Friday, 16 June 2017

There Is No Ceiling - The 'Corbyn Surge' Isn't Over

There are striking similarities in the way the British commentariat missed Corbyn's surge, and the way the American commentariat missed Trump's. 

Both candidates were, at first, a great source of ridicule. They were underestimated both in their appeal to voters and their campaigning abilities, and both outperformed expectations whenever they were challenged.

Then, after Trump saw a modest rise in his popularity in the Republican primaries, he was given a "ceiling" - a point above which his support could no longer rise; and one which a gaggle of pundits comically raised every ten days once he surpassed this arbitrary limit.

Trump himself was aware of this ceiling, and addressed the point in February 2016 speaking to Fox & Friends.

I watch these pundits, I've been watching them for a year. But I've been watching these pundits. They've been saying, well, they just add up numbers they forget when somebody drops out I get a lot of those votes. 
But Rubio would point to your favourable/unfavourable ratings. He did that last night. He says you've reached your ceiling, Mr Trump. 
Well they've been saying that Anna now for approximately six months - I've reached my ceiling. I started at 12 and I reached my ceiling, I went to 16 and they said "that is the ceiling - it's the most he's gonna get" and then the national polls are even higher, you know, in the national polls I'm at 44. And that's with five people. That's a lot of people, and I'm at 44. 

Since April something similar has been happening with Jeremy Corbyn

Seven days after the general election, polling from YouGov gave Jeremy Corbyn record favourability ratings.

This compounds a good week for the Labour leader as he pegged level with Theresa May on the question of 'best prime minister', and a weekend survey from the election's most accurate pollster, Survation, gave Labour a six-point lead.

YouGov's graphical representation of these ratings since August 2016 puts Corbyn's dramatic surge into context - with the turnaround happening over the course of eight weeks.

Corbyn too was given several ceilings during the election campaign, above which his 'surge' should not have exceeded.

Moreover, the pollsters, minus Survation, to some extent herded in the final stretch as the last clutch of polls, including YouGov's tweaked final projection, wrongly reported a substantial Conservative lead.

Like Trump, Corbyn defied received wisdom, and has now emerged as one of Britain's most favoured politicians, having once been its most disliked.

What sparked the surge, and why it seems to be spreading at an unprecedented pace, has not yet been fully explored by the commentariat, but as things stand his meteoric rise shows no signs of slowing.

Monday, 12 June 2017

How Sustainable Is A 'ConDUP' Alliance?

As talks between the Tories and the DUP continue, journalists have made efforts to highlight the DUP's hard-right social conservatism and support from paramilitary organisations.

The narrative, engulfing a Conservative Party in disarray (hence unable to muster a strong enough counter), is that by cosying up to the DUP they are in effect aligning themselves with, even endorsing, the party's more extreme positions.

But, then again, ministers have made a point of suggesting the Conservatives "have a lot in common with our friends in the DUP" on sofa interviews this weekend, seemingly tone-deaf to the fact the only DUP positions being communicated to the British public are anti-gay rights, anti-abortion, and climate change denial.

While an alliance does not necessarily equate to an out-and-out ideological alignment, it is inconceivable that any arrangement will be forged without the DUP extracting some capital from the Tories; the DUP are known as "tough negotiators".

Moreover; the Conservatives are desperate. As the Liberal Democrats are no longer a viable option (for either party, and for obvious reasons), the DUP is the only voting bloc Theresa May can conceivably court to get her legislative programme off the ground.

Let's assume, then, they do work out a deal, and the Tories are able to move forward in government. The question still remains over how reliable the DUP will be in terms of day-to-day politics; with conflicting positions on universal benefits, maintaining the pensions triple lock, and others.

To make things more complicated, as the New Statesman's Stephen Bush points out, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act gives the DUP more leverage over the Tories than first thought because a government no longer falls if it loses a budget or Queen's speech vote, only confidence votes, meaning the DUP can extract concessions over the course of the parliament in exchange for its support on a host of minor legislative issues.

My assessment, of course, does not take into account the added complexity of domestic Northern Irish politics, the new clutch of Scottish Tory MPs with loyalties to Ruth Davidson, nor does it take into account the implications for the Good Friday Agreement.

Any arrangement the two parties reach cannot possibly be sustainable in the long-term. Either we will have a lame duck government for the next five years, or the Conservatives will become frustrated enough to agree to calling an early election. My guess would be after the Brexit negotiations.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Never Mind Kingmakers - The DUP Will Be Queenslayers For Theresa May

GUEST POST | By Fin Milligan

As I write this, #DUPcoalition is currently trending on Twitter. Earlier today, the Democratic Unionist Party’s own website crashed, after the public frantically googled just who, and what, the DUP was, and why Northern Ireland suddenly seemed to hold all the cards with regards to Theresa May forming a government. 

It’s fair to say the snap general election didn’t quite go the way the Conservative Party was hoping. I could write paragraphs about everything that went wrong, but I won’t, because that’s already been done to death over the last 24 hours.

The Tories were expecting to crush any last semblance of the mainstream left, and return a 100-plus seat 'supermajority', storming key Labour heartlands in the process. But instead, May’s gamble horribly backfired. The Tories lost their majority, with Corbyn’s Labour defying all expectations to steal a clutch of Tory seats (with the shock of the night belonging to Canterbury, held by the Conservatives for 99 years).

As many have pointed out, while Theresa May won the numbers (while still not making up enough to form a majority) she lost the night, with Corbyn losing the numbers, but winning.

Falling short of an overall majority, May has now turned to the right-wing DUP in Northern Ireland to help prop up her government. This, in my opinion, has sealed her fate quicker than if she had tried to form a minority government, and the very party she’s relying on may end up being the poison that kills her leadership, and serves as the final nail for her credibility within the Conservative party. 

Let’s start with the obvious. The DUP run on an unashamedly anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion platform; their stance similar to that of the American Republican party.

And I would have loved to have seen David Cameron’s face when he heard the news Theresa May was looking to them to prop up her government. For all of Cameron’s faults, his one real achievement was to modernise the Conservative Party (or rather, the Conservative and Unionist Party as May emphasised in her speech outside Downing Street), and pull them somewhat to the left socially. It was, after all, under Cameron’s premiership that same-sex marriage was passed (although not without discontent from members of his own party).

Don’t get me wrong - I’m not arguing that homophobia has been eradicated under the Conservatives, or indeed that women have now got it A-OK, and everything is fine, and equal. But in mainstream British politics, a woman having an abortion, or a gay person getting married, isn’t something we’re about to turn the clock back on.

This is in stark contrast with the DUP, which is openly homophobic. For example, besides a well-documented objection to same-sex marriage, in 2013 DUP Assembly Member Tom Buchanan told children at a school that homosexuality is "an abomination". For a woman who once said the Conservatives should move away from being the "nasty party" she has sure as hell picked a rather interesting set of "friends" to make a deal with.

I wonder how any of the 45 new LGBTQ+ MPs elected to parliament feel about the DUP playing kingmaker? Plus, I’d wager there’s more than a few centrist Conservative MPs who are uncomfortable at the prospect of joining forces with this lot, including a new batch of Scottish MPs under the leadership of Ruth Davidson.

There’s also the rather delicious irony of spending your entire campaign labelling Jeremy Corbyn a terrorist sympathiser, only then to rely on a party endorsed by active paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. The hysteria from the Tories on who Corbyn may or may not have met with 30 years ago also seems hilariously hypocritical, particularly as DUP leader Arlene Forster met the UDA boss Jackie McDonald 48 hours after a loyalist murder in Belfast.

Finally, to Brexit; what this snap election was meant to be all about, and yet was curiously absent for most of the campaign.

It's said that part of the deal the Tories brokered with the DUP is that they would concede on a hard Brexit. This raises all manner of problems in itself, particularly when May has been constantly playing up the the hard-right of her party who are eager for a "no deal" with the EU if they aren't given whatever they want. This puts May at odds with her "strong and stable" mantra - something I feel we will never hear the Tories utter again - and which won't play well with the faction of her party she's been courting.

This ignores the fact we still aren’t any clearer as to what Mrs May’s Brexit will look like for the UK, never mind the deeply complex issue of the Irish border.

I don’t, and will never claim to be, anything close to an expert regarding Northern Irish politics; but there are a whole range of domestic issues in Northern Ireland that May hasn’t considered, making her alliance with the DUP even more misguided.

The idea of a Conservative-DUP coalition may rightfully seem like a frightening and disturbing prospect (interesting they’ve been careful to describe this as a "confidence and supply" arrangement), but falls before the first hurdle.

There are too many obstacles - even without involving the DUP - for Theresa May to govern effectively and command the respect of her party, let alone touching on their climate change denial and creationism.

If I was a betting man (and I’m not) I’d be eyeing the odds of another general election in the autumn. But right now, Theresa May is a wounded prime minister - self-inflicted - with her reputation shredded. Making friends with the DUP might have just eliminated what was left of her.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

#GE2017 Analysis: Are We In For A Youth Turnout Shock?

According to received wisdom the majority of young people in Britain are apathetic.

Based on historic trends, it's difficult to argue against the idea that youth apathy will strike again this Thursday, but in a tumultuous political climate in which received wisdom is being consistently undermined, even this taken-for-granted assumption may be turned on its head.


Youth Engagement Has Been In Steady Decline Since 1992 

The downward trend in young people turning out to vote over the previous six general elections is stark.

Data via BBC News.


But The EU Referendum Has Re-engaged The British Public

Evidence suggests the EU referendum had a hand in raising levels of engagement in the country, with overall turnout rising to 72%, the highest since 1997.

This effect was particularly strong with young voters, with turnout among 18-24 year-olds rising once again to levels not seen since 1992.

Data via Opinium.

We Saw A Similar Effect In Scotland After The Indy Ref

Scotland experienced a similar re-engagement in 2014, with an unusually high turnout of 85%.

Turnout dropped in the next two election years, but remained relatively high compared to previous elections to suggest the referendum had a semi-lasting impact on political engagement, although it is now starting to taper off.

Data via BBC News.


The Polls Are Wildly Different - Because Pollsters Can't Agree On How Many Young Voters Will Show Up

Pollsters have estimated party support in different ways, with the main discrepancy appearing to lie in how they weigh likely turnout among younger voters.

These modelling differences generate outcomes ranging from a record-breaking Tory landslide to a hung parliament.

Generally speaking, polls predicting a low youth turnout tend to show larger Conservative leads, while polls predicting relatively higher youth turnout shrinks the gap considerably.

Data via listed polling companies.



... But This Election Campaign Has Excited Young People

This campaign is remarkable not only for the Corbyn surge - something which hasn't been fully explained - but for data showing increased excitement among young people.

Pollsters normally ask people they survey how certain they are to vote (from 1 - 10) in order to measure likely turnout and accurately weigh their raw data samples.

The number of young voters voters answering "10 - absolutely certain to vote" has dramatically risen over the course of the campaign.

Data via listed polling companies. Survation phone age brackets measured 18-34 for April 2017. Survation online age brackets measured 18-34 for April 2017 and June 2017. YouGov age brackets measured 18-24 and 25-49.


... And This Is Reflected In 2017's Last-Minute Voter Registration Surge

Compared with 2015, an unusually high number of voters registered to vote in the final 21 days before the registration deadline - broadly reflecting the numbers from 2016.

Data via

The number of applications from young people - both as a proportion of all applications and in absolute numbers - was unusually high.

Data via


What Does All Of This Mean?

Quite possibly, absolutely nothing. Firstly, all of this evidence is circumstantial. Secondly, since polls largely only measure vote share across the country - and not levels of support in individual seats - even a 50:50 split between Labour and the Conservatives could lead to dramatically different seat tallies depending on where the votes fall across the country.

While pollsters have reached a consensus on both the Corbyn surge and increased engagement among under 40s, they have been unable to pin down to what extent this will make a difference.

But based on all the data I would commit to predicting young voters will turn out in 2017 at a significantly higher level than in 2015, broadly reflecting turnout across the age brackets recorded after the EU referendum.


Update 25/06/17 - 'The first election since 1992 in which a majority of young people have come out to vote'

Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live in the early hours of Friday morning, Professor Jon Tonge, an academic with Liverpool University, told listeners: "The early data suggests this is the first election since 1992 in which a majority of young people, by which I mean 18-24 year-olds, have come out to vote."

Post-election demographic analysis from pollster Ipsos Mori proves this claim holds true, with 64% of 18-24 year-olds and 64% of 25-34 year-olds having taken part.

Writing on the impact of the shift in demographics, Thiemo Fetzer, assistant professor in economics at the University of Warwick, said: "The results suggest that the major reshuffles in turnout were predominantly due to the (soon to be) grey voters not turning up to vote in 2017 relative to younger voters.

"The Labour party was the big winner, catching almost as significant share of the increase among young voters."

Representatives from both Ipsos Mori and YouGov were approached to comment on the significance of the turnout among young people, and whether this can be sustained in the future, but neither were able to respond to my requests at the time of writing.