bookmark_borderThe LibDem victory in 2014/2015

The Horse Race
Originally uploaded by dougsamu

FiveThirtyEight has an article about how the LibDems normally need two elections to win a seat:

[T]hey tend to win seats not in a single election cycle, but after first reaching a critical threshold of support an election before. While still losing to the major party in the constituency, this baseline of support provides the “plausibility” factor that can turn tactical and ideological voters to the party.


In 2005, seats that the Lib Dem picked up showed a particular voting trend from 1997 to 2005. In nearly every case, the 2001 election saw a swing to the Lib Dems, usually pulling votes from both Labour and the Tories. And, the stronger that swing was in 2001, the bigger the swing they experienced in 2005. Similarly, many of the seats in which they made progress but did not win in 2005 are now key pickup opportunities for the Lib Dems in 2010.

I did some quick calculations to see how much this matters.

At the moment, the LibDems notionally hold 76 seats and are in second place in another 194 seats.

If there is a uniform 5% swing from Labour to LibDem, the latter will get 118 seats, but they will suddenly be in second place in 332 seats!

In other words, although a LibDem vote can seem wasted in many constituencies, it might just prepare the ground for a LibDem landslide in 2014 or 2015.

bookmark_borderThe third debate, King, and the secret hopes of the Tories

Mervyn King in Berlin
Originally uploaded by Downing Street

Most pollsters agree that Cameron won the third debate and that Brown lost it.

However, swing voters seemed to think Clegg did best.

FiveThirtyEight have published a post-debate analysis of seats, and for the scenario where the Tories advance a tiny bit while the LibDems take many votes away from Labour (Con 36, LD 31, Lab 24), they predict Con 335, LD 144, Lab 140.

In other news yesterday, Mervyn King (the governor of the Bank of England) was reported to have said that “whoever wins this election will be out of power for a whole generation because of how tough the fiscal austerity will have to be.”

I was very disappointed that nobody confronted them with this quote in yesterday’s debate, but it makes me wonder whether the Tories are making a huge mistake by trying to win this election.

Just imagine the next general election in 2014 if the Conservatives have had a very small majority of 335 (out of 650) while the LibDems have been the official opposition…

If King and the IFS are right, and if the Greek crisis starts affecting the UK, the country would have seen four extremely painful years, full of strikes, unemployment and bankruptcies, and it would all be blamed on the Tories.

Meanwhile, Clegg and Cable would have been pointing out all their errors every week at the despatch box.

I can’t help thinking the Tories would secretly prefer a hung parliament that would allow them to share the blame.

bookmark_borderCon 276, LD 123, Lab 218

FiveThirtyEight, an American election web site that was the place to visit for predictions about US elections (their coverage of the last presidential election was awesome) have started to make predictions about the UK election.

They are working on a different model than most British forecasters, and in general they’re forecasting a worse result for Labour, and a better one for the LibDems.

However, as far as I can tell, at the moment they’re just playing around with the model, so they’re just showing the outcomes of various scenarios.

In particular, I’m concerned they don’t seem to have any empirical basis for estimating voter movements between the parties – they just seem to make up numbers that add up to the current poll figures.

They’ve promised further blog postings in the near future, though, so hopefully there’ll be some really good forecasts soon.

Update (29/4): They have now updated their prediction to 299/120/199.

bookmark_borderCon 291, LD 94, Lab 233

PoliticsHome and YouGov have investigated where the LibDem surge is concentrated (hattip: UK Polling Report).

The brilliant thing about their table is that it feeds directly into the regional predictor on Electoral Calculus.

The predicted election result is Con 291 (+83), LD 94 (+27), Lab 233 (-113), Nat 11 (+3).

One to watch on election night is Oliver Letwin, who is here predicted to lose his seats to the LibDems.

This is of course not an exact science – UK Polling Report is predicting Con 262, LD 111, Lab 245 based on the same data.

Hopefully the LibDems will manage to get the electoral system changed if they hold the keys to Number 10, as seems likely based on this.

bookmark_borderWhy are the Tories so keen on FPTP?

Stone balanced tower
Originally uploaded by gilest

In the UK, the LibDems want to introduce STV (which they argue is the best form of proportional representation – I’d prefer the Danish system), and Labour have recently decided to support AV; however, the Tories remain committed to FPTP (although they want to reduce the number of constituencies by 10%, which they probably think will help them).

I’m a bit puzzled, though.

The current system is helping Labour at the expense of both the Tories and the LibDems (although it hurts the latter much more, of course).

In other words, the current system is making it almost impossible for the Tories to get a decent majority.

Is it just because they remember the 1980s so fondly that they can’t imagine never getting a decade of unrestricted power again?

Realistically, the rise of the three-party system means that’s very unlikely.

If they really think single-party majority government is so superior, shouldn’t they aim to introduce an electoral system that gives 350 seats to the largest party, 250 to the second-largest one, 50 to the third one, and none to any other parties, even if their share of the vote were 33%, 32% and 31%, respectively? 😉

Back to reality: If the Tories agreed to proper proportional representation, it’s likely that a coalition of centre-right parties would get a majority in parliament quite often, probably more often than the number of times they can expect to get a workable majority under FPTP.

So it really won’t be that painful, and wouldn’t it be nice never to see a Labour majority in Westminster again?

bookmark_borderCon 25, LD 548, Lab 41

YouGov asked an interesting question recently: “How would you vote on May 6 if you thought the Liberal Democrats had a significant chance of winning the election?”

The result is astounding. YouGov’s Peter Kellner writes: “The responses: Lib Dem 49%, Conservative 25%, Labour 19%. On the – admittedly unrealistic – assumption of uniform national swing, there would be 548 Lib Dem MPs, 41 Labour MPs and just 25 Tories.”

Of course many people are going to vote for their sitting MP, and others will assume the Libdems can’t win in their constituency, so they won’t win this big.

Still, it is a very important result. It shows the Libdems are only the third party because of the electoral system, and they can become the main political party of the UK soon.

bookmark_borderCon 251, LD 181, Lab 177

I saw on UK Polling Report that Angus Reid is now reporting these figures: Con 32%, LD 32%, Lab 24%.

This is such a big gap between the LibDems and Labour that it made me wonder whether this could actually lead to Labour becoming the third party in the UK.

Using information about who is switching to the LibDems, namely that it’s mainly in the north of England, and not really in Scotland, I used the Electoral Calculus Regional Predictor and got these figures: Con 251, LD 181, Lab 177.

So it is possible! The LibDems have a realistic change of becoming the second party and shoving Labour away from the dispatch box.