Monday, 28 July 2014

Labour and UKIP

James Kirkup has written a piece for The Telegraph today in which the Labour campaign say that a strong UKIP performance puts Ed into No. 10. The campaign apparently uses evidence from the European elections to back this claim up. It is more likely than not that Ed Miliband will win the next election, albeit I am not in a position to project that.

However this approach is irresponsible and unprofessional. I'm a cold fish. I use reams of data and logic to predict elections. That's my job. I've done it for over ten years now, mostly very quietly and mostly successfully. I don't want or need to go into details about my methods here. Suffice to say that the coming election in 2015 presents the greatest challenge I have faced when it comes to modelling the result. I know that the campaigns feel the same. How do I know this? Because every day I am receiving requests for data to help to make sense of this election.

This election is confusing and messy. People need to come to peace with that. I have. I am dealing with it. My models have been tweaked and tested, scrapped, tweaked and tested, re-calibrated, tested.....etc, etc.

So when I hear Labour make a statement saying that UKIP voters will put Ed into No. 10 I am staggered at how unprofessional it sounds. Labour are in the business of winning campaigns. Their voters, members and candidates want them to win elections. Any other raison d'etre would need to be explained to me. So we are in a situation where Labour is effectively choosing to ignore a party which is polling between 10 and 15 per cent nationally (UKIP). Does that strike anyone as the professional approach? Speaking as a cold fish, that is. Applying cold logic, does it strike anyone as the professional approach?

It's worse than that. Because [and I'm exasperated just having to explain this again] the impact from UKIP is not randomly distributed. It depends on where you live. So 10 per cent for UKIP nationally translates to between 25 and 38% in seats across the country, depending on the particular demographics and voter behaviours in each seat. Which brings me on to the 'irresponsible' part.

Put yourself in a Con-Lab marginal. You're a Labour activist or perhaps even a Labour candidate. In your seat, because of the particular demographics present, it is likely that UKIP voters will come equally from the Conservatives and Labour. Oh, yes, by the way these seats DO exist. So this notion you hear of UKIP voters being drawn 2:1 from the Conservatives? Bin it. I repeat - the impact from UKIP is context-specific. The 2:1 statistic is a NATIONAL statistic. I digress.

So, you're a Labour candidate in a seat where half the UKIP vote is coming from your supporters. Do you really want to hear your campaign HQ saying that they're happy for UKIP to poll strongly? How would that make you feel? Or perhaps you're a Labour activist in that seat. Perhaps you've spent the best part of your life knocking on doors for the party in all weathers, and now you see all that under threat as formerly staunch Labour supporters tell you they're voting UKIP. Would that make you MORE likely to go back out knocking on doors? Let's say in 2015 your seat goes to the Conservatives because they have better turnout anyway, and that 18% UKIP vote just handed the seat to your opponent? Or does it not matter, because after all Ed Miliband is going to be waving at your TV screen from the steps of No. 10?

The good news for Labour is that there are many 'local' campaigns which are trying to deal with UKIP in a professional manner. UKIP will know this better than most. In certain seats there are efforts to confront the threat from UKIP. However they are being cast adrift by a national strategy which spends its time running around waving Ashcroft polls in the air whilst making simplistic claims concerning the impact from UKIP.

As I said a week ago the response to UKIP from Labour HQ has been laughable thus far. James Kirkup's piece in the Telegraph today franks this viewpoint. UKIP must be extremely happy this morning that Labour want to see them flourish. They should be careful what they wish for.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Lessons from Maidstone; Lib Dems winning here, Mr Cameron

In a post earlier this week I described how UKIP are presenting a serious problem to Labour, and how a by-election result is perhaps indicative of this problem. However there was an equally interesting result many miles away in Maidstone & The Weald. Against all expectations the Lib Dems overturned the Conservatives in the Staplehurst ward. This was in effect a 22.5% swing from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems.

The Staplehurst ward sits in the Maidstone and The Weald parliamentary constituency, currently held by Helen Grant, a fairly high-profile MP in her position as Minister for Sport and Equalities. In 2010 Mrs Grant won the seat with 48% of the vote, with the Lib Dems in second on 36%.

I want to explore the particular dynamics of the ward which swung to the Lib Dems in order to understand a) how the victory was possible, and b) what it might mean for the Lib Dems in 2015. Of course local elections are very different animals to general elections. I understand that.

First, the result of the by-election itself in Staplehurst:

Liberal Democrats 609 (36% (+24%))
Conservatives 603 (36% (-21%))
UKIP 311 (19%)
Labour 117 (7% (-8%))
Greens 41 (2% (-6%))

A remarkable result for the Lib Dems no matter how you look at it. So, what are the particular demographics of the ward? Well, the ward is home to very high proportions of households from the following demographic groups. I am listing the proportion of households together with how they have voted in the most recent elections:

A1 Rural families with high incomes, often from city jobs (6% of households; most likely Cons, some LD and UKIP)
B5 Better off empty nesters in low density estates on town fringes (6%; most likely Cons, some LD and UKIP)
B6 Self-employed trades people living in smaller communities (6%; Con or UKIP equally)
B7 Empty nester owner occupiers making little use of public services (7%; Con or UKIP equally)
D13 Higher income older champions of village communities (7%; most likely Cons, some LD)
D16 Higher income families concerned with education and careers (5%; most likely Cons, some LD and UKIP)
E17 Comfortably off suburban families weakly tied to their local community (5%; Lib Dem or Cons equally)
E18 Industrial workers living comfortably in owner occupied semis (10%; most likely Cons, some LD and UKIP)
E19 Self-reliant older families in suburban semis in industrial towns (5%; equally likely to break Con, LD or UKIP)
F22 Busy executives in town houses in dormitory settlements (5%; Con or LD)
F23 Early middle aged parents likely to be involved in their children's education (4%; Con or UKIP, some LD)
H35 Childless new owner occupiers in cramped new homes (4%; equally likely to break Con, LD or UKIP)
J46 Residents in blue collar communities revitalised by commuters (6%; UKIP or Con)

These groups make up around three-quarters of all households in Staplehurst. You will see very little for Labour. This seats is a seat between the LibDems and the Conservatives, but on the balance of demographics, together with the national picture for the LibDems, one would expect the Conservatives to take the seat with some ease. They didn't. Quite the contrary. So, what happened?

First of all the impact of UKIP cannot be underestimated, and it is highly likely they took votes from the Conservatives. In so doing they allowed the Lib Dems to win the seat. This ought to worry local Conservative activists across the south-east.

Second, there appears little doubt that the Lib Dems were able to take votes from the Conservatives. Take a look at the D13, D16, E17, E18 and E19 groups above. They account for a third of all households in the seat and their turnout record is very strong in local and national elections. The Conservatives performed very strongly among these groups at the 2010 general election. However in the 2012 and 2014 elections the Conservatives have seen their strength among these groups dissipate. UKIP have benefitted from this but without doubt these groups will have voted Lib Dem in Staplehurst.

So, what does this mean come 2015. Well, more than likely the Conservatives will retain the seat. They have a large enough cushion it seems. However, keep in mind that both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats have now show they are peeling votes from the Conservatives in this by-election. UKIP achieved a little over 3% in 2010 in the seat. It is highly likely they will achieve higher in 2015 given that party is polling between 10 and 15% nationally.

If the squeeze on the Conservatives comes from two sources it makes for an interesting contest for Mrs Grant. Also remember that although the Labour vote has all but collapsed in Maidstone and The Weald since 1997, the party still achieved 10% in 2015. Will those voters choose to swing behind the Lib Dems to oust Mrs Grant?

Finally I am going to present my maps of Maidstone & The Weald, showing how favourable the reception is likely to be for the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and UKIP. The Staplehurst ward is shown in red.

As you can see the ward was not supposed to be a particularly strong suit for the Liberal Democrats. 'Fairly favourable' for the most part or neutral. From a demographic perspective the Conservatives and UKIP were ploughing identical fields. That UKIP drew 19% of the vote ought to be a wake-up call to the Conservatives. As the maps show there are countless areas across The Weald where UKIP and the Conservatives are going after the same voters in 2015. If UKIP are similarly successful in drawing away support from the Conservatives in 2015 then the Lib Dems could benefit, particularly given that they are much better-placed around Maidstone itself.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Lessons from Doncaster; UKIP winning here, Mr Miliband

Last night UKIP took a seat from Labour in the Edenthorpe, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun ward in Doncaster. To some of this was not entirely surprising given the results from local and European elections in May, and the particular demographic composition in the ward and in Doncaster more generally. However this result has additional significance because it occurred in Ed Miliband's own back yard.

The Edenthorpe ward lies in the Doncaster Central constituency, currently held by Labour's Rosie Winterton. Its immediate neighbour to the north is Ed Miliband's seat of Doncaster North. In Doncaster Central Labour have lost 10,000 votes since 1997, with its majority being reduced from 38.7 to 14.9 per cent over the same period. In 2010 a combination of the BNP, UKIP and the English Democrats took 12 per cent of the vote in the constituency.

In Doncaster North, Mr Miliband's seat, Labour have lost 8,000 votes since 1997, with their majority being reduced from 55.0 to 26.3 per cent over the same period. In 2010 a combination of the BNP, UKIP and the English Democrats took 16.3 per cent of the vote in the constituency.

As you know I am able to show which parts of constituencies UKIP would be likely to receive a favourbale reception. I have taken the trouble of producing a map top show where UKIP should receive a favourable reception in Doncaster North and Doncaster Central. I have overlaid the boundaries of the Edenthorpe ward, which lies entirely within Doncaster Central.

This map shows that in both Doncaster Central and Doncaster North the demographic composition of very large parts of both seats mean that UKIP will likely receive a favourable reception.

So which demographic groups are driving this?

There are a number of key demographic groups in both seats. Most importantly there are sizeable proportions of blue-collar households in former industrial areas, precisely the demographic group which has traditionally stayed true to Labour but in recent times has started to vote UKIP. This group is approaching (or in) retirement, and has little to show for years of hard work and perceived failings of both Conservative and Labour governments. They reject the Conservatives and the Lib Dems with equal vigour. In both Doncaster North and Doncaster Central these demographic groups make up around a quarter of all households.

In recent elections UKIP has also been able to draw away support from other traditional Labour groups such as transient single populations, or lower income families in terraced housing, or young families in the early stages of their career. All these groups are present in Doncaster North and Doncaster Central. Again, a good proportion of these voters will stay true to Labour, but many are attracted to UKIP as a means of expressing their exasperation with mainstream political parties.

The good news for Labour is that the party should expect to hold both Doncaster seats at the next election. However if the party is smart it will pay attention to results such as the one last evening. However, I suspect that the party is burying its head in the sand, no doubt whilst holding aloft a clutch of Ashcroft polls in the marginal seats. These polls point to Labour gains from both the Lib Dems and Conservatives. However this is an illusion. The party will fail to gain a number of seats because of UKIP insurgency. If I were a Labour PPC in seats like Southampton Itchen or Thurrock I'd be kicking the ostrich up the backside and tearing the Ashcroft polls apart.

Anyone at Labour HQ reassuring themselves with Ashcroft polling should put in a call to Rosie Winterton this morning. It's time for the ostrich to lift its head from the sand. The party needs a context-specific response to UKIP in all its seats. A number of candidates should be concerned at the threat posed by UKIP, and to their credit some of them are. However they are banging their heads against the wall when it comes to Labour HQ. For some party strategists the hope is that by ignoring UKIP they will go away. Some might, but many won't. This threat has been a long time in the making.

How a party like Labour could allow this situation to materialise is quite beyond me. I'm a geek who spends half his time in my bat cave punching numbers, and I knew about UKIP a year or more ago. Academics like Rob Ford and Matt Goodwin have been ploughing this ground for even longer. The response to UKIP from Labour has been laughable. I fear that in 2015 the joke will be on them.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


As many of you know I have a wealth of demographic data showing the composition of neighbourhoods and constituencies. I am able to identify areas within constituencies which have a natural demographic 'lean' towards any of the major parties. The maps below take each party in turn and show where, according to demographics and voting behaviour, they can expect to receive a good or bad reception.

The first map is for UKIP. These are standard deviation maps. I don't want to go into too much detail about the maths here. Suffice to say the pink and red areas are where UKIP should expect to receive a fairly good (pink) or good (red) hearing. Yellow areas are neutral, and blue areas are where the party should expect to receive a fairly unfavourable (light blue) or unfavourable (blue) reception.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lord Ashcroft Con-Lab marginal polling - the demographics

Lord Ashcroft published his latest battleground polls of the fourteen Conservative-held seats with Labour in second place. I am going to use this post to describe the demographics of those fourteen seats.

First of all, I start with the demographic composition of the fourteen constituencies taken together. The chart below shows the proportion of each of 69 demographic groups in the fourteen seats (coloured bars). The hollow bars are the proportion of each of these demographic groups across the whole of England & Wales. I have described these 69 demographic groups elsewhere on the blog. See this link: if you want the full descriptions.

Before I go on to describe this composition I want to present the most recent voting behaviours of these demographic groups, in the same type of charts. These following charts show how the vote share for each of the main parties was correlated with demographics in the 2014 local elections. Of course there needs to be some caution attached to these correlations as the local elections are low turnout elections. However the correlations are broadly in keeping with election results from 2005, 2010 and 2012. I will take each party in turn. The scores above the x-axis show a positive correlation (i.e. vote share for the party went up) and scores below the line show a negative correlation.

These charts, taken together, give us some clues to the groups which are being drawn to UKIP from Labour. For example, take a look at the K50 demographic group. This group is made up of older families in low-value housing in former industrial areas. Geographically this group is found most strongly in places like Rotherham, Doncaster, the West Midlands, south Wales, parts of the North-West and North-East. In other words, Labour areas. Unsurprising therefore that they vote Labour (see chart), but a good proportion of them are voting UKIP.

Or how about E21s (Middle aged families living in less fashionable inter war suburban semis)? Some of this group are voting Labour, but many of them are going over to UKIP. Again this group is concentrated in the Midlands, North West, south Wales and the North-East. There are twice the national average of this group in Stockton South for example.

Without any further ado I want to display the demographic profiles of the fourteen Ashcroft marginals, in alphabetical order:

Amber Valley. Poll numbers: Labour 37%, Con 33%, UKIP 22%, LD 3%.

Broxtowe: Labour 39%, Con 30%, UKIP 18%, LD 7%.

Cardiff North: Labour 41%, Con 30%, UKIP 12%, LD 6%.

Great Yarmouth: Labour 28%, Con 33%, UKIP 31%, LD 3%.

Hendon: Labour 49%, Con 34%, UKIP 9%, LD 4%.

Lancaster & Fleetwood: Labour 41%, Con 27%, UKIP 18%, LD 4%.

Morecambe & Lunesdale: Labour 37%, Con 34%, UKIP 18%, LD 6%.

Sherwood: Labour 39%, Con 30%, UKIP 23%, LD 4%.

Stockton South: Labour 38%, Con 35%, UKIP 19%, LD 4%.

Thanet South: Labour 29%, Con 29%, UKIP 33%, LD 4%.

Thurrock: Labour 30%, Con 28%, UKIP 36%, LD 2%.

Warwickshire North: Labour 41%, Con 30%, UKIP 21%, LD 2%.

Waveney: Labour 37%, Con 28%, UKIP 22%, LD 3%.

Wolverhampton South West: Labour 46%, Con 30%, UKIP 15%, LD 5%.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Demographic change since 2001 - persons born outside the EU

The map below shows the 533 parliamentary constituencies of England. The data shows the increase in the proportion of residents in each constituency who are born outside the European Union since 2001. I have used data from the 2001 and 2011 Census as my source. Click on the constituency to reveal a pop-up showing the % increase in your constituency: