Saturday, 31 January 2009

Opinion Polls

In the last number of months, opinion polls have seen quite a lot of change, with Labour coming to within a point of the Conservatives towards the end of November, and the gap widening again significantly since New Year, with ComRes giving a 15 point Conservative lead on 23rd January. Meanwhile, the LibDems have been hovering around the 15/16% mark for the past number of months, with some polls showing them as high as 19%, and others as low as 12%.
The latest poll is from YouGov, published on the 29th and reported on the UK Polling Report website, gave the following figures:
  • Conservative - 43% (-2)
  • Labour - 32% (nc)
  • LibDem - 16% (+2)

This shows an 11 point lead for the Conservatives - healthy, but leaving little room for complacency, as it signifies a slight narrowing of the gap in the last week or so.

Of course opinion polls are not necessarily accurate, they have their margins of error and what not, and it would be foolish to make detailed and precise predictions from a single poll, or a small set of polls. However, polls can be very useful in taking the political temperature, and if we follow the polls over a reasonable period then patterns emerge and trends begin to appear. If we look at the polls since the beginning of November, we can see some erratic figures throughout November, culminating at the end of the month in an apparent change from Con +11 to Con +1 in just 2 days. During December the Conservative lead stayed around 5 or 6 points, but since the New Year has shot back into double figures.

Many commentators believe that the Conservative lead is likely to grow in the coming months - I have seen some estimates as high as 48% for the Conservatives and as low as 22% for Labour by July - although I think both these figures may be a little extreme. I will stick my head above the parapet and make some rough predictions for the coming months.

Firstly, I do think that the Conservative lead will grow - the economy is getting worse rather than better - and will continue to do so for the rest of the year, the Labour government is particularly unpopular, and more and more people are beginning to trust the Conservatives to do a good job. Furthermore, I believe Ken Clarke's return to the shadow cabinet will be beneficial to the Conservatives - whatever we think of him, he is a popular and reasonably solid figure, and his appointment was a shrewd political chessmove from Cameron in my opinion. I would expect to see the Conservatives polling around 45% consistently over the coming months, with Labour around 27%. I am sure there will be the odd poll puting the Conservatives higher (or lower) and Labour lower (or higher), but I would guess that by the summer a gap in the late teens will be commonplace.

In terms of this summer's elections I would predict the following:

EU Elections on June 4th:

  • Conservative - 32 (+4)
  • Labour - 17 (-2)
  • LibDem - 11 (nc)
  • UKIP - 5 (-5)
  • SNP - 2 (nc)
  • Plaid Cymru - 1 (nc)
  • Greens - 2 (nc)
  • BNP - 1 (+1)
  • Independent - 1 (-1)

It must be noted that the UK will have 72 MEPs after June rather than 78. (3 MEPs represent Northern Ireland, and are not included in my predictions, the UK will have 73 MEPs IF the Lisbon Treaty is in force by June). The reason I suspect UKIPs vote will drop so sharply is that there is a fair bit of infighting in the party, and Nigel Farage is nowhere near so popular as Roger Knapman was. The reason I believe the BNP will manage to nick a seat is that the Council Elections on the same day will bring out their support - I couldn't say which region the seat will come, although if I had to guess I would say Eastern.

Council Elections on 4th June:

I am not going to make numerical predictions in relation to this, but I will make some more general predictions concerning party fortunes.

Labour will suffer another town hall bloodbath, losing possibly up to half of their seats (remember these council areas have not voted since 2005), leading to intense pressure on Gordon Brown from within the Labour party.

The LibDems will make marginal gains, probably doing better in the council elections than they can hope to do in a General Election. They will be the second party overall in the contested areas.

The Conservatives will gain fairly substantially. The European Elections will bring out Conservative voters, and the aftermath of this election will probably see the height of Conservative power in local government for a generation.

The BNP will make substantial gains, mostly from Labour, and will bag first place in the odd council, possibly even gaining overall control in one or two strong points.

The Greens, who put in a disappointing performance in 2005, are unlikely to make any significant gains.

The number of independent councillors will probably drop ever so slightly.

It is perhaps a little early for such bold predictions, but I think this is the way things will go. As ever, please correct me if you think I am wrong.

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