12 weeks to go

Here are this week’s polls

YouGov/S Times (6/2/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8%
Opinium/Observer (6/2/15) – CON 32%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 8%
Ashcroft (8/2/15) – CON 34%, LAB 31%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%
Populus (8/2/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 15%, GRN 4%
YouGov/Sun (9/2/15) – CON 34%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (10/2/15) – CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
Ipsos MORI/Standard (10/2/15) – CON 34%, LAB 36%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 9%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (11/2/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (12/2/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
Populus (12/2/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%

The big picture remains stable, with Labour and Conservatives very close. There were a couple of Conservative leads at the start of the week, but a couple of three point Labour leads at the end of the week mean the UKPR polling average continues to show a two point Labour lead – CON 32%(+1), LAB 34%(+1), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 14%(-1), GRN 7%(+1). Whether those two larger leads at the end of the week are anything more than normal sample noise remains to be seen. The MORI poll showing UKIP on just nine percent was their lowest since last September – I wrote on Thursday about the difficulties of actually telling what’s happening to UKIP support given changes in methodology, it looks like they might be declining slightly, but it’s hard to be sure.

Scottish and marginal polls

There were two other voting intention polls this week, a Scottish poll from TNS and a marginals poll from ComRes. The TNS poll showed a significantly smaller SNP lead than other recent Scottish polls. Survation, MORI and YouGov are all showing the SNP twenty points or more ahead; TNS produced an SNP lead of only ten points. This is presumably something to do with the methodology (TNS is a traditional face-to-face poll, rather than an online or telephone poll) as the long fieldwork for the TNS poll actually overlapped with all three of the other polls, meaning it can’t have been that opinion has changed. Meanwhile the ComRes poll showed a 4.5% swing from Con to Lab in the 40 most marginal Conservative vs Labour marginals – the equivalent of a two point lead in national polls… exactly what the national polls are currently showing!

Week 6

  • The sixth week of the long campaign started with Tristam Hunt defending comments he had made about nuns, then went through whether Labour’s women’s campaign was right to have a pink van, before settling on the rather more serious matter of tax evasion, the role of HSBC and an abortive legal threat against Ed Miliband by Lord Fink, a Tory donor with a swiss bank account. I expect we shall see some polling about tax evasion and party donors come the weekend, though possibly not about nuns.
  • UKIP launched their election campaign in the seat of Castle Point on the south coast of Essex, a potential target seat that may or may not have had UKIP’s first MP (it was never quite clear whether the defector Bob Spink formally joined UKIP or not) and where the party have formed an alliance with the Canvey Island Independents.
  • The Lib Dems launched the front page of their manifesto, showing us their main points (and their presumed demands in any coalition negotiations) will be promising to increase the personal allowance to £12,500, balance the budget fairly, invest £8bn in the NHS and provide equal mental health care, guarantee education funding and provide qualified teachers and pass “five Green Laws”.


The latest forecasts from Election Forecast, May 2015 and Elections Etc are below. The long promised seat model from the Polling Observatory team (Rob Ford, Will Jennings, Chris Wlezien and Mark Pickup) finally made its debut this week too. I don’t think it’s up on a website yet, but they put it out at the NCRM’s conference on election forecasting and tweeted it, so I’ve included it below.

Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 281(-1), LAB 281(+2), LD 23(nc), SNP 41(nc), UKIP 3(nc)
Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 280(-2), LAB 283(nc), LD 27(+3), SNP 37(nc), UKIP 2(nc)
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 269(-1), LAB 274(+2), LD 24(-1), SNP 56(nc), UKIP 4(nc)
Polling Observatory – Hung Parliament, CON 269, LAB 293, LD 21, SNP 37, UKIP 1

209 Responses to “12 weeks to go”

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  1. @PI

    I don’t think that is true, as I remember it when Thatcher needed Major’s support, Major had dental work done so he couldn’t speak. In this internet age he’d never get away with that but the BBC just unquestioningly accepted it.

    I have worked for the same boss for 15 years in 3 different companies and if I was ever to be his boss – I would be listening to him and we would be just as close. This is how I imagine Sturgeon and Salmon’s relationship.

  2. “UKPR polling average continues to show a two point Labour lead”. I’m confused by this (a) as all but one of the last 9 averages you’ve posted this year have had 1-point leads or tied so only one 2-point lead, and (b) the rounded result of your polls this time should be 33%, 34% anyway, and not 32%, 34%.

  3. AW

    From previous thread : Comres state that both main Parties were on 37% in the 40 marginals polled. This simply cannot be true. Did they mean that the average Labour and Tory vote when you total the votes in all 40 seats was 37% ?

    Why are there no details of individual seats ? Sample too small ? But adding them up is OK ? Hmmmm…

    Not sure the historical evidence really shows marginals Swing just like the rest. If so the main Parties would be wasting millions by appointing full time organisers in marginals. I think there may bec published evidence that consistent additional effort in marginal seats swings hundreds or 1-2000 votes – and that’s all you need – but of course that will be additional either way to national swing.

    Mind you I snoozed instead of going canvassing this morning. I do have a genuine excuse (upcoming hip replacement op) but do I have a long term one that it makes little difference anyway, I wonder ? ;-)

  4. @Mike N

    Every election is unique, but sometimes they have similarities and this one is, for me, most like 1979.

    There may not have been a Coalition then, but it was a minority government.

    The Liberal vote may not have collapsed so dramatically then, but they were doing pretty badly after Thorpe, and had lost voters by propping up Callaghan.

    The Opposition under their new, unusual, and unlikable leader were still divided between centrist old guard and radical Young Turks. Voters still remembered the disaster of their previous term in office. Pretty similar to today.

    The SNP were on the march, then as now.

    It was about five years since the government took office, then, and now.

    So not so unique as all that, after all.

  5. sorry a typo in my previous post, I meant to say the rounded result should be 32%, 33%.

  6. @ Dave

    Re: Ukip

    I think it is safe to assume that there won’t be any high-profile Ukip (MP) defections between now and the elections. I stand to be corrected on this, but my understanding is that at any point from now the incumbent party would have the option of avoiding a by election, simply leaving the seat vacant until the GE. Without the extra media publicity and with voters deprived of the opportunity to register a protest vote a defection now would be tantamount to a suicide note.

    I suspect that Nigel Farage’s next opportunity to make a big splash will be in the leadership debates – if they ever take place. And on this particular tangent, I think it is safe to assume that the absence of major party swingback will boost the prospects that the debates will go ahead. If swingback stays in the wings at least two of the models will start projecting a significant Labour advantage in seat tallies. In such a context the Tories may lose the incentive to raise obstacles to the debates. So, we might be in for some interesting developments before too long.

  7. Welsh borderer – there certainly is evidence of campaigning effects making a difference. However, it makes a difference for both sides, so to a great extent they cancel out overall (in individual seats there may be more or less effort of course, hence the effect can be picked up).

  8. @ KeithP

    .. wondering where the swingback is.

    There is actually a strong case for suggesting that swingback has already happened as evidenced by the big drop in the Labour lead from 10 – 12% 18 months ago to circa 2% now.It is not the norm for this to continue all the way to polling day – indeed the official campaign period covering the final month has usually favoured the Opposition.On that basis beyond the end of March swingback is likely to be at least partially reversed if past form is any guide.

  9. Unicorn – back last autumn in the “who’s next to defect” speculation period there was some suggestion that UKIP’s future targets included some MPs who were standing down at the next election (I think Brian BInley and Chris Kelly tended to be the focus of speculation, though both ruled it out) – hence there would still be some potential targets who don’t have re-election to worry about.

  10. @ Mike49

    I, too, was a bit perplexed by that comment.

    I think that @AW’s use of the word ‘continues’ may relate to the fact that a Polling Average update earlier in the day had already shifted the Labour VI two points ahead.

    On the averages I thought at first that you might have made the mistake of using the raw averages rather than Anthony’s preferred weighted average measure. But you are right. The the current batch of polls the weighted average for the Tories is 31.82% and that for Labour is 33.47%. So – as you say – these should be rounded to 32% and 33% respectively.

    That said, the over-precise weighted averages do show Labour as being 1.65% ahead and that difference would round up to 2%.

  11. @ Anthony

    Well – retiring defectors would create a bit of a stir. But without the oxygen of by election publicity I doubt whether they would have a very big impact on VIs. But then perhaps I am wrong to assume that by elections can be avoided this close to the GE.

  12. Re: Swinback (absence of)

    Quote of the Week once more goes to the ElectionsEtc website.

    “..,another week has gone by without the Tories making the gains history suggests they should.”

    I despair. These are bright people drawing very silly conclusions. History suggests that the Tories MAY make swing back gains.

  13. Unicorn,

    I think UKIP’s MPs can move the writ for a by-election for an empty seat as long as parliament is sitting.

    But it would probably be foolish to do it this close to the GE – there could be a backlash against an election seen as unnecessary.

  14. @Hal

    Isn’t the convention that the writ is moved by the incumbent party? If so, the initiative wouldn’t be with Ukip.

  15. GRAHAM:
    There is an interesting tweet from Mike Smithson in which someone compares Ed M to the tennis player Lleyton Hewitt at his prime, as a counter attacker, and that the PM has talked of Ed’s ‘horrid’ line of attack.
    Maybe when the campaign gets going Ed’s coverage will help the swingback to be become away swing.

  16. @Couper

    I had forgotten about Major’s Tooth. You raised a smile even after all these years, for which many thanks.

    Yes indeed. John Major was not inconsiderably supportive of Mrs Thatcher, in public. I won’t call this, as he might, “a bogus sham”, but not everything was quite how it was made out to be at the time by Tory apologists.

    And I am in no doubt at all that the pietistic, sentimental SNP mythology about Mary-Doll Sturgeon tearfully pleading with dejected Rab to take a swallie and return to the fight are just as far from the truth as Major’s expression of support for Maggie were. They are both top flight politicians. They were discussing the best next moves in their ongoing campaign. Perhaps, given subsequent developments, they made the right decision?

  17. @ LeftyLampton

    To be fair to Fisher, the whole premise of his model is that swingback is a fundamental and repeatable process. So, given that he is working within a particular conceptual framework I think it is perfectly reasonable for him to say that (according to his model) there “should” be Tory gains.

    I think you are misreading the fact that, in writing his summaries, he is merely adopting the perspective of his model. That seems a perfectly sensible thing to do.

  18. postageincluded
    Interesting comparison with 1979.

  19. Why can’t a MP simply move to another party without a by-election?

  20. @ Unicorn
    Thanks for corroborating what I’d seen in Anthony’s figures. Your explanation that the lead this time (when rounded) would be 2% is sound but all the other leads this year would round to 1% or zero. Ah well.

  21. @ MIKE N
    Why can’t a MP simply move to another party without a by-election?
    Maybe because of the risk of dodgy voter insights like we saw in Rochester, “I’m voting UKIP because the other guy was hopeless”

  22. BBC News reporting that

    Ex-chairman of HSBC Lord Green has resigned as chairman of advisory committee for banking lobby group CityUK

  23. Unicorn,

    Yes it is a convention, but MPs are free to ignore it. As are local councillors:


  24. lefty

    Quote of the Week once more goes to the ElectionsEtc website.

    “..,another week has gone by without the Tories making the gains history suggests they should.”

    I despair. These are bright people drawing very silly conclusions. History suggests that the Tories MAY make swing back gains.”

    Hang on…, CL45 says there WILL be swingback and it will be a dead heat and DC will remain PM.

    Are you saying that may not actually happen now???

  25. MPs can happily defect from one party to another with no by-election, and typically this has been the practice. There is no rule forcing them to resign and call a by-election, though there can be political pressure to do so. Under current circumstances though the fact that Carswell and Reckless both resigned and fought elections meant that a defector who didn’t resign and call a by-election would have had embarrassing questions to answer about why not! This close to an election I doubt that’s the case any longer as “well, there’s a full on election in 12 weeks” is a perfectly reasonable answer.

    If someone does resign, it is up to the party that held the seat to call the date for a by-election. This close to a general election it would be perfectly normal to leave it empty, but if someone wanted to call a by-election to fill the seat for the last few weeks or so they could. Might look a bit daft though.

    It is unclear who the party that holds the seat is in case of defection. Past precedent though is that it’s the party who won the seat at the previous election – in the case of the Rochester by-election the Conservatives moved the writ (for Clacton they did to, but there were no UKIP MPs to move it anyway, so the question didn’t arise), in the case of the Mitcham and Morden election in 1982 Labour moved the writ (and it’s testament to how rare it is for MPs to fight by-elections after defecting that those are the only two examples in recent history to judge by!)

    Other parties can try to move the writ, but in that case there would be a vote and other parties could vote against it being moved and block the election. Normally I imagine it would be politically embarrassing to block a by-election, but a by-election for an MP who would sit for a fortnight or so when there was no meaningful legislation anyway?

    Well, suffice to say I don’t think there will be any more by-elections this Parliament,

  26. Postage
    The snp may have been on the march…but they got gubbed.

  27. @ Unicorn,

    Ah, but the incumbent party is Ukip, because it’s a newly minted-Ukip MP and not a currently-Tory one who stands down to re-contest his seat.

    I don’t think they have another defection in the wings, though. The time to jump ship was in the autumn, or in the next Parliament if the new Tory leader is insufficiently Eurosceptic. Doing it in the immediate run-up to a general election isn’t sensible because you lose the campaigning support of the Conservative Party without getting the limelight in return, as attention will be diverted by the national campaign.

  28. Oh, I stand corrected by Anthony! Nevermind.

    (Although that convention doesn’t make sense to me- you elect an MP, not a party, at a general election, so it seems like the responsibility for the writ should follow the MP.)

  29. I think whether Ed enters Downing St depends on how voters see him as the election draws near and he is more visible. Will the public find him an even bigger turn-off or will they warm to him?
    The knives will be out in some corners of the press , but will Pressman and co have much influence?
    Who knows but if the odds on labour getting an overall majority are really 12-1, I might place a tenner.

  30. Spearmint – precedent, not convention. I think it takes more than two examples to really form a convention!

  31. @ Anthony,

    Heh. Fair point.

    Although it depends on the precedent. I think “Parliament must be consulted before the Prime Minister declares war” and “An MP must resign and call a by-election if they switch parties” are bordering on conventions at this point, even with only two or three precedents.

  32. Barney Crockett

    I agree that it is in the SNP’s interests to have a Tory government, but they cannot be seen to be their helpers.

  33. Barney,

    A good analysis by Yates and all the more reason to suppose that the exact distribution of seats among the minor parties may be crucial to PM Miliband. At least the DUP are committed to the Union.

  34. Back in the day, you had to fight a by-election if you were appointed to office. I don’t know when that stopped.

  35. @ Barney,

    While it’s certainly in the SNP’s interest for that to happen, it is very much not in their interest to be seen to orchestrate it. That, in fact, is the one thing that could save Scottish Labour in the immediate future.

    The PLP has been incredibly well-disciplined this Parliament and Ed Miliband is a man who has never yet lost a pitched battle, except with a bacon sandwich. And he’s used to mediating between Brown and Blair. Handling the SNP, especially with so many other potential C&S partners waiting in the wings, should be child’s play by comparison. Not to mention the fact that the E&W Greens and Plaid will be vocally unhappy if they catch their erstwhile partner trying to screw them- the SNP have an escape hatch from Tory rule, but no one else does.

    Sturgeon is going to have to play this very, very carefully, and I wouldn’t expect her to have things all her own way.

  36. Spearmint

    “I wouldn’t expect her to have things all her own way.”

    I don’t imagine she expects that either!

  37. Unicorn

    Fisher’s model is based on historical evidence that says that the Tories and the governing party OFTEN get a swing back. History suggests that ON AVERAGE their should be swing back.

  38. We now have a Fat Tax v a Fat Cat Tax! :-)

  39. @ChrisLane1945 and Unicorn

    I realize i have not lived in the UK since 1970, but went through the rise of the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec and the demise of the Progressive Conservatives, Canada’s oldest party, in 1993.

    Last night someone suggested that I did not understand the vagaries of FPTP and concentrated voting strength. So I went back and checked the voting strength of the Liberals and the number of seats attained.

    Relative to where the polls are at I would surmise that each of the three minor parties have their merits going into this election, as does the SNP in Scotland.

    I assume the SNP are going to do well because they still have the referendum ground campaign infrastructure in place.

    For me it is not just about where a Party is at in the polls but what are their relative strengths to take advantage of the situation.

    Beyond the numbers I posted for Liberal seats in the 1959 to 1970 elections, I will observe that in 1993 in Canada the Progressive Conservatives went from 169 seats to 2, with a Canada wide average of 16.8%.

    In 1979 the Liberals obtained 11 seats and 13.8% of the vote, with the LDs getting 18 seats and 17.8% in 1992.

    I think the 1983 and 1987 election years are anolmalies because of the emergence of the SDP and the eventual merger of the two parties.

    I suspect that some LDs are hanging onto the idea of based on the 1997 experience of 46 seats and 16.8% support.

    My observation is those thinking that have not factored in the experience of having both the Green and UKIP parties running full slates. The Green Party ran in only approximately one half the seats last time and I suspect, though I do not know, that UKIP was the same.

    Comsequently I think both parties will run better ground campaigns than either have ever run in a GE and that therefore the LDs, potentially weakend and demoralized, will be competing for the non-Labour/Conservative votes in an England with two other parties, who compared to 2010 are on the rise.

    In Scotland it is basically a three party fight between SNP and Labour, and to a lesser extent Conservatives, as proved by the European election in 2014. Without seeing any polls for Wales it is hard to tell what might happen, but it appears so far that UKIP is ahead of Plaid Cymru.

    That said, again based on my expereince of observing and participating in elections in Canada for forty years, I woud say UKIP and Green, and to a lesser extent the LDs now, have sub-regional pockets of support in England.

    Thus for me UK wide polls are not much use other than to keep track of whether the combined Labour/Conservative vote is above 66.6%, the 2010 benchmark, or below it. If the combined support for Labour and the Conservatives stays at or below 2010 the number of non-Labour/Conservative MPs will start to rise if one or more of three alternatives can break free of the pack.

    Right now UKIP is ahead of the other two and it is unclear whether LD will remain ahead of Green or end up behind it. If UKIP support continues to fall they end up behind either LD or Green, who knows what will happen.

    Some polls are starting to show Green ahead of both in London and the south, though i suspect that is the southwest, where membership in the Green Party has grown from 5,000 at the Winter Solstice to 9,500 a the end of January.

    So all this speculation about who will end up in government with whom mifffs me, as I am still trying to determine who is going to be in the Parliament and with how many seats on May 8th.

    I diasagree with all those who talk about a swing back, as I think it is extremely dangerous to compare 2010 to now as the political landscape has so totally changed. In 2010 45% of the people in Scotland had not voted to leave the union and the LD had not formally been in government since WWII, possibly the 1920’s, and that’s before you start talking about UKIP having the largest number of MEPs representiung the UK.

    2010 is a lifetime away and I question the merits of pollsters weighting their published findings, on a past, the 2010 election that does not exist. The assumption is that people will returnn to old habits of 2010, which seems to me to laughable given what people have voted since 2010.

    For starters I would like to know how many new voters are coming in to the electoral process and how many non-voters are likely to vote, as that will change the dynamics, plus the fact that a ceratin percentage of 2010 voters have died as well.

  40. @Bill Patrick
    ‘Back in the day, you had to fight a by-election if you were appointed to office. I don’t know when that stopped’

    It ceased in 1918.

  41. This looks like an interesting initiative. Someone is crowd funding a pro immigrant poster campaign to coincide with the general election.


    It looks like they are about to reach their target too. This seems a much better way of participating in democracy to me – rather than support a party support a cause close to your heart. If the cause gets enough support the parties adopt their policies accordingly.

    As long as it doesn’t turn into a US style swift boat veterans type of thing…

  42. @Valerie

    I can understand a Labour OM being as long as 12-1, as it’s not particularly likely. But how the heck are the Tories at 11-2? That’s just bizarre.

    The odds for most seats are now virtually level, with the Tories just a sliver ahead: Tories are 4-5, with Labour at 5-4.

  43. At least three GB VI polls tonight per Mike Smithson:
    1. Comres (Indy on Sunday/Sunday Mirror);
    2. Opinium (Observer); and
    3. YouGov (Sunday Times).

  44. Andy Shadrack

    Another factor affecting the number of people turning out to vote could be the introduction of Individual Voter Registration.

    It is likely to have less effect in Scotland this May, where so many people recently registered to vote in the referendum, so transfers to the new register have been comparatively easy.

    The most affected groups will be the young and those in short term private tenancies.

  45. Graham,


  46. @RAF

    I don’t know if it’s still true but I have read that in some states of the USA casinos were obliged to post a guide on best strategy at blackjack tables. Nearly all punters ignored it completely and so lost more than they had to, and quicker.

    Lesson: most gamblers play to lose.

  47. @Mr Wells

    Delete as applicable

  48. The current political betting odds are crazy. Insane. Devoid of logic.

    You can now get 14-1 on a Labour OM. It’s not that unlikely! If they increase their poll lead to 3% it’s almost certain to happen, and that is by no means a far-fetched scenario.

    All polling evidence now points toward Labour being the largest party. I can only assume people placing money at the bookies are buying into the notion of ‘swingback’.

    I’ve said for a couple of years now that I don’t believe swingback will occur in the classic sense of the word (a shift from Lab -> Tory) and that is evident. How close do we need to get to the election before swingback proponents accept that they are wrong?

  49. Personally I’ve always thought 1970 is the closest precedent (with all the qualifiers about historical precedent that need to be applied in the weird political context of the moment).

    Media savvy, cocky incumbent complacently calls an election when the economy, after a difficult period, suddenly seems to turn in his favour in a very superficial way – up against clumsy, unpopular opposition leader who the media haven’t got a good word to say about and drones on about the cost of living.

    There was only going to be one winner, as Kevin Keegan famously said when commentating on an England/Columbia World Cup Match in 1998!

  50. “Miliband pledges ‘root and branch’ review of HMRC”

    What did I say ?


    You left it for him again Cameron.

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