Monday, April 19, 2010

Shocking Shift in the UK Election

I have been keeping half an eye on the UK election, I thought it was going to be a boring affair with easy walk home for the Conservatives, but over the last four days everything has changed.

I had a chance to witness the a UK election up front when I lived there in 1992.   That was the last election that I would call interesting in the UK, John Major squeaked out a win over Neil Kinnock.   I voted in that election.   The subsequent elections all looked like Labour wins and were.  This time around I was expecting a Conservative win, but all that changed and it might be due to a change in their election.

This election is the first time they have held the sort of leaders' debates we have in Canada and it seems to have made a dramatic impact on the election.   The Liberal Democrat leader Nicholas Clegg did rather well and consequently the numbers for the party have risen dramatically.  The last time the Liberals managed to do this well in the UK was in 1910 - seriously, a century ago.   Asquith was the last Liberal Prime Minister, being in office from 1910 to 1916.

Only a just over week ago the numbers in the election looked like Conservatives 36-39%, Labour 30-33% and Lib Dems 20-22%.   Not atypical for an election in the UK.  Over the weekend this has shifted to Conservatives 31-33%, Lib Dems 30-33% and Labour 28-30%.   In two polls the Lib Dems were leading by one point.

Suddenly the election is a three way race and no one in the UK knows how to handle it.  Both Labour and the Conservatives are going after Nick Clegg now.   In my opinion this is a mistake as it gives him more air time and will make more people consider supporting because the other two are ganging up on him.

The prediction of the elections in the UK has normally been an easy affair, there is often a uniform swing from one major party to the other and the size of that swing comes very close to predicting the results of the election.   None of these calcutions really considers the Lib Dems.  Doing a uniform shift on existing support means that the largest party after the election would still be Labour even though they would have less popular support than the Lid Dems or Conservatives - clearly the model does not work.   The UK has no experience like 1993 federally in Canada or 1991 in BC.   It has been a long time since they have had an election that has a fundamentally different result than ever before.

I will be interested to see how Election Prediction does with the election.

I was not paying much attention to the UK election, but now I will be paying close attention.
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