31 January 2010

The polls: The turnout, the share of the vote and Gordon Brown

With reference to the polls and having asked, What is going on?, Bob Worcester makes the following important points on his blog:


Turnout will be key. 59% in 2001, 61% in 2005, what will it be 2010? Will the expenses scandal galvanise the public to turnout and vote out an incumbent? Or, as is possible, the public feel so fed up with politicians that they won’t bother voting at all? The lower the turnout the greater benefit for the Tories. If turnout is in the low 50s, it could be a Tory majority of 50 or more; in the mid to high 50s and there would be a Tory majority of 20 to 50; in the low 60s and it falls to under 20; in the mid 60s and we get into hung Parliament territory but with the help of the Ulster MPs the Tories would be sitting on the front benches. If turnout hits the high 60s or low 70s a Labour/LibDem coalition could be on the cards, and if it is in the high 70s then a Labour overall majority is the most likely result.

The share of the vote:

The media are fixated on reporting the lead, the gap between Labour and the Tories. Often it is the most misleading figure of all, but it makes for easy headlines.

Watch the shares for each party, not the lead. And first thing have a look at the lead for the opposition party. In past elections it was Labour. Now it is the Tories. If the Tories don’t achieve 40% of the vote share (and there were nine polls during October and November showed them beneath that mark) then they won’t have an overall majority, based on a uniform swing.

Fascinating stuff.  It well reading his post in full and also here where Worcester gets to the heart of the small matter that the Labour party has refused to face up to:


This leads to a little question:

How is the party going to increase its share of the vote and motivate the electorate to go to the polls and vote Labour?

We have been there so many times that there is no need to bother with the answer, but Worcester gives his prediction:

The election’s on the 6th of May (at least that’s my best guess, but Gordon could call it any time). Cameron will be in No. 10 the next day. I’ll go that far, based on what I know now and my judgment of what may happen over the next three months.

Will Cameron have an overall majority? I don’t know, nobody else does either.

But it didn't have to be like this, did it?

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  1. Accurate blog.

    I really feel that the Tories are most likely to win a margin of about 15 seats.

    There is a sense of inevitability about it all.

  2. My view is that this is trench warfare, a battle of attrition, with Labour on the back foot and the Tories holding the high ground (to mix metaphors). Only modest gains or losses, usually reversed, are likely until the election is called or unless there is a game-changing moment.

    One factor is media coverage - I think there is a positive link between Tory/Cameron coverage and their polling performance. Political Betting, UK Polling Report, Bob Worcester and others have made very interesting comparisons between leaders in the run-up to past elections and Cameron's ratings are not too far from Blair's past ratings. Brown's are (as I seem to recall) worse than Foot's or Kinnocks! Other events have dominated the headlines - mainly Chilcot this week, so Tory coverage has slipped. It will be the election campaign that sees the most poll movement, unless there are any game-changing moments in the next month or so.

    Brown at Chilcot could be such a game changing moment, he will come across as shifty and surly, poor compared to Blair's performance (notwithstanding the hostility to the message!). But I think he may call an election before then, to have his cake and eat it, and to avoid Q2 growth (or lack of) figures as well.

  3. A few points.

    I am not sure about a March election because Labour is short of money and they would then to finance two campaigns. Also Brown will want to have a budget and as I have suggested he may have some spare cash to play with.

    Brown at Chilcot will be dangerous for him for the reasons you suggest. He may find a way to wriggle out of this before the election. We shall see.

    Then we get to Rawnsley's book, which I blogged about a week ago. My understanding is that it will be very damaging. It comes out on 1st March, just before the election is called or during the campaign if there is a March election.

    Either way, Brown is sunk.