PB/Polling Matters Podcast: What does Labour do next?

May 29th, 2015

Polling Matters is an independent, non partisan podcast providing, in conjunction with PB, expert polling news and political analysis in the aftermath of the 2015 General Election.

This week, host Keiran Pedley discusses why Labour lost and what’s next for the party featuring interviews with Lord Foulkes and Professor John Curtice and analysis from regular Polling Matters contributors Rob Vance and Leo Barasi.

Keiran tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley


Richard Tyndall on “Laying the groundwork for an ‘Out’ vote”

May 29th, 2015


The three challenges for those who want a NO vote

It has been generally accepted that the ‘Out’ side currently face an uphill fight to try and win the referendum which will be held at some point over the next two or so years. Whilst there is overwhelming support in the country for reform of the EU and strong, but minority, support for leaving, unless the ‘Out’ side can produce a convincing argument as to why life will be better outside, they are not going to turn around the 25% or so of public opinion they need to convince in order to achieve their aims.

So what steps should ‘Out’ be taking over the next few months to try and maximise their vote?

Firstly – and perhaps most obviously – they need to actually start working together as an organised campaign. There are dozens of different groups and organisations, all of which are committed to leaving the EU, which could play an important part in the campaign. The trouble is that at the moment there is no single campaign organisation, no clear leadership and not even the start of a move to create these basic structures. Someone needs to sit down and start making phone calls to create an umbrella body which will coordinate and run the Out campaign with as wide a support base as possible. If this is not done soon then the natural result is that this task will default to the one political party that has consistently campaigned for Out – UKIP. And at that point I am afraid I believe the battle will already have been lost.

Which brings us to the second step: A credible leader. Whilst many in UKIP believe this is the task that Nigel Farage was created for, this is certainly not a view that is universally held, even within the ‘Out’ movement. Moreover, it has to be recognised that for every voter for whom Farage is an attraction there are probably at least two or three more for whom he is a definite turnoff. Although UKIP gained four million votes at the General Election this is a tiny number compared to what will be needed to win a referendum and a ‘core vote’ strategy in this instance is obviously a non starter. So the question is how do the ‘Out’ side reach out to the non-UKIP Eurosceptics and the undecided?

There are two possibilities here. The first would be to go with a politician from another party – with all respect to Douglas Carswell, for whom I have a huge amount of time, his membership of UKIP carries with it similar baggage to Nigel Farage. When looking at possible candidates there are three who particularly spring to mind. The first two are from Labour; Frank Field and Kate Hoey. Both are very well respected long serving Labour MPs who have appeal far beyond their party and are known to be independent thinkers. With either of them in charge of the Out campaign there would be a great chance to attract left of centre Eurosceptics who might otherwise be put off by an apparent right of centre leader. Both do however have potential issues – Frank Field has had health problems recently whilst Kate Hoey is on record as saying that, whilst she might support Out, she would prefer if possible to stay in a reformed EU. That sort of mixed messaging could provide a hostage to fortune. The other alternative from politics is the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan. A long time advocate of leaving the EU he is articulate and supremely well informed about the EU and its failings. But again, it has to be recognised that he too has potential issues, not least his comments about the NHS made in the USA a few years ago.

That then leaves possible leaders from outside politics. The appointment of a business leader such as James Dyson or the JCB chairman Lord Bamford would send a message that businesses need not be afraid of Britain leaving the EU. These and many other hugely successful business leaders are advocates of leaving the EU and it is their voice that should be heard to counter the myths about millions of jobs lost or companies leaving the UK.

Once the organisation and leadership are in place the emphasis needs to be on looking forward not back. As has been pointed out many times on here, Out will only win if they can present a unified and credible prospect for Britain’s future outside the EU. This means a future that ensures a continuation of trade links without the political interference that characterises our current relationship with our European neighbours. For me the only sensible alternative is membership of EFTA and through it the EEA. This would allow people to understand simply what the relationship with our European neighbours and the rest of the World would be after we left the EU. It would go a long way to negating the scaremongering about isolation and loss of business and would provide a solid platform on which to build the rest of the ‘Better Off Out’ message.

The most obvious and oft cited argument against this is that it will not deal with the issue of immigration. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed head on. Yes there is free movement of peoples in the EEA but in that case, on this narrow issue, it is no different to our current EU membership. Whilst there may be a significant minority of people for whom immigration is the main driver of Euroscepticism, I believe that many of those would, in the end, vote to leave anyway and that therefore the numbers who would vote against leaving because the alternative still allowed for free movement is very small. That is not to say this would not be a challenge but it is one that would have to be dealt with early on in formulating the Out campaign so that the position in favour of EFTA membership, for all that some may not see it as perfect, is the one that is presented to the public during the debate.

Obviously there are many issues and external events that could derail either side of the debate over the next 12 -24 months. But the ‘Out’ side has to ensure that it does not make the task of winning the referendum any more difficult than it already is by establishing these three key points – organisation, leadership and message – as quickly and as effectively as possible.

Richard Tyndall


How Scotland and the LD collapse almost completely reverse the bias in the electoral system

May 29th, 2015

The dramatic shift in Britain’s political landscape

As we all know one of the constants in British politics over more than a quarter of a century has been that the electoral system has been “biased” towards Labour. Essentially for a given vote share the red team will have more MPs than the blue one.

Well the big news from May 7th is that that is all over and now the Tories will get more seats for an equal vote share than Labour. This is largely because of the total LAB collapse in Scotland and the Lib Dem decline.

The details are set out in illuminating article by Tim Smith of the University of Nottingham just published. He writes:-

“The largest contributor to this shift was third party victories, which swung from a Labour lead of 21 seats to a Conservative lead of 39 seats. The pro-Labour element of this had been mainly due to the fact that there had been far more Liberal Democrat MPs in seats where the Conservatives would otherwise have won than in those where Labour would otherwise have won. The collapse of the Liberal Democrats to just 8 seats eliminated most of this. Meanwhile, the SNP landslide in Scotland then pushed the bias in the other direction making Labour the primary victim of third party wins…

..In the UK system the boundaries are not deliberately gerrymandered by partisan redistributions, but nevertheless, they now very much favour the Conservatives whose votes are much more efficiently distributed. When the parties’ vote shares are equalized, Conservative wins waste far fewer surplus votes than Labour, with the latter now tending to pile up larger but ultimately unnecessary majorities in safe seats. The reason for this big increase in Conservative efficiency was caused by their very strong performance in the right places, i.e. marginal seats, and this was helped by the large number of first term incumbents standing for re-election for the first time. Labour did best in its safest English seats.”

This means, of course, that new boundaries would make the system even more favourable to the Conservatives.

Mike Smithson


The latest state of play in the battle to become LAB leader

May 28th, 2015


Looking back to those final GE15 phone polls one thing stands out about LAB backers…

May 28th, 2015

There were more non-GE10 voters in the LAB totals than in CON

The British Polling Council inquiry into what went wrong with the GE15 is well under way and no doubt many will be putting forward theories about what caused them to be so wrong.

One of the factors that I believe was partly responsible for the overstatement of LAB shares is featured in the chart above – a larger part of its support according to the surveys was coming from those who did not vote for the main parties at the 2010 election.

From the data that’s made available by the pollsters it’s not possible to identify whether these were non voters or not but given that 90%+ of the overall 2010 vote went to LAB-CON-LD it is a reasonable assumption that the above is a good pointer.

Part of this is accounted for by those in the 18-23 age bracket who, clearly, could not have voted at the previous general election and they were more likely to be LAB backer but that is only a partial explanation.

The same happened in much of the by-election polling over the past year. LAB was attracting more non-voters at the previous election than other parties.

    All the evidence is that the best guide to whether you will vote in the next election is whether you voted in the last one.

The BPC needs to address the way pollsters deal with likelihood to vote. It should be more than just telling the interviewer that you are 10/10 certain.

Mike Smithson


We now have the actual wording of the referendum question

May 28th, 2015

“Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union”

As expected the wording of the EU referendum question makes remaining in the EU the YES option while leaving the NO one.

There’s a view that people prefer to vote Yes to things than be negative and the planned wording therefore favours staying in the EU. I’m not so convinced. The last two big referendums, AV in 2011 and the IndyRef in Scotland, both saw No sides win.

What will be interesting is how the question plays out in the polls. The latest finding by YouGov last weekend had the wording “Do you think that the UK should be a member of the European Union?”

This was neutral in relation to the status quo and had Yes 12% ahead.

We don’t know yet about timing though reports overnight suggest that the government is aiming for May next year when the devolved government elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland take place. There is also the London Mayoral election.

Mike Smithson


Getting EVEL through will be a tough fight for the Tories

May 27th, 2015

The next move is with John Bercow

A significant moment on this historic day in the commons was a point of order by Alex Salmond about the Tory plans to introduce EVEL (English Votes for English Laws) by changing the House’s standing orders.

Salmond argues that this is a major constitutional issue and that the incoming government should not be allowed to make a change which creates two classes of MPs by using its majority to change standing orders – the rules under which commons business is carried out.

Bercow responded by saying he’d look into the Salmond point and report back. My reading is that the government’s initial plan won’t get through and some other mechanism will have to be made.

The big thing today, of course, has been the presence of the huge contingent of 56 SNP MPs who look set to have an impact in all sorts of ways and this was just a taster.

Mike Smithson


Developments this afternoon show that Yvette Cooper is still very much in the LAB leadership race

May 27th, 2015

At current prices she’s the value bet

This afternoon it’s been announced that a further six MPs have come out and said they are backing Yvette Cooper – a move that reminds me of Henry H Manson’s words on the site ten days ago about her having the best organised campaign.

This fits with an article that Isabel Hardman of the Spectator wrote yesterday about Yvette’s effort.

“…But even while she has been rather quiet about what she thinks, Cooper has been phenomenally well-organised. Her leadership campaign,..is already up and running in the country, not just in Westminster, with the first Yvette4Leader meetings in the diary and regional organisers in place already. Given the party is now electing its leaders through one member one vote, that sort of outreach operation to the party membership is even more important than before.”

Wirh second preferences likely to be very important then Yvette looks set to benefit more than either Mr. Burnham or Kendall.

I’ve taken some of the very good prices for Yvette on Betfair getting one on a 7/1.

Mike Smithson