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. @ALEC

    It should be easy to get Conservative Kippers back to Con at the GE ‘Vote UKIP get Miliband’ will be very potent and they will have the press on board.

    So if Labour are relying on UKIP to win the GE for them it is a risky strategy.

  2. OldNat

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

    Actually we saw something similar in the Panelbase poll, not as bad but then their sample was a bit bigger than 50. There’s clearly a problem with false recall. Still they did find two Scots who admitted voting Lib Dem.

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

    I don’t think it does because they only seem to reweight for voters who said the voted Con/Lab/LD and left other untouched, which is sensible in a GB context.

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

    God, that’s an invidious choice. I guess Natalie Bennett?

    Cameron probably doesn’t know which end of the drill to hold, Miliband would drop the shelf on your head, Clegg would put it up in the wrong room and then look sad when you objected, and Farage would start ranting about Brussels instead of lifting a finger to help.

  4. @Oldnat

    I suppose it gives the plebs an applicable scenario of trust. Putting up a shelf requires some skill and ability with tools and materials.

    Do we give these people trust at something we might do in the home?

    Or in other words, when we try to be non-political or non-partisan, do we trust them?

    With no kids, and as someone who puts up my own shelves…sigh!

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

    Jesus wept! Politics at its most banal. I’m reminded of the redneck in 2000 who said, “Gore has a lot of good policies for people like me, but Dubya sounds like a man that a guy could have a beer with, so I voted for him.”

    But these questions are indeed of some use. To somebody trying to spin an idea.

  6. I’d choose Cameron for the ‘putting up the shelf’ question. Reason is his image is a ‘family man’ and they are always putting up shelves.

    Miliband – not a practical person
    Cleggy – too slippery might drop the shelf
    Farage – too drunk

  7. Animal comparisons too!

    By most popular choices – two snakes and two poodles.

  8. @ Statgeek,

    Yeah, I think it’s actually not a bad test, although I might reframe it “Would you ask this person to help you put up a shelf?” Because you know Thatcher could put up a shelf perfectly competently, but there’s no way in hell she’s going to help you put up your shelf.

    If I run through the PMs in the last half century:

    Wilson: Probably fine but I’d rather not ask him
    Heath: No, he’d refuse
    Callaghan: Sure, he’d be fine
    Thatcher: Not a chance, she’d laugh in your face
    Major: Sure, fine
    Blair: He’d agree to help but he’d end up sitting around and grinning smarmily while you did all the work
    Brown: No, he’d throw a stapler at your head for asking
    Cameron: No, can’t do manual tasks
    Miliband: He’d agree to help and then accidentally injure himself

  9. So – how about “Who would you most trust to babysit your kids?”

  10. (Er, Miliband is there as a prospective PM; that wasn’t an election forecast.)

  11. Wouldn’t be funny if UKIP managed to get 25% of popular UK vote but ended up with fewer seats than SNP and Lib Dem?

  12. @ Old Nat,

    Hm… everyone except Heath and Blair, because I wouldn’t trust them to be responsible enough not to abandon the task halfway through. Wilson wouldn’t do it himself but he’d definitely draft a replacement before he bailed.

    Thatcher would have them doing something constructive like learning how to make ice cream, but that would be fantastic, really. Brown would be weirdly good with them, although he’d only communicate with you in monosyllabic growls. Cameron would be fine as long as they were well enough groomed not to inspire any creepy classist “You look like you rolled out of a council flat” remarks. I’m not sure I trust Miliband with the stove but they could get a pizza or something.

    And Callaghan and Major would be like “Wow, this is so relaxing and easy compared to managing my party.”

  13. In the Survation tables, apart from the basic VI stuff and related, I reckon there are 68 different questions. Of these 65 are about Party leaders.

    The three that aren’t personality -obsessed, one is about whether A vote for UKIP will only lead the UK to a Labour victory in 2015, which apart from the odd grammar might have been interesting if they had asked it of everyone except just Conservative voters (though even they only agreed 41-35).

    One was Should the Conservative Party form an election pact with UKIP whereby they would not stand against each other in some parliamentary seats?[1] again only asked of Conservatives (Yes 32%, No 46%), though you would have thought the views of UKIP voters relevant too.

    And the third question was about whether Immigrants with HIV should be allowed to enter the UK. Because obviously that’s been the big health story of the week.

    [1] Even this was a restatement of the previous, leader-related, question Should David Cameron try to forge an electoral pact with Nigel Farage and UKIP to stop a potential Labour government in 2015?. Oddly enough this got better support (Yes 40%, No 41%), which confirms by belief that a section of Tory voters will agree to anything which their leader is linked to.

  14. @OldNat

    Tricky – best of a bad bunch –
    It’s going to be Cameron again. I know he left his daughter in the pub but
    Farage’s bed time stories would be indoctrination about the big bad immigrant. Ed M – No Way he forgot to register his own son for a couple of years let’s say ‘he doesn’t do kids’ and I wouldn’t trust Cleggy on anything.

  15. @Mactavish

    Well it already happened in the local elections in May 2013

    They were second in vote share with 25% of the vote but came 4th in wards won.

    The curse of first past the post…

  16. @spearmint

    They would all hire a nanny, rather than do it themselves. Such are politicians.

  17. Since Roger Mexico has pointed out that the Mail on Sunday is obsessed with personality questions, and asked 65 of them I won’t post any more, BUT

    any guesses as to who were the 2 snakes and who the 2 poodles?

  18. @Spearmint, Statgeek

    They would all get in a big debate about why the other chap would be awful at doing it and the shelf would remain on the floor or the child would go hungry.

  19. Natalie Bennett would put up the shelf, but insist on telling you about how rubbish Ed would have been at doing it so fervently you start to wish you’d just asked him to save yourself the earache.

    Callaghan and Major by themselves would be fine putting the shelf up, if Tony Benn and John Redwood could stop trying to pry the drill out of their hands.

  20. @ Old Nat,

    I’m assuming it’s either a PR stunt or everyone else on Earth was eaten by zombies, because otherwise I can’t see any of them volunteering for childcare. The question kind of presupposes they’ve agreed, though.

    Of the current leaders, Farage is a definite no- he’ll probably give them alcohol and he’ll definitely smoke around them- and Clegg is too wet. He’d let them eat nothing but sweets all day and stay up all night playing video games.

    Natalie Bennett would be fine though. And Leanne Wood, and Salmond, although I’ll probably come home to find them waving little Saltire flags.

  21. Whoops, that was a reply to Statgeek.

  22. Skippy

    Is that in a published poll or, as ITV News said, the ST having had sight of “private polling”?

  23. @ Mr. Nameless,

    Good points, well made.

    Maybe I could just cut out the middleman and ask Benn? He would definitely help you put up a shelf, and he loves technology so he’d know how to use the drill.

    Although if Benn were PM there would probably be a power cut so we’d have to do it by hand anyway.

  24. Also I’ve just woken up from a post-canvassing nap that went on too long, seen Survation and sodding hell!

    We’ll see if it’s sustained, although let’s all take a second to remember the Alliance on 50.5% after Crosby.

    Still, the seat numbers are interesting too. Would a UKIP-Lab coalition be at all workable without the resignation of half the members from each party? Could a UKIP-Con-Lib-DUP coalition hold together for a parliament? Would a grand coalition between the Tories and Labour work? Or will we be stuck in the nether zone of parliamentary deadlock.

    If you want a picture of the future, imagine Nigel Farage grinning into parliament’s face, forever.

  25. @ Old Nat,

    It’s just an article about the Survation poll.

  26. Ah sorry, I’m out of the loop.

  27. On the plus side, if UKIP really are 25% it will force all the online calculator folk to re-assess their calc tools.

    The Electoral Calculus for 31, 31, 7, 25 gives UKIP on 2 seats, and one of them is in Scotland (Gordon – Malcolm Bruce), which I doubt is likely (i.e. I expect a few South East seats to turn mauve first).

  28. One of the really odd aspects of the Survation poll is the way they claim that the votes of the 2010 Lib Dems are now going:

    Con 2% (12)

    Lab 24% (28)

    LD 20% (36)

    Nats 0% (3)

    UKIP 51% (10)

    Green 4% (10)

    [Non voters 24% (22)]

    Figures in brackets the last YouGov.

    The discrepancy on UKIP is so large that clearly something silly is going on here.

    Incidentally I’m not sure what model John Curtice used, but putting Con 31, Lab 32, LD 5, Other 33 into Anthony’s Advanced Swingometer gives a seat breakdown of:

    Con 276

    Lab 325

    LD 18

    SNP 7

    PC 3

    NI 18

    Other 3 (Speaker, Green and the model always seems to give Wyre Forest back to Health Concern).

    And not a single UKIP

  29. Statgeek

    That sounds a bonus. I think they’ve been a bit complacent that “normal service will be resumed …”

  30. Survation’s final question Which of these leaders of the Labour Party, past and present, do you think was the worst? produced a winner with Tony Blair (23%). Interesting how the coverage mentions that Miliband (12.4%) was consider slightly worse than Foot (11.9%), but not that Blair and Brown (18%) both got worse ratings.

  31. I found this interesting post which should hopefully settle the argument over the last day on this thread – does UKIP attract labour voters

    Well he has hard data to prove that some labour voters are voting UKIP

    “There are a few distinct ‘types’ of Labour voters which are drawn to UKIP, but I am choosing here to focus on one group: older voters in social housing or vulnerable young parents requiring substantial state support. Many of these voters have stayed loyal to Labour but in recent times they have either chosen not to vote or gone to UKIP. The map below shows where they live in Heywood & Middleton, but also has the ward boundaries. I have included the share of the vote achieved by UKIP in recent elections in May 2014:

    You will notice that the two areas with the highest concentrations of these vulnerable residents are in West Heywood and West Middleton, wards which are dominated by the Darnhill and Langley estates respectively. In these areas over three quarters of households are struggling older voters in social housing or vulnerable young parents. In May UKIP performed extremely well in the two wards in Rochdale borough with the highest concentrations of these voters. In West Heywood Labour beat UKIP by just 23 votes and UKIP secured over a 1,000 votes or 42.3% of the electorate. In West Middleton UKIP won 855 votes or 38.5% of the electorate. If these numbers don’t terrify Labour then I’m afraid they’re in denial”

    Hopefully that helps settle the argument.

  32. Statgeek

    That’s just because the model lumps all Others together. Gordon would be an SNP gain on those figures.

  33. @Roger Mexico

    I’m surprised you’re surprised.

  34. Richard

    Good find.

    Isn’t he one of the researchers that did the work for the Fabian Society report on UKIP?

  35. @Roger Mexico

    I get annoyed at EC’s tool, as it includes UKIP nationally, but not on the regional tool.

  36. @Richard

    I wasn’t aware anyone doubted this. Of course some Lab 2010 voters voted for Ukip in the H&M by-election. I thought the point people were making was that the vote of other parties was far more heavily affected and that Lab actually gained vote share.

  37. The Tories cannot and will not make a pact with UKIP, In fact, if faced with the choice of being in opposition or forming a government witth UKIP support, the Conservative party leadership will choose the former over the latter, just as mainstream centre-right parties in France for example have always ruled out a pact with Le Pen’s FN. In the long run, like in other European countries where there are significant far-right parties, voters in select constituencies, regardless of their personal party preferences, will begin to vote strategically against the nationalist candidates.

  38. Given that UKIP apparently used BNP style campaign tactics at Heywood & Middleton it is hardly surprising that quite a few Labour voters shifted to them.

  39. Graham

    I didn’t follow the stories about the campaign. Which “BNP style campaign tactics” did they employ?

  40. @Mbruno

    Yes the Survation poll seemed to be that Tory voters were against this by 4-2 margin, although if Ukip win Rochester and Strood things may change.

  41. @Oldnat

    I hadn’t seen that report – yes you are correct, he participated in that report – surprising reading, it seems UKIP is more of a threat to Labour that Tory in terms of number of seats


    Sorry, I must have misunderstood in that case.

  42. Richard

    The Fabian report seemed quite a good analysis – though I didn’t look at it in much detail, since it doesn’t deal with any UKIP effect in Scotland. [1]

    However, I suspect there is a tipping point in the UKIP VI, when it rises above a certain level, the Tories will suffer more than Labour.

    [1] In Scotland, anything more than a small rise in the UKIP vote seems unlikely. I’d guess that any such would draw significantly more from Tory & Labour than the SNP, so an electoral advantage for the SNP in 2015, but still likely for there to be a few UKIP MSPs in 2016.

  43. @oldnat

    Well the basic summary is that although UKIP draws more voters from the Tories than Labour at a national level, so look good for Labour, the geographic distribution of where those votes are mean that it hurts Labour more, as most of the Tory defectors are in safe Tory seats.

    Labour and Conservatives share 5 “critical and high risk seats under threat”

    But the conservatives only have 6 “critical and very serious indirect threats” while Labour have 16 of those.

  44. Bit of catch up, from earlier…


    “I don’t doubt for one minute people will vote on policy come the election but I think there is a section of the public who will vote for what party leader they think is best to run the country and that for me is the tipping point on who wins the election…It might be around 5% of us but I do believe the election will be won and lost on the party leader.

    I take on board what you say regarding Churchill but the visible exposure he would had got compared to today’s leaders would had been a fraction. …”


    I am not saying the party leader thing doesn’t matter, what I am saying is that the significance of it varies according to whether something else is perceived to matter more at the time or not.

    Clearly, after the Second World War, the Labour policies mattered more, despite Churchill’s popularity. You can keep asking the question, but the evidence is already there.

    In Churchill’s day, radio was the medium that gave the impression of a leader’s personality and gravitas, rather than TV, everyone listened to the radio, and I think it is fair to say that Churchill came across quite well. Even to this day, people can remember Churchill’s speeches to the same considerable extent that they can’t quote Cameron’s utterances on the Big Society or, well, anything really.

    Also, I should add, you didn’t really need the media to tell you there was a war on. If you looked carefully, there were little giveaways, like being bombed, waving your sons off to the battlefield, waving your children of at the train station to being evacuated, seeing your workplace being repurposed to make armaments, the shortages, etc. etc.

    Equally, you didn’t need the media to tell you the war had ended, ‘cos it’s possible you might notice the people returning home, the absence of the bombing thing etc. etc. So people ought to have been aware there was a war on, and that we had won it, and that Churchill was in charge, without too much media assistance. And yet, he lost the election.

    However, in your defence, look at the surge in Maggie’s fortunes after winning the Falklands. Here you can see how powerful winning a war can be. Yet the Falklands was nowhere as big a deal as WW2. So how come Labour won in 1945? It’s likely that it wasn’t just the policies per se, but also the mood for change among the populace. They didn’t grind it out for all those years of the war just to go back to the way things were. They wanted to build a better future for their kids, and after all that sacrifice, they wanted big change.

    Worth noting also, however, that the war helped puncture the class thing. The idea that the ruling class were born to lead and so much superior. It punctured it in both directions… war is a great leveller: the officer class couldn’t fail to notice when fighting for their lives alongside the working class, that the latter were not as feckless and lacking in resource as had hitherto perhaps been assumed, but had been held back by circumstance.

    Healey noted that the end of the post-war consensus came with Maggie’s crowd: a new generation of politicians who had not fought in the war. The likes of MacMillan hadn’t fought in the Second World War of course, but had fought in the First, and part of his role had been to censor the letters the troops were sending home, giving him a unique insight into their lives and thoughts.

    We don’t always have such powerful movements for change, which can rather assist with making policies more salient. There’s one growing in salience at the moment though: immigration*, which because it touches on so many things, may be considered by some as more important than tax thresholds, bedroom taxes, pasty taxes, warblings on predistribution etc…

    (*or of course, in Scotland, Independence…)

  45. Latest YouGov / Sunday Times results 10th Oct – Lab 34%, Con 32%,, UKIP 16%; LD 9%. Greens 5%, SNP/PCY 4%, B** 1%, Others 1% APP -22

    Odd cross break in the 18-24yr olds, Lab not really losing any more of their 2010 vote to UKIP than previously. The Cons on the other hand, a stonking 20%

    Their is a question in this poll about changing your mind and 25% of UKIP voters say they might – which would be 4%, on the other hand I believe that the 10% of ex 2010 LD’s now voting Cons, are in fact “Anyone but Labour” voters and will vote UKIP in safe Lab seats – so the Con vote may lose some and gain some


    What would you say is your MAIN reason for backing this party?
    I note that most people say they vote on policies and values and only 6% on leaders – Ed M must hope that is true

    And the question
    How do you think the financial situation of your household will change over the next 12 months is -19% – same range as usual

    My theory is that Con voters are optimistic about the next 12 months and are doing well. Con voters tend to be more affluent, therefore affluent people are doing well and expect to do well in future,


    Poorer and middle income voters are not doing well. It suggest the economic growth we are seeing is not evenly spread – amongst the different classes and regions and occupations. Some people are doing extremely well, the majority are finding it hard


  46. “Some people are doing extremely well, the majority are finding it hard



    Probably not just an opinion FV, there is some evidence to support it, if one looks at average real terms wages, etc…

  47. I also note that

    Lab voters 85%
    Con voters 85%

    are now pretty much sure of voting for their party chosen now

    UKIP voters 74% slightly less – a quarter might change or 4% Cons must hope they all change to Cons, I don’t think they all will, only most


    LD 68% can still lose another third of their vote – 3%, which suggests the LD core vote is 6%

    There are lots of other interesting questions in this Yougov release


  48. @Carfrew

    “Probably not just an opinion”

    Yeah, we both know this, the evidence is pretty compelling now,

    Can’t see the situation changing between now and May 2015

  49. @FV

    Well, it’s unlikely to change without some intervention, although the coalition may hope that the growth spreads sufficiently outside London etc. into the Midlands marginals to sway things. Time is, as you say, getting short though, and there is the problem that growth and even increasing the wages isn’t enough when prices on essentials may just go up in response. Perhaps the government thought rising house prices themselves would increase the feelgood factor as in the past, but people don’t seem as impressed by it these days…

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