled aspiration?

  29. Just checked some figures for Government spending:

    2009 – £638 billion;

    2010 – £669 billion;

    2011 – £689 billion.

    So clearly no actual cuts in 2011 because no actual cuts in Government spending but rather actual increase.

  30. @Colin – “The cuts “you keep characterising” as 25%” AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHH

    Stop it Colin, just stop picking everything I say.
    I’ve been very careful to always put 25-40% – The government’s own figures.

    Are you honestly saying, no sarcasm, that the coalition is going to cut 115 billion, including a PROBABLE (better???) 25% in all departments except health and foreign aid, but government spending is going to go up??

    Good grief. These smoke and mirrors really are good aren’t they? If government spending is set to rise, how are they going to pay off any debt at all?

  31. So if government spending is going to go up (What ON???) how are we paying off any debt at all?

  32. @Sue

    The total National Debt is set to rise from around £900bn to £1300bn over the next five years. If things go really well after that we might start paying some of it back. At least let’s hope we can sell the bank shares at a profit.
    The figures under the previous govt were that the debt would rise to about £1400bn. It is that difference that is GO’s £115bn. E&OE. I’m genuinely trying to blow some of the smoke away.

  33. There may be all sorts of other factors, but this is just confusing nominal (ie cash) spending and real (ie after adjustying for inflation) spending.

    Yes, spending will go up in nominal terms, but because inflation will be higher than the rate of increase, the buying power of that spending will be less ie a real terms cut.

    The deficit comes down because the government’s revenue will keep pace with inflation, all things being equal. For example, if prices in the shops rise, the government obviously collects more VAT.

    I don’t think the media help here. I guess they assume everyone understands what “real terms” means, but they don’t, so they should add “after adjusting for inflation” all the time.

  34. Maybe I’m misunderstanding things…but isn’t it the annual deficit that has to be reduced by some £100 billions give or take some loose change?

  35. @ Johnty – “I do not much like Anglo-Saxon capitalism”

    If GB *was* still PM, something a little more substantive may have come from the recent trip, beyond a discussion of the longevity of a Libyan, who, if he had not been released on compassionate grounds, may by now have been exhonerated on appeal of reponsibility for the tragic events.

    Ben Bernanke saying more stimulus is necessary.
    DC wants to outdo Germany threefold at least in austerity, and hopes the UK will squeeze though on the back of exports to a recovering US.

  36. @Johnty. Nooo I’m no expert. Although I think Alec is. I will certainly visit Wat Tyler. I just hope he is’nt of the same ilk as Guido Fawkes.


    Maybe we should fill the Scots’ begging bowl with some of the oil revenues the UK Government got their hands on.

    I think we owe them a few bob.

  37. @Mike N

    The forecast annual deficits are 149bn for 10-11, 116bn for 11-12, 89bn for 12-13, 60bn for 13-14 and 37bn for 14-15 and £20bn for 15-16.
    We continue running annual deficits for every year until 2016 however we are reducing the amount we overspend each year.

  38. @Aleksandar
    So, in 2014/15 the annual deficit has been cut from currently £149bns to £37bns. Setting aside growth etc we are looking at reduction of about £100bns in ANNUAL gov expenditure.

  39. @Johnty
    Is it the Wat Tyler who blogs on Conservative Home? Pleeeze. I’ll stick with the analysis here, ta very much.

  40. It’s worth bearing in mind that a ‘standstill’ budget in terms of what services government offers would still require some fairly hefty spending rises.

    More people in the 65+ age bracket means more pensions and health spending, health and defence spending real inflation rates are always greater than general inflation rates, and increasing unemployment in the next couple of years will also add to spending with no resulting increase in what we normally think of as services. Interest payments will also have an impact, so an increase in total spending is still quite compatible with a sharply reduced level of services and therefore cuts.

    its worth mentally separating ‘spending’ from ‘services’.
    The key is to work out what the cost would be in five years time of continuing to meet every current service and spending requirement we have in central and local government today. Anything less than this means cuts, whether or not the actual spending is more than it is today.

  41. @Billy Bob
    Gordon Brown was very much a believer in Anglo Saxon capitalism, publicly at least. I do not think it is possible for a Government in the UK to be anything else – though for a short time in 1995 I believed that Will Hutton’s “The State We’re In” might point the way forward.
    Sorry from your various comments on the deficit I assumed you had some expertise. Can you point me to any analysis on here. All I have seen is reiteration of the point that government borrowing was less in fiscal year 2009-2010 than Darling had predicted. Wat Tyler’s analysis is based on lending in financial year 2009-2010.

  42. @Valerie
    oops I meant 2010-2011.
    Have looked for myself at Government Stats. The borrowing figures for June 2010 are disappointing – 0.7 billion higher than 2009. Revisions to April and May have increased the budget deficit by £1.1 biliion.
    It is possible to make the 2010 figures look better by including financial sector support operations in June 2009 – i.e. support to banks. I think I understand now the point Wat Tyler was making – and whatever his ideological viewpoint I don’t think he is wrong – we are probably at the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end of this crisis.

  43. Roland
    And my father was not a drunk crushed by Thatcher but a proud and much-decorated British soldier, wounded at Anzio in an action described in the regimental history. He was a pall-bearer at the burial in action of his commanding officer, the heir to the Dukedom of Athol.

  44. The question to be put to voters in the referendum has now been published:

    “Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”

  45. Class?
    It is telling in the uk you cannot make a comment about lack of breadth of experience without someone accusing you of snobbery or its inverse. This reflex has been much in use to protect the layer of the ultra-privileged holding sway over the current administration. But the evidence has to be examined in a non-partisan way. As a Labour supporter it was humiliating for me when PM Blair said in the context of Iraq that only the US had stood with the UK in the Blitz when those with knowledge would know
    a. the US was not standing with us at that time and
    b. the incredibly brave governments of Yugoslavia and Greece were!
    I am not biased in weighing the evidence. It should concern Labour members that the current leadership candidates are so similar in background and all parties that for example the representatives of each in the post-election negotiations were so similar. However the current government are so lacking in breadth of experience that it is difficult to find any comparison.
    To choose almost at random, Atlee was a Haileybury man and always proud of it but he had years of service as a volunteer in youth work in the most deprived area, years as a local councillor and mayor, a wealth of military experience, and a good knowledge of the family legal business alongside. In his cabinet he had amongst others one who had started work at 8 as a bird scarer and built the largest trade union in the uk.
    On the other hand Chamberlain was probably the greatest expert on medical administration in the UK, almost the same in social work, and just a bit less on social housing. He had profound practical knowledge of local government, the running of big cities and much else. I think Lord Curzon was in his cabinet who had amongst much else ran the whole of India, Pakistan, Banladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma!
    In the meantime we have a Chief Secretary who was prior to his recent election the press officer to the Cairngorm National Park.
    When I made my point about lack of knowledge about real life previous postings about eg Everest (the man). Thee truth is that the present cabinet may be clever but they have very little practical knowledge of anything.

  46. @Marjory

    “I do not subscribe that the Tories are doing well in the polls, in fact I don’t think they are doing well at all, they are supposed to be having a honeymoon period, they should be doing much better than just managing to stay just ahead of labour when people really do not have to concentrate their minds on who to vote for.”

    I’ve only just read your post of a day or so ago but, at last, somebody else who is interpreting these polls in a similar way to me! Like you, I couldn’t quite understand the general, rather sanguine, acceptance that they were providing “excellent news” for the Coalition Government. Really? Au contraire, I would have thought, showing as they do a mini-meltdown in Lib Dem support and a lukewarm, some would say, tepid honeymoon “surge” for the Conservatives. If it is a sustainable political entity, then the coalition should be banking much more goodwill and political capital than this if it is to sail the much stormier waters that lie ahead. No real pain has been felt by the electorate yet and the “anybody but the last lot” initial feelgood factor of seeing new faces walking in and out of Downing Street wears off quickly with time. If you then also consider that the media are giving them a fairly easy ride too, and that’s another blessing that has a very distinct shelf life, by the way, then this really is a time that the coalition should be riding high in the polls, exploiting the wind in their sails and taking advantage of a dispirited and well beaten opposition.

    So the question must be, why are we not seeing the usual post election poll bubble for the winning parties? One obvious reason is the surprising bounce back for Labour so soon after being defeated. Losing parties usually plumb hitherto unknown polling depths in the short term after an election defeat and the fact that Labour isn’t suffering this is not only surprising but, for their supporters and would be leadership contenders, very heartening.

    Much psephological water to flow under the bridge and many events, dear boy, events to come, but the early signs are that Labour are still very much in the political game in a way that the Tories weren’t for nigh on 11 years post 1997 (or Labour weren’t for even longer post 1979).

    We live in very interesting political times

  47. @Mike N

    The annual deficit is our spending over and above our income in one year. The amount that we are overspending in 2014-15 is £37bn which is down from this year’s overspend of £149bn.
    The total govt expenditure in 2014-15 is £738bn which is a rise in cash terms from this year’s expenditure of £697bn. i.e the govt is forecast to spend £41bn more in 2014-15 than this year in cash terms. The deficit is that spending figure minus our tax receipts/asset sales etc.

    My father dropped bombs on German civilians, so that makes me even more politically incorrect. He won the DFM. But who gives a heaving haggis now.

  49. R Haiines
    I made no comment about your father. You did about mine

  50. @VALERIE
    I would be having Panama Hat or flat cap for my dinner if YOU did’nt think we owed Scotland something.

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