Whatever could this mean? – Updated with the figures

March 3rd, 2015

The next twenty-four hours is going to be fascinating, as well as this YouGov poll, at 5pm on Wednesday, Lord Ashcroft publishes his latest batch of constituency polling from both England and Scotland as we approach the General Election campaign proper starts shortly and we’re 15 days away from possibly the most political budget of all time.



February 2015 Issues Index

March 3rd, 2015

The NHS remains the most important issue facing Britain despite falling 4% in the last month.

Issues 1

Ipsos Mori note

Those who are more likely to mention the NHS include those aged 55+ (51%), ABC1s (45%) and those in the South East outside of London (56%) compared with Londoners (34%), C2DEs (36%) and those aged 18-34 (24%).

Could Ed Miliband’s plan to make the NHS central to the General Election have an effect, as the older age groups see the NHS as the most important issue, and generally they vote Tory, so any concerns about the Tories and the NHS could affect a key component of Tory support.

How the different age and social groups see the most important issue facing Britain

Issues 3

For those who think the election will all be about the economy, as the most important issue it appears to be on a downward trend.

Issues 2

The full data tables are available here.



February’s PB Polling Average: Crossover

March 3rd, 2015

The mid-term effects look to be finally wearing off

Two months out from the election and from the Politicalbetting Polling Average, the Tories look to be coming into form at the right time. I say ‘look to be’ because there is a little more to it than meets the eye, but first the numbers for February, which are:

Con 34.0 (+2.5), Lab 33.6 (+1.0), UKIP 12.0 (-2.5), LD 7.6 (-0.4), Grn 7.0 (-0.3), Oth 5.8 (-0.3)

While we should be cautious about excessive hyperbole, these are pretty spectacular figures: the first Tory lead since Jan 2012, the highest Tory share since March 2012, the lowest UKIP score in a year, the lowest Lib Dem share of the parliament and the closest the Greens have been to fourth place.

What’s caused them? Well, here is where we need to exercise that caution. The most extraordinary poll of the year so far has been ICM’s February one, which gave the Tories a four point lead on a share of 36%; the highest share and highest lead reported by any company. And the Tories’ lead overall rests solely on that poll – had ICM been level-pegging, Labour would have been just ahead in the Average, though the Conservatives would still be up by a four full points since December.

So is crossover a rogue-poll effect? This is where I’m a bit confused. The PBPA is a weighted average of the monthly averages of the five pollsters to have consistently reported since the start of 2011: YouGov, ICM, Ipsos-Mori, Comres (phone), and Opinium. This gives the index consistency and allows us to compare movement over the length of the parliament without having to worry too much about methodological issues or fluctuating composition. The other pollsters have either been sporadic, have significantly changed methodology or are newcomers. Strangely, however, while all five in the index have shown increases for Con, four of the five not in it have shown declines (the other, Ashcroft, is near enough no change). Indeed, Populus has virtually every party travelling in the opposite direction to those in the Average, though their divergence from the rest can at least be in part explained by their starting to prompt for UKIP in February.

Even so, the Average contains those firms which it does because of their consistency and track record, so while some caution might be due given the other companies’ findings last month, it’s only caution; we shouldn’t dismiss them entirely.

What does seem to be happening is the mid-term protest effect is wearing off. UKIP slid for the fourth consecutive month, after a difficult time in the media. While minor parties can get away with poor likability scores if they have a strong enough core, it does appear that UKIP’s and Farage’s declining approval ratings are now feeding through to their VI scores.

Significantly, that decline does not appear to have fed into an increase in another minor party but to the Big Two, which are up 3.5% on the month and 5% since December (I’d be very sceptical about equating the 2.5% drop in UKIP and the 2.5% increase in the Con share; it’s more complex than that). However, while we’re still a very long way away from where we were in 2010, we are at least heading in that direction. But with only two months to go, the polls imply that Labour’s lead is gone, the Tories wouldn’t have most seats, the Lib Dems would be annihilated, UKIP is on the slide and the Greens won’t break through. Interesting times.

David Herdson


The great methodology divide: All the CON leads are from phone polls – all but one of the LAB leads are from online surveys

March 2nd, 2015

Greater certainty to vote amongst CON voters puts the blues back into the lead with Ashcroft


The latest Ashcroft weekly phone poll is out and show a move back to CON and a 5% decline in the LAB vote. The figures and trend are in the chart above.

    The CON lead is almost totally down to turnout weighting. Before that was applied LAB was ahead by a small margin. Problem for them is that its voters are less certain to vote so they are marked down.

What is really striking about the current polling is that the phone firms are the ones showing the CON leads and the online ones have LAB ahead. Just why that should be is hard to say.

The only phone poll not with a CON lead, Ipsos, is the oldest from nearly a month ago.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


If the early March polling this year is as good a pointer as March 2010 then the outcome is on a knife-edge

March 2nd, 2015

The above chart shows the CON lead in the polls from the first week in March 2010 and compares them with the actual election result nine and a half weeks later.

As can be seen the polling at this stage proved to be a reasonably good pointer and in some cases better than the final polls.

Of course past performance is no guarantee about what’s going to happen but it’s interest to look at.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that five years ago all the betting pointed to a working CON majority – which is not what happened.

Coming up at 4pm the weekly Ashcroft national poll that last week had a LAB lead for the first time in 2015. Will that revert?

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Why framing constituency battles on choosing individual MPs is the best defensive strategy for the LDs

March 2nd, 2015

The widespread presumption that the election is about parties is not always applicable

There is an almost total obsession that the vote on May 7th is about parties reinforced by the fact that almost all the polling asks WHICH you will be supporting rather than WHO.

In fact for many voters the primary consideration is who will be their representative at Westminster not the party brand.

This is why incumbency can be so important and the relationship that individual MPs have with their constituents can make a difference.

Nowhere will this so central than in Lib Dem defences where all could turn on the perception of the individual seeking to be returned again.

Much has been made of the Ashcroft constituency polling where a second candidate specific question is put. What could also be relevant is in the chart above which is part of the 30k sample BES polling.

This features the views of constituents split by which of the main three parties currently holds the seat. The two columns in each segment show the views of supporters of the incumbents’ party and opponents.

This is a similar picture to the YouGov polling for Nottingham University from 2013 which had net satisfaction levels that those sampled had with their local MP broken down by which party held the seat.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Nigel Farage hints at another Tory defection to UKIP

March 1st, 2015

Today it is being reported

Asked if he was in talks with Tory MPs about more defections, Mr Farage said: “The last time I spoke about this I said I would be surprised if there were not more.

“There is one conversation we are still having. But do you know what – it is not very relevant now. Last year it was a big deal.”

The honourable precedent that Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless have created where defectors trigger a by-election won’t apply this close to the dissolution of Parliament, so I wonder this makes the potential defector is either

i) someone standing down in May or

ii) someone whose majority wasn’t of a sufficient magnitude to guarantee a UKIP victory but a victory of Labour or the Lib Dems in a by-election.

The latter would reinforce the Tory line of “Go to bed with Farage and wake up with Miliband” which the Tories are convinced will win them back some Con to UKIP defectors.

A few bookies have a market up on whom the next Tory MP will be to defect, it might be worth backing Chris Kelly at 21/1 and David Nuttall at 25/1, both fit at least one of  the above criteria, and in Chris Kelly’s case, both.



Operation Save Dave is unlikely to succeed

March 1st, 2015

The Sunday Times reports (££)

George Osborne held a dinner with Conservative whips on Monday night to discuss tactics for the days after the vote on May 7.

Two senior MPs revealed that Tory high command is preparing to argue that Cameron has won a “moral victory” if he secures more votes than Ed Miliband — even if he has fewer seats.

In the event of a fragile Labour-led coalition taking power, they would argue that there could be a second general election within months and it would be better to stick with Cameron than hold a bloody leadership contest.

Ministers close to Downing Street say even if Cameron wins the most seats, he is drawing up plans to run a minority government rather than seek another coalition.

Senior figures believe he could keep his MPs onside because going it alone would free up 23 ministerial posts held by Liberal Democrats.

One minister close to Cameron said: “If there is an opportunity to govern without going into coalition, we would seize it.”

The fact such contingencies are being planned by Cameron’s closest supporters is not surprising given the current polling, however moral victories aren’t worth much. The position of many in and out of the party is that Dave’s leadership ends the moment he ceases to be Prime Minister, as the Conservative Party has a history of ruthlessness when dealing with its leaders, as Margaret Thatcher and IDS would attest.

The Sunday Times says at least one former cabinet minister will call for Cameron to quit when the polls close on the 7th of May if Dave fails to finish ahead of Labour.

But the most interesting part of the article is that Cameron is drawing up plans to govern as a minority rather than seek another coalition, you can currently get 9/2 on such an occurrence, which in light of reports yesterday that Nick Clegg is ready to rule out a new coalition with the Conservatives over its plan to hold a European Union referendum, might be a very plausible scenario.

The article also says Michael Gove has been telling the Conservative parliamentary party, that not one Conservative MP will lose their seat, one wonders if Mr Gove will be willing to bet on that, as I’m sure several PBers would be willing to offer him odds on that.