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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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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