A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Can Labour win?

Some interesting observations by Professor John Curtice at an IPPR lunchtime presentation he gave on Monday on whether Labour can win the next General Election:

  • Almost all elections are decided on basis of which party is judged more competent.
  • New Labour in 1997 was almost unique in altering the character of the Labour vote - normally party support distribution stays the same across classes and goes up and down in uniformly according the the competence criteria.
  • To win an overall majority Labour only needs to be level-pegging with the Tories in vote share.
  • The current "bounce" occurred because of Brown's speech at the Labour conference - this lifted the Labour poll share by 5% whereas the bank bailout had no effect on Labour's ratings. Curtice believes that it is the political salesmanship that shifts the polls, not the actual policy decisions. The second stage of Labour's boost was Glenrothes, after which they went up a further 4%.
  • In Scotland the Labour poll trajectory has mirrored that in the UK as a whole but with the SNP profiting from Labour's misfortunes then being hit by the Labour recovery. The Tories can't break the 20% barrier in Scotland.
  • The Labour recovery is only 5-6% on average above the figures from the summer, so Curtice believes Labour is not yet back in contention.
  • Citing the 1966-'70, 1974-'79, 1979-'83, 1983-'87 and 1987-'92 parliaments he said there were multiple precedents for governments recovering from a low point to about 40% within 12 months. Labour might therefore end up level-pegging with the Tories within 6-12 months. However, these kind of recoveries don't guarantee victory (e.g. 1970, 1979). The Brown bounce is not as decisive or strong as the government recoveries generated by decisive events such as the fall of Thatcher or the Falklands War.
  • The British Social Attitudes survey reveals bad news for Labour, as on a raft of questions related to equality, public opinion has been showing a sustained drift to the right - from a high point support for left-of-centre attitudes of 64% in 1994 down to 44% last year. This might change if Labour articulates the equality message more strongly.
  • On tax and spend there is also bad news for Labour as the balance of opinion has now reverted to 1980s levels of hostility to increased taxation and spending.
  • Mori polling on the relative importance of key issues to the public shows the economy is back as the top issue after a decade when it was running fifth in the list. After the 2005 election health and education were high importance issues, as was defence because of Iraq, but now both they and race/immigration are a lot less important to the public. Crime has remained steadily the second most important issue. In 2001-2005 the public services messages Labour had were resonant, but now they are a lot less relevant to the public, who are focused on economic competence.
  • Labour's ratings on economic competence have gone up but these are related to handling a crisis, not raising living standards where the Tories are still ahead. The public seem to want Labour to solve the current crisis, but maybe not then get another four year mandate.
  • "Borrowing" is a very unpopular concept with the public. There is no public understanding of Keynesian economics. Tories can therefore attacking borrowing by implying its level is a proxy for measuring economic incompetence.
  • The score Labour needs to win (34% if the LDs recover to their 2005 position) is a low target so victory might happen. But the climate of public values now favours the Tories. Labour's handling of the financial crisis has started to restore its economic credibility but the task is incomplete.
  • There is too little polling data to understand whether there are different trends in different English regions i.e. whether the Labour recovery is in safe seats or marginals.
  • Long-term structural decline in the Labour vote (because of falling TU membership and de-industrialisation) is no longer a major factor as the decline in size of the working class has now slowed down.
  • Current polling volatility is nothing new - there was extraordinary volatility for the whole period from the late 1960s through to 1983. Even in the '50s 25% of people changed their minds about who to vote for during the month of an election. Curtice said "there are always lots of sheep in the electorate - the party with the best sheepdog wins".
  • Calls for an early election from Labour MPs are crazy - Labour needs to be in contention and stay there for a while, a short term bounce is not enough.
  • However, May 2009 is not early - it's after 4 years. If by Feb/Mar Labour is consistently 2 or 3% ahead then it might be a reasonable gamble to go to the polls in May as you would be betting losing 1 guaranteed year in power against gaining 4/5 more - otherwise better to wait longer.
  • Whereas when he took over Brown's personal reputation required him to get the same 66 seat majority as Blair or better, now he will be seen as a miracle worker if he gets a 1 seat majority.
  • The Tories will have a tough time finding anything they can cut in the public services given the existing tight spending climate.
  • The Lib Dems have a stronger core position than pre-'97. They might get 20% if they fight a good campaign but it is "not proven" that Clegg can deliver this.

27 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thoughtfull coments by Prof Curtice, is his paper available in full any where.

GW

3:56 pm, December 02, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Will be going up on the IPPR website.

4:09 pm, December 02, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Borrowing" is a very unpopular concept with the public. There is no public understanding of Keynesian economics.

I think the public understand borrowing very well. They also understand the need to borrow in a recession because so many punters on the TV offer so many seminars on its benefits.

What they also understand about borrowing is a government which has misrepresented its true level of borrowing when its apparent level of borrowing is way out of whack.

And if they switch over to Professor Buiter at FT Mavercon for a few hours and long headaches they will also understand that Brown has left the economy in such a dire predicament that it cannot borrow effectively, according to Keynesian dictum, without destabalising the currency, threatening the stability of the banks and putting the Bank of England at risk of default.

5:35 pm, December 02, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If all "economists were laid end to end they would never reach a coherent consensus.

GW

8:49 pm, December 02, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

And not borrowing will turn recession into depression.

10:17 pm, December 02, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I'm not sure we can avoid a depression Mike. Our problems are linked to spending so I think spending more will simply make matters worse. Especially when you have to borrow to spend as the money has to be paid back.

If you look at the data then it shows that tax receipts are not going to cover the repayments. Even tax increases for the better off will hardly dent the current deficit. So this means that everyone is going to get a tax increase just after the next general election in 2010. I think people will see through this policy.

Making matters worse the government may also struggle to raise money via government bonds as no one wants to invest in the UK.

10:49 pm, December 03, 2008

 
Blogger Elby the Beserk said...

Well sunshine, I voted Labour in every election, local and national, from 1970 until Iraq. Never again. Brown is an utter disaster and the greatest threat to the country since Hitler.

In hospital recently, and it is clear that everyone despises the man. Nurses, staff, patients, visitors all talking of the economic disaster, and all quite aware that Brown is responsible for it, and for the onslaught on our freedom. Frankly, if he were just dropped down dead, I would be hugely relieved.

As you might imagine, I will not be voting for this lot of venal, incompetent lying bastards again, and if that means going against the principles of a lifetime and voting conservative, so be it. My country is under threat from within, as the whole sorry Martin farrago shows.

Not fit for purpose.

10:14 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Polls are rather like elections in that they indicate the preferred outcome for those polled rather than the actual political beliefs of those polled.

If we look at those polls that consider whether Brown is doing a good job, we find that hardly anyone has a good word to say about the man. Yet, the polls on voting intentions have suddenly shown it to be a close race. There is a paradox here. How can someone perceived to be thoroughly incompetent also be surprisingly popular as a PM? Are we now the kind of culture that celebrates stupidity?

I doubt it.

Brown was indeed very unpopular in the run up to the Labour conference. At that time people thought they could be rid of him if they showed their displeasure. After the conference it was clear that no-one would challenge Brown. Even clearer after Glenrothes. There is now only one way to get rid of Brown early. Convince the man that he can win a snap election. It is my belief that many of those polled are astute enough to realise that if they claim they will vote for Brown at the next election then he might be tempted into calling it early. It only takes about 10% of those polled to adopt such a strategy to mess up the polling results completely.

10:30 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People don't need to understand much about economics to know that their houses are being repossessed, their jobs put at risk.

The problem for NuLabour is that they have relied on their core vote being stupid enough to believe that they had created an economic boom over the last 10 years. Sadly for NuLabour, these stupid people are just as likely to blame Brown for an economic disaster that actually started in America.

10:34 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if labour get in again.. i'm going to go live somewhere else.. it would really be the last straw

10:43 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a cock and nobody likes you

10:56 am, December 04, 2008

 
Blogger Man in a Shed said...

Its interesting that the German's have rejected Brown's borrowing binge. Merkel is quoted as saying "A bidding war ... a senseless race for billions – we won't take part in that,".

The real question is not can my party win at all costs ( which you seem to ask ), but is it doing the right thing for the country.

Since Labour doesn't engage the electorate with logical arguments but with linguistic programming and spin there's not much chance of an honest debate or election.

Personally I think your destroying the country for the next 20-30 years with a selfish attempt to hang on to office at all costs (especially when someone else is paying ).

11:06 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Mike, Brighton said...

Prof Curtice's analysis is very interesting and I would say worrying for Labour.
But all political analysis misses an elephant in the room.
In the 1992 election the the vote was (near) 78% of voters. In 1997, 2001, and 2005 it was 71%, 59% and 61% respectively. So you can see there has been an absolute collapse in the vote over the last three elections.
People on the right (such as myself) believe that this is because there was nothing to vote for - it was obvious in 2001 & 2005 that Labour would get it. So why bother voting?
In a 2009 (or 2010) election, everything is to play for. It is very unclear who will win. This will drive turnout up. There are approximately six million missing voters. I don't believe they will return to the polls to support an incumbent and tired Labour government in the depths of a recession.
They will disproportionately return to kick Labour out.
Labour will suffer a 1997-style electoral disaster in the next election irrelevant of Prof Curtice's analysis.

11:09 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give it up, you twisted little loser. Your masters have failed - the experiment has failed, time to sink back into oblivion for you and your failed regime.

Things can only get better yeh? What a fucking joke.

Word verification: Loser

11:11 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New to this blog as directed by Guido,I don't consider myself right wing as enjoy his sense of humour.I think the problem New Labour has is that the public/voters can not be fooled all the time.It is clear that the credit crunch by definition affects countries with debt more severely .That is us sucked into a belief that you can borrow your way out of trouble which again is clearly madness never worked up to now and can't see what has changed .The foremost economists recognise that the response in a downturn is to adjust expenditure,companies equally act rationally.To ask consumers to act counter intuitive requires a reason and that is short term.I see the line about made in America occurs here please think about the problem it is debt
the failure in the sub prime market is the catalyst not the cause.Think about it how can defaults in a market sector affect the UK housing market They as markets are so miles about in pricing supply and demand.In the words of gordon! if you don't identify the cause you can't effect the solution.His problem is he is [part of the problem and its cause this is not acceptable to him so solutions are not thought through.Example the bank recap was a step not a solution and now he is reluctant to revisit thus further action is sub optimal .The clear policy failing is to have directed a stimulus to indirect taxation against a background of consumer capitulation the correct response was Keynsian and infrastructure particularily where our weaknesses exist transport and energy.Hope this helps

11:14 am, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Bob said...

"Borrowing" is a very unpopular concept with the public. There is no public understanding of Keynesian economics.

I think the public are proving to be cleverer than politicians - they know that Keynesian economics just don't work!

We will be in recession until at least Jan 2011 - and the public know this - hence the shutdown on spending.

Its a shame that every generation has to learn the hard way that Labour can't do economics.

If Dave was to emulate Thatchers kitchen sink economics of the late 70's labour wouldn't get in for another generation!

6:23 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Blogger Henry Crun said...

Luke,

Even the outbreak of WW3 could save Brown from getting an absolute panning at the next election.

Labour's flush is well an dtruly busted.

6:45 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Man in shed, very interesting post and I think the French have responded in the same way.

It is Ironic that both the Germans and the French have very healthy public finances and therefore are able to spend if needed.

If this government really wants to spend why not invest heavily on transport. Congestion is costing this country a fortune and it is starting to make the UK a very unattractive to business looking to expand into Europe.

6:55 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Blogger snowflake5 said...

rich said "It is Ironic that both the Germans and the French have very healthy public finances and therefore are able to spend if needed."

Not true. According to Eurostat German government debt is 65.1% of GDP. In France their debt is 63.9% of GDP (in both the French and German cases their debt has gone UP over the last decade, mainly due to them having recessions). British debt was 44.2% of GDP in 2007according to Eurostat (Eurostat includes PFI - without PFI it was 41%).

It's a complete myth that the French and germans have better public finances than us. They also have more expensive welfare state provisions than the UK.

7:27 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Blogger Allan said...

Re Mike: Brighton.

If you look more closely at each of the general elections you mentioned, you will see that it is not an accross the board drop in turn-out, rather that the drop in turnout is concentrated on solidly Labour/New Labour seats.

You will find that there are an awful lot more left wingers, particularaly in England, who would rather sit on their hands than vote either for Blair or for anyone else.

9:21 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Blogger The Columnist said...

Luke,

The problem with Curtice is that he changes with the wind. One day Labour will win, the next the tories. Depending on the latest poll.

It is not rocket science. To win the leader must be appreciated or respected.

I have a very large cross section of friends, colleagues and acquaintences. None of whom would class Brown as 'appreciated' nor 'respected'

Can you see him conduct himself in an election campaign? He is a one subject politicians and on that one subject he has proved to be poor!

Trust me...he is a loser.

10:40 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Grendel said...

Being a mid ranking Purchasing Officer in an NHS Acute Trust I can assure you that there is plenty of scope for cuts in my little area of the Public Sector.

11:00 pm, December 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labour's real challenge is the loss of their council seats even in their traditional heartlands over the last eight years. When the Tories lost in 1997, they made gains in the county council elections on the same day. This gave them a base from which to campaign. Labour is unlikely to make such gains, making rebuilding a much more difficult challenge - and which may result in a collapse in Labour similar to the collapse in the Liberal Party in the 1920s

10:19 am, December 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Paul said...

Surely the fact that the British Social Attitudes Survey was last published in January 2008, presumable with data collected in 2007, and before the exogenic shock of the financial meltdown had occurred, means that its validity as a predictive tool is in doubt.

Lots of people may suddemy have acquired different attitudes about equality when they realised what had been going on all these years.

And a first bounce because of Gordon Brown's speech. Who, outside of the political classes, listens to a conference speech, or reads it then takes a view on the speech deliverer. It's all a bit more subtle than that.

The idea that Labour might b e 'Churchillian' in that it takes us through the crisis and thn gets dumped in favour of a post-crisis vision is predicated on a) the Conservatives being able to articulate a new vision b) Labour not having one. Both of these assumptions are unproven.

2:16 pm, December 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Tories will have a tough time finding anything they can cut in the public services given the existing tight spending climate."

Rhey only have to promice pull out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the public will beleive they have a chance to sqaure the circle. Also, do not underestimate how much resentment of the corruption under this government and the over-intrusive state is simmering along. Events..

3:58 pm, December 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Adrian P said...

The Bank of England, just like the Fed, are Private Companies.

Unplug yourself from the matrix

http://adrianpeirson.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!CB609AA4E892F479!121.entry

9:39 pm, December 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Adrian P said...

Of course Labour will win.

http://adrianpeirson.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!CB609AA4E892F479!123.entry

9:45 pm, December 05, 2008

 

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