Sunday, 28 December 2014

Labour end year with 3% lead: Labour 35%, Conservatives 32%, UKIP 15%, Lib Dems 7%, Green 6%

Source: My photograph at Labour Party conference

The Labour Party has extended its lead to 3% in my last poll of polls before the new year. Labour finishes the year on 35%, its highest score yet in my polling average. Overall, Labour are up 2 points to 35%, whilst the Conservatives are also up by a single point to 32%. The Lib Dems and Green Party are each down by a single point, and UKIP remain at their lowest ebb of 15% in my polls.

The only question is, is the UKIP decline permanent?  It is extremely difficult to determine whether UKIP's decline is going to be permanent, or just a temporary decline caused by the Neil Hamilton scandal. Both Labour and the Tories will, however, be relatively happy going into the new year. The election is 5 months from now, and the outcome is still uncertain. Labour will be delighted to have a 3% lead, a lead which could give them a working majority, or, in the event of the Scottish disaster for Labour that most are predicting, a favourable hung parliament. The Tories will not be too unhappy, as they will have memories of the 1992 election, when they turned over a significant Labour lead and won the election. UKIP will probably be the most happy, and the party needs to stay out of the (Negative) media spotlight for some time if it is to recover.

The position of both main political parties will become much clearer in the New Year, when Lord Ashcroft releases Scotland constituency polling, detailing the extent to which Labour may have been damaged in its Scottish citadels.

In my view, since both parties look so incredibly unlikely to win a majority, the election will be won and lost in Scotland. Significant losses for Labour North of the border increases the chances of David Cameron remaining prime minister. 

John Curtice has some interesting polling evidence about that here. Whilst the entire article is worth reading, one particular part stands out to me.

".....what they do suggest is that there is no reason to believe that the swing to the SNP does not extend to what are supposedly the safest Labour seats in Scotland. If anything, the swing appears to be even greater in such seats. In seats where Labour is defending a majority of more than 25 points the swing in the poll from Labour to the SNP since 2010 is 24 points, rather higher than the 19.5 point swing for Scotland as a whole.
That means that, if anything, estimates of how many seats the SNP might win that are derived by assuming that the Scotland-wide movement uncovered by a poll would be replicated in each and every constituency in Scotland could actually underestimate the scale of SNP gains. In the case of this poll, projecting the Scotland-wide movement across the country as a whole produces an estimated seats outcome of SNP 45, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats (on 6% of the vote), 3 and the Conservatives (on 13%), 1. But if we take into account the difference in the movement in different types of seats then the estimate becomes SNP 53, Labour 3, and Liberal Democrat 3 (while the Conservatives emerge empty handed). In short, pretty much every Labour seat in Scotland has to be regarded as currently at risk of being lost to the SNP."

Time is running out for the Labour Party in Scotland to persuade people that they are still worth voting for. If they cannot do it, then Labour's future, not just in Scotland but across the UK, is bleak. The party can be cheered by the fact that it is doing significantly better in England than in Scotland, and the majority of marginal seats are in England, but, even so, the loss of nearly all of "Fortress Scotland" would have serious implications for Labour and the other unionist parties in the future.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

UPDATE: Labour lead at 2: Lab 33%, Con 31%, UKIP 15%, Lib Dems 8% Green 7%

Source: Channel 4 news
The Labour Party extends its lead to 2% in this week's opinion poll aggregate. The Tories fall by 2%, UKIP are down by 1%, the Lib Dems hold steady and are up by 1 point to 8%, and Labour remain on 33%.

The polls this week have ranged from a 7% Labour lead to a 4% Tory lead. Whilst the majority of polls have had a small Labour lead, reflected in my weekly polling aggregate, the fact that there is such a wide variation highlights the unprecedented volatility of the situation we currently find ourselves in. In my view, the two parties are running so close together, which is why you get polls on both sides, but I could be wrong. The same is almost certainly true for the Liberal Democrats and Green Party. The major polling story is the continued decline of UKIP, down to its lowest ever share in my weekly polling aggregates, perhaps due to a recent sex scandal and the furore over Neil Hamilton's selection, which looks to have damaged the party. Nigel Farage, the UKIP leader, has also seen his popularity plummet over the same timescale.

Meanwhile, a YouGov opinion poll says that 1/3rd of Green supporters will be voting Labour at the next election. This shows that Labour may be on course to squeeze the Greens in 2015. This is significant, and there are two major reasons for this shift. Number 1 is that the Green Party is smaller than the other 4 major parties, and so cannot stand candidates in all GB constituencies. Number 2 is that Labour's rallying cry against the Tories may also have some sort of effect. As Stephen Shakespeare of YouGov duly notes:

"Using YouGov’s First Verdict instant polling platform, with a large sample (4,335), I asked: 'Which party would you most like to win in your constituency? Please choose the party you like best, regardless of whether they have a chance of winning​.' I followed up with: 'How do you predict you will actually end up voting? This may not be for your favourite party but for your tactical choice'. There was some movement to and from all parties, but just one example of real significance: a third of the Green vote went to Labour. If we think this will hold, then we should factor in a couple more percentage points for Labour. Of course there may be even more from Ukip back to the Conservatives, but we didn’t see it in this experiment."

Due to this, there is a significant chance that Labour may end the election campaign with a higher share of the vote than when it started. Whilst this is encouraging for Labour, we must also keep in mind that around 35-40% of UKIP voters are currently undecided about which way to vote, and they could break decisively for the Tories. Therefore, the result of the general election may depend entirely upon which party can squeeze support better from the smaller parties. Labour must squeeze the Greens and SNP, whilst the Tories will hope to win back a majority of UKIP supporters.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

UPDATE: LABOUR AND CONSERVATIVES TIED: Lab 33%, Con 33%, UKIP 16%, LD 7%, Green 6%

The Conservatives are up by 1% and UKIP are down by 1% in this week's poll of polls. Both main parties are neck and neck, and look set to get only around 65% between themselves, which would be the worst share of the vote ever for the two main political parties at a UK election.

At the beginning of the week, several polls came out showing the two parties as being equal, and one YouGov poll put the Tories ahead by 1%. Perhaps the time is coming soon, when the two party system is finally broken. Only time will tell whether or not this shift away from the two main political parties is permanent, or if it is just a short blip in our electoral history.

Scotland-What next for Labour?

Mr Murphy was elected as Scottish Labour leader this week
Earlier this week, Jim Murphy was elected as leader of the Labour Party,  bringing to an end a long process, caused by Joanne Lamont's resignation as party leader, after accusing her colleagues in Westminster of treating Scotland "Like a branch office". The question on everybody's lips now is, is Murphy the saviour that Labour needs in Scotland?

The truth is, it is difficult to tell. The size of the task Mr Murphy has cannot be understated: earlier just this week a poll gave the SNP a 20 point lead over Labour in Scotland, which would leave Labour with just 6 Scottish MPs, its lowest tally since the 1920s, when the party was only just becoming a national party. A Survation poll for Scotland that has just started its fieldwork will be out next week, and will be the first proper clue. Until then, speculation about what is proving to be a key election battleground is completely pointless. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

London: Swing to Labour drops as Greens pick up left-wing Labour votes.

London at election 2010

I have decided that I am going to go under the microscope and take a deeper look at what is happening in the capital. The General Election is only 5 months away, and the capital is going to be a key battleground, where Ed Miliband needs to do well if he is to get a majority and become Prime Minister. For the purposes of this examination, I shall be using YouGov regional extrapolations, from the 1st-10th of December, calculating the swing toward or against Labour since 2010, and showing how this would impact on how many seats Labour is set to gain in London. Firstly, here are the Labour target seats:

And, here are the regional extrapolation figures from 1st-10th December: Sources for extrapolations can be found here.
                                          Lab 36.2%, Con 34.4%, LD 8.4%, UKIP 11

The findings came as quite a surprise to me, as the extrapolation suggested that there has been no swing at all to Labour in London since the last election. On this kind of result, only the 3 Liberal Democrat seats and maybe Hendon would fall to Labour, and all of the rest of the marginal seats would remain held by the Conservative Party. As early as this May, Labour was polling at 40% plus in London, and surveys from a few months ago indicated that there was a huge swing to Labour in London. What is the reason for the sudden collapse?

I did some digging, and pretty quickly discovered the reason. The Green Party has eaten substantially into the Labour Party support in London, and is polling at 8-9%, slightly higher than it is nationally. The Greens have picked up some of the left-wing liberal democrats who defected to Labour earlier in the parliament but are now slowly drifting away. My suspicion is that the party knows that this has been happening, slowly but surely, as they have appointed a London MP, Sadiq Khan, as head of the Labour taskforce on how to deal with the Green Party. Labour must persuade these voters to lend their votes to the party for the general election. If they do not, the prospect of a Labour majority government becomes very unlikely.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Labour lead at 1: Labour 33, Conservatives 32, UKIP 17, Lib Dem 7, Green 6

The Labour Party has its lead cut to 1% yet again in this week's poll of polls. It is not surprising to see a Labour lead of 1% yet again, as Labour's lead has been largely stuck around the 1% mark ever since the poll of polls started. Both parties are effectively neck and neck, and the polls are static.

In 2005, Labour won many more seats despite being 0.5% behind
The fact that the polls are neck and neck will make Labour much happier than the Tories, simply because it maintains a lead despite collapsing in Scotland. This means that Labour must be doing significantly better in England, which means that it may gain many more seats than it would otherwise. In 2005, Labour managed to win many more seats in England despite being 0.5% behind. In 2010, the Tories were 12% ahead in England, but still failed to win a majority. To be doing so badly in England is appalling for them.

And, finally, if you thought the general election was already looking difficult to predict, just take a look at this! Martin Baxter, the mathematician who created and maintains electoral calculus, said:

” Map only shows movement for the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. It assumes the votes for other parties, including UKIP and the SNP, are fixed at current support levels. UKIP are not currently to predicted to win many seats, so they are not yet a factor in coalition permutations. Since other parties have 28% support nationally, the map is missing the top-right corner where the Conservative plus Labour total would be more than 72%.”

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Marginal seats report December 2014: Labour short 6 of a majority

I have decided to do my first marginal seats report this week. There are 5 months to go until the general election, and everybody is anxious to find out what the result will be. I have assumed in my marginal seats report that there will be a swing to Labour, based on national polling and constituency polling. I have decided to analyse the first 100 seats in the Lab-Con and Lib-Con battleground. They are pictured below, listed from smallest to largest constituencies.

What I did next with this list was to analyse each individual constituency poll, the result last time, and other factors, and I have managed to determine which seats would actually change hands. If there is no constituency poll, I have applied the uniform national swing and then tweaked the prediction according to local factors, such as the size of the Liberal Democrat vote and how well/badly UKIP fared in these seats. Ed Miliband must turn 68 seats on this list from Blue to Red at the general election if he wants to win the election and becomes Prime Minister. This is assuming no Labour collapse in Scotland, and I will analyse Labour and its prospects in Scotland closer to the election, when we can  be sure of how well or badly Labour will do. The most recent figures suggest that there has been a swing of 5% from the Conservatives to Labour, which becomes 6% if the Labour collapse in Scotland is factored in. We also know that the swing from the Liberal Democrats to Labour nationally has been massive-Something like 9.5%, which will also be factored in. I have also factored in when the constituency poll was taken, and how the national picture has changed since then. But, without further ado, here are the results. Every seat that is now coloured Red will be a Labour GAIN, Blue or Yellow a Tory/Lib Dem hold or gain, and purple/green/yellow is a UKIP, Green, or SNP gain.

So, if you take care to count the number of constituencies Labour currently have a lead in, the total would be 61 seats out of their top 100 seats. 3 of Labour's top 100 target seats would go from the Tories to UKIP, 2 seats would be SNP holds, the Liberal Democrats would hold 2 seats, 2 seats would be SNP gains, and the Green Party would (Narrowly) hold Brighton Pavillion. The Tories would hold 28 seats that Labour "Ought to take" on the national swing but will not.Taking all of that into account, and assuming that UKIP would gain 10 seats in total from the Tories, plus 5 Tory gains from the Liberal Democrats, and 7 Lib Dem losses to the nationalists in Scotland, and two extra Labour gains further down the list (Cambridge, Berdmonsey and old Southwark, both seats where Labour have been shown to be ahead) here is what the result would be:

Labour: 320 seats (+62)
Conservative: 250 seats (-56)
Liberal Democrats: 37 seats (-20)
UKIP: 10 seats (+8)
Scottish National Party:13 seats (+7)
Others: 20 seats
Result: The Labour Party will be the largest party, but short of a majority by 6 seats

However, if the Labour Party collapse in Scotland is factored into the equation (I will assume that Labour loses 25 seats to the Nationalists, slightly lower than current polling suggests due to incumbency) here is what the final result would be.
Labour: 295 seats (+37)
Conservative: 250 seats (-56)
Liberal Democrats: 37 seats (-20)
UKIP: 10 seats (+8)
Scottish National Party: 38 seats (+32)
Others: 20 seats
Result: The Labour Party will be the largest party, but short of a majority by 31 seats.

It is clear now that the next election will be fought, won, and lost in Scotland. Labour must hope to recover and be able to make up for ground lost to the SNP if it wants to have any chance of getting a majority next may. I will be making another battleground analysis, this time of the Conservative-UKIP battleground, next week, and my marginal constituency battleground report will be produced again next month, in March, and then at the start of May. At the moment, Labour has the upper hand. It remains to be seen whether or not it will stay that way.