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Category: General Election 2015

What next for devolution in the UK? The Return of a ‘Dual Polity’

Written by Simon Toubeau.

Although Scottish voters decided to remain part of the UK in September 2014, the question of Scotland’s constitutional future remains an important concern for the Conservative government. Its efforts to deal with this matter have resulted in the ratification of The Scotland Bill in November 2015, which drew on the work of the Smith Commission.

The bill promises to offer an ‘enduring settlement’ that anchors Scotland firmly in the UK. But, in reality, it is another instance of reform that heralds the return of a ‘dual polity’.

Why the polls got it so wrong in the British general election

Written by John Curtice.

Since the surprise result of the British election in May 2015, there has been plenty of speculation about why the opinion polls ahead of the vote were so wrong. On average, they put the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck, when in fact the Conservatives were seven points ahead.

Hard evidence on the reasons for their failure, however has so far been less plentiful. But a new report published today provides important evidence on what really happened.

The report presents the results obtained by the latest instalment of NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes survey, which was conducted face to face between the beginning of July and the beginning of November last year. All 4,328 respondents to the survey were asked whether or not they voted in the May election and, if so, for which party.

2015: the year British politics lost its opposition

Written by Eunice Goes.

Like many election years, 2015 was a strange time for British politics. But the vote, which put the Tories in power, was only the prelude. Things got truly bizarre in the latter half of the year when the opposition stopped showing up for work.

Up until May, 2015 was completely dominated by the electoral campaign. The unpredictability of the election meant that the contest was feverish, at times quite nasty, and pretty relentless.

But then a really strange phase began. On May 7, British voters rewarded the Conservative Party with an unexpected parliamentary majority. Until the results of a shock exit poll were announced just after 10pm, it had looked as though a hung parliament was practically inevitable. Many thought Labour would govern at the head of some complex coalition of parties. Few, if any, predicted the Conservatives would win enough parliamentary seats to govern alone. But win they did, coming away with a majority of 12.

Tim Farron wins Liberal Democrat leadership contest

By Andrew Denham and Matthew Francis

How do you rebuild a political party after an electoral calamity? That was the question facing the Liberal Democrats when deciding who should replace Nick Clegg as their leader.

Now the party has chosen Tim Farron to replace Clegg – a decision that could help bring back a spirit of optimism in a party battered by five years of government with the Conservatives.

After being reduced from 57 MPs in 2010 to just eight in 2015 – numbers reminiscent of the Liberal Party of the 1950s – the Lib Dems now face a difficult path back to political significance, let alone power.

General Election 2015: Voters wrong, but still revealing

By Philip Cowley.

As part of the preparation for The British General Election of 2015, I have been playing around with the latest wave of the British Election Study data, which is from the short campaign.

There is a question about whether a party had a ‘real chance’ of being in government or not, ‘either forming a government by itself or as part of a coalition’. The question isn’t brilliantly worded – it rules out other ways in which parties might be involved in government, such as confidence and supply agreements – but for all its flaws, responses to the question are still revealing.

The question asked about parties that had ‘no real chance’ of being in government. The figure for both Labour and Conservative was 3%. Almost everyone could see they had a chance. For the Lib Dems, it was 18%. Most people thought they had a chance.

The Future of the Left – Where next for Britain’s labour movement?

By Andreas Bieler

‘The Conservatives are not invincible – splits over the forthcoming EU referendum and their small majority in parliament are only two signs of their weakness. Together, the Left can stem the tide of austerity’, these were the words of the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. In front of a full lecture theatre with 300 people, she delivered the first Ken Coates memorial lecture, organised by the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and co-hosted by the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) and the local University and College Union (UCU) association. In this post, I will draw out some of her key points.

Labour’s defeat in the general elections

Frances O’Grady heavily contested the idea that Labour had lost the elections because its programme had been too far on the left. Any Labour party programme has to focus on constructing homes, ensuring jobs and safeguarding the NHS. If at all the elections had been lost because the party had conceded too much to austerity. Moreover, the Conservative tactics of scaremongering the public of a minority Labour government depending on SNP support had worked. While she was supportive of the SNP’s anti-austerity stance, however, Frances O’Grady pointed out that the politics of place, as pursued by the SNP in Scotland, is an inadequate response to austerity. Workers in England will always have more in common with workers in Scotland than with bankers in London.

The Surprise Election

By Philip Cowley.

In the early hours of 8 May, during his victory speech at Conservative Campaign Headquarters, David Cameron described the 2015 general election as one where ‘pundits got it wrong, the pollsters got it wrong, the commentators got it wrong’.

It was a fair complaint. A couple of months before, a collection of academic experts had met at the LSE to forecast the result of the election. No matter which model they used, or how they set about crunching the numbers, they all reached the same conclusion: no single party would win enough seats to command a majority in the House of Commons. A similar survey of over 500 academics, journalists, and pollsters in early March came up with the same finding. And the betting markets agreed. Just before the polls closed on 7 May, the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power had odds of 1/25 for a hung parliament, in which no party had an outright majority. A wager of £10 would have paid out just £10.40. Both Labour and the Conservative parties pretended they could win outright, but neither really believed it.

The UK electoral system now decisively favours the Conservatives

By Tim Smith.

In the wake of the largely unexpected Conservative election victory, it was said that pollsters and political scientists had a lot of explaining to do after so many incorrect forecasts.  However, this author correctly predicted that the Liberal Democrats would do worse than was assumed , and also that the electoral system might well favour the Conservatives for the first time since 1987 which also turned out to be the case.  In this blog piece I will explain what has happened and the consequences for the next election.

At this election the two-party bias (or skew) in the electoral system moved from a pro-Labour bias of 54 seats, to a pro-Conservative bias of 48 seats, meaning that if the two parties had won the same number of votes, the Conservatives would have won 48 more seats than Labour.  The table below shows the decomposition of factors that result in this bias.  These can be obtained algebraically using Brookes’ decomposition method, as adapted by Johnston, Rossiter and Pattie. For a full explanation of the factors please re-read this entry.

Lib Dem incumbency advantage persists but fails to prevent disaster

By Tim Smith

As this author warned here, some of the assumptions that incumbency advantage would prevent a poor result for the Liberal Democrats at the election were flawed.  As the post suggested, the party did indeed do far worse than the projection that they would hold onto at least 25 seats. As David Steel said, decades of progress were reversed with the party finishing up with just eight seats, the lowest since 1970, and it was arguably its worst result since 1959 in terms of share of the vote.  The party lost all of its seats in its strongest English region, the South West, and all but one of its eleven seats in Scotland, another traditional stronghold for the party.  Despite this, analysis in this post of the results of the election show that the large incumbency advantage the party has traditionally relied on has not gone away, but that it was not enough on its own to prevent a disaster.

At the election, the Liberal Democrat share of the vote fell in all 57 seats the party won in 2010.  The smallest decline was in East Dunbartsonshire (2.4%); the largest was in Brent Central (35.8%), with a mean decline of 15.7%, slightly worse than the average in Great Britain.  The table below shows the change in the Lib Dem vote from 2010 to 2015 in various categories of constituencies.

Is back to the future what is best for Labour after Ed Miliband?

By Steven Fielding

If victors get to define the reasons for their victory, then losers just get told why they’ve lost. Within hours – minutes even – of the announcement of the shock BBC exit poll at 10pm on May 7, Ed Miliband was being informed in no uncertain terms why he had done so badly by an army of observers, critics and supposed party comrades.

It is ridiculous to imagine that in such a short space of time anyone can properly explain why Labour’s performance was so disappointing. We still don’t know why all the opinion polls were so out of alignment with the final result. Did they consistently over-estimate Labour support in the campaign or was there a late defection to the Conservatives? These things matter.

But political debate rarely stops for the lack of adequate data. As a consequence, in the wake of this and every other Labour disaster at the polls, prejudice often masquerades as analysis. Most infamously, Labour’s third defeat in a row in 1959 saw party leader Hugh Gaitskell and his revisionist cohorts in academia and the media blame its association with nationalisation. But they had long been critical of nationalisation and blatantly sought to use defeat to ditch Labour’s constitutional commitment to public ownership. It was arguable, however, that Gaitskell’s own campaign blunders had harmed his party more. But he still plunged Labour into years of bitter and harmful division.