What Ed Miliband could learn from Harold Wilson

By Steven Fielding

On the morning of 16 October 1964, Harold Wilson entered Downing Street as prime minister. He had just ended 13 years of Conservative rule – one that had been predicted to last a generation just four years previously. Wilson, many believed, achieved this victory by promising to unlock the talents of all Britons, whatever their class, by unleashing the “white heat of technological change”. The Labour leader claimed his government would achieve this economic and social revolution by using the state to foster market dynamism.

Continue reading


Polling Observatory Scottish referendum special: who is ahead, and how close is it?

By Robert FordWill JenningsMark Pickup and Christopher Wlezien

This is a Scottish independence special of our regular series of posts that reports on the state of support for the parties in Westminster as measured by opinion polls. By pooling together all the available polling evidence we can reduce the impact of the random variation each individual survey inevitably produces. Most of the short term advances and setbacks in the polls are nothing more than random noise; the underlying trends – in which we are interested and which best assess the state of public opinion – are relatively stable and little influenced by day-to-day events. Further details of the method we use to build our estimates of public opinion can be found here.

In recent weeks the debate over Scottish independence has reached fever-pitch, and debate over some of the polls has been just as fierce. Most notably a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, published on September 7th, caused shock waves both North of the border and in Westminster when it showed Yesmarginally ahead, the first lead for the “yes” campaign in many months.

Continue reading


Alex Salmond’s biggest gamble

He’s the politician of the moment. Every media organisation in the world will descend on Edinburgh in the early hours of Friday morning to listen to his reaction, once the votes are counted in the Scottish independence referendum. But what do we really know about Alex Salmond, or ‘Big ’Eck’ as he is known North of the Border? Is he a force for good or a divisive figure responsible for tearing apart the United Kingdom?

The first thing worth noting about Alex Salmond is that he has always taken a gradualist view of Scottish independence. In the late 1980s, Scottish nationalism was going nowhere, following the inconclusive result of the devolution referendum in 1979. The SNP had boycotted the Scottish Constitutional Convention, meaning that plans were drawn up for the Scottish Parliament without the SNP having a say. When he first became leader of the SNP in 1990 Salmond called a halt to his Party’s over-ambitious dreams of independence. He swallowed his pride, and backed the ‘Yes, Yes’ campaign in the 1997 referendum. 

Continue reading

The Polling Observatory Forecast #4: Conservative hopes recede slowly

As explained in our inaugural election forecast, up until May next year the Polling Observatory team will be producing a long term forecast for the 2015 General Election, using methods we first applied ahead of the 2010 election (and which are also well-established in the United States). Our method involves trying to make the best use of past polling evidence as a guide to forecast the likeliest support levels for each party in next May’s election, based on current polling, and then using these support levels to estimate the parties’ chances of winning each seat in the Parliament. We will later add a seat-based element to this forecast.


This month’s Polling Observatory reported falls in support for both Labour and the Conservatives. Our forecast again finds the parties locked in a statistical dead heat, although Labour has edged up slightly, by 0.3 points, to 36.5%, and the Conservatives have slid back further, down 0.6 points to 34.9%. The continued stagnation in the polls is starting to harm the Conservatives in our forecast, with a slight widening of the gap between the parties.

Continue reading

Social media: a political tool or apathy’s partner in crime?

With the disappointing turnout for the recent European elections, is social media the way to encourage increased political engagement ahead of the 2015 general election? Is it being used this way at the moment? If so, by whom and in what ways?

Social media is unique in that it offers a wealth of information that is constantly updated and appeals predominantly to those in the 18 – 24 age bracket who are so often criticised for their low voter turnout. After conducting some research into this area it was clear that much previous analysis on political socialisation has been on older people. Our research, therefore, focused on the political behaviour of the elusive 18 – 24 age group, whether they are using social media and, if so, whether it is for political purposes.

Continue reading