Here's one for the political anoraks among you.
Adam Boulton and I joined a dozen or so political journalists from newspapers, TV and radio at a lunchtime elections briefing given by analyst, number-cruncher and former Tory MP Rob Hayward.
Assisted by Tony Travers from the LSE, Rob gave us key dates, essential facts and figures - and a few tips! - about this year's general election, assuming polling day on May 6, the day of local elections in England.
Here are just a few highlights...
Easter this year is April 2 (Good Friday) - April 5 (Easter Monday). Local election nominations close on April 8 and the last day for declaration of the election is April 12. Parliamentary nominations close on April 20, which is also the closing day for postal vote applications. Postal votes will be sent out on April 22 and 23. Counting will be split between the night of May 6 and during the day on May 7, which means the result may be unclear until well into the Friday.
There are elections for the 32 London boroughs on May 6. It will be the first time a general election has been held on the same day as elections for the London boroughs. There are also elections in 36 metropolitan councils (in the big cities), 19 unitary councils and 78 districts in England, but none at all in Scotland or Wales.
The swing from the Tories to Labour in 1997 was 10.2%. In 2001 the Tories achieved a modest 1.8% swing and then a slightly better 3.1% in 2005. To win on May 6, the Conservatives need a 6.9% swing from Labour and they need to gain 117 seats. A tall order! (When Margaret Thatcher won in 1979 the swing was just 5.4%.)
In 1987 it was 75.3%, in 1992 77.7% and in 1997 71.4%. But in 2001 turnout slumped to 59.4 % and in 2005 it was little better at 61.4%.
Labour now has just 4,436, compared with 6,664 before the 2005 election and 8,529 before 2001 and 10,929 before the 1997 landslide. The Tories, however, have 9,553 now, compared witth 8,040 in 2005, 6,785 in 2001 and 4,276 prior to 1997. Troops on the ground? No contest. The Tories have more than twice as many. But because of local elections and the general election on the same day, all the parties are likely to be stretched by what Rob Hayward calls "campaign overstretch".
In 2001, the Tories were at 33% in the polls and then won 32.7% of the vote in the election. Labour were at 47% and won 42% in the election and the Lib Dems were 14% in the polls but won 18.8% on election day. In 2005, the Tories were at 32% in the polls but actually won 33.2%, Labour were at 40% but only won 36.2% in the election and the Lib Dems were 20% in the polls and then won 22.6% in the election. So, it appears that Labour don't do as well as the polls suggest and the Lib Dems do better. Recent polls, by the way, have the Tories at roughly 40%, Labour about 31% and the Lib Dems about 18%.
So much for the facts. What about the tips?
Well, despite the scale of the Tories' task, Rob Hayward is predicting a Conservative victory by about 30 seats. Tony Travers, an expert on elections in London, doesn't think Labour will do as badly in the capital as some pundits have predicted. (For what it's worth, however, I think the huge vote for Boris Johnson in the London suburbs in the 2008 mayoral contest is ominous for Labour). But Travers suggested that if Jon Cruddas, tipped as a future Labour leadership contender, is defeated by the Tories in the new Dagenham and Rainham constituency because of a strong BNP showing, it will "free him up" to be Labour's candidate for Mayor of London in 2012.
You read that here first!
Monday, January 18, 2010
Jon Craig's Election Facts & Figures
I could just link to Jon Craig's latest post on Boulton & Co, but it's so full of useful facts and figures that I thought I'd print it in full for you. Hope he won't mind.