Tag Archives: opinion-polls

Deconstructing the Lib Dem EU poll and other things to annoy the front bench

The Lib Dems have unveiled the results of a recently commissioned MORI Poll today with great flourish, insisting it confirms that their position for an in-out referendum is supported by twice as many people as a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

That’s fair enough, but there are two caveats. First of all, the questions are incredibly leading, being (in order):

  • Do you think there should be a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, or not?
  • As you may know, the Lisbon Treaty, currently going through Parliament, makes changes to the way the European Union is run. If there were to be a referendum on Britain’s relationship with Europe, would you prefer it to be a referendum ONLY on the Lisbon Treaty, or a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union altogether?

On a subconscious level this translates as:

  • A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU – what a good idea, eh?
  • A referendum on just the Lisbon Treaty? Poor show. A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU – what a good idea, eh?

Secondly, what it suggests more than anything else is that the electorate hasn’t really been thinking very hard about this issue. 19% answered Don’t Know in Q1; 26% answered Don’t Know in Q2. 56% of people said they wanted an in/out referendum in Q1. 46% of people said they wanted either an in/out referendum or both an in/out and a Lisbon Treaty referendum in Q2. What happened to the other 10%? What this poll, more than anything else, tells us about the electorate is that it is all over the place on this issue. That shouldn’t be much comfort to anyone in this debate; no one is making an impact.

In fact the best thing I can say about this poll is that at least it is less desperate and contrived than IWAR’s silly “referendum” claiming that 88% of the public want one on Lisbon.

Back to the fall out over last week’s Ed Davey interview, I have to say I find it amusing to be accused of both “following the party line” and “going easy” on Davey and “tearing Ed Davey into pieces” at the same time. I happen to think neither is accurate: the first half of the interview was glowing with praise, the second half was critical but hardly ad hominem, but there you go. I do reject one criticism I’ve received which is that I shouldn’t have written it as it will be useful for William Hague to quote from in interventions this week. That ain’t my problem and the day it becomes my problem is the day I have to stop this blog.

In terms of the debate over the European Parliament’s role in appointing the President of the Commission, one other factor has come to my attention. A group of Europhiles have set up a new website calling for just one President of the EU. They are arguing that under Lisbon it would be both legal and desirable to combine the Council and Commission Presidents into one.

Personally I’m not convinced. The answer to the quoted question posed by Henry Kissinger “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” is surely Javier Solana. Combining two of the most senior posts in the EU into one without another treaty sounds dodgy as hell (“In general the provisions do not directly restrict the unification of the two posts. Only the new article 245 does not allow the Commission President to engage in any ‘other occupation’. But chairing a meeting of the European Council is not an occupation. We are confident that the legal services of the institutions and member states will be able to interpret this in the way they intend (as they so often do in other matters of political Kompetenzstreit).” – Davey’s description of a “bizarre interpretation” would seem rather more apt here IMHO!). And how would you hold the post to account? Could the office holder be sacked from one post while holding onto the other? What if the Council sacked him/her as their President but Parliament wanted him/her to stay at the Commission? I seem to spend my life calling for separation of powers; why would anyone want combination of powers? (another quote: “in the UK most ministers (=executive) are also members of parliament (=legislative). In Britain judges (=judiciary) can be members of parliament” – yeah and isn’t that a peachy system?)

But what this website does show is that far from giving the Parliament a more central role in electing the Commission President being a controversial “interpretation” of the Lisbon Treaty, many pro-Europeans have already moved on and are arguing to go much further. It is pointless to pretend otherwise and to insist that talking about it will only help the eurosceptics’ cause.

According to the website’s facebook group, that includes Jeremy Hargreaves, the Vice Chair of the Lib Dems’ Federal Policy Committee. Zany euro-fanatic though I may be, it is comforting to discover that there are zanier fanatics than me out there holding much more senior positions within the party!

The verdict on Huhne and Clegg’s fuzzy polls

Oh dear, it’s all starting to get very silly indeed.

First of all, there is this “independent” poll put out by Team Huhne, which indicates a huge surge for Huhne in the last few days. I emailed them to ask the identity of these pollsters, only to be asked to ring Anna Werrin (Huhne’s campaign manager). If you can’t tell me who they are by email, I can’t blog it. It all sounds a bit whiffy to me.

Then there is Team Clegg, assuring us that they’ve canvassed 11,000 and that the 8,000 who have expressed a preference have come out 60-40 for Clegg. Hmmm… that’s a lot of “antis”, most of whom you can probably put down as Huhne supporters. Put that raw data through anything resembling the Richmond formula (they aren’t telling to what extent this canvass data is breaking down into “hard” and “soft” support, unsurprisingly) and I think you’ll find it ends up much closer. Come on lads, we’ve all done canvassing 101 haven’t we?

Speaking personally, my instincts tell me that Clegg will win, but that it will be close. Anecdotally, Huhne seems to be going down much better with older members and there are a lot of those. The YouGov poll is particularly dubious because although Peter Kellner has been keen to point out that it has been weighted according to age, it doesn’t appear to take into account the likelihood that those who aren’t following this election online (i.e. people who don’t vote in YouGov polls) are likely to be experiencing a very different election compared with those of us – of whatever age – who are.

On the other hand, there is the donkey vote factor, the same factor that saw MEPs getting reselected with 70-90% of the vote last month. Faced with that big long list of the great and good that Clegg has behind him, I find it hard to believe a lot of armchair members won’t unthinkingly vote for him regardless of anything else. The only reason I don’t think that will be as big a factor as it could be is that Team Clegg appear to consider pushing out paper to be beneath them, while Team Huhne have been putting much more out.

So I think Huhne will improve on his 42% last time, but not quite well enough. Either way, the victor had better recognise that they have a lot to prove to pretty much half of the party. It won’t be much of a mandate, so don’t expect an easy ride folks!

Clegg and Huhne on Today: the verdict

I’ve just been listening to Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne’s head-to-head on the Today Programme. For a Cleggite, it made for pretty uncomfortable listening.

While I think Clegg was significantly better than Huhne at the hustings last week, the broadcast media is the real battleground in the struggle to win the hearts and minds of the public. And once again, Clegg came off as dramatically weaker than Huhne.

The difference was obvious. Huhne trotted off a series of clear and concise soundbites while Clegg waffled. It isn’t as if this problem hasn’t been remarked upon before; why hasn’t Clegg sorted it out?

And the problem goes a little deeper. Huhne has spent the last week at the centre of the party funding scandal for doing little more than opportunistically reporting the whole Abrahamsgate affair to the police. He even used those sharp elbows of his to get in on the BBC’s report on Vince Cable’s desire to appear on Strictly Come Dancing. Clegg meanwhile has only popped up to declare that he is expecting to win – a process story.

My entirely anecdotal evidence suggests that most over-40s I know seem to be coming out for Huhne. Given the over-representation of young people contributing to it, I am doubtful that YouGov’s poll over the weekend should have given Clegg quite as strong a position as it should have. Either way, he isn’t giving any late voters any strong reasons to vote for him.

Assuming he does get elected however, I do hope he will spend the Christmas break working out where he went wrong over the campaign and getting some serious media training.

Has Gordon Brown dropped a big hairy one?

I think the answer to that one must be a Big Yes:

An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper indicates the gap has narrowed to just one per cent compared to seven per cent a month ago.

It follows two other surveys which suggest Labour’s lead has dropped to four and three percentage points.

The word hubris springs to mind. What I don’t understand is why people put so much faith into opinion polls. Before Brown took over, all the signs were that he wasn’t going to do Labour any good at all. Labour got all excited and read way too much into the subsequent rallying in their poll figures and started plotting an election campaign. Now, with that gap narrowed, going into a General Election looks like lunacy. But having hyped it up to an unbearable degree for the best part of a month, can they afford not to go?

On balance, and I’m willing to be proven wrong here, I still think they will err on the side of caution. Although walking away from a snap election will make Labour look very silly indeed, there are simply too many known unknowns out there for them to want to risk it. The IGC could get out of control, at least a million people will be disenfranchised (and that’s assuming everything else runs smoothly), the Tories are rallying, in any case Tory supporters are more likely to turn out at a time of year where the weather is likely to be poor and the sun will be setting before most people get home from work and the “big mo” argument is now out of the window.

What all this does hail however is the end of Brown’s honeymoon period. It won’t be so easy for him from now on and the media do not forgive vanity (for that is what going for an early poll was) lightly. The irony is, if Labour had played down speculation about an early poll, the Brown Bounce could possibly have continued long into the winter.

So if he doesn’t now go for an early election, he’ll come out of it looking damaged. If he does go for an early election, he’ll come out at least as damaged and possible worse.

Can we return to normal politics again? First item on the agenda: fixed term parliaments.

Cameron less popular than Campbell (UPDATE)

To paraphrase old Rudyard, we should treat our triumphs with the same contempt that we reserve for our disasters, but it is nonetheless glorious to see Cameron slipping in the opinion polls behind Ming Campbell (credit: Paul Walter. More here). What’s more, this can’t be called a conference bounce since most of the polling was done before conference started.

Ming makes the perfectly valid point that if you compare Ashdown and Kennedy’s standings at the same point during their leaderships, they had pretty much the same ratings that he has now, and Newsnight’s decision on Tuesday to misrepresent Ming by comparing his current ratings to Kennedy’s in 2004 was an utter disgrace. It’s clear that we still have a long way to go, but Cameron and the Tories seem to be stuck in self-destruct mode.

The most striking thing about this poll is how relatively unpopular Cameron is amongst his party faithful compared to Campbell. Having a net rating of only +25 among your own supporters is cause for alarm.

My challenge to all you Tories out there reading this is, given how much you’ve crowed in the past about Campbell failing to make an impact, what possible justification do you have now to support your own leader? Isn’t it time you called for him to resign? I await your comments with enthusiasm!

UPDATE: I’m still waiting for a single Tory to explain why Cameron should continue given his unpopularity.

Media Caveat Emptor: you don’t know Jack

Having been away, I’m slowly catching up on some of the stories that emerged while I was away. One thing that appears to have briefly gripped the Lib Dem Blogosphere is the lamentably monikered “Jackgate” focussing on Linda Jack‘s decision to diss Ming on the World At One. I thought I’d make a couple of points (with apologies to anyone I missed who has already made them).

Firstly, those opinion poll drop claims. To start with, my calculation – using the UK polling report – is that the fall since April is from 20% (19.5% to be precise) to 17% (not 21-17 as reported). If I make a claim like that, I show my working; why doesn’t the BBC have to do the same? On a related note, we have also recorded a 1% increase since June, which is quite surprising considering the Brown bounce. Either way, it is well known that the party does better in polls at election time than it does in peacetime, simply because of the increased media coverage we get. The BBC, regulated by the Representation of the People Act, know this. It is fairly cheap stuff to brandish this statistic around as “research” when all they’ve done is compared current poll ratings with a set of polls they knew in advance was better. It is clear that if our poll rating performance since April had been consistent or even improved (as it has been since June, remember), they would simply picked a different date – going back to April 2005 if necessary.

Secondly, there is Linda Jack herself. The BBC’s handling of the story suggests that Linda has become disaffected with Ming Campbell. In fact, the precise opposite is true. Compare these two statements:

“I think Ming was a brilliant shadow foreign secretary, but in terms of his leadership style he hasn’t captured the imagination of the party or the country. Unfortunately it’s the case where he has perhaps been over-promoted. Someone can be a brilliant man, and have incredible intellectual powers, and all the rest of it – but if that doesn’t translate in to leadership skills then, whoever your leader is, you’ve got a problem with them.”

April 21 2006

My disappointment at my chosen candidate [Simon Hughes] losing has been replaced by total despair at the incumbent. We all knew Ming would be a caretaker………….but I for one didn’t think that would mean hiding himself in the cleaning cupboard never to be heard of again!

Sorry, a bit harsh maybe, but really………..I am the only one who longs for the dulcet tones of Charles in the cut and thrust of the Today programme, who dreams about the days when his confidence and humour ensured our policies were kept in the public eye? Now don’t get me wrong, I certainly believed we would need a new leader for the next general election, but not yet and certainly not in the manner we got one. Remember all that talk about coronation? For those of us who believe we are members not subjects we ended up with the same result. Whilst Ming was never my first choice, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt – I liked what he said about social justice and tackling poverty – I have always thought he was head and shoulders above anyone else on most aspects of foreign affairs – but now he seems to have retreated into a shadow of his former self.

27 February 2006

Maybe we should have a leadership election every year……..perhaps if we get Huhne or Campbell we will

The point is, Linda has never been convinced of Campbell’s suitability to the post. That’s her prerogative, but to present her as someone who is disappointed with Campbell’s “recent” performance is just plain wrong. Using a quote as the basis of a story without pointing out that 18 months ago she was predicting that Campbell would be out within 12 months, is misleading to say the least. It may – just – count as news, but it is hardly in “man-bites-dog” territory.

So much for BBC news values. Meanwhile, Linda, Lawrence Boyce et al have to decide how much damage they are prepared to wreak on the party in their mission to oust Ming. Will they declare their operation a success even if the patient dies?

Tory MPs split down the middle

Iain Dale declared yesterday that “we are all progressive Conservatives now.” Er, no you ain’t:

On every statement apart from one, 83 per cent or more of Labour MPs agree (the exception being whether Britain is a united country, where there is a 59 to 41 per cent split).

By contrast, on several key questions Tory MPs are deeply divided. For instance, against the view of Mr Cameron, just 46 per cent of Tory MPs agree that gay couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples, with 54 per cent disagreeing. For comparison, 83 per cent of Labour MPs and 92 per cent of Lib Dems agree.

Similarly, there is a 52 to 48 per cent split among Tories on whether “the diverse mix of races, cultures and religions now found in our society has improved Britain”. By contrast, 92 per cent of Labour MPs agree, as do all Lib Dems surveyed. And while Labour MPs are virtually unanimous (94 per cent) in agreeing that “one of the things that would most improve life in Britain today is people being more tolerant of different ethnic groups and cultures”, that is the view of only 67 per cent of Tory MPs.

Once again, I have to ask: who is leading the Conservative Party? Certainly not David Cameron.

Salmond proposes an independence loop-de-loop

You may have noticed I gave myself a miliband or two of wriggle room when I said that my Friday post on Scotland was ‘possibly’ my last one.

Euan Ferguson’s hagiographic, and appallingly badly written, article about Alex Salmond in the Observer today got me hopping:

The border, slow epoxy, is setting. Every indication, every poll, not least that revealed in today’s Observer, is that the SNP has a convincing, unassailable lead, and that on Friday Salmond will form a coalition with Nicol Stephen’s Lib Dems, and become First Minister: and, in 2010, in keeping with his manifesto, will take the country into a referendum vote for independence.

Really? Nicol Stephen is currently ruling out a coalition unless the SNP block their plans for an independence referendum. And the latest, largest, poll, puts an SNP-Lib Dem coalition at having a majority of 1. Hardly a strong administration then – that suggests that for the Lib Dems to agree to it, their price would have to be rather high indeed.

But the biggest nonsense today has to be Salmond’s claim that independence was “not a one-way street“. The Scots can suck it and see – if they don’t like it, then they can run back to Mama England’s ever-loving arms.

At what point are the English going to be given a way on all this I wonder? Pretty much everything the SNP have been asserting assumes the good will of the English – a good will which is likely to be in rather short supply during the divorce proceedings. Why, for example, should we accept this “Union of Crowns” idea? If a referendum were held, would the English go along with it?

But the fact that Salmond is now saying this suggests that he now recognises that the independence issue is growing increasingly toxic for the SNP. He’s trying to shut down the debate – he has to still pay lip service to independence, but with so many platitudes as to render it almost meaningless.

Polls, the SNP and the Tories

Two interesting polls today. Times/Populus suggests that the SNP is well ahead in Scotland, but that support for independence has plummeted.

I don’t doubt either trend, but combined they do suggest that the Scots still aren’t actively engaging with the election to the extent that this accurately predicts how they are likely to vote. I suspect that increasing anxiety and confusion about independence can only drag the SNP share down. The incredibly low ‘other’ score also suggests that the small parties will get a boost once the RPA forces the media to start reminding people they actually exist. I suspect this too will drag down the SNP vote as people start to realise they can vote against Labour AND not support the SNP.

The Independent/CommunicateResearch poll meanwhile shows a significant dip in Tory support following the budget. Once again, you can’t take this as any great prediction. What it does suggest however is that the vote is incredibly soft, and volatile, at the moment. These massive boosts the Tories have been enjoying in recent polls say a lot more about the power vacuum at the top of the Labour party than anything that Cameron is doing.

Both polls are bad news for the Tories. The former suggests they are likely to end up in fourth place in Holyrood, while the latter suggests that once Labour sorts itself out, and the Tory policy reports start being published, the Tory vote can only fall. Not only can Labour not afford a snap General Election, but the longer they can put it off, the longer the wheels will start to come off the Tory bandwagon.