General election campaigns provoke a lot of attention and criticism of opinion polls. Some of that is sensible and well-informed… and some of it is not. This is about the latter – a response to some of the more common criticisms that I see on social media. Polling methodology is not necessarily easy to understand and, given many people only take an interest in it at around election time, most people have no good reason to know much about it. This will hopefully address some of the more common misapprehensions (or in those cases where they aren’t entirely wrong, add some useful context).

This Twitter poll has 20,000 responses, TEN TIMES BIGGER than so-called professional polls!

Criticisms about sample size are the oldest and most persistent of polling criticism. This is unsurprising given that it is rather counter-intuitive that only 1000 interviews should be enough people to get a good steer on what 40,000,000 people think. The response that George Gallup, the founding father of modern polling, used to give is still a good one: “You don’t need to eat a whole bowl of soup to know if it’s too salty, providing it’s properly stirred a single spoonful will suffice.”

The thing that makes a poll meaningful isn’t so much the sample size, it is whether it is representative or not. That is, does it have the right proportions of men and women, old and young, rich and poor and so on. If it is representative of the wider population in all those ways, then one hopes it will also be representative in terms of opinion. If not, then it won’t be. If you took a sample of 100,000 middle-class homeowners in Surrey then it would be overwhelmingly Tory, regardless of the large sample size. If you took a sample of 100,000 working class people on Merseyside it would be overwhelmingly Labour, regardless of the large sample size. What counts is not the size, it’s whether it’s representative or not. The classic example of this is the 1936 Presidential Election where Gallup made his name – correctly predicting the election using a representative sample when the Literary Digest’s sample of 2.4 million(!) called it wrongly.

Professional polling companies will sample and weight polls to ensure they are representative. However well intended, Twitter polls will not (indeed, there is no way of doing so, and no way of measuring the demographics of those who have participated).

Who are these pollsters talking too? Everyone I know is voting for party X!

Political support is not evenly distributed across the country. If you live in Liverpool Walton, then the overwhelming majority of other people in your area will be Labour voters. If you live in Christchurch, then the overwhelming majority of your neighbours will likely be Tory. This is further entrenched by our tendency to be friends with people like us – most of your friends will probably be of a roughly similar age and background and, very likely, have similar outlooks and things in common with you, so they are probably more likely to share your political views (plus, unless you make pretty odd conversation with people, you probably don’t know how everyone you know will vote).

An opinion poll will have sought to include a representative sample of people from all parts of the country, with a demographic make-up that matches the country as a whole. Your friendship group probably doesn’t look like that. Besides, unless you think that literally *everyone* is voting for party X, you need to accept that there probably are voters of the other parties out there. You’re just not friends with them.

Polls are done on landlines so don’t include young people

I am not sure why this criticism has resurfaced, but I’ve seen it several times over recent weeks, often widely retweeted. These days the overwhelming majority of opinion polls in Britain are conducted online rather than by telephone. The only companies who regularly conduct GB voting intention polls by phone are Ipsos MORI and Survation. Both of them conduct a large proportion of their interviews using mobile phones.

Polls of single constituencies are still normally conducted by telephone but, again, will conduct a large proportion of their calls on mobile phones. I don’t think anyone has done a voting intention poll on landlines only for well over a decade.

Who takes part in these polls? No one has ever asked me

For the reason above, your chances of being invited to take part in a telephone poll that asks about voting intention are vanishingly small. You could be waiting many, many years for your phone number to be randomly dialled. If you are the sort of person who doesn’t pick up unknown numbers, they’ll never be able to reach you.

Most polls these days are conducted using internet panels (that is, panels of people who have given pollsters permission to email them and ask them to take part in opinion polls). Some companies like YouGov and Kantar have their own panels, other companies may buy in sample from providers like Dynata or Toluna. If you are a member of such panels you’ll inevitably be invited to take part in opinion polls. Though of course, remember that the vast majority of surveys tend to be stuff about consumer brands and so on… politics is only a tiny part of the market research world.

The polls only show a lead because pollsters are “Weighting” them, you should look at the raw figures

Weighting is a standard part of polling that everyone does. Standard weighting by demographics is unobjectionable – but is sometimes presented as something suspicious or dodgy. At this election, this has sometimes been because it has been confused with how pollsters account for turnout, which is a more controversial and complicated issue which I’ll return to below.

To deal with ordinary demographic weighting though, this is just to ensure that the sample is representative. So for example – we know that the adult British population is about 51% female, 49% male. If the raw sample a poll obtained was 48% female and 52% male then it would have too many men and too few women and weighting would be used to correct it. Every female respondent would be given a weight of 1.06 (that is 51/48) and would count as 1.06 of a person in the final results. Every male respondent would be given a weight of 0.94 (that is 49/52) and would count as 0.94 of a person in the final results. Once weighted, the sample would now be 51% female and 49% male.

Actual weighting is more complicated that this because samples are weighted by multiple factors – age, gender, region, social class, education, past vote and so on. The principle however is the same – it is just a way of correcting a sample that has the wrong amount of people compared to the known demographics of the British population.

Polls assume young people won’t vote

This is a far more understandable criticism, but one that is probably wrong.

It’s understandable because it is part of what went wrong with the polls in 2017. Many polling companies adopted new turnout models that did indeed make assumptions about whether people would vote or not based upon their age. While it wasn’t the case across the board, in 2017 companies like ComRes, ICM and MORI did assume that young people were less likely to vote and weighted them down. The way they did this contributed to those polls understating Labour support (I’ve written about it in more depth here)

Naturally people looking for explanations for the difference between polls this time round have jumped to this problem as a possible explanation. This is where it goes wrong. Almost all the companies who were using age-based turnout models dumped those models straight after the 2017 election and went back to basing their turnout models primarily on how likely respondents say they are to vote. Put simply, polls are not making assumptions about whether different age groups will vote or not – differences in likelihood to vote between age groups will be down to people in some age groups telling pollsters they are less likely to vote than people in other age groups.

The main exception to this is Kantar, who do still include age in their turnout model, so can fairly be said to be assuming that young people are less likely to vote than old people. They kept the method because, for them, it worked well (they were one of the more accurate companies at the 2017 election).

Some of the criticism of Kantar’s turnout model (and of the relative turnout levels in other companies’ polls) is based on comparing the implied turnout in their polls with turnout estimates published straight after the 2017 election, based on polls done during the 2017 campaign. Compared to those figures, the turnout for young people may look a bit low. However there are much better estimates of turnout in 2017 from the British Election Study, which has validated turnout data (that is, rather than just asking if people voted, they look their respondents up on the marked electoral register and see if they actually voted) – these figures are available here, and this is the data Kantar uses in their model. Compared to these figures the levels of turnout in Kantar and other companies’ polls look perfectly reasonable.

Pollster X is biased!

Another extremely common criticism. It is true that some pollsters show figures that are consistently better or worse for a party. These are know as “house effects” and can be explained by methodological differences (such as what weights they use, or how they deal with turnout), rather than some sort of bias. It is in the strong commercial interests of all polling companies to be as accurate as possible, so it would be self-defeating for them to be biased.

The frequency of this criticism has always baffled me, given to anyone in the industry it’s quite absurd. The leading market research companies are large, multi-million pound corporations. Ipsos, YouGov and WPP (Kantar’s parent company) are publicly listed companies – they are owned by largely institutional shareholders and the vast bulk of their profits are based upon non-political commercial research. They are not the personal playthings of the political whims of their CEOs, and the idea that people like Didier Truchot ring up their UK political team and ask them to shove a bit on the figure to make the party they support look better is tin-foil hat territory.

Market research companies sell themselves on their accuracy, not on telling people what they want to hear. Political polling is done as a shop window, a way of getting name recognition and (all being well) a reputation for solid, accurate research. They have extremely strong commercial and financial reasons to strive for accuracy, and pretty much nothing to be gained by being deliberately wrong.

Polls are always wrong

And yet there have been several instances of the polls being wrong of late, though this is somewhat overegged. The common perception is that the polls were wrong in 2015 (indeed, they nearly all were), at the 2016 referendum (some of them were wrong, some of them were correct – but the media paid more attention to the wrong ones), at Donald Trump’s election (the national polls were actually correct, but some key state polls were wrong, so Trump’s victory in the electoral college wasn’t predicted), and in the 2017 election (most were wrong, a few were right).

You should not take polls as gospel. It is obviously possible for them to be wrong – recent history demonstrates that all too well. However, they are probably the best way we have of measuring public opinion, so if you want a steer on how Britain is likely to vote it would be foolish to dismiss them totally.

What I would advise against is assuming that they are likely to be wrong in the same direction as last time, or in the direction you would like them to be. As discussed above – the methods that caused the understatement of Labour support in 2017 have largely been abandoned, so the specific error that happened in 2017 is extremely unlikely to reoccur. That does not mean polls couldn’t be wrong in different ways, but it is worth considered that the vast majority of previous errors have been in the opposite direction, and that polls in the UK have tended to over-state Labour support. Do not assume that polls being wrong automatically means under-stating Labour.


965 Responses to “How not to interpret opinion polls”

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  1. Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of war.

  2. Carfew.

    Any post that manages to squeeze in a mention to Thorium shows an incisive mind. All hail Th 90.

  3. @ profhoward

    Most OAP’s will have postal votes!

  4. @Garj

    “Thanks to all for responses on the issues bedevilling schools, it would seem that they face problems from all sorts of directions. It’s not my aim to question whether schools (or perhaps some schools) are struggling, but even a cursory google search will tell you that it can’t possibly be because of the Tories cutting the education budget. Spiralling SEN costs, unfair resource distribution, shortfalls in LA funding, gaps in pensions provision (and so on and so forth) are all things which might engender a totally different set of questions about how to resolve those issues and ease the pressure on schools than simply saying it must be because of cuts

    ——-

    As we have pointed out, schools can indeed endure financial hardship despite no cuts to the education budget, if other costs go up.

    And if those costs go up because of cuts elsewhere – e.g. cutting LA funding – then the problem may well indeed be due to cuts, it’s just that you, like the politicians, are conveniently focusing on cuts to a particular budget, rather than to all budgets that impact the situation.

    If you complained that you can’t pay your rent because it had tripled, it would not be much use for someone to say “what are you going on about?! You haven’t had a pay cut! Where’s the problem?”

  5. @ROBBIEALIVE
    @GARJ
    @CARFREW
    @LAZLO
    @VOICE_OF_REASON

    CARFREW point that we need a mixed economy is one I agree with his constant harping that it is the EU fault is where I shake my head. The EU works for most of these countries because they did not do what the UK did. Which was try and reduce the size and the reach of government

    So in many senses the issue for Germany or france is very different to that of say UK or the US. So if we lok at how we could change education as an example. it would like trying to change the operation of your local supermarket you have no real control other than to just not attend. These are now private companies offering service paid for by the state. it is not even that there is a opportunity for the ‘market’ to work. The only stakeholders are really those that own the academies and the assets that the state transferred to them and those that spend the money

    How you row back from that is the problem.

    Where do I agree with LAZLO is that we do not have the institutional structures to make any difference and we have now gutted the capability to provision those services in a different manner.

    There is not central services for most of the councils now since they are not funded to the same extent hence the argument of how come we have more money but people are complaining comments. These structures were efficient and a delivering and hence what you are gong to have to replace them with is the equivalent privatised organisation hence academies becoming multi academy trusts and rather like you rubbish will be collected by one of two large (SITA being one ) contractors your council tax payments are done by Liberata what you will find is that actually there is less control and what’s more it is seen as more expensive and more troubling to rest control back.as ROBBIEALIVE said this is just plain cronyism and yet we have basically accepted this as new normal and indeed what was the new normal but 10 years ago as COLIN and TURK has said is now seen as so far away from the norm that there is no route back.

    So for Germany do they need to renationalise their railways? of course not so investment into it becomes less problematic

    if our roads were privately own how would we be able to improve them but by giving the that enterprise a bung to do our bidding and they will take their proportion of the top for profits

    essentially we have gone too far down the rabbit hole to go reverse our way back

    I point to Iraq that we made a decision and when it became clear that that was bad instead of working our way back we doubled down and by the time we look up we had made a set of decision that stopped us going back more for the fear of being wrong rather than the just understanding that this is the right thing to do

    Swinson said that she apologised for a list of policies she supported you can see the problems of running down the rabbit hole. She clearly thought at the time that after the first set of dump on the poor policies, to try and reverse them made no sense.

    Now COLIN and TURK would argue that these policies were the only way but I suspect given where she is now and where she was then I would believe the LDEM would love to have that rose garden meeting back

  6. Let us also not forget that many of the Tory party’s volunteers – to the extent that they have ANY in these Labour leave areas! – will also tend to be be frail , zimmerized etc.

  7. drbasil

    Clear that the students are still in favour of Labour.
    ………………………………………………………..
    Probably but not necessarily.
    It is crystal clear to people who have spent a great deal of time with English teenagers that they are terrified of bullying and peer pressure. Only very strong minded individuals can stand up and speak out when not just mockery but being made a non-person on social media is such a powerful force employed ruthlessly.
    Whatever becomes the fad pushed by the most determined bullies on any issue becomes the view which will poll in the way you point to. It does not matter what the issue nor what the subject.
    BTW young people will never ever believe that they are being polled in absolute secrecy. They absolutely believe that every word will get out to their peer group.
    Then again on the issue you point to, the practical outworking of the voting may prove this poll accurate.
    But group think is volatile and mob rule can suddenly change direction. Corbyn in 2019 and switch to full blown fascism in 2022 is perfectly possible. The illiberal college and university set up is a real unhealthy danger and people who bathe in it while it is on their side just might freak when it flips 180 degrees.
    ‘Four legs good, two legs bad’ can so easily become ‘Four legs good, two legs better.’

  8. In part I think we have brexit BECAUSE we reduced the size of the state. People in places like Wigan feel there is nothing in common, nothing British, left. If we had maintained full public services in state ownership then there would have been no Brexit vote.

    Ironic then that the Tories are thinking that Brexit leads on to an ever more deregulated economy with a better-thy-neighbour relationship to the EU’s social protections.

  9. @CARFREW

    If you complained that you can’t pay your rent because it had tripled, it would not be much use for someone to say “what are you going on about?! You haven’t had a pay cut! Where’s the problem?”

    AS I pointed out we will have to go through a lot more pain first as I said people genuinely do not understand what has happened in education.

    In the same way that if we had a Grenfell Tower every week rather than every 6-12 months people would take notice but what you have is the sort of apathy of just not being in any control

    What I think is rather scary is remainer believed that the EU would have been an arresting power but in truth the EU does not override national governments. The Issue of taxation where multiple countries vetoed just reporting where profits and transfer actually come from kind of shows the limits of the EC

  10. @PTRP

    “CARFREW point that we need a mixed economy is one I agree with his constant harping that it is the EU fault is where I shake my head. The EU works for most of these countries because they did not do what the UK did. Which was try and reduce the size and the reach of government”

    ———

    Eh? I didn’t say it was all the EU’s fault, nor do I think it. I just give different examples, some from the LDs, some from New Labour, one can do similar with Tories and I have in the past, and then one can contrast with ordoliberalism in the EU.

    That’s not the same as blaming the EU for the privatisations or for free schools. It’s just showing similarities in terms of using the state to further the market.

  11. If people have the interest but not the time to do their own thorough research, then if people google say Frances Weetman on Twitter, she has read and highlighted the salient points of the big BBC news story today.
    Her credentials are that she won a New Statesman prize for politics and economics.

  12. @MIKEB

    Don’t look down too much upon straw-clutching. We were clutching straws in the 2017 election as well, and in the end they turned out to be made of gold. If there’s a straw to clutch, there’s hope.

    As to the student vote. A poll earlier put the students at 72% voting Labour. My only argument is that the students tend to be optimistic about voting, they WANT to vote Labour, whereas I don’t think Labour Leavers want to vote Tory. This, coupled with a huge social media campaign on voting day to get out the vote, makes me think that indeed turnout could very much swing it towards Labour. Whether it will be enough, I don’t know.

    @CB11

    How I always enjoy your literary references! Indeed, if the election goes as the polls seem to be indicating, literature may be the only solace we have left.

  13. PROFHOWARD

    ‘zimmerized’

    Made to listen to Bob Dylan?

    Presumably those housebound postal voters with mobility problems have already been Stannahed?

  14. @NICKP

    ‘Corbyn in 2019 and switch to full blown fascism in 2022 is perfectly possible.’

    I think we have another surrealist.

  15. DR BASIl

    There will definitely be a huge social media drive and it will be effective. I think the 18 – 34 turnout will be higher than 2017. Lots of things have to fall Labour’s way to even be within a shot of hung parliament.

  16. @JONATHAN STUART-BROWN

    Interesting response. May I ask if you yourself are within the younger age cohort, and thus have direct experience? I only speak from my own experience, as a young person, and I certainly see that younger people are confidently in favour of Labour. Young Conservatives exist, I have met quite a few at University, and in fact one of my flatmates has already voted Conservative (via postal). I certainly don’t think the huge amount of Labour support is due to fear.

    In fact, I think it’s routed deeper than this. People assume that all young people are left-wing and then grow to become more right-wing as they age. If that is the case, then why were the majority of young people in favour Thatcher during the 80s?

    I think there are many reasons why the youth are swinging to Labour. The first is societal: we have really pulled the short straw with poor housing, insecure work, huge student debts, general negative life prospects. We’re not friends of the Conservatives because they aren’t friends to us. And secondly, don’t underestimate the changes that have occurred in terms of the liberation of social views (i.e. immigration, sexuality, etc. etc.). Young people are far more socially progressive, and I think the egalitarian nature that one finds in the youth these days is a result of this, in that Conservative policy simply cannot, and hasn’t (as far as evidence goes) matched up to this.

  17. @DOUG LOWE and others

    I was very upset to see that the ‘Save the Apostrophe Society’ has disbanded due to the retirement of it’s 96 year-old leader. But fear not, the ‘Society for the Queen’s English’ has promised to step in and take up the baton.

    See, it’s not all bad news’.

  18. @JOHN33

    I completely agree with that, youth turnout will be higher than 2017. And that’s true, I’ve always maintained since the start of this election that if Labour don’t poll consistently above 35% it will be a Conservative majority. But I don’t think necessarily that many things have to fall Labour’s way, I think if just a few do than it may very well be a hung parliament.

  19. The YG polls since beginning of Nov suggests generally that Con VI has plateaued, whereas the Lab VI has continues to increase:

    date C/L
    6 Nov 36/25
    8 Nov 39/26
    12 Nov 42/28
    15 Nov 45/28
    19 Nov 42/30
    20 Nov 43/29
    22 Nov 42/30
    26 Nov 43/32
    29 Nov 43/34
    3 Dec 42/33

    The Con VI leapt by 7% but has remained relatively static, whereas the Lab vote has increased slowly but steadily.

    If I were the Con campaign managers I would be concerned of the potential for the lead to narrow. Maybe the four Brexit party MEPs have noticed too.

  20. DRBASIL, Gold…Labour did lose the last election right ?? They gained a few seats and stopped a Tory majority but lost again.
    The polling of the student vote was very small in this poll , but unless it increases even further, the losses of leave voters is going to more than counter act a volatile voting demographic and in all likelyhood fail to stop a Tory majority
    It may prove to be more than a straw, but the citing the weather smacks of desperation to me.

  21. DRBASIL, Gold…Labour did lose the last election right ?? They gained a few seats and stopped a Tory majority but lost again.
    The polling of the student vote was very small in this poll , but unless it increases even further, the losses of leave voters is going to more than counter act a volatile voting demographic and in all likelyhood fail to stop a Tory majority
    It may prove to be more than a straw, but the citing the weather smacks of desperation to me.

  22. Should be liberalisation in my previous response, not liberation!

  23. @VOICE_OF_REASON

    “Although it was not the point of my original piece I suspect we agree, certainly where education is concerned. I deplore what has happened in Education re so called ‘free schools’ and the increase in the number of academies. We have seen locally what can happen when academy trusts get it wrong and the City Academies collapse is a scandal”

    ————-

    I’m torn on free schools a bit tbh. The liberal bit of me rather likes the idea of being able to break free from the stranglehold of state provision that can occur when not done properly (which has been known to happen).

    On the other hand, we both would agree to replace state inertia with private sector chains doing ”MacTeaching” isn’t necessarily preferable.

  24. MIKE N, in the last week or so the Labour polling has also leveled off also pretty much on all polling.

  25. @MIKEB

    Okay, maybe bronze or silver then! I certainly don’t deny they lost. And I agree, the Labour leavers will decide this election, that’s why I’m pointing out what may hinder them voting, and why I think the weather will not have as much of an effect on younger voters. Hence, I think desperation is a bit harsh, it is incumbent on us to explore all the possibilities that may affect the end result, and that is all I am doing!

  26. @MIKEB

    The references to the weather are merely to keep conversation ticking over and to speculate on all possibilities. Not everyone is a political enthusiast though and poor weather can certainly be enough to deter turnout, but not necessarily to any partie’s direct advantage.

  27. Party’s*

  28. As well, it should be rooted not routed. Clearly I need to double-check my responses better before I post.

  29. DRBASIL

    Fair point , FWIW, this campaign has the propensity to throw up some very odd results either way.

    Yes the Labour leave vote will probably decide it, however I think even if it chooses not vote, will detract from Labour’s totals, may even come down to how far voters are from polling stations. We will know soon enough

  30. @John33, the last part was my point exactly

  31. @CARFREW

    The two free schools that I know about were attempts by locals to set up ‘private’ schools but get the state to pay for them. The idea was to set the up the catchment area to exclude the riff-raff’s kids (in one case this was explicitly black kids) in favour of their own nice (white) kids.

    But another attempt was to provide for disabled kids that the local authorities weren’t providing for….because the LA had no money…and so it goes on.

  32. @MIKEB

    Agreed, not long now until it’s put to bed, one way or the other.

  33. MikeB
    I’m not sure you’re right about this. Yes, the latest YG indicates both
    C and L falling back 1 point, but this maybe just MoE. Lab VI is still on upward trend with YG.

    Other pollsters are too infrequent for this kind of analysis, IMO.

  34. [email protected] profhoward
    “Most OAP’s will have postal votes!”

    In my experience of running polling stations this is quite a long way from being my experience. I’ve asked Mr Google to clarify this but not managed to find any information on the breakdown of postal votes.

    Presumably since you are so definite about it you’ve managed to find evidence which I’ve failed to be able to locate, out of interest I’d be very interested if you could share a link please?

  35. DRBASIL
    Don’t know if this has been posted already but

    Labour 72%
    Lib Dems 10%
    Conservatives 8%
    SNP 3%
    Brexit Party 2%
    Plaid Cymru 2%
    Green 1%

    ICM 29 Nov-2 Dec
    #GE2019

    Clear that the students are still in favour of Labour.

    Then they get jobs and gradually turn into capitalists

    GRUMPY
    @Alec

    “There seems to be some genuine nervousness in Conservative ranks, despite a seemingly unassailable poll lead. I guess this is the result of relying on an uninspired electorate in an age of zero trust.”

    No, I think they genuinely know that the real projected result is far worse than headline polls are suggesting, i.e. hung parliament or even Lab largest party.

    Whether it fills you with delight or unmitigated terror, I think there is a good chance we could wake up to PM Corbyn on Friday 13th.

    DRBASIL
    Survation poll done by telephone, might have skewed it?

    PROFHOWARD
    “Definitely think adverse weather will help Labour. The voters that the Tories need to win over are far too likely, in my opinion, to be put off by it, especially if it already seems like the Tories are in for a majority.”

    Certainly many will be frail/zimmerized and will not wish to go out if cold.

    Whilst nothing is impossible

    Good to see so many still believe in Santa Claus

  36. JONBOY
    “I was shocked that polling companies, and presumably others, can inspect the marked electoral register to see whether we voted. Just another example of how, on the one hand, the authorities cite data protection when it suits them, then sell the same information when it pays.”

    Local authorities have no say in whether or not the registers are to be made available for sale, and in common with all Council services the cost would be roughly equal to resources going into the copying of them (since we are not allowed to do most discretionary work at more than cost). I myself scanned all of our registers after the 2015 election and it took several days, so it’s not a small task across an entire authority – but since it’s a legal requirement to make them available the copying needs to be done and the officer’s time needs to be paid for by somebody.

    The electoral register is, apparently, specifically excluded from GDPR under article 6 of the regulations, most information we handle where I work in is specific to our directorate and we are not permitted to share it with other departments, which is why libraries don’t talk to council tax and revenues and benefits don’t talk to planning, other than in the kitchen at lunch time – compared to ten years ago we may be working ridiculous hours under stupid amounts of pressure but there are now few enough of us that almost everyone knows everybody else.

    On the plus side, our local weather has been downgraded from flurries of snow next Thursday to a great deal of rain and temperatures not rising above 3 degrees C. While this is not going to compare unfavourably with other parts of the country I must admit the prospect of spending another fifteen hours in an underheated Council building with the door wide open is not as appealing as it would be in May, as we huddle together in blankets for warmth my thoughts will be with those who have been confined to portacabins for the day.

  37. MIKE N,

    I suppose we will see in the coming days, my own humble opinion is we may be not too far away from the final tally..

  38. @Carfrew

    I’m torn on free schools a bit tbh. The liberal bit of me rather likes the idea of being able to break free from the stranglehold of state provision that can occur when not done properly (which has been known to happen).

    On the other hand, we both would agree to replace state inertia with private sector chains doing ”MacTeaching” isn’t necessarily preferable.

    I’m with you with this.

    My two are SEN, and have been withdrawn from the education system for about six years. This is because the support they got was atrocious, and the knowledge of those deemed to ‘SEN’ teachers at their school knew precious little.Therefore the ranks of home schooled grew by two, and I can tell you from other people we know, it’s the a failure of SEN provision that is a large driver in the increase in home education.

    I’ve come to the conclusion our local LEA is hopelessly inadequate to deliver a satisfactory level of SEN support and performance. It’s not about money all of the time. My LEA borders two others closely, who with a similar demographic and level of of funding do much, much better. They are all Labour councils, so that’s not the reason either. The same people head the relevant sections now that led them back then. We know of huge numbers of parents who have been through what we have, with a long list of serious complaints. Yet nothing changes.

    I’d love another provider be able to step and do what they have patently failed to do – provide good SEN provision. I have no ideological barrier to who provides this.

  39. https://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/news-and-opinion/collapse-wto-court

    “On December 10th, two days before an election precipitated by a government willing to accept crashing out of the EU on “WTO rules”, the court which enforces WTO rules, will collapse. Without any enforcement mechanism and no trade deals in place, UK industry will have no way to remedy trading practices that breach WTO rules (96% of world trade is underpinned by WTO rules – traded on WTO terms or based on trade deals authorised by the WTO).

    The WTO “appellate body” was not perfect but now that it’s gone, there’s nothing stopping international trade reverting to the law of the jungle….

    …In this no-rules world, might will prevail. And this is the environment in which the UK government is seeking a trade deal with the US. Even before this week’s revelation of US-UK negotiations, the US had laid out its negotiating objectives. Here are a few excerpts:

    In relation to agriculture: “Secure comprehensive market access for U.S. agricultural goods in the UK by reducing or eliminating tariffs.” – may reduce food prices, but will decimate UK agriculture

    In relation to services: “ensure that the UK does not impose measures that restrict cross-border data flows” – will pose a problem for any deal struck with the EU, which specifically rules out such transfers

    In relation to pharmaceuticals: “ensure that government regulatory reimbursement regimes are transparent, provide procedural fairness, are non-discriminatory, and provide full market access for U.S. products” – This could substantially increase NHS drug prices, taking resources away from other parts of the health service. Faced with these demands, the UK will only be able to protect some of its priorities. In the US, health spending accounted for 17.9% of GDP in 2017: the equivalent share for the UK was 9.6%. Extra spending does not buy extra years of life: life expectancy in the UK is 81.0 while in the US it is 78.7 years.

    The collapse of the WTO court may seem irrelevant to day-to-day living. Yet its effect will be that the UK is in an even weaker position when it comes to negotiating trade deals. And if trade fails to expand, so will the scope to increase jobs and wages. This also means less tax revenue and reduced scope to expand public services.”

  40. @FRED

    With regards to turning into capitalists, please see me earlier response at 3:53 addressing the youth vote. Of course, it’s only my opinion.

  41. @CARFREW

    Academies were another step down the road of transferring schools into the private sector, as were privatisations in the health service. More money might go in, but long term it’s going to the private sector. This might be considered a form of ordoliberalism, as practiced in the EU: the turbocharged version of liberalism where the state is used to promote the interests of the private sector, rather than protect from it as under socialism.

    You have argued that Academies are a form of ordoliberalism as practiced in the EU. I am saying that this is in no way ordoliberalism. it is as if what we are foing in the UK is part of what is done in the EU and I believe most people who past comment would not agree with that as a characterisation

    Academies were brought in to provision specialist services and provision a different curriculum and a different approach. It was not meant as a complete take over of Local governance of the school system.

    So there is a different in terms of the state furthering market forces the provision of choice as an example and basically privatisation of the services since all you have done pass control form one party to another.

    Which is why I believe you have it wrong. The UK has not been practicing ordoliberalism if it had we would most probably not have sold off BT British Gas Water Companies and have academies fleecing the tax payer that is ne0liberalism.

    here is an treatment of ordoliberalism it doe not flatter it (i do not agree with some of the conclusions) but it points to a view of the distinctions

  42. MikeB
    Yes, the polls published in the next few days will be guides.

    However, if the L VI were to remain static, the possible explanation is that Lab voters are intending to vote tactically for LD.

    A week to go, but I imagine Con campaign managers are increasingly anxious.

  43. @PTRP

    You have argued that Academies are a form of ordoliberalism as practiced in the EU. I am saying that this is in no way ordoliberalism. it is as if what we are foing in the UK is part of what is done in the EU and I believe most people who past comment would not agree with that as a characterisation“

    ———-

    No, I am not saying Academies are some kind of EU policy. All I am saying is that ordliberalism involves using the state to promote the market. The EU has some ways it does that, e.g. via its trade deals, abd we have our own additional ways, e.g. via transferring stuff into the private sector.

  44. Regarding capitalists.

    I find that those students of mine who become entrepreneurs (and are highly successful) are more likely to be on the left of politics and to stay on the left. They are creative and happy to share.

    But those who go into duller jobs like banking are / stay on the right. They are not so creative and are more acquisitional.

  45. ‘Survation poll done by telephone, might have skewed it?/

    Excluding 17% Don’t Knows implies that just 335 were surveyed. Big Margin of Error.

  46. Carfrew

    A lot of the thinking in the New Labour days was that ownership (state v private) is not in itself highly relevant the key thing is competition and performance incentives.

  47. Norovirus might reduce attendance at polling stations more than the weather.

  48. @PTRP

    “Academies were brought in to provision specialist services and provision a different curriculum and a different approach. It was not meant as a complete take over of Local governance of the school system.
    So there is a different in terms of the state furthering market forces the provision of choice as an example and basically privatisation of the services since all you have done pass control form one party to another.”

    ————

    Certainly, educational arguments were given for Academies and indeed free schools. but the key issue in terms of my argument involves schools’ assets passing into private sector hands.

  49. Re the weather discussion, I think it is entirely possible that bad weather will favour the Tories because old folk tend to be more committed to doing what many see as a duty. There are of course many youngsters who are very committed, but judging from known past turnout, not in such big numbers.

  50. Anecdote alert.

    Two young women, almost certainly students, overheard talking on a train this afternoon. I surmised students because they were of the right age and got off at the University station on the New Street to Redditch line. My inner Sherlock Holmes hardly ever fails me.

    They seemed delightful young women and, as students tend to do, talked to each other animatedly and noisily. Sharing the six-seater cubicle with them, I had little choice but to overhear what they were saying.

    After the initial niceties of boyfriends and Christmas shopping, they got on to politics. The one girl had only just received her postal vote today, presumably to vote in her home constituency, and the other had the option of voting in her student address of Selly Oak or asking her mother to cast a proxy vote on her behalf in her home town address. Fascinatingly and amusingly, she said how much she trusted her Tory voting Mum to cast her Labour vote for her, but was minded to vote in her student address constituency instead. She did say, for lovers of our anachronistic electoral system, that both were “wasted” votes, but for different reasons. Where she lived, there was a massive Tory majority and, in Selly Oak, a big Labour one. She had votes in two of the 400 or so seats that never change hands. She had no faith her vote would change anything. What a forlorn thought for a young woman gaining suffrage.

    Nonetheless, both were voting Labour and both were voting for the first time in their lives. With my bourgeoisie class warrior helmet on, I detected they were two solidly middle class young women but very much Corbyn admirers, no doubt turning their backs on their familial voting traditions.

    As they left the train, I got down on my knees and thanked them from the bottom of my heart for what they were doing and told them that they’d be rewarded, if not on December 12th, then in another life (No, I didn’t. I’ve just made that bit up! :-)})

    Two little thoughts. The first, a political anorak one. Who remembers the old Labour left wing firebrand and Selly Oak MP called Tom Litterick? An early proto- Jeremy Corbyn of the 70s and a thorn in every Labour leader’s side in that era, particularly Jim Callaghan. Tom got in regularly on the massive student vote that still resides in Selly Oak, The Birmingham University campus just down the road)

    The other thought relates to how young people vote. Labour and left wing partys benefit from young people’s innate social liberalism, idealism and excitement about the possibilities of the lives that lie ahead of them. That’s one of the constants of politics everywhere, but what about those who travel right in their youth? A smaller proportion, but what takes them in that direction, I wonder? Social class grooming and they follow their parents politics by rote? They analyse things differently and come to different political conclusions from most of their contemporaries? Innate conservatism that lurks within all of us?

    Who knows, but I know quite a few young voters whose sharply right wing views and visceral anti-Corbynism are quite surprising.

    Of course, I would say worrying too. They’ve bought the Johnson and Farage politics in a big way. And Trump too. Not often discussed demographic this. Sharply right wing young voters. They’re out there, I tell you and very active on social media too.

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