The Futility Monster

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

Posts Tagged ‘Labour voters’

Tribal Politics

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 9, 2010 @ 10:02

Insert tangentially related picture here

I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, but have been in and out of the party since I first joined five years ago. The toppling of Charles Kennedy did for me the first time, and I resigned my membership in disgust.

Then, in 2007, I decided to rejoin the party, and have been a member since. I voted for Chris Huhne in the leadership election, but I was prepared to give Nick Clegg a chance. I don’t think I’ve been disappointed, but we still have an election to place the final judgement on that one.

Prior to actually being able to vote, as a nerdy youth politics was one of my interests. Not in that Tory Boy kinda way, but I was heavily influenced by my parents. I recall the euphoria of 1997, the Labour landslide, and the delight it brought to my parents. They were Labour voters. If I could have voted, I would have been too. The same in 2001. I thought of myself as left-wing. I thought of myself as Labour.

My revulsion over the Iraq war, and the fact that Labour stopped doing anything for the working class after they introduced the minimum wage, led me to party isolation. In the end, I voted for the Lib Dems in 2005, believing they had the right policies, but I could easily have not voted, or voted Green.

I’m no tribalist. If my party is wrong, I will say so. If my party starts being consistently wrong, the direct debit will be terminated. But there aren’t many people like me who bother paying money to a political party any more. Most people know what kind of policies they want, but flit between the parties on their side of the spectrum.

It’s all so very different to how it used to be.

It took a long time to convince my parents that Labour failed the working class. They had sympathies with the militant tendency. And in the end, it wasn’t even me that did the job. It was, what else, Iraq. My dad says he’ll never vote Labour again. Most elections he now votes Lib Dem. At last, the party loyalty passed down through the generations has been broken.

But go back another generation, and the loyalties run deep. My grandparents, fiercely, deeply, tribally loyal to the Labour Party, could never consider anything else. No matter what I say to them, they will not be shifted. Labour look after the working class, they say. You can’t trust the Liberals. The Tories are sub-human scum. They don’t understand what it’s like to be a worker.

No matter the evidence – staring them right in the face – of a society where the rich-poor divide is at its widest, where millions are stuck in the benefit trap, where a shameful quality of life is equalled by a poverty of aspiration, and all nurtured by decades of Labour constituencies returning MPs that do nothing for their communities… they will not budge.

Politics is changing. Two and three generations back, the electorate was loyal and deferential. Labour voters bizarrely stuck in a love-in with their party, in some sort of ironic class system. Conservative voters voting for their economic interests.

With generational shift, that is evolving. My generation is politically fickle, and very much open to persuasion. To put it in Tony Benn’s words, we are a generation of weather vanes. The previous generation, born in freedom, born in the 60s and 70s era of emancipation and rebellion, are equally throwing off their chains of political affiliation.

Elections of the future are going to be more like this one. Harder to predict, but easier to persuade people.

Even harder to keep them.

That centre ground is getting pretty crowded though…


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What’s Wrong With Angus Reid?

Posted by The Futility Monster on February 3, 2010 @ 11:02

I’m sure there are many people in this country who share a name with the UK’s newest pollster. To them, I apologise.

Angus Reid Strategies are not new to polling. They are an international firm with a very decent reputation in their main market, Canada, where they successfully predicted the last federal election there.

They chose to spread their wings by, in a British blogosphere first, teaming up with Mike Smithson of Political to provide polling for them, presumably as a loss-leader to get noticed in the UK market.

And, my, they have been noticed. This table might explain why…

Taken on their own, it’s not particularly fascinating. The Tory share is rock solid, very close to my own estimates, and those of other pollsters. Looking good for 40%.

They also are around the expected value for the Lib Dems, maybe towards the higher end, but definitely safe within the margin of error. I get the feeling that they are more likely to be right than MORI’s recent 16% estimate for the party.

But it is the Labour figure that is starting to worry me, and even Mike Smithson himself has written a very strong defence of their methodology. But maybe they’ve taken his words of wisdom regarding Labour exaggeration to such an extreme that they’re reducing it too much?

Angus Reid are now some way out of line with the other pollsters for Labour. Take a look on the right to see for yourself…

It’s not enormous, and to their credit they have been consistent. Even when they launched they were showing the lowest Labour share of all the pollsters. To this day they continue, only now they are sticking out even more because of the great deal of recent polls showing Labour nudging up ever so slightly, perhaps above 30%.

But I just can’t believe that we are experiencing 1992 again, with five, six, seven percent Labour exaggeration. They surely won’t be that wrong again?

Either way, it is Angus Reid to “blame” for my current Monster’s Poll rating showing Labour on just 22%. Their consistent low Labour shares will, presumably, continue and result in my own methodology showing a very poor Labour performance.

22%, even 24%, would be utter humiliation for them. I don’t think Labour voters will sit on their hands in such large numbers to achieve that, and they certainly haven’t all suddenly become Tory voters. Some have, most of them in the marginal seats where it really matters. But not to this extent, surely?

Either way, it’s going to be fascinating. And with such a wide amount of disparity, I don’t have the guts to risk any money on the outcome…

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Return Of The Poll

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 11, 2010 @ 09:48

It’s been a surprisingly lively winter period as far as the polls are concerned. So much so that it’s time to see if all that wonderful political action over the last few weeks has actually achieved anything.

  • Conservatives: 40% (N/C)
  • Labour: 22% (N/C)
  • Lib Dems: 21% (-2%)

Clearly not.

I am, however, starting to get a little concerned about my polling methodology.

I am happy with what I’m currently predicting for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. I believe the Tories will achieve a minimum of 40% (of the GB share, excludes NI) and the Lib Dems are looking good for 20% or thereabouts. That will still be poor for them, as their GB share last time was 23% – though it all depends on each individual constituency, as we all know…

But what’s giving me greatest concern is the Labour figure. 22% would be a stunningly bad performance for them. My estimate of their share is based on Labour’s worst polling result in the last 90 days. A very large window, but I believe that British opinion does not change as much as the polls would indicate. I think taking a longer-term view (because 90 days is long-term in the world of politics!) gives us a better indicator of the core numbers for each party.

Until now I had accepted this Labour methodology without question. It comes direct from the God of Polls himself, Mr Mike Smithson of It is his Golden Rule. Always assume the worst of Labour.

The problem now is the following graph, showing the median Labour polling figure calculated on a rolling weekly basis from all polls across the previous 90 days…

Furthermore, the last five polls have put them on 30% or 31%. We should rightly be sceptical of such a large figure (for Labour) as they have never delivered on their best polling figure at an election, but to scale that back to 22% would be mass exaggeration.

I know Mike Smithson would counter by saying his Golden Rule talks about using all the numbers from the poll with the Labour lowest figure, but it would still remain true to say that the Golden Rule would predict that very same low Labour result.

I am loathe to change my methodology without an election as justification, and I am also wary of questioning The Man, but I just wonder if even he is starting to consider that just this once our scepticism of Labour may be misplaced. Perhaps a genuinely competitive election will finally bring out the Labour vote in more force than we’ve been used to?

It’s a difficult one, but I’ll be keeping it under review…

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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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Going For The Core Vote

Posted by The Futility Monster on December 12, 2009 @ 10:52

Core vote strategies, the Old School way...

Following on from yesterday’s examination of the polls, I said that the Tory vote is going to be about 40% come hell or high water.

In those circumstances, there is no way Labour can win. But there still remains three possibilities.

  1. A Labour disaster, scoring around 20% in the polls
  2. A slightly smaller disaster, getting around 25% in the polls
  3. A reasonable result, achieving 30% or so…

At this stage, the polls are pointing to either 1 or 2. That would be catastrophic for Labour, obviously, and would consign them to at least two elections in the wilderness. And with party warfare to follow a massive defeat, expect there to be a lot of blood spilled.

Clearly, then, number 3 would be preferable. But can they do it?

I genuinely believe they can. They’ll need more than a little luck, and no more back-biting, but if they hammer positively on the core Labour messages, and rally the core vote, they will at least get more than their current poll ratings suggest.

The hardest part of it is to sound convincing. If they are going to go on a message of equality, fairness, social justice… the classic creed of the centre-left, they unfortunately have to answer to their 13 year record. There are some successes, like the minimum wage and various other working rights, but broadly the statistics on lack of social mobility are hard to run away from.

It would have made more sense, then, for a new leader to have been elected on this kind of message. A John Cruddas figure, perhaps. But since that was never going to happen while they are in power, it doesn’t matter to them now.

The good thing, however, is that Brown is amazingly adept at ignoring the facts and ploughing on with his own reality. We see it every week at PMQs, to varying degrees of success. However, his excellent PMQs performance against a petulant Cameron on December 2, 2009 was a sign that he can make the strategy work.

The key to winning an election, though, is to tell a new story. That is why Labour cannot win. But they can lose less badly by telling all those who will listen, probably about 50% of the electorate, about the things they have done, and that their achievements will be put in serious jeopardy.

They are already doing that to a limited extent, but I strongly believe they need to be more selective, talk more about the things that get Labour sympathisers fired up.

Gordon Brown has to be bold, confident and aggressive. Go harder on the banks. Go harder on MPs expenses. Talk about the various Labour nationalisations of recent years as a sign the government is not going to let the private sector get away with the mess it’s put this country in any more. With that in mind, he should keep Northern Rock in the public sector, as an honest competitor for the banks. And, even better, keep the recently nationalised East Coast railway company in public hands.

Talk up the successes of the public sector, because there are some. There have been improvements in the NHS, without a doubt. And the crime statistics and surveys show that crime has fallen. Talk about how Labour will be a renewed, reinvigorated force after the election. A Labour “victory” next time could conceivably do that, due to the fact that huge numbers of their MPs are retiring, and there would be an infusion of new talent.

There is a credible message that could be told that could deliver them, say, 32%. That would be enough to deliver a very tight Parliament, and give Labour a path back after a period in opposition.

The key to achieving it is all about the above message and to look reinvigorated.

In other words, no Mandelsons. No Campbells. No Straws, Hoons or Darlings. And definitely no Lord Foulkes.

How to do this, you might ask? Well, a major pre-election reshuffle oughta do the trick…

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One Month Less

Posted by The Futility Monster on November 3, 2009 @ 09:05


Here's another - less liked - form of Poll

Or fewer?

Today we consider the latest instalment in our Monster’s Poll series. And the bad news for Labour is that nothing has changed:

  • Conservatives: 40% (N/C)
  • Labour: 23% (N/C)
  • Lib Dems: 23% (N/C)

The only thing that has changed, of course, is time. Labour now have one less month to tackle that major deficit.

Naturally, they aren’t going to overcome it. After all, they’ve spent the last year or more being way behind, and it seems to make no difference to the way they behave. They’re no closer to solving the problem, which makes me wonder if they’re even bothered about it any more.

We’re all humans, so there must come a point at which defeatism sets in. Most Tory members knew they would lose the 1997 election, but one thing they did demonstrate is that it was worth fighting back. In the year or two before the 1997 election, Labour often recorded over 50% in polls. They still achieved a landslide, but there is no doubt that Tory voters came home to a limited extent in the run up to the election.

Will we see the same thing here? I believe we will, but only if Labour voters get energised about the process. And yet… they just aren’t going to if the polls are this far apart.

Which is why the fightback, if one is going to happen, will not be organic. It will have to be lead in the first instance by the Labour top brass. Mandelson, you may recall, is a fighter and not a quitter. So there’s one for the battlebus. But what about the rest?

You get the sense that the expenses fiasco and the battle that is governing this country has taken it out of Labour. They are now lethargic, waiting for the end to come. Contrast that with the Tories, who have a spring in their step, desperate to get their hands on the levers of power, and can’t wait to turn off the taps of public funding. They haven’t had a better opportunity/excuse in decades to implement a radical Tory platform than the economic crisis. They have a raison d’etre.

Labour don’t. They know inevitable defeat will lead to an even more open party warfare than before. Perhaps that’s why most of them are so morose, because they know that just around the corner is the prospect of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband battling it out for the Labour leadership.

And if that’s not enough to fill anyone with dread, I don’t know what is.

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Post-Conference Polling

Posted by The Futility Monster on October 19, 2009 @ 08:31

The summer season now well behind us, the Monster’s Poll is finally getting updated. And, my, have there been a lot of polls, largely due to Sky News and their daily opinion poll tracker that they had running during the whole of the conference period.

The expense was largely unjustified. Anyone who followed the polls during that time probably got a little bit of sick of trying to explain away sometimes bizarre movements in polls, attempting to correlate them with something, anything, that might justify why Labour could move five points in a day without any apparent trigger.

But all that data has indeed led to some movement. And it’s one that moves Labour a little way towards a more respectable result, but still trailing badly…

  • Conservatives: 40% (N/C)
  • Labour: 23% (+2%)
  • Lib Dems: 23% (+1%)

Putting the Tories on 40% is hardly a surprise. Our Monster’s Poll read 40% for them in mid June. I’ve observed on a number of occasions that their support is rock solid. It would take a seismic shift for their support to move anywhere else. 40% of the electorate are, in my view, in the bag for Cameron. That should deliver him victory. A close one, but a victory nevertheless.

It is Labour, however, whose figures are the most intriguing. 23% would still be an appalling performance, but they have now increased by some 5% since their 18% nadir in the run up to the Euro Elections.

But here’s the problem. The following graph shows Labour’s median polling share, with a weekly reading taken from the previous 90 days polling, or, 30 polls if the number of polls within the last 90 days was not 30…

Click for large version

Click for large version

In words… it started at 26%, and ended four months later at 27%, taking a small decline in-between and then recovering the lost ground.

Not great. At that rate of progress, maybe they’ll achieve 30% or so by the election. In time I suspect the Monster’s Poll reading will move closer towards that, and maybe Labour will outperform it if they are able to rally their support with the threat of a Tory majority. The big question, of course, will be whether such an increase in support is well distributed in the marginal seats, or if it merely adds to existing Labour majorities in their heartlands. The former is preferable, the latter is useless…

But what it does show is that they must have been doing something right since they hit rock bottom. Uncharitable observers may quip that even a dead cat bounces, but I think that’s unfair. Labour’s conference did instil a bit more fight in the party, and maybe their continued attacks on an apparent lack of Conservative policy and an untried, untested and inexperienced leadership have brought home a few Labour waverers at the expense of fringe parties.

Still, they haven’t made a dent in that Tory 40% core.

And, like I said, that’s why they’re gonna lose!

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Boring Norwich North

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 27, 2009 @ 00:33

The depressing image of the future of British Politics. Young. Fashionable. Smooth. Give me old warhorses like Dennis Skinner and Sir Peter Tapsell any day!

The depressing image of the future of British Politics. Young. Fashionable. Smooth. Give me old warhorses like Dennis Skinner and Sir Peter Tapsell any day!

It has taken me some days to find anything interesting to comment on from the Norwich North by-election. But that won’t stop me trying…

The reason being quite simple: it was blindingly obvious that the Tories were going to win. So my right call – and they don’t come along too often so you’ll excuse my celebration – a whole month ago was entirely vindicated.

In many respects, these are the worst by-elections of all. They aren’t exciting or relevant because the result is a certainty – and yet they should be the complete opposite given the fact that the governing party have just lost a key seat on a huge swing. If a by-election were held in a government stronghold, which they win as easily as falling off a log, that would be equally dull. But at least then we’d understand why it got so little attention.

Instead, this one is frustrating. Indeed, in the run up to it there was so little coverage that we might have been forgiven for thinking there was no more need for politics in this country.

It was a simple result with a simple explanation. Tory voters came out to vote; Labour voters all found something else to do in droves.

Now, this has led to much comment. After all, the newly minted Tory MP received less votes as an absolute figure compared with the 2005 General Election. Consequently, elections “expert” Professor John Curtice assures us that the result should give David Cameron “a moment’s pause”.

Here’s my reasoning why it shouldn’t do anything of the sort.

Elections are about winning by any means possible. If you lose votes, but your opposition loses even more, and you come out on top, then you have done what needs to be done.

The argument goes that these Labour voters will return when the General Election comes around. It’s always been the same. For some reason, it is damn near impossible to get Labour voters out of bed when the government of the country is not at stake. We see it every time, local, European and by-elections; they’re just lazy bastards.

If the argument is true, then Labour should reclaim Norwich North at the next General Election. After all, they got 21,097 votes last time, 7,506 more than Chloe Smith received and won.

But I don’t think it is true any more. Some Labour voters will indeed return. The rest are, I believe, lost for good. The middle classes have already moved to the Tories. The working classes will never vote Tory: but they will sit on their hands or vote elsewhere (BNP?) as a protest. They have had it with Labour. They’ve always been prepared to overlook the middle-of-the-road tendencies required to win power, viewing it as a necessary evil to schmooze with the City and big business.

But the recession, the credit crunch, and the MPs expenses scandal have changed all of that. They no longer identify with the Labour Party in the way they did. They have – finally – woken up and realised that, in those immortal words, “they’re all at it”.

In other words, their behaviour has no excuse, and they’ve been caught with their hands on the till – and all these events taken together have been the straw that’s broken the camel’s back.

The absence of Labour voters almost gives Cameron a majority without him even doing anything. When you add in the middle class switchers, the next election is such a shoo-in that we might as well forgo the election process and hand Cameron the keys to Number 10 now.

Norwich North wasn’t particularly groundbreaking. But, in the same way Wirral South was for Tony Blair in February 1997, it was just another sign that the inevitable was drawing ever nearer…

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