Thursday, 30 July 2009

Who would be the first British Costa Brava MP?

The French government published on Wednesday the final version of the new parliamentary boundaries for the election of the next Assemblée Nationale in 2012.

This redistricting is the first implemented since 1986 and the French Constitutional Council had been pushing the issue for a long time. The Council advocated in particular a rebalancing of the size of constituencies: the biggest mainland constituency (6th of the Var) was 6 times bigger than the smallest (2nd of Lozère).

The French media is for the moment concentrating on the evolutions in mainland France where 27 départements lose 1 or more MPs and 15 départements gain more MPs. In 25 other departments, constituency boundaries will move even if the number of MPs stays the same. Predictably, the debate consists mostly of accusations of gerrymandering from the opposition and protestations of fairness from the government.

However, this debate (while probably worthy of another article some day) misses the biggest novelty of the new system, and probably the most favorable to the ruling UMP: the creation of 11 constituencies representing French citizens established abroad. These new MPs will represent the 1.27 million French citizens registered at French consulates around the world. Currently, they can only vote directly to elect the president, representatives in a consultative body (Assemblée des Français de l’étranger) and participate in national referendums. Their parliamentary representation was limited to 12 senators, elected indirectly by the Assemblée des Français de l’étranger.

The constituencies will elect a single MP and represent geographic zones with approximately 115,000 registered expatriates. For example, 1 MP will represent North America, 6 will represent European constituencies (including one composed of the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and Baltic States, probable heavily dominated by the votes in London) and 1 will represent an enormous constituency including Russia, Iran, Asia (except the Middle-East) and Oceania. These MPs, like all the others, will be elected in a two-round voting system, where every candidate getting 12.5% of registered voters in the first round can take part in the second.

The obvious reference point to simulate the result in these constituencies is the second round of the 2007 presidential election. The turnout for French expats was 42% (way lower than the amazing overall turnout of 84%) and the result was 53.99% for Sarkozy, 46.01% for Royal, an 8% majority for Sarkozy, as compared to his 6% overall margin (53.06/46.94).
Using the boundaries of the constituencies created yesterday, Sarkozy won 9 and Royal won 2. The creation of MPs for expats is thus apparently beneficial for the right and a possible way to ease the way for a third UMP term, unheard of for any French majority party since 1981.
Italians abroad are also represented both in the National Assembly (12 seats) and the Senate (6 seats). However, these parliamentarians are elected through PR, limiting their impact on the national majority.

These facts might interest some of you as new aspects of continental politics but it is also a question for British politicians: if 1.3 million French expats are given direct parliamentary representation (even if it’s only 2% of MP seats), what about the estimated 5.5 million British abroad?

At present, every British citizen who has been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years is eligible to vote in UK Parliamentary (general) elections and European Parliamentary elections in the UK. British living overseas thus vote in their constituency of origin, either directly or through postal/proxy voting. This has certainly an impact on turnout, especially as their issues as expatriates are probably not dealt with during a GE campaign.
Thus, here are my questions to pbers: do you think the UK should create parliamentary constituencies representing British abroad? If so, how many and who would you think would benefit from such a move? And what do British expats posting on think?

Chris (from Bethesda)

The author is a French expat living in the USA

The Return of the King

It now seems that a certain Mr. Michael Schumacher is to replace Felipe Massa on a temporary basis, following Massa’s freak encounter with a Brawn spring at Hungary.

Schumacher, the greatest racing driver of all time, has been out of the sport for the last two years but has apparently been keeping himself pretty fit, undoubtedly as part of his job as the Stig. The Ferrari has shown a marked improvement of late, with Raikonnen achieving the second spot at Hungary.

So, could Schumacher win a Grand Prix? Yes, but it’s not guaranteed. He’s been out of an F1 car for two years and thanks to the brilliantly moronic no-testing rule the first time he’ll get to play with the new Ferrari will be during free practice in about three weeks time at Valenica. However, he has tested as recently as April 2008 for the team, and he has more experience, wins, pole positions and titles than anyone else in the field.

This would also be the first time that newcomers Vettel and Hamilton get to joust with the old master, and if he’s anything like he used to be then rule-stretching shenanigans may not be far away.

I’d be surprised if he didn’t achieve a podium (on the assumption Massa is out for 3 races or more), and if he has a crack at all 7 of the remaining Grand Prix I think he has a great chance of at least 1 victory.

This also has implications for whether Raikonnen or Massa, as it is supposed, will leave the team to make way for supertalented crybaby Fernando Alonso. Schumacher is not only the best driver ever, he’s also a consultant for the team, and has previously raced with Massa, apparently giving him tips over the phone last year. If Raikonnen impresses Schumacher it would certainly help his chances of retaining his seat. But if he gets beaten by the old man after two years enjoying life in his massive castle on Lake Geneva who only stepped in because Massa got a spring in the face at 200mph it wouldn’t look good.

Morris Dancer

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

More evidence that Robert's model is wrong

by Irfan Ahmed

When I criticised Robert Smithson and his model that he has created to predict the outcome of the next general election there was an outcry by fellow PBers. I now have more evidence to add to my small evidence pile, arguing my corner that Robert’s model is wrong.

Roberts model, predicts that Burnley shall stay a Labour seat at the next general election and I think he and others need to reconsider their belief in the model. The prediction by Robert is as followed for Burnley:

CON 9217
LAB 11068

The problem with the model is that, it hasn’t looked at the political forecast for Burnley. First of all at the 2009 County Council elections the Lib Dems won 5 out of the six seats, moving on from that the reputation of the PPC is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

Gordon Birtwistle is running a mono causal campaign that has made him a celebrity in Burnley, the campaign “I want my Hospital Back” is really turning into a vote winner for Burnley something with neighbouring constituency Lib Dems are failing to benefit from.

Gordon has approximately 2000 or so poster sites, and this isn’t from what he and his team have told me but from what I have seen in Burnley. The Lib Dems are set to win in Burnley, yet Robert’s model predicts otherwise.

So what do fellow PBers think of the model, after having another piece of evidence put forward about the credibility of Robert Smithson’s model?

P.S. I don't have anything against Robert, if that's what people are starting to think after reading my comments on PB and on my own blog.

Labour polling: in ICM we trust?

There are quite a few political betters who are placing their money on the basis that Labour are going to get hammered. That might very well happen and Robert Smithson's new election predictor certainly adds grist to the mill of those who believe that. But while things look grim for Labour, there is real uncertainty over just how bad things are for them. A slight discrepancy has opened up between the pollsters. An apparent gap has opened up between ICM and most of the others. The difference could be the difference between Labour losing and being slaughtered.

Let us look at the evidence since 1 April - a period of nearly 4 months now, so we have a reasonable amount of data. The ICM polling has been as follows (with the Labour rating following the date):
11 July 2009: 27
14 June 2009: 27
28 May 2009: 22
17 May 2009: 28
19 April 2009: 30

Marketing Sciences (apparently effectively ICM under a pseudonym)
16 April 2009: 26

One thing immediately stands out - with the exception of the poll of 28 May, Labour's record is very consistent. If we were judging Labour's performance by ICM alone, we would treat the poll of 28 May as a rogue or as reflecting a spasm of anger at the expenses scandal, which was at its height then. With the exception of that poll, ICM do not record Labour as having dropped below 25% and otherwise are consistently recording Labour in a 26-30% band. The average Labour rating in these six polls is just under 27%.

Now, compare that with all the other pollsters. Populus's results are closest to ICM's. It had six polls in the period, with a Labour high of 30%, a low of 21% and an average of just under 26%.

In the same period, YouGov had 13 polls with a Labour high of 34% (the first poll of the period - otherwise the high was 27%), a low of 21% and an average of just under 25% (without the first poll, the average is just over 24%). IPSOS-MORI had five polls in the period a high of 28%, a low of 18% and an average of just over 23%. ComRes had seven polls, with a Labour high of 26%, a low of 21% and an average of 23%. BPIX also polled three times in the period, with a Labour high of 26%, a low of 20% and an average of 23%. Harris's single poll in the period gave Labour a rating of 20%.

Now, all of these pollsters make grim reading for Labour: they have not exceeded 30% in any of the last 40 polls. But there is a world of difference between Labour tallying 20% or 23% at the next election and Labour getting 27%. For example, if the Tories tally 40% and the Lib Dems tally 20%, on a uniform swing Labour would score 184 seats with 23% (according to Baxter) and 216 seats with 27%. If you sold Labour today at 202 on the SPIN spreads, that's the difference between making a packet and eating cornflakes for the rest of the month. So if you are betting on the spreads or the Betfair party line, resolving this polling discrepancy is important.

The first thing to ask is whether this is just a case of being fooled by randomness. Others better qualified than me can comment on how statistically significant this is, but in the trade-off between certainty of statistical reliability and using the limited information we have available, it seems reasonable enough to me to make deductions from the sample that we have.

So with caution, we move onto the next question: who is right? And here we run into two conflicting schools of thought. Both of them have been espoused by our host.

The first is that ICM are the gold standard of polling and that especial weight should be given to their findings. Our host made this point two weeks ago here:

It has to be said that this post should give even the most exuberant Labour seller pause for thought. If Smithson pere is right and ICM is this accurate next time, Labour sellers sure as hell need to hope that Smithson fils's seat prediction model is accurate.

But what of Mr Smithson's golden rule? This is explained here:

"based on the results of the last four general elections and all three London Mayoral races the most accurate poll has always been the one showing Labour (Ken in 2000) in the least favourable position in relation to the Tories"

This too is based on hard data. So how are we to make sense of these?

It remains possible that both are right. The post from two weeks ago draws attention to Labour polling well before the general election. The golden rule is only tested at the point of an election. That time lag would allow both theories to remain correct.

That is a neat solution, but a little too convenient. I am deeply suspicious about the idea that future polling movements can be derived in advance from current responses. Movements in public opinion are too dependent on events - while the thought of an impending general election may concentrate minds in a partly predictable manner, that will be just one consideration among many that moves public opinion at any given time.

It comes to the same thing in practice, but for now I prefer to place the greatest faith in the pollster with the best past track record. ICM have a great record in predicting election results and it would be foolish to ignore that when deciding which polls to pay most attention to.

However, if Labour really do poll this badly at the general election, I suspect that the seat predictions implied by applying uniform national swing using the results of other pollsters will probably prove more accurate.



By Irfan Ahmed

I am a new member of the Political Betting community and with that in mind it’s an honour to have been welcomed by Mike to contribute at Political Betting’s Channel 2.

I am someone who doesn’t bet due to Islam teaching against gambling, with that in mind I don’t bet but don’t mind the friendly bet in return for donations made to charities. I don’t want to earn from gambling or lose via it but, a donation type proposition is right up my street.

I am a blogger and have been blogging since May 2008, if you want to read my political rants, opinion and thoughts head over to my blog. I am writing this blog post as an introduction to myself, and I hope that it has given you the information needed to judge me and what I shall write about in the future on PB Channel 2.

As I bring this post to a conclusion some food for thought, do you know any Muslims; do they take illegal drugs, drink alcohol, gamble or take part in anything that is not allowed in Islam?

Monday, 27 July 2009

Was Michael Howard Right?

by Richard Nabavi

Crime can easily become a vote-loser for any government, almost irrespective of what they actually do. The reaction by politicians and the media to the recent publication of Crime in England and Wales 2008/09 was typical. The government hailed the figures as showing that crime has fallen substantially; “Oh no it hasn’t”, said many commentators, “you’ve been fiddling the figures, it’s all about reporting rates and definitions”, often adducing anecdotal evidence to make their point. (And of course, there is nothing more irritating than being told how wonderful it is that crime is falling, when you have just had your car torched or your house burgled.) Few seem to have tried to see what lessons can be learned from the data.

This is a pity, because there are some very interesting lessons for policy-making in all those tables and graphs. But first let’s cut through the party-political point scoring, and look at the overall trends. And these are not in doubt. The truth is, both sides are partly right. Crime - certainly most categories of serious and violent crime – is higher than it was in 1997, and much higher than it was if you go back further. But it is substantially lower than it was three or four years ago.

To see this, forget about ‘total recorded offences’; this is a completely meaningless figure, in which the theft of a bicycle is given the same weight as a murder. Since there are more bicycle thefts than murders, a hypothetical fall in this total figure might simply reflect that bicycle thefts were down 10% even if murders had doubled. Would that be a fall in crime? The Home Office should be ashamed of themselves for publicising such a nonsensical figure.

In addition, to get a clear picture, it is important to concentrate on those figures which are most likely to be reliable. The statistics for rape, for example, are notoriously unreliable, so underlying trends are very hard to discern. And changes in recording methods make many other figures hard to interpret.

Instead, let’s concentrate on offences which are both serious and likely to be reliably recorded. In this graph, I have shown the yearly figures for three such categories: homicide and attempted murder, serious wounding, and robbery. In each case, I have taken the figures directly from Crime in England and Wales 2008/09 and re-based them to a starting index of 100 for 1997-8. (To get a clear picture of trends, I have adjusted the homicide/attempted murder figures to exclude the victims of the 7 July London bombings, and the 173 Harold Shipman murders recorded in 2002/3 but which happened many years earlier.)

(Click on chart to see higher resolution version)

As you can see, the figures for these categories – which are hard to fiddle or misrecord - show a substantial rise initially. But then something quite extraordinary happened. Having peaked in around 2002-2004 (depending on the category), these serious crimes have fallen quite dramatically - by 25% or more over four years. This is truly astonishing. If you look at many other serious crimes, in both the BCS survey and the recorded crime statistics, the overall picture is the same. The bottom line is: Crime kept rising until four or five years ago. (This may be why so many people, from their own experience, think that serious crime has risen a lot in recent years – they are right, looking at the longer term.) But then it started falling, surprisingly rapidly.

Understanding why this might be so is key to designing policy. We all know that the underlying long-term trends are heavily influenced by changes in our society: demographic changes, family breakdown, poor education, drug-taking, fractured social structures, and so on – the ‘broken society’. But those factors haven’t changed much in the last three to five years when crime fell. The drugs problems has, if anything, got worse. Family breakdown hasn’t reduced. Economic factors and unemployment were fairly stable over the period under review . Alcohol-related hospital admissions are up (although total consumption is down slightly). The broken society hasn’t been mended since 2003 – certainly not to a degree which might come close to explaining a fall of 25% or more in many serious crimes.

What else could possibly have changed to cause such a big effect?

Could it be that this chart , showing the total England and Wales prison population over the same period might hold some clues?

(Click on chart to see higher resolution version)

Is it a coincidence that the peak in the crime figures occurred just after a dip in the prison population in 2000, and then as the prison population increased the crime figures started falling? And that this is particularly true for ‘professional’ crimes such as robbery, but less so for homicides, which are often domestic?

Back in 1993, Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, was much criticised when he made his famous speech saying ‘Prison works’. Yet, curiously, it has been under a Labour government that we have seen that statement tested in earnest. And it appears he may have been right.

Of course, even if this is true, it doesn’t follow that all of those who are in prison should be there. Most people who are familiar with the justice system think that prison is quite inappropriate in many cases. But since it is believed that a large proportion of serious crime is carried out by a relatively small number of repeat offenders, maybe crime has dropped simply because more of those hardened criminals are in prison now than was the case in 2001.

In political terms, the issue of crime has been relatively subdued in recent years, perhaps because, after a shaky start, Labour has ended up presiding over a justice system which is more draconian than that of Michael Howard’s day. The recent debate has been more about civil liberties, and the failure to supply enough prison places, than about being ‘tough on crime’.

But if the pundits are right, and the economic crisis leads to an increase in crime, that could begin to change. Crime may well become an increasingly important issue for voters over the next few months. There are good electoral reasons why the political parties should consider very carefully both how they will address this issue in policy terms, and how they will present it to the public. The traditional divide of “Labour is soft on criminals, Tories want to lock ‘em up and throw away the key” seems to have broken down. It will be interesting to see whether that changes.

Can Button win the F1 Drivers’ Title?

Yes, in a word. The Brawn has been a dog in the last three weeks, with Button not troubling the podium and, contrary to my rather woeful tip, came 7th in Hungary. The Red Bull is the best car on the circuit and Webber and Vettel are both good drivers.

However, Button has a few advantages which should see him continue to stay top of the table.

Firstly, four weeks stand between Hungary and the next race, a big window for Brawn to figure out why their car has transformed from a class act into a dog.

Secondly, McLaren and Ferrari are effectively Brawn’s friends now. By taking the top two slots at Hungary Hamilton and Raikonnen helped Button out big time and may well continue to reduce the points Red Bull can accrue. Similarly Alonso may damage Red Bull’s hopes.

Thirdly, Vettel (despite not finishing in four of the 10 races so far) is close enough to Webber for Red Bull to be unlikely to line up behind either driver for the next few races at least. So the two drivers will probably take points from each other.

The Constructors’ Title is distinctly shakier for Brawn, and I’d be mildly surprised if they, rather than Red Bull, won it. Presently Brawn leads by about 15.5 points, and given the car’s poor performance and Barrichello not performing as well as he should (admittedly at times due to strategic decisions worthy of Varro) I think Red Bull should take that title.

Morris Dancer

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Reflections on Norwich North by Your Man On The Spot

So now the dust has settled I thought I’d reflect on the local factors that shaped Norwich North from the start. As Bunnco – Your man on the spot, it was clear to me from the outset that this was a poll in two parts.

In the red corner we had the northern half of the Labour-run Norwich City Council area.

Local people were scandalised when it was revealed that last year that old-dears were evicted from their sheltered housing complex where they paid about £70 per week and Council employees, including the head of Housing, moved in at £50. As the ‘Greyhound Opening’ scandal was reported in excruciating detail, tenants passed a motion of no confidence in their Council landlord as a string of other damaging stories followed including the need for £8m cuts to balance the books – a real achievement for a council with a net budget of £16m. Labour were beaten locally before they started.

In the blue corner there was Tory-controlled Broadland Council looking after the leafy northern suburbs.

District council tax is about half what the City pays. Last year they won The Times ‘Best Council’ award and are consistenyly in the top-3 nationally for recycling. In the ipsosMORI ‘place survey’ in Norfolk published 2 weeks ago, satisfaction with the district was a staggering 94% and yet the Government had plans to abolish Broadland and absorb it into the City. There isn’t a single Labour councillor in Broadland.

So, the Tories simply had to turn-out their vote in the Broadland part whilst they knew Labour voters would stay at home or lend their votes elsewhere. It was always going to be a Con-gain…. But by how much?

Let’s turn to the candidates….

Chloe Smith had been chosen for 18 months and Conservatives had delivered three leaflets before the others even selected candidates. And when they did, both Labour and LibDems botched it badly.

Labour chose a former leading light in the local university Young Conservatives, who Labour activists knew was the weakest candidate on their shortlist. Insodoing, they punished the national party for the shoddy way in which Dr Ian Gibson was treated. Revenge was the motivator there.

The LibDems thrashed around and eventually chose April Pond as 3rd choice after the retiring editor of the EDP told them to get stuffed. Then it became clear she didn’t live locally like her leaflets said. She lived in some style in a mansion on the Suffolk border. With a moat. Oh dear.

UKIP’s man blotted his copybook with the local media on Day One with a clumsy press release that tried to capitalise on an armed siege with the predictable ‘send all the foreigners home’ line. The BNP had a “vicar” standing and Craig Murray lost credibility by nailing posters to lamp-posts and telegraph poles [frowned-on round here] then refused to take them down when told to do so by the Returning Officer. You can’t get elected on the platform of ‘put a honest man in Parliament’ when you’re caught breaking the rules.

The Greens flapped-about and eventually dumped their existing candidate in favour of the photogenic but bonkers Dr Rupert Read. I thought the Greens would do rather well but they faded fast, outgunned in the leaflet and money stakes and Read blew it in the TV debate when he made too much of the northern-bypass issue designed to relieve gridlock [and pollution] in the northern suburbs.

Now, to the campaign….

All the Tories needed to do was avoid the banana skins but when it came to Labour, with friends like these who needs enemies?

The National Party did everything they could to make it difficult for Labour to succeed in NN. They actually went out of their way to make things worse. Announcing an EcoTown on the edge of the constituency with one week to go could be described as ‘courageous’ but then to tell locals the next day that the money to pay for the infrastructure would be reduced just smacks of incompetence. Local Govt minister John Denham had a chance to call time on the unpopular Local Government reorganisation issue in Norfolk when Mr Justice Foskett quashed the process in Suffolk with ten days to go. But he blew that chance too. And then the Labour Candidate got “suspected” swine flu in the final days. Not many locals are buying that story.

The Greens and LibDems just attacked each other as they fought for the places and it seemed to me on the ground that UKIP were filling the vacuum. And so it turned out to be to a certain extent with Labour supporters disproportionately backing the party.

The Greens are the largest party in the Norwich South constituency but the Greens were shrewd in targeting their canvassing in the Norwich City part of the NN in preparation for the local elections May 6th next year. They’re only 3 seats behind on the City Council and now have full pledge details for the wards they need to win to take control.

And the leaflets, the bloody leaflets. In fact the low turnout is partly due to the forest of leaflets backfiring on all parties. You’ve never seen so many. It just turned people off. And the LibDems must wonder whether delivering 5 different leaflets to some houses on the polling day alone backfired contributing to the depressing result.

I think the leaflet that did make the most difference though was the one distributed by the Tories in the Broadland area two days before polling day highlighting the threat to their council as a result of Labour’s Council Reorganisation plans. It didn’t change minds but it motivated the Tories in the suburbs to come out. And that’s all that was needed.

The Result….

As the polls closed I posted my prediction “My gut feel is that we’re talking about 40 16 16 16 16 [Con Grn LD Lab UKIP] + others. Or 38 17 15 14 13…. it’s a lottery for the places. And in these scenarios 40-16 is better for Chloe than 38-17.”

I got the percentages almost exactly right on my second suggestion. In truth I expected Labour to be overhauled by the LibDems and UKIP but it’s now emerged that Labour had a quite sophisticated postal vote campaign going on so, whilst intelligence from the polling stations was that the Labour vote had /really/ collapsed, in fact they had already built themselves a 2000-vote cushion which saved them from 4th place embarrassment.

The Lessons….

1. The Tories gambled on putting Cameron at the front. But it was a calculated bet and he’s emerged a stronger leader for it. The Tories ran a sophisticated campaign and experimented and innovated in ways which will only become clear on polling day. The dawn raid delivered by 7am with each leaflet personally addressed to every house was just one example of this.

2. Postal Votes are an important tool for Labour. They are harangued on the doorstep and they’re short of masochist activists. It’s the only weapon they have left. Charles Clarke in Norwich South must now be looking over his shoulder in a genuine 4-way marginal and, for all the talk of winning back the seat from Chloe [a task made easier by boundary changes], local Labour will be better used defending Charles in May than trying to beat Chloe. NN shows that Labour is finished whilst Brown is still in place.

3. The LibDems must be gutted. They’ve truly wasted £100,000, which could have been spent more effectively elsewhere and now Clegg, who mishandled the candidate selection from the start, must be looking vulnerable. This angle hasn’t been picked-up by the media. They’ve lost their way.

4. Labour have more to fear from UKIP than the Tories.

5. Keep an eye on the Greens to take Norwich City Council in May. Back in the 1990’s there was a Legalise Cannabis party, who put up candidates in the County Council elections in Norwich. So there’s been quite a rebellious streak in the City. Expect that to be expressed at the polls in the spring.

6. The BBC will have to learn lessons. They excluded UKIP from the televised debates, a decision made away from Norwich in Birmingham or even London. It’s not the BBC’s job to ‘pick winners’. They should report the news, not make it. And there is some soul-searching to be done here about how much airtime they give the minor parties in the General. UKIP are the media-winners out of this campaign for they will be able to demand more airtime on the back of this result.

7. In the General Election to come local issues like the ones I have described will play a much greater role in determining the final outcome than the simplistic Uniform National Swing. We need to be careful about extrapolating the NN result to the national stage.

Bunnco – Your man on the spot in Norwich North

Saturday, 25 July 2009

By-election Mood Music: A Cha Cha Cha or a Quickstep?

So, another by-election loss for the government on a double digit swing, the opposition calling for a general election and the Liberals stating that they are on the increase.

So what? We have heard this story time and time again after Ribble Valley (24.5% swing Con to Lib Dem), after Newbury (28.5% swing Con to Lib Dem) and even after Dudley West (29% swing from Con to Lab), but these recent by-elections aren't following the same tune as previous ones.To show what I mean, let's look at the biggest by-election swings of recent times and look at the change in the votes between the party that won the seat last time and the challenging party.

Take for instance, the daddy of challenging party by-elections, Christchurch in 1993. There the Conservative vote dropped 32.1%, versus the Liberal Democrat vote (as the challengers) which went up 38.6% (in other words 120%, i.e they scooped up every single Con vote and picked up 20% of the Labour drop as well). Dudley West (1994), Con vote fell 30.1%, Lab vote rose 28.1 indicating that Labour had managed to scoop 94% of all the Conservative drop). Other examples include:

Newbury (1993): Con -29.0% Lib Dem +27.8% = 96% scoop
Walsall North (1976): Lab -27.9% Con +17.3% = 62% scoop
Ashfield (1977): Lab -20.9% Con +20.8% = 99% scoop

All of which as we know led to huge changes in governments at the next election. Now compare that to recent Con gain by-elections

Crewe and Nantwich (2008): Lab -18.3% Con +16.9% = 92% scoop
Norwich North (2009): Lab -26.7% Con +6.3% = 24% scoop

In other words, it's pretty clear that as the only difference between Crewe and Norwich is expenses, it is clear that Labour are dancing the cha cha cha out of government, but Cameron's quickstep has come to almost a shuddering halt and is now a slowstep and unless he can stop Lab voters switching to UKIP, Green and BNP his desire to win the next election might result in the first hung parliament for nearly 35 years.

Harry Hayfield