Lord Ashcorft has published some new polling of marginal seats, full details here. As with the ComRes marginal poll in the week the seats polled were mostly ultra-marginal seats – in this case, the 12 most marginal Con-Lab seats, the 12 most marginal Lab-Con seats, but whereas the ComRes poll was a single sample representing the most marginal 40, these were 24 individual samples, one from each seat. Ashcroft also added two seats that are less marginal, but thought to be good for UKIP: Thanet South and Great Yarmouth.

The fieldwork for Ashcroft polls was done between the 31st March and the 18th May. During that period the average Labour lead in the national polls was about 3.5 points: that’s the equivalent of a uniform swing of 5.25%. The average swing in the twelve CONSERVATIVE ultra-marginals seats was 5.5%, The average swing in the twelve LABOUR ultra-marginals was 6.5%.

That means that in contrast to the the ComRes poll in the week, the swing from Con-to-Lab in Conservative ultra-marginals is pretty much in line with the national swing, a fraction of a percentage point better for Labour compared to the national figure. In Labour-held ultra-marginals the swing is a little larger, which is what we’d expect to find (parties do a little better in seats they hold due to the incumbency effect of the local MP).

It’s not a very exciting finding – swing in Conservative marginals not vastly different to other seats – but it’s one that gives me some confidence in the poll. The reality is that come general elections marginals as a group are not usually vastly different to other seats. The swing is sometimes a little bigger or smaller, new incumbents normally do a little better, but the contrast isn’t normally vast.

While I excluded them from the sums above (as they were selected because they were unusual, so would have skewed the sample) I should comment on those two extra seats polled – Thanet South and Great Yarmouth. Both were chosen because there was an expectation that UKIP would be doing well, and in both cases it proved to be true – both had them in a very strong third place, with 28% in Great Yarmouth and 27% in Thanet South. Their strongest performance though came in a seat that was part of the normal sample of ultra marginals – Thurrock, where Ashcroft found them at 29% and in second place behind Labour. Thurrock was also one of the seats where UKIP did extremely well in Thursday’s local elections.

UPDATE: Actually I’ve just spotted that the fieldwork in the Tory held seats was done earlier than the fieldwork in the Labour held seats. So comparing the swing in Con-Lab seats to the swing in national polls at the time the polls were done shows no difference at all (both show swing of 5.5%). Comparing the swing in Lab-Con seats to the swing in national polls at the time those polls were done shows Lab doing about 1.5 points better in seats they already hold.

I’m having a nice rest after the election, but a brief update to add the BBC’s projected national vote – CON 29%, LAB 31%, LD 13%, UKIP 17%.

So in relation to my previous comments on the local results, Labour’s lead is indeed only modest, very much in line with their position in the national polls. And rather than UKIP doing pretty much the same as they did in last year’s local elections, they’ve actually done significantly worse – 17% as opposed to the 23% they got last year.

I should also comment on what the Projected National Share is. It’s not a sum of actual votes cast, it’s a projection of what the results would be if the whole country was voting and the main *three* parties were contesting all seats (it doesn’t assume a UKIP candidate in every seat, though the process of taking only seats where Lab, Con and LD stood means that it does increase the effective level of UKIP contestation). As regular readers will know, there is a cycle of local elections and in some years the councils voting are more Toryish or more Labourish – so for example, last year’s locals were mostly in shire councils, this year’s elections were mostly in metropolitan councils. The PNS attempts to smooth out those differences so you can compare one election to the next – so even if there are some teething problems in accounting for a new party in the PNS, the year to year comparisons should be valid.


After every local election I start with the same warning – local elections are not general elections. Fewer people vote, on different issues, and for some who don’t vote on local issues it’s an opportunity for a mid-term protest vote. They aren’t a prediction of the general election. That does not, however, mean that local elections tell is nothing about the bigger picture and it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have a massive impact on the wider political narrative and public opinion. What can we pick up from last night’s results so far?

Let’s start with UKIP. At the most basic level UKIP have obviously done very well. As I write the BBC suggest they are getting about 25% of the vote in wards they contest (though much worse in London) and have gained about 100 councillors. Two things to put this in context though – the first is that this is roughly the same level of support as they got at the local elections last year. I don’t really know if that’s good or bad for them. At one level they’ve sustained last year’s advance, it’s not a flash in the pan and they are more firmly establishing themselves as a major force. On the other hand, these are local elections on the same day as the European election… shouldn’t they be improving on last year? Second caveat, their vote is still very evenly spread. They are getting many more votes than the Lib Dems, but far fewer councillors. As was the case last year, UKIP are doing fantastically well at coming second in many places and that doesn’t build the council base they require in target seats for the general election. They have made some breakthroughs though – most notably in Essex councils like Thurrock and Basildon where they took seats from both parties, pushing Labour Thurrock and Tory Basildon into no overall control. They’ve also done extremely well in Rotherham.

Moving onto Labour, their results nationwide seem a little lacklustre. They’ll be pleased with the performance in London where they’ve gained several councils, most notably the Tory “flagship” of Hammersmith & Fulham, but they’ve made only sporadic progress elsewhere. As I write John Curtice doesn’t seem to have produced a projected national share yet, but he’s suggested they are up only 3% since 2010 so it sounds like it could be a very anaemic Labour lead. I think the bottom line for Labour is that their local election performance is much like their performance in general election polls. They aren’t an opposition that is soaring ahead in the opinion polls, they’re an opposition that has a very modest lead in the opinion polls. These aren’t soaring local election gains, they are modest local election gains.

The Tory performance is the mirror image of that. They are losing seats and councils, but not disasterously so. They’ve done badly against Labour in London and will be sorry to have lost Hammersmith & Fulham, but happy they have some gains here and there to weigh against it.

Finally the Lib Dems. Horrid council results have become par for the course for them, and these seats were last fought at the height of “Cleggmania” so losses are to be expected. The party normally comfort themselves with the defence that the party do far better in areas where they have sitting MPs. As usual, this is true in some cases, but not in others. The Lib Dems have held their own in places like Colchester, Sutton and Eastleigh… but they’ve also lost ground in Lib Dem held areas like Richmond, Kingston, Haringey and Cambridge, so it’s swings and roundabouts. Either way it is a continuing hollowing out of Lib Dem support as they retreat back towards islands of support around some of their sitting MPs.

And to the wider impact? To some degree we’re still in a holding pattern until Sunday, but the questions are straightforward enough. For UKIP it is how much of a boost they get from today’s successes (however impressive you think they actually are, the media narrative this morning is all “UKIP SURGE!”) and how long that lasts. For the other three parties it is to what extent they hold their nerve – overnight there were a couple of “Tories should have a pact with UKIP” from the Tory backbenches and a few grumbles from the Labour backbenches, but these were all from the usual suspects, the Rees-Moggs and Stringers of this world, who were saying these things anyway. Wait and see if it holds over the next few days and the Euro elections.

Local Results Thread

Polls are closed, counting in about half the councils is tonight, the other half tomorrow morning (the Press Association have a nifty list of when they expect particular councils to announce results here). Feel free to stick around and discuss results as they come in here.

In the meantime, tonight’s daily YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 34%, LAB 34%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%.

Looking at the search terms people are arriving at the site using there are already fewer people looking for candidate information, and more people searching for exit polls. Straight answer is that there are none, and there won’t be any.

These days the only real exit poll done is the BBC/ITV shared exit poll for general elections. They are extremely expensive and difficult to do, so they simply don’t get done for any other type of election (as Nick Moon of NOP, who along with MORI normally organise the general election exit poll, puts it they are an extremely expensive way of finding out something a couple of hours early).

It’s also illegal to publish any form of exit poll before the polls are all closed. For European elections that doesn’t just mean the polls need to be closed in Britain, they need to be closed across the whole of the European Union. This means it would be illegal to publish an exit poll before 10pm on Sunday (and given that the returning officers are allowed to start counting earlier in the day on Sunday, so long as they don’t announce the results until 10pm, any exit poll would be useful for even less time than usual!).

That means you’ll have to wait for proper results. For local councils, counting starts in about half the councils tonight, with results in the early hours of the morning. The other half will start counting tomorrow morning with results in the afternoon. For the European elections the counting of the votes can start during the day on Sunday, but actual results won’t be released until 10pm.