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. @ Lefty,

    Thought experiment. Dateline May 2015. Labour is the largest party with 310 seats. The LDs have just polled 13% and won 28 seats.

    Clearly there will be a coalition between Lab & LD.

    Would there? The critical thing that determines your ability to form a minority government is your ability to survive a supply or confidence vote. The Tories could rely on Labour, the SDLP, the Lib Dems, the Nats, Caroline Lucas, and maybe the DUP uniting to destroy them if they tried to pass an austerity budget on their own, so they had no choice but to form a coalition.

    Labour could count on the SDLP and Plaid to support them, that brings them up to 316. The SNP probably would not vote out a Labour government and risk letting in the Tories unless Labour screwed them over devolution again- they remember what happened last time- so they’ll support them or more likely abstain. If Labour have 310 the Tories are in the 280s somewhere, which means they’d need 100% commitment from both the Lib Dems and the DUP if they want to bring down the government. That’s going to be very tricky for them to pull off. An opposition with no guarantee of becoming the next government has nothing with which to bribe the DUP. The Lib Dems might go for it, but more likely they’d be completely bankrupt and exhausted and in no mood for another general election campaign.

    Under those circumstances I think I’d try and go for confidence and supply with the SNP in exchange for devo-max rather than haggle over a coalition with the Lib Dems.

  2. @Norbold

    Yes, Labour would find it hard to swallow an LD alliance. But they won’t be offered it so best not fret!

  3. @Norbold

    I understand the point you make about the genuine antagonism toward the Lib Dems within Labour ranks, aggravated by their campaigning deceptions and the behaviour of some of their leading lights once in coalition, but I think it’s wise strategy to never say never in politics. The parliamentary arithmetic post May 2015 could well mean that Labour need to rely on Lib Dem support to govern, maybe even leading to the necessity for a full scale coalition between the two parties. Clegg will very likely be history after the next election, and a new Lib Dem leader may well revert his or her party back to something resembling a centre-left party. That’s still where most of their MPs, members and voters reside and the coalition, once formed. between Labour and the Lib Dems, would have a political compatibility totally lacking in the current Tory/Lib Dem hybrid arrangement.

    I’d much prefer a majority Labour Government, for obvious reasons, but I remain intrigued by the prospect of a Labour and Lib Dem coalition and what it could achieve in government. Meaningful electoral reform would be a given, wouldn’t it?

  4. Re. tactical voting, we have polling on it.

    From both Ashcroft marginal polls, the message seems to be this:

    In Con-Lab seats, there appears to be no functional Lib-Lab tactical voting at all. When asked about their own seat, the percentage of people saying they’d vote Lib Dem actually goes up. (But it goes up from a very low value to another very low value- half the 2010 Lib Dems seem to have defected to Labour in principle as well as tactically.)

    In Lib-Con seats, Lib-Lab tactical voting is alive and well, with a 6-point swing. This is enough to hold Lib Dem seats against the Tories, although not enough to gain Lib Dem targets.

  5. Another problem with a Lab/LD Coalition would be LD credibility. The first things Labour would do (I hope) would be to repeal the bedroom tax and the 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?

  6. @Spearmint

    The problem I have with Ashcroft’s method is that it assumes that voters in the original question are declaring a non-tactical vote.

    For this example, if a voter says he’ll vote Labour, and when he’s told he’s in a Con-Lab marginal still says he’ll vote Labour, that doesn’t prove it’s not tactical voting. It could have been a Lib Dem supporter who already knew the situation in his own constituency without an Ashcroft pollster telling him.

    If it was up to me, I’d just ask two straight questions. 1) Who are you intending to vote for, and 2) Is that a tactical vote (i.e. you’d like A to be elected, but you are voting for B to stop C getting elected)?

  7. @Postageincluded

    I am aware that the Liberals were split, and that the National Liberals merged with the Conservatives in 1968. I have no personal knowledge of them.

    Yes, 1948 was a significant year for me, but I cannot claim to have single-handedly founded the NHS, or to have won gold medals in the London Olympics or take credit for other events of 1948 as I was a little too young at the time.

    Agree, as things stand today Labour are very likely to form the next government on their own. There is always a chance that opinion will change and swing towards the Conservatives, and they could always win, and some swing is quite likely. My guess is that there is only a narrow range of scenarios that will produce the need for a coalition.

    The basis for this supposition is that LibDems are likely to lose 25-35 seats, and these will become available to Labour or Conservative.

  8. @ Chris,

    Yeah, fair point.


    I take all your points as fairly made and true.

    It is true as well Windsor was a safe Conservative seat but Maidenhead briefly had a Liberal Council in the early 1960’s. I think (?) in 1997 or 2001 the LibDems came within 3K or so votes of the Conservatives when Maidenhead became a parliamentary seat in its own right..

    In that sense for example Maidenhead is rather like say a Newbury…or any of those satellite towns of the Thames Valley where like say Essex, lots of aspirational voters cannot see themselves as Labour voters.

    I guess some of this is wrapped up in class origins and the fact that the light industries and white collar businesses were never heavily unionised and had a no tradition of organised labour and different view of politics

  10. @Crossbat
    An LD-Lab coalition, or even a pact seems unlikely to me. If by some chance the LDs recover their lost left, Labour will lose in 2015, Clegg will be vindicated and it’ll be LibCon Mk 2. If on the other hand they are severely damaged in the election by losing left-inclined voters I can’t see them rushing to Labour so that they can lose their right inclined voters too. A promise of electoral reform might do it, but Labour could not deliver it – too many Labour MPs would lose their seats uner PR. Lords reform, which could increase the number of elected seats and persuade Labour Members to vote for a reform package might help, but that’s a helluva package for an incoming government.

  11. Let’s play make believe.

    Just what gamechanging event(s) could/might see the Tories home with 40% of the vote?

  12. For what it is worth – politicians and coalitions are like dynastic monarchs and marriage – you don’t need to be in love to get into bed and once you’re in bed it’s in everyone’s interest to make it work.

  13. NickP,

    Popular war, large scale terrorist attack, opposition collapse (Miliband breakdown or shocking arrest), economic miracle, hugely popular leader.

  14. @Nick P

    “Just what gamechanging event(s) could/might see the Tories home with 40% of the vote?”

    England win the World Cup in 2014 and Gordon Brown wins a leadership contest against Ed Miliband.


    An LD-Lab coalition, or even a pact seems unlikely to me. If by some chance the LDs recover their lost left, Labour will lose in 2015, Clegg will be vindicated and it’ll be LibCon Mk 2.

    “By some chance” doesn’t do it justice! Clegg somehow recovers his left leaning voters by May 2015 only for this to enable him to go back into government with the Tories again?? That’ll please the millions who decided to give him a second chance!

    Never underestimate the pragmatism of politicians keen to gain power. Witness Cameron in May 2010 who had hitherto shown a contemptuous disregard for the Lib Dems until he realised he needed them to get into Downing Street. It’s called domestic realpolitik and, despite all that’s being said now, I think it’s highly probable that the Lib Dems and Labour could and would come to an accommodation in May 2015 if the arithmetic deemed it necessary for them to do so, even with Clegg still involved. Electoral reform would be difficult, but if it’s ever going to happen then it will come about via a centre left coalition government. At the very least, a Referendum with something better than AV on offer. Any coalition involving the Tories, forget about it

  15. NickiP

    LibDem merger with the Tories?

  16. Sorry, Nick, I seem to have inadvertently changed your gender!

  17. @NICKP

    If they change. I daily dread that they are going to show a different side to them – increase the minimum wage, bring in windfall taxes, increase disability allowances etc

  18. nickP

    Ed changes energy provider yet again.

    Gamechanger as well as energy changer.

  19. God I just realised how partisan that is to dread good things because then your opponents will win. Haha I admit I am a hopeless case.

  20. Just come in and enjoyed this morning’s contributions greatly.

    I suspect, if LDs lose half their seats, that the leader will resign (leaders always do). In the case of a more polarised seat distribution, the chance of coalition is highly diminished, whatever the exact seat arithmetic. The lefty nationalists (e.g. PC), who could support a low majority Labour government would also be interested in voting reform.

    Since that is the likely outcome at present, the chance of voting reform resides purely with Ed Miliband, in whom I have every confidence that he will do so. Whether he can deal with his own dinosaurs is another question of course.

    Also in such a case, it’s worth remembering that there will be no EU referendum, so that subject will be killed stone dead for another decade or perhaps totally.

  21. @Couper2802

    The irony is that one side could adopt all the policies of the other side, and more, the those who would vote against them will still vote against them (even to their own loss).

    It’s that kind of politics that tears the UK apart on a five year cycle, and there’s no sign of it changing.

  22. @Howard (9.40)

    Apologies if I have misunderstood your position. It just seemed from some of your posts during the past year or so that you were quite supportive of Clegg. As you say you have managed to keep to AWs requirements re non-partisanship but I had not appreciated that it also applied within parties as well as between parties.

  23. Nick P

    As I’ve said times many, the Tories have struggled to get above 40% VI for more than a generation, other than in exceptional helpful circumstances (Thatcher defenestration, post-Ge/pre-Black Weds 92 honeymoon, depth of the 08-09 recession and Rose Garden honeymoon).

  24. All these labourites keep going on about the 2005 voters that the libdems have lost but those could quite possibly drift back over the next decade, what is more worrying is the number of ccommitted libdem voters that have commented here that they can’t see themselves going back to the dems, it’s truly shocking that so many with a strong record of voting libdem havecome with such anti libdem comments here, iI’m not sure if the dems have lost the marginal voters, it sounds like they have lost half of their core vote

  25. I think for any minor party, going into coalition is betting the farm in a very risky way. If the coalition is successful, you may do well, but be aware that if it isn’t, wave goodbye to power for a generation.

  26. Peter Bell
    Thank you. There are many here who think there are already two parties, the Nick Clegg one and the Simon Hughes one (or perhaps nowadays the Tim Farron one).

    I don’t know about that but I can confirm, as I appear to be the only actual member on here, that the notion that there are few left of centre LDs left in the party (as opposed to voters who voted LD in 2010) is greatly misplaced.

    Crossbat11’s contribution is on the money, if a coalition is required.

  27. Howard,

    In other words, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party.

    Which grouping seems to you to be bigger? The left-wingers or the Orange Bookers?

  28. @Crossbatt

    I freely admit a LD recovery is the fanciful end of the equation. If it happened I can’t see why Clegg couldn’t ally himself with the Tories again.That, as you say is realpolitik, and it’s always lovelier the second time around.

    In fact I think they’re planning for this eventuality already, and collusion towards this result will be a subtle feature of the election – the LDs will present some leftish policies, but reserve their attacks for Labour, the Tories will tack right but refrain from attacking the LDs, so that together they maximise the anti-Labour vote.

  29. Of course, then the “Vote Clegg, Get Cameron” and “Lib Dem Broken Promises” pamphlets will get even easier to print!

  30. postageincluded

    Oh, yes, but


  31. As to whether Labour can come back into contention in some areas of the SE vis-à-vis LD, we’ll have to wait and see.
    Looking at the recent County Council elections in East Sussex as of May 2013 for example:

    Con 20 (-9), LD 10 (-3), UKIP 7 (+7), Lab 7 (+3) seats.

    UKIP gain 5 seats from Con and 2 seats from LD,
    Lab gains 3 from Con,
    Ind gains 1 from Con.

    LD fending off the treat from UKIP and Con in areas like Eastbourne/Lewes etc.

    In an area where Labour is viable (Hastings), LDs were driven into fifth place behind the Greens (seven seats), or fourth (a seat where Green did not stand).

    Taking East Sussex as a whole in this election, the number of seats where Labour finish higher than LD, and the number where LD finish higher than Labour are roughly level pegging.

    In West Sussex LD took a hammering from Conservatives, Conservatives took a hammering from UKIP, and Labour pinched three from Con in Crawley.

    A continuing Con/UKIP fracture is LD’s best hope of holding on to seats in the South.

  32. The LibDem grassroots are closer to Labour than the Tories, as are many (most?) of their voters. Labour activists tend to detest the LibDems, though; Tories are just rivals but LibDems are the enemy.

  33. @Postageincluded

    “In fact I think they’re planning for this eventuality already,”

    I think you need to be a bit more specific on the “they” here. If you mean Clegg, Alexander, Laws and Browne, I’d probably agree with you, but if the “they” equates to the vast swathe of Lib Dem MPs, members, activists and potential/existing voters, I think you’re clearly wrong. Most of these people can’t wait to get out of the current coalition and have sullenly and reluctantly supported Clegg thus far out of hope that something better may turn up next time around. The something “better”, I don’t think, involves another coalition with the Conservatives. Once bitten, twice shy and all that.

    Conversely, the likes of Clegg, Laws, Alexander and Browne have belatedly found their natural political home these last four years and I can well understand them wanting to remain in the warm bosom of Conservatism.

  34. Mike Smithson is reporting a new You Gov poll on the independence referendum

    24% lead for No. http://www1.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2013/10/31/new-yougov-scottish-indyref-poll-finds-yes-with-24pc-lead/

    He made a mistake in the title, hence the link!!

  35. Sorry, its been pointed out to Mike that its not actually new… not like him to be caught out like that!

  36. I know we’re sworn off mentioning it, but in a certain set of legal proceedings today, a certain pair of defendants were revealed to have done something the Daily Mail got very excited about.

  37. country suppers? lurid gossip

    How ironic. Will they ask to be left alone as it is nobody’s business but their own?

  38. I think Mr Ashcroft has a point when he says that the Scottish Tories need to be seen to stand up for Scotland without simply picking senseless fights with Cameroon whose image is better than theirs.

    But I think he’s dead wrong when he says Ruth Davidson is an asset here. I think she’s an obstackle here, because surely the best way to do this is to be autonomous but allied – in other words exactly what Murdo Fraser suggested in 2011.

    So I don’t think it is too far fetching to say that Osbourne’s little Englander instinct (for he’s the strategy guru that made sure Cameroon backed Davidson) have costs the Tories perhaps a handful of (Scottish) seats in 2015?

  39. Roger Rebel

    Guess that’s our rights to a cooling off period out the window then.

    Wonder if that’s even occurred to them.

  40. The 24 hour switch “won’t happen overnight”



    The explanation that seems best argued for the Unionist majority of the popular vote in 1955 is that which suggests that the dominant factor was increasing centralisation of domestic policy in London (a very new phenomenon for Scots) rather than a left/right issue.

    (Bill Patrick did tell me the name of the Tory that did that analysis, but I’ve forgotten it).

  42. OLD NAT.
    Good Half Term to you.

    I think that in days of old most Protestant working class people voted Unionist in Scotland, while RC people voted mainly Labour.

  43. @ Howard

    ” I can confirm, as I appear to be the only actual member on here, that the notion that there are few left of centre LDs left in the party (as opposed to voters who voted LD in 2010) is greatly misplaced.”

    As another LD member, I can confirm that the bulk of the party membership that I know remains left of centre.

    It just suits Labour supporters to paint the situation otherwise.

    Sorry to disappoint you guys!

  44. CHRISLANE1945

    Thankyou. Fortunately, the days of looking forward to the holidays (that is the meaning of Half Term?) are long behind me.

    There is a correlation between the factors you mention, but it was concentrated in Glasgow and surrounding areas.

    As far as I know, there wasn’t a sufficient change in denominational numbers during the period 1945 – 59 for that to be an adequate explanation of the 1955 result.

  45. RiN

    I considered myself a committed LD voter (all elections since 87 bar 97 GE)

    Since 2010 I have decided not to vote for them again until I am clear what they stand for, that their leadership understands this and the current leadership is changed.

    This may be 2020 – I think the membership is currently still to the left but the leadership is definitely rightward leaning

    I have stated before that a Labour majority is the best result for the LD as it will allow them to oppose, change their leadership and reassess their identity before 2020. Virtually every other result will put them in a difficult position; either lacking the capability to oppose the Tories after coalition, rejoining the Tories in coalition or trying to be credible in coalition with Labour

  46. Good grief, the CEO of E.On has said the govts review of the energy markets doesn’t go far enough & stops a long way short of a full market investigation E.On called for on Tuesday.
    He asked for a full competition commission inquiry & still stands by that today.

    The former head of Ofgem, John Fingleton, has said [of the govts review]:

    “It’s just another gimmick that will ultimately cost consumers & will not go to the heart of the issue”
    He too share’s E.On’s desire for a full competition commission inquiry to look into the way the market is run.

  47. I had thought that the point of Labour’s freeze idea was to do precisely that and allow time for a full look at the whole business.


  48. R&D

    It is.

    Shame that the govt don’t seem to wish to rattle that particular can. One is left wondering why that might be…..

  49. @ John Murphy,

    Good point. It’s a damning indictment of Labour’s… cut-through? (Relevance? Modernisation? Political efficacy? One Nationhood?) that they’ve been so utterly unable to win over aspirational voters outside the big cities and non-post industrial areas. There’s no reason the NHS or the minimum wage shouldn’t help a call centre worker in Newbury every bit as much as they help one in Newcastle.

    In some sense it’s also a damning indictment of the labour movement as a whole, because why isn’t that call centre worker unionised? But a weak, archaic labour movement also redounds badly on a party that left it to rot for thirteen years. Labour’s problem/advantage is that historically they just haven’t needed to win these people over to win a majority, so they’ve had no incentive to make the structural economic changes that might turn poor private sector workers in the South into a natural Labour constituency.

    Labour are just lucky the Tories are so willing to alienate large groups of people (Northerners, the Celts, BME voters, LGBT voters, the list goes on…) that they don’t need the southern CDE vote in order to win.

  50. Mr Nameless
    No, that is a very mistaken analysis of the make-up of the LDs (IMO). If anything, ex-SDP members are quite to the right of centre on many issues. If you remember, the SDP split from Labour because they considered it to be becoming too left wing. Tony Blair could easily have joined it. His wife could not have though!

    The old Liberal Party is a Whiggish / do-gooder / free-thinker coalition in itself. I have met Captain Mainwaring as well as the Honourable Sgt Wilson types and the mishmash is a wonder to behold. It’s probably possible to meet total misfits in every party.

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