The Futility Monster

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Posts Tagged ‘hung parliament’

Labour’s Death Throes

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 4, 2010 @ 10:11

Unless they can't win. In fact, just don't vote for them at all.

This story is actually incredible.

To me it shows a few things.

First, Labour is admitting defeat. It is clearly a sign that Labour know they cannot possibly win a majority, and that in order to leave them in with a chance of staying in power, they need to ensure that the road ahead for the Conservatives is as bumpy as possible.

In some ways, though, Labour are only telling people to take the sensible option given our voting system. Take a LD-Con marginal like Eastleigh. It makes no sense for Labour voters to vote Labour there if their most hated candidate in the race is the Conservative. They could vote Lib Dem and at least make sure the Tory loses.

Nevertheless, no major party has ever been explicit that this is what the electorate should do. Usually it’s all about “getting the maximum vote for our party”. Changing the record now with just two days to go is a sign of desperation, no doubt about it.

The second point is that it is the biggest admission by the Lab-Con axis that the electoral system is totally flawed. By acknowledging the fact that millions of people across the country are going to be casting “wasted votes” unless they vote tactically, it is a potentially significant development. How can Labour, including Peter “Back Door” Hain, possibly get away with not supporting electoral reform after this revelation?

Finally, it is the clearest sign yet that Labour are prepared to work with Liberal Democrats on constitutional reform. After all, Labour have been the biggest tinkerers of the constitution in generations. They’re not averse to the option, and if it’s all they have to do to keep power…

Though it’s all coded, and all very subtle, it’s becoming very apparent that Labour both know they won’t win outright, and know their only hope is of a coalition or other deal which supports Lib Dem policies in return for a Lib Dem backing of a Labour Queen’s Speech.

In advance of the election, the Lib Dems are right to reject Labour’s advances. It is not good to admit at any point that you are weak and in danger of being propped up. Especially for the Lib Dems, where even if they don’t secure many more seats, a large number of votes will make the case for reform of its own accord.

That Labour would enter into such a strange game, one that damages its own message of how the Lib Dems cannot be trusted because of their inexperience, speaks volumes as to how worried they must be in the Bunker.

Now is the time for Lib Dems to strike a blow against Labour. There will never be another chance for the Labour Party to be replaced as the true party of the centre-left, of the progressive axis in British politics.

Labour is weakened. Labour is dying.

But can the Lib Dems take advantage, in spite of the electoral mountain that faces them?

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Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pollwatch: T-Minus 5 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 1, 2010 @ 23:59

CONSERVATIVES: 34% (N/C)

LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 27% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=28). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

Still nothing happens. And there were four new polls today, as well… all of them suggesting that the Lib Dems are slipping and the Tories are gaining.

It’s an old cliché, but it’s beginning to come true. The more likely a hung parliament seems, the less likely it really is.

As the election draws nearer, and it seems like it’s going to be an inconclusive result, opinion starts to harden one way or the other. In this case, the country seems to be deciding, after it’s brief flirtation with the third party, to come home. Perhaps we just wanted to keep Cameron on his toes, make him prove that he is worthy of being PM.

Or maybe it’s just the fickle electorate once again.

Having said that, it’s probably too early to conclude just yet. The medians above haven’t moved, after all. And so they shouldn’t. More evidence is needed first, and there’s going to be plenty of that next week.

These shares, despite what UNS might say, are not far off a majority. Labour meltdown, plus more “wasted” votes going to the Lib Dems, and a disproportionate pro-Tory swing in the marginals, will ensure they get the seats they need.

It’s not over, but the writing is starting to appear on the wall.

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Pollwatch: T-Minus 7 Days

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 29, 2010 @ 23:59

CONSERVATIVES: 34% (+1%)

LIB DEMS: 29% (N/C)

LABOUR: 27% (N/C)

Changes based upon last time (yesterday). Sample consists of all polls with mid-point fieldwork dates within the last 10 days, including today (n=29). Includes all British Polling Council registered pollsters. The results above are the median figure for each party.

All very stable, but we’re in a holding pattern. The first, and only, post-bigotgate poll puts Labour on absolutely no change at all. But I told you that yesterday, so regular visitors (all two of you) should not be surprised!

The holding pattern is, of course, because of tonight’s debate. What will the impact of David Cameron’s “win” be? We won’t find out for sure tomorrow… for the full reality, we may have to wait till the opinion polls in the Sunday papers.

But so far, it’s a slight nudging forward for the Tories. And that’s all we will ever really see in these smoothing median samples. The direction of travel, then, is most important. Maybe we’ll see another point to them tomorrow… and that will definitely be a worrying sign for those of us hoping for a hung parliament.

Oh well…

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Cameron Senses The Danger

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 27, 2010 @ 09:00

I've always been a bit suspicious about those wet liberals, to be honest. Now I know why.

Isn’t it funny how the Conservatives have been put on the run by the Lib Dems, of all people…

The Lib Dems, their most hated enemy. And yet, there was Cameron all those years ago calling himself a liberal Conservative. Oh no, that was the other day. And then there was the guff of libdems4cameron.com which soon got forgotten and turned into a link to their normal website.

All it took was just one little debate.

But the Tories aren’t stupid. They hastily rewrote and re-shot last week’s Party Election Broadcast. Then there was the second debate, in which all of his fire was largely directed at the Lib Dems (not Nick in particular though, and why would you attack someone with a net +50% approval rating?). And now a whole day of coverage about how the choice is between a Tory majority and a hung parliament.

Cameron’s argument that we should choose a majority for him because “the pound will fall” is hardly going to set the world alight. Apart from it being economically illiterate (the pound has already fallen, providing a huge boost to UK exports) it is utterly tedious and seems to imply that our votes should only be motivated by utterly dry numbers that are meaningless to the everyday lives of the electorate.

He’s also, if the polls are to be believed, fighting a losing battle. Not that people can actually vote for a hung parliament, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that people like the idea. Whether it’s Lib Dems who have dreamed of nothing other than it, or Labour voters sensing their only chance of rescuing this one out of the fire, or other and nonpartisan voters who just want to see something different, there is a genuine desire to see a new political culture after the 2010 election.

And again, that’s why Cameron senses the danger. If the unthinkable happens, and the Lib Dems do manage to exact major political reform (electoral and other constitutional changes) it will permanently change British politics. Never again will a party enjoy untrammelled power, courtesy of landslide results on small proportions of voters.

The Tories would miss that dearly. Cameron and Osborne want that all to themselves. They would dearly love a 40% vote that gives them 100% of the power. That’s what Thatcher and Blair got. Why not them?

The irony of all this is that in the meantime, there is actually still a sitting Prime Minister and a Labour party that still could do serious damage if it’s ignored. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they don’t exist, but they still do…

Can Cameron battle effectively on two fronts? Clegg/Cable on one, Mandelson on the other…

I’ll bet that was never part of their electoral strategy.

Posted in Musings | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Constitutional Crisis Ahoy?

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 26, 2010 @ 09:24

I'm not sure that's the right metaphor, but hey, it's a picture isn't it?

People like me take great delight whenever we hear the words “constitional” and “crisis” in the same sentence. It’s probably because one day I’d love to see the joke that is the British mostly uncodified constitution unravel before our very eyes, because it makes no allowances for certain provisions.

Clearly, one of those provisions would be if the sitting Prime Minister got significantly fewer votes than everyone else, and still remained the largest party in a hung parliament.

The more cerebral reason why I’d like such an eventuality to occur is that I think it would finally demonstrate to everyone just how stupid our system is. Based upon the blatant fraud that is First Past The Post, and involving ridiculous conventions involving a supposedly neutral head of state who has zero mandate and zero legitimacy, and yet potentially exercising the enormous privilege of asking someone to form a government.

The revolutionary in me would heartily enjoy the head-scratching and conjecture drawn up by civil service mandarins and academic “experts” on the so-called constitution. A few days, or even a few hours, of grave and severe turmoil might finally encourage the British people to demand that, at long last, we get all of our constitution down into a formal document so we can cover these eventualities.

But I’m not at all optimistic about that. First of all, pushing Labour into third place in a General Election will be a mammoth struggle. If the Lib Dems could do it, it would be a remarkable achievement, almost a century after being replaced by the Labour party as the new opposition to the Conservatives. One of the world’s greatest, and longest, fightbacks.

The main obstacle to it, however, is the British people. We’ve had silly election results before from our system, and nobody took a blind bit of notice. Or if they did, the establishment remained resolute that change would not be in our interests. By which they mean, not in their interests. After all, who wants to share power with another party when you can have power all to yourself? Better still, power completely disproportional to the share of the vote you got.

Constitutional crises only occur when there is a dispute over which way we should turn. And they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this kind of one would be very good for us.

It would be appropriate, then, that this country, which is so battered and bruised by recession and 13 years of Labour failure, and in such a quandary over what party to elect, should take a moment just to pause and reflect. Let that ambivalence and uncertainty be represented in the election result.

Deliver the politicians a real dilemma. And a real opportunity.

A once in a lifetime  opportunity.

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Roll-y Poll-y

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 24, 2010 @ 23:42

There is a real danger in my poll projection methodology at the moment. The huge highs recorded in the Lib Dem share are estimating that the figure for “Others” could go as low as 6%, which is never going to happen. At the last election the three main parties achieved 90% of the British vote. That will not be lower this time, especially with the rise of the Nats.

So there is going to have to be some revision to my methodology. Again. Before that, the new numbers…

CONSERVATIVES: 33%

LIB DEMS: 29%

LABOUR: 28%

No changes from last time, because of the methodology change.

I have decided, because of the huge volume of polls coming through at the moment, on average three a day, to close the polling window down to just 10 days. 10 days of polls is roughly 30 polls, which is sufficient to get a good view of what’s going on. And, in light of the major developments in recent weeks, it’s important the averaging becomes a little more sensitive. 10 days will achieve that.

I have also decided that it would be wrong to use maxima and minima. Labour are not going get 23%, whcih is what the minimum would predict. It is not going to happen. The Lib Dems, much as they usually outperform the polling, are not going to get 34% this time.

So now we’re all on medians. All the above numbers are now the medians spread across all results from members of the British Polling Council.

It looks and feels a little closer to the truth. A major drop for the Tories, and a major rise for the Lib Dems. As the election enters its closing stages, this index will be regularly updated.

What do these results mean in terms of seats? Using our old, discredited friend – UNS – we get…

  • ukpollingreport.co.uk – Conservatives: 247 seats; Labour: 276 seats; LD: 96 seats: LABOUR 50 seats short
  • Electoral Calculus –  Conservatives: 258 seats; Labour: 265 seats; LD: 95 seats: LABOUR 61 seats short

Unfortunately, I can’t even try it with Andy Cooke’s version, principally because his system was designed in the bad old days when the Lib Dems knew their place.

So we’re in bizarre territory. Potentially Labour coming third in share of the vote, and yet getting the most seats. And thus getting the first crack at forming a government. God bless FPTP!

But UNS can’t possibly be a useful guide in such a close election. It cannot cope with a genuine third party “surge” like this. It’s going to make some of these predictions look very bad come results day. Unless, that is, the Lib Dems do fail to consolidate their vote in the key marginals, and instead lift up everywhere, potentially gaining very little as a result. That is my worry.

And yet, these numbers sort of feel right. Perhaps they may be transposed; maybe the slightly greater swing to the Tories in the key marginals will mean the Tories get roughly what we think Labour will get in such a close scenario. Either way, both parties are way, way short of a majority.

All this can change so easily. A couple of percent either way will make the outcome more decisive, and bring in lots of other scenarios, potentially involving other parties than the Lib Dems.

But if we get stuck here, there will only be one winner: the Yellow Peril. The Lib Dems will get the choice of government. Or neither, precipitating another election. That would be highly dangerous. I sense a lose-lose situation for them.

So many scenarios. So much still to play for…

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Post-Budget Polls & Number Crunching

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 25, 2010 @ 11:34

Beware! The title of this post is deliberately misleading, for there have been no post-Budget polls yet!

But still, it is post-Budget, and this seems an ideal time to calibrate the Monster’s Poll index so that we have a baseline if it has any affect. Let’s give it a whirl:

CONSERVATIVES: 38% (N/C)

LABOUR: 26% (+1%)

LIB DEMS: 21% (-1%)

Remember that this is now on our pre-election methodology, involving the median, minimum and maximum for the three parties respectively over the last 30 days.

The interesting thing about polling at the moment is that the polls reporting the highest Labour shares are suggesting that Labour has barely lost any of its vote since 2005. If that’s right, I’ll eat my well-gnawed hat.

The polls are indeed recording a slight down tick for the Tories, and a positively glowing performance for Labour, relative to how badly they were doing last summer in the run up to the European elections. Looking purely at the median Labour polling performance over the last three days, which records a figure of 32%, they’re still some way behind putting the Tories in jeopardy.

Conventional wisdom, using uniform national swing, might suggest a Tory victory of some 6% would not deliver them a majority. Let’s crunch some numbers, Con=38, Lab=32 and assume a Lib Dem share of 21%:

  • ELECTORAL CALCULUS – “CON short 38 of majority”
  • UKPOLLINGREPORT – “Hung Parliament, Conservatives 42 seats short”

As the media also does most of its speculation using UNS, those two predictions are exactly why all the talk is of hung parliaments, and who the Lib Dems will back in such an eventuality.

But I don’t believe this will be the case. I genuinely think the Tories are doing better in the marginals, and that Labour are being overstated. With that in mind, 32% is out. Having said that, I don’t think Labour will score as low as 26% either. 28-30% is more likely. Let’s split the difference. What would the UNS guess for this kind of result: Con=38, Lab=29, LD=21?

  • ELECTORAL CALCULUS – “CON short 11 of majority”
  • UKPOLLINGREPORT – “Hung Parliament, Conservatives 18 seats short”

That sounds more like it. But I still don’t trust the UNS. It’s too crude.

So let’s try the Andy Cooke model. What does a Tory lead of 9 percentage points produce?

  • ANDY COOKE – “100% chance of a Conservative majority” – Tories 348-359 seats, a potential majority of 22-33

That sounds more like it. Perhaps a little bit high, but bearing in mind that the Shinners don’t take their seats it may be about right.

As a Lib Dem, I would obviously dearly love a hung Parliament.

But the key to achieving it is not to hope Labour does better, or the Tories do worse.

In this kind of delicate balance that the polls are currently showing, our fate is entirely in our hands. The better the Lib Dems do, the more seats we win, the more likely a hung Parliament, and the more of our agenda we may be able to implement.

The possibilities are exciting. But I still can’t help but feel that it will be a decent Tory majority on the day after polling day.

I hope you enjoyed this number crunching. There may be more of it on the way…

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The Lib Dem Sandwich

Posted by The Futility Monster on March 15, 2010 @ 09:48

And a Lib Dem sandwich board, on a Lib Dem

Yesterday morning’s Andrew Marr Show was both amusing and a stark warning to the upper echelons of the Lib Dem Party. Nick Clegg, or one of his associates, managed to spot the same thing that I did yesterday morning… that both the Tories and the Labour party were trying to claim the Lib Dems as their own.

This should concern everyone in the party.

The other parties have clearly noticed the polling. They have also, no doubt, got their own private polling going on in marginal constituencies. And more than that, no one wishes to appear complacent anyway. Every vote has to be fought for and won. That’s the old axiom that will be trotted out over the next few weeks.

That has got them thinking. If the worst does happen (from their perspective) and they end up being the largest party but with no majority, what are they going to do?

Well, the easiest answer to the question is to stop asking the question, and instead turn the situation on the head.

Scare tactics. That old favourite of politicians for decades, well worn and trusted by the Karl Roves and Dick Cheneys of this world.

Rather than giving the electorate a compelling case to vote for you, let’s instead tell them why they shouldn’t vote for the opposition. After all, only idiots vote for them. And terrorists. Do you want this country to be bombed by Albert Kaida, Citizen?

Only this time, it has a twist. On top of the usual guff of negative campaigning, now we have a new strategy.

Well, the Lib Dems are my friends, really. And in fact, we’re so close that you might as well vote for me, because I love everything the Lib Dems do and will DEFINITELY!! implement their agenda if I get to power. No, you may not see my fingers. They aren’t crossed. You trust me, don’t you?

The Tories have been trying this strategy for years. They call it “love-bombing”. In Tory-Lib Dem marginals, the idea was to convince the Lib Dems that the new “liberal” Conservatives are so close to what the Lib Dems want that there’s no need for a Lib Dem party any more.

Fortunately, recent months have demonstrated that the Tories agenda is just as right-wing as ever, allowing the Lib Dems a way out of this tight embrace.

But now, on the other flank, Labour seem like they’re going to do exactly the same.

With all this love going round, the Lib Dems are going to have to be extremely careful. They will need to carve out the most sharply defined identity the party has ever had in the space of a mere seven weeks. And the message consistency will have to be rock solid.

Nick Clegg did a good job yesterday with his speech.

Over to the activists and the machine now…

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Wooing Mr Clegg

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 5, 2010 @ 09:28

Let's see more of these! We love bar charts...

This morning Nick Clegg is having a moan about other parties suddenly reaching out to him, and trying to convince the electorate that, really, we’re all best friends and you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between everyone.

He’s right to point out that this is cynical behaviour on the part of the other parties, but he’d better get used to it.

Latest polling, as pointed out by Mike Smithson, is once again showing that the Tories are rock solid on 40%, with Labout and the Lib Dems fighting over the scraps. When one party gains, the other loses. It would seem, therefore, that as far as Labour are concerned, the Lib Dems are fighting on the same ground. It’d be hard to think of two more different parties: one statist, authoritarian and centrist, the other decentralising, liberal and genuinely progressive.

But it seems old traditions die hard. Voters are still thinking of these two parties as very close to one another. They were at one point, but times have changed significantly as the New Labour project has matured.

Of course, the point of this exercise is not to discuss potential coalition partners. It’s actually to make sure that there never has to be a coalition discussion at all. It’s a very underhanded way of stealing voters from the other side in the hope that you don’t actually have to work with them in any way. So much for friendship.

But what do the Tories have to gain from it? If they get 40%, they’re likely to be in power, but it will be a fairly tight Parliament. Every seat is vital, and it just so happens that there are quite a few Tory-Lib Dem marginals that could just tip the balance…

What’s the best Lib Dem fightback from this position, being ambushed from both sides by two parties whose only interest is in maintaining the status quo in the British political system?

If I were in Clegg’s shoes I would be looking to go on the offensive. It looks like he’s going to do that, but the best way would be to bear in mind the polling evidence showing that Labour are the biggest danger to his vote share.

Yet this strategy, gloriously for a third-party, has two-fronts, going opposite ways. First, emphasise to old centre-left voters that Labour is not the party of the working class. That Labour has sold its soul for 13 years in power. That while they have brought some support, like the minimum wage, they have been more interested in being in-hock to bankers and big business.

Meanwhile, an attack on the Tories should not be out of the question. Clegg needs to provide a narrative in those Lib Dem-Tory marginals to keep the activists fired up. But in doing so he will also convince those soft Labour voters that the Lib Dems aren’t the Tories in disguise. Win-win, some might say.

Either way, we need to be in the news a lot during this pre-election period, as it will be far too easy for the media to ignore us and concentrate on the same old duopoly. We’ll only do so by staying resolutely on the front foot.

Hope the Lib Dem media machine is going to be on top form this election…

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Why Cameron Needs A Landslide

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 17, 2009 @ 08:35

Sign on, sign on, with hope in your hearts; and you'll never find a job...

Sign on, sign on, with hope in your hearts; and you'll never find a job...

This morning The Times has an interesting story which has potentially damaging repercussions for any Conservative government.

They report that if their plans for moving some people from incapacity benefit onto the dole queue is put into action, it will result in unemployment figures of some 4m or so.

To me, what this illustrates is a much wider picture. If the economy is still struggling in 2010, job losses will be continuing anyway. Who knows what unemployment will reach before the next election; though Labour will try their hardest – by any means necessary – to keep it below the symbolic 3m mark.

Other countries have been departing recession in the past month or so, and Japan is now the latest. We won’t be far behind… but there remains a substantial worry that what we’re currently seeing is the dreaded “double dip” recession, i.e. that once the government stimulus spending, whether funded by deficits or surpluses, has worked its way through the system, there will be nothing left to sustain it. After all, the public sector can’t continue to grow if the private sector is shrinking, as there won’t be sufficient tax basis to fund any more public spending.

With that in mind, there are still huge unknowns on the horizon. If the economy is poor, but Labour somehow manage to run a good campaign and stem the Tory tide to no more than 100 seats, we’ll see a hung Parliament situation. Cameron may well emerge triumphant from such a scenario, all depending on what the Lib Dems do.

But if he does, and he either leads a minority government, or has a wafer thin majority, it’s going to make the next Parliament extremely fragile.

If the economic bad news continues to pile up, the pressure will become extraordinary. Labour will be able to accuse the Conservatives of inexperience and making the recession into a depression. Of course, it will sound hypocritical, but voters are rather impatient. In those circumstances, we could easily see another General Election, with a new Labour leader, and a very uncertain outcome.

Alternatively, Cameron may be seen to be handling it well. But, if I were him, I would be looking to call another election quickly anyway, to enhance that majority. But that’s always a risky gamble…

Either way, it’s a potential headache for the Tories. After all, no one wants to be forced into an election. Or even pick a fight they aren’t sure they’re going to win. See Gordon Brown in September 2007 for proof.

The solution is a thumping great win which will remove any doubt that Cameron has the ability to ride out any further storms and give him a large degree of moral legitimacy.

The Tories will win next time. The only question is the one it has been for years now: how big will it be?

For Cameron it needs to be big.

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