Sunday, 30 November 2014

Labour lead at 2: Labour 34%, Conservatives 32%, UKIP 17%, LD 7%, Green 6%

The Labour Party has a lead of 2% in this week's poll of polls, a 1% increase from last week. The Tories are down 1%, UKIP hold steady, the Lib Dems shed one point and the Greens climb one point to 6%.

The slightly larger lead may be as a result of the Rochester and Strood by-election, in which David Cameron's party suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Mark Reckless and UKIP. Regional extrapolations from YouGov will be out in the next few days in my post on Agora.

On a uniform national swing, this would lead to a Labour Majority of 24. Considering Labour's collapse in Scotland, however, the actual result would have Labour on around 290 seats, around 30 seats ahead of the Tories, but possibly unable to form a stable government.

However, a battlebus/comres marginal poll this week showed that Labour is continuing to do much better in the marginals than it is nationally,giving Labour an 8% lead in marginal seats. Lord Ashcroft's poll of the Tory-Lib Dem battleground also shows that the Tories will struggle to pick up more than a small number of Lib Dem held seats. The same poll also shows that Nigel Farage trails his Tory opponent by 5% in Thanet South, and will have to work hard to win that seat.

All in all, nothing remains certain at this stage, and everything could change. The autumn statement is this Wednesday, and we will see whether or not it causes any large scale changes in public opinion.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Nick Clegg: What about Stretford public hall?

What about Stretford Public Hall, Mr Clegg?
Nick Clegg said today on LBC Radio that the government would be fine with public sector charities, groups, and conglomerates taking control of abandoned buildings, and bringing them back to life, when local authorities have decided to close them or sell them.

If this is the case, then, surely, the same should apply for Stretford public hall, which is my local town hall? The hall was built in 1878, and since then it has always remained in the hands of the community, who have always been able to use it. The public hall is not being used, and a local campaign group, the Friends of Stretford Public Hall, are campaigning to keep the hall in the hands of the community. The group has an admirable and formidable vision for the future of the hall, which includes proposing to convert the hall into a unique events venue for weddings, conferences, parties, a small theatre, community events, a music venue, markets and more. They have also proposed to include a good family-friendly restaurant, cafe and evening bar. In the basement they envisage a small underground club housing youth activity, rehearsal space and jazz/comedy cafe. Given the fact that Trafford Council are now looking to close youth centres across the borough due to planned budget cuts from the central government, the use of this facility by vulnerable groups could be vital in helping young people and giving them something to do. The group have launched a bid which is being considered by Trafford Council, as have many private companies who do not want the hall to remain in the hands of the community.

It is time that the coalition government kept its promise, and allowed places like Stretford Public Hall to go to local community groups, and not to private corporations or big business backers. Trafford Council should follow what is supposedly now government policy, and should make sure that places like the Town Hall are given to community groups. Stretford Town Hall has always been an integral part of the local community, and it should always stay that way. If Mr Clegg decides to break his promise, it definitely would not be the first time.

A petition to keep the public hall in public hands, as well as the vision that FOSH have for the future of the town hall, can be found on this link.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Labour lead at 1: Labour 34%, Conservatives 33%, UKIP 17%, Lib Dems 8%, Greens 5%

The Labour Party retains a small 1% lead in this week's poll of polls. Labour, the Tories, and UKIP are all up very slightly from last week's poll, the Lib Dems and Greens are holding steady on 8% and 5% respectively, whilst the share for parties other than these 5 has dropped by 3%.

The situation remains largely the same as it has done for the last few weeks, with Labour retaining a narrow lead, UKIP someway behind in 3rd, and the Lib Dems and Greens grapple for 4th place.

A note of caution about the Green Party surge. The Greens polled 0.8% in 2010 and managed to win 1 seat. To poll at 5% is very good news for them and confirms that they have, to some extent, "Surged." However this does not make it likely that they will win another seat at the general election next year, as their vote is too thinly spread, which is not a good way to win FPTP seats. The same goes for UKIP, which has an upper ceiling of around 20 seats on its current level of support. Up until UKIP get 25% of the vote, or until they surpass one of the two main parties in support, winning more than 20 seats is not possible for them. There comes a tipping point, up until which UKIP does not win many seats, and after which it starts to win many seats at once. That tipping point is when they manage to get 25% or more of  the vote.

A word about "Thornyberry gate"

Labour did very poorly in the Rochester and Strood by-election, but its misery was compounded by the fact that its shadow atourney general, Emily Thornberry, was forced to resign after posting a tweet which many people regarded as being offensive. The tweet was of a house owned by a working class man, with an England flag and a white van, labelled "Tweet from Rochester". The tweet itself was not offensive, but the implication behind it offended people: after all, what is unusual about working class patriotism? Thornberry apologised and resigned, but the damage had been done, and "Thornberry gate" was all over the Sun newspaper the next day, giving Sky News and the Tory media the excuse to talk about something other than Cameron's embarrassment in Rochester.

My recommendation to the party would be to be very careful about what its elected representatives post on twitter during the election campaign. Miliband must run a sleek and professional campaign with no gaffs to ensure that the hostile press cannot make scandals out of little things. Can he do it? Only 6 months are left.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Labour lead at 1: Labour 33%, Conservatives 32%, UKIP 16%, Lib Dems 8%, Green 5%.

There is precious little change in this week's opinion poll aggregate, with Labour remaining on 33%, the Conservatives on 32%, up 1 from last Sunday, UKIP are down 1 on 16%, and the Lib Dems and Greens remain where they are on 8% and 5% respectively.

All changes are very small and within the margin of error. Looking at all of my weekly polls, a remarkably consistent picture emerges. The Conservatives and Labour remain within 1% of 31.5 and 33.1% respectively, with UKIP hovering around 16-17% and the Lib Dems and Greens hovering around 5-8% respectively. As I have said before, it isn't about any single poll, but the underlying aggregate trend, as can be seen here.

There was speculation that infighting within Labour over Miliband's leadership over the last week would harm Labour. On the face of it, it doesn't seem to have made much effort. Voters already had their doubts about Miliband-Simply enhancing these doubts does not seem to have made much of a difference to Miliband's prospects.

The weekly regional extrapolations will be published on (The think tank I now work with) where I will publish an extended analysis alongside other polling data tomorrow. It will use regional extrapolation data from every poll in the last two weeks, giving a total sample size of over 2000, and therefore being more accurate than any single poll can be.

 Now, time to move on to some more topical polling news. A poll of Rochester and Strood earlier this week showed that Mark Reckless looks to be heading for a comfortable win. The Ashcroft poll showed UKIP on 44%, with the Tories on 32%, Labour on 17%, the Lib Dems on 7%, and the Green Party on 3%. Looking at a graph of all opinion polls taken in the constituency, the underlying trend looks quite clear:

I have already talked about what the likely implications of such a result could be in this blog post. Yesterday, the Daily Mirror quoted senior Tory backbenchers, who said that Mr Cameron could face a no-confidence vote and leadership challenge if UKIP managed to win by a big margin. It looks as if Thursday will be an extremely interesting night. Could this be the knockout blow for Mr Cameron? We will have to wait a few days to find out.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Rochester and Strood: What are the implications of the likely result?

According to the polls, Mark Reckless is heading for a comfortable win.

It looks likely now that Mark Reckless of UKIP is heading for a comfortable win in Rochester and Strood with his new party. The UKIP MP defected from the Tories to UKIP, in a similar fashion to Douglas Carswell, who had defected several weeks earlier. The Lord Ashcroft poll taken just a few days ago gives Reckless a comfortable 12% lead, as has previous polling. What would the implications of such a result be for the party leaders?

Firstly, we should come to the big winner of the Rochester and Strood victory for UKIP, if it is a UKIP win: Nigel Farage. Farage will be delighted by a UKIP win, for obvious reasons, and even more so than the Carswell win in Clacton. He will be hoping to destabilise David Cameron and his government, and, with Labour doing so badly in the polls, he will be hoping to steal their thunder and claim that his party are "The real opposition", thus increasing their support. A similar thing happened after Clacton, when the Douglas Carswell landslide resulted in an increase in support for UKIP that has lasted ever since. It is looking good for the UKIP leader, as this graph of opinion polls from Rochester and Strood, alongside the result from the 2010 general election, shows:

Next, to the biggest loser in the event of a UKIP win, David Cameron. It will look utterly embarrassing and humiliating for David Cameron, and a bitter personal rebuff, if the constituency which the Tories have thrown everything at and that he has personally visited 4 times ends up electing a UKIP MP. It will be a bitter blow that will hurt the prime minister, and his authority. The chances are that further Tory MPs will soon decide to defect, after calculating that they would have more chance of keeping their seats as UKIP MPs and eventually jumping ship to join with them. The stakes are high, and David Cameron cannot afford another defeat 6 months before a general election....and yet, considering the weakness of the opposition, a defeat may not quite be the knockout blow that Cameron is fearing.

Then we come to Ed Miliband. Labour has been hit nearly as hard as the Tories in Rochester, and the party will be bracing itself for a fairly poor result. You would think that because the Tories, and not Labour, are the incumbent party and the ones most likely to be heading toward a bruising defeat, that Labour would be ok. However, a result on the level being shown in opinion polls would be terrible for Labour. It would be extraordinary in the modern history of the party, to collapse to 17% in a seat that they once held (Albeit under different boundaries.) There were reports earlier in the week that more Labour MPs would call for a leadership election if Labour had a poor result,but these rumours largely seem to be dying down. If Labour can get above 20% of the vote in Rochester, then they will be pleased. Either way, I cannot see a viable leadership election this close to the general election, whatever happens. The party seems to be heading toward the general election with a sense of weariness and resignation, and Rochester is unlikely to change this, unless Labour spectacularly defy the polls and do much better than expected.

And now, finally, we come to Nick Clegg. You would expect another awful result for the Lib Dems, which is now looking likely, to be a disaster for Nick Clegg. But, just like Labour, the Lib Dems are heading toward the general election with a sense of resignation, and a feeling that Nick Clegg will remain leader, no matter how many deposits are lost in seats where the Liberals were once competitive. Nevertheless, Lib Dem claims that they are "On the way back" and that the pain for them is getting less worse simply are not standing up to scrutiny in election results. The party is likely to be beaten once again by the Green Party in Rochester and Strood. That is an awful result, and confirms that the party is just as unpopular now as it was a year or two ago, and Nick Clegg remains politically toxic.

Nevertheless, no matter what the result, the repercussions of the by-election next thursday will be massive, and I am finding it difficult to call what may happen, if, as expected, UKIP win the seat. There has been talk of a leadership challenge to David Cameron from the Eurosceptic Right if the Tories lose, so, in the plausible but most unlikely scenario of both Cameron and Ed Miliband being removed as the leader of their respective political parties, we could be set for a massive shakeup in British politics.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Labour lead at 2: Labour 33%, Conservatives 31%, UKIP 17%, Lib Dems 8%, Green 5%

This week's poll of polls has Labour unchanged on 33%, the Tories down 2 on 31%, UKIP unchanged on 17%, the Lib Dems are up 1 to 8% and the Greens shed 1 point to finish the week on 5% overall.

I have decided to make my extrapolations fortnightly rather than weekly as of now on. This is due to the much larger sample size available as a result, which will reduce the margin of error and give a more practical picture as to where each party is doing best.

In recent days, Ed Miliband's leadership has come under severe scrutiny. This is because his approval ratings have sank to an all-time low as of late, with some polls putting him behind Nick Clegg, the politically toxic Lib Dem leader. Only 49% of Labour voters, and 17% of the electorate, approve of the job Mr Miliband is doing, compared to 51% of Labour and 77% of the public who disapprove.

In my view, Miliband has always been unpopular with the public, and yet Labour have maintained a small but consistent lead in the majority of polls. Even now when the party is in turmoil it still is ahead of the Conservatives. Leadership speculation is bound to achieve nothing but to damage the party and help neutralise the affect of the Tories' being a badly disunited party, which will make next year's election result even more unpredictable.

To put into context how fickle public opinion is, here is some polling that I obtained from YouGov as to how Labour would do under a different leader. The data is newly released and can be found here. I am only going to examine
 how Johnson and Cooper would do, as they are the most likely challengers.

If Alan Johnson was the leader of the Labour Party, how would you vote?
Labour 33
Con 31
LD 7

So, as you can see, with Johnson as leader, Labour gets a very slight boost from the last YouGov poll, but the changes are well within the margin of error. There is no evidence at all to support the assertion that having Alan Johnson as leader would dramatically improve the chances of the Labour Party, according to this poll.

If Yvette Cooper was leader of the Labour Party, how would you vote?
Labour 31
Con 33
LD 6

So, it turns out that Yvette Cooper would in fact be doing worse than Ed Miliband currently is as leader. The Tories would race into a two point lead as opposed to being a point behind as they are now.

Either way, looking at the evidence, it seems to be that Miliband is going to be safe, and that any further speculation over the leadership is a fruitless exercise. Labour must take care not to descend into the bickering of the late Brown era, and if they do, the electorate will punish them savagely.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Students Poll: Labour most popular party amongst students.

Over the past week, I have interviewed 130 Students at Manchester Metropolitan University to get their political views. I asked the interviewees several different questions. For starters, my first question was: "Are you going to vote at the UK General Election next year?" If they said No, I then straight on moved to a second question: "Why have you decided that you are not going to vote?" If they answered yes to my first question, I then moved on to ask two further questions: "Which political party will you be voting for next year?" and "What is the single biggest issue affecting you as a young person?" The results are quite startling. I am going to be using a series of pie charts to illustrate the results of my polling.

First of all, the intentions to vote:

65% of people said they would probably vote at the 2015 General Election,whilst 35% said they would not vote at all. This is a much higher proportion of Students saying they would vote than has previously been found by pollsters, but the reason for this can be found in the next graph of voting intentions, which includes undecided voters.

As you can see, a significant proportion of people said that they were undecided. My guess would be that many of these are probably the kind of voter that would only turn up if he/she was pushed very hard to turn up, or had been enthused and invigorated by a particular party. As you can see, the Labour Party is clearly doing very well, as are the Green Party, whilst the Conservatives, UKIP, and Lib Dems fare pretty badly. Here is a graph of voting intentions with undecideds excluded, which gives a far more accuratte picture:

So as you can see, the Labour Party has a massive lead here, whilst the Green Party also does very well, much better than how it fares amongst the general population. If Labour want to win the 2015 General Election, they must make sure that the Student Vote turns up and votes for them in large numbers, as they are a very strong demographic for the Labour Party.

On to issues. When asked to name a specific issue, here were the results:

So, as you can see, although a significant % (14%) said "Dont know" when they were asked to name an issue, this is proof that students are far from apolitical when it comes to thinking about things in terms of specific issues, and not party politics. Here is one final pie chart, and it is of responses to the final question that was put to those who were not going to vote, about why they were not going to vote:

As can be seen here, a significant % (22%) said they would not vote because they did not know enough about the issues or political parties involved. Politicians and parties must look to re-engage these people with politics, as they are not apolitical because of apathy, but rather because of a simple lack of knowledge.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

What did Tuesday's US elections tell us about the US Presidential Election in 2016?

So. The GOP have taken control of the US Senate in a landslide win, and have increased their majority in the House of Representatives, as well as winning a large number of Gubernatorial and Local elections. What does this actually mean looking forward to the United States Presidential Election in 2016?

Well, for starters, it is clear that Barrack Obama is going to be a lame duck for the last two years of his office. Previously, he had control of the Senate, and so he could, to some extent, claim legitimacy and could get laws passed with some difficulty. Now, getting any sort of law pushed through the legislatures will require the consent of both House Republicans and Republicans in the Senate.  And, judging by what Mitch McConnell said in 2012, that he wanted Barrack Obama to be a one term president and was determined to block the president's policies, the GOP seem to be in no mood to co-operate.

It should be seen as quite significant that Rand Paul was celebrating with Mcconnell. Paul, according to polls, is by far the most popular Republican with the American electorate, and so he has a real chance of winning any presidential election. Indeed, Paul played a significant role in the Republican campaign, as did Hilary Clinton for the Democratic Party. What chance would he, as the most able Republican candidate, have at a US Presidential election?

Well, according to yesterday's election, he would have quite a good chance of winning. The Republicans polled at 51% nationally whilst the Democrats managed to get 48% of the vote, which is a swing from the Democrats to the Republicans of 7%. The party managed to win notable bellweather states, such as Florida, and came close in Virginia, which was a major shock to the Democrats, in a seat that has always traditionally been a Blue Heartland. If the swing shown on Tuesday was repeated at a US Presidential Election nationwide, Rand Paul would be the President of the United States with a powerful total of 358 Electoral College Votes, compared to 180 for whoever his Democratic Party challenger would be.

However, we should be rather cautious about reading too much into these results and extrapolating them to a US Presidential Election. In 2016, President Obama will not be on the ballot paper. The President has become deeply unpopular due to the dysfunctional nature of the US Government at the moment, and so has been punished for it. Indeed, many Republicans tried to make the elections a referendum on his presidency, and many Democrats distanced themselves from him during the campaign.

Now that the GOP have control of the Senate and House, however, the Democratic Party will be able to blame them rather than the president if governance continues to be done as poorly as it has been done for the last few years. This will automatically hand a massive advantage to the Democrats at the Presidential Election. The second major thing to take into account is the nature of people who vote at US General Elections, as they tend to be white, much older than the median, highly educated and well-paid. The traditional Democratic caucus-Young people, ethnic minorities, liberal lower middle class earners, latinos, black Americans, etc, do not really turn up, and they did not turn up yesterday for the election. These people can be guaranteed to turn up in much larger numbers at a US Presidential Election.

So, to conclude, this election was bad for Obama and the Democrats, but it is not the disaster that many think that it is. With less than 2 years now to go until Obama steps down and hands power to his successor, there is still everything to play for in America and American politics.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVES TIED: Labour 33%, Con 33%, UKIP 17%, LD 7%, Greens 6%

My poll of polls for this week shows Labour on 33%, unchanged from last week, the Conservatives up 1 to 33%, UKIP up 1 to 17%, the Lib Dems stay where they are, and the Greens increase their support by 1% to move to 6%.

Effectively, both main parties are tied. The regional variations found previously have continued: UKIP continues to do poorly in Scotland but performs strongly in the North and South, whilst both Labour and the Tories perform strongly in their own heartland areas....apart from Scotland, where the Labour Party is doing very badly indeed. There is virtually no change, apart from Labour doing slightly worse and the Tories slightly better in the South than they were last week.

Here are the regional extrapolations:

London: Labour 39%, Conservatives 33%, UKIP 10%, Liberal Democrats 8%

The North: Labour 42%, Conservatives 27%, UKIP 20%, Lib Dems 5%

The South: Conservatives 40%, Labour 25%, UKIP 18%, Liberal Democrats 9%

Scotland: SNP 41%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 19%, Lib Dems 6%, UKIP 4%

It's perfectly conceivable that we could end up with 5 parties that have at least 10 seats each (Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats,UKIP, SNP) after the next election.

A good argument for keeping the First Past the Post electoral system, has been that it helps form strong and decisive election results, and therefore strong governments. Yet, that does not look likely to happen at this moment in time, and we are likely to see a deeply divided and fractured parliament after 2015, which reflects the deeply divided views of the people of Britain at the moment. Perhaps such a result would speed up moves toward electoral reform. Either way, the election is next May, and neither party has grasped it by the neck as of yet.