LAB’s just reignited pensions as a battleground

February 28th, 2015

David Herdson says the tuition fees funding proposals could be skating on thin ice

Elections are won on perceptions as much as realities: competence, trustworthiness, whether a person or party is ‘on my side’, and so on. It’s therefore brave of Labour to propose funding a cut in university tuition fees from taxes raised on pensions. In doing so, the unintended consequence of opening up a policy front on what ought to be a relatively strong policy subject for them may be to divert it instead to a much weaker one.

Labour’s record in government on pensions was not a happy one. Part of this was accident – longer life expectancy and lower yield rates were largely generational or global events – but part was not: Gordon Brown’s raid on pension funds in his first two Budgets. That act did not of itself kill off final salary pensions but it did accelerate the trend. As a result of the declining returns, many middle-class voters have lost out. For Labour to revisit pensions as a tax source invites comparisons with 1997/8, particularly given Ed Balls’ positions then and now, and also given the propensity of the Middle class and middle aged to vote.

Where the Tories and Lib Dems can attack – beyond basic economic trustworthiness – is on the reduction in the size of an individual’s maximum overall tax-free fund to £1m. Obviously it would be a mistake to go on that specific: £1m sounds like a lot to ordinary people and the technicalities of having to explain why it’s not will turn most voters off. In fact, it would affect many workers on comfortable but not massive incomes such as many public sector workers paying higher rate tax. “Does Labour plan to raid your pension again?” could be a potent slogan.

For the time being, it doesn’t matter; there’s enough mileage for the government in the fees story itself what with richer former students benefitting most from Miliband’s message. Labour may dispute that and will in any case be keen to remind voters of the Lib Dems’ perfidy on the subject, though it may be optimistic of Labour to expect an exemption from the voters in respect of politicians’ pledges when so many voters see the main parties as ‘all the same’.

What’s also worth asking is whether the fees policy will actually change votes. We know a huge number of voters switched from Lib Dem to Lab in 2010 and we also know that virtually none have gone back, so who is the policy aimed at? Not those who’ve gone on to UKIP presumably given the small numbers there in the 18-25 age group. likewise, not those who’ve gone SNP given the different arrangements in Scotland. Lab-Green switchers is possible but trying to outflank the Greens on tax and spend is like the Tories trying to outflank UKIP on immigration (though perhaps not the best time to mention that topic).

Which is why the unintended consequences of the policy could be far more significant than the effects of the proposal itself.

David Herdson


The biggest source of Farage’s support in Thanet South: non voters at the last election

February 27th, 2015

There’s little doubt that one of the great successes that UKIP has had has been in engaging within the political process those who have never, or not recently, used their vote.

The above breakdown is from the latest Survation South Thanet poll illustrates this well. Because of the way the firm presents its data we are able to quantify the non-voting element.

A big question with non-2010 voting support is whether their backing can be relied on as much as those who do generally turnout for elections.

My reading of the data is that UKIP are ahead but not be the 11% margin that the headline figures pointed to.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Marf on Jihadi John and the afternoon round-up

February 27th, 2015


If the boundary changes had gone through the result of GE15 would be less of a cliff-hanger

February 27th, 2015

Did old-Etonian Jesse Norman cost his party the election?

On July 11th 2012 David Cameron was seen to be having a furious row with his fellow old-Etonian, Jesse Norman, who had just led the successful backbench revolt against planned House of Lords reform.

Cameron knew very clearly what this meant. The boundary changes, which it was calculated would give the Tories an extra 20 seats over Labour, were almost certainly not going to go through.

Not so long afterwards Nick Clegg confirmed that his party would not vote for the final implementation of the plan thus scuppering something on which the Tories had been placing a lot of hope.

    It had been blindingly obvious that undermining this reform would lead to this outcome yet Mr. Norman had pressed ahead and membership of the upper house continues to be by preferment – as Mr Straw reminded us on TV on Monday night.

Just think how in the current tight political situation what those 20 extra MPs would do to the Tory position?

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


TNS poll sees the SNP extend their lead from 10% to 16%

February 26th, 2015

Time appears to be running out for SLAB and Jim Murphy to avoid a shellacking in May.

TNS’ second poll this year, brings them into line with all the others bar Panelbase who have substantial leads for the SNP.

For those expecting differential turnout in Scotland to have an effect in May, “A majority of voters (61%) say they are certain to vote in the election, including 74% of both those intending to vote Labour and those backing the SNP.”

Health and education top General Election issues in Scotland

Which are two issues already devolved to Scotland.

“68% said healthcare/the NHS was “very important” in their voting decision, while 50% cited education/schools. Both SNP and Labour voters regarded health as being very important issues, mentioned by 72% and 75% respectively. However, SNP voters were more likely to cite education as an important issue than Labour voters – 57% compared to 46%.

Other major issues for voters are employment/jobs (47%), pensions (43%), taxes (38%), housing (35%), economic management (32%) and energy costs (32%). Immigration and benefits, which are often cited as key issues in UK-wide polls, appear to be less significant in Scotland, both mentioned by 28%.”

The fieldwork saw 1,001 adults aged 18+ interviewed from the 30thJanuary to 22nd February 2015.


UPDATE – Survation poll naming candidates has Farage winning South Thanet


A leading academic forecasting model gives Farage just a 2% chance in South Thanet – Betfair punters have it at 60%

February 26th, 2015

It was Tim Montgomerie in today’s Times who alerted me to the forecast for Farage’s South Thanet that has been produced by the 2015 UK Parliamentary Election Forecast – a collaberation between dons at UEA, LSE and Durham. For anyone betting on single seats their site is a gem with percentage probabilities for each party in every single seat.

Except that some of the forecasts just don’t feel right given everything that we know. The Farage battle is a case in point.

    True the headline Ashcroft polling from December had UKIP 1% behind. But the purples were 5% before the reallocation of 2010 CON DKs

That was before Christmas and things have moved on – notably a decline in UKIP poll shares generally.

My view of the seat is as recorded in previous posts. I think Farage has got a battle on his hands and both Labour and the Tories will do everything to generate anti-UKIP tactical voting to their candidates. This is a very tight three way marginal.

My money’s on both the Tories and LAB because of the odds I got – but, realistically, this is a gamble that I won’t be too upset about if I lose.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


All CON lead polls are from firms which’ve been tested in a GE unlike all but one of those with LAB leads

February 26th, 2015

Something to make the blue team happy – perhaps?

Make of this what you will and it might just be a huge coincidence but there appears to be a split between the pollsters that have been tested in a general election and those that haven’t.

The pollsters with asterisks next to their names in the chart were all regular pollsters in the run-up to GE2010. The ones without them weren’t.

Some of the firms classified as untested were around in 2010 but in a different form from their current operation. Thus Populus was the regular pollster for the Times five years ago but then it was a phone firm. Today’s Populus online polls are therefore treated as a newbie.

Same goes for TNS. Its new poll series is online which is totally different from its face to face operation which it still continues with for some its surveys.

I am treating ComRes as two separate polling series-the phone surveys which it now does for the Mail which was about pre 2010 and the online ComRes political polling which started after GE2010.

The Lord Ashcroft National Poll started about a year ago while Survation entered the political polling arena at the January 2011 Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election.

Looking at the chart the only established pollster recording a LAB lead is Ipsos-MORI which I now just call Ipsos. YouGov, Opinium, ComRes phone and ICM are the other four pollsters which have surveyed previous general elections.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Marf on MPs with 2 jobs

February 25th, 2015

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    Changes in latest YouGov just published 2230
    CON – 33% (-2)
    LAB – 33% (-)
    UKIP – 15% (+1)
    LDEM – 8% (+2)
    GRN – 6% (-1)