I wrote most of what I had to say about Eastleigh on Tuesday night: by elections are very unusual events and you can’t tell anything about public opinion from them that you couldn’t get a much better handle upon from national polling. It won’t stop acres of press being written about it today! Suffice to say, the result in Eastleigh does not show the Lib Dems retaining their support in their own seats (their drop in support was completely in line with national polling), it does not necessarily show anything about patterns and extent of tactical voting (since this is a by-election and they are extremely unusual in terms of campaign intensity and having no direct impact on who actually governs), it does not necessarily show Labour face problems in the south (it’s perfectly normal for a party with no hope of winning to see its support squeezed in a by-election), it does to some extent confirm growing UKIP support… but we knew about that from national polling anyway.

Equally, as I said yesterday, this doesn’t mean the result is unimportant or irrelevant, quite the opposite. A victory for the Lib Dems is vital good news for Clegg and the Lib Dems will hope it helps them move on from the Rennard crisis. There was speculation prior to the by-election that losing it on top of the Rennard scandal would put Clegg’s leadership in peril… now we shall never know. For the Conservatives it is much worse news in terms of the morale of the Parliamentary party. Fractious already, we now have to see if they hold it together or go into complete panic. For UKIP it is obviously terrific news, building into a narrative of growing support – expect to see another round of good publicity possibly translating into increased support in the polls.

And on the subject of the polls, the final polls by Lord Ashcroft and Populus were pretty accurate in terms of Con, Lab and Lib Dem support… but significantly underestimated UKIP support. As ever it is possible that people simply changed their minds between fieldwork and poling day, especially since momentum did appear to be with UKIP, but as I said when the Populus poll was published I am less than convinced about the utility of reallocating dont knows in by-election polls. There is good evidence that people still saying don’t know on the eve of a general election are disproportionately likely to end up backing the party they did last time, but I’m not certain we can assume that the same applies in by-elections. Certainly in this case the Populus and Ashcroft polls were both more accurate before don’t knows were reallocated.

383 Responses to “A few thoughts on Eastleigh”

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  1. @chasglas – “Are they giving UKIP a clear run ?”

    They overspent in the 2009 EU elections, and again in 2010… but apparently some dead people left them money last year so they are still a going concern.

    I was going to say BNP have imploded, but in fact they have splintered – four far-right breakaway parties since 2010. One of them, the new British Democratic Party seems to be linked with EDL.

  2. Should have also put a big ‘SUBSAMPLE WARNING’ on my above post – 8%, 10% and 12% of the current Lab subsample is so close to each other that you could argue that Lab voters would vote equally vote UKIP, Con and not vote at all.

  3. @MiM

    I did not say anythinga bout Labour – in fact I said earlier it was good for no-one BUT I do not see why it is considered so good for UKIP on this performance – as in the past parties (SDP, SNP) that were likely to do well in the subsequent GE usually win these types of by-elections

  4. Labour are doing targeted campaigner recruitment ahead of the local elections. Even in the very blue shires, they’ve built up databases of potential activists they can tap for ground work. Even I got one of their hand-addressed letters. Also looks a whole lot like they could be getting those ground troops in place in case of a snap election following a coalition breakup.

  5. @MiM

    “Ukip’s voters are hostile to Cameron, making a deal with them would only harm them”

    I think you’re right in the sense that a lot of UKIP’s support is made up of former Tory voters who have become disillusioned with the Cameron brand of Conservatism. That’s why Farage makes a big play of Cameron’s gay marriage, overseas aid and environmental policies. He was at it again the very morning after Eastleigh and he’s no mug because he knows they are key wedge issues that leak him further support from right leaning Tory supporters. It’s the reason that Cameron’s clump of right wing Tory MPs keep badgering him to tack right to win these voters back.

    Another interesting dimension of this is Farage’s obvious personal dislike of Cameron. I can’t see him even contemplating a deal with the Tories while Cameron is their leader and I sense that Farage is on a one-man mission to destroy Cameron. Politics is as much about personalities as policies and the Farage v Cameron confrontation has something of a grudge match about it. Last man standing wins this one, I think.

    Cameron is sensible enough to know he can’t appease his right wing if he is to hold the centrist voters he needs to win power. When UKIP were a joke he could publicly rubbish both them and his own right wing in order to flaunt his liberal and centrist credentials. It sort of worked 2005-10 but it’s for the birds now. He really is in a horrible political pickle.

  6. I’ve read that LD vote in Eastleigh was exactly in line with national poll rating, Easteigh byeelection , 32 per cent against 46 per cent GE in 2010,a drop of 14 per cent. National poll rating 10 per cent against 2010 GE 24 per cent.

    This seems to me the wiong calculation. For example in a seat where LD got 15 per cent in 2010, would you expect a result of 1 per cent?

    It seems to me the correct calculation is 46 x 10/24 = 19 per cent which would be the LD vote in Eastleigh in line with the national polls. Does anyone agree or disagree?


    @”hanks for the compliment, always appreciated – and unsolicited too.”

    My pleasure-and admiration. To say the things you do , without the tiresome epithet of “nasty party” intervening is quite an achievement.

    “they are key wedge issues that leak him further support from right leaning Tory supporters. It’s the reason that Cameron’s clump of right wing Tory MPs keep badgering him to tack right to win these voters back.”

    My concern at Cameron’s decision to split the aid budget between aid and military intervention in “fragile states” seems to have been among the steps which he has taken towards his right wing and to have been opportunist. This morning’s news that “more than 400” troops could be in Mali within weeks, is in defiance of his promise that the commitment would be “in tens, not hundreds”, and will certainly be criticised as constituting Vietnam style mission creep. A further risk is association either with misdirected force by a gun-happy Foreign Legion against the Tuareg, who have legitimate grievances against the pro-French government in the South, labelling their Movement for the Liberation of Azawad as Islamic extremism or Al-Qaeda – an association that they may have sought early in the conflict but not characteristic of the Tuareg or Arab nomads seeking independence; or the commitment of any kind of ad hoc atrocity, of which the Foreign Legion, are more than capable. Very risky stuff, and not his territory.

  9. Crossbat,I loved your quote that politics is about personalities as much as
    Policies.As in times of yore as a history teacher I was constantly ground down
    Under a mad source based curriculum.Excellent for an undergraduate but not
    For GCSE History.It is people that make history,the sources come later.

  10. I agree Bernard . Nationally , according to polling averages , the LD vote has halved since the General Election . In Eastleigh , it is only down by around a quarter .

    Matthew Parris in the Times today makes the very good point that the Coalition parties’ decline in vote share in Eastleigh ( – 14 % ) was a relatively good one for a Government in a by election . LDs are a governing party obviously , so it is fair to include them in this . In by elections since 1979 the governing party’s share of the vote has declined by between 3 and 32 % . Of the 59 Westminster by elections since 79 , 38 had steeper declines than Eastleigh in 2010 for the governing party .

  11. That would explain why the Tories lost more than the national average…propping up the LD vote?

  12. Just wondering,vague ideas about challenges to Cameron,certainly Eastleigh
    Has weakened his leadership.Phillip Hammond anyone?Suave,rather handsome,has not put a foot wrong as far as I can see.I would put my money
    On him rather than bungling,fat,Boris anyday.

  13. @”Phillip Hammond anyone?”

    Yes-or Theresa May.

    But not for quite a while yet.

  14. Maybe it’s a sign of centrist Conservative voters being happy to back LDs .

  15. Changing a leader mid term would be disastrous . The hard right of the party would love it but voters wouldn’t

  16. “in an interview with a German magazine, Beppe Grillo said “if conditions do not change” Italy “will want” to leave the euro and return to the Lire.

    The 64-year-old comic-turned-political activist also said Italy needs to renegotiate its €2 trillion debt, which at 127 per cent of GDP is the highest in the euro zone after Greece.

    “Right now we are being crushed, not by the euro, but by our debt. When the interest payments reach €100 billion a year, we’re dead. There’s no alternative,” he told Focus, a weekly news magazine.

    “In six months, we will no longer be able to pay pensions and the wages of public employees.”

    The Indy.

    Sovereign Debt levels don’t matter?


    Absolutely agree on History being about people, There are, in my view, two types of History, which we can weave together:

    History of the ‘Great People’ (From Above) Key Events/High History.

    Secondly: History about the lives of ‘ordinary’ people- ‘From Below’

    The Source-dominated-History Curriculum, from the old SCHP has been awful.

    Hence I long for December 2014, when I can get out of it. I always thought ‘sources’ can be used to illustrate the ‘story’ or narrative.

    SADLY, it was the ‘LEFT’ which foisted this on us.

  18. “Changing a leader mid term would be disastrous . The hard right of the party would love it but voters wouldn’t”
    Why not? Worked with Major.
    Improved Labour’s VI under Brown, after Tony quit (until the financial crash, that is).
    Worked with McMillan.
    Worked with Eden (although a GE followed directly after his appointment).
    Worked for Churchill (after a short spell in opposition..)

    Didn’t work in the cases of Douglas-Home or Callaghan.

    Of course, given the limited data set we have to go with and that many of those replacements happened in varying circumstances we don’t know how the public would respond.

    Polling indicates that the public would be much more likely to vote Conservative if they replaced Cameron with Boris (same with various figures and Miliband, and various figures and Clegg) – but as AW has pointed out whenever these polls appear, people often are projecting the ‘ideal candidate’ on to the suggested replacement so may not be a reliable indicator of actual support if the situation did emerge.

  19. @Chasglas

    If Cameron plays this right, the UKIP surge could represent a rather unique opportunity. I can’t remember the last time that the Tories faced a significant challenge from the right. This situation allows Cameron to position his Party between the LDs and UKIP, and call himself centrist.

    I alsoOn the leadership question, DC is thr only.current Con MP with broad enough appeal nationally to have a chance of winning the next election. He should face down those in the Party who want UKIP policies, and invite them to leave.


    At last, a poster on UKPR recognises that the Governing Party /Parties have not been so badly hammered.

    I repeat my view, at the risk of being regarded as tiresome, that the Labour Party should have expected a SWING in their favour in Eastleigh.

    The Government need not panic.

  21. Blair resigned after a decent spell as did Thatcher and both were intensely disliked to put it mildly . I don’t see much point in 2013 talking about voters’ behaviour 40 years ago and beyond . The UK was a different country then .

  22. @Chasglas

    “Matthew Parris in the Times today makes the very good point that the Coalition parties’ decline in vote share in Eastleigh ( – 14 % ) was a relatively good one for a Government in a by election”

    This is becoming hilarious. Daily Express headline; “Governing Parties in Eastleigh Triumph”. The article underneath goes on: “In a ringing endorsement of the Coalition, both governing parties only declined by 14% from their showing in 2010. The electorate, agonising over which of the two coalition parties to endorse were almost spoilt for choice. Would it be the Lib Dems, riding high in the national opinion polls, or would it be the Tories who had recently soared to the high 20s themselves. Buoyed by surprisingly good government approval ratings of -37, the coalition leaders, Cameron and Clegg, regularly met their adoring public with regular visits to Eastleigh during the campaign. Time and again they were mobbed by grateful voters who congratulated them on healing the economy and sparing them the horrors of Miliband and Balls. In one of the most dramatic moments during one of Cameron’s regular walkabouts with the popular Tory candidate Maria Hutchings, an elderly lady, on the verge of tears, grabbed him and hugged him close. “Please”, she gasped, “please carry on the good work.. Maria is a marvellous candidate and you’re giving us our country back”. Well, on Thursday, the electorate gave their thanks and the message was clear; the Tories are on course for victory in May 2015″.

    Meanwhile, Nigel Farage, reading this analysis of what took place in Eastleigh, afforded himself a wry and self satisfied smile. A certain Mr Miliband pondered this thought too; “If they really believe this tosh…………………”

  23. @Ann in Wales -” …bungling Boris”

    Why would anyone want go down to defeat in 2015?

    Unless Tory fortunes show some sign of being on the rise, contenders might as well leave Cameron in charge for the time being.

    Johnson can sit it out and claim a safe seat at the general election. Then again the old Boris/Lynton Crosby magic might be that elusive game-changer Tories hanker after. We have just seen a byelection with little more than three weeks between an MP resigning and another being elected. If reports are to be believed there is an elderly MP who is willing to bring foward his retirement if called upon to do so.

  24. CL1945

    Oh dearie me.

    Labour DID get a swing their way – even after lending their votes to LD and UKIP to harm Tories. A swing of 7% from both governing parties.

    Do keep up it gets embarrassing.

  25. Bernard a long thread so you may have missed my post on page 2 making a similar point to you.

    Briefly the LD performance using a proportionate method suggests 15-16% Nationally with the usual caveats about being a By-Election.

    Chris, whilst you are wrong about the swing of course,imo you are right that Labour ought to have be doing better – by my reckoning 13-15% would have been OK on the proportionate method.

    What none of us can know even with Ashcroft numbers is to what degree special factors played out in Eastleigh, how much vote lending went on, etc.
    FWIW, I think the safest thing we can say is that a Tory OM now looks even more unlikley as the 15-20 seats they need off the LDs seem beyond their reach; although the LDs can’t run 30 or more (incl some v Lab and SNP) By-Elections as they have insufficient resources.

  26. @ Chasglas

    I don’t think the BNP have ever turned out in Eastleigh. Thankfully.

    @ AW

    Thanks for adding UKIP!!

  27. Thanks JIM JAM for making your point with some manners . What a contrast to the poster before you .

  28. Chris Lane,absolutely agree with your comments about the teaching of hstory.You know as we’ll as I do that we are but pawns being
    Used by people that we have no influence with.

  29. Crossbat

    That article you quoted was satire?! I hope

    Reads like something from prides purge

  30. Paul,you are awful but I like you.And he is fat and bumbling.What was that old
    Line about lean men who did not sleep at night.Or am I getting rather confused.P S,in my school experience monitors were always sneaks.That
    Explains why I do not like them!

  31. “P S,in my school experience monitors were always sneaks. That Explains why I do not like them!”

    I propose that Ann in Wales be appointed monitor monitor.

  32. UKIP seem by some to have been awarded title of king maker in the next GE without having yet won a single seat.
    There so called threat solely to the Tories at the next GE has been somewhat exaggerated ,any threat would apply almost as much to Labour and the Liberals in there marginals.
    The reason why they are presently doing well is because they have struck a rich theme with there anti EU and anti immigration rhetoric aided by a general disillusionment with mainstream politics and the three political leaders, why UKIP should be discribed as having a particular right wing agenda appealing only to ex Tory voters I’m not sure, unless of course you believe being pro EU and for immigration makes you left wing which of course it doesn’t.
    However being sceptical about the EU and worried about immigration and it’s effect on jobs, housing, schools and so on is one shared right across the political spectrum of voters not one confined to Tory voters.
    The truth is it’s still about the economy if it nose dives the Tories lose, if it doesn’t Labour may be in trouble, but one thing’s for sure if there is a coalition next time and UKIP had won enough seats which is very unlikely and it’s a choice between forming a government with the Tories or Labour my money’s on the Tories perhaps with a change of leader.

  33. Can somebody clarify something for me?
    I thought it was a condition of membership of the EU to be signed up to the ECHR – according to the Daily Mail, Theresa May is to announce that the government plans to withdraw the UK from the ECHR (not that it would happen under the coalition, the LibDems would block it).
    Doesn’t this by implication mean that the Tory party policy is to leave the EU? Or is this just another minister causing trouble for Cameron?

  34. Tinged

    @”Theresa May is to announce that the government plans to withdraw the UK from the ECHR ”


    You may be thinking of this :-


    “A new Immigration Bill will be published later this year to give full legal weight to ministers’ demands that foreign criminals should not routinely be able to dodge deportation by citing Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
    This permits a right to a family life as a potential barrier to removal – but ministers and MPs believe this must be balanced with the need to protect the public and control immigration.
    The new law will spell out that Article 8 allows deportations to prevent “disorder or crime”, meaning judges will be forced to take that into account when considering appeals by criminals.”


  35. (I’m after clarification because I can’t actually find information on whether it is – the lisbon treaty enforces human rights, but IIRC we’re exempt from that portion of the treaty because it refers to the European Union charter for fundamental rights, not the European convention on human rights – no wonder people get so confused by it all)

  36. Colin
    Perhaps the Daily Mail are willfully misreporting it then?

  37. Greenchristian,now you know what I would say about that don’t you?And Paul
    Would never allow it.

  38. Paul,I think you have to calm down and take a stress pill.Boris is fat.That is just
    The truth.Not making a political point.

  39. The only sensible role for a monitor monitor would be to check that snitching rates are being at least maintained, preferably [as we say in business-jargon – “grown.”]

    If the Tories are close to 30% in the next OP I guess that will be reported as a triumph. “Overall majority of 100 in 2015 looking likely.”

  40. Ann

    He is a political heavyweight is how we say it. Anyway he just has big bones.

  41. Tingedfringe –

    It seems to be rather a debated question! See this article in the Guardian:


    Or read from page 52 of this Policy Exchange report which is what provoked the Guardian article:


    That also mentions evidence taken by the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the House of Commons in 2006, which is on the Parliament website and worth looking at:


    There the evidence the Committee received seems to come down on the side that it is not possible to leave the ECHR while remaining a member of the EU, but with some caveats. Prof Klug states that the EU requires member states to be signatories of the ECHR, but not to incorporate it into law, so is of the opinion that Britain would be free to repeal the HRA while remaining in the EU, but not to leave the ECHR. Lord Falconer takes the view that on a strict legal interpretion of the EU treaty obligations one could leave the ECHR while remaining a member (countries becoming members need to be signatories, but there is no strict obligation for them to remain so), but takes the view that for practical political purposes one couldn’t remain a member of the EU if one did this. Jonathan Fisher thinks it is possible as long as Britain replaced it with some equivalent British Bill of Rights that protected the same rights, but caveats it by saying he is not a constitutional lawyer and Prof Klug is more the expert than him!

    Suffice to say, it seems to be an issue where there are different views. And besides, it’s the Mail on Sunday, it isn’t going to give a nuanced understanding of the legal position. I’d wait and see what May does announce, if anything.

  42. I keep seeing comments saying ‘Labour shoulkd do better’

    On what basis is this claim made

    Labour were polling quite highly at the beginning of the campaign (the opinion polls were not to inaccurate when looked at beforeredistribution of don’t knows) ao were probably subject to a squeeze

    Can someone point me to the historical data from seats which are a marginal between two Coalition parties? How do we know what sort of drop in vote should we expect from this?

    Both Coalition parties experience a 14% swing away from them so that could be a 28% swing against the Government if we read the figures differently – seems quite high.

    Perhaps looking at swing against the Government instead of breaking it down to individual parties may be a better measure. What is differnet is where the vote goes to and of course as AW has said there is no real indication of how it will be in 2015.

    We cannot use historical numbers to make judgements when we have a Coalition as things change but what we have seen in virtually all elections since 2010 is a 20% drop in the Government parties’ vote

  43. It’s the right thing to do to have UKIP in the “Latest Voting Intention” thing in the right hand column. They will have a big effect on the next election, and perhaps beyond, even if, despite appearances, they fail to win a single seat.

    DC is in one big political pickle, there’s lots of votes available in the centre, but keeping the right onboard when there’s UKIP to vote for if you don’t like that is going to be hard. Scaring his potential voters with Ed Miliband so they vote Conservative is possible, but not likely to achieve much – EM has gone out of his way not to be another Michael Foot, and despite Ed Balls, is not really that scary.

    At best, DC can hope for a political stalemate as in Italy at the moment. And that’s not exactly great news.

    I am wondering if UKIP might top the polls in next year’s European elections? Previously I would have dismissed it, but now it seems worth a bet.

  44. @ CHASGLAS
    ‘Matthew Parris in the Times today makes the very good point that the Coalition parties’ decline in vote share in Eastleigh ( – 14 % ) was a relatively good one for a Government in a by election .’

    I am afraid that does not really wash at all. The decline in the LibDem vote at Eastleigh was 14.4% – in addition the Tory vote share fell by 13.9%. It follows,therefore, that the decline in the Coalition parties’ share was 28.3%. How often has that happened?

  45. graham

    that doesn’t sound right – are you a banker?

  46. JIM JAM.
    Thanks,yes, of course, I was thinking of the 0.2% increase in the Labour vote, not the accumlated swing, which, of course takes into the calculus the negative swings of the Governing Parties.

    The Catholic Herald has detailed analyses of main runners and riders.

  47. Paulcroft,

    I am no banker – but if you check the % figures yourself you will discover my figures to be correct. Indeed they have been widely covered in the same detail in the media.

  48. So what is the phrase?

    ‘UKIP voters are BNP voters who shop at M & S and read the Daily Mail’?

    It seems possible; the views are valid; but worth noting that Hitler got into power by legal democratic views.

  49. Just been reading about the Liberal Metropolitan Elite in the Telegraph.

    Sounds like a car but it could be a bold name for a new party. It would certainly get mentioned a lot.

    Need to get “chattering class” in there somehow though.

  50. graham

    If you add the combined % of con and ld in 2010 and then subtract the combined % from thursday it can’t be doubled. Its still a combined 14% isn’t it?

    EG if you got 100 votes in 2010 and 80 now you’d have dropped 20%. If I did the same then our combined total would have been 200 reducing to 160 – a drop of 20%/

    and I don’t even like sums.

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