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.

labourswing

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. I think it is worth pointing out that unless Scotland goes independent, it is still difficult for the Conservatives to gain overall majorities. The SNP bloc have a strong blocking effect. That would be the case even with boundary changes (some if the effect of those would have been to dispose of Lib Dems so we should not double-count some of the effects).

    It still looks as though FPTP will not be delivering strong governments.

    Of course, Scotland remain is a big if, but the political fallout for the Tories if Scotland went independent on their watch should not be discounted.

  2. Smithy

    “This assumes no recovery to LD’s – from the lowest position and new leader the only way is up for them.”

    In seats where the LDs had sitting MPs their vote held up better due to incumbency factor which has now gone in most of these seats. Their vote here is quite likely to drop back significantly as the council election results illustrate. Consolidation of the national vote share at a low base in other seats may offset this to some extent, but there are certainly lots of seats that have room for the LD vote to fall further. The consequences of the VI collapse have not yet rippled through the LD voter base and until this happens it is premature to say the only way is up.

    It will be a long hard road back, and we may not be at bottom yet.

  3. To reduce the Scottish problem to that of two men ignores the longer term problems that tipped over during the referendum campaign.

  4. Miliband made no impact during the referendum and his approval ratings in Scotland have always been worse than elsewhere. He kept to himself and London too much.

    Murphy had a campaign almost on par with Iain Grey but instead of a Subway he just grinned at someone shouting at him (which is a terrible look as someone shouting is clearly upset).

    Very strange to see so many South of the border in Labour defend Murphy but he needs to go and more autonomy for Scottish Labour is not necessarily a good thing, they are far to introverted and too often come across poorly. Ballie responding to if Findlay had spoken at the leadership meeting responded ‘she couldn’t recall’. Their a political party not a social clique.

    If I was Ruth Davidson I’d be fighting an anti-Labour campaign next year whilst criticising the SNP on policy failings but saying she’s work constructively with them. Can see Labour falling into third.

  5. The next election, unless something goes drastically wrong, is just under 5 years away. There are so many variables it is difficult to work out what will happen

    1. Will the economy continue to recover
    2. Who will be the new Conservative leader (we know it won’t be Cameron), again will they appeal to the electorate.
    3. What happens over the E.U. referendum, in or out and will the Conservatives tear themselves apart over it
    4. Who will Labour pick at their leader, will they unite the party or will the party tear itself apart. As importantly will the new leader appeal to the electorate.
    5. Will net migration increase or decrease.
    6. Will the Liberals recover
    7. Will the SNP remain dominant and will there be another referendum in Scotland
    8. What effect will the boundary changes have.

    I am sure others here can think of many others, but my point is there are probably more unknown factors this time than I can remember for a long while. As a result trying to predict what will happen is very difficult.

  6. An interesting analysis here.

    Since 2005, Labour has lost support amongst the working class rather than the middle class electorate.

    By 2015, support for Labour from ABs and C1s has recovered virtually back to its 2005 level. Support from C2s has not recovered and support from DEs had continued to fall since 2010.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/05/it-was-working-class-not-middle-class-sunk-labour

  7. @NeilJ

    The other obvious unknown is electoral/constitutional reform.

  8. @Phil Haines

    Not a surprise at all to me. However, I doubt those in a position to do something about this will listen. They’re too busy trying to ressurect the Blair Coaltion of 1997, which only arise beacuase of damage done to the middle class by the huge spike in interest rates following the ERM fiasco.

  9. PHIL HAINES

    If thgat analysis in NS is correct, then Milburn et al are wrong & Umunna will be the wrong man.

    It is instructive that, with all the data supposedly available on voting patterns , there can be two such divergent views about Labour’s plight.

  10. Labour do face a mount in England and Scotland and I think they may well take a hit in the Welsh and Scottish elections as well.

    All the stats are set against them and even the FPTP which for a long time helped Labour is now working against them as AW has pointed out.

    However..We now have a Tory government in power with a small majority for the next 5 years and if they get it right then they win another term in 2020 and if they get it wrong!! Well who can they blame now that they aren’t in a coalition?

    So what I’m saying is yes Labour do face a mountain to climb but it’s the voters who will decide how big or how small that mountain is.

    I really don’t think the picture is as bleak for Labour as some are suggesting, Scotland being the exception of course.

  11. Colin/Phil – anecdote alert.

    That was my experience on the mythical doorsteps.

    Labour vote holding up and taking some Red Dems back at the GE amongst better off voters but some support among lower income groups either moving to UKIP or to DNV.

    I will have a vote in the LP leadership Election and am preferring a generational shift with Cooper and Burham being too tarnished (whether fair or not).

    My gut feel is that CU is too metropolitan so I am hoping that when I hear more about Liz Kendall she fits the bill.
    Otherwise I am choosing between Chukka and Yvette with reservations about both.

    NB) Cooper would have been a better choice in 2010 has she stood imo.

  12. the one thing 2015 taught me is that you can’t really predict what the landscape will be like.

    the tories were at 8-1 to get a majority only two weeks before the election…as alan clark used to say “anything can happen at backgammon” or “achab”.

    Labour need to get to 270 seats to keep the tories out… labour + snp could get a majority….the tory scare story of the barbarians coming over the hill can only work very effectively once.

    Enough swing voters could be fed up enough by the tories in 5 years’ time to switch.

  13. @Hawthorn – “I think it is worth pointing out that unless Scotland goes independent, it is still difficult for the Conservatives to gain overall majorities.”

    Amidst all the gloom for Labour, this is the one thing that isn’t being discussed very much.

    I have already admitted by mistake in previously thinking that Cons would struggle to get a majority again, given their absence from large parts of the UK, but in my defence, I tended to talk about a stable majority, rather than a slender margin. My reference point was always 1987, not 1992.

    In this, I remain (for now) vindicated, in part at least. Tories squeezed a tiny majority, which is potentially prone to all manner of problems. We have one Tory MP already reiterating a resignation threat if one specific decision is made, and I don’t think it would be wise to discount more defections to UKIP if a deal with the EU isn’t forthcoming.

    Labour need to do very little at the next election to deny the Con majority. This is with Cons leading by 9.4% in England. At 0ver 4%, the Green vote in England might indicate the start of some kind of realignment, or it might represent a potential reservoir of disaffected voters for lab, but perhaps more significantly the Lib Dems to win back.

    Are the Lib Dems really likely to poll just 8% in England again, or will they eat into Con support once more?

    While Lab theoretically needs a hefty swing to win back lots of Con seats, in a 4 party system the notion of Lab/Con swing in England is getting a bit dusty. It’s much more about churn, and who is hurting who, rather than a straightforward concept of swings from party A to party B. As a result, we might again find evidence of apparently large swings between Lab and Con, actually being the result of voters switching to and from third and fourth (and fifth) parties.

    While Labour’s sites may be set a little lower than outright power, I’m still not seeing many reasons for Cons to think they have a comfortable long term hold on power, even with new boundaries. Under FPTP, multi party systems seem to become inherently unstable.

  14. FRASER

    If Scottish Labour even had Keir Hardie as their leader leading them into last weeks election then I personally still think they would had lost heavily in Scotland.

    Yes JM’s leadership was at best lackluster and for the most part uncharismatic and extremely amateurish but regardless who their leader was the electorate were in a non reversal mood for change and there was nothing Labour could had done to stop it.

    I read one suggestion that maybe Scotland’s Unionist parties should in future stand as one entity against the SNP!! …however the problem with that is that in over half the seats the SNP won they received over 50% of the vote, in fact they won over 50% in 32 of the 56 seats they won and came extremely close to 50% in 5 others.

  15. JIM JAM

    CU and Jim Murphy might go down well in Glasgow.

    Old Glasgow saying…”See You Jimmy” aka CU Jimmy”

  16. re the mountain.

    The key at the next GE will still be Con/Lab marginal in E&W. Scotland has to be viewed separately but it would be a major shock it is did not remain ABT in virtually all seats for a few GEs to come.

    Not only did Labour fail to take the 25+ seats net from the Tories that would have prevented a Tory Led Government but the Cons majorities actually increased in many seats that would need to be taken next time but perhaps a few longer shots got closer due to the LD collapse?
    Plus. of course, 600 seats plus boundary changes and registration issues will make the task harder.

    Once the constituency data has been updated we can see what swing labour needs in the Tory held marginal to take 20+.

    For me this is the starting point of any Labour strategy, gaining votes in these seats.
    Even with boundary changes the profile of this key voter group will be the same but perhaps in different locations and probably we would need more.

    The dilemma may be that unlike 92-97 when it was clear that Centrist Voters were the key for 2020 there will be some Red Kippers as well and other DNVs; possibly with contradictory views?

  17. Did this chaos in Labours campaign HQ really happen or has it been exaggerated?

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9528312/inside-the-milibunker-the-last-days-of-ed-did-ed-miliband-sacrifice-ed-balls/

  18. Alec

    No, Labour need to do a lot to prevent it (unless the economy tanks). They absolutely have to regain working class votes or risk a further deterioration in their position in places like South Wales and Yorkshire.

    “Aspiration” (whatever that means exactly) will not help voters who are just clinging on economically. I can see how “aspiration” might look appealing to careerist hacks, but they need to realise that an awful lot of people just want a quiet life.

    I don’t have a problem at all with Labour appealing to middle class voters, but they need to look at what concerns are shared between those and the working class.

  19. I think in the next election a major battleground once again will be the SW, a huge amount hinges on whether the LDs can recover as a left leaning alternative to the Tories down there and take 4-5 seats to deny them a majoirty

  20. @Tingedfringe
    Does anybody have a decent spreadsheet with the results for 2015?
    Depends what you need. Electoral calculus are now posting a csv listing of result that might well serve your purposes. It pools all minority parties and doesn’t distinguish between SNP and PC (so you have to use geographical information to disentangle these two).
    I have been using a much more comprehensive sheet posted by someone on Twitter and described as having been ‘scraped from the BBC’. No guarantee of accuracy. The link was posted here on UKPR a few days ago so if you need more than the EC file you could dig out this information by working patiently through the posts here over the last few days.

  21. What a great article, wow, a 13% swing needed for a majority, that looks very unlikely, even 5 years out. Makes you wonder whether boundary changes should be put on hold, as with those, they would need something ludicrous like a 17% swing. This is how I felt late 90s when a Con Govt felt light years away. The irony is that this is all on a relatively small majority too. The difference is the fragmented opposition and Scotland.

    UKIP looks to be doing itself some damage though…

  22. MANINTHEMIDDLE
    It doesn’t matter how big the mountain is for Labour.
    When they pick Chukka Umunna the ethnic block accompanied with white middle class guilt will be enough to see them over the finish line.

    I disagree with this. Chukka is very middle class elitist, best dressed GQ man, nightclub expert, all that stuff, I am unsure whether it’s quite the candidate Lab needs. And remember, it’s no shoe in. Yvette Cooper is clearly a more capable politician, and Burnham will have the Union votes, all be it with reformed one member one vote. I am not so sure Chukka is going to win yet, as flying out of the traps like he did looks quite opportunistic too.

  23. @Rich – just as I predicted…. Chuka the man the Tories fear most

  24. @ALLAN

    Possibly but they could have done better. Murphy did not take over last week, hes had a few months already. If it was an election lost, hes probably done too much to do harm for the future than he needed to.

    For the record jumping left in Scotland is clearly mad, they need to move towards Universal policies – this is the core of the SNP, fundamentally they’ve been returning tax revenues for services to middle income families.

    @THOUGHTFUL

    Article is pretty spot on, failures stem from Labour’s internal polling and the motivation to protect Miliband from the chop after the conference (if these were outside his circle to anyone, he’d be gone imo). They make a very good point on the focus on Clegg’s seat, it does appear across the board that Miliband actually was not in charge of the campaign.

    Can’t have helped with the likes of DAlexander fighting a losing fight for his and his colleagues seats.

  25. SMITHY
    @Rich – just as I predicted…. Chuka the man the Tories fear most
    May 14th, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Your still as bullish as you were before the election aren’t you. Lol.

    He’ll do ok, but there is no way he is in the class of say a Blair, no way on this earth. Let’s see how your campaign goes. I rate Yvette Cooper more. Burnham would be a disaster, not because he isn’t any good, but because he would be too easy to label as the Union Barons choice.

  26. @Rich – he doesn’t have to be up there with Blair given his likely opponents. Agree with Burham though – don’t mind him but he will be continually smashed by the press for the next 5 years as a union stooge

  27. JIM JAM

    I watched the Andrew Neil interview with Liz Kendall & was surprised how impressed I was with her.

    If Umunns gets it I can see John Mann tearing his party card up !

  28. @smithy,

    Well let’s see. I do agree Chukka has a smart image and is good looking, which seems to count for quite a lot more these days as we move closer to US politics..

  29. If you follow TOH’s logic, leadership credibility is a big factor in deciding VI.

    By this logic 4 million votes must be highly reliant upon the perceived credibility of NF.

  30. What chance.

    Kendal or Cooper, May and Suzanna Evans at the 2020 GE so only the LDs with a Male leader in GB.

  31. Chucka was the Blairite in Miliband’s circle to get pre-election publicity. He was straddling the line on talking right wing and attacking him. Personally I think he will fail to come up with the ideas, its all very well and good declaring Labour need to both regain their core vote AND reach right, its another thing to do it.

    Chucka for me is a bit of a Murphy; charismatic with the press who present him as a strong potential leader which filters into the rest of the party.

    He also probably appeared to close to the election campaign considering the scale of the defeat.

  32. I have just look at ex-LD seats in South West London (places like Twickers & Kingston & Surbiton), some of which are still marginal

    If the Tories mess up (or become too Little England), I could see the Lib Dems recovering there, incumbency or not. It would depend if the new Tory MPs have the stature of a Zac Goldsmith or end up being mindless party hacks.

    If the current Government performs worse than the coalition, then the LDs have a useful political argument for their right-leaning ex-supporters.

  33. Fraser

    I never got the “Jim Murphy is charismatic” line. He always made me think of an undertaker (perhaps appropriate in the circumstances).

  34. There is no reason why Labour won’t disappear altogether at the next election. The Lib Dems have proved that a party can become virtually extinct, so saying Labour will just recover as a matter of course is more wishful thinking than reality.

    Take into account the boundary changes (I think Labour lose 25 odd MPs), a very good chance Boris will be Tory leader (popular even in Labour London)..and well, you get my gist.

    My theory always was that Labour found a freak in Tony Blair, in between their default status of being unelectable. I expect that to continue for at least another 10 years, maybe longer.

  35. Fraser,

    I can see Labour falling into third place in Scotland only if they somehow lose their position as second-place challengers to the SNP in such a large number of seats. (That’s not quite a tautology!) In 2015 I think Labour was still a significant net beneficiary of unionist tactical voting, but they have to be serious challengers to the SNP for that to benefit them much.

    As for the Scottish Tories, for as long as Scottish politics is unionist vs. nationalist and Labour/the Lib Dems are second place challengers to the SNP in more seats, I think their future is very bleak.

  36. @Rich – “….as flying out of the traps like he did looks quite opportunistic too.”

    So….Chukka is ‘opportunistic’ yet you feel Labour are ‘light years away’ from government and need a 17% swing.

    Make yer mind up Rich!

  37. @Colin

    “I watched the Andrew Neil interview with Liz Kendall & was surprised how impressed I was with her.”

    I agree.

    Personable, ‘normal’, honest about her own party’s failings without seeming to put the boot in.

    Also the way in which she switched to asking Neil ‘Why would you always do well in an economic downturn?” (I paraphrase) was genuinely clever and her follow up about providing everyone with the advantages of a good education, skills, contacts and savings from ‘the good times’, which is what insulates him from recession, was exactly the sort of message one could imagine a ‘One Nation’ Conservative giving.

    Of course this was quite a soft interview and it would be good to see her tested under pressure, but there was certainly something there – an ability to connect – that I’ve not observed in the other candidates.

    Plus this leader Labour has time to grow, unlike Miliband, as much of the focus will be on the Conservatives for all the reasons (EU, Scotland, new leader) we’ve all been discussing.

  38. @Jim Jam

    Since we agree on the symptoms, I’m very surprised at your remedy. Labour’s problem dating from the Blair years is a loss of working class votes, something Umunna and Kendall don’t seem to recognise.

    All of the candidates seem to be accomplished media performers in a way Miliband was not, although Kendall has been tested less than the others.

    Burnham ticks the boxes in terms of being (a) from northern working class stock in a party that has increasingly been portrayed (rightly) as being led by a metropolitan elite, something critical in recapturing the defectors to UKIP and (b) is portraying himself as a unity candidate in a party that is still very capable of falling apart if it’s seen to be recaptured by the New Labour wing. He’s pushing the need for Labour to broaden it’s appeal more to voters in all classes, rather than just those up the earnings scale and (c) experience can be a virtue as well – Burnham was excellent in the shadow health role and the mud the Conservatives tried to fling at him there didn’t stick and (d) with the unions having been taken out of the leadership process, that stick isn’t really going to be effective anymore, and anyway the press are always going to find some excuse to have a go at any leader not prepared to do a deal with Murdoch.

    I don’t have any particular view on Cooper. Like Burnham, she had the decency to wait before declaring her candidacy, rather than joining the New Labour former grandees jumping in to dance on the corpse.

  39. Thoughtful,

    At least one part of that is definitely utter horse droppings.

    “In Yorkshire, hundreds of activists were deployed to Sheffield Hallam in an attempt to ‘decapitate’ Nick Clegg.”

    Rubbish. I was heavily involved in the campaign from about sixth months out, before anyone at all thought we could win (that started with the first Ashcroft poll in November).

    Almost all our campaigners were members of Sheffield CLPs (mostly Hallam and Central) or local students. There were visits from others like Jon Ashworth’s Labour Express (they spent a morning here), Tom Watson (made a few personal visits) and Owen Jones (brought in hundreds as a celebrity appearance) but the vast bulk of campaigning was done by local members and supporters.

    There is an unpleasant narrative developing around Hallam – that it shows Labour’s folly by focusing on a trophy seat when marginals were at risk. I cannot stress enough the degree to which that is untrue. Hallam was never a target seat, never had any real resources devoted from the central party and was a campaign largely financed by donations. For God’s sake, they had me designing half their literature and garden signs.

    Even if it had been a target, it ignores the fact that canvassers are humans. Students can give up two hours on a Saturday afternoon to go canvass somewhere within walking distance – they can’t necessarily give up the whole day to get the train to West Yorkshire or drive out to Glossop (if they even have a car).

    There is an idea among the press (and some of the public – I’ve been asked how much I’m paid to canvass) that political parties contain generals at the top ordering their troops around like a giant game of Risk. It’s a lot more messy than that.

  40. MrNameless

    Well said.

  41. @Alec,

    Politics is cyclical anyway, of course Lab will come back, but right now it feels tough for them. In 1997 I thought it would take us Cons like 15 years to get back in power, ow wait…

  42. Labour have a mountain to climb?

    I’m not really sure that’s much of a surprise is it?

    Even before the election the most pro-Labour on here were predicting largest party status at best, at least I don’t recall anyone predicting an overall Miliband majority. So a move from Conservative OM to Labour OM seems even more unlikely now than it was before. Hardly earth shattering news.

    What I do find surprising is that we’re even contemplating UNS as an accurate measure in terms of predicting who will the next election, or more usefully where the next election will be fought.

    We’ve just gone through an election where (outside selected marginals) there was little to no swing between the big two and yet the Conservatives have an OM.

    The Conservatives have an OM because they trounced the Lib Dems. The Conservatives are the largest party because they defended or consolidated their position in the marginals against Labour. Labour is diminished because of the SNP surge in Scotland. UKIP have disrupted the results all over and in varying ways – hitting LibDems in the South West, Labour in those marginals, damaging the Conservatives less than was expected overall.

    The point is that to reverse all of the factors above that provided the Conservatives with an OM would require no (or very little) overall national swing. This is evidently the case as movement to this position from a hung parliament required no such swing.

    Indeed movement to Labour as overall largest national party could be based on (the seemingly unlikely at this moment) combination of:

    + LibDems taking back seats from the Conservatives, which could happen when you look at the fact that many / most of these gains are based on LibDem collapse rather than Tory surge

    +Labour staging some resurgence in Scotland – possible if the Conservatives don’t handle what the French call ‘cohabitation’ effectively – and thereby reducing the ‘vote Labour get SNP message’

    + A marked swing towards Labour in some marginal seats – not an outcome I would predict at this stage, but if they are in truth becoming more volatile rather than more Conservative, something that historically seems to be the case, entirely possible

    + Collapse of the UKIP vote expressed through a single party – conceivable both post EU referendum and given the history of this party and similar parties across Europe’s propensity for implosion and wrangling (note Paul O’Flynn on Farage today).

    + Dispersal of the UKIP vote in ways we do not ye anticipate. It seems clear that along with the dire electoral consequences of the fall in LIbDem VI, a failure to map accurately where that LibDem vote was going to has added to the unpredictability of the recent result. Who says we could predict where the UKIP vote would go if the party folds?

    If the Conservatives get things right over the next five years all above the above could largely be academic.

    But if there’s an election to be won, or a hung parliament in the offing UNS rather than the Labour party may be the thing that these results tell us is dead in the water. We have, potentially, entered a world where the old predictive measures may have passed their sell by date. Perhaps as well as looking why national VIs were so out of kilter, pollsters should be asking whether National VI and UNS are the right headline figures any more….

  43. Cameron and Sturgeon are to meet in Edinburgh on Friday.

    The outcome of that meeting on how further devolution to Scotland will develop will be “interesting”.

  44. The Trickett analysis in the New Statesman is persuasive and points to the need for a working class friendly Labour leader ie more Burnham than Chuka. However, the analysis says nothing about the marginals Do we know for sure yet that it was the absence of working-class votes (ie UKIP) in these constituencies that was the primary reason they did not swing to Labour? That’s the crucial question …. on England at least.

  45. I agree with @ Allan. It is a bleak picture if you assume all the people vote in roughly the same way at the next election as they did at this with small changes but there are at least four things that will probably (possibly?) happen:

    1/ The LDs will recover – having got rid of Clegg they have already seen a return of 5000 new members, and where else are anti-Tories in the SW going to vote?

    2/ Lab will have a new leader.

    3/ UKIP may die out as a force if the EU referendum has been lost.

    4/ The Cons may well lose their majority at some point in this parlt and so may well be limping on for a while.

    5/ SNP have swept the board, but it is a high water-mark (think 1997 for Labour). Labour will recover in Scotland but by how much and how fast will depend on their leadership and if there is a sense that Lab might win (I’m sure that was what doubly did for Ed, if it looked likely that he was about to win, rather than being able to form a coalition, a few more seats may just have stayed red).

  46. Mr N

    I know the feeling only too well!

  47. On the chances of a LibDem recovery, of which a few on here seem rather sceptical.

    Interesting to have a look at the ICM data set of monthly polls for el Guardia going back to 1984.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbcGhOdG0zTG1EWkVPOEY3OXRmOEIwZmc#gid=0

    It shows the new Social and Liberal Democrats slumping to as low as 6% in the period 1989-1991. Fortunately for them this didn’t coincide with a General Election, though it did see them pushed into fourth place by the Greens in the 1989 European elections.

    Under a new leader with a new name they were able to recover to almost 18%, holding most of their seats in 1992.

    Circumstances are different now, of course, but the chances of a Liberal rally in the South West and South West London where they need as much to rebuild their own vote as take votes from the Conservatives to regain seats, seem far from impossible.

  48. I wonder what deep down the Tories would like to see as the outcome for the Lab leadership. My guess would be Burnham with Tom Watson as deputy.

  49. @NewForestRadical

    “points to the need for a working class friendly Labour leader”

    Of course this pre-supposes what such a person looks like. George W Bush did rather well in the US among traditional ‘blue collar’ groups, yet his own background couldn’t have been further from working class if he’d tried.

    David Cameron seems to have scored a minor hit in the Midlands, yet he is no ‘Mondeo Man’.

    Perception rather than accident of birth is everything in terms of persuading the electorate.

  50. That said, I am under no illusions that this will just fall back into Labour’s lap without some serious soul searching, major party re-organisation (especially in Scotland), and some serious thinking about how to be a party of aspiration, ambition and work.

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