Friday, June 11, 2004

How bad was it for Labour?

First of all, never trust predictions from someone who is emotionally invested in an election. Contrary to my prediction, We not only lost Newcastle, we got trounced. So there you go.

On the other hand, speaking as a northerner, Labour made gains in Hartlepool and Carlisle, did well in Gateshead and Sunderland and made only expected losses in North Tyneside and South Tyneside.

This localised pattern seems to be holding elsewhere. For example, why would Labour lose control of Leeds and Newcastle, while gaining Stoke and Newcastle under Lyme, losing Burnley and staying absolutely stock still in Sunderland and Gateshead? What kind of pattern is that?

So what the heck to make of it all?

It looks like we're seeing three distinct battles. A Labour-Tory battle in parts of the midlands and the south, with the Tories gaining a slight edge, a Labour/ Lib-Dem battle in the North, with significant gains for the Lib-Dems and a Lib-Dem/Tory battle in the South, with real progress for the Tories.

Labour has lost seats, but not on an annhilation scale, It looks like it'll be about 400 or so losses in council seats. Labour have made some some small gains in certain councils, but the overall vote share is way, way down.

Where it's been a Labour vs Tory fight, aside from Trafford, Hastings and Thurrock, there aren't many losses. (It may be that there aren't that many Labour/Tory marginal councils left to fight over). The real bleeding has been to the Liberal Democrats, and even there, the collapse is patchy, with only one real breakthrough- Newcastle (dammit!)

On top of that, it looks as if Ken Livingstone is going to be re-elected as Mayor of London, though the polls have it within the margin of error.

Still, it's been a bad night, and there's no doubt that the national vote share results are very poor. That bodes ill for the European Election results. Labour is bruised, but this is no knockout blow.

The Tories have done well, but not that much better than they did in the last election cycle. While they can claim many successes, such as Trafford, Thurrock, and Hastings and Rye, they are still invisible in many major cities.

This is a good night, but not much better than the results achieved by both Hague and Duncan-Smith.

Before CCO gets too happy, let's remember that the Tory national vote share of 38% contains many voters who may switch to UKIP in the European elections. Lets assume that the Polls saying that UKIP are going to win 15% are accurate. If that's the case, we will see a national Tory vote share on Sunday night of around 28%. Still, these result might "pre-assure" tory activists that the UKIP vote is merely a freak vote related only to Europe. However, the question will be how far the Tories need to go to win those voters back.

Finally, this is a good night for the Liberal Democrats. Even here though, the joy should not quite be unconfined.

While the results in Newcastle were genuinely superb (can you hear my teeth gritting?), The Liberal losses to the Tories in the South should be of concern. Cheltenham, and Winchester are Lib-dem seats where they have lost local control. this is, a new phenomenom, as usually the precursor to a Lib-Dem breakthrough at Westminster is local dominance. Could it be that the Liberal Democrats are paying a price in the South for the radicalism that is gaining them ground in the northern cities? I wonder what Mark Oaten and his Tory challenger in Winchester are thinking today. This is also important because while there are Labour/Lib-Dem marginals, the vast majority of Liberal target seats will require Tory supporters to switch.

I guess what I'm saying is that a Lib-dem vote has begun to mean something. Until the advent of Charles Kennedy, a Liberal Democrat vote meant whatever your focus leaflet said it meant. A Lib-Dem vote now is an Anti-American, pro European vote for increased taxation and a well meaning socially Liberal paternalism. This proposition is winning support amongst Middle class (former) Labour supporters and Muslim voters, but will it play in Cheltenham?

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Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Polls, The Polls...

Politicians are obsessed by polls, but when it comes to the Local and European election, no-one really knows how to interpret them. So take what you read over the next two days with a pinch of salt.

For example, A new Times poll today adds some more data to the mix, but despite some firm assertions in the body of the article, doesn't provide any real answers.

This is due to no failure of intelligence, just that there are so many different elections happening (and even different types of voting) that even translations from those likely to vote are likely to be way off the actual results we see on Thursday night.

On Thursday night we'll get the results for the Local Elections, (First past the post), Mayoral Election, (Alternative Vote, and London Assembly (Constituency FPTP and top up regional list). For the Four Northern regions we'll have Postal voting, which will distort the National Vote Share (presumably in Labour's favour).

Then, on Sunday, we'll get the result of the Euro Elections (Regional list, D'Hondt)which will cover the whole country, but again the northern region will be all postal, and will drive turnout.*

We also don't know whether the Local or European elections will be seen as more "protesty". For example. you're a disatisfied Labour voter, angry about the War. In the Euro Elections you can vote Green, LD or Respect. In the Local elections your sole anti-war vote is LD. Do you vote LD, do you abstain, or do you stick with Labour who are doing a reasonable job on the local council, having protested against Tony Blair in the European Ballot?

You can see why predictions get difficult. Different elections, different voting systems, different turn-outs.

So, there will be many different opportunities for spinning.

For example, The Tories might well have quite a good Thursday night, which might (I stress might) have an insulating effect for the Tories on what looks like being very tough set of Euro-Election results.

This is because the Polls showing UKIP strength will probably not spill over to a meaningful degree in the local elections, simply because they don't have enough candidates (and besides, why vote UKIP for your local council?). If we presume that these are "natural" Tory votes, they could well go to Tory local candidates.

The Lib-Dems will be measuring their success on a number of fronts. How many anti-Labour protest votes will they capture in Labour heartlands. My very own Newcastle is identified as one of their targets, and although i think they'll just miss taking control, I'd be suprised if they don't make significant gains (the re-districting is heavily in their favour- or rather redresses previous bias against them). Second, will their vote hold in the South-West against a UKIP surge?

For Labour, these results could be quite reassuring in a strange way, despite a heavy decline in seats held in both Europe and local councils. If Labour can come out of these elections with a plurality in national vote share and a good performance in London, then they'll be quite happy nationally. Of course, this doesn't mean that people will be happy on the ground. If a lot of councillors go, it might not mean a lot to the media, but it means a lot for party organisation.

One final point. I think we should be careful to realise that Polls have limits. The Times poll has the BNP on 4% of the vote in their poll and concludes that they look unlikely to win a Euro Seat. I'm not so sure they can draw that conclusion.

First of all, just cropping up in National Polls is an achievement for a minor party.
In May 1999, Minor parties were scoring 7% in total, which includes Plaid and the SNP, and both the Greens and UKIP won European seats. There's an argument that smaller parties are more likely to be mis-represented in polling.

Second, the BNP's support is believed to be regional. 4% nationally could easily mean support of over 8% in one or two regions, which would mean winning seats.

Finally there is the vexed question of people not telling pollsters that they will vote for the BNP. I don't know if the BNP will win a Euro-Seat, but I can't conculde that they won't from a national poll figure of 4%.

So, remember on Thursday night, if there's no UKIP surge and the Tories and LibDems do quite well, that's only half the story.

*You may wonder why I'm assuming that even with all the negative publicity that Postal Voting will drive turn-out. Well, because in all the Postal Voting experiments run in the UK, turnout has increased by between 30-100%.

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Godfather or the Bill... You decide.

My recent Iraq post attrasted attention more for my use of metaphor than for the quality of my argument.

I like to believe that this was because the moral and logical force of my argument meant this was all these lesser minds could fixate on. A boy can dream.

Still Jamie K at Blood and Treasure has the best riposte. His Metaphor is Godfather based. damn. I wish I'd thought of that.

"The Corleones and the Five Families are discussing the fate of Lucca Brazzi, a one-time prized employee who has fallen into disfavour through showing signs of developing a mind of his own. The Corleones want him whacked as a lesson to others. The Five Families say he's no threat to anyone and whacking him will cause more trouble than it's worth. The Corleones go ahead anyway, but struggle to retain control of Brazzi's old fiefdom - so much so that the limits of their power become embarrassingly clear. The five families shrug, sigh and cross their fingers, hoping a Corleone they can do business with will emerge as head of the family"

Quality. My quibbles are merely to keep the metaphor consistent. Brazzi should surely be a capo, not an employee, and the Five Families think the Corleone's want to off him because they have their eye on his lucrative Olive Oil business (gedditt?).

Also, to do full justice to the majesty of the godfather canon, perhaps the Corleones should discover that the five Families have been getting a share of the Olive Oil Luca's been exporting, and are worried that the Corleone's will want it all back if they off Brazzi....

Anyway. Anyone got any other Iraq metaphors based on movies?

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Latest News- Attractive woman wins popularity contest

In a result announced late last night an attractive young woman with large breasts beat a nondescript man with brown hair in a popularity contest.

Analysts said that the result marked a definite swing towards attractive young women compared to other recent popularity contests.

Noted Psephologist Ant MacPartlin said "Since Kate's victory in Big Brother 3, we saw a shock swing towards dull men with brown hair with Cameron's Big Brother 4 victory. Campaign strategists for sexually arousing women will be pleased to see a swing back towards attractive women ahead of the crucial test of Big Brother 5."

However, despite the good news for attractive women in the latest popularity contest, MacPartlin said victory was not assured "The two strongest opponents for attractive young women are fey gay men and muscular young men with abs to die for. Against tough competition like that, neither dull men with Brown hair or attractive women have ever been quite popular enough".

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