Stephen Bush over at the New Statesman has written an interesting article about the mountain that faces Labour at the next election. I’ve now had chance to sit down and play with the election results and the picture is as bleak for Labour as Stephen paints – for various reasons, the electoral system has now tilted against Labour in the same way it was tilted against the Conservatives at the last few elections.

Looking at how the vote was distributed at the general election the Conservatives should, on a uniform swing, be able to secure a majority on a lead of about 6%. Labour would need a lead of almost thirteen points. On an equal amount of votes – 34.5% a piece – the Conservatives would have almost fifty seats more than Labour, Labour would need to have a lead of about four points over the Conservatives just to get the most seats in a hung Parliament. The way the cards have fallen, the system is now even more skewed against Labour than it was against the Conservatives.

How did this happen? It’s probably a mixture of three factors. One is the decline of the Liberal Democrats and tactical voting – one of the reasons the electoral system had worked against the Tories in recent decades was that Labour and Lib Dem voters had been prepared to vote tactically against the Tories, and the Lib Dems have held lots of seats in areas that would otherwise be Tory. Those factors have vanished. At the same time the new dominance of the SNP in an area that was a Labour heartland has tilted the system against Labour. Labour had a lead over the Conservatives of 9% in Scotland, but Labour and Conservative got the same number of Scottish seats because the SNP took them all.

Finally there is how the swing was distributed at this election. Overall there was virtually no swing at all between Labour and Conservative across Great Britain, but underneath this there were variances. In the Conservative held target seats that Labour needed to gain there was a swing towards the Conservatives (presumably because most of these seats were being contested by first time Conservative incumbents). In the seats that Labour already held there was a swing towards Labour – in short, Labour won votes in places where they were of no use to them, piling up useless votes in seats they already held.


And, of course, these are on current boundaries. Any boundary review is likely to follow the usual pattern of reducing the number in seats in northern cities where there is a relative decline in population and increasing the number of seats in the south where the population is growing… further shifting things in the Conservatives favour.

736 Responses to “The mountain facing Labour”

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  1. RICH
    Come on, the reason the SNp are abstaining from fox hunting is that hunting is a big Scottish industry and tradition. Deer, pheasant, grouse etc.

    I thought fox hunting was outlawed in Scotland years ago? Well the savage part with 600 snarling poodles running after a poor wee furry fox was I think outlawed?

  2. Rich,

    Is Margaret Beckett too old? I’d have voted for her in ’94.

  3. @AC

    Most parliamentary business is non-Scottish. If the SNP continue to take this approach the Government’s majority will actually be much higher.

    I had the impression that Allan Christie was in fact a Tory. Whatever, he is clearly a top wind-up merchant and a bit of a liability to the NHS with all the blood pressure he is elevating

    LOL, I never meant to wind-up anyone at anytime. It’s no secret that I never had anytime for Scottish Labour and that at times possibly skewed my opinions on the UK Labour party but if I was still living in England then at this election I would honesty be stuck over who I would had voted for.

    I possibly would had liked to see a Tory minority administration having to push through some of Labour’s manifesto and up-holding the VOW made to the Scots after during indy ref.

  5. Fox hunting is outlawed in Scotland.

    My theory is that SNP and Tories are doing a deal on EVEL for Tories more powers for HR. And this is a gesture of good faith from the SNP. I hope they are because to be brutally honest England have to sort themselves out and we need to protect Scotland from being dragged down the right-wing road by England, a majority of whom voted Con or UKIP.

    in other news Jim Murphy’s fate is being decided today.

  6. Presumably the vote on fox hunting would only apply in England, as Scotland manages it’s own hunting. It doesn’t mean they don’t hunt in Scotland.

    Talking of the hunting ban, it’s worth remembering the arguments made against the ban;

    – A tradition would die out
    – 10,000 jobs would be lost from the rural economy
    – Foxes would multiply and eat babies in their prams (OK, but you get the idea).

    Eleven years into the ban, the number of hunts has not declined, the Countryside Alliance say more people than ever are riding to the hounds, and the Mammal Society surveys suggest a stable fox population. [This latter point is unsurprising, as those of us living in such areas know only too well that large estates often prevented tenant sheep farmers from controlling foxes, as they wanted to keep up the numbers for the hunt].

    In true political style, the fact that more people are following hounds (and therefore boosting the rural economy) makes pro hunters now argue that revoking the ban would provide more jobs, even though applying the ban has led to ,er…,more jobs.

    All the arguments put forward against the ban were bogus, and have been conclusively proved to be so, but this remains a touchstone issue for a very small minority of rural dwellers.

    In that, it’s very like badger culling. Anti science and unpopular, yet capable of getting a much wider hearing than it’s level of support justifies, largely due to the connections and influence of it’s proponents.

  7. Rich

    The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill was introduced into the Scottish Parliament by Mike Watson MSP with support from SNP MSP Tricia Marwick. In September 2001, the Scottish Parliament rejected a negative committee report about the Bill from its Rural Development Committee and voted to support the general principles of the Bill. In February 2002 the Parliament voted by eighty three to thirty six to pass the legislation to ban hunting with dogs. MSPs decided not to give compensation to those whose livelihoods or businesses might suffer as a result of the ban. The Act came into effect on August 1, 2002. (Wiki)

    Can I suggest that you do some research before favouring us with your assumptions?

  8. RAF

    A lot of what appears to be English only matters can have funding implications for Scotland but it will be interesting to see how the SNP react in Westminster.

    I rather suspect if more powers come to Scotland as promised then Cameron will get his goat hunting.

  9. @Coupar2802 – “My theory is that SNP and Tories are doing a deal on EVEL for Tories more powers for HR.”

    Right. So this is now ‘your theory’.

    When it was ‘my theory’ pre election, you (and others) told me it would never happen.

    Has something changed, or is this another example of how there is a world before the election and another world after it?

  10. @Couper
    “My theory is that SNP and Tories are doing a deal on EVEL for Tories more powers for HR.”

    Something NS explicitly said she would not do. Oh well.

  11. ‘ALEC
    I’d also do what notable right wing economic commentator Alistair Heath calls for, which is to scrap Corporation Tax as currently constructed, and replace it with an across the board tax on profits, share buy backs and dividend payments. This could be done to actually reduce tax rates on profits, but while encouraging greater investment, rather than withdrawal of profits to the owners.
    May 16th, 2015 at 9:41 am’

    The problem is some multi-national companies are rather adept at disguising their profits and or moving them around different countries. Starbucks are masters at it, but they are far from the only ones. There does need to be international action to deal with this issue

  12. Hunting ban vote is a bit of a red herring. They promised a free vote to keep the pro-hunting MPs happy… but they know that it will be overwhelmingly defeated, probably even among Tories (especially younger 2010 and 2015 intake Tories).

  13. As so often, people might pause to look at what Sturgeon actually said about voting on “English-only” matters, before leaping to assumptions that something entirely different was said.

    “Make no mistake, the SNP’s objective remains independence but for as long as Scotland is part of the Westminster system we must have an equal say there on issues which affect us.”

    That was why, she said, one of the first objectives of a strong group of SNP MPs would be to “push back” against the Tories’ proposals and work to ensure continued protection of the rights of all Scottish MPs to have a say on budgets, taxation and other key issues for as long as those powers remained at Westminster.

    But the SNP leader then stressed: “We will make our voices heard, when appropriate, by voting on matters which affect England but which also affect Scotland financially. We will vote on nominally ‘English’ matters at each and every opportunity when Scotland’s national and economic interests are directly affected.

    “That is not just our policy as a party, it is our duty as democratically elected representatives of constituencies across Scotland which face being profoundly affected by Westminster decisions. As such, it is essential that Scottish MPs – not just those from the SNP – continue to vote on issues affecting all parts of the UK.”

    There is nothing in that which suggests that the SNP ever had any intention of voting on purely English domestic issues that have no financial implications for Scotland.

  14. RAF

    The SNP said they wont deal with the Tories and would vote against them in the Queens speech. It’s not the SNP’s fault England have voted for a majority Tory administration (in terms of seats),

    Now that we have a Tory administration with an outright majority it would be insane for the SNP to act as a wrecking ball in Westminster just to keep the left happy but at the same time miss out on potential new powers for Scotland.

    One of the reasons I possibly would had liked to see a Tory minority gov was that they would probably had delivered almost devo max plus in return for EVEL. Even if Labour shouted that the SNP were doing deals with the Tories I still reckon Scots would accept that if it meant the VOW was delivered.

    Unfortunately under a minority Labour gov they would had told the SNP to get stuffed and dared them to vote them down risking the Tories getting back in….That might had been problematic for the SNP back home.

    However we now have a majority Tory gov and a majority of Scots who voted for the SNP. Something will have to give if the United Kingdom is to continue,

  15. Neil J

    “The problem is some multi-national companies are rather adept at disguising their profits and or moving them around different countries.”

    However, the G20 announced plans in 2013 for international agreements to end much of corporate tax avoidance, and the OECD have been working on these since.

    The proposals are expected to be agreed at the G20 in September, and revenues should be rolling into Treasuries by 2020 – which will be a nice bonus for any Government in power at that point.

  16. As a rare venture into the world of polls and polling I have been giving some consideration to where my own interpretation was wrong, albeit less wrong than some.
    In terms of online polls I think I was right that they reflect the online community rather than the public at large and are therefore a bit too Laboury and, apart from yougov, a bit too kippery. I expected the real Tory vote to be higher than the polls but expected most of the increase to come from the UKIP box. I thus underestimated how much the Labour vote was overestimated.
    I thought the lib vote would increase slightly because of late tactical switchers and I made a poor estimate of how many seats they would hold because of local factors. I thought the likes of Cable and Hughes would cling on.
    My estimate of the true conservative vote was about right (despite some ridicule from some on this site) but I overestimated the Labour vote so I got the seat numbers wrong.
    Most of the online polls were always well adrift but yougov was reasonably good in identifying trends until they locked in all their errors by overpolling the same people.

    The telephone polls were a little better but tended to swing about too much. They did, however, seem to suddenly start to agree with their online cousins at the end, which makes me a little suspicious that they were trying to avoid looking ridiculous. I think the volatility is inevitable nowadays because of the difficulties in obtaining a representative sample by telephone and people refusing to answer. I wonder if combination polls are part of the answer.

  17. Tip to fellow contributors. Before airing your views on Tv licences, fox hunting or whatever, it pays to do a Google search to check you’ve got the facts right. It only takes a minute and spares the rest of us doing it for you.

  18. ‘OLDNAT
    However, the G20 announced plans in 2013 for international agreements to end much of corporate tax avoidance, and the OECD have been working on these since.
    The proposals are expected to be agreed at the G20 in September, and revenues should be rolling into Treasuries by 2020 – which will be a nice bonus for any Government in power at that point.
    May 16th, 2015 at 11:37 am’

    I was aware of the proposals but there’s many a slip between cup and lip. Still not convinced with all the money multi-nationals pay some very good tax accountants whether they will still be able to wriggle out of their dues. Perhaps I am just too cynical, I hope it does work.

  19. Jim Murphy’s fate is being decided today?
    Poor Jim. Some people think to be hung drawn and quartered would be too good for him.

    As they say – ‘hell has no fury…..’

  20. If Burnham is the answer-they haven’t asked the right question imo :-)

    GO sounding confident & positive about the July Budget.: Productivity/Nationwide living standards/ NHS funding/Welfare reform seem to be his key focus.

    Spot on I reckon.

    Very interested to see what emerges from the last of those.

  21. RMJ1

    “In terms of online polls I think I was right that they reflect the online community rather than the public at large and are therefore a bit too Laboury and, apart from yougov, a bit too kippery.”

    It certainly seems that pollsters in England have a problem reflecting the opinions of those who actually turn out to vote – which makes it all the more necessary to look at how outstandingly accurate YouGov and others were in Scotland.

    Look at the YG Full Scottish poll published 1 May and compare it with the actual result (in brackets)

    SNP 49% (50%) : Lab 26% (26%) : Con 15% (15%) : LD 7% (7.5%) : Others 3% (3%)

    That online poll indicated showed 81% of their panel as “certain to vote”, while in the actual population only 71% did.

    Yet that 81% of the panel accurately reflected the 71% who voted.

    The answer may lie somewhere in the realm of political awareness and commitment in Scotland after the referendum process.

    It might be that more in England only have a vague awareness, understanding, and commitment to political issues. The pollsters’ problem may be more one of how to filter out those who may say “I’ll vote X” but are only doing so robotically, because they have no interest in the process of elections.

  22. I suspect on welfare reform there will be another hit on in-work benefits, which will effect those hard working people in low wage jobs. There is not much more that can be saved in welfare benefits for the unemployed and we know pensioner welfare benefits will not be touched.

  23. @AC

    The reality is that at present the UK exists.

    Most bills at Westminster do not directly or (in any meanigful sense of the word) indirectly affect Scotland.

    So if NS follows through with her current position the SNP will have to abstain on most Westminster business. This is not radically different to EVEL. Yet NS strongly opposed EVEL during the election campaign, and even suggested EVEL would make Scottish Westminster MPs “second class” MPs.

    The trade you suggest of EVEL for more devolution is a trade she assured voters she would not make.

    Anyway, if NS follows through with the position stated above EVEL in some form will happen by default. In these premises why do the Tories need to deal with NS at all?

  24. I was on my way to catch a train just now and walking the opposite way to a lot of activist types going to the Sheffield anti-austerity protest. A group of SWP activists completely blanked a homeless man they walked past. I did raise an eyebrow.

    One of the people I walked past was wearing a Yorkshire First rosette – first time I’ve seen one!

  25. Not much has been said about the Lib/Dems recently so I thought I would give them some airtime.

    They currently hold 6 seats in England..That’s one less than the SNP’s 7 seats in Glasgow.

    At present the SNP’s membership is over 115,000. The Scottish Lib/Dems polled 219,000 votes at the UK election. So that means the SNP’s current membership is equivalent to 52% of the current Scottish Lib/Dem vote.

    And finally..If all the current Lib/Dem MP’s were to go back into their shells then they would look like this..

  26. It depends whether you see fox-hunting as a purely English domestic matter, like, or a moral issue. A lot of SNPs ex-Labour supporters may oppose the killing of animals for fun, regardless of where it happens in the UK.

  27. @OldNat,

    Very interesting point. Perhaps the relatively confused political picture in England (compared to the rather polarised, black and white one in Scotland) means that there are more voters who don’t really have an allegiance to anyone.

    If there is a greater pool of “retail voters” who decide who they want when they get to the shop, that might explain why there is greater scope for an undetected shift in VI.

  28. @Oldnat – you need to be a bit careful in assuming foxhunting has no financial implications north of the border.

    When Scotland’s economy tanks under FFA and we are reduced to living off nuts and berries and trading furs and empty bottles of Irn Bru for cash, the fox pelt trade in England could be a major economic issue.

    @Colin – can’t help but share your views on Burnham. I don’t dislike him by any stretch, but he seems a Labour activist favourite, rather than a swing voter favorite. Someone who could do very well within the leadership team, but perhaps not as leader.

    Regarding the July budget, I think you are being too kind to George. There was nothing whatsoever in the coalition dynamics that prevented him from addressing ‘Productivity/Nationwide living standards/ NHS funding’ issues. Indeed, Lib Dems were calling for action in these areas.

    There was also nothing the Lib Dems had against ‘welfare reform’. They were, however, strongly opposed to aggressive cuts in welfare – which isn’t the same as ‘reform’.

    As with VAT in 2010, there is no great secret here. Cameron won the election with the great failure of the UK media being apparent, which was to fail to make him (and all the other leaders) accountable for the promises they were making but not explaining.

    The July budget is going to be their explanation, and for those who are dependent on a range of benefits, this is going to be painful. That’s why they are having an emergency budget, rather than wait for next year, when apparently the plan is on track and there is no need for panic.

    We come from different sides, but there’s no need for us to be unable to see through standard political spin.

  29. @RAF

    The position is that a any legislation that has implications for Scotland or the Scottish budget will be voted on.

    Most bills have some implication to the budget so SNP will vote on them.

    Transferring more financial powers to HR will mean that more legislation falls into the ‘no implications’ category.

    That is the possible deal.

  30. @RMJ1 – “In terms of online polls I think I was right that they reflect the online community rather than the public at large and are therefore a bit too Laboury and, apart from yougov, a bit too kippery.”

    Still doesn’t explain why Labour & Cons internal polling got it right.

    Labour tried to replicate public polling by altering their methodology, but kept finding the disparity. They concluded that there was nothing wrong with online panels per se, but that they asked more in depth questioning with the VI last, not first. They think this put respondents minds more in line with how they think in the polling booth.

  31. ALEC

    I’m very happy to wait & see what GO says in the Budget. I feel confident that it will build on the themes & direction of the First Term-plus the dynamic now available with Conservative Ministers pulling all the levers.

    I see Crosby has had a go :-

    Of the ” Westminster-centric Eddie the Expert & Clarence the Commentator”:- “It was their judgement day & they lost”.

    He proposes banning public polling for the last 3 weeks of a GE Campaign & says they have become “dangerous” , because they don’t measure public opinion & influence it.

    Don’t ya love an Aussie?-the call spade a shovel :-)

  32. @Colin – hope they don’t ‘build on the themes & direction of the First Term’ – it’s been one of the worst collapses in productivity since WW2!

    I did see the Crosby article and I thought it made a great deal of sense. It’s one of the reasons why there is so much wrong with politics in the UK (on all sides) and I would agree that the analysts and commentators also failed through being far too remote.

    I did smile though when I read Crosby’s take on Milliband’s campaign as being ‘too divisive’. This from the man who invented the wedge strategy and deliberately used intra national tensions in the UK for political gain in this election.

  33. Alec

    Clearly you are a townie.

    Fox pelts are recovered from shooting the vermin. Allowing them to be torn to bits by dogs produces no economic benefit.

  34. @oldnat – “Clearly you are a townie.”

    I’ll wager I’m much more country than you are, but it was what we call ‘a joke’.

  35. Michael Dugher to be Burnham campaign manager,early backers inc Berger,Owen Smith and Lord Falconer -latter is especially interesting .

  36. Alec

    “but this remains a touchstone issue for a very small minority of rural dwellers.”

    As well as many, who like me, live in towns. I don’t ride, am not interested in hunting personally, although I always enjoy seeing the hunt when i am walking.

    I thought the original hunting bill was dreadful, as it interfered with a pastime enjoyed by many for the sake of misguided political spite. I agree it is unlikely to be repealed which i think very sad. Fortunately it also appears to be impossible to enforce so hunting continues. I find the English soppyness about animals one of our less endearing traits, and I speak as one who has always enjoyed nature and wildlife.

  37. Of course with all these rumours of possible candidates for the Labour leadership, one would hope that Gloria is seriously considering her chances.

  38. Alec

    Yes. I got it that you were not being entirely serious – but good jokes have an element of believability, and are resistant to a dry humour riposte.

    Seems an idle boast that you are “more country” than someone you have never met, but I am prepared to accept your assurance that you spent many years in Nashville.

  39. When do the polls restart? Is the Sun /ST still going to do daily ones?

  40. Being reported that Murphy survived the no-confidence vote by 3 votes. One was from a Labour Lord drafted on to SEC to replace ex-MP, and another was Murphy’s own.

    I thought Farage staying in the room while his leadership was under question was poor form, but Murphy voting for himself will no doubt raise an eyebrow or two.

    Possibly the worst possible outcome for LiS. Not Murphy remaining as leader. I always thought made sense for them to forget 2016 while they restructured for 2020, but such an obviously divided party.

  41. “Lord” turned out to be a Baroness – Baroness Meta Ramsay.

    Wondered who she was

    Ramsay served in the British diplomatic service from 1969 to 1991.

    A fluent Russian speaker, having studied with Elizabeth Smith, wife of the late John Smith, she was a well-respected Case Officer with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6). She served with distinction in Stockholm and in Helsinki where, as the SIS Head of Station, she was involved in the successful exfiltration of the former KGB Colonel Oleg Gordievsky.

    A contemporary of Sir John Scarlett, the chief of SIS from 2004 to 2009, she was short-listed to succeed an earlier MI6 chief – Sir Colin McColl, though at that time, she lost out to Sir David Spedding, left the Service and moved into full-time politics.

    Now, if she had been MI5, she might have known a lot about Scotland. :-)

  42. Would it not be a useful tactical development for PR enthusiasts in England, to have a EVEL chamber, based on FPTP? It could bring the PR issue more to the fore than it is at present.

    Sometimes, injustices can be resolved quicker, if they become more evident to those who need to be motivated.

  43. But Murphy will offer his resignation in a month, after preparing a master plan for survival.

    That should be interesting.

  44. Poor Jim. To me showing grace in defeat is a very attractive human quality. Triumphalism in victory? Less so.

  45. I’m not ‘soppy’ about animals; just a wee bit suspicious of people who like to dress up and slaughter animals for fun or a good day out. I give them a wide berth.

  46. The pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.

  47. “Over 35,000 people from northern England have signed a petition, asking to join future independent Scotland and sever from London. It says ‘the northerners’ have more bonds with Scotland than with “the ideologies of the London-centric south”

    It’s growing and it has momentum.

    I’m not ‘soppy’ about animals; just a wee bit suspicious of people who like to dress up and slaughter animals for fun or a good day out. I give them a wide berth

    I find them extremely warped and ravished with pomp.

  49. Valerie

    “The pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable.”

    You have every right to your views as I have to mine. If you think that perfectly normal people from all walks of life who enjoy foxhunting are unspeakable that’s your business.

  50. JM concession speech when he lost his seat was one of the best I had heard, it was very sincere and from the heart.
    He is doing the right thing now. It cannot be easy losing your job, especially when it is something I am sure he has lived and breathed for much of his life, I wish him the best in the future.

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