» ukip ¦ What You Can Get Away With

On current trends the Green Party will have a significant, if not decisive, impact on the 2015 election – Some interesting data from the LSE’s British Politics blog.
I Was Raped At Oxford University. Police Pressured Me Into Dropping Charges – A rather shocking story.
Motorists have ruined England – and they need to pay the price – Given the current drive to make things as centred around the car as possible gets called ‘war on the motorist’, I dread to wonder what this might get called.
Can UKIP scale up? – Excellent post from Flip Chart Fairy Tales on the problems of growing a political party rapidly.
Ricky Gervais Broke My Heart – “Having once been a slightly overweight white male millionaire does not give you the insight required to speak with authority and flippancy on the complexities of body size and the effects of anti-fat stigma. Or race, or disability, or rape, for that matter. In fact, it makes you look fucking ridiculous. This just in: New Millionaire Discovers Millionaires Were Right All Along.”

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By not simply crossing the floor at Westminster to join UKIP, but resigning and calling a by-election to do it, has he now set a precedent for any other Tory MPs who want to do the same? The last MP to do that for a defection was Bruce Douglas-Mann switching from Labour to the SDP in 1982 (and he lost), and MPs who’ve done it since then haven’t followed his example.

However, if there are any other Tories thinking of doing the same (and there probably are), they’ll be watching what happens in Clacton very intently as they know that if they want to switch, they’ll face lots of questions about why they’re not calling a by-election too. Indeed, a cynic might suggest that Carswell has found a way to establish himself as UKIP’s only MP (with the resulting media profile) should he win and if no one else wants to take the same risk.

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Officials count ballot papers in WitneyWriting on the LSE’s British Politics and Policy blog, Steven Ayres looks at where UKIP’s vote came from in the 2014 local elections, and what this might mean in next year’s general election.

It’s an interesting piece, but it brings me back a thought I’ve had recently with regard to UKIP’s chances next years and whether analysis is factoring in the effects of differential turnout and the motivation to vote of UKIP voters.

One assumption that we tend to make in projecting local election results forward to a general election is that the different turnout at the two elections can be ignored as a factor. We know that general elections have larger turnouts that local elections, but we assume that the voters who turn out at local elections are a proportional sample of the voters who’ll turn out at the general election. As an example, imagine a constituency with four parties where 20,000 people will vote at a general election, but only 10,000 of those will vote at the preceding local election. At that local election, we get the following result:

  • Party A: 4000 votes
  • Party B: 3000 votes
  • Party C: 2000 votes
  • Party D: 1000 votes
  • The tendency is to assume that the percentages of votes received in that election represent the share of opinion amongst the wider electorate and that thus amongst the general election electorate of 20,000 Party A will have 8,000 voters (40%), Party B will have 6000 voters (30%) etc. We assume that the 50% who will turn out for the local election is drawn equally from the parties – a Party A voter and a Party D general election voter both have a 50% probability of voting in the local election.

    The reason I’m writing this in relation to UKIP votes is that it seems to me that projections of what UKIP might do in 2015 assume that their voters turned out at the same rate in 2013 and 2014 as did supporters of the other parties. I’d need to go back to some of the polling from before May’s elections to confirm this, but my recollection is that it showed UKIP supporters were much more likely to intend to vote than those of other parties.

    To go back to the example, we assume it represents voter intention amongst the wider population, but what if each party’s supporters had a wildly different likelihood to vote at local elections? For example, if Party A’s supporters were 80% likely to vote at local elections, while Party D’s were only 20% likely, both could actually have 5,000 supporters amongst the general population. Extrapolating a general election result from a local one when the parties have had differing levels of turnout is not going to produce accurate forecasts.

    To return to the UKIP question, one thing I have noticed is that while they have had relatively high percentages in some elections, they’ve not gone beyond around x% of the total electorate. By my calculation, the share of the electorate UKIP have got in high-profile elections recently is:

  • Eastleigh by-election: 14.7%
  • Newark by-election: 13.7%
  • 2014 Euro election (East of England): 12.4%
  • 2014 Euro elections (East Midlands): 10.9%
  • 2014 Euro elections (national share): 9.4%
  • Rotherham by-election: 7.3%
  • Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election: 6.7%
  • South Shields by-election: 6.4%
  • My suspicion – and it’d take a lot of time with a lot of polling and election data and a stats package to explore that in more depth – is that UKIP’s peak support within the electorate is somewhere around 15%, but they are much more likely to turn out at all elections than voters for the other parties are. Thus, in elections with a lower turnout, their higher propensity to vote and our tendency to assume that those elections are a mirror of voters as a whole makes them look more of a threat in the general election than they will actually be. However, in a general election with turnouts of over 60%, it’s very hard for a party that can’t get more than 20% of the electorate to win a seat. That would require winning a seat with 33% of the vote or less, and while that’s possible, it’s very rare.

    UKIP’s dilemma for next year is that their best chance of winning seats comes if a) there’s a low overall turnout in a seat, allowing the higher motivation of their voters to be a factor and b) there are multiple parties competing for a seat, thus making it possible to win with a low share of the vote. However, seats with strong competition between multiple parties are unlikely to have a low turnout because of the amount of campaigning that’s done in them. It seems that UKIP are very good at getting out the vote, but they’ll need to broaden the number of people willing to vote for them to have a serious chance of winning a Westminster seat.

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    24 Hours In Any City In The World – “The perfect, meticulously-searched guide to Any City In The World for people who, for some bizarre reason, have only allocated 24 hours to explore it.”
    4 Things We Should Remember When Arguing About Politics – Useful perspective from Cracked.
    As Millenials Shun Cars, Boston Rethinks Its Transportation System – “when I was learning to drive, the idea of driving out in the country and even driving around town and not spending a lot of time sitting in traffic was actually something of a reality. As Americans started driving more and more over the years, there’s no more open road in the United States. Almost everyone who’s driving is driving places that are pretty darn congested.”
    A short history of swivel-eyed loons – Chris Brooke delves into Lexis and finds the moment when the swivel-eyed and the loon were first bound together in political commentary.
    What Nigel Farage told British expats in Spain – Jon Danzig picks apart a succession of UKIP arguments.

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    Do we want fewer councillors, or should we make better use of those we have? – Andrew Coulson of the Institute for Local Government Studies asks a few questions about just what local government in the UK is for.
    Argonauts of the incredibly specific: anthropological field notes on the Liberal Democrat animal – Some interestingly accurate assessments of the party from a departing member.
    UKIP: The victory of the ruling class – A typically incisive post from Chris Dillow, pointing out that UKIP are anything but anti-establishment. “The discontent that people might reasonably feel against bankers, capitalists and managerialists has been diverted into a hostility towards immigrants and the three main parties, and to the benefit of yet another party with a managerialist and pro-capitalist ideology.”
    This Other England: The Inevitable UKIP Post – “A significant minority of voters who hate everything about this country except the past. It’s a depressing vision – but one that we now have to confront.”
    How can we reform local elections? – A proposal from Unlock Democracy to allow councils to determine their own electoral system locally.

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    Common decency fail at the Huff Post – Jim Jepps on why posting pictures of David Miliband with his flies undone helps to drive politicians further away from the public.
    Eastleigh – Why There’s No Farage – Because, explains Tim Fenton, despite his talk of the importance of Westminster, he’s no desire to actually be an MP.
    Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: Storm Damage Vehicles – An illustration of the amount of damage done by the storm, that also prompts questions about why they’re all being disposed of.
    Against Save Our Thing – Alex Harrowell explains why campaigning to save social hardware is misguided when its the software that’s under attack.
    The Shard: beacon of the left’s skyline – Owen Hatherley on how the 1980s changes in local government led to the skyscrapers of today.

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    An open letter to the British judicial system – From a cyclist, pointing out the ridiculously small sentences handed out to motorists who’ve killed or injured cyclists.
    My reply to Nick Clegg’s civil liberties email today – Jo Shaw writes at Liberal Democrats against Secret Courts, asking Nick Clegg to live up to what he says and block the Government’s plans. (And if you’re a Lib Dem who hasn’t signed the petition against secret courts yet, why not?)
    Nick Clegg needs to get crunchy again – Jonathan Calder has one of the best takes I’ve seen on Clegg’s recent ‘centre ground’ speech.
    The gathering storm – Alex Marsh with a warning about future rises in homelessness.
    UKIP are true libertarians – I’m still planning a post on libertarians and the Liberal Democrats at some point, but in the meantime, this is a good piece from Ed Rooksby in the Guardian, pointing out how UKIP are a great example of where the inherent selfishness of right-libertarianism takes you.

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