Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Political predictions for the year ahead

While I was making the long journey home from the Edinburgh Hogmanay street party (an experience I paid a heavy price for - I got caught in several crushes, and later came down with a bad cold!) I was pleasantly surprised to spot on my mobile that I'd finished third in the 2012 Political Betting prediction competition. I haven't gone through the figures in detail, but I'm guessing the reason might be the gut feeling I had twelve months ago that the Tories were long overdue for a sustained spell of midterm unpopularity.

OK, lightning never strikes twice, but I thought I might as well try my luck again in this year's contest. This time, my feeling is that unless there's a general election (a very big 'if'), 2013 is likely to be a year of minimal change at UK level. Given the uninspiring personalities at the top of the Labour party, it's hard to see how they're going to build a more emphatic lead, but equally there's no particular reason to anticipate a Tory recovery. So in my predictions for what the ICM polls will show, I have all the parties in a relatively narrow range of support, with Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP ranging fractionally higher than their average over recent months, and the Tories ranging fractionally lower.

Labour high - 42%
Labour low - 39%

Conservative high - 34%
Conservative low - 30%

Liberal Democrat high - 16%
Liberal Democrat low - 13%

UKIP high - 8%
UKIP low - 5%

Labour's biggest lead - 12%
Labour's smallest lead - 5%

As soon as I pressed 'submit', I felt sure that I had been over-generous to the Lib Dems, but I suppose it's possible they may have bottomed out somewhat. I don't expect a significant recovery for them until they bite the bullet and ditch Clegg, though.

Entrants were also asked to predict who will be Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Shadow Chancellor and Culture Secretary on Christmas Day. Assuming there's no general election between now and then, it seems a fairly safe bet that Cameron and Balls will still be in harness (Miliband has even explicitly stated that Balls will remain in his current position until the election). Clegg is much less secure, but the balance of probability is that he will last at least one more year. Maria Miller isn't secure at all as Culture Secretary, but given that it's anyone's guess who would replace her if she was sacked, the 'percentage guess' is that she will still be there as well.

Prime Minister - David Cameron

Deputy Prime Minister - Nick Clegg

Shadow Chancellor - Ed Balls

Culture Secretary - Maria Miller

Now we come to three international predictions - for the post-election leaders of Australia, Italy and Germany. None of these are certainties by any means, but two of them are a bit easier to guess than the other. Pier Luigi Bersani is currently the strong favourite to become the new centre-left Prime Minister of Italy, with just a few weeks to go until polling day. If by any chance Silvio Berlusconi confounds the odds to achieve yet another comeback, I will...well, I was going to say I will emigrate, but as I don't actually live in Italy that probably wouldn't help much.

Angela Merkel is likely, but not certain, to remain Chancellor of Germany, albeit probably with a new coalition partner that is far more palatable to those of us of a left-wing persuasion (either SPD or Greens). However, an SPD/Green majority still remains a genuine possibility, and if only the SPD could overcome their aversion to cooperating with the Left Party at federal level, then Merkel would be in all sorts of trouble, because the polls currently point to a combined parliamentary majority for the SPD, Greens and Left Party.

To my surprise, the toughest prediction turned out to be Australia. I had lazily assumed that Julia Gillard and Labor were toast, but it turns out that they've made a significant recovery in recent months, and are now only a few points behind the Liberal/National coalition. Even more intriguingly, Gillard seems to have built up a clear personal lead over her opponent Tony Abbott. Looking at the dates, the turning-point may well have been Gillard's now-legendary speech in which she branded Abbott a sexist hypocrite. In the end, I still plumped for Abbott as the winner, but without any great confidence, and it goes without saying that I hope I'm wrong (even though Gillard was stupid enough to employ John McTernan).

Italian Prime Minister - Pier Luigi Bersani

German Chancellor - Angela Merkel

Australian Prime Minister - Tony Abbott

The most murderously difficult part of the prediction contest is always estimating the net gains and losses for each party in the May local elections. I had a look at the 2009 seat totals to see if I could make a rough guess as to what might happen if the projected vote shares this year were roughly the same as in May 2012, and this is what I came up with -

Conservatives down 414

Labour up 605

Liberal Democrats down 196

UKIP up 5

Labour's gains look far too high, but the Lib Dems are surely going to take a pounding, and those lost seats have to go somewhere. In all honesty, though, to make anything more than a wild guess you'd need a mathematics PhD, detailed ward-by-ward statistics that aren't easily traceable on the internet, and seven months of peace and quiet in a spacious office, with soothing whale noises playing in the background.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Angus Reid subsample : SNP in joint lead for Westminster

As long-term readers will know, I regard Angus Reid's Scottish subsamples as being of slightly more interest than those of other pollsters, because the relative stability of the figures over time suggest they have been properly weighted. The latest poll shows the SNP drawing level with Labour -

SNP 36% (+1)
Labour 36% (-5)
Conservatives 13% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)

My eye was also caught last night by ICM's final poll of 2012, because hidden away was a 'school report' section for leading politicians, which gave Alex Salmond a grade of D+, level with Nigel Farage and George Osborne, ahead of Nick Clegg on D, but behind David Cameron and Ed Miliband on C-. Now, you might assume the only reasonable way of comparing Salmond to London politicians would be to compare his rating among Scottish respondents to the rating of the others among all UK respondents. But oh no, ICM are entirely relaxed about the ability of respondents in Birmingham or Plymouth to meaningfully rate Salmond based on the fair, balanced and comprehensive reporting of him that they are exposed to via the London-based media.

Unsurprisingly, Salmond's rating in the Scottish subsample is higher than in any other UK region (except Wales, interestingly). If we compare his Scottish rating to the UK-wide rating of other public figures, we find that the quality of his work in 2012 is rated more highly than everyone other than the Queen, and David Cameron (who he is level with).

The Queen 12.0 (B+)
Alex Salmond 6.9 (C-)
David Cameron 6.9 (C-)
Ed Miliband 6.6 (C-)
The European Union generally 6.0 (D+)
The coalition government generally 6.0 (D+)
George Osborne 6.0 (D+)
Nigel Farage 5.6 (D+)
Nick Clegg 5.3 (D)

The other way of making a fair comparison is to look at the figures from Scottish respondents only. That produces similar results, except of course that coalition politicians are rated quite a bit lower, and Ed Miliband a bit higher.

The Queen 11.7 (B+)
Alex Salmond 6.9 (C-)
Ed Miliband 6.9 (C-)
The European Union generally 6.8 (C-)
David Cameron 5.9 (D+)
The coalition government generally 5.4 (D)
Nigel Farage 5.3 (D)
George Osborne 5.2 (D)
Nick Clegg 4.5 (D)

UPDATE : And I also missed the latest TNS-BMRB independence poll, which I suppose should be the headline story, but I can't be bothered changing the whole post now. The lead for the No side has fallen by five points, which the Scotsman are bizarrely reporting as a blow for the Yes side!

Yes 28% (-)
No 48% (-5)

That is broadly in line with Angus Reid's figures from a few days ago, which showed Yes 32%, No 50% - hardly an insurmountable deficit with the best part of two years to go.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Quote of the year, and it's still only week two

This is a two-and-a-half-day-old quote from Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, arguing for a hefty increase in MPs' salaries in order to attract the best 'talent'. As you read this, try very hard to remember that MPs already earn more than 95% of the population.

"A man or a woman who's very capable, doing very well in their profession, whatever that may be, with a family, are they going to be willing to take that pay cut, look their children in the eye when it's Christmas, say you can't have what you normally have because Mummy or Daddy wants to be an MP."

Hmmm. Perhaps as Christmas morning draws to a close in the households of MPs, there should be a Generation Game-style conveyor belt scene.

"Well you've had your real presents, Jack and Jenny, but just for fun, let's take a peek at what you COULD have had if only Daddy hadn't sacrificed himself on the altar of public service...

A bottle of Heidsieck Monopole 1907 Champagne!

Garçon à la Pipe by Pablo Picasso!

Five minutes of high tea with Tony Blair!

An Haute Joaillerie diamond-studded watch!

A Gurkha Black Dragon cigar in a camel bone chest!


The 35.56 carat Wittelsbach-Graff Diamond!

A PrestigeHD Supreme Rose TV made of hand-sewn alligator skin!

The services of Geoff Hoon!

Ooooh, didn't you do BADLY?"

How can society be so beastly to these children? Treble MPs' salaries now!