I’ve been looking through the election numbers (and thanks to Stanno on Twitter for a spreadsheet packed full of election data) and here’s a few things I’ve noticed.

The Liberal Democrats lost votes everywhere. There aren’t any chinks of light in seats where we managed to gain votes. The smallest fall was Dunbartonshire East, where Jo Swinson went down just 2.4%, and the biggest was Brent Central with the total 35.8% down on 2010. All four of the smallest falls were in Scotland (aside from Dunbarton East, they were 2.8% in Edinburgh West, 3.3% in Gordon, and 3.7% in Argyll & Bute) which suggests both hard campaigning in those seats and that anti-SNP tactical voting was a factor. Outside of Scotland, the least worst falls were David Ward in Bradford East (down 4.2%) and Julian Huppert in Cambridge (4.3%).

Labour’s share of the vote went up, and by more than the Tories. It was a terrible night for Labour, voters deserted Ed Miliband etc is the narrative, which ignores that their share of the vote went up by 1.5%, while the Tory share was up just 0.7%. In conventional terms, there was actually a swing from Tory to Labour, but this time the Tories were able to deploy their vote much more efficiently. On a crude measure, the Tories had only two constituencies (Hampshire North and Maidenhead) where they got over 65% of the vote – Labour had 17. There’s a possibility that without Scotland, the bias in the electoral system has now switched, and it’s Labour piling up votes in safe seats, while the Tories gain more seats with a similar share of the vote.

Where have all the voters gone?. 11,560,484 voters. That’s a huge number of people and more than anyone’s got an election since Tony Blair in 1997. Unfortunately, it’s also the number Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party got in 1992. David Cameron only got 11,300,303 voters on Thursday but national turnout was still only 66.1% despite the boost it got from the massive turnout in Scotland. The SNP have shown that it’s possible to engage non-voters, get them voting and change the rules of the game, but how does that happen in the rest of the country?

Turnout matters. It’s a theory I’ve been thinking about for a while, but I still think we make a mistake by treating all voters at all elections as a homogeneous group. I think we there are two distinct groups – those that generally turn out at all elections (with a possible subset of those who vote in local by-elections and PCC elections) and those that only vote at general elections – with different behaviour. For instance, UKIP got 4.3m votes at the European elections last year and 3.9m on Thursday. Once you take out a chunk to represent Tory protest voters who were never going to vote Farage at a General Election, it seems UKIP are very good at motivating voters to turn out for them at all elections, but not too good at persuading those who only vote at general elections to vote for them. Mark Reckless got almost exactly the same number of votes in Rochester and Strood that he got in the by-election, but lost his seat because Kelly Tolhurst (his Tory opponent both times) found 10,000 more voters for the general election.

I suspect a similar factor helped persuade Lib Dems that things wouldn’t be so bad: ‘Look at the local elections! Our vote’s holding up there!’ was the regular cry, but when that group who didn’t vote in local elections were added to the electorate, things went very bad. Differential turnout is a phenomenon that’s not been studied too much, and the corresponding phenomenon of differential enthusiasm amongst supporters of different parties is something I’ve seen put forward as a plausible suggested explanation for the polling errors.

That’s the main things I’ve spotted for now, but I do want to feed these numbers into SPSS sometime in the next few weeks, just to see what interesting figures I can draw out of them – I suspect there are a lot more stories to be told.

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As I get people coming here looking for them, I’ll post them as I get them so the post will be updated as the evening goes on. Click here for the General Election result.

Berechurch: Labour (Dave Harris) 1,958, Conservative 858, UKIP 521, LD 406, Green 152
Birch and Winstree: Conservative (Andrew Ellis) 1,913, UKIP 569, LD 291, Lab 287, Green 145
Castle: Conservative (Darius Laws) 1667, LD 1172, Green 982, Labour 821
Christ Church: Conservative (Annesley Hardy) 964, LD 670, Labour 433, Green 319, UKIP 148
Copford and West Stanway: Conservative (Jackie Maclean) 673, UKIP 177, LD 115, Lab 155, Green 46
Fordham and Stour: Conservative (Nigel Chapman) 2,023, labour 396, Green 336, LD 327
Great Tey: Conservative (Peter Chillingworth) 979, LD 257, Labour 170, UKIP 162, Green 104
Highwoods: Independent (Philip Oxford) 1,592, Conservative 1,192, Labour 479, LD 466, UKIP 395, Green 187
Mile End: Conservative (Ben Locker) 2,101, LD 1,769, Labour 707, UKIP 533, Green 368
New Town: LD (Annie Feltham) 1,289, Conservative 832, Labour 772, Green 631, UKIP 493
Prettygate: Conservative (Will Quince) 2,269, LD 967, Labour 522, UKIP 489, Green 196
Shrub End: Conservative (Pauline Hazell) 1,571, LD 1157, UKIP 757, Labour 736
St Andrew’s: Labour (Tim Young) 1,462, Conservative 715, LD 447, Green 317
St Anne’s: LD (Barrie Cook) 1173, Conservative 976, UKIP 770, Labour 600, Green 241
Stanway: Conservative (Fiona Maclean) 1861, LD 1611, Labour 616, Green 261
Tiptree: Conservative (Margaret Crowe) 1,873, UKIP 1,313, Labour 535, LD 194, Green 129
West Bergholt and Eight Ash Green: Conservative (Marcus Harrington) 1,578, UKIP 370, Labour 306, LD 265, Green 204, Independent 151, Patriotic Socialist 12
West Mersea: Conservative (Patricia Moore) 2,154, UKIP 988, labour 402, Green 330, LD 278
Wivenhoe Cross: Lib Dem (Mark Cory) 668, Labour 328, Green 130, Conservative 271, UKIP 90
Wivenhoe Quay: Labour (Rosaling Scott) 1295, Conservative 1251, Green 325, LD 295

Official details are on the Borough council website here.

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I’ve spotted a few people landing here after googling for the result, so here it is.

Will Quince (Conservative) 18,919
Bob Russell (Liberal Democrat) 13,344
Jordan Newell (Labour) 7,852
John Pitts (UKIP) 5,870
Mark Goacher (Green) 2499
Ken Scrimshaw (Christian People’s Alliance) 109

That’s a 100% swing for me from contented to gutted.

The local elections aren’t counted until later this afternoon, and I’ll post those results as I get them – they’ll also be on the Colchester Borough Council website, and I recommend Colchester Chronicle’s website and Twitter feed for live coverage. Click here for the Colchester Council local election results.

One of these days I’m going to start believing exit polls. I thought the 2010 one was wrong as there was no way we’d lose seats, and when tonight’s came out I joined in the chorus of people who thought there was no way it could be the correct result. If anything, it now seems to have underestimated the number of Tory seats,

I’m doing an exam about public opinion and polling a week on Monday. Might be time to shred a whole bunch of my notes and just scrawl ‘nobody knows anything’ across the paper, as that seems to be the message. Something happened that the polls completely missed, but I have no idea what that factor might be.

At the moment, there are just six Liberal Democrat MPs, a number we last had after the 1970 election, but was pretty much our default number during most of the 50s and 60s. We’ve still got local election results to come tomorrow, and given the absolute slaughter of our general election vote, we’re likely to face another long day of terrible news from around the country. And as I write this, the Colchester result has come through, and Bob Russell’s lost by over 5,500 votes. This is a potential extinction level event for the party.

But we can’t let it be that. The country’s now going to get to see just what we spent five years holding back as the Tories have their bare majority, and David Cameron has to govern while keeping the right wing fringes of his party happy. Watch in awe as the Human Rights Act goes, as welfare budgets are slashed, as housing associations are plundered and most of all, as we spend the next two years obsessing over Europe and wondering just why no one wants to renegotiate our EU membership. The Tory campaign has whipped up fear and division across the country, and now they’re going reap what they’ve sown with more than 50 SNP MPs sitting in Westminster, just waiting for the opportunity to make Scotland independent.

The country needs a strong liberal voice, and we need to make sure that we are still that voice, no matter how small the platform we have to shout it from. However, we first need to gather ourselves, to talk and think for a while and not rush into any decisions about the future, and that includes a leadership election.

To be clear, the responsibility for this catastrophe does lie heavily with Clegg and all those in the leadership who decided we needed to be a party of centrist managerialism, offering the public little more than an offer to moderate the bad things the other parties would do. But if you break something, it’s your responsibility to stay around and help with the clean up. Clegg can’t stay on as leader, but the last thing we need right now is to be plunged straight into a leadership election. He needs to stay on as effectively an interim leader to give us the space to have the reviews, the analysis and the discussions we need. This was not a conventional defeat, and we can’t respond to it in a conventional way. We cannot turn in on ourselves and fight over what little remains, we need to get ourselves together before we can work out where we’re going.

This isn’t the end, but we need to work harder than ever to get out of this hole.

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Some of the discussion in the comments on my previous post, sent me off to look at the 1992 election coverage I discussed a few days ago to see if I could find the moment when Sunderland South began its run of being the first constituency to declare. Thanks to BBC Parliament showing old election coverage and the existence of YouTube, here it is:

The moment we’re looking for starts at around 1:09:50 into the video (just after the interview with Ken Clarke in Rushcliffe) where there are three reporters (Kate Adie in Torbay, Philip Hayton in Guildford and Gavin Hewitt in Portsmouth South) at the constituencies that were thought to be in the race to declare first. Unfortunately, no one had told them about Sunderland’s plans.

There’s a whole eight hours of election video there for you to enjoy (enough to keep you going until 10pm tonight, if that’s your desire) and you too can marvel at the sheer 90s-ness of it all, perhaps encapsulated best by a green-jacketed official election funnyman Rory Bremner in front of a shot of Manchester flagging up its bid to host the 2000 Olympics.

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Via John Band, I found this very interesting chart on Australia’s ABC network’s coverage of the election:
counttimes
First, take your moment to be jealous of those in Australia who can have a good night’s sleep before watching the results, then take a look at the figures and see if the same question comes to you as me: why have election counts slowed down so much over the last twenty years?

In 1992, we had the majority of results by 2am, from 1997-2005 it took until 3am, then last time it took until past 4am to get past 50% of the results. There looks like a general downward trend over time, though turnout obviously has an effect – 2001 seems marginally quicker than 1997, as turnout fell from 1997 to 2001 – but 1992 was noticeably quicker than the subsequent ones, and 2010 involved a lot of waiting for results.

There’s a few possible explanations I can think of:

Impact of local elections: 1992 was the last time we had a general election that wasn’t concurrent with the local elections of that year, so the process of verification of the votes didn’t need to involve sorting and checking the local elections too. 2010 also broke the cycle of the previous years of being at the same time as mostly County Council elections, happening instead at the same time as London boroughs and other boroughs and districts across the country.

Postal voting: The change to postal voting on demand happened after 1997, meaning returning officers now had to devote more time to opening and checking postal votes, though much of the grunt work in this could be done before the day itself, so I’m not sure how much of an effect it had.

Fewer people counting: I don’t have any evidence one way or the other on whether budgets for counts have gone up or down over the year, but obviously if fewer people are being employed to do a count, it would take longer.

More candidates: As anyone who’s been part of a count will tell you, it takes longer when there are more candidates, as sorting the votes into an increasing number of piles takes more time, then each one has to be checked separately and larger ballot papers take longer to unfold.

There are probably other explanations but those are the ones that spring to mind first for me. Now, if someone wants to give me a large sum of money, I’ll gladly undertake a research programme to find out exactly what the cause was, and how we can make them faster in future.

Election Polling Station SignA…it’s make your mind up time. Polling stations open around 12 hours after I’m writing this, and close 15 hours after that. Then Britain gets to make its real decision: BBC, ITV or Channel 4 for the election night coverage. Or you could even go for Sky News, the informational equivalent of a spoiled ballot paper.

But before then, there is another decision to be made, and here’s my view of the candidates in Colchester:

One can’t really say much about Ken Scrimshaw of the Christian People’s Alliance as he’s been nowhere to be seen for the past several weeks. As far as I’m aware, he’s not been at any of the hustings, and his knuckles have not rapped at my door or his leaflet landed upon my mat. However, from what I have seen of him and his party, I’m quite confident in saying that voting for someone who regards the Bible as infallible truth is not something I’m likely to do anytime in the near future.

Likewise, as I believe that being in the European Union is a positive for this country and immigration brings massive benefits to this country, there’s no chance of me voting for UKIP’s John Pitts. However, in a spirit of generosity I will say that I agree with Nigel Farage that we need electoral reform and the poisonous air a lot of our elections are carried out in is a result of the ridiculous electoral system we currently use. Beyond that, though, we have very little in common.

Green Party candidate Mark Goacher has impressed me during this campaign. He’s a thoughtful and intelligent man and at the hustings events I’ve seen, he’s engaged with the questions and given honest answers, not merely what people have wanted to hear. Unfortunately, while the Greens do have some very good policies, they also have some incredibly bad ones, to the point where I wonder if they have an overall aim of trying to balance their policy offering between eminently sensible and complete woo. Mark deserves to be congratulated on having a good election campaign, and I think his party’s best days are ahead of it, but for now I couldn’t justify voting for him.

During this election, my impression of Ed Miliband has improved to the point that I think he’s perfectly capable of being a good Prime Minister. He’s an obviously intelligent man who’s thought through issues in some depth and shows remarkable calm and resilience in the face of the attacks he’s undergone over the past four and a half years. If I was living in a different constituency where Labour could defeat the Tories, I would consider tactically voting for them (as I did in 1992). However, Colchester’s not that sort of constituency and Jordan Newell definitely isn’t that candidate. An on-message neo-Blairite robot is not the type of Labour candidate I would consider voting for.

In contrast to Ed Miliband, my opinion of David Cameron has fallen during this campaign. He’s run a campaign based on fear, lies and division, preferring to risk tearing the country and the continent apart if it means he gets to cling to power. Will Quince, his candidate in Colchester would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Cameron’s dangerous policies, be it cutting billions from support for the worst off in society, risking our economy with an ill-conceived plan for an EU referendum or being prepared to discard our human rights. He wins the award for the most disingenuous bit of politico-speak I’ve seen in Colchester this election:

Which of your parties specific policies do you LEAST agree with?
I pledge to be an independent-minded MP and will always put my constituents first. If that means voting against my party, then so be it. There will always be difficult decisions to take but I will never forget that the people of Colchester are my boss.

For all the fine words about being ‘independent-minded’, he neglects to mention any issues he might be independent about or even mildly disagree with his party on. You can judge a man by the company he keeps, and whether it’s the glee with which the members of Colchester’s Tory group have suggested sacking hundreds of Council staff or the negative campaigning and dog-whistle politics of his party, both locally and nationally, it’s clear that the Tories remain the nasty party, and sending another Tory MP to Parliament would be a bad thing for both our town and our country.

Which leaves us with Sir Bob Russell, MP for Colchester for 18 years and a man you may or may not be surprised to learn I’ve had many arguments with during my eight years as a councillor, but who I will still be voting for tomorrow. I don’t agree with Bob on everything, and over the past few years, I’ve disagreed with many of the things he and other Liberal Democrats in Parliament have voted for. However, no matter how much we like to talk about Doctor Who within the party, we don’t possess time travel and we can’t go back and do it all again with knowledge of how it will all turn out, but we can do the best to make the future a better place. I don’t agree with Bob with Bob on everything but I trust him to represent Colchester in Parliament far better than any of the other candidates. He’ll continue to infuriate me on a regular basis, but I would far rather be infuriated by him than by any of the other options. The Liberal Democrat manifesto (and party leadership) may have plunged down the road to centrist managerialism, but it still contains more good idea than any of the others and a heart and humanity that are sorely lacking in most of the other parties.

Aside from telling you how I’m intending to vote here, I’m not going to make any recommendations or endorsements, though I would ask you to sign this petition for electoral reform so the issue doesn’t get forgotten about as soon as the election’s done. I have been looking through some of 2010 election blogging and found this that I write about who or what to vote for, which I think stands the test of time:

You have a choice today when you go to vote. It’s a simple one: do you choose hope or fear? Do you vote because you’re scared of what the Daily Mail predicts, scared of all those nasty foreign people, scared of changing things that people say have worked for them for so long, scared of your neighbours, scared of those young people with nothing to do, scared of everything somehow going wrong unless the media’s designated strong government in waiting is allowed absolute power to tell you they’re dealing with all these problems while spending your money on finding new ways to terrify you? Or do you choose something else?

And so that brings 38 days of election blogging to an end, which has felt like a particularly nasty route march at times, but has generally been fun and interesting to do again. Now I get to shift to results blogging, then interminable government-formation negotiation blogging until we finally find ourselves with a new Government and I can get on with boring you about my Masters dissertation. I’d like to thank all of you who’ve been reading these posts, all the parties who are standing, especially those who were my minor party of the day, and all the people who’ve uploaded things to Election Leaflets to allow me to point and laugh at them. Please make sure you get out and vote tomorrow, even if it’s just to spoil your ballot paper, and let’s just hope we don’t have to do it all again later this year.

Just like last time, whatever happens:

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