UK status mixed in the polls

The Guardian has a Election Countdown page for stories on the UK parties as the May 5th election. There are a couple of recent polls out from ICM and NOP:
                        ICM        NOP
Labour                  37         42
Conservative            34         30
Liberal Democrat        21         18
The speculation is that Howard has gained from pledging to tighten immigration laws, a poll favorite, and is promising a tax-cut yesterday. Blair's problem is that voters perfer Brown, and there remains the potential of a byelection-like turnout. I suppose predicting turnout in this election will be more difficult than predicting the winner.

Tags: Foreign Elections (all tags)



unitary circumscriptions
In other words, its not an election that can be measured by a horse-race poll. There are plenty of safe Labour seats (though fewer than 01 or 97) and a good # of untouchably Conservative seats. So while this poll shows things much closer than they have been in quite a while, there's no way to read this as a sign that the Labour majority is in trouble.
by desmoulins 2005-02-22 06:41AM | 0 recs
labour's vote is more concentrated than the tories
Another factor is that Labour's vote is more concentrated than that of the Tories which is, on average, more even.  Thus, if the actual national vote turns out to be about even, Labour probably still should skimp home with a majority of 20-40, because they have way more safe seats.  For example, even after writing "the longest suicide note in history" in 1983, Labour still managed to win about 210 seats on only 28% in that election with 26% going to the-then SDP/Liberal alliance and 43% to Thatcher's Tories.  (To give some perspective, the Tories on about 32% in the last election to Labour's 43% and the Lib Dems' 18% have only about 160 seats).

To get even close to the 330 seats needed for majority (out of 659) and thus making Michael Howard PM, the Tories would need to pick up something like 80 or 90 seats directly from Labour.  One should never say "never" in politics, but I seriously doubt that this can happen, even if the media (and many of us) enjoy seeing Alan Milburn and Tony Blair squirm a little bit.

Or to put it differently, they would need a swing double that of the national record in back-to-back general elections: the 6.9% swing toward the Conservatives between Oct 1974 and May 1979 during the "Winter of Discontent" which made Margaret Thatcher prime minister.  14% swings just don't happen in politics unless there is a political earthquake.  Voters may be very unhappy about being lied to about Iraq, and core-Labour supporters upset about tuition fees, foundation hospitals, etc., but are there enough of them to make up one-seventh of the electorate?  And would many of these voters ever swing to Michael Howard's Tories, which continually shows the electorate that they haven't moved on post-Thatcher?

by jsramek 2005-02-22 10:32AM | 0 recs
To back up
 the other comments:

Good point about Labour concentration. There are just more safe Labour seats than there are Tory seats. The Tories are basically non-existent in Wales, Scotland, and urban areas from Leicster northwards.

Also, I don't really understand why this is, but opposition parties in British politics often look like they are going to do better than they actually do in polling in the run-up to elections and during the government's time in office, but never when the GE votes are actually counted. For example, the Labour Party consistently would lead the Tories during the Conservatives 18 year run from 79 to 92 during non-election times, and more strikingly, the Tories trailed throughout the 1992 GE campaign but ended up winning quite easily.

The one thing that could beat Labour is low turnout and apathy. But even then, I think Labour turnout would have to be very, very low to give the Tories a chance, in part because of the voter concentration factor.

Ben P

by Ben P 2005-02-22 11:00AM | 0 recs
Lib Dem performance in elections
It will be interesting to see how the Lib Dems come out of this, as they are essentially fighting a dual fight; they are defending most of their seats in rural areas in the South of England from the Conservatives, yet challenging  Conservative seats here while taking on Labour in some urban areas. It is hard to read from poll figures how their share of the vote will translate into seats, as their vote tends to concentrate heavily in their targetted areas. It may be they hold or take seats in the south with disaffected labour votes.
This could all be interesting in the, admittedly unlikely albeit possible, outcome of their being a hung parliament or even a small labour majority.
by wiggly woo 2005-02-23 06:03AM | 0 recs


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