Election Night Liveblog

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0421 – Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond loses his seat of Gordon to the Tories. As Ruth Davidson continues a cracking night, no more soleros for Salmond in the Commons cafe.

0417 – Kuennsberg checks the oracle (her phone) and sees rumours of beginnings of plots against Theresa May. Deja Vu here – remember the day of resignations last time?

0414 – Does Jacob Rees-Mogg now hold the record for the world’s largest rosette?

0402 – Osborne twists the knife – “Running through a wheatfield is no longer the worst thing Theresa May has ever done”. He’s one Tory enjoying himself tonight.

0400 – SDLP have lost all their seats in Northern Ireland. We may not realise it here, but that’s a massive change there. The SDLP have been a part of Northern Irish politics since 1970 and could this see them slip away from the Assembly too?

0355 – Theresa May pulled over for speeding

0349 – Peter Kellner makes an interesting point about vote shares – the Tory vote share will historically be actually very good. Labour are improving as well though and getting votes just where they need them.

0339 – “It’s a long night ahead” is always code for I’ve taken a hammering. Alex Salmond looks like a loser.

0332 – After doing very little so far, the Lib Dems have begun to collect seats including Twickenham, Bath and now Eastbourne.

0327 – She gets a setback though, with the BBC downgrading the Tory total to 318.

0324 – Theresa May says country “needs a period of stability” could she resign after a while? Another election?

0320 – Declaration for Theresa May STILL going.

0319 – The SDLP lose Belfast South to the DUP, their second loss of the night – could they be wiped out?

0318 – Theresa May gives her rival Lord Buckethead a pasting.

0310 – Corbyn talks of people “turning their backs on austerity”. He’s definitely done very well tonight, but his argument will be undermined if the Tories do eventually reach 326. Would be a very muddled outcome.

0308 – Sir Eric Pickles with spot on analysis.

0255 – Conservatives make their first gain from Labour at Walsall North which was held with a majority of just under 2,000. This must be one of the least uniform elections ever.

0247 – Can understand why.

0244 – Nick Clegg arrives at his count. Managing to look even sadder than he did in 2015.

0240 – An actual child gains East Renfrewshire for the Tories. Might the Tories crawl over 326…

0230 – Conservatives gain Southport from the Lib Dems. That was expected but remarkably the Lib Dems are currently on -1.

0221 – Slight twist in the tale, Curtice has updated his forecast to read 322 seats for the Tories, just short of an overall majority and would be enough for the working majority winning line of about 322 (minus Sinn Fein and Speaker from the total, though the exit poll suggests the UUP will hold Fermanagh and South Tyrone from Sinn Féin)

0219 – Reports coming in that Theresa May is running for her life through a wheatfield.

0218 – SNP’s Westmister leader Angus Robertson loses Moray to the Conservatives. Jim Murphy must be cackling at these SNP big dogs having a taste of their own medicine.

0216 – Textbook election night. Kuenssberg indicates that Tory ministers have now given up hoping for an outperforming the exit poll. Speculation about Exit Poll accuracy (including by yours truly) for the wisdom of Curtice.

0208 – Boris Johnson’s odds to be next Conservative leader tumble to 5/1. Do the Tories think having another inadequate leader will work next time?

0203 – Does the BBC realise that Nigel Farage is no longer actually leader of UKIP nor has he ever been elected as a MP?

0202 – Labour gain Battersea on a swing of 10%. Interestingly in that seat, UKIP were outdone by the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

0200 – Tim Farron is apparently in deep trouble in Westmorland and Lonsdale. If he loses, that would the first time a Party leader (of comparable influence) has lost his seat since the Liberals’ Archibald Sinclair in 1945.

0154 – Perhaps a rare sight tonight, Conservatives make a gain from the SNP in Angus.

0152 – Dimbleby lays into Watson over his previous criticism over Corbyn. Who said he was too old for this?

0148 – Is that it Jeremy? Where’s the cowboy outfit?

0145 – Education Secretary Justine Greening holds Putney. She does though with a thin majority of 1500 though.

0140 – That swing in Wales perhaps suggest Labour might do even better than expected in the exit poll…

0140 – Labour gain Vale of Clywd from the Conservatives. Amazingly that’s the first to switch between the two the whole night. So it begins…

0132 – Tom Watson gets cut out! What a shame.

0123 – Tooting count apparently being run by the man from quaker oats.

0113 – Labour make a shock gain of Rutherglen and Hamilton West from the SNP with a swing of 9% from the SNP.

0109 – Labour hold in Wrexham. Exit poll was talking a load of old bollocks about Wales then.

0105 – On the flipside, Nick Clegg seems to be in big danger. He is defending a majority of just 2,000 or so.

0100 – Lib Dems have been pretty quiet so far, but might they be on in David Cameron’s Witney of all places? They did come close in the by-election after all.

0051 – Labour hold Darlington with a massive swing of 0.2% to the Conservatives. Tories definitely wont be getting that big majority of 86. However, does still keep the possibility of a Conservative majority in play.

0041 – Labour definitely enjoying a big surge in London as predicted before, taking the pretty safe seat of Battersea.

0035 – Tories hold Nuneaton, that’s expected, but with a tiny swing to Labour. It seems clear the Tories will be at best winning a small majority tonight.

0032- You’re right Dr. Fox, it’s gonna be a bloody long night for you. Do you think anyone ever confuses him with this guy?

0028 – For Conservative readers, perhaps a sugercoating to the bitter pill, Angus Roberston and perhaps even Alex Salmond could go.

0025 – Wise words from the election guru, Sir David Butler 

0016 – Labour MP for Chelsea? Surely not?

0007 – Another swing to the Tories in Sunderland – whatever happens, Sunderland Tories have apparently played a blinder.

0000 – Midnight brings two interesting results, with swings to Labour in Newcastle East and Swindon North. Perhaps the Tory overperformance is confined to just a small area.

2358 – “Sound’s are abysmal, we’re meant to be in 2017 not, 1917!!”. Dimbleby lining up a new career as a stand-up it seems.

2352 – Is Kirsty Wark a former 1990s PGA Tour Pro?

2347 – Sunderland Central result sees a swing of 2.3% to the Conservatives. Again, this is suggesting an increased Tory majority. Interesting to note that Sunderland Central has historically not such a safe Labour seat as the other Sunderland seats.

2343 – There is some speculation that the DUP could make two gains in Northern Ireland. As we know, Northern Ireland could matter a lot if there is a hung parliament…

2340 – Another big question of the evening – will Emily Maitlis eventually dissolve into the Labour vote share charts?

2336 – Exit poll suggesting an absolute massive swing in Wales, around nine points. The electorate have lost the bloody plot.

2333 – Let’s not get too carried away though, as there is lots of chatter about Hastings and Rye falling to Labour. Amber Rudd’s seat is number 42 on the Labour target list. 2017’s Ed Balls’ moment?

2332 – One really suspect bit about the exit poll is Wales. Polls were predicting Labour to do well there, maybe making gains off the Tories. The exit poll was suggesting big gains for the Tories. The logic is that Tories pick up big UKIP and Labour Leavers. That makes sense, but why are the Tories getting hammered in Northern England?

2330 – Aside from 1987 the Exit Poll is normally pretty spot on. Thus far though, the results have been pretty out of step. Houghton and Sunderland South gave a swing to the Tories of 3.5%. That would be a very different result.

2322 – Well what a shocker of an election night. Polls were all suggesting an increased Tory majority, we’re now looking at a Hung Parliament. I predicted an 86 seat majority today and I will stand by that if it lives or dies. What’s the most delicious hat?

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Prediction: Conservative Overall Majority of 86

Almost all the doorknocking has been done. The campaign stops are finished. The car crash interviews are over. Election Day is upon us.

And Election Day wouldn’t be Election Day without a pseudo-scientific forecast on what the result will be.

Based on the final call from the British Polling Council pollsters, (Ipsos MORI are yet to complete there’s), historical results and reports from the campaign, in this post we take a look at what the vote shares are likely to be, what that will mean in terms of seats and who is set to form a government.

So who is going to win?

THE VOTES

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“Corbyn, with only May to beat!”

There has been a significant narrowing in the polls over this campaign. At the start we were looking at 20+ point Tory leads, now it’s as narrow as one point in some polls.

There has clearly been an uptick in Labour support towards 30%. Part of this is probably the ‘I’m Normally Labour But’ who were not voting/voting Tory because of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. These voters have firmed up for Labour as fears of a Tory landslide grew and Corbyn’s ratings have generally improved.

The other part is the drift from other parties. Most notably the falling back of the Lib Dems to their 2015 level, presumably as part of a consolidation of the anti-Brexit/anti-Tory vote. On a smaller scale the Green’s have seen their vote collapse to roughly 1% (down from 4% in 2015). Corbyn’s Labour and the Green’s have much in common, so it’s easy to see how that’s happened.

That brings Labour up to the early 30s, making up lost votes to the Tories and perhaps even advancing a little from 2015. But that doesn’t explain how some polls have them depriving the Tories of the majority and others see Theresa May returning with a comfortable majority.

Why the difference?

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“Mmm what a lovely eyesocket you have.”

The difference revolves largely as to how pollsters model turnout. What is driving Labour’s polling improvement is a large increase in young voters saying they will vote, particularly 18-24 year olds and Labour have a big lead in this demographic. There has actually been very little Conservative downward movement, and they retain a big lead in older voters who historically turn out in much higher numbers.

Pollsters ask respondents how likely they are to vote, usually on a scale of one to ten. Some pollsters like YouGov take these responses at face value. If a young voter says they are likely to turn out, they put them down as likely to turn out.

Other pollsters, like ComRes and ICM, take a different approach, feeling that historical results show younger voters are much less likely to turn out than they say they will. They adjust their weighting accordingly and this gives the Conservatives bigger leads in these polls.

Which is right?

Neither method has put Labour with a hope of forming a majority, or even forming a minority government or coalition. But clearly there is a big divergence with Survation suggesting a Tory lead of just one point, and BMG suggesting a lead of 13 points. 

A good rule of thumb is to take the polling average. That is (changes from 2015):

CON 44%(+6) LAB 36%(+5) LD 8%(nc) UKIP 4%(-9) GRE 2%(-2)

But given the big range between the polls an average is difficult because we’re not comparing like with like. An average is a good starting point but is incomplete.

We have to ask ourselves, then, will young people turn out more than before?

There are some arguments to suggest yes. Young people have had a miserable time in politics of late. They strongly supported the Lib Dems in 2010, only for them to lose seats. They supported Labour in 2015 with great expectations of victory only to see a Conservative majority. They overwhelmingly backed Remain only to see Britain leave the EU. The victory of Donald Trump has also certainly agitated the liberal youth as well. Could it be enough is enough and they finally commit to something?

Additionally, Jeremy Corbyn has offered a platform that is at least superficially attractive to younger voters. Just like the middle classes vote for Tory tax cuts, could younger voters be driven out by the abolition of tuition fees? Will Generation Rent come out to support rent controls?

On the other hand, those successive defeats could have lead to demoralisation just as much as it could lead to radicalisation. Even during high turnouts young voters still turn out poorly. Turnout for the 2014 Scottish referendum was 85% overall. But for 18-24 year-olds this was only 54%, compared to 96% for 65+ year olds.

Turnout remains poor even if there are plausibly “young-friendly” choices. Tuition fees didn’t boost turnout in 2010, with only 44% of young people turning out compared to 65% nationally. Milifandom wasn’t enough to boost turnout beyond that figure either. 

On the historical evidence, those turnout modelled polls seem to be favoured so that would suggest a few points higher than the average. Our political culture does seem different to 2015 though and does feel like young voters may turn out more. In which case that would put the poll lead not too far above the average.

One way to get to that is discounting Survation polling. Survation is currently suggesting a turnout in excess of 80%. Turnout could plausibly be better, but nowhere near that good. Let’s remove that from the average, which gives us:

CON 44% LAB 35% LD 9% UKIP 5% GRE 2%

Might all the polls be wrong?

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“Here he is, the fella who nicked me job!”

Polls had a poor showing in 2015 and didn’t do much better in the Referendum either. But we have previously seen that polls aren’t actually too bad. Pollsters have also made many methodological adjustments since 2015.

That being said there is the historical elephant in the room. Even in their better years, polls have consistently underrated the Tories. Analysts have tried to come up with a loose ‘rule of five’ – expand the Tory lead over Labour by five points.

CON 46.5% LAB 32.5% LD 9% UKIP 5% GRE 2%

That does make the Conservative lead seem a little too high. We have also after all factoring in some underestimating by discounting Survation as well.

However, in actual voting the Tories have done pretty well this year. They enjoyed a big win in the Copeland by-election and the recent local elections. This comes on top of pretty good results elsewhere too. Again both these suggest a Tory lead bigger than the polls.

Let’s settle for a modest adjustment of one point either way, giving a final adjustment of (changes from 2015):

CON 45%(+8) LAB 34%(+3) LD 9%(+1) UKIP 5%(-8) GRE 2%(-2)

THE SEATS

Vote shares are all well and good, but under First-Past-The-Post, it’s translating them into seats that matters.

The first step is to use uniform national swing (UNS). UNS takes the change in the share of the vote for party compared to another. The current UNS between Labour and Conservatives based on the forecast is 2.5%. In theory, that means in every 100 2015 Labour voters are now voting Tory. Applied uniformly in every seat across the country this would mean seat totals of (changes from 2015):

CON 349(+19) LAB 217(-15) SNP 55(-1) LD 6(-2) PC 3(nc) GRE 1(nc) UKIP 0(-1) OTH 19(nc)

On the margins

Of course, voters don’t act uniformly with certain geographical areas voting differently to others. To make gains parties need to ensure they get votes in areas where they need them most: marginal seats, those seats that are likely to change hands.

It’s not use Labour gaining votes only to pile them up in their safe seats. Unfortunately for them this seems to be exactly what they are doing.

Labour’s vote is holding up and perhaps even advancing amongst the young, urban and ethnically diverse voters. These voters tend to overwhelmingly be in cities like London, Manchester and Bristol where Labour already do well.

Despite the social care fiasco, the Tories continue to have towering leads amongst older white voters of the lower middle classes. These voters are placed in just the kind of areas the Tories need them, marginal suburban seats in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East.

There’s some anecdotal evidence to further back this up. Labour candidates have reported disappointing doorstep responses outside their London heartland.

More compelling is the Tory campaign strategy. The Tories seem remarkably relaxed for a party that might be in danger of losing their majority. Indeed, Theresa May continues to park her tanks on Labour lawns. This suggests their internal polling and candidates are giving feedback they are set to make big gains.

History also suggests the Tories will outperform UNS in marginal seats, just as they did in 2015. Why? Partly it’s because this is where the ground war is fought and the efforts made, voters will have been engaged more. The Tories generally seem to have a good track record of winning over marginal voters too and have clearly focused their campaign here.

Almost entirely arbitrarily let’s add an extra 2.5 points to the swing in Lab/Con marginals. That’s based on how the Tories did in the recent local elections and in the Copeland by-election. That leaves us with:

CON 376 LAB 190 SNP 55 LD 6 PC 3 GRE 1 UKIP 0 OTH 19

Brexit

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Great signature from Gove. 

This election has seen something of a realignment, with many Leave voters coalescing around the Tories. Many of these were Labour voters, and again, in those Midlands/Northern seats where the Tories are reasonably competitive.

That puts the Tories likely to pick up seats beyond what are considered marginal. Roughly half of the 2015 UKIP vote seems to be going to the Conservatives. That alone could put them over the top in 35 Labour seats, without any need for Lab/Con switchers. It will also mean picking up Lib Dem seats with big Brexit votes.

The effect is slightly limited by the apparent consolidation of the Remain vote behind Labour. Labour also get some of the UKIP carcass with polls suggesting they’ll get about 1/6 of their 2015 vote.

But the overall takeaway is that the Tories will capture some of their more ambitious targets. This will add around four to the Tory total.

CON 380 LAB 187 SNP 55 LD 5 PC 3 GRE 1 UKIP 0 OTH 19

 

Labour strongholds

Labour do seem to be performing particularly well in London, with one poll showing a swing away from the Tories. That makes sense given its heavy support for Remain, its diversity and younger population.

If that holds out it would mean some unexpected Labour defences in marginals like Ealing and Acton and Brentford and Isleworth.

The Labour vote also appears to have recovered well in Wales. Again this could easily mean defending themselves against all Tory advances.

Labour’s success with younger and urban voters should be replicated in other strongholds like Birmingham and Bristol. A gain in Brighton Kemptown from the Tories is feasible. Overall this will add around 18 back to the Labour total.

CON 362 LAB 205 SNP 55 LD 5 PC 3 GRE 1 UKIP 0 OTH 19

Scotland

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“Go on, take a lick. I’m just gonna ask again if you say no.”

One subplot is the election in Scotland. Here the Tories are enjoying a major revival with a swing of around ten points from the SNP. That would add a further six to the Tory total.

The Lib Dems are also likely to benefit from unionist tactical voting to give them two more to their total from Scotland. Labour could also benefit from the same, also seeing two extra seats on their total from Scotland. That leaves a GB outcome of:

CON 368 LAB 207 SNP 45 LD 7 PC 3 GRE 1 UKIP 0 OTH 19

Northern Ireland 

Northern Ireland is important too. Not just because it is actually part of the UK, but it also has relevance for the seats needed for a working majority. As Sinn Féin don’t take their seats in Westminster, the more seats they have, the less needed for a working majority.

As we know, few seats are likely to change hands in Northern Ireland. Current polling suggests that  only Fermanagh and South Tyrone will switch, flipping from the UUP to Sinn Féin. That would give Northern Ireland results of:

DUP 8(nc) SF 5(+1) SDLP 3(nc) UUP 1(-1) IND 1(nc)

Take those five Sinn Féin MPs away, alongside the Speaker (who only has a tie-breaking vote) and the winning line for an overall majority is 322 seats.

THE RESULTS

Overall, we get:

(GB*) Vote Share: CON 45%(+8) LAB 34%(+3) LD 9%(+1) UKIP 5%(-8) GRE 2%(-2)

Swing: LAB to CON – 2.5%

Seats: CON 368 (+38) LAB 207 (-25) SNP 45(-11) DUP 8(nc) LD 7(-1) SF 5(+1) PC 3(nc) SDLP 3(nc) GRE 1(nc) UUP 1(-1) Speaker 1 (nc) UKIP 0(-1)

CON Overall Majority of 86(+76)

CON Working Majority of 92(+78)

*Polls always exclude Northern Ireland, so the UK-wide vote share will be a little lower for the main parties. 

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

In the vote share, both main parties will see significant increases and it will be their biggest combined share since 1979.

The Tories will have the best vote by any party since 1970 and the biggest lead since 1997. Labour will have their best performance since 2005 and would be the first election since 1997 to see their vote share increase.

In terms of the seats, the Tory majority will be a little shy of what Thatcher got in 1987 as indeed would be their seat totals. Though Labour get a good vote share increase, their seat totals would be the worst since 1935.

Theresa May called this elections for three main reasons. 1. To get a wriggle room for Brexit negotiations. 2. To dilute the authority of Tory dissidents that caused u-turns on issues like the Budget. 3. To lock the Labour Party out of power for a generation.

On the first two this result would easily get there. She’ll have enough room to ignore the hardcore Brexiteers and Tory Remainers. A Thatcher-sized majority will also make it much easier to pass what she likes.

On the third objective she would have fallen a little short. There will be some disappointment in the Tory party at the squandering of the massive poll leads that could have really threatened the Labour Party’s existence.

This would be a bad defeat for Jeremy Corbyn with Labour going significantly backwards for the fifth successive election. Returning to power will be an even bigger challenge.

But in fairness this was that first election since 1987 that Labour fought without any realistic chance of winning. They also would have avoided a complete catastrophe and Corbyn would be able to point to a vote share not far of Blair’s in 2005.

This is all predicated on a shaky forecast of course and with the variance of polls it is difficult to commit with any great confidence with polling divergence. Perhaps the young will turn out in droves, pushing us towards a hung parliament. Maybe they won’t turn out at all and the Tories would have been underestimated again, pushing them towards a majority of over 100.

We will have to wait and see.

 

Election Night Viewing Guide

Election Night is one of the most remarkable pieces of television coverage around. It is an attempt by broadcasters to hold viewers attention for almost ten hours and depriving them and themselves of any good sleep.

The task is made even more difficult considering for most of the first two hours nothing actually happens. After that, they’ve got to try make a sports hall in Crewe at 2.30am the epicentre of British politics.

But it is an big part of our television history with the BBC broadcasting every election since 1955. Hats off to David Dimbleby how will be presenting his tenth successive election on the BBC, having kicked off in 1979. 

It’s also one of the best parts of our political culture and democracy. In almost no other country in the world are results counted so openly and transparently. In most countries results are announced via some anonymous government agency, often through data projections. In the UK politicians have to actually endure the public humiliation of hearing how many people actively dislike them not just locally but on national television as well.

But election night can be pretty bloody bizarre.  It can be hard to get your head around and make sense of all the results and phrases. In this guide we look at what to expect and don’t forget the glossary to bust some of that jargon.

WHAT DO I WATCH?

First you have to pick which broadcaster to to tune into.

Sky News has the earliest kick off at 9pm. It is unclear why has legislation heavily constrains broadcasting of elections before polls close at 10pm. You’ll be treated to a lot of Adam Boulton then. Unless that includes an argument with Alastair Campbell, no thanks. On the flip side, they do have elections guru Michael Thrasher for analysis.

Channel 4 also start at 9pm with their Alternative Election Night. There is less focus on results here, more on offbeat takes in an apparently “all-night feast of comedy”. With Jeremy Paxman onboard it’s difficult to see how that works. They have, however, poached Pointless’s Richard Osman as the numbers bod.

ITV have a more traditional start time of 9.55pm. Led out by Tom Bradby (now used to late nights) their coverage will also see BBC defector Robert Peston providing analysis. ITV always feels a little underwhelming, but they’ve managed to sign Ed Balls and even more interestingly, George Osborne as pundits.

But the king of them all has to be the BBC. Election night just isn’t the same without Dimbleby and this is likely to be his last. With its extensive local news coverage, the BBC also tends to offer the most insight and up to date information for local contests. Viewers are also treated to the bizarre graphics of Jeremy Vine. His feature of “Menzie’s (Pronounced Ming’s) Bling” to describe the 2007 Liberal Democrat local election performance is a personal favourite.

No contest.

2155 HOURS: IT BEGINS

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“Hi I’m David, and I have a problem.”

The atmospheric music will set in alongside those patriotic sweeping shots of Westminster. They will fade into a terse Dimbleby, clutching a raft of papers.

He’ll tease us with an overview as to who will be depriving themselves of sleep for the evening. We’ll have quick shots to each member of the team in what seems to be the world’s largest studio with several different flaws. We’ll be introduced to Jeremy Vine’s creative graphics this year – let’s hope for something like this.

Time to strap in.

2200 HOURS: EXIT POLL RELEASED

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Not this time lads. 

The exit poll will be released on the stroke of ten, it is actually illegal for it to be released before. The exit poll will be be the first good indicator of what we could expect for the night.

The exit polls surveys around 20,000 voters leaving polling stations at key electoral wards. It’s much bigger than your typical exit poll and there’s no need to factor in likelihood to turn out. The poll is also done by secret ballot, meaning there is no need to factor in ‘shy tories’ or whatnot.

Exit polls have an excellent record in predicting outcomes for 40 years and in 2010 it creepily almost spot on. The only real cock up was 1987, where the exit poll predicted a slashing of Thatcher’s majority, she went on to win in a landslide. In 2015 a lot of pundits claimed that 1992 showed exit polls can be wrong. That was actually bollocks. The 1992 exit poll showed the Tories as by far the largest party in a hung parliament, they went on to win a small majority.

2200-2245 HOURS: DEAD AIR

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Last time, Jeremy Vine got so bored during this bit he starting playing solitaire.

This is akin to that bit of Eurovision where they are counting the votes and trying to come up with something to cling on to viewers. Party hacks will provide the most banal of responses to the exit poll. (“Look, it’s early in the night let’s see some actual votes come in” “This small majority is proof that Theresa May should be our new supreme overlord” “I’m from UKIP – why are you still asking me on here?”) Andrew Neill will already be shouting at someone though.

At this point Laura Kuenssberg et al will be giving feedback to Dimbleby about what they’re hearing from around the country (“There’s a lot of glum Labour faces in x/I’ve got a text from a Tory from the back and beyond sounding very confident”). 

It is easy to mock that speculation but often a lot of it holds true. In 2015 early twitter speculation of Ed Balls losing his seat was bang on. Party sources no longer have to put on brave faces and will share their canvassing returns, how the ballot papers are piling up and the feelings in their waters.

2300 HOURS: FIRST SEAT DECLARATIONS

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By night election volunteers, by day snooker referees. 

For some strange reason Sunderland Council put a lot of resources into making sure their seats declare first. Look out for a lot of sixth formers running around a leisure centre. The first seat is expected to be the Labour stronghold of Houghton and Sunderland South, followed by two other Labour safe seats of Washington and Sunderland West and Sunderland Central. 

Though not hugely representative the swings here will give an indication of how accurate the exit poll is. These seats will also give hints as to how the UKIP vote is doing, and how well the Tories might be doing in Leave voting areas.

2300-0030 HOURS: MORE DEAD AIR

Jeremy-Vine-008

Then it was the dressing up box.

The results will have given more flesh to the exit poll, and one party will be looking increasingly buoyant and the other putting an even more ludicrous brave face. The Lib Dems will still be happy to be there. But after a brief flurry inactivity resumes.

Dimbleby desperately tries to find something to amuse himself whilst Andrew Neill will be giving someone an even bigger bollocking.

0030-0100 HOURS: SWINDON NORTH AND BATTERSEA DECLARE

ed-balls-loses-parliament-seat-in-uk-general-election

“Please don’t make me redundant.”

Used to be a marginal seat, Swindon North is now firmly in the Tory column. However, if Labour want to do well nationally they will want to see a swing towards them here.

The Tory safe seat of Battersea will also declare at the same time. The result here will give a good indication of the result in London and how the Tory vote holds up in Remain areas. Labour will also need to take this, or come very close, if they are in with a shout of forming an overall majority.

0130 HOURS: DARLINGTON AND WREXHAM DECLARE

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“Quick Jeremy, put away your Risk set, we’ve results to analyse!”

Things start to get interesting and Dimbleby will begin to remember why he keeps doing it after all. A four point swing would see Darlington fall to the Tories and would suggest they are on course for a majority of about 80. Wrexham is a three pointer, and will see how the Welsh Labour firewall is faring.

0200 HOURS: – BURY NORTH AND THE BATTLE BEYOND ENGLAND

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You don’t want to make him angry.

Bury North with a swing of under 0.5% required is number five on the Labour target list. They will need to win this if they want to rob Theresa May of her majority.

We will also get a pretty full picture of what is happening outside England. Scottish seats will begin to declare and the Tories will be looking eagerly at Angus and the Lib Dems and Fife North East. Swathes of Wales will declare, with the Tories looking to capture Clwyd South in particular.

The picture in Northern Ireland will also begin to come clearer. This may be important if the night is looking tight.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will be the first big hitter to get a result in Hastings and Rye. Labour need a four point swing to take it, but they’ll need to if they want to be the largest party.

0230 HOURS: ISLINGTON NORTH DECLARES

_85510468_8a41d8d1-f479-4eda-a6f7-41552fbc136b

As his poll ratings increase, do does his arm length.

Jeremy Corbyn’s seat will have a result. He will hold comfortably, but his speech will provide an indication of what he intends to do based on the results. His speech will be tempered a great deal by the simultaneous results in the ultra Tory marginal of Warwickshire North and Labour’s leave and UKIP leaning Hartlepool. 

0300-0400 HOURS: THE KILLING FIELDS 

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“So I told them to shove their referendum up their arses!”

The skirmish is over, the battle really begins and blood will split

The results will be coming in thick and fast now. Dimbleby’s eye’s wont move from the bottom of the screen, Kuenssberg’s Twitter will have broken and Neill will be incandescent with rage. In the deluge particular seats to look out for are Chorley where a Tory capture would signal a majority for them of over 100.

Another is Tim Farron’s Westmoreland and Lonsdale. He should be ok here, but there has been a big Tory effort in a seat that historically has been theirs. Regardless, his speech will be interesting to see how the Lib Dems are faring.

0400-0500 HOURS – MAIDENHEAD DECLARES AND THE LIB DEM CHALLENGE BEGINS

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The worst thing about this photo is really that coffee and chips are a completely unacceptable combination.

Theresa May’s Maidenhead seat will declare and no doubt declare her victor again. If she is having a good night, her speech may indicate what her immediate priorities will be. If it’s a bad night, her approach to a possible coalition/minority government or resignation.

We will know the broad outcome of the election by now, but it wont be until now the Lib Dems will be competitive. Top targets like Bath, Bermondsey and Old Southwark and Twickenham will declare. Some of their vulnerable defences will be too, like Carshalton and Wallington and perhaps even, Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam?

0500 HOURS – TORY WAVE AND BOSTON AND SKEGNESS DECLARES

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“I will be resigning the UKIP leadership to pursue a different career as a 1920s Birmingham gangster.”

The rural seats will start to come in now, and these are Tory heartlands. If they are on course for a majority the seat that takes them over the edge (326) should come around now.

Paul Nutall’s Boston and Skegness will also come in around now. He is very unlikely to win here but his speech will be at the very least interesting to hear as to the future direction of UKIP.

Labour’s Clive Lewis is also locked in an interesting three-way battle between the Greens and Tories in Norwich South. He’s been seen as a possible Labour leader and a defeat here could be 2017’s Portillo Moment. Elsewhere in Norfolk, Norman Lamb will also be in a difficult battle to hold Norfolk North for the Lib Dems.

0600 HOURS: BRIGHTON PAVILION DECLARES AND THE POST MORTEM BEGINS

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Lucas certainly raises eyebrows.

The Greens haven’t had much to cheer this election, but there could be a saving grace here. Caroline Lucas looks set to win her third successive election here, but she will have to see of a not insignificant Tory and Labour challenge.

As the results are almost over, Jeremy Vine’s graphics will make the outcome clear now for everyone. Fingers will be pointed, the knives will come out and Dimbleby will be egging them on. Campaigns will be criticised, the party was too left wing, the party was too right wing etc. etc.

0700 HOURS: THE END

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The Young Pretender

Congratulations if you made this far, Dimbleby probably thought long and hard about stepping out for a kip long ago. He will perhaps now be passing on the baton to his protegee, Huw Edwards for the last time.

The declarations will be finishing off, almost entirely in rural Tory seats. Though the results may not be fully declared until 12.

The results will be over though, and the sweeping generalisations and analysis will begin about this is a ‘defining election’ as almost every other one has been. At this point though it will be clear what is happening with party leaders, and whether any of them will resign.

So ready the snacks and strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy one.

We have seen a dramatic narrowing in the polls in this campaign. Perhaps it is no longer the foregone conclusion we were expecting at the beginning. Next time we will take a final look at the polls at make out what is likely to happen on Thursday…

 

Oh Danny Boy, the polls, the polls are calling: an election guide to Northern Ireland

It’s difficult enough to get coverage of Scottish and Welsh politics, let alone the Northern Irish variety. From mainland Britain, Northern Irish is at best viewed with curiosity, at worst with horror. Northern Ireland has a political tradition based around cultural affiliations, national identity and religion that has indeed spilled over into violence. It’s so different from the rest of British political culture that the main parties, except a token Conservative effort, don’t contest elections here.

But contrary to popular belief, Northern Irish politics isn’t all about Protestants and Catholics at each other’s throats. As a society it has shown remarkable resilience towards devastating violence and is a shining example of how even the most divided communities can overcome. Northern Irish voters also care about the same issues as everyone else; jobs, healthcare and schooling.

All in all this creates a unique blend of politics that is rare in the Western World that deserves respect and a least a token interest from everybody else in the UK. In the case of a tight election, the make up of political parties could also be important as to who forms a government.

We may need to pay even closer attention to Northern Ireland soon as the ongoing constitutional crisis there raises the distinct possibility of the imposition of direct rule from Westminster.

ON THE ISSUES 

EU Referendum - The Border Lands Separating Northern And Southern Ireland

Top security. 

Crossing the border 

As ever, the Border is central to politics here and that’s further complicated by a religious divide. If you think the recent trend of identity politics has made Britain nasty, you should take a look at Northern Ireland. The division between unionists, who are mostly Protestant, and nationalists, who are mostly Catholic, has been long and bitter. For most of the second half of the 20th century, the country was ravaged by The Troubles that claimed 3,532 lives. The conflict caused death or injury to roughly 2% of the population.

Thankfully, the Peace Process of the 1990s has secured peace but the Border remains paramount. Voters continue to vote down community lines, and the continued Protestant majority ensures that unionist parties remain the most successful. This is even more true for Westminster elections, as major policy areas are devolved to the Northern Irish Assembly in Stormont.

There’s been a lot of speculation in the British Press about the prospects of a United Ireland since the EU Referendum and Sinn Féin have pushed for a referendum on the subject. In reality, Scottish independence is far more likely. A recent poll put support for a United Ireland at only 22%, with many Catholics supportive of remaining in the UK.

The EU, again 

The EU referendum is an issue that plays into the Border. Northern Ireland voted to Remain by 56%. Remain was heavily backed by nationalists, who have long seen the EU as a means of forging closer links with the Republic of Ireland and protecting minority rights. A substantial number of unionists voted Leave, with many in that community treating EU membership as something of a trojan horse for a United Ireland.

The Referendum has brought the immediate problem of whether the Border can remain open. It has been open since long before the formation of the EU, and even during the Troubles remained so. Cross-border trade is worth around €3bn and any moves to restrict that will be strongly opposed by most in Northern Ireland. Parties will be pushing their abilities to make Westminster listen on this.

The more you burn the more you earn

It’s not all about identity. Northern Ireland has recently been gripped by issues of good old-fashioned corruption and incompetence. The Renewable Heat Incentive Scandal, or ‘Cash for Ash’; has engulfed the country and caused a constitutional crisis. Allegations of misspending of up to £500m has caused the downfall of one government and an inability to create a new one.

Purely social 

Social issues are also creeping in. Northern Ireland is more socially conservative than the rest of the UK. Same-sex marriage and abortion are both illegal. However, public opinion has shifted towards abortion reform and there were attempts made to legalise same-sex marriage in Stormont last year. Another brewing issue is that over the legal status of the Irish language, and by extension the status of Ulster-Scots.

WHERE WE WERE IN 2015

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“I’d like to thank the returning officer and I don’t agree with that in the workplace!”

The General Election in Northern Ireland saw:

Party Seats(+/-) Vote Share(+/-)
DUP (unionist)

8(nc)

25.7%(+0.7)

SF (nationalist)

4(-1)

24.5%(-1.0)

UUP (unionist)

2(+2)

16.0%(+0.8)

SDLP (nationalist)

3(nc)

13.9%(-2.6)

APNI (unaligned)

0(-1)

8.6%(+2.2)

IND* (various)

1(nc)

2.7%(-4.0)

*Their one seat was held by Sylvia Hermon, an independent unionist for North Down.

Overall, there was very little change. Sinn Féin lost Fermanagh and South Tyrone to the UUP. A closely divided seat, it was no surprise to see their whopping majority of four tumble. The UUP also benefitted from an agreement from the DUP to stand down.

The UUP had a surprise success in taking South Antrim from the DUP. Their capture of both seats meant this was their best performance since 2001. In vote share they also overtook the SDLP to take third.

The SDLP had a disappointing night seeing their vote share drop. They managed to hold onto all their seats, including Belfast South which they held with just 24.5% of the vote, the lowest anywhere in the UK.

The Alliance lost their one seat of Belfast East, which itself was a shock gain from the DUP leader Peter Robinson in 2010. They did however manage a modest increase in their vote giving them their best performance since 1992 on that metric.

WHERE WE WERE IN 2016

 

2016 saw elections for the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont. Stormont elections are held using the same system as Scottish local elections, Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV is a preferential system that allocates seats for multi-member constituencies on a highly proportional basis. STV tends to see a more proportional outcome and smaller parties doing better.

Seats(+/-) First Preference votes(+/-)
DUP

38(nc)

29.2%(-0.8)

SF

28(-1)

24%(-2.9)

UUP

16(nc)

12.6%(-0.6)

SDLP

12(-2)

12.0%(-2.2)

APNI

8(nc)

7.0%(-0.7)

OTH*

5(+3)

8.1%(+4)

*Others includes Traditional Unionist Voice(TUV), the Greens and People Before Profit. None of these parties are in serious contention in the General Election.

There was again little change. The unionist parties and Alliance basically held their votes up. The UUP were disappointed to fail to make progress on their relative success of 2015. Sinn Féin and the SDLP lost a little ground to other parties like the Greens and People Before Profit, but again were broadly unchanged.

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, ministerial positions in the Northern Ireland are allocated to parties based on their number of MLAs. Consequently, this means power is always shared between unionists and nationalists. Appointments for the First and Deputy First minister, must also garner ‘community-wide’ support.

The DUP’s Arlene Foster became First Minister and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness became Deputy First Minister in a power-sharing agreement that had been in place between the two parties since 2007.

WHERE WE ARE 

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I will, but you really need to improve your photoshopping.

Spare a thought for the Northern Irish. Since 2015 they have had a General Election, a referendum and two Assembly elections. McGuinness resigned as Deputy First Minister earlier this year in protest at the Cash for Ash scandal, causing a collapse of government. Failure to negotiate an alternative led to the calling of another election. The results were:

Seats(+/-) First Preference votes(+/-)
DUP

28(-10)

28.1%(-1.1)

SF

27(-1)

  27.9%(+3.9)

SDLP

12(nc)

11.9%(-0.1)

UUP

10(-6)

12.9%(+0.3)

APNI

8(nc)

9.1%(+2.1)

OTH

4(-1)

6.7%(-1.4)

It was a disaster for unionism as for the first time ever unionists no longer held an overall majority. The DUP suffered big losses, and only just managed to edge out Sinn Féin as the largest party. Falling below 30 seats was also significant. 30 MLAs can lodge what is called a ‘Petition of Concern’, a tool the DUP had used as an effective veto on same-sex marriage.

The results were possibly worse for the UUP. The UUP were hoping to pick up disaffected DUP supporters angry at the leadership and looking for a unionist alternative. Its leader, Mike Nesbitt, led a brave campaign calling upon moderate unionists to give their second preferences to the SDLP. The lack of success forced his resignation.

The Shinners were the big winners, seeing a big rise in their vote share. Though their seats went down, they came within a whisker of first place. Their nationalist competitors, the SDLP, failed to make any ground.

The Alliance clearly picked up some of those unionists the UUP were hoping for, but not enough to make seat gains. What probably happened is that unionist voters stayed home, unwilling to turn out to vote for an incompetent leadership and unconvinced by alternatives.

Nationalist voters however, would have turned out keen to give the DUP a good kicking. The results were more about differential turnout, not a shift towards a United Ireland.

A new power-sharing arrangement remains unreached as Sinn Féin refuse to do business with an Arlene Foster-led DUP. This means yet another round of elections could be round the corner or the suspension of Stormont altogether.

Northern Ireland is generally excluded from General election polling (most of the results you see are for Great Britain, not the United Kingdom). But the limited polling here as shown (changes from 2015):

DUP 29.1%(+3.4) SF 27.8%(+3.4) UUP 15.3%(-0.7) SDLP 13.1%(-0.8) APNI 10.0%(+1.4)

On Uniform National Swing that would result in:

DUP 10(+2) SF 5(+1) UUP 0(-2) SDLP 2(-1) APNI 0(nc)

That would be the DUP’s best ever result in seats and would reinvigorate the party. It would also be its best vote share since 2005. The UUP would be back to the drawing board and that vote share would be the worst since 2010.

Sinn Féin would be back to where they were in 2010 and their vote share would be their best ever. They would continue to stretch away from the SDLP who would have their worst result ever in both seats and vote share.

Alliance would fail to capture any seats but that vote share would be their best ever and would put them within touching distance of the SDLP.

DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY (DUP)

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“I’ve been Arlene Foster, you guys have been the best”

The bigger party of unionism, the DUP also represents its more hardline strand. The creation of Ian Paisley, the DUP was formed out of protest against the perceived excessive compromises and elitism of the Ulster Unionist Party. The DUP tends to have a more working class base and has close links to non-conformist Protestants like Baptists and Presbyterians.

Its unionist stance means it’s perceived to be closest to the Conservatives. That is partly true and the DUP generally take a right-wing view on most issues. It was also the onyl major party to support Brexit. However, its more of a populist party and often means it can be to the left of the Tories, such as with its opposition to the Bedroom Tax. Really, the DUP will work with the highest bidder.

Of course the DUP are still reeling from their recent electoral disaster. They will hope to steady the ship this election by exploiting a unionist backlash against the Sinn Féin success in the Assembly. Their current seats should be mostly safe, particularly as the UUP have agreed to stand down in Belfast North.

One area of concern will be Belfast East, where the Alliance’s Naomi Long is hoping to make a comeback. The DUP held this with only a 2597 majority and that was without the UUP who will be standing this time. Less risky is Upper Bann, a seat that was historically held by the UUP. They’ll be defending a 2264 majority here, but a lack of a UUP surge means this one is probably safe.

In terms of gains, the top target is the UUP-held South Antrim. The majority here is less than 1000 but the UUP vote has held up pretty well so it will be a tough fight there. Another is the SDLP-held Belfast South, won with the aforementioned 24.5% of the vote. They are only 906 votes behind here, but the target is complicated by the strong 17% won by the Alliance who are enjoying modest growth of late.

ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY (UUP)

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UUP Christmas Party

The UUP were the big dogs of Northern Ireland, forming every government here until 2007. Since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement though, the party has been in decline at Westminster, Assembly and at Local level. Always the party of the establishment, the Party is now even more so seen as the party of wealthier and middle class unionists who are either Anglican or secular.

The UUP are closely aligned with the Tories, indeed until 1973 their MPs would take the Tory whip at Westminster. Back in 2010, both parties even formed an electoral alliance with each other. The close relationship makes sense as the UUP take the orthodox centre-right position on most issues.

Led by new leader, Robin Swann, they will focussed on holding their two seats. As noted, they face a tough battle against the DUP in South Antrim. An ever tougher battle is the one for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. They hold this with a wafer-thin 530 majority and the previous Sinn Féin incumbent is standing again. They did receive a big boost by agreeing to an electoral pact with the DUP for this seat.

On the gains side they will be looking at Upper Bann and Newry and Armagh. In the former they’ll have to overhaul a reasonable DUP majority that looks a little out of reach. They enjoyed a big swing in the latter last time but that was without the DUP who are standing this time. With their entry, it is difficult to see them capturing this Sinn Féin seat.

SINN FEIN (“WE OURSELVES”)

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“Not sure that’s how you shake hands Martin”

With roots going back to the original Sinn Féin founded in 1905, in its current form it was founded as the political wing of the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1970. Supportive of the armed struggle, it was also firmly opposed to participation in any British-endorsed political system. Since the IRA ceasefire of 1994, Sinn Féin became involved in the peace process and renounced the use of violence. It has since eclipsed the SDLP as the largest nationalist party and has been in Government since 2007.

It has however, still firmly supportive of a United Ireland and is broadly the nationalist equivalent of the DUP. On other issues it takes generally a leftwing approach, with many of its members identifying as socialists.

It has also not given up its policy of abstentionism, no Sinn Féin MPs take their seats at Westminster as they believe the British Parliament is illegitimate. This means any increase in Sinn Féin MPs would decrease the number of seats needed to form a working majority.

Sinn Féin seats are generally held with large majorities so there aren’t any vulnerable this time. Their success last March also means leader Michelle O’Neill will be on the lookout for gains.

Naturally, their attention will be focussed on that knife-edge vote in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Good Assembly results in the SDLP-held South Down and Foyle will also put them in with a shout there but there are both still ambitious targets. If they really get going they might fancy themselves to make a play from third for the DUP-held Upper Bann.

Having fought four elections and a referendum in two and a half years, Sinn Féin could shortly face another with speculation about a snap election in the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Féin also contest elections there, making it the only political party in the world to have elected representatives in the national parliaments of two different countries.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC AND LABOUR PARTY (SDLP)

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Maybe if you improved your posters?

The SDLP are broadly the nationalist equivalent to the UUP. The SDLP has always been firmly committed to non-violence and active engagement in the political process. They were long the largest nationalist party and have close ties to the Catholic Church. Also like the UUP, the have also gone through perpetual decline since the 1990s.

As the name suggests, the SDLP is very close to the Labour Party and its MPs informally take the Labour whip at Westminster. Beyond the Border they take a centre-left view on most issues though the Party takes a conservative view on issues like abortion, reflecting a Catholic influence.

Their continuing stagnation means they will be more concerned about defences, such as that tough battle in leader Alastair McDonnell’s Belfast South. They are also vulnerable to a buoyant Sinn Féin in the seats of South Down and Foyle. Sinn Féin topped the Assembly poll in both seats in March.

However, large-ish majorities in these seats and long-held incumbencies mean they should be OK. This would still only be treading water for them though, and it must be worrying that they have failed to make a single gain since 1992.

ALLIANCE PARTY OF NORTHERN IRELAND (APNI) 

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Ah that’s derogatory

Formed in protest to the deepening sectarian divide in the early 1970s, the Alliance Party eschews identity politics. The Party is nominally in favour of the union on the basis of economic security, but is open to the possibility of a United Ireland should the people want it. It tends to compete with the UUP within the demographic of middle class unionists, but also has a history of support amongst the non-religious and non-Christians.

They have a liberal outlook on other issues, and consequently have a close relationship with the Liberal Democrats. Though former Alliance MP, Naomi Long did not sit with the Coalition.

Again like the Lib Dems, the Alliance struggle to distribute their votes efficiently under First-Past-The-Post rules, only ever winning one seat at Westminster.

Their primary aim this time will be retaking that seat of Belfast East from the DUP. Long is standing again and she made a fairly good name for herself as MP. This was reflected in her significant six-point vote share increase in 2015 and topping the poll here in the recent Assembly election. Just a three-point swing would be enough to take this and with the UUP standing this time, there is a good chance the DUP vote could split.

If you would like to keep up to date with Northern Irish politics during the campaign, look no further than Lucid Talk.

As we enter the final two weeks, polls have shown significant narrowing. Next time we’ll take a look at whether the race really is hotting up, what’s driving it and what it means for 8th June.

 

Tak’ the High Road: an electoral guide to Scotland

2015 saw the beginnings of a real divergence between Scottish politics and the rest of mainland Britain. With the SNP now dominant in all forms of Scottish politics from Westminster right down to local Government, it is inevitable that we’ll see a unionist backlash,

Here we take a look at the importance of the constitutional issue, the state of play of Scotland and the prospects for the parties.

 

ON THE ISSUES

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“What about…now? Now? Now?”

Independence, Independence, Independence.

Since the 2014 Referendum, Scottish politics has been increasingly divided along constitutional lines. The Scottish Government, led by the SNP, announced last March they would be seeking IndyRef2. They will be using this election as a means to shore up their mandate and strengthen their hand in negotiations with Westminster who are firmly opposed to another referendum. The SNP are supported by the Scottish Greens in their independence crusade.

Opposing them are the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Since the referendum and the collapse of Labour, Ruth Davidson’s Tories are now the main party of unionism. They’ll be hoping to make big gains as unionists cast away traditional loyalties to protect the union, of which there has been increasing evidence.

This could be the election which solidifies the constitutional divide in Scotland, making its politics more akin to Northern Ireland than England or Wales.

Fishing for Brexit

Underpinning the issue of independence is Brexit. Scotland overwhelmingly voted to Remain by 62% and indeed only one constituency, Banff and Buchan, is estimated to have voted to Leave.

That’s not to say there isn’t a significant Leave minority. There has always been an anti-EU section of the SNP and opinion is more balanced in North East Scotland, where there has been long-running resentment over EU fisheries’ policy. 

Bread and Butter

Like with Wales, your day-to-day policy areas are devolved in Scotland. However, anti-SNP parties will be keen to blur the lines between Westminster and Holyrood.

The SNP has come under increasing fire for its record on education. Scottish education was once world-leading, but has recently fallen behind and now significantly underperforms England. The SNP claim that failings have been exaggerated and they are instituting reforms.

WHERE WE WERE IN 2015

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“No, honestly Mhairi, I’m really happy for you.”

Party Seats Vote Share
SNP

56(+50)

50.0% (+30.1)

LAB

1(-40)

24.3%(-17.7)

CON

1(nc)

14.9%(-1.8)

LD

1(-10)

7.5%(-11.4)

Scotland was a fascinating sub-plot of the 2015 General Election. The SNP recorded the best vote share by any Scottish party since 1955. Its capture of 56 out of 59 seats was by a single party since 1880, when the Liberals won every single seat. A swing of 24% from Labour to the SNP (in some seats it was high as 39%) meant the BBC had to recalibrate their swingometer. 

The biggest victims were Labour, for which Scotland used to provide the backbone of their parliamentary party. In terms of seats, this was their worst Scottish election on record and their worst in vote share since 1922.

Despite progress elsewhere, the Tories yet again failed to recover in Scotland, having been in almost continual decline since 1979 when they held 22 seats. They narrowly avoided a wipeout by holding onto their sole seat of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweddale by a majority of just 798.

Overlooked was the disastrous performance of the Lib Dems. Making up a fifth of their parliamentary party, Scotland used to be a key stronghold. They were decimated with key figures like Danny Alexander and even former leader Charles Kennedy losing their seats. They held on by 817 votes in Orkney and Shetland to stay on the scoreboard.

WHERE WE WERE IN 2016

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Onwards to independence

2016 saw elections to the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. Like for the Welsh Assembly, these elections are held using the Additional Member System (AMS). The results were: (changes from 2011)

Party

Additional Member System

Total Seats(+/-)
Constituency Vote Regional Vote
Seats(+/-) Vote Share(+/-) Seats(+/-) Vote Share(+/-)
SNP

59(+6)

46.5%(+1.1)

4(-12)

41.7%(-2.30)

63(-6)

CON

7(+4)

22%(+8.1)

24(+12)

22.9%(+10.6)

31(+15)

LAB

3(-12)

22.6%(-9.2)

21(-1)

19.1%(-7.2)

24(-13)

GRE

0(nc)

0.6%(+0.6)

6(+4)

6.6%(+2.2)

6(+4)

LD

4(+2)

7.8%(-0.1)

1(-2)

5%(nc)

5(nc)

The SNP did manage to lose their overall majority in this election. However, given this was after nine years in Government, and using a system designed to avoid majorities, it is remarkable they came so close to getting one. They did also manage to pick up several seats off Labour.

The Tories had their best Scottish Parliamentary Election in their history. They overtook Labour and became the Official Opposition. They also made unexpected constituency gains like Aberdeenshire West and Ruth Davidson managed to capture Edinburgh Central. 

For Labour things went from bad to worse. They lost nearly all their constituencies, and lost all their seats in their former strongholds of Glasgow and the Central Belt to the SNP. A surprise gain of Edinburgh Southern was a small consolation prize.

The Lib Dems stayed exactly where they were with their vote share making no advance. Tactical unionism saw them make gains in North East Fife and Edinburgh Western which compensated for their losses on the regional lists.

The Greens had a very good election, overtaking the Lib Dems in terms of seats. They are sadly contesting only three seats in 2017, so are unlikely to make much of an impact this year.

WHERE WE ARE 

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“Prime Minister, I’ve come to discuss legsit”

The Polls 

Since the election was called the polling averages for Scotland-only are (changes from 2015):

SNP 43%(-7) CON 30%(+15) LAB 16%(-8) LD 7%(-1)

Based on Uniform National Swing that would mean a seat outcome of:

SNP 47 (-9) CON 9(+8) LAB 0(-1) LD 3(+2)

Polling seems to confirm the trend observed at the 2016 elections. The Conservatives are making a big recovery, but largely at the expense of other unionist parties rather than the SNP. The SNP would suffer not insignificant losses though, and dipping well below 50% would hurt their ability to claim a mandate for a referendum

Labour’s collapse appears to be continuing, and if replicated on polling day would be their worst result in vote share since 1910 and it would be the first time ever it failed to win a seat in Scotland. The Lib Dems are struggling to make a comeback, but could make seat gains by virtue of the collapse of Labour.

The Locals

There were also local elections held across Scotland this month. Scottish Councils are elected using the Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV is a preferential system which uses seats that elect several candidates. Very broadly speaking it produces very proportional results. Voters also act very differently under STV conditions as it discourages tactical voting.

So it’s difficult to draw to many comparisons to a First-Past-The-Post election. However, the results were as follows (changes from 2012):

Party Councillors(+/-) First Preference Votes
SNP

431(-7)

32.2%(nc)

CON

276(+164)

25.3%(+12.0)

LAB

262(-133)

20.2%(-11.4)

LD

67(-3)

6.8%(+0.2)

As we know, local elections aren’t the best indicator for general election results. Especially when they are with a different voting system. However, the locals broadly confirmed what we already knew. The SNP are peaking, the Tories recovering, Labour collapsing and the Lib Dems sticking.

There was some interest in Labour losing control of Glasgow City Council for the first time in nearly 40 years. Despite this major psychological defeat, Labour would be happy if this was replicated on 8th June, as it would significantly outperform their polling.

SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY (SNP)

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Sturgeon mused

Nicola Sturgeon has successfully shepherded a post referendum SNP to sheer dominance in Scotland. Despite now seven years in Government, the Party have overwhelmingly won all forms of election and have a massive poll lead.

Amazingly, the SNP can only physically gain three seats this time. Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale and Orkney and Shetland are unlikely gains as both are very strong unionist seats. They will certainly be making a run at the Labour-held Edinburgh South. The majority here is less than 3,000 and they’ll be hoping the unionist vote could split Labour support three ways between the Tories and Liberal Democrats, who used to compete here.

Sturgeon may be firmly on the Scottish throne, but her crown is slipping a little. Her personal ratings have undergone a dip and her government has come under increasing scrutiny over its competence. The Party’s fixation with independence has also further alienated unionists whilst its leftward drift has seen a lot of its rural ‘Tartan Tory’ support ebb away. Spread thinly across Scotland, the SNP will be more concerned about minimising losses.

SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY

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Ruth, I’m not THAT keen on the union.

It used to be a long-running joke that there were more Pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs. They were wiped out in 1997 went on to regain one in 2001 and just clung on to their one seat in 2015. For a party that has been the only one to ever receive over 50% in Scotland, it was quite a decline.

But under the leadership of Ruth Davidson, the Tories are back in Scotland. They more than doubled their representation at Holyrood in 2016 to replace Labour as the official opposition. They further consolidated their gains in this month’s local elections.

The Tories are hoping to seize on a coalescing of the unionist vote in opposition to IndyRef2. Davidson, who probably markets herself to the left of the English and Welsh parties, is also a useful weapon as she remains popular. 

On the downside for them, they’re coming from a very low base so they’re simply too far away to make sweeping gains. Top of their target list is Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Coming only 328 votes short last time, this highly unionist seat is a dead cert.

Other probable targets look like West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and Dumfries and Galloway. If they’re really rocking they might also be in play in more ambitious seats like Perth and North Perthshire, Aberdeen South and East Renfrewshire. 

One seat they are very keen on though is Moray held by the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson. Robertson has been a real thorn in the side of the Government at PMQs and they would love to unseat him. He has a big majority but it’s a unionist area with a decent Tory vote and interestingly voted to Remain in the EU by the thinnest majority of 50.1%. One to watch.

SCOTTISH LABOUR PARTY

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In one of the most dramatic changes in British political history, the Labour Party now finds itself third in Scotland. The Party was by the largest, in both seats and votes, since 1964 and even in their disastrous year of 2010 they managed to increase their vote share. This year looks set to confirm their relegation to an also-ran.

Their continued decline in the polls means even massive tactical unionist votes will make it difficult for Labour to make gains. Instead they’ll be focussing on keeping on the board in Scotland as they look to defend Edinburgh South from a strong SNP challenge.

If we do see a massive unionist tactical vote though there are a couple of seats they could be in with a shout. East Renfrewshire, the old seat of Jim Murphy, requires only a small swing, but the Tories also have designs on this seat. More ambitious are East Lothian and Edinburgh North and Leith. 

SCOTTISH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS

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Imagine a cross between Tim Farron and Zac Goldsmith. You’re picturing Scottish Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie. 

Regionally, the Liberal Democrats were historically very strong in Scotland. Traditions of non-conformism in the Highlands and the Orkney and Shetland Isles made them liberal bastions. Indeed former leaders, Menzies Campbell, Charles Kennedy and Jo Grimond all hailed from there.

The now fading Liberal recovery never took hold in Scotland, as polling places them stuck in their 2015 position. They should be fine against the SNP in Orkney and Shetland, the most unionist area in Scotland. A Liberal has also held this seat since 1950, and if you take out 1935-1950, it’s been a Liberal stronghold since 1847.

Despite their lack of advance, tactical unionists give them a real chance in some seats. It was this that handed them some gains in the 2016 Holyrood elections.

They have their eyes on East Dunbartonshire, where former MP Jo Swinson is standing again. Swinson’s vote help up very well last time only to be swept away by the SNP tide. She’ll be hoping enough unionists will lend her their votes to put her over the top.

There’s a similar story in North East Fife and Edinburgh West where the Lib Dems saw good local election results to follow up their victories here in 2016. The latter seat is particularly interesting as it was held by the SNP’s Michelle Thomson who was forced to stand down over a financial scandal. 

In all three though, the Lib Dems could be victims of a unionist ‘tactical unwind’. They certainly benefitted from Tory votes being lent to them in 2015, and perhaps they will return home as the Conservatives firmly take on the unionist banner.

Having now taken a look at both Scotland and Wales, we take a trip across the Giant’s Causeway to Northern Ireland, where it’s a whole different ballgame… 

 

 

Feed me till I want no more: an electoral guide for Wales

Despite intense election coverage always focussing on the English ‘battlegrounds’, often the more interesting stories are found outside England. In Wales, we could see one of the most radical political realignments since, well, Scotland 2015.

Here we take a look at what the parties will be campaigning on in Wales, how the battlelines are drawn and what the parties are hoping for in the most competitive election here for almost a hundred years.

ON THE ISSUES

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The National Assembly for Wales – The Theatre of Dreams

Brexit plays out in Wales in a very similar way to England. The country voted to leave by a fractionally smaller margin. A big portion of the Remain vote was also drawn heavily from Cardiff whilst the vast majority of other counting areas voted Leave. Lots of voters may be looking for who can ‘deliver Brexit’. At the same time, many voters may be concerned about whether EU funding to Wales (currently around £680 million annually) will be covered by Westminster.

The usual bread and butter issues like education and health are complicated here in Wales. Several key policy areas like these are devolved to the Welsh Assembly, currently controlled by a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition.

That doesn’t mean they won’t feature in the Welsh campaign. The Welsh NHS has faced a weight of criticism in recent years and indeed has been a key line of attack from Conservatives on Labour’s management of the NHS for several years. The NHS here has endured cuts since 2010 and has performed worse than the NHS in England on certain metrics. 

Similarly educational achievements in Wales lag significantly behind the rest of the UK. Management of education is slightly more complicated as the Welsh Education Secretary is actually a Lib Dem.

Labour’s opponents will hope to blur the lines between devolved and non-devolved issues and that voters punish Labour accordingly.

Labour claim that both have been a victim of central government funding cuts pushed through by the Conservatives. Part of this issue is the perennial Welsh concern of the Barnett Formula.

The English are more familiar with the Barnett Formula being an English subsidy for Scotland. But Wales really gets the raw deal. Despite being significantly poorer, Wales gets less money spent per head than Scotland. Parties will be keen to promote themselves as getting ‘the best deal’ out of Westminster.

Though there is resentment against Westminster and devolution, nationalism is nowhere near as powerful here as compared to Scotland. But Governance does remain an issue. A raft of new powers, include tax-raising ones, are set to be introduced in 2019. The Conservatives are generally sceptical of further devolution, the other parties, particularly Plaid Cymru, are in favour of more.

SETTING THE SCENE

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Who could forget this classic piece of Welsh electioneering?

Where we were in 2015:

Party Seats Vote Share
LAB

25(-1)

36.9%(+0.6)

CON

11(+3)

27.2%(+1.1)

PC

3(nc)

12.1%(+0.8)

LD

1(-2)

6.5%(-13.6)

UKIP

0(nc)

13.6%(+11.2)

Labour held fairly firm here in 2015 seeing a slight increase in their vote and their two losses to the Tories being made up for by one gain from the Lib Dems.

The Conservatives consolidated their vote share and picking one seat off the Lib Dems and two off Labour including squeaking home in Gower by just 27 votes, now the most marginal seat in the UK.

Plaid Cymru failed to make the breakthrough they were hoping for. They did increase their vote share for the first time since 2001 but by just missing out in Ynys Mon they failed to gain seats.

Wales was perhaps the worst area for the Lib Dems in 2015. Their two losses were lost on substantial majorities and they lost their deposit in all but ten seats. A substantially reduced majority in Ceredigion managed to just keep them on the map.

UKIP enjoyed a big increase in their vote share. This echoed their success in the 2014 European Elections where they topped the poll in Wales. Their vote was evenly spread though so they failed to win a seat, coming closest in Newport East where they were still nearly 8,000 votes behind.

Where we were in 2016

Following the 2015 General Election, Welsh voters had the joy of voting in a Welsh Assembly election. Labour hoped to return to Government, as it had done in every election since the Assembly began in 1999.

Assembly elections are held using the Additional Member System (AMS). Under AMS voters have two separate votes, one for a constituency, using the First-Past-The-Post system, and one for a region, using the d’Hondt method. Broadly speaking, the system creates a fairly proportional result and sees smaller parties doing better than normal.

Party

Additional Member System

Total Seats
Constituency Vote Regional Vote
Seats Vote Share Seats Vote Share
LAB

27(-1)

34.7%(-7.6)

2(nc)

31.5%(-5.4)

29(-1)

PC

6(+1)

20.5%(+1.3)

6(nc)

20.8%(+2.9)

12(+1)

CON

6(nc)

21.1%(-3.9)

5(-3)

18.8%(-3.7)

11(nc)

UKIP

0(nc)

12.5%(+12.5)

7(+7)

13.0%(+8.4)

7(+7)

LD

1(nc)

7.7%(-2.9)

0(-4)

6.5%(-1.5)

1(-4)

In quite a strange election, though Labour took a big hit to their vote share they lost only one seat. Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood gained Labour’s constituency seat of Rhondda on a big swing. 

Plaid continued to remain static, still failing to make the breakthrough they’ve longed for. The Conservatives also continued their historic underperformance in Assembly elections, despite gains in the Scottish Parliament and English councils in elections held on the same day.

The Lib Dems narrowly avoided a wipeout as Kirsty Williams led a heroic defence of constituency seat of Brecon and Radnorshire. She would go on to become Education Secretary in the Labour administration.

The big beneficiary of the decline in Labour vote was UKIP; entering a domestic UK legislature for the first time. Struggling to make progress in individual constituencies, UKIP were helped out a lot by the electoral system.

Where we are now

There have been two Wales-only polls published by the Welsh Political Barometer since the start of the campaign. Averaging them out reads (changes from 2015):

CON 41% (+14) LAB 33% (-4) PC 12% (nc) LD 8% (+1) UKIP 5% (-9)

On uniform swing that would create the following seat outcome:

CON 21(+10) LAB 15 (-10) PC 3(nc) LD 1(nc) UKIP 0 (nc)

Such a result would be genuinely seismic, giving the Conservatives the most votes and a majority of votes within Wales for the first since the 1850s. As with England, they are clear beneficiaries of the UKIP collapse coupled with Labour falling back.

There were also local council elections across Wales last week. They gave a slightly different picture:

Party Councils (+/-) Councillors(+/-)
LAB

7(-3)

472(-107)

IND

1(+1)

322(+13)

PC

1(nc)

202(+33)

CON

1(+1)

184(+80)

LD

0(nc)

62(-11)

UKIP

0(nc)

0(-2)

Labour by no means had a great night losing a significant number of councillors. They also had significant losses in key marginal areas like Bridgend and Wrexham. They also lost overall control of councils like Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil, areas as red as a London bus.

However, they did much better than the Westminster polls implied. They even managed to make gains in Swansea and Flintshire. Much of their losses also went to Independents rather than the Conservatives. Local Welsh politics are slightly unusual with a high number of Independents who are often disgruntled Labour councillors. It’s easy to see many of their votes going to Labour in June.

But interestingly, the Welsh Political Barometer also had a poll about local voting intention which showed:

LAB 28% CON 26% PC 19% IND 12% UKIP 8% LD 7%

Though probably still underestimating Labour that is more in line with the results. It also confirms what we learnt last time, that people do vote differently in local elections.  Labour can’t take too much comfort in the local results.

The results also confirmed assumptions about the other parties. Plaid perhaps a slight advance, the Lib Dems remaining in the doldrums and UKIP in complete disarray.

WELSH LABOUR/LLAFUR CYMRU

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“Carwyn, how would you feel if Jeremy made a campaign visit?”

Following their collapse in Scotland, Wales is one of Labour’s few remaining strongholds. They have won a majority of Welsh seats in every general election since 1935 and won the most votes and the most seats since 1918. Wales has also been a big talent pool, providing heavyweights like Keir Hardie, Nye Bevan and Neil Kinnock.

Since 2010 their grip has been loosening, with the party on the retreat in the more rural North and coastal Wales. The Party has also seen its vote share drop almost 20 points from their 1997 high of 55%.

Nevertheless, the Party remains hugely strong in the valleys where mining and industrial traditions are strong. However, this region’s strong vote for Leave has thrown a big old spanner in the works and the Tories are now nipping at their heels.

This is Labour’s Waterloo. Defeat here, which is a real possibility, would raise major doubts about the future of the Labour Party.

But the local elections showed that though Labour was down, it certainly is not out. Welsh First Minister Carywn Jones, who is relatively popular in Wales, will be placed front and centre of the Welsh campaign as he was during the local elections.

Given the state of the polls, Labour gains are currently off the cards, even the ultra-marginal Gower. On the bright side, many of its Welsh seats are so safe they should withstand even the biggest Tory landslide.

Its Northern seats do look vulnerable. They will struggle to hold off the Tory challenge in seats like Clywd South, Delyn and Wrexham. They also likely to be stuck in a pincer movement between Plaid and the Tories in Ynys Mon. They will suffer inroads into their southern citadel too, with Bridgend, Newport West and even some of their Cardiff seats looking wobbly.

WELSH CONSERVATIVES/CEIDWADWYR CYMREIG

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Andrew RT Davies: the first thumb elected to the Welsh Assembly

Though with pockets of regional success, the Conservatives have never been serious contenders for first place in Wales. The Tories had good elections in 1979 and 1983, only for this to melt away as Thatcherism took its toll on Wales. In 1997 and 2001 the Tories weren’t even on the electoral map in Wales.

But the polls suggest they’re back, with the Tories threatening to take control of Wales for the first time in almost two centuries. There are plenty of Leave and UKIP voters in Wales for the Tories to piggyback on all the way to the top.

The resurgence is a little deeper than that though. There’s actually been a quiet revival in Welsh Conservatism in recent years. 2010 saw its best Welsh election result since 1983 as their vote increased more here than it did in England. They further improved their position in 2015.

On the downside they are led by the peculiarly named Andrew RT Davies. Davies is not wildly popular amongst the electorate. He’s also not the most competent, managing to confuse Brexit with breakfast. Easily done.Perhaps this is why they didn’t pick up as many Council seats as they had hoped for.

Nonetheless, the UKIP collapse means the Tories will pick up several Labour seats in their sleep. The question is how deep in can go in Labour territory. Ambitious targets include Newport East or a run from third place in Ynys Mon. On a good day they might also hope to make inroads in traditionally Plaid areas like Carmarthen East and Dinefwr.

PLAID CYMRU/PARTY OF WALES

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“Plaid What?”

Poor old Plaid. Whilst Nicola Sturgeon reigns supreme in Scotland, Plaid aren’t even knocking on the castle door in Wales.

Nationalism is much weaker here, with polls showing support for independence at highs of around 15%. This is reflected in Plaid’s fortunes as they struggle to break out of their Welsh-speaking rural base. Traditionally more conservative, this support has also ebbed away with the onset of devolution satisfying nationalist demands. Its also been further alientated by Plaid’s leftward shift to appeal to Labour voters in the south.

Led by Leanne Wood, Plaid will no doubt continue to work on that message. They will hope to be the alternative for Labour voters who don’t like Corbyn but can’t bring themselves to vote Tory.

Wood, the first non-Welsh speaker to lead Plaid. got a good media write-up last in 2015. Despite this big exposure, Wood failed to capitalise and failed to do so again in the 2016 Assembly elections. With Welsh Labour apparently in serious trouble if they can’t make progress now her future, and maybe even Plaid’s, will come into question.

In terms of targets they’re be going at it hammer and tong at Ynys Mon and its Labour majority of 229. They’ll have to guard against a Tory challenge from third here though.

Beyond that it is difficult to see gains for them. They are in with a shout in the Lib Dem-held Ceredigion and perhaps if all their stars align they could make a play for Labour’s Llanelli.

WELSH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS/DEMOCRATIAID RHYDDFRYDOL CYMRU

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#wecanconqueremployment

Wales used to be the bedrock of British Liberalism. With strong traditions of it non-conformist religion the Liberals dominated Wales, nearly winning every seat here in 1906. Of course, who could forget perhaps the greatest Welsh Liberal, David Lloyd George.

With the growth of industrial politics in the the valleys though and the decline of religion, the Liberals and their successors were in continual decline from 1918 onwards. The Lib Dems did enjoy a brief recovery in 2005 though, managing to capture four seats.

Those days are long gone. Winning just the one seat, the Lib Dem vote fell to the floor in Wales in 2015. It has stayed down there since with them going backwards in Local Government and the Assembly.

Bar a major recovery in Plaid fortunes, they should hold on to Ceredigion fairly easily to stay represented in Wales. The #libdemfightback looks thus far confined to England, and it’s difficult to see gains for them in Leave-voting Wales. They will be going hard to regain Cardiff Central though, but the size of the Labour majority there probably puts it out of reach. 

UKIP 

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“Yea one more thing, my wife loves ya”

Oh dear. Nationally UKIP looks the model of efficient organisation compared to its Welsh party. Not only has it seen its support crumble almost overnight, the party is a complete and utter shambles.

Upon entering the Assembly an coup occurred within UKIP as Nathan Gill was removed as Assembly Group Leader. Now an independent, he was replaced by none other than the scandal-ridden pal of Louis Theroux, Neil Hamilton. The former Tory MP is currently one of the least popular Welsh politicians in history. 

The internal strife continues as last month, former Tory MP turned Assembly Member, Mark Reckless, defected back to the Conservatives. Welsh UKIP would struggle to organise a coach to the brewery, the piss-up is a complete write-off.

There’s not a chance of UKIP making any advances in Wales this time around, the question really is; how low will they go?

So don’t just think about the English theatre, the really dramatic changes in this election could be happening in Wales.

If that’s piqued your interest in Welsh politics, you can keep up to date with Roger Scully’s excellent blog, http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/electionsinwales/ 

After taking a look at the Welsh battle, next we’ll hop over Hadrian’s Wall to see how the contest is shaping up in Scotland. We’ll how one of the most interesting political development in our recent history is taking hold. 

This is a local election for local people, there’s nothing for you here

For the first time since 1987 parties have had a warm-up match for the main contest in June. A delight for election anoraks, it’s the first time in thirty years local elections have been held before a general election. You are spoiling us Theresa.

But for those that aren’t anoraks, local elections and their results are difficult to decipher. This is made worse by the spin pushed out by politicians. The Tories are keen to avoid complacency.(“We didn’t win every single vote, there’s still a real threat of a coalition of chaos”). Labour want to show they still have a pulse (“I think we did better than expected, some pundits were predicting Jeremy Corbyn would be found dead this morning”). The Liberal Democrats use anything as indicators of a comeback (“We got a very good increase on our vote share in a ward on West Borsetshire Parish Council”). As for UKIP, well they gave up on spinning.

This was best exemplified by Jeremy Corbyn’s official statement that read “The results were mixed. We lost seats but we are closing the gap on the Conservatives.”

With that statement it’s hard to know what level of reality he’s operating on. They really weren’t mixed Jeremy. Unless of course he means some were awful, and some were bloody awful.

So in this post we try to cut through the spin and spell out what the results were, how they compare to the past and what it means for the general election.

THE VOTE SHARE

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“YES! We didn’t lose all of them!”

Every local election the BBC calculate what’s know as the ‘Projected National Share’ (PNS). This is not the same as totalling up all the different votes cast, but rather a modelling of the votes cast.

Different councils are elected at different times. For instance, this year most of the English contests were rural, Tory-leaning county councils where Labour do worse than in others.  A simple totting up of the votes would give the Tories a massive lead that would not be representative of the country as a whole.

Instead, key council wards (such as those in marginal seats, those with certain demographics, etc.) are analysed and the results there are applied across the country. As a modelling exercise it’s quite rough, so its numbers should never be regarded as concrete.

The PNS this year was (changes from 2015 General Election):

CON 38%(+1) LAB 27%(-3) LD 18%(+10) UKIP 5%(-8)

Polls overestimating the Tories?

You can see where Jeremy’s coming from in his ‘closing the gap’ analysis. An 11-point lead for the Tories is significantly lower than the 15+ leads in the polls. It would lead to only a small Tory majority of about 30.

But, that is one, ignoring it is actually a touch lower than Labour’s polling average and two, how doesn’t consider how different local election outcomes are to general election outcomes.

Turnout is much lower:

General elections roughly see turnout of 65%. For local elections it is about 30% and has been for years. Some council areas seeing much lower turnout than that.

The vast majority of voters simply don’t bother to turnout, and there’s no real evidence to suggest one party has higher turnout than others at General elections. With such a small electorate it’s difficult to construe it as particularly representative.

People vote for different reasons:

Despite what many of us think, voters aren’t stupid. They do realise that local government is responsible for local things. They don’t think their local ward councillor will be forming part of our Brexit negotiation team. This means they often put aside national considerations and clearly that helps Labour, given Corbyn’s absymal personal ratings.

Local issues are also fundamentally less partisan and more about competence. It’s difficult to articulate a Conservative philosophy on bins or a socialist position on park benches. Consequently, voters are more inclined to give smaller parties a go. Take the Lib Dems. As a party they have always articulated a strong emphasis on localism. This focus is rewarded at local elections when people want strong local campaigners but falls away at general elections when people want a national government:

Election Lib Dem Vote Share
1991 Local

22%

1992 General

18%(-4)

1996 Local

23%

1997 General

17%(-6)

2000 Local

26%

2001 General

18%(-8)

2004 Local

27%

2005 General

22%(-5)

2009 Local

28%

2010 General

23%(-5)

2014 Local

13%

2015 General

8%(-5)

Indeed, even in their disaster of 2015, in the local elections held on the same day the Lib Dems did better by two points.

The average decline in the Lib Dem vote share was five and a half percentage points in the general election following a local election. Applying to these figures would suggest the Lib Dems on 11.5% and that is roughly where they are polling. These votes must end up somewhere.

Governments tend to do badly:

There is a tendency amongst voters to use local elections as a means of exercising a protest vote against the Government. This is similar to the concept of the ‘mid-term blues’ in US congressional elections.

The local emphasis of these elections also means the Tories will also benefit less from the apparent popularity of Theresa May. Voters can still have their Labour councillor, but get May as Prime Minister come 8th June.

So Governments will do worse and often very poorly in local elections, only to see their vote share significantly recover come the general election. Similarly, the Opposition will see its vote share fall:

Election Government Vote Share Opposition Vote Share
1991 Local

35%

38%

1992 General

42%(+7)

34%(-4)

1996 Local

29%

43%

1997 General

31%(+2)

43%(nc)

2000 Local

30%

32%

2001 General

41%(+11)

32%(nc)

2004 Local

26%

37%

2005 General

35%(+9)

32%(-5)

2009 Local

23%

38%

2010 General

29%(+6)

36%(-2)

2014 Local

29%

31%

2015 General

37%(+8)

30%(-1)

The average rise in the Government’s vote share was seven points while contrast the average fall in the Opposition vote share was two points. Applying that to the PNS would see CON 45% LAB 25%. Again that is where the polls are roughly at and would see a majority of around 150.

These local elections were different in that they were held just a month before a general election. It makes sense that voters may be a bit more nationally minded as they head closer to a general election. However, in the last two occasions this occurred the same trend of Governments doing better and oppositions doing worse held true:

Election Government Vote Share Opposition Vote Share
1983 Local

39%

36%

1983 General

42%(+3)

28%(-8)

1987 Local

38%

32%

1987 General

42%(+4)

31%(-1)

One caveat is that these elections are also different in that they actually took place during a general election campaign. One might feasibly conclude that this means voters are voting on a more national basis than usual, so the changes in the vote share might be more limited.

Regardless, based on historical trends the a replication of the PNS would the very best Labour could hope for. For context, that would be the worst Labour performance in terms of vote share since 1918.

However, historical results suggest the Conservatives will do better and Labour even worse on 8th June. Grim.

Record breakers

Though it showed a tighter race than the polls, the PNS broke some quite extraordinary records in of itself.

The Conservatives enjoyed their best performance in the PNS since scoring 38% in 2009. It was Labour’s worst performance since 2010. Let’s remember that both were during the doldrums of the deeply unpopular Gordon Brown, the depths of a financial crisis, an expenses scandal and after 12-13 years of Labour Government.

It was also the best performance of any Governing party since Labour hit 38% as well in 1998 when Tony Blair was in his pomp. It was the best performance of the Conservatives in Government since 1992, when John Major got 46% shortly after his triumphant general election victory. Labour’s performance was the worst by the Opposition since projections of national vote shares began in 1980.

In terms of leads between first and second it was the highest since 2008, and the highest for a Governing party since 1992. It was equivalent to Thatcher’s lead during the 1982 local elections, during the height of her popularity in the midst of the Falklands War.

THE SEATS

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“Please don’t make me redundant”

Taking a look at the scoreboard:

Party Councils (+/-) Councillors (+/-)
CON

27(+10)

1439 (+319)

LAB

2(-1)

418 (-142)

LD

0

312(-28)

UKIP

0

1(-143)

Admittedly, a large part of these election were English County Councils in Tory patches. Something of a ‘difficult away game’ for Labour. They also had a good time out when these were last up for election in 2013 in the way of seat gains. They coming from something of a high base so some losses were likely.

Regardless, these are a terrible set of results. In England, one in every four defending Labour councillors lost their seats. Oppositions should be gaining hundreds of seats in these elections, not losing them. Especially not seven years into a Conservative Government with challenges both foreign and domestic.

Where Labour lost ground was also deeply worrying for them. They saw significant losses in Cumbria, Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire often including local party leaders. They lost 19 councillors alone in Derbyshire alone. All these areas contain several marginal seats and these results look like they could be lost already.

Labour even managed lose a seat to UKIP.

The seat numbers also saw records. The Labour Party now have the enviable award of being the first Opposition to go backwards in three consecutive local elections. In terms of losses this was their worst result since 2007 which came after ten years of Blair. Conversely in terms of gains this was the Tories’ best result since 2007 and the best performance of a governing party since 1974 when the current system of local government was introduced.

UKIP’S EULOGY (AND MAYBE LABOUR’S TOO)

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“Who unlocked the door?”

On the brightside for Labour, their performance may have been bad, but it was not as disastrous as for UKIP. The Party lost every seat it was defending, and that gain from Labour saved it from a complete wipeout. Their vote share also more than halved.

The Conservatives were the main, if not sole beneficiary of this collapse. The Tories picked up the lion’s share of UKIP seats and UKIP switchers propelled them to further gains off Labour and the Lib Dems.

Based on opinion polls that was to be expected. Polls are showing roughly 50-60% of 2015 UKIP voters going to the Tories.

Labour have been pushing this line that their vote held up and it was UKIP’s collapse that propelled the Tories to victory. There are two problems with this.

First it ignores the drop in the Labour vote from an already very low base. They are down four points on Ed Miliband’s pretty poor performance of 2015. It’s a bit like saying yes we lost 6-0 but last time we lost 5-0 so we’ve arrested the decline. Many football mangers would love that excuse.

More importantly is this UKIP to Tory trend spells deep trouble for Labour. In 2015 UKIP drew almost half of their support from Labour.  There is also some evidence that UKIP voters in 2015, who voted Tory in 2010, were previously Labour voters before that. From that it’s apparent that UKIP has drawn roughly over half its support from traditionally Labour voters.

As much as it might pain the Labour Party to admit, it needs to get these UKIP voters back should it ever hope of coming close to Government.

Instead they are going over the Tories. and this will have its own immediate impact on Labour in this election. Should the level of switching replicate itself on election day, the Tories would gain 30-40 seats without any fall in the Labour vote. The gains might be amplified even further if UKIP continues its freefall and indeed in many seats they are struggling to even put up a candidate.

#LIBDEMFIGHTBACK… 

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“Well…”

All in all it wasn’t a great night for non-Tories. The Liberal Democrats did see a good increase in their vote share as reflected in the PNS, up ten points and that was their best result since 2010. However, as we know that vote share is likely to drop significantly at the general election. They also made a net loss of 28 seats and gained overall control of no councils.

Lib Dem figures did point to some good results in some of their old seats like Wells and Eastleig where they gained wards off longstanding Tory councillors. They also made good progress in seats like St. Albans. These has been seized upon as evidence of a concentrated fightback.

That’s really cherrypicking at its finest.

They failed to make any ground in some of their key targets, gaining no councillors in Cheltenham. They also lost ground to the Tories in Somerset and in Cornwall where they were hoping to take overall control. A hashtag the fightback may remain.

MAYORAL MATCH-UPS 

andy-burnham-425x265

“Jurassic Park!”

A new addition this year was the election of six new ‘Metro Mayors‘ in England. These were fought use the preferential system of Supplementary Vote, a slight variation of the Alternative Vote system.

There were a lot of fears about there being pitiful turnout for these contests. It wasn’t great, but it was fairly respectable at around 30% on average. By way of comparison, that’s about the same as for the first London Mayoral contest.

Corbyn pointed to Labour’s success in Manchester and Liverpool as evidence of Labour’s fight. They did win massively here, winning 63% and 60% respectively. In 2015, Labour won 46% of the vote of the constituencies that made up the Manchester contest, so Andy Burnham did put in a cracking turn.

But this deep into Labour territory, and with a big name like Burnham it’s no surprise they did so well in Manchester. Winning these was Labour’s electoral equivalent of tying their own shoelaces.

In other contests there was grim news for Labour. They lost the West Midlands contest to the Tories. The region covers several marginal seats so that doesn’t mean good news for their general election prospects. More concerning for them was their loss in the Tees Valley. Containing areas like Middlesbrough this should have been a happy hunting ground for them.

There was also further bad news for the Lib Dems. They held high hopes for the West of England, which contains Bath, one of their top target seats. Not only did they lose here, but they even managed to come third behind Labour.

WHAT’S NEXT?

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“Lads, we’re several goals down, but it’s a game of two halves.”

 

As an indicator, these spell bad news for everyone but the Tories who have truly murdered UKIP, dismembered its corpse and thrown it down a disused quarry. History suggests the Tory vote will go higher, whilst Labour are likely to go backwards. The Lib Dems have also been left scrabbling for any evidence of a comeback.

The results themselves will also have some impact. It’s another nail in the coffin of Labour being a credible threat, though the Tories will play up their smaller PNS share to help drive up their voters’ turnout.

The results will be of no help to many within Labour’s already subterranean levels of morale. You need a lot of that to bother campaigning and indeed to actually vote.

The local elections showed there were some interesting contests beyond England. We often forget we are a country of four nations, each with their own political nuances and issues. So we’ll be taking a look at the election outside England, first with a trip across Offa’s Dyke. 

 

 

It matters more when there’s money on it

Betting on politics is all the rage at the moment. The French Presidential Election has seen well over €1m wagered on its outcome in the UK alone.

Sadly, because of the towering Tory leads, the bookies aren’t being very generous in our own election. If you backed Emmanuel Macron at the start of his campaign you could have got yourself a tasty 16/1. By contrast, the Conservatives winning the most seats attracts a tightfisted 1/25.

It’s definitely good fun betting on the election. But before putting your house on a Lib Dem/UKIP coalition, it’s worth thinking a bit about how political betting works. You can’t stick a pin for this stuff.

TIPS FOR TIPPING

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“Gotta get one in soon, the cottage is riding on this.”

The advantage punters have with betting on politics is the wealth of information available compared to other betting markets. With the horses consideration has to be made for form, market movements, course going, handicap rating, injuries etc. There are so many variables to consider and its difficult to get transparent and reliable sources of information. We can’t see how the horses train, we don’t know if there’s any dodgy behaviour going on and one tipster says something completely different to another.

This is less of a problem with politics. Though not always accurate, polls provide a good indicator of where public opinion is lying. We can look at individual seats to see what parties need to make gains or losses. We have constant media reporting of how campaigns are shaping up and how parties are doing on the ground.

On the downside, political betting offers much worse odds than other markets. This is mainly because there are much fewer possible outcomes. Take the Grand National for instance. There a 40 runners and on sheer mathematical probabilities it’s difficult to pick the winner. The favourite for 2017, Definitely Red, was a relatively long price at 10/1.

By contrast, in politics there are a limited number of possible winners. In, say, a market for which party will form a majority, mathematically there are only three parties that can do so. Even apparently unlikely outcomes, like a Labour majority, attract comparatively short odds of 14/1.

This means it’s important in political betting to look for value. When you go shopping, sometimes your preferred product is too expensive, but your second-choice product is cheap.  Look for value for money, sometimes the second-choice option is more attractive.

The same is true for betting. For example, I might think that a Conservative majority is the most likely outcome but at 1/12 the price is simply to short to make backing it worthwhile. A Conservative minority government, though I might think unlikely, it is perhaps more likely than the 12/1 odds imply.

Another important aspect of political betting is ‘laying’. Strictly speaking this is a term reserved for exchange betting, but conceptually it applies to traditional betting as well. You back one outcome, such as a Conservative majority, but you also back an alternative outcome like a Conservative minority. This is a way of spreading the risk.

Again it’s much easier to do this with politics than in other markets. Try laying a bet in the Grand National, and you’d have to back up to 39 other horses.

So let’s apply those principles in practice and see where you might get value in this election. The odds are even converted to a likely return based on a £1 bet, making that much easier for you to understand too.

TENNER ON THE TORIES

The Tories seem pretty nailed on to be the largest party at the election. But priced at 1/25 (£1.04), they are prohibitively priced. Even the best odds for a Conservative majority are 1/12(£1.08). Both would need a lot of money on to make it worthwhile and, who knows, anything might happen.

A more interesting market is seat bands, betting on what range their seat numbers will be. The Tories are riding high in the polls, and there is some evidence they are performing even better in marginal seats, suggesting some hefty gains pushing them to over 400 seats. Have a crack at Bet365 for 401-425 at 11/4(£3.75). The bet is also easily laid with a bit put on 376-400 seats at 3/1(£4).

LAYING IT ON LABOUR

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“John McDonnell? Where are you John? There he is! John, this one’s for you.”

With Labour languishing in the polls, its difficult to justify a punt on them to win the most seats. Even the reasonably long 14/1(£15) is far too short for that outcome.

Again, the value lies in the seat bands market. Based on current polls they are bound to make at least the 33 losses to bring them to 199. Double your money at 11/8 (£2.38) with Coral. At the bottom end of their polling and with an underperformance in marginal seats its also possible they might dip below 150. Get on that at 15/8(£2.88). 

LITTLE BIT ON THE LIB DEMS

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“Were we successful? I’ll let you judge that when I tell you we were once supported by a little-known Scottish outfit called Texas”

Last time we saw how difficult it’s going to be for the Lib Dems to make gains this election, despite a bump in their overall vote share. We saw how difficult it will be for them to reach 20 seats, even on a really, really good day. It’s more likely they’ll end up on not much more than ten.

But it is also definitely possible for them to get under ten seats. They probably will get over, but with Betfred offering 9/1(£10) for them not to is extremely good value. Get on that while you can. You could easily cover your stake but putting on a few quid for them to get 10-19 seats at 7/4(£2.75).

PLAYING THE CONSTITUENCIES

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Local celeb announces intention to stand in North Norfolk.

Often where the real value lies is in individual constituencies. Normal people don’t tend to bother to go into this much detail so it avoids some of the big money like other political markets. Bookies also crudely price them, so often you can get very generous odds.

Despite Lib Dem hopes, Carshalton and Wallington could easily be a Tory gain. Certainly much more probable than the 5/4 offered by William Hill. A slightly longer shot was North Norfolk, have a crack on the Tories here at 15/8 with Betfair.

There aren’t many places the Tories look set to lose, and those were they are at risk the Lib Dems are far overpriced. We did consider though that in the event of a big Lib Dem comeback, Oxford West and Abingdon could come into play. 4/1(£5) at Bet365 for the Lib Dems to take it looks pretty good.

There are also some interesting three and four way marginals to have a punt on.

Caroline Lucas’s Brighton Pavillion should remain Green, but this seat sees a significant level of support for both Labour and the Conservatives. There’s a chance that if the Tory surge happens as expected, and the left vote remains split, that they could just take this. Valuable at 6/1(£7) with Betfred.

Another is Bristol West. Currently Labour-held, this has long been a Green target. Complicating it further, the Lib Dems and the Tories also get around a fifth of the vote here each. Should some of the Labour vote melt away to the Lib Dems and the Greens stay solid, a rising Tory vote might just come up the middle and snatch it. Extremely valuable at 25/1(£26) at Ladbrokes.

Labour don’t look set to make any gains this election, and make several losses. But Ynys Mon is worth a look. A Labour/Plaid Cymru marginal, there has also been speculation that the Tories could take this from third. It’s not completely mad to see a lack of PC advance being further hampered by a big Tory increase and Labour clinging on by virtue of a divided opposition and an incumbency factor. They’re definitely underrated here at 10/1(£11) with Bet365.

WEIRDER WAGERS

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“Yea, you know I invented that?”

If we run with the idea of a Lib Dem flop, them winning around 10 seats or so, there’s a strong chance the poorly-performing Tim Farron will resign as leader. With none of the old stalwarts returning, and no new talent, who do they turn to in the hour of need?

Enter Nick Clegg. Yes, admittedly he’s an unlikely hero. He’s definitely going to return to the Commons, has experience to draw upon a could be a safe pair of hands in a crisis. Have a punt at 16/1(£17) with Bet365.

With Theresa May repeatedly kicking the already-dead corpse of UKIP, their vote share could more than halve this time around and they are set to lose their one seat of Clacton. Despite captaining the 1966 World Cup winning side, Paul Nuttall has shown himself to be a fairly poor leader. He’s even resorted to locking himself in rooms to avoid the press. A resignation looks inevitable.

With Nuttall going off to restart his formerly successful singing career, UKIP will need someone to manage their decline. An interesting figure is Peter Whittle. Their candidate for the London Mayoral election, Whittle acquitted himself well At least as well as be can be expected for a Kipper. Busy cracking America, Nigel Farage surely can’t come back again. Already deputy leader, Whittle looks worthwhile at 4/1(£5) with Bet365. 

SkyBet are also offering a multiple bet that is of interest. A multiple bet means more than one outcome has to occur for the bet to pay out. For 6/1(£7) you can get Conservative seats 400-450, Labour seats 100-150, Lib Dem seats 10-19.

If you’re interested in betting on politics and keen for tips, a good place to start is the excellent blog, www.politicalbetting.com. 

Of course, today was also election day for Scotland, Wales and parts of England as voters pick their local councillors. Next time we will be looking at what happened and what that means for the big one in June…

Liberal Democrat squad for the 2017-2022 season

The Lib Dems took a battering in 2015. Losing 49 seats and its vote share plunging to 8%, it was their worst performance since 1970. Fans left to rival clubs in their droves. The manager resigned. Some of their best talent was depleted. There was serious talk of relegation to the lower leagues.

But they have turned a corner. With new management onboard, they’ve taken inspiration from the Continent with a new strategy of Brexit opposition. They’ve seen a rise of around three points in the polls. There is growing speculation 2017 might see them build a base to mount a title challenge in the future.

There are other indicators on the ground of a Lib Dem recovery beyond national polls. Their membership figures are at record levels, they have won several local by-elections and of course saw that spectacular gain in Richmond Park.

The Lib Dem recovery is predicated on two bases. First is that a significant numbers of Labour voters are looking to them in the face of discontent at the Corbyn leadership and Labour’s apparent acceptance of Brexit.

The other is that Remain-voting Tories will also defect over the Government’s position on the EU. There is also a perception that these Tories are generally more liberal and not keen on Theresa May’s brand of conservatism. Even Boris’s sister has been lured over.

The hope is that in those seats where these demographics come into play the Lib Dems will outperform their national polling and make big gains. Lots of their former MPs hope the same, with many standing to retake their old seats.  Indeed, there have been rumours of private polling showing the Lib Dems could make nearly 30 gains off the Tories.

But its not all good news for the Lib Dems.

Holes in the defence:

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“I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it, but I don’t agree with homosexuality in the workplace.”

Tim Farron is not doing the best job as leader. Ipsos Mori found that Farron had roughly the same satisfaction rating as national treasure Jeremy Corbyn. A third of voters simply don’t know enough about him to form a view.

The Lib Dems are also putting a lot of faith in the power of the personal vote by putting old warhorses into battle. They could be disappointed. 2015 saw even 32 year incumbent Lib Dem, and former leader, Charles Kennedy lose his 13,070 majority. He was one of several high-profile losses.

Labour loans:

Though Labour switchers will boost the Lib Dems, it will help little in terms in terms of seats. In the top ten target seats, only one is Labour-held. The Labour vote is more crucial in terms of tactical Lib Dem votes in Tory-held seats.

Tim Farron’s ongoing difficulty to prove he is not a homophobe could also hurt the Party’s ability to prove its progressive credentials to Labour voters along with the memory of the Coalition.

Tory transfers:

On the Tory side, there are plenty of targets but they are held with fairly big majorities. Only five of their Tory-held targets are held with majorities of less than 5%. Nationwide polls also show a swing of 3.5% from the Lib Dems to the Tories. They’ll need big swings to make big gains.

Lots of formerly held Lib Dem seats, such as their old Cornish strongholds, also voted heavily to Leave and have significant UKIP support. Their anti-Brexit platform is unlikely to play well here and the Tories are mopping up Leavers and Kippers. Even thin Tory majorities like the 744 in Eastbourne are insulated by a Leave vote of 57%.

That only leaves Remain-voting Tory constituencies with small-ish majorities up for grabs. Even here, the Lib Dems may struggle to get the number of Tory switchers they need. This latest YouGov poll for instance, showed the Lib Dems picking up only 2% of 2015 Tory voters. By contrast, the Tories picked up 19% of 2015 Lib Dem voters.

We take a look at how all this will play out in Lib Dem constituencies and target seats at the Election and how their final squad might look on 9th June.

KEEPING IT TIGHT AT THE BACK

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“Please, I’m begging you, stay”

 

The Lib Dems will certainly want a clean sheet after their 2015 calamity. Their uptick in the polls means they will hold most easily, but local quirks and a strong national lead for the Tories means others are vulnerable.

On the plane:

Seat LD MAJORITY 2ND PARTY REMAIN VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Westmorland and Lonsdale

8949

CON

53%

9.2%

Ceredigion

3067

PC

55%

4.1%

Leeds North West

2907

LAB

63%

3.4%

Sheffield Hallam

2353

LAB

64%

2.1%

Orkney and Shetland

817

SNP

60%

1.7%

The size of the majority in Westmorland and Lonsdale and its Remain vote mean Tim Farron’s seat is certainly safe. The majorities in Ceredigion and Leeds North West look more vulnerable. However, the respective contenders, Plaid Cymru and Labour, are showing no signs of progress nationally so its difficult to see them mounting a challenge.

Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam is similarly safe due to the likely weakness of the Labour performance. Heavily unionist Orkney and Shetland will also see a big tactical Lib-Dem vote to keep out the SNP, keeping the Party represented in Scotland.

Might need an injection from the physio:

Seat LD MAJORITY 2ND PARTY REMAIN VOTE SWING REQUIRED
North Norfolk

4043

CON

42%

4.1%

Norman Lamb has held this rural, typically Conservative, seat against the tide since 2001. Despite being a natural target, the Tories have also struggled to make progress here. Their 2015 result (31%) is significantly down on their 2001 result (42%).

But the current national swing from the Lib Dems to the Tories would put them within touching distance here. Lamb abstained on the Article 50 bill, but it is easy to see his many Leave constituents not being keen on his Party’s platform. The Tories also have a juicy 17% UKIP vote to tuck into here.

One to watch.

Have to impress at the training ground:

Seat LD MAJORITY 2ND PARTY REMAIN VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Southport

1322

CON

54%

1.5%

Carshalton and Wallington

1510

CON

44%

1.6%

Richmond Park

1872

CON

72%

2.3%

For me, Clive, both Southport and Carshalton and Wallington look like gonners base on national swing alone. Though Southport voted Remain, it has a sizeable UKIP vote (17%) for the Tories to squeeze. Carshalton and Wallington has an almost identical vote distribution with the added issue of a Leave vote that outperformed the national average.

Nevertheless, the Lib Dems will be hoping some of that Labour vote was punishment for the Coalition and will come back. The Tory vote also made little progress in these seats in 2015.

Richmond Park is more of a battle. The Lib Dems took this in that weird by-election of Zac Goldsmith’s on a massive swing of 22%. They’ll hope their anti-Brexit Coalition holds up, as well as the opposition to Heathrow.

But the Tory machine wasn’t actually at work in that by-election and Zac is back. Despite the big swing, the Lib Dems still only squeaked home after squeezing Green and Labour votes to death. An extremely tight contest.

DOWN THE LEFT

timfarron

“Go on, we’re a right laugh once you get to know us”

Generally Lib Dem targets are Tory-facing, but there are a few Labour signings they’ll be considering.

On the plane:

Seat LAB MAJORITY REMAIN VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Cambridge

599

73%

0.6%

With a wafer-thin Labour majority and a big Remain vote, Cambridge looks a dead cert for the Lib Dems. The Labour vote is receding nationally anyway and will do so more here over Brexit.

Have to impress at the training ground:

Seat LAB MAJORITY REMAIN VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Bermondsey and Old Southwark

4489

73%

4.4

This seat was held by Simon Hughes since 1983, and he’s back with a vengeance. Hughes is hoping that voters will forgive the Coalition vote and see Brexit opposition as more important.

But there’s a healthy Labour majority here to overcome. The incumbent, Neil Coyle is also about as anti-Corbyn as you can get and he also voted against the Article 50 bill. Demographically the seat has also become increasingly diverse, a trend that helps Labour.

If there are some serious injuries:

Seat LAB MAJORITY REMAIN VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Cardiff Central

4981

70%

6.5%

Another casualty from 2015, this seat is of the student-heavy urban kind that the Lib Dems used to dominate. The Lib Dems will capitalise on this demographic with their EU platform.

On the down side, recent polls show a lack of Lib Dem recovery in Wales and they failed to gain the equivalent Assembly seat in 2016. This is also a big majority to overcome.

DOWN THE RIGHT

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“I’ve made a huge mistake”

The revenge tragedy of 2017. The Lib Dems will want payback for the drubbing they received from their Coalition partners in 2015. Big leave votes in lots of Tory/Lib Dem contests put a lot of them out of reach, but there are plenty that the Lib Dems will think they can get their hands on.

Have to impress at the training ground:

Seat CON MAJORITY REMAIN VOTE LAB+GREEN VOTE UKIP VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Lewes

1083

53%

16%

11%

1.1%

Twickenham

2017

64%

16%

5%

1.7%

Kingston and Surbiton

2834

58%

18%

7%

2.4%

Bath

3833

68%

25%

6%

4.1%

Though it has the smallest majority of the four, Lewes would seem the most comfortable to defend. Its Remain victory was relatively small, and there is a UKIP vote the Conservatives will be licking their lips over.

Twickenham and Kingston and Surbiton are almost identical seats. Both are in leafy Southwest London, both were heavily Remain and both bloody hate the idea of a third runway at Heathrow. Something of a canary down the mine for the Lib Dems, if they don’t win here they can’t win anywhere. Former medium-hitters, Vince Cable and Ed Davey have come back for revenge.

But they will have to compete with a generally rising Tory vote nationwide. Both incumbents were also for Remain, and Twickenham’s Tania Mathias in particular has established a good reputation for herself on the liberal wing of the Tories. Meanwhile, Kingston and Surbiton’s James Berry enjoys a slighter lower Remain vote and a bigger majority.

Slightly further out of reach, the result in Bath turns on how much of the big Labour and Green vote there tactically drifts to the Lib Dems. Some of these voters in this heavily Remain city will return to to the Lib Dems.

The majority here though is almost twice that in Kingston and Surbiton. The Tories also enjoyed a considerable increase (up seven points) in their vote share in 2015 and made big gains in the simultaneous council elections. This suggests the Lib Dems, currently without a candidate, will be up against an effective local campaign.

Scout’s taking a look:

Seat CON MAJORITY REMAIN VOTE LAB+GREEN VOTE UKIP VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Cheltenham

6516

57%

12%

7%

6.1%

Portsmouth South

5241

51%

28%

13%

6.3%

Cheltenham is very similar to Bath. Another spa town, Lib Dem since 1992 and it supported Remain. Like the city’s Georgian architecture, the Lib Dems will feel the Tory vote here is of the moderate, genteel kind that their anti-Brexit campaign speaks to. The Lib Dems also enjoy a dominance of local politics here.

Unfortunately for them, they have to depend a lot on Tory switchers. The Labour and Green vote here is pretty non-existent. Alex Chalk also enjoys a fairly healthy majority and significantly increased the Tory vote last time, which was up five points.

In Portsmouth South, the problem is reversed. There is a massive Labour and Green vote to squeeze here. The Tory vote share barely increased last time round as well.

However, the Tories will benefit from a melting away of that significant UKIP support. The constituency also only voted to Remain by a narrow margin, so its arguable how popular an anti-Brexit campaign will be here. The Lib Dems will need it to be to get that sizeable 6% swing.

If there are some serious injuries:

Seat CON MAJORITY REMAIN VOTE LAB+GREEN VOTE UKIP VOTE SWING REQUIRED
Oxford West and Abingdon

9582

62%

17%

7%

8.5%

A shock Tory gain in 2010 from the Lib Dems who previously held this since 1997. The big increase in their majority in 2015 also flattered to deceive, as their vote share only went up a touch. The seat had a big majority for Remain, so its feasible that it might make the race more competitive than at first sight.

The Tory majority is probably too big here for it to fall. Nevertheless, if the Lib Dems are rocking on 8th June this is one to keep an eye on.

FINAL LINEUP

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“Still, this is alright innit?”

On a cracking day, the Lib Dems could hope to defend all their seats and make 11 gains. Not to be sniffed at, but that would put them at only 20 seats, exactly where they were in 1992.

That’s also in their wildest dreams. It is equally plausible that they could make no gains and lose four seats, putting them at five overall. That would put them to where the Liberals were in 1970.

Splitting the difference, the Lib Dems will probably make around three gains and lose two seats, putting them on ten overall. Not exactly a team capable of taking on the big guys.

We’ve had a good look now at the state of play in the election. But should we put our money where our mouth is? Next time we’ll be looking at some betting tips for this election and wonder if some money can be made…

 

Keeping your election battle bus on the road

The 2017 campaign has already seen its first car crash, courtesy of Labour MP Dawn Butler. Interviewed on BBC Radio’s 4 PM programme about Labour’s new populist platform, Butler managed to get herself down several blind alleys.

Struggling to answer Eddie Mair’s questions on policy, Butler managed to use the word ‘rigging’ so often that at times it felt like an interview with the Shadow Minister for 18th Century Piracy.

Backed into a corner she ended up wrongly accusing Costa Coffee of engaging in aggressive tax-avoidance. She was forced to apologise shortly afterwards.

Election campaigns are slick professional things, but even these can go off course. In our electoral history we’ve seen a fair few campaign car crashes and in this post we take a look at some of the biggest.

8. 1983 “LANDSLIDES ON THE WHOLE DON’T PRODUCE SUCCESSFUL GOVERNMENTS”

pymDM0803_468x403

“Francis?” “Yea?” “Why don’t you fuck off?”

Foreign Secretary Francis Pym was never a big fan of Thatcher and the feeling was mutual. A leading ‘wet’ (what youngsters these days might call a ‘melt’), Thatcher thought he didn’t have the mettle to be part of her revolutionary agenda.

Making an appearance on Question Time during the 1983 campaign, Pym was asked a question about the strong prospects of a Tory landslide. Pym replied “Landslides on the whole don’t produce successful Governments”

It’s not exactly a perfect way to promote your party. It is in effect, warning voters  they might end up with a rubbish Government. The opposite of what you hope to do in a campaign.

Thatcher was furious but the voters didn’t listen as she won a huge majority. Things turned out less well for Pym. The day after the election he was summoned to No.10 where Thatcher bluntly remarked, “Francis, I want a new Foreign Secretary”. Not even reshuffled to obscurity, he was sent straight to the backbenches and was never seen again.

CAR CRASH RATING – CLIPPED THE WING MIRROR OFF

7. 1987 – REPEL SOVIET INVASION BY “USING THE RESOURCES YOU’VE GOT TO MAKE ANY OCCUPATION TOTALLY UNTENABLE”

00F073C900000191-3682014-Studies_of_Neil_Kinnock_and_Roy_Hattersley_as_they_launch_the_La-a-42_1468059493129

“Boys and Girls, I’d like to introduce our new deputy head.” 

Though trailing the Tories in the polls, Neil Kinnock’s Labour did a lot in the 1987 campaign to rebuild the Party and put himself forward as a credible leader.

Labour, with its then policy of unilateral disarmament, remained weak on the issue of Defence in Cold War Britain. Kinnock wasn’t much help on this front.

When pushed by interviewer David Frost on how a Labour Government would respond to a Soviet invasion, Kinnock responded it would by ‘using all the resources you’ve got to make any occupation untenable’. Labour’s policy on potential national catastrophe was apparently a scorched earth policy.

The Conservatives’ were delighted and mercilessly used the gaffe against Labour, famously in its “Labour’s policy on arms” poster.

Labour ended up making only modest gains in the election, with a minor increase in the vote. Exit polls showed that voters’ concerns about Labour’s Defence policy were high amongst their reasons for sticking with the Conservatives.

CAR CRASH RATING – PRANGED THE BUMPER

6. 2015 – “AS YOU CAN PROBABLY HEAR I’VE GOT A HUGE COLD.”

p-natalie-bennett-darren-hall

Fortunately, the Party had a getaway vehicle on hand

Hoping to ride the anti-establishment wave that was propelling parties like the SNP and UKIP, the Greens entered the 2015 campaign with high hopes of a breakthrough.

In one of the greatest mysteries of the 21st Century, the Party sent in Natalie Bennett to bat. A decision more bizarre given they already had a high-profile and effective communicator in Caroline Lucas, who was also conveniently an actual MP. Bennett didn’t take to the stump well, and spent the whole campaign looking about as comfortable as Nigel Farage in an ethnically-diverse London borough.

The discomfort peaked in this painful interview on LBC. Interviewer Nick Ferrari pulled no punches, asking tough questions like “How are you going to pay for all this?”. Bennett tried to answer with various words, but with no real success in putting them in a particular order. She then tried to depend on the old ‘my mum has written me a note” excuse by saying As you can probably hear I’ve got a huge cold”Rousing stuff.

Though they held Lucas’s seat of Brighton Pavillion, the Greens made no further gains and saw only a modest increase in their vote share.

CAR CRASH RATING – SAY GOODBYE TO THE NO CLAIMS BONUS 

5. 2005 – “ARE YOU THINKING WHAT WE’RE THINKING?”

howard poster.jpg

“Some of our best candidates are black you know”

Michael Howard’s Conservatives ran a fairly poor campaign in 2005. Masterminded by a then little-known Australian, Lynton Crosby, the campaign focussed on a slightly sinister theme of “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?“. Not so much a nod and a wink but rather an elbow to the ribs.

This poster was the apex of this campaign – it is the poster equivalent of “I’m not racist but…”. If Zac Goldsmith’s campaign was dogwhistle politics, this was bloody surround sound.

The poster was made doubly bad by one copy appearing outside a sixth-form college in highly diverse Islington. It wasn’t long before somebody painted over the ‘Not’.

The Tories stuttered in the election, increasing their vote share by a miserly 0.7%. Howard would resign shortly afterward and on came the beginning of David Cameron’s modernisation project. He had a lot of work to do.

CAR CRASH RATING – THAT’S A WRITE OFF

4. 2001 – OLIVER LETWIN PROMISES £20 BILLION HE DOESN’T HAVE

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“Now William, promise you wont get mad”

Entering into the 2001 campaign, William Hague’s Conservatives hoped to restore their reputation for competence and recover some of their losses following the disastrous result in 1997.

The Tories attempted to put forward a platform of costed tax cuts, a campaign part-spearheaded by Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Oliver Letwin. Letwin managed to tell the Financial Times the Tories were offering £20bn in tax cuts, two and a half times the £8bn they had actually committed to. 

Press furore followed with Shadow Chancellor Michael Portillo having to categorically deny his claim. Letwin himself was barely seen for the rest of the campaign as the Party forced him into hiding. 

The Tories made particularly unimpressive progress, making a net gain of one in the election. Letwin himself continued a career in frontline politics, commensurate with several gaffes such as, amongst others, claiming he would rather beg on the street than send his children to the local state school, being photographed dumping official cabinet papers in litter bins in St James’s Park and letting in two strangers into his house at 5am in the morning who then promptly robbed him. 

CAR CRASH RATING – OFF THE ROAD INTO A DITCH

3. 2015 – THE ‘EDSTONE’

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Say what you like, but its a fine bit of masonry.

With the polls showing a neck-and-neck race, Ed Miliband’s Labour were desperate for anything to put some clear water between them and the Tories.

Taking their successful 1997 pledge card to the max, Labour commissioned the carving of they key promises into an eight and a half foot tall stone tablet at the cost of roughly £7,000. Dramatically unveiled in a Hastings carpark, Miliband also pledged to put the stone in the Downing Street Rose Garden.

The stone immediately prompted huge derision as gimmicky and downright bizarre. Some Labour figures, so horrified at the stunt, reportedly broke into outright screaming at the television. The stone was also further undermined, if such a thing was possible, by Labour campaign chief, Lucy Powell, who claimed, “I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the fact that he’s carved them in stone means he’s absolutely not going to break them or anything like that”Ain’t that the point of it Lucy?

Labour ended up going backwards in the election, having their worst performance since 1987. The EdStone had a worse future ahead. As elusive as a 2001 Oliver Letwin, nobody was ever sure of its eventual whereabouts and it was reportedly destroyed in an undisclosed location. 

CAR CRASH RATING – FLIPPED IT  

2. 2010 – “SHE’S JUST A SORT OF BIGOTED WOMAN”

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“So you come here often?”

Trying to win their fourth successive election, Labour came under fire for its perceived weakness on the economy and immigration.

The latter was bitterly exposed in a random encounter in Rotherham between Prime Minister Gordon Brown and lifelong Labour voter Gillian Duffy. The conversation was already going pretty badly, with Brown struggling as ever to appear like a normal human being. The conversation went over a lot of topics, and eventually went on to Labour’s kryptonite of immigration. It is fair to say Duffy had ‘robust’ views on the subject.

It seemed though it was no worse than a Thick of it-style, ‘minister looks a tit’ moment. Unfortunately, for Brown though his microphone was left on and after getting in his car was recorded referring to Duffy as a ‘bigoted sort of woman’.

Brown then had to endure the humiliation of listening to it live during a radio interview with Jeremy Vine. This gaffe had by then got so bad that it went past disastrous and almost looped back round to people beginning to feel sorry for him.

Labour had a bad day at the polls losing 91 seats and its vote share was the worst performance by the main governing party since 1918. In fairness to Brown though, he was toast, buttered and duly eaten by the electorate long before this howler.

CAR CRASH RATING – GONNA HAVE TO CALL THE FIRE BRIGADE IN FOR THIS ONE.

1. 1992 – SHEFFIELD RALLY

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“Anyone available to help me move my stuff in?”

In 1992 Labour were buoyant. Polls put them in with a real chance of a dramatic comeback from 1987 and becoming the largest party.

Kinnock had spent his leadership trying to modernise the party and turn it into a professional campaigning machine like the Tories had become. This reached a climax with an American-style rally in the Sheffield Arena.

Costing around £100,000, the rally was as misjudged as a sweet potato chocolate mousse. It was seen as triumphalist and confirmed some of the electorate worst misgivings about Kinnock.

The rally was toe-curling from start to finish. John Smith and Roy Hattersley served as warm-up acts for Kinnock. Roy Hattersley? Was everyone else ill? It is remarkable that someone was actually paid money for Smith’s line about the Tory economy, of which any vestige of humour was obliterated by his terrible delivery.

Kinnock opened up his speech by belting out “Well alright!” over and over again like a man possessed. His following speech was actually ok, but was unfortunately overshadowed by ompletely unnecessarily stunts like flying in by helicopter.

The Sheffield Rally was so poorly received that some, including Kinnock, believed that it played a part in the Tories’ eventual shock win.  The polls were probably wrong all along, but nevertheless, the rally remains a telling lesson about the perils of overconfidence.

CAR CRASH RATING – JACKKNIFED LORRY ON THE M4 CAUSING A SEVERAL CAR PILE UP. 

NEAR MISS – 2001- JOHN ‘TWO JABS’ PRESCOTT

 

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“Let’s wind that back – see he’s already getting his right hand up, great combo from Prescott there. There’s a reason why they call him the fighter of his generation”

At a campaign event in Rhyl, North Wales, after being egged by a Countryside Alliance protestor, Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, following up with a left hand to the face. 

The protestor was lucky he went with his left. If he had a right from the 16-stone, former amateur boxer Prescott, he probably would have suffered serious injury.

As it happened though, Prescott avoided charges from the CPS and probably actually enjoyed sympathy from the public.

We’ve had a good look at the contest between Labour and the Conservatives, so next time we’ll take a look at the Liberal Democrats and the prospects for their resurgence.