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Reasons to be careful

Nick Robinson | 10:23 UK time, Monday, 23 November 2009

Much excited talk of a hung Parliament after one poll in the Observer yesterday. Here are my reasons to be careful (parts one, two and three) before getting carried away:

• Polls are interesting because they are surprising. They're usually surprising because they're out of line with other polls. Thus, one needs to be wary of interesting polls.

• Poll leads are the difference between two large numbers which are themselves only accurate within the range of + or - 3%. So poll leads are only accurate within a range of + or - 6%

• Ipsos/Mori sample the electorate differently to other pollsters. A large part of the shift in yesterday's poll appears to be down to this.You can read one interpretation here.

There is, however, one reason to think hard about a hung Parliament. It is easy for Labour to lose this election but hard for the Tories to win it since they start off with fewer seats than Michael Foot won in 1983 and need a larger swing than Margaret Thatcher's in 1979. That, however, was always true - long before yesterday's poll.

And, I'll concede this, there is some evidence in some polls of a hardening in Labour support.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    I'm not sure it would go all the way to a hung parliment, however I do think it is going to be quite close. The closer we get to the election the more I get worried that somehow Labour will pull it out the bag. And if they do then all hope is gone as far as I'm concerned.

  • Comment number 2.

    We can confirm whatthe polls may or may not be saying very easily - if Gordon Brown will call an election.

    I've seen nothing in the past few weeks that would harden Labour support in my view. eg Farcical Queens Speech, further borrowing to increase budget deficit, Harriet Harman's impending prosecution, EU president and foreign affairs appointments.

    Stop all this now ...... call an election.

  • Comment number 3.

    "And, I'll concede this, there is some evidence in some polls of a hardening in Labour support."

    Yes.


    You would say that, wouldnt you Nick?

    What about Political Betting's analysis of it being a rogue poll with some very suspect data, particularly regarding London & The South East?

    Lab 38%
    Con 31%
    LD 20%
    BNP 5%
    Grn 3%
    UKIP 0
    oth 3%

    Think we're going to need at least a couple more to establish whether the core vote really is starting to firm up/stop defecting to the BNP... and whether it is Labour's core vote really firming up or whether the tories are losing theirs as a result of the EU machinations...

    Not going to stop a lot of the NL crowing on here today though, I bet. Soon find out....

  • Comment number 4.

    Nick

    As the election gets closer support for both sides will harden but it will be the undecided floating voter who will decide the election and in a number of the marginal seats. What is interesting is the large number of MPs standing down as that may reduce the loyalty vote in some areas and will have an impact on any result.

    I am surprised you did not use the opportunity to highlight one mildly amusing typo in the article you indicated in your blog about the interpretation of the polls. It says:-

    "Likelihood of Labour supporters voting has increased, that of Conservatives deceased – but in both cases the change is too small to be significant."

    I know the conservatives get a higher "Grey Vote" than the other parties but .........

  • Comment number 5.

    Some interesting points but I never really pay any attention to polls, the data is never that accurate. Most polls are only a thousand people or so and taken from differing social backgrounds so you never get a really accurate spread

    The only effective poll will be on election day - nothing else counts

    After all: There are lies, damn lies and there are statistics.....

  • Comment number 6.

    Hung Parliament?
    Hang Parliament!

  • Comment number 7.

    Nick Robinson go to the back of the class!

    "Poll leads are the difference between two large numbers which are themselves only accurate within the range of + or - 3%. So poll leads are only accurate within a range of + or - 6%"

    This is actually not correct - "accuracy" figures, properly called "errors", are not combined in this way. Basically, simply adding the errors together overestimates the probability that the two numbers that you are adding together (or subtracting one from the other) are towards the extreme ends of their error ranges. Correctly, you should add the squares of the errors, then take the square root of the sum.

    So, if you have two numbers, each accurate to 3%, where you are subtracting one from the other, then the error in the difference (the accuracy of the poll lead, in this case) is the square root of 9 + 9, i.e. the square root of 18, which, to single figure accuracy means the error in the poll lead is 4%.

  • Comment number 8.

    "And, I'll concede this, there is some evidence in some polls of a hardening in Labour support"

    Are you sure its not a case, i still find it hard to support Labour at the moment but i can't see myself voting for any the other lot when it really comes to it.

    I would give a hung parliament no more than 6 months. Despite the fact you can't get a fag paper between the main parties policies, we're too ingrained in government / opposition culture than to find a way of working together

  • Comment number 9.

    Off topic, I know, but here's one for you to look into, Nick.
    Part of the Home Office budget is being spent to produce TV advertisements about "police pledges", and extolling the wonderful job the constabularies are doing. Home office money should be spent on policing the country, not on blatent party political propaganda about what a wonderful job the Zanulabour administration is doing.

  • Comment number 10.

    I ALMOST wish that Liebour get back in to see how they deal with the complate mess they have made of the UK BUT common sense prevails and it is obvious that the Tories WILL deal with all matters far far better than Liebour.

    Have a look at WHO commissioned the poll u r referrring to Nick - the answer will not surprise anyone!!!

  • Comment number 11.

    No 2: Strictly pickled. It isn't about hardening labour support - it is about softening Tory support. I have voted Tory for 40 years now - every time. I have given notice that I will vote UKIP next time UNLESS we get the promised vote on the EU thing (treaty, constitution, whatever). I know this might cause problems, but I am beyond caring if they can't even keep that simple promise.

    I don't do this lightly, as I think New Labour are a mixture of incompetence and malevolence (mainly towards the Southern English). But I won't vote for more of the same under a different banner.

  • Comment number 12.

    Polls apart: there is evidence of a hardening in Labour support. It is the prospect of a 20% reduction in the public sector over the next five years is concentrating more than a few highly salaried minds amongs Mr. Brown's client state.

    I am being bombarded by quangoes asking me if our business is ready for the recovery. I reply what recovery and they tell me the recession will be over soon. I have even be told it will be over by Christmas: just like the First World War ended on 25th December 1914!

    There is so much spin out there at the moment that the real message has been lost. The country is so deep in debt we are printing the money to get out of it. This is not a sustainable policy as we will be punished for it in other ways later on.

  • Comment number 13.

    Nice to get a poll showing the Tory lead slipping but we need a couple more before concluding anything. At present, I'm not moving from Cs by 40 seats.

    The link to Mori's methods was interesting, wasn't it? What especially struck me was the point that quite a few people have forgotten who they voted for in 2005. That says a lot about how important politics is in the lives of normal, healthy members of the public. A point to remember.

  • Comment number 14.

    I don't know about the polls but many of my Labour supporting friends have been changing their tune over the last couple of months.
    This time last year many of them were saying they were either going to abstain or vote for another party (mainly Lib Dems) but as the Conservatives have been growing in popularity recently most of them have decided they will return to the Labour party, just to try to stop the Conservatives getting elected.

    I'm sure there are lots of other people out there thinking the same thing: Anyone but the Tories !

  • Comment number 15.

    Nick polls are right/polls are wrong, come this election Labour will be lucky to get 25% of the vote, I think they will come a very poor second, just ahead of the Liberals.

  • Comment number 16.

    Here is an illustration of the ridiculous voting system in the UK -

    Result of 1979 election: Tory win with 43.87% of the votes and 53.33% of seats.

    Result of the 1997 election: Newlabour win with 43.21% of the votes and 63.43% of the seats.

    But it's not the tories who are whining about reform of the electoral system; it's newlabour... I wonder why.

    One swallow does not make a summer....

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 17.

    Nick any comments on reports that the Lib Dems will be giving their support to the Torys in the event of a hung parliment?

  • Comment number 18.

    As the General Election draws near so there is bound to be ".. hardening of support for NuLabour.." whether it will be enough to recover from the economic-political-EU debacles of the last 2 to 3 years plus the lingering agonies of Iraq remains to be seen.

    One really positive thing going for the Conservatives is the ineptness of Gordon Brown in No.10: The 'jock' simply is not up to the job of National leader and even at this late stage dumping this uninspiring, lacklustre failed communicator would do NuLabour no end of good. This is an odd Poll result and most others suggest Brown's Premiership can and is losing the Election for NuLab in the minds of the UK public.

    Similarly, one really negative thing for the Conservatives is the desparately suspect leadership of Dave 'what's my policy today' Cameron: Who can really take this fellow seriously as a politician when he leaps from one supposedly clever idea to another without pause for breath, and even less for what the latest policy initiative actually means in the longterm? This odd Poll result I suggest reflects an anxiety among the UK public that the Eton wall-game/bucks fizz public relations man may be a liability after Election day.

    If I were in either of the 2 main Political Parties rank and file I would be seriously pressing for a change at the top before the New year.

    My suggestion for NuLab is Jack Straw. For the Tories Ken Clarke.
    Two old (but not too old) tried and tested political bruisers, respected, dependable, who both know the art of leadership is not all about Brown's "prudence" or Cameron's "gimmickry", but, those political nuances combining with a perceptive ear/eye for public aspiration as well as national priorities.

  • Comment number 19.

    jr @ 7

    Think I know the answer but let's check with the expert.

    A poll puts the Tory lead at 6% and it's degree of accuracy is +/- 4%

    Is that 4% an absolute number or is it as a pc of the pc lead?

    In other words, the poll is telling us which of the following ...

    (a) The Tory lead is in the range 2% to 10%

    or:

    (b) The Tory lead is in the range 5.76% to 6.24%

  • Comment number 20.

    At best, polls give a series of snapshots, but are not very reliable. (Remember 1992!)

    There may be people who are unsure how best to cast their vote, but as they stand in a dimly lit polling booth with pencil in hand, they will have to ask themselves do they really want another 5 years of Gordon Brown?

    If the Conservatives win, much of their programme will be devoted to repairing the damage that Labour has done - not least to our finances.

    The alternative is to allow Labour to continue spending like there's no tomorrow, plunging us deeper into debt. Most people will see that Labour's policy of Quantitative Easing (printing money we haven't got) cannot continue.

    Voters must choose whether they wish to balance the books, or continue cooking the books.

  • Comment number 21.

    What a sad sad thought (If true)

    kinda explains Jedward



  • Comment number 22.

    I and others labour supporters on these blogs have been saying for a long time that the Tories should not count there chickens before their hatched.
    Sure Labour have had a torrid time over the last few years and despite Tory protestations, not of their own making, the expenses scandal, the massive recession, that has not recieved one iota of support from the tories, the wild reports and running down of the country by the Tories telling us that saving the banks was a terrible thing, but now as Norman Lamont once famously said, erroneously, we can see the green shoots of recovery, the difference being that now we really can see the green shoots of recovery. David Cameron gets more bizarre every day, but not with one worthwhile policy. It was said that the tories would get in through labours mistakes not from anything they did for themselves, the problem for the Tories is that their claims of Labour mistakes are now starting to show that they were'nt mistakes after all, It would be churlish to say that Labour have made no mistakes, every government makes some mistakes, the Tories for the working class on a grand scale. Even out of government they are doing it ie inheritence tax, but there you are, as they say, "You pays your money and you takes your chance" but the smell of Tory fear is getting stronger by the day, it ain't all over til the fat lady sings.

  • Comment number 23.

    13#

    "What especially struck me was the point that quite a few people have forgotten who they voted for in 2005. That says a lot about how important politics is in the lives of normal, healthy members of the public. A point to remember."

    Aint that the truth... and in these hands, these goldfish-memoried minds, we place the future of the nation? The dumbing down is truly working at pace.

    Its not just that though Saga, its like all the expenses stuff, the Afghan situation, smeargate, the state of the economy, unemployment... it appears that the representative sample that they've used have a hard job remembering last week let alone nearly 5 years ago.

    It does throw up some interesting quandaries though; if they can see a narrowing of the lead, who in the party is going to try and give Brown the push now? Nobody. How is Brown going to cope with Mandy's angling for the Foreign Office job, now Millipede is no longer EU Foreign-Minister-in-waiting? Is there going to be a re-shuffle? Where did all this talk of a hung parliament (within the bubble anyway, not necessarily outside of Westminster) start? Is Cameron going to throw the next election, as I mused a couple of weeks ago?

    Its starting to turn into a soap opera...

  • Comment number 24.

    22#

    Ah, the first carrion appears.

    I wonder where the rest of the flock have got to...

  • Comment number 25.

    3 fubar saunders
    #Not going to stop a lot of the NL crowing on here today though, I bet. Soon find out....

    And why not, you've been crowing enough over the last couple of years.

  • Comment number 26.

    sagamix 19

    The correct answer is (a), the Tory lead is in the range 2% to 10%.

  • Comment number 27.

    5 mighty chewster
    #Some interesting points but I never really pay any attention to polls, the data is never that accurate. Most polls are only a thousand people or so and taken from differing social backgrounds so you never get a really accurate spread
    The only effective poll will be on election day - nothing else counts
    After all: There are lies, damn lies and there are statistics.....

    Isn't it strange how perspective changes when the boots on the other foot.

  • Comment number 28.

    Given the general low calibre of our political parties at the moment, no-one winning might just be the best result for the country - though i'm not optimistic about our puerile 'party first, nation second' mps being able to form any kind of productive coalition.

    By the way, at the weekend i read that David Cameron was the 'self proclaimed heir to Blair'. Did he actually say this, and if he did why?

  • Comment number 29.

    Nick

    Is it also not the case that there are too many telephone polls taking place at the moment. I was suckered into one a few weeks ago, and was told that it would take just 5 minutes of my time. It eventually dragged on for about 15 minutes with an endless list of tedious questions, at the end of which I was royally hacked off and not really caring about what answers I gave. Near the end they asked about likely voting intentions etc.

    A lot of the questions were very intrusive and they really did not need to know such information. If all surveys/polls are conducted like this I would not have much confidence in the raw data quality. And those questioned will very likely not have much goodwill to participate in the future.

  • Comment number 30.

    #22 "Even out of government they [the Tories] are doing it ie inheritence tax"

    Here we go again....."Tories reduce IHT" bellow Labour supporters, meanwhile, Labour are reducing IHT with transferable nil-rate bands. So Labour HAVE reduced IHT while their supporters criticise the Tories for what they WILL do to reduce IHT if they get in power.

    Anyone else see the hypocrisy?

  • Comment number 31.

    24 fubar saunders

    #Ah, the first carrion appears.

    That statement sums you and the Tories up my friend.We are always right, the rest of you are carrion, Thats why you wont see a tory government, because like you they are foolishly for them starting to, under a little pressure, show their true colours.

  • Comment number 32.

    reasons to be careful

    Events, dear boy, events.

  • Comment number 33.

    @jrperry

    Marks for pointing out that the statistical error isn't as large as Nick states. However, you neglected a few key things. Errors only add in quadrature under two conditions:

    1) Limit of large numbers, when the distributions are approximately gaussian. In this case I reckon the distribution is multinomial.

    2) When the errors are independent. You would expect the quantities i.e. conservative vote to be highly anti-correlated with the labour vote. Indeed this is what you find with the multinomial distribution.

    Taking these into account, you find that the 1-sigma errors on the difference between the conservative and labour vote (mean value of it is 6 percent) to actually be more like 2.6 percent (neglecting the correlation would give you an estimate more like 2.1 percent).

    So in summary for people wanting to ignore the statistics if you did this poll repeatedly and calculated the difference between the conservative and labour votes, you would find that two thirds of the time your measurement would be between 3.4 percent and 9.6 percent.

  • Comment number 34.

    "grandantidote wrote:

    but now as Norman Lamont once famously said, erroneously, we can see the green shoots of recovery, the difference being that now we really can see the green shoots of recovery."

    We maybe able to see the green shoots of recovery, but most people are also able to see the sharp winter frosts which will do a lot of damage to those shoots.

    In January unemployment will likely increase as there is less need for seasonal workers, the cost of pretty much everything will go up as the VAT cut will be removed - and can someone please explain why this will increase the price of petrol because when the VAT cut was put in place the Government supposedly increases the duty on fuel to cover the reduction - so obviously now VAT is to return to it's normal levels the government should obviously cut fuel duty? Right?

    This government takes the voters for idiots and if polls like this one are correct then I personally feel that they may well be right!

  • Comment number 35.

    #3 Yes that's what I thought too. I think Mori have been very unlucky in that the random sample caught a disproportionately large number of Labour voters in this region and it's skewed the headline findings. Apparently at least 2 more polls are due this week so we should n't have too long to wait and see if this is a one off. Something else to bear in mind was that this poll was conducted immediately after the Glasgow NE result and it's publication is a bit late.

    Something very noticeable was the way the BBC dropped it's editorial policy of not mentioning individual poll results on yesterday's evening news. The newsreader was almost ecstatic in crying "Tory poll lead shrinking!"

    Impartial my ****!

  • Comment number 36.

    jrp @ 26

    Yes that's what I thought, just wanted to double check.

    So we can say that the Tory lead is probably down to 2% ... next to nothing in other words.

    Below the margin of error in fact.

    Wow!

  • Comment number 37.

    all,

    Lots of hand-wringing over the polls today, so here is a summary;

    The polls suggest that a large part of this country are either;

    1. gluttons for punishment.
    2. 'working' in the public sector and dependant on Labour for a job.
    3. habitually unemployed and dependant on Labour for handouts.


    That is all.

  • Comment number 38.

    30 Andy c 555
    #Here we go again....."Tories reduce IHT" bellow Labour supporters, meanwhile, Labour are reducing IHT with transferable nil-rate bands. So Labour HAVE reduced IHT while their supporters criticise the Tories for what they WILL do to reduce IHT if they get in power.

    Anyone else see the hypocrisy?

    No hypocrisy old chap its a question of comparing like with like If the tories lifted the minimum wage to £10,00 {highly unlikely] and Labour raised it to £7.00 then you would have a similar situation.only difference is that the Tories would in that instance back Labour.

  • Comment number 39.

    sagamix 36

    "So we can say that the Tory lead is probably down to 2% ... next to nothing in other words."

    Nope, that's not right. You were correct in 19, "The Tory lead is in the range 2% to 10%", so it is no more likely to be 2% than 10%. Basically, it is your "probably" that I am quibbling with.

    That said, you could argue that 6% is next to nothing, but let's at least get the numbers right!

  • Comment number 40.

    Nick

    Over in Guido Fawkes blog, a blogger is urging Brown to appoint Lord Mandelson as the First Secretary of the Inter Galactic Council and send immediately to Mars. Do you think that this a flyer?

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have argued all along that a hung Parliament is both likely (and desirable).

    it is likely because

    * The Tories have a huge majority to overcome.

    * The government will do everything in its power between now and the election to "bribe" the electorate, or at least make promises to them. All governments do this.

    * The government will try to frighten the electorate about what the Tories might do. Again, all incumbents do this.

    * It takes many more votes to elect a Tory than a Labour MP because of constituency size differences.

    * People don't like being told that the election is a done deal.

    * the Government will do better at getting its core vote out than in recent elections.

    * They will make sure that postal voting (which favours them) is maxmised.

    I know from previous discussions I'm in a minority but I do think a hung Parliament would be good for the UK. First past the post and big majorities may deliver clarity, but can anyone honestly say that it has delivered good government or democratic credibility in the last 40 or 50 years?

    So bring it on, I want a hung Parliament with a strong LD showing, leading to a coalition government committed to genuine electoral reform.

    I do recognise the possibility of (and fear) a very close result with the LDs squeezed and a minority government leading to a second election in the Autumn, but either you believe in democracy with all its faults or you don't...



  • Comment number 43.

    Although NL are held in derision, I sense no real enthusiasm for the Tories, even amongst their core voters.

    Cheap political gimmicks do not play well with the electorate at the moment and the Sun campaign definitely back fired.

    I still expect the Tories to win as I think their support will harden closer to the election; I am sceptical about the talk of recovery and the labour heartlands are amongst the hardest hit areas by the recession, which may produce some interesting results.

  • Comment number 44.

    Wise counsel to be cautious about this Observer poll. I'm afraid Laura K got a little over-excited about it on last night's news... lack of ecperience perhaps.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    One should also remember that the +-3% is not a linear variation - the error is much more likely to be +-1% than +-(2-30%)

    Looking at the regional variaitons - the LD vote has collapsed in the North (from 20% to 8%)shot up in the midlands (11-19%), the Tory vote has collapsed in London and the South east (48-40 and 36 - 31). Labour has gone up in the North *38 - 43) down in the Midlands and South. This means, I suspect that the Labour heartlands are returning to the fold WHICH WILL NOT GAIN THEM MANY MORE SEATS. Labour percentage vote is DOWN in the Midlands, South and level in London.

  • Comment number 47.

    34. Mark_WE

    #We maybe able to see the green shoots of recovery, but most people are also able to see the sharp winter frosts which will do a lot of damage to those shoots.

    Ah!Yes! but the chances are, following the pattern of the last few years we could have a very mild winter.

  • Comment number 48.

    #36 Saga

    "So we can say that the Tory lead is probably down to 2% ... next to nothing in other words. Below the margin of error in fact."

    No, that's not what the figures say. They say the Tory lead is probably 6% on an atypical sample but may be as low as 2% or as high as 10% even on that sample, and on a more representative sample is probably in the range of 4-12%. The range of error may be upward as well as downward. And the 2% is AFTER the margin of error.

    "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest..." [Paul Simon]

  • Comment number 49.

    @grandantidote

    If I'd spent £200 billion on fertiliser then I would expect alot more than green shoots!!

    I'd be fascinated to hear the Labour supporter take on how long this 'recovery' will last once we stop printing money?

    When the education budget is lower than the interest payments on our national debt perhaps you will see Labour's actions for what they really are....

  • Comment number 50.

    I seem to remember the run up to the election in 97 where the "experts" predicted that the outcome could be closer than expected and look how that worked out!
    As a Labour voter that feels rejected and conned by New Labour I will be supporting the Tories in the next election. Regardless of the green shoots being risked, the bigger risk is giving Brown another 5 years of spend spend spend. We will be paying back for many years the debt that we are in at present, and we cannot allow it to get even further out of control.
    The economy is in a false place, regretably it is in a worse state than appears on the surface. We are still in recession despite the huge stimulus that has been pumped into the economy.
    We are in a bad place. To keep on driving down the same road that took us to that bad place cannot be the right course of action.

  • Comment number 51.

    37. kingloneranger

    #The polls suggest that a large part of this country are either;

    1. gluttons for punishment.
    2. 'working' in the public sector and dependant on Labour for a job.
    3. habitually unemployed and dependant on Labour for handouts.

    Is this worse than Fubars carrion? but it does show that what I was saying to Fubar @ 31 was on the ball, don't you think?.

  • Comment number 52.

    A psephologist friend of mine tells me that the more women MPs there are in the lower chamber, the less the likelihood there is of a hung parliament

  • Comment number 53.

    Sagamix and jrp#

    I think all journalists quoting sample statistics should take a course and hire a trained researcher (pt) to assist them avoiding errors of interpretation.

    The same goes for descriptive stats. (eg GNP) and especially forecasts of descriptive stats.

    The BBC actually hires a write to write about statistics who pieces are found on the Magazine pages.

  • Comment number 54.

    A single poll does not, in itself predict the outcome. However, the overall trend for polls recently has been one of a shifting of support away from the conservatives and towards Labour, or perhaps more likely, a fiming up of support for Labour, whilst the "floating voter" moves away or back to don't know. The voting certainty figures show this.

    I've long suspected that the final result will be a hung parliament, and I wouldn't be surprised if Labour were the largest party, as some of the other comments have surmised...

  • Comment number 55.

    badger @ 48

    You're right. Was just kidding around a bit. Trying to annoy JRP - always worth a go, that.

    I quite like your analysis at 42 actually, although it's not what I'm predicting. Cs by 40 for me.

  • Comment number 56.

    Richard Shaw 33

    Fair comment.

  • Comment number 57.

    #38

    The hypocrisy is that when the Tory plans on IHT were revealed, Labour said it was wrong to increase allowances. They then in effect did the same thing.

  • Comment number 58.

    #37 has hit on something. There are huge swathes of vested interests, like public sector jobsworths and certain handout dependant groups, who will be frantically hoping Gordon gets in again. What they don't seem to understand is that even if Labour does somehow win a fourth term, they won't be able to continue subsiding these groups. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 59.

    Grandantidote,

    Sorry if that seemed OTT, but as someone who actually works for a living, for a real company, this government have done absolutely nothing to help me. Not ever. They have been in power for my entire working life and I would be glad to see the back of them - even before that they were introducing tuition fees just in time for me to go to university. I cannot understand why anyone who works in the private sector would vote Labour and completely sympathise with the rather large number of people I know who have given up on this country and emigrated. It's an attractive prospect given that it will be the ten million or so people like them, and like me, who will ultimately be expected to 'produce' our way out of this recession, then pay for the bank bailouts, then cover the cost of the disproportionally large public sector, and then pay for their pensions.

    You are clearly a fan of Labour, if you can explain to me why I should be then I am genuinely interested in hearing it.

  • Comment number 60.

    @51 Grandantidote

    Actually post 37 highlights the main reasons labour will still get votes. Obviously there are also the odd few dyed in the wool Labour voters stil looking at the world through rose tinted glasses and/or strong narcotics....

    Sums Labour up far more accurately than your whining about those nasty tories who'll stop throwing money at everyone!!

  • Comment number 61.

    "grandantidote wrote:
    34. Mark_WE

    #We maybe able to see the green shoots of recovery, but most people are also able to see the sharp winter frosts which will do a lot of damage to those shoots.

    Ah!Yes! but the chances are, following the pattern of the last few years we could have a very mild winter."

    Well the last few winters haven't had the planned "increase" in VAT and fuel duty - both of which would make the costs of buying things more expensive (great idea during a period when shops are already struggling!)

    With a fragile economy (and we are still technically in recession) you don't want to do anything to risk the recovery. We will probably pull out of recession this quarter due to seasonal trading and there is a good chance that the economy will start to shrink again straight afterwards.

  • Comment number 62.

    41. Fubar_Saunders wrote:
    31#

    Right on cue, the squawking begins....

    Wind your neck in you troublesome old fossil. Nobody's interested. Nobody believes the data apart from your fellow running dogs. You'll probably count yourself lucky to see the next election, let alone who forms the government the morning after.

    The above post is probably the most offensive post addressed to anyone that I have seen on these blogs in the two years that I have been posting on here, and yet unbelievably the moderaters let it through.
    Not much more that I can say about that, except that it would be nice to meet you in person,you are probably the most offensive dispicable person that I have ever had a exchange of views with, you probably would be proud to show that post to your grandparents or even your parents.
    but this is not the first time that you have behaved this way, it only backs up my post to you where your refer to labour supporters as carrion and now the grey vote is dismissed by you as irrelevant since we probably wont live to see the election never mind the result,you forget my friend, I have seen many drop by the wayside in my long life maybe out of the two of us I might be the one out of the two of us that does see the result of the GE.

  • Comment number 63.

    Richard Shaw 33

    Further to my "fair comment", I notice that on the front page of ukpollingreport

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/

    there is a list of the last 25 polls. I calculate a mean of 13.5% for the Tory lead with a standard deviation of 2.9%. Acknowledging that there may be an underlying trend in the data (it represents about 6 weeks of polls), nonetheless I recognise that your estimate of the sd more closely matches the available data than mine.

  • Comment number 64.

    I suspect the pollsters will be just as surpised in 2010 as they were in 1997, because my guess is that the actual labour vote will evaporate, and that only union members and the unemployed will vote labour.

    At least that's how I see it; everyone I know who's unemployed or a union member are voting labour, everyone else I know would rather have skewers inserted into their eyes than stay in the country if labour got in again.

    You have to remember, Nick, that labour essentially bribe their "core vote" (union members and unemployed) by promising them more money and taking money away from everyone who's productive. So labour have a guaranteed "core" base vote of around 25%.

    Mind you, labour are probably increasing their "core vote", simply by the fact that they're actually creating more unemployed by wrecking the economy, and employing ever more public sector workers that they don't need.

  • Comment number 65.

    RE: 23. Fubar_Saunders

    "Aint that the truth... and in these hands, these goldfish-memoried minds, we place the future of the nation? The dumbing down is truly working at pace."

    I'm coming round to viewing the next election as almost a collective intelligence test for UK voters.

    It doesn't require much effort to work out that Brown's economic plans involve running government debt up to at least 100% of GDP and then never paying any of it back. Indeed he probably won't even be able to get borrowing down to the point where the debt remains constant relative to any subsequent GDP growth. That means the debt will be permanent and self-sustaining. New Labour aren't admitting to that yet, but the facts are clear enough. It follows that voting New Labour is a vote for long term economic collapse and hence a rather cruel test of intelligence. It will be interesting to see if we, as a country, pass.

  • Comment number 66.

    caledonian @ 58

    "There are huge swathes of vested interests, like public sector jobsworths and certain handout dependant groups, who will be frantically hoping Gordon gets in again"

    Whereas people who vote Tory do so based on a shrewd and dispassionate analysis of what is good for the country.

    Right.

  • Comment number 67.

    What I find amusing it is one poll..... Let us see more polls before making some further predictions.

    The best poll is a GE, call an election.

  • Comment number 68.

    It's a single poll. Anyone (from any side of the debate) picking this as an indicator of any trends is being foolish. You need to look at the polls overall to determine which way the trend is going (as well as a number of polls over time).

    Cameron is right when he says the election is far from won. The only one that will tell us for sure is the one Gordon Brown is delaying until the last possible moment.

    Oh, and Nick, the poll is in The Guardian, not The Observer. And the Guardian is well known for accuracy, aren't they?

  • Comment number 69.

    57 AndyC555

    #The hypocrisy is that when the Tory plans on IHT were revealed, Labour said it was wrong to increase allowances. They then in effect did the same thing.

    Except that I clearly recall that labour had quite openly declared that they were in the process of reviewing IHT when the Conservatives came out with their ridiculous extravagent policy to try to trump Labour but it backfired because of its absurdity.

  • Comment number 70.

    Yeah, you must have been gutted Nick when that poll came out, all those months of running down the Labour party, its government and its ministers, turned on its head in an instance; no wonder you're so quick off the mark to try and undermine it. Would we have had the same reaction if it had gone the other way and showed a widening lead for baby David and his gang of school boys? I don't think so......

  • Comment number 71.

    From a neutral point of view, I strongly sense that this is a rogue poll for the following reasons:

    1) Bit surprised that no-one has mentioned this, but the results of this poll were ready by the weekend of the 14/15th November (i.e: they were a week out of date when published yesterday). That weekend, ICM finished their fieldwork as well and concluded that the Tories had a 14% lead. YouGov's latest poll on 13th gave the Tories a 13% lead. It makes no sense that 3 polls conducted around the same time (with greatly over-lapping fieldwork in the ICM case) should produce two 13/14% leads and one 6% lead. Yes, the condolence letter affair produced sympathy for Brown and Labour held a very safe seat in Glasgow. But these can't explain a 11 point lead loss for the Tories.

    2)No major event has impacted the political landscape so much as to cut the Tory lead in the Ipsos-Mori of the 18th Oct of 17% to 6% by the weekend of 14/15 Nov. I reckon the Tory lead is probably still solid at around 12-14%. Last week produced bad headlines for the government RE:The Queen's Speech as well, so the next polls should be interesting.

  • Comment number 72.

    jr @ 63

    Mmm interesting. Stan Dev of 2.9%

    So it means if we go for a 3 Stan Dev (99% confidence level) interpretation of this latest poll ... which we SHOULD if we want to be serious about what we're saying ... then it's very possible Labour are now 2.7% ahead! That puts Brown back in.

    Quite a thought.

  • Comment number 73.

    62#

    Both of my grandfathers would have certainly have said the same first part to you Grandy, of that I can be certain. They may not have said the latter words (although on reflection, my maternal grandfather might have done if he was riled enough), but that is beside the point.

    Unfortunately, dragging it into the gutter is the only way to get through that tribal, rhino-like hide of yours that can see absolutely no wrong in what Labour have done over the last twelve years. "Yes, they all make mistakes" is rose tinted beyond belief. "Had a torrid time not of their own making"... unbelievable. How many governments, how many parties, how many scandals have you seen come and go over the years? Do we go as far back as Suez, Profumo, et al? Arent you supposed to acquire wisdom over the years? And you seriously, deep down, think "a torrid time, not of their own making" is true? Laughable. Beginning to make me feel more pity than anything else.

    If you dont like the comment, either refer it to the moderators, or walk past it. But dont for a second imagine that you're going to wander on stage waving the Liar Party's banner, claiming that all is fair weather ahead and for it not to come under heavy fire from those with a different perspective.

    You might not have the nous to know any better than to swallow the party line without question, but a lot of the rest of us are not quite so gullible.

  • Comment number 74.

    A hung parliament. If only.
    Oh, sorry, you're talking about an election result.

  • Comment number 75.

    59 kingloneranger
    #You are clearly a fan of Labour, if you can explain to me why I should be then I am genuinely interested in hearing it.

    I am as you say a fan of Labour but its clearly not my place to tell you why you should perhaps vote labour or be a fan of labour, thats your decision to make your young obviously and in your journey through life you will form many opinions and reject many in all probability, and thats how it should be,
    You say you have been working all these years and that Labour has done nothing for you, a bit of a contradiction there my friend if you had been born ten years earlier then your story might have been quite different as for tuition fees the Tories made great fuss about it but they knew then as they now admit they were and still are in favour and have no plans to change the situation. whatever you vote I wish you luck because thats what democracy is about,and yes you were well over the top but at least your man enough to admit it,good on you son.

  • Comment number 76.

    Whether it ends up as a hung parliament or a Tory win the most important thing is that the public are not mislead into voting in a labour government for another five years.

    A new administration is essential to root out the hidden problems which we all know are there but this labour government dare not tell us.

    Most people have short memories and are too busy trying to get by on a day to day basis and don't really want to know that it will be even worse down the line.

    However I forced myself to listen to Gordon Brown speaking at the the CBI conference just in case he may be looking at a U turn that would turn farce into realism but there was none just more of the same.

    However there was one thing he said that shouted out loud.

    Appealing to China to invest more here in business. Perhaps he needs to get of the bunker and find out what is happening elsewhere in the world.
    When China tried to take over large companies in Australia they insisted on bringing Chinese cheap labour with them to fill all vacancies.

    Australia blocked this so is that really what Gordon Brown is seeking for this country? The next election will be make or break for the lot of us.

  • Comment number 77.

    sagamix 66

    "Whereas people who vote Tory do so based on a shrewd and dispassionate analysis of what is good for the country."

    Correct again sagamix.

  • Comment number 78.

    #42 Fubar
    'Wind your neck in you troublesome old fossil.'

    #62 GrandA
    'You are probably the most offensive dispicable person that I have ever had a exchange of views with...'

    Great stuff, Guys!

  • Comment number 79.

    Fubar,

    It seems the possibility of a hung Government (slim in my view) has upset you. Your comments to Grandy are completely out of order. I hope you will apologise.

  • Comment number 80.

    65#

    That is I agree, deeply worrying. They'll never admit to it until the IMF get called in.

    Even then, they'll blame it on Cameron and these ameoba-like voters in the tribal heartlands would still vote for them.

    But no fear, according to our eldest Politburo member Grandy, Brown has everything under control.

    66#

    Are you saying the Tories are the only other choice? Theres a novelty. Isnt that how the BNP have been allowed more growing room over the last 5-7 years?

    Spending more time attacking your perceived rivals and designing your election strategy around that rather than avoiding getting the nation into the poop in the first place, much less how to sort it out...

    In the isolation of the polling booth people always vote for their own self interest. You cant seriously think Labour are any different? Thats why they lost in 1992.

  • Comment number 81.

    40 excellentcatblogger

    ...a blogger is urging Brown to appoint Lord Mandelson as the First Secretary of the Inter Galactic Council and send immediately to Mars

    ... would that make him a Time Lord or is he still the Master?

  • Comment number 82.

    @69 grandantidote

    And I clearly recall that declaration coming after the tories announced their policy! Labour do alot of that, slagging everyone elses policies off before stealing them (never the ones that would actually do any good of course)

  • Comment number 83.

    #27 Grand

    I'm not sure how you figure my perspective has changed? I don't remember ever stating/quoting opinion poll figures anywhere on this blog (for either party)

    I was making a general point that I don't trust polls, I wasn't trying to say that I don't trust polls because they put the tories with a lower lead - which I guess is what you were getting at, right?

  • Comment number 84.

    70 Allen.

    Welcome to the board. You're such a long term member here, that (just like this single poll) a single post from your new ID isn't something that will really be taken seriously....

  • Comment number 85.

    68 West London Willy

    #Oh, and Nick, the poll is in The Guardian, not The Observer. And the Guardian is well known for accuracy, aren't they?

    Yes much like the Mail the Sun and the Telegraph, all known for their honest reporting.

  • Comment number 86.

    68. West_London_Willy

    I'll probably be the 12th person to point this out but they are one and the same.. Guardian - weekdays, Observer - Sunday.
    And the poll was done for the Observer not by them.

    Willy, you are not known for your accuracy, are you?

  • Comment number 87.

    Just to add that in 1997, one poll gave Labour a similar 5% lead. Didn't reflect reality in the end!

  • Comment number 88.

    According to the psephologist friend, were there (hypothetically) to be an all women house of commons, you would have a zero hung parliament. If you had a 100% male house of commons you'd have a 100% 'hung parliament'.
    I hope that that clarifies the hypothesis

  • Comment number 89.

    For whom the bell polls?

    Maybe not Labour if the economy begins to show signs of recovery over the next few months and those crucial swing voters respond accordingly.

    This blogger hopes the outcome of the General Election will be a hung Parliament because then these wretched politicians would then be forced to find a consensus on the pressing issues of the day.

    Recently, a ten-year old girl was watching PM's Questions from the gallery and after a short time exclaimed to her teacher that what she was witnessing was just like her school playground.

    These (mostly male) politicians seriously need to grow up and debate issues in a civilised adult manner.

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    The expenses scandal has, in several ways, been good news for Gordon Brown.
    In showing clearly that MP's from all parties are venal, grubby, swill-trough wallopers, it has deflected attention from the catastrophic mismanagement of the country carried out by Labour alone.
    The electorate do hate this government but they do want not just economic but moral, clear blue water, in the next government.
    Bringing back foxhunting and handing the BBC over, (Murdoch), to the next, (Murdoch), highest, (Murdoch), bidder, won't win them many votes either.

  • Comment number 92.

    The UK cannot afford to follow more NuLab policies.

    Common sense will prevail, or has all of the collective intelligence left the country?

  • Comment number 93.

    #33, Richard Shaw:

    As for your first point, I don't think this is important here. Yes, jrperry's maths made the assumption of large numbers, but the poll included 1006 respondents, which is quite large enough that a gaussian distribution becomes a reasonable assumption.

    As for the assumption about independent samples, you're right that the labour and conservative votes are negatively correlated, but presenting a 1-sigma error isn't quite comparing like with like: the 3% error figures quoted originally are 95% confidence intervals. The 95% confidence interval, assuming your 1-sigma errors are correct (and my calculations agree with yours!), would therefore be about 5%.

    So if I'm right about that, then the true margin of error (ie 95% confidence interval is half way between Nick and jrperry's figures).

    In other words, we can be 95% certain that the true difference between Labour and Conservative, among people who are similar to those included in the latest poll (and that last bit is the really big assumption), is between 1 and 11%.

  • Comment number 94.

    I have had the luxury of being polled for my vote twice in the last year, by different pollsters. Much of it depends on the questions you are asked and how they are phrased. Without exception, I always swear undying loyalty to the Labour party, and with just cause.

    I tell the pollsters I will vote Labour because I want to skew the numbers. I want Labour to think they have a chance. I want them to think that what they are doing is right. I want them to have the confidence of Kinnock when they finally go to the Country.

    When the day comes that Labour get the balls to call an election, me and everyone I know will go out in droves and cast our vote for the Tories. They are our last and only hope. Labour will be destroyed and will be in the wilderness, lost, sunk without trace and this once great nation might have the opportunity at last to recover from these 12 years of mismanagement.

    An election? Bring in on!

  • Comment number 95.

    "jrperry wrote:
    Richard Shaw 33

    Further to my "fair comment", I notice that on the front page of ukpollingreport

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/

    there is a list of the last 25 polls. I calculate a mean of 13.5% for the Tory lead with a standard deviation of 2.9%. Acknowledging that there may be an underlying trend in the data (it represents about 6 weeks of polls), nonetheless I recognise that your estimate of the sd more closely matches the available data than mine."

    The interesting thing is that they also have two polls listed for the 15th November:

    15 Nov 37 31 17 Con +6
    15 Nov 42 29 19 Con +13

    However, nothing seems to be said about the other poll which is much more consistant with the average polling.

    Until we see more polls with a smaller gap I would imagine that the margin of error in this case has resulted in the Tory lead being cut and that the most likely gap is 9 or 10.

  • Comment number 96.

    The only poll that seems to get closest to the actuality is Yougov.

    Ref 37 - yup, Laura K really did get over excited and was quite scathing towards Mr Cameron. Bad form to show your colours like that!

    It is not the green sheets of recovery which should be our concern, but how we are going to pay for the cost of it all. The figures are staggering and beyond comprehension.

    Nick says that we should regulate the banks or whatever and perhaps a tax rise or two relating to propery value as tho this equates cash wealth; Dave says that it is all going to be very painful, really really painful but does not say how or for how long; Gordon says he is still saving the World and will continue to invest - by which he means tax and spend, although he denies this is so.

    So take your choice folks, all I know is the thought of another 5 years of any of this lot is mind numbing.

  • Comment number 97.

    How about just telling the pollsters that you will vote Labour even if you have no intention of doing so? This will make Gordon think it is in the bag and go to the country sooner rather than later. Then we can all vote to get rid of him and his cronies and we can start again.

  • Comment number 98.

    Might I suggest that, if anyone out there is interested in the latest hardening of NewLab's poll, they visit:

    http://www2.politicalbetting.com/

    A website which, to my mind, offers an unbiased view of polls and the like.

    And Smithson is asked to speak on Radio 4 regularly, so he must be ok ...

  • Comment number 99.

    "grandantidote wrote:
    57 AndyC555

    #The hypocrisy is that when the Tory plans on IHT were revealed, Labour said it was wrong to increase allowances. They then in effect did the same thing.

    Except that I clearly recall that labour had quite openly declared that they were in the process of reviewing IHT when the Conservatives came out with their ridiculous extravagent policy to try to trump Labour but it backfired because of its absurdity."

    You maybe right about Labour announcing that they planned to look into IHT before the Tories made their announcement (I can't remember if they did or not). However, the way it appeared was that the Tories made an announcement and got a boast in the polls and Labour then made their announcement.

    And I am not sure how the Tories announcement backfired, by all accounts it was a very popular announcement and would result in only millionaires paying IHT (rather than what the Labour-leaning posters try to make people believe - that it only benefits millionaires)

  • Comment number 100.

    #42 badgercourage

    Thanks for actually discussing the point of today's blog.... a hung parliament.

    I agree with you, a hung parliament would be the best outcome for the same reasons - most democratic, and yep, what have the last fifty years of Labour and Conservative swapping power given us?

    People want change but don't know how to go about getting it, a hung parliament might offer something more than the current status quo.

 

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