The Times this morning report that the government are to drop the 600 seat boundary review and start again with a 650 seat review. A few technical points on this:

  • The rules and timetable for the Boundary Commission are set out in statute, meaning that any changes will require primary legislation. Until the law is changed the current review will continue, based on 600 seats and a deadline of 2018. To go back to a target of 650 seats the government will need to pass new legislation changing the rules to 650 seats, and starting up a new review from scratch.
  • That legislation will be an opportunity to change other boundary rules. In the Times article there’s a quote from Labour saying they’d support the change back to 650 seats, but no doubt they’ll have some other recommendations too were the government to try and get cross-party support for the Bill. Even if the government aim to change only the 600 seat rule, there will be opportunity for the Bill to be amended in other ways as it passes through the Commons and Lords. Two things to really keep an eye on are how close to the quota the boundary review requires seats to be (currently 5%, but the Private Member’s Bill that Labour supported last year would have changed that to 10%) and how often they need to happen (currently 5 years, but the Labour Bill last year suggested ten years). Either change would make things a bit better for Labour – as a general rule, strict equality requirements and frequent reviews favour the Tories, more flexible equality requirements and less frequent reviews favour Labour.
  • Timing will be a little tight, especially if the Bill doesn’t get cross-party support and gets tied up in the Lords. On the current rules it takes three years to carry out a review, and that was achieved by cutting the process down as much as possible. If the government want a review conducted in time for 2022 they need to get that legislation going soon so the Boundary Commissions can scrap their current review and start again on a new one next year.
  • If the review happens it will still favour the Tories a bit, regardless of tweaks to the rules. The current constituency boundaries are based on the electorate in 2001, so updating it for sixteen years of demographic change is still going to move things about quite a lot. Taking the electorates from the 2017 general election, by my reckoning a boundary review on 650 seats would still produce 7 extra seats for the South East, 3 extra seats for the South West and 3 in the East (presumably mostly Tory), and seats being lost in the North East, North West, Scotland and especially Wales.

Meanwhile there are two voting intention polls to update on:

YouGov for the Times had voting intentions of CON 41%(nc), LAB 42%(nc), LDEM 6%(-2), UKIP 4%(+1). Fieldwork was Wednesday and Thursday last week and changes are from a week before. Full tables are here. YouGov also released some interesting European polling on Brexit, asking other EU countries how they’d react if Britain did an about face and decided that we did, after all, want to remain in the European Union. This would be welcomed in Germany – 49% of Germans would rather we stayed, 25% that we left and the most common emotional reactions to Britain staying after all would be “Relieved” (23%) and “Pleased” (22%). Contrast this with France – 32% of French respondents would prefer that Britain stays, but 38% would rather we go. The most common French reaction to us changing our minds would be “Indifference” (23%) (tabs for the EU polling are here.)

Meanwhile Survation in the Mail on Sunday had an online poll in the Mail on Sunday with topline figures of CON 38%(nc), LAB 43%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 4%(-2). Fieldwork was Thursday and Friday last week, and changes are from Survation’s last online poll in July. For the record, there is a very minor method change in the Survation poll – UKIP are no longer prompted in the main question. Full tables are here.


Sunday polls

Opinium’s latest voting intention figures are CON 41%(+2), LAB 43%(-2), LDEM 5%(nc), UKIP 5%(nc). Theresa May’s net job approval stands at minus 21, Jeremy Corbyn’s at plus 4 (though May has regained a small lead on who people think would make the better Prime Minister, 36% to Corbyn’s 33%).

Asked about Theresa May’s future, a third of people think she should resign straight away, 16% think she should go after Brexit negotiations are complete, 8% just before the next general election and 22% that she should remain and fight the next general election. Answers to this are heavily partisan, as you might expect: a hefty majority of Labour voters would like May to go now, only 9% of Tory voters. 62% of Tory voters would like her to remain PM until either shortly before the election (14%) or to fight the election (48%). Tabs for the Opinium poll are here.

There was also a Survation poll in the Mail on Sunday with topline figures of CON 39%(nc), LAB 41%(-4), LD 8%(+1), UKIP 6%(+2). Changes are since Survation’s last online poll in mid-June, rather than their last telephone poll which showed a small Tory lead. Theresa May also still leads as best PM here, 43% to Corbyn’s 35%.

Survation also asked questions about Theresa May’s future, though their’s was a simpler should she stay or go question.45% would like her to resign, 40% would like her to stay. Again, responses are overwhelmingly split down partisan lines: 77% of Lab voters would like her to go, 78% of Tory voters would like her to stay). Asked about who should succeed her if she did go, Boris Johnson leads on 22% ahead of David Davis on 15%. 46% of people say don’t know. Questions like this don’t give us that much insight because of low public awareness of the options. The most interesting ones there asked who people would prefer in run offs between two potential leaders – between Davis and Johnson Davis wins by 36% to Johnson’s 30%. Paired against Philip Hammond Johnson only just wins, 34% to 33%, though he beats Amber Rudd by 38% to 27%. There are still lots of don’t knows, but I’m conscious that a few years ago Johnson’s popularity and celebrity would probably have seen him easily winning all three questions at a trot. The shine looks as if it may have come off Boris Johnson. Tabs for the Survation poll are here.

Finally there was a BMG poll in the Independent asking about the public sector pay cap. Questions like this are tricky – most people have huge sympathy for “frontline” public sector workers like nurses and firefighters, so the social desirability bias towards saying you’d pay a little more to give them a rise is huge (it’s what we tend to call a “drowning puppy” question in the office, as in “would you pay more tax to save this drowning puppy?”). If anything, I’m surprised only 56% said they’d be willing to pay more in tax to fund a pay rise above 1% for only occupations like firefighters, police officers, paramedics and nurses. More generally, 69% of people said the public sector pay cap should end, but asked if they’d be willing to pay more tax to give a rise to “non-emergency” occupations the split was pretty even, 42% said they would, 41% would not..

Opinium also asked about the public sector pay cap in their poll. 53% of people support ending it, 21% of people would be opposed. They also asked about it on specific jobs. Questions like this are, to some degree, just reflections of how popular or valued a role is (as well as how well paid people think it currently is). Almost 70% of people wanted the pay cap ended for nurses, 60% or more for the armed forces, police and fire service. Teachers was 56%, followed by doctors on 53%. For dentists it was only 38%. I’m intrigued about what Opinium would have found if they’d asked about less obviously sympathetic public sector jobs: local government planning officers perhaps, benefit assessors, immigration officers, refuse collectors, traffic engineers, taxmen…


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A quick update on two new voting intention polls yesterday.

Opinium in the Observer has topline figures of CON 39%(-5), LAB 45%(+4), LDEM 5%(-3), UKIP 5%(+3). Changes are since the general election. Jeremy Corbyn’s net approval ratings are now substantially better than Theresa May’s – 31% approve of how May is doing her job, 51% disapprove; 42% approve of how Corbyn is doing his job, 38% disapprove. Full tabs are here.

Survation meanwhile has topline figures of CON 41%(nc), LAB 40%(-4), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 2%(nc), the first poll since the general election to show the Conservatives ahead (if the changes since the last poll look odd, it’s because the Tory share is actually up by almost a point, but it’s lost in the rounding, and the share for “other” parties is up three points). Full tabs for that are here.


More Brexit polling

A year on from the EU referendum there was some new YouGov polling for the Times this morning. The country remain quite evenly split over whether Brexit is right or wrong, 44% think leaving was the right decision, 45% the wrong decision. There is not much optimism about negotiations – only 26% expect the government to achieve a deal that is good for Britain, 31% expect a poor deal, 15% expect no deal at all (that said, most don’t think Labour would be doing any better – 24% think they’d get a better deal, 34% a worse deal, 20% that it would end up much the same).

Asked to choose between Britain having full control over immigration from Europe or British businesses having free access to trade with the EU people preferred trade by 58% to 42%. As I wrote in my last post, there’s a lot of variation in questions like this depending on the specific wording, but the overall picture suggests that when people are pushed to choose they do think trade is more important than control of immigration (though among Conservative voters the balance is the other way round).

On other matters, on the question of who would make the best Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn now leads Theresa May by a single point – 35% to 34%. This is the first time that Corbyn has led in the question – this is partially because of a sharp drop in Theresa May’s ratings (before the snap election she was consistently in the high 40s), but is also due to a significant increase in Jeremy Corbyn’s ratings. Again, if you look at the longer term ratings he used to be consistenty down in the teens.

Full tabs are here

I should also add an update on polling about the second referendum. In my last post I mentioned the Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday which found that the balance of opinion was in favour of having a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. This was the first time any poll had shown this, and I said it was worth looking to see if other polls found the same. Well, so far they haven’t – Survation also had a poll for Good Morning Britain on Monday, that also had a question on a second referendum, and it found 38% of people supported it and 57% were opposed. Tabs for that are here.


Two new polls today:

Survation for Good Morning Britain this morning had topline figures of CON 43%(nc), LAB 37%(+3), LDEM 9%(nc), UKIP 4%(nc). Fieldwork was on Friday and Saturday and changes are from the previous week. Tabs are here.

ICM for the Guardian had topline figures of CON 45%(-1), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 5%(nc). Fieldwork was from Friday to Monday and changes are from the ICM/Sun on Sunday poll at the weekend. Tabs are here.

Both of today’s polls continue to show movement in Labour’s favour, thought the overall lead is different. A six point Tory lead would represent a small swing towards Labour, a twelve point Tory lead would still give them a stonking great majority.

The key difference between polls showing large and small leads is, as I wrote at the weekend down to how pollsters are treating turnout. There are lots of differences between different polling companies methods: they sample differently, weight by different things, do different things with don’t knows and so on. However, right now the one really huge difference is turnout. Weighted with all its normal demographic and political weights, ICM would have shown a Tory lead of only 3 points – that was transformed into a lead of 11 points by the turnout model, which predicts how likely respondents are to vote based on the estimates of turnout by age and class at the last election (the change from 11 to 12 points was the reallocation of don’t knows). That’s a big change, but given the errors in the polls in 2015 that may be necessary. On the other hand, if Jeremy Corbyn has managed to enthuse young people and there is a higher rate of turnout among younger voters than in 2015 then it risks understating Labour support. We shall find out next week…