Lord Ashcroft has published a new batch of constituency polling. I hesitate to call it marginals polling, since we’ve moving up into some less marginal territory with today’s polls. Ashcroft has polled four different groups of seats in this set (all the tabs are here.)

The first is the next cohort of Lib Dem -v- Conservative marginals, this group are those seats with a Lib Dem majority of between 9% and 15% over the Conservatives, so we are no longer looking at ultra-marginals. The average swing from the Liberal Democrats to Conservatives in these seats is 2%, nowhere near enough to win seats like these. However, as we’ve seen in previous Lord Ashcroft polls of Lib Dem marginals there is an awful lot of variation between individual constituencies – some seats (Carshalton & Wallington and Thornbury & Yate) are actually showing swings from Con to LD. At the other end of the scale two seats are showing large enough swings for the Conservatives to win the seat (North Devon and Portsmouth South, which has a chunky 9 point swing from LD to Con, presumably at least partially connected to the scandal around Mike Hancock).

The second group of seats consists of two more Lib Dem seats with Labour in second place. Lord Ashcroft’s previous polling in LD v Lab seats essentially showed a complete Lib Dem collapse, raising the possibility of an almost complete wipeout for Liberal Democrat MPs where Labour was the main opponent. One of the seats here – Burnley – follows that pattern, with a ten point swing from LD to Lab. The other, Birmingham Yardley, represented by John Hemming, bucks the trend. There is still a 2.5% swing from LD to Lab, but it is smaller than we’ve seen in other LD -v- Lab seats and would be small enough for Hemming to hold on.

The third group of seats is two unusual seats – the close three-way marginal of Watford, and Wyre Forest, an Independent seat between 2001 and 2010. Neither of these really fit into any broader category, but looking at them as individual seats Watford shows little relative movement for the three main parties – all are down a little, UKIP are up a lot but still in fourth place, meaning the Conservatives retain a narrow lead. Wyre Forest was held by Dr Richard Taylor between 2001 and 2010. He’ll be standing again come the next general election for the National Health Action party, but I think under the same Kidderminster Health Concern label that he won on in 2001 and 2005. Ashcroft’s poll currently has the Conservatives holding the seat on 32% with UKIP in second on 27%, Labour 16%, Lib Dem 7%, Green 5%, Other 13%. The others aren’t identified in the poll, but is presumably largely Dr Taylor’s supporters.

Finally Ashcroft polled three of the four seats that will be contested by the main party leaders come the election – Sheffield Hallam, Doncaster North and Thanet South (presumably he didn’t do Witney because he thought it would be too boring… it would seem there comes a point when even Lord Ashcroft saves his money!). Party leaders normally do pretty well in their own seats. It is extremely rare for them to lose their own constituency and they very often outperform their party nationally. Such is the collapse of Liberal Democrat support however people have seriously raised the possiblity of Clegg losing his own seat – Ashcroft’s poll has it very close. Clegg is on 31%, Labour on 28%, just three behind (and this is on the question prompting people to think about their own constituency, the standard voting intention question had Labour a point ahead). Ed Miliband’s Doncaster North seat is traditionally a very safe Labour seat that should pose no concerns for him, but there was some speculation about how well UKIP might do. The BNP have held their deposit there at the last two elections and their was some significant support for the English Democrats too, with the far-right parties now collapsing and UKIP hoovering up that right-wing protest vote it looked as if there could be some potential. In fact Ashcroft’s poll did find UKIP in second place in Doncaster North, but 12 points behind Ed Miliband. Finally Thanet South, the seat where Nigel Farage plans to stand at the general election. Current figures there are CON 34%, LAB 26%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 29% – so UKIP in a strong second place, but not currently quite enough to send Farage to Westminster.

529 Responses to “Ashcroft polls of the Lib Dem battleground and leaders’ seats”

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  1. RAF

    Fallacious arguments, regrettably, frequently hold on. :-(

  2. @Jim Jam

    I know. I would say he is being a typical teacher. He’s very good at it :)

  3. AF

    High praise indeed! – but then I do have a high respect for my former profession,

  4. Sunday Times also tweeting other snippets from the YG poll

    people think EU immigration into Britain is bad for country by 46% to 29% but say we should accept it by 45% to 30%

    78% would support a block on out of work benefits for migrants who have been in Britain for less than 2 years

    37% of people think that private schools are good for Britain, 48% think they are bad for Britain

    27% support Labour’s conditional withdrawal of tax breaks; 46% think all private schools should lose their tax breaks

  5. oldnat

    “Tonight’s YouGov
    CON 32%, LAB 34%, LD 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%”

    You should be checking you’ve got clean pyjamas and stuff – not worrying about stupid ole polls.

  6. R&D

    All done. Also this is the anniversary of the Clutha tragedy, so a bit of remembering is due at 10:22.

  7. Interested to see Roly’s take on the Cameron immigration speech. I’ve been hesitant in judging this. The previous day was a PR disaster for Tories, with the utter failure of the ‘few tens of thousands’ promise painfully laid bare across all media outlets, with even non EU immigration rising strongly to solidify the sense of complete failure.

    Following this up within 24 hours by his much trailed speech seemed typically Cameron – quite risky, but by throwing his personal credibility and effective speechmaking skills at the problem, hoping he could brazen out the issue with the old born to rule charm.

    I first read reports of what he said, and thought that this was the most embarrassing and weak point of his premiership. All he actually managed to do was bring Tory policy broadly into line with Labour’s, although still missing out the important stuff about tackling employment abuse. The speech was clearly far less significant than was being trailed a few days earlier.

    Then I saw the extensive TV coverage, and started to think that this could work for him, up to a point. The speech was good and well delivered, and despite the previous broken promises, I wondered whether the delivery and tough sounding ‘promises’ might add a point or two to Con VI.

    Now I’m tending back towards my initial judgement. The memory of the speech fades, and we’re left with the numbers. We’ve also now got the BBC and Telegraph suggesting that the big bit of the speech was pulled because Merkel told him to pull it.

    Whether accurate or not, it rings true. Why was a speech that was so heavily trailed as a major and bold statement in the end so light on hard measures? We know he briefed key EU leaders in advance, so it seems quite possible that the responses he got led to a recrafting of the message.

    Cameron has got himself into an almighty mess over immigration, and by extension the entire EU relationship. It looks like he has sacrificed a good deal of personal credibility over this, which is unfortunate for Tories, as unlike the EU, immigration is a high salience issue.

    The speech was a repair job, which could have worked, but 48 hours on seems to be bogged down in another scrap with his right flank over why he didn’t go further.

    I suspect the lesson is that you can’t appease the beast. Either you agree and do whatever is necessary to satiate it’s appetite, or you take a principled stand and say why you support UK’s membership of the EU and accept the downsides that this brings, while trying to persuade people of the benefits. Cameron lacks principle or vision, and is therefore left with a mess.

  8. Alec

    The speech and the spin were classic Cameron. I’ve long thought of him as a latter-day Wilson. Ideologically pretty well rootless, sniffing the wind and doing what needs to be done on a tactical basis to get through this year/month’s crisis, defend his own position and react against his party’s centripetal forces.

    As with Wilson, the job he’s doing on the latter issue may only be recognised once he’s no longer doing it.

  9. @OLDNAT
    …Or the Greens.

    funny you should say that: all the people of polish extraction in GB I know VI for (sample size=3) plan to vote Green.

    thanks for info about tomorrow’s YG. Happy to be able to let you know that the rolling average (mean) of the last 20 polls has Greens as high as 5.70% for the first time, and of the last 10 is back on a record 5.8%. the 20 poll rolling average (mean) of the green -ld gap has also dropped to a record low 1.60% :-)

    hope you are back with us soon – we need you (and I don’t just mean the UKPR community :-) ).

  10. I’ve just been looking at the last 20 YG polls, and it’s very interesting that the only correlation that is significant is the Con to UKIP one.

    My initial assessment before running this analysis was the main variation was people flipping Con to UKIP, and I think the data supports this.

    Labour do seem have hit their solid core, and they must be grateful that after a torrid time, they still seem to have their nose fractionally ahead.

  11. In case anyone didn’t hear, UKIP gained Bridlington Central ward from the SDP (yep, them!) on Thursday night.

    In response, I looked up the SDP and they seem to have redesigned their website. It’s pretty poorly designed and written, but entertaining for a quick look: http://www.socialdemocraticparty.co.uk/index.php

  12. Tonight’s YouGov
    CON 32%, LAB 34%, LD 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 6%

    Well, I’d say that’s just about bang on the post Rochester average, not just in terms of the Tory and Labour.VIs, but also in respect to the Labour lead. For those who haven’t been paying close enough attention, that’s 7 Labour leads now out of the 10 polls conducted since Rochester. In the week immediately preceding Rochester, we were getting as many Tory leads as Labour ones. As I thought it would, Rochester has shifted things, not dramatically, but just enough to stall and the then reverse the slow Tory progression we’d seen developing before the by-election.

    Breathing space for Miliband, but it’s a transitory air pocket not a galumphing quantity of fresh air, and he needs to start gleefully accepting the multiple political gifts now being put on display by his opponents . I detect goals opening up for him on the deficit, borrowing and even immigration as we approach next year’s election, the very issues that the Coalition has tormented him with over the last four and a half years.

    Can he at last turn the tables on his tormentors as he still rummages around in his political songbook searching for the right tunes to play and songs to sing? No time for false notes any longer, but looking at these polls, unbelievably some might say, the next election is still the hapless Miliband’s to lose.

    His performance between now and next May holds the key. If you want rid of Cameron and Clegg, he’s still the only show in town.

  13. “Cameron has got himself into an almighty mess over immigration”

    I think they believed the oligarch spin that mass low-skilled immigration is good for an economy (when in reality it’s just good for oligarchs) and so deliberately allowed it to get even higher than New Labour thinking the economic “benefit” would outweigh the resulting grumbles.

    The reality is mass low-skilled immigration is a disastrous and deflationary policy that is leading to the disintegration of the entire western economy. If it hadn’t been disguised by the credit bubble (1998-2008) it would have been obvious years ago (to be exact it was obvious years ago as well but most people were high on cheap credit).

    And now they, the economy and everybody else are stuffed.

  14. CB11

    “In town”

    Is that in the Willdean sense of the term?

    “When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.”

  15. @ Crossbat 11,

    If you want rid of Cameron and Clegg, he’s still the only show in town.

    Quite literally, in Mr. Clegg’s case. (Well done Mr. Nameless!) The Witney CLP still have a bit more work to do, even with all those gains on the Chipping Norton Council.

    In other news, I’m amused to discover that George Osborne is once again committed to matching Labour spending plans, according to the stuff that’s being pre-briefed from the Autumn Statement in the Times. Who knows, maybe the public will get its dream of a Labour government led by David Cameron after all!

  16. Looks to me as if as soon as the media stop going on about how terrible Miliband is, the Labour lead bobs up a bit.

    It remains to be seen whether this will occur during an election campaign.

  17. Be interesting to see whether there is any sign of a narrowing of the snp/labour VI in scotland as this will be a major factor in pushing labour back towards 35.

  18. Oldnat

    Who would a Polish Law and Justice Party voter vote for in the UK? A socially conservative but pro immigrant party? Which party has that combination?

  19. The reality is mass low-skilled immigration is a disastrous and deflationary policy that is leading to the disintegration of the entire western economy.

    Can I assume that those who believe that immigration has reduce the wages of ordinary workers, if requiring a plasterer, refuse to employ a Polish tradesman at £150 per day and use Dave from Essex at £250 per day on principle?

  20. 07052015

    Indeed – though if Ashcroft ever does publish his promised Scottish constituency polls, that may tell us more about the extent to which the SNP lead in the polls will translate to Westminster seats,

    Still, the pro-Union media will do their bit, while the growing pro-indy press will do their bit in the opposite direction.

  21. Cheers, Spearmint. Was out in Clegg’s seat today, and the canvassers were very optimistic after that poll. It’s been absolutely unreal to be presented with what we might be on the cusp of achieving.

  22. Lurker

    Your concepts that every voter is committed to the programme of a party they have voted for, or that immigrants to the UK, who have taken British citizenship, would continue to see politics through (in this case) a Polish prism, seems unsubstantiated to say the least.

    I presume you have data on the previous voting patterns of our new citizens – including the numbers who voted at all in their previous country.

    You may have evidence to support your assertions – but it has been sadly lacking so far.

  23. In pure ideological terms, there are some Conservatives who fit that bill and some UKIPpers.

  24. Mr N

    When you are writing professionally, I do hope that you aren’t going to use “evidence” like “the canvassers were very optimistic” in any other context than the unreliability of canvasser’s responses to anything other than the weather.

    (I am in teacher mode tonight :-) )

  25. Well, obviously. But given canvassers are usually a bitter Morlock-like race, seeing them weirdly upbeat was entertaining. You’ll forgive me for it because of my insistence on quoting the headline VI figures and not the crossbreaks or the other prompted questions.

  26. Mr N

    I am relieved to hear it – though a little less that one of our future journalists considers that digging below the headlines can’t produce interesting leads.

  27. This future journalist has spent all week laying up pages for a feature on future video game releases and doing battle with his malfunctioning graphics card – you’ll forgive him for not being on top statistic-investigating form!

  28. The Irony in scotland is that the snp want both a weak minority labour government and a large snp group at westminster lead by salmond -two objectives which may be contradictory.

  29. @Ben

    On the Greens I have been noticing a very respectable score in that 18-24 cross break recently.

    I put the top 5 parties from the last 7 Yougov’s in a spreadsheet and came up with

    Labour 36%
    Cons 29%
    Green 18%
    UKIP 11%
    LD 8%

    Labour 39%
    Cons 33%
    UKIP 10%
    Green 9%
    LD 9%

    Under 40’s

    Labour 37%
    Cons 31%
    Green 13%
    UKIP 11%
    LD 8%

    So the Greens are in firm third with the under 25’s and 3rd with under 40’s

    And very low with the over 40’s! I guess to win in a FPTP system though you have to appeal across the demographics, so other than wait for many years, I think your party needs to figure out how to reach the older folk, or target constituencies with a higher percentage of younger people. (which I guess you are doing anyway by going after university hubs)

  30. @Mr Jones

    Most immigrants into any country start at the bottom (in every sense) generally doing low skilled work that locals simply do not want to do. In the UK, without immigrant labour the NHS would collapse, mass transport systems would not run, rastaurants would have to shut en masse, rubbish would not be collected and millions of homes and offices would not be cleaned.

    When the economy was growing at a reasonable rate under the earlier and middle years of the last Labour government immigration increased as vacancies increased with many posts at the lower end left unfulfilled. It’s just a fact that there are jobs the local population considers beneath them and will not do whereas immigrants will.

    There is a political debate about whether employers should bd allowed to exploit immigrants by hiring them on pitifully low wages and atrocious conditions which in turn undercuts the pay and conditions of the local workforce. That’s a separate issue. Indeed an issue that should be addressed more broadly alongside the subsidisation of low pay for immigrants and local preople alike.

  31. Roger Mexico probably has it about right. The elected heads of other European states aren’t being compliant though… for the reason that they see themselves as politicians in their own right and not as staff perhaps. Cameron couldn’t risk a confrontation so John Major was dispatched to Berlin a fortnight ago, but to little effect.

  32. @OldNat – good luck with the hospital stay

  33. Oldnat

    I am talking about the hypothetical of a Pole taking UK or Joint nationality, so of course there is no way of knowing what might happen. However, I doubt that changing one’s passport is going to change the way one views politics.

    Best wishes with your hospital stay.

  34. Mr N

    Ouch. You have my sympathies.

  35. I think for this week you get to be the one receiving sympathy!

  36. 07052015

    I wouldn’t make the assumption that Salmond will supplant Angus Robertson at Westminster – valued as his advice sill always be.

    As to the SNP/Lab ratios in VI, that may depend on responses to the Smith Commission and the subsequent January draft legislation,

    This ICM poll may (or may not) shed light on that. :-)


    “A majority of Scots think Holyrood should control all taxes and benefits while keeping them at a similar level to the rest of the UK, a poll suggests.”

  37. @Martyn

    Thanks for your comments posted yesterday morning. You have suggested a number of very useful ways of access past outputs of different models and I definitely plan to follow up on your leads.

    In you post you also asked two questions:

    ‘1) how do you measure the accuracy of a model? What statistic do you use to measure the error of, say, 35/33/15/9 vs a result of, say, 37/29/10/5?
    2) do you have any archives yourself you would like to share with the group?’

    In response to your first question, for models that are precisely specified there are formal ways of doing this. However, I can’t imagine finding it sensible to do anything more than compare the Euclidean Distances between different models and the criterion outcome. So – to use your example – if in four-dimensional space the 35/33/15/9 model prediction is closer to the poll or election outcome than is the case for the second hypothetical outcome (I.e., 37/ etc), then on that basis I would declare in favour of the former model.

    To your second question I am afraid I have nothing to share in terms of archives as such. To be candid I am just thinking aloud, considering the merits or otherwise of adding further independent variables to the regression equation and sharing the products of my explorations. My intention is to include in posts enough detail for anyone else to be able to reproduce the calculations within the accuracy of rounding errors, and if I fail in this I am more than prepared to offer further detail in the steps of the calculation.

    I am not yet in a position to describe a specific poll-predicting and/or seat projection model. I am just in the early stages of working towards that goal – a process that has benefited enormously from the insightful comments from numerous posters on this site.

  38. RAF

    1a) “It’s just a fact that there are jobs the local population considers beneath them and will not do whereas immigrants will.”

    1b) “There is a political debate about whether employers should bd allowed to exploit immigrants by hiring them on pitifully low wages and atrocious conditions which in turn undercuts the pay and conditions of the local workforce.”

    2) “That’s a separate issue. ”

    It is literally *exactly* the same issue.

    This started when employers in inner city areas started buying up the cheapest houses and filling them with hundreds of thousands of illegal workers living 4 to a room on a £1 an hour cash in hand. That’s where all the unskilled work went. It started decades ago and went exponential around 2000-ish same as all the rest.

    “”There is a political debate..”

    No there isn’t. The people who think creating a plantation economy is a good thing know they’d lose if they argued for it openly – and they’d lose on every level as well including the economic argument. They just lie about what they’re doing.

  39. @Unicorn

    I can’t imagine finding it sensible to do anything more than compare the Euclidean Distances between different models and the criterion outcome.

    i would have thought that the acid test of a model was the one you applied this morning i.g. whether it predicts the criterion in a set of data that has not been used to create it. There are then presumably a variety of ways of measuring how it compares with another prediction and some of this must depend on what you want the model for (For example, one might not be very interested in how the Greens do as they are not going to win, so one might pay less attention to errors in predicting the Green vote in the measure) This morning it was just obvious that your model was better than its competitor.

    After that it would be nice if the model was easy to calculate, didn’t use too many variables and made some kind of intuitive sense”

  40. Mr Jones – “The reality is mass low-skilled immigration is a disastrous and deflationary policy that is leading to the disintegration of the entire western economy.”

    You are assuming that if you eliminate immigration, wages will go up.

    But all that will happen is that capital is substituted for labour.

    Given how low interest rates are, there should have been a lot more automation by now. Ironically the availability of cheap labour has persuaded companies to postpone capital investment in bots and the like.

    But restrict labour and see how quickly the bots arrive. Think of the tube becoming automated like the paris metro, and all those jobs going. Think automated checkouts proliferating. Think eliminating showrooms and frontline sales staff altogether and having an ecommerce store (so you only need to hold onto your warehouse operation). After all it works great for Amazon. With Google’s success with driver-less cars we won’t even need taxi drivers any more.

    Only jobs in the knowledge/creative industries will be able to hold onto good salaries – and even they are vulnerable to outsourcing.

  41. @Charles ..in belated response to your posts yesterday at 2.15 pm and at 6.04 pm

    I like your suggestion about including the identity of the runner-up party as a dummy variable in the VI predicting regression equations. Easy to do and potentially very informative. If it explains a significant amount of the residual variation then a case could made for including it routinely in any VI churn model. That said, I am a little concerned about throwing in anything and everything we can measure. There is an elegance in keeping things as simple as possible.

    I’ll report back as soon as I can. (A slight problem is that posters have sent me a rather long shopping list of new analyses to do…)

  42. Unicorn

    In the interests of avoiding further complexity – if you haven’t already done so, can I suggest you restrict your modelling to the English polity?

  43. @Candy

    “You are assuming that if you eliminate immigration, wages will go up.
    But all that will happen is that capital is substituted for labour … But restrict labour and see how quickly the bots arrive.”

    No, I am assuming the current political class have imported millions more low skilled workers just before a wave of mass unemploying technology shows up.

    The thing about corruption is you always get the worst option because the people selling the worst option i.e. the one that is best for them but worst for everyone else, have the biggest incentive to pay the biggest bribes.

  44. @Mr Jones – “No, I am assuming the current political class have imported millions more low skilled workers just before a wave of mass unemploying technology shows up.”

    The mass unemploying technology has already shown up in other countries!

    If you want to take a look at capital being substituted for labour at warp speed, go to France. Everything seems automated there bar the restaurants, as business tries to find excuses not to hire.

    It’s not happening here as fast BECAUSE the labour force is so cheap and plentiful and it’s so easy to hire and fire. A British business thinks, yes, I’ll hire those cheap immigrants and in the mean time build up my cash reserves instead of spending it on bots.

    In France because the labour laws are tighter, they’re going pell mell into automation. That’s why productivity is higher there – capital is always way more efficient than labour. But it has also created misery because the need for people is being ruthlessly eliminated.

    Give British business an incentive to do the same and they will. For the moment cheap labour and laziness on the part of British management is slowing down the process… That’s why the Tube is still manned under a Conservative mayor instead of being automated as in the ruthless Paris system under socialist mayors…

  45. MrNameless

    In case anyone didn’t hear, UKIP gained Bridlington Central ward from the SDP (yep, them!) on Thursday night.

    Quite an achievement for a Party to lose a seat to one that wasn’t founded till five years after its own official demise.

    Actually Thursday also had the rather odd spectacle of 55 people voting for a dead candidate in the Orkney by-election after one of the four independents passed away the week previously:


    Elections only get cancelled after a death if the deceased is the official candidate for a Party. Presumably some people had already voted by post or were unaware of the situation, but it would be tempting to vote as a sort of tribute. Of course under STV your vote would presumably be transferred anyway.

  46. @Candy


    France has mass immigration and mass unemploying technology.

    Britain has double mass immigration instead.

    Whereas both Britain and France could have had a labour shortage combined with improving technology i.e. what has driven prosperity in Europe for the last 700 years or so.

    Well done.

  47. @CMJ

    “As you have the dataset from Lord Ashcroft’s polls, what do your results for the other parties look like?”

    I doubt whether UKPR folk would take kindly to having their thread filled up with tables of numerical prediction comparison like the LibDem calculations I posted yesterday. To avoid overdoing things, which particular projections would you like to see?

    I tackled the LDs first because it is for this party that the UNS model seems to be most starkly undermined. You may recall from my original post that the UKIP regression equation had a large intercept together with a reliable slope. I haven’t cranked the handle but I would expect this to a little better than UNS.

    Things are more complicated for the two main parties. For the LDs it would probably not be too much of a distortion to say that the votes are flowing in one direction – AWAY from the party. For Ukip they are largely flowing in.

    In contrast, both Labour and the Tories are probably gaining votes from the LibDems, losing some to Ukip and to a lesser extent to the Greens and also exchanging votes with each other. To the extent that the dynamics here are more interactive, I wonder if it still makes sense to use equations of the form:

    Predicted constituency VI = a + b x (2010 vote share in constituency)

    Perhaps it would be better to try something like:

    Predicted Party X VI = a + b x (Party X’s 2010 vote share) + c x (Party Y’s share) + d x (Party Z’s share)

    At present I’m not sure it would be all that informative for me to grind out the equivalents of my earlier projections for LibDem VIs.

  48. Mr Jones – “Whereas both Britain and France could have had a labour shortage combined with improving technology i.e. what has driven prosperity in Europe for the last 700 years or so.”

    Umm. Regarding “prosperity in Europe for the last 700 years or so” – this has always been for the 1%.

    I recommend you read up on the Long Depression of the 19th century, and then come back and say whether all that technology was helping people at the bottom.

    The 19th century, like today was a period of mass globalisation. Lots of new technology coming onstream, free movement of labour (there were no passports back then), no welfare state either, and serious deflation, artisans made redundant to be replaced by the meanest jobs going in factories.

    This is the period when loads of Germans, Italians, greeks and eastern Europeans went to the USA in desperation. The poorer ones who couldn’t afford passenger fares to the USA came to Britain. I suppose rural Britain was sort of protected, but anyone in the cities was competing against people from the world who could be bothered to turn up. London in particular was a hot-bed of ghettos of as each group huddled together and tried to scrape a living.

    It’s hard to tell who these people are now, because on the eve of WW1 they followed the lead of George V and anglicised their names. But if you are a Londoner whose family had been there in the 19th C, dig through the records, it’s likely you have an immigrant amongst your other ancestors!

    The period after WW2 was an aberration because a massive chunk of the planet had cut themselves off from world trade because of Communism (Eastern Bloc and China). They’ve now rejoined the world, and normal competition as it has been in the last 700 years has resumed…

  49. @Candy

    A labour shortage combined with improving technology is what drives prosperity.

    Mass low-skilled immigration doesn’t.

    Mass low-skilled immigration combined with improving technology is the worst of all.

  50. @Mr Jones

    Labour shortages fuel inflation. As the labour market tightens, wages are bid up, which is fed into prices. Then comes a tipping point where the rise in prices takes on a momentum of its own and moves faster than wages, so the worker doesn’t benefit, he sees his real income erode. Then he strikes to protest the fall in his real income… This is what happened in the 1970’s.

    All the history books accuse Mrs T of deliberately engineering unemployment in the ’80’s in order to get prices under control, forcibly reducing labour shortages if you will – and there is some truth in this, to her and some of her colleagues it was a brutal necessity to preserve the overall system.

    Then she thought, what if there is another way, what if we reinstate the freedom of movement of labour that existed in Victorian times.

    She called a special conference of the then EEC and browbeat her protectionist French counterparts into agreeing the capitalist framework that would become the EU – free movement of people and capital. It was all her idea, it wasn’t imposed by Brussels. She signed the Single European Act in 1985 and it came into force in 1992.

    Blair and Brown voted against the Single European Act, but by the time they came to power in 1997 had had a rethink. Free movement of people was indeed the way to curb inflation, it starts to fall across Europe starting in 1993. Perhaps this was a way to have nearly full employment without inflation because employers who couldn’t find workers at home could pull in people from across Europe instead of bidding up wages and then prices. And Labour would protect against the downside by putting in place an elaborate safety net of tax credits and a minimum wage.

    The Thatcher-Blair-Brown settlement still makes sense. Inflation and falling real incomes as my parents’ generation experienced it seems to have created much more poverty than we have today.

    The pressure on the system isn’t because Britain has done anything truly wrong, it’s because Poland and the other eastern Europeans fluffed their opportunity and cocked up.

    When Spain and Portugal joined the EU in 1982, they’d been under the cosh of a destructive dictatorship for over 60 years, but they were determined to put the past behind them and make the most of the present. So despite joining the EU in the midst of a world recession, they made substantial progress and did not really do anything to the detriment of their neighbours.

    Poland and the Eastern Europeans joined in 2004 in the middle of a global boom. They should have faired much better – but instead elected reactionary govts who were more interested in conducting witch hunts and persecuting gay people than on focusing on the tremendous opportunity in front of them (in sharp contrast to the way Spain and Portugal drew a line under the past and stopped discussing it). They’ve belatedly got their act together, but the world economic climate has turned down, so it’s too late.

    But making the system work involves whipping them into shape instead of us retreating and trying to recreate the 1970’s, which by all accounts was a truly miserable period.

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