Three scenarios for the 2015 election based on current polling: which do you think looks most plausible?

In 18 months we’ll know the result of the 2015 general election.

Forecasting is a mug’s game – especially because there are an even greater number of variables this time than usual: a governing coalition of two parties with one established centre-left opposition, Labour, and an insurgent right-wing party, Ukip.

But plenty are having a go at it anyway. Lib Dem MP Sir Nick Harvey reckons Labour has the next election in the bag. Psephologist Lewis Baston thinks we’re headed for a second hung parliament. And pollster Sir Bob Worcester believes the Lib Dems are destined for meltdown.

Here’s my quick ‘n’ dirty analysis based on the polling trends. What I’ve looked at is Labour’s lead over the Conservatives according to the monthly average of opinion polls under three different scenarios.

(Huge caveat straight off: the extent of the polling science on display here is me playing around on an Excel spreadsheet.)

Scenario 1

The Conservatives hit rock bottom in May 2012. The omnishambles budget and its desperate U-turns were followed by a poor set of local election results. There have been dips since then, notably when it looked like the economy might plunge into what was being billed as a triple-dip recession at the start of 2013, but never quite matching that period.

Taking May 2012 as the peak of Labour’s lead, what would happen if the linear trend since then were to continue through to May 2015? This is what:

polling trends 2015 - ST 2

Under Scenario 1, then, the Conservatives would have recovered to be within 2% of Labour by the time of the next general election. That would most likely point to a hung parliament, though if Labour out-performs in the marginals they could well sneak a Commons majority.

Coincidentally this is the gap forecast by Lewis Baston, who predicts a Lab 36% – Con 34% result. It feels about right to me – but, as ever when looking at data, beware confirmation bias…

Scenario 2

May 2012 is a pretty arbitrary cut-off point – so let’s take another arbitrary cut-off point: the calendar year. If we just look at 2013 – from January 2013 (pretty much the mid-point of this parliament) to November 2013 – and project forwards, what happens? Here’s what:

polling trends 2015 - ST 1

Under Scenario 2, then, the Conservatives would move into a clear lead over Labour of 4% by the time of the next general election.

I don’t think there’s a single Tory who wouldn’t take that result right now – though it’s very unlikely to translate into an outright Conservative victory. After all, the Tories led Labour by 7% in 2010 and still feel short.

Scenario 3

File this under the heading “a bit of fun… probably” – let’s look at the whole parliament and insert a polynomial trendline to take us through to May 2015. Here’s what happens:

polling trends 2015 - ST 3

Under Scenario 3, then, the Conservatives bounce back from their mid-term slump to lead Labour by 6% come the next general election. It couldn’t happen – could it?

So there you go… Three scenarios based on the tends from current polling. Which – if any – do you think looks most likely?

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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51 Comments

  • I think that as no government in living memory has ever increased its share of the vote at the subsequent election any scenario that results in the Conservative party having a greater % of the vote than Labour can be disqualified based on prior probability alone.

    Much more relevant is the question of, given predictions of Lib Dem losses, what will be the role of a post 2015 Liberal Democrat party? Will they support a potentially weak Labour government, either in coalition or on an issue by issue basis, or will they join the Conservatives in being part of the Opposition.

    The public need to know.

  • Please tell me you don’t think these graphs mean anything? Playing with regression analysis doesn’t meaningful projections make.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Dec '13 - 4:53pm

    I am trying to work out which is the daftest:

    (a) assuming that any of those three ‘projections’ from a figure which is wobbling all over the place has any utility or value whatsoever

    (b) even if it had, there would be any sense in Liberal Democrats speculating about it in a public from such as this.

  • I thought the very first scenario

    In 18 months we’ll know the result of the 2015 general election

    was absolutely correct – so I stopped reading at that point…

  • David Allen 10th Dec '13 - 6:02pm

    Try fitting a linear trendline to the longer term graph shown in figure 3, and you’ll find the Tories going down the pan. Unlike all the three plots you published, which of course only demonstrate your own wishful thinking.

  • Wonder how many hours were wasted producing those scenarios.

    Far better & much much quicker to go to Electoral Calculus where the analysis of polling has been done & predictions calculated on the results of the polls.

    http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/homepage.html

    79% probability of Labour majority of 82, based on polls from 08 Nov 13 to 29 Nov 13, sampling 10,002 people.

  • paul barker 10th Dec '13 - 7:12pm

    To answer your question, both the 2nd & 3rd scenarios look reasonable for a “quiet” Election but there are a whole set of possible explosions to get past first.
    For The Tories there are the Euros in May, can they stop themselves panicking about UKIP, can they keep their divisions under wraps ?

    For Labour –
    have they got the money to run a campaign of the sort they are used to running
    can they sort out a deal for their Special Conference on March 1st
    how will they do in The Euros
    can they cope with their Lead melting away

    The last point is crucial, theyve grown used to the cushion of a steady lead, will their activists just keep calm & carry on ? Past experience suggests they will look for someone to blame.

  • Bill le Breton 10th Dec '13 - 7:15pm

    At a time of recovery from one of the deepest/for longest recessions in 100 years, it is not about a trend line from 2012. The rise in the Tory vote will be exponential – after the public give them a bit of kicking in the Euros for the last four years of pain. Once that is out of their system … they’ll be thinking about what the recovery is doing for them and their family.

    So, I”m watching the answers to ‘Is the recovery benefiting you/ your family?’ : see this one from ICM yesterday.

    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/12/9/1386610813817/Benefitsofrecovery.png

    At just 26% responding YES, the Tories are polling 30-32% . Take your bearing from that. And clock the relationship as more people answer YES to that question.

    Unemployment will be sub 7% by start of 2015, but no interest rate rise until summer 2015.

    I think you are all totally underestimating the potential Tory recovery by May 2015. As I have said here more than once , the closest we have to this kind of recovery from a deep recession is 1982 – 83.

    When it turns it will turn fast …

  • Bill No, I think what the 30% is measuring is the Tory core vote, more or less. I think it will take a lot of hard effort, beyond GDP measures pure and simple, or even the measures on how it “might affect my family”, to send the Tory poll rating up as far as they got in 2010 on any consistent basis.

  • Tubby Isaacs 10th Dec '13 - 7:49pm

    What with you being such a distinctive party and all, I find it rather strange you’ve left yourselves out of the predictions here.

    Still, however many the Lib Dems get, they’ll be “serious” votes. And in line with their Liberal heritage. And will involve 57 Eastleighs.

  • Tony Dawson 10th Dec '13 - 9:23pm

    @Tim13 :

    ” I think it will take a lot of hard effort, beyond GDP measures pure and simple, or even the measures on how it “might affect my family”, to send the Tory poll rating up as far as they got in 2010 on any consistent basis.”

    Tim, your comment smacks of optimistic guesswork. Bill’s comes from a seasoned campaigner who has co-ordinated campaigns in many different areas over many years. A week can be a VERY long time in politics these days.

    Adopt your position, you will only win (well, hold) seats if your guess comes true. Adopt Bill’s and you might survive in a range of scenarios. Even make the odd gain where the candidate and team merit it.

  • I’d rather go with electoral calculus and what next May’s elections tell us, frankly.

    These graphs are a bit of fun, but not to be treated seriously.

    What’s not been factored in – anywhere – is the position on the ground. If you look at the ruinous fall in LibDem and Tory membership over the last few years, and match it against constituency activity, you get a very real feel for how many Tory and LibDem local parties have been hollowed out from the inside. Conversely, Labour appear to have received if not a big boost in membership, then at least a situation has arisen where their opposition is scratching for activists.

    The Tory ones have got to UKIP; the LibDem ones have fled to the Greens or Labour. That’s a truism, before someone decides that I’ve written it as absolute fact. What is absolutely true – in my north west, bell weather, must win to form government constituency is this: the LibDems are invisible, and where in 2009 they polled 20% locally in elections, they now poll around 3-4-5%. Where the Tories could actually put boots on the ground to deliver and door knock, they now telephone canvass.

    These are signs of parties that simply don’t have the manpower to engage at a very local level, and I do not have to remind readers of LibDemVoice the effectiveness of local campaigning and local activism. Once the converse is the case, I do not think that it takes an expert psephologist to figure out the eventual outcome in many cases.

  • I hate to be pedantic (that’s a lie, actually I love it :-), but your graphs show the Conservative lead over Labour. That’s why the numbers are negative. If it was as labelled, then the Tories would currently be in front.

  • Surely what they are showing is that extrapolated trends show a move towards the Tories from Labour. Stephen has used the graphs to paint 3 scenarios favourable to the Tories and away from Labour. It seems strange that at least one of those scenarios are not favourable to Labour, given there has been plenty of evidence from many sources (look at byelection results for instance, from which the Tories can derive very little comfort). In previous years, we would have had no trouble at all in predicting a great future for Lib Dems drawing on such evidence!

  • Obviously this is all quite meaningless. Von Neumann is supposed to have said about curve-fitting “With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk”.

    The ironic thing is that the one line on the graph that has been dead straight for the last two and a half years is Lib Dem voting intention. If extrapolation based on opinion polls is valid, then it shows that the Lib Dems will poll somewhere like 10% in 2015. But I imagine Stephen Tall would contest that projection vigorously.

  • Tony Dawson Far be it from me to make any bold claims that my view (and that is all it is, as is Stephen Tall’s, as others have pointed out here) should be a guide to electoral action. I make no claim to huge expertise in campaign coordination (I have run a few locally in different places, as well as having been a local and parliamentary candidate several times), but certainly would not claim to be in the Bill Le Breton league! As many of us here have run and been candidates in campaigns, we know that unless we use good messages which strike a chord with electors in our areas, and work hard and smart, we will not beat competent electoral opponents.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 9:18am

    Tim 13 – it is unusual for us to disagree, but your point about core or not , doesn’t really matter to my argument which is.:

    We (the People) are always very slow to ‘feel’ turns in the economy. As of today only around a quarter of electors believe that the recovery is benefiting them or their families. This figure is going to grow over the next 18months. The deeper and longer the previous ‘concerns’ about our personal economic future, the stronger the reaction when confidence begins to grow.

    Here’s a guess – every 3% improvement in the ‘yes’ answer to the benefiting from recovery question will see a 1% increase in intention to vote conservative. The exact ratio will become clearer over the next six months. That would mean for the Tories to reach 42% on polling day all they needed was for 55 -60% to feel that the recovery was benefiting them and their families.

    @Tubby wonders why we are not factoring in a Lib Dem prediction:

    this will depend on three factors:

    1) the incumbency factor – higher with LIb Dems, although this does not transfer fully to new candidates in held seats;

    2) Tactical voting – the latest answers to questions about intentions based on local factors show a surprisingly strong/residual commitment among Labour voters to vote Lib Dem’ – yes in spite of coalition ! and

    3) reaction of potential Liberal Democrat voters to get that ‘feel good’ from economic recovery (and of course to give Lib Dems, rather than the Tories, their favour for this).

    In very rough terms, in a n extremely ‘unequal’ recovery those first to feel better about theirr economic futures are likely to be the kinds who will reward the Conservatives.

    For Liberal Democrat candidates to benefit from recovery therefore we need:

    A) a stronger recovery than that being contrived by the Bank of England (it remains overly pessimistic about the output gap/extent of slack in the economy/proportion of deficit which is structural and that which is cyclical) and the Treasury which still doesn’t really understand what the new Governor is up to.

    B) a willingness to allow Cable to take a more prominent role in communicating economic policy – the party is still hobbled by the fear that the Leader and his coterie has of Cable’s popularity in the Party. For our sakes we need the most trusted figure in our team on the economy – not the least trusted or the most ‘gone native at the Treasury’ or the most economically liberal.

    Of course this requires a very different strategic approach to the one being implemented by the party at present.

  • Donald Smith 11th Dec '13 - 9:37am

    Option C seems to me the most plausible, simply going by what has happened in almost every parliament since 1945. The main governing party % points deficit (or lead) behind the opposition party in the monthly Gallup and then the ICM polls during the course of each parliament has been –

    1945-50 Gov 13 behind to 3 ahead
    1950-51 Gov 13 behind to 1 ahead
    1951-55 Gov 10 behind to 3 ahead
    1955-59 Gov 17 behind to 6 ahead
    1959-64 Gov 19 behind to 1 ahead
    1964-66 Gov 11 behind to 6 ahead
    1966-70 Gov 32 behind to 3 behind
    1970-74 Gov 25 behind to 1 ahead
    1974-74 Gov 2 ahead to 3 ahead
    1974-79 Gov 25 behind to 7 behind
    1979-83 Gov 13 behind to 15 ahead
    1983-87 Gov 11 behind to 12 ahead
    1987-92 Gov 24 behind to 8 ahead
    1992-97 Gov 29 behind to 13 behind
    1997-01 Gov 4 behind to 9 ahead
    2001-05 Gov 2 ahead to 3 ahead
    2005-10 Gov 20 behind to 7 behind
    2010-15 Con 12 behind to ?

    In general, if a governing party is less than 20% points behind then it usually regains its lead at the following election.
    The election that stands out here as unusual is 1992 and shows the effect of John Major replacing Margaret Thatcher. Will there be a Conservative lead in 2015 – I think there will be.

  • peter tyzack 11th Dec '13 - 9:43am

    for once I think Bill le Breton is talking sense. But one factor you have all overlooked in all of this is the power of the British press to influence the minds of their gullible readership. The outcome of any election sadly relies to a great extent on the press reportage over the next 18months. Until there is legislation to outlaw their partisan behaviour we are still at their mercy, and us more than any other party because our growth in influence is the biggest threat to their cosy control of what the public hear.

  • peter tyzack 11th Dec '13 - 9:46am

    IF we had an honest and un-biased press then the public would know what good work the LibDems had been doing in government, and we would by now be in a clear position to campaign to form the next government.

  • Paul in Twickenham 11th Dec '13 - 10:07am

    @Bill – I think that Mr. Osborne is crossing his fingers that the property bubble is not pricked before May 2015. And Mr. Carney is crossing his fingers that his “forward guidance” that there is no point in saving because interest rates will continue to trundle along at 0.5% for evermore will continue to fuel GDP growth that is based on consumption funded by draining savings and taking on debt. If both of these things happen then I think it’s quite likely that the Tories will win the next election. It won’t help the Lib Dems, of course.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 10:17am

    Peter, even a broken clock is right twice a … 😉

    One of the most important times for people making up their minds for national elections (unconsciously of course) is around October/ November of the year before i.e. November 2014. A lot gets forgotten/forgiven that occurs before then. A quick look at the OBR forecast for that period gives a clear indication about the kind of recovery that will be in place .

    We tend to vote based on feelings that germinate that far in advance. Which is why ‘near-term’ campaigns are so important.

    I still think that you have to use for guidance those special elections that take place a couple of years on from the turn of deep economic down turns. The start of the up-turn in this case is Q4 2012, though we are all only just beginning to appreciate this.

    Once the Euros are out of the way the Tory recovery will be very strong. The electorate will have given the Tories a blxxdy nose and then will move on. The 2010 Tory vote (36.1) is not a hurdle, just a passing point along their road into the 40s. A 6% Tory lead over Labour is a serious underestimate.

    Well, that’s my Scenario D.

    But that kind of future requires a special strategic approach if our potential voters are to have reasons to vote for us …

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 10:33am

    Paul,

    Carney has enough ways of limiting excessive borrowing for property without having to raise interest rates.

    Can you really imagine the Bank’s Establishment or the MPC hawks voting for a rate increase before May 8th 2015 – put your money on the MPC meeting of June 2015. Turkeys/Christmas seems appropriate. This is about power and who weilds it 2015 -2020.

    London’s property market is about cash – and therefore a special problem.

    As for the rest of us, liquidity in a market that has been seized up for 5 years will bring more properties onto the market. (I don’t mean new homes of course) A lot of people are itching to downsize. Others have been commuting long distances and are just waiting to sell-up and buy more appropriately located homes. That’s a lot of new carpets and new kitchens.

    [Which is not to say that I’m blind to the injustice of the situation experienced by those who would like to buy for the first time. One part of that group will be helped by ‘help to buy’. For the others, then, freedom to borrow on rental income for social landlords is the obvious answer. (VOTED down by Conference at the behest of the leadership!).

  • markfairclough 11th Dec '13 - 10:40am

    Another scenario , UKIP do so well at the Euros next year it CAN cause a problem for LABOUR.
    At least one of the coalition partners change their leader.

  • Charles Beaumont 11th Dec '13 - 10:48am

    We should never forget the inbuilt boundaries advantage that Labour has. I think it likely they’ll win a parliamentary majority with a lower percentage of the national vote than the Tories. Say 36% Lab vs 38% Con with a high UKIP score would see Labour in government.

  • Paul in Twickenham 11th Dec '13 - 10:57am

    I agree completely that the MPC will not touch rates until after the election – the financial shock to overextended mortgage holders would be toxic for the Tories. Sometimes you wonder if this “democracy” lark isn’t overrated.

    There is an interesting aspect to this in relation to the current polls indicating that people think the economy is improving but that their personal financial situation is not. If the perception of an improving economy is triggered by hearing that GDP is growing – but you know that your own expenditure is funded from your savings or by taking on debt, combined with an ineffable angst about job security – then it might perhaps explain this decoupling. Where would this analysis fit into Stephen Tall’s projections?

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 11:01am

    Charles, forgive me for coming in again, but we Liberal Democrats should be the first to acknowledge what happens to small parties in general elections.

    UKIP intenders (most of whom will support them in the Euros) come from Cons, Lab and Lib Dem. At a general election these self same people are faced with the problem of the wasted vote allowing the Party they don’t want in to get in.

    Most of them will therefore salve their consciences in 2014 but vote as if UKIP did not exist in the General.

    So, the boundaries reduce the Con majority from 100 to 60???

    I don’t see much difference in outcome in the Power Stakes -2015-2020.

    The message for us is to find the most trust figure able to say – “this policy that we Liberal Democrats are campaigning for today (11 December 2013) from within the Coalition will give YOU and YOUR family a greater share in the economic success that is beginning to come about in OUR country.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 11:19am

    Paul, that is exactly it … but that was also the case at Christmas 1981 and Spring 1982 (before Falklands). At first you can’t believe it because it’s been so dark for so long. Then it happens to the yuppies, then to the family down the road, then to you. Slowly more and more people begin to experience that confidence and answer (to the ICM polling question linked to above ) YES.

    It was all happening underneath the Falkland’s noise. You can see the Falkland’s tide receding in Autumn 1982, leaving the economic well-being effect behind at 42% for the JUne 1983 GE.

    Try putting into the calculator Tories 42, Labour 32, us 20 (provided we adopt the appropriate strategy)

    It’s the economy, stupid. I wish we could have a Auntie X to give our message (see above) but we don’t, therefore we need (without necessarily a change of leadership) an Uncle C.

    The twin leadership approach planned for the 2010 GE (which was abandoned post Manchester Debate) is required now, but that requires

    a) a sacrifice by the present leader on behalf of his Party and
    b) clear instructions to the DPM team to lay off Cable bashing. It requires a huge change of culture in that office.

  • Charles Beaumont 11th Dec '13 - 11:51am

    Bill
    You seem to be forgetting that a 36% vote for Labour represents a 7 point increase on 2010. Labour’s vote was incredibly low in 2010 and yet still they held the Tories to a “draw”.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 12:45pm

    Charles, I said put 32 in for Labour.

    Ed M is not Michael Foot but there are a significant numbers supporting Labour today who will be won over by a rising feel good factor.

    A good number of these might come to a LIb Dem party with more of an Uncle C face 😉

    But – and this is what the leadership and the Party has to recognize, between Clegg and Cameron they’d go Cameron.

    This is the toxic effect . People who will abandon Labour will get some compensating emotional satisfaction in lashing at Clegg. That collateral damage to us in the wider Party has to be ameliorated.

    At some stage in the future , as the lion’s share of the political reward for recovery goes to Cameron, and our poll position remains turgid, the PLDP will force a deal on the leader. At the moment the Leader thinks a sufficient share of the credit will come to us and the PLDP think that their personal incumbency and campaigning skill we get them back in – but that is not good enough for the Party outside.

    The quicker this happens the more of the Party’s national infrastructure will be saved (and actually the larger the PLDP will be in 2015 – 2020).

  • Michael Cole 11th Dec '13 - 1:39pm

    Peter Tyzack makes an excellent and important point and it’s worth repeating:

    “But one factor you have all overlooked in all of this is the power of the British press to influence the minds of their gullible readership. The outcome of any election sadly relies to a great extent on the press reportage over the next 18months. Until there is legislation to outlaw their partisan behaviour we are still at their mercy, and us more than any other party because our growth in influence is the biggest threat to their cosy control of what the public hear.

    IF we had an honest and un-biased press then the public would know what good work the LibDems had been doing in government, and we would by now be in a clear position to campaign to form the next government.”

    If we proposed the kind of legislation of which Peter speaks (and I think we should), we would no doubt hear howls of anguish that we are emasculating the ‘freedom of the press’. In fact we don’t have a ‘free’ press at all; it is owned by a few ‘barons’ who have their own biased political agenda.

    Many years ago David Steel, amongst other politicians, was asked “Which newspaper would you like to control and how would you reform it ?” He replied “I would like to take control of the Sun and turn it into a newspaper.”

    Surely, to earn the right to the title of ‘newspaper’ a publication has a duty to report the news in an accurate and unbiased fashion. Of course there should always be a measure of flexibility, but much of today’s press falls lamentably short of this standard. By doing so it does a great disservice to our country as well as to our Party.

    Peter is right to draw our attention to this very important factor and perhaps we should consider including some kind of proposals in our manifesto.

  • Michael Cole 11th Dec '13 - 1:47pm

    Bill le Breton make some excellent points too.

  • Donald Smith’s data set seems to be the most pertinent here. If the Tories are less than 20% behind Labour and are still behind Labour at the election it will be the worst performance from a governing party since 1945 at least.

    I would like to know from what point the low value is taken, is this the lowest trough or is it a particular time before the election?

    Even so there are caveats. Labour could easily trail the Tories yet be ahead in terms of seats, though I doubt they would have enough for an overall lead. A question that was ducked and kept vague in 2010 was whether Liberal Democrats would be more swayed by the number of seats or the number of votes in deciding which party to offer to talk to first.

  • @Donald Smith
    What is your methodology? As far as I can tell, you seem to have cherry-picked the worst poll rating of a governing party (i.e. an outlier) and then compared that to the election result. For example, if we look at the 2005-10 period, Labour were 28 behind in Sept 2008 according to IPSOS-Mori and 13 in front in Sept 2007 according to the same organisation. These are the two biggest outliers either way that I can find during the period. Apart from suggesting IPSOS-Mori aren’t the most accurate of pollsters, this doesn’t tell us very much. You could say the average of those two outliers is a Tory lead of 7.5%, but that’s pretty much what we got at the election anyway! If I were to compare just one of those outliers with the GE result then it is very obviously statistically flawed. You need to look at averages of a number of polls over time and, even then, cherry-picking the worst period and comparing it with the GE result is still flawed. Why not compare it with the average of the government’s most popular period?

    As for extrapolating curves…. The polls are the most accurate information we have about the voting intentions of the population at the next election. To suggest the result will be different to current polling is nothing more than speculation that implies that one thinks one’s own guesses are better than the best available evidence.

  • Tubby Isaacs 11th Dec '13 - 5:30pm

    Some less than encouraging polling from Wales today has the Lib Dems on 8% for Westminster, the same for Welsh Assembly, and 9% for European Elections.

    That’s down from 20% in 2010 for Westminster. As Chris says, it’s diabolical to have lost that level of support. On a uniform swing, you’d keep 2 seats. However Ceredigion has 2 universities, and Brecon and Radnor has an MP who may well retire.

    Not good.

  • “all you have to do is stick today’s polls figures in Electoral Calculus”

    Besides, nobody has actually said that – you have created a straw man. What is true is that today’s polls are more accurate than a guess that deviates from what those polls say.

  • Bill le Breton 11th Dec '13 - 5:53pm

    Stephen, I think the Tory vote in 2010 is the outlier or the false lead. People were very very fearful about their futures in 2010 and didn’t see anyone giving them the reassurance they were looking for. The largest effect of the expenses scandal was that no one could see ‘any of that lot’ giving them a less insecure future. Perhaps the non-decisive result confirms this. It is a truism to say that the Tories didn’t win.

    What the the Tories got was chance to ride the Treasury/Bank of England driven train towards a 2015 election – a journey the relied on for most of the last century.

    As I said at the top, they start with 30-32% at a time when only 26% of people think that they are personally benefiting from the recovery. There is huge upside there.

    If we do get the extent of recovery forecast by OBR there will be enough feel good factor to convince a lot of people that the Tories had delivered a better potential future for them. They will be winners with the type of vote share winners get.

    In the face of such a developing national mood I can’t see Labour offering much beyond to a core vote (including the new working poor). They are not going to break into Blair’s territory.

    So, my conclusion for our own strategy is that we are presently going for ‘the wrong kind of differentiation’. The train is stuck in the station.

    We need a stronger and wider recovery and a more avuncular style of communications. A Fat Controller? or 2014 Father Christmas 😉

  • On UK Polling Report’s website there are listed 673 opinion polls for the period between the 2005 and 2010 elections. The mean poll lead for this entire 5 year period is……..wait for it………the Conservatives leading Labour by 7% (I quote this to the nearest percentage point as it is the average of the leads rounded to the nearest percentage point as conveniently displayed on UK Polling Report’s website). So, a remarkable agreement then between all the polls and the election result. If the polls in that period had shown a trend against the governing party in the mid-term, as so often repeated, then this average lead value across the 5 years would be lower. It isn’t.

    OK, this is just one election period, and we obviously need to look at more to get a fuller picture, but the widespread belief that opinion polls are (a )inaccurate and therefore (b) a guess that differs from the opinion polls would be more valid is nothing short of statistical ignorance.

  • erratum:
    my last comment should have read: “then this average lead value across the 5 years would be higher. It isn’t.”

  • @Stephen Tall
    Thanks for the links.
    ‘all you have to do’. Perhaps it’s just the way I read your comment, but to me it was a snide comment that other peoples’ methods are less sophisticated than yours. However, a more complicated methodology involving both the evidence and speculation isn’t actually better than just looking at the evidence.

    “Polls are a snapshot, never pretend to be anything else. ”

    The polls are the best available evidence we have about how the next election will turn out and the polling companies all have a vested interest in getting them right.

    “What matters are trends.”

    You haven’t given a hypothesis as to why a trend would be more accurate than the polls, let alone any evidence to back up the hypothesis. Why should we believe your assertion?

  • Bill Chapman 11th Dec '13 - 9:05pm

    I am a little alarmed by William Hobhouse’s view that this government has not been a disaster. That view runs counter to everything I hear. It has been a catalogue of disasters. He seems to be wilfully ignoring the cost-of-living crisis facing households and ignoring the Universal Credits fiasco.He ignores the huge increase in ambulance queues outside A&E.

  • Bill Chapman 11th Dec '13 - 9:08pm

    The current state of play in Wales can be seen at:
    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/labour-course-win-seven-more-6392714

    This shows the LibDems as the fifth party in the European elections, well behind UKIP and Plaid Cymru, by the way.

  • Donald Smith 11th Dec '13 - 9:29pm

    @Martin and @Steve

    Yes, all I did was look at the greatest deficit for the governing party during the parliament. Looking at the detailed results, these are rarely outliers though. The mid term ‘blues’ for a government are not a myth, and governments often do recover as the election approaches. My point is that the governing partyhas to be a very long way behind indeed to not cancel this out by the time of the election. Labour’s lead over the Tories in this parliament is nowhere near enough to make them feel comfortable that they can still be in the lead at election time.

  • Simon Banks 12th Dec '13 - 9:53am

    Ernst: the Tory activists have gone to UKIP and Lib Dems to Greens or Labour – “that’s a truism”? What does that mean? A truism is something self-evidently true. That statement isn’t self-evident, so it’s reasonable to ask for if not proof, some evidence pointing that way. In my experience hardly any disillusioned Liberal Democrat active members have joined another party because they don’t have confidence in Greens or Labour or nationalists. Very few Liberal Democrat members or voters have gone to UKIP, and those few who have are best gone.

    You have a good point about local parties no longer able to keep up high levels of local work, but from what I can see, including local election results, that doesn’t yet apply where we hold or are close to winning the seat. The very serious implications for the party apply mainly beyond the next general election, when many local parties may go derelict unless the party experiences a surge or its leading figures and bodies give higher priority to salvaging that massive achievement of the seventies and eighties, a genuinely national party with a meaningful presence almost everywhere.

  • David Allen 12th Dec '13 - 1:39pm

    “Here’s a guess – every 3% improvement in the ‘yes’ answer to the benefiting from recovery question will see a 1% increase in intention to vote conservative.”

    Just a thought but – Doesn’t it matter whether or not the Conservatives actually managed the economy well?

    Should we, indeed, encourage governing parties to get into the habit of rigging the economy for a pre-election boom, every time, confident in the belief that their opponents will not even try to show the public the real state of affairs?

    If we do that, we reduce politics to a pure game, in which no side has real principles, no side commands any real public loyalty, all sides simply play to win by fair means or foul. The voters, of course, turn away in disgust – which is what they’re doing.

  • Michael Berridge 16th Dec '13 - 6:07pm

    I read about half the above comments. Then my eyes glazed over. How many comments gave us the writer’s impartial expectation, and how many told us the writer’s wish?

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