The great CON Rochester primary mystery – how the reported turnout of 4,000 became 5,688

October 24th, 2014

Why aren’t we getting the full numbers like in Totnes in 2009?

The first news that all was not well with the CON Rochester primary was this report, now not on the Spectator site, from the usually well informed Isabel Hardman.

An hour or so later were told that “Kelly Tolhurst wins Tories’ postal primary Rochester & Strood with 50.44% to Anna Firth’s 49.56%. 5,688 ballots returned.”

That was an odd way to present the figures. Why not , as in the 2009 primaries, give the full numbers with the total of spoilt papers? The fact that we are not getting this detail raises my suspicions.

    Could it be that Hardman’s original 4,000 figure was the correct number of valid votes and that it was decided to present the outcome as being a little bit better for the party by talking of the number of ballots returned with the actual candidate totals presented as percentages.

If the turnout is based on number of valid votes then 4,000 would make it about 5.3% not the 7.5% that talking about ballots returned suggests.

Given the controversy surrounding the whole election and the primary itself it would not be surprising if Rochester voters hostile to the Tories spoilt their ballots before popping them in the return paid envelopes and posting them.

It would have been far better for the party to have come clean about the actual numbers last night rather than allow these questions to be raised.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Local By-Election Preview : October 23rd 2014

October 23rd, 2014

Oban North and Lorn on Argyll and Bute (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Independents 15, Scottish National Party 13, Conservatives 4, Liberal Democrats 4 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 3)
Result of last election to ward (2014): Scottish National Party 595 (25%), Independent 548 (23%), Labour 526 (22%), Conservatives 445 (18%), Independent 301 (12%).
Candidates duly nominated: Kieron Green (Lab), Stephanie Irvine (Ind), Iain Maclean (SNP), Andrew Vennard (Con)

The SNP will be hoping that the opinion poll rises in the wake of the Scottish referendum (which in some cases project no less than fifteen MP’s at Westminster and another majority at Holywrood) will manage to overturn the problems that they have been having in Scotland of late. So far this year, the SNP have lost three seats in local by-elections (this is in comparsion with Plaid being unchanged and the Greens gaining three) and the last by-election here in July wasn’t that encouraging either.

Rogate on Chichester (Con Defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 27, Liberal Democrats 5, Independents 4, Labour 2 (Conservative majority of 16)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Conservative 990 (91%), Labour 97 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Gillian Keegan (Con), Elena McCloskey (UKIP)

First of all I can completely sympathise with the Labour candidate in 2011. I have stood twice for local elections in Ceredigion and both times got completely hammered. In 2008, I stood in Ciliau Aeron ward and polled 151 votes (19%) compared to the winning Plaid Cymru candidate polling 544 votes (67%) and in 2012, I stood in Llansantffraed against the sitting Independent and polled 141 votes (14%) which as the total poll was 983 votes gives you an idea of the stuffing I recieved. So maybe it is no real suprise that Labour aren’t contesting this ward at this by-election but what it does offer us is the classic question that pollsters have been asking ever since 2013. “What happens in a straight fight between Conservative and UKIP?”.

Burnopfield and Dipton (Derwentside Independents Defence) and Evenwood (Lab Defence) on Durham
Result of last election to council (2013): Labour 94, Independents 9, Liberal Democrats 9, Derwentside Independents 8, Conservatives 4, Spennymoor Independent 1, Wear Valley Independent 1 (Labour majority of 62)
Result of wards at last election (2013)

Burnopfield and Dipton : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 701, 688 (38%)
Derwentside Independents 760, 510 (35%)
Independents 381, 328, 257 (26%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alan Booth (Con), Gill Burnett (Derwentside Independents), Joanne Carr (Lab), Melanie Howd (Green)

Evenwood : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 870, 655 (52%)
Conservatives 529, 362 (31%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 491 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Lee Carnighan (Ind), Ben Casey (UKIP), Stephen Hugill (Con), Greg Robinson (Green), Heather Smith (Lab)

Durham, that rock solid bastion of Labour support in the North East, does have a slight chink in it’s armour and that chink is the Derwentside Independents (who are more than a little miffed at seeing Derwentside simply disappear off the face of the electoral map). When the council disappeared in 2007, Labour only had a majority of three on the council (having lost 9 seats in those elections, eight going to said Derwentside Independents and one to the Liberal Democrats) and were probably very glad indeed to see the council merged with the other authorities in Durham to create the new Durham County Council. Indeed, if you add up the votes and seats in Derwentside, you find that although Labour won 11 of the 21 seats in the former council area, the Derwentside Independents won 8 and that Labour’s score of 49% was only ahead of the Derwentside Independents by a matter of 16% (in other words not the bastion that you might think of when thinking about Durham)

Newnham and Westbury on Forest of Dean (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2011): Conservatives 19, Labour 17, Independents 11, Liberal Democrats 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 6)
Result of wards at last election (2011): Emboldened denoates elected
Independent 790
Conservatives 606, 196
Greens 318
Labour 256, 171
Candidates duly nominated: Richard Boyles (Con), Peter Foster (UKIP), Ian King (Lib Dem), Sid Phelps (Green), Simon Phelps (Ind), Jenny Shaw (Lab)

Mitcheldean on Gloucestershire (Ind Defence)
Result of last election to council (2013): Conservatives 23, Liberal Democrats 14, Labour 9, United Kingdom Independence Party 3, Independents 2, People against Bureaucracy 1, Green 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Independent 1,152 (36%), Conservatives 772 (24%), United Kingdom Independence Party 612 (19%), Labour 328 (10%), Liberal Democrats 179 (6%), Greens 120 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Malcolm Berry (UKIP), Jackie Fraser (Lab), Sue Henchley (Lib Dem), Ken Power (Green), Brian Robinson (Con), Ian Whitburn (Ind)

When the UKIP breakthrough occured in 2013, Gloucestershire was one of the first areas to experience it when UKIP won three seats on the county. Now, I agree that compared to now when UKIP seem to be winning seats on all manner of local authorities in such numbers as in Essex, three might seem a little disappointing, but it’s where those three were won that was the more intersting fact. The wins were in Blakeney and Bream, Drybrook and Lydbrook and Lydney (and all three were in the Forest of Dean district council area) and if you add up all the votes in that district area, the prospects become even more interesting for UKIP. UKIP polled 6,247 votes (28%) and won 3 seats with Labour second on 5,292 votes (24%) and 2 seats, the Conservatives third on 5,257 votes (24%) and 2 seats and the Independents on 3,055 votes (14%) and 1 seat. Therefore if UKIP can pull this double off (and as we saw in South Tyneside not that long ago, there is a precedent for Independents voting UKIP) then it will mean that Forest of Dean constituency (a traditional Con / Lab battleground) can be added to that list that seems to be ever expanding of UKIP prime targets.

Haywards Heath, Lucastes on Mid Sussex (Con Defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 45, Liberal Democrats 8, Labour 1
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,168, 1,143
Liberal Democrats 551, 499
Greens 390
United Kingdom Independence Party 157
Candidates duly nominated: Nicholas Chapman (Lib Dem), Henry Fowler (Lab), Marc Montgomery (UKIP), Geoffrey Rawlinson (Con)

Folkestone, Harvey West on Shepway (Con Defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 44, Independents 2
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 883, 870
Labour 374, 353
Liberal Democrats 342
Candidates duly nominated: Helen Barker (Con), Jasmine Heywood (Green), Stephen Jardine (UKIP), Nicola Keen Lab), Hugh Robertson-Ritchie (Lib Dem)

UKIP must be rubbing their hands with glee this week. Occasionally they may pick up one, maybe two gains on a good night. This evening could see them walk away with as many as four gains and in Shepway they have previous. Just six weeks ago, they gained Harvey Central in Folkestone on Shepway with a 6% majority in a ward that in 2011 didn’t even have a UKIP candidate, so with four potential gains this week, the small matter of a PCC by-election next week and in a month’s time the Rochester and Strood parliamentary by-election, the other parties need to ask themselves “Is there anything we can do to stop UKIP?” and if they do find an answer, they need to implement it fast as there are now less than two hundred days until the next election (which makes the debate in Parliament today about a possible repeal of the Fixed Term Parliaments act very interesting indeed).


UPDATED: Just 5,688 of Rochester’s 70k+ electors took part in the Tory primary and the winner got it by less than 1%

October 23rd, 2014

The earlier Spectator report proved to an underestimate

I said beforehand that a 15% participation rate would be good given the time pressure. So to fall short of that by such a margin does not bode well for the Blue Team.

It really shows the lack of interest that voters there have in the party and doesn’t bode well for CON prospects in the election proper on November 20th.

I just wonder whether this will be the spur for LAB to take Rochester seriously.


After the ComRes Rochester poll UKIP becomes an even firmer betting favourite

October 23rd, 2014

Next we’ll see polls with the candidates named

Amazing to recall that two and a half weeks ago the Tories had a brief spell as favourite on the Rochester betting markets. Then came the first poll from Survation which had a 9% UKIP lead and now we have the ComRes 13% one.

It’s a brave punter who in these circumstances bets against the polling and inevitably the UKIP price has tightened.

The only things that will budge this are developments that’ll point to the battle being tighter than is currently seen.

This evening we’ll get news of the Tory all postal primary. If the turnout is reasonable then it might give the blues a boost. What they will have from this evening is a candidate that they will claim has a mandate because of the way she’s been selected.

The next thing I’m hoping to see is a poll with all the candidates being named.

Too often we look at these thing in terms of party battles alone when in by elections in particular candidates can matter enormously. The government of the country is not at stake and people are voting for an individual.

So far the great single constituency pollster, Lord Ashcroft, has yet to dip his toe into the Rochester water. Surely an early survey from him is not far off?

Mike Smithson


Generally the oldies are the key group for UKIP yet in the ComRes Rochester poll they give Reckless a lead of just 1%

October 23rd, 2014

Looking more closely at the numbers

Let there be no doubt – the UKIP donor funded ComRes Rochester poll was terrible news for the Tories coming as it has just before the party announces the result of its all-postal primary on who should be the candidate.

Looking closely at the ComRes data two demographic segments stand out. Firstly there are the oldies, those of 65 and above, who normally are the biggest supporters of all for Farage’s party. In this poll however, as the extract from the dataset above shows, it is nothing like as clear cut with Mark Reckless just 1% ahead.

As I’ve said many times on PB in a vast range of elections the oldies are crucial. They are most likely to be on the electoral register, most likely to actually vote and least likely to change their mind.

The second positive figure for the Tories from the demographic splits is how well the blues are doing with the AB groups showing a clear cut lead.

The big feature from the poll is how reliant in the ComRes poll UKIP are on non-voters from 2010. This is what the leading political scientist and UKIP expert, Rob Ford, Tweeted last night:-

I’m told that we should be getting the results from the CON Rochester postal primary this evening. The number to look out for is the turnout.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


On the eve of the CON primary result a UKIP donor funded ComRes Rochester poll has the purples 13% ahead

October 22nd, 2014

UKIP 43: CON 30: LAB 21: LD 3: GRN 2

Th big by-election news tonight which has already been anticipated by the betting markets is a new UKIP donor funded poll of Rochester & Strood in the Daily Express.

The news is not good for the Tories and very good for the purples. The poll has Farage’s party in a better position than it was in the Mail/Survation poll two weeks ago when UKIP had a 9% lead.

Amongst 2010 CON voters ComRes found 57% supporting the blues and 40% Reckless – almost exactly the same proportion as in the earlier Survation poll. Reckless is relying for his support on ex-LAB & LD voters. But the biggest source of new support for UKIP are those who didn’t vote at the last general election with 28% of the UKIP share coming from them.

Some other pollsters would mark the views of this group down sharply because non-voting support from the previous general election is the most flakey of all.

This is how the non-2010 voters split.

Clearly this puts the purples in a strong position just four weeks from polling day and there’ll be a huge amount of pressure on whoever wins the primary to claw some of this back.

With four weeks to go I’m expecting a lot of polling. Eagerly awaited is a survey from Lord Ashcroft.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The afternoon Marf on the dementia bonus for GPs

October 22nd, 2014

gpdementia (1)

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.

  • h1

    As UKIP surges Ipsos-MORI finds that support for wanting to stay in the EU is at a 23 year high

    October 22nd, 2014

    Could the Kippers be giving the BOOers a bad name?

    As I often say one of the great things about Ipsos-MORI is that it has been carrying out political polls in the UK for 40 years and is has a vast amount of historical data on which we can make comparisons.

    Today the pollsters has issued its latest findings on whether we should leave/remain in the EU. The figures and trends in the chart above come as something as a shock given the current UKIP narrative.

    Maybe there’s something of a reaction to the Scottish referendum outcome here. Fewer of us are attracted by the prospect of change. But I wonder whether the way UKIP is dominating the headlines is having an impact and is polarising opinion?

  • Date for your diary. There’ll be a post Rochester PB gathering at Dirty Dicks, near Liverpool Street in London, from 1830 on Friday November 21 – the day after the by-election.
  • Mike Smithson

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