David Herdson: The March PB Polling Average: it’s still neck-and-neck and Harry Hayfield’s by election preview

April 1st, 2015

The squeeze is on the smaller players

That cloud looks like a tree. Or a bird. Or a flower. It’s human nature to see patterns in chaos and further, to try to rationalise and explain those patterns. Hence earthquakes are still archaically ‘acts of God’. Hence also the interpretation of the four point Labour lead in the YouGov poll published after the Cameron-Miliband interviews and Q&A as a Miliband ‘win’. Given that YouGov routinely publish over 20 polls a month, we should expect at least one outlier and several others a bit out-of-true simply due to statistical noise. It turned out that one of these followed the ‘debate’, so providing a misleading impression.

In fact, over the month, the Tories firmed up their slender lead in the PB poll average, though I’m more confident about the reported lead than I was last month. In February, it rested mainly on one ICM poll which gave the Blues a 4-point lead and itself looked a bit of an outlier. This month, the picture is much more consistent across the five pollsters in the index. The figures are:

Con 34.5 (+0.5)
Lab 34.1 (+0.5)
UKIP 12.2 (+0.1)
LD 7.9 (+0.3)
Grn 5.7 (-1.3)
Oth 5.7 (-0.1)

While the overall picture at the top of the list remains much the same, the big change comes at the bottom. The polling story of the winter was the Green surge; rather ironically, with the green shoots of spring, that’s now faded: Bennett’s party has lost nearly a quarter of their vote since it peaked in January, though still stands substantially higher than it did this time last year, never mind at the last general election.

That drop looks to be part of a bigger picture, with the big two squeezing out the lesser players (in England and Wales at least). In November and December last year, the combined Con+Lab share was about 62.5%; it’s now fully six points higher.

Most of that change has come not from the Greens but from UKIP, who are broadly flat on the month. Late last year they were consistently scoring in the mid-teens, peaking at 16.4% in October. Like the Greens, they too are down by around a quarter since then, which may go a long way to explaining the simultaneous rise in the Conservative vote.

In one sense, David Cameron ought to be reasonably happy with March’s polling figures. Apart from a second consecutive monthly lead, the Conservative share of 34.5% is his party’s highest since March 2012 and within touching distance of its 2010 result. Or it would be if there weren’t a very large fly in the ointment in the shape of Labour’s own share, which is several points higher than Gordon Brown managed on polling day; probably enough to hand Labour a narrow lead in seats were it to be realised on May 7. The collapse of the Lib Dem vote – still just a third of what it was in 2010 and their second-lowest ever in the series in March – remains the largest of the several critical swings in play.

March’s figures are realistically the last meaningful set before the election. Although one can (and will) be compiled for April, the reality is that so much can happen over the course of an election campaign that an average is of less value. Likewise, the purpose of the PB Average – to strip out the noise of short-lived events and statistical fluctuation and identify the true direction of travel in opinion – is of less use when the vote itself is only a few days away (and in the case of postal votes, mostly over and done with). So what can we expect of April?

The main movements now, as across the parliament, are not directly between Con and Lab but between each of them and their respective opponents in their area of the ideological landscape. This will be one of the most multi-faceted elections ever and anticipating its outcome is like trying to predict a game of chess played at sea on a heptagonal board where someone’s greased the pieces beforehand and where several players can move at once: tricky. Nonetheless, the debate this week may well prove critical.

For UKIP and the Greens, the debate is their best chance to make their mark in the campaign and reverse their recent declines. As was noted on PBC recently, the main effect of granting UKIP major party status seems to have been not to give them extra coverage but to give the Lib Dems less (not unreasonably, given that the Lib Dems are likely to behind UKIP in votes and the SNP in seats). If one minor party scores a big hit or makes a serious gaffe, that’s likely to have a knock-on effect on the top-line – as in 2010 when Clegg zapped Cameron’s lead. If not, it’s probable that coverage will continue to focus heavily on Con and Lab (outside Scotland and NI), leading to further falls in the purple-green share.

David Herdson

Harry Hayfield’s by election preview

Whyteleafe on Tandridge (Con defence)

Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 34, Liberal Democrats 6, Independent 2 (Conservative majority of 26)

Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 457 (48%), Liberal Democrats 376 (40%), United Kingdom Independence Party 115 (12%)

Candidates duly nominated: Martin Ferguson (United Kingdom Independence Party), David Lee (Liberal Democrat), Peter Sweeney (Conservative)

It shows how bad things were for the Conservatives when in 1995, Tandridge in deepest Surrey, popped up as a Liberal Democrat win, however since those days the Liberal Democrats have been knocked not only out of power but for six as well (as that’s how many councillors they have left). In 2003, the earliest data I have, there were ten of them, the following year they reached their peak of 11.

But have been falling ever since. But as you can see from the result at the last election in 2012, it’s not that they have been knocked out completely and with Tandridge being the sort of area that UKIP have the potential to do very well indeed, could we see something that has been discussed in many quarters (and give a chance for the Liberal Democrats to retain a substantial number of MP’s), UKIP taking votes from the Conservatives in sufficent numbers to allow the Liberal Democrats to HOLD or even GAIN seats that might not have gone that way if UKIP were not standing?

Harry Hayfield


Tomorrow night is Nigel Farage’s big opportunity

April 1st, 2015

Farage’s ratings for a third party leader are pretty poor

With the seven way debate upon us shortly, I was trying to see the circumstances that led to the Cleggasm in April 2010.

Using the Ipsos-Mori leader satisfaction ratings as a proxy,  we can see how Nigel Farage’s net ratings compare to Clegg in March 2010.

Then in April 2010 the public for a short time, ended up liking someone they already liked a bit more.

Given that that Farage and UKIP are the recipients of the None of the Above voters that the Lib Dems used to attract, and are effectively the third party of Great British wide politics, in the polls at least, compared to his predecessors of the third party/second opposition party, Farage’s ratings aren’t that good.

This may be a by product of the voters’ perception of UKIP, which sees them as the most extreme and least fit to govern party,  as the most sleazy and disreputable party, and a racist party likely to have candidates with racist/extreme views.

So does this mean no Faragasm tomorrow night? I suspect the format of the debate is what is more likely to stop a Fargasm tomorrow night rather than Nigel’s poor ratings as a third party leader, but it does present Farage an opportunity to regain the UKIP voters he seems to have misplaced recently, as Lord Ashcroft’s marginals polling today was the latest to confirm this trend.



Lord Ashcroft finds Clegg in trouble in Sheffield Hallam but the LDs holding as well can be expected elsewhere

April 1st, 2015

At this stage not naming the candidates becomes a defect


Boost for the Tories as the economy once again becomes the top issue

April 1st, 2015

A good start for the Crosby campaign

The numbers in the YouGov issues trackers tables say it all. Big jumps for the economy to top slot as top issue facing the country and you/your family.

This suggests that the opening salvoes of the campaign from Cameron and Co are the ones hitting home at least in this first phase.

Health, LAB top issue is down at third in the top table and second in the first. It is however top issue for that key group of swing voters – the 2010 LDs.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


LAB regains YouGov lead and Newsnight index has gap down to 2 seats

March 31st, 2015

My guess is that the Newsnight change is largely down to the new ComRes Scotland poll which is a tad more positive for LAB than other surveys.


Labour’s London progress could be masking a bigger trend: the party’s putting on most support where it doesn’t need it

March 31st, 2015

The latest spate of London polls has been very positive for Labour with vote shares in the capital up 9% or more on 2010. It really does look as though the party is going to do very well there.

The only problem is that there aren’t that many CON targets apart from Hendon, Brentford & Isleworth,Enfield North, Ealing Central Acton, Croydon Central. Obviously the party’s got hopes in two or three Lib Dem seats but these are nothing like as important as gains from CON.

    In terms of being top party on seats each CON seat that LAB takes has the same impact as two gains from the LDs

As we’ve discussed here before FPTP elections are as much about where your vote is rather than how many. So if LAB is putting on a disproportionate increase of votes in one group of seats, London for instance, then that will be reflected in smaller elsewhere.

London has 73 constituencies out of a total English contingent of 533.

New ComRes Scottish phone poll points to 28 lost LAB seats


This poll is the first of its kind and is restricted to just the Scottish seats that Labour currently holds. The picture is what we’ve seen with other forms of polling and confirms the difficulties that exist north of the border. It’s estimated that this polling points to Labour losing 28 seats to the SNP.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


CON retains its TNS 1% lead, encouraging YouGov ratings news for Ed, and the CON spread lead moves up to 14

March 31st, 2015

The second morning of GE2015

TNS, with its new online polling series, becomes the first internet firm since the Paxo events to report a CON lead, albeit a small one.

The LAB camp, meanwhile, will take some heart from the range of EdM findings featured above. The key thing here is the direction they are going. “Would he be up to the job of being PM?” – was 23 to 59 in February while the latest has that at 30 to 45. The recovery seems to be all coming from LAB voters who now back their man by 79% to 9.

I’ve long taken the view that Ed ratings amongst those who support the party are a good pointer. Labour’s got to maximise its vote on May 7th if it has to have a chance then faith in the leadership amongst party voters is key.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


How the CON to LAB swing has been changing in the marginals

March 31st, 2015

What will tomorrow’s polls show – UP or DOWN?

The first number I hunt out when Lord Ashcroft publishes a new set of marginals’ polling is the average CON to LAB swing in the seats being surveyed. This gives a good pointer to the way things are going.

Tomorrow the good Lord is providing us with eight more separate constituency polls with the usual 1,000 sample in each.

The chart shows the movement in the swing in each wave of polling in LAB facing CON-held seats over the past year. The big move in his most recent wave was a small LAB recovery though the numbers are nothing like as good for the red team as they were last May.

What is tomorrow going to show?

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble