Almost a month on from the referendum campaign I’ve had chance to sit down and collect my thoughts about how the polls performed. This isn’t necessarily a post about what went wrong since, as I wrote on the weekend after the referendum, for many pollsters nothing at all went wrong. Companies like TNS and Opinium got the referendum resolutely right, and many polls painted a consistently tight race between Remain and Leave. However some did less well and in the context of last year’s polling failure there is plenty we can learn about what methodology approaches adopted by the pollsters did and did not work for the referendum.

Mode effects

The most obvious contrast in the campaign was between telephone and online polls, and this contributed to the surprise over the result. Telephone and online polls told very different stories – if one paid more attention to telephone polls then Remain appeared to have a robust lead (and many in the media did, having bought into a “phone polls are more accurate” narrative that turned out to be wholly wrong). If one had paid more attention to online polls the race would have appeared consistently neck-and-neck. If one made the – perfectly reasonable – assumption that the actual result would be somewhere in between phone and online, one would still have ended up expecting a Remain victory.

While there was a lot of debate about whether phone or online was more likely to be correct during the campaign, there was relatively little to go on. Pat Sturgis and Will Jennings of the BPC inquiry team concluded that the true position was probably in between phone and online, perhaps a little closer to online, by comparing the results of the 2015 BES face-to-face data to the polls conducted at the time. Matt Singh and James Kanagasooriam wrote a paper called Polls Apart that concluded the result was probably closer to the telephone polls because they were closer to the socially liberal results in the BES data (as issue I’ll return to later). A paper by John Curtice could only conclude that the real result was likely somewhere in between online and telephone, given that at the general election the true level of UKIP support was between phone and online polls. During the campaign there was also a NatCen mixed-mode survey based on recontacting respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey, which found a result somewhere in between online and telephone.

In fact the final result was not somewhere in between telephone and online at all. Online was closer to the final result, and far from being in between the actual result was more Leave than all of them.

As ever, the actual picture was not quite as simple as this and there was significant variation within modes. The final online polls from TNS and Opinium had Leave ahead, but Populus’s final poll was conducted online and had a ten point lead for Remain. The final telephone polls from ComRes and MORI showed large leads for Remain, but Survation’s final poll phone poll showed a much smaller Remain lead. ICM’s telephone and online polls had been showing identical leads, but ceased publication several weeks before the result. On average, however, online polls were closer to the result than telephone polls.

The referendum should perhaps also provoke a little caution about probability studies like the face-to-face BES. These are hugely valuable surveys, done to the highest possible standards… but nothing is perfect, and they can be wrong. We cannot tell what a probability poll conducted immediately before the referendum would have shown, but if it had been somewhere between online and phone – as the earlier BES and NatCen data were – then it would also have been wrong.

People who are easy or difficult to reach by phone

Many of the pieces looking of the mode effects in the EU polling looked at the differences between people who responded quickly and slowly to polls. The BPC inquiry into the General Election polls analysed the samples from the post-election BES/BSA face-to-face polls and showed how people who responded to the face-to-face surveys on the first contact were skewed towards Labour voters, only after including those respondents who took two or three attempts to contact did the polls correctly show the Conservatives in the lead. The inquiry team used this as an example of how quota sampling could fail, rather than evidence of actual biases which affected the polls in 2015, but the same approach has become more widely used in analysis of polling failure. Matt Singh and James Kanagasooriam’s paper in particular focused on how slow respondents to the BES were also likely to be more socially liberal and concluded, therefore, that online polls were likely to be have too many socially conservative people.

Taking people who are reached on the first contact attempt in a face-to-face poll seems like a plausible proxy for people who might be contacted by a telephone poll that doesn’t have time to ring back people who it fails to contact on the first attempt. Putting aside the growing importance of sampling mobile phones, landline surveys and face-to-face surveys do both depend on the interviewee being at home at a civilised time and willing to take part. It’s more questionable why it should be a suitable proxy for the sort of person willing to join an online panel and take part in online surveys that can be done on any internet device at any old time.

As the referendum campaign continued there were more studies that broke down people’s EU referendum voting intention by how difficult they were to interview. NatCen’s mixed-mode survey in May to June found the respondents that it took longer to contact tended to be more leave (as well as being less educated, and more likely to say don’t know). BMG’s final poll was conducted by telephone, but used a 6 day fieldwork period to allow multiple attempts to call-back respondents. Their analysis painted a mixed picture – people contacted on the first call were fairly evenly split between Remain and Leave (51% Remain), people on the second call were strongly Remain (57% Remain), but people on later calls were more Leave (49% Remain).

Ultimately, the evidence on hard-to-reach people ended up being far more mixed than initially assumed. While the BES found hard-to-reach people were more pro-EU, the NatCen survey’s hardest to reach people were more pro-Leave, and BMG found a mixed pattern. This also suggests that one suggested solution to make telephone sampling better – taking more time to make more call-backs to those people who don’t answer the first call – is not necessarily a guaranteed solution. ORB and BMG both highlighted their decision to spend longer over their fieldwork in the hope of producing better samples, both taking six days rather than the typical two or three. Neither were obviously more accurate than phone pollsters with shorter fieldwork periods.

Education weights

During the campaign YouGov wrote a piece raising questions about whether some polls had too many graduates. Level of educational qualifications correlated with how likely people were to support to EU membership (graduates were more pro-EU, people with no qualification more pro-Leave, even after controlling for age) so this did have the potential to skew figures.

The actual proportion of “graduates” in Britain depends on definitions (the common NVQ Level 4+ categorisation in the census includes some people with higher education qualifications below degree-level), but depending on how you define it and whether or not you include HE qualifications below degree level the figure is around 27% to 35%. In the Populus polling produced for Polls Apart 47% of people had university level qualifications, suggesting polls conducted by telephone could be seriously over-representing graduates.

Ipsos MORI identified the same issue with too many graduates in their samples and added education quotas and weights during the campaign (this reduced the Remain lead in their polls by about 3-4 points, so while their final poll still showed a large Remain lead, it would have been more wrong without education weighting). ICM, however, tested education weights on their telephone polls and found it made little difference, while education breaks in ComRes’s final poll suggest they had about the right proportion of graduates in their sample anyway.

This doesn’t entirely put the issue of education to bed. Data on the educational make-up of samples is spotty, and the overall proportion of graduates in the sample is not the end of the story – because there is a strong correlation between education and age, just looking at overall education levels isn’t enough. There need to be enough poorly qualified people in younger age groups, not just among older generations where it is commonplace.

The addition of education weights appears to have helped some pollsters, but it clearly depends on the state of the sample to begin with. MORI controlled for education, but still over-represented Remain. ComRes had about the right proportion of graduates to begin with, but still got it wrong. Getting the correct proportion of graduates does appear to have been an issue for some companies, and dealing with it helped some companies, but alone it cannot explain why some pollsters performed badly.

Attitudinal weights

Another change introduced by some companies during the campaign was weighting by attitudes towards immigration and national identity (whether people considered themselves to be British or English). Like education, both these attitudes were correlated with EU referendum voting intention. Where they differ from education is that there are official statistics on the qualifications held by the British population, but there are no official stats on national identity or attitudes towards immigration. Attitudes may also be more liable to change than qualifications.

Three companies adopted attitudinal weights during the campaign, all of them online. Two of these used the same BES questions on racial equality and national identity from the BES face-to-face survey that were discussed in Polls Apart… but with different levels of success. Opinium, who were the joint most-accurate pollster, weighted people’s attitudes to racial equality and national identity to a point half-way between the BES findings and their own findings (presumably on the assumption that half the difference was sample, half interviewer effect). According to Opinium this increased the relative position of remain by about 5 points when introduced. Populus weighted by the same BES questions on attitudes to race and people’s national identity, but in their case used the actual BES figures – presumably giving them a sample that was significantly more socially liberal than Opinium’s. Populus ended up showing the largest Remain lead.

It’s clear from Opinium and Populus that these social attitudes were correlated with EU referendum vote and including attitudinal weighting variables did make a substantial difference. Exactly what to weight them to is a different question though – Populus and Opinium weighted the same variable to very different targets, and got very different results. Given the sensitivity of questions about racism we cannot be sure whether people answer these questions differently by phone, online or face-to-face, nor whether face-to-face probability samples have their own biases, but choosing what targets to use for any attitudinal weighting is obviously a difficult problem.

While it may have been a success for Opinium, attitudinal weighting is unlikely to have improved matters for other online polls – online polls generally produce social attitudes that are more conservative than suggested by the BES/BSA face-to-face surveys, so weighting them towards the BES/BSA data would probably only have served to push the results further towards Remain and make them even less accurate. On the other hand, for telephone polls there could be potential for attitudinal weighting to make samples less socially liberal.

Turnout models

There was a broad consensus that turnout was going to be a critical factor at the referendum, but pollsters took different approaches towards it. These varied from a traditional approach of basing turnout weights purely on respondent’s self-assessment of their likelihood to vote, models that also incorporated how often people had voted in the past or their interest in the subject, through to a models that were based on the socio-economic characteristics of respondents, modelling people’s likelihood to vote based on their age and social class.

In the case of the EU referendum Leave voters generally said they were more likely to vote than Remain voters, so traditional turnout models were more likely to favour Leave. People who didn’t vote at previous elections leant towards Leave, so models that incorporated past voting behaviour were a little more favourable towards Remain. Demographic based models were more complicated, as older people were more likely to vote and more leave, but middle class and educated people were more likely to vote and more remain. On balance models based on socio-economic factors tended to favour Remain.

The clearest example is Natcen’s mixed mode survey, which explictly modelled the two different approaches. Their raw results without turnout modelling would have been REMAIN 52.3%, LEAVE 47.7%. Modelling turnout based on self-reported likelihood to vote would have made the results slightly more “leave” – REMAIN 51.6%, LEAVE 48.4%. Modelling the results based on socio-demographic factors (which is what NatCen chose to do in the end) resulted in topline figures of REMAIN 53.2%, LEAVE 46.8%.

In the event ComRes & Populus chose to use methods based on socio-economic factors, YouGov & MORI used methods combining self-assessed likelihood and past voting behaviour (and in the case of MORI, interest in the referendum), Survation & ORB a traditional approach based just on self-assessed likelihood to vote. TNS didn’t use any turnout modelling in their final poll.

In almost every case the adjustments for turnout made the polls less accurate, moving the final figures towards Remain. For the four companies who used more sophisticated turnout models, it looks as if a traditional approach of relying on self-reported likelihood to vote would have been more accurate. An unusual case was TNS’s final poll, which did not use a turnout model at all, but did include data on what their figures would have been if they had. Using a model based on people’s own estimate of their likelihood to vote, past vote and age (but not social class) TNS would have shown figures of 54% Leave, 46% Remain – less accurate than their final call poll, but with an error in the opposite direction to most other polls.

In summary, it looks as though attempts to improve turnout modelling since the general election have not improved matters – if anything the opposite was the case. The risk of basing turnout models on past voting behaviour at elections or the demographic patterns of turnout at past elections has always been what would happen if patterns of turnout changed. It’s true middle class people normally vote more than working class people, older people normally vote more than younger people. But how much more, and how much does that vary from election to election? If you build a model that assumes the same levels of differential turnout between demographic groups as the previous election then it risks going horribly wrong if levels of turnout are different… and in the EU ref it looks as if they were. In their post-referendum statement Populus have been pretty robust in rejecting the whole idea – “turnout patterns are so different that a demographically based propensity-to-vote model is unlikely ever to produce an accurate picture of turnout other than by sheer luck.”

That may be a little harsh, it would probably be a wrong turn if pollsters stopped looking for more sophisticated turnout models than just asking people, and past voting behaviour and demographic considerations may be part of that. It may be that turnout models that are based on past behaviour at general elections is more successful in modelling general election turnout than that for referendums. Thus far, however, innovations in turnout modelling don’t appear to have been particularly successful.

Reallocation of don’t knows

During the campaign Steve Fisher and Alan Renwick wrote an interesting piece about how most referendum polls in the past have underestimated support for the status quo, presumably because of late swing or don’t knows breaking for remain. Pollsters were conscious of this and rather than just ignore don’t knows in their final polls, the majority of pollsters attempted to model how don’t knows would vote. This went from simple squeeze questions, which way do don’t knows think they’ll end up voting, are they leaning towards or suchlike (TNS, MORI and YouGov), to projecting how don’t knows will vote based upon their answers to other questions. ComRes had a squeeze question and estimated how don’t knows would vote based on how people thought Brexit would effect the economy, Populus on how risky don’t knows thought Brexit was. ORB just split don’t knows 3 to 1 in favour of Remain.

In every case these adjustments helped remain, and in every case this made things less accurate. Polls that made estimates about how don’t knows would vote ended up more wrong than polls that just asked people how they might end up voting, but this is probably co-incidence, both approaches had a similar sort of effect. This is not to say they were necessarily wrong – it’s possible that don’t knows did break in favour of remain, and that that while the reallocation of don’t knows made polls less accurate, it was because it was adding a swing to data that was already wrong to begin with. Nevertheless, it suggests pollsters should be careful about assuming too much about don’t knows – for general elections at least such decisions can be based more firmly upon how don’t knows have split at past general elections, where hopefully more robust models can be developed.

So what we can learn?

Pollsters don’t get many opportunities to compare polling results against actual election results, so every one is valuable – especially when companies are still attempting to address the 2015 polling failure. On the other hand, we need to be careful about reading too much into a single poll that’s not necessarily comparable to a general election. All those final polls were subject to the ordinary margins of error and there are different challenges to polling a general election and a referendum.

Equally, we shouldn’t automatically assume that anything that would have made the polls a little more Leave is necessarily correct, anything that made polling figures more Remain is necessarily wrong – everything you do to a poll interacts with everything else, and taking each item in isolation can be misleading. The list of things above is by no means exhaustive either – my own view remains that the core problem with polls is that they tend to be done by people who are too interested and aware of politics, and the way to solve polling failure is to find ways of recruiting less political people, quota-ing and weighting by levels of political interest. We found that people with low political interest were more likely to support Brexit, but there is very little other information on political awareness and interest from other polling, so I can’t explore to what extent that was responsible for any errors in the wider polls.

With that said, what can we conclude?

  • Phone polls appeared to face substantially greater problems in obtaining a representative sample than online polls. While there was variation within modes, with some online polls doing better than others, some phone polls doing worse than others, on average online outperformed phone. The probability based samples from the BES and the NatCen mixed-mode experiment suggested a position somewhere between online and telephone, so while we cannot tell what they would have shown, we should not assume they would have been any better.
  • Longer fieldwork times for telephone polls are not necessarily the solution. The various analyses of how people who took several attempts to contact differed from those who were contacted on the first attempt were not consistent, and the companies who took longer over their fieldwork were no more accurate than those with shorter periods.
  • Some polls did contain too many graduates and correcting for that did appear to help, but it was not a problem that affected all companies and would not alone have solved the problem. Some companies weighted by education or had the correct proportion of graduates, but still got it wrong.
  • Attitudinal weights had a mixed record. The only company to weight attitudes to the BES figures overstated Remain significantly, but Opinium had more success at weighting them to a halfway point. Weighting by social attitudes faces problems in determining weighting targets and is unlikely to have made other online polls more Leave, but could be a consideration for telephone polls that may have had samples that were too socially liberal.
  • Turnout models that were based on the patterns of turnout at the last election and whether people voted at the last election performed badly and consistently made the results less accurate – presumably because of the unexpectedly high turnout, particular among more working class areas. Perhaps there is potential for such models to work in the future and at general elections, but so far they don’t appear successful.

892 Responses to “What we can learn from the referendum polling”

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  1. Pete

    Yes there is a lesson to be learnt there.
    The split of the Liberal Party into two factions:

    Even a person like Lloyd George could not lead them back to power after 1924,

  2. Re JC, the Opinium poll has “Labour supporters

    Corbyn 54%, Smith 22% DK 20% WNV 4%

  3. Roly,
    Firstly I agree with you about revisionist histories of WW2.. Hitler’s ambitions were clear and it was to the credit of the UK and France that we drew a line at his invasion of Poland.
    I agree too that our alliance with Stalin was based on both sides on necessity not friendship. We should appreciate what Russians suffered in that war though, something that is a big part of the Russian zeitgeist even today, when most Britons do not even notice VE day…
    But where I reject your arguments utterly is that the events of WW2 were in ANY way a valid reason to vote Leave in the referendum. Quite the reverse in fact for me…

  4. @Muddy waters – thanks. Can’t listen at present due to computer problems, but will get there.

    @Colin – that JC quote tends to confirm my suspicion that this ‘policy’ is actually designed only in terms of Owen Smith’s background. Pretty dreadful, really.

    As it happens, it’s completely incoherent and would be a huge mistake. Mrs A is currently doing a PhD in a science department of one of the UK’s top research universities. Many of her colleagues are funded by Pfizer and other companies, who are paying large amounts of money into UK universities for all manner of medical research. If Corbyn has his way, I seriously doubt he has a clue about the potential impacts of his policy on the UK science sector.

  5. ANDREW111 @ Roly,
    But where I reject your arguments utterly is that the events of WW2 were in ANY way a valid reason to vote Leave in the referendum. Quite the reverse in fact for me…

    Me too, and well said.


    It is perfectly correct that the only SDP defector who did force a by election – Bruce Douglas – Mann – lost his seat. That, however, was entirely due to his by election in May 1982 coinciding with the early stages of the Falklands conflict. Had the election taken place a couple of months earlier he would have walked it! He was also one of the later defectors. Polls carried out at the time of the initial wave of defectors in Spring 1981 showed them all holding their seats by big majorities. I suspect that had they done so their prospects of being re-elected in 1983 would have been significantly improved.


    @”Jeremy Corbyn has more than double the support of Owen Smith, poll shows”

    “When all voters were asked who they thought would be the best prime minister – Corbyn or Theresa May – 52% chose May and just 16% Corbyn.”

    Guardian-Opinium Poll

    ergo-The Perfect Storm for Labour :-)

  8. Agree Andrew111.

    What were Russian casualties in WW2? Something obscene like 20 million loss of lives.

  9. DEZ,
    A àctually it was Attlee not Lloyd George who reunited the Liberals in 1923.. but as you say it was not enough.

    But FPTP is .much more friendly to parties on one side or other of the class divide which still exists even now. Hence I do not predict success for a centrist split of the Labour MPs just as the SDP did not succeed

  10. Just spent a few days in bosom of my family, all of them leave voters, which mainstream analysts would find strange cos my family are quite multi racial. All of them like corbyn. My sister who surprised me by being very enthusiastic about corbyn, called May a dragon.

    My family are exactly the kind of people blair lost in 2001, he lost 3 million votes that year, whether they will vote labour next time does depend on who is leader. Most of my family will probably ukip if Smith is leader, corbyn can get their votes, he’s not fake apparently.

  11. COLIN
    ergo-The Perfect Storm for Labour

    Quite, and deservedly so.

  12. Did I just confuse Attlee with Asquith?? How embarrassing! ????

  13. ALEC

    @”confirm my suspicion that this ‘policy’ is actually designed only in terms of Owen Smith’s background. Pretty dreadful, really.”

    Yep-but if there is one thing you can credit Corbyn with it is a myopically narrow focus on the issues important to take control of the Labour Party-all else, including what might be good or bad policy, is but grist to that mill.

    @” I seriously doubt he has a clue about the potential impacts of his policy on the UK science sector.”

    Indeed-just been doing a bit of Googling on the vital Public Sector/Private Sector co-operation in this sector.

    The man is all about ideology & protest. He needs to be on the streets-not in Parliament.

    They used to say that Blair hated the HoC ( Sofa Govcernment & all that). But this bloke seems to have utter disdain for it.

    Not sure which is the better comedian-Bepe Grillo or Jeremy Corbyn.

  14. Andrew111
    ‘A àctually it was Attlee not Lloyd George who reunited the Liberals in 1923.. but as you say it was not enough.’

    I assume you mean Asquith!
    Attlee was never a Liberal.

  15. The Observer Opinium poll is actually not too bad for Labour. Little sign there of a Theresa May honeymoon . Those figures would reduce the Tory majority to just 6.

  16. Graham

    Given the troubles in labour these numbers are fantastic, of course the Rebels were hoping for worse figures

  17. ALEC

    This is at the heart of his project.

    “Mr Corbyn said: “We are a social movement and we will only win the next general election because we are that movement of people all around the country who want to see a different world and do things very differently.”
    He added that “some people say that isn’t how politics is done, and that it is solely what happens in parliament that is important”, but he insisted “changes come because people want those changes to come and Parliament has to be influenced in the way those changes come about”.


    You can see that you don’t actually need to win a majority in HoC with this philosophy because you will “influence” Parliament ( note the use of this word rather than “Government”.) by the demands of a “social movement”-aka a Momentum Text a Mob.

    The Burkean Representative doesn’t feature in this model-you have mere ciphers who will respond to the demands of Rolling Popular Plebiscites.

  18. Graham

    Yes, see above!

    My defence is that they both begin. with A, like Afghans and Americans!

  19. The Burkean Representative model is dependent on MPs being moral and incorruptible, which is a long way from what we have now

  20. Also i don’t recall the Burkean Representative being popular with the public, I doubt whether anyone outside politics nerds have heard of it. I think if it was explained to people they would reject it by a wide margin as elitist BS

  21. “At any given time there’s always a percentage of the population that’s psycopathic and the important thing is to keep their hands away from the levers of power. By & large the Parliamentary System has done that. Oswald Mosley never got a seat. The fascists never got a toehold nor did the communists.The Parliamentary System has been the bulwark of democracy that has served this country well. The moment you go outside it , especially in this culture of social media, all manner of strange convulsions can sweep across politics.”

    Robert Harris
    The Times

  22. Opinium is alone in the last four polls as showing a move toward Labour (+2) and away from the Lib Dems (-1)

    It will be interesting to see if this is supported by further polling or turns out to be an outlier.

  23. Labour should not be 6 points behind when the government is in such chaos, mind.

  24. All current polling evidence seems to suggest that:
    1. Corbyn will beat Smith amongst Labour members.
    2. That there is little or no evidence that Corbyn’s leadership has hurt the Labour vote.

    Yet the PLP rebels seem determined to plough on apparently because they believe that a new leader will improve their electoral chances.

    If they do believe that, then why not put it to the test?
    One of the 170 or whatever rebels with a very safe Labour seat could resign from the party and stand down, forcing a by-election.
    He or she could then stand against the official Corbyn-supporting Labour candidate on a platform of why Labour needs a new leader.

    This could all be done relatively quickly and if the rebel MP wins, then the case for Corbyn to stand down is strengthened and enough others could follow to make “Labour needs a new leader” become the 2nd largest party.

    If the rebel MP loses, then Corbyn’s case is solid and the rest of the rebels would have to fall meekly in line, as it would be clear that both the membership and the electorate are against them.

    In order for the rebel to have the best possible chance, it would be better for it to be a well-known figure who could reasonably expect a large personal following. Of course, defeat might well mean the end of a political career so they need someone with little to lose, more than 50% of the vote at the last General Election and who has already spoken out against Corbyn. This person would then need to put his or her head above the parapet and say “I am so disillusioned with Corbyn’s leadership that I am resigning from the Labour Party and standing as a candidate for “Labour needs a new leader”.”

    Step forward Ed Milliband, history beckons!

    Is he brave enough?

  25. I think the Labour MPs won’t have to wait all that long, another couple of years.

  26. @ Neil A

    “I’m sure the left would be at the front of the long line of complainers if a government explicitly abandoned the search for improved medicine for our own populations.”

    Actually if I’m allowed to act as spokesman for every single person on the left, I’d say the left were more concerned about funding for the existing medical conditions that can be treated but aren’t properly dealt with. For example delays in cancer scanning or care for the elderly or what seems like a revolving door attitude to the homeless- treat the physical medical symptom but the not the causes such as mental illness, drugs or alcohol abuse etc etc.

    Finding new drugs when we don’t properly deal with illnesses that we already have the ability to treat is probably some way down the list of priorities.

  27. Cambridge Rachel,

    I think people would be equally offended if you told them that MPs should be mandated by a few hundred party members, and not by the electorate in their constituency..

    That is the thing I find disquieting! It is a very bad thing about FPTP that our politicians in so many seats are chosen by a few party members or the party leader , with the electorate having no choice other than a different party.
    It is why I am a member of the electoral reform society and a strong supporter of Single Transferable Vote. It gives real democratic choice to the voters.. And hence (I believe) turned Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley into peaceful politicians I. N Ireland….

    Step forward Ed Milliband, history beckons!

    Not a bad idea, but as he was the first of the rebels to “come out” over Syria, Hilary Benn would be a good choice, and meets your criteria:

    In Leeds Central he got 24,758 votes representing 55.0% of those cast, so pretty safe, and has been MP there since 1999.

    I very much doubt he’s brave enough, though.

  29. The Burkean Representative model is dependent on MPs being moral and incorruptible, which is a long way from what we have now

    Hmmm, not really. It just means that, once elected, MPs should represent their whole community in Parliament, not specific groups or interests. This requires no more nor less incorruptibility than a delegate role – it just changes the view of who should be be able to get rid if them if they turn out to be corrupt or immoral. Burke’s answer was that this should be the electors as a whole, not specific interests such as political parties.

  30. Yes, when the Tory leader has just resigned with his policy agenda in ruins, and after being rubbished by his supposed closest allies, the opposition should be 10 points ahead if they expect to win in 2020…

    These polls at this stage in a parliament are a disaster for the opposition, and a glance at historic polling available on this site will confirm that…

  31. I’ve never read AJP Taylor and whenever I see his name mentioned I think of the old Private Eye gag AJP Taylor Woodrow Wyatt Earp.
    If it meant anything I have no idea what, but it pleased this tiny mind.
    I suppose it both dates me and exposes me as a bit of a prat.


    Yes, a possibility. But more to lose than Milliband? If JC steps down voluntarily after a bad 2020GE, wouldn’t Hilary Benn be a front-runner for the leadership?

    I think they should get together and decide who does it.
    There must be others as well.

    Private Eye gag AJP Taylor Woodrow Wyatt Earp.

    Taylor Woodrow was an arguably maverick construction company;
    Woodrow Wyatt was an arguably maverick Lab politician;
    Wyatt Earp was an arguably maverick lawman.

    AJP was an arguably maverick historian, but OLDNAT’s opinion would be more valid than mine.

  34. Pete1/PeteB

    Re, Dunkirk
    We can only try to imagine what they went through and I’m sure you are correct in that it affected their respective lives in a big way. Mine never talked about his experiences. That’s what annoyed me so much about Somerjohns analogy. To trivialise it in that way was just beyond the pail.

    Re Hatton
    Ok a cheap dig I know but I couldn’t resist the irony of a socialist becoming rich, screwing people over. If the article I linked to is correct. I thought they all believed in equality but maybe it’s only for other people?

    Yes, a possibility. But more to lose than Milliband?

    Milliband minor has nothing to lose but a cushy sinecure but more importantly no prospect of rising again in the ranks of the PLP.

    If Benn were courageous [in the Sir Humphrey sense] success would bring promotion.

  36. “The Burkean Representative model is dependent on MPs being moral and incorruptible, which is a long way from what we have now”
    The Daily Mail rides again

  37. @Colin

    The Burkean Representative doesn’t feature in this model-you have mere ciphers who will respond to the demands of Rolling Popular Plebiscites.

    ….The Parliamentary System has been the bulwark of democracy that has served this country well. The moment you go outside it , especially in this culture of social media, all manner of strange convulsions can sweep across politics.

    These are two reasons why plenty of people support JC and why the political establishment is twitchy and nervous. It likes things the way they are.

    Quite a few people don’t like things the way they are and want change.

  38. BZ

    Yes, if Benn were to be successful, he should be an automatic choice to replace JC. The question is for him and all of them, is the future of the LP more important to them than their own careers?

    I think they need to be asked. For Milliband jnr, it should be a no-brainer. Nothing to lose and he would be remembered much, much more kindly than he is going to be otherwise.

  39. Andrew111
    ‘I think people would be equally offended if you told them that MPs should be mandated by a few hundred party members, and not by the electorate in their constituency..’

    I agree with that. The vast majority of voters do not belong to any political party.and the logic of the Corbynites appears to be that their views count for very little.

    ‘These polls at this stage in a parliament are a disaster for the opposition, and a glance at historic polling available on this site will confirm that…’

    I suspect we have to be particularly cautious about interpreting polls at present in that a change of PM almost invariably does boost the incumbent Government for at least a few weeks. I will be more interested in what they are recording by the Party Conferences. There are precedents for Oppositions performing poorly circa 15 months into a Parliament and still going on to win the following General Election. The 1959 Parliament comes to mind in that at the end of 1960 a Labour victory in 1963 or 1964 seemed unlikely based on the Tory lead being recorded in the polls.
    At the same stage of the 2001 Parlianent – early Autumn 2002 – Labour was still enjoying leads in the range of 8 to 15%. Despite that , barely two and a half years later Labour only managed a 3% lead at the 2005 election.
    I am not wishing to imply that Labour is performing at well at present , but equally the failure to do so at this point does not mean that all is lost in respect of an election 3.75 years away.

  40. Hello again.
    No evidence that Jeremy will step down after the 2020 GE, when, I think, the results will be close to the 1983 GE Results.

    Corbyn will say, I think, that he has got a mandate and that the social movement is growing.

    BTW I now realise that the so-called- Labour heavy weights failed in their duty when they ran away from the Shadow Cabinet in 2015 after Jeremy C was elected leader.

  41. Im absolutely certain that JC will step down in 2018. Probably in favour of Clive Lewis or Angela Raynor, that is to say he will lend his support for one of them or similar. His major task is to change the party but I’m pretty sure that he’s not considering staying as leader until 2020, he just doesn’t have the ego for it.

  42. RACHEL.
    Hi to you.
    I think Corbyn has had a huge ego-boost.
    In terms of another leadership election after Jeremy C goes, the NEC Elections are important for this funny Body writes the rules for nomination numbers.

    Corbyn’s 2020 GE campaign will be brutal- from media and the Tories

  43. Andrew 111

    Totally agree about STV, its a great system, in that it allows voters to chose between candidates of the same party as well as other parties, much easier to get rid of badly preforming MPs than FPTP. Im sure we all remember that Martin Bell had to stand as an independent against Neil Hamilton, even after he was caught red handed, his constituents would have rather voted for him than let labour in. Of course there are many labour seats that are the same.

    The other good thing about STV is that it shows strength of feeling as well, in the way that transfers are given, I really like that. But the open list system also has many good points too

  44. Chrislane

    The NEC elections are important, we know that jeremy wants more party democracy, hopefully that will include CLPs making nominations on an equal footing to MPs and MEPs and changing the rules on triggering reselections, which under the current rules are almost impossible

  45. My dilemma is this:

    1) I am more or less certain Corbyn will win
    2) I think he is a decent man who can attract people whom labour has either lost or never had. In this respect he could be the salvation of the labour party.
    3) In contrast to McDonnel I do not trust him on policy at all, the move on triggering article 50 immediately was spectacularly stupid from any point of view.
    4) His weakness on policy, faults as a communicator and baggage as someone whom 80 percent of his colleagues tried to demote mean that barring a miracle he has not the slightest hope of winning in 2020.
    5) The answer to this ought to be a shadow cabinet ruthlessly focusing on those things on which they could agree, combining the talents (if they exist) from all wings of the party, and formulating a small number of key bold policies which they all get behind and promote. Unfortunately Corbyn seems unable to lead a cabinet and the PLP (more to blame than Corbyn in my view) are very hesitant to join one.

  46. I think this is the nub of Labour’s problems with JC, from his speech today – “MPs shouldn’t be abused by members of the Labour party or those who appear to be members of the Labour party. But honest, decent Labour party members – the people who made all of these other people MPs – should not be abused or badly treated by MPs.”

    It’s all good stuff, but the bit about party members being the people who made these people MPs belies the thought process.

    There are two elements here. In the current context of the Labour parties travails, this contains an implied threat, but lets pass that by. The key point is the fundamental misunderstanding of why an MP is an MP. It’s the voters who put MPs in the HoC, not party members.

    We’ve also tonight got Neale Coleman, a Ken Livingstone favourite and former chief of staff for JC describing the bunker mentality and disfunctional set up around Corbyn. He describes the idea that all the PLP were actively undermining him as untrue and that there was a large reservoir of goodwill and a recognition that policy had t move on from the Blairite years, saying – “…..there was a fundamental failure to reach out and engage with these colleagues and other broadly supportive MPs and build an effective team approach on policy development and on day-to-day opposition to the Tories.

    “All too often the response to difficult issues that should have been resolved collectively and cooperatively was not to engage but retreat to the bunker.”

    Again, this guy (who worked closely with Ken L and who was publicly supported by Ken when JC appointed him) could well be a secret Blairite MI5 stooge, but somehow I think not.

    It’s yet another source of a former supporter and partner who thinks Jeremy just isn’t up to the job.

  47. Well, having been away doing other stuff for a while, it’s interesting to see how my Dunkirk analogy has riled a few people. I think what it shows is that some people want to appropriate a rather noble part of our shared history to a particular world view, i.e. Britain was brave and principled, the rest of Europe was depraved and/or cowardly and craven.

    My own view is that we are all humans and should not put people into nationalistic compartments. Did the Brits in the Channel Islands react to occupation any more nobly than the French across the water in Cherbourg? I think not. Would the Brits in Bournemouth have been any different? Who knows? But I suspect we know the answer, having seen Mosley et al.

    The point of my Dunkirk analogy was that we Brits, at our best, do not accept a single defeat as the end of the story. Those Brexiters who say, “you lost, get over it” are directly opposing that noble strand in British history. We don’t just roll over and accept the crushing of our national best interests. At least, some of us don’t.

  48. This Opinium poll show 54% of Lab supporters backing Corbyn presumably means 54% of the 31% stating Labour in the VI question, which equates to around the 16% of all voters saying Corbyn would make the best PM.

    This will probably be used as evidence of JC’s popularity, but surely the point must be that at 31%, Labour are in disaster territory. Presumably those still left happy to vote Labour in what would be another GE drubbing are happy enough with JC. The critical views should be from those voters that Labour have lost, and there seems scant evidence from these figures that JC fires them up.

    Of course, Owen Smith scores worst, but there is the unknown factor here, so it is difficult to judge both on an even basis.

  49. @Alec I agree with almost every word of your latest post. My one (in a sense irrelevant) disagreement is that I do not think that the PLP gave Corbyn a decent start. In particular I think that Yvette Cooper (for whom I voted) should have agreed to serve in his cabinet. Had she and others done so Corbyn might have been more willing to listen and the current sorry state of affairs might not have been reached. Unfortunately we are where we are and unless the labour party is careful it is in for an absolute trouncing at the polls.

  50. @Somerjohn – agreed.

    I have a small boat. Is there some way I can help?

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