Sunday, 5 October 2014

Tories 2 Point Lead in GB Poll, UKIP 9 Point Lead in Rochester

Polls are sometimes easily explained, and sometimes baffle everyone. Sunday's papers have two polls; one GB-wide, one in Rochester and Strood - the constituency of Conservative to UKIP defector, Mark Reckless.

The Westminster voting intention poll, by YouGov for the Sunday Times, has topline figures of Con 36%, Lab 34%, Lib Dem 7%, UKIP 13%. That means that both YouGov's polls since the end of the Conservative Party Conference have had small leads for the the Tories over Labour.

This is explained very simply by a widely regarded successful conference for the Tories, coupled with the not so successful Labour conference in the previous week. We won't know if the conferences will have had any lasting effect until next week, but there is a perfectly good reason for the movement in the polls.

The poll in Rochester and Strood, however, is less straight forward. The numbers, from Survation for the Mail on Sunday, with changes since the 2010 general election, are; Con 31% (-18), Lab 25% (-3), Lib Dem 2% (-14), UKIP 40% (n/a as they didn't contest this seat in 2010). That's a 9 point lead for UKIP over the Tories.

The lead for UKIP is slightly surprising, but not inconceivable. The loss of support for the other parties (together with a movement away from Others) makes up the entire vote share for UKIP. The real head scratcher though is the Lib Dem vote, which has seemingly gone wholesale to UKIP.

You would have thought that those who supported the Lib Dems in 2010 would be the very last people to switch to UKIP now - which means that either Labour have lost as much as the Tories have to UKIP, and Lib Dems have switched to them (which is possible but unlikely in a by-election), or those who voted Lib Dem last time were only doing so because they didn't want to vote for either of the two big parties. What does this say about Lib Dem voters?!

Does that mean that UKIP are the new protest party of choice? Well, yes; but more importantly should UKIP win this by-election (and that's far from certain since the contest hasn't even been called yet) will they retain that support at the general election in just 7 months time? Survation say that the UKIP supporters they polled said that 88% would vote for them in May, and a back of a fag packet calculation tells us that means they will lose 5 points, putting them practically neck and neck with the Tories (should they be the main beneficences).

In practice, people are rubbish at predicting what they'd do in the future. When faced with the choice of a Cameron/Miliband Prime Minister or Conservative/Labour Government, they are more likely to go back to their original allegiance.

The big question in all this is, do voters actually know why they vote for UKIP?


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Feminism Must Stop Being Used as a Synonym for Man-Hating (#HeForShe)

Not my words (in my best Alan Carr voice), the words of Emma Watson in a speech to the United Nations. She was launching a new UN Women campaign, HeForShe; a gender-equality campaign which Emma herself has formally invited all men to join.

The speech focused on gender stereotyping of men and women, and how it affected both themselves and the opposite gender. "You don't often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes," Watson emotionally orated, "but I can see that they are, and when they are free things will change for women as a natural consequence."

She added, "If men don't have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, then women won't feel compelled to be submissive. If men don't have to control, women won't have to be controlled."

Gender, and indeed sexual, stereotyping is something that I have often been subjected to. For example, I really like musicals; when I'm in London I will often go and see a show if I possibly can; but such a position is seen by society as un-masculine or simply gay (despite Neil Patrick Harris telling us it's not just for gays any more). Well, I'm straight - so such a stereotype is a problem for me.

I was lucky to be brought up by a family that didn't push gender stereotypes on to me, in the same way that Emma Watson (as she says in her speech) was lucky to be afforded advice and encouragement that was blind to her gender.

Emma also tackled the problem of how feminism is seen, in her speech. She said, "fighting for women's rights, has far too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing for certain, it is that this has to stop." This could be taken in two ways, and perhaps it was left purposely ambiguous.

As a students' union welfare officer (5 years ago now), I was more or less excluded from feminism, and the reason was because I was never invited, or welcomed, to stand with the women's campaign. Isn't that horrendous? Isn't that just counter-productive? Indeed, Waston told the UN the same. She referenced a 1997 speech by Hillary Clinton about women's rights, where only a small proportion of the audience were male. This exclusion was what stuck out for Emma, "How can we affect change in the world, when only half of it is invited, or feel welcome, to participate in the conversation?"

That half of the world has been formally, indeed cordially, invited to join this campaign. I intend to do so. Who's with me?


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Case for Yes is "Not Proven"

Those who know anything about the Scottish legal system will know that there are three verdicts that can be arrived at in a criminal court case; guilty, not guilty, and not proven.

Not proven doesn't acquit the defendant, it just means that the prosecution's case hasn't been strong enough to convict - and the default position is the defendant is free to go.

The same situation seems to have arisen in the Scottish Referendum. If you believe the polls, the Yes campaign has simply not proven the case for independence, and in the end Scotland will vote for the default position of remaining in the union. The Yes camp have simply failed to answer the big questions on currency, jobs, the economy, and business, and can't provide any reassurance on things like corporation tax that will keep large companies domicile in Scotland (and therefore paying all their tax to the Scottish government).

With just 31 hours until the polls open, time is running out for the nationalists to prove to the Scottish people that they should vote Yes.


11 Things That Could Decide The Scottish Referendum On Thursday

The Scottish Independence Referendum is on a knife-edge. It could go either way, with the polls saying it’s just too close to call on whether the people of Scotland will vote to end the 307-year union, or remain within the United Kingdom.

I have created a BuzzFeed post (my first) which details 11 things that could decide the outcome on Thursday.



Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Scottish Referendum Polls: No Isn't Losing Ground, Yes Is Gaining It

You should never base a shift of public opinion on just one poll, but one poll is all it took for Cameron, Clegg, and Milliband to decamp north of the border in an attempt to save the three-hundred year old union.

What is interesting though, is that there aren't less people who would vote No, just more people who would vote Yes.

Back in February 2013, when the date of the independence referendum was set, polls showed that 47% would vote No, and 32% would vote Yes (21% Don't Know), a lead of 15 points for No. Whilst individual polls have been jumping up and down (indeed, one poll had 65% Yes, 26% No - most certainly an outlier) the trend of support has seen No stay where it started, and Yes gain ground from the don't knows.

The latest polls show No is on about 47-48%, and Yes on 42-44%. So as you can see, it is Yes that have gained from those who hadn't made up their minds, at least 10% of voters in total, and No have been stationary. Perhaps that is the reason for the Westminster visitors today; the failure of the Better Together campaign to secure the votes of those who will actually decide the vote next week - and from a very strong starting position.

It is quite likely that when the people of Scotland visit the polling stations, those who are still unsure will vote for the apparent status quo. Plenty of close referendums have ended up that way, and there's no reason to think that won't be repeated in Scotland. The job for Alex Salmond is to convince those people to vote Yes before they set out to the ballot box.

The good news for him, and the Yes campaign, is they've been pretty good at that so far; but is the intervention of the leaders of the unionist parties the very thing that might just persuade those undecided to stay in the union. We'll see very soon.