Tuesday round up

There are a few interesting bits of polling news today. First there is a new chunk of Lord Ashcroft polling, this time on the Conservative’s position in Scotland. Full results are here. I won’t summarise the whole report here, but essentially he segments up the Scottish electorate and as well as that poor sorry rump of Tory support left in Scotland, he also finds a group he calls “reluctant Cameroons” – primary Scots who approve of Cameron, trust the Conservatives on the economy… but don’t vote for them because they don’t see the Conservatives as caring about Scotland and view the party as irrelevant to Scottish politics, or a wasted vote. Therein lies the Conservative problem not just in Scotland, but in much of the urban North too. There are people with some sympathy towards Conservative policies, but they live in places or communities where voting Conservative is simply not done, no one else does it, there’s no point doing it, there’s no longer a recent history of it, what would be the point of it? It’s something people in the South do.

Anyway, I’ll leave you to read Lord Ashcroft’s report for yourselves, but for the record it also contained Westminster voting intention figures for Scotland, concucted earlier this month. CON 18%(+1), LAB 40%(-2), LDEM 6%(-13), SNP 31%(+11), UKIP 2%(+1). Changes are from the 2010 election and reflect a big swing from the Lib Dems to the SNP. If it was repeated as a uniform swing across Scotland the Lib Dems would be reduced to three seats in Scotland, the Tories would gain two seats, Labour would gain two and lose one, the SNP would go up to 11 seats.

Secondly there is the regular YouGov poll for the Sun. Topline figures today are CON 31%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%. While it’s within the normal margin of error of YouGov’s recent polling, the nine point lead is the largest YouGov have show since the start of October. My hunch is that this particular poll is probably a bit of an outlier, but that the issue of energy prices coming back into the news agenda following the energy price rises has boosted Labour’s lead a bit. Full tabs are here.

Finally the Electoral Commission have issued advice on the referendum question contained in the referendum bill currently before the Commons. The Bill currently contains the wording “Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union”. The Electoral Commission have recommended that the “do you think” bit is dropped, so the question is shorter and more formal, and that the wording reflects that the UK is already a member of the EU, as some people thought the question read as if it was whether Britain should join the EU. As such the question would become “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” They’ve also floated the idea that it might be better to move away from a Yes/No question, and instead have a Remain/Leave question, along the lines of “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Remain a member of the European Union/ Leave the European Union”.

As a pollster you tend to get asked questions about referendum wording. It makes some sense, as writing fair questions is the bread and butter of being a pollster, but in many ways the considerations really aren’t the same. As a pollster I hardly every write questions with just a straight Yes/No as options because there is a fear of affirmation bias, so as a polling question the Electoral Commission’s Remain/Leave is definitely better, giving both sides of the campaign equal prominance. However, it’s NOT a polling question, it’s a referendum question. With a polling question, people are rung up out of the blue (or get an email out of the blue) and get a few seconds to answer the question – those small differences in wording undoubtedly make a difference. In a referendum people have weeks to decide, and will be influenced by the whole campaigns, personalities, arguments, advertisements and so on. What the Yes and No votes mean for the country is something that voters will form their own perceptions of long before they enter a polling station. In that sense, as long as the question is clear and unambiguious, I doubt whether it says yes/no or remain/leave matters much.

423 Responses to “Tuesday round up”

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  1. Wed October 30, 2013 6 a.m. GMT

    Latest YouGov / The Sun results 29th October – Con 33%, Lab 39%, LD 10%, UKIP 11%; APP -27

  2. Five poll rolling average:

    Con 32.2
    Lab 39
    LD 9.4
    UKIP 11.8

    Lab Lead 6.8

  3. @Amber

    If Oldnat continues to demand an answer, ask him about productive pedagogies, ‘cos he didn’t seem keen to answer straightforward questions about that, even though he’d brought it up!! Anyways, if concerned about unfairness compared to the Welsh for example, instead of abandoning the block grant might one alternatively look at uprating the Welsh provision in some way.

    Is it a good idea to consider the block grant thing in isolation anyway. It’s part of a package. You guys host the subs, then get help bailing out RBS etc…

  4. Interesting campaign angle for Independence though. “We must leave the Union for we get more out of it than the Welsh!!”

  5. CHRIS
    Prediction lab 38 con 33 lib 11 Ukip 12
    Report comment
    October 29th, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Not too shabby

  6. @Catman

    Do the figures suggest Labour’s still on a upward trend? ‘Cos given we are no longer in the mid-term and are into the final third, that’s kinda interesting.

    If we assume that Tories may get a couple of points from the incumbency thing, plus can give electoral freebies, then it’s useful for Labour to be able to counter. Here we have an example of how, as with Osborne’s inheritance thing, a single policy announcement can change the game. One wonders what other policies they all have up their sleeves.

    Ps, noticed that Colin is seeking collaboration with Turk. Heartening stuff… Nothing bad can come of this…

  7. Labour will put an end to Tory party profligacy on HS2:


    Ed Miliband’s ingenious ‘divide to rule’ strategy.

  8. For those who have issues with price freezes and stuff, you’re going to love this:


    “Pension fees cap plan unveiled by government

    Fees can reduce pension pots by tens of thousands of pounds

    Management fees charged by pension providers could be capped between 0.75% and 1%, according to proposals being set out by the government.”

  9. The evidence does not suggest that Lab VI has continued to rise since the jump at the conference period, but the Con VI does seem to have have fallen a little recently.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that these changes are solely caused by the Lab energy cap statement. There is a multiplicity of factors at work, of which this is one.

  10. @Ernie

    I agree there may be other factors at work, though the energy thing may well be dominant. My comment about game-changing was more to do with shaping party actions going forward. The government have just announced a price cap themselves…

  11. What is worrying me about the current energy debate, and i read another article today, is under the guise of knowing its populous, a lot of people [are claiming] that nationalisation will bring cheaper bills. There are several reasons why this wouldn’t be the case, but most obviously because only 5% is profit, and nationalisation would be very unlikely to look for private finance for the several new power stations we need. In short, nationalisation would only bring cheaper bills if it was subsidised, which sort of defeats the point.

  12. Rich
    As always ‘it depends’. Are we talking about the nationalisation of the suppliers or the generation side?

    If we’re talking about nationalisation of the suppliers, there’s nothing to stop people investing in the generation side.
    Also the private energy sector is already subsidised (either directly or through price fixing promises).

    I should note – I’m not actually for the nationalisation of energy. I think that it’d be a disaster. (And I’m on the far left).

    As always, what needs to change is the oligarchic nature of the market in energy. But many on the left miss the forest for the trees and think that the way to solve a broken market is for the state to take it over.

    So either we need a cap on market share, meaning greater competition, or we need the introduction of mutualised/cooperative energy suppliers with market fixing (through tax cuts/etc) to bias the market toward them.

  13. rich

    Please look up the meaning of the word “populous”. You might mean “popular” or maybe “populist”, but I don’t think you mean “densely populated”.

  14. @Rich

    You are assuming only 5% is profit. But the energy companies are in a position to disguise the profits if they wish, by buying energy from themselves, or instead of booking excess profits, using the money to buy up other companies to entrench their position further.

    Furthermore, at least if we invest in nationalized industries, we own the asset. As opposed to our gas bills going to subsidise someone else, perhaps abroad, owning the asset.

    Pluswhich, instead of us, via the state, getting just the tax on profits – tax which may be aggressively avoided – we get all the profits, as used to be the case, which can be used to give us tax cuts and stuff.

  15. @rich – ” …only 5% is profit”

    Have you had a look at the books?

    Centrica (British Gas), for example, appears to be involved in a bewildering array of acquisitions, including recently a US energy marketing company ($6bn revenues in 2012).

  16. I’m in favour of nationalisation. What we have now is the “disaster”.

  17. “As always, what needs to change is the oligarchic nature of the market in energy. But many on the left miss the forest for the trees and think that the way to solve a broken market is for the state to take it over.”


    You don’t have to be on the left to favour it. But the thing is, there are some things the private sector does not tend to want to invest in, because easier pickings elsewhere. In particular, things requiring big investments with a long time before paying back, things which may be more risky than they would like, things which maybe require more resources than they can muster.

    Under such conditions the private sector is less likely to want to know, without such burdensome levels of sweetener that we’d be better off letting the state do it anyway.

  18. What I can’t understand is why the enegry user is supposed to shop around to buy the same gas/electricity etc? At least there is no pretence with the equally nonsensical water companies.

    So you switch to another company. How long do you stay there? How long should youspend trying to work out cheapest tariffs, future energy price movements or possible Government interventions? How often?

    The companies are clearly profiteering, their prices are deliberately impossible to compare and they have all just put up their prices even though wholesale prices didn’t go up.

    The marketplace for essential utilities are basically monoploies unless you want to connect up dozens of pipelines so stop pretending otherwise. Let the Government compete and put them out of business.

  19. @Rich

    The suppliers are making a profit of 5%, but how much are the producers making? Remember the Big Six are all vertically integrated groups of companies, so this fact maters.

  20. @Nickp

    The neolibs don’t want to confine endless shopping around just to price, you know. Oh no, they have got plans for us!!

    Libertarian dream part 3: Research everything under the sun.

    Because many consumers won’t just be concerned about getting the best price. They’ll be concerned if the products are safe to use, or whether the workforce suffer unduly, or there are pollution/environmental impacts etc. Etc.

    And we are supposed, once again, to trawl through the historical data on companies to check their record on these and other measures, before buying our jar of peanut butter.

    And once again, having researched one’s life away it’s still not much cop, because we find out after the event, after damage is done. And what if, unknown to us, a formerly well-run company changes its policy?

    This is why, in a sane world, we have proactive regulation, to monitor companies and put a check on them before the damage is done.

  21. @Carfrew

    It’s the myth of the perfectly-informed consumer. How do you decide which is the ‘best’ energy company? How do you know which will be the ‘best’ tomorrow? You can’t. But the excuse is there that you can to allow folk to smokescreen the idea that there is genuine choice. There isn’t.

    The energy industry has become a vehicle to profiteer at the expense of consumers and it needs to be nationalised.

  22. Thinking about it, the British Gas marketing strategy has been to insinate the idea that every customer is living on their own individual planet.

    Meanwhile German municipalities (as concession agreements with private utilities expire) are teaming up to take a greater than 50% ownership of energy supply.

  23. @Billy Bob
    “Meanwhile German municipalities (as concession agreements with private utilities expire) are teaming up to take a greater than 50% ownership of energy supply.”

    That sounds a brilliant idea. I for one didn’t know about this.

    Even after nationalisation or municipalisation, there are still complex issues to pay attention to (they cannot ever be completely resolved). There can be a conflict between lower prices and investment in infrastructure, between the present and the future. Ditto between workers’ salaries and investment, exactly as now. What about, for example, the differences for water in the dry vs wet areas of the country? And someone would have to pay to buy the utility companies.

    Still, plenty to think about there for those of us who grew up in the post-war settlement.

  24. The big Lab lead (YG) among 18-24s has disappeared and now blues are in the lead. An impressive turnaround.

  25. @Ozwald

    Would these be the voters that don’t actually vote?

  26. @RAF
    Fair question but I don’t have an answer. I don’t know whether other pollsters show such volatile results, or whether they have found a way to get more accurate stats on younger voters.

    “It’s the myth of the perfectly-informed consumer.”


    Yep. Even the companies themselves struggle to be well-informed. Not only did the banks, with all their resources and “masters of the universe”, screw up royally buying up all that toxic debt. But even long after the problem became apparent, they still couldn’t work out the full extent of their liabilities on products they had already bought.

    Not only do we need saving from the shenanigans of business, but they need saving from it themselves. Except in the parallel neolib universe where the banking crisis never happened and it’s impossible for energy companies to take the mick.

  28. @Billybob
    Interesting point about German “municipalisation”. I know that pre-nationalisation both gas and electricity (supply and generation) were council owned in my home town. The ending of this municiple system was much resented by Tory voters at the time, on grounds of loss of local independence as much as loss of income to the borough – rather than free-enterprise ideology.

    I wonder if the modern Tory voter would see municiple enterprise in the same way? My feeling is that quite a few would – and the UKIP Tendency might be more inclined, despite such an idea being close to heresy in both parties!

  29. The energy companies are currently a huge asset to labour. The price freeze suggestion is hugely popular.

    The energy companies’ claims that the price increases are due to the green levies has been torpedoed by Stephen Fitzpatrick, the CEO of Ovo Energy, who revealed that his company was buying energy from wholesalers at 7% LESS than he was paying two years ago.

    It is obvious to one and all that we are being ripped off, and the feebleness of the coalition’s response is doing them no good, which I think is the main reason labours lead is growing again.

  30. Ozwald
    “The big Lab lead (YG) among 18-24s has disappeared and now blues are in the lead. An impressive turnaround.”

    Sundays poll had the 18-24 group as Cons 17, Lab 48 so I wouldn’t be placing too much trust in todays result for that particular demographic. Todays is likely to be unusual in that respect.

  31. From a PR point of view, the Tories should be hoping this winter is mild. People freezing to death thanks to price rises doesn’t tend to endear you with the electorate.

  32. On the 18-24s, the real winner there is the ‘won’t vote’ party. They don’t think politics can do anything for them, and I just want to grab them by the collar and give them a good shake sometimes…

  33. @Mrnameless

    And the most horrific thought about 18-24s not voting is that Russell Brand will interpret that as a mandate for him to be Emperor of the Universe.

  34. Amber/Oldnat – this is not a venue for you two to debate. Oldnat – Amber is not a Labour party spokesman, so stop playing Jeremy Paxman.

  35. @alister1948, postageincluded

    Thanks, I did post a link to some epsu.org (European Federation of Public Service Unions) papers on remunicipalisations… energy throughout German cities, water in Paris (plus London Underground).

    There is quite a bit on the web about this, remunicipalisation is being seen by some as a paradigm shift in the German energy market… or rather a return to efficiency, value and policy objectives delivered by the public sector, after three decades of domination by the market paradigm.

  36. Good heavens, the govt has lost another high profile court case, this time a decision by the Supreme Court won by Cait Reilly re workfare.

    2 cases in 2 days – yikes !

  37. @Chordata
    I agree with your points. My comment was a poor attempt at irony. I am in favour of giving the vote to 16+ folk in the hope that they might be encouraged to take more interest in politics. Also since they tend to be more Internet savvy they have other ways to gather facts and opinions so maybe, just maybe, the influence of newspapers and TV might decline a little. Or maybe not!

  38. Disappointed with Teresa May. Not going to answer any of her calls from now on, and not going to share my stats either. :-p

  39. Ozwald
    I must admit you caught me off guard – I did think your comment was unlike your usual tendencies ;-)

    I agree that giving young people the vote is a good idea – they have lots of opinions that challenge those that say they’re not interested in politics.

    There’s a show on BBC 3 called Free Speech & it’s a discussion forum for young folk & there are usually 3 topics where the politicians & a celeb give their opinions but the audience can challenge them & voice thei thoughts.

    Young people are interested – it’s just that too many of us don’t listen to what they have to say.

  40. I see the Govt has lost yet another appeal. These headlines can’t do a lot for their VI.

    Anthony: I am irritated that I was draw into daft “debate” last night so apologies for that. I had thought that suggesting a debate on Scottish independence should be between those who are actually deciding the issue was reasonable enough but should have known better.

    A final thought is that is would seem ludicrous for Scotland’s First Minister to debate with someone outside of the decision making.

    Both in votes and in opinion polls on the referendum issue, he clearly does NOT speak for all of Scotland – far from it – and the proposal to debate with Cameron is quite obviously designed to make it look more like a Scotland/England divide.

    It is not. It is a Scotland/Scotland divide and. at present, Salmond is in the minority in that.


  41. @Ernie

    “I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that these changes are solely caused by the Lab energy cap statement. There is a multiplicity of factors at work, of which this is one.”

    I agree with you totally and it’s why, in my view, these polls are tending to defy old orthodoxies that suggest linear and predictable movements between parties as a result of X, Y or Z event. “The “watch the polls move now” pundits are living in political worlds long gone.

    For example, the almost structural suppression of the Tory VI within the very narrow 30-33% range suggests to me that a whole multiplicity of factors are at play there, most of which have nothing whatsoever to do with passing whims and ephemeral political events. I’m becoming more and more convinced as each day goes by that we’re experiencing a sea change in British politics, where attachments to the old major parties grow ever weaker and, accordingly, voting behaviour becomes much more difficult to predict. It’s one of the reasons why I’m sceptical about these early rumours of the certain death of UKIP.

    Disappointing for old psephologists stuck in the past, I know, but the days when we could predict Pavlovian-esque responses from voters have long gone.

  42. @BillyBob

    “Efficiency” a hot selling-point for Germans, you say? Who’d have guessed?

    It’s hard to imagine how we could move towards remunicipalisation directly though, without re-empowering local government first. And though I’m in favour of that, I think the democratic credentials of councils need to be improved before you can do it – too many are pocket boroughs of one party or another. And to do that you probably need a new voting system, and voters are very wary of that, as we saw in 2011.

  43. The latest Poundland jusdgement has been spun so much by BBC that it reads like a victory for IDS. The threat of cuts in their licence revenue seem to be working ;-)


  44. Paul
    ” It is a Scotland/Scotland divide”

    Precisely. I as a Scot but living in England doesn’t even get a vote so to make it a Scotland/England debate is a false debate.

  45. @Carfrew

    I have very intimate first-hand experience of the myth of the perfectly-informed consumer in higher education. In my view – and bearing in mind I like the Minister – the information is and never can be adequate to base university choices on, and everyone knows it.

    The whole thing is a farce, but don’t let’s get started. The only advantage is that we currently have a particularly good HE system and pace a few odd quirks, it’s hard to go wrong with your choices, so it doesn’t matter if students are being conned into believing that can make thoroughly informed decisions to justify further competition that the sector doesn’t actually need but is getting because it is an article of quasi-religious faith.

  46. There ain’t nothing quasi about it!

  47. @postageincluded

    Slightly off track, but there *has* been a first report from the “balance of competences” review… and it concluded that the balance of power between Brussels and Westminster was ‘broadly appropriate’.

    Ministers are alarmed and say that is because only pro-EU groups bothered to respond (cynics would say it is much easier to generate hostile tabloid headlines than actually think about the issues) and are calling on eurosceptics to redress the balance.

    Agree about the situation with our councils, it is not easy to see how we can move quickly beyond a situation where people see many local decisions as an everlasting merry-go-round of new ring road projects and the like being handed out to a select band of contractors (true in some cases but a gross a generalisation).

    It has always been an argument that other European countries do not feel so threatened by the EU precisely because local democracy provides a counterweight to the power of national government and supra-national institutions.

  48. @RiN

    I agree, but I was doing my inadequate best to be measured.

  49. In terms of the cost of living crisis, today’s ons economic review indicates that housing costs are the biggest cause of our drop in disposable incomes.


    “It shows that the proportion of household disposable income accounted for by ‘household essentials’ has risen from around 19.9% in 2003 to 27.3%. While the majority of this increase has been in the cost of housing – which has increased from 14.7% to 20.6% between 2003 and 2013 – there have also been increases in the proportion accounted for by gas, electricity and water & sewerage. The rise in these proportions has the effect of reducing household budgets for spending on other goods and products”

    So electricity and gas prices are a tiny part of the picture. If you really want people to feel an impact in their pockets, you need to tackle the cost of housing. Privatised utilities are also clearly problem areas, but much lower in terms of impact.

    The solution is obvious. Add supply by building more houses to rapidly bring down the cost of housing = more disposable income = less benefits required to live + more competitive workforce as less wage increases required to live = lower deficit.

    Until we sort out our of cost of housing jobs will continue to migrate to low cost countries as we are simply no longer competitive – we can’t afford to work for less, and companies can get the same labour far more cheaply offshore where housing prices are more competitive.

  50. Chris

    I gave up on being measured a long time ago

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