United Kingdom 2010 Archive


UK 2010 – Results summary

We’ve now got results in most seats in the UK general election. There are twenty-two seats that will not begin counting until later today, and there is one seat, Thirsk & Malton in North Yorkshire. Apart from those twenty-three seats, there are 14 seats yet to declare. Eight of these seats are in London, where the count was delayed due to local borough elections. There are two in the North West, one in Northern Ireland, one in Essex just outside of London, one in the East Midlands and one in the West Midlands.

Overall, results have varied remarkably, with the Conservatives winning seats far down their target list and missing out on seats that were held by only slim margins. The Liberal Democrats overall have lost ground, suffering a net loss of seven seats, although their losses were greater, and were compensated with a number of gains. The SNP and Plaid Cymru have ended up with the same number of seats that they won in 2005, as has the Social Democratic and Labour Party and, depending on the result in the final Northern Ireland seat, Sinn Fein may also achieve a consistent result.

Independents have lost their seats in Blaenau Gwent and Wyre Forest, while Sylvia Hermon, formerly a member of the Ulster Unionist Party, has retained her seat as a pro-Labour independent unionist. The Ulster Unionists, who dominated Northern Irish politics for most of the twentieth century, have been left with no seats for the first in their history. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has made history by winning a seat for her party in the Commons for the first time, winning Brighton Pavilion in a close three-way race against the Conservatives and Labour. Results have not been declared in the key Respect seats of Bethnal Green & Bow, where George Galloway won in 2005, and Poplar & Limehouse, where he is running this time.

The overall seat results are reflected in the following table (which will be updated as the final seats are declared):

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In terms of popular vote, the Conservatives have clearly come out on top. Amongst the 613 seats which have declared, the Conservatives have polled 36.1%, which is a swing of almost 4% since 2005. The Labour vote is down over 6% to 29.2%. The Liberal Democrats have largely failed to gain the extra popular votes that have been universally indicated in recent polls, only polling 22.9%, just 1% higher than the 2005 result. Due to the fact that the Lib Dems had more marginal seats vulnerable to the Conservatives, the swing from Labour to the Tories saw the Lib Dems lose seats despite an increase in their vote.

The election result in Scotland was remarkably dull, compared to the rest of the UK. Every single seat was won by the same party as in 2005, with the exception of Glasgow North East, which was won by then-Speaker Michael Martin in 2005, and was won back by his former Labour party at a 2009 by-election. Labour even managed to win back two seats that had been lost to the Liberal Democrats and the SNP in by-elections over the last term. The Lib Dems have held ten seats, and are expected to retain their eleventh seat of Argyll & Bute after the votes there are counted. The SNP has managed to hold the six seats they won in 2005, but lost the seat of Glasgow East, which they had won in a 2008 by-election. The Conservatives, despite winning the largest number of seats in the UK, have only retained a single seat on the English border. In terms of popular vote, the Scottish Labour Party won over 40% of the vote, with the three other main parties winning between 16% and 20%.

There was more change in Wales, where the Conservatives gained more ground. Labour still maintained a majority of seats, falling from 30 to 26. Labour lost four seats to the Tories and one to Plaid Cymru, but regained the seat of Blaenau Gwent from independent Dai Davies. Blaenau Gwent is traditionally very strong for Labour, but was lost at the 2005 election after a battle of candidate selection. The Conservatives gained a fifth seat from the Liberal Democrats, gaining the relatively safe seat of Montgomeryshire from colourful MP Lembit Opik in a shock result. This gave the Tories a total of eight seats, and saw them overtake the Lib Dems as the second-biggest party in Wales. Plaid had won three seats in 2005, but the redistribution saw the boundaries in northwestern Wales dramatically redrawn and one of their seats was abolished, so their gain off Labour simply brings them back to their 2005 result. In terms of popular vote, Labour achieved their result with only 36% of the vote, with 26% for the Tories, 20% for the Lib Dems and 11% for Plaid.

The result in Northern Ireland was largely consistent, but with a few dramatic results. DUP leader, and Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson, lost his seat of Belfast East with a 22% swing to Mayor of Belfast Naomi Long, the deputy leader of the Alliance Party. The Alliance are the only significant non-sectarian party in Northern Ireland, but despite contesting elections for almost 40 years have never before won a seat at Westminster. They have a loose alliance with the Liberal Democrats. In the neighbouring seat of North Down, sitting MP Sylvia Hermon was re-elected as an independent with the tacit support of the DUP. Hermon had been the sole remaining MP from the Ulster Unionist Party, but was considered sympathetic to Labour and left the party when they renewed their classic alliance with the Conservative Party. The alliance of the UUP and Conservatives failed to win a single seat in a country they dominated only a decade ago. The DUP held on to their eight remaining seats, and the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party held on to their three. Sinn Fein has retained four of their five seats and are still waiting on a result in Fermanagh & South Tyrone, where the DUP and UUP have supported a common candidate in independent unionist Rodney Connor. If Sinn Fein retain the seat it will be the first time that the unionist forces have failed to win a majority of seats in Northern Ireland, with the DUP and Hermon only holding nine seats out of eighteen.

I will be posting full result breakdowns for these three countries and the nine regions of England over the next few days once the final 35 seats have been declared, but for now I have posted some large maps showing the election results for different areas in 2005 and 2010, you’ll need to click them and enlarge them to full size to see the full detail in each map.

Result of the 2005 general election in London.

Result of the 2010 general election in London.

Result of the 2010 general election in Central Scotland.

Result of the 2005 general election in Northern Ireland.

Result of the 2010 general election in Northern Ireland.

Result of the 2005 general election in the South of England and Wales. Click to enlarge.

Result of the 2010 general election in the South of England and Wales. Click to enlarge

Result of the 2005 general election in the Midlands and Wales. Click to enlarge

Result of the 2010 general election in the Midlands and Wales. Click to enlarge

Result of the 2005 general election in the North of England. Click to enlarge

Result of the 2010 general election in the North of England. Click to enlarge


UK 2010 – Election night

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Click through to read the liveblog of the election results.

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UK 2010 – Election Day prediction

UK voters are now casting their votes in the 2010 general election. Over the last few days we have seen a clear trend in polls in the UK: the Conservatives are clearly in first place around 35%, with the Lib Dems and Labour in a statistical dead heat in second place around 28%.

While these figures are quite clear and consistent amongst all the polls, it is extremely difficult to make predictions. Polls in the past have overestimated Labour’s support, which would suggest we are on track for the Lib Dems to come second. On the other hand, that tradition took place in an era when voting Labour was popular and cool, while voting Conservative was not. It is possible that such a trend could be reversed, and “shy Tories” could be replaced by “shy Labour”.

The biggest question, however, is how the vote numbers translate into seats. Most of the British media has been using the “Uniform National Swing” model to produce figures for how they expect the numbers to go, and expect a variation on this model to be used by the BBC to extrapolate their exit poll into a result. Having said that, you would have to think that with such massive turmoil in the polls and shifts in support and the rise of the Lib Dems, you would expect the swing to be very non-uniform, and in ways that could effect it. I would expect that the result would deviate away from UNS in such a way that sees Labour lose more seats to both the Tories and the Lib Dems.

This has been reflected in the model used by US polling blog FiveThirtyEight, who have developed a model where they make interpretations about which voters are switching between parties and use a variation on proportional swing. While the UNS model used by FiveThirtyEight sees a 36-28 gap between Tory and Labour leave the Tories with only ten seats more (and so far short of a majority that only the Lib Dems could deliver a majority), the FiveThirtyEight model on similar figures sees Labour lose sixty more seats: fourty to the Conservatives and twenty to the Lib Dems.

Despite my earlier refusal, I think it’s worth me taking a punt at a prediction. I won’t make detailed seat-by-seat, or even region-by-region picks, but I will make a few broad statements.

First of all, I think the polls are mostly right, but if anything the Lib Dems could be slightly underestimated, which could see them overtake Labour, but I give Labour a 60% chance of coming second. Apart from that, the voting figures of 36/28/28 will be roughly reflected. UK polls have improved tremendously and the final polls are all very close to each other this time around.

So here’s my prediction. Let’s start with the small parties. I predict that the Greens will win Brighton Pavilion, where they will gain the boost received elsewhere by the Lib Dems, who haven’t shown much signs of campaigning in the seat, so shouldn’t siphon too many votes away from Labour and Green.

I also predict that George Galloway will pull off a win in Poplar & Limehouse, but that Labour will regain his seat of Bethnal Green & Bow, but I reckon there could be a chance that the Respect candidate could retain that seat, giving the party two seats in eastern London.

Plaid Cymru will retain their three seats, despite the redistribution reducing their numbers to two. I predict the SNP will gain seven seats. Without trying to name them, their surge of 2007-8 has receded and Labour appears to be mostly maintaining its position in Scotland, with the small protest vote against them going to the Lib Dems. Having said that, the sole Conservative MP could well lose his seat, leaving them with no seats there again.

I also predict that Sinn Fein and the SDLP will retain their seats (5 and 3 respectively), but I won’t try and make predictions about how the ten unionists seats will be split between the DUP and the UUP/Conservative alliance.

I also predict that Speaker John Bercow and the two independents will retain their seats.

As for the majors, I won’t pick exact numbers, but the Conservatives will get just short of 320 (my numbers came out as 319), Labour just short of 200 and the Lib Dems around 100, possibly slightly over.

The consequences of this result would be a hung parliament, but not one where the Lib Dems are the key powerbrokers. With the Conservatives so close to a majority the option of a Labour/Lib Dem pact is not available. In addition, the Tories would have a number of options, including the Lib Dems, the Celtic nationalists and the Northern Ireland unionists. They could stitch up a deal with the DUP, the Lib Dems, or attempt to go it alone, and wouldn’t have too much trouble getting support on each issue. You would likely see Cameron govern moderately and modestly for a year or two before calling another election when he sees the opportunity to gain a majority.

This is the scenario where the order of votes between Labour and Lib Dem will become important. While I predict the Lib Dems to win around 100 seats, you would expect a lot more seats to become marginals on the Lib Dem target list, seats where the party was not expected to win but had performed strongly. If Labour manages to come second I expect they will pull together and unite to prevent Cameron’s government from functioning with a working majority. But if the Lib Dems manage to come second they will be put in a position where an election a year or two down the track could see them challenge Labour in many more seats and eclipse them as the major force on the left in British politics.

Polls close at 10pm in the UK (7am Australian Eastern Standard Time) and I will be up to blog from then on. At that time we should see the joint BBC/ITN/Sky exit poll, and begin to see results within two hours.


UK 2010 – the final week

Voters in the United Kingdom go to the polls this Thursday, and the race remains one of the most fascinating in recent history.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has managed to largely hold on to the support he gained following the first debate, although commentators disagreed about whether Clegg or Conservative leader David Cameron won the second and third debates.

The last few days of the campaign haven’t gone well for Gordon Brown, with it reaching its low point on Friday, when Brown was caught speaking into an open mic disparagingly about a voter he had just spoken to, calling her a ‘bigoted woman’. The story has dominated the news for the last two days.

In terms of the poll, a trend has been clear for the last week. The Conservatives have topped every poll for the last week, polling in the low to mid 30s. The Lib Dems have come second in most polls, closely followed by Labour. This is reflected in UK Polling Report’s polling average of CON 35, LD 28, LAB 27. Such a result would see the Conservatives win 282 seats, Labour win 250 and the Lib Dems win 86 under the uniform national swing model.

This model of calculating the effects of swings has been criticised by Nate Silver of US psephological blog FiveThirtyEight, who has produced a new sophisticated model. Silver’s model would see Labour lose far more seats, with the Conservatives winning a few more seats and the Lib Dems a lot more. Having said that, all of the projections produce a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party, followed by Labour and the Lib Dems, who would gain a large number of extra seats without overtaking either major party.

Prominent UK psephobloggers Robert Ford and Anthony Wells have engaged in the debate, with Nate Silver responding, and they are well worth reading before trying to interpret the consequences of opinion polls over the next few days. While it is relatively simple to predict the general consequences of swings in elections with simple two-party races and small swings, but in such a dramatic race with massive shifts in polls, it is extremely difficult to predict the result across the constituencies.

I will be covering the election results on Friday morning Australian time as the UK results begin to flow in. I’m also expecting my UK election map to be used on the air for CNN International’s election coverage, so keep an eye out.


UK 2010 – Election guide completed

I have now finished my guide to the UK general election, including guides to the election in all nine regions of England and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Click here to read it all.


UK 2010 – Lib Dems surge

The UK held its first ever general election debate between party leaders on Thursday evening, and instant reaction polls showed a clear majority agreeing that Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, came out as the winner. Voting intention polls since Friday have indicated that the Liberal Democrats have experienced a remarkable increase in support, effectively making the race a three-way tie.

Four polls have been released today, showing that the vote between CON/LAB/LD is as follows:

  • YouGov/Times: 33/30/29
  • ComRes/Independent: 31/27/29
  • ICM/Telegraph: 34/29/27
  • BPIX/Mail: 31/28/32

While the order varies in all three polls, it is clear that the Liberal Democrats have jumped into contention with the other major parties. Every poll for the week before Thursday’s debate saw the Lib Dems in the 18-23% range.

It is not yet clear what effect this poll surge will have come election day. Clegg was clearly the unknown figure in the debate, and his strong performance and outsider positioning has been largely responsible for the increase in the Lib Dem vote. The two other parties have largely ignored Clegg for most of the campaign, but that has already begun to change. Will the enthusiasm from a single debate performance fade, or can the Lib Dems maintain their support by positioning themselves as a force capable of winning the election?

The Lib Dem surge isn’t solely due to a strong performance on a debate. It is rather the harnessing of years of disillusionment with the political system that reached a crescendo with the 2009 expenses crisis. Both major parties are held in very low esteem and Clegg’s message of change would have appealed to a great number of them. The Lib Dems have consistently polled in the high teens or low 20s for most of the last decade, and that strong third party force was well-placed to take advantage of such a crisis. They have the strength to be credible without being too tainted by the scandals and disillusionment.

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UK 2010: Election guide updated

Profiles have now been posted for five of the nine regions of England. Profiles have been posted today for South West England, Eastern England and the East Midlands.


Map of Scotland completed

I have now finished my map of the 1997 Scottish boundaries, which means I have now posted a complete set of boundaries for all national and devolved elections since 1997. These boundaries were used for the 1997 and 2001 UK elections and the 1999, 2003 and 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. Posted below the fold are two screenshots from these maps. You can download the Westminster version or the Scottish Parliament version (which is a larger file due to the inclusion of Scottish parliamentary region boundaries).

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Guide to South East England posted

I have now posted a guide to a second English region. The South East of England is a region heavily dominated by Conservatives, even at their low-points. The party holds over two-thirds of seats, and is in with a chance of winning back most Labour seats in the region in 2010.


UK 2010: the straight choice

A fantastic online innovation in the UK general election campaign is The Straight Choice website. This website allows voters to upload reasonably high quality photos of election leaflets to the website, tag them for the party who produced the leaflet, where it was sent, when it arrived, what issues are mentioned and what other parties are attacked. The website has now posted over 1400 leaflets, with the number rising quickly now that the election campaign is heating up. It is a treasure trove of election materials for any psephologist interested in the UK election campaign. When browsing through the leaflets, you notice how many times a leaflet is focused on the “we can win here” message. While briefly skimming through the website I found a bunch of leaflets from various parties using bar graphs and other mechanisms to argue that a vote for a particular party is not a wasted vote (or in some cases argue that a vote for another party will be counterproductive), including:

My favourite arguments for tactical voting, however, have to come from Brighton Pavilion, where Green Party leader Caroline Lucas and a Conservative candidate are both strong challengers to the Labour incumbent. The Labour leaflet shows the results of the 2005 election. While the Green Party have produced a leaflet showing the Greens coming first in Brighton at the European elections, they also have a remarkable leaflet arguing that left-wing voters should vote Green because the bookies say the Greens will win, and that voters shouldn’t “back a loser”.

The last word, however, has to go to the Official Monster Raving Loony Party candidate in Croydon Central:

“We should have a diverse, tolerant, pluralistic and democratic society in which there is mutual respect for a wide range of different views, cultures and lifestyles. Anybody who dares to suggest otherwise should be ruthlessly exterminated.”