Today’s Populus and YouGov polls both have six point leads for Labour. Populus’s topline figures in their twice weekly poll are CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14% (tabs are here). The daily YouGov poll for the Sun this morning has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12% (tabs are here.)

As you’ll probably know, the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election was also last night, and was a comfortable Labour hold. This means today will be full of people saying what it *means* and trying to draw some wider conclusions based upon it. I’ll only repeat my normal warning about not reading too much into by-elections. They are extremely unusual beasts – an election in just one single seat that won’t be representative of the whole country, intensely fought but often with low turnout, and where who wins does not make any difference to who the government is the next day. Essentially, if a by-election performs in line with the national polls it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, if it performs in some way different to the polls it’s probably because of the unusual circumstances implicit in a by-election.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have a big impact on politics of course. If UKIP had done much better it would have given them a big publicity boost and probably set off a narrative about them threatening Labour seats… but they didn’t.


200 Responses to “Latest Populus and YouGov figures”

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  1. There is one other non-factor. If UKIP had failed to get second – and they might have done, because it’s not the walk-over South Shields was – you could have expected a lot of in-fighting within UKIP. Which wouldn’t have been a sensible reaction at all, but UKIP’s internal party discipline is pretty poor at the moment.

    But that didn’t happen, so this by-election was as boring as can be.

  2. @ Spearmint
    “Wythenshawe and Sale result looks adequate for Labour; . . .. I actually think it was quite good for the Lib Dems despite the collapse in vote share- they beat the Greens and came within inches of saving a deposit in a Manchester seat!”

    [I put in last thread but seems relevant to this one.]

    Um. . . Lib-Dems nearly doubled their vote in the constituency from 2001 to 22.0% in 2010 election & scored under 5% in this one.
    They hold 3 of the nearly 30 Greater Manchester seats, (having lost Oldham to Labour in 2011 by-election.)
    They have generally built up their vote here from 1990s onwards, came 2nd in a number of seats in 2010; & did not lose one deposit.
    Of the 3 Lib-Dem seats, one looks certain to go to Labour; in the other 2 [leafier] seats, Tories are second & Lab well behind, the result of long-term tactical voting.
    Since 2010, however, Lab have done v. well in council elections in these 2 constituencies & Lib-Dems v badly; but Lab have too far to go. A 2015 reversal of tactical voting, if it occurred, could allow the Tories to gain one of these two seats.
    The Tories have 2 seats.
    Altrincham looks safe, as you say. Bury North [Nuttall] could be lost. He has but a 5% majority & is a large Lib-Dem third-place vote for Lab to demolish & UKIP/BNP got 7% in this seat in 2010.

  3. The Populus poll has 2010 vote shares of Con 39%, Lab 27%, LD 26%, a 10% Lab-Con gap. (Their previous two gaps under the new methodology were 13% and 11%, the actual result was a 7% gap).

    In a poll where the 2010 gap has edged closer to the actual result, the gap in current VI has moved back into the normal range for other polling companies. No more than would be expected really.

  4. @Spearmint

    I don’t think the Lib Dems will gain much comfort from the W and ES result.
    After years of gradually increasing their share of seats on Manchester city council, the Lib Dems have lost every ward they have defended since 2010. Apres the elections in May, it is likely there will be no Lib Dem councillors left and Labour will hold all 80 + seats .

  5. Just checked – it’s 96 seats for Manchester city council.
    Currently 86 Labour, 9 Lib Dems and 1 Independent Labour.
    The Lib Dems must fear annihilation in May.

  6. As far as the Lib Dems are concerned, this by-election merely reinforces what they’re resigned to already: that Lib Dem seats with Labour as the main challenger are a dead loss. This was an inevitable consequence of being in government – you can be a liberal-leaning free market party, or a left-wing alternative to Labour, but you can’t be both, which it what the Lib Dems were doing in opposition.

    Luckily for them, there aren’t that many seats in that position. There’s a reason why the Lib Dems aren’t in panic mode.

  7. Howard needs cheering up this morning.

    So I’ll advance the notion that the Wythenshawe result was excellent news for the LDs.

    If it is typical of a collapse in their vote in Labour heartlands where they are out of contention, then (accepting AW’s comments that the national polls should be assumed to be right) the LDs must be doing slightly better than the national polls in other types of area including the smallish number where they are in contention.

    Whilst I think that there is a grain of truth in that argument, it can be pushed too far. The logical conclusion to that train of thought is that the LDs would have had even more cause for celebration if they had scored 0% in Wythenshawe.

  8. PS. On the other hand, I’ve placed a bet this morning on Lab to win in Bermondsey, on the basis that the Wythenshawe result confirms what we already know about reactions in working class areas to the LDs decision to put the Conservatives into government.

  9. Whilst I agree with Anthony’s caveats on the special and atypical nature of by-elections, and the dangers of reading too much into them, wasn’t Wythenshawe and Sale, in comparison to some famous by-elections of the past, pretty uneventful and routine? There didn’t appear to be a multiplicity of fringe candidates, all the mainstream candidates seemed pretty run-of-the-mill, no peculiar local issues seemed to appertain, no great national issues were brought to bear and, all in all, it was a thermometer in pretty calm political waters (no flood puns, please!).

    In that sense, wasn’t it what all typical by-elections tend to be; a referendum on the incumbent government?

  10. @Charles Neville-Smith

    So you’re saying the Lib Dems won’t be too bothered about no longer being seen as a left-wing alternative in Labour?

    But what happens if they are no longer seen as liberal -leaning free marketeers?

    They could be between a rock and a hard place.

  11. @Charles NS

    And I don’t think the Lib Dems in England’s third city share your sang-froid.

  12. Hi Valerie,

    I have to admit I was completely fooled by the LD’s in 2010. I had no idea they had been infiltrated in the way they had.

    That’s a confession, of course. I’m ashamed to admit to having been so casual. I hadn’t paid the LD’s much attention – until Brown started to totter – or read the Orange Book. But refresh my memory. There was no ‘we’re left leaning but we also have an Orange Book faction’ being laid on the line in 2010, was there?

  13. Sorry Phil 39-27 is 12 which is right that or 10?

    Either way with false recall ordinarily exaggerating the opposition at the expense of the Governing Party (ies) past vote weighting should require 5% or less Lab-Con gap with LDs below 20 perhaps to be accurate.

    Personally will ignore Populus VI but of course will look at the trend with the new method.

  14. Colin D – the LD macro position was of course closer to Darling’s than Osborne’s but between polling day and the Sunday Clegg decided that we would end up like Greece etc etc if the Government did not adopt Tory spending position.

    No doubt a post 2015 polling date LD leadership (whoever it is) would discover within a few days that the IFS contention that the pace of cuts can slow from 15 onwards had some merit if that was needed to form a Lab/LD coalition?

  15. Valerie

    “So you’re saying the Lib Dems won’t be too bothered about no longer being seen as a left-wing alternative in Labour?”

    Slightly more pragmatic version. The Lib Dems know perfectly well they forfeited their claim to be a left-wing alternative to Labour in 2010, and are adjusting their tactics accordingly. They may or may not be bothered about losing their appeal as a left-wing alternative party to Labour, but there’s no point in going into self-destruct mode over it.

    “But what happens if they are no longer seen as liberal -leaning free marketeers?”

    They’d have to form a coalition with an anti free-market party to do that. Highly unlikely such a scenario will be possible.

    Phil Haines:

    “On the other hand, I’ve placed a bet this morning on Lab to win in Bermondsey,”

    Nah, think the bookies have got that one right. Whilst it’s true that Lib Dem vote is collapsing in safe labour seats where the LDs were never in contention, the closest precedent for Simon Hughes’s seat is Oldham Easr and Saddleworth which was a proper Lab/Lib contest. The LD’s national poll ratings were about as dire then as they are now, but the LDs managed to roughly hold their share and Labour gained about 10%. If that is repeated in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, that wouldn’t be nearly enough to unseat Simon Hughes.

  16. @CNS

    I don’t think any of that will comfort John Leech as he prepares his doomed battle to hold neighbouring Withington next year.

    @Robbiealive

    Alty is changing with the Metrolink. A lot of commuters moving in. Graham Brady was pushed close in 1997. I very much doubt that he will lose the seat, but if the LD vote locally collapses and much of it goes to Labour, it may not be a cakewalk. However, I doubt Graham Brady is unaware of that and I’m sure he won’t give up vote share readily.

    As for Bury North – I am not sure that an MP of David Nuttall’s colourful views is really what a Tory north-western marginal seat needs to stay Tory

  17. “I don’t think any of that will comfort John Leech as he prepares his doomed battle to hold neighbouring Withington next year.”

    Yup, I think I’d agree with that one. Precedent from Oldham East and Saddleworth is that you need about a 10% lead to defend. Even taking into account that opposition parties tend to do better in by-elections, getting a swing of less than 4% against a Labour contender looks extremely tough.

    The only good news for the Lib Dems is that there aren’t a lot of seats this that position. Most of their labour targets they went for in 2005 and 2010 they never managed to take in the first place.

  18. Couper2802

    Farage is whining about the short campaign and how quickly postal – really? That is his excuse. Honestly probably the worst excuse I have heard – ‘they sent out the postal votes too soon’

    UKIP really do not have the momentum the media makes out they have.

    Chris Riley

    Talking to friends in the constituency, if UKIP did much canvassing [in W&SE], it wasn’t near them.

    To be fair to UKIP I think the increasing habit of very short campaigns for by-elections does have an effect – that’s why the incumbent Party does it. The Ashcroft poll – taken 8-10 days before polling day – showed that 6% said UKIP had “Knocked on [their] door”. But even Labour had only 19% and the other Parties scored even less than 6%.[1]. There simply isn’t time to get round to everyone. This will particularly disadvantage a Party with little existing infrastructure, such as UKIP.

    When it comes to the postal vote, the chance of someone being affected by campaigning is even less, because a lot of people return their postal vote as soon as they receive it. And in a low turnout election postal votes may dominate – Norbold found this in Clacton last week

    Another interesting issue was the number of postal votes cast. Postal votes issued amounted to 16.2% of the total vote, but 68 % of postal voters voted which meant that 47% of the votes actually cast were postal votes. There was a total turn out of 23.41% but only a 14.71% turn out of people voting in person. So 68% postal turn out; 14.71 personal turn out. I think I see where the future lies….

    It would be interesting to see how the percentages in W&SE (turnout 28%) were compared to St Johns Ward. Possibly not that different. It means a well-organised incumbent Party can win a seat practically as soon as the vacancy happens.

    Of course the tactic of a speedy election can all go horribly wrong if one of the opposition Parties does have a well-embedded and campaigning candidate and organisation on the ground. This is what seems to have happened in the Kingstanding Ward of Birmingham last night, when a Conservative who had fought the seat several time before, gradually increasing his vote, was up against an ‘incomer’. As often the Forums on the English Elections website (of which the winner appears to be an alumnus) are illuminating.

    [1] Oddly enough UKIP voters were more likely to have been contacted by anyone (43%) than in general (24%). This may be because UKIP voters are more easily contactable due to age etc or because they are classic swing voters who were prioritised.

  19. Incidentally, the law has already been changed to increase the minimum length of time for a by-election campaign, but the order hasn’t yet been laid to bring the new law into force.

    This may yet be the final by-election with such a swift timetable.

  20. Farage lost a few friends when he said Syrian refugees were welcome here. Some accusations he’d sold out after that.

  21. The low LD poll rating in Wythenshawe vs the somewhat better nation rating suggests that there are some pockets where they are doing considerably better. Under normal circumstances they’d be considered safe seats, but given the situation, after the onslaught coming in just over a year, they’re probably going to look something like marginals.

    Never mind, things come around and go around for all parties. Or if they get lucky (?) their 20-ish remaining seats might be in demand for another coalition next time.

  22. Chris Riley

    I don’t think any of that will comfort John Leech as he prepares his doomed battle to hold neighbouring Withington next year.

    The only thing you can say is that no one expected him to win it in the first place[1] or indeed hold it in 2010. But I don’t think even Mancunians are perverse enough to save him this time. And the only consolation from the Lib Dem’s almost saved deposit will be that it suggests that Mary di Mauro will lose her seat in May with 25% of the vote rather than 10% when Manchester becomes effectively a one-Party state.

    Of the Lib Dems NW constituencies, Burnley will probably go too, but the two Stockport constituencies (Cheadle and Hazel Grove) will probably be safer – they’re hanging on to council seats there while Manchester implodes nearby. What seems to happening is best exemplified by Southport – the Lib Dems are keeping their seats there[2] while losing them elsewhere in Sefton.

    The trouble with this ‘forting up’ strategy is that it can be difficult to re-stablish yourself outside your strongholds in better times. To some extent this is what happened to the Lib Dems in Scotland where being the chosen ABT Party in some areas made them look stronger than they were and lack of a wider base then meant they were vulnerable to changed circumstances.

    [1] I remember the studio ‘experts’ on election night 2005 spending a good half hour reassuring everyone that it was clearly some mix-up in the reporting and the Lib Dems couldn’t possibly have won the seat. It wasn’t quite Karl Rove on the Ohio result in 2012, but almost.

    [2] I only just realised that Ronnie Fearn is still on the Council.

  23. JimJam/Colin D

    “Colin D – the LD macro position was of course closer to Darling’s than Osborne’s but between polling day and the Sunday Clegg decided that we would end up like Greece etc etc if the Government did not adopt Tory spending position.”

    It might need me to delve into the bowels of YouTube for corroboration, but if I remember rightly that TV Chancellor’s Debate in the run up to the 2010 election, Cable very much sided with Darling’s side of the argument in terms of diagnosis and cure. In fact, I recall Darling smirking on the sidelines for quite a chunk of the debate as Cable delivered quite a devastating critique of Osborne’s economic policy.

    Oh, the irony of it all, looking back!

  24. ToH

    My point in answer to Colin D (which CB reinforces) as that it was not naïve of him to have missed the Orange takeover of the LDs as in macro-economic policy terms at least they were closer to Lab pre the results being in.

    I was not making any point about who was right.

    This is why broadly imo the Tories are not getting as much stick for the austerity programme (I know you think not far enough) as the LDs because they are doing what they more or less said they would in a macro-sense, albeit slowed down by events, as compared to what some people consider to be the perfidious LDs.

  25. In addition to Wythenshawe and Sale East, there were also council by-elections yesterday:

    By-Election Report
    February 13, 2014

    Hereford PC, Belmont

    LD 186 (40%)
    IOC 141 (30%)
    Ind 102 (21.7%)
    Con 40 (8.6%)

    LD Hold

    A weird contest, without enough parties to draw many conclusions. Presumably any Labour voters in Hereford went for the LDs (although I don’t know what the IOC and Independent believe) to keep out the Tories, who did rubbish.

    Birmingham City Council, Kingstanding ward

    Con 1571 (47%; +7.3%)
    Lab 1433 (42.8%; -6.9%)
    UKIP 266 (7.9%; +7.9%)
    LD 43 (1.3%; -0.7%)
    NF 33 (1.0%; +0.2%)
    [BNP 0.0, -5.3%]
    [Green 0.0; -2.6]

    Majority 138
    Con gain from Lab.

    Now THIS is an interesting one. The margin was tight enough here for it to be down to GOTV strategies, but it looks as though Labour might have lost some to UKIP. This probably isn’t representative of the nation as a whole, but an unusual result nonetheless.

    Oh, and the Lib Dems nearly lost to the National Front (not even the BNP!) so you kind of have to feel sorry for them. Oh, wait, they kept me up all night, no I don’t!

    Richmondshire DC, Reeth and Arkengarthdale Ward

    Independent 273 (76.7%; -11.3%)
    Con 83 (23.3; +11.3%)

    Majority 190
    Turnout 34.2%

    Independent Hold.

    It says Independent Hold, but of course presumably it was a different Independent before. Anyway, hard to say anything about this without any details, except that the 89% of the vote the Ind. got last time must be getting on for one of the biggest margins of victory since the NI by-elections in the 1980s. Decent turnout for a council by-election.

    Percentage change is since May 2011.

    Hedge End TC, Wildern Ward

    LD 254 (45.1%)
    Con 101 (17.9%)
    UKIP 99 (17.6%)
    Lab 55 (9.8%)
    Ind 54 (9.6%)

    Majority 153
    Turnout 21.3%

    LD Hold.

    Very much a LD/Con marginal this must have been, until UKIP tore the Conservative vote right down the middle. Labour are nowhere here, and having Googled Hedge End it’s quite easy to see why.

    February 10, 2014

    City of London Common Council – Castle Baynard Ward

    Independent 161 (80.1%)
    Independent 40 (19.9%)

    Majority 121
    Turnout 11.5%

    Independent Hold.

    These are always rubbish. Labour are the only party that bothers to stand (and never win anything ’cause it’s the City of London) and they haven’t here, so it’s essentially a pointless contest for our purposes.

  26. @Jim Jam

    Apologies, that should have been Con 37% not 39%, so it was the Lab and LD share both out by 2% under and over respectively. Whilst still understating Lab a bit, it’s the first Populus that hasn’t been too far out. Although that doesn’t consider false recall, as you say.

    To restate my original comment:

    The Populus poll has 2010 vote shares of Con 37%, Lab 27%, LD 26%, a 10% Lab-Con gap. (Their previous two gaps under the new methodology were 13% and 11%, the actual result was a 7% gap).
    In a poll where the 2010 gap has edged closer to the actual result, the gap in current VI has moved back into the normal range for other polling companies. No more than would be expected really.

  27. Thanks Jim Jam and Crossbat, both throwing interesting light on the 2010 LD situation, and making me feel a lot better!

    The story you tell, Crossbat, about the prospective Chancellors’ debate, is interesting. Recalling that, as I do, it reminds us what a blow the Coalition agreement must have been to Cable. I remember the intense ‘behind closed doors’ debates the LD’s were having at the time, and how the party’s elder statespersons (as it seemed to me) were arm-twisted by Clegg into following his line, but does anyone have any inside track knowledge? Did Cable put up a fight?

  28. And equally interestingly (changing the subject a bit) did Cameron – when he turned up net day and made his offer to the LD’s, for which he got a lot of ‘what a statesman’-like applause – know that Clegg was predisposed to hearing of such an offer?

  29. @Chris Neville-Smith
    “Whilst it’s true that Lib Dem vote is collapsing in safe labour seats where the LDs were never in contention, the closest precedent for Simon Hughes’s seat is Oldham Easr and Saddleworth which was a proper Lab/Lib contest.”

    I disagree. Politically, Oldham E is (or was at the by-election) a three way marginal with a big latent Con vote to squeeze tactically (to no avail, and I think the LD vote will collapse there as a consequence at the GE). Hughes in Bermondsey has already squeezed the Con vote considerably so he hasn’t go that cushion. Demographically the seats are hugely different eg. owner occupation in Oldham E 69%, Bermondsey 22%. AW’s description: “Demographically you would expect this seat to return a Labour MP: a poverty striken inner city seat, over 20% afro-carribean, over 40% of properties council owned.”

    That said, you’re assuming that I predicted Lab would win Bermondsey . I didn’t and in fact I think it’s a toss up. But with odds on offer of 9/4 that’s good enough.

  30. @MrNameless

    That Kingstanding by-election is indeed interesting and I wonder if the Labour Council might be getting some kick back for the swingeing budget cuts that they’re introducing, in part because of a drastic reduction in central funding. It would be ironic if the Conservatives were the beneficiaries because the previous council, a Con/Lib Dem coalition, left the current Labour administration with an almighty unpaid bill in compensation and legal costs arising from thousands of unresolved Equal Pay cases. The Council is even thinking about selling off crown jewels like the NEC and NIA to pay for some of it!

  31. Cable looked like he was chewing a wasp, indeed several, when issuing the “Greece Gambit”…

  32. I note that (unless I’ve missed one) we haven’t seen any Left Unity candidates running for anything yet. I’m curious whether they have any potential.

  33. Good afternoon all. Popped in but going to play truant and pop out again as Men’s Curling is now on TV. GB v Denmark. Though GB team actually seems to be mainly / or all Scots, and very good they are too, speshly young Drummond.

  34. Aussies absolutely pasting South Africa, for those still smarting from the Ashes…

  35. @Carfrew
    (from last thread, but hey, I’m not a serial offender).
    There was nothing quite like UKIP in the 70s but we did have a kaleidoscope of Leftist Partilets whose members were quite as weird and wonderful as Kippers can be – but generally a lot, lot hairier. They represented the same threat to Labour that UKIP does to the Tories too – they creamed off committed and useful party members and as entryists tried to pull the party away from the centre.

    I would have been one myself but I have always had trouble with abbreviations and could never remember which party was which – IS, IMG, SWP, CP, CPGB, CPGBML etc, etc.

  36. EU and Eurozone GDP stats now out and the UK figure is significantly higher.

    Whitehall should make a song and dance about “the UK economy outperforming the EU as a whole”.

    Are we also bettering the bloc in employment, unemployment and inactivity too, cuz…..

  37. @Mr Nameless
    “Reeth and Arkengarthdale”? Are you sure you weren’t looking at the results of a byelection in Narnia?

    (PS. Only joking, Yorkshire folk)

  38. @PI

    Whereas Hedge End is in the 100 acre wood. Obviously.
    LD’s promising free hunny for all.

  39. STEVE2

    @”Whitehall should make a song and dance about “the UK economy outperforming the EU as a whole”.”

    EZ unemployment rate around 12% I think-varies from Germany / Austria-around 5% , through France 11%, Italy 13% to Spain 26% & Greece nearly 30%.

    Best not talk about as it upsets Crossbat 11-though he is tied up in the ritual of reprising the “Perfidious Lib Dem / Greece Con trick / Osborne failed policy” thing again.

  40. I’d have thought that Labour getting returned with a bigger majority from a return half that of the general election was rather good news for them.

    Who came second or third or fourth is not terribly interesting compared to that

  41. Colin Davies
    I have it on good authority that Ed Balls virtually told the LD negotiators to f**k off , I suspect that Laws may have primed Cammo to make his pitch when and how he did.
    Mr N
    The Labour Party has collapsed in Hereford , IOC stands for It’s our County\City and are non Tory, non L D populists , so that’s where the poor old Labour votes will probably go.

  42. Turnout in Wythenshawe was 28% vs 51% at the 2010 GE.

    17k votes went missing :-

    Lab-4.7k
    Con -6.9k
    LD -7.9 k
    BNP -0.9k
    UKIP +2.9k
    others + 0.7k

    Does anyone know what the movement was between parties & to DNV ?

  43. Phil – Is Bermondsey still poverty stricken? Every time I pass expensive new flats are being built. They are everywhere – must be thousands since 2010.

    But I very much doubt many of the people moving there will vote LD.

  44. STEVE2 – Yes the UK’s 0.7% is above Germany at 0.4% and France at 0.3% and the same as Holland at 0.7%.

    However any obvious retort Labour could use is that the UK is borrowing £110 billion – 7% of GDP – to achieve that leevel of growth. France is borrowing £55 billion – 3% of GDP, and Germany has no deficit at all.

  45. I thought borrowing money to stimulate growth was a good thing?

  46. Depends on the levels of growth and where it is spent. The UK isn’t setting the world on fire relative to its borrowing over the past 5 years.

    The borrowing is also not really going into infrastructure which is a long term benefit.

  47. @ Chris Riley

    “Alty is changing with the Metrolink. A lot of commuters moving in. Graham Brady was pushed close in 1997. I very much doubt that he will lose the seat, but if the LD vote locally collapses and much of it goes to Labour . ,”

    Just a belated footnote on this one.

    Labour vote in Altrincham halved from 2001-2010 while Lib-D vote doubled. Not sure if new commuters who choose to live there are solid Labour.
    The only “evidence” we have is of council elections: Lib-D vote sagged here in 2011 but recovered somewhat in 2012. No sign of the sort of Lib-D collapse a la Manchester.

  48. @Ed,

    Out of interest where did you get your stats for deficit/GDP figures? All I can find is for 2013 as a whole, and the site I looked at gives it as 6.1% for the UK and 4.8% for France.

  49. @Colin

    Only the British Election Study get access to the anonymised voter data, they may or may not release figures.

  50. Good Evening All, from a very windy and wet Bournemouth beach.

    IMHO, as you say here, sometimes, Labour’s performance, with a swing of 11% from the Conservatives seems very solid indeed, and the Lib Dem performance seems a little disappointing.
    As to Bermondsey and Mr Hughes, who is now in Government as a Minister of State in the Justice Department, there may well be a ‘straight fight’ as He fought in the Spring of 1983- against the candidate that Mr Foot disowned in the House of Commons.

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