The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you


Posted by The Futility Monster on February 17, 2010 @ 10:29

Haven't you always wanted one of these? I know I have...

“Still I need your swing” – almost sang The Kooks in one of their not very good songs that still sticks in my head.

Recently on, long time poster Andy Cooke has written a few articles which have postulated his own theory as to what the election result will be based on various percentage results. They have been hailed as a major breakthrough of the conventional wisdom regarding UNS – Uniform National Swing.

The problem in my mind is that, while Andy’s work is excellent, it is not particularly revolutionary.

No one has ever suggested swing is indeed uniform. After all, Labour took the previously rock solid Tory seat of Crosby in 1997 with the night’s biggest “swing” of 18%; but the national swing was a mere 10%. UNS has always been an extremely simple tool to allow a very quick analysis of a result, to give a rough-and-ready idea of where an election is heading. It was more useful in the days of Labour v Tory, but these days, the plethora of third-parties makes using it for accurate projections extremely dangerous.

As such, I have never paid much attention to it. For years conventional wisdom has been saying the Tories need a 10% lead over Labour just to achieve a majority of 1. That has been based on our old friend, UNS, working in tandem with our appalling electoral system (have I mentioned that I hate our electoral system before?).

But, since everyone knows UNS is very rough, it has always been right to ignore such models. Clearly, the only seats that matter are the marginals, thanks to our electoral system, which, in case you’ve forgotten, I hate. If the Tories are indeed not making much impact in the Labour heartlands, who cares? Instead, if they’re doing well in Middleoftheroad Central and Sittingonthefence West – achieving very high resonance beyond what the national figures are saying, then it really is all over.

All that, and so far I’ve not even mentioned the dreaded “tactical voting”. This has the potential to magnify or dull any speculated surge to the leading party. After all, if non main-party voters decide they’ve had enough of Labour, the Tories will get a bonus. Conversely, if they don’t want Cameron in, Labour’s seat tally where it really counts will get a small but significant boost.

UNS is dead as a serious tool for predicting election results, but the fact is it has been for a very long time. Why else would Electoral Calculus have been providing the ability to set tactical voting parameters and “regional swings” for many years?

All Andy Cooke has done is piss on its grave.

Nevertheless, it is very good work, and it is a very useful addition to our toolbox for predicting what may be the most unpredictable election in modern times…

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