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Archive for the ‘polls’ Category

Seems to me that just about all the polls, dodgy or not, are showing that the Conservatives are pulling ahead. But the Angus Reid one (and they’re the most trustworthy pollster, we are led to believe by some) today in the Express, should send shockwaves through the Labour party. It is Labour’s worst poll since 1918 and, if repeated, would represent the eclipsing of Labour by the Liberals – who knows for how long. The marginals poll, as reported in the Spectator, confirms the trend too: the bells are beginning to toll for Labour.

Generally speaking, therefore, from now on, it is pretty clear that the best Labour can hope for is to limit the damage in this general election as far as possible, and try to come out of it with at least its core vote just about in tact. As for the blame game, I think that’s already started with party loyalists not having to look too far for the main culprit. The only problem is that in blaming Brown for an atrocious campaign and for dividing the party, Labour MPs also condemn themselves. It was them that arrogantly installed him unchallenged as leader in the first place, and the electorate knows that.

A strong element in the causes of Labour’s dwindling support must be the punishment factor. I can tell you pretty confidently that people I know, for instance, have never forgiven Labour for inflicting Brown on us without even a leadership election for them to have a look at him first. They simply do not believe Labour any more, with good reason, and if not exclusively, then partly, because of this. They feel they’ve been taken for granted, and made fools of by a party that’s completely out of touch.

Hang on, there’s someone at the front door and my dog’s gone bananas…

Well, now. That was timely. Labour activists delivering yet more leaflets, this time in person. I’ve got a stack of them now. They must really think this ultra-safe seat’s become marginal, and that is truly extraordinary.

My dog. Cairn terriers do not like activists

But, a brief glance at the campaign literature handed to me by the jolly, red rosette wearing man and the drop dead gorgeous Labour woman (maybe they’ve done some research on me!) tells me that they still just don’t get it. Nothing in the pamphlet will change people’s minds that they cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Quite the reverse, actually – it just confirms people’s suspicions in that it contains, sadly, the same sort of now-familiar Brownite smears about, for instance, the Tories planning to eat pet cats or something (well, abolishing bus passes for OAPs, which is a lie). It’s very depressing, desperate stuff and a strong indication to me that they are on the way out in Wales for the first time ever.

My money is therefore still on an earthquake election, with Labour being hammered into third place and, if not Liberal-style oblivion, then a truly shocking reverse. Good news, if you think they deserve it, as I and an awful lot of other people plainly do.

They only have themselves, and Gordon Brown, to blame.

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It should not be seen as much of a coincidence that on the day Greek debt is downgraded to junk, a poll comes out that lends weight to the view that the Tories are winning the key argument in this general election campaign, the economic argument.

The only game in town is Europe at the moment, with Portugal and, somewhere further down the road, Spain, next on the list for the dreaded rating drop. Whatever the virtues of wonderful and exciting policies such as Michael Gove’s brilliant education plan, which has already caused a Damascene conversion of former Fabian research chairman and now editor of the Jewish Chronicle (Martin Bright take note), Stephen Pollard, the vindication of the Tories in at least promising to focus urgently on Britain’s own Brown/Labour-caused debt crisis is surely now unchallengeable. Brown and Labour can go on denying the seriousness of the crisis all they want, but that will not make it go away.

And that’s clearly why people increasingly are now seeing that they must therefore make Labour go away on May 6th. The stakes have never been higher – for everyone. One thing’s for sure, a hung parliament or, heaven forbid, five more years of Brown – though one could and most likely would lead to the other – and we would be the ones in the unfortunate Greeks’ shoes next: 16+% government borrowing interest rates, a shattered credit rating and staring down both barrels of a titanic debt default and a bombed out economy.

But the message is finally getting through: Brown or Clegg mean economic crisis and meltdown. And only the Tories offer any hope of averting both.

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Not with a bang, with a bust-up.

The anti-Brown press – which is just about all of it, isn’t it? – is turning the screw on Labour today. Apart from the Mirror, of course, but no one reads that, there are reports coming in all over the place of recriminations beginning for what has been a terrible Labour election campaign, of splits between several factions appearing and of maneuvering behind the scenes to replace Brown already starting.

So far, we have seen Brown flip flop over the Liberal Democrats in two – let’s be honest for a minute here – generally dreadful TV debates for him, and during which he looked old and tired set against a pair of fresh-faced, would-be political assassins standing nearby, looking like peas in a coalition. Forget about what Brown said – (which was heard-it-all-before tractor stats in the main anyway) – it’s how he looked that counted. And he looked awful.
But is his problem really that superficial? Is it really a case of no style, just substance? Well, of course not. He does have a style of sorts, it’s just not a particularly pleasant one that usually involves swearing at people off camera and growling like some statistic-obsessed, gummy old circus lion while on it. Also, “style” – which I assume in this case means an awareness of the needs for certain kinds of presentational and rhetorical skills to communicate a message forcefully but attractively – does not denote superficiality, quite the opposite in fact. So no, Brown’s problem is not just that he lacks the charisma or charm of a Cameron, it’s that he lacks the debating skills, too. That’s a talent gap and one that Clegg does not share with him, as we have learned.
It’s not just Brown who’s been shown-up in his true light- hiding from the public throughout his so-called campaign, talking to small rooms full of T-shirt-wearing die-hard Labour loyalists, leaving TV viewers with the impression that he’s actually talking to himself – using an autocue(!) – it’s the disunited team full of second raters behind him too. What twit put Ed Miliband in charge of the manifesto? What fool put Peter “Divide and Rule” Mandelson in charge of party unity? What idiot put wee Dougie Alexander in charge of the coffee and cream cakes? That is a role call of mediocrity if ever I saw one ( have I got those roles right? They seem to change so often these days). And Labour has them coming out of its ears and we’re fed up to the back teeth with them.
Now, I know you will disagree with me about Mandelson, but before you do, just think very carefully and ask yourself what, exactly, he has achieved in his time in office that warrants the kind of respect and lavish praise he receives all the time? Is it because people are frightened about what he’ll do to them if they don’t toe his line? Of course it is. But to me, that’s no measure of political success – or of great service to your country. No, poisonous he may be, and an effective Labour party heavy and paid-up Euro goon too, but true statesman he ain’t and never will be. Remember, the answer to all of the above “What idiot…” questions is not just “Gordon Brown”, it’s “Peter Mandelson”, too. Seems he slithers out from under the charge of incompetence, though, because that’s what he does. Brown, fortunately, doesn’t. The full tidal wave of disapproval is about to reach landfall and swallow him up, before spitting him out hundreds of miles from Number 10. Mandelson already has a lifeboat standing by, with the EU logo stamped all over it.
It’s hard to tell how bad this defeat will be for Labour. Just like Boris Johnson, I hope it is one of those earthquake moments where their deceit, mediocrity, anti-democratic behaviour and general, total failure leads to their final demise, with the Lib Dems taking over the mantle of official Opposition to a Conservative government with a working majority. One thing is pretty clear to me: the final leaders’ debate is an irrelevance. It’s sort of like the final Test in a dead rubber. You go to see it because you like the sport, and someone might do something interesting. But nothing can change the fact that (from Brown’s perspective) the series has already gone. In other words, once again, I think the polls are flattering them and I firmly believe the defeat for Labour will be shattering.
For forcing the unelected, unelectable, utter disaster Brown on us for three years, that would be less than Labour deserves. As it is, they’ve run out of ideas and run out of options. All we will see from here until election day is the sad old fraud making bigger and bigger speeches in front of smaller and smaller rooms of loyalists, perhaps even after the election is over and the counts have come in. But he’ll keep on going, not willing to believe that the game is finished and the crowd’s gone home. Someone from Sky News watches on a monitor; the live feed was pulled hours ago. The producer signals to the cameramen to get ready to pack up – it’s time to go – as he reaches down and flicks the switch on the monitor and, for the last time, turns Brown off. Click.
And then he was gone.

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Of all the many posts written about the LibDum double act (Cable & Son) and its nonsensical, lightweight, irrelevant manifesto, I have enjoyed not a single one. Mainly because by their very existence they operate from an implied premise that it’s worth engaging with these Yellow Tit-coloured, failed Labourists/Tory rejects.

So I won’t be saying any more about that. What I will talk about instead is a pretty startling post by Daniel Finkelstein on his Times blog this morning about a poll for that newspaper which shows that the majority of people had no idea that it was the Tories who were offering to abolish the National Insurance hike for businesses and low/middle earners. They thought it was Labour (the party responsible for the rise)! But are the Fink’s conclusions sound?

Think what this means.

First, that most voters are not following the argument one little bit. For a week this was headline news, yet they still ascribe the policy to the wrong party.

Second, and further to many past posts and many arguments, voters see policy only through their understanding of a party’s values. The only policy of eight that was correctly attached to a party by the majority of voters was the marriage tax one.

According to him, therefore, all the great British public’s political perception amounts to is a mixture of blissful, bored, complacent ignorance and a kind of passive awareness of propaganda terms associated with parties (“values”), rightly or – as is far more often the case – wrongly.

I disagree. These conclusion are based on fuzzy logic. A crisper, less politically explosive theory would be that all the poll really means is that the Tories – and this is comes as a big shock to me – have completely failed to get through to people, something that Margaret Thatcher (and even John Major) managed to do – and with, on the face of it, a far less palatable message.

The great British public is not thick, as in stupid. But it is thick, as in weighty and hard to move. Well, the Tories better start shifting their policies soon, or else…

…or else they’ll wind up with a smaller majority! Boom boom.

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Polls during this general election campaign, and before it, for a variety of reasons have been more frequent and less helpful than at any time before. The idea that simply doing more and more polls and then ‘weighting’ them with a series of arcane, largely untestable methodological tricks, usually hidden from the public (though Mike Smithson, among others, has helped to correct that state of affairs) is one that I think is simply an extremely expensive waste of time carried out by self-styled professional psephological gurus happy to take the cash. The YouGov “daily tracker” is probably the worst offender being, as it is, about as reliable as a Met Office long term weather forecast (see the Daily Telegraph from a few days ago). But it is by no means the only one.

The media loves it, of course, especially if these dodgy measurements of voting intentions suggest a close call – and a hung parliament. Big News! Sells papers and sucks in viewers. So they drive that narrative, using these non-statistics as evidence. The hung parliament trope has become the most popular recently, much to the delight of the MSM, but not, it seems to me, to the Labour party, who have been largely silent on the subject. Why? Certainly not because they are confident of winning. The more-likely reason is that they have about as much faith in these exercises in statistical soothsaying as I do.
Not so the media, however, with a new ICM poll out about key marginals, commissioned by Murdoch rag the News of the Screws and faithfully advertised by Spectator editor Fraser Nelson. Taken at face value, Nelson’s argument that the ‘extensive research’ that took place to produce this poll might seem to make sense; that the Tories are going to need a hell of a lot more than the 5% swing they think they need because, so the poll allegedly shows, they aren’t performing as well as they thought, with the LibDums nicking votes from them left, right and centre.
Aside from the fact that Nelson also works for the Screws, and therefore Murdoch, and the fact that it’s the parasitic Murdoch media machine, particularly Sky News, that is pushing the hung parliament story at every opportunity (complete with a misleading poll ticker appearing 24 hours a day on their rolling news channel), scratch beneath the surface and you see that this earth shattering poll in nothing of the sort. It’s hardly more reliable than a complete guess. Just look at the size of the sample, as mentioned in the small print:

Here’s the small print: ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1001 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 7-8th April 2010. Interviews were conducted across the 96 (new boundary) constituencies which are held by Labour where the Conservatives require a swing of between 4 percent and 10 percent to win the seat.

As commenters on the blog have quickly pointed out, 1001 people over 96 constituencies?! You have to be kidding. That’s about ten people per constituency. As I said, they might as well have saved themselves the thousands it cost to do that and just thrown a dart at a bunch of numbers pinned to the wall for all the use a poll like that is. But Nelson still banged on about it as though it was remotely meaningful, proving once more, at least to me, either that he is compromised by his connections to the News of the World, or that he’s just not as smart as I thought he was, or that he just as much a fully paid up luvvie member the fourth estate as every other hack and hackette infesting this country, ‘blogging’ or no ‘blogging’.
The point? The point is that my hunch – that the Tories are actually miles ahead, but that people simply aren’t ready to admit that yet, or that these polls are so flawed, they would never reflect the reality – is worth just as much, if not more, than the polls themselves. And so is yours, dear reader. So the Tories do not need to develop poll paranoia. They certainly don’t need to “panic”, as Nelson helpfully suggests in the picture accompanying his dishonest/incompetent article.
The only danger is that all this hung parliament speculation, regardless of the flakey, fake stats that’s driving it, will become a self-fulfilling prophesy, thus handing Labour an unexpected lifeline – and selling the country down the river. No wonder the Tories kept Murdoch’s empire at arm’s length when it turned coat again and came out for them. With friends like these. In addition, it’s plausible that poll paranoia will catch hold in the Tory party itself, again making the whole thing self-fulfilling.
Nevertheless, despite the media’s attempts to drive the outcome of this election, I firmly believe that the damage that’s been done to Brown Labour, and that it’s done to itself (not least by allowing Brown to become leader unopposed in the first place) is so grave, not even corrupt media organisations and shockingly crap pollsters can save them now.
Have I gone too far? I’ll tell you on May 7th. Or someone will tell me, no doubt. What I suspect, though, is that on May 7th, Britain will have a Tory government with a comfortable, if not large, majority – and an awful lot of pollsters and tame journos, once the noise from the celebrations have died down, are going to have an awful lot of egg on their collective mugs.

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This News of the World ICM poll puts the Tories back on 40%. Now, I realise that I’ve had a bit of a dig at the mainstream polls on this blog over the past few weeks, and the fact that people all over the place seem to have been falling for Labour’s propaganda – and their ridiculous ‘Tory shambles’ narrative. But I’d just like people to be reminded of a couple of things.

Firstly, just about all of these polls employ arcane methodologies that weight everything in Labour’s favour. In other words, even when the Tories are bouncing back, as they seem to be now, there has to be a powerful suspicion that the reality is that Labour were never anywhere near them in the first place; that the polls themselves were entirely misleading, insofar as they painted a picture of, at one point (laughably), the possibility of Brown actually forming the next government, somehow. And they still are misleading, in that they are suggesting that the Tories are recovering in some way, when, in fact, all they are doing is further consolidating and increasing their lead. I reckon you can add another five points onto the Tories’ lead in this ICM poll. That would bring it into line with the only pollsters I trust: Angus Reid (who recently put the Tory lead at 14 points).

In addition to this is the fact that Cameron has had a tremendously good couple of weeks. You can say whatever you like about the Ashcroft thing, which appears to have exercised the minds of some of the bigger bloggers, like Guido, but to ordinary people I guarantee that this non-issue isn’t even on the radar. I felt, and others I have spoken to (at least, those few who were interested) felt that Cameron handled it pretty well. Take the thing away altogether, and you are left with Cameron’s excellent performance at his party’s spring conference and his confident, crystalising and increasingly positive message about the appalling state of the nation, Brown-Labour’s legacy, and what he’s going do about it. In contrast, Brown has been, well, just Brown. Lying to the Chilcott enquiry, talking more nonsense about the debt crisis (1) and the economy he destroyed and now playing party politics once again with our armed forces with yet another unwanted, unwarranted trip to Afghanistan.

People are not stupid. They see that Brown is desperate and will, as John Major is apparently about to say, try anything to stay in power. On the other hand, they look at Cameron and they see a leader who is finding his voice – and preparing for office. These dodgy polls might reflect the direction of public opinion, therefore, but, because they are so flawed, they certainly can’t be trusted to provide accurate figures for the actual state of the electorate’s voting intentions. I therefore maintain that whatever the polls say, Labour are about to get the biggest electoral kicking of their lives, and deservedly so. And, as I also said before, I’ve put my money where my mouth is.

Finally, it’s worth offering a final piece of evidence that Cameron really is getting into his stride (or, to please the doom-mongers, but obviously not his detractors, ‘bouncing back’). His speech today to the Welsh Conservatives in Cardiff Llandudno (only the wrong end of the country! Thanks to Strapworld for putting me right) was terrific. And even the Spectator agrees!

(1) Prodicus is excellent on this particular Brownian nightmare this evening. Worth the read.

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Labourists of all kinds – and the MSM, who are just gagging for the drama of a close run thing – seize on polls with tiresome haste that superficially show some kind of a contraction in the Tory lead. Immediately, after one of these polls is published, you get the usual, desperate crap from the schizoid left media about how they can win (and deserve to win, astonishingly) another five years of incoherent Labour vandalism, and the usual, desperate crap from the schitzoid right media that still can’t work out whether David Cameron is a ‘good Tory’ or not. It’s all just terribly sad – and terribly inaccurate.

Thankfully, though, we have Mike Smithson, who actually takes a genuine interest in how these polls work (because there’s his reputation and real money at stake) – and has become, consequently, comfortably the most trustworthy source of wisdom on most things psephological around, especially when it comes to what can be succinctly put as the ‘fudge factor’. Most polls are inaccurate, misleading fudges, given their reliance on generally untested, and/or deliberate bias-generating methodologies.

Take the latest MORI poll, for instance (which put the Tories just a handful of points in the lead). This is what Smithson has to say about it:

Just been looking at the detailed dataset from the the Telegraph’s Ipsos-MORI poll that came out late last night and in my view the underlying numbers are nothing like as good for Labour as the five point Tory lead might suggest.

After weighting for standard demographics we find that:

  • 300 of those certain to vote in the sample said they had supported Labour at the last general election. Yet only 236 of everybody in the poll said they planned to vote Labour at the coming election.
  • 229 of those certain to vote in the sample said they had supported the Tories at the last general election yet 274 of everybody in the poll said they planned to vote for the party at the coming election.
  • My simple calculation puts the 2010:2005 ratio for the Tories at 118.7% while with Labour it was 78.7%

    So the MORI’s own numbers suggest that Labour is down more than a fifth on last time while the Tories are up by about a sixth. Given that the split in 2005 was L36.2-C33.2 then the latest poll, if it had had politically balanced sample, would have ended up with a lead a lot bigger than the reported 5%.

    I know that this is me being mischievous and highly selective but it does show the massive challenge phone pollsters face – because of the systemic problem of the over-sampling of Labour past voters.

    Ponder that for a moment, if you will. And then understand why it’s a very good idea to put your money where your instinct is and back if not a Tory landslide (as I have) then a healthy Tory majority.

    Whatever these dodgy polls say about Brown, the fact is that we, the British public, just aren’t that into him – never have been, and never bloody well will be.

    So one other thing I will savour from his total demise on May 6th (I think we can safely say now that that’s when the election will be) is the prospect of the entire MSM and all the major polling houses being made to look like the mugs, charlatans and dinosaurs they really are. They all deserve to go as extinct as Brown come that fine day in early summer, this year.

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