In the first week back there have been seven polls. The regular weekly Ashcroft poll hasn’t fired up yet, and none of the phone pollsters did fieldwork over the first weekend of the year, but the daily YouGov and twice-weekly Populus polls are off:

Opinium/Observer (2/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 17%, GRN 4%
Populus (4/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (5/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (6/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (7/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 7%
Populus (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%

All the polls so far are showing a tight race, with the Labour party averaging a very small lead – the current UKPollingReport average has CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%. YouGov started the year by changing their methodology to include UKIP in the main prompt, but it doesn’t appear to have had any impact on their level of support (if anything they are marginally down – last month YouGov had them averaging at 15%).

Start of the Campaign

The political parties started the campaign, the Conservatives largely on the economy and spending, Labour on the NHS. In terms of believability at least Labour’s claims went down better – by 48% to 32% people thought the claim that the NHS could not survive five more years of David Cameron was true, and by 42% to 27% that the claim the Tories wanted to cut spending back to 1930s levels was true. For the Conservatives, by 33% to 22% people believed that Labour had made £20 bn of unfunded spending commitments, but their claim that they had reduced the deficit by half was disbelieved by 49% to 24%.

Those, of course, are responses when respondents are prodded and forced to consider some party political claims and have an opinion. Whether anyone actually noticed or cared and whether anything made any difference is a different matter. I doubt we will see much change in the positions at the start of the week when the Conservatives led Labour on the economy by 15 percentage points, and Labour led the Conservatives by 12 points on the NHS, little different from other issue polls over recent months. Where there has been a significant change in the salience of issues. Presumably on the back of headlines about A&E waiting times and crisis in the NHS the proportion of people saying that health is one of the main issues facing the country has risen to 46%, in third place behind the economy and immigration and up 13 points since December. If health remains high on the agenda it will be good for Labour.

OfCom major parties

As I wrote about yesterday, Ofcom released their draft guidance on which parties should be treated as major parties in terms of election coverage. It’s open for consultation so may yet change, but as things stand UKIP will be treated as a major party (meaning broadcasters will have to give due weight to reporting them in editorial coverage), the Green party will not.

Projections

Latest projections from Election Forecast (Chris Henretty et al’s project), Election Etc (Steve Fisher’s project) and the New Statesman’s May2015 site are below. All are predicting a hung Parliament, all with Labour and Conservative within 10 seats of each other. Note that Steve Fisher’s method doesn’t have anyway of factoring in the SNP yet, so will change very soon. I think we should also be getting a regular seat projection from the Polling Observatory team in the next week or two.

Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 284, LAB 281, LD 26, SNP 34, UKIP 3
Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 294, LAB 297, LD 29, OTH 30
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 273, LAB 281, LD 24, SNP 46, UKIP 3


197 Responses to “Seventeen weeks to go”

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  1. @Peter Crawford

    I understand the general point you are making and it is well made. We have been here before.

  2. I believe that the Scottish electorate are sufficiently switched on nowadays that the SNP will not be as badly damaged this time by being excluded from the UK wide debates as they were in 2010.

    The denial of democracy by their exclusion may indeed be counter productive, perhaps resulting in a protest boost this time to their vote.

    Looking further ahead, what excuses will the unionist parties and the establishment make for excluding the SNP from the UK wide debates at second GE in 2015 or in, say, 2020, if they win a majority of Scottish seats, and/or are critical to who governs, the UK, this time???.

  3. JP

    “I wonder if cynicism about the intentions of parties and their leaders and candidates isn’t a bit overdone on UKPR. The majority make more sacrifices to be in politics than any gain they receive.”

    I thoroughly agree. The idea that they are all in it for themselves is ludicrous. Sadly, far too many people, everywhere, like to see things in black and white terms.

    Life [and politics] is multi-shaded.]

    By the way, it seems logical to me that opposition parties are likely to claw back support during a GE campaign as, unlike previously, when governments control the agenda and airtime, they are receiving equal coverage.

    Anyway that seems to the perceived wisdom: if true the Tories have very, VERY little time to establish a lead that would repel any swingback TO the opposition from April onwards.

    Also not sure that we have “been here before” as someone wrote. SNP situation, UKIP, Lib Dem collapse – it is all very new to 2015.

  4. @Allan

    “Realistically (on current polling) the SNP are going to have a much much bigger impact on UK politics than UKIP but they are being excluded from a UK national debate.”

    That’s a little subjective. We could argue that without UKIP, there wouldn’t be a hung parliament anyway, and that a Con OM was more likely, so the SNP’s impact would be zero.

    Does the Con and Lab losses of VI to smaller parties lead to more losses to smaller parties as they (the smaller parties) grow? Can the SNP thank UKIP for their current VI? (probably not, but it’s all very interesting)

    If the SNP are in a position to make or break government bills in 2015 onwards, can they thank UKIP? I think they can to a small degree.

  5. @Gray

    “Still, the biggest problem is the idea of having a party leader given, say, 20% of the time in a debate where about 90% of the viewers cannot vote for that party’s candidates.”

    It’s a valid point, but if you take it from the other perspective, it’s a case of the largest part of the UK (England) deciding that a party from another part of the UK is less important in its United Kingdom.

    So in my mind, the Cameron / Clegg / Miliband / Farage debates should be broadcast in England & Wales only.

    Fair?

  6. Unicorn

    About election forecast.

    I think what happens is they fit a drift and diffusion term (calculated from historic data, scaled to the size of movement from the last election) and play out multiple paths to an election result from there (whether or not they include sampling error in their calculated terms I don’t know but they should really)

    I’m not sure how they shoehorn regional and constituency sized polling into the mix, I suspect it’ll be somewhat crude due to there not being a suite of polls for a named constituency. Maybe just a stab at creating a scaling factor to allow that constituency/region to move more or less than the general population.
    You’d need to readjust the “rest of the population” such that as a whole you end up where your calculations lead (a region with larger than expected swings neccesitate smaller than predicted swings elsewhere).

    I don’t think fractional swingback is a bad model (historically it has been observed although this election will test the linearity of such a relationship) however there will be great uncertainty as to which fraction to use (anywhere from large swingback through to the swing continuing) the question is are these errors so large as to consider any prediction meaningless. I could predict every party getting 50% of the vote +/- 50% and be sure to get the right answer.

    At least electionforecast are giving an idea of the size of errors they believe to exist. Election campaigns are unpredictable and they think a 3% movement in either direction for con or lab from their mean predictions is feasible which results in a huge range of outcomes in terms of seats.

    It’d be interesting to take their model and fill a matrix giving the probability of a given value/range of lab seats and con seats. It’d be informative and ridiculously easy to code up from their model (they are in effect already doing it for their OM/Plurarity predictions) so anyone who wants to see how likely Lab 290-295 and Con 280-285 was could at least get an idea.

  7. @ Jayblanc
    ‘But to be a close election in terms of seats won, the Conservatives need to be a few points ahead of Labour in terms of vote share.’

    That is not as obvious as it was a few months back. To hold true Labour now needs to reverse the SNP surge.

  8. JOHN

    Your gentle chiding is well taken :-)

  9. @Statgeek

    “…in my mind, the Cameron / Clegg / Miliband / Farage debates should be broadcast in England & Wales only.
    Fair?”

    That appears to be what Ofcom will do once they reach a final determination, with the top 3 parties at the last GE attending all GB debates, with additional parties added to to debates held in England/Wales/Scotland based on averaged opinion poll ratings in England/Wales.Scotland respectively.

  10. 1915- the year when dreams of an easy victory died and as the scale and consequences of the ghastly stalemate began to dawn on both sides – they struck out to find new fronts to breakthrough – only to find themselves further set back in further stalemate. They had the weapons for a new type of war but only the tactics for the old type of battle…..

    That summary of the situation in 1915 might be said to neatly apply to the politics of 2015. we are certainly back to old tactics – tried tested and somewhat over-rehearsed – dripping with hyperbole. i have been laid up for a week or so with a terrible cold – and early in the week the launch of the election campaign did remind one of one of the interminable artillery bombardments of before the slaughter of battle on the Western Front. I also note that that cliche of every election – this is the most important election for a generation – has made an early appearance…..ah well I’m sure I shall weep tears of bitter regret once it is all over.

    I still would put a modest bet on a change of government – or change of major party in government. ..but I admit perhaps I wish only to see what I want to see….and to that extent we are all blinded by our various prejudices….it could be that one of other or both the major parties emerge seriously weakened from this election but in UK that rarely has happened in a fell swoop. thus the chances of a significant UKIP breakthrough seem relatively slight and all the other possible breaks in the old politics – particularly in Scotland – continue to favour a Labour led coalition because the winners in those regions regard the Conservative brand as too toxic to be in alliance.

    If the numbers crunch in a way where LibDems could push both parties near or just over 326 but not by much the relative size of the NI nationalists and Scots Nationalists in particular may make the weather and in so doing cause a real political storm.

    I think the next Parliament likely to be more partisan and much more fractious than anything seen in the last 5 years. Early casualties may include Fixed Term Parliaments; the voting system; House of Lords Reform with reform of the Union Parliament to a variant of English votes for English Laws – maybe the upper house will vote in regions on legislation?

  11. Thomas, there is no reason for the SNP to be in n UK debates since they are only standing in Scottish seats. They are not running in 85% of the country (the UK) and even if polling 40% in Scotland that equates to 5% nationally.

    No reason for a voter in Eastbourne to see the SNP in debate since he/she couldn’t vote for them. Scottish voters will see the SBP debate, so democracy is served.

  12. Statgeek – by your logic the DUP should be in a debates since they are the dominant party in their country. You don’t want a larger country discriminating do we !
    The DUP and UUP were in discussion with Major in 1992, so they have had more recent experience of this than the SNP back in the 1970’s.

  13. @Mike

    The logic is sound and I would have no problem including the NI parties. My point is that others disagree with that logic.

  14. @Jay Blanc

    Thanks for posting your link. I now see that your simulations assign a higher probability to a Labour government.

    Very interesting stuff. Can you point me to a subsection of your blog in which you give a detailed description of the model? I have a number of questions that may well have been answered in advance by summaries that are already on your site.

    (1) at what point in the process do you introduce the random (Conte Carlo) adjustments to your numerical values? Do you first Use non-random calculations to a central set of VIs for each seat and then add Gaussian noise at this late stage? Or does the noise insertion take place at an earlier stage in the process?

    (2) Not sure how your reversion adjustment is calculated or how ‘momentum’ is included in the equation. Reversion is a variant of Swingback but I gather from your blog that your calculations are probably different from the historical (‘naive swingback’) approach used by Stephen Fisher and also from the roughly halve-the-difference approach used by Electionforecast. Less clear, however, is exactly what reversion assumptions are used in your simulations. (I suspect this may be the main source of your more Labour-favouring projections).

    (3) is your input restricted to national polling data or do you also make use of Ashcroft or other constituency polls?

    No need to repeat answers to these questions if you can point me to detailed descriptions in your blog.

  15. STATGEEK
    @Allan
    “Realistically (on current polling) the SNP are going to have a much much bigger impact on UK politics than UKIP but they are being excluded from a UK national debate.”
    …………………………
    That’s a little subjective. We could argue that without UKIP, there wouldn’t be a hung parliament anyway, and that a Con OM was more likely, so the SNP’s impact would be zero.
    Does the Con and Lab losses of VI to smaller parties lead to more losses to smaller parties as they (the smaller parties) grow? Can the SNP thank UKIP for their current VI? (probably not, but it’s all very interesting)
    If the SNP are in a position to make or break government bills in 2015 onwards, can they thank UKIP? I think they can to a small degree
    _____

    Ok that’s a very valid point and yeah the UKIP factor will have a impact on Tory and Labour VI and possibly knock out the stuffing (especially the Tories) from forming a majority.

    But my main rationale for excluding UKIP from the leaders debate is that they stand zero chance along with the SNP Libs and others on their leader becoming the next UK PM.

    It’s a two horse race between DC and EM so the (UK wide) debates should only involve them and let the regional tv broadcasters conduct regional debates involving the rest of the parties.

  16. MIKE
    Thomas, there is no reason for the SNP to be in n UK debates since they are only standing in Scottish seats. They are not running in 85% of the country (the UK) and even if polling 40% in Scotland that equates to 5% nationally.
    No reason for a voter in Eastbourne to see the SNP in debate since he/she couldn’t vote for them. Scottish voters will see the SBP debate, so democracy is served
    ______

    Voters in Scotland might also question the reason they are seeing UKIP in a national debate where that party has no domestic representation. No councilors, no MP’s and no MSP’s.

  17. @ Jay Blanc

    Oh..and another question while I am about it.

    How does your model adjudicate between a Labour-led and a Tory-led coalition?

    Clearly we can expect a government to be formed by any party that manages to win 326+ seats. But do you predict an X-led coalition whenever Party X emerges with most seats?

    My point is that coalition formation is not algorithmic and so I don’t see how your model can assign probabilities to different kinds of coalition.

  18. Per Mike

    “No reason for a voter in Eastbourne to see the SNP in debate since he/she couldn’t vote for them. Scottish voters will see the SBP debate, so democracy is served.”

    Tell me the reason why Scottish voters should be denied the sight and sound of their prospective Prime Ministers Miliband & Cameron debating with the SNP the party in Government in Scotland and well ahead in the opinion polls in Scotland for GE 2015??

  19. If DC comes within 20 seats of forming a government, it will be no good the Tory right blaming Cameron. They, themselves will be to blame for scuppering an update on the boundary revisions.

    Will an incoming Labour government invoke a further boundary review (obviously not with the same parameters), or will they look to hold onto their advantage?

  20. Unicorn

    Good questions. (Ones that should be asked of any model). All models include fudge factors to some extent, what they are and how they are derived is an important issue to judging a model.

    Another good question is “Given a historic set of data that wasn’t used to fit the model, how well did it predict the election?” Models that require hand tuning with a large element of gut feeling require choosing between different peoples guts, which largely depend on their skill on justifying their gut and less on the model.

    One could use UNS +x% swing as a fudge for this election with x being anywhere from -5% to +5% and find people proposing that model. Chances are one of them will get close (ish for lab/con balance) it doesn’t mean their model was any good, out of a forest of uninformed trees, someone will get close.

    “I tweaked this number to give me an answer I liked the sound of” makes the data scientist inside me cringe.

  21. @Mr N.

    Excellent article on the Greens and their prospects. :)

  22. @ Alan (12.45 pm comment)

    Thanks for your observations about the Electionforecast model. I would agree with some of your inferences/statements but not with others. As you will gather, I am trying to understand the model by watching what it does. This is a poor substitute for reading a formal description. But as indicated earlier, I can’t find the ‘manual’.

    You wrote: .I think what happens is they fit a drift and diffusion term (calculated from historic data, scaled to the size of movement from the last election) and play out multiple paths to an election result from there …”

    From what I can see from the output, I am not sure that they always (or even *ever*) us historical data. For one thing, there is rather little historical data to inform us about VI drift for a Ukip-like party. SDP, perhaps, a couple of decades ago, but not a close comparison. Also, the adjustments seem to be too formulaic for past data to be a driver. Most of their changes seem to be quite well approximated by the formula:

    Standard party VI reduction = 0.5(ish) x (current average VI – average party 2010 vote share)

    (If the current average is *below* 2010 levels the reduction turns into an increase).

    Also, it think you are right that the probabilistic component (‘multiple paths’) is introduced *after* this rather simple regression adjustment. (Evidence: Between the Nowcast and the Forecast, the Tory VI is increased by either 3% or 4% in each and every seat. If the increment were noisy one woud expect to see wider dispersion in the difference scores. I suspect they were aiming for something like a 3.5% increase and ‘awarded’ 3-point increases to constituencies with sub-median Tory VIs and 4s to the rest. Or something along these lines. All just guesswork on my part.)

    “I’m not sure how they shoehorn regional and constituency sized polling into the mix,,,”

    Neither am I. What I *have* observed is that following an Ashcroft poll the VI profile is adjusted to look pretty similar to the Ashcroft CVI figures. It then drifts away a bit as other polling data are added. I have no idea how the adjustments are scaled for sample size or about the basis upon which changes are subdivided across regions. (From the webpage I gather that the input of a national poll would not necessarily result in constant (small) VI changes across the entire country.)

    “At least electionforecast are giving an idea of the size of errors they believe to exist.”

    I agree that this is a positive feature of the model.

    Is anyone else able to fill in the missing details, or correct any misunderstandings above?

  23. Personally, I would like to see the Greens, PC and SNP included in any GB televised debates with Labour, LDs, Ukip and the Tories. I think it would help knock on the head, the simplistic canard, that Labour and the Tories are the same.

    Furthermore, IMO, given the possibility of a minority government/coalition, the electorate should have the opportunity to fathom the policies of any potential
    partners – coalition or C&S.

    Obviously, I do realise that the length of meaningful debate is a limiting factor. Nevertheless, ideally I’d want the whole spectrum. Having only parties, representing the centre to the far right, inevitably skews the options for discussion. Whatever else she did, Dianne Abbott served just such a useful balancing function in the LP leadership contest.

  24. @ Robert Newark

    Will an incoming Labour government invoke a further boundary review (obviously not with the same parameters), or will they look to hold onto their advantage?

    Whether they do or not, the only electoral change that will make a “fair” system is one which gives every person an equal vote.

    With a FPTP system – even if constituencies were perefectly balanced in every other respect – the majority of the electorate have no say whatsoever. It all comes to down to a few thousand voters in a score of marginals.

    A crazy out-dated and totally undemocratic system long since supported by both major parties.

    Labour may well be in government in a few months in a coaltion with the LibDems and others.

    The price those others ask should be PR for the next General Election. No ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’.

  25. @ Amber,

    Whilst some might argue that incumbency is no guarantee of success in 2015, shouldn’t it be a factor in determining who is included in the leaders’ debates?

    Given how centralised decision-making now is in most of the parties, I don’t think so. Whether or not Farage is or ever will be an MP, he’s the person setting the direction of Ukip rhetoric and policy. He is therefore the person who should be asked to defend it. It makes no sense to ask pro-immigration Douglas Carswell why his party is banging on about “fifth columns” and such- he probably wishes they’d stop even more than the rest of us do.

    Likewise, Nicola Sturgeon and Leanne Wood have no Westminster mandate but it seems pretty obvious that they would have to sign off on any potential coalition or C&S agreement, so it’s they rather than Angus Robertson and Elfyn Llwyd who should represent their parties in the regional debates.

  26. @ Unicorn from earlier

    On the first two points, yes I’m referring to Scotland – ie models based on identical swings to the rest of Great Britain will be wildly misleading.

    Re the ElectionForecast model, the short answer is no, I don’t believe they’ve gone into detail in the public domain.

    Re ElectoralCalculus, Martin Baxter describes the STM and basic TM in detail here:

    http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/strongmodel.html

  27. @ Statgeek,

    So in my mind, the Cameron / Clegg / Miliband / Farage debates should be broadcast in England & Wales only.

    As far as I know all four of those parties are planning to contest Scottish seats, and three are planning to contest all of them. I fail to see why a debate between their leaders is any less relevant in Scotland than it is anywhere else, especially since one of them will be Scotland’s next Prime Minister. If we’re going by regional representation it’s true Ukip aren’t very significant, but then neither are the Tories, and Cameron and Farage might nevertheless form Scotland’s next government. By this logic you couldn’t broadcast the debate in Surrey because Ed Miliband is in it.

    If the SNP want to be included in national debates they should contest seats nationally. If they want to remain a regional interest group that’s fine, but then they can’t really complain if they don’t get national coverage.

  28. SYZYGY

    May I commend your post to Ofcom!!

    Well said and well balanced. :-)

  29. R&D
    Ta muchly. Ditto @ Colin
    BTW I was struck, switching from PM QT – Aaahh!!! – to Parliament on the News channel on Monday by the meticulous and courteous exchange between the(women) Minister of Defence and Shadow Minister on the detailed setting in place of oversight in the Prevent and Channel (I think) programmes to deter attraction to fundamentalist and terrorist movements among Muslim youth and sympathisers. Both presentation of the bill, and that of the opposition amendments were conducted with a concern for consensus and effectiveness in legislation which defied both criticism and the reality of abuse of the privileges of debate in the HoC. This was, by chance, against the backdrop of events in Paris.

  30. @ David in France,

    The price those others ask should be PR for the next General Election. No ‘ifs’ no ‘buts’.

    Er, the public might want to have some say in a major constitutional change, rather than having a few small parties try to stitch it up for partisan advantage?

    I’m for PR, but if the little parties tried to insist on putting it through without any democratic mandate I’d hope the bigger party would call their bluff and trigger a second general election. (Also good luck getting the SNP to agree to this if they scoop up 40-odd seats with FPTP!)

  31. “If the SNP want to be included in national debates they should contest seats nationally. If they want to remain a regional interest group that’s fine, but then they can’t really complain if they don’t get national coverage.”

    Exactly. I don’t see why so many people are finding this so hard to understand. Regional parties, with no representation in the rest of the nation, should not have national coverage. It’s just common sense.

  32. @ David,

    I do have some sympathy with the “But they might be in a coalition or C&S arrangement so everyone needs to know what their policies are” argument, but on the whole it seems to me to be a more compelling argument for excluding them from a coalition than for including them in the debates.

  33. The Hacktivist group “Anonymous’ have announced they will avenge the murders of the Charlie Hebdo journalists by shutting down all the jihadist websites. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11335676/Hacktivists-Anonymous-says-it-will-avenge-Charlie-Hebdo-attacks-by-shutting-down-jihadist-websites.html

  34. @ David

    As far as I know UKIP is unlikely to have any representation outside of a handful of constituencies relative to The HoC, so it’s a regional party. There was an argument here about the number of deposits LibDems may (or may not) lose. So they are national, even if it’s meaningless but so is the Monster Loony, and probably the Elvis BusPass.

    Let them all or none debate (actually the last one wasn’t a debate but three monologues, meeting in I agree with Nick).

  35. SYZYGY
    I have only recently cottoned on that you are wonderful Sue, who used to grace these threads. Anyway, agree with your post up page.
    The biggest perpetrators of “they are all the same, in it for number one”, are the stupid and lazy. They either cannot fathom what politicians are talking about, or cannot be bothered to listen. The worst cases are to be found on the Specky site, supporting UKIP.
    In their world, I am a weak liberal “Cameroon”, whose views are as far left as Ed Miliband. However, the general utterance of “all the same” is a public cop out.

  36. david


    It’s just common sense.”

    Which is, ironically, in short supply.

  37. How come seat projections dont include Plaid/NI? Cd be crucial on the day

  38. @ David and R&D

    Yes, but commonsense (rather than common sense) combined with an invalid logical construct is fallacy.

  39. Spiral est back ce nuit avec un nouveau series

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Je suis tres chuffed.

    Hopefully some more Bridge will follow soon.

  40. @Graham

    SNP performance does not increase Conservative ability to win seats. So it only reduces the Labour advantage, it can never eliminate it. And there are a limited number of Scottish seats for Labour to lose.

    @Unicorn

    1) Variation is introduced both on the National VI, and each individual constituency election.
    2) Reversion to mean is *explicitly not* a variation on swing-back. It’s reversion to the last election. Which the conservatives did not win either, we should remember. Momentum can be judged by looking at the polling trends. And either momentum reduces reversion, or increases it, or reverses it. A party that sustains momentum up to election day would not fit the “swing-back” model, yet you can find examples of that occurring in elections worldwide.
    3) I do not use constituency polls, because they are not conducted in ways to provide a measure of momentum. I do not use Ashcroft polls because he has no track record yet as an impartial pollster, and is solely doing this for political reasons so I have to be wary. If he polls 2015 within a stones throw, I’d reconsider for 2020.
    4) The resulting government from any particular simulation is on a simple set of logical gates based on if seat number conditions are met. I give the Conservatives the ‘first bite of the apple’ advantage in first choice of coalition partner.

  41. @David

    I don’t see why so many people are finding this so hard to understand. Regional parties, with no representation in the rest of the nation, should not have national coverage. It’s just common sense.

    Maybe but i would like the SNP included. Devolution and regional policy are, for me, big national issues and I would like to hear what the SNP has to say about them and how the other parties respond.

    The chance of Nigel Farage’s group being represented in my particular neck of the woods is I am glad to say as near to zero as possible. So common sense should probably dictate that I don’t have to listen to him either but I suppose one needs a spectrum of views represented and so I will have to grin and bear it.

    Unfortunately the logic of all this is that I should have to listen to the Welsh and the Northern Irish and the Greens and no one would have much of a chance to get a word in edgeways. So perhaps there has to be some kind of compromise eg. Cameron V Ed M (as the two potential prime ministers), the same two and the regional parties to debate issues of concern to the latter and then the same two with the rest. Won’t happen but we need a bit of format juggling which takes account of numerical strength and regional relevance.

  42. I would argue against PR by the cost of redesigning the HoC. It’s a sum from which x number of extra nurses/policemen/etc could be hired, x number of apprenticeships could be financed.

    No chance for PR.

  43. @LIZH
    I caught these bits of news earlier. I said in a froth of anger yesterday on this site, it is not some French (or Rosbif) National Society for Armed White Christians, that should be feared, but ordinary people.

  44. Robert – “Will an incoming Labour government invoke a further boundary review (obviously not with the same parameters), or will they look to hold onto their advantage?”

    It’s the other way around. The amendment that prevented the previous boundary review didn’t scrap them or reverse the new rules, it just delayed the review for five years. So in December this year, a brand new review under the new rules will automatically start. The default position isn’t nothing happening, the default position is a new review… but would Labour block it?

    Personally my best guess is that they would legislate to scrap the 2015 review in order to review the rules and, following that, change them again and start a new review, which will have the effect of pushing the implementation of the next review beyond the 2020 election. I don’t think they’ve actually announced anything about it though.

    As to changes, it’s possible that there could be a shift towards census population, or ONS population estimates as a basis rather than electorate, but that may end up in a back and forth of governments changing the system for electoral advantage and might have unintended consequences. I think Labour could probably make smaller changes (movement to a 10% quota rather than a 5%, 10 year reviews rather than 5 year ones, and perhaps a push towards ward splitting) which would command quite a broad consensus, be seen as less partisan, and thus make it trickier for the Conservatives to fiddle with in a future government – the academics in the area would support it, and MPs across party lines don’t like lots of changes and reviews every term – while retaining the effects that have tended to help Labour. Still, we shall see (or not, as the case may be)

  45. LASZLO
    Its people building successful companies who export that we need.
    As for policeman and women, getting some of the fat buggers we already have fit, would be a start.

  46. @Jayblanc

    “first bite of the apple’ advantage in first choice of coalition partner.”

    It’s very familiar from Snow White … It would have ended very badly without the prince abusing the opportunity ….

  47. Unicorn

    I agree that the model of “swing back proportional to swing observed” will be severely tested. That’s not to say that trying to observe what swing backs tend to occur and fit to historical data is wrong, it’s more than the last few elections have been fitable with a linear model (I’d fit errors to the constant of proportionality before running it through the model to take into account the fact that the parameters of the model itself have large uncertainties) I’m not sure if this is happening or not.

    They admit freely this is one of the biggest concerns about the model, when your model is based on data and the current data is like nothing you allowed your model to fit to, “will it hold?” is a very big concern. Any adjustment to the model should be based on observed data and not these concerns though.

    The main point is the 0.5 hasn’t been selected arbitrarily by the people designing the model but rather measured from historical data (with large ranges of values). In my mind, this is vastly better than someone picking 0.5 because it sounds right, or worse, adjusting this 0.5 to get an answer that is close to what they feel should happen. Ideally for each iteration, generate a number between 0.3-0.7 (actually measure this range of best fit lines, I selected then for illustration purposes) and run a simulation using this level of swingback. I don’t know if this is done or not.

    What your observations about a flat 3.5% swing is that the drift term is applied before any constituency factors are applied. (Easily checkable immediately after an Ashcroft release)

    It’s hard to say whether a range of linear regression models have been allowed to apply. After all, the mean of these factors wilI be the same, so the mean of the result won’t be moved much. The main effect will be creating a larger spread and I don’t think anyone is suggesting the range of seats they have thrown up is too small. With more data a better fit of swingback levels will be established, including non linear fits if required.

    It would probably help labour a little compared to a fixed factor as there seems to be more seats to be won by labour with a less than average reversion than extra tory seats to be won with a greater than expected reversion. It may well already be included.

    If not, it’s noninclusion might be there to at least give a sensible prediction instead of errors of +/- 100 seats due to the huge uncertainty in the values in a linear fit. It’d be nice to know either way (along the the sample mean and standard error on the factor of proportionality)

    I can handle flaws in models, as long as they are transparent when a simplification of the ideal has been invoked.

    It does sound like the constituency polls are handled as an adjustment from the national figures rather than having a drift term calculated separately for each constituency independently. While it might not be perfect, in terms of calculating seats it might be good enough (as the times it is of interest, it involves parties running neck and neck) instead of increasing the run time of the simulation by a factor of 650. When other considerations have a greater level of uncertainty there seems to be a limit on the value of drilling down to improve a constituency model more than this. It’d be nice but really unless the same seats were polled repeatedly, getting a good idea of how a non standard swinging seat behaves is impossible.

    Out of the three predictors above it probably has the most going for it, although elections etc should be examined once they have a stab at incorporating regional (Scottish) polls. Comparing and contrasting the differences in the models will be interesting at that point.

    Data driven models are very young and have very little data to work on, compared to the amount of “guessers” out there I suspect they will be better than the average guesser, and given time to mature (and more data) they will beat the majority.

  48. @Julia

    Northern Ireland will almost certainly not influence the selection of the Government. There’s almost a constitutional convention on this now, because it would open up a nest of vipers that no one wants to get into.

    @Unicorn

    Also, to answer a question you didn’t ask. There has been less than 0.5% variance between multiple complete 5000 simulation runs using the same input.

  49. @Lazlo

    My preference would be for us to build a new parliament building. The Palace of Westminster has much more value to the nation as a tourist attraction, than its value from functioning as legislature.

    We’re already spending £2,019,295 on a restoration and renewal program, on top of day to day maintenance and upkeep of the Palace of Westminster. It’s the least cost effective, and least practical of all places to actually have our legislature meet in.

  50. @Jayblanc
    ‘SNP performance does not increase Conservative ability to win seats. So it only reduces the Labour advantage, it can never eliminate it. And there are a limited number of Scottish seats for Labour to lose.’

    On the basis of present polling in Scotland Labour could lose 30 seats to the SNP . Were this to happen in May Labour might no longer lead the Tories in seats given the same share of the national vote.Moreover, in a limited number of seats – eg Dumfries and Galloway – the swing from Labour to SNP could actually result in Tory gains given that the Tory vote appears pretty stable in Scotland.

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