Election 2017 – Polls: Who called it?

Election 2017 – Polls: Who called it?

“I took forward to the inquest” said a member of the twitter commentariat reflecting on the volatility in British polling and the wide divergence we saw from different pollsters predicting anything from an 11% Conservative win to a 3% Labour victory on June 8th.

YouGov however broke the mould during the campaign earning a reputation as something of a maverick, producing poll after poll consistently showing a close race. With the benefit of hindsight we can now see they were pretty close as the graphic indicates. So how did they do it?

Electoral map showing YouGov predictions

Electoral map showing YouGov predictions

YouGov gathered data from 50,000 interviews conducted each week during the campaign. This was supported by additional polling data on previous voting intention, demographic information and likelihood to turnout which they built into a live model of the electorate.  It certainly raised eyebrows, showing Labour competing in seats neither they nor the Conservatives seemed to think Corbyn’s party had a chance of taking.

YouGov’s numbers were underpinned by a prediction of a rise in the ratio of the youth and student vote suggesting it would be the highest turnout of 18-24 year olds since 1992. These figures have been born out by an early analysis of the voting public, with a turnout of over 66% among 18-24 year olds, up significantly from 43% in 2015 according to analysis by the Independent.  Crucially for Labour, they won the support of 63% of this growing youth vote at the ballot box.

Other polling aggregators such as electoral calculus used a more traditional uniform swing model enriched with demographic data to provide an average of current polls and show a rough approximation. Their predictions of a Conservative majority in the high 60s apparently exaggerating support for Theresa May’s party on a national scale. Those pollsters relying heavily on phone based surveys seem to have fared the worst in failing to reflect the rise of youth vote and in some cases revising down turnout projections for the 18-24 group.

The kind of modelling undertaken by YouGov in place of these traditional polling techniques represents an attempt not just to poll a representative sample but to use that information to create a simulation of electorate. It has picked up momentum in recent years and has become something of a holy grail for British election aficionados looking enviously across the Atlantic to the likes of Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight’s probability model which came to fame after correctly predicting the 2012 US Presidential Election result. To sound a note of caution, these simulations are only as good as the information submitted to them. Silver’s model failed to predict the US presidential election in 2016 which potentially presents a vulnerability in such simulations when elections are close.

There has been a fair amount of healthy scepticism around the polls and simulations this time around due in part to failures to accurately predict the 2015 General Election and Brexit referendum outcomes.  This has been reflected in traditional news media which have as a rule invested in far more qualitative on the ground reporting and exit polling than in previous elections.  This in itself could mark a huge sea-change for the polling industry which has traditionally relied on the income from print and news media to sustain their business model.

While there are certainly moves away from a reliance on polling when reporting and understanding elections, the YouGov study demonstrates that when done well it remains highly relevant and it will be one to watch for the next General Election, whenever that may be.


#GE17 Conservative v Labour Manifesto

Invicta has brought together the key points from both the Conservative and Labour Party #GE17 manifestos on a range of important issues including the Economy, Public Spending & Tax, Business & Workers Rights, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Housing and Brexit & Constitutional Reform.

Click here to download our guide to the Conservative and Labour Party manifestos.

 Conservative Party Labour Party

The Economy

1.      A balanced budget by the middle of the next decade.

2.      Prioritise a strong economy to help fund public services.

3.      Competitive and affordable energy costs.

4.      Continuation of the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

1.      Set target of eliminating the government’s deficit on day-to-day spending within five years.

2.      A National Investment Bank as part of a plan to provide £250bn of lending power over the next decade for infrastructure which will support a network of regional investment banks.

3.      Change the law to put a firm ring fence between investment and retail banks.

4.      Bring rail companies back into public ownership, reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Public Spending and Tax

1.      Increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 by 2020.

2.      Keep pledge to ensure communities can veto high increases in council tax via a referendum

3.      Maintain plans to cut corporation tax to 17%.

1.      No rises in income tax for those earning below £80,000 a year on personal National Insurance Contributions and on VAT.

2.      A claim the manifesto commitments are “fully costed” with all current spending paid for out of taxation or redirected revenue stream.

3.      End the Public Sector Pay cap.

Business and Workers Rights

1.      Reform the rules on takeovers and mergers to prevent asset stripping.

2.      Legislate to make sure corporate pay is subject to strict votes by shareholders.

3.      Improve corporate governance to make sure companies take into account more than just shareholders.

4.      Protect private pensions by tightening the rules around people who abuse pension funds.

5.      Clamp down on tax evasion with new regulations of tax advisory firms.

6.      Increase the living wage to 60 percent of median earnings.

1.      Reinstate the lower small-business corporation tax rate.

2.      Scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000.

3.      Protect small businesses by mandating action against companies who fail to pay invoices on time.

4.      Introduce a 20 point plan for security and equality at work including banning zero hours contracts, introduce sectoral collective bargaining, raising the minimum wage to £10 per hour and roll out maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector.

5.      Shifting the burden of proof so that the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.

Energy and Industrial Strategy

1.      UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses.

2.      Establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills.

3.      Against more large-scale onshore wind power for England, but maintain position as a global leader in offshore wind and development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they directly benefit local communities.

4.      Develop the shale industry in Britain

5.      Change proposed shale wealth fund so greater percentage of tax revenues from shale gas directly benefit the communities that host the extraction sites.

1.      Nuclear power “will continue to be part of the UK energy supply”.

2.      A ban on fracking.

3.      Introduce an immediate emergency energy price cap to ensure the average dual fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year.

4.      Maintaining access to the EU’s internal energy market and retaining access to nuclear research programme Euratom will be a priority in Brexit negotiations.

5.      Ensure      that 60     per cent of the UK’s  energy comes from zero-carbon or                  renewable sources by               2030.

6.      Meet the OECD target of 3 percent of GDP spent on research and development by 2030.


1.      Halve rough sleeping over the course of the next parliament and eliminate it by 2027.

2.      Meet 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022.

3.      Build better houses to match the quality of previous generations.

4.      Support for high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets 160,000 houses built on government land.

5.      Maintain the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

6.      Continue £2.5bn flood defence programme to protect 300,000 existing homes by 2021.

1.      At least 100,000 council and housing association homes built a year by the end of the next Parliament.

2.      “Thousands more low-cost homes” reserved for first-time buyers.

3.      Make new three-year tenancies the norm for private renters, with an inflation cap on rent rises

4.      An additional 4,000 homes reserved for people with a history of rough sleeping.

Brexit and Constitutional Reform

1.      In favour of an orderly Brexit.

2.      Continue with current boundary review proposals.

3.      Extend FPTP electoral system to Police and Crime Commissioner and Mayoral Elections.

4.      Repeal the Fixed Term Parliament Act.

5.      Legislate for people to present ID before they vote.

1.      Leaving the EU with no deal is the worst possible option.

2.      Pursue continued access to EU Markets.

3.      Make sure all EU laws and rights are enshrined in British law.

4.      Ensure there is no drop in EU structural funding to regions.

5.      Reduce the voting age to 16.

6.      Hold constitutional convention.

7.      Oppose a second Scottish Independence Referendum.


Autumn Statement – What do UK businesses need to hear from the Chancellor?

Autumn Statement – What do UK businesses need to hear from the Chancellor?

In his first Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond is expected to deliver a ‘steady as she goes’ Autumn Statement on 23 November. It comes at the end of a tumultuous year in politics which has seen the political landscape repeatedly redrawn.

As a result we are now beginning a period of enhanced uncertainty and businesses will be watching very closely and hoping that Mr Hammond can deliver some much needed reassurances and encouragement to help them better navigate through the changing times ahead.

In terms of the statement itself we aren’t expecting any big announcements but there is always scope for rabbits to be pulled from hats. With this in mind just what can the Chancellor do to improve conditions for businesses in the UK looking to grow?

Government Investment

The Chancellor will be keen to demonstrate that the UK is open for business post Brexit and to this end it is possible we may see interventions from government in the form of infrastructure investment.

The previous Government was no stranger to investment in vast, high profile projects such as cross-rail and HS2. A roll out of smaller, focused transport and connectivity infrastructure investment in areas throughout the country could provide a catalyst for employment and growth.

Tax reductions

The Chancellor has already ruled out George Osborne’s plan to cut corporation tax to 15%, looking instead a longer time phased reduction towards 2020.

The Chancellor however has not ruled out reducing taxes such as National Insurance and Capital Allowance which can help stimulate growth as businesses take on additional staff or invest in new and updated equipment.

Even modest reductions in these areas can have a significant impact on the ability of businesses to invest and grow.

Industrial Strategy

Getting more clarity on the Government’s Industrial Strategy going forward will be crucial for many businesses.  Recent moves by Government to reassure major manufacturers like Nissan and secure their continued investment has gone some way to show businesses that there are opportunities to shape their own Brexit experience.

In the meantime the Government needs to use the Autumn Statement to project a ‘business as usual’ message and encourage businesses to move forward with investment plans that had been put on hold over the summer.

The North East and other areas reliant on manufacturing and heavy industry have a unique role to play in this and sectors such as utilities, ports and logistics and automotive could do with greater certainty on energy policy – any signposts here will be gratefully received.

Hinkley is only Part of the Solution

Hinkley is only Part of the Solution

With the go-ahead given for the new nuclear facility at Hinkley Point the government has made a big commitment to to the industry. However, the project carries several risks.

Firstly, a narrow focus on one form of generation risks putting all the government’s eggs in one basket. While the government may argue this isn’t happening given investment in recent years across a range of technologies, the signs are that it is beginning to box itself in either via planning rules relating to wind, lack of investment in grid or changing policy in knee jerk fashion in areas such as subsidisation.

Secondly, the price of the Hinkley deal has caught many an eye and with consumers footing the bill this could be an emerging political problem. The overall cost to the consumer will be in excess of £4bn with the potential for this to balloon in the coming years. At over £150 each for consumers the project is more expensive than other renewables – such as wind – which have been the focus of the government’s fire in the past twelve months because they are apparently too expensive.

Which brings us to the third problem – consistency. What’s good (or not) for one should be good for another. Hinkley isn’t cheap and if affordability is the key concern then the government would do well to refocus on cheaper technology such as wind and solar. Setting out policies – for example as part of the industrial strategy reset BEIS is currently managing – which improve policy consistency, foreseeability and therefore bankability will give succour to investors who have been punished for seeking to develop projects which tick every one of the trilemma boxes – unlike Hinkley.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to argue that there is no role for nuclear in the UK’s generation mix. We need a reliable base load and with the existing fleet of nuclear and coal stations going offline between now and the mid 2020’s we have an urgent requirement for replacement which doesn’t suffer from intermittency.

The false dichotomy that has been drawn between nuclear, gas and renewables needs to be done away with once and for all. In short, we need all of the above – an energy mix which again helps us meet the energy trilemma.

However the current future for the UK’s energy mix is uncertain. Set in the context of climate change commitments and the prospect of seeing the UK’s existing generating capacity decline by almost two thirds in the next fifteen years the appeal of nuclear energy is clear. Nevertheless, the government is barking well and truly up the wrong tree by putting all of its eggs in one or even two (shale gas) baskets. And if that isn’t overdoing the metaphors then here’s another – variety is the spice of life…

Offshore wind decision could signal Government commitment to a renewable future

Offshore wind decision could signal Government commitment to a renewable future

UK Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark MP has this week approved DONG Energy’s Hornsea Two offshore wind farm, the largest of its kind in the world. The move is likely to reassure the renewable sector and green campaigners alike that the newly formed Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy sees offshore wind as a key component of the wider industrial plan for the UK.

The development will be made up of up to 300 turbines and have a total capacity of up to 1.8GW. DONG Energy say this will meet the electricity needs of approximately 1.6 million UK homes every year. Despite the planning consent, the scheme is not without controversy with serious concerns raised about the possible impact on seascape views, wildlife and ecology. In its recommendation to the Minister however, the Planning Inspectorate concluded that the adverse impacts were not of sufficient significance to override the increasing national need for renewable energy  generation.



Changes to energy policy earlier this year had threatened the future of the wind energy generation in England with critics suggesting David Cameron had moved his party well away from the ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’ vision that had so defined his 2010 General Election campaign.  While this latest move sees Theresa May’s Government standing by the Party’s 2015 manifesto pledge to halt onshore wind development subsidy, it also recognises the potential of the offshore energy generation capacity we have in Britain.

The project will be licensed by the Crown Estate which owns virtually the entire seabed out to the 12 nautical mile territorial limit. Crown Estate’s own data shows that the UK already generates more electricity from offshore wind than any other country. Currently the sector meets approximately 5% of annual demand in the UK but as Hornsea Project Two and other similar developments come on line, we can expect this to double in the next 5 years.

The planning consent, granted in the wake of the Prime Minister’s decision to delay the Hinkley Point nuclear project could be an important indicator of future policy change.  The Crown Estate’s figures suggest that Hinkley will cover just 7% of the UK’s energy needs by 2020, falling well behind the projected output for offshore wind. This capacity potential for offshore wind energy means it could be a major player in the UK’s wider energy mix. While it is still early days in terms of this Government setting out it’s key priorities, this could be the beginnings of a concerted push by Government to pursue a low carbon industrial strategy.

Post EU Referendum Analysis

Post EU Referendum Analysis

How the UK Voted

Out of four home nations, two voted to remain within the EU on 23 June (Scotland and Northern Ireland), while two voted to leave (England and Wales). Much has been made of the EU Referendum result in Scotland, however, little has been said about the voting patterns in each of the other three home nations as opposed to the UK result overall. Only Nicola Sturgeon adopted the position that reflected the view of her home nation. The Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Wales and Northern Ireland were out of step with the majority view in each of their nations.

The outcome of the referendum in Wales is significant when you consider that the First Minister supported the remain campaign. Indeed, Carwyn Jones, like Jeremy Corbyn, could now see his authority challenged due to the fact that a significant portion of the core Labour vote in Wales chose to leave the EU. However, this result is not surprising given the rise in UKIP support across Wales, with voters electing seven UKIP regional Assembly Members back in May. In turn, this prevented Welsh Labour from securing a majority and reduced the Conservative group in the Assembly, despite the gains it made in Wales in the 2015 General Election.

Just as Carwyn Jones went against the majority of Welsh voters by supporting remain, so to Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland, went against voters by supporting leave. While Arlene Foster and the DUP supported Brexit, the majority voters in Northern Ireland chose to remain within the EU. However, Foster has the benefit of having backed the side that won the referendum and, as such, her authority is unlikely to be challenged.

Who Swung the Result?

A key demographic for both the Yes campaign in the Scottish independence referendum and the leave campaign in the EU referendum was the working class, which voted against the status quo in both cases. In contrast, the elderly voted differently across the two referendums. While a majority of elderly people voted for the status quo in the Scottish referendum, that is to remain part of the UK, a majority of elderly people voted against the status quo and to leave the EU on 23 June.

This is what tipped the result in favour of the leave campaign, as it was also demonstrated that turnout was much higher in areas where there is a larger elderly population. Indeed, the elderly are typically much more likely to vote in an election or referendum than younger generations. Taken with the minority of nationalists of all hues in each of the home nations, and you have a toxic mix that can deliver an unprecedented result.

Two Possible Outcomes

Although the Conservatives were the only major political party to offer a referendum on EU membership within their manifesto in the run up to the General Election in 2015, it was not the Conservatives who lost the vote. Rather, it was Labour that failed to secure working class voters who, in recent years, have become disillusioned from party and moved towards the Conservatives or, in a lot cases, towards UKIP.

It has become apparent throughout the EU referendum that Corbyn was, and still is, unable to unify the Labour vote, while the fallout post-referendum has shown that he is also unable to manage his parliamentary party. This scenario was also reflected in the Scottish independence referendum, which saw a significant portion of Labour’s core vote swing in favour of independence. The poor management of the Scottish Labour vote then continued into the 2015 General Election, when the party was almost completely wiped out in Scotland.

As such, the UK is now in a situation where the possibility of two leadership contests could result in the outcome of the referendum being challenged. Indeed, if the ensuing leaders of both the Conservative Party and, possibly, the Labour Party are challenged by their MPs over the result, they could find themselves in a position where neither has enough support to form a national Government capable of negotiating Brexit on behalf of the UK as a whole.

If there is no Government to take forward Brexit and, more importantly, if there is no Conservative Government, which the people chose to elect last year, then the UK could find itself in a position where another General Election has to be called. In this scenario a newly elected Government could call for another referendum, on the basis that the premise of the last referendum result has changed. This could lead to another EU referendum later this year.

However, this scenario is unlikely. It is in fact more likely that a newly elected Conservative leader will garner enough support from MPs in order to proceed with Brexit, and enact Article 50 sometime in the Autumn or Winter of this year. Like it or not we appear to be heading for the exit door in Europe.

Devolution Post-Referendum

With regards to how devolution will proceed post-referendum, Scotland has already come to an agreement with the UK Government over more powers prior to 23 June. On the other hand, the Welsh Government is in the process of agreeing control over more powers and, as such, could be affected by the result. Indeed, the pace of devolution for both Wales and Northern Ireland will most likely significantly slow down as the UK Government initiates the EU exit procedure.

In contrast, the call for a second referendum in Scotland will be high on the political agenda for both the UK and Scottish Governments moving forward. It is a distinct possibility that the Scottish Parliament will vote in favour of a second independence referendum if it is offered. Indeed, between the SNP and the Green Party, there is majority support for independence, while many Scottish Labour MSPs will now reconsider their position in light of the result on 23 June.

If the SNP Government do decide to pursue another independence referendum, it will need to do so within the two year exit period from the EU. This would allow Scotland to negotiate the best possible deal with both the EU and the UK Government before Brexit, in order to protect the benefits it receives from the UK’s rebate and currency. Indeed, it is likely that the Scottish Government will want to negotiate a currency union with the UK. However, the logistics and consequences of an independent Scotland sharing a currency with a non-member state are unknown.