Corbyn’s leader rating with YouGov drops to a calamitous minus 41% (Updated with YouGov chart)

December 1st, 2015


Win the definitive book of the 2015 General Election in the PB Oldham by-election competition

December 1st, 2015


Will the collective view of PBers once again get the outcome right?

Using the bespoke NoJam template you will need to enter vote shares down to 2 decimal points for the parties. The prize will go to the person with the smallest overall error.

With previous PB by-election competitions the collective view of PBers has been a pretty accurate guide to the final outcome. Let’s see if we can do it again.

All the entries can be seen here. As usual I am in my absolute discretion the total arbiter of all matters relating to the competition. Entries close on Wednesday at 1700 GMT.

I am pleased to announce that Palgrave has agreed to provide a prize of a copy of the Cowley/Kavanagh book on GE2015. The winner will receive the prize once the book is published later this month. I find that past volumes in this series are an absolutely vital resource and record of what happened together with insightful psephological analysis. They are also a good read.

Click on the menu to check what others are doing and the overall summary prediction.

Thanks to Mark Hopkins Nojam for creating the competition widget.

Mike Smithson


Imagine what next Monday’s PLP meeting is going to be like if LAB loses Oldham

December 1st, 2015


Another Tuesday morning after the LAB meeting the night before

It’s Tuesday morning and like many other Tuesdays since Mr Corbyn had his huge victory in the Labour leadership election the political news is dominated by what happened at the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Last night the massive chasm between Corbyn and his MPs never appeared wider and it is hard to see how this can get any better. This is the new normality.

Corbyn has not helped himself by some unwise appointments. The role that he’s given Ken Livingston on defence looks like a massive mistake which has been exacerbated by the former Mayor’s comments on 7/7.

    For the time being the LAB leader and his MPs are stuck with each other in a loveless forced marriage and will be for the foreseeable future.

It’s in this context that Thursday’s Oldham West and Royton by-election takes place. This is a seat, remember, that Labour won with a majority of 34% on May 7th. The very idea that this could be vulnerable is breathtaking in itself.

If that happens the widespread perception that Corbyn is an electoral liability will be confirmed and you can bet that the LAB MPs who are most hostile to their leader will use it as pretext to put the pressure on even more.

On the other hand a victory, however small, might ease the jitters and give Mr Corbyn some respite.

Mike Smithson


Betting on a UKIP by-election upset in the absence of hard polling

November 30th, 2015

Alastair Meeks gives his view

Oldham West & Royton should have been a spectacularly boring by-election.  It is a previously-safe Labour seat held at the last general election by a leftwing MP with a thumping majority and an absolute majority of votes cast.  To gain it, UKIP would require a swing of 17.1%.  Such a swing would be remarkable against a party of government, never mind against a party of opposition.  In normal circumstances, you would expect a very comfortable Labour hold.

These are not normal circumstances.  Labour seem to be testing to destruction the concept of a core vote by stage managing a procession of calamities and internal feuding to climax just in time for the by-election vote.  As a result, a string of nervous accounts of canvassing have been percolating out from Labour activists via twitter and newspaper articles.  Might Labour actually manage the previously unimaginable and lose this seat?

We do not have any published opinion polls to clutter our thinking (which is perhaps just as well given how they led us astray in the general election) so we are thrown back on first principles.

By chance, we have four recent by-elections in the vicinity from the last Parliament as comparison points: Oldham East & Saddleworth, Manchester Central, Heywood & Middleton and Wythenshawe & Sale East.  The first three of these constituencies are adjacent to Oldham West & Royton – there must be something in the water round there.  In all four, Labour actually increased its share of the vote at the by-election.  Turnout dropped in all four: least in Oldham East & Saddleworth (which had been a marginal), where turnout was at 78% of its general election level, and most in Wythenshawe & Sale East, where turnout was 51.9% of its general election level.

Clearly if Labour increases its share of the vote in this by-election it will hold the seat.  No one seems to think that it will do anything like that well.  It has been suggested that at least half of its general election voters will not turn out for it on 2 December.  However, while worse than in any of the four by-elections referred to above, that wouldn’t be all that bad.  If Labour retain only 50% of their votes from the general election and UKIP turn out two thirds of their vote from the general election, UKIP would still need to find almost as many votes again to overtake Labour.

So UKIP would need to secure direct defections from Labour, improve the turnout of its own general election support and harness tactical Conservative votes in its cause.  It is important to grasp that UKIP need to make substantial numbers of new converts come what may – if they turn out every last one of their general election supporters and get no new supporters, they are left hoping that 37% or fewer of Labour supporters in May turn out.  Even for a dark wet day in December against a party led by a man who has not yet gained the demeanour of a vote winner, hoping for such a spectacular vote strike looks like a losing strategy to me.

UKIP have no doubt been particularly focussing on getting direct defections from Labour simply because there are more Labour voters to go at in this constituency.  If Labour turnout is 50% of their May vote and UKIP turn out two thirds of their vote, UKIP will snatch the seat if they can persuade a third of the former Labour supporters to back their cause and twist the arms of a quarter of the Conservative support to lend them their votes.

Is that doable?  Maybe, but make no mistake, it would be a landmark success for UKIP if it were done.  Conservative voters don’t have much of a track record of tactical voting but equally Jeremy Corbyn’s polling levels with Conservatives are dismal even for a Labour leader, so who knows?  Perhaps fewer than 50% of Labour’s May voters will turn out.  If that figure drops towards the low 40s, Labour look in deep trouble.

Enough of the numbers, what is actually going on?  No one really seems too sure, which is perhaps not that surprising in a constituency that will have not been subject to extensive canvassing in the past.  Labour will be reliant on their experience in running a postal voting operation while UKIP, unusually, have the benefit of the experience of a seasoned local campaigner in Joe Fitzpatrick (who when still with Labour masterminded Phil Woolas’ subsequently-overturned victory in 2010 in Oldham East & Saddleworth).

The consensus of the various field reports seems to be that Labour will hold with a small majority; some have mentioned a majority in the hundreds.  That smacks of herding rather than insight to me, given the sketchiness of the information.

Current best prices are Labour 1/3 and UKIP 5/2 (both prices are available with a range of bookies).  You can get 11/4 on Betfair as I write.  Labour are rightly favourites and might yet win with a decent majority but the chances of a UKIP win on the information that we possess look a bit better than one in three.  I’m already on UKIP at 11/4 and longer and I’m not topping up, but if I were starting from scratch I’d be backing UKIP now.

Given that this by-election is not going to help choose the next government and given that Jeremy Corbyn is reportedly not attracting the admiration of the typical Oldham voter, turnout is likely to suffer.  Ladbrokes previously offered an over/under line at 44.5%, which seemed very generous.  This has now been updated to 37.5% (5/6 over or under, according to your preference).  This would place the drop in turnout from the general election very close to the average of the four nearby by-elections in the last Parliament.  If like me you think that turnout is going to drop by more than usual, take the under side of this bet.

Whatever happens, this by-election is going to prove educational.  If Labour win well, we should take careful note of Labour’s efficient expectations management.  Any other result is grim for the red team.  We can rest assured that in that case the reasons will be debated at length.

Alastair Meeks


New large sample poll finds just 43% of GE2015 LAB voters saying they approve of Corbyn as party leader

November 30th, 2015

The more educated you are the more likely you’ll approve of JC as LAB leader

This is a new venture by Ian Warren of Election Data who in the run-up to GE2015 provided analysis for two of the main parties. He devised the questions and provided the analysis. YouGov did the fieldwork. The initial release relates to just English adults – other parts are to follow.

Overall amongst the entire sample Corbyn had 23% saying they approved of him with 52% saying they didn’t. Cameron, by comparison had 37% approval to 42% disapproval.

There’s a huge amount of data in the poll on how party allegiances have changed since GE2015 – I have focused in this first post on Corbyn’s approval rating to which the question was “To what extent do you approve or disapprove of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party”.

The years of education chart is very revealing because it was the older generations who finished their formal time at school/college the earliers.

Corbyn has his best approval ratings from the youngest segment who are least likely to be on the electoral register and least likely to vote.

What we don’t have is any comparative data. This is all new.

Corbyn’s opponents within his party will no doubt register these numbers.

Mike Smithson


Welcome to week 13 of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

November 30th, 2015


His supporters now saying that EdM was a Tory

This looks set to be massive political week with Syria and, of course, on Thursday the first by-election of the 2015 parliament.

Just about everything in British politics is now looked at through the prism of the impact on Labour’s new leadership. Is Corbyn going to try to impose a whip on his party to oppose Syrian air-strikes and what happens to his party either way?

The by-election is looking tighter and tighter and at 5/2 on Betfair UKIP must be the value bet.

    A big UKIP message in Oldham to LAB supporters is that a victory for them could help end Corbyn’s leadership. That could resonate and might encourage Labour stay-at-homes.

In the meantime the young LAB activist and former EdM loyalist, whose Oldham Tweets I reported in the previous thread, is being told that the former LAB leader is a Tory. The world’s gone mad

There’s some interesting Corbyn polling due.

Mike Smithson


The first hand experiences of a Labour canvasser in Oldham

November 29th, 2015


The favourite to be next Labour leader has now decided he wants Corbyn’s job

November 29th, 2015

Someone in the Parliamentary Labour Party is going to have to take one for the team if they want Corbyn gone.

In today’s Independent on Sunday, Jane Merrick writes

I understand that [Dan] Jarvis now wants to be Labour leader – and when a vacancy arises he will go for it. He is not perfect, and he will not be the only candidate. Yet Jarvis can count on more support than he would have had earlier this summer. The question is, in what form will that vacancy arise – in a bloody coup or when Corbyn decides to stand down? For Jarvis’s prospects to survive, he cannot be part of any plot.

Rightly or wrongly the current Labour leadership are seen as unpatriotic, the easiest way to undo that perception is to elect as leader someone who has served in the armed forces. Step forward Major Dan Jarvis, the Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central, this gives him an advantage over most of the other contenders to replace Corbyn. Labour does have form for replacing a pacifist leader with an ex major, when Major Clement Attlee replaced George Lansbury whose pacifism was rejected at the 1935 Labour party conference.

But I think the lesson of the 1990 Tory leadership of “he who wields the knife never wears the crown” is influencing those who want Corbyn gone, personal ambitions of many may stop Corbyn being toppled as it was clear from Corbyn’s interview with Andrew Marr this morning where Corbyn said “I’m not going anywhere” that he won’t be going voluntarily.


PS – Though it would be remiss of me not to mention that a lot of Labour’s current travails stem from a former Army Major, Eric Joyce whose problems caused him to stand down as an MP and the process to choose his replacement in Falkirk became so troublesome that Ed Miliband changed the way Labour leaders are elected, if Ed Miliband hadn’t it would be very unlikely Jeremy Corbyn would have become Labour Leader.