Newark by-election

Yesterday was the Newark by-election, a relatively comfortable hold for the Conservatives over UKIP in second place. When the by-election was first announced there was an obvious risk for the Tories – it was taking place at a time when UKIP would be basking in the glory of a successful European election, there was always that chance that they could have pulled off a surprise victory. In the event it never happened.

I expect to see lots of comment today about what Newark tells us about the state of public opinion. I’ll make my usual post by-election comment that it doesn’t tell us much at all. By-elections are extremely strange beasts that bear very little resemblence to politics as usual. They take place in but one constituency (which may be extremely unrepresentative of the country as a whole), they have no direct bearing upon who runs the country, only on who the local MP is (voters in Newark knew that whoever won, the next morning there would still be a coalition government under David Cameron) and they experience an intensity of campaigning unlike any other contest. Essentally, if voters at a by-election perform pretty much in line with the national polls it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, if they behave in a different way then it’s likely because of the extremely unusual nature of by-election contests.

It doesn’t mean that by-elections don’t have an important effect on politics – they do. If UKIP had won or been a closer second it would have continued the “UKIP earthquake” narrative. As it is I think it might start playing into a “UKIP faltering” sort of narrative. That wouldn’t really be fair – it was, after all, a pretty safe Conservative seat and UKIP increased their vote by 22% – but politics is not always fair.

I’ve also seem some comment along the lines of why Labour weren’t in contention, and whether it was a bad night for them. Realistically by-elections do tend to end up becoming a two-horse race – people rapidly identify who the challenger party is and it normally becomes a fight between them and the incumbent; Labour were just a victim of that. Of course, in a different situation Labour could have been the challenger party – Labour would have needed a swing of 16% or so to win Newark, the sort of swing that the Conservatives got in Norwich North and Crewe & Nantwich. The fact is though that we knew anyway that Labour weren’t in that sort of position – they aren’t an opposition that’s tearing away into the sunset, they are an opposition holding onto a relatively modest poll lead. In the present political context, we shouldn’t expect them to be competitive in a seat like Newark.

Finally a brief word about the polling. Survation released a second by-election poll yesterday evening (conducted before the by-election, but released after polls closed), which was almost identical to Lord Ashcoft’s a few days earlier. Both polls had the Conservatives on 42%, both had UKIP on 27% and both were relatively close to the actual result of CON 45%, UKIP 26%. Worth noting in particular is that both polls got UKIP right this time, when previous by-election polling has tended to underestimate their support.

340 Responses to “Newark by-election”

1 5 6 7
  1. @LeftyLampton

    Absolutely. And you can imagine that in fifty years or so some of today’s children will be looking back nostalgically to the time of their childhood while moaning about the ungrateful, feckless and disrespectful ‘youth of today’.

  2. @Gordoning,

    The Eastern front is a complicated beast. It needs to be seen in the light of Soviet treatment of Ukraine and the Baltics, in the light of the Molotov-Ribbontrop pact, and in the light of Stalin’s obdurate interference in military tactics.

    Had Operation Barbarossa not been thrown against a Soviet army with explicit orders not to shoot back (because Stalin didn’t believe his ally Hitler would betray him), through territories that hated the Soviets more than they hated the Nazis, defended by units with no professional leadership (thanks to the purges), that were so afraid of retreating without permission that they thought it was safer to surrender en masse, then Stalin might not have ended up with his back against the wall, throwing unarmed conscripts against machine guns.

    And of course, when you order your civilians to remain in cities under attack, you do rather increase the losses.

  3. Neil

    You’re pushing a point a bit.

    We’ve rightly lauded the heroes of Normandy this week. But the comments (see, eg. Obama) that D-Day “turned the tide” were, frankly, ridiculous.

    The Soviets had turned the tide at Kursk 12 months earlier. In 6 weeks, they lost more fighting men that the UK did in the entire war.

    We would not be disrespectful to the UK troops’ efforts to acknowledge, just occasionally, the sacrifices of Russia in defeating Hitler.

  4. @CatmanJeff

    The US Veteran Affairs Department estimates there are just over a million US WW2 veterans left, down from 1.46 million two years ago. They are dying at a rate of 555 a day. I don’t know what the UK figures are, but the rate of decline is pretty sobering to think about.


    We will indeed see their like again, in a different form. Has anyone here come across the ‘Turnings’ theory of history, by historians William Strauss & Neil Howe?

    Their theory is that history repeats itself in four recurring seasons and produces four distinct types of generation. The WWII vets were the ‘G.I. Generation’ in their theory and an example of a ‘Hero Generation.’

    They believe the Millennial Generation are the modern incarnation of this generational archetype, who will show all the qualities of the WW2 vets in the years to come and will one day be respected in the same way.

  5. Meanwhile, polling continues.

    FT commissioned Populus to poll on questions related to the Macbethian issue.

    Presumably FT set the questions, though in their report they blame the pollster for setting the “pond” question.

    Perhaps that’s not surprising since it is a good example of really bad question setting!

    “Q.4 Alex Salmond and the Scottish nationalists say that the Pound belongs just as much to Scotland as to the rest of UK and, therefore, that if Scotland votes to become an independent country, they will continue to use the Pound as their currency, retaining the Bank of England as Scotland’s Central Bank and lender of last resort. This would mean that in the event of a financial crisis affecting an independent Scotland, the Bank of England would step in and taxpayers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland would have to bear some of the cost. For this reason the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have said they couldn’t agree to let an independent Scotland use the Pound and retain the Bank of England as its Central Bank. If Scotland votes to become an independent country, would you support or oppose Scotland continuing to use the Pound as its currency and retaining the Bank of England as its Central Bank and lender of last resort?”

  6. “pond” -> “pound”


    “They are dying at a rate of 555 a day. I don’t know what the UK figures are, but the rate of decline is pretty sobering to think about.”

    People die when they get old. That’s life.

    “Their theory is that history repeats itself in four recurring seasons and produces four distinct types of generation.”

    Sounds a particularly daft theory. Are WW2 veterans any different to the veterans of less historic conflicts that didn’t warrant commemoration? They’re just ordinary people (conscripts mostly) who had the misfortune to be dumped in an extraordinary situation. The same experiences would have the same effect on any generation in history.

  8. @RogerH

    Many of their predictions are being borne out by reality, such as declining rates of delinquency, pregnancy and binge drinking among young people, on both sides of the Atlantic. The recent fast food strikes in the US are also exactly what one would expect to happen as a ‘Hero’ generation grows up and has higher expectations for how they will be treated than their predecessors did. Not to mention that recent generations like the Baby Boomers & Gen X fit pretty nearly with the archetypes.

  9. @Oldnat (FT Q4)

    It’s also a very long question. I assume it wasn’t a telephone poll!

  10. @ Neil A:

    “Had Operation Barbarossa not been thrown against a Soviet army with explicit orders not to shoot back (because Stalin didn’t believe his ally Hitler would betray him), through territories that hated the Soviets more than they hated the Nazis, defended by units with no professional leadership (thanks to the purges), that were so afraid of retreating without permission that they thought it was safer to surrender en masse, then Stalin might not have ended up with his back against the wall, throwing unarmed conscripts against machine guns.”

    Yes, but it’s worth pointing out that the Germans also made sweeping advances in Poland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Greece, Egypt, and in fact everywhere else that they invaded. It would have been surprising if Russia had been any different, no? German military technology was vastly superior at the start of the war and it took a while for the Soviets to catch up, with the mass rollout of the T-34 tank and the training up of a modern air force.

    In any case you ignore the main point of my comment, which was to note that there are only two options in the face of an initially successful invasion: ruthless resistance, or capitulation. Which do you think would have happened in the UK? I guess capitulation. Hitler had plenty of sympathisers in the Establishment here who would have been happy enough to collaborate – and would have been well reimbursed for it.


    What little I’ve read about the four generations theory makes a lot of sense to me…. anecdotally, I certainly find that the under 30s more politically involved than their siblings over 30, and who could doubt the dominance of conformist, managerial types amongst our 40+ politicians.

    Fingers crossed that the Millennial Generation will transform the world.

  12. Latest YouGov / Sunday Times results 6th June – Con 33%, Lab 37%, LD 7%, UKIP 14%, Green 6%; APP -27

    Bit Dull

  13. Latest YouGov / Sunday Times results 6th June – Con 33%, Lab 37%, LD 7%, UKIP 14%; APP -27

    typical opinion poll for You gov, i knew it would be between 4 and 6% Lab lead, when there was no report of the poll on the front page of the Sunday Times

    Cons are leading with the 18 to 24 year olds in this poll and have more Lab to Con switchers than the reverse, still losing a large chunk of their vote to UKIP though

    Greens still taking a lot of 2010 LD votes and scoring a very creditable 5%

    i wonder if LD’s are heading for 5th party status, maybe they will become one of those Others in polls e.g.
    Cons, Lab, UKIP, Greens and Others

    In your opinion how good or bad is the state of Britain’s
    economy at the moment? -17% (good 22 bad 39)

    Cons and LD’s are happier, maybe because they are in government,

    How do you think the financial situation of your household
    will change over the next 12 months -16 (19 better 35 worse)

    this range of -15 to -20 for this question has been a consistent for the last 8 months

  14. Cons are leading with the 18 to 24 year olds in this poll and have more Lab to Con switchers than the reverse, still losing a large chunk of their vote to UKIP though

    This shows that sub groups need to be ignored.

    The vast majority of YG polls show a strong Labour lead among the 18-24 group.

    There are two possibilities why this poll shows a Conservative lead:

    a) overnight there has been a seismic shift among the voting behaviour of young people


    b) the sample size of about 200 voters 18 – 24 is small and unweighted, and therefore a bit dodgy.

    My money is on b).

    Remember the hazard of reading anything in cross breaks….


    We seldom agree about UK politics but I certainly support your comments re the Soviet Unions role in the downfall of Hitler’s Germany. Stalingrad was a major turning point as was Kursk, the biggest tank battle the World has ever seen and from which the German Army never recovered. I.m no fan of Starlin’s Russia but you cannot ignore the historical facts.

  16. When you look at the ST YG data. it appears that Labour had about a 10% lead, before the weighting was applied. But I think 4-6% would be a more realisitc Labour lead anyway, so I think the weighting is probably correctly applied.

  17. Floating voter
    Its certainly looking possible that we will have a poll soon that shows LDs below Greens: LDs have been consistently in the 6-8% range over the last week (too early to know if Newark has given them a further hit: but the 6% is today’s Opinium/Observer), while Greens are consistently on 5% with YG, and have shown as high as 8% (Ashcroft). No single poll has yet shown Greens enough above LDs to report as a different % (some of the Ashcroft tabs showed Greens above LDs on weighted number of respondents, others dead level: can’t see the Opinium/Observer numbers for Greens yet).

    But unless either LDs recover or Greens fall back soon, it is probably a matter of time before random sampling (if nothing else) will show the Greens above LDs.

  18. @RHuckle

    Yes, the weighting is almost certainly sound across the poll, but not sub-samples in isolation (ie the 18-24 sample).

  19. Re who won the war – too many people seem to be settling on _one_ key turning point. There wasn’t one – it was a process of turning a situation where the enemy had caught all the allies cold, made extraordinary advances, and then became over extended and could no longer defend their gains against a back drop of a rapidly improving opposition.

    Kursk was mighty important, but without the Artic convoys in the early years, would the Soviets have been to hold the line where they eventually did? What did bombing raids sent from English airfields do to German industrial production?

    British raids on Norway meant Hitler expected a second front there, from quite early in the war. How many Germans did that hold up idling away the war while the eastern front boiled? In North Africa, the Germans suffered very heavy losses. Had the British lost North Africa entirely, what would that have meant for German forces on the eastern front?

    For my money, the most influential turning points happened at sea, with the defeat of the U boat threat. The code cracking and the development of Atlantic air support meant the allies could reasonably expect to win an attritional war, and effectively put the skids under German hopes. By achieving greater control of the seas the allies could open up threats in multiple arenas, which needed defending, even if the attacks never came.

    It’s a bit like polling. Rarely, if ever, is there a single reason or event that is so dominant that it controls the course of everything that follows. Instead, it’s a complex mix of interlocking issues that really can’t be picked apart into constituent parts. It’s like a tapestry – if you want, you can pick it apart, but you’re left with individual threads which only have meaning as part of the whole picture. That’s what war is about.

  20. Alec

    I agree there were many turning points, I would add Hitler’s decision to invade Russia and to declare war on the USA, both in 1941. And so on and so on……………..

  21. NEILA

    Thanks for your piece of “whataboutism”.

    I don’t see it’s relevance to June 2014

  22. TOH

    “I would add Hitler’s decision to invade Russia and to declare war on the USA, both in 1941”

    Or to take the last bit a stage back, Japan’s decision to bomb Pearl Harbour.

  23. The situation regarding Lib Dem vs Green is interesting.

    I have been really busy the last few weeks helping to set up the Green Party locally in a much stronger way.

    Greens pushed the Lib Dems into fourth in terms of the popular vote in the recent local elections. The Lib Dem strategy was to withdraw all general campaigning effort and focus on their small number of solid wards. They held their strong wards well, but elsewhere the Greens polled 3, 4 and 5 times more.

    The Greens have few resources, but we will target hard areas where previous Lib Dem support was strong, but has since withered to a few percentage points.

    We know we don’t the resources to join the Labour vs Conservative battle yet, but are instead focussed on securing third place.

    All little hills on the way up hopefully :)

  24. Are we back in the polldrums, then?

    Nothing very interesting to report from last nights polls. Mike Smithson is making something of the questions about next Tory leader but they are really irrelevant a/ because the public as a whole decides b/ because the public doesn’t know all that much about even senior politicians beyond the PM and Chancellor.

  25. @ CatmanJeff

    The increase in Green vote in polls AFTER the elections is very puzzling. I guess it will be hard to find the answers with the low sample sizes involved.

    Not sure if this is because people are answering the VI question on the basis “well l voted for them a week ago so I may as well put that down”. This could apply to the student/younger voters who might have been don’t knows before.

    Maybe the other possible explanation is if these are former LD voters (which you seem to imply) who have given up on the LD’s as they now regard it as a wasted vote with all the publicity that the LD’s are doomed.

    I still hold by the view that the Greens will struggle when Labour are in opposition as people on the left’s priorities are to get rid of the Tories and there has not been a Labour government doing things that annoy them. Equally the same is true with the UKIP/Tory dynamic.

  26. @Shevii

    Based on the last couple of weeks with UKIP scores too I’d suggest that your first theory is quite close to the truth.

  27. @Colin,

    This entire conversation is about “whataboutism”. What would have happened if we’d done X, or the Russians hadn’t done Y etc.

    But somehow (and I’m not sure how) it’s become a little ill-tempered. Noone is suggesting that the Soviet Union didn’t do the lion’s share of the fighting against Nazi Germany, that without them we could have won the war, or that their losses were not so deep that it profoundly affected them in a way that it really didn’t in the UK. I’d even agree that, in general terms, far too little emphasis is placed on the Eastern Front in history and culture (although they are not alone in this – US culture underplays the part played by everyone except the US). All I was saying is that the losses a country suffers are not necessarily in direct proportion to the importance of the part they played in a conflict.

    Frankly I’m not enjoying the conversation and will make no further comment.

  28. @Shevii

    You are correct about the Green vote squeezing at the GE.

    Locally, we aren’t really looking at GEs yet.. We want to make progress in a few wards, get ourselves into second place, at which point you become a party likely to attract tactical votes to unseat the incumbent.

    It will be a slog and take years but we will try…

  29. NEILAS
    @”This entire conversation is about “whataboutism”. What would have happened if we’d done X, or the Russians hadn’t done Y etc.”

    Mine wasn’t-it was about the bravery of the Normandy Veterans. I don’t understand why diminishing their achievement supports your feelings about another group of soldiers.

    As for your exchanges with others on the course of WW2-I haven’t read them. They are not relevant to the few thoughts I expressed about June 2014

  30. CMJ,

    A big problem I think the Green Party has among young people is that its support is ideologically extremely soft. When I was campaigning on election day I spoke to many student Greens, and when asked why they voted that way 80% of them said something along the lines of “They seem nice”. Of the remaining 20%, a good chunk said something conspiratorial and of dubious veracity about Labour, leaving only a few who know anything about policy. This means it will be difficult to hold onto them if any other party makes a successful and well-publicised pitch to students.

  31. On the war and D-Day

    D-day was one the largest operations in the history of wars. There was no doubt that it would succeed and due to the excellent planning and military skills of both the officers and soldiers, the losses were surprisingly low.

    Turning points are mainly short hands for analysis or propaganda.

    The Soviets made a monumental 6-piece series called Liberation (on YouTube with English subtitle). That starts at Kursk and presents the rest as an incessant success although the losses are portrayed. Kursk was important not only because the Germans lost armour and initiative, but also because of the loss of trained personnel and air superiority.

    Earlier the Soviets considered Stalingrad a turning point. It had a major psychological effect on the Germans (apart from the loss of the 6th Army and parts of the 2nd), because from then on they were fearful of being surrounded.

    Even earlier they considered the battle for Moscow the turning point. It was the end of Blitzkrieg. Actually The Wermacht was slower than Napoleon.

    Churchill considered El Alamein a turning point.

    It was an Allied war (from 1941). The contributions to victory can be measured in many arbitrary ways. The Soviets destroyed 70% of the German divisions. The Western contribution to the Soviet military was about 4%. Of this the trucks were the most important. However in the prelude to Stalingrad and during Stalingrad this supply was non-existent.

    Stalin commented 1940 that the next war would be the war of engines. The side that can produce the most would win. Thus the entry of the US is also a turning point.

  32. “It will be a slog and take years but we will try…”


    And then one day you will be in a position to form a coalition with a major party and all that slog will flushed down the pan in one parliament…

    …or so it seem it is written for any party outside the big 2 under FPTP.

    BTW this isn’t said to diminish the value or worth in trying to change things.

  33. @Mr Nameless

    I think all young voters are ideologically ‘soft’,as they have no life experience.


    Yes, that is the FPTP script.

    It would nice to be in a position to make a Coalition and flush it all away…

  34. It is quite interesting how old legends survive about the war.

    Churchill, while he was obviously unhappy about it, considered the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as rational from the Soviet perspective as they were closing the Western approaches with the Baltics, Poland and Bessarabia. It would not have happened if Poland had not wanted to be an ally of Hitler against the Soviet Union (the English negotiators told this the Soviets in the Spring of 1939).

    Stalin indeed wanted to avoid the war as much as it was possible. The armies that entered Stalingrad counterattack were planned only in 1940.

    While the TASS issued a statement and there were orders of not responding to provocations, Stavka issued an order at midnight 22 June for the troops to concentrate in the defensive lines and repulse the attack. Most troops didn’t get it by 4:30. There was disorganisation, but the level of mobilisation was higher than 3 months earlier. The 5th Army was fighting the invaders from 9 am.

    Stalin received warnings and didn’t listen. Yes, but he also got opposite information too! In any case, there was no way that would have stopped the deep penetrations of the German armies. The numerical, technical and training superiority of the Germans was too big.

    Just look at the films made at the time (Alexander Nevsky, Tractorists etc), the fact that that they extended the working day (until 1939 it was 5 days a week and 6 hours a day) and tightened the Labour Code to reduce the notoriously high labour turnover , then it’s clear they knew the war was coming and also from where.

    The execution of the officer corp of the Red Army is thoroughly criticised and dismissed by historian today (although there were many and some of them were probably innocent).

    On 22nd of June in the night the Politburo was in session. So they knew it. Stalin did not collapse for two weeks. His appointment book has been published. He was working 14 hours a day from 22nd of June.

  35. “There was no doubt that it would succeed…”

    There should always be doubt. Success can never be guaranteed.

  36. Yes on the basis of one poll the Greens are doing strikingly well in 18-24 and taking most of their support from 2010 LDs.
    It is certainly the case that their support built strongly for the Euros and has sustained since (so far at least). This I suspect is hurting Lab quite a bit as Green voters would be far more likely to be Lab than Con supporters in a 2 horse race.
    By the same token, and as CMJ seems to acknowledge, I think there are some Lab (and probably LD) reserves in the Green VI which may well redeploy when in comes to GE realities.

  37. Just an observation on the very balanced review but at first sight it might appear that there was a swing to Labour (Con down 8.83% and Lab 4.63). However, as a percentage of the previous share of the vote Con is down 16.4% (8.83/53.86) and Lab 20.8% a slight swing to Con.

  38. Neil

    “But somehow (and I’m not sure how) it’s become a little ill-tempered.”

    As I remarked earlier it seems to be par for the course. Debate is only ok if you totally agree.

  39. “Coalition has not robbed Lib Dems of their soul – Nick Clegg”

    ‘Nick Clegg is to rally his battered party for the general election fight by insisting coalition with the Tories has not robbed them of their “soul”.

    The Lib Dem leader will remind activists of their “unique mission” to advance liberal values in what is being billed by aides as a major speech.

    He will attempt to hit back at the perception that the party is only interested in “power for power’s sake”.’

    Good luck with that one Nick…

  40. @Colin (re: Juncker)

    The European Council has the exclusive right to nominate the European Commission President to the European Parliament. The EP then votes on the Council’s candidate, which in theory they can veto by an absolute majority.

    The cards therefore are very much with the European Council.

1 5 6 7