This blog is a record of front-page electoral blog pieces published since 2016. There is a separate Liberal Leaver's Blog on issues around the UK leaving the European Union.
Here is an updated version of the battleground graphic. This is a two-dimensional map of the political space with the Conservatives along the horizontal axis, and Labour running along the vertical axis. We assume that the Liberal Democrats gain when both the other two parties lose.
Since the pollsters are divided, they are shown as two separate groups: the "low lead" pollsters (YouGov, Ipsos-MORI, etc) and the "high lead" pollsters (ICM, ComRes, etc). Separate "confidence circles" are shown around the two pollster groups. The current Electoral Calculus prediction is marked "We are here".
The area marked "Hung" is where the Conservatives together with the SNP would have a majority in parliament, but a coalition is unlikely. The grey triangle in the top-right corner represents infeasible areas where the parties' total vote share exceeds 100pc.
In a number of seats, some of the non-Conservative parties have announced that they will not field a candidate, in order to increase the chance of beating the Conservatives. But also UKIP is not standing in many seats, which helps the Conservatives.
Electoral Calculus has updated its main prediction model to allow for this new development. Released on 8 May, this new version of the model transfers votes from non-standing parties to the parties which would be expected to benefit from tactical voting. This modelling applies to both the headline prediction as well as the user-defined predictions.
All GB seats have now been updated from the actual candidate lists which were finalised on 11 May. The summary statistics are:
Notoriously, local elections are a poor guide to the subsequent general election. Even the dogs in the street know that. But is there any information we can get from them?
At a qualitative level, local elections do give a bit of a clue in terms of overall direction. The most striking table, which is worth a thousand words of dull commentary, shows the ward changes:
|Party||Old Wards||New Wards||Change|
The key message of this table is that the Conservatives have gained a large amount of wards, and the other parties have lost wards (except Plaid and the Greens). That writes the prose headlines, but it isn't quantitative.
The main quantitative measure is the Projected National Vote Share (PNVS) which the BBC publish, which shows a Conservative lead of just 11pc. Sky News published a similar measure, the National Equivalent Vote, which had the same Conservative lead and a projected Commons majority of 48. But the opinion polls show a lead of around 18pc and a majority of over 100.
They can't both be right. In fact, the PNVS is not a great guide to the general election. It usually understates the Conservatives and overstates the Lib Dems. This is not surprising, since local elections aren't a good guide in the first place.
But we can use a bit of lateral thinking to adjust the PNVS to get a more realistic indicator. Here's the idea: take the error between the PNVS in 2015 and the actual 2015 general election result, and use that error to correct this week's PNVS. For fans of equations, here's the equation:
Estimate:2017 = GE:2015 + PNVS:2017 − PNVS:2015And here is the explicit calculation:
|Party||GE 2015||PNVS 2015||PNVS 2017||New Estimate|
(I used the average of PNVS from 2014 to 2016 as a proxy for 2015, since the series is rather noisy.)
Now this is a poll-free estimate for the next general election, using just local election results. If we plug it into the Electoral Calculus election predictor, then we get the following result:
|Party||2015 Votes||2015 Seats||Pred Votes||Gains||Losses||Net Change||Pred Seats|
This is a Conservative majority of 118, and is somewhat closer to what the pollsters are saying, but based on local election results only. Maybe this is real. Maybe the dogs in the street don't know it all.
Theresa May has decided to be different from Gordon Brown and call an early election when the going looks good. And the going really does look good for the Conservatives. With a lead of around 20pc in the polls, the Conservatives seem to be heading for a three-figure majority in the Commons.
Let's count the tactical advantages that the Conservatives have going into this campaign:
So what are the real dangers that the Conservatives face? There are three main risks for them: poll error; campaign swing; and a realignment of the left.
The polls are not exact and poll error has averaged around 3pc in the last twenty-five years. However the polls have normally understated the Conservative vote rather than exaggerating it. Even if the polls overstate the Conservatives this time, the poll error would have to be 6pc or more to deprive them of a majority. That was the size of the poll error in 1992, when the pollsters forecast a Neil Kinnock victory, but that error overstated Labour rather the Conservatives.
Change in public opinion during the campaign can obviously change the outcome. Labour need a campaign swing of around 6pc to stop the Conservatives having an outright majority. For Labour to be the largest party, they need a sizeable swing of 11pc. And to get a majority Labour government, Jeremy Corbyn needs a colossal swing of 15pc. Such large swings are theoretically possible, but do not look likely at the moment.
The non-Conservative parties are divided and fractious. Under the pressure of the election campaign it is just possible that some of them might come together to present a united front. They would benefit under the first-past-the-post electoral system, since it would be easier to win seats. And a united group might attract more voter support as well. But it is hard to see political adversaries agreeing to such a deal before polling day. Alternatively, the public might do the politicians' work for them by switching support from Labour to one of the other opposition parties. But this scenario is political science fiction at the moment.
Overall, the risks to the Conservatives are distant and unlikely. It is easy to see why Theresa May decided that this was a good time to secure her own personal mandate, and aim for a strong Commons majority.
George Osborne is strongly at odds with Theresa May according to a survey by Electoral Calculus of politically engaged members of the public. Osborne is perceived as being strongly internationalist in outlook, while the public thinks the Prime Minister is quite nationalist.
Electoral Calculus conducted a survey of the its politically astute users during January and February to discover the informed public's judgement about the political position of major public figures. Positions are given not just in terms of the classic left/right economic divide, but also in a new second dimension of internationalism vs nationalism, which is the other main defining political axis post-Brexit.
According to the survey, Osborne has a left/right score of 45° Right which puts him absolutely in the economic centre of Conservative politics. However the public give him a rating in the national dimension of 34°International, making him the most international of all leading Conservatives who were judged.
Theresa May was judged to be 39°Right on the economic axis, which is very slightly left of the Conservative centre. But the survey placed her at 14°National on the other axis, which is on the more nationalist side of the party's centre-of-gravity at 6°Nat.
Attitudes associated with the Internationalist side of the axis are openness to immigration, support for the EU single market, a multicultural Britain which treats all residents equally and a Britain engaged abroad. The Nationalist wing is hostile to immigration, dislikes EU freedom of movement, defines British as 'born here', and puts a more isolationist Britain first. These definitions are adapted from original work by the Social Market Foundation last year.
The gap between Osborne and May on the national axis is nearly 50° wide, which is a very substantial difference in political terms. The public's perceptions may also match Osborne's own, which is perhaps why he recently took the editorship of a London newspaper, since London is the centre of Internationalist feeling amongst voters.
Technical note: Electoral Calculus surveyed 556 users of the site between 3 January and 27 February. Users were self-selected but responses were re-weighted to match national averages. The margin of error is +/−3°.
The main prediction now includes recent polls from Scotland for Westminster voting intention. These polls are fairly rare, but there have been two recently from Panelbase and BMG. These show the Scottish voting intentions fairly similar to the May 2015 general election result, but with some variation.
The SNP maintain their dominance of Scottish politics with a measured support of 48pc (down 2pc on the general election).
The Conservatives appear to have gained and are up by 7pc to 22pc, whilst Labour has declined a further 8pc down to 16pc. The Conservatives are now the second party of Scottish politics, with Labour in third place.
In terms of seats, the Conservatives gain one seat of Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from the SNP to give them a grand total of two seats in Scotland, but Labour lose their only Scottish seat of Edinburgh South to the nationalists.
A technical feature of the model means that as the Conservatives gain support in Scotland, they must have slightly less support in England and Wales for the same fixed GB support levels. So the Conservatives actually lose a handful of seats overall because of their strong performance in Scotland.
Full details are on the Scottish pages.
The Boundary Commission for Scotland have published their initial proposals for the new Westminster seat boundaries in Scotland. These have now been analysed and you can see the summary analysis on the 2018 Boundaries page, as well as detailed projections for East Scotland and West Scotland.
In Scotland, the Conservatives and Labour each have only one seat. And both of these seats are vulnerable to the new boundaries, which potentially wipes out both the major parties in Scotland. The SNP are projected to win 52 out of the 53 new Scottish seats, with the Lib Dems retaining the unchanged seat of Orkney and Shetland.
Sunday's ComRes poll for the Independent/Sunday Mirror had one crucial question to the public about their preference of immigration against free trade. Given the two options:
Option 1 : The government should prioritise reducing immigration when negotiating the UK’s exit from the EU,and
Option 2 : The government should prioritise getting favourable trade deals with EU countries when negotiating the UK’s exit from the EUthen the respondents favoured Option 2 over Option 1 by 49pc to 39pc, with 11pc undecided.
So more of the public appear to favour free trade over reducing immigration.
British politics is at a turning point, and could go in one of several directions. But sometimes you have to look back in order to look forward. Let's look at voters' support over the last century for the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberals in the graph below.
Let's focus on the first thirty years of the last century from 1900 to 1930. At the start of that period, Britain had a two-party system, but the parties were the Conservatives and the Liberals. The Liberals had had a strong influence over the country in the nineteenth century and had pioneered some important reforms. One the eve of the twentieth century, the newly-created Labour party was a minor player in British politics winning only two seats at the 1900 General Election with 2pc of the popular vote. But that situation changed dramatically in the next three decades. The Labour party went from strength to strength as Liberal support declined. By 1931, the Liberals were down to 7pc national support and only 37 MPs (full history).
Political parties, like financial investments, can go down as well as up. In this historic re-alignment, the Liberals went down and have never again been one of the two major parties. Because, once a party shrinks into third place, the electoral system makes it very hard ever to recover. Physicists call these effects "hysteresis", and social scientists label them as "paradigm shifts". Either way, it can be a one-way trip out of the circles of power.
Today's question is whether this could be about to happen again, but this time with the Labour party as the declining party. Labour has a strong track record of making reforms in the last seventy years — the NHS, universal education, a generous welfare system, re-distributing tax from the wealthy, and so on. But the Liberals found that past success does not guarantee future voters' gratitude.
Now Labour is not in a hopeless position. And it may recover from its current difficulties. In an optimistic scenario, Labour does not split and continues to campaign with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. Perhaps it does adequately well at the next election and continues to grow in support, ultimately becoming the government again at some future election.
But maybe things do not go so well. Labour seems divided and lacking fresh ideas. Maybe Labour finds it hard to unite under Corbyn and his hard-left platform. Perhaps some MPs split away, and its poll ratings do not improve. If this happens then there could be a once-in-a-century chance to re-align British politics again. And the beneficiary of that change, if they can grasp the opportunity, could be the UK Independence Party. Let's imagine the scenario where UKIP replaces Labour as the main opposition party and, in time, becomes a governing party.
That sounds far-fetched. But is it any more unlikely than the subsequent growth of the Labour movement would have seemed in 1900? History says that it is not impossible.
But to do this, UKIP needs to get its act together. It needs to unite, look outward, and start attracting Labour voters. It needs to move beyond the single EU issue, and create a national political space for itself.
The obvious place to position UKIP is as the populist party of the working and lower-middle classes (C2DEs in marketing-speak). The policies and attitudes to do this would be along these lines:
UKIP needs to change if it is to push Labour out of the way. And there will be a fight, because Labour will not leave the stage voluntarily. UKIP needs policies and attitudes which chime with disillusioned Labour voters. And the dogged determination to replace Labour, which could take another 20 years.
Ultimately a successful UKIP needs to have a movement which, in some ways, resembles Donald Trump's populist appeal to working-class Americans. Perhaps Nigel Farage's appearance as a guest speaker at a Trump rally in Mississippi in August 2016 was a early taste of things to come.
In opposition to this new UKIP, the Conservatives would remain as the other large party – standing for liberal internationalism, free trade and a pro-business agenda.
Purely for illustration, this little table below shows the possible policy stances of the three parties in this transitional period.
|Immigration||Partially positive||Negative||Fairly positive|
eg gay marriage
|Business friendly||Yes||Workers first,|
|Defence||Strong||Fairly strong||Less strong|
|Brexit||Leave EU||You betcha!||Remain if possible|
One other very important thing for UKIP is to have the right leader. They need a relatively charismatic leader who can attract former Labour voters across the midlands and the north. Their new leader, Diane James, is from the south-east of England and has not yet demonstrated these properties.
UKIP needs to think out its strategy, unite, project attractive leadership, be bold, and gird up for a long battle. Labour's weakness is a unique opportunity for them. But if the chance is missed, it may not come again.
The most interesting thing about the new boundaries announced recently is how little difference they actually make. Although the headlines talk about seats lost by Labour to the Conservatives, there aren't actually very many.
The simple table below shows the Conservative majority both with and without the new seat boundaries under both the 2015 voting patterns and the current polling intentions:
|Polls' estimate of|
|Old seat boundaries||12||100|
|New seat boundaries||36||106|
of Con seats
Although the new boundaries make some difference using the actual 2015 voting patterns, the difference is minimal when we look at current voting intention. In fact, the new boundaries make a difference of only three seats. The big difference in the table is driven by the change in voting intention. There has been a swing of about four per cent from Labour to the Conservatives, and this has increased the putative Conservative majority by dozens of seats.
Nothing is guaranteed, but the current opinion poll lead for the Conservatives looks set to continue for a while. Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be re-elected as Labour leader next week, which will leave the Labour party either divided or actually split (see article).
Given that, the Conservatives might be well advised to consider having a general election shortly – either in this autumn or in spring next year. There are a number of reasons why this might make sense:
The unhappy example of Gordon Brown 'bottling it' in 2007 is a reminder of the dangers of not seizing the favourable electoral moment.
Equally, in the less-likely scenario of a quickly recovered Labour party, the Conservative lead might shrink back to around the 2015 general election level of six per cent. Then it would make sense to wait at least until the new boundaries come into force.
There is nothing wrong with waiting to see how the Labour leadership election and its aftermath play out. But if current voting intentions continue, there may be more advantage for the Conservatives in going soon, rather than waiting for the new boundaries in 2018.
The Boundary Commissions for England and Wales published their initial proposals on 13 September 2016 for the new seat boundaries.
Electoral Calculus has performed a full analysis of the impact of the changes on the UK political make-up, as well as calculating which seats disappear, which change hands, and which fresh seats are newly created.
Visit the Boundaries 2018 page for full details and links to all regions and seats.
Also region-by-region breakdowns are available:
The user-defined predictor can now make predictions on the basis of the new boundaries (with 599 seats rather than 600, until the Scottish Commission reports).
A write-up of the Electoral Calculus' research is also available from the Daily Telegraph as both a news story and a full analysis.
New parliamentary boundaries were announced on 6 September by the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland. Analysis of these initial proposals by Electoral Calculus indicates the the Ulster Unionist Party may lose both of its current Westminster seats, and that the republican Sinn Féin is likely to gain two seats, if voting patterns remain stable. The centre-left nationalist SDLP are also expected to lose one seat, as the total number of seats in the province decreases from 18 to 17.
The projected loss of the Ulster Unionist's MPs would be a heavy blow for the century-old party which has historically dominated Northern Ireland politics. Its influential past leaders include James Molyneux and David Trimble, who was the first-ever First Minister of Northern Ireland (1998-2002). Recently it has been eclipsed by the Democratic Unionist Party, founded by Ian Paisley in the 1970s, which is now the largest NI party at Westminster.
The UUP's two current seats are Antrim South, and Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The former is split and mostly becomes the new seat of 'Antrim West' which is predicted to be DUP. The latter seat, whose current UUP majority is only 530 votes, gains nationalist voters from Tyrone West, and is slated to become Sinn Féin's.
Other changes include the dismemberment into fragments of Belfast South (SDLP), and Ulster Mid (SF), which effectively disappear as seats. But Sinn Féin more than compensates for this by taking Upper Bann, and Londonderry East (renamed 'Glenshane') from the DUP. There is also one new seat created called Down West, which is predicted to be won by the DUP.
|Party||Old Seats||New Seats||Change||Commentary|
|DUP||8||8||0||Lose Londonderry East and Upper Bann;
gain Antrim West, and Down West (new seat)
Upper Bann and Blackwater,
Fermanagh and South Tyrone; lose Ulster Mid (disappears)
|SDLP||3||2||-1||Lose Belfast South (disappearing seat)|
|UUP||2||0||-2||Lose Antrim South, Fermanagh and South Tyrone|
|MIN||1||1||0||Hold Down North|
See Northern Ireland boundary changes for full details of every old and new seat in NI.
See New Boundaries 2018 overall analysis.
These two recent polls are worth a look:
The contrast between the Conservative and Labour leadership contests has already been marked. The Conservatives finished theirs in a matter of days while Labour's looks set to continue until late September. But Labour's problems go a lot deeper than the transient tumult of the leadership election.
The most likely outcome of the Labour leadership contest is that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected leader. A YouGov poll of Labour members for the Times in mid-July  has him winning 56−34 over the (then hypothetical) challenger Owen Smith. Even allowing for polling error, that points to a clear victory.
What happens next depends on the Labour members of parliament. Three-quarters of them, 172 out of 232, have already voted against Corbyn in a vote of no confidence at the end of June. They will not welcome his re-election, but what will they do about it? They have two main options: stay or go. But both have strong drawbacks.
If they stay they have to contend with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, as well as the strength of the party's energised left wing, a possible general election defeat, and the potential threat of deselection. And selection processes will really happen since the new boundaries scheduled for 2018 will shrink the number of seats from 650 to 600. Only about one in eight Labour-leaning seats might be left unchanged, and so most seats will face some change to their boundaries. And that means 232 MPs will be fighting for about 200 winnable new seats.
Their hope in staying would be to ride out the deselection risks, anticipate a defeat at the next general election and attempt to regain control of the party and rebuild afterwards. The historical parallel would be the recovery of Labour after Michael Foot's defeat in 1983.
The alternative to staying is leaving. A group of MPs could choose to leave the formal structures of the Labour party, which is equivalent to leaving the party and setting up a new one. One quick advantage would be that the new party could instantly become the official opposition if at least 117 MPs make the change. Their new leader would become the Leader of the Opposition and face Theresa May at Prime Minister's Questions each week. But the rump Labour party would retain the name, offices and (possibly) the annual £6 million of parliamentary "Short" money .
The new party would need a new name and aim to take a good chunk of the current Labour membership with it. But a majority of Labour members would likely stick with Corbyn, since they would have just voted for him. Also Labour enjoys long-term support in much of the country, sometimes from generation to generation. These long-term ties may not be easily broken, and some of those loyal party supporters will stick with Labour through thick and thin. So the new party should aim both to take voters from "old Labour" as well as other existing parties. The obvious historical parallel is the formation of the SDP in 1981 when twenty-eight Labour MPs left the party to create the new Social Democratic Party. The SDP achieved poll ratings of up to 50%, but never won more than six seats at general elections. Could a larger breakaway group do better?
Electoral Calculus has analysed a set of likely scenarios to find out. There is not yet polling evidence on the two key questions: how much would left-of-centre total support change, and what share of it would the new party get. So a range of possibilities is considered. Total Labour support ('Old Labour 'plus 'New Labour') could go up or down, depending on how messy the separation looks and the electoral appeal of the new grouping. The scenarios run from −5pc (total Labour support decreases from 31pc to 26pc) up to +20pc (support increases to 51pc). The split of these votes between 'Old' and 'New' is perhaps more likely to favour the new grouping, particularly if they can gather a majority of existing MPs. These scenarios run from 50pc (total Labour votes split equally between the two successor parties) to 70pc ('New Labour' gets 7 Labour votes out of every 10).
|Overall Labour vote share change on 2015|
|'NewLab' share||Party||Lab −5%||Lab +0%||Lab +5%||Lab +10%||Lab +15%||Lab +20%|
|50 / 50||Con||407||394||381||370||358||344|
|60 / 40||Con||403||390||377||366||351||337|
|70 / 30||Con||394||379||366||354||339||319|
The table has a stark warning for Labour. In almost all the scenarios, the combined Labour parties win fewer seat than they did at the last general election. Only if overall Labour support increases by 20pc, do they equal their 2015 performance. And in all cases, the Conservatives remain the largest party in parliament and are almost certainly in government.
Let's look at a central realistic scenario where overall Labour vote goes up 10pc and 'New Labour' takes 60pc of the split. Then the Conservatives win 366 seats to have an increased majority of 82 seats, 'New Labour' is on 141 seats and 'Old Labour' has only 59 seats.
And this is before the effect of the new constituency boundaries. Using the projected new seat boundaries the Conservatives win 351 seats to have a majority of 102, with 'New Labour' on 125 seats and 'Old Labour' on 52 seats.
In a less favourable scenario, where opinion polls stay at current levels, then the results with the projected new boundaries are: Con 391 seats (182 seat majority), 'New Lab' 92 seats, 'Old Lab' 38 seats (well behind the Scottish Nationalists).
The message to Labour MPs is clear: look at the fire before leaping out of the frying pan.
This article appeared earlier in the Daily Telegraph online (link)
New research conducted by Electoral Calculus indicates that the Conservatives could have a majority of ninety seats from the combined effects of new constituency boundaries and current voting intention.
The official Boundary Commissions will not give their initial proposals for another month. But Electoral Calculus has projected its own set of new boundaries, as an early indication of their likely effect. These projected boundaries were created uniquely by Electoral Calculus from a detailed analysis of previous boundary proposals with updated electoral geography.
The results have a striking impact on the political landscape. The boundary changes alone could increase the Conservative majority from a slender twelve seats to a comfortable 48 seats.
But coupled with recent changes in the public's voting intention, as support from both Labour and UKIP has slipped, the net effect could give the Conservatives a majority of 90 seats.
at Gen Elect
seats at GE
There are 650 seats currently, so a party need 326 seats to have a majority. The new boundaries will have only 600 seats, so a party will need 301 seats to have a majority in the new parliament.
You can use these new projected seat boundaries in the user-defined prediction. Just click on the pick-list for "Seat Boundaries to use" and select the second item "Projected 2018 boundaries (600 seats)".
See also "Big Majority if May waits for new boundary change" by Oliver Wright in The Times (8 August 2016).
The graphic shows the migration of voters between the parties since the general election in May 2015. Each icon-person represents one per cent of all voters, with the arrows showing those voters who have switched party allegiance since the election. Grey voters indicate lost supporters since the general election.
Although politics has been frenetic since the EU Referendum, not too many voters have actually switched. The key points are the growth in the Conservatives and the loss of Labour support. Also UKIP have weakened slightly, despite their victory in the referendum. The Liberal Democrats and SNP have held fairly steady overall.
Primary data sources: YouGov polls 17 July – 2 August, sampling 5,217 people.