Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Conference Bounce

I am not, by any real measure, a psephologist. However, it seems clear that the phenomona of the "Conference Bounce" in the UK is, these days at least, a general universal for the three main political parties. You have a media managed conference, and you see your poll ratings go up. It's unlikely, in today's world of PR that you will see your vote go down, even if you do engage in a bit of mild blood letting, especially if the monopoly broadcaster in the country is largely on your side.

A quick look at the polling data over September shows the effect. The Lib Dems had their conference and perked up. Now Labour have had their conference and it's neck and neck between them and the Tories on 36%. This time next week there will be another poll and it will show the Tory lead regained as the "conference bounce" takes it turn on them.

There's been much said in the past week about the Tory poll lead. I recall someone from Labour saying on Radio 4 that a 8-10 point lead is nothing like the lead Labour had over the Tories in the early 1990s. The argument goes that the polls are meaningless and "the Tories aren't doing as good as we did anyway". Of course, the Labour has, on election day, consistently polled less than the polls say they will, whilst the Tories have done the reverse.

Like I said at the beginning, I am no psephologist, but todays poll is not a particular bad one for the Tories or a good one for Labour. After all, during weekes where you effectively have guaranteed media coverage across the board everyday all day, you'd have to do something utterly silly to not get a bounce in the opinion polls. Arguably carrying out a poll during Conference season is pointless as it does not show the true popularity of any of the parties, it's more a snapshot of respondents short-term memory.


Anonymous said...

Although I hate to agree with the Labour spokesman you quote, he is correct to say that at this point in the last Conservative administration, Labour had an enormous lead in the polls when facing what was then seen as a sleazy government whose policies were starting to fall to pieces. The difference is that then Blair and Labour worked consistently and continuously to show up Tory shortcomings (even if they had to exaggerate or imagine them) and they were providing genuine policy alternatives. Cameron is not opposing Blair in the Commons or elsewhere - he's apeing him: he is providing no policy alternatives. Predictably the polls (the only evidence we have) suggest that the Tories are failing to obtain consistent support from the "soft middle" and see their core support drifting away. In Bromley, for instance the core sat on its hands.

The above seems to me self-evident and (although I'm no longer a member of the Conservative Party) I comment on ConservativeHome to the above effect from time to time. The Cameroons either don't address the criticism or deliver abuse (not to me but to other contributors taking a similar line). There is little hope for the Conservative "modernisers" when their sole objective is to big up Dave and their sole response to sincere criticism is to decry their opponents in the party as hopelessly right wing who should leave and join UKIP or the BNP.

It will end in tears with a high probability of a Labour/LibDem coalition after the next election. I do not relish the prospect of having to say "I told you so".

Anonymous said...

well said umbongo-ditto

dizzy said...

You're welcome to agree with the Labour spokesman umbongo. After all, being wrong about something is not a partisan act!

The fundamental point about the polling data is that Labour always do worse than their opinion poll levels, whilst the Tories always do better. That was evident in 1992. 1997 was the exception to that rule, but it returned in 2001 and 2005, when both the two main parties perform contrary to the polls. Labour did worse than the polls said, and the Tories did better.

I think the Bromley reference you make is a rather sweeping statement based on know actual evidence as well.

The idea that the 9,000 or so people that didn't bother were "the core" is conjecture really. There are better reason for them not bothering that Cameron.

1) It was a by-election in a safe Tory seat. Normal people, that is non-members, but ordinary Tory voters would've beleived it was a forgone conclusion anyway.

2) It was a by-election at which the entire weight of the national Lib Dem and Tory party descended on to a small leafy burb on the London/Kent borders. From what I saw people were generally pissed off with the intrusion into their summer and World Cup.

3) It was a by-election.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it was a by-election and citing the result as evidence of Cameron's failurr is as likely as all the other possible explanations. Of course, if one already dislikes Cameron then it's easy to frame an argument to suit one's need.

Incidentally, I'm not insulting you because I'm a Cameroon (I live in South East London), or because you're "hopelessly right wing" (are you?). I'm just pretty sure you're wrong and I'm right. But then this my blog so I'm never wrong on it.

Croydonian said...

The acid test will be a by election in a Labour held marginal. Until then, it is all so much chin music.