Monday, September 22, 2008

Tories are set to win Torbay, say YouGov.
Another big independent poll of Torbay voters puts it well within our reach.

There has been a very great deal of huffing and puffing from various quarters about the liklihood of Torbay falling to the Conservatives at the next election.

For two years now national polling data has pointed to a large slump in Lib Dem support from 22.65% of the vote in 2005 to an average of 17.65% (based on opinion polls from 25 Jul 08 to 21 Aug 08, sampling 5,768 people) meaning that over one in five of their last election voters have abandoned them whereas for the Conservatives the same average puts us on 45.18% against 33.24% last time, meaning for every three voters we had in 2005, four now intend to support us.

On the basis of that ' national swing' the next election here in Torbay would give us around 22.600 votes and the Lib Dems 15,200; a pretty drastic turnaround but one that was supported by the council election results last year; which we won with a 13% swing.

'Oh but that's not going to happen because Lib Dem MP's have a strong personal vote' say some opponents. Although, so far, there has been no actual evidence to support this most observers agree that there is a higher 'incumbency' factor in Lib Dem seats than others, but how much? And is it enough?

A recent report prepared by Lib Dems for the Lib Dem conference earlier this month concluded that Torbay was still at 'high risk' in spite of the tactical vote question and now there comes a much more comprehensive study by YouGov of specific target seats (including Torbay) where this very issue was dealt with head-on.

According to the authors of the report:

"Until now it has been impossible to make any truly informed projections about whether the Conservative swing really is weaker in the North, whether individual MPs will be saved by personal votes, whether the national changes in vote mask different changes in the Conservative vs Labour, Conservative vs Liberal Democrat or Labour vs Liberal Democrat battlegrounds or how tactical voting may be at play. Using an unprecendented sample of almost 35,000 people over 238 marginal constituencies, with fieldwork carried out by YouGov PLC, the PoliticsHome Electoral Index allows us for the first time to look at small groups of key marginals, to compare how people are reacting in the London commuter belt, or South Western LD/Con marginals,
seaside towns or the urban West Midlands. It also allows us to single out the specific demographics that will decide the election – people voting Conservative who might change their mind or people wavering between Labour and the Liberal Democrats in Lib Dem target seats.
It is, quite simply, the most detailed snapshot to date of British political public opinion in the marginal seats that will decide the election."

And they broke the result down into clusters of seats with similar political issues, Torbay was grouped with the other Lib dem held seats in the South West and specifically studied for evidence of 'extra' Lib Dem loyalty and resilient anti Conservative tactical voting.

The results speak for themselves:

The report authors concluded:

"Tactical voting and the personal vote for Liberal Democrat candidates has a drastic effect here. The standard voting intention question in these seats shows a 13.5 point swing from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives, a swing that would result in the Liberal Democrats losing not only all the seats polled, but being totally wiped out in their strongest area.

Only when asked specifically about how they will vote in their own constituencies are the tactical considerations and personal vote of MPs brought into play, suggesting that most Liberal Democrat MPs will owe their jobs to their personal popularity and hard work and the continuing desire of Labour voters to keep the Tories out."

The research was conducted during July this year, before the conferences (which distort polls for weeks either side of them) and before the recent furore over the Banking system.


Anonymous said...

Good plug for your blog in 'Parkers Pen' this week, Marcus.

I thought it was especially salient having Adrian Sanders quoted as saying 'don't take notice of comments on blogs' - Oh yeah?

What about the witches coven in Belgrave Road exposed as having mounted an 'on line' defence campaign for him?

I can't read a nice comment about him anywhere now without just imagining Ruth Pentney thinking 'what name can I use today...'

That lot are a joke. I don't know why the national party puts up with them - all they have ever done is bring the Lib Dems into disrepute; from rowing about allowances to lying about their part in the mayoral campaign.

Barrie Wood said...

In Marcus' glee to publish polling data favourable to the Tories he might like to consider the following from 'The Observer' [21/09/08] :

The Observer has lots of polling info about Labour being wiped out. Most of it's not very interesting (mid-term polls + assuming uniform swings = nonsense results) but one part that caught my eye is the section on how voters rate their local MP.

On this measure, Lib Dem MPs rate far above their Tory and Labour counterparts in being ordinary, approachable and independent. 37% of voters rate their local Lib Dem MP as ordinary compared to 14% for Labour and 11% for the Conservatives. On being approachable, the figures are 52% for Lib Dem MP, 28% Labour and 31% for Tory MPs. (It's not entirely clear, but these seem to be net figures as Labour MPs get -25% on being independent. If they are net, then +52% on being approachable is even more impressive).

So what accounts for people rating Lib Dem MPs so much higher on these measures?

Something that could account for it in part is the number of Labour MPs in Government (about a third of them) - more time in Whitehall is bound to mean less time in the constituency.

But I think the single biggest factor is that virtually no Lib Dems have safe seats. Many the Lib Dem MPs know that there's a real chance of losing their seats at the following election, and they also know that national trends are frequently bucked by popular local MPs. More Lib Dem MPs work hard in their constituencies because more Lib Dems have to. Adrian Sanders and his team are no different.

Consider also the 'incumbency factor' and a good service being delivered to constituents and the fact that the poll figures for governing parties nearly always rises (even when being beaten) as polling day draws near, then the GE isn't likely to be the shoo-in that some over-confident Tories would have us believe, either nationally or locally.

Commentators suggest anti-Labour sentiment is high at present, but pollsters also suggest that the Tories are benefiting from that, rather than any great love of your party. Like us Lib Dems, the public haven't a clue what you are FOR. Just this week ConservativeHome hints that the Green rhetoric is to be downplayed / largely dropped at your conference. So much for vote Blue get Green sloganising.

Cameron will eventually come under greater scrutiny and that's when things will get more interesting for sure !

Speaking of the incumbency factor, if you are to be believed you'll personally 'benefit' from the 'popularity' of Mayor Bye and the faction-ridden Tory group of councillors at the Town Hall !! Hmmm...

A lot can change between then and now. Polls at this stage are meaningless, but if you want to read more into them then that's your prerogative !

Marcus Wood said...

You seem so certain that a day will come and the 'mask' will slip and suddenly everyone will see David Cameron as the devil incarnate you think he is.

We tried that tack once. Against Tony Blair, we hoped and prayed that people would see him as the vacuous liar we thought he was. We wasted the best part of fifteen years and they never did vote him out.

What was interesting about this research Barry was that for the first time in a survey the questions were loaded to take account of the personal vote. So respondants were asked not just 'which way will you vote if there was a GE tomorrow' but also "thinking about your own constituency now; will you vote for (Conservative candidate) or (Lib Dem candidate)..." this was to evaluate the level of tactical voting and/or personal loyalty vote in lib Dem/Tory marginals and the results were striking; Lib Dems will indeed retain some seats that the uniform national swing predictors say that on current polling trends they should lose.

However this was nowhere near enough to preserve seats like Torbay (and we were one of the constituencies actually sampled) and the forecast is that this seat will fall to us convincingly.

I don't doubt what you say, a few weeks can make all the difference and things could change, indeed they have changed since July when this survey was done.

But just as they could get better for your party the opposite could happen and they could get much worse, indeed as an election gets nearer and nearer and the public become more and more disillusioned with Labour a new determination could creep in and even fewer people might be inclined to support your 'anyone but the Tory' party.

And as for the mayor? You can't see it, of course, nor would I expect you to, but I assure you that he is an asset to my campaign; people like him and think he is doing his best for the bay after years of 'on the make' small town local politicians have messed the place up.

I promise you the last thing we are doing is being complacent, the massive effort that has already gone into this seat will pale into insignificance by the end of next year and we will be fighting for every available vote with the largest number of Conservative volunteers this Bay has seen in many decades, possibly ever.

Anonymous said...

You say "we will be fighting for every available vote with the largest number of Conservative volunteers this Bay has seen in many decades, possibly ever" but if it's as much of a pushover as you say, why bother?

Barrie Wood said...

Actually Marcus I don't quite see Cameron in the way you imagine.

I'm not sure he can be caricatured as an out -and-out closet Thatcherite anymore than he can be labelled a 'liberal conservative'. I have respect for him in the way he has been able to 'decontaminate' a 'brand' that hitherto many hadn't considered for years. A job well done.

However, putting some flesh on the policy bones will reveal where both he and the Tories generally really stand. This is when he'll come under greater scrutiny. Already the green message is being toned down, you are probably under pressure on taxation following LD policy in this area, as agreed at our conference. There are people I respect on the Tory benches but the likes of Edward Leigh, Redwood, the Wintertons, Cash et al haven't gone away and lots of people like this wont sign up to a more moderate direction that Cameron might like to take you towards. The latter people I might see as being beyond the pale. Cameron I might disagree with, but I don't have the same feelings of visceral loathing that I have towards the unreconstructed socially authoritarian Thatcherites.

Despite the Ashcroft money being funnelled into trying to 'buy' marginals like Torbay and a party whose morale must be at it's highest for years, you can be sure of rigorous contest here ! Just relying on Labour unpopularity may not be enough for you, although it pretty much got Thatcher elected on a pretty thin manifesto at the time. I think Dave C is trying to replicate her strategy. Only time will tell.

Marcus Wood said...

Hi Barry

I am expecting a real fight here so please don't misunderstand me. Lib Dems have a well earned reputation for fiercely and effectively defending their seats and I never under estimate their ability to get the support that they do have out on the day.

Interesting to read the profile of leading Lib Dem Bridget Trethewey today in the paper, even way back in 1974 she got 21,000 votes so the notion put about by some older Tories that Torbay used to be 'the safest seat in the country' is rubbish, it's always been a tough fight.

On the subject of the Tombstonbe Group (sorry, the Cornerstone Group) of Tories you are right in that they are reluctant converts to Cameronism but the thing is they are in such a tiny minority; there are about a dozen serving MP's on the very far right and they will be further swamped by the new intake - all like me from the pragmatic 'small L' liberal end.

All political parties are a broad church coalition, the thing that counts is the balance.

I think our economic strategy is going to have to be very 'pragmatic' because from what I can see the economy is going to be little more than smouldering ruins by the time the next election comes.

I expect commitments to more transparent taxes and a switch away from earnings to consumption but outright tax cuts overall? I am not holding my breath.

Barrie Wood said...

Of course, the Lib Dem tax proposals are **redistributive**, from the very wealthy to those on middle and lower incomes. This is allied of course to a shift in taxing polluting behaviour rather than income.

Thus far, the only concrete shift on tax from the Tories is on Inheritance Tax to the benefit of the most well off.

The 'R' word is vital for a progressive party. In contrast Tory priorities seem to have changed little. You still come across as being for the few rather than the many !

Anyway, time to get off this blog for a bit and let others have a say. It might be time to resurrect my own again too.

Barrie Wood said...

Tax Rises under the Tories says Marcus :

This Conservative party will have the unenviable position of having to raise taxes going into a first term in power.

After four years of Tory government when asked if he thought tax would rise / fall / stay the same Marcus says : "I wouldn't be surprised if it was higher..."

Not quite 'on message' here Marcus eh ?