Tuesday round up

There are a few interesting bits of polling news today. First there is a new chunk of Lord Ashcroft polling, this time on the Conservative’s position in Scotland. Full results are here. I won’t summarise the whole report here, but essentially he segments up the Scottish electorate and as well as that poor sorry rump of Tory support left in Scotland, he also finds a group he calls “reluctant Cameroons” – primary Scots who approve of Cameron, trust the Conservatives on the economy… but don’t vote for them because they don’t see the Conservatives as caring about Scotland and view the party as irrelevant to Scottish politics, or a wasted vote. Therein lies the Conservative problem not just in Scotland, but in much of the urban North too. There are people with some sympathy towards Conservative policies, but they live in places or communities where voting Conservative is simply not done, no one else does it, there’s no point doing it, there’s no longer a recent history of it, what would be the point of it? It’s something people in the South do.

Anyway, I’ll leave you to read Lord Ashcroft’s report for yourselves, but for the record it also contained Westminster voting intention figures for Scotland, concucted earlier this month. CON 18%(+1), LAB 40%(-2), LDEM 6%(-13), SNP 31%(+11), UKIP 2%(+1). Changes are from the 2010 election and reflect a big swing from the Lib Dems to the SNP. If it was repeated as a uniform swing across Scotland the Lib Dems would be reduced to three seats in Scotland, the Tories would gain two seats, Labour would gain two and lose one, the SNP would go up to 11 seats.

Secondly there is the regular YouGov poll for the Sun. Topline figures today are CON 31%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%. While it’s within the normal margin of error of YouGov’s recent polling, the nine point lead is the largest YouGov have show since the start of October. My hunch is that this particular poll is probably a bit of an outlier, but that the issue of energy prices coming back into the news agenda following the energy price rises has boosted Labour’s lead a bit. Full tabs are here.

Finally the Electoral Commission have issued advice on the referendum question contained in the referendum bill currently before the Commons. The Bill currently contains the wording “Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union”. The Electoral Commission have recommended that the “do you think” bit is dropped, so the question is shorter and more formal, and that the wording reflects that the UK is already a member of the EU, as some people thought the question read as if it was whether Britain should join the EU. As such the question would become “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” They’ve also floated the idea that it might be better to move away from a Yes/No question, and instead have a Remain/Leave question, along the lines of “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? Remain a member of the European Union/ Leave the European Union”.

As a pollster you tend to get asked questions about referendum wording. It makes some sense, as writing fair questions is the bread and butter of being a pollster, but in many ways the considerations really aren’t the same. As a pollster I hardly every write questions with just a straight Yes/No as options because there is a fear of affirmation bias, so as a polling question the Electoral Commission’s Remain/Leave is definitely better, giving both sides of the campaign equal prominance. However, it’s NOT a polling question, it’s a referendum question. With a polling question, people are rung up out of the blue (or get an email out of the blue) and get a few seconds to answer the question – those small differences in wording undoubtedly make a difference. In a referendum people have weeks to decide, and will be influenced by the whole campaigns, personalities, arguments, advertisements and so on. What the Yes and No votes mean for the country is something that voters will form their own perceptions of long before they enter a polling station. In that sense, as long as the question is clear and unambiguious, I doubt whether it says yes/no or remain/leave matters much.

423 Responses to “Tuesday round up”

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  1. @Howard,

    I’ve often thought that if you compiled a list of 100 hot topic political issues, you could probably find two different LDs who give a different answer on all 100 of them.

    Labour and Tories would probably have a floor of around 20-30 answers in common.

  2. It’s that Liberal tradition that informs most of the traditional stereotypes (do-gooders in sandals) of the Liberals, but now that you mention it, I can’t see how that fits well with a slightly right wing ex-SDP bunch. I suppose a commitment to localism stops the whole thing collapsing, although I suspect if there’s a wipeout at a GE there will be blood from one side.

  3. Some Graun reporting of a Peter Kellner analysis which people might be interested in, assuming they haven’t read it yet.


    + NHS legislation, both of which were enthusiastically supported by the LibDems. If they voted in favour of these reforms, who would know what they are voting for when they vote LD in future?’
    Electoral reform, civil rights, freedom of information, European union, the Commonwealth, gender equality, free trade are bedrocks of Liberalism, alongside the social democracy which has brought their defectors across to Labour. This is a solid platform of a reformed and reformist LD, which would work with Labour’s program.

  5. HS2 funding sailed through parliament. Only 350 yays, only 34 nay votes! It seems that after parliament had been given all the options on what to do about congestion of rail traffic, even with budget creep the costs of doing nothing far outweighed the costs of HS2.

    Opposition amongst those involved in transport infrastructure planning seems to be a vocal minority who were seeking support of the NIMBY and “Surely we can spend that money on something better?” crowd. But when it comes down to it, not building HS2 is going to cost more in congestion issues, and upgrading existing rail would cost even more than HS2 and cause over a decade of disruption, so the choice was really rather easy.

    I still expect horror stories over the next decade about how much money is being thrown away over HS2, and it’s going to be a failure. And again for around five years after it’s operational about how this new shiny toy just cost us all too much… Much in the same line as the Channel Tunnel, where the full benefits are only now being considered, as an example the competition effect’s reduction of ferry crossing and air-fare prices was never included in the cost benefit analysis.

  6. The Liberal SDP Alliance long cherished the idea that they would be replacing Labour as main opposition to Thatcher’s Conservative party. Paddy Ashdown could read the tea leaves though and entered into negotiation with Tony Blair on areas of cooperation.

    Though Kennedy came from a leftish SDP background, he did write the foreword to the Orange book. During the Blair era LD strategists concluded that their electoral fortunes lay in attracting Conservatives, perhaps they could even replace them as main opposition party.

    We haven’t been hearing much about Liberal Conservatism, not since the early days of the Coalition, but if the Conservative Party continues its decade-and-a-half march towards becoming a full-blown eurosceptic movement (perhaps under a new leader, after failing to put the UKIP genie back in its bottle in 2015), the current Lib Dem party could provide an attractive home for refugees.

  7. Speaking of the Alliance, here’s Lord Steel making a valid point about the number of spin doctors in modern politics – of course, he could have done with someone to take the Spitting Image writers into the car park and deal with them.


    While the point is valid, he’s also on STV tonight whining that the referendum debate is boring.

    He should leave being a grumpy old man to us professionals!

  9. Amber – my god that’s impressively bad poll reporting! I’ll have to post something rude about that later. Any innocent bystander could be forgiven for thinking Labour are up 14 points since their energy pledge, rather than up 14 points amongst a particular crossbreak since 2010.

  10. @ Nick P, Howard, Crosbat et al

    I’m not saying that the LDs are all right-wing, because I know that’s untrue. I suppose what I am trying to say in my usual laborious convoluted way is that at the next election the LDs and Cons must hang together, or they’ll hang separately. Why? Because together they can concentrate on their main weakknesses – the LDs on their lost Leftish voters, and the Tories on UKIP – without having to deal with attacks from each other.

    I don’t know which way they’ll go for certain, but I know which looks the best bet, and I’d be surprised if both parties didn’t go for it. They don’t have to have secret meetings to do it. It’s too obvious to need that.

  11. @Amber

    The price freeze policy reminds me of Mrs T’s approach to successful policy announcements – that they have to be simple enough for everyone to understand.

    The electorate may not understand the energy market, how their bills are calculated, or the real profit margin of the energy companies. But they understand a price freeze.

  12. Postage Included

    I am lost and what you say is so obvious is clearly going to beyond my ability to follow through what you appear to be recommending for the LD and COn partyies.

    I could start practising my ‘well said old chap’ stuff I suppose.

  13. Apols for typos, need to do better, must do better, good show,.

  14. Oh Steely. You wanted them to be a professional political party and a party of government, didn’t you? “I do not expect to lead just a nice debating society,” I believe was the phrase. Well, professional political parties have coordinated messaging.

    Be careful what you wish for, eh?

  15. @ Anthony

    Amber – my god that’s impressively bad poll reporting! I’ll have to post something rude about that later.
    I’m looking forward to it already. :-)

  16. I think he’s still bitter about thirty years ago, when they returned to their constituencies and weren’t prepared for government.

  17. @ Anthony

    You’ll be pleased to hear I’ve already corrected someone’s tweet on this!

  18. “HS2 funding sailed through parliament. Only 350 yays, only 34 nay votes! It seems that after parliament had been given all the options on what to do about congestion of rail traffic, even with budget creep the costs of doing nothing far outweighed the costs of HS2.”

    I doubt you can read anything significant into those numbers except that neither party is willing to be blamed for scrapping the project.

  19. Back from a few days away and a quick spin through seems to indicate some evidence of Labour advances, although by no means clear cut.

    Energy prices still in the news. Inspired choice of battleground by the opposition.

    I was pondering on the mechanics of the energy markets, and whether there was any overriding barrier (apart from current market players losing control) of applying technology to the market and enabling consumers to buy direct from suppliers in an open market, like the stock market.

    Why do we need tariffs set by the big 6, when we might be able to trade in the market direct? Technically possible, but with many problems with this approach, but it’s an interesting thought.

    Noticed some disappointing retail figures for the UK this week, and today saw news of an accelerating fall in Eurozone retails sales – one of our critical export markets.

    Can’t help feeling that growth isn’t quite so solid as some of the figures make it appear.

  20. @Howard

    I’m saying that both parties can’t afford to fight each other. Both will lose if they do. So they’ll work together, regardless of how distateful they find it.

    If that works, we’ll have LibCon mk 2. If it doesn’t we’ll have Labour government. LibLab won’t be an option.

    Hope that’s clearer!

  21. New thread; ‘my’ bad poll report is being dissected.

  22. Thank you to Laszlo, for info on municipalisation of energy, currently being discussed in Berlin.

    As an individual I favour this. There would have to be a safeguard as poorer local authorities generally have a lower tax base. Perhaps the amount of income generated would be large enough to help?

    Whether it would help any particular party at the polls I am not sure.

    Would a Labour government free up local communities to do this? There certainly was once a very proud tradition of local government achievement in the north of England particularly.

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