Tuesday, 28 October 2014

UKIP's Paddy Ashdown General Election Strategy

UKIP's strategy at the election will be the same as that adopted by the Lib Dems in 1997
Nearly everybody has heard the phrase "4 Party politics" being uttered in the mainstream Media. And, it is quite clear that we are in a new, and unprecedented, era of 4 party politics. My Poll of Polls has consistently found Labour and the Tories polling less than 65% combined- a record low, whilst UKIP are polling at record highs, have gained an MP in Clacton, and are looking set to gain yet another in the Rochester and Strood By-Election. The same has been found by nearly all pollsters. This, of course, helps smaller parties such as the Lib Dems and UKIP (Lib Dem MPs will be under less pressure due to the lower share of the vote of the other parties). But this is not the main point being made. Do we truly have a 4 party parliamentary system yet? Not until there are 4 parties with significant seat totals (That is, over 10 seats) will we truly be able to describe the UK as having a 4 party system.

This is where UKIP come in. Nigel Farage has revealed he is targeting 12 constituencies at the General Election, but the true number is suspected to be 25. The seats are: Portsmouth South, where the sitting Lib Dem MP, Mike Hancock, has been disgraced, Eastleigh, where UKIP polled 27% in the 2013 by-election, South Thanet and Thurrock (South Thanet is where Nigel Farage is standing, in both South Thanet and Thurrock UKIP have been shown to be in the lead.) Boston, Great Grimsby, North Thanet, Forest of Dean, Aylesbury, East Worthing and Shoreham, Sittingbourne and Sheppey, and Great Yarmouth.
UKIP target seats

Looking at the seats that UKIP are targeting, two things become clear.

    • UKIP is targeting mostly Conservative seats (Only one is held by Labour)
    • ALL of these seats are in the top 100 seats most likely to go UKIP (Based on Demographic Data, and research from Matthew Goodwin)
UKIP claims that it takes as many Labour votes as it does from the Tories, yet, looking at this list, it is clear that this is not the case. Most of the seats UKIP are targeting are Conservative held seats. However, one or two of the seats are Con-Lab marginals, and if UKIP and its claim that it takes significant Labour votes is correct, we should be able to see that in these seats.

In effect, UKIP are adopting the Paddy Ashdown strategy. Before the 1997 election, Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, had realised that there was no use targeting Labour Party areas, as the Labour Party was going to win a massive landslide. The Government and its popularity had collapsed after the events of Black Wednesday, and, after the election of Tony Blair, Labour had a popular and potent leader capable of leading the party to a substantial victory (Tony Blair had a popularity rating of +65, the highest rating in history for a party leader until it was briefly broken by Nick Clegg in 2010). Therefore, Ashdown realised that he had to selectively target constituencies where there was a high likelihood of the Conservative Party losing. 

He ensured that the Lib Dems targeted many seats due to local factors, which the Lib Dems have traditionally been very strong on due to their style of pavement politics, and targeted those constituencies which were most demographically suitable to the Lib Dems, e.g seats with a high number of Middle Class and Liberal professionals that had become disenchanted with John Major and his Tory Government. The seats targeted tended to be areas with high concentrations of Liberal Democrat Councillors, built up through hard work over the years. Through this effective targeting, Paddy Ashdown and the Liberal Democrats were able to win 46 seats, an increase of 28 seats from the previous election, despite a slight decline in their share of the vote. In effect, the Ashdown style is that you don't have a national campaign. You work out where you are strong, and throw everything at these seats. It is a style that has worked for the Liberal Democrats, and now the Kippers are adopting it, and it seems to be working for them, as they are pulling off spectacular by-election victories as the Liberal Democrats used to do. Indeed, in the majority of these constituencies, the Kippers have significant numbers of Cllrs on the Local Councils within them. Only time will tell if they are as successful as the Liberal Democrats were in 1997.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Lab 33%, Con 32%, UKIP 16%, LD 7%

Does David Cameron still have a chance next year?

This week's poll of polls shows that Labour is unchanged on 33%. The Tories are up 2 points to within a point of Labour, at 32%, UKIP and the Lib Dems both shed a point, on 17% and 7% respectively, and the Greens are up one point to 5%.

It is striking to consider how Labour's poll ratings have declined. Back in 2012, just after George Osborne's now famous "Omnishambles" budget,, the party was polling on 40%, and the Tories were polling just about where they are now. Since then, Labour has seen a slow but steady decline whilst the Tories have remained where they are. My guess would be that the Tories have gained supporters as a result of the economic recovery, but any advantage they will have gained will have been neutralised by the increase in support for UKIP. Labour is, in effect, relying very heavily on Nigel Farage's party maintaining its current levels of support at the General Election.

Overall, most people feel that they are worse off than they were 4 years ago, but only very few believe that they would have been any better off if Labour had remained in power. Labour has still not addressed the core reason for its rejection 4 years ago, which is causing the party some quite significant problems.

In theory, a 1% lead like this would be enough to deliver a wafer slim majority for Ed Miliband. But, in my analysis of the YouGov regional extrapolations, I found some quite interesting regional variations that would deprive Labour of an overall majority.

Scottish Labour leader Joanne Lamont resigned recently, citing meddling by Westminster colleagues in Scottish Labour affairs.
One wonders whether polling figures like these (The regional extrapolation for Scotland) would also have persuaded her to jump ship.

SNP 43%, Labour 26%, Con 16%, Lib Dems 5%

A result anything like this would lead to a disaster for Labour in Scotland. The party could lose over half of its Westminster seats. Other polling figures listed below are not going to fill Labour figures with confidence either:

The North: Labour 43%, Conservative 28%, UKIP 15%, Lib Dems 8%
The South: Conservatives 38%, Labour 25%, UKIP 20%, Lib Dems 8%
London: Labour 40%, Conservatives 33%, UKIP 12%, Lib Dems 8%

The major issue for Labour is that its support is very heavily concentrated in some of its heartlands; the North and London in particular. In reality, on this kind of share nationally, you would have to rule Labour out from about 10 Tory seats that they would take on a uniform swing, and subtract around 20 seats from the Labour total because of Scotland, plus add 5 UKIP seats that they are likely to take, all from the Tories. That would lead to a total result of something like Labour 298 seats, Conservatives 283, Liberal Democrats 16, UKIP 5, SNP 32, Others 22. That would lead to a hung parliament in which forming a stable government would be very difficult indeed. So, in the last October poll of polls, there's everything still to play for.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Why the Rochester and Strood By-Election is a must-win for both the Tories and UKIP

Reckless (Above) has been mercilessly targeted by the Tories

The Rochester and Strood by-election will be held on the 16th of November. Already, it is shaping up to be one of the most bitterly fought by-elections since Crewe and Nantwich. That time, the Labour Party defeat in Crewe confirmed what many people already knew, that the Labour Party was in terminal decline and was on the way to losing the 2010 General Election. This by-election could be as much a watershed for the Tories as Crewe and Nantwich was for the Labour Party. A Tory defeat here would mean that the party would, almost certainly, lose the next General Election. A Tory win, however, would be the so-called "Falklands moment" that the Tory Party has been waiting for, and would lead to a strong Tory surge as UKIP inevitably collapsed. This by-election is also important for Labour, but in a different way, and not as much as it is for UKIP and the Tories.

Why is this by-election so important? Firstly, we should look at the facts.In the Con-Lab marginals, Labour has a significant lead, primarily because of UKIP. A large % of UKIP voters currently say that they are open to switching back to the Tories. However, the main reason that they are not switching back to the Tories is because they feel that a vote for UKIP is not a wasted vote. This perception is the major problem that the Tories have in trying to convince UKIP voters to switch back to them for the General Election. The perception that a vote for UKIP actually counts will have grown, almost certainly as a result of the Douglas Carswell landslide in Clacton. This is the perception that the Tories have a chance to destroy, and with it destroy UKIP, once and for all, by beating them in Rochester. As can be seen by the deeply bitter campaign that is being fought, both sides are determined not to lose. My contacts in the area have told me that Labour households in particular have been bombarded with leaflets attacking Reckless and his character, as an attempt to get tactical votes from Labour and former Lib Dem voters against Reckless.

Now, you can see what is at stake for both the Tories and UKIP. Basically, if the Tory Party wins, the UKIP voters are going to feel that voting for UKIP is no longer worthwhile, and many are going to switch back to the Conservatives. This would lead to a Tory surge, which I have nicknamed the "Falklands surge", and, surely, if they managed to depress the UKIP vote in this way, they must be favourites to win the 2015 General Election. If UKIP win, however, and constituency polling conducted before the Tories selected a candidate showed them with a 9% lead, so they obviously have a good chance, then the Con-UKIP switchers are probably going to remain with UKIP, and the General Election will have been lost for the Conservatives. It is no wonder that David Cameron has visited the constituency 4 times already, and the Tories have been using an all-postal primary to select their candidate. There is talk of a leadership challenge to David Cameron from the Eurosceptic Right of his party if the Tories lose the by-election. For Labour, the emphasis surely has to be on putting in a good performance. If Labour manage to acheive something like 20-25% of the vote in Rochester, it will be a good result, as it will show that the party still has a loyal following amongst White Working Class voters, and may stem the flow of traditional Labour voters defecting to UKIP.

It is clear that neither party can afford defeat in this by-election. But, there is only going to be one winner, at the end of the day. We will find out in the early hours of the 17th whether UKIP have pulled off another spectacular win, or if the Tories can stop UKIP in its tracks.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lab 33% Con 30% UKIP 17% LD 8% Green 4%

Mr Miliband may become PM on the lowest ever share of the vote

The second poll in my series of poll of polls shows a continuing trend that many pollsters are finding. Labour are on 33%, unchanged from last Sunday. The Tories drop two points and fall to 30%, UKIP are up one point to 17%, the Lib Dems are unchanged, and the Greens shed two points to fall back to 4%.

Nationally, if there was a uniform swing, this might theoretically be enough to give Labour a very small majority. In practise, given some of the regional trends I have found during the analysis of polling over the last week, a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party seems to be the most likely outcome. If this election is won by Labour, it will be the lowest winning share of the vote ever, and one of the Labour Party's worst ever results from opposition, perhaps reflecting the apathy that so many people feel when it comes to Westinster politics at the moment. There seems to be a huge swing against Labour in Scotland which should cause people at party headquarters to start seriously reconsidering their Scotland strategy. Here are the regional figures:

The North: Lab 44%, Con 26%, UKIP 17%, LD 7%
The South: Con 38%, Lab 24%, UKIP 21%, LD 8%
Scotland: SNP 41%, Lab 25%, Con 18%, LD 7%, UKIP 6%

Here is what would happen in Scotland on these figures, if there was a regional swing of this size happening:

Whilst I do not think that some of the Aberdeen and Edinburgh seats projected to fall to the SNP on such a large swing would in fact fall to them, and I would reduce the number of SNP gains by 10 because of how thinly spread their vote tends to be, a result anywhere near this kind would be a complete and utter disaster for Labour. It woud compare with the Tory wipeout in Scotland in 1997. Any chance that Labour has of winning the next election must surely be diminished unless the party improves its polling in Scotland. The Lib Dems and Tories should try to improve their own fortunes as well. It seems as if the Scottish Electorate are, in effect, rejecting all 3 of our Westminster parties' and turning toward the Scottish Nationalists as an alternative, in a way that the English and Welsh have not (Yet.)

Something else to consider is how strikingly well they are doing in the South of England, and how Labour are also doing so poorly there. On a % of this kind at the General Election in the South of England, it is highly likely that UKIP would gain its first seats at Westminster, in addition to Clacton, of course. If they managed to push their percentage a few points higher and the Tories as a result a few points lower, there will come a tipping point when they will start to win hatfulls of Westminster seats from the Tories. So, with 8 months to go until the election, there's still everything to play for at this stage

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Poll of polls: Labour 33%, Con 32%, UKIP 16%, LD 8%, Green 6%

My first ever poll of polls (An average from all of the opinion polls taken this week) shows a 1% lead for the Labour Party. Figures varied from a 7% Labour lead in Populus, and in the 11th October YouGov poll a 5% Labour lead, to the Tories leading in several polls at the beginning of the week. This 1 point lead would theoretically, be enough on a uniform swing to see Ed Miliband into number 10 in May, but it would be the worst ever share of the vote for an incoming Government.

Something else that I also tried to do was to extrapolate YouGov's regional figures over the week, by combining the sample sizes from all of the polls released this week by YouGov-giving a total sample size of about 1000 for each region. For the Midlands and Wales, this is impossible as the two are combined by YouGov, but it is possible, and very interesting, to look at the regional extrapolations for the South, North, Scotland and London. Here are the regional extrapolation figures:

London: Labour 44%, Conservatives 33%, UKIP 11%, Lib Dems 8%

Scotland: SNP 39%, Labour 29%, Conservatives 19%, Lib Dems 5%, UKIP 4%

The North: Labour 44%, Conservatives 28%, UKIP 15%, Lib Dems 7%

The South: Conservatives 40%, Labour 26%, UKIP 18%, Lib Dems 7%

A word of caution about some of these figures. Much of the data taken to extrapolate these figures was from the early week YouGov polls when the Tories had a lead. That may well have changed since then. Certainly, if yesterday's Survation poll showing UKIP on 25% nationally and on 37.4% in the South is correct, we should be able to detect this sooner or later in the YouGov regional figures.

Another word of warning: whilst ths SNP may at this time have a 10% lead over Labour in Scotland, it is highly unlikely that, when asked to choose a Westminster Tory or Labour Government, that Scots will abandon Labour on the scale suggested by these polls. My own suspicion is that Labour will recover to around 35% in Scotland by the time of the election. Nevertheless, Scottish Labour should be deeply concerned by these figures, which are a snapshot of public opinion currently, rather than a prediction of what may happen next May.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Predictions for tomorrow's parliamentary by-elections

Tomorrow is likely to be a hugely significant, even historic day in British Politics, and especially for this parliament in particular. Here is my prediction as to what the results of tomorrow's by-elections will be.

By election predictions:

Labour 45% (+5 from 2010) UKIP 27% (+23) Conservatives 15% (-14) Lib Dems 4% (-13) Greens 4% (+4)

UKIP have become the opposition to Labour in the North. That much is clear. UKIP came 2nd in 7 out of 8 wards in the constituency at the last set of local elections, and, although winning the seat may prove to be a little too much for them, they will come a credible 2nd and equal the share they had in Eastleigh. Labour will be delighted-an increase in their share of the vote and the likely Tory collapse will be good for party morale.


UKIP 45% (+45) Conservatives 24% (-26) Labour 17% (-8) Lib Dems 4% (-9)

The result is likely to be as dramatic as it sounds. Douglas Carswell is hugely popular in Clacton-and it would be quite a shock if UKIP DIDNT win in a huge landslids tomorrow. Expect the Tories' to try to downplay this likely disaster as a classic mid-term result, but make no mistake, it will be quite a remarkabls result for UKIP and deeply damaging for David Cameron and the Tories.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How Ed Miliband can wrestle the initiative back from the Tories-And why he must do so.

Ed Miliband must control the agenda if he wants to win the next election

The Labour Party is currently in very serious trouble. Having led for most of this parliament in the opinion polls, it now finds itself trailing by 2 points in 3 consecutive YouGov polls. Only 17% of people see Ed Miliband as being Prime Ministerial material, whereas 44% say the same for David Cameron. John Prescott has criticised the direction of the party, whilst there are rumours that Alan Johnson and Andy Burnham are gearing up for a leadership contest. As soon as this June, it looked like Labour would easily romp to victory. When did Labour veer off course so suddenly?

The answer is on Wednesday. David Cameron made one of the most powerful and passionate speeches ever seen from a Tory Party leader. He decided to take the fight to Labour on areas where the party is traditionally strong-talking about Social Justice, Equality, and banning Zero-Hours contracts. The electorate were, on Wednesday night, whether Labour figures like to admit it or not, reminded of the credentials that David Cameron has for being Prime Minister, something that Ed Miliband once again has shown that he lacks when he forgot to talk about the economic deficit.

However- it is not all bad news for Ed Miliband. People may see him as being weird and not up to the job of being Prime Minister, but they also see him as compassionate, and less likely to be described as being "Out of touch" than Cameron and Clegg. Ed Miliband is the most popular party leader amongst young people. And these are the areas where the Labour Party, and Ed Miliband, have to focus their message on. Ed Miliband needs to stop listening to advisors and focus groups, and start listening to those in his cabinet, and his closest friends. A consequence of hiring politicical advisors from America, like Arnie Graf and David Axelrod, is that you often end up with American style political bashing that simply does not work in this country. Ed Miliband can never beat David Cameron in a US-Style Presidential Election, which is why trying to turn the General Election into a Presidential Election seems to be working for the Tories. Graf and Axelrod should focus on improving Miliband's image, rather than advising him on other issues.

When Ed Miliband showed that he had the courage and the conviction that people are desperately crying out for, with his energy price freeze, having the bravery to tackle the vested interests that people are so angry about, the Tories slumped to a new low and Labour took a commanding lead in the polls. Ed Miliband showed, right there and then, that a Labour agenda is popular. He must, in the course of the next few months, recapture the spirit of the energy price freeze in a speech that addresses people's concerns about Labour, whilst offering them a positive and optimistic view of the future. The vision offered must be coherent and clear, and not confused and scrambled as it has been as of late. This is the only way in which he will ever to regain the momentum that he needs if Labour are going to win an overall majority at the next election.

Another thing that Ed Miliband must do, is that he must reassure the Middle Class voters, who were wooed by Tony Blair and New Labour, but are afraid that a Left-Wing Labour Party will increase taxation on them. Taxation has always been a major issue that the Tories have managed to exploit, dating back to the days of Margaret Thatcher. The Labour Party must reassure these voters. We must seek to represent the squeezed middle, as well as the poor and working class.

If Ed Miliband does these things, and lays out a clear, coherent, and optimistic vision for Britain's future, then there is a chance that he could turn his party's fortunes around. Only time will tell if he has the courage to do it.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The speech that David Cameron made today was the speech of a man who is confident of victory......but is it even possible?

David Cameron made a very powerful speech today..but will it be enough?

The speech made today by the Prime Minister at the Conservative Party Conference was the speech of a man who thinks he is destined for electoral success. It was bold, passionate, and powerful. But how will this speech change the electoral landscape, and is it really possible for the Tory Party to win a majority in 2015?

First of all, let us examine the speech and the policy pledges made. David Cameron has pledged to protect the National Health Service- This is a repeat of his policy from the 2010 General Election, and is designed to calm fears from many swing voters about how the Tories would manage the NHS. It is also intended to neutralise Ed Miliband and the Labour Party lead over the NHS, as Ed Miliband has decided that Labour would make the NHS the main issue of the election campaign. Secondly, the tax-cutting policy. This has very broad appeal across the electorate, and in particular for the Middle English voters that have gone to Labour since 2010 or have become undecided. David Cameron is hoping to win back these voters so that the Tories can get back up to 34/35% of the vote.

First of all, I have some good news for the Prime Minister. Twice as many people trust the Tories with the deficit than they do Labour. David Cameron has an overwhelming lead over Ed Miliband as to who would be the best Prime Minister (Although the voters prefer a Labour Government to a Tory Government.) The Government is also seen as being more competent than Labour in general, although many still see the Tories as being the "Nasty Party."

However, this is where the bad news comes in. If the Tories want to win a majority, they have to go beyond what they did at the last election. They have to open up an 8 or 9 point lead over the Labour Party. This is a very difficult task, for many reasons. Firstly, because so many Tory voters have defected to UKIP, the task for David Cameron has become extremely difficult. He needs to win all of these voters back to have any chance of taking the lead- and at the moment, it looks very unlikely. Perhaps some may defect back to the Tories, but some will stay with UKIP at the General Election, as indicated by pollling. Another problem that David Cameron has is the current electoral strength of the Labour Party. To stop losing seats to Labour and start gaining them, the Tories need to have a lead of 8%. Currently, they trail by 5%, having lost significant numbers of votes to UKIP.. A turnaround of 12 points would be required just for the Tories to acheive a favourable hung parliament, and a swing of at least 12.5 or 13 points would be needed for David Cameron to get his majority. At this stage, this looks quite unlikely. Such a swing has happened in occasions throughout history-possibly most notably in 1992, but such a turnaround looks incredibly unlikely at this stage, and especially in a 4 party system, and at least half of the swing in 1992 could be attributed to pollster error.

What the Tories hope is that Ed Miliband's poor personal ratings will catch up with him at some point. There is a possibility that this could happen, but could it happens on a scale large enough for David Cameron to win a majority? I doubt it. Firstly, because Gordon Brown was incredibly unpopular too amongst core Labour voters-and they turned up to vote for him in 2010. These voters are not going anywhere. Secondly, the Lib Dem defectors to Labour have a much higher opinion of Ed Miliband than other Labour voters or the electorate in general. This is the major reason as to why Labour remain in the lead-a significant % of Lib Dem 2010 voters say they will vote Labour in 2015.

As long as this group stays as loyal to Labour as it is now, Labour will remain above 35%, and it will be impossible for the Tories to either acheive a hung parliament or to win the election. Another major issue concerns UKIP voters. The assumption from the Tories is that they are simply "Tories on holiday" and that they will return at the General Election. This assumption simply does not hold up to scrutiny. Lord Ashcroft polling found that UKIP voters preferred Cameron by only 27-23, and that 29% of UKIP voters would actually like a Labour Government, more than the number of those who said they would prefer a Tory Government! David Cameron needs to make sure that he reaches out to these voters and tries to win them over, rather than simply assuming that they will "Come home" to their former party.

The Tories also often claim that the electoral system is "Biased" against them. At first glance, it may seem that it is so. Labour can win a majority (Theoretically) with a 1% deficit, whilst the Tories can win a majority only if they are at least 8.5% ahead. However, taking a closer look at the electoral dynamic, it is clear that this is not the case. There are three major reasons as to why Labour's vote is so more efficient than that of the Tories. Firstly, because Labour Party voters tend not to turn out where it doesn't matter (In safe seats) but turn up in much larger numbers in close contests in marginal seats. This is why, despite trailing by 0.5% in England, Tony Blair managed to win 82 more seats than the Tories in the 2005 General Election. The second reason is because the Tory vote is very heavily concentrated in areas where they are already strong-in this case in safe seats in the South-West and South-East of England. There is a saying: When Labour win a seat, they win it by 1000 votes, when the Tories win a seat, they win it by 10,000. The Conservative Party has failed to broaden its appeal in Scotland, the North of England, and Wales, and must seek to do this if it wishes to win a majority next time. The 3rd major reason is tactical voting. Most current Liberal Democrat seats tend to be seats that they had won from the Tories in the 1997 Tony Blair landslide, through massive anti-Tory tactical voting. In areas where the contest is between Liberal Democrats and the Tories, Labour voters in the past have tended to switch to the Lib Dems to "Keep the Tories out." There is some evidence that as a result of the Lib Dem-Tory coalition, that this tactical alliance may be weakening, which would help the Tory Party-but what this means for next year is yet to be seen.
Due to the factors outlined above, it is my conclusion that David Cameron faces a very long and hard road ahead. All of the pollsters and bookies have Ed Miliband as the favourite to become PM, and many Tories themselves have admitted that it is unlikely that they will win next year. The next 8 months shall be the most crucial in this parliament-let's see what the people decide in May next year.