Opinion polls

The real story of the polls is that there’s no new story – and so it doesn’t get reported

Poll trends are more useful than poll snapshots. I’ve said that many times on this blog, but it’s worth repeating. It’s particularly worth repeating this month, where individual polls have been making headlines almost every day.

I’ve never said poll snapshots aren’t important. They patently are, because they shape political narratives and create stories and sometimes even lead to policy changes. But they aren’t as useful as poll trends. And this month, with individual polls showing support jumping all over the place, they are less useful than ever.

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Regions

West Midlands: conurbation of many votes but few surprises

In the next stage of my tour of the electoral map, I’m going to look at the main metropolitan areas in England. I’m starting with the West Midlands – not the entire region, but rather the county.

It covers the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, along with Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.

This is an area with a huge population: almost three million, according to the Office for National Statistics. A total of 28 constituencies lie within its border, two-thirds of which are currently held by Labour.

West Midlands constituencies Continue Reading

Opinion polls

200 days to go

We’ve reached another symbolic marker in the countdown to the election. There are now just 200 days to go.

The very latest opinion poll, published overnight by YouGov, puts Labour on 35%, the Tories on 32%, Ukip on 16% and the Liberal Democrats on 7%.

Were this reflected come the general election on 7 May, on a uniform swing Labour would form a government with a majority of around 30 seats.

This is roughly what the polls have been suggesting for the past few months. With just 200 days to go, is it time to start treating these polls not merely as snapshots but more like forecasts?

I’ve taken a look back at the last five elections to find out.

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Election forecasts

The Lib Dem seats in full: how far down the list will the Tories and Labour go?

This month’s Liberal Democrat conference unspooled to an accompaniment of undisguised coalition bartering. Senior party members from Nick Clegg downwards were only too happy to advertise their readiness for a re-run of power-sharing post-2015, and arguably with the Tories rather than Labour.

But all this talk presupposes that the Lib Dems will win enough MPs at the election to actually make the party indispensable in the formation of government. They could be so reduced in size as to render themselves arithmetically irrelevant. Maybe the Tories or Labour will only just fall short of winning a majority and decide to run a minority administration. Perhaps the Lib Dems could even end up one of a number of groups in a coalition.

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Local elections

Latest by-election results: hit and miss for Ukip

The Rochester & Strood by-election is still over a month away, but this week’s council by-elections gave Ukip a chance to remind the Conservatives of how powerful a force they are becoming in that part of the country.

A contest for a council seat in the constituency immediately next door to Rochester saw Ukip make a gain from the Tories on a mighty 31.5% swing:

Sheppey by-election result Continue Reading

Marginal seats

Taunton Deane: the list of likely Lib Dem losses just grew one seat longer

Jeremy Browne’s decision not to stand for re-election as Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton Deane has probably turned his seat into a near-certain gain for the Tories.

His majority of 3,993 in 2010, together with his strong local and national profile, could have been enough to see off a Conservative challenge. I left Taunton Deane off the list of possible Tory gains in my latest prediction of the election result. Even though Lord Ashcroft’s most recent poll suggested Browne was trailing by four points, I thought the seat would prove to be just beyond the Tories’ chances.

Well, not anymore. Taunton Deane must now move back into the column of potential Conservative gains. As the 2010 result showed, there is only a tiny Labour vote left to be squeezed:

Taunton Deane 2010 result

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Election campaign

South Yorkshire: last gasp for elected police and crime commissioners?

The second largest by-election ever held in the UK takes place at the end of this month.

Voters in South Yorkshire go to the polls on 30 October to choose a new police and crime commissioner.

I really thought we’d seen the last of these kinds of contests. PCCs have never caught the public’s imagination; fewer than one in 10 voters took part in the PCC by-election in the West Midlands in August; and both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have now said they would scrap PCCs if they win the general election.

But then came the resignation of Shaun Wright following the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal, and hence the contest at the end of the month, nominations for which closed a week last Friday.

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