There are two GB polls in the Sunday papers. Opinium’s fortnightly poll in the Observer has topline figures of CON 28%(nc), LAB 35%(-2), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 19%(+3). Meanwhile the weekly YouGov poll in the Sunday Times has topline figures of CON 30%, LAB 38%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 15%.

Opinium normally produce higher levels of UKIP support than other companies, but even by their standards the UKIP score is the highest since July. For YouGov the UKIP score is the highest since June, and follows on from a 14% yesterday. As ever, once can never be completely sure about the reasons behind poll movements (nor certain they aren’t just blips) but it’s tempting to link these figures with the recent prominence of Eastern European immigration in the news. This is a useful reminder of how public opinion can be a lot more complicated than “popular policy => more support”. The YouGov poll finds that the policies David Cameron has suggested on EU immigration (putting residency requirements and time limiting benefits for EU migrants and, deporting EU migrants sleeping rough) are very popular – all received over 80% support. However the short-term impact in the polls does not appear to be more Conservative support, but to push the immigration issue up the agenda and, therefore, increase support for UKIP.

Then again, shutting up about it probably may not have been much better either – the media were shouting about Romanian and Bulgarian immigration anyway, and will likely do so even more as January approaches, and would also have spent their time demanding Cameron did something. It’s not really as if Cameron could had kept it off the agenda if he’d wanted to – not doing anything at all could have been even better for UKIP!

Following the publication of the white paper on Scottish Independence I’m expecting some new Scottish polls measuring if there has been any impact on referendum voting intention. In the event there only seems to be one in the Sunday papers – a Progressive Scottish Opinion poll in the Scottish Mail on Sunday. They have YES on 27%(nc), NO on 56%(-3), Don’t know on 17%(+3). Changes are from their previous poll in September. Progressive are not BPC members, so we have limited information on what they do, but suffice to say the poll does not show a massive change from prior to the white paper. I’m hoping there will be more Scottish polling in the next week or two on the back of the white paper, so we shall see if it paints a consistent picture.


524 Responses to “Sunday YouGov and Opinium polls”

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  1. Hi all,

    I’ve been trying to resist participating here (I’m still enjoying passively) but the voting systems discussion has drawn me in.

    I’m a supporter of AV for the the Commons, but it’s not true to say, as Statgeek does, that under AV “every constituency ends up with the majority of constituents more pleased than less pleased”. In reality AV prevents the election of a candidate that a majority would rate last. It allows the elction of a candidate that the majority would rate second last though! I suppose that we might be thankful for small mercies on that one, but I wouldn’t say that would amount to being “more please than less”; I’d be more please to have a compromise candidate elected than one I really don’t like much – but AV doesn’t elect a compromise candidate. Nor does it lead to a profusion of parties. There are just two in Malta, for example, and fewer in the Australian parliament than here.

    What AV does seem to do is counter the “spoiler effect”, what the SDP did to Labour, and UKIP threaten to do to the Tories. It produces, in that respect, similar results to FPTP, but cleaner. An MP can’t usually win a seat just becasue the opposition is divided. It usually gives a clear-cut result – either the left or the right wins, the most recent coalition in Oz was a once a century event. This produces alternation of power forced by elections. Now I’d rather never see another Tory government but I would prefer to leaving the decision about who governs to the electorate, not to the leaders of centre parties, a situtation which AMS or STV or a pure list system produces as a general rule.

    Elect the Lords by PR, by all means, and really force whichever party wins in the Commons to justify each bill to gain a majority in the Lords. I’d even be in favour, should you decide to stay with us Old Nat, of the 4 nations having weighted representation in the Lords – in proportion to the square root of the population is an accredited formula – to prevent English domination, though you’d have to accept that the Welsh and Irish would be over-represented with regard to the Scots as well!

  2. I’ll bow to Anthony’s judgement on these single seat polls, which isn’t always completely complimentary, but in many ways I see the effect of these polls as not being so much about the accuracy or otherwise of the numbers. Sometimes polls make the news, rather than just report it.

    While UKIP are trying to spin these as showing they are performing in Labour areas, their intentions are clear – why only poll Tory marginals or targets?

    Ben Brogan was writing in the Telegraph today of the mounting pessimism among Tory ministers about their chances in 2015, and this kind of story will only strengthen those sentiments.

    Even if the MoE is large, the samples skewed, or the questions biased, the fact is that this will galvanise UKIP volunteers and potential supporters, and demoralise Tories. This is really the last bit of polling news that Cameron wants right now.

  3. What AV does seem to do is counter the “spoiler effect”, what the SDP did to Labour, and UKIP threaten to do to the Tories. It produces, in that respect, similar results to FPTP, but cleaner.

    Why is voting for a party other than Labour or Conservative a “spoiler effect”?

    For me FPTP and AV seem designed to preserve the two party status quo.

    The issue is surely that to revive the interest of the public in parliamentary politics we need new, fresh parties to challenge the two principle incumbents.

    That needs genuine PR which means smaller parties win seats in proportion to their public support (above the usual thresholds, say 5%).

  4. Oops. Malta has STV. It’s obviously too late for me. I’m getting my lectures mixed up.

    I should add that I have little hope of seeing an AV election. I’d settle for the supplementary vote – after all that was how Boris was elected so what could go wrong!

  5. But in 2015 it looks like FPTP and no boundary changes.

    Which means..?*

    *see general election for 2005 with UKIP up and LD down

  6. @Catman

    That isn’t what is meant by a spoiler effect. The spolier party is the weaker party that prevents the strongest party winning. For example:There are plenty of constituencies where the LDs lost in 2010, becasue some voters always vote Labour on principle. Labour, in these constituencies, is a spoiler party. If they didn’t stand a candidate – even in error – the LDs would win, and perhaps might even win now, because the anti-Tory majority woulld not be split.

    You can work out the variations of this theme around the UK for yourself, It’d take all night.

  7. The issue is not simply about how they get elected, but what they do once elected. It matters little how they get elected, if once elected, they can trash their manifesto.

    Thus it’s quite important that whatever system we use, there are strong powers of redress if they start to take the mick. So yes, if events force them to deviate from what was promised, they can still do that, but they have to give a reason acceptable to the electorate, otherwise we could, for example, recall their MPs.

  8. @NickP

    I think 2015 will be a tight election, and the winner will have a small majority to work with.

    Whoever that is will have a tough job, and given a small majority/coalition it will be a rocky five years.

    I think we will mirror the seventies, with a fairly poor background economically and Governments changing frequently.

    Will a dominant party emerge? Will we find a new Maggie or Tony?

    Ask me another!

  9. @Postage

    In your example, the Lib Dems lost because they didn’t win enough support, not because some people voted Labour.

    If any party needs others to stand aside to win, they frankly don’t deserve to win in my view.

  10. STATGEEK

    I’m not sure what relevance the SNP or any individual party has to the discussion.

    If we’re talking about ensuring that the interests of the parties are dominant, then keep FPTP by all means.

    What you seem to be referring to is that only half the electorate (more or less, if you count the deceased and those registered in more than one constituency) actually voted in the FPTP section that you choose to highlight (which seems odd).

    Presumably that was a bad thing, since it didn’t give the SNP “a vote of confidence on their first day in the job”, is why you want compulsory voting.

    But without a mandatory requirement that they also vote for a party/candidate, exactly the same situation that you complain of could still easily occur.

    In your AV system, we would have had no Green, SSP, Pensioner or Independent MSPs (and virtually no Tories).

    That would seem rather unrepresentative of political opinion among those that voted.

  11. Looking at those 2 new constituency polls, I don’t think we can make the same criticisms we made of the first one.

    1. Weighting.

    The Dudley north poll is overweighted in 2010 Tory voters (43% of sample vs 39% actual Tory percentage)

    2. Turnout filter. As in the last poll it is only the 0/10 that is eliminated, but this time round the UKIP voters are far more likely to vote than they were in the last poll

    3. Methodology – no methodology change this time. Same as that used for the last one published.

    And the numbers speak for themselves. Other than criticism of sample size, I am not sure there is much to fault here.

    Seems like a sound poll to me, and it looks devastating for the conservatives?

  12. Keyboard broken so have to be brief – those marginal polls look bad for Cons, encouraging for the Kippers. Also, 2% for Lib Dems in Dudley North? Ouch.

    Oh, and I devised a 2015 election drinking game with my flatmates:

    – Drink for every Labour gain.
    – Drink for every LD lost deposit.
    – Finish your drink for every cabinet member losing their seat, UKIP gain or increased Conservative vote.

  13. @Catman – to continue after making cocoa

    I agree that AV does entrench “bipolar” politics – at least it has done so in Oz. I say “bipolar” rather than “Two Party” as the right is a long standing coalition, and the left could become one if the Greens advance. Unlike you, I see that as an advantage. It makes it easy to “kick the bougres out” as Churchill said of FPTP, but it makes it easy to kick them out even if the opposition is divided.

    PR parliaments the biggest party can stay in power for decades with less than 30% of the vote. In effect they’ve “cornered” the parliament, and it doesn’t matter to me that they govern in coalition with a variety of small parties, becasue in effect that’s putting the election of the government into the hands of the party leaders. That, to me, is just not right. However arbitrarily, or unproportionally, the electorate should be the ones making that decision.

    And I disagree with Carfrew here too. All this stuff about recall of MPs is highly dependent on how MPs are elected. If you have 5 MPs to a constituency – the LD position I beleive – what is to stop the party with 3 MPs from picking off the other 2 on trumped up or exaggerated charges. If you use a list system or AMS which electorate recalls the individual list MP, or additional member? No. If you want effective recall procedures you have to have a single member constituency, And under AV the winning MP will have probably canvassed for secondary votes from supporters of other parties – plenty of those voters will be watching to see if those promises are kept.

    As I said. though. I’d vote for PR in the Lords (though not the dog’s breakfast proposed by Clegg). I’d not even use a threshold – let the BNP and Respect have their moment. I’d return powers to the Lords too, so that the governement would have to seek out support from all shades of opinion for each element of its programme independently. No elected dictatorship, but no back-room coalition either.

  14. @Nameless

    To make your game really interesting you should have different drinks for each case. I don’t know whether you were old enough for the Portillo moment, but I opened my last bottle of De Venoge for that!

  15. Don’t suppose it’d be quite the same now but I’m reminded of this poster:

    http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-images/Politics/Pix/pictures/2001/03/12/poster-poll-large.gif

  16. alec

    I’ll bow to Anthony’s judgement on these single seat polls, which isn’t always completely complimentary, but in many ways I see the effect of these polls as not being so much about the accuracy or otherwise of the numbers. Sometimes polls make the news, rather than just report it.

    While UKIP are trying to spin these as showing they are performing in Labour areas, their intentions are clear – why only poll Tory marginals or targets?

    Of course all such polls are done with an intention to ‘make the weather’ as you describe, but it’s worth pointing out that the seat selection is mainly directed towards those where UKIP expect to have a chance of winning. Because there seems to be this natural ceiling to the UKIP vote, this means that almost by definition they will be Lab-Con marginals – in such seats the percentage of votes to win will be lower. Out of that category they will be choosing those with a good UKIP vote in 2010 and/or 2013 and maybe other factors (both these have BNP votes to squeeze).

    Anthony’s main worry about Thanet South was that by not using political weighting there was the risk that the sample was biased one way – towards Labour – which was exacerbated by the small sample size for the seat. In the case of the Dudley North the opposite happens – there are more 2010 Tory votes than Labour in a (narrowly) Labour seat, but a bigger problem is the lack of Lib Dems who they found 6-7 points down in both seats[1].

    Or at least it’s a problem if it’s because of a biased sample. However if it’s due to false recall, then it would be wrong to correct it. We don’t know which, though false recall has been a problem with transient Lib Dems in the past and might be even worse now with their loss of support.

    Incidentally this explains why there are as many (nett) Con to Lab as LD to Lab – there simply aren’t enough Lib Dems to move across. Though given the low number of direct switchers that YouGov have, finding any Con to Lab is interesting. It may be that telephone polls are picking up voters than online doesn’t.

    [1] Indeed they didn’t find a single 2010 Lib Dem in Dudley North who was voting for them now. I’m not sure even Chris Lane would believe that.

  17. @Oldnat

    Hence why I said AV and not STV. The latter normally allows back door minorities and MPs (or MSPs) that couldn’t actually command a majority when they put their policies to the people.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the SNP victory was a great opportunity for UK democracy to get a kick in the backside.

    If I can sum up my own personal opinion on the matter:

    – Compulsory voting will give winning parties a greater mandate to govern.

    – I believe in strong candidates, and I believe that FPTP breeds better candidates if the electoral turnout is high. We consistently hear from political commentators that Alex Salmond is a ‘great debater’. They should all be great if they are the best 650 in the country.

    – With this in mind, perhaps the biggest problem is the party system and their selection processes. Take my own area of Fife. I don’t want hoity toity accented Conservatives. I want down to earth ones that know about living in Fife. I don’t want my Labour candidate to be in the pocket of the Unions and hasn’t had any form of experience outside of working for the public sector (the two examples are generic stereotypes, rather than fact).

    Ideally, I want someone from Fife, who has worked in public and private sectors. Someone who can see both sides of a problem when trying to resolve local issues, and will act for the good of the community, and not the party, or the next election’s result. I have gone off topic, but you get the idea.

    In other words, I want a candidate who is worth voting for. If I thought that a candidate would not tow the party line, I would easily vote for him/her, even if I didn’t like the party they represented.

    In fact, sort the candidates and I’m sure the electorate will turnout.

    I might even support two-stage elections, where the second stage is a two horse face off. Some may argue that other electoral systems provide this already, but they vote based on 3, 4 or anything up to 12 candidates. A second stage clears the decks for voters to assess the two candidates.

    Call it additional vetting or whatever you like, but we have seen more and more elections, but less and less scrutiny of the candidates by their electorates. The selection systems are providing photogenic, watered down shadows of what we expect from our politicians. Will any party have someone over 60 as their leader after Menzies Campbell? He was the wrong man for the job, but for some it was his age that was the problem. Chris Huhne would have been better (heh heh!).

    Salmond will be 60 next year. He’ll be the exception to the rule I suppose. It seems to be a Westminster / media thing. The leaders have to be 40-50 now, have a middle-class accent, be married, and be all things to all people, just as long as they are Oxbridge (and seem to be pretty much good for sod all). I’d rather have Ashdown, Kinnock or Major. They were relatively awkward at being showy (i.e. they were normal). The current lot are scarily good at it. Careers politicians.

    Rant over…nighty night. :))

  18. RE: The Sun posting early polls – are they laying their Tory bet?

    If, for example, t’Sun were to announce tomorrow that they were backing Labour (or one of the others, for that matter), would anyone be truly surprised?

  19. The Sun will either go for NOTA or UKIP. Their hostility to the Conservative Party is returning to the days when it backed Blair.

    In other news, how long is it going to take the Conservative Party to realise that their current election strategy is failing? Since Messina joined Lynton the Labour lead has risen. Today is yet another 40% figure for Labour. I hope they are not getting paid by percentage points, if so, Lynton and Messina will owe the Conservative Party millions :-)

  20. @Postage

    “And I disagree with Carfrew here too. All this stuff about recall of MPs is highly dependent on how MPs are elected. If you have 5 MPs to a constituency – the LD position I beleive – what is to stop the party with 3 MPs from picking off the other 2 on trumped up or exaggerated charges. If you use a list system or AMS which electorate recalls the individual list MP, or additional member? No. If you want effective recall procedures you have to have a single member constituency, And under AV the winning MP will have probably canvassed for secondary votes from supporters of other parties – plenty of those voters will be watching to see if those promises are kept.”

    ———–

    Well, you have a point, although not sure about all your concerns. The trumped-up charges thing… Well, they do that in elections anyway. We would abolish the legal system if the possibility of trumped up charges were the dominant factor in deciding whether to keep it or not.

    And not convinced about “watching to see if promises are kept”, then waiting five years till the next election to do something about it. That is the situation we have now and clearly it is not much of a brake on broken promises. They know they have five years to try and change the landscape in their favour…

    As for the list thing, yeah, that’s a bit more tricky…

  21. On the voting discussion, I think there needs to be another than vote spoiling to protest at the choices. The voter can not be blamed for the options.

    So:
    “Labour Candidate XYZ
    Lib Dem Candidate YZX
    Conservative Candidate ZYX

    None of the Above”

    Where None of the Above Wins; the second largest candidate gets the role but it means they only keep it for ‘two years’ (e.g. mid-terms!). Obviously that would depend on the wider electoral system but I personally do think there should be a None of the Above option to actually say ‘this electoral choice does not have my support’. Voters should have a right to say that really.

    This means candidates have to build trust, which I think is very important.

    Under what system would it work is difficult:
    – FPTP; looks difficult, we get the issue of ‘if you vote None its kind of wasted’
    – AV; quite easy really, if your candidate is not in you can chose ‘None’; only majority MPs are elected for full terms.
    – PR; not a wasted vote as ‘None’ does not take a seat, so its still shared equally. Yet if None is highest = mid-terms.

    —————

    To give it under the Scottish System (which nicely takes a few of these into account):
    – The initial FPTP vote; if None of the Above > All Candidates, the highest candidate is elected until mid-terms
    – For list MSPs (PR side); if None of the Above > All Parties, None of the Above is ignored as seats are shared out; but it means they all have to stand again in that region.

    None of the Above is not a mid-term option; the winner stands until the actual election; and any ‘early elections’ resets the system. The system might not mean ‘loads of mid-terms’ but it would put pressure for both parties when theres a natural ‘other option’ for the irritated voter.

    Its funny; I just checked my facts about the Scottish system and its quite hilarious how much the Lib Dems willingly bought into such a complex system like the AV; no one really liked it on PR side or FPTP side; whilst the Scottish system just says you can elect local and regional MPs. Such a waste of everyones time that debate was.

    —————

    Elected Lords is just the next Mayor/Commissioner disaster; why do they need elected? Parliament can overrule them. Lords are an important legislature step, just give individual Lords more a reason to exist (e.g. almost a constitutional demanding the government have x amount of Lords from health care); and a cap on their numbers. This will force parties to work together to simply have an effective Lords Chamber.

    The ‘elected Lords’ stuff for me has always been background noise from idealists really; I’ve no idea how anyone thinks it would work. Can you imagine the disability benefit debates pushed by elected officials? Doesn’t bear thinking about.

    Just make sure Lords are a cross-section of society but also people who have reasons to be educated in those areas.
    Don’t know what elected Lords does except americanise things, and frankly whats the point in a second elected chamber if it can be overrules by Parliament?

  22. @redrag

    Am not sure I would say the Conservatives ‘have’ an electoral strategy for when in government. Honestly. Their even failing on their economic message, shamefully they seem to be unable to get any credit for anything good and Miliband is sitting running rings around them. Any strategy they do have is still to go after Miliband and Balls; and blame Blair and Brown for everything else.

    The rest is just ‘sit in the bunker and wait for victory’; the entire strategy is based on the economy, which tbf they do seem to be predicting is going to accelerate even more in the next two years. Yet I don’t really think people will get too excited for it all, more ‘its about time’. Outside of the ongoing recovery they seem to have zero strategy:

    – Europe, delay any decision
    – Education, Gove does his thing…(mans a time bomb for them come 2015)
    – Immigration…is pretending to have a strategy, an actual electoral strategy? I suppose it is.
    – Energy…kind of what Labour want but not quite (leaving them open to attack from right and left)
    – Infrastructure…kind of what Labour want but not quite (leaving them open to attack from right and left)
    – Health…yeah am not sure anyone knows this any more; ‘don’t mention health’ I guess.
    – Justice…this is another bomb come the election, with growth Labour will just push for spending here, Tories can’t because their going for tax cuts (likely)

    Really their just hoping for people to like the economy and want tax cuts. They’ve really not learnt much from 1997 imo, which was hardly a socialist revolution. They will try and paint Labour as tax raisers though; and that they will crash everything.

    Oh UKIP? They have absolutely no UKIP strategy worth mentioning. Cameron thinks hes Thatcher facing Labour in the 80s; I don’t think he really understands the underlying electoral conundrum he faces. I suspect he just thinks the polls are people ‘pressure grouping’ and come the election they’ll back the Tories to stop Labour. I don’t think he knows UKIP voters dislike him almost as much as Labour voters. I doubt others in the party are quite so blind however.

    I think he had more political strategy under the great political minds of Osborne and Steve Hilton than currently. There is not ‘in government’ strategy, but to be fair – a coalition must make that a struggle.

  23. This makes an interesting read

    h ttp://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2013/12/03/the-fast-disappearing-income-of-the-uks-self-employed/

    Showing the decline in income of the self employed 1999 to 2011

    Could this be one of the reasons why unemployment has not risen so much and wage rises are so low on average.

    Since Sept 2011 to Sept 2013 self-employment has risen from 4,078,000 to 4,197,000 and living standards have continued to fall so the decline in self employed income may still be continuing.

  24. If

    4.2 million self employed workers on average have declining income

    and

    5.7 million public sector workers have average -0.2 (minus) wage decrease (3 months average to September) ONS

    and

    2.47 million active unemployed ONS

    and

    2.3 million inactive unemployed ONS

    and

    2.1 million having to take part time or temporary jobs ONS

    I make that

    16.77 million working age people out of 40.28 million (or 42%), who are definitely going to be unhappy at their current economic position and would explain why the question how good or bad is the state of the UK economy is -40 (Good 13 Bad 53 Sunday yougov) and has been relentlessly negative for years.

  25. statty

    As a compromise how about a hoity toity voiced Tory who’s in the pockets of the Unions?

    Best of both worlds.

  26. “Elected Lords is just the next Mayor/Commissioner disaster; why do they need elected?”

    Simple – Democracy.
    The Lords is a throwback to a different political time – where we had a politically powerful aristocracy.
    We’ve effectively abolished the ‘genetic’ aristocracy (except for the head of the aristocracy) and we’re left with a system that is effectively the representation of the political establishment.

    This debate, like the ‘which electoral system should we choose’ effectively boils down to the issue of sovereignty –
    You have four models of ideological sovereignty and you should design your political institutions to reflect your preferred model.

    Inherited sovereignty – Effectively the monarchist model. Government gains legitimacy through aristocratic recognition.
    Democratic sovereignty – Government gains legitimacy by representing the average will of the people.
    Consensus sovereignty – Government gains legitimacy by representing a consensus agreement.
    Technocratic/’Chinese’ sovereignty – Government gains legitimacy by doing ‘what’s best for the country’.

    If you believe in technocratic sovereignty, you effectively just need the legislature (in the case, The Lords) to be appointed based on merit (‘people who have reasons to be educated in those areas’).

    But if you believe in the ‘will of the people’ then it needs to be a legislature that represents that (as messy as that can be) and the only system that messily represents the will of the nation is a legislature elected by pure PR.

    Mixed systems should only exist if you’re seeking to maintain a balance of power between two groups, for practical reasons.
    So you could argue that the legislature should represent the will of local people, which tends to be the argument for FPTP, but the only way for that to work would be multi-member constituencies (otherwise you only represent a minority will).

    So if your argument, for FPTP, is that you elect people who would do ‘what’s best for the nation’ (i.e ‘centrist’ technocrats, not those nasty ‘extremists’), then you might as well abolish an elected legislature and go with one appointed (independent from executive).

    Ultimately the problem is conservative inertia – people aren’t willing to change because these are the ‘tried and tested’ systems. But if you want good design (as opposed to the mess we have now), you have to go back to the drawing board and start afresh (in the way that founders of the US did with the federalist papers).

    TLDR; The Lords is broken. If a system is broken, you should scrap it and design things from scratch according to the criteria you want it to match.

    Examples –
    The EU effectively has legitimacy through consensus of it’s membership (In this case, member states). Each member nation approves by consent all new treaties.

    The US has a dual system – a lower house to represent the will of the national people (although this fails by design, since they cling to FPTP) and an upper house to represent the ‘will of the states’ through ‘equal representation’ (of two senators each).
    So it seeks to maintain a balance of power between the national will and state will.

  27. I am amazed at why anyone thinks PR is what the public want, the LDs AV referendum went nowhere, any referendum for PR will go the same way, and the only way to have PR is to force it on the people, which is not very democratic…

    PR means coalitions, and the public understand that much, another 16 months and we get the verdict on the present coalition… personally I don’t want it.

    As for compulsory voting for all eligible people I am for that, but with an abstention choice added to the ballot paper; so the people who really don’t want to vote can abstain.

  28. @Other Jim

    Personally I don’t mind coalitions, but what I can’t stand is the post-election deals within (formerly) smoke-filled rooms which give rise to them. Basically the people vote, and then the politicians subsequently decide the outcome of the elections between themselves. How many Lib Dem voters in 2010 thought that their vote would be used to create a coalition with Cameron as PM and Osborne as Chancellor, and all of the key spending ministries in Conservative hands? How many would have voted differently had they known?

    Such outcomes are anti-democratic, but while they can arise occasionally under FPTP, they are almost inevitable under “perfect” forms of PR. Hence I consider PR to be anti-democratic without modifications.

    So the PR method that I support is the Italian model, which judges the outcome of the election on the largest coalition formed BEFORE the election and gives that coalition a large chunk of top up seats. The top up process means that the main parties have to form coalitions if they are to stand a chance of forming the government. Parties outside of any coalition become largely irrelevant.(*)

    In a UK context, that would mean Clegg having to decide before we vote in 2015, whether the Lib Dems would be part of a coalition with Con or Lab, going into the election, with the terms of that coalition agreed in advance. Likewise, Cameron would have to decide whether to try for a deal with Farage – but deals with the extremes can be double-edged as a Con/UKIP coalition might put off centrist voters.

    (* Note: Other than in very exceptional circumstances, such as the almost equal three way split in the vote in the last Italian election in a two chamber system. Personally I’d also favour a limit in the number of top up seats – say to 50 – rather than awarding enough to guarantee the formation of a parliamentary majority in the Commons.)

  29. @statgeek ‘I want a candidate who is worth voting for’: I think that you are completely indicative of the way that voters (including myself) feel now. And it is interesting. Not so long ago, people voted for parties and very few switched allegiance. Many more, especially younger people, are now fluid in their choices. Parties are untrusted. So we are looking for candidates we can trust. Will this mean more marginal seats?

  30. @Statgeek

    “I voted against it too. Not because I inherently dislike it, but for the simple reason that the Lib Dems were trying to change the system to suit themselves.”

    And you don’t think the Tories and some elements of the Labour Party were retaining the old system to suit themselves? Naked party self interest will always infect the debate on issues like electoral reform, as it does already on party funding and constituency sizes/boundaries. I suspect you’re being a little partial in picking out the Lib Dems alone as being self-interested when supporting AV.

    However, I do tend to agree with you on compulsory voting, certainly while we are stuck with FPTP. Ever decreasing turnout is accentuating the existing gross iniquities of the FPTP system and, if nothing else, compulsory voting will give a more representative outcome in a General Election. As others have commented already, I wonder how long we can sustain a democracy worthy of the name when people are walking into Downing Street every four or five years with the support of barely one fifth of those eligible to vote.

    I’m a relatively recent convert to PR too, and whilst there are Heinz 57 varieties of it to mull over, it has to be right that party representation in an elected assembly is broadly representative of the support received in the election. I’m less concerned about the inevitability of a coalition government in such a system, to be honest. Surely it’s right that any one party should earn over 50% of the votes cast/seats won in order to form a single party government and, unless the electorate is prepared to give them that mandate, then they’ll just have to get on with forming coalitions. It’s sort of called democracy, I think.

    My problem with the current coalition isn’t that it’s a coalition per se, it is that the Lib Dems, rather than being awkward and argumentative partners, have more or less assimilated themselves within a majority Tory Government. That isn’t coalition government, that’s making up the numbers to ensure that the larger party can govern as it seeks fit.

    Watch the coalition government in Germany between arch rivals CSU/CDU and the SPD for what a proper coalition looks like and I’m sure the Germans will suffer grievously and cast their eyes enviously over the English channel at what we’ve got here – or not as the case may be!

  31. The idea of compulsory voting fills me with horror. If people aren’t interested in voting why make them?

    Telling someone to vote when they have no interest and no clue about what they are voting for would be a disaster and would dumb down politics even more than it already has been.

    I quite like the idea of X-Factor style counts though with a big drum roll and 30 second delay before telling the “Putting Newcastle first” candidate that they are out!

  32. How many Lib Dem voters in 2010 thought that their vote would be used to create a coalition with Cameron as PM and Osborne as Chancellor, and all of the key spending ministries in Conservative hands? How many would have voted differently had they known?

    -About 40% of them according to the polls since 2010

  33. If ‘none of the above’ wins then the ballot should be re-run with new candidates. On the other hand I think low turnouts are a symptom, not a cause. There are all sorts of issues besides the voting system, one of which I’d say was over-centralising of power.

    I’m not sure you can draw any conclusions from the AV referendum except that you can fool some of the people some of the time.

  34. @Catman
    “In your example, the Lib Dems lost because they didn’t win enough support, not because some people voted Labour..”

    No, the electorate lost because a candidate was elected whom most of the constituency would rate last.

    I believe that voters are more complex that football supporters; they don’t just cheer for their own side and jeer at the rest. Preferential voting systems draw some of that complexity into the equation. AV or the Supplementary Vote doesn’t do much to represent that complexity but at least it stops the least liked candidate from being elected.

    It also shows how the eventual winner got his votes. I, for one, wouldn’t mind expressing a preference for LD over Tory on an AV ballot paper. But I will not vote LD “tactically” again, because the LD party has chosen to ignore where it gets most of its tactical votes from – ie Labour supporters. The fact that any Labour supporter who voted for the LDs in 2010 was blind to the blazingly obvious trend of Clegg’s politics does not make the LDs dependence on Labour tactical votes any less real.

  35. A couple of remarks after reading through the above.

    1 Am I being thick (again) 70% of kippers not from the tories o/w 10% from lab and 20% from didn’t. Where did the other 40% come from?

    2 @ Chatterclass – will this lead to more marginal seats? No.
    People want a candidate they can trust but most of them can’t be arsed to work out if they can. It’s much easier to go with the flow of ‘they’re all corrupt/useless’ and either not vote or vote for whichever party you always voted for or a party that caught your eye on an issue (eg UKIP/foreigners)

  36. I got moderatd (quite rightly) for my last post, but I think my general point was valid, i.e. everything that the Tories say about austerity and how we cannot afford tax cuts for the middle class until we are in surplus will be weighed against that 5% tax cut for the highest earners.

    I think that was the one, single biggest mistake the Government has made. All other stuff (like the jumpers remark) is filtered through that and made to seem worse or nastier to the voter. In the end many voters continue to perceive the Tories as the Party of the rich and that tax cut “proves” it.

  37. @Carfrew

    My concerns about “recall” of MPs arise from a particular view of politics – that it should not be left to people who are interested in it!

    This looks surprising, in that those who clamour for the right to sack their MP always talk about MPs as a group of distant self-selecting and unrepresentative bunch. I agree that there is some truth in that. But, and it’s a very big “but”, I think that political activists are as bad, or worse, and they are entirely self-selected.

    And it is political activists, by and large, who would run the recall show. These are people, remember, who would rather spend their sparetime collecting evidence against their MP and drumming up support for recall, and attending meetings, and writing leaflets and standing on street corners and do all that rather than be with their families and friends enjoying and improving their lives. Frankly, and without apologies to those here who are activists, I don’t trust people like that enough to give them any more influence on the political process than they have now.

  38. Just to clarify. I don’t yearn for a politician I can trust. If there is such a thing, I haven’t seen it yet, and I won’t hold my breath. I said I wanted a politician who is worth voting for. By that, I mean someone who represents their constituents first. If they want to have secret affairs, order duck ponds and have ‘fact finding missions’ to the Bahamas, fine, as long as they are damned good at their job.

    The past 20 years of politicians have produced less and less quality, while the perks and scandals have continued (Berlusconi is the quintessential rogue, who had all the scandals and allowed his nation to fall into massive debt (or didn’t do enough to take it out of debt). People are human, and we will always have crooked politicians. If they can do the political job well despite this, fine with me.

  39. @PostageIncluded

    I admire political activist a lot much more than the whiners that complain about the system telling people not to vote. People are willing to give up their free time for a cause they believe in even better if they are wiling to stand for the party they believe in – I wish more people would then politics and this country would be better for it.

  40. @nickp

    That tax cut was a huge mistake it killed ‘we are all in this together’ and started ‘the party of the rich’ narrative which has really taken hold.

  41. @Tinged

    I liked your essay though I disagree with your conclusion favouring PR.

    PR can produce a proportional assembly, but that doesn’t mean that all parties get a fair crack at the whip. For example: the Italian Communists were the second largest party for decades, but were never part of a government, the Christian Democrats hardly won any more votes but were in power for decades. Look at Sweden for a reversed example. Over time a proportional assembly does not neccessarily produce proportional government, and a large part of the electorate can be relegated to supporting the opposition. To me that’s an unhealthy political system.

    If we had a Presidential system I would be more in favour of PR. The President would need to get concensus, but it needn’t be the same concensus every time, and no one party can “corner” government.

    But we have a parliamentary system and that’s not going to change any time soon. Meanwhile here is a room going spare in Westminster for a democratic and proportional Chamber.

  42. Guardian ticker:

    “PC Toby Rowland is suing former chief whip Andrew Mitchell for libel, for calling him a liar over Plebgate. More details soon …”

    Oh joy!

  43. An interesting coincidence…Government announcing £375bn of infrastructure projects which just happens to be exactly the amount of funny money the Bank of England produced using the magical QE programme.

  44. Couper – it sure as hell didn’t *start* it, it’s a very long standing problem for the Conservative party’s image (and indeed, probably one of the reasons they didn’t do better in 2010), certainly not something that has come along in the last few years.

    I think I’m in a minority in thinking that the 45p tax cut didn’t actually do much short-term harm to the Conservatives in the omnishambles budget, and that it was actually the “granny tax” and the pasty stuff that did the damage.

    The former hit at Tory core support, when people might earlier have thought that the Tories generally supported middle-class retirees, and this hit them. The latter just generally looked incompetent.

    In contrast, the 45p top tax cut just played to existing perceptions of the Tories. The vast majority thought they cared more about the rich than other people anyway, so I doubt it was much of a surprise, and doubt it actually changed many views. It just reinforced already existing views.. That’s not to say it’s doesn’t matter, or it wasn’t a bad political decision – I rather think it was damaging in the longer term, because it reinforced it and made it more difficult for them to change it.

    It certainly didn’t put them in a hole, as they were already in that particularly hole to start with, and everyone already knew they were in that hole. It just dug it a bit deeper, making it trickier for them to climb out of it at some point in the future.

  45. @AW

    I mean start of the ‘post 2010′ image problems.

    But you think about M. Thatcher the grocer’s daughter’ or Major the ‘working class boy from Brixton’ they are worlds away from Cameron and Osborne.

    I think that the aspiration working class identified with both M Thatcher and Major in ’92 and felt they ‘were on the side of people like us’ leading to the election victories.

    The Cons of today are so far away from having that appeal and I cannot see how they can miraculously change that marrative in the next 18 months – although you never know.

  46. @Couper

    Well yes, if you compare the average activist with Russell Brand then I’d definitely chose the activist over the big-mouthed whining poseur any day!

    But that doesn’t mean giving more power to activists, which most sketches of “recall” schemes seems to do. Your picture of the well meaning, dedicated, self-sacrificing amateur politico is all very well, but it is very, very partial.

  47. Robin.

    Tres amusant je pense.

  48. Enjoying the thread. A few random thoughts.

    Someone mentioned the Autumn Statement, due on Thursday, tomorrow. I would be a little surprised if this moved opinion much or at all.

    Richard said that the poll of marginal seats was terrible news for the Conservatives. I agree, if it is correct that these seats are typical or representative of marginals. They may well be, but I can see that the Dudley seat for example was already the scene of quite high support for right-wing parties and lower for LDs. On the other hand only two LD MPs for West midlands, none for East midlands, so may be right.

    As was also said, still theoretically possible for Cons to catch up, if they can move the polls just 0.5% per month, but the curve will get steeper as time passes without anything happening. Makes life interesting.

  49. @PostageInclude

    I agree with you about recall and the type of people likely to campaign for that recall. People vote in a GE for a MP for now the five year term that should not be overturned in a democracy.

  50. It is harder and harder to imagine a Lab/Lib coalition in 2015 and it feels like a deliberate strategy on Clegg’s part.

    I wonder if his aim is a formal, time-limited, let us finish the job, continuation of the status quo.

    Can’t see that working either though.

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