Did Brexit Influence the General Election 2017 Result?

In the year following the EU Referendum, I wrote a number of posts utilizing Chris Hanretty’s estimates of the vote split by constituency for England and Wales. Hanretty estimates that 421 of the 573 constituencies in England and Wales voted to leave. These estimates were necessary as the vote was counted by different – and mostly larger – areas than the parliamentary constituencies.

Politically, my major conclusion was that it was the Labour Party who could potentially suffer more from Brexit. There are two major reasons for this situation.

First, is that the Labour constituencies had a far greater spread of views than the Conservative constituencies. This is in both the divergence between regions and the disproportionate numbers of constituencies that are were either extreme Remain or extreme Leave in the referendum. Figure 1 is for the result for constituencies with Conservative MPs in 2016, and Figure 2 for constituencies with Labour MPs.

Figure 1: Constituencies in England and Wales with Conservative MPs in 2016, by estimated Leave or Remain Band. 

Figure 2: Constituencies in England and Wales with Labour Party MPs in 2016, by estimated Leave or Remain Band. 

In particular, London, where much of the current Labour Leadership are based, has views on the EU diametrically opposed views to the regions where most of the traditional Labour vote resides. Further analysis, from July 2016, is here.

Second, is the profile of the Leave supports. Based on an extensive poll conducted by Lord Ashcroft on EU Referendum day, Leave support was especially strong on those retired on a State Pension, council and housing association tenants, those whose formal education did not progress beyond secondary school, and the C2DEs. That is, groups that traditionally disproportionately vote Labour. Further details, from May 2017, are here.

Yet, the results of the snap General Election in June 2017 suggest that it was the Conservatives that suffered from Brexit. Despite their share of the popular vote increasing by over 5%, to the highest share in 25 years, they had a net loss of 13 seats and lost their majority. Labour increased their share of the vote by 10%, but only had a net gain of 30 seats.

Do the positions on Brexit appear to have had an influence? The Conservatives were seeking a stronger mandate for the Brexit negotiations, whilst Labour strongly avoided taken a firm position one way or the other. Chris Hanretty has revised his estimates, with the number of Leave-majority constituencies in England and Wales reduced from 421 to 401. The general picture is unchanged from the previous analysis. I have taken these revised figures, put them into the eight bands used previously and compared to the full election results available from the House of Commons Library.

The main seat results are in Figure 3.

Main points from Figure 3 (for England and Wales) are

  • Conservatives had a net loss of 25 seats, 14 of which likely voted Remain in the EU Referendum and 11 likely voted Leave. Remain seats reduced by 18% and Leave seats by 4%.
  • All 6 gains from Labour were in strongly Remain constituencies. This includes Copeland, which was gained in a by-election in early 2017 and retained in the General Election.
  • Labour had a net gain of 24 seats, 13 of which likely voted Remain in the EU Referendum and 11 likely voted Leave. Remain seats increased by 16% and Leave seats by 7%.

Figure 4 is the average percentage change in the constituency vote from 2015 to 2017 for the Conservative Party.

Main point from Figure 4 for the Conservative Party is

  • The estimated Referendum vote is a strong predictor of change in Conservative Party vote share from 2015 to 2017 General Election.

Figure 5 is the average percentage change in the constituency vote from 2015 to 2017 for the Labour Party.

Main points from Figure 5 for the Labour Party are

  • Overall average constituency vote share increased by 10% on the 2015 General Election.
  • In the 6 seats lost to the Conservatives, Labour’s share of the vote increased.
  • In every area, Labour increased its share of the constituency vote with one exception. In the 6 seats that the Liberal Democrats gained from the Conservatives, the Labour share of the vote was on average unchanged. This suggests some tactical voting.
  • In Conservative “hold” seats Labour’s increase in vote share did not have a “Remain” bias.
  • In Labour “hold” seats Labour’s increase in vote share had a strong “Remain” bias.

In summary, it would appear that the Conservatives in implementing Brexit have mostly suffered at the ballot in Remain areas. Labour, in being the Party of Opposition and avoiding taking a clear position on Brexit, benefited from the Remain support without being deserted by the Leave vote. I will leave it for another day – and for others – to draw out further conclusions.

Kevin Marshall

General Election 2017 is a victory for the Alpha Trolls over Serving One’s Country

My General Election forecast made less than 12 hours before the polls opened yesterday morning was rubbish. I forecast a comfortable majority of 76 for the Conservatives, when it now looks like there will be a hung Parliament. That my central estimate was the same as both Lord Ashcroft‘s and Cerburus at Conservative Women is no excuse. In fact it is precisely not following general opinion, but understanding the real world, that I write this blog. What I have learnt is that the social media was driving a totally different campaign that was being reported in the other media. The opinion polls started to pick this up, and all sensible people did not believe it. Personally I was partly blind to the reality, as I cannot understand why large numbers of people should vote in numbers for an extreme left political activist who has over many years has sided with terrorists. Or a prospective Home Secretary who once voiced support for terrorism, and is unrepentant about that support. But then, in Paris 2015 leaders of the Western World voted for a Climate Agreement to cut global emissions, when that very Agreement stated it would do no such thing. The assessment of achievement was in the enthusiasm of the applause for the world leaders, rather than comparing objectives with results. That means comparing the real data with what is said.

Similarly in this election, we had all parties saying that they would spend more on things that have very marginal benefit compared to the cost. This included improving the NHS by giving staff a pay rise, or increasing the numbers of police “in every ward” to combat terrorism. It also includes trying to retain the structures of the European Union when we are leaving it, without defining recognizing the issues of a half-way house or the real benefits of those institutions There was also the gross hypocrisy of blaming problems caused, in part or in full, of past policies on something or someone else. This includes

  • Blaming austerity on the Tory Government, when the current structural deficit is a legacy of Gordon Brown’s Golden Rule. Given that Gordon Brown is a Scottish Progressive, it something that the SNP needs to confront as well.
  • Blaming rise energy bills on the Energy Companies, when it is a result of the Climate Change Act 2008. When Ed Miliband launched the policy at the Labour Party Conference in 2013, it was seen as something of the left extremism. But the Conservatives put such controls in their manifesto as well.
  • Blaming the rising cost of pensions on increased longevity, when a major part of the reason is near zero interest rates on savings.

Part of that blame is for the rise is the spin doctors, who only put out messages that will be well received by the target voters, and keep in the background areas where the target voters are split in their views. The Conservative manifesto and Theresa May’s election campaign could be seen as the inheritors of these 1990s New Labour doctrines. The Labour Party, however have rejected New Labour Blairism. In one sense Labour have retrogressed, with mass rallies that hark back to era when the British socialist party was in the ascendancy. But in another way Labour grassroots have embraced the new technology. We have a new way of communicating ideas based on a picture and 140 characters that takes power away from a few professional manipulators of public opinion. That power now rests with alpha trolls or non-entity celebs with their shallow views supported by isolated facts. It is a sphere where excluding other opinions by changing the subject; or having the last word; or taking offence for upsetting their false perceptions; or claiming those with other opinions are either outright lying or are blinkered; or getting fanciful claims repeated thousands of times until they are accepted as though they were fact.

There is a way out of this morass, that is the exact opposite of the Donald Trump method of out-trolling the trolls. It is by better understanding the real world, so that a vision can be developed that better serves the long-term interests of the people, rather than being lead by the blinkered dogmatists and alpha trolls. I believe that Britain has the best heritage of any country to draw upon for the task. That is a country of the mother of all Parliaments and of the country that evolved trial by a jury of one’s peers. It is a country where people have over the centuries broken out of the box of current opinion to produce something based on a better understanding of the world, without violent revolution. That was the case in science with Sir Issac Newton, Charles Darwin and James Clerk Maxwell. This was the case in economics with Adam Smith and in Christianity with John Wesley. But there are dangers as well.

It is on the issue of policy to combat climate change that there is greatest cross-party consensus, and the greatest concentration of alpha trolls. It is also where there is the clearest illustration of policy that is objectively useless and harmful to the people of this country. I will be providing some illustrations of this policy nonsense in the coming days.

Kevin Marshall

 

Banksy trying to bribe voters through a legal loophole?

The BBC has an article Banksy makes election print-for-vote offer.

Secretive artist Banksy has offered fans a free print if they vote against the Conservatives in a move which could land him in legal trouble.

The political graffitist posted on his website offering a print to voters in six Bristol area constituencies.

Applicants have to send him a ballot paper photo showing a vote against the Tories to get the limited edition work.

This would contravene laws designed to ensure votes remain secret, and could break rules against bribery.

Banksy print

The small print is

Lawyer’s note: this print is a souvenir piece of campaign material, it is in no way meant to influence the choices of the electorate, has no monetary value, is for amusement purposes only and is strictly not for re-sale. Terms and conditions to follow, postage not included.

I will leave it up to the Electoral Commission to decide the legality of Bansky’s offer. But the terms in the small print shows a delusion of the left. Simply by declaring that something “has no monetary value” and is “for amusement purposes only” does not mean that the print is not valuable to the recipient. For instance, experiences in my life have no monetary value, but I value them highly. In this respect the offer of a print for not voting Conservative could be viewed the same as a similar offer of being able to meet a famous person that the voter admires. What most people would agree upon is that some of the most valuable things in life have no monetary value, such as love, friendship or the bonds of family. The left have always been keen to emphasize that by creating monetary values, capitalism distorts these real values. It is therefore somewhat hypocritical for someone of the left to circumvent the law on bribing voters by offering a reward for voting in a non-monetary way, That is by trying to legally demonstrate that there is no bribe by declaring it has no monetary value, when to the genuine left-wing voters it is more valuable due to declared monetary value. The only defense if that those of the genuine left would never vote Conservative anyway. But that means that any offers for sale on Ebay of the prints are evidence that someone maybe changed their vote to get a print.

Alternatively, as most people agree that some things without monetary value are still valuable, including Conservative voters it could still be valuable. The intellectual left view Tories as being of lower morals, particularly looking after their selfish interests. In this respect maybe someone who would normally vote Conservative will vote for a non-Conservative outsider, to get the print. I am sure that Banksy feel able to stand up in court, under his real name, and proclaim under oath that no Conservative would stoop to such an action. I am just as sure that Corbinysta twitter trolls will be queuing  up with their Twitter histories to affirm that they have never implied anything other than that Conservatives were on a similar level of morals to themselves.

Just to clear, Banksy might be within the law. But it would appear to be rank hypocrisy from a left-winger to offer something that is declared without a monetary value, but clear non-monetary value, when most people agree – particularly of the left – that many things with a non-monetary value are in fact valuable to them.

Update 07/06/17

Guido Fawkes reported yesterday that Banksy has withdrawn this “bribe”.

Banksy recall

 

Kevin Marshall

 

 

 

 

General Election Forecast based on Uniform Swing by Region

On May 15, YouGov produced a General Election opinion poll broken down by the eleven Regions of Great Britain. It seems impressive with 14395 GB Adults, plus 1040 London Adults, 1017 Scottish Adults and 1018 Welsh Adults. However, with fieldwork on 24 April to 05 May, it might be a little out of date. By combining this with the General Election Results by Constituency (available for the British Election Study) I have been able to produce a crude forecast for the General Election on June 8th.

The starting point in the General Election Results of May 2015, shown in Figure 1. Since then Con has gained 1 seat from Lab (Copeland), and lost a seat to LD (Richmond). The sole UKIP MP, Douglas Carswell, left the Party in March to become an Independent. These are ignored.

Note that the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies are not included. The 331 Con seats are against 326 for a majority in the House of Commons.

I made the following assumptions.

  1. Within each constituency, for each Party I have assumed the change in the vote is the difference between the regional share of the vote in 2015 and the opinion poll share from YouGov.
  2. If the constituency vote share in 2015 was less than the regional drop in vote share between 2015 and current opinion poll, then the vote is nil.
  3. A party may have a predicted vote despite not having a candidate. There are two instances where this is possible. First is that UKIP are not standing candidates in every constituency. Second is that the Progressive Alliance of Lib Dems, Greens, Labour and the SNP are standing down candidates to maximize the impact of the anti-Tory vote. Guido Fawkes’ summary of 16th May is here.

This simple model produces the forecast in Figure 2.

Implied Conservative majority is 128, up from 12 in the previous Parliament. The Lib-Dems also increase there number of seats, whilst SNP lose 9. UKIP’s “gain” is in Buckingham, the seat of the Speaker. This is due to a flaw in the crude model.

The Party gains by region are in Figure 3

Of note is that Labour do not gain a single seat, as YouGov estimate that their popularity has dropped in all but two regions. In the South East and the South West Labours’ presence is quite low. The SNP in Scotland lose seats to both the Conservatives and the Lib-Dems, but the loss of 9 seats is would still mean they have 47 of 59 seats.

These switches in seats are shown in detail in Figure 4.

My very crude forecast can be compared to the current forecast by Martin Baxtor at Electoral Calculus of Con 409, Lab 167, LD 7 & SNP 46. The Conservative majority is 168, 40 more than my own.

Another comparison is the mid-point of the spread betting at Sporting Index. This Con 399, Lab 159, LD 15.5, SNP 45.5. The implied Conservative majority is 148, bang in the middle of my own and Martin Baxters’.

In subsequent posts I intend to

  • Clear up the obvious errors.
  • Refining the forecast for Scotland based on the local election data of May 5th.
  • Look at the forecast for Wales, where I believe YouGov might be out of line with popular opinion.
  • Update in relation to more recent, but National, polling. For instance the recent strengthening of the Labour poll share and the fall in the UKIP share.

Kevin Marshall

 

Why Labour is alienating most of its traditional core support on Brexit

Since the EU referendum, the Labour Party has been split asunder. Most Labour constituencies voted to leave the EU. But the current leadership, and many of the supporting activists, are from very pro-Remain areas, particularly London. The draft Labour Manifesto, that was widely “leaked”, shows how this split in its support has been circumvented. First, the key issue of the the country at present is downplayed. The section Negotiating Brexit is only the ninth item in the manifesto. Second, is to stop some laws being passed from EU control to UK control. Third, is to give Parliament the final say at the end of the process, including the possibility of remaining in the EU, or applying for re-admission. In so doing, Labour is alienating the majority of its traditional core support. 

The Impact of EU Referendum on Labour Constituencies

On the day of the EU Referendum, Lord Ashcroftsurveyed 12,369 people after they had voted to help explain the result – who voted for which outcome, and what lay behind their decision.

In terms of voting, the groups with the biggest proportions voting to Leave were

  • 60% of those aged 65+
  • two-thirds of those retired on a state pension
  • two-thirds of council and housing association tenants
  • more than half of those retired on a private pension
  • a large majority of those whose formal education ended at secondary school
  • 64% of C2DEs

That it is the poorer and more marginalized in society – where traditionally the Labour Party draws its major vote – that disproportionately voted to leave the EU.

Lord Ashcroft then asked for people to rank in order a number of factors in people’s decision. His graphic is reproduced below.

For both Conservative and Labour voters, the principle reason for voting for Leave was

The principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK

An analysis of the Leave vote by political party shows that of around two-thirds of those voted Labour in 2015 a year later voted to Remain in the EU. Yet around two-thirds of those who traditionally formed the bedrock of the Labour vote voted for Leave. This is not a contradiction in the figures, but the fact that the Labour Party is no longer reaching most of the core group that it has traditionally represented. Geographically this is illustrated in by my breakdown from last July  of Chris Hanretty’s estimates of the EU referendum results by constituency. With respect to Labour-held seats the proportions by region were as follows.

In London, Labour constituencies included some of the most pro-Remain areas of England. Yet Labour seats elsewhere included a disproportionate number of some of the most pro-Leave constituencies in the country. In terms of proportions, 40% (231 of 574) constituencies in England and Wales were Labour after the 2015 General election. Yet over half of the constituencies with a greater than 60% Remain vote (34 of 54) were Labour. Also over half of the constituencies with a greater than 60% Leave vote in England and Wales (89 of 168) were Labour. But, for the Labour party the extreme “Leave” seats are over 2.5 times the extreme “Remain” seats. To tip the balance even further, for Labour to progress on their poor showing in the last election, they must win target seats. Of those seats where Labour came second by less than 12% of the vote, there are 17 seats that were over 60% “Leave” and just 4 seats over 60% “Remain”.

Since the EU Referendum, opinion has changed. The most recent poll by YouGov on Brexit, published at the end of March, found that overall the public think Brexit should go ahead by 69% to 21%. This includes people who voted Remain, but think that the expressed will of the British people should be enacted.

So, if the Labour Party is really wanting to maximize votes, it would provide a manifesto that provided

  • an emphasis on Brexit.
  • an emphasis on its core voters.
  • an emphasis on returning decision-making powers back to the UK.
  • a geographical targeting of the Midlands, the North and Wales, where its power base lies.
  • trying to represent the opinion of the vast majority.
  • discrimination towards the people the Labour Party was formed to serve (the working class and the marginalized) over the middle class intellectuals.

The Draft Labour Manifesto on Brexit

The draft manifesto was widely circulated. The best available format is at Guido Fawkes.

The title of the manifesto slogan – “For the many not the few” – seems to be a good start. If Labour is looking towards the vast majority, it will surely not favour the opinions of the minority over the much larger majority? This is not the case. Despite being the major issue facing Britain today, and the major reason the General Election was called, the section Negotiating Brexit is only ninth. The authors give greater priority to Industrial Strategy, A National Investment Bank and Sustainable Energy. So rather than concentrate on the pressing issues of the day, we are taken back to the disastrous ideas of the 1970s, along with a country unilaterally trying to save the planet from fictitious threat of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

The content is worse.

They manifesto proposes changing the approach to Brexit, despite the tight timetable. Further, in talk of protecting certain laws, the manifesto is of activist protesters wanting to stop changes in the post-Brexit process. The Great Repeal Bill is inaccurately named as it is just quickly converting EU law into British law within a tight timetable. It is afterwards that laws deemed harmful to Britain by the democratically-elected Government will be scrapped or radically altered. Maybe crackpot Marxist conspiracy theorists, or those who view reality through the distorted prism of received collective opinion, think otherwise. But then in a truly independent United Kingdom, there is the opportunity to win power and reenact laws and policies that have been scrapped. That is no different from many areas today, as is seen by the draft manifesto sections on Nationalisation and Industrial Strategy. But the draft manifesto is implying that certain contentious areas of law that the Labour leadership value highly should remain beyond the remit of UK lawmakers.

However, the most important is final sentence in the section.

A Labour approach to Brexit also means legislating to guarantee that Parliament has a truly meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal.

This means that it is Parliament who have the final say on that deal. But what if the majority of MPs decide to reject the deal negotiated at the end of the budget process? Well that will mean either leaving the EU without a deal; or trying to stay in the EU; or reapplying for membership. This latter option will not in the real world actually happen, but neither the manifesto, nor Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in a recent interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuessenberg, have categorically excluded this scenario.

Indeed, given Labour would slow down the process, there would be insufficient tine for meaningful negotiations to take place. The “deal” will be little altered from the negotiating stance the EU starts out with. This will be unacceptable to Parliament, and the WTO terms are clearly unacceptable to Jeremy Corbyn. Therefore, there would be a hurried reversal of the process, with the UK having to grovel to be re-admitted on worse terms than before.

 

Why not state Britain is leaving the EU?

The reason for Labours’ evasions is that the leadership of the Party, the activists that support it and the unions that finance the Labour Party all want to remain in the EU. The strongest support for Remain in England and Wales is concentrated in London. This is also where the disproportionate number of hard left activists reside and where the key four leaders – Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbot and Emily Thornberry – were MPs in the last Parliament. By leaving open the possibility of remaining in the EU, despite the vast majority now accepting the opposite, Labour are trying to have it both ways. They can both appear to be opposing Brexit to their core supporters and appear to be enacting Brexit to their traditional base. But in so doing abandoning most of their traditional core supporters in Wales, the Midlands and the North, the people will either not vote, or (if the latest opinion polls are anything to go by) vote Conservative.

Kevin Marshall

Did the Conservatives field too few candidates in the Scottish Council Elections?

A couple of weeks ago posted Will Ruth Davidson be Apologizing to Voters After the Scottish Local Elections on May 4th? My contention was that the Conservatives has underestimated the strength of their growing support, so had fielded too few candidates. Under the Single Transferable Vote System, if a Party fields too many candidates in a ward then they will compete against each other. So I believed that the Conservatives, unsure of where their vote might lie, played safe. This was on the basis of my forecasting, before the General Election announcement the Conservatives gaining 150 extra seats, and achieving 21% of the First Preference vote. I was then seeing signs further improvement in the opinion polls, but with no extra candidates to achieve extra seats. In the event, the Conservatives gained 161 more council seats than in 2012, with 25.3% of the FPVs. Part of the reason for this was the other major parties. The Labour Party did much better than I expected and the SNP did worse. But there is still evidence that the Conservatives fielded too few candidates.

Figure 1 shows the seven Scottish Councils where all the Conservative Candidates won seats. Given that (a) of the 337 wards with Conservative candidates 296 had only one candidate, and (b) that support for any Party tends to vary across wards, the fact that every candidate one suggests too few candidates. Aberdeenshire and Moray stand out most clearly in this respect, as the total FPV vote was well in excess of the percentage of seats won. But South Ayrshire Council was possibly the most significant, as with three more seats and the Conservatives would have had a majority on the 28 seat council. In five of these councils they were also the largest party.

It should be noted that the Conservatives were not the only Party which achieved the feat of 100% of candidates being elected. The Liberal-Democrats saw elected all 6 of their candidates in East Dunbartonshire. Here the Conservatives saw 6 of their 7 candidates elected. The only other example of a party achieving a 100% success rate for a council was the SNP in the Shetland Islands. Their sole council candidate, Robbie McGregor, won the Shetland South seat uncontested.

This theme of insufficient candidates is also suggested in the councils where more than 75% of candidates were elected.

There are three councils where the FPV share exceeded the percentage of seats won. Councils like Aberdeen City and Stirling are where the Conservative vote share varies considerably across the wards.

A particular ward that stands out where the Conservatives had too few candidates is Carse Gowrie, Ward 1 of Perth & Kinross Council Area.

After vote allocation, Angus Forbes won more votes than the two SNP candidates combined. The Courier local newspaper did a series of short articles on all the wards in this council and others in the area. For Carse Gowrie they wrote:-

 Former scout leader Mr Forbes said: “I knew we would do well, because the Conservatives always have in Carse of Gowrie.

“I was surprised to increase the vote, though.”

He said: “Sadly, what I was finding was that people were voting on national issues, rather than local ones.

“It was all about independence. When I was out canvassing, what I was hearing was: We’ve got to get rid of the SNP, we’re fed up hearing about independence.”

This comment could be highly significant in that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is trying have another Scottish Independence Referendum just four years after the previous one, despite the 2014 one supposedly being the last one for a generation. This would also explain why the Labour Party achieved 20.2% of the FPV vote, a share significantly above the Labour share of recent Scottish opinion polls. This being a a reversal of the 2012 and 2007 council elections, where the FPV share was significantly behind the FPV share. Mrs Sturgeon’s move could being viewed by a very cynical attempt to win independence on the basis of unfounded scary stories about Brexit, before they are contradicted by the real world evidence after March 2019.

What the results indicate for the General Election

Whilst the Conservatives might have been able to gain a few extra council seats if they could have better predicted the surge in support, the important issue is the indications for the General Election. If it is the case that the General Election swing might be even larger for the Conservatives in the council areas where they did well, and an maybe an improvement for Labour in their traditional Scottish Heartlands. At the Electoral Calculus website, the current Scotland GE forecasts are

CON 12 (+11), LAB 0 (-1), LIB 2 (+1), UKIP 0 (+0), Green 0 (+0), SNP 45 (-11)

For the Conservatives, the council election results are consistent, but for Labour they may win an extra seat, rather than lose their only Scottish seat in Edinburgh South.

Kevin Marshall

Results of the Scottish Council Elections

The Council Elections were held last Thursday 4th May, and the results in terms of seats were announced on Friday. It was only today that the Elections Scotland have published the summary details, including the First Preference votes. I have complied three brief summaries. The 2012 data used for comparisons is from the Lincoln Report on Report on Scottish Council Elections 2012.

Figure 1 shows the SNP were way ahead in terms of total seats won, the Conservatives second and Labour in third. In terms of change from 2012, it is the Conservatives that performed best, increasing the number of seats by 161. Labour lost a third of their seats, and the Independents were collectively down by a sixth on the seats won in 2012.

Figure 2 shows the SNP getting again ahead in terms of First Preference Votes, and on the same share as five years ago. The Conservatives are second on 25.3% and Labour third on 20.2%. For comparison, the latest YouGov opinion poll for Scotland of Westminster voting intentions, (of 24-27 April) gave SNP 41, Conservative 28 & Labour 18. People often vote differently in local elections to General Elections, and in Scotland, Independents are quite strong. But the difference is striking, and may indicate where the vote is moving. Compared to the last opinion poll, SNP -9, Conservative -3 and Labour +2. On that basis the Local Elections were bad news for the SNP. The Labour Party appear to have bottomed out, and the Conservatives are doing extremely well.

Figure 3 is the most interesting in terms of indications of voting intentions going into the General Election. I have shown the percentage of first preference votes by Party in each of the 34 councils.

I have highlighted the Party that gained the highest shared of First Preference Votes in each Council. They are SNP 16, Con 10, Ind 5, Lab 1.

A quick comparison with the Electoral Calculus General Election seat predictions. The Westminster constituencies are not necessarily the same as the councils.

Labour was only ahead in East Lothian. Electoral Calculus only gives Labour a 14% chance of winning, as against 45% for the SNP and 40% for Conservatives.

At a quick glance the Conservatives are ahead in all their target constituencies.

In the Scottish Borders, the number one target they achieved nearly double the FPV of the SNP. Although there is a strong vote for Independents, the 76% chance of Conservatives winning seems more than justified.

The better news for the Conservatives is in the long shots. Stirling has a 43% chance of winning, against 49% for the SNP, yet were 2.4% ahead in the FPVs. Angus has a 36% chance of winning, against 63% for the SNP, yet were 1.7% ahead in the FPVs. Ayr Carrick and Cumnock has a 32% chance of winning, against 59% for the SNP, yet were 13.2% ahead in the FPVs.

Kevin Marshall

Revised Scottish Local Elections 2017 Forecast

A previous forecast for the Scottish Local Elections was made before the General Election announcement on April 18th. Upon reviewing the forecast, I found that I had not allowed in the forecast of changes in numbers of council seats, for the impact of different average population per council seat. Allowing for this factor roughly offsets the movement in opinion since that announcement. In particular the fact that a Labour Councillor represents on average a large population than a councillor from other parties offsets the impact of a small increase in support for Labour since the General Election announcement. I see no reason to revise significantly my previous forecast of Labour to lose 250 seats, with the Conservatives to gain 150 and the SNP 100.

After the General Election was announced at least two Scottish opinion polls of Westminster voting intentions have been produced – one by Panelbase for The Sunday Times, the other by Survation for the Sunday Post. Both polls show the SNP down and both the Conservatives and Labour up slightly. One problem with using this opinion data is that people might vote differently in the local elections. For instance, in Scotland as a whole, Independent candidates in 2012 received 12% of the First-Preference votes and won 16% of the seats. I would expect that that the SNP would lose out the most to Independents, followed by maybe the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. This hypothesis can be validated against the data. The University of Strathclyde’s “WhatScotlandThinks.org” has the opinion poll data going back to 2007. For 2007 and 2012 I compare to percentage shares of seats votes with the opinion polls nearest to the local elections in Figure 1.

There is a result that I did expect. That is the Conservatives did comparatively worse in terms of seat percentage to opinion poll percentage. This was worse in 2012 than in 2007, as their share of First Preference votes fell in many wards below the threshold required to win seats. What I did not expect was that the SNP’s seat share was about the same as the opinion poll percentage in 2007 and slightly above that level in 2012, despite Independents winning 16% of the seats. Most unexpected is the Labour Party, which has the biggest deficit between opinion polls and seat share. There are three vague factors, that might be valid. That is different voting behaviour in local elections and general elections; lower voter turnout in Labour-voting wards and inaccuracies in the opinion polls. In the first it could be that some people were voting SNP in the local elections and voting Labour in General Elections. But this does not gel with what happened in the 2011 Scottish Assembly elections and the 2015 General Election. There is another factor. Local Councils represent different populations, which only partly reflected in the size of the council chamber. The most populous is Glasgow, with an estimated mid-2015 population of 606,300 and 79 Council seats.  The least populous is Orkney Islands, with an estimated mid-2015 population of 21,500 and 21 Council seats. So a Councillor in Glasgow will represent nearly nine times the number of people as in Orkney. There are good reasons for this differential. If the Councillors per head of population were made roughly equal (4390), then Glasgow council chamber would increase to 138, and Orkney would reduce to 5. But this does impact overall. Using the 2012 seats and within each council, dividing the population by the seats, gives figure 2.

About half of  the difference between the Labour Party’s differential between First-Preference vote share and seat share can be explained by the fact that their support is concentrated in the larger council areas where the average seat population is larger. The SNP were also impacted by larger than average seat population , but not by nearly as much.

This does not matter for seats won on councils, but it does impact on the net change in council seats. In particular, like others, I believe that the SNP will make large gains from Labour in the cities and larger towns, with Glasgow being the key area. But I also believe that the SNP will lose council seats to the Conservatives and the Independents. For this reason, I estimate that the average SNP seat population will increase by about 5%. With it they should gain control of 5 to 10 councils. However, if the drop in General Election support is from around 47% to 41% the net seat gain could be around 50, instead of the 100 previously predicted.

Labour are hit with three combined impacts of the likely fall in the first prefence votes. First is the failure to reach the threshold first preference votes to win seats. Second is that this threshold will be a higher percentage of the vote than for the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats, as Labour have fielded more than one candidate in nearly 150 wards.  With such a low share of the vote, under the STV system Labour Party candidates will be competing against each other for votes. Third is that Labour have larger than average population per seat, so the percentage of the seats won will be lower than the opinion polls suggest. For these three reasons combined, even if the General Election show a slight recovery from 15% to 18% of the popular vote, their share of the Scottish council seats won, could be still be less than 13% of the total, the point where total number of seat losses exceeds 250.

Kevin Marshall

Two Ways to Forecast English Local Elections

On the 25th Mike Smithson of Political Betting went to London for the annual local elections briefing organised by the Political Studies Association. Profs Colin Rawlings and Michael Thrasher concentrated on their by-election prediction model. Smithson showed these two slides.

This is an increase on their forecasts in the Times earlier in the month, which gave Conservative +50, Labour -50, Lib Dem +100, UKIP -100. However, the seat change are is still well below my own, much more basic, forecasts. I have summarized how the seat changes stack up against both the 2013 and the previous 2009 round.

I should note that my seat changes make no allowance for boundary changes, or even changes in the councils. On this basis, there is no real difference between the forecasts for the Liberal Democrats or UKIP. The difference lies with the two main parties, where I predict nearly three times the gain for the Conservatives and four times the loses for Labour. In so doing I am basically saying that the seats will roughly revert back to the seat numbers of 2009. Figure 2 (from my post on the earlier Rawlings and Thrasher forecasts) shows this very volatility.

Note the 2013 figures included Ynys Môn council in Wales, along with 33 English Councils.

At the moment we are living in turbulent times in terms of shift in opinion. I think it is not unreasonable to expect similar swings in seat numbers to those that occurred in these two previous elections, especially

Using local by-elections as a means of predicting local elections seems intuitively appealing. Every Friday is published the data on the previous days by-elections at both Politicalbetting and ConservativeHome blogs. The availability of this data is in no small part due to work done over many years by Rawlings and Thrasher. Yet these results are for the whole of England, whilst these elections are for only a seventh of the total. So local issues may be different, especially when these elections are in predominantly Conservative areas. The divergence is shown in the unchanged modeled National Equivalent Vote share from 2013 to 2017 for the Labour Party. It seems to me unlikely that this 29% share, (compared to actual 2013 English vote share of 21.1%) should be unchanged when the UK General Election opinion polls have dropped around 12% from around 38% to 26%. The current relative position of the Conservatives to Labour is about the same as in 2009, with maybe the Conservatives in a slightly stronger position currently. For this reason, I think the benchmark for forecasts should be 2009 in England.

However, if Rawlings and Thrasher, by their modelling can produce something nearer to the actual results this coming Thursday then they will have greatly added to election forecasting by managing to go beyond the rough ratios of swings in proportion to movements in national opinion polls.  The key will be in the Labour party losses, where the R&T forecasts appear most divergent. That is, without evidence of a large move in the opinion polls (and I am writing this before the opinion polls for the Sunday papers are published), if Labour seat losses are less than 200, then the explanation for this divergence will be at least in part be from predictions based on by-election results. The model will have been a predictive success. Even if Labour loses 300 seats, the fact of developing a rigorous model that is falsified by the data, could develop our understanding of council by-elections as a predictor relation to the full results. This previously unavailable information could still be useful. In less than a week we shall know.

Kevin Marshall

 

Will Ruth Davidson be Apologizing to Voters After the Scottish Local Elections on May 4th?

The Conservatives in Scotland are likely to show large gains in the Scottish local elections next Thursday.  So why should Ruth Davidson end up have to make an apology?

Consider the reasons that are likely to be large gains next week.

First, is that in 2012 the Conservatives did rather badly. They lost 28 seats to 115 seats, less than 10% of the total. In first preference vote share they went down over 2% to 13.3%.

Second is that since the 2015 General Election, when they received 14.9% of the vote – worse than the 2012 local elections with no Independents – the opinion polls have shown a consistent rise in support. By May 2016, the Conservatives achieved 22% of the vote at the constituency level in the Scottish Assembly Elections. By early this year opinion polls are indicating around 25% support.

Third is that support has, if anything, risen further in the last couple of months. Polls conducted since the General election was announced show GE support at 28% (Survation/Sunday Post) and 33% (Panelbase/Sunday Times). Below is a summary from Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus Website

On that basis local election vote could be above the 21% of First Preference Votes I used to predict gains of 150 seats. The potential embarrassment lies in the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Under STV – a basic alternative to proportional representation – very large council wards have three or four Councillors. If a Party wishes to maximize its seats, it must optimize the number of candidates. In a previous post, I looked at the the candidates per ward.

In only 41 wards do the Conservatives have more than one candidate. In optimizing the number of candidates they have assumed that in only a very limited number of wards will they receive more than a third of first preference votes. Much below that and two candidates would end up competing against each other for votes. This is the strategy of a party, with uneven support, who still expects to get less than 20% of the vote. The problem is that is so long since the Conservatives had this level of support they do not know where that support lies. So, retrospectively, the Conservatives will realize that in many wards they could have fielded an extra candidate. This could mean that they fail to become the largest party on a number of councils, due to the prudent approach. Given that the SNP is the strongest party with the most candidates, it is they who will gain from this prudence. Hence the reason that Ruth Davidson could end up apologizing.

If this happens, and the Labour party loses out from fielding too many candidates (through matching the number of seats held in most areas), it could lead to a campaign to abandon the STV system. The SNP will likely stoutly defend a system that seems progressive and benefits them.

Kevin Marshall