Revised General Election Forecast gives Tories a Majority of 28

In the previous post I made a General Election Seat Forecast based on the massive YouGov regional opinion poll published on May 15. Based on a uniform swing in all seats in a region, this would have given the Conservatives a majority of 128. This was slightly below other forecasts, but still a substantial majority. In the past week, following the publishing of the Labour and Conservative Manifestos, the polls have swung substantially. The Sunday Times / YouGov weekly poll, published yesterday (21 May) gave Con 44 (-2), Lab 35 (+6), LD 9 (-2) and UKIP 3 (-3). YouGov today have published an opinion poll for Wales, giving Con 34 (-7), Lab 44 (+9), LD 6 (-1), Plaid Cymru 9 (-2)  and UKIP 5 (-1). All the changes are with respect to the regional opinion poll. These are quite large changes, by still leave the Conservatives with a nine point lead over Labour. Surely this will still leave a fairly comfortable majority? A recalculation on the same basis gives quite a startling result.

Figure 1 gives summarizes the General Election Result of two years ago.

The 330 seats gained by the Conservatives (plus 1 for the Speaker) gives a small majority in a 650 seat Parliament. As Sinn Fein never take their seats, this gave a small majority of 14. This with 37.7% of the vote (excluding Northern Ireland). Surely with 44%, the Conservatives should do significantly better? Figure 2 gives my recalculations, based on the latest opinion polls.

Conservatives (including the Speaker) see an increase of just 7 seats for 7% more of the popular vote. Labour see an increase of 2 seats for 5% more of the popular vote. The Conservative majority doubles to 28 seats. Figure 3 shows where the parties gain seats.

Very few seats change at all change under this forecast. Four regions see no seat changes at all. In three regions the Conservatives lose seats to Labour, and in London they lose two seats to the Lib Dems. The increased majority is reliant on the gains from the SNP in Scotland. Stemming the tide of the Scots Nats (who in the last year have been a more effective opposition than Labour) might alone be worth calling a General Election. Whilst a small majority would severely weaken the Brexit negotiating stance, for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn to poll significantly better than Ed Miliband in 2005 and Gordon Brown in 2010, would mean that he could retain power. The Labour Party would still be condemned to being a weak opposition under Corbyn, and the hard left would be able to consolidate their power.

Now there are some points that will likely give Theresa May a larger majority on June 9th.

First, the forecast I made last week gave a lower Conservative majority than the more sophisticated forecasts. Uniform swing does not allow for local battles. The Tories have more enthusiasm compared to a deeply divided Labour Party.

Second, the Labour Manifesto was well received in parts, but the larger picture of financing was based on some fairly implausible assumptions. The Conservative manifesto was weak in parts but was mostly more of the same. As a result it seems Labour may have peaked, and the Conservatives are having a wobble.

Third, the Conservative election machine is far more formidable than the Labour one. Once they re-focus the debate on twin themes of leadership and Brexit, the Conservatives are the more likely to gain ground.

Fourth, the last minute scare tactics will work against Labour. Expect the last Conservative Party Political Broadcast to feature Jeremy Corbyn’s qualities and past associations. Conversely Labour’s usual “24 hours to save the NHS” tactic has already been anticipated.

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
  • two thirds of those retired on a state 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

Jeremy Corbyn needs to do the Maths on Boundary Commission Proposals

In my previous post I noted how some Labour MPs were falsely claiming that the Boundary Commission’s recommendations for England and Wales were party-political gerrymandering. Labour Party Leader, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP makes a quite different claim to some of his more desperate MPs.

Corbyn claims that since last December (which the Boundary Commission used as a basis of the boundary changes) the electorate has grown by two million people. That is nearly 5% of the electorate. As a result of the wrong figures “you cannot deliver a fair and democratic result on the basis of information that is a year out of date.
Actually it is possible for it to be fair and democratic if the growth in the electorate is evenly spread across the country. That should be a default position that Corbyn needs to disprove. The question is, how much would the imbalance have to be to wipe out the disadvantage Labour gets from the boundary review – a disadvantage due to current 231 Labour seats in England and Wales having on average 3515 fewer constituents than the 329 Conservative seats in May 2015. Let us do the maths, ignoring the 13 seats held by other parties and the Speaker. To even up average constituency size Labour constituencies would need about 812,000 extra voters (231 x 3515), and for the rest of the two million to be evenly spread between the other 560 constituencies. That is about 2120 extra voters. It is not impossible that the average Labour constituency has added 5635 to the electoral roll (>8% extra) and the average Conservative constituency has added 2120 to the electoral roll (<3% extra). Winning the millions on Lotto is not impossible either. But both are highly unlikely, as the reason for the Boundary Review is that Constituency sizes have diverged, with greater growth in the South of England than in the North of England and Wales. So like other Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyns’ opposition to the Boundary Commission’s proposals seem to be opposition to greater equality and fairness in the British democratic processes.
Two graphs to illustrate this point. Figure 1 from the previous post shows the average constituency size by party and region.

Figure 4 from the previous post shows that average constituency size per region is made much closer to the average constituency size for England and Wales in the proposed changes.

 

Kevin Marshall

Going for Brexit or denying the EU Referendum

The Rt Hon David Davies MP and Secretary of State for Exiting the EU gave an update to the House of Commons today. He made quite clear what Brexit means

Naturally, people want to know what Brexit will mean.
Simply, it means the UK leaving the European Union. We will decide on our borders, our laws, and taxpayers’ money.
It means getting the best deal for Britain – one that is unique to Britain and not an ‘off the shelf’ solution. This must mean controls on the numbers of people who come to Britain from Europe – but also a positive outcome for those who wish to trade in goods and services.

He went on to lay out the principles on which Britain would proceed.

…as we proceed, we will be guided by some clear principles. First, as I said, we wish to build a national consensus around our position. Second, while always putting the national interest first, we will always act in good faith towards our European partners. Third, wherever possible we will try to minimise any uncertainty that change can inevitably bring. And, fourth, crucially, we will – by the end of this process – have left the European Union, and put the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament beyond doubt.

On other words Britain will Brexit is in a very British fashion.

– It will be from principles, not from specific objectives or adhering to specific rules.
– Britain will act honourably, something that the British have long been known for commercial dealings.
– It will recognize that other EU members have interests as well. The outcome being aimed for is where Britain’s relationship to the EU is based on co-operation and trade where both sides are net winners.
– At the end of the process Britain will have a more sovereign Parliament. That is, the democratically elected Government will be able to decide the future course of country, for better or worse.

Text is at ConservativeHome
Emily Thornberry MP, speaking for the Labour Party, gave a somewhat different perspective from about 13:10

– Strategy consists of clearly laid out and concrete plan.
– There are areas of policy that should placed outside of the scope of a sovereign Parliament, such “workers rights” and guarantees for EU Nationals currently resident in the UK.
– A “positive vision” consists of definite objectives.
– You listen to outside gloomy prophesies that support your perspective.
– The Government are now rushing to start negotiation, without a well-thought plan. Given that the Government is delaying triggering Article 50 until 2017, the means she is wanting a slower pace. But on 24th June when the referendum result was announced, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was all for triggering Article 50 straight away. Is this another open split with the Labour Leader, or an about-face in Labour policy?
– Article 50 should not be triggered without a parliamentary vote to authorize.

On triggering Article 50 David Davies pointed out 20.35 there was a referendum bill that went through the House of Commons, and was voted for 6 to 1. Emily Thornberry voted in favour. It was made perfectly clear by the then Foreign Secretary at the time that the EU referendum was not a consultation, or an advice to parliament, but a decision by the electorate. The words of the Act do not state that, but people were lead to believe that in the campaign. Most importantly Will Straw, leader of Britain Stronger in Europe (the official Remain campaign) said the decision was for the voters.

RE: THE FACTS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT EU AND THE REFERENDUM
On 23rd June you will get to vote on the EU Referendum and decide whether Britain remains in or leaves Europe.

Apart from the inaccuracy of naming the decision as whether to leave the geographical continent rather than the political organisation, the statement could not be clearer. Yet the losers in the Referendum want to re-interpret the meaning of the result.

Kevin Marshall

The EU Referendum – The end of the Labour Party or the United Kingdom?

In the previous post I used Chris Hanretty’s estimated the referendum vote split for the 574 parliamentary constituencies in England and Wales to look at the pattern of voting. In particular I found that a disproportionate number of the constituencies with strong votes either for remaining in the EU or leaving the EU have a Labour Party MP.

The graphic below shows the split by region for constituencies with Labour MPs. The strongest Remain votes are concentrated in London, whilst the majority of constituencies voted for Leave.

This is not the full picture. Most of the Labour Party MPs still have a desire to become the party of Government. At a minimum, they would have to win enough seats to become the largest party to have a chance of power. Of the 573 parliamentary seats in England and Wales Labour came second in 212. Of these, 58 had majorities of less than 12% of the popular vote. This would mean winning 56 from the Conservatives and 2 from the Liberal Democrats.

The problem for Labour is that these target constituencies exhibit similar patterns to the existing Labour constituencies. That is, there was support for Remain in London, and support for Leave in much of the rest of the country.  The differences between existing and target Labour seats are slight. The proportion of seats that voted Leave is slightly higher (78% against 69%), whilst the constituencies that voted at least 60% Leave is lower (29% against 39%) when compared to existing Labour constituencies.

Adding these target seats to the existing seats makes very little difference to the split between London and the rest of England and Wales, except for downgrading the relative importance of London in relation to the Midlands and the North West of England.

The elephant in the room is Scotland, where Labour lost 40 seats to the SNP. It is likely that every single one of these voted to Remain in the EU. This compares to just 8 Labour losses in England and Wales, everyone to the Conservatives and 7 calculated by Chris Hanretty to have voted for Leave. To make themselves electable in Scotland and maintain support in London where up to 40% of the membership live, Labour must support some policy of opposing Brexit. But this would scupper their chances of winning more seats most of England and Wales, and might help maintain support for UKIP. This is particularly true in the North and Midlands where UKIP are strongest. This is illustrated in the table below.

This gives the biggest issue of them all. If Labour manage to revive from their present turmoil and become the largest party at the next election, then the price of power might be the breakup of the United Kingdom. But this is unlikely to happen if in 2020 Brexit remains the over-riding political issue. If Brexit ceases to be an issue, Jeremy Corbyn, in hanging onto power might be doing the country a service by ensuring the breakup of the Labour Party into two unelectable factions.

Kevin Marshall