Election forecasts

The decline of two-party politics: might it be reversed on polling day?

Over one third of the people who voted in the 2010 general election did not vote for either the Conservatives or Labour.

The two parties together managed a combined vote share of only 65.1%: the lowest figure at any general election since the war.

The decline of Britain’s two-party system is one of the most persuasive trends in modern political history. From a post-war peak of 96.8% in 1951, the proportion of the electorate casting their votes for either the Tories or Labour has fallen steadily, though not consistently:

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Local elections

Latest by-election results: a tonic for Ukip, a double for the Lib Dems

Ukip hasn’t being doing that well in local by-elections of late, so Thursday’s win in Doncaster will have brought the party some cheer.

They took a seat from Labour in the Edenthorpe, Kirk Sandall and Barnby Dun ward.

Their candidate, Paul Bissett, had previously represented both Labour and the Liberal Democrats on the council. Here’s the result:

Doncaster by-election result

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Marginal seats

Thurrock: Ukip will miss out – but so will Labour

A poll published this week by Lord Ashcroft suggested that, were the general election held tomorrow, Ukip would win the Tory-held constituency of Thurrock in Essex.

This caused a bit of a stir in political circles, not only at the prospect of Ukip gaining an MP, but also at Labour potentially failing to gain one of its very top targets.

Jackie Doyle-Price is the Conservative MP for Thurrock and she has a majority of only 92. That makes her the second most vulnerable Tory in the country, behind Dan Byles in Warwickshire North – although given that Byles has just announced he is standing down, technically Doyle-Price has inherited his dubious title.

This was the result at the 2010 general election:

Thurrock 2010 result Continue Reading

Election campaign

Why the ‘silly season’ might be anything but

With MPs away from the Commons until the start of September, we’ve a few weeks of pseudo-electioneering to look forward to. The photo opportunities have already begun: on Tuesday David Cameron became the first prime minister in 34 years to visit the Shetland Islands (I’m amazed it’s been so long) and the Commonwealth Games, though barely under way, have coaxed some senior figures up to Glasgow to be snapped stoically cheering on British hopefuls.

Aside from the gimmicks, however, this year’s silly season will be punctuated by more than a few significant events. I imagine all the main parties will want to keep some top figures on hand to comment on them – not least because this is the last summer before the election, and ripe time for some proto-campaigning. I doubt Ed Miliband will be disappearing for quite such a long period as last year, though as I’ve already noted, his absence did his party’s poll ratings not one bit of damage.

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Marginal seats

Tory-Labour marginals: a battleground that is still Labour’s to lose

Lord Ashcroft has published his latest survey of marginal seats, this time concentrating on Tory-Labour battlegrounds.

A lot of media attention has focused on the fact Ukip topped the poll in two seats: Thurrock and Thanet South. But taking a broader view, Ashcroft’s findings suggest this is a battleground that is still very much Labour’s to lose. In some seats Labour’s poll lead has gone up; in others it has gone down. But overall there is a swing away from the Tories that would be big enough to deliver Labour a small but manageable parliamentary majority.

Here are five thoughts on the poll results:

1. Ashcroft’s fieldwork suggests every one of the 10 Tory seats most vulnerable to Labour would change hands were the election held tomorrow. Labour would gain only nine of them, however. Lord Ashcroft’s poll in Thurrock put Ukip in first place on 36%, Labour second on 30% and the Tories third on 28%. Here’s a reminder of those top 10 seats:

Tory-Labour marginals Continue Reading

Marginal seats

Loughborough: the low-profile target turned high-profile battleground

The constituency of Loughborough had, up until 15 July 2014, been just another seat on Labour’s target list.

It had mildly symbolic value, thanks to the 3.5% swing needed for the Tories to lose being the same as the swing that, were it reproduced nationwide, would leave Ed Miliband’s party with roughly the number of seats David Cameron has now.

But that was the extent of Loughborough’s significance. Its sitting MP had a majority that ranked the constituency the 50th most vulnerable Tory seat in the country. Loughborough felt like the sort of place Labour would aspire to regain (having lost it in 2010) but would probably fall short, thanks to a poorly-resourced campaign and lack of sufficient interest.

But then everything changed.

Last Tuesday Loughborough’s MP Nicky Morgan found herself being rocketed up through the ranks to be appointed the government’s education secretary. In a stroke she became the Conservatives’ most high-profile politician in a marginal seat. And in doing so she also became Labour’s number one potential prize scalp.

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Local elections

Latest by-election results: Ukip lose two seats, the Tories lose a council

Nine by-election contests to report this week, and some intriguing results.

Ukip were defending two seats – and lost both of them.

One was on Cornwall council.

Last week the Lib Dems made a gain here, and they came desperately close to another this Thursday, finishing in second place in the wonderfully-named ward of Mabe, Perranarworthal and St Gluvius, just one vote behind the Tories. Ukip, who won the seat at the local elections in 2013, fell from first to third:

Cornwall by-election Continue Reading