For the past couple of years, while UKIP has enjoyed success after success, the pollsters, pundits and psephologists have been putting down UKIP’s electoral chances in the 2015 General Election. Pollsters have found ways of suppressing the level of support (not prompting for UKIP, distributing the “Don’t knows” unfairly to UKIP), pundits have just dismissed the party in having no chance with the First Past the Post system, and various psephologists have methodologies that have predicted zero seats.
Even now, YouGov has UKIP bumping along on just 14% (despite 27.5% of the population voting UKIP in May and Survation regularly polling UKIP above 20%), and the Electoral Calculus site still shows UKIP on zero Westminster seats. They even show Labour with 346 seats, a clear government. Even though the Liberal Democrats are predicted to get 8% of the votes, they show 18 seats for them, while UKIP on a 15% vote share get 0 seats. How did they work that out?
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – all these people are missing the fact that UKIP has hotspots and cold spots. All parties do. The Liberal Democrats have managed to foster some individual constituencies as hot spots just by hard work and some darn good local representatives who do actually hold themselves accountable to the local voters … until they entered government.
The whole of the frozen north is a Conservative cold spot (bar Richmond in Yorkshire which keeps William Hague safe for now) and much of English Shire country is a Labour cold spot. What we are now seeing is the development of yet more local trends in voting, such as people defined as “left behinds” moving to UKIP, so far mostly in Conservative seats. There are some more interesting trends bubbling to the surface, that various mainstream organisations are revealing.
The latest YouGov poll puts the SNP (39%) ahead of Labour (35%) in Scotland which means Labour could lose around 20 of their Scottish seats to the SNP. Even with no other effect, like Labour losing marginal seats to the Tories or seats to UKIP, this almost certainly would deny Labour an overall majority, presuming SNP support holds up.
The Election Forecast site is the first to break ranks and actually show a prediction with UKIP winning some parliamentary seats. They give a mean of three seats with Highs and Lows of six and zero.
The Fabian Society has published “Revolt on the Left” (echoing Matthew Ford’s book “Revolt on the Right”) which highlights the real threat to Labour by UKIP. They identify five direct threats to Labour (Great Grimsby, Dudley North, Plymouth Moor View, Rother Valley and Rotherham) plus indirect threats, many of which are three-way marginal now, where UKIP could beat both Labour and Conservative.
And talking of threats in specific seats, constituency polls have given us the numbers for Clacton (around 56-60% for UKIP) and on Saturday night Survation published their poll of Rochester and Strood – 40% UKIP, 31% Conservative. Detail analysis of those UKIP supporters in Rochester showed that 40% of those who voted Tory in 2010 are now saying they would switch to UKIP. More than two thirds (70%) of those planning to back UKIP said it was to support the party’s policies, while 18% who said it was an anti-government protest and 12% said they liked the candidate.
On the “national average” polls, if you look at their graphs, and project the mean lines forwards from 2012/2013,an interesting trend emerges. Here’s the Comres one (with my projection line on it):
These both scream that neither Labour nor Conservatives will gain an overall majority, even if the Tory vote holds up, as the boundaries are still stacked against them to the tune of around 20 seats.
Another graph for you. This is an approximation of the number of seats a party can expect to get in a system where there are four national parties (with vote shares around 8% and upwards) contesting all seats. The exact line of the curve depends on many factors: their relative strength, and how even or uneven their vote is across the country, but what it DOES show is that UKIP is now at the foot of the “First Past the Post” curve as I call it. Predictions are meaningless, as small percent changes in support can vastly change the outcome in terms of number of seats.
Based on this, the polls and my own analyses based on the May local and Euro election results, here’s my take on how the 2015 parliament could look, starting with the smaller parties and working our way up:
- 18 seats in Northern Ireland
- 6 Independents (same as 2010)
- 3 Plaid Cymru
- SNP rise from 6 to 26 (see above)
- I’ll take the Electoral Calculus prediction for Lib Dems (18)
- With the opinion polls pointing upwards, and UKIP starting to climb the “First Past the Post” curve, let’s be hopeful and go for 20 UKIP seats (It could be less, it could be more)
- Which leaves 559 seats, so let’s assume Tory and Labour split the popular vote, but Labour gets 25 more seats than the Tories, because of the imbalance in constituency size (to Labour’s advantage), thanks to Liberal Democrat treachery in coalition:
- Conservatives 267
- Labour 292
Even without the 20 UKIP seats (many of which will have been taken from the Conservatives), Labour cannot make a majority (of 325), even in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats and certainly not the Tories. I am pretty certain that this is going to be the mother of hung parliaments. It might need a coalition of three parties, say Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat.
I tweeted this the other evening, which was rewarded with 16 retweets and 8 favourites:
I think I’ll stick by that tweet for now.