Category Archives: General elections

Seats projections from GB and Scottish polls combined

by Stephen Fisher.

We’ve had eight Britain wide opinion polls since the election was called. Roughly in order, with the most recent first (and with thanks to Anthony Wells at for the figures and changes since the previous poll) they are:

ICM/ITV, CON 48%(+2), LAB 26%(+1), LDEM 10%(-1), UKIP 8%(nc), GRN 3%(-1)

Norstat/S Express, CON 42%, LAB 26%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 8%, GRN 6%

ComRes/S Mirror, CON 50%(+4), LAB 25%(nc), LDEM 11%(nc), UKIP 7%(-2), GRN 3%(-1)

YouGov/S Times, CON 48%(nc), LAB 25%(+1), LDEM 12%(nc), UKIP 5%(-2)

Survation/Mail on S, CON 40%, LAB 29%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11%

Opinium/Observer, CON 45%(+7), LAB 26%(-3), LDEM 11%(+4), UKIP 9%(-5)

YouGov/Times, CON 48%(+4), LAB 24%(+1), LDEM 12%(nc), UKIP 7%(-3).

ICM/Guardian, CON 46%, LAB 25%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 8%, GRN 4%

The average of the most recent polls per pollster (the top six above) is

Con 45.5, Lab 26.2, LD 10.8, UKIP 8.0.

The GB share of the vote in 2015 was:

Con 37.8, Lab 31.2, LD 8.1, UKIP 12.9

So the implied changes since 2015 are:

Con +7.7, Lab -5.0, LD +2.7, UKIP -4.9

A uniform change projection from these figures, assuming other parties unchanged, gives

Con 386, Lab 179, LD 7, SNP 55, Others 23. A Conservative majority of 122.

But we have also had two polls from Scotland. Again with thanks to Anthony Wells, the headline figures with changes since 2015, are as follows:

Panelbase/S Times – SNP 44%(-6), CON 33%(+18), LAB 13%(-11), LDEM 5%(-3)
Survation/S Post – SNP 43%(-7), CON 28%(+13), LAB 18%(-6), LDEM 9%(+1)

The average of these is

Con 30.5, Lab 15.5, LD 7.0, SNP 43.5.

The Scottish share of the vote last time was

Con 14.9, Lab 24.3, LD 7.5, SNP 50.0

So the changes are:

Con +15.6, Lab -8.8, LD -0.5, SNP -6.5

Not only do these numbers suggest that the Conservatives would take more seats off the SNP in Scotland than in the uniform GB wide projection, but also since the Conservatives are doing much better in Scotland they must be doing a little worse in England and Wales than the GB changes above indicate. Taking both the Scottish and GB polls together implies that the swing since 2015 in England and Wales is, at 5.8, slightly less than the 6.35 figure from the GB polls.

Similarly, since UKIP only got 1.6 per cent of the vote in Scotland in 2015 they cannot have fallen by 4.9 points there. So the GB polls in effect indicate that UKIP are down in England and Wales by more than the GB average. Assuming UKIP have fallen by just one point in Scotland and that Plaid Cymru and Green shares are unchanged, making the necessary adjustments to have uniform change in Scotland separately from England and Wales, yields the following seats projection.

Con 390, Lab 181, LD 9, SNP 47, Others 23. A Conservative majority of 130.

While the projection from the GB only polls suggested the Conservatives would make just one gain in Scotland, the Scottish polls point to eight. The slightly lower swing in England and Wales would appear to have, in effect, cost them only three seats there.

If this differential between Scottish and GB polls persists it suggests that GB wide uniform change projections will slightly understate the implications for the Conservative majority.

Of course much could change in the polls, change may not be uniform across constituencies in many other ways and the polls overall may be out by a substantial margin again. More comment from me on all of these things in due course. In the meantime, Chris Hanretty has an important piece here about how the latest British Election Study data tell us that the Tories are doing particularly well in Labour seats.

Another Labour Meltdown?

By Stephen Fisher

The polls in Scotland just before the last election showed a 21-point lead for SNP over Labour. The SNP went on to take all but one of Labour’s 41 Scottish seats.

This week Theresa May called a general election in the wake of polls showing her Conservative party 21 points ahead of Labour. Could Labour now be headed for a Britain wide meltdown of the kind that they suffered in Scotland two years ago?

Intriguingly, the distribution of the 2015 Labour share of the vote across the seats they are defending now is very similar to the distribution of their 2010 share of the vote in the Scottish seats that they were defending in 2015. In both sets the vast majority of seats involve Labour defending vote shares of between 40% and 65% with an average of 50%. In Scotland two years ago, the largest share that they were defending was 68%. This time Labour have a dozen ultra-safe seats with shares bigger than 68%. That will be little comfort for them.

But it is not the share of the vote that matters so much as the lead over the Conservatives that are defending. In Scotland last time they lost seats where there had been majorities all the way up to 54%. Now Labour have just 13 seats with leads over the Conservatives greater than this. Not much better.

The SNP might have taken even “safer” Labour seats had there been any. Some of the largest swings from Labour that the SNP achieved in 2015 are big enough to unseat any Labour MP if the Tories achieve the same at this election.

So is it reasonable to expect a major meltdown for Labour this time?

Not really. The Tories may be going into this election with a similar lead over Labour that the SNP had at the last election, but it is not the lead alone that matters. It has to be understood in the context of the distribution of votes across seats.

The SNP managed to win nearly all the seats in Scotland with just under half the votes because the votes against them were spread out between several parties, at the local as well as the national level. This led to a very efficient distribution of the vote for the SNP. In the seats the SNP won the average margin of victory was 20 points, less than the 25-point average for the Conservatives. Not only did the SNP not waste so many votes building up bigger majorities than necessary to win, but by only losing three seats they barely wasted any that way either.  By contrast, 26% of Conservative votes in 2015 were in seats that the party lost.

This difference in efficiency was anticipated in advance and largely the product of the distribution of votes in 2010. It was clear from uniform change projections from the Scottish polls in 2015 that Labour were going to lose nearly all their seats.

At the moment GB polls are pointing towards a 6-point swing, or so, from Labour to the Conservatives. That translates to Labour losing about 50 seats with uniform change projections. They would still retain about 180 because of the distribution of votes. That would amount to their worst performance since 1935 but still Labour are in a far more secure position in England and Wales than they were in Scotland two years ago.

Since swing is never actually uniform a key question at this election is whether there will be any pattern in the variation in the swing across constituencies that might either limit or extend the scale of Labour losses. Here there are important lessons from both Scotland last time and Labour’s experience at the 2010 election. I am hoping to write about them in further blog posts soon. Some are comforting and some worrying for Labour. None are as important for Labour as trying to reduce or even reverse the apparent swing against them before election day.

How did the Tories win a majority?

By Stephen Fisher

The election outcome was a shocking defeat for Labour and a remarkable victory for the Tories, both relative to expectations from the opinion polls and considering that you have to go back to Salisbury in 1900 to find an instance of a Prime Minister increasing their share of the vote after being in power for more than 18 months. Overall Labour will be just a point up on the abysmal 30% of the GB vote that Gordon Brown achieved in 2010. Moreover Labour are down from 258 seats to 232 (-26).

So how did why did Labour do so badly and how did the Tories manage to increase their vote share and seat tally after five years of cuts and practically zero growth in GNP per person, even if there has been debt stabilisation and some relative good headline growth and jobs figures over the last year? Continue reading How did the Tories win a majority?

Coalition-directed voting comes to Britain?

by Stephen Fisher

This a slightly longer and more detailed version of a post at

David Cameron has argued that a Labour government dependent on SNP support would mean “total chaos”. But the Conservatives are not clear about what they want the voters in Scotland to do about it, and they have failed to mention that coalition-directed voting in England and Wales might be more effective than voting Conservative or Labour. Continue reading Coalition-directed voting comes to Britain?

Links between economics and nationalism at this election

By Stephen Fisher

This is an edited version of a piece for The Cherwell.

As with any election, the one on May 7th is about lots of different issues and different things for different people. The factors that will affect the outcome are more numerous and varied still. Nonetheless many commentators are afflicted by a chronic temptation to try to define what particular elections are really all about.

Two main themes stand out this time: the economy and nationalism. The economic contest is between ideological positions on the size and role of the state as well as over competence in macro-economic management. For nationalism the relationships between Scotland and the UK and between the UK and EU are the main issues. Continue reading Links between economics and nationalism at this election

Liberal Democrats after the election: a left of centre party which should be able to work more easily with Labour than the Conservatives

by Stephen Fisher and Eilidh Macfarlane

At the 2010 election Liberal Democrat MPs, members and voters were all more social liberal than economic liberal (using both terms in their traditional British not American sense) i.e. left rather than right of centre. But their leaders, especially Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander and David Laws are further to the right than most of their party. In his book 5 Days in May, Andrew Adonis goes so far as to argue that the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Conservatives rather than Labour not because of the parliamentary arithmetic was considerably better but instead because Nick Clegg and David Laws especially were ideologically closer and personally warmer to the Tories than to Labour. Continue reading Liberal Democrats after the election: a left of centre party which should be able to work more easily with Labour than the Conservatives

Salutary lessons from the Israeli election polls 2015

by Stephen Fisher

Publishing polls in the last five days before an election is illegal in Israel, so the final pre-election polls were published on 13th March. They suggested that Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would get around 22 seats to 25 for the Zionist Union (the alliance between Labor and Haunuah, led by Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni).

The exit polls yesterday suggested 27 each.

The actual result was 30 for Likud and 24 for the Zionist Union. Continue reading Salutary lessons from the Israeli election polls 2015