A projection of the 2017 election

A projection of the 2017 election

I did a lot of work before the 2015 election trying to anticipate what might happen seat by seat in that election, looking at local factors, candidates, demographics, recent local election results, Lord Ashcroft‘s constituency opinion polling and all of that. Like most prediction efforts in 2015, it was not very successful. It was swamped by three things – (1) the broad national tide in England and Wales  that submerged quite a lot of the local differences I anticipated. Part of the Conservative success was built on ‘nationalising’ the election choice, to the detriment of the Lib Dems in particular who were hoping for personal votes to salvage them as happened in elections when their tide has been receding, such as 1979. (2) the completeness of the SNP sweep in Scotland. (3) the extraordinary success of the Conservatives with their protective targeting of the marginals they gained in 2010 and a handful of Labour seats they picked off. I’ve tried out a different approach this time, with a mechanistic formula applied to all the English and Welsh Con/ Lab seats and nowhere else. Martin Baxter at Electoral Calculus has done a vastly more sophisticated and complete version of the same sort of exercise, but this is a crude formula incorporating rather few variables. It’s based on the swing to the Conservatives being partly proportional to the UKIP vote, an element of uniform national swing, a bump in one direction or another for seats at the outliers of referendum voting behaviour (Remain or 60 per cent plus for Leave). There’s therefore a double weighting for strongly Leave seats, which tended for obvious reasons to have high UKIP votes in 2015. The source for constituency referendum voting is Chris Hanretty’s compilation of published local results and his work modelling the others. An allowance has been made where the Greens have stood down or intervened. The initial model had a national baseline of the Conservatives winning by a 15-point margin, which is where a fair few polls were at the time. That would produce a Con gain of 44 from Labour. Allowing for a few gains from SNP in Scotland, and from UKIP in Clacton and possibly a couple from the Lib Dems, this would be a Con gain of around 52 seats for an overall majority of around 120. The way the model works skews the Conservative gains to the North and white working class England. Labour would hold apparently perilous marginals in London such as Ealing Central & Acton and Brentford & Isleworth, but lose some former heartlands. Strikingly, the Tories would win all three seats in Stoke-on-Trent (Labour since 1935) plus Newcastle-under-Lyme (Labour or radical Liberal since 1906) for...

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Ten year swing: comparing the patterns of the 2005 and 2015 elections

Ten year swing: comparing the patterns of the 2005 and 2015 elections

I try sometimes to take the long view on electoral patterns. I wrote a piece for Conservative Home last year looking at the similarities and differences between the electoral maps of 1964 and 2010, elections which produced fairly similar numbers of Conservative MPs nationally. Boundary reviews – which, unfortunately, look like becoming more frequent in future – disrupt one’s ability to look back over time because the continuity of constituencies is broken. Has a seat switched sides decisively through long term political change (like Liverpool Wavertree, or Staffordshire Moorlands)? Or is an apparent change mostly because the boundaries have altered so that the seat’s political complexion has been shifted (like Southampton Test, or Norwich North)? We can, though, look at ten years of electoral history on the same boundaries, comparing the 2005 election (using the ‘notional results’ for English and Welsh seats compiled by Rallings and Thrasher) with 2015. For 630 constituencies out of 650 (i.e. not Northern Ireland, nor the Speakers’ seats in 2005 and 2015), we can calculate the swing, i.e. the average of the Conservative gain and Labour loss. Of course, there are a large number of constituencies where these two are not the principal parties and the Con/Lab swing calculation is a bit like ascertaining the vitamin C content in a bowl of fruit punch – information of some value, but a long way short of the most relevant observation. The SNP landslide in Scotland and the Lib Dem collapse were the two startling changes in the 2015 election, and it is a bit artificial to look at Con/Lab swing in the seats affected, but it can still tell us something. That said, let us look at the pattern of Con-Lab swing from 2005 to 2015: Blair to Miliband and Howard to Cameron. The colour scheme indicates strength and direction of swing. Dark blue is to the Conservatives of more than 10 per cent, blue is to the Conservatives by 5-10 per cent and the beigey shade is to the Conservatives by 0-5 per cent (i.e. still to the Tories but below the national average). Light red is 0-5 per cent to Labour, regular red 5-10% to Labour, and dark red is over 10 per cent to Labour. The places where Labour did better in 2015 than in 2005 (relative to the Conservatives) are mostly found in London, Merseyside, Birmingham and some other metropolitan residential areas that have highly educated professional electorates (Edinburgh, Oxford, Sheffield Hallam, south Manchester, Hove, Bristol West) that deserted Labour for the Lib Dems in 2005 over the war and other issues and have subsequently returned. There are also a few ethnically diverse urban areas like Bradford, Leicester, Luton and Peterborough, and some...

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Conference Season 2010

Conference Season 2010

The 2010 election and its peculiar result lay in the background of all three conferences, and contributed to this season’s strange atmosphere – it was not directly addressed for the most part, but sitting there in the peripheral vision of the parties as they tried to deal with the radically new shape of post-election politics. The discussion about the election was probably the most mainstream and realistic at the Labour conference – there was I think a conscious effort not to forget how bad the result was through relief at escaping with 258 MPs. However, in terms of actual policy the discussions were more fruitful at the other two conferences. Polling and opinion over the summer The political context was uncertain, with high initial approval ratings for the government settling down over the summer to a more or less equal balance of satisfied and dissatisfied with the government’s record. In most opinion polling, Labour bounced back rapidly from the high 20s to the mid 30s (as soft left Lib Dems came straight back with the formation of the coalition) and consolidated a little below 40 per cent , fluctuating only slightly week by week. The Conservatives also gained support after the election, and seem to have a steady rating of around 40 per cent. The Liberal Democrats have suffered, their campaign polling ratings of around 30 per cent, and result of 23 per cent, sliding in stages down to the current norm of 12 per cent or so (in polling terms there is a methodological question – Lib Dem support seems to be rather higher than this in non-internet polling). In local authority by-elections, particularly the big elections in Exeter and Norwich, the pattern was of Labour making progress and the Lib Dems making surprisingly strong gains in some elections and humiliating wipe-outs in others. The conference season did not change any of this, although both Labour and Conservative seem to have had a short lived ‘bounce’ in support from their conferences. However, one must also note that the dominant discourse in politics, the media and more vaguely in general culture has shifted since the election; there has been a concerted process of ‘softening up’ public opinion for cuts, which seems to have been a successful operation. During the election, most voters favoured Labour’s gradual approach to deficit reduction (as did the Liberal Democrat party) but conventional wisdom has shifted a long way towards the Conservatives’ approach. Defining the agenda and the terms in which issues are discussed is even more important than winning any particular political debate, and this has probably been the most significant political development since the formation of the coalition. LIBERAL DEMOCRATS This was a...

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Lewis Baston: Evidence for Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill

Lewis Baston: Evidence for Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill

I am currently senior research fellow with Democratic Audit and it is under the auspices of Democratic Audit that I offer these observations on the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill. Previously I was Director of Research at the Electoral Reform Society (2003-2010) and I have been author and co-author of several books on political geography, most notably The Political Map of Britain. I am grateful to the Committee for inviting me to submit evidence. SUMMARY There are no serious problems with the provisions on a referendum. The timetable for the Bill itself, and the proposed boundary review, are both too rapid and prevent consideration of workable alternatives. The purported ‘problem’ addressed by the Bill is not a serious one. The electoral register is too incomplete and the totals too volatile to serve as a fair basis for the allocation of parliamentary constituencies, and these problems are likely to worsen over the next few years. An exception has been made for some islands and constituencies with large land areas, but there is no acknowledgement of other factors that impinge on the practicality of constituency representation (population, local identities, administrative complexity). A Commons size of 600 is arbitrary and seems not to reflect any analysis of the capacity and functions of MPs and the House in general. The banning of public inquiries is a severe and deplorable downgrading of public participation and transparency in the boundary process. (Excerpt from) Evidence of Lewis Baston, Democratic Audit 24 August 2010 Read Lewis Baston’s full submisson here (.doc) Please note that this material is the property of the Select Committee. Excerpts from Third Report of Select Committee (Download the full Third Report of the Select Committee here (pdf)) 68. The House of Commons, at 650 Members, is not much larger than the German Bundestag (622), the Italian Chamber of Deputies(630) and the French National Assembly (577). Lewis Baston, of Democratic Audit, has written that any international comparison fails to take account of the unique nature of the United Kingdom’s political structure: “Most comparisons with other countries with smaller lower houses and larger population miss the points that the US and Germany, for instance, have federal and state tiers of government, and the legislature in some countries like the US and France does not supply the ministerial bench.” In both the Bundestag and the French National Assembly, members of the Government do not occupy seats as Members of Parliament. Germany, as a federal republic, also has 16 state parliaments, with more than 1,800 members between them. 88. We have not as a Committee attempted to determine the precise level of variation from the electoral quota that would be appropriate  to achieve this goal: this...

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