Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The problems of polling the electorate

A very interesting report from the Polling Observatory which looks at recent trends in voting intentions: How to read the polling tea leaves

In particular there is a helpful discussion of 'house effects', i.e., the tendency of a polling company to report high or low figures for a particular party. However,if a pollster tends to show one of the parties doing better than the polling industry on average, it does not automatically mean their estimate for the other main party will be lower than the average.

Prompting for the Brexit Party and controlling for past vote appear currently to have significant impacts on poll numbers. In the former case, pollsters that prompt for the Brexit Party in their surveys tend, unsurprisingly, to report higher numbers for the party.

The use of past vote (i.e. how people voted in 2017) to weight samples to make them representative is a longstanding practice in the polling industry. However, this can introduce error through people misreporting their past vote, leading supporters of a party to be overrepresented in the poll.

They wisely conclude, ' There can be no way of knowing which pollster is right before election day, but it is worth urging some caution in how these sorts of numbers are interpreted by those in politics, media and the wider public.'

Monday, 9 September 2019

Impeachment a non-starter

I don't think the call by Westminster's Plaid Cymru leader Liz Saville Roberts to impeach Boris Johnson is going to go anywhere: Impeachment

Impeachment is when a peer or commoner is accused of ‘high crimes and misdemeanours, beyond the reach of the law or which no other authority in the state will prosecute.’ It is a procedure that is ‘directed in particular against Ministers of the Crown’. This arcane procedure has not been used since the 19th century and has never been used against a prime minister.

A House of Commons Library briefing paper on the subject can be found here: Impeachment

The Government says that it thinks it has a way of by-passing the Brexit extension law, but won't say what its cunning plan is. I suspect this means that it doesn't exist other than as more bluster.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

How Parliament works

What we used to call a cut out 'n' keep guide to how Parliament works from the Institute for Government: Parliament

Also all you want to know from the same source about the Prime Minister's power to set the date of an election: Setting the date

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The coming election

An excellent analysis by Philip Cowley which argues that it is more of a gamble than Boris Johnson realises: Is he such a good campaigner?

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Life after high office

An excellent blog post which looks at what happens to politicians after they leave office. Theresa May is the central theme, but the net is cast much wider: Losing political office

As is pointed out, the psychological costs of political exit can be high, particularly if you have no 'hinterland'. I remember being at an event where Ted Heath was sulking in a corner and being rude. Dennis Healey read me his latest poem.

Of recent prime ministers, John Major has probably made the best adjustment, in part because he is seen as a fundamentally decent guy and not as bad a prime minister as he was seen to be at the time, surrounded by rampant Eurosceptics.

PMQs today showed what political exit can look like, both the PM and the front bench looked as if they were attending a wake in a morgue, which I suppose they were.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

How the monarch could be dragged into politics

The Queen has sought to be scrupulously neutral in partisan political matters. However, given the continuing political crisis, and the possibility of a constitutional crisis over the suspension of Parliament, it may be increasingly difficult to keep her out of politics, although the Cabinet Secretary and her advisers at the Palace will make every effort to do so. Against this background, Bronwen Maddox of the Institute for Government has written a timely and informative blog post: The role of the monarch

The key point in the article for me was that a future King might behave differently and less restrained. There have been a number of indications that the Prince of Wales might be more activist if and when he succeeds to the throne.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

How should one choose a prime minister?

This blog post from Tim Bale looks at the selectorate of Conservative Party activists that will choose the next prime minister. Unsurprisingly, they are neither demographically or ideologically representative of the population as a whole. Party activists have been called a zealocracy: Party members who will elect prime minister

This has attracted plenty of objections, but how one would do it differently? One argument is that it should be left to MPs who at least know the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. But does this give too much power to a much criticised political class?

Some would argue that the selection of a new prime minister should lead to a general election. But that is to treat the UK as a presidential system which it isn't. Some would say it is in effect. However, following such a rule would undermine cabinet government even further.

Of course, there may well be a general election within the next year anyway, either from a position of strength or weakness for the new prime minister.