Peter Kellner on Tory difficulties

YouGov president describes the “uphill battle” for Cameron and co.

In the Sunday Times, the YouGov president (and former NS political editor), Peter Kellner, one of the most respected pollsters and political analysts around, examines why Cleggmania and the Lib Dem surge is "doubly bad news" for the Tories (and not Labour):

First, the Tories were banking on winning 10-20 seats from the Lib Dems to help them win power. That prospect now looks unlikely; indeed, the Lib Dems might start taking seats from the Tories.

The second factor could prove more important. The Lib Dem surge is hurting Tory prospects in Labour-Conservative marginals. Individual nationwide polls cannot detect this; but because YouGov is questioning different samples of about 1,500 people daily, we can combine a week's polls into a total sample of more than 10,000 and see what is happening in different kinds of seat.

YouGov has compared the results from BC (before Clegg) and AD (after debate) in the 115 Labour-Conservative marginals that would fall to the Tories on a swing of 8%. In 2005 Labour's overall lead in these seats was 9%.

In this election, during the BC days, the Tory lead in these seats was 4%. Compared with 2005, that represented a swing to the Tories of 6.5% in these target seats, compared with a swing of 5% nationally.

In other words, the Tories were doing better where they needed to win than in the rest of Britain, and stood to capture 94 Labour seats. Add in, say, 10 gains from the Lib Dems and the Tories would be just 12 short of an overall majority.

The AD pattern is different. Our sample of 2,220 in these target seats now puts Labour one point ahead. The swing since 2005 is down to 4% in the Labour marginals -- the same as the national swing. Not only is the prospect of big Conservative gains from the Lib Dems slipping away; the bonus swing the Tories had been enjoying in the Labour marginals has also disappeared.

The Lib Dem surge has hurt the Tories with special force in Labour-Conservative marginals. The 10-point gain in Lib Dem support in these seats has been overwhelmingly at the Tories' expense.

On these figures, the Tories would gain only 57 Labour seats. And if they prove unable to supplement these with gains from the Lib Dems, the Tories would not even be the largest party.

If the Tories don't end up as the "largest party" on 7 May, it will be as a complete and utter disaster, as I noted in this blog post.

On a side note, News International bosses -- in between barging into the Indie's offices -- must be weeping over how much money they've forked out to YouGov for daily polls that produce ever narrower leads for the Tories and damning analyses from Kellner.

Hilarious.

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times