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. @Howard

    What the voters think matters, but this is influenced significantly by political strategy.

    Agree that one should not confine assessment of strategy to just one party, but many do it across the board. Eg numerous Labourites critical of Labour’s silence for a long time, allowing Tories to capture the economic debate, etc. etc. Same for Tories.

    Disagree that the best assessments of a party necessarily come from its supporters.

  2. We’re a long way from the run up to the OE&S byelection in January 2011 when Mark Pritchard was frantically calling for an unequivocal statement from the highest level of the party that there would be no Con/LD electoral pact in 2015.

    Cameron was known to be giving it serious consideration, his ally Nick Boles was openly advocating it, as were John Major, Peter Lilley, Glyn Davies… and yes, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is currently arguing the case for a pact with UKIP.


    As a historian, I quite often look at history – which is the study of unique events in the past.

    Those who speculate about what might have happened had those events been unique in a different way, can have fun doing so. That it adds little to human knowledge is of little import.

  4. turk

    “Maybe I’ll come back in the new year maybe not, there’s a chance my wife and I will move back to her parents ranch just outside Bayside overlooking Copano Bay in Texas next year, the climate will be beneficial to my wife who hasn’t been well of late, and I get the chance of some serious sea fishing. However until then good luck to everybody and have a happy xmas ..”


    All the very best to your wife and yourself and I hope the climate change is beneficial.


  5. The crucial mistake happened well before the election when they got rid of the libdems most successful leader, a drunk Charlie is ten times the political leader of a sober nick

  6. spearmint


  7. TURK

    I hope your good lady gets better soon.

    Good luck & best wishes.


    Thanks-very best wishes.

  9. The Scottish LD MP that I (and many from all parties had a lot of time for) was Charles Kennedy.

    I use the past tense advisedly, since he seems to have largely disappeared from public view. He was advertised to be playing a key role in the No campaign, but hasn’t.

    He would have been the obvious person to be Scottish SoS in the run up to the referendum as the UK Minister with a locus to debate Salmond – whether or not he had any time for the Coalition Government or not.

    I suspect that, sadly, his illness has resurrected itself.

  10. Carfrew

    Did you ever have one of those dolls with round bottoms with a weight in it which meant they just kept popping up again …. and again… ??

  11. “I opined earlier that whether teachers will need QTS (was it?) or otherwise will have very little effect on VI now or indeed voting, in 2015.”

    On its own, maybe not. But if it’s incorporated into a narrative…

    Eg, pasty tax on its own is one thing. As part of an omnishambles budget…

    Also, about 1% of the population work in education and many more go to school or are parents of those going to school.

    Also, small VI gains can have a cumulative effect, as suggested by ukip’s rise. And in a tight election, small changes can be important.

  12. spearmint

    Not so nice.


    It’s OK. We humans understand the obsession you have with bottoms.

    Don’t be embarrassed by indulging your natural behaviours here – even though it may not be entirely appropriate for a polling site.

  14. @ Pups,

    It comes in “Gordon Brown” if you’d prefer that flavour:


  15. @Paul

    No, but I’ve come across a few narcissists who get a bit angsty when it isn’t all about them…


    I think that is precisely the point. It’s the creation of a narrative that matters.

    While individual events have little effect on their own, the cumulative effect can become so dominant that, even if a single event could be interpreted differently, it isn’t. It simply is taken to contribute to the narrative that has been created.

  17. While all this was going on I was watching ‘Autumn Watch Unsprung’ where the badgers were rubbing their bottoms together,

    I suppose a Clegg / Cameron image could not escape my thoughts.

    Yes, just allow this sort of comment from partisans, AW.

  18. @oldnat

    Yes, it’s something I saw people mention when I first came here, and initially I thought it a bit woolly, but on reflection you can see occasions when there is something in it. Part if it is attempts to brand, eg Labour saying “strong against the weak”, Tories saying Miliband is weak. But sometimes it just all lines up handily eg the budget…

  19. @Carfrew

    Yes, people recognise that it was a “stunt” in that it was put to the floor in full knowledge that it wouldn’t get the votes to pass it.

    But that’s the point. It is entirely valid to point out that the Lib Dems could have voted for something they claim to support, that they were not required to vote against by the coalition agreement, and that would only really have been a mild embarrassment to a single minister. It wasn’t even a revoke of a “flagship policy” but a relatively small modifier to it.

    Yes people will realise it was setting the Lib Dems up to show how they have failed. But people will also take note of how far the Lib Dems have fallen to be easily cowed into being “The Junior Partners” on such issues.

    The moment the Lib Dems accepted a subservient “Junior Partner” position, they were doomed. It has been the dramatic systemic error that has been the root cause all the party’s woes, excepting those caused by expenses and licence points.

  20. JayBlanc
    Don’t forget the Telegraph’s pretty faces in Cable’s office.

  21. spearmint

    Very tempting – have you got an Ed Miliband in “weak” please?

  22. Turk
    Sorry to see you hang up your boots as well. Now it really is a lefty show. Someone said earlier that I should step up to the plate. The problem is I just have too much to do , to be able to sit at a computer all day long and I’m supposed to be retired as well! So my contributions will remain occasional.

    I looked back at the previous thread on the schools discussion and I agree it was silly with one person in particular just being deliberately obtuse and irritating. Further to that school debate, I see that Tristran says he will have no issue in sending his children private. Same old, same old – do as I say not as I do.
    Wishing you all the best on you move to Texas and I hope you wife recovers ok. Mine has been knocked for six this past two weeks with an ecoli infection in her kidneys but is now recovering. France is slowly going down the pan with Hollande at the helm but fortunately the health system is still second to none. And they manage to charge people who are not entitled without a problem!

  23. I attended a wedding soon after the 2010 election and met up with a school friend who was a senior back room strategist with the LDs during the coalition negotiations. He had become very anti~Labour,and could only see good things happening as a result of the coalition,what a difference a few years makes huh?
    I told you that CiF was a place of Madness and Fear a few weeks ago !

  24. @Turk I am very sorry to hear you are taking a break and of your wife’s illness. I’ll miss your posts but hope the changes you are planning do both of you much good.

  25. @turk,

    Sorry to see you going. Not good for the balance of the forum!

  26. @ Howard

    I can’t talk for voters, but I can speak for one voter: me.

    Before you put me down as another anti-LD, I voted Liberal in 74 (twice), and LD in 92, 97, 01, 05, and 10. I also voted Lab in 79 and 83, and Green in 87. So: a non-tribal, anti-tory, floating voter.

    I’m sorry to have to tell you that there is no way I’m going back to LD for the forseeable future. It’s Green if they put up a candidate in this safe tory seat, or Lab otherwise.

  27. I address this to no-one in particular, and maybe it’s just me, but aren’t some of us taking all this just a bit too seriously? There have been some very peevish and, dare I say it, self-important posts of late that betray either a very thin-skin or a tendency to take oneself a little too seriously.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m seriously interested in politics but, come on now, there are far more important things in life for those of us who’d like to think we had a healthy hinterland of other interests.

    If we’re not careful, this entertaining and thoughtful website is going to turn into some self-pitying version of the X Factor where everybody is “embarking on a journey of self-discovery”.

  28. @OLDNAT
    As a historian, I quite often look at history – which is the study of unique events in the past.
    Those who speculate about what might have happened had those events been unique in a different way, can have fun doing so. That it adds little to human knowledge is of little import.


    Well, many things that happen are not all that unique. And those that are, one can still learn lessons that one may generalise to other situations.

    I doubt they will be resurrecting a pasty tax any time soon (Though wouldn’t put it past the Libdems, to be fair…)

  29. CROSSBAT11

    I’ve heard of the X Factor, but have never seen it because I presumed it was something to with voting, and hence a TV version of UKPR.

  30. Tell you what I am taking seriously Mr CrossBatty and that is the disappointing start to the new Montalbano.

    Why oh why [always wanted to write that] do they have to take some nice comic touches from the first two series and run with them all the time now?

    More seriously my duo partner has just had a serious operation and that puts many things into perspective.


    “Well, many things that happen are not all that unique”

    True. That’s why historians don’t study them.

  32. @Howard

    Like MOG (11.17), until a couple of years ago I was certainly not anti-LD having voted SDP/LD since the formation of the SDP, delivered leaflets for the LDs for about 10 years and was a member for about 6 years until 2012.

    I however agree with several posters on here tonight who have outlined the problems that the LDs face, all of which in my opinion are of their own making. Yes they may have been put in difficult positions by their so called colleagues in coalition, but if they wish to remain a major party they have to be able to stand up for what they believe in.

    The majority of the party and LD voters are (or certainly were in 2010 ) left of centre. Unfortunately the leadership (Clegg, Laws, Alexander) were right of centre and in agreeing to all Tory demands have totally decimated the party. Reading your past comments over a period of time, it is obvious that you are of the Clegg persuasion but you must appreciate that in 2010 you were in a minority amongst party members and voters.

  33. carfrew

    I am reminded of Monty Python’s “I haven’t come here for an argument” / “Yes you have” sketch.

  34. @oldnat

    Got any evidence that historians never look to identify common events, features and themes in history?


    “I am reminded of Monty Python’s “I haven’t come here for an argument” / “Yes you have” sketch.”


    It’s an ex-argument actually. He just doesn’t realise it yet.

  36. Peter

    I don’t think Howard is of the Clegg persuasion, I think he’s of the grin and bear it persuasion in the absence of a viable alternative

  37. “They had been used dramatically at yet another bad-tempered session on energy prices. I would go through the arguments on either side, but it would be simpler to use tranquilliser darts to put us all to sleep.”

    Funny from Simon Hoggart I thought.


    Your wish to learn more about pedagogies and historiography is admirable.

    However, a political polling site seems the wrong place to pursue these interests.

  39. To more serious matters. The world is about to run out of wine!


  40. Peak wine?!

  41. Back to education.. there is a world of difference between teaching in a private school, probably selective and with small classes, than teaching 25-30 in a class comprehensive. If free schools are not just about selection via the back door, teachers really could do with some teacher training. As such, I don’t have a problem with Tristam’s position. He may have been taught, and even taught, without teaching qualifications but the environment in which you teach is also important.

  42. Do we need political balance if we’re discussing polling in a non-partisan fashion?



    Con 34%
    Lab 39%
    Lib 10%
    UKIP 11%

  43. “The world is about to run out of wine!”

    It’s a cunning plan by the French to prop up their economy. You heard it here first!


    While it’s up to people in England to decide such issues, I’m surprised by the concept that publicly funded schools should not be required to employ teachers who have been trained to a set of minimal standards like these.


    Obviously, schools which are funded by the parents are equivalent to home schooling arrangements. Appropriate inspection to protect children from incompetence in the schooling arrangements should be sufficient there.


    The problem will be solved once Whitehall gets off its arse and approves the calibration of breathalysers here to measure the new 50 mg alcohol limit. Wine sales will then plummet (assuming that Buckie is classified as a wine).

    In a classically British way, it turns out that, while Scotland can legislate for the drink driving limit to match European standards, that limit can’t be enforced because the control of calibration is reserved to Westminster, and they haven’t bothered to do anything.

    So, in the meantime, I’ll have another glass!

  46. @oldnat I completely agree with you. Tristram Hunt was being criticised for his position that teachers must be qualified because he was privately educated and probably taught by teachers without such qualifications. I just don’t have a problem with his position.

  47. @statgeek. Prediction looks about right. Polls been pretty steady except for the few outliers. Very interesting territory with hardly any Tory to Labour switchers. I think those swing voters went to UKIP – ‘plague on both their houses’ ….

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

    Which in turn relates to the myth of perfect information: what we aim for in any proposition based on supporting information, I guess Lefty tells his students, is a better database and a better hypothesis. Hence the tendency for policy-based evidence to be used in policy propositions, and for producer-oriented evidence to be used in business proppostions. And hence a need for consumer protection ti be present in information justifying price in the utilities.

  49. Chatterclass

    “@statgeek. Prediction looks about right. Polls been pretty steady except for the few outliers. Very interesting territory with hardly any Tory to Labour switchers. I think those swing voters went to UKIP.”

    I am pretty sure that a correlation could be proven between Tory to UKIP swing voters and golf club membership.

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