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. Latest YouGov / The Sun results 8th May – Con 34%, Lab 35%, LD 8%, UKIP 13%; APP -18

    This poll is actually a bit better for Lab than the previous 2

    Lab have their usual lead back amongs the younger voter and better cross breaks amongst ex 2010 LD and their own 2010 vote. Down from last month of course, but the loses seems to be down to switches to the smaller parties

    i suppose that is down to the local and Euro elections, which means of course that the situation is not going to change any time soon.

    Oh, and looking at the recent scores on Yougov, I reckon Populus will show crossover this afternoon

    The LD score is of course dreadful. I see no hope for their score improving this year.


  2. Scottish three poll average (I spotted Lab on 35%, three days running, so am elaborating on that):

    Con 20.0%
    Lab 35.0%
    Lib 9.0%
    SNP 28.33%
    UKIP 4.33%
    Green 2.66%
    Others 1%

    Total 100.33% (so not bad)

    Westminster Seats:

    Lab 40 (-1)
    SNP 8 (+2)
    Lib 6 (-5)
    Con 5 (+4)

  3. @Number Cruncher

    I think Populus is Monday and Friday

    @PETE B

    Those are UKIP’s percentages but I suppose the essence of your point remains. Plus 11% would get them near 3.3m votes (based on 2010 turnout).


    @”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.”

    Sorry-that stream is already taken.

    All he has available is the negativity stream……….and PPBs about Evil Tory Toff & Midget Cleggs.

    But I agree with you-its not an attractive package really.

  5. Colin,

    The Tory poster hanging in my flat’s window reads “ONE YEAR TO STOP LABOUR” and the EU election message is “Labour and the Lib Dems Won’t, UKIP Can’t”. Don’t pretend your team is squeaky clean either.

    There seems to be no reason there can’t be lots of parties offering differing but positive visions of the future.

  6. I’m not sure about the turnout here but I included a tweet response as evidence to my earlier claim. ;-)

    Roman Bank (Fenland DC) Result:
    CON – 48.1% (-8.8)
    UKIP – 33.8% (+33.8)
    LAB – 12.1% (-14.6)
    IND – 4.4% (+4.4)
    LDEM – 1.5% (-14.8)

    “England voting rabid right that’s why Scotland is voting #YES for social justice democracy & no nukes on Clyde”

  7. “I’m voting #YES anyway and want to add to my list of reasons”, might be a better way of putting that ;)

  8. Changing the subject has anyone else seenu ukips “local” manifesto as a cllr it made me giggle

  9. Morning Colin

    Looking at today’s YouGov it would appear that the Labour PPB is having a positive effect……………………………for the Tories. Mind on today’s figures there would still be a Labour majority of 6, so the Tories still have a lot to do but it all seems to be moving in their direction.


    The older voter probably won’t like this sort of ppb because it is childish humour. The young will probably lap it up. Now who is more likely to vote?

  11. @Statgeek

    Con 20.0%
    Lab 35.0%
    Lib 9.0%
    SNP 28.33%
    UKIP 4.33%
    Green 2.66%
    Others 1%
    Total 100.33% (so not bad)

    Westminster Seats:
    Lab 40 (-1)
    SNP 8 (+2)
    Lib 6 (-5)
    Con 5 (+4)

    Are these two sets of figures related? Labour would be likely to take more than 2/3rds of the seats with just over a third of the vote, and the Lib Dems still take more seats than the Tories with less than half the share?

  12. Hammond’s intervention on the matter of nuclear weapons may cause a blip in Yes/No campaign: more likely a brief rise in ‘Yes’ than the opposite, though not clear that it will have any lasting impact.

    Also, AW missed out one possibly important factor in the run-up to September 18 and that is the World Cup. If we don’t get balanced, impartial coverage, then this may enrage a good number of Scots who pay their license fee in order to be ‘informed’ about more than just how good (or terrible) the English team is. The BBC needs to be careful on how it handles this one.

  13. RMJ1

    All the polling evidence points to the older voter.

  14. @Statgeek

    Could you be more specific about which seats would change hands in Scotland on the figures you quoted at 6.31 this morning?

  15. I didn’t see it, but heard a brief excerpt on R4 yesterday. It sounded pretty puerile. The faint scent of humour wasn’t strong enough to overcome the odour of puerile maliciousness.

    It confirmed what I’ve always thought about the way Labour sees the world. No consideration given to the possibility that right-of-centre politicians may actually be trying to make the country a better place (albeit with wrong-headed policies that will have the opposite effect – as the left would see it). Just a very narrow, contemptuous view of them as Hollywood Black Hats.

    It seemed very much aimed at about a quarter of the electorate, with nothing much to say to the rest.

    I have no idea whether it will be effective. Previous “Tory Toff” campaigns didn’t seem to have much effect, but it’s hard to pick out one ingredient of the political melange and assess it in isolation.

  16. @Wes

    Yes, you are right to ask the question.

    The point about Labour/SNP is that there is a level of SNP vote (c. 32% I think) at which they start to make huge inroads into Labour territory. Below that the situation remains fairly static.

    Regarding Tories and LibDems, you need to remember that the Lib Dem vote is generally fairly regional – mainly the Highlands, Northern Isles and and the Borders. Their overall vote can drop quite considerably without that affecting their heartlands too much. The Tories, on the other hand, whilst being numerically stronger, are scattered fairly evenly around the place so stand little chance of making a lot of gains, and all the fewer, I would guess, if UKIP make progress in Scotland. In Scotland, the Tories have a similar problem to UKIP in England – good support, but scattered. The Holyrood Parliament voting system allows for this, of course, and the Tories are the third biggest group there after SNP and Labour.

  17. And I doubt if the LDs will be reduced to 5, as predicted. They have sitting MPs with good track records. Nor can I see the Tories getting an additional 4 seats. Where would these be? They were pretty sure of winning back Ayr and Stirling last time but failed. Of course, they might ‘slip in’ where a marginal seat pulls a fast one (Argyll?) but I’m not convinced.
    We will have to await Statgeek’s reply.


    Best wishes for your op tomorrow Paul.
    Liz & John


    Didn’t realise you were having an op tomorrow. My best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  20. @R&D

    All the best for tomorrow.

  21. Ask and ye shall receiveth..


    Populus online has Ukip at 16% – the highest ever from the firm
    LAB 36 =
    CON 32 -1
    LD 8 =
    Ukip 16 +2

  22. @John B

    Got to ‘Scotland Votes’ (Westminster), feed in the data and see the results. :))

  23. @Stan

    well my guess was completely wrong, so I won’t be doing that again

    On Electoral Calculus that would give a Lab majority of 42, so much for cross-overs

  24. Gordon Brown to come out fighting for the ‘no’ vote – that increases the chances of Yes winning then :)

    I thought the No vote lot were trying to find strengths for their position?

  25. @ Jack

    The Yes camp united with the English Tories in attacking Gordon Brown, that’ll be good for Yes… or maybe not so much.

  26. I imagine he’ll have rather more success than Cameron or Osborne have managed.

  27. Populus- the gold standard of polling (big smiley and hope no-one checks my previous posts on Populus!).

    @ R&D good luck tomorrow.

  28. Views about Gordon Brown are a very good example of where the narrow London based commentariat has persuaded themselves that their view is everybody’s view.

  29. Populus unweighted base;

    Con 28
    Lab 39
    LD 8
    Ukip 25

    The times they are a-changin’

  30. Brown is relatively popular in Scotland as far as I remember. The unweighted UKIP figure there is enormous, and I do question the downweighting they get. Maybe an upset is on its way.

  31. Re: Gordon Brown

    The assumption in the Indi report that Fife and Glasgow will be important battlegrounds in the run up to September 18 leads to the question: “Which areas of Scotland will NOT be important battlegrounds?”

    Paradoxically, some of the areas with the strongest SNP representation in the parliaments are behind the average when it comes to voting Yes.

    The die-hards on each side (total c. 45% maybe) are not going to be swayed by anything, but many Scots are still open to persuasion either way. Polls can only tell us how people would have voted ON THE DAY THEY WERE ASKED.

    Conclusion? The whole thing is very messy, with families divided, and most people only 45-55 one way or the other. One or two big gaffs either way could swing it yet, though I still expect No to win 55-45.

  32. So even given MOE how on earth are Popuius and Yougov measuring the same thing here? Of course polls don’t predict outcomes, a mistake journalists and politicians are only too happy to make. The one confident claim it would seem is that UKIP are on the up-possibly…

  33. @Statgeek – yours of 9.59

    Aye, but a 2% drop in the Tories and a similar rise in the SNP changes things very dramatically, i.e. MoE is now a major problem in predicting anything in large areas of Scotland (though not necessarily at this stage in large numbers of constituencies)

    As for MrNameless, please will you point me to where I can find an ‘enormous’ UKIP figure for Scotland! I’m struggling to find anything along the lines you suggest when it comes to GE or Holyrood figures, though UKIP have risen recently in Euro figures for Scotland.

  34. @R&D

    Hope you’re back on line, producing your usual stuff again, before long. Will miss you meantime…..

  35. Populus’ figures give Scotland GE result as
    Labour 36
    SNP 12
    LDs 8
    Cons 3

    UKIP 3%

    Not credible? Or no less credible than YG?

    I am inclined to ignore all Scottish GE figures from now until the end of September. The waters are far too murky…

  36. Valerie

    I still don’t know what those figures were you posted last night but would be grateful for insight.

    Ops are not that bad, at least you are the centre of attention for a while and get made a fuss of afterwards. All the best.

  37. @John B: “The whole thing is very messy, with families divided…”

    Perhaps they’re hedging their bets as in the Jacobite Risings when families would apparently send someone to support each side.

  38. Sorry Howard. Someone else had just posted a set of figures with no comments so I thought I’d join in. Puerile really. :-)

  39. Is there a conspiracy between Populus and YouGov to ensure that they continually move in opposite directions? Just when you think things are converging, they start to diverge. Labour lead now widening in Populus, but narrowing in YouGov.

    I fully expect the weekend polls to paint a different picture again. A Tory lead in Opinium perhaps?

  40. @John B

    Since YG switched to a 200+ average sample size for Scotland (up from the 155 or so that it was), UKIP have had 10% once, on the 28th April. Sample size was 148.

    Generally, when UKIP get a large VI (over 7%), it’s due to sampling size / MoE issues. Their 10 poll average at present is 5.3%, but the previous 10 polls were 3.2%, so they are getting an EU bounce I believe.

    (I’m talking Westminster VI by the way)

    What is interesting is that UKIP’s ebb and flow doesn’t seem to be from Con (on the surface). The Con VI remains fairly static throughout. Or when Con drops, so does UKIP.

  41. @ Mr. Beeswax,

    I am as unimpressed with Populus’s weighing scheme as the next Labour or Ukip supporter, but looking at the unweighted figures is actively misleading. If I took an unweighted poll of UKPR right now, the results would show Ed Miliband on course to win an ANC-style landslide and Ukip tied with the Greens.

    If you want to see how far off Populus’s panel is, just look at the unweighted 2010 recall figures:

    Con: 37.4 %
    Lab: 26.7 %
    Lib Dem: 26.2 %

    Remember that general election? I don’t.

    Populus panel sex ratio: 0.93
    UK sex ratio: 1.05

    The age profile and public/private employment ratios are just as bad. And every single one of these distortions are in a direction that will inflate the Ukip score. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you convince yourself these are the “real” numbers.

  42. As YouGov are failing to adjust downwards for the overestimating effect of prompting for a given party, just take two percent each off the three parties prompted for and reallocate them to the unpromted for parties in the relevant ratios and you get the true figures.

    Approximately thus;

    Con -2
    Lab -2
    LD -2
    Ukip +4
    Green +2

  43. * “is in a direction”, before the grammar police come for me. Ah well, at least I can usually keep ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ straight.

  44. @Crossbat11

    “Is there a conspiracy between Populus and YouGov to ensure that they continually move in opposite directions?”

    On past form we can look forward to another imminent Populus methodology change justified as previously on the spurious grounds that they are once again out of line with polling by YouGov. If they consider that they are oversstating the Lab lead at 4% then their 2010 reweighted recalled vote split would become even more bizarre.


    “The Tory poster hanging in my flat’s window reads “ONE YEAR TO STOP LABOUR” and the EU election message is “Labour and the Lib Dems Won’t, UKIP Can’t”. Don’t pretend your team is squeaky clean either.”


    Lol, when I was a student no one put any posters up about anything. I mean, I lived with someone who went on to become an MP, and still, no posters. One of the guys I knew from school, one of his parents was a Tory MEP…. no posters. Didn’t even know about the MEP thing till I stayed at his house. Either students are a lot more politically engaged, or fate was smiling on you/taking the mick, depending on one’s take on politics etc…


    “Ah well, at least I can usually keep ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ straight.”


    That won’t stop them…. the grammar police can come after you EVEN WHEN THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR GRAMMAR!!!…

  47. Not that it bothers me or anything…

  48. @CARFREW

    It must be a cyclical thing. I was at college in 1966 during that year’s General Election and practically everyone had a poster of one colour or another in their window.

    A friend of mine spread his own made large LABOUR out across his three windows until it was pointed out to him that the middle window contained the legend “BO”, so he hurriedly rearranged his poster across two windows instead.

    Anyway, the point is we had very active Labour and Conservative clubs at college and the students were very engaged in politics. Hopefully thos days might be returning.

  49. those!

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