Caught in the backwash. The SNP subsides and the Conservatives surge

April 29th, 2017

Alastair Meeks who accurately predicted the SNP tsunami of 2015 looks at the best Scottish seat bets

In 2010, not a single seat in Scotland changed hands.  Electoral politics north of the border has got a bit more dynamic since then.  2017 will not be as wild as 2015 but the polls suggest a fair amount of movement.

The SNP already have 56 out of the 59 seats that they compete in, so their room for progress is limited. Indeed, the SNP have a job on their hands keeping what they’ve got.  Recent polls suggest that they have fallen back to the lower 40s while the Conservatives are polling something around 28% or so.  Scottish Conservative backers, never a reticent bunch, are getting excited again, this time with some reason.  Not much less than in England, there appears to be a wave election going on – not so much as in 2015 in Scotland, but still substantial.  The polls this month are suggesting a 10 to 12% swing from the Conservatives to the SNP.  Such waves are never distributed evenly and some seats will swing much more heavily than others.  How to pick them?

We have a recent example and I intend to follow it.  In 2015, the SNP didn’t so much have a wave election as a tsunami.  There is a strong correlation between SNP performance in 2015 and its absolute vote share in 2010, at least at the bottom end.  The seats with the ten lowest SNP vote shares in 2010 included all three of the seats that the SNP did not take in 2015 and four of the five most marginal SNP seats for this election.  It seems that we should look to prior vote share rather than swing required.

Using that measure, odds against bets on the Conservatives in Perth & North Perthshire, Moray and perhaps even Angus and Banff & Buchan seem worth considering.  Sure, they’re all already two way marginals but if swing is going to happen somewhere it’s going to happen in areas where the Conservatives are already strong and which are decisively anti-independence. 

If you disagree with me then you need to identify where the apparent Conservative rise is coming from (or conclude that it isn’t happening in reality, which is hard to reconcile with the recent polls).  I may be stereotyping wildly but I can’t picture Glasgow proving fertile territory for them.   If the Conservatives aren’t gaining much traction there, then they must be doing disproportionately well in other areas.

The Conservatives will in all probability hoover up in the Borders and they may take some other outside prospects but the odds now seem too short to me.  One possible exception is East Renfrewshire.  While they start with a relatively low vote share of 22% in 2015, they had tallied 30% in successive elections suggesting that Jim Murphy had got a lot of Conservatives to vote tactically for him.  He’s not standing this time and I expect the Conservatives to return home, bringing some friends with them.  In a very unionist seat, even 8/11 might be fair value.  I’m still not backing them, mind.

The Lib Dems haven’t shown progress in the polls, but hope springs eternal among the Scottish sandalistas.  Just by standing still, they potentially benefit from a swing towards them from the SNP as the SNP high tide subsides a little, while the 2015 election at least clarified which seats the Lib Dems are in best contention for representing the tactical unionist option.  Uniform national swing suggests they might take Dunbartonshire East and Edinburgh West, and you hear persistent murmurs about Fife North East based on their Holyrood performance last year.

While the Lib Dems obviously have good chances in all of these constituencies if they can harvest tactical unionist votes, their prices at present look too short in all of them.  The position is still clearer in Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, where the Lib Dems are 4/6 favourites despite an 11% deficit behind the SNP, few Labour or Conservative voters to squeeze and with their former incumbent unable to stand.  I’m on the 11/10 with the SNP here and feel these odds should be at least the other way around.

All three of the holdouts against the SNP are marginals, but only one looks in serious jeopardy.  In the feverish aftermath of the 2015 election, SNP supporters sought to oust Alistair Carmichael judicially and despite failing to do so, hopes remained high for a while that the SNP could take his seat at the next election.  The moment, however, seems to have passed and while the SNP will try hard to take both Orkney & Shetland and David Mundell’s constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, both seem unlikely to fall, with the unionist majority in each seat now knowing clearly who to back.

The remaining seat, Edinburgh South, also has a clear unionist majority.  However, it also has a Labour MP and Labour have continued their freefall in the polls in Scotland since 2015.  The Conservatives will fancy their chances of taking the seat from third as the replacement unionist party and the SNP could yet slip through the middle.  Betfair Sportsbook prices all three almost identically, with Labour and the Conservatives at 13/8 and the SNP at 8/5.  Given the low prior Conservative vote share in 2015, they seem unlikely winners to me.  If pushed, I’d back Labour.  But I’m staying out of this one.

Alastair Meeks


Why the Tory lead might be even larger than the polling implies

April 28th, 2017


The Labour and Lib Dem vote is substantially softer than the Tory vote

In this month’s Ipsos MORI poll it found that the Labour and Lib Dem vote is softer than the Tory party vote, this came as a surprise to me. 

One of the reasons I’ve had doubts that the Tory lead is quite as huge as the polling implies is that some of the switchers to the Tories might bottle it on voting day, but look at that chart above, 78% of Tory voters have definitely decided to vote Tory, compared to just 56% of Labour voters and just 40% of Lib Dem voters.

So this makes me think if you’re betting on the spreads, or evaluating your position(s) Labour and the Lib Dems should be sells, and if you bought the Tories at say 378 and  they are currently 392 on Spreadex, you might want to cash out, but as ever, do your own risk, with spread betting the losses can be very large.

The question is can Labour and the Lib Dems find an electoral Viagra that will harden their support or will the Tory vote flop for some of the reasons I listed last week?



Who’d be best for Britian – Macron or Le Pen. YouGov finds LEAVE voters want the fascist

April 28th, 2017

The second round polls since Sunday


The betting’s barely moving


New YouGov Scottish poll suggests the Tories could make 7 gains in Scotland

April 28th, 2017

Graphic – The times

And the LD could triple their Scottish seats

The main General Election polling news overnight has been a YouGov/Times survey of Scotland which suggests that the Conservatives could start to win back some of the seats in Scotland that they held more than a quarter of a century ago.

The Lib Dems could also stage a small recovery tripling the Scottish total to three seats.

Labour, which at GE2010, won 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats, is still projected to be down at just one. It was that Scottish wipeout that was the dominant feature of the 2015 election and enabled the Tories to portray Ed Miliband as being in the pockets of the SNP.

We will get a better idea of opinion in Scotland next Friday when we have the results of the Scottish local elections which were last held in 2012.

Mike Smithson


A week tonight and we have 2017’s first big set of elections

April 27th, 2017

Harry Hayfield looks forward 7 days

So as there are no local by-elections this week, here’s the final part of my estimates for the local elections in Wales and Scotland.

As for the estimates for the English counties, I had a look at the by-elections in Wales since the referendum, tallied the changes on 2012 and noted if the council had voted to REMAIN or LEAVE and made the following observation. In REMAIN councils, the change was Lab -6%, Green -5%, Others -1%, Con unchanged, Ind unchanged, Lib Dem +1%, UKIP +2% and Plaid +8%. In LEAVE councils the change was Lab -16%, Con unchanged, Green unchanged, Others +1%, Plaid +2%, Ind +3% with the Lib Dems and UKIP both up 5%. A few days ago Prof Roger Scully of the Welsh Governance Centre at Cardiff University (him with his own Twitter parody account in the style of John Curtice) published a local election poll purely for Wales and I noted that the forecast results I was getting from that were pretty much in line with the forecast results I had been getting looking at the change by council’s view on the referendum, so therefore the figures published below are based on that poll (the details of which were tweeted by Britain Elects at the time)

Welsh Council Elections Forecast 2017
Blaenau Gwent: Lab 33, Ind 5, Con 2, Plaid 2 (Lab HOLD)
Bridgend: Lab 22, Con 15, Ind 11, Lib Dem 3, Plaid 3 (Lab LOSS to NOC)
Caerphilly: Plaid 39, Lab 29, Con 4, Ind 1 (Plaid GAIN from Lab)
Cardiff: Con 39, Lib Dem 16, Plaid 12, Lab 8 (Con GAIN from Lab)
Carmarthenshire: Plaid 52, Ind 13, Lab 7, Con 2 (Plaid GAIN from NOC)
Ceredigion: Plaid 23, Ind 11, Lib Dem 7, Lab 1 (Plaid GAIN from NOC)
Conwy: Con 30, Plaid 12, Lab 7, Ind 5, Lib Dem 5 (Con GAIN from NOC)
Denbighshire: Con 28, Plaid 10, Lab 6, Ind 3 (Con GAIN from NOC)
Flintshire: Lab 28, Ind 21, Con 12, Lib Dem 7, Plaid 1 (No Overall Control, unchanged)
Gwynedd: Plaid 54, Ind 11, Llais 4, Con 2, Lab 3, Lib Dem 1 (Plaid GAIN from NOC)
Merthyr Tydfil: Lab 24, Ind 5, Plaid 3, Con 1 (Lab HOLD)
Monmouthshire: Con 27, Lab 10, Ind 4, Lib Dem 2 (Con GAIN from NOC)
Neath and Port Talbot: Lab 41, Plaid 18, Con 3, Ind 2 (Lab HOLD)
Newport: Con 39, Lab 11 (Con GAIN from Lab)
Pembrokeshire: Ind 32, Con 13, Lab 9, Plaid 5, Lib Dem 1 (Ind HOLD)
Powys: Ind 33, Con 21, Lib Dem 12, Lab 6 (Ind LOSS to NOC)
Rhondda, Cynon, Taff: Lab 46, Plaid 20, Con 5, Ind 3, Lib Dem 1 (Lab HOLD)
Swansea: Con 35, Lab 24, Lib Dem 6, Plaid 2, Ind 3, Swansea Independents 2 (Lab LOSS to NOC)
Torfaen: Lab 13, Con 12, Ind 10, Plaid 8 (Lab LOSS to NOC)
Vale of Glamorgan: Con 32, Lab 8, Plaid 6, Ind 1 (Con GAIN from NOC)
Wrexham: Lab 17, Ind 15, Con 10, Lib Dem 6, Plaid 4 (No Overall Control, no change)
Ynys Môn: Plaid 12, Ind 11, Con 6, Lib Dem 1 (No Overall Control, no change)

Whilst I used the same method with Scotland (as all of the Scottish councils voted to REMAIN it was a much easier task) I could not make a forecast of the seat allocations thanks to the fact that Scotland uses the Single Transferable Vote to elect councillors, so this list of the councils shows the estimated vote share in that council area with the status based on which party is in the lead (as opposed to how many councillors may be elected). The change is based on Con +11%, Lab -6%, Lib Dem -1%, SNP +3%, Ind -5%, UKIP unchanged, Green unchanged and Others -3%

City of Aberdeen: SNP 34%, Lab 23%, Con 20%, Lib Dem 14%, Ind 6%, Green 2% (SNP HOLD)
Aberdeenshire: SNP 41%, Con 32%, Lib Dem 14%, Ind 10%, Green 2%, Lab 1% (SNP HOLD)
Angus: SNP 46%, Con 28%, Ind 19%, Lib Dem 5%, Lab 1% (SNP HOLD)
Argyll and Bute: SNP 32%, Ind 32%, Con 26%, Lib Dem 10% (SNP GAIN from Ind)
Clackmannanshire: SNP 48%, Lab 31%, Con 20% (SNP HOLD)
Dumfries and Galloway: Con 37%, Lab 23%, SNP 22%, Ind 13%, Lib Dem 3%, Lab 2%, UKIP 1% (Con GAIN from Lab)
City of Dundee: SNP 46%, Lab 24%, Con 22%, Lib Dem 8%, Green 1% (SNP HOLD)
East Ayrshire: SNP 41%, Lab 34%, Con 22%, Ind 3% (SNP GAIN from Lab)
East Dunbartonshire: SNP 29%, Con 27%, Lab 23%, Lib Dem 14%, Others 6%, Green 1%, Ind 1% (SNP GAIN from Lab)
East Lothian: Lab 36%, SNP 33%, Con 25%, Lib Dem 5%, Ind 1% ((Lab HOLD)
East Renfrewshire: Con 40%, Lab 25%, SNP 22%, Ind 10%, Lib Dem 5%, Green 1% (Con GAIN from Lab)
City of Edinburgh: Con 31%, SNP 29%, Lab 21%, Green 11%, Lib Dem 8% (Con GAIN from Lab)
Falkirk: SNP 42%, Lab 31%, Con 22%, Ind 5% (SNP HOLD)
Fife: SNP 34%, Lab 32%, Con 19%, Lib Dem 12%, Green 1%, Ind 1%, UKIP 1% (SNP GAIN from Lab)
City of Glasgow: Lab 40%, SNP 35%, Con 17%, Green 5%, Lib Dem 2%, Others 1% (Lab HOLD)
Highland: Ind 35%, SNP 29%, Con 16%, Lib Dem 12%, Lab 7%, Green 1% (Ind HOLD)
Inverclyde: Lab 38%, SNP 28%, Con 21%, Lib Dem 7%, Ind 6% (Lab HOLD)
Midlothian: SNP 41%, Lab 33%, Con 19%, Green 4%, Lib Dem 3% (SNP GAIN from Lab)
Moray: SNP 42%, Con 28%, Ind 23%, Lab 3%, Green 3%, UKIP 1% (SNP HOLD)
Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles): Ind 64%, SNP 26%, Con 11% (Ind HOLD)
North Ayrshire: SNP 39%, Lab 26%, Con 20%, Ind 14%, Lib Dem 1%, UKIP 1% (SNP HOLD)
North Lanarkshire: Lab 45%, SNP 37%, Con 16%, Ind 1% (Lab HOLD)
Orkney Islands: Ind 84%, Con 10%, SNP 5% (Ind HOLD)
Perth and Kinross: SNP 43%, Con 36%, Lib Dem 12%, Lab 6%, Ind 2%, Green 1% (SNP HOLD)
Renfrewshire: Lab 40%, SNP 37%, Con 19%, Lib Dem 3% (Lab HOLD)
The Scottish Borders: Con 35%, SNP 24%, Lab 18%, Ind 18%, Lib Dem 16%, Others 7% (Con HOLD)
Shetland Islands: Ind 85%, Con 10%, SNP 5% (Ind HOLD)
South Ayrshire: Con 42%, SNP 32%, Lab 19%, Ind 8% (Con HOLD)
South Lanarkshire: SNP 39%, Lab 36%, Con 21%, Lib Dem 2%, Green 1%, UKIP 1% (SNP GAIN from Lab)
Stirling: SNP 38%, Con 29%, Lab 22%, Green 6%, Lib Dem 4%, UKIP 1% (SNP HOLD)
West Dunbartonshire: Lab 41%, SNP 33%, Con 15%, Ind 8%, Others 3% (Lab HOLD)
West Lothian: SNP 44%, Lab 32%, Con 20%, Others 4% (SNP HOLD)

Am I right or am I completely wrong? Well, we shall know next week (including whether I have been successful in winning a seat on Ceredigion council) although looking at the forecast for the council this may be a rather opportune clip


With six weeks to go today’s Commons seats spreads

April 27th, 2017

CON 384-390
LAB 158-164
LD 25-28
UKIP 0.25-1.25
SNP 46-49

Sporting Index
CON 384-390
LAB 162-168
LD 26-29
UKIP 0.25-1.25
SNP 47-50

As regular PBers will know my favourite form of election betting is that featured above – the Commons seats spreads where you buy and sell seats like shares.

Two levels are quoted. The higher one is the buy price and the one is the sell one. This is a form of betting where the more you are right/wrong the more you will win/lose.

Alastair Meeks in his weekend piece set out his spread bets including a sell of LD seats.

Not all firms offer the same prices and it is noticeable above that if you want to bet on LAB than SpreadEx is the want to go for if and if you want to sell LAB seats then Sporting Index has the higher price.

This form of betting is high risk high reward and is only really for those ready to take such a gamble and feel able to do so. Thus if you sold labour at the current 162 sea level at, say, £10 a seat and they ended up with 140 then you would make 162 (the sell level) minus 140 (what happened) multiplied by your stake level.

The same works the other way round if you get it wrong.

At the moment I’m not betting. Next Thursday’s locals will give us some good pointers and we have to factor in what happens in the CON GE2015 expenses probe where the CPS will have to decide before polling day.

Mike Smithson


We have cross-over in YouGov’s BREXIT tracker: More now think it was wrong than right

April 27th, 2017

How important will Brexit be on June 8th?

The latest YouGov BREXIT tracker was published in the Times over-night and shows a move to people now saying that the referendum decision was wrong rather than right.

This is a regular polling question that has been asked by YouGov in exactly the same manner since Theresa May became prime minister.

Then, as the chart above shows, 4% more people thought Brexit was right than wrong. Now the “wrong” segment in leading by 2%. This is from the Times report:

“.. This is the first time that more people have said the referendum came out with the wrong result, and suggests that the issue still divides the country.

Some 85 per cent of people who voted to leave still thought it was the right decision, while 89 per cent of people who voted to remain thought the result was the wrong decision… “

Each change is within the statistical margin of error although there is a trend when you look at the longer term.

My view is that views of BREXIT is more important in constituencies that voted remain than those that went for leave. Thus LAB was able to hang on in the Stoke central by-election but in Richmond Park the Liberal Democrats were able to overturn Zac’s 23,000 General Election majority even though UKIP stood aside and gave him a free run.

Extraordinarily, relating to the latter, in another development overnight Mr Goldsmith has been selected as the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park. This raises all sorts of questions about his original decision to “quit” the Conservatives at the end of last year to fight the by-election because of Heathrow expansion.

But the general election on June 8th is more than just about BREXIT but choosing what people perceive to be a competent government and here I think that Theresa May and the Tories continue to have a very strong edge.

A lot of things can still happen in this election. Six weeks is an awful long time in politics.

Mike Smithson


PB/Polling Matters podcast: Is a Tory landslide inevitable? And Vive le pollsters!

April 26th, 2017


On this week’s podcast Keiran returns and is joined by Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia.

Keiran and Chris celebrate the excellent performance of French pollsters last weekend and discuss the implications of Macron and Le Pen making the second round. Is a Macron victory now inevitable? What happens next and would a British version of ‘En Marche’ be successful? Keiran and Chris also discuss the seeming inevitability of a Conservative landslide in June and what might happen to the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

To finish the show, Keiran unveils some new Polling Matters / Opinium polling that asks how engaged the public are in the campaign, what issues matter most to them and who is best placed to deal with them.

Listen here

Follow this week’s guests