As you might imagine, a year out from a general election the one question I get asked more than any other is “well, who is going win then?”. It’s a question I try to avoid answering like the plague. The simple answer is we don’t know – polls measure public opinion now, not a year ahead. Assuming no change from the polls now (which would imply a Labour majority) is a naive approach that would have served you poorly in past Parliaments. Assuming public opinion will change in the same way as it has towards the end of previous elections gives you a prediction (hung Parliament, Tories the biggest party), but also gives you huge confidence margins that stretch from a Tory landslide to a comfortable Labour majority.

My answer, therefore, tends to be to give the five questions (and one observation) that I think will decide the next election one way or another…

1) How will the growing economy effect the polls?

The economy has universally been the issue that voters see as most important in polls since the economic crisis began, and as such has been a major influence on voting intention. Economic confidence amongst the general public started rising sharply early in 2013 in all the major trackers, and has continued on a broadly positive trend. This has coincided with movement in public attitudes towards the government’s economic policies. From being neck-and-neck with Labour on the economy last year the Conservatives now have a consistent lead. Last year YouGov’s cuts trackers consistently showed that people thought that their cuts to public spending, while necessary, were actually bad for the economy, now they show more people think the cuts were good for the economy. It is impossible to draw a causal link, but over the same period the average Labour lead has dropped from about 10 points to around about 5 or 6 points.

Whether or not the facts back them up (that is a discussion for some economic blog elsewhere), the recovering economy seems to be having the effect of convincing some the public that the government’s economy policy was right and that the Conservatives can be trusted more on the economy. I am not an economist and this is not an economics blog, so I have no educated view on if the economy will continue to grow, which seems to be what commentators expect. Assuming it does, will that lead to continuing increases in government approval and a bigger lead for them on the economy, and will that translate into increased support? More specifically, while polls show people are more optimistic about the economy as a whole, they are still downbeat about their own personal finances. Will people themselves start to feel better off in the next 14 months, and would that translate into more government support?

A final thing to watch there is how important people say the economy is. There are examples of government’s losing elections despite being ahead on the economy – the classic is 1997. The reason becomes apparent if you look at what issues people told pollsters were important in 1997 – it wasn’t the economy (where the Tories were still holding their own), it was public services like the NHS and education where Labour were a mile ahead. I don’t think 14 months is long enough for this to happen, but if the economy really starts getting better keep an eye on whether people stop telling pollsters it is such an important issue.

2) Will Ed Miliband’s unpopularity matter anymore than it does now?

I find the contrast between Ed Miliband’s ratings and Labour’s support a puzzle. There really is a gulf between them. The basic facts are straightfoward – for an opposition leader whose party has been consistently ahead in the polls for years Ed Miliband’s ratings are horrible. His approval ratings are horrid, down at IDS, Howard and Hague levels; best Prime Minister ratings normally track voting intention pretty closely but Ed Miliband trails behind David Cameron by around 15 points. Polls consistently find that people think Ed Miliband is weak and not up to the job of Prime Minister. This is not just a case of opposition leaders always polling poorly compared to incumbent Prime Ministers – if you compare Ed Miliband’s ratings now to David Cameron’s in opposition Miliband is doing far worse. For example, in 2008 49% thought David Cameron looked like a PM in waiting, only 19% think the same about Ed Miliband now. To claim that Miliband’s ratings are not dire is simply denial. Yet Labour consistently lead in the polls.

Pause for a second, and imagine that we didn’t ask voting intention in polls. Imagine all you had to go on was all the other figures – the polls asking who people would trust more on the economy, who would make the better Prime Minister, who people trust on the issues they currently think are most important. Based on those figures alone the next election looks as if it should be a Conservative walkover…and yet Labour consistently lead in the polls.

The paradox between the underlying figures, which in most areas are increasingly favourable to the Conservatives, and the headline figures, consistently favourable to Labour, are fascinating. They are something I’ve returned to time and again without apology, as I’m sure there’s a key message here. Whatever the result of the next election, it’ll tell the loser something very important. If the Conservatives win, Labour will need to learn about using the goodwill an opposition gets to actually build up the foundations to, well, support their support (I suspect they’d also have to accept that getting a leader who people take seriously as a potential PM really is a prerequisite). If Labour win, the Conservatives should take home the message that leadership, economic competence and being preferred on policies really isn’t enough, that they have a serious issue with how people perceive their party and its values that needs to be addressed (I doubt they would learn that lesson, but there goes).

Given Labour are ahead now, I think the question is whether perceptions of the opposition and the choice of Prime Minister increase in importance as the election approaches and voting intention becomes less of a way of people indicating their opinion of the government, and more a choice between two alternatives. The reason Labour poll badly on so many of these underlying questions is not because Labour voters say they prefer Cameron and the Tories, it’s because many Labour voters simply say don’t know (or none of them). They aren’t convinced Miliband would be a good PM or Labour would run the economy well. Will those people overcome those doubts? Vote Labour regardless? Or do something else?

3) What level of support will UKIP get at the general election

Looking back over UKIP’s performance in the Parliament so far their support has mostly followed a pattern of election successes leading to boosts in the polls, followed by a decline to a new, higher plateau. I think UKIP can fairly comfortably expect a strong performance European elections (personally I would still expect them to come top, but whatever happens it’s going to be a strong showing). This will in turn be followed by another publicity boost and another boost in the Westminster polls. It will vary between different pollsters, as ever, but I think we can expect UKIP in the mid to high teens with the telephone polls and up in the low-twenties with the more favourable online companies.

From then on, it’s probably a case of a decline as we head towards the general election as the focus moves more towards the Con-v-Lab battle. The question is how quickly that support fades and to what extent. Here we are very much in unknown territory. UKIP got up to around 8% in the Westminster polls following the 2009 European elections, but declined to around 3% by the 2010 election; the Greens got up to 8% in the polls following the 1989 European election, but declines to 0.5% of the vote by the 1992 election. This time round is clearly different in terms of the size and scale of UKIP’s support and history provides no good guide. Neither does present polling – people are notoriously bad at answering questions on whether they’ll change their mind or what might make them change their mind. We are flying blind – but given that UKIP support has thus far disproportionately come from people who supported the Conservatives at the last election it is something that would have implications for the level of Tory support come the general election.

4) How resilient will Liberal Democrat incumbents be?

The three points so far have been about levels of overall support at the next election. The fourth is instead about distribution of the vote and therefore the outcome in numbers of MPs. On a uniform swing the Liberal Democrats will face severe losses in the election. It obviously depends just how badly they do, whether they are still in the coalition, whether they recover towards the election and so on, but projections of them losing half their seats are not unusual. However, there is also an expectation that Liberal Democrats will do better than this because of their incumbent MPs’ personal vote. Analysis from past elections and from studies like the PoliticsHome and Lord Ashcroft polls of marginal seats are pretty consistent in showing that Liberal Democrat MPs benefit more from personal votes than politicians from other parties, they handily won the Eastleigh by-election and have managed to hold on to councillors in some (but not all) of the areas where they have MPs. This would point to the Liberal Democrats actually doing better in terms of MPs than the raw numbers would suggest, although don’t expect magic… Lib Dem MPs might outperform the national trend, but it doesn’t render them immune to it. If you’ve lost a third to a half of your support, it has to come from somewhere and would be naive to expect it all to come from places you don’t need it.

As a caveat to this Lib Dem optimism though, look at the Scottish Parliament election in 2011. In that case Lib Dem incumbents didn’t seem to do any better, if anything the Liberal Democrats lost more support in areas where they had the most support to begin with, the very opposite pattern. The cause of this is probably a floor effect (the Lib Dems lost 8% of the vote in the election, but started off with less than 8% in many seats, so by definition more of their lost support had to come in their stronger seats). If the Lib Dems do really badly we may see the same effect at Westminster, if the Lib Dems lose enough support it’s impossible for it all to come from seats where they have hardly any support to begin with! The question is to what degree, if any, Lib Dem MPs can outperform the swing against them.

5) Will Scotland be voting?

Or perhaps more accurately, will the Scottish MPs be sticking around afterwards! All the polls on the Scottish referendum so far have shown the NO campaign in the lead. There has been a slight trend in the direction of yes, but nothing more than that. Personally I would expect the NO campaign to win, but there is obviously a chance they won’t and if so it would massively change our predictions for the next election. Exactly how and when Scottish MPs cease to be members of the House of Commons would need to be decided, but it would obviously disproportionately affect Labour – the Conservatives have only one Scottish MP to lose. More important though would be the wider effect on politics, thus far the Scottish independence referendum is something that has had minimal effect upon politics south of the border. Until January the London based media barely even mentioned it, it’s still something that’s very much a sideshow. If Scotland were to vote yes then then the negotiations in the following 18 months would suddenly become an issue of paramount importance, David Cameron’s position would presumably come under some pressure but either way, nothing would be the same anymore. I don’t expect it to happen, but it would be remiss of me not to include it here.

So, five things that I think will decide the election. I said there was an observation too – remember the impact of the electoral system. This one isn’t a question, we know that the system is more helpful to Labour than the Conservatives and, given the government’s failure to get the boundary review through, will remain that way. Getting ahead in the polls is not enough for the Conservatives – it would probably leave Labour as still the largest party. To get an overall majority the Conservatives need a lead of somewhere in the region of 7 points. We can’t be certain of the exact figures (the double incumbency bonus of MPs newly elected last time round will shift things a bit), but we can be confident that just being ahead isn’t enough for the Tories – they need to be well ahead.

319 Responses to “Five things that will decide the next election”

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  1. It’s not to clear to me how much an Aye vote would affect Cameron’s position, since (a) no-one sincerely holds him accountable for the No campaign, let alone the result and (b) there is no comparable precedent, e.g. a much messier divorce with the Irish Free State didn’t take out a PM when unionism was a much bigger part of Conservative & Unionist identity.

    If Gordon Brown was PM, then things would be different, because he’d be at the forefront of the No campaign; he’d have to find a new seat to stay at Westminster post-2016; and the union is an important part of Scottish Labour’s (and thus a decent chunk of Labour) ideology.

  2. A fascinating read Anthony. I hope all the mystic Megs who contribute here read it before gazing at their crystal balls.

  3. @ Rory Hughes,

    I’m struck by the extent to which Ed Miliband seemed to be the only one of the 2010 Labour leadership slate with a serious plan for how to win in 2020.

    His economic restructuring- if he can pull it off, which is an enormous if, and if he can do it in a single term, which is an even bigger if- would be for Labour what Help to Buy was for the Tories: it would bind a large tranche of voters to the party through economic self-interest. Labour really haven’t had that since heavy manufacturing collapsed. They’ve been coasting on the political work the trade unions of now defunct industries did for them fifty years ago and the Tories’ incredible talent for alienating voters, and that’s got them pretty far, but at some point it would be nice if they could offer people a positive reason to vote for them rather then relying on being seen as the lesser of two evils.

    Of course, it’s all for naught if Miliband can’t win next year.


    @” I hope Nigel Farage is on Ed Miliband’s Xmas card list”

    Nick Clegg will surely be top of his list ; in his prayers ; framed picture on the mantle shelf .

    Clegg has gifted EM 6% pts of VI from 2010 LD voters , and a Farage tv walkover resulting in 2% pts of Con VI going walkies.

    What has Ed Miliband actually had to do himself?-nothing !

  5. @ Colin,

    He had to win the Labour leadership. Against a weak field, admittedly, but that took some effort.

  6. SPEARMINT I meant in his interface with voters, after becoming leader.

  7. Colin
    That’s very true, I wonder into whose effigy David Cameron sticks pins?

    (apart from about 100 of his own ‘colleagues’ of course).

    I see a Martin Rowson cartoon in the offing. I would actually have more respect for his performance if I thought the Lib Dem leader was playing a machiavellian game, but…(well, who knows?).


    Well I can imagine DC’s reaction to those tv debates.

    “Well I told you so” perhaps ?
    or ” There’s another fine mess you got me into Nick”.

    He really seemed to think that he could take a bruiser like NF on , on national tv, armed with nothing but the Brussels Book of Why the EU is a Good Thing. He hadn’t even thought about the public & what he needed to say to them.

    I don’t think there is a “game” in NC’s performance-just an increasingly desperate effort to keep “equidistant” in order to keep the limo after May 2015.

    Of course this is where Jeremy Browne comes in with his recent article. JB’s underlying point , I felt, was -with 10% VI the MPs who will be left will be Real Liberals-not Social Democrats , who will have been replaced by the Real Thing.
    Hence his question-what is the point of the Liberal Democrats ( now) ?


    Have replied with thoughts about NC, J. Browne etc.
    It has been moderated for some inexplicable reason.

  10. I’ve done a quick 25 rolling poll MAD update to my data. Not too far away from the usual 30-poll stuff at the UK level, but the regional stuff is shifting around, with the shifts in the polls:

    Excel says it’s a 3.9% lead, despite what the cells show, so it must be the rounding.

  11. Ed M is much better in person than his media image would suggest – in a way this may benefit him at the GE, especially if there are TV debates; most voters will be judging him for the first time and considering his ridiculously low ratings will be pleasantly surprised at what they see.
    Also, regardless of what people think of Ed, they forget we are not a Presidential sysytem; for him to be PM only requires Labour to be the largest party, which can be achieved on a low swing of between 2 and 3 %.

  12. Very dry Dave B.

  13. Pertaining to point 4;

    An analysis of the Sheffield Hallam ward.

    Hallam is in the affluent West of the city away from the smoke and having one of the highest disposable incomes in the country. With Mock-Tudor the predominant architectural style, it resembles a South London suburb untroubled by the Roma ghettos at the East end of the city.

    Since elections began the ward has been a lonely dot of blue on the red map of The Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire (with one unopposed Liberal MP during WW1) In 1997 when discontent with the Conservative MP was running high, the Lib Dems managed to take Hallam, in what was seen as a landmark incursion.

    Nick Clegg built on this and by 2010 the fresh-faced leader of a national party unsullied by government got 53% of the popular vote. I guess you’d call that safe.

    The LibDems have plummeted nationally and there is an extra level of opprobrium directed against Nick Clegg who is regarded to have voted against the interests of his constituents – he has been burnt in effigy. He appears fatally wounded, but will likely win because the pursuing pack is large and divided.

    The Conservatives came second with 23% – but the area has got more ‘left’ over the years. There are still plenty of golf clubs, but more frappuchinos – as the success of the LibDems demonstrates.

    Labour got 16% in this traditionally Tory seat – taxing the rich doesn’t get their votes. The LibDems became unlikely challengers due to perceived Labour ineptitude and vindictiveness. The historic Tory voters didn’t see themselves as getting good value for their high council taxes. So where do they turn now?

    Ukip got 2.3%, not far off their national average. Leafy Fulwood, which is within the ward gave them 10% in the May council elections, expect them to improve on this as they have in more recent local by elections.

    The English Democrats got 1%. Although nationally inconsequential they are strong enough in this region to hurt any Ukip challenge. In the police elections that include the ward they came second.

    Sheffield has been the grave of empires including Kinnock’s Labour and the SDP, but it will take a new set of circumstances to wrest the seat from Nick Clegg. Worth watching on election night though, if you enjoy Portillo moments.

    Or watching the victor drive off in a people carrier big enough to accommodate all his fellow LibDem MPs, and that’s a prediction not a joke.

  14. “What has Ed Miliband actually had to do himself?”

    He’s had to do nothing wrong and, most importantly, had to ensure that the Labour Party stays united.

  15. Roger – absolutely right LP party unity was the single biggest task for EM in his first 3 years.
    The Omni-shambles (plus a little bit of NI bashing at the right time) raised their VI to early 40s but that was always likely to unwind as the GE got closer as long as GO got more competent which not being a stupid man would be expected.

    The 35-40% range he has secured looks pretty solid although as some DK/WV return to Tories and LDs it will fall to the lower end of the at range imo.

    Very solid performance given how bad 2010 was and being the largest party in seat terms is still possible whilst denying a con OM or even enough for a minority Gov’t looks very likely.

  16. @Wood – “I’d be pretty surprised if the Lib-Dems didn’t plan to do _something_ disruptive to the cons towards the end of parliament.”

    Well, the Bow Group are currently lining up their boats. Norman Tebbit is the latest in a long line of Tories demanding a pact with Ukip.

    Bow Group is currently arguing for a Tory minority administration, the Coalition should be dissolved at the earliest opportunity… after Conservatives finish third in the EU elections (a distinct possiblility) perhaps?

  17. The other night, I went to a meeting on fracking organised by the local Liberal Democrats. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes but the Chair (man as it happens) was actually wearing sandals (no socks)… and in April. So it’s not just a myth.

  18. @Mr Beeswax

    If you think Clegg might lose Sheffield Hallam or that the Lib Dem will only get like a dozen MPs you should bet on it, you might get some money out of it, and that’s a honest tip not a joke.

    I think Lib Dem seats will be very interesting to watch, after four years of ‘they will lose ALL their seats and be ~wipe out~’ and ‘the Liberal Democrat incumbents are ~magical~ and nothing can get them out’, I’m very interested on what will really happen.

    If I was Clegg I would be polling the Lim Dem constituencies to actually see how bad things are because those national polls must be completely terrifying to his party and I’m not even thinking about the results of the European election next month.

  19. @Syzygy

    Isn’t it supposed to be sandals and socks? We had a couple of male teachers who wore them in the 80s. Yes, they were feared.

  20. @Anthony W

    Only just dipped into the thread, hoping that another poll would emerge showing six of the best for Labour! No matter, I will just have to gorge myself on a weekend hat trick of 6% leads! I’ve spent most of today indulging in various sports – football, golf and cricket in the main. What a game at Anfield, by the way.

    Reading your commentary at the top of this thread, this rather amused me: –

    “This time round is clearly different in terms of the size and scale of UKIP’s support and history provides no good guide. Neither does present polling – people are notoriously bad at answering questions on whether they’ll change their mind or what might make them change their mind. We are flying blind –”

    Is this another way of saying we haven’t got the foggiest idea! lol

    I’d have added a sixth question as well: –

    “How long is a piece of string?”


  21. Mr Beeswax,

    As regular contributors will know I live and campaign in Hallam and have a bit of an insight into the situation on the ground.

    To sum up, the Tories are dead and buried there. They may once have been strong but they’ve now only got strength in one of the five Hallam wards.

    This actually makes Labour’s job harder because it gives the right wing vote to the Liberals, who still hold great strength there. However, it also implies that the seat is moving leftwards.

    Hallam is quite wealthy, but many of its residents (some 43% or so of their employed) are public sector, working at the hospitals, universities or the council. They probably won’t appreciate their pay freezes.

    The Lib Dems have changed tack in their campaigning. Where once they did their usual “Labour can’t win here” shtick, they’re now saying “elections in Hallam are between the Lib Dems and Labour”. It’s a gamble because it’s telling anti-Tory tactical votes that it’s safe to vote Labour, while hoping sufficient natural Tories come in to fill the gap.

    While it’s unlikely Clegg will lose, there is a small possibility that a perfect storm of events could unseat him. IF the Lib Dems don’t recover in the polls, and IF he spends most of the campaign in London and IF the anti-Labour vote stays Tory or stays home and IF the “anti-establishment” Lib Dem vote goes to UKIP or stays home and IF Labour can keep up its intense Voter IDing and mobilise the students in Fulwood, then Oliver Coppard MIGHT win.

    Don’t count any chickens.

  22. Hmm.
    Mr Wells analysis is always worth reading.

    However I think the key issue for 2015 is wether labour can hold onto its lib dem ‘defectors’?

    If they can keep most of them then labour will poll at least 36% – which presents the torys with a difficult task as they will have to win over 40% of votes to win – and they haven’t managed that in a GE since 1992 and – bar the briefest of blips in Dec 2011 – their poll ratings over the past 3 years have been nowhere near that.

    I am surprised at the lack of polling around this key group. indeed far more attention has been paid to the make of the UKIP vote. But its the ‘disgusted with clegg’ cohort that labour have inherited, and not the (in)famous middle england swing voters, are who are going to decide the election.
    The ‘swing voters’ have not shown any huge shift between tory and labour. Also – and correct me if im wrong – but the libdem to labour switch since 2010 seems pretty solid to me.

    UKIP are the tories biggest headache. How far will there vote hold up? They clearly speak for an angry minority who have replaced the lib dems as the repository of the protest vote.

    Come 2015 the tories will be desperate to hammer down the UKIP vote. But their attempts to do this by going in hard on immigration, europe and the welfare state repels other key tory target group – the social liberals/pro market types, and minority groups like BME and Gay people.
    UKIP are very much the party of the older angry white bloke – and the tories cant be that if they ever want to hold power again.

    So how many UKIPers despise Cameron’s torys enough to spite time in 2015?
    Because of their narrow demographic base, UKIP are very unlikely to win more than one or two seats – and may not even manage that. But if they manage 10% of the vote the torys are probably doomed.
    So – as apeing UKIPs position seems to have limited – if any sucess – for the tories, I wonder how they will deal with ukip come 2015?
    ‘Vote UKIP get Milliband’ will be the obvious one, but I wonder how far they will go with smeering them as bigots, or highlighting some of their more tea party style economic policies – will their voters care?

    As for Millibands weakness. Hmmm. I feel that he benefits from greater exposure and he will get that come the GE. To me he doesn’t seem feared or widely disliked – as kinnock or hauge were to an extent – just that he doesn’t exude the same confident, calm assertion that Cameron does when hes on form. He seems more nerdy – but that could actually end up being an asset – it might end up looking like Cameron’s arrogant flashman to his earnest Harry Potter.
    Also Milliband – i feel – comes across as the most sincere of the party leaders – again the awkwardness helps in this.

  23. Cameron will have a lot to deal with during the next 12 months.

    1) EU elections – possible third position behind UKIP & Labour. EU sceptic Tories will be wanting to do a deal with UKIP for the general election. Will Cameron fight against this ?

    2) Tory s*x scandals – There appears to be a running media story on goings on in Westminster and at Tory party events. What can Cameron & Tory party do about this, other then issue a code of conduct warning to MP’s and their advisors ? If these stories get any worse, it could do real damage to election chances. Older conservative votes won’t like it.

    3) Current court cases – Whether Cameron likes it or not, he is going to be drawn into the media scramble that is going to take place when the cases come to conclusion. There is still a chance of damaging information coming out, in addition to question marks about Camerons judgement.

    4) Tory party candidate selections – I suspect that all candidate for 2015 are in place by now, but there is going to scrutiny of candidates selected and what leadership Cameron has shown in making sure the party is representative of the country. Are there enough women candidates ? Are there suffiicient candidates from ordinary backgrounds ?

    5) Coalition – managing the break up- Cameron is going to face difficulties towards the end of the coaltion period, in agreeing policies that are supported by Tories and Lib Dems. There are going to be arguments between the parties and inside the parties, as election tensions come to the surface. Both will want their policies at the heart of the final budget.

    I make these points, as there has been discussion on this thread about Miliband and whether he has done enough as leader to take Labour to election victory. What this forgets is that Cameron is going to have a very difficult 12 months in the run up to election day.

  24. colin

    “It has been moderated for some inexplicable reason.”

    You should remember your ole school motto:

    “In moderatus nil moanus.”

    That’s how I have trained my girls.

  25. @Spearmint re source of kippers

    I’m not sure you can say 6:1:2
    I’ve been charting the YG/Sunday Times UKIP numbers for a while and in 2014 (taking a straight aggregate) it’s 3.3:1:1.7 and I’d say trending towards 3:1:2.
    AUgust to December last year it was fairly precisely 4:1:2

  26. @ Colin

    “What has Ed Miliband actually had to do himself?-nothing !”

    I don’t deny he has had virtually everything in his favour especially Lib Dems in coalition but also the rise of UKIP. I also don’t think he has had to go down the Blair path of millions of initiatives- probably because of those very reasons and opinion poll leads.

    From my point of view (and I’m not a good endorsement because I said before I have never voted for a winning government in 30 years of trying!) what he probably has achieved is to bring enough left wing voters back on board without scaring the natives.

    Very little concrete policies so far but enough of the right words for some to say it won’t just be New Labour all over again. Sometimes it’s electorally advantageous to do nothing!!!

  27. 6 How well are the parties fighting the marginals?

    In my Con/Lab marginal the Labour candidate who was born and schooled in the town, has been in place for over a year, and campaigning hard against the downgrading of the local hopsital, closure of the main post office and how the bedroom tax is impacting on residents. These issues resonate with the electorate and win votes.

    I think the Tories still think a merchant banker or policy wonk from head office parachuted into a seat will see them home if they fight on national issues. I’m afraid It won’t win marginal seats.

    I don’t see the Tories winning a single seat from Labour because Ukip takes disproportionately more Conservative voters than from the other 2 main parties and Labour will squeeze more former Lib Dem votes.

  28. The danger of a big UKIP rise in the polls for Labour is that they might miss their own vote falling.

    We had this in the first half of 2013 where the Labour vote was dropping but it wasn’t much noticed because the Tory vote was dropping as well. When the Tory vote recovered as UKIP slipped back we suddenly found 10 point Lab leads had turned into 5 points. Those 35 and 36 from last night are lower than Lab would like even though they go to bed happy with 6 point leads.

  29. Colin
    I will look forward to your delayed post – I suspect like me, Anthony was eating dinner (we eat at 6 – Dutch habits -although it was actually very British with RB and ATTs incl YPs – oh, and HRS).

  30. R Huckle and Nigel

    Good points on what Cameron had ahead of him, all that and a decent part of the Tory hates him for not being right wing enough. Miliband is in a very comfortable situation, he doesn’t have to actually do anything to win.

  31. Here is the average of VI polls for the forthcoming EE in the six major EU countries (UK excepted). The scores are presented by European political group (so, if two or more parties in a country belong to the same group, their scores are added) and compared to the 2009 EE result:
    EPP 39 (+1.1)
    PES 27 (+6.2)
    G/EFA 9.8 (-2.3)
    EUL/NGL 7.8 (+0.3)
    Unaffil. (AfD) 6.5 (new party)
    ALDE 3 (-8)

    EPP 23.5 (-4.4)
    Unaffil. (FN) 22.5 (+16.2)
    PES 19.3 (+2.8)
    ALDE 9.5 (+1)
    G/EFA 8.4 (-7.9)
    GUE/NGL 8 (+1.7)
    EFD – (-4.8)

    PES 32.1 (+6)
    EPP 26.7 (-15.1)
    Unaffil. (5 Stars) 22.8 (new party)
    EFD 4.9 (-5.3)
    EUL/NGL 4 (-2.5)
    ALDE 2.5 (-7.9)
    [Threshold: 4%]

    EPP 30 (-12.1)
    PES 29.2 (-9.7)
    EUL/NGL 12.6 (+8.9)
    Unaffil. (UPD) 8.1 (+5.2)

    EPP 36.5 (-14.9)
    ECR 30 (+2.6)
    PES 17.3 (+3.0)

    PES 41.5 (+10.4)
    EPP 25.9 (-16.9)
    ALDE 15 (+0.5)

  32. R Huckle

    Tory party candidate selections – I suspect that all candidate for 2015 are in place by now

    Nothing like it. Andy JS of this parish keeps a very useful spreadsheet on the matter:

    and it shows that only 209 have been chosen. About another 150 will be current MPs who will be formally re-adopted nearer the date, but they only have 68 non-incumbents adopted, Labour has 247 – even UKIP has more.

  33. @Howard

    HRS – Hormone Replacement Sausages?

    @Shevii/Colin etc

    Maybe Ed hasn’t HAD to do too much and the policy (deliberately I think) has been thin but he did make a number of very risky political interventions, every one successful. Those that come to mind are:
    – Taking on Murdoch
    – Energy price freeze
    – No military support in Syria
    – One member one vote

    For an opposition leader who by definition has little power that seems a lot more impressive to me than insincere hugs to hooded huskies

    Similar in my Con/Lab marginal. Not sure how our local MP’s impassioned support for Maria Miller (to whom she was PPS) will go down. The tories have adopted as candidates for the council one Asian lady who put herself forward as a Lab candidate and failed to be selected, plus her husband. Meanwhile Lab have suspended a candidate who is under planning enforcement for a Rachmann-style division of a buy to let house into two cramped (and unauthorised) flats. Meanwhile said candidate’s dad, a current councillor, has not been reselected following his conviction for breaches of fire regulations at his restaurant. Ah, politics.

  34. “we eat at 6 – Dutch habits -although it was actually very British with RB and ATTs incl YPs – oh, and HRS.

    Didn’t take you for an alphabetti-spaghetti man Howard.

  35. The thing that messes up the Conservatives, and I speak from experience, is lack of discipline. There are always too many who are not team players and are only too willing to criticise the leadership. Usually this is because they are not politically astute and imagine that they are actually helping. Labour and Lib Dems are usually much better at keeping things “in house” with some exceptions. I would anticipate that UKIP will be much like the Tories only more so. Anything could happen before 2015.

  36. @Shevii

    “.. I said before I have never voted for a winning government in 30 years of trying!)”

    I never had you down as a Tory voter!


    “In my Con/Lab marginal the Labour candidate who was born and schooled in the town, has been in place for over a year, and campaigning hard against the downgrading of the local hopsital, closure of the main post office and how the bedroom tax is…..”

    That wouldn’t be Rebecca Blake would it, by any chance? If so, you and I reside in the same constituency; a key West Midlands marginal.

    Should be fun in May 2015.

  37. Anthony

    Thanks for that (4:45). I thought I’d cover all the possible reasons and one of them was that the story was held over for Monday’s Times or Sun. Though given the way those in the News International ‘family’ hate each other even more than they hate Ed Miliband, it didn’t seem very likely.

    Anyway your Five Reasons Why Psephologists Are Sitting in the Corner Sobbing Quietly illustrates why those such as Stephen Fisher who claim to have a magic formula to predict the future are not likely to be very successful. Though records show if you want to shine in the world of punditry, accuracy is rarely required. I’d add three more observations.

    The first is that the situation may actually be made more difficult to judge by the increasing number of pollsters and even more polls. To take one obvious example we have no certain idea of UKIP’s real support level (in so far as this means anything) due to the divergence between phone polls and the newer online ones. We also have a lot more questions showing up voters’ motivations and how they may respond differently to alternative wording (‘the Economy’ versus ‘you personally’ say). Bliss for the more numerically inclined student of politics, but not always easy to make sense of.

    The second factor is the impact of individual voter registration which may (or may not) have a big impact – presumably against Labour.

    The third thing may be a localisation on campaigning. This isn’t just about Lib Dems – at a time when there is very widespread revulsion from Westminster politics local circumstances and candidates may make more of a difference.

  38. GuyMonde

    Horse Radish Sauce

    Actually I am not sure I like the stuff but always have it with RB because SWMBO recently bought a new jar, thinking (erroneously) that I like it. I’ve never tasted RB because I always drown it in RHS. I have my pooterish moments.

    The political significance of this is that it relates to whether Con – UKIP escapees will get feelings of being traitors in the polling booth and revert.

  39. rmj1,

    I’d add that the Tories suffer from a Myth of Thatcher, similar to the Myth of Reagan for the Republicans and the Plainly Red is Popular myth that still dominates parts of the UK left: that if you’re a tough conviction ideologue, and present a radical programme, people will respect you for it and vote for you. That’s supposedly how Thatcher, Attlee, Reagan etc. got their success.

    In fact, all were very good at making clever compromises and moving incrementally. When Thatcher and Attlee outreached public opinion (on the Poll Tax and iron/steel nationalisation) things started to go very sour…

  40. Oh, nearly forgot my conclusion: UKIP seem to me like they’ll have that problem, but turned up to eleven, and thus they’ll struggle once the inevitable bumps in the road hit them. Like sharks, they’re ok as long as they’re moving forward.

  41. Colin
    You and I are now both in the wordpress slough of despond.

  42. @ Crossbat

    Green during the New Labour years including 1997!

    It would be quite amusing to find someone who had voted Tory 1997-2005 and Labour at all other times from 1979.

  43. @Crossbat

    Hastings & Rye – Ed Miliband has paid a personal visit and the estate agent where my daughter works was in camera shot while he was doing his John Major soap box speech, just a few yards away, blissfully unaware that he was even in town!

  44. If UKIP do well next month they may find themselves with a lot of fresh MEPs and local councillors, each with 12 months in which to cause embarrassment for the party.

    Meanwhile another problem the Tories are likely to have is a shortage of local activists willing to walk the streets.

  45. Now, R&D,

    Under PR, those minus votes for the el-dees would be reditributed, and they would get minus infinity!

    More importantly, the Seagulls won again — in the playoff zone now.

    I see party colours as well as smilies have gone while I’ve been away!

    On the thread. This is an excellent piece AW.

    Now if Ed ‘retired’ and the brother came back, it would be a Labour landslide.

  46. Nigel,

    This is why the Ashcroft polling is so fascinating.

    I seem to remember that it shows Lab outperforming in the marginals?

    Did this happen at GE2010 — I seem to remember it was one factor that saved lab from a 29% catastrophe?

  47. @ Nigel

    Similar in my 3 way marginal. In 2010 Labour were less than 1,000 votes ahead of the Tories and less than 3,000 ahead of the Lib Dems. Given what has happened to the Lib Dem and UKIP VI since I assume that rather than treat it as a key marginal Labour will be shipping efforts out to other seats. As you conclude, it is difficult to see Labour losing any of the seats they currently hold. I am sure that someone can tell me how many, should that be few, seats they need to take from the Lib Dems or Tories to get an OM.

    It seems to me that the Tories have an absolute mountain to climb to simply retain their position as largest party.

  48. Three things:

    How the LD->Lab switchers vote.
    How much UKIP damage Con
    How much UKIP damage Lab

    Remember, LD is no longer the reposotory of the ‘protest’ vote — is that now UKIP?

    I guess all this has been talked about endlessly while I’ve been away o — apologies.

    R&D — I still remember the polling dreamtime, when we had 45%, 30%, 10% once.

  49. andyo

    Halcyon days.

    My friend is a lifetime Sunderland supporter. Think it would be so ironic if Brighton got promoted and Sunderland went down.

    He can’t see the humour in it at all.

  50. If we’re including Labour MPs without the whip, Labour need to gain 68 seats for an official majority of 2, and unnofficially (IE taking into account SF, SDLP and the speaker) they need to gain 62 seats, which equals a swing to them of 4.1% on UNS.

    That’s a vote share of 33.8% in GB terms, although obviously other parties have changed their vote share too.

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