Category Archives: United Kingdom

United Kingdom 2010: Results and Analysis

The United Kingdom’s general election last night, on May 6, is certainly one of the most interesting and poignant election in a longtime, beating out, in my mind, even Obama’s 2008 election. Even now, nobody knows what the hell happened and what will happen. It was an unpredictable wild contest.

All but one of the 650 constituencies up for election are in, only Thirsk and Malton, where a UKIP candidate died before the poll, will vote later, on May 27. Turnout was 65%, up around 4% since 2005. There were long queues at certain polling stations in places such as Sheffield, where the local returning officer closed the door at 22:00 and shut out some people from voting. In other places, certain voters were issued with ballots at 22:00 and allowed to vote after the legal closing time. Some stations ran out of ballots, or had problems because uni students turned out to vote without their voter card. The chaos at certain stations led to scenes of anger by shut-out voters, who tried to block ballot boxes from exiting the station to go to the count centre, and the BBC was also quite angry at the situation. A reform of the polling booths law is likely to come up soon.

The results are as follows, excluding Thirsk and Malton, with changes on 2005 notionals, excluding by-elections:

Conservatives and Speaker 36.11% (+3.8%) winning 306 seats (+97)
Labour 29.02% (-6.2%) winning 258 seats (-91)
Liberal Democrats 23.03% (+1.0%) winning 57 seats (-5)
UK Independence Party 3.10% (+0.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)
British National Party 1.90% (+1.2%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Scottish National Party 1.66% (+0.1%) winning 6 seats (nc)
Greens 0.96% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Sinn Féin 0.58% (-0.1%) winning 5 seats (nc)
Democratic Unionist Party 0.57% (-0.3%) winning 8 seats (-1)
Plaid Cymru 0.56% (-0.1%) winning 3 seats (+1)
Social Democratic & Labour Party 0.37% (-0.1%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Ulster Conservatives and Unionists – New Force 0.35% (-0.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
English Democrats 0.22% (+0.2%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Alliance Party 0.14% (+0.0%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Respect-Unity Coalition 0.11% (-0.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Traditional Unionist Voice 0.09% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Christian Party 0.06% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Independent Community and Health Concern 0.05% (+0.0%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 0.04% (+0.0%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Scottish Socialist Party 0.01% (-0.2%) winning 0 seats (nc)
All others 1.08% (+0.0%) winning 1 seat (nc)

There are a few general discernible trends in this election, but the major trend is that the election was awfully local. There were wild swings to and from certain parties in various parts of the country, some safe Labour seats fell to the Tories while some marginal Labour seats held on. Some seats which should never have fallen did, and some seats which should have fallen did not. The national swing is 5%, but it was very far from a universal swing (another shot in the back of the classic UNS), with some very low swings in some areas and a high number of seats bucking the trend. A look at those areas later on.

The discernible trends in this election are that Labour held up better than expected, and that Cleggmania died out badly and the LibDems had a rather bad night after the weeks of euphoria, which didn’t really die off at any point during the campaign. The daily pollsters did very badly, but the exit pollsters got it almost spot on down to the last seat numbers, and UNS didn’t fail as badly as expected (partly the result, I’m sure, of the poor LibDem result). What the pollsters did get right, however, is that the Tories, while largest party by far, lack an overall majority of seats and the next Parliament will be a hung one: the first since February 1974.

To begin the actual analysis, here are the results by major regions:

England: Con 39.6% (297), Lab 28.1% (191), LD 24.2% (43), UKIP 3.5%, BNP 2.1%, GRN 1% (1)
East Midlands: Con 41.2% (31), Lab 29.8% (15), LD 20.8% (0), UKIP 3.3%, BNP 3.2%, GRN 0.5%
Eastern: Con 47.1% (52), LD 24.1% (5), Lab 19.6% (2), UKIP 4.3%, BNP 2.1%, GRN 1.5%
London: Lab 36.6% (38), Con 34.5% (28), LD 22.1% (7), UKIP 1.7%, GRN 1.6%, BNP 1.5%
North-East: Lab 43.6% (25), Con 23.7% (2), LD 23.6% (2), BNP 4.4%, UKIP 2.7%, GRN 0.3%
North-West: Lab 39.5% (47), Con 31.7% (22), LD 21.6% (6), UKIP 3.2%, BNP 2.1%, GRN 0.5%
South-East: Con 49.9% (75), LD 26.2% (4), Lab 16.2% (4), UKIP 4.1%, GRN 1.4% (1), BNP 0.7%
South-West: Con 42.8% (36), LD 34.7% (15), Lab 15.4% (4), UKIP 4.5%, GRN 1.1%, BNP 0.8%
West Midlands: Con 39.5% (33), Lab 30.6% (24), LD 20.5% (2), UKIP 4%, BNP 2.8%, ICHC 0.6%, GRN 0.6%
Yorkshire and the Humber: Lab 34.7% (32), Con 32.5% (18), LD 23% (3), BNP 4.4%, UKIP 2.8%, GRN 0.9%
Northern Ireland: SF 25.5% (5), DUP 25% (8), SDLP 16.5% (3), UCUNF 15.2% (0), OTH 7.1% (1), APNI 6.3% (1), TUV 3.9%, GRN 0.5%
Scotland: Lab 42% (41), SNP 19.9% (6), LD 18.9% (11), Con 16.7% (1), UKIP 0.7%, GRN 0.7%, BNP 0.4%
Wales: Lab 36.2% (26), Con 26.1% (8), LD 20.1% (3), PC 11.3% (3), UKIP 2.4%, BNP 1.6%, GRN 0.4%

Analysis of England, Wales and Scotland

The marking thing about this election, noted above, is the absence of a large, quasi-universal swing or trend from one side to another. There were some large swings in certain seats, but it’s hard to discern a general common trait about those seats or regions, though I personally noticed that there were large swings in safe Labour seats, maybe the result of voters voting as a protest vote against the ‘owners’ of the place when it’s safe to do so and is unlikely to cause a change of hands in the said seat.

The Tories gained 100 seats exactly (slightly less excluding by-election gains they held). Most of those seats tended to be marginal seats, where the race often depends on the national mood and turnout patterns within the seat, or more middle-class areas gained by Labour in its 1997 landslide and narrowly held onto by Labour in 2005. The Tories also gained twelve seats from the LibDems, most of which had been gained by the party in the Tory landslide defeat of 1997. One of those seats is Winchester, a famous seat where the LibDems won by two votes in the 1997 election and held it in a subsequent by-election as well as 2001 and 2005. The Tories lost 3 seats (excluding the Speaker’s seat), all to the LibDems: Solihull (technically a hold, but a notional gain), Eastbourne and Wells. In Norwich North, traditionally a Labour area, the young Tory MP held on by a comfortable margin of around 10% after a 2009 by-election gain. In Crewe and Nantwich, another Tory gain from Labour in a 2008 by-election, the Tories won by a large margin, 46-34 over Labour. Birmingham Edgsbaston had been a seat everybody had been talking about as a must-win Tory gain if they wanted to win nationally. Labour held on to it 41-38, though Labour lost seats which were notionally safer than Brum Edgsbaston. The Tories will also win in Thirsk and Malton on May 27, giving them 307 seats overall.

Labour lost 94 seats, all but a handful to the Tories. They did however win back three seats: in Chesterfield, they defeated the LibDems in Tony Benn’s old seat, they gained back Bethnal Green & Bow from Galloway, and they picked up Blaenau Gwent in the South Wales coalfields from Dai Davies, an Independent who won a 2006 by-election to replace Peter Law, who had won as an Independent Labour candidate in 2005 in protest at Labour’s all-women shortlist in the constituency. Davies has likely been hurt by some poor decisions of hers.

The LibDems had a poor night. The Cleggmania seen in polls absolutely didn’t translate into increased support for the party, which has in fact suffered a net loss of 5 seats and a gain of only 1% in the popular vote. The reason hasn’t been satisfactorily explained yet, but it’s likely that voters were convinced at the last minute that the election was still a two-horse race, or Labour voters who had toyed around with Nick Clegg decided to vote Labour in fear of a Tory government. Increased media scrutiny of the LibDems and poorer debate performances in the last two debates certainly didn’t help. However, the traditional problems of the LibDem strategy should also be noted: vote spread too thin around the country or poor strategic choices in terms of constituencies. The party suffered 13 loses overall, compensated by 8 gains. In Cornwall, where they held all 6 seats prior to the election, they lost three. It could partly be the result of an unpopular move to a unitary authority in 2009, a move backed by the local LibDems, but I think the LibDems suffered the consequences of that in the 2009 locals rather than in 2010. It should also be noted that the Tory majorities in Truro & Falmouth and Camborne & Redruth were extremely thin (less than 1%). LibDem hopes for gains in Oxford, a major student town, were dashed with a Labour hold in Oxford East and the defeat of the LibDem incumbent in Oxford West. Another student town where the LibDems had hopes was Durham, but Labour won 44-38 there. Perhaps the student vote didn’t turn out as much as it should, or it could be related to the student registration problems in certain places. The LibDems gained 8 seats in all. In Norwich South, the seat with the lowest vote share for the winning party, the LibDems very narrowly defeated Labour MP and internal Brown enemy Charles Clarke, while in Burnley they finally gained the seat infamously known for its 2001 race riots after successes at the local level since the last election.

There were a number of rather shocking results. In Redcar, a very safe working-class Labour seat (held in 1983, so it’s safe), the LibDems won a massive victory with a huge 21.8% swing to the LibDems. The closure of the Corus steel plant in Redcar likely explains the result, along with local government LibDem strength, but it remains the major English shocker of the night. In Montgomeryshire, held by the Liberals/LDs since 1983 (and excluding a one-term Tory between 79 and 83, since 1880) and by Lembit Öpik since 1997, the Tories won a shocking and unexpected victory on a 13% swing to them. Lembit Öpik’s flamboyant and controversial style likely did him in. There were also large swings to the LibDems in Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney, a safe Labour seat in the South Wales coalfields, were the Labour share dwindled from 61% to 44% while the LibDems saw their vote increase by 17%. Labour held the seat, but it was surprisingly close for a safe Labour seat. The result in Pontypridd was also close, with a 13% swing to the LibDems. Demographic changes and younger professionals moving into this once-coalfield seat likely explains the result there. Also in Wales, Plaid failed to gain Ynys Môn (Anglesey), held by the party’s leader in the Assembly, though it isn’t all that shocking given that no incumbent has lost re-election on the island since the 1950s.

In England, Labour held on to Luton South, where its retiring MP was embroiled in the expenses scandal. The Independent in Luton South, Esther Rantzeen, who stood on an anti-sleaze platform, did horribly with just 4% of the vote. Hazel Blears, another Labour MP embroiled in the expenses scandal, held on in Salford, winning 40% against 26% for the LibDems and 21% to the Tories. Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary and expenses scandal culprit, was defeated in Redditch by a decisive 44-30 margin by the Tory candidate. A number of cabinet ministers lost their seats, but no high-ranking cabinet ministers lost in the end. Ed Balls in Morley and Outwood came close to having a “Portillo moment”, but held on 38-35 against the Tory’s Antony Calvert.

% majority in each constituency

In Scotland, the trend there bucked the trend south of the border, with Labour actually increasing its vote share to 42% by 2.5%. Also amusing is the fact that no seats changed hands in Scotland. The SNP, which forms government in Holyrood, up for re-election in one year, will likely be quite disappointed. Salmond had a goal of 20 seats for the party, though most bookies thought 8 seats would be the SNP’s seat count. It failed to win Ochil and Perthshire South, where Labour increased its majority and the SNP vote fell; and Labour’s majority in Dundee West increased from approximately 5% in 2005 to 20% this year. Glasgow East, a safe Labour seat won by the SNP in a shocking 2008 by-election, wasn’t even remotely close: Labour’s defeated 2008 candidate won 62-25 against John Mason, the incumbent MP. Overall, the SNP increased its vote share only marginally to 19.9%, placing it second, but still far from its 29% level in the European elections in 2009 or the 33% in the Holyrood election in 2007. The LibDems had hoped to win Aberdeen South and two seats in Edinburgh (two seats which they only narrowly lost, though), but its seat share remains stagnant and its vote fell nearly 4%. The LibDems also lost Dunfermline and West Fife, a 2006 by-election gain from Labour, to its original 2005 winner. Gordon Brown also saw his majority in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath increase, now a crushing 50% majority over the SNP. The Tories only marginally increased their vote share and they failed to win either Dumfries and Galloway from Labour, or two SNP seats which were on the party’s target list. Even if Cameron forms a government, the Tories will have but one MP from Scotland.

The SNP’s Welsh allies, Plaid Cymru, did poorly, with their vote down to only 11% in Wales. They won back Arfon, notionally held by Labour, but they fell short by a large margin in Ynys Môn and they fell far, far short of winning back Ceredigion, a narrow LibDem gain in 2005 where the LibDem majority increased substantially. The margin in Ceredigion is now 50-28.

The Greens broke through in Brighton Pavilion, winning their first seat ever (on less than 1% of the national vote) and marking one of the first seats won by Greens in a FPTP national election. MEP Caroline Lucas defeated Labour 31-29, while the Tories polled a rather poor 24% of the vote in a race rumoured to be a two-way Green-Tory contest. The Tories, however, did win Brighton Kemptown and Hove, both won by Labour in the past three elections. The Greens victory in Brighton Pavilion reflects a winning strategy for such parties, especially the Canadian Greens: focus almost all resources on one seat with a star candidate and bomb that seat with leaflets; while forgetting other seats. The Greens did that and it paid them dividends, though overall the party’s share of the vote actually fell slightly and in most other constituencies it did as well. The Greens also did well in Norwich South, their ‘second target’, with 15% of the vote. It polled barely over 2% in both Oxford seats.

George Galloway, Respect’s sole MP and a major victor of the 2005 election, moved from his constituency of Bethnal Green & Bow to Poplar and Limehouse, and he took a trashing there, winning only 18% of the vote against 40% for Labour and 27% for the Tories (who didn’t win the seat after all). In Bethnal Green & Bow, Respect’s candidate won 17% and third-place. Respect’s best result was won by Salma Yaqoob in a massive mud-sliding contest in the new seat of Birmingham Hall Green: Yaqoob won 25% and second place, narrowly ahead of the LibDems and not too far from Labour’s 33% of the vote.

The BNP’s leader Nick Griffin was standing in Barking against high-profile Labour MP Margaret Hodge, and the leader’s result was quite bad for the party and reflects poorly on the party’s overall results. Griffin won only 15% of the vote, the BNP vote actually down on 2005 and still in third place behind the Tories (18%) and far away from Labour, which won 54%, up 4% on 2005. Overall, however, the BNP’s vote increased to 1.9%, likely its best result in a general election to date, and the BNP was the party, with the Tories, that saw its vote increase by the largest amount (+1.2%). This is likely due to running far more candidates than in 2005, though the BNP increased its Westminster presence in the North East. The BNP’s result is not as bad as it’s made out to be (nor is it all that good), but in Barking, it’s very bad and at the local level, the BNP lost all 12 seats in the Barking and Dagenham borough council, where all seats are now held by Labour.

UKIP’s former leader Nigel Farage, injured in a plane crash the day before the vote, was standing against the Speaker in Buckingham. John Bercow, the Speaker, is not entirely popular, especially in his own party, where his pragmatic and liberal stances are not all that welcome. Yet, Farage didn’t make an impact and there was no late sympathy vote. Farage ended up in third, with only 17% and behind an anti-Bercow independent who polled 21%. Bercow’s vote, however, was down roughly 11% on his 2005 result.

Elections in the UK are often fought on bases of classes, and those patterns have remained largely stable since 1935. On a map, the Tories win the most land area (as they did in 2005), because they represent largely sprawling rural or suburban areas. The party’s strongest majorities are found, obviously, in the South-East and East, though in rural and very wealthy areas as a general rule. As previously mentioned, the Tories gained ground from Labour either in seats were the boundaries make them closely split between Labour and Tories, or in more well-off urban and suburban areas won by Labour in its 1997 landslide (eg, Lincoln and so forth). In other rural areas, old patterns based on historical religious adherence, die hard. Cornwall, parts of the South-West and Wales have always been weaker Tory land because the Tories were historically seen, especially in Celtic Cornwall and Wales (Montgomeryshire, Brecon and Radnorshire), as the English Anglicans in opposition to non-conformist Celtic Cornwall. In Wales, the Tories have usually found strength in wealthy areas (Cardiff North, the Vale of Glamorgan) but also areas with a large number of English retirees (Pembrokeshire) and areas more English than Welsh (Monmouthshire). Scotland actually used to be a strong Tory area, but Thatcher’s policies and the SNP killed it off. Thatcher was unpopular by the end in Scotland, and the SNP appealed to those voters who had voted for the Unionist Party of Scotland (merged into the national Tories in 1965) because of the Unionist’s Scottish Protestant rhetoric. Labour has been reduced in this election to its base in working-class (usually old mining) areas. Almost all Labour seats are found in urban or densely-populated industrial valleys, giving the impression on a general map that they’re a small party. Labour’s best areas are in the Welsh valleys (the Rhondda etc), Liverpool and surrounding industrial hinterland, coal mining areas in the Yorkshire and Derbyshire, the mining stronghold of County Durham, Scottish mining areas in central Scotland and Fife, the Black Country around Birmingham, and the working-class areas in East London (or similarly working-class areas in western-ish London) and other cities including Glasgow. The Liberal Democrats have strongholds built largely on persons rather than demographics. While they do well in traditionally Liberal areas such as Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands or eastern rural Wales, personality encourages a lot of their vote. The LibDems, as mentioned in previous posts, often take different rhetoric to win different seats. It can sometimes even be borderline populist and nationalist, such as in Burnley, or Cornish nationalist as with Andrew George in St. Ives. As evidenced by the result in Ceredigion and especially Westmorland and Lonsdale, their MPs often have a large sophomore surge. That being said, there are some traditionally LibDem demographics: students (Durham, Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff Central, Manchester Withington), young professionals and wealthy liberals (parts of south London), and some strength in certain resort towns (Torbay, Southport, Eastbourne). Sometimes, the LibDems win under slightly disconcerting circumstances (in some cases, gay opponents: Norfolk North and Simon Hughes’ 1983 by-election win in Bermondsey). The LibDem’s weird patterns of support, which are generally well spread out and peaking only in a handful of seats, account for their weak results under FPTP. However, the LibDem strategy of working hard in certain seats to win them and hold them makes sure that on 23% of the vote, they manage 57 seats in 2010 rather than 23 on 25% in 1983, so it has its dividends as well.

A note on local elections: after 157 of 164 councils declared, the Tories hold 65 (-8), Labour has 37 (+15), the LibDems have 13 (-4) while 45 remain NOC (-3). The Tories lost 121 seats, now holding 3364 councillors against 2857 for Labour (+414) and 1615 for the LibDems (-141). A notable Labour gain is in Liverpool, where the LibDem majority has been defeated. In the London boroughs, Labour has picked up a good number, and Barking and Dagenham is an entirely Labour council. The BNP has only 19 councillors left, down 26. More results here.

David Cameron is favoured to form cabinet, and negotiations are underway as this is posted with Nick Clegg’s LibDems. Labour had called by election night for a Lib-Lab pact, but Clegg had said during the campaign that the party with the most votes and seats should have first digs at forming a government. Hope for a Lib-Lab pact is extremely low, and Labour already rebuffed SNP offers at a grand Labour-LD-SNP-SDLP-Plaid coalition. Cameron yesterday highlighted the common ground between LibDems and Tories, but there remains significant differences, most notably on Europe, immigration and electoral reform. Electoral reform remains a top priority for the LibDems, but the Tories are the most reticent of the two major parties (Labour called by election night for some sort of talks on the matter) for electoral reform. The Tories might bury LibDem calls for electoral reform by accepting to long-winded committees on the matter or STV voting for the Lords or local elections. The LibDems ought to be cautious and intelligent when talking to the Tories. If there was to be a deal, an informal deal between both would be far better for the LibDems than a formal coalition, where the LibDems would obviously have the shed their ‘alternative’ image and would be associated by voters with Tory policies. It also remains to be seen if the LibDem electorate, a lot of which vote for the party because it’s neither red nor blue, would be happy about a Lib-Tory deal. If talks fall through, Cameron could still form a minority cabinet relying on on-and-off support from Northern Ireland’s unionists, the LibDems or even the SNP-Plaid for a majority on various matters. However, such a minority wouldn’t be as stable as Harper’s minority in Canada, given that Labour is probably structurally and financially stronger than the Canadian Liberals and could afford to defeat Cameron in the House and force a snap election. It is quasi-certain anyways, however, that the current Parliament won’t last as long as its predecessor and an election might be held as soon as winter.

Northern Ireland

Its best to analyse politics in Northern Ireland separately from the ‘other island’ because of the major differences. Northern Ireland has 18 constituencies (which also serve as multi-member STV constituencies for the Assembly elections). Politics remain sectarian in Northern Ireland despite the power-sharing in Belfast and the end of the Troubles, and political parties reflect those sectarian lines. However, the increase of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland will sooner or later trouble the delicate balance of power between the two major sectarian forces. Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs are ignored in times of majorities, but in times of hung parliaments, the unionist MPs are courted actively. The Tories in the past sometimes depended on support from unionist MPs, and Sinn Féin’s abstentionist MPs reduce the magic majority line from 326 to 323 in 2010. The unionist MPs might come in vital for a Tory minority government.

In Northern Ireland as a whole, Sinn Féin topped the poll with 25.5% of the vote, up 1% on 2005, while the DUP share of the vote fell 8.7% to 25%. The SDLP, the second nationalist party, saw its vote go down by only 1% to reach 16.5%, while the second unionist party, the UUP/UCUNF won only 15.2%, down 2.6% on 2005. The non-sectarian liberal Alliance won 6.3% (+2.4%) while the hardline anti-power sharing TUV won only 3.9%.

In Antrim North, Ian Paisley Jr. had no trouble in the race to succeed his father, winning 46.4% against 16.8% for Jim Allister, the TUV leader and former MEP. While Paisley Jr’s result is down 10% on 2005, he maintains a comfortable 29.6% majority in the seat. Allister’s result is rather bad and would only yield a handful of Assembly seats next year if the numbers hold up.

Reg Empey, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, was standing in Antrim South, the only seat where Empey’s UUP-Tory coalition had a real chance of winning. Despite a 3.6% swing from the DUP to the UCUNF, Empey is 3.5% behind incumbent DUP MP William McCrea with 30.4% against 33.9% for the DUP incumbent. The TUV polled 5.4%. Empey’s defeat will likely call into question his leadership, which is already rapidly evaporating, but also the continued existence of a clearly dwindling UUP, especially in face of the 2011 Assembly elections, where Martin McGuinness could become First Minister on the back of unionist divisions.

The shock came from Belfast East, the seat held by incumbent First Minister Peter Robinson, also leader of the DUP, since 1979. Robinson temporarily stepped down as First Minister earlier this year after it was revealed that his wife, Iris Robinson (formerly an MP as well) had sexual affairs and illegal financial dealings with a teenager. A poll had shown he wasn’t at much risk in a Protestant DUP stronghold, but they failed to see the wave, which came not from the nationalists or UCUNF, but from the non-sectarian Alliance. Its candidate, Naomi Long, elected Lord Mayor of Belfast in 2009, won 37.2% of the vote against 32.8% for Robinson, on a massive 23% swing to the Alliance from the DUP. Robinson remains as First Minister, but his authority is severely shaken by this shocking defeat.

In Belfast South, the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell had been elected in 2005 thanks to vote splitting between the unionists, but this time around he had no trouble winning. His share of the vote increased by nearly 11% to reach 41%, giving him a 17% majority over his closest rival, the Democratic Unionist Jimmy Spratt, who won 23.7%. Anna Lo, an Alliance Assembly member of Chinese descent, won a very pleasing 15% of the vote, which shows her popularity as an Assembly member (it isn’t an ethnic vote, obviously, only 3% of the constituency’s population is non-white) and the party’s appeal in the seat. McDonnell’s large victory reflects Sinn Féin’s drop-out in his favour, but also the growing Catholic population in the seat.

Gerry Adams managed to increase his vote in Belfast West, Sinn Féin’s heartland, to 71%. In Belfast North, despite a 7% increase in its vote share, Sinn Féin failed to wrestle the seat from the DUP, which won 40%. However, Sinn Féin’s 7% increase here is larger than the SDLP’s 4.5% slide, reflecting the growing Catholic population in the seat and maybe a sign that Sinn Féin might be able to win it in the future.

Lady Sylvia Hermon, North Down’s MP, was the UUP’s sole survivor in 2005, but she left the party after it allied with the Tories and stood for re-election as an Independent against Ian Parsley, the Alliance-turned-Tory guy. Parsley obviously wasn’t a top-caliber opponent to a very popular local MP. Hermon won 63%, up from 50% in 2005, against Parsley’s 20.4%. The Alliance suffered from Hermon’s popularity and their vote slid by 2% to only 5.6%.

Another setback for the Robinson clan was in Strangford, Iris Robinson’s old seat, where she was retiring (obviously). The DUP’s vote slid nearly 9 points to 45.9%, mainly to the benefit of the UCUNF, which won 27.8% (+6.4% on 2005). The DUP held on narrowly in Upper Bann, with 33.8% against 25.7% for the UCUNF and 24.7% for Sinn Féin, which placed a disappointing third after a poll had showed them in a strong second to the DUP.

The DUP held on in East Londonderry with a 15% majority on Sinn Féin while high-profile DUPer Sammy Wilson won re-election in East Antrim with a 22% majority on UCUNF.

Sinn Féin faced a very, very tough contest in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, a majority Catholic seat but one where a united unionist front can win. Rodney Connor, the unionist unity candidate, was the favourite against Sinn Féin incumbent Michelle Gildernew. Gildernew held on by four votes about a number of recounts against Rodney Connor. Both polled 45.5% of the votes. Because Gildernew was threatened, the SDLP’s vote was massively squeezed, being halved to reach only 7.6%. If the SDLP had dropped out to save Gildernew, it would have been a much easier election for Gildernew.

Sinn Féin easily held on in Mid Ulster (Martin McGuinness’ seat), Tyrone West and Newry & Armagh. The SDLP’s former leader, Mark Durkan, was re-elected in Foyle with a 12.7% majority over Sinn Féin, though both parties vote slid, likely in favour of Eammon McCann of the far-left People before Profit, which won a record 7.7% in the seat. The SDLP’s new leader, Margaret Ritchie, held on in South Down, with a comfortable 19.8% majority over Sinn Féin, despite the retirement of popular SDLP MP Eddie McGrady.

The DUP will send 8 MPs against 5 Shinners, 3 SDLPers, one Alliance and one independent – for the first time since its creation, Northern Ireland will not be represented in Westminster by a unionist majority (10 unionists in 2005, now down to 9 against 8 nationalists and one non-sectarian).

Election Preview: UK 2010

The United Kingdom votes in its long-anticipated general election on Thursday, May 6th. For an election which was awaited by so many electoral pundits, it has not let them down one inch. The inclusion of three TV debates between the three major leaders – a novelty in British elections – has changed the general outlook of the election vastly. Whatever the results may be, it will likely go down as an historic election of sorts.

The Liberal Democrats’ historic surge since the first debate, up to 33% in some polls and rarely falling below 28% or so since then, is obviously the most striking aspect. Because of the appeal of their new, young, charismatic leader, Nick Clegg; but also because of a general antipathy towards Conservatives and Labour. The LibDems have an unusual electoral coalition, including various groups of voters which on the outside are worlds apart on policies in a number of cases. They don’t have any old lasting strongholds (except Orkney and the Shetlands!), like Labour has in the coal fields or the Tories in rural England, meaning that their electoral successes often come from a localized message against their party of choice or policy of choice. If not, it comes from a personal vote.

The result is that it renders even more useless the holy universal national swing (UNS) calculators. Those little gadgets work on the flawed assumption that the national swing from one party to another will be the same in all constituencies, in all regions. The UNS is a good thing to sell papers and grab headlines, but it isn’t the most useful of electoral outcome predictors. The LibDem surge renders it all the more useless.

The current lines in polling seems to have the Tories at around 33-36%, Labour and LibDems usually at 28% each, giving or taking a few points. The polls have been remarkably stable in that range, though YouGov’s daily tracker today had the LibDems down to 24% – something not yet backed up by any other pollster. In terms of seats, the UNS and other predictors seem to indicate that the Tories would be the largest party in a hung parliament with somewhere in the high 200s-low 300s in terms of seats, with Labour likely in second with somewhere between 210 and 250ish seats. The LibDems would likely be between the high 70s and mid 90s. A poll in marginal constituencies indicates a Tory majority of two, but if there’s one thing I am allergic too, it is those polls in ‘marginals’ or in specific constituencies.

This would result in a hung parliament, which would mean that no party would have an outright majority. There are a lot of possible consequences of this, including a minority government similar to Canada, a Tory deal with the Northern Irish unionists (or SNP, but only if the Tories are very close to an overall majority) or a coalition deal between one of the parties and the LibDems. The LibDems will probably be in a good position to ask for a number of concessions on stuff such as electoral reform or working with Labour on condition that Brown goes, so I would personally argue that there’s a better chance for a Tory minority government than the Tories agreeing to LibDem electoral reform and forming a coalition with them. However, there is an outside chance that Labour could push Brown out and agree to work with the LibDems, but it would require the Tories to be far away from the majority threshold, and at least the tolerance of other parties such as Plaid or the SNP.

There have been differing analyses of where the new LibDem vote comes from exactly, but given the topic, it’s better to wait until the 7th to see the results. The LibDems would be leading, according to YouGov’s last regional breakdown, in the South-West, which would indicate their resistance in all 6 Cornish seats but also pushing through in Devon and around Bristol where they’re already naturally strong on balance. In London, they could win marginal Labour seats in Islington and that general area of northern London. In Birmingham, the bookies seem to be betting on the LibDems picking up the new inner city seat of Birmingham Hall Green. In Liverpool, the constituency of Liverpool Wavertree, a rather well-off seat in the middle of deprived Liverpool could be won by the LibDems, who could also pick up Burnley, famous for its race riots in 2001 and for being the original base of the BNP. In the mining Labour heartland of the North-East, the LibDems could pick up seats in Newcastle and Durham (City), bourgeois enclaves in proletarian land.

The minor parties, namely the Greenies, UKIP and BNP will each have their eyes seat on one seat each. The Greenies hope to pick up Brighton Pavilion, a Labour-held seat where the incumbent is retiring and where the Greens are running their leader and incumbent MEP Caroline Lucas. The LibDems seem to have informally ‘dropped out’, leaving the seat wide open for Lucas, who is the favourite in this very hip and young seat in the coastal resort of Brighton. Former UKIP leader and incumbent MEP Nigel Farage is taking on the Speaker, John Bercow, in his Buckingham seat. As per usual, neither Labour nor the LibDems are opposing the Speaker, who is a former Conservative. Farage is unlikely to win. The BNP will watch the east London seat of Barking, where its leader Nick Griffin (also an MEP…) is facing the Labour incumbent. Barking is a white working-class Labour stronghold, but the BNP’s rhetoric plays well in this area close to major immigrant areas in Tower Hamlets. Griffin is unlikely to win, but the BNP wishes to do well enough to increase its representation on the borough council (all London boroughs are also up on May 6, with a number of other seats in English local government). The controversial George Galloway won a shocking and controversial victory in Bethnal Green & Bow in 2005, in a race dominated by the Iraq War in the Bangladeshi heart of London. Respect, Galloway’s party, has since gone down the route of civil war and divisions, and got creamed in recent electoral outings. Galloway is now running in the new seat of Poplar & Limehouse, next door to Bethnal Green & Bow, probably to lose as a candidate rather than as an incumbent. Some say Galloway’s standing might split the left vote and allow the Tories to pick up Poplar & Limehouse (which includes the gentrified Docklands, where I assume there’s a base of Tory support). Respect is also going to watch Birmingham Hall Green, where Salma Yaqoob is running and already won the support of some Labour members.

Ed Balls is the only important cabinet minister facing a tough fight in the new seat of Morley & Outwood, and given that he is a likely leadership contender if/once Brown leaves the leadership, his victory or defeat will be a mjaor point. Jacqui Smith and Tony McNulty, two of the largest names involved in the 2009 expenses scandal will likely go down to a hard defeat.

The race is also being played in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, where issues are sometimes different.

The Conservatives are looking to make major gains in Wales, where they currently hold (notionally) three seats against 30 for Labour, 4 for the LibDems, 2 for Plaid and one seat held by an Independent. The Conservatives did top the poll here in the European elections, which marked the first time since 1918 or so that Labour didn’t top the poll in its Welsh heartland. From their three seats today, the Tories would like to gain at least five seat to have a Welsh caucus of eight seats. The LibDem surge seems to have affected Wales as well, though seemingly to a lesser extent, which means that the LibDem’s on-the-wire victory over Plaid in Ceredigion in 2005 will likely be secured and the LibDems may target seats such as Swansea West. Plaid is seemingly polling quite poorly, but Labour’s decline might help it gain Ynys Mon and win outright in Arfon (held by Plaid, but Labour on notionals). A Plaid gain in Ceredigion, however, seems more and more unlikely.

The SNP is putting a lot of stock into this election in Scotland, where the Scottish Parliament, led by the SNP, is up in May 2011. However, Scottish voters seem to prefer Labour at Westminster and the SNP in Holyrood. However, the SNP did rather poorly in 2005, polling roughly 18% to the LibDems’ 22%. Their vote will undoubtedly go up, and they could gain around two seats from the six they currently hold. The LibDems in 2005 had managed to coalesce a part of the Scottish anti-Labour vote, which usually floats between them and the SNP, so them improving on their 2005 result even minimally would be excellent and allow them to gain ground in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

In Northern Ireland, much has been made of the electoral pact between the Conservatives and the Ulster Unionists, forming the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists-New Force (UCUNF). But the pact was not approved by the UUP’s sole MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon in North Down, who left the party and is standing for re-election as an independent and is very likely to win. Lady Sylvia has been close to the Labour Party in the past, and she said that she was not a Tory. The UCUNF’s only major hope is in Antrim South, where its leader Reg Empey faces incumbent DUP MP William McCrea. The bookies seem to be betting on Empey for a narrow win, but a p0ll by the Belfast Telegraph says otherwise. Empey’s defeat would call into question his leadership and maybe the party as a whole (if he loses, 2010 could be the first election since… the 1800s that the Ulster Unionists do not win a single seat), especially in regards to the 2011 Assembly elections and the prospect of the Shinner Martin McGuinness become First Minister on the back of Unionist division. In Antrim North, the old patriarch of the DUP, Reverend Ian Paisley is stepping aside in favour of his son, Ian Paisley Jr., who is facing his father’s former hardline ally, Jim Allister and his new anti-power sharing Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) in his first electoral outing. The goal for Allister is not to win, but to make a strong showing as to better position the TUV to win seats in the Assembly next year. The Telegraph says that TUV would win up to 5 seats on its current numbers. The other race to watch is in Fermanagh and South Tyrone, a majority Catholic constituency held by Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew (and held by hunger striker Bobby Sands for a very short while in 1981) but one where a unionist unity candidate could conceivably win. The unionist parties (DUP and UCUNF) agreed on the candidacy of Rodney Connor, who must be the narrow favourite in the seat, which is, ironically, the birthplace of the late 20th century Sinn Féin party. However, a poll by the Telegraph has Gildernew leading him by just one point – 44 to 43. The SDLP did not drop out here, but Sinn Féin did in South Belfast, where the SDLP’s 2005 gain was on the back of unionist divisions. With Sinn Féin out there, and the Catholic population increasing, the SDLP will hold on rather easily.

There’s a mock election poll running on this very blog – down the right-hand side. After 34 votes, the Tories are ahead on here with 32% against 26% for the LibDems. The Greens are third with 12%, while there’s a massive tie for fourth with Labour, UKIP, BNP and SNP each at 6%. Mebyon Kernow and Plaid have 3% each. This would give a Tory majority of 94, with 148 LibDems, 89 Labour and 40 others…

What’s going on in the British Isles?

I wanted to wait a bit until making an election preview post for the UK’s May 6th general election, something you probably all know about and are following with passion anyway. But the recent craziness of the electoral campaign and polling in the British Isles has forced me to do otherwise. A certain yellow party was polling between 20 and 22% a week ago, and now this same party is polling 30-33% and is even leading in some polls. What’s going on?

The Liberal Democrats were formed in 1988 by the merger between the Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party (SDP). The LibDems have, thanks to a successful electoral strategy, been able to increase their representation and popular support from 17.8% and 20 seats in 1992 to 22.1% and 62 seats in 2005. They have, however, never been able to breakthrough lastingly at the national level, the result partly of the electoral system and low media coverage. The LibDems have had a rough ride this Parliament, first with the 2006 resignation for his past alcoholism problems of popular

Nobody knew who Nick Clegg, the MP for Sheffield Hallam was, so his message of a third-way alternative to Tories and Labour didn’t resonate much but he did get the LibDems out of the polling straits they had been under Ming Campbell (as low as 13%). Yet, his message was and is one that can work. The idea of a fourth term for Labour, already in power since 1997, isn’t an appealing prospect to the majority of Britons and the Tories, rejuvenated under their young leader David Cameron, have led in polls since Gordon Brown took office in 2007. Yet, the enthusiasm of Cameron’s first days in leadership have worn down and the Conservatives aren’t as popular as they were back in 2006 or 2008. The recent expenses scandal in 2009 has hurt all sides, especially Labour, and has led to a generalized feeling of discontent with politicians and the two big parties, a discontent expressed in June 2009 by the high vote for the UKIP, BNP and Greens in the European elections.

The first ever televised debates between the big 3 leaders was held on April 15, and two others will be on April 22 and 29. This debate was the opportunity for Clegg, unknown to voters, to gain notoriety. And that he just did. He easily won the debate against Cameron and Brown, who did poorly. The result was huge. All polls since the debate have them over 29%, and up to 33% in some. YouGov on April 18 had them first with 33% against 32% for the Tories, while Labour is polling far behind in third place with 26% in YouGov’s poll but as low as 24% in today’s Angus-Reid (though Angus-Reid is more like ‘Tory-Reid’) poll.

A lot now depends if Clegg lives up to high expectations set for him for the two last debates. But there seems something lasting in this LibDem bump, and it is now extremely unlikely the LibDems will see a net drop in their share of the vote or seats nationally vis-a-vis 2005.

Playing around with the universal national swing (UNS) is always a stupid idea since it assumes that all seats will swing by the same amount on election day, which for is, for all intents, impossible. But with the craziness now, and since the LibDems are a party with some weird voting patterns, it’s even stupider. But it seems that on most of these polls, Labour would be the largest party in a hung parliament followed closely by Tories. Both would hold between 240 and 260 seats. The LibDems would win around 100 to 125 seats. The cool swingometer map on UKPollingReport shows that the LibDems would be strong in the southwest, especially in Cornwall (where they hold all seats already) and Devon.

May 6 will be fun, no matter what. But a likely very divided result could either lead to electoral reform because of a deal between LibDems and either Tories or Labour or to a new dissolution for a late 2010/early 2011 election if Tories and Labour don’t commit themselves to electoral reform, which will likely be the main demand of the LibDems after May 6. Their old plea for electoral reform will be strenghtened by the unproportional result of this election.

Glasgow North East (UK) by-election 200

Labour has won a surprisingly comfortable victory in yesterday’s Glasgow North East by-election, held to replace Speaker Michael Martin (Labour). Despite Labour’s low numbers nationally and regionally in Scotland, Labour fended off a strong SNP challenge in this safe Labour inner-city Glasgow constituency with little trouble.

Willie Bain (Labour) 59.39% (+6.07%)
David Kerr (SNP) 20.00% (+2.34%)
Ruth Davidson (Conservative) 5.22%
Charlie Baillie (BNP) 4.92% (+1.68%)
Tommy Sheridan (Solidarity) 3.86%
Eileen Baxendale (LibDems) 2.30%
David Doherty (Greens) 1.61%
John Smeaton (Jury Team) 1.25%
Kevin McVey (SSP) 0.74% (-4.2%)
Mikey Hughes (Independent) 0.26%
Louise McDaid (Socialist Labour) 0.23%
Mev Brown (Independent) 0.16%
Colin Campbell (TILT) 0.06%

Turnout was 33.2%, down 12.6% on 2005, marking the lowest turnout ever in a Scottish by-election. The previous Scottish record had been set by the Falkirk by-election in 2000, held shortly before Christmas…

The results are a clear victory for Labour, which has done remarkably well, as well as a deception for the SNP, which had hoped for a repeat of the Glasgow East 2008 by-election here. It wasn’t even close. The reasons for Labour’s strong victory vary, a lot saying that Labour was helped by leading a local campaign and campaigning as an opposition party to the SNP, a winning strategy also tried in Glenrothes. Others have suggested that Glasgow East voters had voted SNP in a real hope or aspiration for social change, but that voters in this very poor constituency had little hope that either Labour or the SNP would change anything, and resigned themselves to voting Labour. The SNP was also hurt by it’s candidate selection troubles earlier on in this campaign.

The Conservatives can breathe a sigh of relief as they save their deposits, do slightly better than they did here in the European elections (4.4%) and get a symbolic third ahead of the BNP, which was rumoured to be in third for most of the count. As for the BNP itself, a good result, but below the 5% threshold for deposits and behind the Conservatives, disappointing for them. However, as an observer, I’d just like to make a point of noting the stupidity of the talking heads taking the BNP’s ‘breakthrough’ with 4.9% of the vote in a 35%-turnout by-election as a massive shock and the equivalent of the election of the Nazi Party to power. In most countries with a strong far-right, most can only dream of the day when the far-right polls only 4.9%!

The Trot Tommy Sheridan, despite facing a perjury trial, came in a solid-ish fifth, though somebody on the BBC’s election night special noted that a few years ago, Tommy Sheridan running in a constituency like this would have come close to 20%. Though the man facing a criminal trial did do better than the LibDem candidate, amusingly enough. Little use in commenting further, though I will note the Green result is disappointing given that the Greenies came in third in the Euros, with 6.5% here.

Labour won due to a good local-opposition campaign, but that will be difficult to repeat in England in the 2010 election. This by-election will likely have little effect, especially south of the border in England.

Election Preview: Glasgow North East (UK) by-election 2009

Voters in Glasgow North East go to the polls today, November 12, to elect a new MP after  its MP, and Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin resigned in the wake of the expenses scandal in June. Despite winning re-election in 2005 as the Speaker, and without opposition from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (as is the norm for speakers), he is a member of the Labour Party and was elected in 1979 in Glasgow Springburn (the predecessor, more or less, or Glasgow NE). Glasgow North East, one of Glasgow’s poorest areas, ridden by poverty, drugs and crime, is a Labour stronghold. Martin, standing for Labour in 1997 won 71.4% in Glasgow Springburn and won 53.3% standing as Speaker in 2005. Here are the 2005 results:

Michael Martin (Speaker [Labour]) 53.3%
John McLaughlin (SNP) 17.7%
Doris Kelly (Socialist Labour) 14.2%
Graham Campbell (Scottish Socialist) 4.9%
Daniel Houston (Scottish Unionist) 4.5%
Scott McLean (BNP) 3.2%
Joe Chambers (Independent) 2.2%

These results may give the wrong impression in some places, as third parties, which are often jokes in normal races, poll decently well in the Speaker’s constituency. The Socialist Labour Party, a Stalinist joke outfit, won 14.2% mostly due to voter confusion over the fact that its name included ‘Labour’ (and Martin was listed as ‘Speaker’, not ‘Labour’). The Scottish Unionists, a largely anti-Catholic unionist party, polled ‘well’, probably with usually Conservatives voters (the Conservatives poll crap here, only 4.4% in the 2009 European elections).

The Labour candidate and favourite is William Bain, who faces SNP candidate David Kerr. The Conservatives, LibDems, Scottish Greens, Solidarity, the BNP, Socialist Labour, Scottish Socialists, the ‘Jury Team’ are all fielding candidates, in addition to an Independent.

Labour polled 41.3% in the terrible Labour defeat of the June European elections, against 25% for the SNP and 6.5% for the Greenies. If Labour carried it so comfortably, it would indicate it is pretty safe. However, the Glasgow Labour Party’s by-election record is awful (see Glasgow East, another relatively poor Labour stronghold lost to the SNP in a 2008 by-election).

The count has started by now, and most rumours indicate a rather easy Labour victory. The full results remain unknown.

Norwich North (UK) by-election 2009

I posted last night on a by-election in the Westminster constituency of Norwich North which was held on July 23 after the resignation of the sitting Labour MP, Ian Gibson, over the expenses scandal. Here are the results:

Chloe Smith (Conservative) 39.54% (+6.29%)
Chris Ostrowski (Labour) 18.16% (-26.70%)
April Pond (LibDems) 13.97% (-2.22%)
Glenn Tingle (UKIP) 11.83% (+9.45%)
Rupert Read (Green) 9.74% (+7.08%)
Craig Murray (Honest) 2.77%
Robert West (BNP) 2.74%
Bill Holden (Ind) 0.48% (-0.17%)
Howling Laud (Loony) 0.42%
Anne Fryatt (NOTA) 0.17%
Thomas Burridge (Libertarian) 0.10%
Peter Baggs (Ind) 0.07%
Conservative GAIN from LabourConsevative majority: 21.37%
16.49% swing from Labour to Conservative

Unexpectedly good showing from the Conservatives, who managed to increase their vote share quite significantly even though UKIP also had a phenomenal vote increase, probably aftershocks from the Euros and a good turnout from their base. Labour, on the other hand, has fared worse than I and others expected, and much below that 30% the poll gave them. Their share is down nearly 27% and they have been reduced to a mere 18.2% in a constituency which is a generally safe Labour seat. Good result for the Greens, but they must be deceived they only polled fifth and below 10%, but it positions Read well to run in Norwich South, where he’ll do much better.

If the Conservatives can manage a majority of 21% in a seat like this, they’re well on their way to a landslide mandate in the next general election. And a 16.5% swing to them endangers a number of senior Labour cabinet members.

However, this is a low turnout by-election (45%), so it’s perhaps best not to use this as a prediction model for the general election.

Election Preview: Norwich North (UK) by-election

A by-election is being held today (July 23) in the British constituency of Norwich North, located in Norfolk in the East of England. This is held to replace Ian Gibson, a Labour MP involved in the expenses scandal who was excluded from the party and forbidden to run for re-election as a Labour candidate. His position was untenable and he resigned, without running for re-election as an Independent Labourite.

Norwich North is the poorer and more blue-collar of the two Norwich constituencies, and includes little industrial pockets and social housing. It has been held by Labour since its creation in 1966, but the Conservatives won it in the 1983 Tory landslide and held it until 1997 after a close election victory in 1992. Norwich South is wealthier and more service-oriented. However, the city as a whole has a reputation to be one of the country’s ‘greenest’ cities. In fact, the Greens were the largest party in the city in the June Euro elections – though their strength is mostly concentrated in Norwich South.

The 2005 results were as follows:

Ian Gibson (Labour) 44.9%
James Tumbridge (Conservative) 33.3%
Robin Whitmore (LibDem) 16.2%
Adrian Holmes (Green) 2.7%
John Youles (UKIP) 2.4%
Bill Holden (Ind) 0.7%

The two major contenders – Labour and Tories – have both nominated candidates, who, if elected, will be the youngest MPs in the House. Labour’s candidate is Chris Ostrowski and the Tory candidate is Chloe Smith.  The LibDem candidate is their 2005 candidate in South West Norfolk and local councillor April Pond. The Greenies nominated Rupert Read, their top candidate in the East Euro constituency in June as their candidate. Read is also a local councillor – the Greens are the second party on the Norwich council. There are also UKIP, BNP and Looney candidates. A notable independent is former ambassador Craig Murray running as an anti-corruption candidate.

The Greens are not strong in the North, but more in the South (over 7% in 2004); but Labour is bleeding a lot of support to the Greens according to a poll for the by-election (change on 2005). Craig Murray was not polled, but he is an important factor. His result will be important to this race.

Conservative 34% (+1)
Labour 30% (-15)
LibDem 15% (-1)
Green 14% (+11)

UK PollingReport has some information on the poll:

Norwich’s University & College Union have commissioned an ICM poll for the forthcoming by-election in Norwich North. […]

This is the equivalent of an 8 percent swing to the Conservatives, pretty much in line with national polling at the moment, though beneath those figures the actual shift has almost all been from the Labour party over to the Greens. The sample size was only 500 (and once don’t knows, unlikely to votes and so on were taken out, the voting figures were based on only 294), so there’s a hefty margin of error, but the Conservatives start the race slightly ahead.

This is of course an early poll – the by-election campaigning has barely started and Labour haven’t even named their candidate. 18% of the people ICM contacted weren’t even aware there was a forthcoming by-election, and 24% said they didn’t know how they would vote (as usual ICM re-allocate a proportion of these people based on how they voted at the last election, without this adjustment the figures would have been CON 35%, LAB 28%).

Labour is expecting a bad night (or day, seeing as counting starts tomorrow morning), but the Conservatives falling flat (albeit allowing them to win thanks to Labour’s collapse) wouldn’t be entirely good news. A good Green result for Read would position him well to run “for real” in Norwich South in the general election, since Norwich South is probably a top Green target and one of the few places they stand a chance to win.

Europe 2009: United Kingdom Results

As expected, the UK Euro results were marked by an unprecedented defeat for the governing Labour Party and also a drop in already very low turnout (though much smaller than earlier predicted, thankfully). Euro elections in the UK are held in twelve regional constituencies with a threshold of 5% in each, with seats allocated through proportional representation. Only Northern Ireland uses the single-transferable vote system, which is also used in all other Northern Irish elections. Prior to 1999, the UK was the only European country to elect MEPs via FPTP. The UK’s delegation has been reduced from 75 to 72 since 2004. For that reason, the results table gives the seat change including the loss of 3 seats nationally but also (second number) the relative seat change, using results for 72 seats in 2004.

Conservative 27.7% (+1.0%) winning 25 seats (-2/+1)
UKIP 16.5% (+0.3%) winning 13 seats (+1/+1)
Labour 15.7% (-6.9%) winning 13 seats (-6/-5)
Liberal Democrats 13.7% (-1.2%) winning 11 seats (-1/+1)
Green Party 8.6% (+2.4%) winning 2 seats (nc)
British National Party 6.2% (+1.3%) winning 2 seats (+2/+2)
Scottish National Party 2.1% (-+0.7%) winning 2 seats (nc)
Plaid Cymru 0.8% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (nc)

Results by region (all parties over 5% and the best party under 5%):

South East England: Con 34.8% (4), UKIP 18.8% (2), LD 14.1% (2), Green 11.6% (1), Lab 8.2% (1), BNP 4.4%
London: Con 27.4% (3), Lab 21.3% (2), LD 13.7% (1), Green 10.9% (1), UKIP 10.8% (1), BNP 4.9%
North West England: Con 25.6% (3), Lab 20.4% (2), UKIP 15.8% (1), LD 14.3% (1), BNP 8% (1), Green 7.7%, ED 2.4%
East of England: Con 31.2% (3), UKIP 19.6% (2), LD 13.8% (1), Lab 10.5% (1), Green 8.8%, BNP 6.1%, UK First 2.4%
South West England: Con 30.2% (3), UKIP 22.1% (2), LD 17.2% (1), Green 9.3%, Lab 7.7%, BNP 3.9%
West Midlands: Con 28.1% (2), UKIP 21.3% (2), Lab 17% (1), LD 12% (1), BNP 8.6%, Green 6.2%, ED 2.3%
Yorkshire and the Humber: Con 24.5% (2), Lab 18.8% (1), UKIP 17.4% (1), LD 13.2% (1), BNP 9.8% (1), Green 8.5%, ED 2.6%
Scotland: SNP 29.1% (2), Lab 20.8% (2), Con 16.8% (1), LD 11.5% (1), Green 7.3%, UKIP 5.2%, BNP 2.5%
East Midlands: Con 30.2% (2), Lab 16.9% (1), UKIP 16.4% (1), LD 12.3% (1), BNP 8.7%, Green 6.8%, ED 2.3%
Wales: Con 21.2% (1), Lab 20.3% (1), Plaid 18.5% (1), UKIP 12.8% (1), LD 10.7%, Green 5.6%, BNP 5.4%, Christian 1.9%
North East England: Lab 25% (1), Con 19.8% (1), LD 17.6% (1), UKIP 15.4%, BNP 8.9%, Green 5.8%, ED 2.2%
Northern Ireland: SF 26% (1), DUP 18.2% (1), UCU-F 17.1% (1), SDLP 16.2%, TUV 13.6%, Alliance 5.6%, Green 3.2%

UK EU 2009

The map and result table above show the extent of the Labour rout. Third place, behind UKIP, and losing in Labour’s historic strongholds. In the south of England, they’ve been reduced, at the Euro level atleast, to a fringe party left fighting with the Greenies. In Cornwall for example, Labour is in sixth – behind the Greenies and Mebyon Kernow (Cornish autonomists, who polled an excellent 7%)! Their only “wins” are in urban areas in the populated areas of central and northern England (Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, County Durham). At this point, Labour seems to be a purely urban/industrial party. The Conservatives, however, are quite far from a real landslide in the popular vote, with less than 30%. They break 40% in only a few places and 50% only in Gibraltar. However, in a general election, one would expect a lot of the UKIP vote to go to the Conservatives (and Labour to a lesser extent and to a much, much lesser extent, the LibDems). Not too bad a night for the Greenies, with a nice vote increase and first place in the wealthy liberal cities of Brighton & Hove, Oxford and Norwich. However, they must be pretty angry at missing out on seats in Scotland, North West, East, South West and a second seat in the South East. They’re perfectly right that a national constituency, used in most countries, would produce real proportional results and not fake proportional. On a very sad note for sanity and non-fascists, the British National (or Nazi) Party got not one MEP, but two MEPs. Including an outright racist and former Nazi (real one, I’m not using it as an insult), Andrew Brons, in Yorkshire and the Humber. Nick Griffin was elected in the North West (a massive campaign to prevent his election, led notably by the Greenies, failed). Griffin is not any better than Brons (the same can be said for any BNPer, really).

Scotland Wales EU 2009

Terrible results for Labour in it’s Celtic heartlands of Scotland and Wales. In Scotland, the SNP seems to have replaced Labour, for the time being atleast, as Scotland’s natural governing party. The SNP has won pleasing results in urban Labour areas (the Glasgow-Edinburgh belt). Labour’s defeat in Wales by the Conservatives is even more spectacular, Wales having voted for Labour since 1918. Even in Labour’s Welsh strongholds north of Cardiff, they’re not even breaking 35%. In Rhondda, where they polled 68% in the 2005 general election, they’re polling 34.7% today. However, the results in Wales are only encouraging to the Tories, who are on track to stack up a number of gains in the next general election. Plaid is obviously on track to re-gain Ceredigion, but they’ve fallen flat on their noses due to their coalition with Labour in Cardiff.

The result maps for Scotland are by local government area and in Wales, they’re by 2005 Westminster constituency.

The Northern Irish results are not really that groundbreaking and the claims of a massive historical defeat for unionists is laughable. While Sinn Féin is certainly far ahead, they’re polling slightly below their 2004 level and the other nationalist party, the SDLP has only marginally improved. The only reason the DUP has taken such a hit is because Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionists have done well (13.5% on FPVs). The Ulster Unionists-Conservatives have marginally improved on the UUP’s 2004 result. Overall, the seat distribution remains unchanged and the votes stand at nats 41.9% (42.2% in 2004) vs. unionists at 48.6% (48.5% in 2004). Alliance candidates or an Indie supported by the Alliance in 2004 took 5.5% in 2009 and 6.6% in 2004. The Alliance, close to the LibDems, claim to be independent of the nat/unionist divide and non-sectarian. IIRC, their preferences generally split more favourably for unionists (though the split is pretty even).

English and Irish Locals 2009

A number of countries vote today in the Euros, though many more vote tomorrow. Only the Dutch have taken the risk to publish Euro results before they were technically allowed to, while the Brits and Irish who voted before-yesterday and yesterday respectively have not published their Euro results (they will do so tommorrow, when all 26 other countries do so).

However, local elections were held in England and Ireland (where there were also two by-elections).

England Locals

The Conservatives have won a landslide in the local elections (27 county councils, 3 old unitary authorities, 5 new unitary authorities, and 3 directly-elected Mayors). According to the BBC, the figures for seats and councillors for all these authorities (except the Isles of Scilly, where all are Indies) are the following:

Conservative 1,476 councillors (+233) winning 30 councils (+7)
Liberal Democrats 473 councillors (-4) winning 1 council (-1)
Labour 176 councillors (-273) winning 0 councils (-4)
Independents 95 councillors (+6)
Green 16 councillors (+6)
Residents Associations 9 councillors (+2)
UKIP 6 councillors (+6)
Mebyon Kernow 3 councillors (±0)
BNP 3 councillors (+3)
Liberal 2 councillors (±0)
Others 28 councillors (+13)
No Overall Control winning 3 councils (-2)

The BBC has done a “projected PV share” estimate, which is quite worthless (anybody applying it to a general election is a useless tool) and probably very flawed. The Tories would have 38% (44 in 2008), the LibDems 28% (25 in 2008), and Labour 23% (24 in 2008). However, do note that the 2008 figure is based on entirely different councils, so the 2005 estimate is a much better comparison. The 2005 result is not available.

Anyways, Labour has suffered a very humiliating defeat. What is most striking is Labour’s total rout in some of its strongholds. In Lancashire, Labour fell from 44 seats in 2005 to 16 today (the Conservatives gained 18, the LibDems also gained 6). In Staffordshire, a Labour-held council, Labour is now the fourth party. It fell from 32 seats in 2005 to just 3 today (the Conservatives have gained the council with 49 seats, the LibDems and UKIP have four each). Other Labour council loses are Derbyshire (-16 seats for Labour), Nottinghamshire (-22).

The Liberal Democrats have picked up Bristol from NOC (they were the largest party before though). However, they have performed very poorly in Cornwall (where they hold all 5 – or 6 on new boundaries – seats in Westminster). They controlled the old Cornwall County Council, and today the Conservatives are by far the largest party with 50 seats (38 LibDem, 32 Indies and 3 Mebyon Kernow – a party which wants a devolved assembly and greater self-governance for Cornwall). This is certainly a bad sign for the LibDem incumbents in Westminster.

The other NOC councils are Cumbria (38 Con [+6], 24 Lab [-16], 16 LDs [+6], 5 Ind [+2], 1 Other [+1]) and Bedford, a new unitary authority (13 LDs, 9 Con, 7 Ind, 7 Lab).

This does not smell good for Labour in the Euros, and the UKIP and BNP’s local gains do smell good for them tomorrow.

On a negative note for all (although that may end up a positive note for certain parties), turnout was at joke levels. Around 20% for the Euros (the UK had a decent turnout by British standards for the 2004 Euros – 38%), which is close to 1999 levels (23%). In the locals, turnout was 30% (low turnout in locals is not a surprise or an abnormality in British electoral life). In Glasgow, turnout was 7% (yes, 93% did not vote).

In Northern Ireland, rumours have it that Sinn Féin has topped the poll (an excellent result for them which I did not see coming) due to a strong performance by incumbent “Traditionalist Unionist” MEP Jim Allister against his old Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). It seems that Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brún has made the quota by first count, while the DUP gets the second seat but without reaching the quota. The third seat is a thing to watch between the Conservative and Unionist (Conservative + Ulster Unionist [UUP]) MEP Jim Nicholson, the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) candidate Alban Macginness and Allister. These, however, are just rumours.

Ireland Locals and By-Elections

Ireland also voted in local elections (counties, county borough, city and town councils) and two by-elections for the the Irish lower house, the Dáil. Again, the government has suffered a humiliating defeat by the looks of the exit polls.

The local elections exit poll from RTÉ.

Fine Gael 34% (+6.5%)
Fianna Fáil 24% (-8%)
Labour 17% (+5.5%)
Sinn Féin 9% (+1%)
Green Party 3% (-1%)
Indies 13%

The current standings (190 seats out of 883)

Fine Gael 72 seats
Labour 46 seats
Fianna Fáil 30 seats
Others and Indies 29 seats
Sinn Féin 13 seats

In the Dáil by-elections, the counts are almost over.

Dublin South (Quota: 26,019)

George Lee (Fine Gael) 53.4% (+26.1% on 2007) / 27,768 votes
Alex White (Labour) 19.8% (+9.4%)
Shay Brennan (Fianna Fáil) 17.8% (-23.6%)
Elizabeth Davidson (Green) 3.5% (-7.5%)
Shaun Tracey (Sinn Féin) 3.3% (+0.3%)
Ross O’Mullane (Ind) 1.2%
Frank O’Gorman (Ind) 0.7%
Noel O’Gara (Ind) 0.3%
Fine Gael GAIN from Fianna Fáil

Dublin Central, Count One (Quota: 14,207)

Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind Gregoryite) 26.9% (+13.5% on Gregory 2007) / 7,639 votes
Paschal Donoghue (Fine Gael) 22.7% (+13.1%)
Ivana Bacik (Labour) 17.3% (+4.8%)
Christy Burke (Sinn Féin) 13.3% (+4.1%)
Maurice Ahern (Fianna Fáil) 12.3% (-32.2%)
David Geary (Green) 2.9% (-2.9%)
Patrick Talbot (Immigration Control) 2.2% (+1.5%)
Malachy Steenson (Workers’ Party) 1.8%
Paul O’Loughlin (Christian Solidarity) 0.7% (-0.04%)

On count 8, O’Sullivan has won without a quota. She has 13,739 votes against 10,198 for Donoghue. Therefore: Independent HOLD.

These results are a very bad result for Fianna Fáil, and this should be confirmed by the Euro counts. Talking about the Euros, RTÉ does have an exit poll out:

Fine Gael 30% (+2.2%)
Fianna Fáil 23% (-6.5%)
Labour 16% (+5.5%)
Sinn Féin 12% (+0.9%)
Libertas 4% (new)
Socialist 3% (+1.5%)
Green Party 2% (-2.3%)
Indies 10%

The rumours say that Declan Ganley has performed quite well in North West. In the East, FG and Labour seem assured a seat each though the third seat is close between Aylward (FF) and Phelan (FG). Fine Gael will be hoping that Phelan wins to prevent an explanation of why they lost a seat there. In the South, Crowley (FF) and Seán Kelly (FG) are assured re-election and the third seat is too close to call. In Dublin, Mitchell (FG) and deRossa (Lab) are safe while the third seat is up in the air between SF, FF and the Socialist leader Jim Higgins.

Turnout in the locals is 55% – turnout in the 2004 Euros was 59%

Related to tommorrow’s big day, I hope to be able to live blog results if possible.

Europe 2009: United Kingdom

European elections in the United Kingdom will be held on June 4, 2009, at the same time as local elections in England.

Euro elections in the UK are held in twelve regional constituencies with a threshold of 5% in each, with seats allocated through proportional representation. Only Northern Ireland uses the single-transferable vote system, which is also used in all other Northern Irish elections. Prior to 1999, the UK was the only European country to elect MEPs via FPTP. The table below outlines these constituencies and the the changes in seat numbers since 2004. For reference, the UK’s delegation has been reduced from 75 to 72.

South East England: 10 seats (nc)
London: 8 seats (-1)
North West England: 8 seats (-1)
East of England: 7 seats (nc)
South West England: 7 seats (-1)
West Midlands: 6 seats (-1)
Yorkshire and the Humber: 6 seats (nc)
Scotland: 6 seats (-1)
East Midlands: 5 seats (-1)
Wales: 4 seats (nc)
North East England: 3 seats (nc)
Northern Ireland: 3 seats (nc)

As you probably know very well, the United Kingdom’s two main parties are Labour, a social democratic party that moved away from its left-wing socialist roots under Tony Blair to become a third way “New Labour”; and the Conservatives, typical European conservatives but also strongly opposed to European federalism and generally seen as Euroskeptic. Indeed, the Conservative Party, along with the Czech Civic Democrats, are members of the European Democrats party (which sits in the EPP-ED group in Parliament). The Liberal Democrats, founded by a merger of the old Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in 1988, are social liberals and generally economically liberal (though the LibDems are not like the German FDP). The LibDems are the most strongly pro-EU party, and are also anti-Iraq war and have recently added a green liberal flair. The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is active mostly in Euro elections and favours the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (a position not adopted by other Euroskeptic parties, such as the MPF in France). While the UKIP has other policies, it’s staunch opposition to the EU is it’s main and most famous position. The Green Party is also Euroskeptic, and strongly left-wing. The Scottish nationalists (SNP) and the Welsh nationalists (Plaid Cymru) have representation both in Bruxelles and in Westmister, and the SNP is currently the leading party in Scotland’s devolved Parliament. The British National Party, a far-right white nationalist/populist party, which has a very bad name, justifiably, is also active but has no representation in either Bruxelles or Westminster.

The results of the 2004 election:

Conservative (ED) 26.7% (-9%) winning 27 seats (-8)
Labour (PES) 22.6% (-5.4%) winning 19 seats (-6)
UKIP (ID) 16.1% (+9.2%) winning 12 seats (+10)
Liberal Democrats (ELDR) 14.9% (+2.3%) winning 12 seats (+2)
Green Party (EGP) 6.3% (nc) winning 2 seats (nc)
British National Party (Euronat) 4.9% (+3.9%)
Respect (EACL) 1.5% (new)
Scottish National Party (EFA) 1.4% (-1.3%) winning 2 seats (nc)
Plaid Cymru (EFA) 1% (-0.9%) winning 1 seat (-1)

Results by region:

South East England: 4 Con, 2 UKIP, 2 LibDem, 1 Lab, 1 Green
London: 3 Con, 3 Lab, 1 LibDem, 1 UKIP, 1 Green
North West England: 3 Lab, 3 Con, 2 LibDem, 1 UKIP
East of England: 3 Con, 2 UKIP, 1 Lab, 1 LibDem
South West England: 3 Con, 2 UKIP, 1 LibDem, 1 Lab
West Midlands: 3 Con, 2 Lab, 1 UKIP, 1 LibDem
Yorkshire and the Humber: 2 Lab, 2 Con, 1 LibDem, 1 UKIP
Scotland: 2 Lab, 2 SNP, 2 Con, 1 LibDem
East Midlands: 2 Con, 2 UKIP, 1 Lab, 1 LibDem
Wales: 2 Lab, 1 Con, 1 Plaid
North East England: 1 Lab, 1 Con, 1 LibDem
Northern Ireland: 1 DUP, 1 SF, 1 UUP

The UKIP has fallen in polls and recently took a thumping in the London elections last year (the last London elections, held on the same day as the 2004 Euros, were favourable to the UKIP). However, the UKIP (and BNP) got a boost from the MP’s expenses scandal which has hurt Gordon Brown’s Labour government a lot. While the scandal has also involved the Conservatives and LibDems, both parties were less affected because of what is perceived to be a better handling of the scandal by those parties’ respective leaders. Since the scandal, the UKIP’s rather dreary poll numbers turned around and returned to 2004 levels – even superior to that. Numbers for the Conservatives and most significantly Labour also collapsed, while LibDem numbers are hovering at or slightly above (or below) its 2004 result. However, certain polls have been placing the LibDems (or UKIP) ahead of Labour, bumping Labour to third. A third place showing would be a total disaster for Labour and could precipitate things in Westminster. The Greenies seem to have picked up some Labour voters, and they’re polling over the symbolic 10% line. The BNP’s poll numbers fluctuate, and I suspect they’re underestimated. The BNP has a definite chance at picking up a seat it narrowly missed out on in 2004 in the North West. Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, is running there.

In Scotland, the SNP is clearly ahead of Labour on most polling and that lead may replicate at the Euro level. A SNP victory in the Euros would be a symbolic victory for the party, which some say is headed to replace Labour as Scotland’s “natural governing party”. It is hard to say if Plaid Cymru is regaining ground lost in 2004 in Wales, since there is rarely polling from Wales.

In Northern Ireland, there should be no change in the seat allocation. However, it is likely that Jim Allister, elected for the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) but now a member of his Traditionalist Unionist Voice (TUV), which opposes the DUP’s coalition with the nationalist-Catholic Sinn Fein. Diane Dodds, the DUP candidate this time (each party runs only one candidate, even though there are 3 seats – it is extremely unlikely a party would win two in this system), is likely to pick up that seat. It will nonetheless be a test for anti-Accord Unionists, notably the TUV. The nationalists (Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP, of course) picking up a seat from the Unionists is practically impossible and Sinn Fein losing a seat to SDLP can also be ruled out.

All 27 English county councils and 3 existing and 5 new English unitary authorities are up for election. Except for Bristol Unitary Authority, where only a third of the seats are up, all seats are up. As of now, the Conservatives controlled 19 of the 27 councils, Labour controlled 4, the LibDems 2, and two (Cumbria, with Conservative-LibDem coalition, and Warwickshire, with a Conservative minority administration) had no overall control. Of the existing three unitary authorities, Bristol had NOC (LibDem minority) while the Isle of Wight had a Conservative majority and the Isles of Scilly were led by Independents. The new authorities are Bedford, West Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Shropshire, and Wiltshire. Direct mayoral elections are being held in Doncaster (Indie incumbent), Hartlepool (Indie) and North Tyneside (Labour).