Final lap

A year to go until the general election, meaning there are awful lot of “year to go till the election” posts out there (though two new things certainly worth looking at are the new British Election Study site here and the Polling Observatory’s new election prediction here. The election prediction by Rob Ford, Will Jennings, Mark Pickup and Christopher Wlezien takes a similar approach to Stephen Fisher’s, which I’ve discussed here before, in averaging current polls and then assuming that they move in the same way over the next 12 months as they have done in the final year of previous Parliaments. Unlike Steve’s projection, which has a Tory lead, Ford et al predict a miniscule (0.4%) Labour lead. The difference between the two projections are small, and technical – Ford et al assume a regression towards the long term average, I think Steve assumes a regression towards the previous election result, the inputs are slightly different (the Polling Observatory ones corrects for errors at the last election, my average which Steve uses doesn’t – largest effect of that will be that Steve predicts a higher Lib Dem score) and there are different smoothing effects in there. Expect more predictions along these lines to pop out of the woodwork in the year ahead.

Anyway, I’ve previously written about what I think are the big five concepts that will decide the election – how the improving economy impacts on voting intentions (especially if or as wages start to rise above inflation)? Whether Ed Miliband’s mediocre opinion poll ratings will increase in salience closer to the election, given they aren’t currently prevening a Labour lead? If and how quickly UKIP support subsides following the European elections? To what degree, if at all, Lib Dem incumbents can resist the tide against them? And, of course, what happens in the Scottish independence referendum? So for today, I’m instead looking at the timetable for the year ahead. These are essentially the “known unknowns” – the things that will happen before the next election but which we don’t yet know the impact of, as opposed to all those unpredictable events that will also happen.

25 MAY 2014. European election results. The last set of mid-term elections and the beginning of the final lap. Barring any big suprises UKIP will come top or almost top, the media will go into another Farage frenzy for a couple of weeks and UKIP will enjoy a big spike in the Westminster opinion polls. Do not be surprised to see them at 20% or more in some polls. The question then becomes one of how much of that support is retained over the next eleven months. Also watch how the other parties react, will the Conservative backbenches panic, will the leadership be tempted to ape UKIP? I expected them to go all ferrets-in-a-sack after UKIP did well in the local elections last year, but they held it together surprisingly well. If the Lib Dems do incredibly badly keep an eye on them too – they have been incredibly disciplined as they march towards the guns so far.

5 JUNE 2014. Newark – coming shortly after the European elections we have the Newark by-election. The Conservatives have a fairly chunky majority, it’s not ideal territory for UKIP and they’ve picked a candidate who plays to UKIP stereotypes rather than challenging them like Diane James did in Eastleigh, but the timing means UKIP will likely still be enjoying a big boost.

JUNE 2014. The Queens Speech and the Private Members Ballot – the final session of a Parliament won’t have many exciting bills left, watch who wins the private members ballot though. If a compliant enough Conservative comes top of the ballot then they’ll re-introduce the EU Referendum Bill that got lost in the Lords last time, and if it passes the Commons unamended again the Parliament Act would come into play. Labour and the Liberal Democrats may have to act to kill it in the Commons this time round. The Conservatives will hope a second try at the referendum bill will help win back UKIP supporters, a less charitable interpretation would be that it will offer the Conservatives an exciting opportunity to bang on about a subject normal voters don’t much care about every Friday for six months.

JULY 2014? Summer reshuffle – David Cameron has at least one big reshuffle before the general election (two if the coalition is brought to a formal end at some point), which will be his opportunity to put in place the team he wants for the general election. Cameron’s nature so far has been to avoid lots of changes and it’s rare for a reshuffle to be drastic enough to entrude upon public opinion, but it will determine who some of the big players are.

18 SEPT 2014 Scottish referendum – this is by far the biggest known unknown still facing us. If there is a NO vote (and while the trend has been towards YES, all the polls in the campaign have shown NO ahead) then it will at least have a substantial political impact in Scotland. In the event there is a YES vote absolutely everything would change. There would be a question mark over whether David Cameron should resign, certainly the political agenda would instantly be dominated by questions about the Scottish independence negotiations and the 2015 election would be fought in the knowledge that 40 odd Labour MPs would be elected for a period of only a year.

21 SEPT 2014 – Conference season. This is one of the few fixed, big events of the year that has the potential to impact on public opinion. The dates are a bit mixed up this year – normally the order goes Lib Dems, Labour, Conservatives. Because of the normal dates would have clashed with the Scottish refernedum the Liberal Democrats have moved their conference to last, so it will go Lab, Con, LD. All three will be a showcase for the general election, people will be paying more attention as the election approaches and expect an up-and-down in the polls as each party gets its chance in the spotlight.

OCTOBER 2014? New EU Commissioner – not something that will be noticed by the general public, but does have the opportunity to precipitate a by-election if a sitting MP is sent off to Europe as the new British EU Commissioner. It might even precipitate….

DATE TBC. Boris makes his mind up – we don’t know when it will happen, but at some point or other Boris Johnson will either stand for Parliament, or rule out the possibility of standing at the next election (even if that’s at close of nominations… though I expect the Conservative party will want to shut it down one way or the other long before that). Given it’s Boris it will attract public attention, how the Conservative party manage any return to Parliament will determine if they can use Boris in a role that helps them or if it’s seem only as a first shot in a leadership campaign.

DEC 2014. Autumn statement – presumably any big changes will be in the budget, but if the economic news is positive by the Autumn it’s a chance for George Osborne to highlight it.

DATE TBC. The end of the coalition – at some point the coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives has to end or, at least, it needs to be become clear how it will end. The three obvious possiblities are a disordered breakdown over some issue, resulting in a minority Tory government, disengaging to supply and demand for the final few months, or remaining in coalition right to polling day. I suspect the first one won’t happen now, that leaves us an ordered break up with the Lib Dem ministers resigning but continuing to support the government in matters of confidence, or remaining in office right till the end. Even in the latter case, in order to effectively fight an election at some point the Lib Dems will need to appoint spokespeople in areas where they don’t have cabinet ministers and announce policies different to those of the coalition government. How will that impact on Lib Dem support?

JAN 2015. The long campaign begins – it many ways its begun already, or will begin after the Euros or after conference season. It’s a matter of perception, but Christmas is the last real break before the election and at their return in the New Year we will likely see a slew of announcements and policies, the start of the real campaign, and in my view the time when the polls start to come into focus and start to resemble the final result. Don’t get me wrong – there will still be time for things to change, there will still be a budget, manifestos, announcements and possibly debates, but the clock is ticking.

MAR 2015?. The Budget. Budgets are often seen as an opportunity for governments to win support by handing out election bribes. As I write here every year, in recent budgets that really doesn’t seem to have been the result – it’s more common for bad budgets to damage support than good ones to win support. Still, it will be an opportunity for Osborne to give away something to try and win votes, or at least try and portray himself as a reliable safe pair of hands that the country will want to re-elect.

30 MAR 2015. Parliament dissolved.

APR 2015?. The Leaders debates. How much impact they had last time is still debated (did they genuinely increase Lib Dem support, or was it all froth? Did the opportunity cost of the debates dominating the campaign prevent other changes in public support?), but they certainly have the potential to make a difference. We obviously don’t know what the format will be, when they will happen, who they will involve or even if they’ll happen (the genie can go back in the bottle – after the famous JFK v Nixon debate in 1960 there wasn’t another one till 1976) – much of the briefing now by Labour and the Conservatives is probably largely grandstanding and negotiating stances, partly aimed at showing willing so they can paint it as the “other side’s fault” if they don’t go ahead. I wouldn’t expect any debates to have as big an impact as in 2010 because they aren’t “new” anymore – the exception would be if somehow they other parties did agree to Nigel Farage taking part. For a smaller party what happens at the debate is not as important as the credibility brought by being part of the debate to begin with.

7 MAY 2015 – Election Day


344 Responses to “Final lap”

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  1. @Howard

    I would never use them (and haven’t in about 5 elections I have stood in to date).

    People have a strong sense of what is guff, so I normally provide a brief list of the key pledges I am making.

    Whole leaflet read in 30 seconds.

    You still see the classic “X party can’t win here”, and an angry person pointing at a plot hole from time to time, but their value is just for comedy (for me).

  2. Paul,
    I hope the op goes well and you have some welcome relief from the pain which must be very debilitating.All the best.

  3. Erm correction

    pot hole not plot hole.

  4. I much prefer the idea of a plot hole. Somewhere where one loses the plot.

  5. I’ve seen stats that around a quarter of the population have issues with percentages etc.

    From an educational perspective you are supposed to test prior knowledge – can they handle graphs etc. – and also attitudes as to whether they will accept such an endeavour in that context.

    An alternative is to sharpen up on delivering the key point without the graph. Which you will need anyway if they are not keen on graphs.

    It’s tricky, but you can get real quick at it with practice. (The real gold is to be able to quickly teach people to be able to handle percentages and graphs, but even I would baulk at trying that on the doorstep…)

  6. Question for Anthony.

    I posted about some ‘Lib Dem charts’, and it got retroactively moderated. Reason I ask is, that I thought the misrepresentation of electoral data would be of interest to others on this site.

    Anyway, CMJ reposted it.

  7. Paul
    Hope knee op goes well and you’re not away too long.
    Site isn’t the same without you and the pups.

  8. 34/35/8/13

  9. “I’ve seen stats that around a quarter of the population have issues with percentages etc.”

    So 65% don’t? I envy them.

    [Sorry]

  10. No, just stick to ‘how are you going to vote’. After all, the only object is the information for the knock up exercise.

    The notion that one is going to convert the voter to one’s point of view is, at best, naive.

  11. Carfew – is that 20% then?

  12. The LIBLABCON still seem suppressed.

    While the most obvious figure is the Labour drop, I’ve noticed another hit to the Lib Dems. They’ve not been on 10% regularly for some time.

  13. YouGov/Sun poll tonight – Labour lead falls to just one point: CON 34%, LAB 35%, LD 8%, UKIP 13%

    I think the upcoming local and EU elections are causing some fluctuations.

  14. 10/80/5/5/

  15. 4 days ago MrNameless, but I get your point. If they keep getting more 8/9s, then that will be a trend.

  16. @CATMANJEFF

    “People have a strong sense of what is guff, so I normally provide a brief list of the key pledges I am making.”

    ———–

    You can see why LibDemmers wouldn’t want to promote pledges though…

  17. We need a ‘few in a row’ but it would seem this poll has an awful lot of ‘others’ or DKs.

  18. Sorry, forget the DK point, silly.

  19. Is there a Populus poll due tonight?

  20. Re: percentage jokes… thanks guys, made me smile…

  21. UKPR swingometer STILL gives Labour a majority on those figures.

    On the other hand, Labour are now in the zone where Scotland becomes very important to their chances of a majority after 2016, and where they can’t afford to lose much more ground. I was initially sceptical of UKIP’s chances when they talked about “going after Labour”, but not anymore.

  22. Valerie
    I’m struggling, what have you posted?

  23. Yeah fully 10% “others”. Presumably this is Greens and SNP inflating for the Euro-elections?

  24. Perhaps another populist coup by Nick Clegg disagreeing with banging up knife carriers?

  25. Thanks Ann and Valerie: we need more wimmin posting.by the way – Chordata has fallen overboard and LizH is rarely heard from.

    Not so bothered about Polly Ticks who reminded me of ole Roley [but not as nice.]

  26. From the BBC

    “Lineker backs Stones for England”

    I think he’d be rubbish backing the Stones – but if it means he thinks the lads should be in the squad for Brazil I’m not convinced that’s such a great idea either.

  27. Labour’s lead is still there, but still seems to be falling, call it 2% at this point.

    Question is, is it falling because voters have “got real” with their voting intentions, with an actual rather than a notional election in view, or was the Labour lead due to fall anyway due to economic issues easing?

    If it is the first, then I wonder if UKIP’s prominence in the polls will be repeated, or is it as usual, Euro elections being very different from GE’s coming 12 months later? I think the immigration and EU buttons will still be pressed by UKIP in the GE and thus a somewhat similar level of support might well be seen, again considering that it is a real election in view, not a notional one.

    Against that there’s the inevitable “vote UKIP, get Labour” message that will no doubt become more common as things progress. I do wonder if all voters realise that a GE and Euro election have different systems and considerably different results for the same vote shares. Or else perhaps they are so fed up they will vote UKIP no matter what the leaflets say.

    I think the knife thing (by Miliband leaning toward the Conservative position) is designed to squeeze the LD’s just a little more.

  28. Keith

    Yes the ‘vote UKIP get Miliband’ will be repeated relentlessly and it is important that people fully understand the electoral systems.

    Whatever happens to UKIP after the Euros the last thing Cameron needs is Farage rocking up in the debates next Spring and muddying the waters of what is a simple choice of who you want to be PM.

  29. The puzzling thing for me is if Labour’s position has dropped (and it undoubtedly has) why are neither the Liberal Democrats or the Tories gaining? UKIP haven’t got high enough in polls to account for it either.

    If I were at One Brewer’s Green, I’d be telling John Cruddas to hurry up with his policy review and keep up a constant stream of positivity.

  30. Bill Patrick

    No doubt why Miliband is committing to yet another Scotland Act, to implement the limited extension of Holyrood powers that the Lab MPs were prepared to allow the party to offer.

  31. About the Caroline Dinenage situation, I think impact on the polls would be minimal. These days voters have seen a lot of this sort of thing from members of all parties, with “they’re all at it” style reactions. The shock factor is not there anymore.

  32. @MrNameless

    It’s possible that Labour revealing some policies e.g. on housing/rent has been shoring up the vote a bit…

    (‘Course, it coulda made things a bit worse… though polling suggests action in this area might be welcomed…)

  33. But remember that by this stage in the cycle, Cameron had already had access to Civil Servants and data to do costings… Cameron’s only allowing that for Miliband with six months to go… it’s more dangerous to reveal policies before then…

  34. (by this stage in the cycle for the last election…)

  35. @Pressman

    Trouble is… Farage’s main angle is the very salient issue of immigration.

    Cameron’s referendum offer doesn’t seem to be much about immigration, but about removing employment rights and stuff.

    So why should people concerned with immigration primarily, worry about keeping Cameron in?

  36. KeithP
    Who’s Caroline Dinenage? (That’s what I thought). I’ve googled her but I note that all the papers are reporting her claim. So I don’t think this is an ‘event’ or even a scoop.

    I don’t know what others think, but I don’t think we will get any lasting signals from the polls until about mid July? Only then such signal, if at all, until the party conferences and the scottish event are over (see AW’s list).

  37. @ Pressman: “a simple choice of who you want to be PM”

    Simplistic rather than simple. There’s rather more to why people vote one way or another.

  38. Definitely seems to be a small but significant tightening here, seemingly from a Lab fall more than a Con rise. The big question is whether this is a Euro election perturbation or a sign of the improving economy coming though. The fact that Lab is falling might tend to suggest the former, but I think it’s not really possible to be that certain at this point.

  39. I also had to Google Caroline Dinenage.
    Is this ‘fuss’ really about her claiming £3.95, quite reasonably as far as I can see, for bereavement cards?
    What have we come to?

  40. @GUYMONDE

    Me too. And I agree – it seems a perfectly valid expense claim.

  41. @Pressman
    “a simple choice of who you want to be PM?”

    The SNP grew from nothing to ruling Scotland in about 30 years. Why shouldn’t UKIP be capable of a similar performance?

    Underestimate them at your peril. The last 3 GE votes for UKIP have been 0.3m, 1.5m and 2.3m. Maybe 3.5m next time? Possibly not enough to win any seats (though the Libs won 6 with 2.1m in 1970), but the result will be affected in many constituencies..

  42. @HOWARD: “Perhaps another populist coup by Nick Clegg disagreeing with banging up knife carriers?”

    In this case I agree with Nick. I don’t think mandatory sentences are ever a good idea. Let the judges and magistrates decide each case on its merits.

  43. howard

    “Perhaps another populist coup by Nick Clegg disagreeing with banging up [English presumably] knife carriers?”

    SLab were proposing mandatory jail for anyone carrying a knife, as a major policy in the 2011 election.

    Which i-diots are proposing to replicate the SLab disaster south of the border?

  44. Oldnat,

    The reasoning was that the policy would work great in the Central Belt.

    If Labour can replicate the type of result that they had in that region in E/W in 2015… Then the SNP had better think up a manifesto for English and Welsh issues.

  45. I’ve spent a night not leafleting as a break.

    I’ve caught up with my YG polls, and I think Ed needs a boost for sure.

    In the last 33 polls (since Budget), Labour have been above their 2014 mean VI 4 times.

    In the last 20 it’s been only 1 time.

    In the last 10 they have not been above.

    The same measurement for the all parties:

    Con – 13, 5, 3
    Lab – 4, 1, 0
    LD – 18, 9, 3
    UKIP – 21, 17, 10

  46. “@ Guymonde

    I also had to Google Caroline Dinenage.”

    Her Dad was a great TV presenter. Particularly a teatime programme called How, which was fun and educational.

    As for a few cards at £3.95, I am not that bothered. I personally would not claim for it, but there is nothing wrong in doing so.

  47. Bill Patrick

    LOL

    “Reasoning” may be something of an exaggeration for that policy direction!

    Are UK Lab proposing this in England, or one of the other “right-wing” parties?

  48. I loved ‘How’.

    Fred Dinenage wasn’t it?

  49. Tricky one about the cards.

    But if you were a head teacher and sent a condolence card to a pupil’s parents, then I doubt you’d expect the school to pay for it.

    As an MP it is so trivial that the high moral ground is the best – and safest – place to be.

  50. The cards thing is a mis-claim. The card is a form of gift, and gifts on the public purse ought to be a no no (they are in many public sector situations).

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