Let’s start with a couple of tales from the doorsteps, and see which one you find the most amusing. Both of them are from Devon, so maybe they do elections differently down there. First, we have the Greens of Exeter with a complaint:


Maybe I find this more than amusing than most, given that the Greens called on me back when I was first a candidate and also called on me the other week, but if you’re ‘appalled’ at someone knocking on a door, it feels to me that someone’s outrage-o-meter has been set a little too sensitively.

Meanwhile, in Torbay, the local Conservatives found all that door-knocking such a bother when they last did it in 2011 that they’re not going to bother doing it again this year. Not doing any canvassing is a model adopted by many candidates, few of whom are successful and even fewer of whom tell their electorate that they’re not doing it. We shall have to wait and see what success this approach bears for them.

On a wider note, I do think the model of canvassing that most parties use is badly broken, especially the further out from an election it’s used. It’s always good for politicians to get out on the doorsteps and talk to people, but expecting people to have firm political identities that an be recorded and treated as fixed is a mistake, in my opinion. The idea that you can define large chunks of the population as being definite supporters of any party isn’t backed up by any of the current data on how voters see themselves (see Elections and Voters in Britain for a lot more on this). As with so many things in our politics, a lot of canvassing rests on assumptions made in the mid-20th century that aren’t reflective of how people are now.

One other thought on voter intentions that might be of interest. A few weeks before the election, I went to a presentation by Chris Hanretty (one of the people behind Election Forecast) explianing their model. It’s assumptions follow polling trends from previous elections where for a long period in the run up to polling day, past electoral performance is as important as current opinion polling. It’s not quite as simple as taking an average between the two and calculating a swing – there are lots of weightings and demographic data in their model that are important – but one point he made is important: from around ten days out, current polling becomes a much more important part of the prediction than past performance. If that holds then we would expect to see increases in the Tory and Lib Dem shares in polls over the next ten days, while Labour and UKIP fade off while their overall prediction stays roughly the same. However, if the polling stays around its current level, then we’ll likely see opposite changes in the prediction.

However, for those of you wondering about the accuracy of the different focusing models, I must arn you of a potential flaw in May 2015‘s. As I’ve mentioned before, my department are having an election prediction competition and if May 2015’s current prediction is the final result, then I’d win the contest (and £200). This implied accuracy of my predicting skills is something you might want to take into account while assessing different forecasting models and websites. (For comparison, I’m 11th of 37 based on Election Forecast and 5th against Elections Etc’s current numbers)

Today’s minor party focus breaks from the order of the list in response to a request from Therese on Twitter who wants to know more about the Hoi Polloi who are not so much a party as one person’s description of themselves. That person is Geoff Moseley, a cinematographer and he’s standing for Parliament as the vanguard of a peaceful revolution, wanting to stop politics being just “the current dichotomy of power rocking back and forth between the left and right wings of the same deranged bird”. Beyond that webpage, though, there’s very little about him which implies that the revolution will be a very peaceful one.

Today on Election Leaflets, we have the first sign of an organised anti-SNP tactical voting campaign on the ground with this leaflet from Scotland In Union. How many of them there are being delivered, I don’t know, and their recommendations for who to vote for on their website seem to be based more on bookies’ odds than polling data, but it will be interesting to see if there is tactical voting in Scotland as part of the wider shift in voting intention there that seems likely to show up there next week.

There are just ten days left. I’m starting to feel that I might just find something to write about every day until then…

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I said Carswell, not Criswell!

I said Carswell, not Criswell!

We are now just 58 days away from the 2015 General Election, which you might have heard about through the odd fleeting mention of it on the news, in the media or even on this blog. What you might also be aware of is that I’m currently a Masters student in the Department of Government at the University of Essex and the academics there are also aware of this upcoming event. (It’s usually known as a ‘large scale sampling of voter intention data’)

The department is having a competition to predict the outcome of the election, for which the winner will receive £200. Entries are limited to students within the department, but we’re not limited to the methods we use to generate our predictions, so I thought I should take advantage of this blog’s readership (and my Facebook friends too) to see what sort of prediction would come from the wisdom of (small and possibly skewed) crowds.

So here’s my idea. You give me your predictions, I put them through a complex process of weighting and discarding obvious outliers and submit my prediction. Should it win, I will use some of the winnings to pay for drinks at a pub-based gathering of you all (date and location TBC should I win). As a special bonus, the person in the comments who gets the closest to the final result will receive the traditional prize of British political blogging, dating back to before the 2005 General Election: Matthew Turner’s CD of Simply Red’s Stars.

I have to get my prediction in before 10pm on Thursday 12th March (eight weeks before polling closes) but you can keep predicting here long after that if you so wish. So, the two questions in the prediction are:

1) Predict the Great Britain (i.e. excluding Northern Ireland) percentage share of the vote for the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and UKIP. (1 penalty point awarded for each 0.2% the prediction is out per party)
2) Predict the number of seats won at the election by the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and SNP. (1 penalty point awarded for each seat the prediction is away from the result)

The winner is the person with the fewest points. I think that makes it all quite clear, but please ask if it’s not. So go ahead and predict, and just maybe the post-election drinks will be (partly) on me.

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I’m reliably informed that if I want to be taken seriously as a blogger again, then I must post some predictions for things that will happen in the next year. So, here goes:

1) Wolves will be relegated for the Premiership. Even when relegation is mathematically certain, Mick McCarthy will insist that things can still be salvaged, and will still be sticking to this line when the team are playing in the Championship and being managed by someone else.

2) England will get to the final of the Cricket World Cup and lose. Yes, we’re good at cricket again, but if there’s one thing history shows us it’s that even good England teams lose World Cup finals. Probably to India this time.

3) The coalition won’t collapse and will still be there at the end of the year. As Anthony Wells says, ‘I think we all overestimate the chances of exciting and interesting things happening’ and the imminent collapse of the coalition has replaced the imminent split of the Tory Party and the imminent resignation of Tony Blair as the focus of fevered yet inaccurate political speculation.

4) David Cameron will carry out his first unforced Cabinet reshuffle. Probably a proper reshuffle, in that no Cabinet minister will actually be sacked (no matter how many pins get stuck into Eric Pickles voodoo dolls) but a few may be switched into lower-profile roles or have their departments shrunk beneath them.

5) Sarah Palin will announce she’s running for the Presidency of the US. And, oh my, it’s going to be fun…unless she looks like she has a chance of winning, and then it’ll just be scary.

6) The British media will continue to devote considerably more column inches to American politics than they will to anything happening in Europe. A critical Irish general election? Italy in continuing political crisis? The build up to a French Presidential election? Political fallout from the Eurozone bailout? Pah, who cares about that when there’s a crazy woman from Alaska to talk about!

7) The music media will hype a band up to the skies, who will turn out to be rubbish. This is pretty much a banker – and no, it’s not me showing my age, they’ve been doing this for years (remember Huggy Bear? Romo?) and then sneering at supposedly manufactured pop acts.

8) At least one TV series I like will be cancelled. Another given, just please don’t let it be Being Human.

9) Colin Firth will win the Oscar for Best Actor for The King’s Speech. Pure guesswork, as I haven’t seen the film yet but the combination of British royalty plus triumph over disability should be powerfully irresistible Oscar bait.

10 The last Space Shuttle flight won’t take place next year. The Shuttle programme is scheduled to fly its last mission next year, but I think it’ll get a last-minute reprieve as American politicians suddenly realise their national virility is under threat if they don’t have an operating space launch – after all, the last time that happened, Jimmy Carter was President!

So there we go – I look forward to not reviewing these next year when we discover that the Mayans were great at predicting a coming apocalypse, but were absolutely useless at making accurate calendars.

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