In the first week back there have been seven polls. The regular weekly Ashcroft poll hasn’t fired up yet, and none of the phone pollsters did fieldwork over the first weekend of the year, but the daily YouGov and twice-weekly Populus polls are off:

Opinium/Observer (2/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 17%, GRN 4%
Populus (4/1/15) – CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 12%, GRN 5%
YouGov/Sun (5/1/15) – CON 31%, LAB 34%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 14%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (6/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 13%, GRN 8%
YouGov/Sun (7/1/15) – CON 32%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 15%, GRN 7%
YouGov/Sun (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 33%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 7%
Populus (8/1/15) – CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%

All the polls so far are showing a tight race, with the Labour party averaging a very small lead – the current UKPollingReport average has CON 33%, LAB 34%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%, GRN 6%. YouGov started the year by changing their methodology to include UKIP in the main prompt, but it doesn’t appear to have had any impact on their level of support (if anything they are marginally down – last month YouGov had them averaging at 15%).

Start of the Campaign

The political parties started the campaign, the Conservatives largely on the economy and spending, Labour on the NHS. In terms of believability at least Labour’s claims went down better – by 48% to 32% people thought the claim that the NHS could not survive five more years of David Cameron was true, and by 42% to 27% that the claim the Tories wanted to cut spending back to 1930s levels was true. For the Conservatives, by 33% to 22% people believed that Labour had made £20 bn of unfunded spending commitments, but their claim that they had reduced the deficit by half was disbelieved by 49% to 24%.

Those, of course, are responses when respondents are prodded and forced to consider some party political claims and have an opinion. Whether anyone actually noticed or cared and whether anything made any difference is a different matter. I doubt we will see much change in the positions at the start of the week when the Conservatives led Labour on the economy by 15 percentage points, and Labour led the Conservatives by 12 points on the NHS, little different from other issue polls over recent months. Where there has been a significant change in the salience of issues. Presumably on the back of headlines about A&E waiting times and crisis in the NHS the proportion of people saying that health is one of the main issues facing the country has risen to 46%, in third place behind the economy and immigration and up 13 points since December. If health remains high on the agenda it will be good for Labour.

OfCom major parties

As I wrote about yesterday, Ofcom released their draft guidance on which parties should be treated as major parties in terms of election coverage. It’s open for consultation so may yet change, but as things stand UKIP will be treated as a major party (meaning broadcasters will have to give due weight to reporting them in editorial coverage), the Green party will not.


Latest projections from Election Forecast (Chris Henretty et al’s project), Election Etc (Steve Fisher’s project) and the New Statesman’s May2015 site are below. All are predicting a hung Parliament, all with Labour and Conservative within 10 seats of each other. Note that Steve Fisher’s method doesn’t have anyway of factoring in the SNP yet, so will change very soon. I think we should also be getting a regular seat projection from the Polling Observatory team in the next week or two.

Election Forecast – Hung Parliament, CON 284, LAB 281, LD 26, SNP 34, UKIP 3
Elections Etc – Hung Parliament, CON 294, LAB 297, LD 29, OTH 30
May 2015 – Hung Parliament, CON 273, LAB 281, LD 24, SNP 46, UKIP 3

197 Responses to “Seventeen weeks to go”

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  1. @NC

    Thanks for providing the very helpful link to the methods used by Electoral Calculus.

    Returning to our earlier exchange, I am still not sure why the Strong Transition assumptions are ‘bad for Labour”.

  2. I have no problem with The SNP joining the televised debates at UK level (or any other minor party for that matter) as, having a genuine chance of being part of any future UK Government, the rest of The UK need an opportunity to find out what they stand for and how those arguments stand up to debate at national level, not just in Scotland.

    Of course, if their main argument is around independence and there is little evidence of any other constructive contribution to be made by The SNP in Government other than that of obstruction and repeated blocking of policy, then that is something that Scottish voters will need to hear about too.

    Not saying that’s the case, by the way.

  3. @LASZLO

    “first bite of the apple’ advantage in first choice of coalition partner.”
    It’s very familiar from Snow White … It would have ended very badly without the prince abusing the opportunity ….

    Very true … but I would not wish for my daughter to marry such a man. Nor one, who wanted her to spin gold from straw, on pain of death. Or are you talking about the Lib Dems?

  4. @Allan Christie – “Voters in Scotland might also question the reason they are seeing UKIP in a national debate where that party has no domestic representation. No councilors, no MP’s and no MSP’s.”

    They got a Scottish MEP in most recent national election (June 2014 – only 8 months ago).

    Arguably that’s what made them a national party – endorsement by the Scots in an actual election :-)

    Regarding all the arguments about we should do this or that “on the basis of present polling” – just like to point out how misleading the polls were before 2010. Clegg thought he was heading for a major breakthrough in seats, but it turned out he got fewer than in 2005, despite all the hype.


    I am loathe to disappoint but I am ‘the other Sue’ and I think that you mean Sue Marsh. I remember that you and she had a particularly fond relationship. I know that she has mentioned you with affection on occasion when I’ve seen her since she stopped ‘visiting’ UKPR.

  6. CANDY
    They got a Scottish MEP in most recent national election (June 2014 – only 8 months ago).

    And from the outset complained justifiably at the blanket TV coverage given to them kingdom-wide by the BBC in particular, despite the Ofcom decision that they only counted as a major party in E&W [see It was just enough to give them the final seat.

  7. And from the outset the SNP complained justifiably…..

  8. CANDY

    I did write domestic representation in Scotland and I know they won a MEP with around 8% of the vote in Scotland which is peanuts compared to the sort of votes UKIP are getting in England.

    And I mind Cleggmania and that exit poll and I do expect UKIP to poll far less than the current VI is suggesting but like I said, What can UKIP bring to Scottish and NI where they have no domestic representation?

    I’m not against UKIP being on the UK wide debate but it has to involve other parties like the SNP.

    My preference is a debate between DC and EM with regional debates across England, Wales NI and Scotland involving he rest of the parties at regional level including Labour and the Tories but without EM and DC.

  9. Anthony
    Many thanks for that very helpful explanation. Jiggery pokery as usual then, whichever side wins?

    David in France

    The only PR system I would support would be one which gave mP’s in proportion to the votes a party gained as a percentage of total votes cast in the county as a whole. Otherwise we are back to some peoples votes being used two or three times over. If the Greens get 10% of the total vote across the country as a whole then they should get 55 mP’s. Simple.

  10. @Jay Blanc

    Thanks for the valuable clarifications concerning the workings of your model.

    Unfortunately, your answers raise a few more questions in my mind .. If you will allow me to test your patience.

    (1) re: ever soon and its modulation by momentum. First, how do you quantify ‘momentum’? Second, I don’t quite understand how reversion is rescaled by momentum. Since this must be handled explicitly within your model, I wonder if you could set out the formula.

    (2) on one of your pages I noticed you made a comparison of ‘election tomorrow’ and ‘election in May 2015’. This made me wonder how you handle VI changes represented by your current polling averages. Take the LibDems as an example. About 23% in 2010 and now showing a VI of about 8%. Setting aside your introduction of variation, how do you operationalise this 15% national reduction? You can’t use Uniform Swing as this would introduce negative VIs. So, how would constituencies with (say) (a) 40% 2010 VI and (b) 10% 2010 VI each be recalculated to give you an estimate of current constituency VI?

    (3) again setting aside noise insertion, is your momentum moderated reversion applied on a uniform basis? In other words if – on average – the model builds in a 3% increase in VI between now and May, how is this change applied to (a) a 40% and (b) a 10% constituency?

    (4) Interesting to learn that your are totally eschewing Ashcroft constituency data and also your reasons for taking this stance. Personally, I would consider these polls to be as trustworthy as any others (give or take the odd poll in the seat of the Leader of the Opposition). But I can see that constituency-specific information would probably not sit very comfortably within your overall framework

    (5) I am curious to know whether you deal with SNP VI updates and momentum influences in exactly the same way as you do with data from other parties. The reason for asking is that your regular reports seem to display a relative lack of concern about VIs/seats of parties other than the (current) big three. That could make good sense if your main goal is to predict what type of government is likely to emerge in May. However, a slight problem is that the Labour seat tally is likely to be strongly affected by what happens to SNP over the next few months. This means that you have to have a way of addressing this issue.

    My preference is a debate between DC and EM with regional debates across England, Wales NI and Scotland involving he rest of the parties at regional level including Labour and the Tories but without EM and DC.

    I would go along with the DC vs EM idea if each of the major parties from the 4 home nations were invited to send a “pundit” to report on and discuss the match at half-time and again at the end. That would at least ensure that matters discussed which are devolved to one or more of the nations could be put in their proper context. I would find it hard to believe that a DC vs EM match could avoid discussing the English NHS, for example.

    For the 4 nations, presumably only NI parties would participate in their debate and Con, Lab & LD would send their local branch managers to the Welsh & Scottish debates.

    But who would you expect to represent those 3 parties in the England only debate?

  12. @Allan Christie

    But UKIP DO have “representation” in Scotland. They represent Scottish voters in the European Parliament! I think they got 10% of the Scottish vote, ahead of the LibDems.

    There are just a few criteria for deciding whether a party is national or not

    a) do they win in all regions (bar NI which is a special situation)

    b) do they contest seats in all regions (this disqualifies the Greens too who don’t seem to put up candidates everywhere)

    And given that the Euros are the most recent national election, they are a better guide to support than opinion polls which are swinging wildly.

    In the euros, the SNP got 2.74% of the vote nationwide (and 29% in Scotland)

    That’s not really big enough to be considered a “national party” in leadership debates which are about “who will be the best Prime Minister of the UK”.

    Though if the Greens are included in the debates, the SNP certainly should be because the SNP win more seats than the Greens do. If the SNP want to be in national debates, there is absolutely nothing stopping them from abandoning their independence schtick and contesting elections across Britain – after all they lost the referendum convincingly, and maybe it’s time they acknowledged the reality of their situation (which is that independence is not going to happen) instead of trying to pretend that Scotland is a separate country?

  13. Unicorn et al

    I’m a little puzzled as to why anyone would want to even attempt to create a predictive model for HoC membership from GB.

    Just as NI is dealt with separately, and factored in later to construct the rainbow of UK parties, a similar stance can be taken with regard to Wales and Scotland.

    For the geographical extremes of the latter, I’d suggest including a TI (Thrawn-ness Index) indicating the historical tendency of constituencies like O&S to do precisely the opposite of what more urbanised constituencies might choose to do.

  14. @ Unicorn

    Sorry, could have been clearer… I mean their use of STM which, like Electoral Calculus, treats Scotland seperately from E&W, which costs Labour quite a few seats

  15. Someone correct me if I’m wrong , but at the ’92 G.E weren’t the Labour Party ‘just’ ahead in the polls leading up to the day of the election ?
    Just like now.

    The Tories won , and commentators believed it was the ‘Kinnock factor’ that did it for Labour.
    The nation didn’t fancy Kinnock in Number 10.

    So , do we have a 2015 parrallel ? Perhaps there’s a ‘Miliband’ factor to be put somewhere into the equation.

    He’s not exactly considered P.M material if the polls are to be believed.

    Will there be a ‘Miliband factor’ on Polling Day ?

  16. @candy

    “That’s not really big enough to be considered a “national party” in leadership debates which are about “who will be the best Prime Minister of the UK”.”

    If so, the debates shoud be restricted to Cameron and Miliband.

  17. @ Robin Holden,

    Well, sort of. Labour were just ahead, but the generally held view among psephologists is that the 1992 polls were systemically biased towards Labour, not that voters balked at the thought of a Kinnock premiership at the last moment.

    In the two decades that followed pollsters adjusted their methodology and now hope that their polls are not systemically biased, although of course we won’t know for sure until election day.

    Actually, I think the Tories are likely to do a bit better than they did in 1992: in that election they lost 40 seats to Labour, and in this one it’ll probably be more like 30. Unfortunately for Mr. Cameron the result is rather different when you’re not starting with a majority.

  18. @Unicorn

    I’m reluctant to hand over the full formula, for reasons that it’s a spread over massive ugly kludge in various parts due to being written in a system that is at it’s limits of functionality for what I’m doing. I’ve also had to take some ugly shortcuts in the statistics to reduce cpu cycles, but it still takes best part of an hour to run a prediction. (I’m should have learned R to do it properly, but that’s not going to happen before the election…)

    Case in point, I just tracked down a bug that yes, has been reducing the SNP effect that *is* supposed to be modelled. It was masked by various other parts of the system in predictions, and only really showed up to great effect by looking at a current ‘Nowcast’. But to answer a different question from someone else, no, increasing the SNP effect doesn’t improve the Conservative party’s chances. Labour still have an advantage built into the political landscape, particularly when it’s on the basis of seeing who would be in best position to form a coalition. The SNP boost certainly does not improve the non-existant chances of SNP supporting the forming of any government with the Conservatives.

    Momentum is… Well, Momentum. What direction the polling has been traveling in. As represented in the model by looking at trends. To put it crudely, when Labour are trending upwards, reversion to mean for their vote-share is diminished, when Labour are trending downwards, reversion to mean for their vote-share is going to be re-enforced.

  19. Anthony

    I think Labour could probably make smaller changes (movement to a 10% quota rather than a 5%, 10 year reviews rather than 5 year ones, and perhaps a push towards ward splitting)

    You’ve actually missed out the biggest change of all which would be restoration of the number of MPs from 600 to 650. They probably also should give the Boundary Commissions back the flexibility to add in an extra one or two MPs between 10/15 year reviews to cope with areas of big population growth.

    I think the reduction in MPs (which meant 50 fewer backbenchers to hold the government to account) was actually the reason the Lib Dems gave for not putting the new boundaries in place. Without an elected Upper House, it meant that democratic representation would be reduced.

  20. @spearmint

    It’s a good way to omit the SNP, that they don’t campaign nationally. However they do campaign nationally in the nation they represent.

    The reality is that the three main parties (UKIP is not a prime contender yet) have Scottish party sub-offices / branches….call them what you will.

    We have a party that is, on current polling going to get more than the Greens, the Lib Dems and UKIP combined, and for some reason, some people don’t fancy that.

    I see that as undemocratic, and I see it as very undemocratic when I offer a solution that avoids the SNP in a GB-wide debate, I am told that the E&W leaders (as they shall now be known) should be broadcast in Scotland.

    If Con, Lab and Lib are bothering with Scottish leaders, then have separation in the debates. Otherwise include the SNP as a national party (i.e. they make up part of the nation that is the UK and the parliament we call Westminster).

    What are you afraid of? :))

  21. @ Robin Holden

    Those commentators were trying to find a political explanation when, as spearmint says, the reality was far simpler: The polls were just plain wrong.

  22. Have OFCOM or whoever it is explained why they have omitted the SNP, Greens etc? And if so what reason did they give?

  23. @ OldNat

    “I’m a little puzzled as to why anyone would want to even attempt to create a predictive model for HoC membership from GB.”

    I think most current models effectively treat Scotland separately. Electionsetc doesn’t do this right now, but in his post last Friday Stephen Fisher promised a revision within a week or two.

  24. YouGov:

    CON – 32% (-1)
    LAB – 32% (-1)
    UKIP – 18% (+5)
    LDEM – 7% (-1)
    GRN – 6% (-1)

    …random variation or France?

  25. The SNP surge could give the Tories a handful of seats in Scotland. Most obviously Dumfries & Galloway seems a possibility – with a few Edinburgh seats also in play for them.

  26. @ NC

    ” I mean their use of STM which, like Electoral Calculus, treats Scotland seperately from E&W, which costs Labour quite a few seats”


    To quibble a little about the phrase you used earlier, I think I would be inclined to use an expression like ‘realistic’ to describe a model that make s serious attempt to handle disparate developments in Scotland. To me, you expression ‘bad for Labour’ seems to imply that the model in enter entry biased against Labour, and I don’t think this is what you are suggesting.

    That said, though, I think we are now on the same page.

  27. UKIP gaining equally at the expense of other parties sounds like “don’t know” voters making their minds up, rather than switching, but we’ll find out tomorrow…

  28. Even with their NOTA nature, I find it hard to envisage 1% of the electorate switching from the Greens to UKIP. It does happen occasionally I suppose.

  29. A wonderful, if windy, day in the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire (aka Sheffield) today, dropping off some bits and pieces for my youngest son, now well into his last year at University in the Steel City. We had a bit of lunch, just around the corner of my lad’s flat, in the Wig and Pen, name-checked in the Sheffield Cook Book, before a guided tour of the city centre. I don’t know what Will has been getting up to up there, but the tour consisted of three pubs, a beer shop and a cafe! Great city though, and how can you not like a place where trams run through the main streets, you can get a pint for £2.50 and a Tory councillor is as rare as the proverbial rocking horse doo-doo? All I needed to completely make my day was to see Mr Nameless pounding the streets of Hallam on his one-man mission to get shot of Clegg!

    Wonderful to see the vast throngs on the streets of Paris today, marching to show solidarity with the journalists of Charlie Hebdo and all the innocents who died in the terrorist attacks and sieges during the week. It was a display of national unity too and an absolutely essential step, albeit the first of many required, in the long and painstaking healing process. Somebody talked of being a Francophobe on an earlier thread, but I’m an unapologetic Francophile. I spent the first few weeks of my marriage in the Loire Valley in 1983, and my wife and I have visited Paris, just about our favourite city on the planet, many, many times since. I’ve run its beautiful boulevards and avenues on Marathons and Half Marathons and spent countless lazy and hazy hours in some of the city’s glorious street cafes. I love its culture and ambience and regard the nation as one of the world’s great ancient seats of civilisation. Liberte, Egalite, fraterinite; a simple national motto but a beautiful one too.

    I was greatly affected by what happened in France last week, not just by the brutality and loss of life that took place, but also because of what it has done to a people and a country that I love and admire. That’s why I’ve been moved, in a good way, by these magnificent demonstrations today. A nation and a people, defiant, and at their very best.

    Vive la France.

  30. Crossbat,

    To my eternal shame I skipped the door knocking session in Crookes today as I had to go write an article for my website – but since I’d been training new volunteers in the morning I considered my job for the day done. I certainly wouldn’t say one-man mission, as we had 40 volunteers out last Friday!

    Glad you had a nice day here though – despite the freezing wind.

  31. @ Unicorn

    No, not suggesting any model is deliberately biased

  32. Nah sethee our Crossbat, whenever I referred to the Sheffield, Rotherham,Barnsley,Donnie conurbation as the Soviet Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire, AW puts me in mod, probably becausze my motives are not pure.

  33. Mr N or yougov prompting (and france)

  34. @Mr Nameless

    Good man!

    That YouGov you shared with us is interesting, not only because of its reminder of how appallingly badly both the two main parties are still doing, but also by dint of the spike in UKIP support that it has detected. Let’s see what transpires over the next few polls, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this wasn’t down to some ripple effect from the large stone that hit the water in France last week.

    Let me share a disturbing anecdote that might support this theory. I was talking to someone at work last week who is a man with strong right-wing views on a range of issues, particularly on immigration. I would think his views are tinged with racism too and he’s certainly a potential UKIP voter. He’s told me that many times, and has spoken sympatheticaly about the National Fron too. Here’s what he said when I asked him what he thought about the French terrorist attacks. “I wonder”, he surmised “how they would react if our people did that to them?”

    I know, it’s frightening isn’t it, and it’s little wonder why Farage’s dog whistles on immigration and race are so effective. There was a UKIP PPC on Any Qeustions last night who blamed multiculturalism for the events in France.

    Fertile ground for UKIP.

  35. Sounds a bit like France and very depressing if so.

    On the ‘leader’ debates: I’m not too interested in leader debates as such because like (IMO) most people I vote primarily for a party, with the leader an important factor. The debates for me are a spokesperson – normally and preferably the leader but not necessarily so – presenting the party’s programme and being challenged by his/her rivals.
    The SNP is more or less irrelevant to me in this context but clearly very important in Scotland.
    For that reason I agree with Statgeek’s position – that there should be separate debates for the 4 countries involving the relevant parties (not necessarily leaders) and a separate debate broadcast across the 4 nations, involving potential PMs, ie DC and EM only.

  36. I’m wondering this: Could it be that prompting, in general, makes no difference to UKIP VI, but when there’s an event favourable to them, it results in a bigger move than without prompting? I wonder…

  37. This might have been suggested before while I have been away (100mph winds blow down a section of forest across the road from my house and one tree fell, blocking the road to my house taking out the phone, Internet and power for 36hrs and very inconveniently flattening the new car I bought in November!)

    Don’t include the SNP in the debates but hold them in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh with a Scottish audience!


  38. Outlier

  39. @Mr N

    Obviously it could be a coincidence but not a very likely one.

    The fact that losses from all other parties are about the same is singular. To me it suggests that a lot of DK/WNVs have come off the fence for UKIP.

  40. I agree with Amberstar, an outlier. More interesting to me is Lab and Con the same again. The trend seems to be continuing.

  41. UKIP +5 is very obviously France – it will die down next week. The UKIP bubble burst over the New Year and this is just the Lazarus reflex. I expect them to be in single figures by March.

  42. Couper,

    You’re an optimistic one.

  43. Not sure it’s possible to give the instant ‘outlier’ label to this one – lets at least wait for some confirming or contradictory polls first.

    As said previously – the Lab/Con scores are the most notable – once again level, and the Christmas break seems to have cheered Tories more than Lab.

  44. @Coupar2802 – I don’t think I’m too far away from you on this. I’ve always felt that if UKIP could get 6% in 2015 (doubling their score) they would be doing very well, and more recently I’ve been thinking a few points above this would be likely, but like you I foresee a settling back, both for UKIP and the Greens.

    Where I’m not so sure is whether the by election successes are going to spoil my expectations and help firm up UKIP support.

  45. It’s probably worth pointing out that, even if the UKIP rise isn’t an outlier, it may be partly normal service resuming after the holidays. UKIP can suffer from a small slump when politics quietens down (smaller Parties usually suffer during the holidays).

    While UKIP had an 18 in mid-November (a couple actually) this week’s 13 was their lowest since early October. So their rating may just be more febrile than usual or it’s random. Actually I suspect Anthony is slightly relieved. After those two low scores at the start of the week, we now know it isn’t the methodological change affecting things.

  46. Anyone thinking UKIP will get as low as 6% in May are really deluding themselves… I would be surprised if they got as low as 15%. Most of their voters will never ever go back.

  47. Statgeek – “I am told that the E&W leaders (as they shall now be known) should be broadcast in Scotland.”


    But they’re not “E&W leaders”. They are national leaders, and the debates will be about national issues.

    Remember that state pensions are set nationally, as are unemployment benefit, tax credits, tax rates (because the SNP voluntarily gave up their tax varying powers), how much we spend on defence (and whether this affects military contracts for ship-building in the Clyde) and a thousand and one other things.

    It’s absolutely pointless debating any of this with Nicola Sturgeon as all this stuff is outwith the remit of the Scottish parliament. In fact, merely by styling itself a regional party, the SNP is indicating indifference to national issues and competence only on restricted local matters.

    As to whether the national debates should be broadcast in Scotland – I guess it depends about whether Scots are interested in hearing about issues that will affect them or not!

    I know that this whole business of pretending that the debates will feature “E&W leaders” is to give the illusion that Scotland is somehow an independent country – but it is not. You can opt out of having them broadcast in Scotland (or just not watch), but that just means you won’t hear an important discussion about things that will end up affecting you. A very high price to pay for maintaining the fantasy that you are separate?

  48. Re the latest opinion poll – definitely a France effect.

    It will probably fade a bit by the election (barring any more attacks) – but I guess in France, feelings and support for Le Pen will harden. Remember in the USA, the 9/11 effect was enough to get Dubya re-elected three years later. Our lot really need to think about how they will deal with her winning the French presidentials in 2017. I’m guessing we’ll have a bit of a refugee crisis as a result.

  49. My goodness Labour’s new Scottish constitution ‘deliberately avoids backing for the union’.

    ‘Murphy unveils Labour party fit for Yes voters’ !!

    I am very surprised by this, I doubt it will have much polling effect but it is the strangest move.

  50. @MrN

    …random variation or France?

    Unless proved otherwise by a run of polls, it’s prima facie random variation.


    Stop worrying yourselves about the debates. The big leader set-pieces won’t happen.

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