Category Archives: opinion polls

The State of the Parties 3: the UKIP Lightening Conductor

We are now entering a critical phase of this electoral cycle: local elections, parliamentary elections, further local elections, the European elections and the Scottish referendum on independance The outcomes of these elections will set the agenda for the next General Election. In this cycle, the fortunes of UKiP will determine the outcome of the General Election So long as UKIP’s standing in national polls is in excess of 10 percent, and it now stands at 13 percent in some polls, the Tories cannot win a General Election and Labour will be handicapped in the drive for a majority at Westminster. It is an easy prediction to make that UKIP is likely to top the Euro polls and at some time during 2014 will be showing, in some national opinion polls, support in the 20’s before a decline as the General Election approaches.

I assume that Scottish voters stay in control of their good senses and will vote No in the Scottish referendum. If so one would expect electoral support for the SNP to decline and a recovery of the Labour vote at Westminster to take place in Scotland. If this occurs then Laboiur would be diffiult to defeat in Westminster elections.

While economic predictions are foolhardy the odds are on poor economic performance up to May 2015. The best the Tories can hope for is slow growth, stable employment and a deficit edging slowly downwards. There will be little prospect of electoral bribes. This being so it is safe to predict that the chance of a Tory majority at the next
General Election are near to zero.

What then are the prospects for the Lib Dems? I do not under-rate the resiliance of the Lib Dems. However, if in the public mind they remain linked to the Tories in Coalition a reasonable prediction is that their parliamntsary position would decline substantially with a loss of 30-40 MPs. It would follow from this that it would be
most unlikely that they could play any part in a national coalition with any other party.

In these circumstances I would expect UKIP to win some Westminster seats at the expense of the Coalition parites but not enought seats to achieve any tactical advantage.

If this analysis is broadly right we would haver had a further shake in the party system that could in some circumstance lead to paralysis. As the economic circumstasnces inherited by a new Labour Government would be difficult if not dire Britain might emerge from the experiment of Coalition in a virtually ungovernable

All this will become clearer to participants and pundits. Will those individuals at the heart of this disaster do nothing? I have never believed that they would behave as rabbits staring into car lights. The Coalitiion will break up and David Cameron could be confronted with a leadership election before May 2015.


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Barnsley: Worse to Come

The Barnsley Parliamentary By Election humiliation for the Coalition parties does not come as a surprise. There is worse to come. A North-South divide  with Labour dominating the vote in Scotland, Wales and Northern England and the Tories, and to a certain extent the Lib Dems, in the South, South East and South West of England has been evident for decades. New Labour and the growth of Lib Dem support in the South has muddied this picture but the rift remains.

Even if an optimistic view is taken on economic recovery, the scale of Government cuts in expenditure and a lowering of household disposable incomes for years ahead is bound to alienate whole communities across Britain but especially in Labour areas of the country. The Lib Dems, in particular, will pay a heavy electoral price: Council and Assembly votes in May are likely to result in the virtual elimination of the Lib Dems in working class communities in huge swathes of the country. Both Coalition parties are likely to huddle together in what until recently has been the Tory south. Paradoxically, the Lib Dem vote in Council By Elections  in the South has held up and the party has gained some Tory seats. This is an historic pattern of Colaitions of the right and centre over more than 100 years of their temporary emergence and is likely to make more probable the eventual merger of them. While I do not wish to exagerate the similarities between the platforms of the Coalition partners, I do believe it to be true that there a few real differences between the radical economic liberals on  right of the Lib Dems and the social liberals of the Tories: they are cut from the same cloth.

Absurd comparisons between the political and social revolutions underway in the Middle East and Africa and the future we face  together in Britain are best avoided. However, there is a relevant question for we Britons. Are British people going to accept, will ordinary people up and down the country stomach, the destruction of the welfare state, a dramatic lowering of household disposable income and the loss of many jobs, Will the public go quietly when the NHS fails to hold on to many advances, in particular shorter waiting lists for hospital appointments, and the middle classes joining the dole queues?  Of course, of course, I hear you mutter. There will always be a stolid majority for social pain – so long as it doesn’t affect us and  others like us. But will this be true this time?

Well, the Coalition has been busy fixing the Constitutional rules so that it is more difficult to get rid of them. Five years of it and not a drop less has been their resolution. Political memories are short is their belief. But is there not a valid political question? What do people do when it becomes more difficult to throw out one Parliament and elect another. Do people up and down our orderly and responsible society take to the streets? If denied the one sure constitutional method will many people choose another? Surely not. But hold on.  After all we have seen the television pictures of peoples demanding change. This is the tele/internet age. If it works for them why not us? Don’t shoot we’re British is our shout. Of course, our needs are obvious.  Oblivion is what we need now, the bottle and the pills that is what happens in the TV soaps. Oh and throwing something as well. Come off it!

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Getting On With It

Than you Charlie for coming along. I always value your contribution, Same as usual then, No, not the whisky. Confidential and discrete. OK?

Charlie, I would like you to report that this is  a government that is getting on with it. All those years sitting on the Opposition benches, listening to prevarication, the ifs and buts and maybe’s!. I made a resolution when we got power we would put an end to it and get things done, decisive, resolute and immovable.

Hold it Dave. Aren’t you running a very big risk. The more you do the less you think. Slap bang. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. That’s very unfair. We do sometimes make mistakes but we are bold people – we backtrack. Take shool sports. Gove made a hopeless mess of it but we changed direction as quick as a flash. Why, you  can hardly spot the seam. What about the things you couldn’t change and can’t put right. Give me an example. Child Allowance and the absurdity of the income levels. Gotcha. Hold on Charlie. We have a budget in three week’s time. Time enough to fiddle it right.

Well done Dave I concede you a few points there. But what about bigger things than these. The NHS reform. All the experts agree that this could go horribly wrong with standards of service falling and at this time next Winter, when you are hoping for some cheer in the opinion polls,  you could have several hospital closures. Charlie boy, you are too dismal. We shall get these reforms right and by the time we get to the polls in four years time the public will begin to recognise our success. That’s the whole point really. Get the difficult things out of the way at the very beginning, endure the sniping and set backs and the sweep to victory in 2015. I learn’t that from Tony Blair.

Dave, if this was warefare and I your senior officer I would never promote  or engage you in  a  serious military campaign. Solidity, caution, a care of casualties , the awarenes that the enemy can be ingenious and resolute. These are the qualities of the successful senior officer. These qualities you have not. Well Charlie, this is not a military campaign. No its not. Let’s take big business. For these large-scale endeavours you have some good qualites: panache, confidence and quick-wittedness. But I wouldn’t have you here either. Charlie, why not?  I think I would be a big success. Sometimes I wish I had taken that route. Several reasons. Over-confidence and a lack of attention to detail, Dave. The House of Commons has cottoned on to that so why not the general public? What will happen is that there will be an almighty cock up on a matter the public cares deeply about. And that will be that Dave. You will be for the high jump.

Too dismal Charlie. I’m so quick we shall have moved on and the public will hardly notice. Have another whisky. Bottoms up.

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Let’s Play Consequences

The electorate is a sceptical lot. So far that has worked in favour of the Coalition. After all it has to be accepted by reasonable people that the budget deficit must be lowered as rapidly as possible and if the OBR tells us that there will be more people in employment  by the end of 2011 then who will gainsay them. Opposition doomsayers predicting a 1930’s style depression  for some years can be safely shrugged aside. ‘They would say that wouldn’t they’ being  a common reaction. However, today’s increase in the  unemployment figures may make a difference to all that. Whichever way you look at it these are grim figures. So far the Coalition has benefited from the Labour fiscal stimulus and the first economic upturns in world trade. But as the blessed Gordon has told us there has been no follow through internationally to a viable global economic growth stategy. The moment has been lost and the monetarists have had their day. Goodness! Might Gordon (blessed be his name)  have been right all along? 

So far the Tories have been continued to ride high in the opinion polls at around 40 percent , marginally higher than in the General Election  while the Lib Dems have incurred the  public wrath with 60 percent of their vote disappearing. As the recession grips this will change , although given the nature of Tory  support among the affluent it is likely that support will  remain in the 30’s. The Tory position relies on  self-engendered high levels of confidence and David Cameron’s exuberant leadership. It can be expected that he will lash himself to the mast as the storms break upon the ship of state but not all the crew will remain. Some will cower below deck while others will wash overboard. The storm reaches an early climax in May with local and assembly elections and the AV referendum.

It is not all cheer for Ed Milliband. He has sought to play a long game and to plead unpreparedness for an early tilt at power. Might it not be desirable to build an acceptable platform much earlier than he has supposed? Come on Ed, get on with it. I have always believed that there should be good odds for an early General Election, say June 2011. I notice that the smart money has shifted  to it with the odds shortening  from 20/1 to 4/1. There is still time for you to put your money on. 

And a word to the besieged Lib Dems. Jump now while you have the opportunity to do so. Labour could do a deal not to oppose Lib Dem MPs linking  loosely with Labour at least in those seats in the south where the Libs may still have a chance. After all if the ship is sinking who could blame you for wishing to save yourselves.

You might think that I am in advance of my self and you would be right. But judgement is crucial in politics as in life itself. For God’s sake jump, your country needs you.

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Say No to the Referendum

Today the House of Commons debates the Referendum Bill which proposes a mix of hybrid measures including a Referendum on the Alternative Vote electoral system. The Coalition Tories and the Lib Dems will vote for it while Labour and some backbench Tories will vote against. At the General Election the party positions were reversed Labour proposed a referendun and the Coalition parties opposed. It is reasonable to assume that this Bill is not about reform. It’s purpose is to sustain the Coalition in power. A referendum is about genuflecting in the direction of a reform that no one wants. 

The Coalition is obsessed with holding on to power. A referendum is part of a price paid by the Tories for Lib Dem support of Tory economic policies which they opposed in the General Election. The Lib Dems are willing to go through the motions of achieving an electoral reform which its members do not support as part of the fairy-tale that the price paid for their public office is a fair one.

The Bill contains measures to reduce the number of contituencies by the simple application of the guiding principle that there are too many MPs, despite a rising population, and that the  electorate should be roughly equal in every constituency. Two Lib Dem held seats in Scotland are seen as an exception to the rule but in reality there are many others. The Boundaries Commission considers much more than numbers. It looks for natural communites. Some of these are below an average size  and some have more electors. Now the Commision is to be harried into a process much quicker than it prefers and to conclusions it would nomally resist. It is common knowledge than many electors are not registered to vote and past actions to get all that are entitled onto electoral lists have been inadequate. A Constituency that seems to be on the small side would often reach a national average if potential voters were identified and encouraged to be on the list. A compulsory voting system, which I would prefer, could ensure that every adult was  on the list and did vote. This is not part of the Bill.

If there were a General Election now the opinion polls suggest that the Tories might win. Whenever the election is called there is little doubt that the Lib Dems will be heavily defeated. 

There is every reason for the Labour Party to oppose the Referendum. It is Labour’s duty to bring down the Coalition as soon as it can to prevent changes in British Society that will make it a less just and prosperous society. This is not a time for fine words and delicate consciences. It is a moment to sound the bugle and to oppose.

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Coalition Weather Forecast

I have been reminding myself of the political history of coalition governments in recent times. There has been more of it than is commonly realised. In pre war Britain there was considerably  more: thirteen out of twenty five years. These governments  were born of crisis; the  result of a lack of national  confidence, of war and economic depression. These crises render it difficult to assess the effectiveness. of coalition governments. Arguably they lengthened and deepened the Great Depression and coalition foreign policy did nothing to deter the Fascist threat to world peace, and their defence policies weakened Britain’s ability to defend itself. It is wrongly believed by political opinion today that  Conservative dominated governments are committed to effective defence and robust foreign policy – a recollection associated with Winston Churchill –  but the facts speak otherwise. Even in more recent times Conservatism has led to weak defence policy and the run-down of our armed forces.

However, a balanced judgement of the effectiveness of these coalitions would give them a fair-wind. On the whole they have been popular and when tested in the polls they have consistently scored  52-57 percent of the vote (very similar to the current Coalition rating of 55 percent). While the thirties were  a bad time for the numerous unemployed they were thought of favourably by those in work: rising real standards of living and falling house prices benefited the middle classes and the employed and Britain and Britons dozed while Europe descended into chaos and dictatorship.

In the end these coalitions failed and the causes and circumstances of failure were common. The crises that created them were resolved and when given the opportunity of severance the parties that constiuted them reverted to their tribal loyalties. Goodbyes were said without regret. Who lost out? Liberals have always been the losers and the Conservative Party the winners. (1931 and 1945 are obvious exceptions). Although coalition in 1931 propped up the Labour  Party more often than not it was the loser. The Conservatives always gained.

The Lib Dems in entering this present Coalition are propping up and de-toxifying the Conservatives (thank you very much). But  they are flirting with disaster. They have bought some period of time of time  in government and a chance to influence policy but they risk many more years of ineffectiveness. But none of this is inevitable. History tells us that in the end it is the individual who shapes destiny. Providing the Lib Dems stick close to the Tories and its leadership exercises good judgement, and given the chemistry between Clegg and Cameron, some element of Liberalism will stick to government and thus Lib Dems will have influence, perhaps, for more than one Parliament : a new breed of Con/Lib, National Lib/Con politicians will arise.  But goodbye Lib Dem councillors, farewell Scotland, Wales and northern Britain and hello southern and western England.

The sixty four million dollar question  is how long will this Coalition last given that its days are numbered? It depends on you, dear citizen, and on the ability of the Labour party to rebuld itself and become relevant to the future. It must get its head out of the last thirteen years if it is to mount a challenge. In many ways they were good years and Labour can be proud of its achievements but it is no longer the time for gazing at one’s naval. The time has come the walrus said to think of other things. Go on then , think of them.

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General Election, June/July 2011?

I made a public prediction within a month of the formation of the Coalition that electoral support for the Lib Dems would decline steadily to single figures in the public opinion polls. Last week, in a Yougov Poll,  it had fallen from 23% in the General Election to 12% now. It will fall further through a pre-budget statement (if we have one), the budget itself and the local elections in May. In the autumn I expect Labour to be given a boost by the election of a new leader ( assuming this not to be Diane Abbot). The Lib Dems usually do better in local elections than their national opinion poll rating might suggest.  Nevertheless, if their opinion poll rating at that time is, say, 8 per cent, they will do badly. If Labour decides to mount a national campaign to oppose the AV alternative to first past the post in a referendum, and given the likely low level of Lib Dem electoral support at the time, the alternative  vote option will be lost. And where will the Lib Dems be then, poor things, where will they be then?

In Conservative Party Central office lies on a few desks the result of a recent survey of the opinions of party members on the future of the Coalition. The Tories are not fools. They have tested members with the question, ‘Would you support a single Lib Dem Coalition  candidate in selected areas and seats in elections?’ The results will be interesting. (Shouldn’t the Tories be asked about these survey results?) What price will Tories be willing to pay up and down the country to preserve the Coalition? If the Coalition itself is unpopular at the time, in May, I assume it would not help much. And what of the Lib Dems? Are their members willing to stand on a Coalition ticket? I suspect than many, if not most, would decline. There is Nick Clegg’s own position in Sheffield. Isn’t there an imminent and real danger that he will lose his seat if he stands as a Lib Dem candidate with a Tory running against him. There may be a heavy price to be paid for abandoning Sheffield Forgemasters.

This is the way of all Con/Lib Coalitions. The weaker party comes out worse for the arrangement. There will be Lib Dems who will run in some sort of Liberal /Conservative colours and others who refuse to do so. Wise Lib Dem cabinet members will get out while the going is good but others will remain and fight on as  Liberal Conservatives. If the margin of support is small at the time between Labour and the Conservatives an extra 4-6 pecent of the vote sticking to Lib/Con candidates could be decisive. These calculations are difficult. It may be in the interest of the Tories and Nick Clegg to cut and run before these difficulties overwhelm them. What should Labour do when the leadership issue is settled? I shall return to this theme in future blogs. We will not get any wiser by listening in to Labour leadership debates.

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Lock Up Your Daughters

Two independent reviews of British crime statistics have given them a clean bill of health. Indeed they reveal and confirm dramatic reductions in recorded crime which has reached  the lowest level since 1981. Much of the recent decline in crime can reasonably be attrributed to the policies pursued by the Labour Government since 1997.  You might  expect the Conservatives to issue a public apology for all its nonsense on  the Broken Society, would you not? No chance. I have pointed out the tendancy of the Coalition when caught out in a lie is to lie some more. Strong words, yes! But true. 

Here are two examples. A Home Office Minister said it remained true that Britain was one of the most crime ridden societies in the world. Oh, come on. It is universally recognised that international comparisons are notoriously misleading and any quotation must be given with a health warning. I quote one such warning,  ‘ Crime statistics are often better indicators of law enforcement and the willingness to report cime than actual prevalence.’ Quite so. In Britain more policemen, more tools at their disposal, CCTV cameras and a big DNA database, more arrests, more people in prison. Secondly, Teresa May is quoted as saying that there is something wrong with these statistics which are known to her and which have eluded the experts and that she is conducting a review of how offences are recorded and presented. Cut it out! You are not a criminologist and certainly not a statistical guru. Of course the police could alter the way they record crime – perhaps they should – BUT even if they did these crimes would still be falling. There is no such problem with the British Crime Survey. The decline in crime is accurately described by the public itself. Don’t take my word for it. Read the reports published yesterday. There are costs in not telling the truth: higher levels of anxiety among the general public than is reasonable  and mistrust of the police. My advice to the Coalition is stop lying and live with the truth.

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I Am Mr Average

I am Mr Average but not the Man on the Clapham omnibus you understand. (laughter). Frankly, I do not think he ever existed, but the kind of guy you would recognise as someone who  might live in your street. Actually, I do your live in your street. (laughter). You wish to know, and I am pleased to tell you, how I am getting on in these troubled times. The short answer to this is fine. I’m OK. I have kept my job, you see. I work in the City for a reliable firm. I am reliable and, if I flatter myself, consciencious. No salary increase this year, but what the hell, we are all in this together aren’t we and I’m glad to keep my job? Every morning I drive to the nearest underground station. I have an arrangement to park in someone’s drive and then I go in by train. I read a book. Our library is closed now, more’s the pity, but I can change my book in town  on Saturday mornings when we go shopping.Things are tighter for our family because my wife, Sarah, lost her part time job, and we have had to make some changes. She is down in the dumps because this job gave her some independance, which is a good thing.  No Saturday maths tuition for Wayne, more’s the pity for he is a bit slow. I used to help him but I can’t  now. Some people think that education standards have slipped but, frankly, I can’t do the sums he has difficulty with. Are we worse off? I’ll tell you our secret. We have a variable rate mortgage and we are better off, we pay a lot less as a result of lower interest rates. I can’t tell you how helpful this is to us. Of course overall our standards have slipped but we are managing. I am a Tory voter and this is a Tory seat. Frankly, I like it this way. A better class of people, don’t you think? But as I am confessing here, I have voted Labour in the past and Labour did some good things. Don’t you agree? I don’t think I like this Coalition much. Of course, politicians working together is a good thing but you know the  jokes ‘what do you get if you cross a  sheep with a kangaroo? A woolly jumper!’ A good joke that. I often tell it. Looking ahead ? Things will get worse before they get better. They usually do. But if I were to lose my job, perish the thought, it wouldn’t, the future I mean. How will I vote next time? I don’t know. In our office none of us know. We put on a brave face and pray a little. Nothing wrong with that. What do I think of Cameron? He’s a bright fellow. Very energetic, hyper active they called it in Wayne’s class, smarms his hair down, going bald, but I don’t suppose you meant that, did you? No, I thought not. Well I’ll tell you a secret. I don’t like yahboo politics. Learnt that at Eton I expect (laughter). Cleggie? Well I think he looks an unhappy man. Not good for confidence in a politician. But then we all have our problems don’t we?

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