I wrote most of what I had to say about Eastleigh on Tuesday night: by elections are very unusual events and you can’t tell anything about public opinion from them that you couldn’t get a much better handle upon from national polling. It won’t stop acres of press being written about it today! Suffice to say, the result in Eastleigh does not show the Lib Dems retaining their support in their own seats (their drop in support was completely in line with national polling), it does not necessarily show anything about patterns and extent of tactical voting (since this is a by-election and they are extremely unusual in terms of campaign intensity and having no direct impact on who actually governs), it does not necessarily show Labour face problems in the south (it’s perfectly normal for a party with no hope of winning to see its support squeezed in a by-election), it does to some extent confirm growing UKIP support… but we knew about that from national polling anyway.

Equally, as I said yesterday, this doesn’t mean the result is unimportant or irrelevant, quite the opposite. A victory for the Lib Dems is vital good news for Clegg and the Lib Dems will hope it helps them move on from the Rennard crisis. There was speculation prior to the by-election that losing it on top of the Rennard scandal would put Clegg’s leadership in peril… now we shall never know. For the Conservatives it is much worse news in terms of the morale of the Parliamentary party. Fractious already, we now have to see if they hold it together or go into complete panic. For UKIP it is obviously terrific news, building into a narrative of growing support – expect to see another round of good publicity possibly translating into increased support in the polls.

And on the subject of the polls, the final polls by Lord Ashcroft and Populus were pretty accurate in terms of Con, Lab and Lib Dem support… but significantly underestimated UKIP support. As ever it is possible that people simply changed their minds between fieldwork and poling day, especially since momentum did appear to be with UKIP, but as I said when the Populus poll was published I am less than convinced about the utility of reallocating dont knows in by-election polls. There is good evidence that people still saying don’t know on the eve of a general election are disproportionately likely to end up backing the party they did last time, but I’m not certain we can assume that the same applies in by-elections. Certainly in this case the Populus and Ashcroft polls were both more accurate before don’t knows were reallocated.

383 Responses to “A few thoughts on Eastleigh”

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  1. AMBER
    “They’d be getting some of their leftie credibility back; & a chance to vote for lots of things they’d like e.g. Lord’s reform etc. What more could LD’s want? ;-)”

    They’d also be getting a whacking great lump of social democracy and old-fashioned liberalism (e.g. Keynes) in government, but they’ll be lucky if they get the chance.
    Not to worry, the VI trend suggest they will be able to vote for it in a majority Labour administration, and a great deal of reform to be achieved by that route, including in the EU.
    It will be fascinating btw to see how the .”EM is a drag” story pans out, given the percentage of the population who may see him as more like them than DC or NC. ..

  2. @Graham

    “…The decline in the LibDem vote at Eastleigh was 14.4% – in addition the Tory vote share fell by 13.9%. It follows,therefore, that the decline in the Coalition parties’ share was 28.3%…”

    No, it doesn’t. If the decline in LD vote is 14.4% and the decline in Con vote is 13.9%, then the combined decline in both parties is…between 14.4% and 13.9%. Consider a situation where both parties lose all their votes: their combined loss isn’t 200%, it’s 100%.

    Let’s go thru an example.

    * X goes from 100 votes to 80 votes, a drop of 20 votes and 20%
    * Y goes from 200 votes to 160 votes, a drop of 40 votes and 20%
    * Their combined vote loss is 60 votes, which is a drop of 60/(100+200), which is…20%.


  3. Aidan Lewis, 6 Feb. BBC News Africa, provided a well researched assessment of Islamic militancy in the Sahel, which David Cameron was reported as saying that it will take years, if not decades, to remove. He would have been better saying that it could not in any time scale be resolved by western-led international intervention. The risk is that intervention so far, including the removal of Gaddhafi, may risk a conflagration that cannot be put out, and will eventually expose the West to heightened capacities of Al-Qaeda jihadists, and the weakening of emergent democracies not just of the Sahel countries but throughout West and North Africa.

    The problem with the the strategic and research studies that now fill the ether, and are well reported in Lewis’s article, is that they cannot conceivably provide a picture of the extent, direction and complexity of the threat that it posed in countries across the whole of the Sahelian region which have centuries of Islamic cultural and political influence. Thus the statement::

    militancy in the Sahara and Sahel, which stretches across the desert regions of Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger and Mauritania”

    leaves out the West African states, from Cameroon across to Mauretania, which combine coastal rain-forest, mainly Christian areas with northern Islamic regions bordering or within the Sahel, and include, for example, Nigeria which has decades of bloody religious conflict in its northern cities. Combining with the Saharan belt, their norther Sahelian territories are a lean gizzard for the whole of the western and norther regions of the continent.

    “Right now we’re not seeing as much an uptick in the strength of these groups as much as we are new areas that they’re able to operate in because of the weakening of states,” said William Lawrence, North Africa director for International Crisis Group.

    Clever stuff, but I don’t think so. As the Al-Qaeda leadership have realised, these are regions and societies where no secular state has ever, or will ever, exert a military or administrative control. Rather, as in the Chad military’s recent operations, which with French military support, have killed significant figures of the insurgency and roooted out training and logistical camps, the conflict is a domestic and post-colonial problem- one in which local and tribal interests need to be engaged by those close to them to permit Al-Qaeda to wither on the vine – not one for the mighty military and strategic brains of Washington and Whitehall, or for a UK.military presence.

  4. @Martyn – sorry, but I think you’ve got that wrong. The parties have not lost 14% each of their respective vote shares, but 14% each of the *total*vote share. Combined they have indeed lost 28% of the voters of Eastleigh.

    Too early in the morning to do any more complicated maths than that for me but I think if you calculated the proportional loss in the way you suggest (each party’s fall as a percentage of their previous share, not of the whole) that the figure would actually be even bigger !

  5. “Update – Labour lead at 11

    by YouGov in Politics

    Sun March 3, 6 a.m. GMT

           Latest YouGov / The Sunday Times results 1st – 3rd March – CON 31%, LAB 42%, LD 10%, UKIP 11%; APP -36- See more at: http://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/03/03/update-labour-lead-11/#sthash.cyrd3QJc.dpuf

    Steady as she goes..

  6. So…Con back to 31%.

    Not freefall then.

  7. (mind you, it is a weekend poll, and thus highly dodgy)

  8. @Martyn

    Agree with Wes, I think you are confusing two ways of describing the same change.

    In 2010 the “Coalition Forces” combined took 85.8% of the total vote. In 2013 they took 57.4% of the total vote. So the Lib/Con “vote share” fell by 28.4% of the total 100%, but by 33% relative to their share in 2010.

    There’s no way of getting around it, this was a big vote against both sides of the Coalition. But it’s a byelection so we shoulkd read the figures through anti-glare chades.

  9. That should be “anti-glare shades”.

    Not to late for maths, too late for typing. And yes. I am just going to bed.

  10. Postage included

    There seems to be a concerted effort to minimise the Government vote loss in order to spin a certain agenda which bizarrely focuses on Labour!

    The conclusions drawn and relevance to anything is a different matter but the fact is the ‘Government’ lost 28% of the overall voting percentage

  11. The attacks on the NHS (and the BBC) have reached fully fledged “propaganda” mode now. The agenda, in case you have missed it, is that both are corrupt monolithic and Stalinist and need to be privatised as soon as possible.

    Will it work? Obviously I hope not. But previous exzperience (Hillsborough etc) tells me these black ops can work quite well. After all, look how many voters in Eastleigh cited immigration as a burning issue, despite the fact that there is practically no immigration there, problematic or no.

  12. NickP

    The right wing is dominating the media more than ever now and pushing the agenda. There is no voice from the left, and this includes the cowed BBC

    The misinformation trying to use the rise of UKIP to try and push the centre even further to the right is nauseating

    We are not even talking of The moderate right represented by Colin and others here but a more insidious form

  13. ‘Sovereign Debt levels don’t matter?’

    Not as much as human beings.

    What way out of this dilemma do you propose, colin?

    Mass impoverishment of living people so that the figures stack up nicely?

  14. There is a left-wing media and you can subscribe online if you want:…


    …and can’t find it in your local shops because of the distribution embargo.

    If left-wingers bought the Morning Star – not a ‘communist’ paper, but one with regular articles by Greens and Labour – then our collective voice would be stronger and harder to ignore.

  15. MikeMS
    The Morning Star isn’t a communist paper?
    Someone should really inform the PPP, because they seem to think it is.

    I bet by the time I finish this post, AW will have this full breakdown up, but there are some interesting bits –

    We have to remember with the latest YouGov that most of the fieldwork was probably done before Friday, so before people knew the results of the by-election.

    Approval ratings –
    Pure Approval –
    Cameron 35 (-5)
    Miliband 28 (-4)
    Clegg 17 (-2)

    Net Approval-
    Cameron -23 (-8)
    Miliband -31 (-8)
    Clegg -57 (-4)

    Quite big downward shifts for all of them – we’ll have to see if they shift even further next week.

  16. ‘Someone should really inform the PPP, because they seem to think it is.’

    Do you mean the PPPS? I’m a member of that, but I’m not a Communist.

  17. Also, TingedFringe, you can not be aware that a lot of the major unions have invested in the PPPS and now sit on the board of the Morning Star. They aren’t Communists either.

    It is aiming to be a broad left paper and it reflects that in the people who write the columns, like the Green party leader and various left-wing labour mps (indeed we had a tory recently).

    Unlike the right, who know how to rally to their side, many on the left seem to have a perverse desire to distance themselves from our side’s papers and organisations. I don’t know why this but it is a great shame that weakens us all.

  18. Amber

    THanks for the link.

    THere is no connection between it & the Nicholson issue.

    The mortality stats-flawed or not-were part of the trigger for the Francis Report -which confirmed the abusive practices asserted by the Campaign group.

    The issue with Nicholson is not mortality rates, but suppression of , and paying off, internal NHS complainants.

  19. Sigh. Not for the first time far too many people are getting confused between percentages and (percentage) points. If your vote goes from 40% to 30% then it drops by 10 percentage points. The vote itself drops by 25%, but that is less important, because we are normally interested in comparing how different Parties fare and when using points we can do that. This is because the changes will always add to zero while looking at the percentage change in votes or percentage of vote will not.

    So if we look at the Eastleigh by-election:

    L/D 46.5% to 32.1%.
    Change in percentage points -14.4
    Change in percentage of vote gained -31.0%
    Change in vote 24,996 to 13,342 -46.6%

    Con 39.3% to 25.4%
    Change in percentage points -13.9
    Change in percentage of vote gained -35.4%
    Change in vote 21,102 to 10,559 -36.8%

    Lab 9.6% to 9.8%
    Change in percentage points +0.2
    Change in percentage of vote gained +2.1%
    Change in vote 5,153 to 4,088 -20.7%

    UKIP 3.6% to 27.8%
    Change in percentage points +24.2
    Change in percentage of vote gained +672.2%
    Change in vote 1,933 to 11,571 +498.6%

    ‘Coalition’ (L/D + Con) 85.8% to 57.5%.
    Change in percentage points -28.3
    Change in percentage of vote gained -33.0%
    Change in vote 46,098 to 23,901 -48.2%

    The points changes roughly balance (not quite because of the changes in minor candidates) while the other percentage are all over the place because they depend on what the original figures.

    So it’s all about percentage points. And what do points mean…? Not getting confused.

    And can I also point out that, as usual, today’s YouGov will have been taken between 6pm on Thursday and 3pm on Friday (or thereabouts). So a lot of the responses will have been before the Eastleigh result came out and nearly all before the result and the media coverage had had time to take effect.

  20. Colin (and Amber)

    If you haven’t seen it already, can I suggest that you get a copy of the latest Private Eye[1]. It’s got a very good, long piece in it about the Francis Report (and about the part coding played in South Staffs) and it explains why Nicholson should go (and why he won’t).

    It’s by Phil Hammond (writing as ‘MD’) who has been going on about similar matters since the Bristol child heart surgery affair two decades ago and of course the Eye had a special supplement about whistle-blowing in the NHS in 2011.

    [1] Number 1334 – not available on-line. Apologies as I’ve been meaning to recommend it since it came out a week plus ago.

  21. I think the Lib Dems are in danger of overplaying the Eastleigh result when they now seem to be talking about gaining some Lib Dem Tory marginals in the South.

    Obviously they should be delighted by this result and it proves categorically that they *can* hold their seats in Lib Dem Tory marginals. Whether they will win most or all of them in 2015 is still debatable but there had been talk that they were in danger of wipeout everywhere and this is clearly not the case. However the percentage drop for both parties was very similar and this was on the back of a huge distorting UKIP vote plus a lower turnout so while it is good for morale to start talking about gains, I think this flies in the face of reason.

  22. Just read that Andrew Rawnsley’s column in t’Observer and guess what….. he done everything Anthony said he shouldn’t in assessing the Eastleigh result.

    What a surprise!

    Apparently the LDs put out 500,000 leaflets in the campaign,bet that cost a bob or two…but no other party in their right mind will query their expenses,will they?
    (cue UKIP)

  23. In th absence of appointed officials….

    new thread alert

  24. MIKEMS

    @”What way out of this dilemma do you propose, colin?”

    In respect of heritage catastrophic sovereign debt-someone to pay it off or take the write off-if you can find someone.

    In respect of the future-less hubristic & corrupt spendaholic politicans if that is possible……..plus Sweden’s policy of legal limits to State funding deficits.

  25. ROGER



    As @Roger Mexico explains above (and as I should have done), if you are talking about percentage points then you were right, if you are talking about percentages then I was right. I should have been more specific in my explanation, for which I apologise.


  27. @ Colin

    The issue with Nicholson is not mortality rates, but suppression of , and paying off, internal NHS complainants.
    I agree with you.

    I just wanted to point up the reason why I think David Cameron is being slow to do anything about David Nicholson.

  28. Martyn

    No need to apologise. I make a habit of lacking clarity lol

  29. @Bcrombie

    Thank you.


  30. @Martyn – “if you are talking about percentage points then you were right, if you are talking about percentages then I was right. I should have been more specific in my explanation, for which I apologise.”

    No need to apologise, but for clarity, we are talking about percentage points!

  31. @Wes

    Thank you. Yes, I know


  32. Is the loss of Lib Dem support really in line with national polling?

    In national polls they have lost about half their support. Here only between a third and a quarter.

    Isn’t that right?

  33. I agree and so does Jim Jam (see earlier posts). I think an LD result in Eastleigh in line with natl poll rating would be 2010 Eastleigh percentage x current national percentage divided by 2010 natl perentage which is 46 x 10/24 = 19 per cent.

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