Revisiting my #ge10 prediction

Before the election, I gave my detailed prediction for the General Election 2010. Let’s see how I did:

I think the Tories will be the biggest party and I think they’ll have enough for a majority. I’ve already posted that I think their majority will be between 30-40. This means a vote share of over 41%. Though I probably don’t agree with myself now (I think it will be a bit tighter – vote share of just over 40% and a majority circa 20), I’m going to stick with my original prediction.

I was right that the Tories would be the biggest party, but I was wrong that they would have a majority. I knew I would be wrong about the size of the majority if they had have had one, but the fact that they didn’t secure a majority is something I’m reasonably happy to be wrong about. This doesn’t make it any less astonishing. In the face of this government’s apparently discredited economic management, the fact that Britain is ‘broken’ and Gordon Brown is supposedly one of the most unpopular modern Prime Ministers – coupled with double-digit leads for much of the last 2 years – the fact that David Cameron didn’t seal the deal with the electorate tells you all you need to know about what the public thought about him and his policies.

I think that Labour will be the second biggest party, on both the share of the vote and in terms of the number of seats. I think their vote share will be high 28%.

Labour was easily the second biggest party, and their vote share was 29.0%. I’ll take that. The reports of the death of the Labour party have not just been exaggerated, but wrong.

I think the Liberal Democrats will be the third biggest party, on both the share of the vote and in terms of the number of seats. I think their vote share will be around 24%.

The Lib Dems were indeed the third biggest party and I was right to anticipate they would perform significantly below expectations. But even I was out on how badly they would perform. Despite polls putting them on a par with Labour, they only secured 23.0% of the vote share.

Turnout [will] be no more than 68%.

This was my biggest call, and I was right. Turnout was 65.1% – the third lowest turnout in modern General Elections (the two previous worst were 2001 at 59.4% and 2005 at 61.4%). Many predicted turnout would be over 70% – a level below which no elections between 1945 and 1997 dropped – and would surpass the turnout of 1997. Many said that the leaders’ debates had engaged a whole new generation of voters.

All of those people were wrong.

Thus, I think I can fairly pleased with my predictions and am glad that I’m not one of those people who will have egg on their face.


Debating the debate: responding to my fisking

The 3 leaders’ debates have been and gone. Stef gave me a good fisking after the first debate, based on a post I wrote a few weeks ago. Now taking the long view, I thought I’d respond to each of his points.

Note: my original points in italics; Stef’s argument in italics below.

1. Debating points and issues in the debates won’t really be the aim. Instead, it will be used as an opportunity to trade blows, irrespective of the content of those blows
Stef: Some real issues were aired and some interesting debates did occur, albeit they were somewhat stymied by the short amount of time available for each question.

After the first debate, it did seem that some interesting debates might occur. But they didn’t. I was wrong in the sense that the debates would be used to trade blows. Instead, they were used to just say and then repeat their key messages. This wasn’t really 3 debates; it was one debate repeated 3 times. (And the format of the debate, as Stef rightly says, stymied the debate.)

2. What goes on in the debates is almost neither here nor there; it’s how they get spun afterwards that matters.
Stef: Whether the debates were of Aristotlian profoundness or playground pettiness, how they get spun afterwards was always going to be as important, if not more important than the debate itself. This does not invalidate the debates themselves, what went on in the debate did make a difference to how the debate was spun.

My original point safely holds. There were clearly prepared lines and put-downs which were echoed in the post-match spin. Related to point 1 above, the debates weren’t genuine debates; they were just an opportunity to establish and repeat key messages, not debate the merits or otherwise of each other’s policies.

3. I’m not one of those that complains about the American-isation of politics, and in particular the cult of personality in politics. The leadership debates will do nothing to assuage people who do complain about this.
Stef: Agreed.

We were agreed on this, so I don’t need to re-emphasize I was right in the first place.

4. Does anyone remember the one-to-one interviews between Jeremy Paxman and each party leader during the 2005 general election? If you do, you’ll remember they were not known for their jibber and jabber on policy issues but instead adversarial tosh focused disproportionately on specific issues (e.g. the number of illegal immigrants in Britain).
Stef: [T]here was a disproportionate amount of focus on the issue of immigration. Yet because of the uniquely non-adversarial format of the debates, we got into more detail and more clarity on policy positions than any PMQs or Question Time.

We did get into a bit more detail about a very few things; but focusing disproporionately on specific issues – particularly immigration, interestingly enough – did happen. The debates were narrow in their focus.

5. The worry about ‘losing’ the debate, or being the subject of a terrific putdown is precisely what leads to the score-draw results assigned to most presidential debates of the last 12 years. Even though this is the first time debates have been held here, the tendency will be for the candidates to play it safe.
Stef: Yes, it was a play-it-safe debate for all the candidates but especially the ‘incumbents’ but Clegg did better because he played it less safe. Here’s betting that the next two will be a bit livelier. A real good put-down may win it.

The perspective of the 3 debates shows that the debates were primarily safe. For all the media tried to find one, there wasn’t a significant moment in any of the debates.

6. Most people think these debates will be good for Gordon Brown. I don’t agree because (1) the Tories are good at precisely this sort of thing, being the presentation of policy rather than what the policy is; and (2) it depends which Gordon Brown turns up. I suspect it will be the one that has turned up at Prime Minister’s Questions for the last 2 years, which is no good thing.
Stef: Patently wrong on both accounts. Cameron inexplicably failed to present himself and his policies at all well, usually his forte. Brown, clearly dreading the event, actually did much better than he thought he would. Although in my opinion he came ‘last’ it was not by much and he, along with Cameron, can only improve over the next two debates.

I was certainly wrong on (1): Cameron did an awful job in the first debate, did marginally better in the second and was his best in the third. Brown was consistently stodgy. The polls for each of the debates bare this out – only in rogue polls did Brown not come third.

7. The spare wheel: there will have to be air time for Nick Clegg as leader as the Lib Dems. This will just be embarrassing for everyone concerned.
Stef: Erm, I’ll let Rich defend himself on this one. Yes the Lib Dems won’t be the largest single party but hell, the kaleidoscope has been well and truly shaken.

I wouldn’t try to defend it: Clegg clearly did well. I’m going to write a post on my wider thoughts on the Lib Dems over the last two or three weeks.

8. Which television stations will cover this? If not everyone can cover every debate, what will the implication be?
Stef: 9 million viewers for a 90 minute political programme on ITV without adverts is absolutely astonishing. The Sky debate will have next to bugger all viewers, mores the shame. What I’d give for a Channel 4 debate with the mighty Jon Snow.

The ITV debate had 9.4m viewers – around 37% share of the viewing audience that night if I remember correctly. Sky had just over 4m and I still don’t know the figure for the BBC debate (which I expect will be the highest viewing audience). This partly anticipates my riposte to point 9 below, but I don’t think the turnout will be higher than the 1997 election (i.e. 71.4%). Viewing figures aren’t much of a proxy for this, but I think the media is more excited by them than the voting public.

9. Does anyone seriously think the debates will engage a wider audience than those engaged in politics anyway? I doubt it very much.
Stef: Policy by anecdote warning! This weekend I had my first ever party political conversation with my brother whom is not atypical of the disengaged voter but a good proxy. He did not watch the debates but read about them afterwards and looked at some of it on YouTube. His verdict. Cameron “Don’t trust him” (Incidentally my mother thought he looked like a porn actor) Brown “Doesn’t know what he’s doing” Clegg “Seemed straightforward and normal”. Policy by anecdote completed. This is why anecdotes are, in the right context, very powerful. My brother and many like him will possibly vote for the first time ever because of the debate and many may well vote Lib Dem, fundamentally changing the political landscape in this country. This would not have happened without the debate.

I’ll leave the point about whether or not the landscape has been changed by the Lib Dems to a later post (here’s a quick preview: I don’t think it has). But I stand by my original point: the leaders’ debates have not engaged a wider audience than those engaged in politics anyway. Ultimately, this will be borne out by the turnout of the election. But beyond the bubble that the media has created, and which has been supported by social media (especially Twitter), I suspect a significant proportion of the public will remain disengaged by this general election.

This cannot… be a “business as usual” election or Manifesto

This election is the most important in my life. The outcome really matters because of the state we are in. ’97 was the first time I voted in a general election and whilst there may have been a feeling that a change was ‘in the air’, it felt as if the country at least had a paddle whilst stuck up shit creek. Yes, there was a history of underinvestment in health, education and other key public services but this could in part be attributed to the 90’s recession. Who’s to say that a Major government after ’97 would not have approached hospital and school building with the zest that Blair did? After all the Tories did invent PFI. And it’ll be our kids that have to pay for most of it anyway.

Due to our collective greed and especially that of bankers and politicians, we are now neck deep in the most vile smelling turd. All parties have sod all movement when it comes to fiscal policy. The (highly respected*) Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that the gap between Tory and Labour proposals at £6bn, which is pretty much bugger all. What is really needed now to save us all from a pretty crappy depressing next ten years are really good ideas, policies that, to paraphrase, everyone likes, cost nothing, are original and brilliant and no one could possibly object to. Tough ask. But at least ideas don’t cost anything.

It’s with this in mind that I first buried my head in the Labour manifesto and saw in Brown’s introduction the bold proclamation that forms the title of this post. Yet all the manifesto’s (and yes I have read them all, I was annoyed they were not in Canary Wharf Waterstones today on three for two, as promised) are dull as the giant ashcloud in the sky. And I’m increasingly resigned that tonight’s debates will reinforce the image of our politicians as mere machines.

It’s true that its not a business as usual election. It’s worse, it’s slow, nervous, vacuous and cowardly. After the expenses scandle and the chasm it created with the people politicians serve, after our economy caves in due to the slavish adherence to a dubious form of capitalism, at the start of the Chinese century, with peak oil approaching, with the middle east as volatile as ever, and with climate change threatening the very existence of a habitable planet for out children… You would have thought that there’s enough out there to get passionate enough about to take some have some ideas and take some risks.

*Is any organisation as “highly respected” as the IFS honestly, how the fuck do they do it? Have they got a picture of every the editor of every newpaper with their penis in a melon… the same melon… whilst dressed up a Nazis… chained to goats?

Our General Election / #GE10 predictions

Your three humble resident bloggers got together on Tuesday night for a drink at a fashionable North London pub. For a laugh, we entered the quiz that night under the team name “Vince Cable and Nick Cleggs”.

Ironically enough, we won.

Fresh from our success, we decided it would be a good idea to write down our predictions for the upcoming General Election. These, then, are they. The first is the specific range each of us thinks the result will fall into; the second is the more general position that range represents. Whoever is the closest will get a book, bought by the other two, up to the value of £20.

  • Phil: Labour majority of 5 / Labour as majority party
  • Stef: Conservatives short of overall majority by 10-15 seats / hung parliament
  • Rich: Conservative majority of between 30-40 seats / Conservatives as majority party

(Note: please remember these are only personal thoughts – they represent neither the result we hope for nor the views of anyone we’re associated with, professionally or personally.)

Leave your prediction in the comments below!