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. EM polls as weak because the media keep telling us he is weak, but until he actually is weak it will not effect the Lab VI. In the same way people poll that the economy is improving but they are still negative about their personal prospects – because the media tell them the economy is improving.

    IMO – by far the most important factors are
    Cons not getting the boundary changes through – Cons need a 4% lead to be largest party and 7% to have majority. Labour gets a majority with a lead of just 1% on UNS. I still do not understand why the Cons made such a bad mistake.
    The Left leaning LDs going to Labour

  2. @KEN

    “I am convinced that 2015 remains all to play for. I’m not convinced by Cammo, certainly my friends at the Royal Blackheath golf club have their doubts about his Tory credentials, GO is our man…”


    You’re easily pleased, Ken. Omnishambles budget, flatlining growth per capita, down in polling on people’s expectations of their financial future, cuts perceived as unfair by quite some margin… I suppose you might consider it a relief that at least the last budget settled down to almost no effect on polling…

  3. If Scotland votes YES then Cameron is a goner.

    It took me a while to realise why Cameron was so opposed to independence. He is frightened of being seen as George 111 – as the clown who “lost” Scotland.

    With all credibility gone then so would our wounded PM..

  4. Oh and hello again Ken. Managed to lay your hands on an Ygay Castillo?…

  5. KEN

    “my friends at the Royal Blackheath golf club have their doubts”

    Is that true of all the cleaners?

  6. “Join now and pay no subscription in your first year*, just the entrance fee.
    * This membership offer applies from 1st December 2013 until further notice. No subscription to be paid within your first 12 months’ membership. The subscription year runs from 1st June to 31st May.”

    Even the world’s oldest golf club seems to be feeling the Osborne pinch :-) Perhaps they should get Abramovich to buy it.

  7. @MRNAMELESS thanks for the insight into Nick Clegg’s Hallam constituency. I suspected that public sector workers were high there, but that is quite remarkable.

    My experience is that someone drinking a cappuccino at a gallery launch may have voted for Nick Clegg but now reviles him and might be inclined to vote Labour. But the blokes in the builders yard who voted Labour now look to Ukip. It’s an admittedly small sample but has the feeling of zeitgeist about it. How do you read things?

    Anyway good luck with the campaign, though I’d bet on Nick Clegg being one of the few LibDems retaining their seat.

  8. Further to the matter of what influences the election…

    The top 10 issues facing the country in the Ipsos Issue tracker are, in order…

    Crime/Law and Ordee

    The economy is still top concern but only just and has been falling. Ipsos, in the March edition of the tracker, contrasted with a year ago…

    … and things remain broadly similar, except…

    – the economy has fallen sharply as an issue while immigration has risen… they are almost neck-and-neck now…

    – poverty/inequality has grown in salience. To quote Ipsos: “16% are concerned about poverty/inequality, equalling the highest score we have ever recorded for this issue – indeed, this issue is now the fifth most important issue facing Britain.”

    – the other services/standard of living issues remain, and generally score within a couple of points of what they scored a year ago. Inflation, education, housing etc…

    Thus, while there is progress on the economy, immigration and inequality have meanwhile risen as a concern, and other concerns like unemployment, housing, inflation, education, NHS etc. remain much as before…

  9. @Carfrew

    According to Desertec and other German gov’t funded studies, 92k sq. kilometres of concentrated solar units in the Sahara would power the whole of Europe with ease. Furthermore, desalination of water can be a ‘waste product’ of the process if sea water is used. The Sahara is about the same size as North America so there would be plenty of desert left untrammeled.

    However, we do not need to use the Sahara. Scientists for Global Responsibility did an audit of potential power output from the UK and concluded that we should be a net exporter given our abundance of renewable resources. The trick would be to join all sources (micro and macro) together and use hydro (or even raising and lowering of defunct ocean-going liners) as storage ‘batteries’.

    All of this ignores new developments such as more efficient/cheaper solar, algal production of diesel, semipermeable membranes use in fjords to drive turbines, hot roads etc etc – and resurrection of old technologies like air water wells, arborculture, mixed organic smallholdings etc.

    The Centre for alternative technology produced their blueprint for Zero carbon Britain 2030 several years ago although it focuses on just currently available processes. They stress the need to both conserve energy as well as to produce more from renewables.

    Since you mention the jobs guarantee, this powering down and switching to renewables offers a fantastic opportunity for job creation, apprenticeships, new manufacturing as well as reducing bills, addressing cold weather deaths and mitigating climate change.

    However, I completely agree that, as you imply, the stumbling blocks will be/are political.. and the absence of a new HVDC grid (I understand that filling in/upgrading/replacing the existing infrastructure might take as long as 10y to construct but parts of it would be immediately available).

  10. @Carfrew

    ‘Of course, left to the private sector, there’s little interest because it would both require investment and also breaks their current business model, whereby they can charge healthy amounts for fuel processing etc.’

    If we have to have nuclear, I would certainly rather have Thorium for all the reasons you suggest. My concern though is that gov’t investment would be channeled into reactors as a quick fix and not into renewable energy sources .. or to insulate/retrofit our existing housing stock, create jobs/apprenticeship, create new manufacturing, exploit new innovations, transform our agriculture and architecture. On a more political note, privately run Thorium reactors would also maintain the centralized control of the energy sector on our government.

    Sorry for the length of my reply… I could write so much more. I will finish with my favourite measure for decarbonisation of the atmosphere. Grow trees and bury them in old coal mines!

  11. SYZYGY

    Sorry if this is dumb… why bury trees in old coal mines?


    As a means of removing XS carbon from the current CO2 cycle.

    I always pay attention when Dr Who emphasises the importance of preserving the time/space continuum. Bringing back into the present era, the laid down sunlight of the carboniferous is breaking that maxim. Putting newly grown trees into the old coal seams is effectively repairing the time/space continuum .. and who knows they may even become coal one day :)

  13. “Sorry if this is dumb… why bury trees in old coal mines?”

    Saves digging holes: they’re jolly difficult to hide otherwise.

  14. “as AW avers, that uncommitted, or transient, Labour supporters are in a quandary, whilst they, like all human beings, want to support a party that broadly reflects their views, they also want a strong leader, the country needs a strong leader. Miliband is perceived, by most people, as weak, ”

    OK, don’t believe me then, that this is a methodological question which remains unanswered in AW”s, of course, brilliant analysis.
    Where is the evidence that Labour voters, including the union vote, regard EM as weak, and how do you more accurately interpret the “LD voter defection”, are related questions. Both reflect a radical change in the politics of social democracy, embracing the shift in labour market and working rights towards consensus strengthening of the employment market and the immigrant labour factor in the EU single market as beneficial to the UK. The2010 LD voters haven’t defected, they have stayed in the same place. It is the political environment that has changed, but which continues to include common L and LD ground, in Europe, in environmental policies, in human and working rights, and in redistributive economics, otherwise known as “holistic”.
    It should also, of course, include ziggy’s trees and invading Lybia with solar panels instead of bloody drones.

  15. “The2010 LD voters haven’t defected, they have stayed in the same place.”


    Spot on. The LD leadership were the ones who defected…


    @”The2010 LD voters haven’t defected, they have stayed in the same place.”

    So when they were voting LibDem-they were really voting Labour ?

    A little Putinesque I think.

    Though the word “trait*r” was much used on UKPR back in June 2010.

  17. “I think, as AW points out, that these current potential Labour supporters will do their duty to their country, and vote Tory in 2015.”

    I must have missed AW saying that.

  18. @Ken

    It’s not the Labour supporters who think that Ed Miliband is weak. The media commentary, Tory supporters and to a degree LibDem supporters may think he’s weak. Then again, they would wouldn’t they?

    The core vote of the Labour party is pretty solid behind him though.

  19. @Carfrew – I know you are interested in thorium, but I’ve recently come across some work on reactors using Palladium.

    Apparently it’s really useless technically, but highly entertaining.

    Worth making a song and dance about, apparently.

  20. @BALBS

    “EM that oh so weak leader, who won the leadership of his party when everyone thought he couldn’t, who took the Unions on when everyone said he couldn’t, who took on the Energy compoanies when everyone said he couldnt, who leads a party which has consistenly led the polls….”

    Not to mention taking on the Murdoch Empire over Leveson and the Daily Mail over his own father and the little matter of saving the country – and, indeed, the world – from going to war over Syria….yes, very weak.

  21. Thing is, Norbold & Babs, I agree with you but polling shows that an awful lot of voters don’t.

    Ed M can’t sing his own praises, so it’s up to the Party & shadow cabinet to do it for him.

    Their seeming reluctance to do so could be because:
    1. they don’t want another popular/ populist leader like Blair &/or
    2. they can’t get a word in edge ways &/or
    3. saying Ed M is awesome would simply open the door to more anti-Ed aggression from the interviewer – unless I’m mistaken, the mere mention of Ed’s name makes e.g. Andrew O’Neil shift from cuddly chat-host to Mr Nasty.

    I think it’s mainly 3.

  22. Evidence from the past shows that a party can have a popular leader and lose and have an unpopular or less popular leader and win.

    UKIP the spoiler, no one knows exactly how they are going to perform and how they will affect the outcome.

    I know apocryphal stories are unreliable guides to voting behaviour but, a few seeks ago I was in the company of a group of mainly ex-military men (Tory to the core) and the subject of Gay Marriage came up, (a non-issue for me) I was amazed at their hatred for Cameron for (as they saw it) for forcing it through and how determined they were to see him punished for it. Methinks Nigel picked up quite a few recruits from that group.

  23. @ALEC

    “I know you are interested in thorium, but I’ve recently come across some work on reactors using Palladium.

    Apparently it’s really useless technically, but highly entertaining.

    Worth making a song and dance about, apparently.”


    Lol, you been reading Marvel comics again?…

  24. I went to see the Manic Street Preachers on Saturday Didn’t know much about them except:

    If you tolerate this,
    Then your children will be next

    ironically according to wiki once used by the BNP on their website, despite the line about if I can shoot rabbits, I can shoot fascists.

  25. “Palladium.

    Apparently it’s really useless technically, but highly entertaining.

    Worth making a song and dance about, apparently.”

    Trouble is it only functioned in London and then only on Sunday nights.

    Should we factor in Kr?

  26. @Alec pt 2

    Don’t worry, if they ever do Thorium, I shan’t post regular updates on the power contribution like wot you do for wind!! The wind crusade can continue. Even if it does have numerous issues. Speaking of which…

  27. @Syzygy

    Don’t worry about the reply length: personally I think you are being very efficient, discussing current and future world energy policy, impacts, and associated technologies in a few paragraphs. Much more has been written trying to establish the weakness of Ed M. And Alec’s crusade for wind power etc. etc. Anyways…

    Previously you spoke of the Sahara generating enough for world demand; sure, an area roughly the size of France would cover European demand. Desalination of water can be a waste product of various renewable schemes, but Thorium can offer high temperature waste heat that is suitable for other industrial processes too. You can even use waste heat from either Thorium or indeed renewables to heat homes, but for many of these benefits you would need the heat to be near the point of use. Desalination in situ is one thing, but piping waste heat from Sahara to the UK is another.

    I don’t doubt our own renewable resources here in the UK. Posts by Alec and others had me looking into it quite a bit. But the two essential problems I highlighted in my previous post remain: getting the power from where it is generated – Fiords, offshore turbines etc. – to where it is needed, which is expensive in terms of resources, and longer cabling means more energy loss. And the impact on habitat of big windfarms, tidal arrays etc.

    The energy density of Thorium is so big, that the footprint is reduced, especially with a much safer design, and much less waste, the more so given it can burn up waste from other reactors. There would be no need to invest time and money into conserving energy. Sure, there are all these renewable technologies to explore – just solar has seen recent developments via perovskites, new low-cost polymers, and photonic curing – and we can invest more time and money into smart grids, flow batteries and other storage, all the bits needed to make renewables work, and maybe eventually it’ll work out.

    But when we eventually get it all to work sufficiently, after plastering the place with windfarms, collectors, arrays, algae tanks, storage facilities, and building all the extra power lines and smart grids (and it’s worth bearing in mind how things like wind turbines consume rare earth elements like neodymium, and battery tech can do similar) they won’t burn up existing waste, or provide the medical isotopes, or provide the energy abundance of Thorium which would eclipse renewables by a huge margin. 5,000 tons provides world energy usage for a year. Imagine the transformation of just using 5,000 tons in a year for ourselves. Including, being able to power a lot more recycling to assist with the environmental thing.

    And in terms of the planet, we need a simple solution all can use, including poorer nations that may not have an abundance of renewable resources and have little cash to spare for more more power lines, smart grids, flow batteries etc., otherwise they may well do what China did and just burn more coal, or remain in poverty.

    I agree renewables offer potential for jobs etc. and I am not arguing that we shouldn’t do anything on renewables. They are particularly handy for “democratising” power as more individuals are able to generate their own, for example. Lagoons offer flooding protection, not just power. And we shouldn’t have all our energy from one basket.

    I’m not sure about the “diverting resources” away from renewables argument. One might just as easily argue renewables can divert investment away from Thorium. In reality, sans Thorium, given the need to act quicker to meet Carbon targets, and until we have achieved the upgrading of the grid across Europe to share intermittent power, and developed the tidal and algae tech. etc. etc. then governments are liable to do what they are doing: going for fracking for quick, cheap power plus conventional nuclear for baseload etc.

    That’s another advantage of Thorium. It’s a bit easier to turn on and off. When they ran the test reactor at Oak Ridge, they just shut it down… drained the fuel/coolant and left it for the weekend, pumping the salt back in to restart on Monday. Not something you can do with a conventional reactor…

    And… with Thorium… we could have a moonbase!!…

  28. On AW’s analysis, I think he misses a point. The thing about the failed boundary review is not that the current boundaries are unfair, it’s FPTP that causes the apparent disparity between effectiveness of vote.

    Put simply, where Labour ar going to win, many Labour voters won’t bother, where Labour are not in sight many will either not bother or vote tactically, but in any marginal where the Tories are “in play” they’ll vote tactically.

    And that’s the point…only the marginals matter, and the Tories are not going to get any more than they’ve got now even against the LDs and Labour are going to beat them everywhere.

    The only question will be, just how many are “marginals”. If Lab get anywhere near a 40% national vote, that’s going to be lot and lots. But even if if thy fall back to 35% they will still compete in many marginals because that’s where the Lab vote will bother getting out of bed. It’s an “anti’Tory” vote in many, many cases.

  29. @Guymonde

    Four grand to walk about a well maintained lawn? I can get that for free here, and the walk is nicer.

  30. @Syzygy

    How about lots of wood furniture, and we can put all the MDF into the mines instead? Lots of expansion in MDF for soaking up all that nasty coal gas. :))

  31. Interesting that there is so little expectation of a Yes vote re Scotland and a belief that No still has a large lead with only Panelbase showing a close result.

    It would be more sensible to recognise that Survation also showed Yes on 45% (Don’t Knows excluded) and that Yes are shown as ahead if people believe in a Tory led victory in 2015.

    The SNP conference and the speeches of Salmond and Sturgeon in particular, have been overwhelmingly reported in positive terms in Scotland. Expect to see at least one poll showing Yes only a point or 2 behind (at worst) in the next month or two.

    This is going to be very close.

  32. “they also want a strong leader, the country needs a strong leader”

    Says who? And what exactly is ‘a strong leader’? Is it really possible to be sure of the effect of changing a party’s leader? The post-1992 analysis doesn’t suggest it would make much difference anyway:

    “Many commentators suggested that the voters took a personal dislike to Mr Kinnock, but warmed to Mr Major. As the Sun put it, ‘voters just did not believe Mr Kinnock was fit to run Britain’. Or, in the Daily Express’s words, ‘it was John Major the voters knew they could trust’.

    “Throughout the 1992 election campaign, Mr Major’s personal standing remained much higher than Mr Kinnock’s. And the data from our interviews suggests that the Labour leader’s standing deteriorated slightly between 1987 and 1992. Voters saw Mr Kinnock as more ‘extreme’ than Mr Major, less inclined to ‘look after all classes’ and less ‘capable of being a strong leader’.

    “But do party leaders make a difference to people’s votes? The findings showed that they do, but only a little. Some 54 per cent of ‘Tory identifiers’ – people who normally think of themselves as Tories regardless of how they vote in any election – rated Mr Major highest of the three party leaders, whereas only 36 per cent of ‘Labour identifiers’ similarly rated Mr Kinnock. ‘Identifiers’ who did not rate their own party leader highly were more likely than other ‘identifiers’ to desert the party of their primary loyalty.

    “But the effects were not enough to make a decisive difference to the election result. Mr Major’s appeal as leader, compared with Mr Kinnock’s, was probably worth no more than one percentage point to the Tory share of the vote.”

    (‘How did Labour lose in ’92?” Heath, Jowell & Curtice)

  33. @Carfrew – don’t get me wrong – I love the sound of thorium. I’m not a particular campaigner for wind – it has it’s problems, like every single issue solution people put up as ideas. We need a mix, wind is part of that, as is nuclear, and thorium sounds awfully like a big missed opportunity.

    Incidentally, wind is currently supply!ng 9% of UK demand.

  34. Taking the subject of 1) again, are we agreed that voters who talk and opine about the ‘economy’, are not talking about the Economy, except in the way they could express a view about global warming or whether EM is weak? They don’t really give a fig about the last two and I suspect they are not that fussed about the Economy either, at least not the ‘schwimmende wähler’ (with homage to Guymonde).

  35. @Ken

    “.If my Chelsea boys, ( Blues ) don’t turn you Reds over on the 27th, I for one will wish you well for the title. :-)”

    Welcome back; your unique approach to polling matters, and associated subjects, has been sorely missed, certainly by me. The Other Howard will be pleased too because he now has another fellow poster equally as confident of a Tory victory in May!

    As for the football, I wonder if the three points you kindly donated to my team at Villa Park a few weeks ago might prove to be the points that keep us up and deny you the title? In which case, our old mutual friend, Doug Ellis, now in his nineties but still attending Villa games, will be raising a glass to Roman, Jose and all the boys at Stamford Bridge come the end of the season. :-)

  36. Couper2802
    “The Left leaning LDs going to Labour”

    Channel 4 news wanted to test the ‘stickiness’ of LD’s who plan to vote Labour so they put together a focus group.

    If the LD’s are hoping to keep these voters. they have an almighty task on their hands. There are no indications so far that those voters will return to the LD fold.


    “3. saying Ed M is awesome would simply open the door to more anti-Ed aggression from the interviewer – unless I’m mistaken, the mere mention of Ed’s name makes e.g. Andrew O’Neil shift from cuddly chat-host to Mr Nasty.

    I think it’s mainly 3.”

    I’ve watched him do exactly this on many occasions so yes, I agree it’s mainly 3.

    Talking of Andrew Neil, did anyone see yesterdays Sunday Politics with MEP’s from each of the 4 main parties ? They were (supposed to be) encouraging interest in the upcoming election but it was just a shouting match with the sole woman screeching above the men – dreadful & even I deployed the ‘mute’ button until the local section of the show came on.

  37. NICKP

    -If the LD’s remain at their current levels over 30 of their Seats are Vulnerable to Labour in addition to these Labour would need less than a 2% Swing From the Conservatives to achieve at least largest Party Status.

    Ironically the LD’s could suffer huge losses but because of the Nature of FPTP still find themselves potentially in Government with a different partner

  38. @NickP
    “On AW’s analysis, I think he misses a point. The thing about the failed boundary review is not that the current boundaries are unfair, it’s FPTP that causes the apparent disparity between effectiveness of vote.”

    Although there’s a kernel of truth there, I don’t think that FPTP is the most significant influence. What for me is more is the poor state of an electoral register that disenfranchises much of the part of our growing population that lives in rented accommodation and changes address every year or two. In so far as they’re on the register at all it may be for a previous address.

    And if that were bad enough, it beggars believe that a month before the expected date of the GE in 2015 we will see the introduction of a revolution of a procedure as to how people register to vote, designed to make it a much harder process for them to do so, through individual electoral registration. It seems to have crept in completely under the radar, yet the consequences could be profound.

  39. “It seems to have crept in completely under the radar, yet the consequences could be profound.”

    What’s known as a ‘cunning plan’

  40. @Alec

    “Incidentally, wind is currently supply!ng 9% of UK demand.”

    (Nice mod trigger avoidance, by the way)

    7.5% as I look at some dials. If Scotland has 50% of UK wind turbines (assuming equal generation), that’s an equivalent of 43% of Scottish demand. 9% UK demand is equivalent of 54% Scottish demand (population used to calc all this, of course, and at non-peak levels).

    If you look at: (page 3)

    We can compare 2000 to 2012. Look from the bottom of the chart up. Assuming the charts colours are scaled:

    – nuclear is constant, as is hydro natural flow

    – huge increase in other renewables (2600% according to bars).

    – coal is at 2/3 of previous.

    – gas is around 45% of previous.

    – oil is a quarter of previous.

    -hydro pumped has doubled.

    Also note this Alec:

    h ttp://

    “The Scottish Conservatives highlighted industry statistics showing 2,315 turbines have been constructed north of the Border out of a UK total of 4,350.”

    Which may or may not affect how people think in September. Will people North of the border be happy with the idea that the UK will get its next gen energy from Scotland, with little impact from turbines South of the border (and at little financial benefit to Scotland)?

    I predict more and more renewable arguments in the next 4-5 months.

  41. Populus

    LAB 35 (nc)
    CON 33 (-1)
    LD 11 (nc)
    UKIP 13 (+1)

  42. @Amber/Bramley

    (why does the combination of those two monikers evoke thoughts of autumnal mists and mellow fruitfulness?)

    “Talking of Andrew Neil, did anyone see yesterdays Sunday Politics with MEP’s from each of the 4 main parties ?”

    I think our ubiquitous friend Mr Neil might be losing the plot a little of late. I haven’t tuned into his Thursday night show for some time, but on the last occasion I did he was having a bit of a falling out with Owen Jones which culminated in him saying to Jones that it was his show and therefore he (Jones) wasn’t entitled to disagree with him! The mutual contempt that the two of them had for each other was palpable and you really wonder how a so-called balanced political programme could get to such a state where the host, yes, that’s right, the host, saw fit to indulge in a nakedly partisan spat with a guest. Ghastly stuff and Neil’s got form on this, I’m afraid. If he’s not careful, he’ll be down to his last three shows on the BBC! There really is no escape from him, I’m afraid.

    On the Milband leadership issue, listed by Anthony as one of the key questions that will determine the outcome of the next election, I wonder if both Cameron and Miliband are lucky to have each other as political antagonists, and both extraordinarily lucky to have Clegg as the third party’s leader? The three of them are involved a rather macabre dance of the disdained, with Cameron edging it with the Grand Title of “The Marginally Least Unpopular”.

    It’s a dance that seems to be leaving the electorate a little underwhelmed and I wonder if this is the reason why the leadership issue isn’t gaining much traction in terms of its effect on voting intentions.

    Will it become more of an issue nearer the time people come to vote? Possibly, but there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge until then and my hunch is that Miliband will have greater opportunities to improve his ratings over that period whereas the risk for Cameron, now 10 years a party leader and four years a PM, is that it’s all downhill from here on in. Never glad confident morning again!

    Just my idle thoughts.

  43. COLIN
    “So when they were voting LibDem-they were really voting Labour ? Though the word “trait*r” was much used on UKPR back in June 2010

    Nooo, Colin. They and most Labour voters were voting social democrat and were voting for social democratic reforms to the economy and to social systems which began a long time ago and are still continuing, including the free movement of labour, women’s rights at work under the EU equality of educational opportunity the free movement and protection of labour and the NHS which have similar dimensions throughout Europe.

  44. I like the point made that the LDs could lose many seats and still find themselves under FPTP in coalition government with a different partner.

    Although I don’t think this will happen, I think a perverse outcome is always possible with four parties in contention in many parts of the UK. Such a result happened in Germany when the CDU (Cons) were too successful at the expense of the FDP (Libs) who did not reach the 5% then in force for entering parliament. As a result the German Conservatives had to form a grand coalition with the Socialists.

    I made a prediction in December of Labour 35%, Conservatives 32%, LDs 13%, UKIP 12%. (As someone might have said, looks a bit high for LDs.) That would give a small Labour majority, perhaps increased by the disproportionate spoiler effect of UKIP on the Conservatives. But I could always be wrong and things could change. Falklands anyone?

    I can only hope that Labour are making plans for a possible win in 2015 which – whether left or centrist – will actually grip the imagination of the electorate. In France things do not seem to be going all that well, and the split in the right-wing parties there has not been enough to save the socialists, in the recent local elections at least.

    But May 22 this year to get through first.

  45. Guymonde
    Just had a quick word with my local electoral registration office, they are doing all the work on the new ‘cunning plan ‘ but it is funded by , wait for it, The Cabinet Office…looks like we might have an attempt to load the dice a little. Is Franny Maude (old’ petrol in jam jars’ himself) still the Cabinet Office minister


  46. Just to correct a very important mistake I made earlier when I said to Ken that if Liverpool (red) and Chelsea (blue) draw it will be like the general election as a draw would mean ultimate victory for the reds.

    I was, of course, forgetting about another blue team, Manchester City, who would then be front runners. Sadly, although the “another blue team” would fit the analogy very well, the prospect of the third party being able to take advantage of a draw and forming the next government doesn’t really follow……

  47. COLIN
    “So when they were voting LibDem-they were really voting Labour ? Though the word “trait*r” was much used on UKPR back in June 2010

    Nooo, Colin. They and most Labour voters were voting social democrat and were voting for social democratic reforms to the economy and to social systems which began a long time ago and are still continuing, including the free movement of labour, women’s rights at work under the EU and UK legislation, equality of educational opportunity the free movement and protection of labour, and the NHS. These issues of reform and the conservation of hard-won rights, values and systems don’t have a party badge, but acquire association in loyalties which mean that voters stay with parties, as long as the parties stay true to their principles and commitments.

  48. Gen Election 2005

    Seats won Lab 355 Con 198 LD 62
    Percentage Lab 35.2% Con 32.4% LD 22.0%

    The major change from that in 2014 seems likely to be that UKIP will figure and the LD vote share plummet. But i can’t see Lab getting less than 2005 or Con getting (much) more.

    Can you?

    I really still can’t see how anything but a Lab majority is going to happen. Sorry to keep repeating myself but the whole political commentariat seems to have gone stark staring mad.*

    *a la USA 2012

  49. Sorry for double posting above: perils of posting while balancing free biscuit supplied with cuppa in quite nice national library with ace caff

  50. I agree with NickP

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