Saturday, March 20, 2010

A few facts about Unite

Tories appear to be thrilled that BA has pulled out of talks with Unite, which means a three-day strike will go ahead. They are in full cry against Unite, convinced it's just like 1979 and bashing the unions will mean they soar in the polls again.

However, it's 2010 and some things are different. For instance, in 1979, most union members voted Labour. That's decidedly not the case now.

Populus did a poll of Unite members between 10th March 2010 and 16th March 2010 [update: that should have said 2009 - but the rough proportions should be correct, give or take a few percent, the point is that only about a third of Unite people vote Labour]. Here's the voting intention:

Con 31%
Lab 34%
Lib 19%
SNP 6%
PC 1%
other 9%

And 79% of Unite members said they were either very satisfied or reasonably satisfied with how Unite represented their interests (amongst the Tory Unite members, this was 74%).

Tory union bashers should ask themselves why Tory and LibDem voters have voted in favour of this strike: and the answer is that they have a predatory employer, they don't want a pay cut and they are frightened. These union members are also taxpayers who helped bail out the Tory bankers (many of whom are now trying to become Tory MPs).

The smart thing to do would have been not to politicise the dispute - after all it is taking place in the private sector. All aristocrats like Cameron prove when they attack them is that they are out of touch with people who work.

The 31% Tory Unite members on the receiving end of the Tory venom (probably for the first time in their lives) will also be rethinking their vote. Nobody likes being singled out and attacked by a political party when all you are doing is legally defending your job.

As the Tories found when the Sun endorsed them last autumn and they promptly plummeted in the polls, this is not 1979. Heroes of that era such as Murdoch, are now villains. Villains of that era such as union workers, are now weary taxpayers who are bailing out the bankers, while trying to defend their pay and prospects against demands made on the management by those very same bankers in the City (who then rewarded themselves tax-payer funded bonuses).

Update 22nd Mar 2010. Latest YouGov poll shows:

Con 36% (38%)
Lab 32% (31%)
Lib 20% (19%)

The figures in brackets show the YouGov figures from 19th March, just before the strike. Look at the direction of travel. And no wonder - the Tories went straight from defending Ashcroft's tax evasion to attacking taxpayers earning considerably less, some of whom had been intending to vote for them just a few weeks ago.

When Thatcher attacked the unions in 1979, it was risk-free for her as she knew union members didn't vote for her in anycase. The situation is completely different now. If Tories can't even recognise what century we're in, let alone how different things are now compared to 30+ years ago, they arn't fit for governing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Weighing into this poll weighting controversy

The latest YouGov poll shows Labour at 34%, just three points behind the Tories on 37%. But how believable is this? I must admit to doing a double-take when I saw the figures. So I did what I haven't done for some time - I actually went to the YouGov site to look at their tables.

The tables for the latest poll arn't up, but yesterdays (which had Con 37%, Lab 32%) was there.

YouGov weight by newspaper affiliation, and here's how the data looked for yesterday's poll:

Newspaper Type Uneighted Weighted
Express / Mail 370 236
Sun / Star 204 323
Mirror / Record 140 235
Guardian / Independent 128 59
FT / Times / Telegraph 173 140
Other Paper 181 184
No Paper 275 294

And here's what the Guardian reports daily newspaper circulation to be:

Express/Mail 2,790,884 (677,750 + 2,113,134)
Sun/Star 3,647,893 (2,862,935 + 784,958)
Mirror/Record 1,540,255 (1,225,502 + 314,753)
Guardian/Independent 487,480 (300,540 + 186,940)
FT(UK)/Times/Telegraph 1,314,825 (115,447 + 521,535 + 703,249)

Looking at the above, YouGov are right to scale down their Guardian/Independent respondants sharply. The problem seems to be in the tabloid section. They are not getting many raw Sun/Star readers, and getting way too many Express/Mail readers. And it's hard to work out why they've weighted the Mirror up.

I guess this is the problem with online polling. The types of people who read the Sun and Mirror will be construction workers, plumbers, front line people who can't log onto the net during work hours, and who probably can't be bothered to go online when they get home either, especially if there is sport or soaps on TV (or the pub to go to). In addition, you get activists such as BNP types who organise to sign up to all the online polling units - and they probably give their political affiliation as Labour, to tie in with their line, "I used to vote Labour, but..." Hence the reason YouGov ask them what newspaper they read (it's less likely they will fake that, and this may account for the number of Express/Mail respondants in the unweighted figures). You can see why YouGov are having a mare and weighting their respondants to correct for this.

My hunch (and that's all it is), is that the telephone pollsters will be more accurate, as these biases simply won't occur for them. But we shant find out till the general election. Labourites should assume that there is still a ton of work to do, and should not relax till the telephone pollsters show us closing the gap.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Change Election was 2005

Voters have a eight-year tolerance for prime ministers. Any longer than that, and they get restive and fretful. We saw that in the run-up to the 2005 election, where large amounts of left-of-centre people were fed-up with Blair and his zeal to get us involved in wars that had nothing to do with us.

Luckily for Labour, Blair announced unprompted in late 2004 that he was standing down in the next parliament. So voters knew they'd be getting a new Prime Minister. And Labour was careful to show Blair and Brown together throughout the 2005 campaign. We were as open as possible with the voters in letting them know who would succeed Blair. So the voters knew they were getting a change - the question was which change they wanted - a change to Brown or a change to Howard. They chose Brown and Labour.

Roll on to 2010, and the Tories are campaigning on Vote for a Change, and have been careful to let us know that there will be Swinging Austerity ahead if they win. In other words, if you vote Tory, you will be voting for A Change for the Worse. Only voters don't want any change at all, let along a change for the worse. What they want is things to go back to how they were in 2007. Given that 2007 was Gord's glad morning, large amounts of people think he's the one who knows how to restore that moment - hence the tightening in the polls.