David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband listen to Angela Merkel addressing both Houses of Parliament on 27 February, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Where have voters gone since 2010?

The rise of UKIP and the fall of the Lib Dems explains why Labour is maintaining a lead approaching the final year of this parliament. 

Moving towards the final year of this parliament, we have aggregated the results of our monthly Political Monitor polls from 2013 to evaluate how things have changed for each of the three main parties since May 2010.

We have used our data to compare the current voting intentions of the British public with the way they say they voted in 2010. In order to get a more accurate picture of how these intentions will be realised, we have focused on people who are certain to vote (as we do in our regular voting intention figures). For the purposes of this analysis, those who say they are not certain to vote are treated separately from those who are certain, even if they tell us which party they would vote for if they did vote.

For the Conservatives, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that they are not losing many votes to their traditional political rivals. Just 2 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2010 would now vote Labour, with only 1 per cent now supporting the Liberal Democrats. This is despite the Conservatives consistently lagging behind Labour in the polls in 2013, averaging 31 per cent to Labour’s 38 per cent.

A further reason for Tory cheer is in evidence that talk of a Conservative "woman problem" has little basis – as also shown by other polls. Women are no more likely than men to be switching from the Conservatives, nor less likely to be switching to them. Among voters for the three main parties in the 2010 election, the intentions of men and women from each are identical with regard to Conservative voting – although as we have shown elsewhere, there are more differences when we look at sub-groups within the women’s vote.

The bad news is that the Conservatives are losing votes in large numbers to another party – Ukip. 2013 saw Ukip rise as a serious electoral power on Britain’s political right. Last year 11 per cent of those certain to vote would have voted Ukip, up from 4 per cent in 2012. Many of those voters defected from the Conservatives – around one in eleven (9 per cent) of those who say they voted Tory in 2010 would have voted Ukip in 2013.

Women are less likely to have defected to Ukip, however - 12 per cent of men who voted Conservative in 2010 say they would have voted Ukip in 2013, compared with 7 per cent of women who did so. Indeed, the only party where we have seen a gender divide regarding vote swing - the only party with a potential "woman problem" – is Ukip.

For the Liberal Democrats, there is very little good news. In the polls they have been pushed consistently into fourth place. Just a quarter (25 per cent) of those who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 would definitely have done so in 2013. They averaged 9 per cent of the total voting intention support across 2013, which, if realised in a uniform swing across the country would leave them with 25 seats – not the existential threat that some have predicted, but a comprehensive downturn and a threat to their potential kingmaker status. (In fact a uniform swing against the Liberal Democrats seems unlikely in any case – past experience suggests that their local campaigning and concentration of resources may help them out-perform the national party in many constituencies where they have an incumbent MP – but there is little way of testing that from national polls.)

A fifth (20 per cent) of 2010 Liberal Democrats would have voted Labour in 2013, with 5 per cent each defecting to the Conservatives and Greens and 3 per cent supporting UKIP. Furthermore, on top of these gains, Labour are retaining supporters far more effectively than their rival parties. While the Conservatives face nearly a tenth of their 2010 vote (9 per cent overall) draining to UKIP, and the Liberal Democrats a fifth to the Labour Party itself, the greatest gain of 2010 Labour voters achieved by another party is 4 per cent (to UKIP, interestingly).

Labour now appear to be in the unusual position of having the least fractured support base of the main political parties. Where prior to 2010 the left was often perceived as split between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with the Conservatives enjoying hegemony over the right, the Conservatives are now fighting UKIP for votes while the Liberal Democrats struggle to retain their own supporters as part of a right-leaning government. This is certainly a distinct advantage, and one Labour haven’t previously benefited from in modern times.

As we discussed earlier this year, Labour are also benefiting from an increased certainty to vote among their supporters, which has traditionally been an area of weakness. Prior to 2010, Conservative supporters were consistently more likely to say they were certain to vote, but this gap has narrowed substantially. There is now almost nothing to split 2010 voters for the three main parties with regard to current certainty to vote.

Going into the final year of this parliament, it looks likely that Labour will get more votes in 2015 than it did in 2010. However, much still remains uncertain. Given the loss of support for Labour under Gordon Brown, it may be suggested that anyone who voted Labour in 2010 would be bound to have remained Labour in 2013. However, while they are the best performing of the main three parties, even for them less than six in ten of Labour voters in 2010 (58 per cent) would be certain to vote for Labour in an immediate election; 51 per cent of 2010 Conservatives would still vote Conservative, and, as we’ve seen, just a quarter (25 per cent) of 2010 Liberal Democrats are still Liberal Democrat supporters.

Our data for 2014 so far sees the trends from 2013 continuing, with the Conservatives' main loss of votes to UKIP, the Liberal Democrats' main loss of votes to Labour, while achieving the lowest vote retention of the main parties, and Labour showing the highest vote retention – although still not immune to switching or its 2010 vote being less than certain to vote.

However, while the party swings in the electorate since the 2010 election so far favour Labour – and as our latest Political Monitor shows, Labour are maintaining their lead in the polls - there is a great deal of time for things to change again. The vote choices and turnout of those not currently certain to vote will have a great deal of sway over the next election. 

Roger Mortimore is Director of Political Analysis at Ipsos MORI and Harry Carr is research executive 

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A new German law wants to force mothers to reveal their child’s biological father

The so-called “milkmen’s kids law” would seek protection for men who feel they have been duped into raising children they believe are not biologically theirs – at the expense of women’s rights.

The German press call them “Kuckuckskinder”, which translates literally as “cuckoo children” – parasite offspring being raised by an unsuspecting innocent, alien creatures growing fat at the expense of the host species’ own kind. The British press have opted for the more Benny Hill-esque “milkmen’s kids”, prompting images of bored Seventies housewives answering the door in negligées before inviting Robin Asquith lookalikes up to their suburban boudoirs. Nine months later their henpecked husbands are presented with bawling brats and the poor sods remain none the wiser.

Neither image is particularly flattering to the children involved, but then who cares about them? This is a story about men, women and the redressing of a legal – or is it biological? – injustice. The children are incidental.

This week German Justice Minister Heiko Maas introduced a proposal aimed at to providing greater legal protection for “Scheinväter” – men who are duped into raising children whom they falsely believe to be biologically theirs. This is in response to a 2015 case in which Germany’s highest court ruled that a woman who had told her ex-husband that her child may have been conceived with another man could not be compelled to name the latter. This would, the court decided, be an infringement of the woman’s right to privacy. Nonetheless, the decision was seen to highlight the need for further legislation to clarify and strengthen the position of the Scheinvater.

Maas’ proposal, announced on Monday, examines the problem carefully and sensitively before merrily throwing a woman’s right to privacy out of the window. It would compel a woman to name every man she had sexual intercourse with during the time when her child may have been conceived. She would only have the right to remain silent in cases should there be serious reasons for her not to name the biological father (it would be for the court to decide whether a woman’s reasons were serious enough). It is not yet clear what form of punishment a woman would face were she not to name names (I’m thinking a scarlet letter would be in keeping with the classy, retro “man who was present at the moment of conception” wording). In cases where it did transpire that another man was a child’s biological father, he would be obliged to pay compensation to the man “duped” into supporting the child for up to two years.

It is not clear what happens thereafter. Perhaps the two men shake hands, pat each other on the back, maybe even share a beer or two. It is, after all, a kind of gentlemen’s agreement, a transaction which takes place over the heads of both mother and child once the latter’s paternity has been established. The “true” father compensates the “false” one for having maintained his property in his absence. In some cases there may be bitterness and resentment but perhaps in others one will witness a kind of honourable partnership. You can’t trust women, but DNA tests, money and your fellow man won’t let you down.

Even if it achieves nothing else, this proposal brings us right back to the heart of what patriarchy is all about: paternity and ownership. In April this year a German court ruled that men cannot be forced to take paternity tests by children who suspect them of being their fathers. It has to be their decision. Women, meanwhile, can only access abortion on demand in the first trimester of pregnancy, and even then counselling is mandatory (thereafter the approval of two doctors is required, similar to in the UK). One class of people can be forced to gestate and give birth; another can’t even be forced to take a DNA test. One class of people can be compelled to name any man whose sperm may have ventured beyond their cervix; another is allowed to have a body whose business is entirely its own. And yes, one can argue that forcing men to pay money for the raising of children evens up the score. Men have always argued that, but they’re wrong.

Individual men (sometimes) pay for the raising of individual children because the system we call patriarchy has chosen to make fatherhood about individual ownership. Women have little choice but to go along with this as long as men exploit our labour, restrict our access to material resources and threaten us with violence. We live in a world in which it is almost universally assumed that women “owe” individual men the reassurance that it was their precious sperm that impregnated us, lest we put ourselves and our offspring at risk of poverty and isolation. Rarely do any of us dare to protest. We pretend it is a fair deal, even that reproductive differences barely affect our lives at all. But the sex binary – the fact that sperm is not egg and egg is not sperm – affects all of us.

The original 2015 ruling got it right. The male demand for reassurance regarding paternity is an infringement of a woman’s right to privacy. Moreover, it is important to see this in the context of all the other ways in which men have sought to limit women’s sexual activity, freedom of movement and financial independence in order to ensure that children are truly “theirs”.  Anxiety over paternity is fundamentally linked to anxiety over female sexuality and women’s access to public space. Yet unless all women are kept under lock and key at all times, men will never, ever have the reassurance they crave. Even then, the abstract knowledge that you are the only person to have had the opportunity to impregnate a particular woman cannot rival the physical knowledge of gestation.

We have had millennia of pandering to men’s existential anxieties and treating all matters related to human reproduction, from sex to childbirth, as exceptional cases meaning women cannot have full human rights. Isn’t it about time we tried something new? How about understanding fatherhood not as winning gold in an Olympic sperm race, but as a contract endlessly renewed?

What each of us receives when a child is born is not a biological entity to do with as we choose. It is a relationship, with all of its complexities and risks. It is something worth contributing to and fighting for. Truly, if a man cannot understand that, then any money wasted on a Kuckuckskind – a living, breathing child he could get to know – has got to be the least of his worries. 

Glosswitch is a feminist mother of three who works in publishing.