Northernheckler's Blog

A Yorkshireman's adventures in the big Smoke

Can we win it ? Yes we can !

If you read the press and internet media at the moment you might be fooled into thinking that Labour haven’t got much of a prayer in Thursday’s election.This BBC report  BBC News – Election 2010: Party leaders step up campaigning shows the papers lining up behind the Tories for the most part , and for a change a few – notably the Guardian backing the Lib-Dems. Only the Mirror remains loyal to Labour. The more openly pro-Tory outlets –  notably the Telegraph now crowing about the probability of David Cameron being PM come Thursday and smugly touting his divine right to be just that David Cameron: born to be prime minister – Telegraph

So I say – don’t you believe it. There’s never been much press support for Labour – and what there has has been largely done in order to gain readers – notably in the Sun. The Guardian has been more Labour friendly – but certainly no sycophant campaigner for the party, and I am sure will continue to print articles both supportive and critical of broadly left wing politics (including the Lib-Dems) – I won’t be boycotting it any more than I’ll be stopping talking to friends who vote differently to the way I do – they’re entitled to their opinion.

The real danger from the media to Labour though would appear to be led by Rupert Murdoch (apparently in concert with other news outlets) who now appear to be openly campaigning, rather than making any pretext of reporting balanced news.

There’ll be some who believe it – maybe they’ll go and vote Conservative.

There’ll also be many who, like me, will simply switch off their ears and eyes to their barrage of attacks on the Labour Party. To paraphrase the words of Alistair Campbell said last week – I don’t give a damn about your polls or biased reporting.

Let’s have quick look though at one of the things that does get reported a great deal : Opinion Polls

According to UK Polling Report the latest opinion polls over the last few days show the Tories’ lead over Labour to be variously 7% ,7%, 9% ,6% ,7% ,12%, 8% , 7%, 10%, 5%,6%

Such bad, bad news for Labour – It must be true I read it in the Daily Mail.

So what can I do ?

I could whinge on about reliability and comparing like with like and sample size, and misleading margins of error – blah, blah.

Or I could do what Sky news want me to and get all depressed about them and give up the will to support Labour

Or … I could look back to  my post All to fight for in the General Election « Northernheckler’s Blog on the 24th of January when Labour supporters were virtually dancing in the streets after a supposedly “rogue” poll gave the Conservatives a lead of only 9%.

Well clearly Labour is polling a lot better than that in most polls now.

Throw in to the bargain the reported rise in Lib Dem popularity – the Tory lead over them in the above polls is as low as 2% in some – which may or may not benefit Labour or Conservative, but certainly makes everything that little bit less predictable.

And lets not forget either the video I embedded in that post of Neil Kinnock appearing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on the eve of the 92 election, which even John Major thought he’d lost (He won ! )

So I ask myself  “Can we win this election for Labour ?” – and just looking at the difference between January and now, my answer has to be :

“Yes we can !”

May 3, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, politics | , , , , | 2 Comments

Poll position

Seems that the latest opinion polls are the next big thing in the election campaign.

I’m not so sure if I’m honest, We’ve seen a lot of widely different ‘exit polls’ after the “Leaders debate” – seemingly working every permutation of who came in 1st, 2nd or 3rd using apparently the same data source (You ! , the public !), and polls which have been published incorrectly then retracted and “nationalised” based on local samples. And the Mail on Sunday now seem to using someone called  BPIX to do their polls – who ever they are.

It does make me wonder whether they’re going round getting lots of different polls done and just publishing the ones which make most impact. Certainly Sky News seemed to run about 4 different versions of their after debate poll on Thursday night, presumably because the real results didn’t say what they wanted.

Despite this though, I’m  not dismissive of them. If these were favouring Gordon Brown rather than Nick Clegg, I’d be tweeting from the rooftops with the rest of the Labour twibe. So let’s take them at face value – even if they aren’t necessarily all that reliable.

The most sensational of these polls seems to place the Lib Dems as front runners in first place, with Labour in 3rd. As various commentators have pointed out (and sorry for the lack of links tonight – I don’t have the time !) – this could lead to the bizarre situation where Labour ended up as the largest party in parliament, with the fewest number of actual votes; and perhaps the Lib Dems with the fewest seats, and the largest share of the votes.

Will this be the turning point where the Lib Dems finally come of electoral age and seize power ? Or will it be (as Iain Dale has said on his blog) – David Cameron’s Wobbly weekend ?

Well I’m not sure – but I will say this – These polls would certainly appear to have woken the public up, and all of the parties. Last year when we had the Euro elections, the polls looked bad for Labour – not much better for the Lib Dems, and we had a frustratingly predictable low turnout bad news election.

The political geeks (like me)  have done their best to liven things up since then – there’ve been better polls for Labour, and lots of games with posters and stuff. Still – until last week – none of it was really catching the wider public interest.

But now it is. Now we’ll see who can run an election campaign.

The polls don’t show what WILL happen. They show that anything CAN happen.

The turnout at the last election was 61.5 % – imagine if just half of the remaining 38.5% decided to vote this time round.

Anything really COULD happen.

So what I’m taking from these polls is this : It really is  #GameOn !

UPDATE : Just came across this blog on the Sky polling after the ‘Leadership Debate’ – it’s a beauty. Respect to Loveandgarbage ! : Leadership debate – pie in the Sky

April 17, 2010 Posted by | Election 2010, news, politics, twitter | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At least a third of statistics are made up

Just a quick one. I’ll add links later – I have real work to do.
This morning’s Metro carries a huge “every-one-on-the-train-can- read-it” headline proclaiming

‘Labour loses a third of voters”

Not based on a real election obviously (which does beg a major issue) but on last night’s Harris poll which shows Labour on 29%. (Note that the more interesting aspect of this poll is that it shows all three major parties losing support).

Thing is though, Labour’s share of the popular vote at the General Election was 35.3%

The poll asks people whether they’re likely to vote for the same party as they did last time, and uses the figure for who people in the poll said they voted for, rather than the 2005 General Election stats. This however gives a barely altered figure of 36%.

So if Labour had “lost” a third of its votes (and remember it’s a poll not an election) it’s standing would be 24% according to the Harris Poll, or 23.5% if we went with the actual voting figures.

It’s not though – the figure they give for the poll is 29% for Labour – or a loss of around 18% – between a 6th and a 5th of voters – in other words a little over half the fraction that the Metro is claiming they have lost.

Other recent polls have shown Labour support as high as 35% – barely a loss of votes at all; and averages of polls show Labour’s current showing at 32%

Which would show that Labour have “lost” around 9% of their vote.

I concede that this is hardly a ringing endorsement.

But they have NOT lost a third of their vote.

To suggest this is complete and utter fabrication. The Metro should be ashamed of this blatant falsehood

March 10, 2010 Posted by | politics | , , | 3 Comments

Merry men dancing round the May Poll !

I’d imagine that many people were dismayed to see the accusations against global investment banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs, namely that they had been effectively rigging the on line ballot on the Robin Hood Tax website which is campaigning for the introduction of a very small tax  on banking transactions, which because of the vast number of transactions would be negligible to the man in the street, but net many millions in revenue from the banks such as Goldman Sachs. Hence “Robin Hood”- taking from the rich to give to the poor.

Goldman Sachs stand accused of flooding the website’s on-line opinion poll with many thousands of “No” votes within the space of around 20 minutes.

Disgraceful !

Or is it ?

In trying to get a picture of who did this, why, and how I have to confess it conjures up for me images of workers for Goldman Sachs trying to while away an hour or so without doing any work. It has the hallmarks of the Springfield Nuclear Plant’s office chair hockey tournament (played of course to FTT rules – Friday Time Waste) (and yes I know it was a Thursday) – namely that they were engaging in a slightly naughty activity for not particular reason other than it was a bit of fun.

I have fond memories of a particular WSS activity on a football email list I belong to (WSS – that’s Work Shy Slacker to the rest of you) which aimed to find the 50 most ridiculous names in football by lunchtime – the search was over by around 9.40 AM with well over a hundred footballers suffering from challenging nomenclature being held up to ridicule.

Let’s not forget either the antics of many of us (me too) who regularly vote in Daily Mail on-line polls with whatever we feel is the answer that they least want us to put.

This one is a classic :

In true Daily Mail style it gives only one practically sensible answer – It is certainly not socially acceptable to go to Tesco’s in your Jim-Jams. On a more philosophical level though we could open up a whole debate about the nature of freedom – are we free to make decision which place us outside the expected range of societal tolerance.

In Daily Mail eyes of course that makes us part of the Loony Left and Broken Britain. So what do we all do (in fairly large numbers I’d guess) ? Well we vote “yes” – it is OK to walk down to Tesco’s in Pyjamas.

Just a bit of fun. Or you could call it a barefaced lie.

If any of this has any importance, I’d say it is this : In the age of internet communications it is very easy to knock up websites & blogs, which look at peoples opinions & measure them. We can all do this – big newspapers like the mail, international financiers, football fan groups, or individual bloggers like myself.

Maybe it’s incumbent on all of us to take the responsibility not to use this power flippantly – if an online vote is a bit of fun then we should say so – and not complain if pranksters hijack it for their own ends.

If on the other hand we’re intending to use for a serious scientific or political purpose, then we should say so too – and take steps to ensure the robustness of the voting mechanism – and that it’s not likely to be falsified.

Otherwise let’s not waste time with on-line polls.

In the meantime here’s one for you to try. See if you can decide which type of poll it is – “Just for fun” – or “Serious statistical survey” (Clue: I wouldn’t advise Ladbrokes to take any bets on the outcome)

February 14, 2010 Posted by | idle banter, news, politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

All to fight for in the General Election

I read this piece on the Tory Radio blog last night : Labour giving up on being able to form a majority , produced in response to what editor Jonathon Sheppard (I’m assuming it’s him) called a “Labour reaction of glee” to the news that the newly published ComRes Poll in the Sunday Mirror : POLL EXCLUSIVE: David Cameron’s down again , was predicted to lead to a hung parliament, with the Conservatives 5 seats shy of a majority, in the next general election (Predictions from polls are hit & miss affairs by the way – but lots of fun – try Electoral Calculus to have a play around with some figures).

Well although I found the tone of the article to be childish and sneering, one does have to ask – why get so excited about the prospect of scraping a near draw ?

I feel that there are two reasons – and I look to the example of Tory ex-Prime Minister John Major for both.

John fought two general elections as Prime Minister. Let’s take the later one – the one where he was defeated – first. Major’s position before and as a result of that election, represents the doomsday scenario for any political party. Unpopular as his government had become, as the election loomed it became more and more difficult to salvage anything for his party. Like an aeroplane in free-fall, there came a point where it was impossible to pull out of the dive, and all that he could do was wait for the crash. When it came it provided Labour with possibly their most staggering victory ever – winning seats in places which had hitherto been considered untouchable.

Back last year at the time of the European elections, that was a scenario being painted by many for Labour – in third place in many areas, losing ground to fringe parties as well as established ones with cabinet ministers bickering in the wings trying to unseat the leader.

There’s another lesson from John Major though – from the 1992 election – which he won.

John Major’s Government was also unpopular then, and he was facing a slick election campaign from Labour’s Prime Minister in waiting Neil Kinnock. Neil Kinnock you may remember even managed to have the celebration before he’d won the election so sure was he of the forthcoming victory

There’s so many things in that short clip that provide echos of today’s situation – the Opposition cheered by the opinion polls, sure that the Government can’t win, but not yet sure that they can – according to the polls – but brimming with confidence, and sure that the Prime Minister is a “Box Office Disaster” to use John Smith’s words.

We know what happened – Kinnock blew the election – or was it the other way round ? I actually felt that John Major won it – he did his homework, he worked hard, and although even most of the Conservative Party didn’t really believe him until the votes were counted, he successfully delivered the goods – much to my own disappointment ( “At least he’s not Margaret Thatcher !” was my dejected thought the morning after ).

So which will it be for Labour ? Major’s 1997 Meltdown, or Major’s 1992 Rope-a-Dope ?

Back last Spring, the harbingers of doom were fairly sure of the Meltdown – but since then things have changed. In council by elections for instance there’s been no big evaporation of the Labour position. Gordon Brown, has become more vociferous and successful in his spoken comments – making Cameron look a charlie in many of the recent PMQ’s for instance.

There’ve also been a few embarrassments for the Tories as well – Cameron’s handling (or lack of handling) of anti-nhs extreme right wingers in his party such as Daniel Hannan has not gone down well publicly.

The traditional Tory press for some reason, also seem to take a delight in having a side-swipe at David Cameron, even whilst trying to rally the troops : see this in the Telegraph earlier this week  David Cameron’s Tories are a one-man band that’s playing out of tune

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that there aren’t still big, big difficiculties for Labour – just that the crash landing is not inevitable – we seem to have pulled out of the dive.

Admittedly Labour could have done without Hoon & Hewitt’s shennanigins regarding leadership challenges – but the episode does seem to have galvanised unity within the party  – for the time being at any rate.

So this opinion poll shows that yes there could be a hung parliament. Margins of error taken into account it probably also shows that the Tories could have a very small majority, or that their simple majority might be even smaller. When all’s said and done it’s just another poll – and they can be misleading as we know.

It does though, suggest that the total meltdown isn’t happening. Which suggests to me that Gordon Brown’s election may well be more similar to John Major’s more successful campaign in 1992 than to his disaster in 1997.

I think it’s this that the Labour faithful are taking heart with – because the poll hints at lessons from history which show that there is all to fight for in this election and that a Labour majority is by no means out of the question.

When you look at those airbrushed posters of David Cameron smugly looking out at you – who does it remind you of ? Tony Blair ? Margaret Thatcher ? No – for me it’s Neil Kinnock – having his party early – just as Cameron is.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over , and I’m Voting Labour !

January 24, 2010 Posted by | politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Cut public spending, say voters – or do they ?


How do people think of what to blog about ? Sometimes I can’t think of a thing, and even if I try to write something, nothing comes out. Other times something just gets my goat – and off I go.

Tonight it was a series of tweets from @theredbox which generally is Times OnLine’s political link service, which riled me into action.

One of the things they like to do is wind Labour supporters up on a Saturday night, with early releases of tomorrows Sunday sensations. This Saturday was no different.

I could pick any from about half dozen articles to get irate over – however I’ll stick to this one : Cut public spending, say voters

According to a times/yougov poll published “today” ( the date of the article is the 13th of September, but it’s quite clearly still only the 12th )  “Voters are overwhelmingly in favour of cutting public spending rather than tax rises to close the budget black hole”

“The survey finds that just 21% would prefer the government to raise taxes to close the growing gap between what the Treasury spends and what it receives in revenue. Sixty per cent want to shrink the size of the state to curb the £175 billion deficit amid mounting government disarray over the public finances.

Of course they don’t actually show you the full survey results or what questions were asked so it’s impossible to evaluate  the findings critically – doubtless they’ll be drip fed to us in the morning.

I just wonder what the questions were though – because in all honesty I’m not sure that 62% of the electorate actually understand what “shrinking the state” means (I’m not really sure that I do). So let’s just examine this for a few moments :

“Overhwelmingly in favour of cutting spending rather than tax rises” – hmm, so not necessarily in favour per se – just preferring it to tax rises.

“62% want to shrink the size of the state” – right, so how many % was it in favour of spending cuts ? Oh, actually they don’t say. Maybe shrinking the size of the state is the same thing – who knows ?

“mounting government disarray over public finances” – and there’s me thinking that there’d been quite a rash of news articles this week saying that the recession was on its way out ( this one for example Recession is officially over, according to leading thinktank )

“Just 21% would prefer to raise taxes” – just 21% – a bit more than 1 in 5. That’s compared to the approximately 3 in 5 they say support cutting spending. So there are presumably another 1 in 5 who are undecided. So around 3 to 2 overall in favour of . That’s a clear majority. Clear. Not overwhelming.

So all this is a becoming  a bit less convincing. Let’s not forget though that this isn’t just The Times doing an unscientific survey – no they’re using YouGov to do this, which according to its website, is the “authoritative measure of public opinon and consumer behaviour” who’ve got lots of experience in mounting objective survey’s of public opinion.

Which makes the Times’ poll even more astonishing, because there’s clearly been a seismic shift in opinion in just a few short days.

According to YouGov’s Peter Kellner’s blog Cameron ditches the negatives, but has not yet nailed the positives a poll published last Monday, not for the Times, but for the Telegraph, shows some radically different results :

7% think that taxes paid as a share of   income would be lower under the Conservatives.  Or should that be “Just 7%”

more people think David Cameron would govern in the interests of better-off people (45%) than think he would govern in the interests of the country as a whole (38%)

And here’s the beauty – 69% of the general public, and 63% of Tories, think one of the top priorities for the Government should be to raise the taxes of those earning more than £150,000 a year.

It doesn’t actually say how many want to “shrink the size of the state”

It does conclude though : “the Conservatives appear to be on course for a modest overall majority. If they can enhance the positives, they could win big. But there remain enough weaknesses in their image for the party to be vulnerable to an effective fightback by Labour”.

I think I can believe that. So don’t forget – sometime in the next year you’ll have a chance to vote in a real poll. Don’t miss the chance – vote Labour !

September 12, 2009 Posted by | politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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