Ed Miliband’s rising approval figures in the polls have led to some reassessment in the commentariat. A lot of it is predictably rather coloured by wishful thinking – with some honourable exceptions there are a lot of right-wing commentators who are still convinced that he is a leader who the voters do not see as up to the job and that this is an almost insurmountable obstacle to Labour, and a lot of people on the left who think he is either now the apple of the public’s eye, or that perceptions of the party leaders are at most a side issue, if not entirely irrelevant to how people vote.

At the extremes both are wrong – people who say that it is impossible for Labour to win with Ed Miliband are wrong, the leader is but one factor in voting intention and there are clearly many others. It is perfectly possible for a party to win despite having a duff leader. It would be equally wrong to say that leader perceptions are not a factor at all – we can be relatively certain from key driver analysis of recent British Election studies that perceptions of the party leaders are a major driver of voting intention. It is as much wishful thinking to dismiss the problem for Labour as it is to pretend the problem is insurmountable.

Let’s first try to identify the problem. It is easy to cherry pick good and bad results for party leaders, all politicians have strengths and weaknesses. For example on the up side Ed Miliband is seen as the most in touch of the party leaders, is far more likely than the other party leaders to care about the problems of ordinary people and often leads when people are asked how well the party leaders are currently doing at their jobs. On the downside, he is also seen as weak, not up to the job and people don’t think he looks like a potential Prime Minister. All of this adds colour and understanding to WHY a party leader is seen positively or negatively, but doesn’t get us to the core question of whether they are a positive or negative for their party. Let’s see if we can find some questions where we really can benchmark a leader against their party.

First there is the comparison between leader ratings and voting intention. Labour have a lead of around about 10 points in the polls, and yet David Cameron has a lead of around about 10 points as best Prime Minister. It is perfectly normal for the governing party to do better in Best PM than in voting intention because the sitting PM has the benefit of incumbency (it’s easier for people to see them as Prime Minister), but this is an unusually large gap. Below is the Conservative poll lead (or deficit) since YouGov started regularly tracking both figures in 2003, put alongside the Conservative leader’s lead (or deficit) on the measure of best PM.

You can see IDS lagged significantly behind his party (on average he was doing 16 points worse than his party). Things improved under Michael Howard, who only lagged 7 points behind his party. That shrunk to 5 point when David Cameron took over and once Gordon Brown replaced Blair the Conservative lead in voting intention was almost identical to the Conservative lead as best Prime Minister. Now look at what happens once Ed Miliband takes over as Labour leader. Labour are the opposition now so the lines are reversed as we would expect, but look at how far Miliband lags behind his party. The average gap is 18 points.

Let’s take another measure, Ipsos MORI have a great question on whether people like both the party and the leader, like the party but not its leader, like the leader but not his party, or don’t like either of them. Tracking data for it is here. If you look back to the last Parliament people consistently said they liked the Labour party more than Gordon Brown (in April 2010 43% said they liked Labour, but only 37% liked Brown) – he was a drag on his party. With David Cameron it was the other way round, in April 2010 53% said they liked Cameron, but only 38% liked the Tory party. Cameron was a positive for his party (note that even then more people liked the Labour party than the Conservatives!).

MORI have only asked the question once about Ed Miliband, well over a year ago, but ComRes asked an almost identical question this April. They found that David Cameron’s advantage over the Tory party had vanished, now 37% of people liked the Tories, 38% liked Cameron. Ed Miliband’s figures though looked worse than Brown’s – 45% of people said they liked Labour, but only 22% said they liked Miliband, so he trails his party by 23 points. A majority of people who said they liked Labour said they didn’t like Ed Miliband.

Another straw in the wind, back in May YouGov did a hypothetical poll asking how people would vote if Boris was Tory leader at the next election. As a control, they asked how people would vote at the next election if the party leaders remained David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. The result was that a normal voting intention figure of CON 31%, LAB 43%, LD 9% became CON 32%, LAB 40%, LD 10% once you mentioned Cameron, Miliband and Clegg as the party leaders.

But even if Ed Miliband is less popular than the party he leads, does it matter? The first thing to note is that these opinions are already there, they are already factored into Labour’s price, and yet Labour are ahead by 10 points. Clearly Labour are perfectly capable of getting the most votes with Ed Miliband as their leader.

However, that doesn’t mean Ed isn’t costing the Labour party votes. Just because Labour have a good lead in the polls, doesn’t mean they couldn’t have a bigger one. Going back to that ComRes poll, 82% of people who say they like Labour AND like Ed Miliband who were asked their voting intention said they’d vote Labour tomorrow, amongst those who like Labour but do NOT like Ed Miliband that figure falls to 61% of people.

While Labour have a ten point lead in the polls this doesn’t matter that much. I doubt Prime Minister Miliband would arrive in 10 Downing Street, throw himself on the bed and cry himself to sleep because no one likes him and he only won by 10 percent points. However, mid-term opposition leads in the opinion polls have a tendency to fade as elections approach and a nine-or-ten point buffer mid-term may be far less comfortable come polling day.

What should be far more worrying to Labour is if things like leader perception becomes more important closer to elections. We all know the pattern of mid-term term blues, of oppositions doing better in the middle of Parliaments in the polls and in mid-term elections. Well, why is that? Part of it is due to the actions of political parties. Governments do unpopular things early in the Parliament and save nicer more populist things for the end of the Parliament when they need the votes. Oppositions are policy lite early in the Parliament and paint themselves as all-things-to-all-men, later on in the Parliament they must come off the fence and disappoint some people.

I suspect part of it though is how people think about voting intention and answer polls – right now I suspect a lot of voting intention is simply disapproval of the government, telling a pollster you’ll vote Labour is the way people indicate their unhappiness with the government. As we get closer to an actual general election it becomes more of a choice of alternative governments – which one would I prefer?

The reason that Ed Miliband lags behind the Labour party in polls is because there are a substantial number of people who say they’ll vote Labour, but on other questions say they aren’t sure who would be the best Prime Minister, or which party they’d trust most on the economy. It suggests that support may be pretty shallow and liable to fade once the general election approaches. Of course, there is plenty of time until the election, time to firm up that support, time for, as the vernacular used to be in the last Parliament, for Labour to “seal the deal”.

In short: is Ed Miliband a drag on Labour? Yes, he probably is. Can Labour win with him as leader despite that? Yes, it is certainly possible. Will he become even more of a drag as the election approaches and minds are focused on choice of government, rather than anti-government protest? The jury is still out.

90 Responses to “Is Ed Miliband a drag on Labour’s support?”

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  1. But then Ed’s ratings could get better…

  2. As ever, another insightful piece of analysis by AW.

    I’ll cry myself to sleep every night from now worrying about the result of the next GE….

  3. I always thought that Ed Miliband carried some risks, because he’s clearly not that charismatic, can seem awkward and not the natural leader you expect the leader to be. However, with his election I thought Labour were going for policy attraction, rather than personality, this time – and as shown by Hollande and countless other figures in the past, that can work just as well. Trouble is, where are Miliband’s proposals that match these:

    On 26 January he outlined a full list of policies in a manifesto containing 60 propositions, including the separation of retail activities from riskier investment-banking businesses; raising taxes for big corporations, banks and the wealthy; creating 60,000 teaching jobs; bringing the official retirement age back down to 60 from 62; creating subsidised jobs in areas of high unemployment for the young; promoting more industry in France by creating a public investment bank; granting marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples; and pulling French troops out of Afghanistan in 2012.

  4. I wish one of the pollsters would do some leader satisfaction ratings for both Miliband and Clegg in Scotland.

    We have some good data for all the 5 Scottish parliamentary leaders, plus David Cameron. But the omission of Miliband and Clegg from the regular Ipsos MORI Scottish monitor is a real and worrying oversight. Fair enough, Clegg might not be LD leader come 2015, but Miliband almost certainly will be.

    Brown did tremendously well north of the border for Labour at UK GE 2010, completely against the trends in E&W. So, the change to a non-Scottish, and far lower-profile, Labour leader could be a big factor in the key Scottish contests.

    I am hungry for an inkling of data.

    Amber reckonned that Miliband would perhaps be around the Willie Rennie mark (ie. -4 net satisfaction), but it would be lovely to get some hard data.

    Anthony, could YouGov oblige?

  5. Stuart – we don’t do a regular Scottish Omnibus, it’s only when a client comes along and commissions one

  6. Great analysis Anthony-thank you.

  7. Interesting graph Anthony. Despite Ed’s difficulties there is still the strongest correlation between VI and the personal lead (or deficit) throughout . In other words, as you conclude, the leader could be a drag or bonus, but in the end, it will be party that is most important (with the leader valuation already built into that anyway). I seem to remember that one poll revealed a preference for his brother, so I assume bringing that sulking figure back into the limelight would be a coup for Ed and help his personal image. By the way I mean no derogatory comment about David (or should we say Dave now?) as I would be sulking too if I had been so cruelly shafted by a few TU bosses, not fit to lick my boots,

  8. Surely it’s the economy stupid. Unless the economy recovers, then Labour will surely romp home. Half way through this Parliament, assuming it runs full term. Time’s running out for George to fix economy. Flatlining won’t do.

  9. @ Stuart Dickson

    Fair enough, Clegg might not be LD leader come 2015, but Miliband almost certainly will be.
    Oooh, do you think David Miliband will defect to the LibDems & be elected as Clegg’s replacement?

    Just kidding; I know that wasn’t what you meant. :-)

  10. By the time of the next GE, Cameron could be a wounded PM, with many of his party against him. This has been pointed out in many articles in the media recently.

    Since Cameron was elected as Tory Leader, the Tories have lost half of their membership. In parliament and in Tory grass roots, there are many that don’t trust him, particularly on Europe. Cameron is having to try to keep the coalition together, even though a good number of Tory backbenchers, would rather continue as a minority administration.

    There is no reason why Ed will not grow over the next few year and gain popularity. Depends on what policy decisions Labour take on the big issues of the day and whether people see someone who is capable of implementing policies in government.

    If other people are of the same view as I share, they will have stopped listening to Cameron and instead will listen to Ed, as he is seen to be more in touch with the aspirations of the British people.

    The worst thing that could happen for Ed and Labour, is for the Tories to get rid of Cameron. There are many current Tory MP’s, who I fear would be much more popular with the electorate. Anna Soubry has potential to be a leader at some point. Mark Garnier also has potential but is not a political animal. If Cameron were go, I would expect Hague to take over.

  11. Another sign the economy is in a parlous state: GO may have to borrow £20bn more this year than forecast, after figures show a bigger-than-expected shortfall in the public finances in June.

    Great image of GO and DA on the Guardian website. It’s like they’re merging into one double-headed orange thingy.

  12. I think Craig has a good point. The advantage of being in opposition is that you dont have to have any real policies. However the problem is that if you dont have any policies, personality will be the focus and clearly EM is in trouble here.

    EM would be fine if he got to the post of PM the problem is getting there and the midterm polls are (despite the backslapping on this part of the site where they are a pretty immutable prediction of what will happen in 3 years) really quite poor historically from an oppositions point of view.

  13. I’ve been starting to think its game over for Ed. I know his popularity has increased but the public obviously haven’t taken to him and I can’t imagine the govt/Cameron getting much more unpopular than the last few months with the omnishambles etc. However, if Labour can define the next election as substance rather than style by pointing out how disaterous it went in 2010 with Cameron & Clegg, there may still be hope for Ed.

  14. @R Huckle

    “The worst thing that could happen for Ed and Labour, is for the Tories to get rid of Cameron.”

    Maybe, if there’s a clean change of leader. In reality, I can’t see it working that way. The Tory Right clearly skipped school the day the word “compromise” was explained to them, and they won’t accept anyone who doesn’t implement their Tory Right values. The Lib Dems, on the other hand, are never going to work with a Tory leader elected on a ticket of pushing through all the Tory policies the Lib Dems won’t back.

    I suppose Hague could work as a unity leader, similar to Michael Howard in 2003, but Michael Howard only took over after a realisation that they couldn’t carry on tearing themselves apart. Now, however, the Tories seem to have forgotten this lesson, and look a long way off learning it again.

    As someone who saw the common ground of Cameron and Clegg as a reasonable way forward, I despair at the self-destructive behaviour going on now, and I don’t think a change of leader will make things any better.

  15. The other question is do leadership ratings and qualities become more important as you get closer to a general election, especially once an election campaign is underway??? I suspect they do, and would probably be a further drag on the Labour vote unless people’s perceptions of Ed change – which they could well do.

    Of course, at the end of it all, the vast majority of Tories and Labourites on here will still be predicting with absolute certainty that their party will get a majority in 2015, so I have to say AW’s analysis has been about the most insightful, meaningful and unbiased post I have seen on here for a while. Thanks.

  16. Johnny: “However, if Labour can define the next election as substance rather than style by pointing out how disaterous it went in 2010 with Cameron & Clegg, there may still be hope for Ed.”

    I’m partly afraid that this is Labour’s thinking, forgetting that it went awry with Gordon Brown (post-bounce). There were reasons for Brown’s fall from grace, of course – the Election That Never Was, primarily – but it still holds that his main public argument that he was “no flash, just Gordon” did not prove an enduring selling point. He needed some spin – and plenty of it – after all.

    AW does well to highlight how soft (if large) Labour’s lead is. I see huge struggles in their GOTV campaign come 2015, both in Labour heartlands, and in Scotland post-referendum – and, with boundary reform’s kicking in, Labour are in no great position. Cameron can surely eke out a bigger plurality at the least.

    To get around this, it does seem clear that Labour need more political animus than Ed can provide. Any chance he’ll recognise that and step aside with dignity with this (fluffy) 10 point, though?

  17. We have nine years of data here, and we can’t be sure about the correlations. There will be a constellation of factors at election time, one of which will be how party campaigns approach the subject of leadership, and importantly, how leadership narratives – formulated by the commentartiat – feed through into the media.

    My memory of 1997 for instance was that I didn’t really know what to make of Tony Blair – but I had heard everything I needed to know about John Major. Labour figures like Gordon Brown and Robin Cook in HoC debates, Harriet Harman and Peter Mandelson in the TV studios, gave the impression of a very much more determined and talented team behind the enigmatic leader.

    Conservatives are having to play to their strengths atm… welfare and immigration – putting the focus back onto Ed Miliband would be a way to deflect attention away from the increasing clamour of dissaffection within Cameron’s immediate electorate – Tory MPs and activists.

    “We need to talk about Ed.” Is that referencing Lionel Shriver’s novel about the protagonist of a school massacre?

  18. Billy Bob- it is shamelessly stolen from an article by Dan Hodges, but I’m sure that’s where he got the idea when he titled his piece.

    Perhaps somewhat ill-timed given current news though, have changed the title in case just in case!

  19. @Anthony Wells

    Thank you. I didn’t find that piece, but it did give me the opportunity to catch up on some other Ed Miliband tagged output from Dan Hodges.

  20. Admirable sensibility.

  21. Still gaping after watching the Manx missile in action, (wow, and again, wow) I was less impressed with Hollande going round glad-handing the Tour winners.

    He’s only been elected a month or two. Is it really necessary for politicians to treat every event as a photo opportunity? I don’t think it is, which is why I am so critical of all of them for doing so. I would love to find out whether these endless photo ops and so on really have the positive effect the subjects of them suppose.

  22. Excellent analysis! It will take an awful lot to shift me from my belief that both major parties will struggle to win an overall majority at the next GE, Ed. Miliband or no Ed.Miliband. Whose gonna be the largest party is the question, Ed.M. could just hold down Labour enough to let the Tories squeak into first place, but its gonna be close.

  23. Ed Miliband is a drag on Labour’s vote at present, but less so than I suspect Ted Heath was on the Tory vote in the late 60s.From the end of 1967 to mid 1969 the Tories enjoyed a lead of 20 – 28% on a very regular basis – yet Heath remained less popular than Harold Wilson. Despite that we all know what happened in 1970!
    On the separate issue of the size of Labour’s mid term lead, it is perhaps worth noting that Labour is on the whole further ahead than the Tories were under Thatcher from mid 1977 to beginning of 1979 when the Winter of Discontent gave the Tories a big lead similar to that for the short period Autumn 1976 to mid 1977.

  24. @Howard

    The Manx missile?

    Given the likely winner of the Tour was in my brother’s class at primary school, and lived 5 minutes away from me, I think he’s done very well for himself.

  25. “Is Ed Miliband a drag on Labour support?”

    Funny Ive never seen him in a woman’s skirt at conference!! ;)

  26. In 2007, three years before the general election, David Cameron was lagging 18 points behind Gordon Brown on the IpsosMORI most capable PM measure (22% – 40%). Later in the year he was even further behind at 17% to Brown’s 58%.

    Cameron did not overhaul Brown until 2009 (IpsosMORI had been prompting for Brown even while Tony Blair was PM), though his party had been enjoying decent polling leads for much of the time. At the election he was only marginally ahead (33% – 29%)… but within months of actually becoming PM he was scoring 50%.

    Callaghan was significantly ahead of Thatcher in the run-up to the 1979 GE, and on into 1980 was still favourite for best PM.


  27. If EM is allegedly such a drag on labours electoral hopes,can anyone
    Suggest who would do the job better?

  28. Have these people been reading UKPR? – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9416321/Exclusive-Members-of-RSPB-and-National-Trust-could-elect-own-peers-under-Tory-MPs-peace-plan-over-Lords-reform.html

    I’ve been suggesting this as a route to a fully elected HoL without the issue of a primacy conflict for some time on here.

  29. RAF
    My wonder of ‘Cav’ equals but does not exceed that of ‘Wiggo’.

    These two are something else.

    Referring to my earlier post, expect a Cameron photo op on Monday, if not on Sunday in Paris.

  30. I still think that views of Ed will be largely defined by the economy.

    A bit like searching for stealth submarines, opposition leaders are often viewed in terms of negative space – you’re not looking for the object itself, but the difference between the surroundings and the object in question.

    If Osborne cuts the deficit and gets the economy going, Ed will struggle to be popular. If the economy tanks, Ed will be viewed differently. Today’s IMF report and the June deficit numbers are good news for Ed, but there is a long way to go.

  31. I agree that EM will probably never be extremely popular, win or lose, the same was true of Thatcher, it has to be said. But there is such a thing as winning by default – to various extents, this has happened quite frequently.

    I’m another who is expecting a tight race at the next election, and someone emerging with a piddly, almost useless majority at best.

    It’s not all about the economy – of course it sure helps, but atm there is no help. So there are random events and cockups on both sides that may or may not happen, and what the opponent makes of them. It seems that the EU will basically be in trouble for some time to come. Also, austerity isn’t going to be over soon, so if any government anywhere is hoping to rely solely on the economy for popularity – well, they had best ought not to.

  32. EdM was on Anglia news today – ITV had a clip of someone calling him David.

  33. Most General Elections that I can remember, and I can go back, dimly and distantly as far as 1966, turned out to be referendums on the incumbent government. The personal qualities and likeability of the Leaders of the Opposition at the time were factors, but not primary ones, and the outcome of the elections were determined by what the electorate thought about the governments performance in office. Most crucial was their handling of the economy and an earlier poster makes some interesting observations about Heath and Thatcher; two fairly unregarded politicians at the time who became beneficiaries of governments whose tides were running out. My memory of those 1970 and 1979 elections was that Callaghan and Wilson were regarded, by quite large margins, to be more Prime Ministerial than Heath and Thatcher, but the electorate felt that the governments they led had failed and that it was time for a change. Heath and Thatcher were duly elected. Once they stepped in and out of Downing Street a few times well, hey presto, they looked Prime Ministerial!

    I also recall that from 1995 to 1997, Major was far more popular than his Party, but a fat lot of good it did him when he came to face the electorate, and, as popular as Blair had undoubtedly become by then, I think, in Geoff Boycott’s terminology, ma mother-in-law would have beaten Major in that election!

    Cameron is probably being flattered in comparison to Miliband at the moment but, in gross terms, he is far from a widely loved or highly regarded politician, and probably never has been. Accordingly, come 2015, it’s far from certain that he is going to be any sort of electoral asset to his party at all. In that context, especially if the incumbent government is failing, I can quite easily see a still largely unloved Miliband being swept into power.

  34. Howard

    I believe it is traditional for the French President to spectate on the Tour for one day (including from a car in the travelling pack). I think Holland actually represents Brive where the latest stage ended, so that day would be the logical one for him to do it. It would have been a breach of protocol not to.

    Of course if Cameron does descend on Paris on Sunday, he’d not just be hogging the cameras, he’d be sucking up the Rupert Murdoch via the Sky Team. So win-win – unless it reminds everyone that the French would have done the Olympics better for about a fifth of the price.

  35. “In short: is Ed Miliband a drag on Labour? Yes, he probably is. Can Labour win with him as leader despite that? Yes, it is certainly possible. Will he become even more of a drag as the election approaches and minds are focused on choice of government, rather than anti-government protest? The jury is still out.”

    That’s how I’ve felt. Labour would do better, a lot better, with a different leader. But having Ed as their leader doesn’t foreclose the opportunity of winning for them. When the next GE campaign comes, it’s likely that the Tories will want to focus on the contrast between leaders but that will only work so much if Cameron’s numbers decline.

  36. “The reason that Ed Miliband lags behind the Labour party in polls is because there are a substantial number of people who say they’ll vote Labour, but on other questions say they aren’t sure who would be the best Prime Minister, or which party they’d trust most on the economy.”

    Some polls just recently have been putting Milliband and Balls ahead of Cameron and Osborne for economic competency for the first time. Whether that’s a crossover point before a bigger lead opens up or a high-water mark for them we don’t yet know.

  37. @ Alec

    “Have these people been reading UKPR? – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9416321/Exclusive-Members-of-RSPB-and-National-Trust-could-elect-own-peers-under-Tory-MPs-peace-plan-over-Lords-reform.html

    I’ve been suggesting this as a route to a fully elected HoL without the issue of a primacy conflict for some time on here.”

    I’m sorry but that seemingly would make the situation even worse. You’re going to give privately held organizations the right to elect their own members into this unelected body that has all sorts of powers over an elected one? You know, when it comes to the U.S. Senate, we may have unlimited spending powers where Senators can be bought and sold by billionaires, corporations, and powerful lobbying groups exercising their “free speech.” But at least we have a pretext of an actual election! Here you’d just skip over that whole practice.

  38. This Selling London show has clued me into something electorally that I never really understood before. For some reason, Cities of London and Westminster as well as Kensington (and the previous incarnation of Kensington and Chelsea) have relatively low voter turnout as constituencies go. Now I was always surprised by these constituencies because they were the little spots of bright blue surrounded by a sea of red on your election night maps. It was explained to me they were heavily Tory because they were comprised of very wealthy neighborhoods. This made the low turnout all the more surprising since rich people (or to use the politically correct term “job creators”) tend to vote at much higher propensity than others. So these constituencies were something of anomolies. I never really got it before. But now I think I do.

    Those residential neighborhoods in Central London are so expensive that there are only so many citizens who can actually afford to buy in them (and of course, even those who can afford to buy them may not want to) and resultingly, these neighborhoods haveget markted to wealthy foreigners looking for second homes in London. And these neighborhoods tend to have huge populations of wealthy foreigners. These foreign residents, by and large, can’t vote in UK elections. Hence, the turnout remains low.

    (I know this what you guys and Basil Fawlty would call “the bleedin’ obvious” but for me, this is newly discovered info).

    Also, this is kinda funny. There is a difference between the British and American (or at least Californian) lexicons for a definition of a “Victorian” style home. I never realized that before.

    This is what we term as “Victorian”:







    Sorry to plug one of my city’s neighborhoods here but anyway, as you can see, very different from what a realtor in London would refer to as a “Victorian.”


    @” unless it reminds everyone that the French would have done the Olympics better for about a fifth of the price.”

    Why would it do that?

    This was the third time in recent history that the IOC had turned down a Paris Olympic bid. The French capital also missed out in 1992 and 2008.

    Perhaps the French will learn to have their strikes after the IOC bid officials have left-and wait until the Games start like us.


  40. Good Morning all.
    Many thanks Anthony for this very interesting piece.

    I do not agree at all that the Economy is a guarantee for a Labour win. 1992 GE proves this.

    The Hollande contrast to the Labour leadership is interesting.

  41. I voted EM 4th of the main candidates as I felt he was along with Balls the less media friendly and least likely to appeal to as PM material; I think this has been born out by the polls.
    Where I have been pleasantly surprised is in his handling of the party and his strategic thinking which imo has enabled Labour to take advantage of the coalitions woes. Also he has been able to keep the party largely united in a way DM and Balls would not have been able to do.

    In summary, I think his leadership has been a major factor in why Labour has developed a decent lead but I also believe he will still be a drag as the GE approaches with what I consider to be some superficial voters.

    Certainly he has earned the right to take us to the next GE and he and the party can decide what to do depending on the outcome.

  42. Our resident psephologist continues his analysis of the proposed boundary changes on the complexion of our politics – today, he considers Oxfordshire.
    Superb series:

  43. @Socal – “I’m sorry but that seemingly would make the situation even worse. You’re going to give privately held organizations the right to elect their own members into this unelected body that has all sorts of powers over an elected one?”

    I disagree entirely. The objective is to retain what is good about the HoL – it’s expert revising role and less partisan nature – while protecting the system from two competing jurisdictions by avoiding repeat popular elections for both houses.

    FWIW, my proposal was to have half the Lords elected by regional PR alongside another already existing election (Euro elections possibly) as there needs to be a party political element in the HoL, and then the remaining half would elected by restricted electorates representing such memberships groups as described in the link.

    In this way, we would ensure that the HoL is never dominated by partisan interests, as wide a cross section of expertise and representation is guaranteed, everyone is elected, but the house as a whole cannot ever claim legitimacy over the commons. I think it would work very well.

  44. @Alec @SoCalLiberal

    In a sense we’ve been here before: Oxford and Cambridge Universities (mass membership organisations) elected their own MPs. As an interesting additional oddity these were elected by STV after 1918.

    For a sideways take on this approach you can try C J Cherryh’s Union novels (warning, SciFi) where there are distinct electorates for different groups, the military, science, economics etc, where votes are allocated by expertise.

    Of course this would be a difficult thing to set up. Which organisations get a peer? How do you maintain/create appropriate levels of internal democracy in them? How do you stop, for example, the EDL setting themselves up as a mass membership organisation and claiming a peer? And as an individual I have to pay for a right to vote (RSPB, National Trust, Union)? And the more I pay the more votes I get?

  45. @SoCalLiberal

    I found this wirednewyork London thread – page 9 has some pics by Codex of various architectural styles, Georgian and Regency through to Victorian and Edwardian.


    There are are also some stunning photos on the other pages.

    The Rebuilding Act, passed by Parliament in February 1667 stipulated the use of brick or stone – timber buildings were forbidden.

  46. @The Sheep – your examples are, in my view, completely irrelevant. We are not talking about the primary chamber here, where the purpose is to elect a government. I see absolutely no reason whatsoever why there should ever be any distinction beyond that of geographical boundaries to allocate electorates to this type of election.

    The HoL is different however. This is (or should be) more of an advisory chamber, where there is an opportunity to ensure expertise is available to the legislature to examine and revise. It’s not about electing a government. In this case, setting up an independent commission to decide how to allocate seats would be easy enough. The EDL would be a problem – they would need to stand in the conventional elections for the other 50% of seats, and if they got enough votes in this – then they should be represented.

    In the 1950’s there were quite a lot of ideas about alternative electorates. I recall reading a Nevil Shute novel where people had different numbers of votes depending on their relative social and economic standing. Horrible stuff.

  47. You don’t have to look to the past or science fiction to find a parliamentary chamber representing sectional interests. The Seanad Éireann, the upper house in Ireland is supposed to work in that way. According to Wikipedia:

    Seanad Éireann consists of sixty senators:

    Eleven appointed by the Taoiseach (prime minister).

    Six elected by the graduates of certain Irish universities: Three by graduates of the University of Dublin; Three by graduates of the National University of Ireland.

    43 elected from five special panels of nominees (known as Vocational Panels) by an electorate consisting of TDs (member of Dáil Éireann), senators and [county council and county borough] councillors

    The article has more details and it’s worth clicking through to look at the list of organisations that can make the nominations for each panel. However, as the Oireachtas’ own website admits:

    …as the electorate for the panels is made up of the Members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, county councils and county borough councils, the composition of Seanad Éireann, including the Taoiseach’s nominees, will tend to reflect party strengths in Dáil Éireann

    The result is that, as with weaker upper houses everywhere, it tends to be a mixture of aspiring and retiring Party politicians. What independent and expert qualities it does have tends to come from the university seats.

  48. @Alec – your counter arguments are, in my view, completely irrelevant.

    The HoL is not just a neutral reviewing chamber. It can and does block legislation and legislative programmes. It contains ministers of the Government.

    And that of course assumes that making it more representative doesn’t alter the balance of power back again.

    Any system of indirectly elected chamber with (paid membership) private organisations having an opportunity to shape and block government legislation where the only responsibility is back to that organisation is a step backwards.

    I also don’t believe it will necessarily result in greater expertise. Organisations can readily be taken over by factional groups, and are no more likely to elect bright people than the general electorate.

  49. Colin


    @” unless it reminds everyone that the French would have done the Olympics better for about a fifth of the price.”

    Why would it do that?

    Cos it’s true? :D

    The French already had a lot more of the infrastructure in place and were a lot more realistic about the costs.[1] London and the UK have of course been landed with bills many times what was promised. If the Brits were better at sucking up to the unelected potentates of the IOC, that’s hardly something to be proud of.

    The Games are always an economic disaster for the host city (they drive many more tourists away than they attract) and the ‘legacy’ they leave is only ever worth a fraction of what was spent (because in the end it was mainly designed for a one-off event).

    I would like to think that the only positive outcome would be a scepticism by government about ‘outsourcing’, but neither the current lot nor their predecessors have ever shown much willingness the learn from reality. Still a few pols will enjoy a bit of swanning about[2], so that’s all that matters, eh?

    [1] Also Parisians already leave the city en masse in August so the disruption would make little difference.

    [2] Am I the only person to think that Ed Miliband has been quite clever in giving Blair the ‘Olympic legacy’ portfolio. Apart from disarming the (rapidly dwindling in number) Blairolators, if goes well the coalition will look bad. If it goes badly (ie everyone says “But that was you idea, matey”), Blair will look bad. It’s win-win.

  50. Obviously that should be “much willingness to learn from reality”. Or possibly “much willingness to learn from reality when there is the prospect of lucrative future ‘consultancies’ involved

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