Yesterday we had two by-elections. Claction was an emphatic, walkover win for Douglas Carswell and UKIP, which was largely what everyone expected – he was particularly well regarded as an MP and the demographics of the seat could not have been better for UKIP. Heywood and Middleton was more of a surprise, many expected the seat to be a relatively easy Labour hold when in fact UKIP came within 2 points.

After every by-election you essentially see the same comments reading far too much into them, and I make the same blog post saying that by-elections are extremely odd events and you can’t read too much into them: they have low turnout, are in a single seat that will not be representative of the wider country, are far more intensely fought than normal election and, crucially, do not have any impact on who the government will be the next day. If by-elections behave like the national polls, they tell us nothing new. If they behave differently, it’s probably because by-elections themselves are very different.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely important, as they are. They help shape the political narrative and public opinion. While Carswell’s victory was broadly expected and costed in within the Westminster village, its getting huge coverage on the media now and I expect it will result in a boost for UKIP in the national polls. If you follow UKIP’s support in the opinion polls over the last few years you’ll see it’s a pattern of spikes in support from positive publicity, mostly as a result of electoral success (local elections, strong by-election showings, European elections), each time settling back at a slightly higher level. For a challenger party the big challenges are getting coverage, being taken seriously and being seen as a viable choice rather than a wasted vote. This will help them a lot – I’d expect a spike it in the polls, and it’ll be interesting to see which other parties they draw support from. On that issue, it will also be interesting to see how Labour react to the closeness of the result in Heywood, currently support for UKIP has disproportionately come from former Conservative voters and the Labour party seem to have regarded UKIP as their enemy’s enemy, but they also have the clear potential to draw support from more Labour demographics.

As this is a polling blog I should save my last comment for the polls. The two polls in Clacton, conducted by Ashcroft and Survation, were both conducted more than a month before polling day, so they cannot in all fairness be compared to the final result (opinion in Clacton could easily have changed in the interim period), for the record though they were both pretty close to the actual result, certainly they got the broad picture of a UKIP landslide correct. The two polls in Heywood and Middleton (conducted again by Ashcroft and Survation) are more worrying. They were conducted about a week and a half before the election – so there was time for some change, but not that much (and many would have voted by post before polling day). Both showed a nineteen point lead for Labour when in reality they ending up squeaking home by two points. In both cases the polls both overestimated Labour support, and underestimated UKIP support.

600 Responses to “Clacton, Heywood & Middleton”

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  1. @spearmint

    “All the parties are now so toxic that none of them can cooperate without damaging each other.”

    All alternatively, they can go into agreements / pacts / coalitions of common sense (i.e. slash the debt). No one expects more than what the coalition’s original purpose.

    So who’s for STV, or do we prefer the idea of PR? :))

  2. COUPER2802

    Somehow, I doubt that the SLAB shake-up story relates to anything being suggested by the SLAB leadership! Something from LfI perhaps?

  3. Couper2802
    Still slightly confused by your reply.

    If your 2152 is the ST, then I remind everyone that the field work was Thurs /Fri.

    Often people forget that.

  4. Roger H

    You are reminding me of the caricature of Haig’s attrition policy in “Oh What A Lovely War”. :-)

  5. That Sun story says it’s an Ashcroft poll – but doesn’t seem to give the dates when it was in the field.

  6. @ Old Nat

    There is another story on EV4EL according to Hague the Government is going to bring forward a bill before the election – to force Labour to vote against. This is right up @Pressman’s street I can imagine the Sun and DM headlines,

  7. Catmanjeff

    I think that’s very interesting. In my view the ‘immigration’ issue is often really an ’employment’ issue. London has lots of immigrants but also it seems lots of good jobs, or the opportunity to get them. Some towns in my neck of the woods have far fewer immigrants but poor employment – it breeds resentment: someone has to be to blame; is taking the jobs; undercutting; getting the houses etc. The atmosphere has changed, and it can be nasty.

  8. @Howard

    Yes 9.52 is YouGov I take your point if the Survation fieldwork was later then they could be picking up the by election bounce, so would explain the inconsistency

  9. @couper

    Might not be such a smart move if some of their own backbenchers vote against it, as is possible.

  10. Saturday night is quite fun – as all the Sundays try to boost their sales by teaser headlines.

    sunday herald tweet

    “Ukip claims it will sweep the Tories out of Scotland at next Westminster election – in tomorrow’s paper”

  11. Survation Scottish cross-break SNP 51.7% of a tiny sample. Somehow, I think I’ll ignore that. :-)

  12. I just peeked into twitter to see what was going on. Entering ‘snp’ and seeing the results, near the top, I came across a news article by the DT regarding a ‘nationalist’s expense claims’. I took a screenshot:

    While I’m all for giving any politician a slap for being an eejit, isn’t £1.80 a little grasping for a newspaper, considering the millions that Westminster claimed?

    Bias or a slow news day? :))

  13. @Maura

    Exactly right.

    Give working class folk the chance of decent job, hope for the future and the pride and dignity that comes from seeing your family benefit from working in a job with security would cure many ills and pop UKIP’s bubbles of immigration myths.

  14. Statgeek

    It was also in place of an evening meal – not a post-prandial snack. :-)

  15. Damian Lyons Lowe, Chief Executive of Survation said:

    “Whilst being only one poll – and conducted on a day (Friday) where the party had very extensive television and media coverage, these figures do indicate the highest recorded for the UK Independence Party by a clear 2%.

    With polling companies such as Survation and Ashcroft Polling now also showing UKIP ahead of the major parties in selected constituencies, forecasters of the 2015 General Election need to look at “UKIP’s effect” on voter behaviour up and down England & Wales.

    Although the national picture shows the Conservatives and UKIP neck-and-neck (in vote share but not however seats due to our electoral system) this disguises the difficult truth that as UKIP “surge” in certain regions, their increased popularity comes more at the expense of the Conservative vote than Labour’s, making winning the key marginal CON/LAB seats required for an overall majority all the more difficult for David Cameron’s Conservatives.”

  16. OldNat and Couper

    Survation fieldwork Friday (thanks for table link ON).

    Perhaps a knee jerk but a substantial one. Reasonable sample apparently and not a phone sample. They weight on past vote they claim.

  17. @Maura @Catmanjef

    In order to address that Labour have to be far more radical. They are tacking too close to the Tories and are not offering a anti-Austerity, democratic socialist alternative. It is in no way obvious that Labour stands for the working class. So, if UKIP can get a populist ‘on your side’ message across they can pick up votes.

    Diane Abbot wrote that when anyone brought up the ‘working class’ in Labour meetings they were told ‘who else can they vote for?’ Well UKIP…strangely enough.

  18. Survation looks a tad dodgy on weightings (at least as far as Scotland is concerned) -SNP with 42% of the 2010 vote !!!!!!!

  19. @ Old Nat,

    Too low, you think? :p

  20. On the UKIP Conservative problem. I think that it might be easier to get the Conservative Kippers home to Con at the GE, than the Labour Kippers. There are a couple of reasons for this:

    1. As someone has pointed our the Labour Kipper has travelled further so further to get them back.

    2. Pressman and his friends will make sure the media message is consistent – vote UKIP get Miliband.

    Another point about tonights polls of the 3 polls the higher the UKIP score the smaller the Labour lead.

  21. Spearmint


  22. Couple of by elections and it all seems very excitable.

    Not altogether sure of the wisdom of assuming UKIP will maintain the current bounce right through to 10pm on GE day, but I do recall posting on here in 2010/11 that UKIP were likely to edge up again in 2015 from their 3% and cause trouble for Tories.

    Others said UKIP voters would return to Tories, then they said UKIP was hurting Labour, now they say – what do they say? That UKIP will enter a pact with Tories? Who knows.

    My strong suspicion is that UKIP will take a handful of seats next year, maybe half a dozen, maybe less, but will have an influence on the result in many more, largely to Labour’s benefit.

    My suspicion is that the only circumstance where we could see UKIP get 20+ seats is in the event of a Tory meltdown, which I don’t foresee at this stage.

  23. OLDNAT

    Survation Scottish cross-break SNP 51.7% of a tiny sample. Somehow, I think I’ll ignore that. :-)

    But it is another impressive showing for the SNP. Really wish someone would conduct a proper poll in Scotland for Westminster VI

    STATGEEK…Another yin for your pie charts.

  24. @OldNat

    Using the Scottish sub-samples from the last week SNP are on 41% for WM so 42% in line with that.

  25. Crikey:

    @MSmithsonPB: Detailed data from Survation for Southern England has UKIP on 37.6% four pts ahead of the Tories.

  26. Allan Christie

    “But it is another impressive showing for the SNP”

    Maybe not, since it’s based on a sample that recall voting SNP to a ludicrously high degree.

    Of course, it could be recall that’s wrong – but still wholly unreliable.

  27. Any statisticians around?

    If Survation weighted to 2010 recal, but have SNP at over 40% of “Others”, how far does that distort the weightings?

  28. I expect the MoS have used some artistic license with Curtice’s quotes – i.e. taken the bit where he says what his model says would happen if the poll is repeated on election day and excluded the bit where he says that it is highly unlikely that that will actually be the result.

    I do think we need to start thinking more seriously about UKIP establishing a significant parliamentary group post-2015. But at most I think they’ll be on for about 10 seats. The history of FPTP in the UK suggests that it usually takes several electoral cycles for a party to establish a local base from which they can seriously challenge for seats. UKIP could well fast-track that in a few places but I think they’ll record a lot of second places (and potentially swing some CON-LAB marginals LAB’s way if they are getting 10% or so of the vote).

  29. @OldNat

    Sorry I misunderstood your post, people are embarrased to admit they voted Labour?

  30. @Coupar2802 – “As someone has pointed our the Labour Kipper has travelled further so further to get them back.”

    This is the kind of over analyzing I’ve been having a go at since the by election results. Those Labour voters haven’t traveled at all to vote UKIP – they’ve just decided to vote UKIP.

    People seem to think individual voters go through some kind of tortuous age of introspection before they decide who they can morally support, with all policies studied and theoretical political positions weighed, balanced and appraised. Complete guff.

    Consider this; Around 20% of 2010 Lib Dem voters have apparently now switched to UKIP. Do we really think the hard core supporters of human rights and the EU have really decided that, you know, on balance, Nigel’s got the right idea?

    Let’s not over analyse. Some voters from all parties and none are switching to UKIP, for all manner of reasons. UKIP will have a tough job retaining all of them, as they need to enter the GE with some policies. UKIP are inherently much closer to Tory policies than Labour, but the narcissism of small differences will tell. UKIP will probably poll sub 10% in 2015, but in doing so will probably inflict considerable damage to Tories, with some relatively minor damage to Labour.

  31. @Allan

    Even I am prepared to ignore some cross breaks. :-p

  32. These polls are doing my head in.
    Time for bed and wait for a magisterial interpretation from AW (plus a few more from our esteemed contributors) to tell me what to think.



  34. @Alec

    “UKIP will have a tough job retaining all of them, as they need to enter the GE with some policies.”

    Surely as the ‘fresh thing on the menu’ with no toxicity, they can promise all manner of things and get away with it? Once they have 10-20 MPs they have to be serious about things.

  35. I have seen the word confusing a lot in this conversation, including from me. I seem to remember a recent poll which found that some 28% (guess but I think that is correct) of UKIP supporters do not want to leave the EU. Explanations please.

    UKIP are surely just the current party of protest – sure a core element are dedicated to leaving the EU – but a lot of their support looks like transitory protest. As we all know there is a world of difference between a by-election and the GE.

    UKIP did not top the poll in the last local elections, though you might think that that they did based on the reporting. They did well at the EU ballot, but that is their only message – and 3 out of 4 voters voted for pro EU partys.

    I think I just saw a populus poll due tomorrow: Labour 35%, Tories 28%, Lib Dems 9%. Ukip with a boost at 17%. So good for UKIP but I doubt if it will hold for the GE and we will return to the norm in 9 months time.

    As entertaining as UKIP are they are not, in my opinion anyway, heading for a great showing based on real voting patterns

  36. Johntt

    How nice to see post with your name on it again.

    The place is better when you contribute.

  37. I’ve looked at the Survation crossbreaks now (just for a bit of fun, as they say) and I can confirm the Tories have a lead in no English regions.

    But they can comfort themselves that they’re 11 points ahead of Labour in Wales!

    How Blue Was My Valley?

  38. ON

    Miliband as bad foot?

    Limping over the line then?


    thank you for providing such a a detailed commentary on the research I mentioned earlier.
    I hope you most more often. Fresh in-put is always welcome :)

  40. @oldnat

    The statisticians will tell you not to get obsessed with tiny crossbreaks :-)

  41. Other entertaining regional crossbreaks: according to this poll Ukip are doing better in London than in the Midlands or the North.

  42. Maybe UKIP will follow the same path as the SDP. A handful of spectacular by-election wins with established politicians followed by merger and absorption. Doubt they’ll survive long-term without a change of voting system, though.

  43. Nigel Farage flouncing out of the merger and forming a splinter party, only to be trounced by the Monster Raving Loonies in a by-election?

  44. @Allan Christie

    Maybe Labour hasconducted a Scottish poll and that is why they are rebranding as Independent Labour.

  45. Some fairly bizarre follow-up questions in that survation poll –

    “Would you or would you not trust DC/EM/NC to make sure children can read and write?”

    Personally I wouldn’t let any of them near my grandchildren’s primary class!

  46. I was reading somewhere last week, I think it was somewhere on Conservative home that a lot of Tory back benchers are fed up with the Tories because they voted against something on Europe and they are now all excluded from ministerial posts, so they are in danger of defecting as they have no hope in advancement with the Tories.

    If UKIP start consistently polling 20% plus and Reckless wins in Rochester, could we see a mass movement of MP’s across the floor? I think that is the bigger danger right now.

  47. Statto

    Ta – so the GB 2010 recall vote figures are fine?

  48. UKIP are not doing as well as the SDP and the SDP didn’t win. So I am not really buying into the hype but it is a very different time and when both main parties are in 31% in a poll and neither seem to be able to break 35% then maybe conditions are easier for a party to break through.

  49. Survation also asked which party leader would you most trust to “help you put up a shelf?”

    These folk are going to be bloody busy after the election – teaching all the kids, doing everyone’s DIY.

    What possible use are such questions?

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