Where Labour can gain seats from the SNP

The other day I blogged about the decline of the SNP and I’ve done a little more analysis to see where Labour can make inroads.

The two graphs below show quite clearly that there is fertile ground for Labour in Scotland, but there are also some possible gains for the Tories.

The first graph shows the SNP majorities in ascending order, grouped by second party.  Many of these majorities are very slim and the Tories are second in only eight of the 33 SNP held seats, with Labour second in the other 25.

The second graph plots the number of votes for each party in the general election and shows that in some seats the second and third parties are very close.

All in all, it shows Scotland is very much in play and on the current results it looks hopeful for Labour.

Edited to add: one of the commenters on the blog and Glen O’Hara spotted that there were some seats missing.  I checked my work and saw I’d got a gremlin in the system that filtered a few seats out of the graph. The correct updated graphs are now displayed. Thank to those who have helped me make this accurate.

09 SNP majorities

09 SNP majorities by party


The decline of the SNP and why Scotland matters

I blogged here the other day, comparing the Labour and Conservative “surges” in the recent general election. I’ve now had the chance to play with the data some more,  and Scotland has jumped out at me.

First, see below for my visualisation of the 2015 and 2017 turnout broken down in GB regions. I realise that Scotland and Wales are actually a nations and not a regions, but for the purpose of this post and to make it easier to write, I will only refer to the term “region” to mean Scotland and Wales too – but the unwritten part is that I accept they are both nations.

I’m quite pleased with the visualisation, as although it takes a little effort to read, it does give a lot of info in a small space. Points to note:

  1. Each constituency has a vertical dot plot of (red) 2015 and (green) 2017 turnout.
  2. In each region the constituency (green) 2017 turnout dots are in descending order.
  3. Each region has a red and green line which is the average regional turnout for 2015 and 2017 respectively.
  4. The regions are ordered in descending order of 2017 turnout.
  5. Because each constituency is shown as a vertical dot plot, the width of each region is proportional to the number of seats in it. So you can compare region sizes.

Scotland has gone from having the highest turnout in 2015, to the third lowest turnout in 2017, and more importantly it is the only region that had a fall in turnout.

06 Turnout by Region

So turnout in Scotland fell. But even more importantly, the SNP’s fortunes declined from their quite stunning zenith in 2015. They’ve fallen back down to earth with a bump, losing 21 seats.

The horizontal dot plot below shows the change in 2015 (light grey) majority and 2017 (black) majority. It is descending order of 2017 majority. As well as losing 21 seats, they now have several hyper marginals, and they now have no seats with a majority of more than 7,000. (Data visualisation point: this type of plot is often referred to as a barbell or dumbbell plot).

Given the fall in majorities seen in 2017 it essentially means every SNP is now a marginal in play at the next election. This is something I missed, and has been rather under reported by the political commentators. Given how close this election was overall, Scotland could be the deciding factor in the next general election.

06 SNP majorities


Comparing the Labour and Conservative “surges” 

There’s been a lot of talk about the “Labour surge” and I blogged about it yesterday. In an attempt to avoid a narrow view of the election I decided to look at this from the other side: the “Conservative surge”. 

Yes, there was one, and it has been lost in the chatter about the very impressive Labour surge.

First some facts. The Labour vote share went up an impressive 9.5 points. But what many people, especially Labour supporters missed is that the Conservative vote share went up a not insignificant 5.5 points. 

The most interesting thing to do is to compare the surges for each party. To do this I’ve produced two graphs of the top 50 surge seats for each party (I modified the Labour surge graph I did yesterday). Note both are to the same scale to make comparisons more meaningful. They are shown below.

What do they tell us? 

The top 50 Labour surge seats had a total of 579,000 extra votes whereas for the Conservatives the top 50 surge seats generated 421,000 extra votes which is more than a quarter fewer than the Labour surge generated.

Despite generating fewer surge votes, the Conservatives made them count more as they produced more gains for the party and they ate into more Labour majorities. Conversely, the Labour surge votes predominantly increased existing Labour majorities, made fewer gains and ate into fewer Conservative seats. 

With fewer “surge” votes the Conservatives have made them achieve more. 

The Conservative surge graph should be up on the wall at Labour high command as it shows the seats where the Conservatives have either won seats from Labour or made a major dent in the majorities. 

The common factor with these seats is that they are nearly all “post industrial communities”. No doubt the Labour message enthused young people and those living in metropolitan cities but Labour need to ensure that they can enthuse the post industrial communities too. This incidentally was point made by John Mann MP yesterday with his “Bolsover question.”

Some analysis of the “Labour surge” 

There’s been a lot of talk about the “Labour surge” so I’ve had a dig in the numbers to see what I can find. This is just a quick analysis and if I get time I will post more. In the meantime here’s what I’ve found. 

Before we look at the Labour surge I want to look at the frequency distribution of the majorities for the two main parties in 2015 and 2017.

The two graphs below compare the 2015 and 2017 majorities. Note, to enable like-for-like comparisons of the trends the graphs only show the seats that were held in 2017 – they do not include the seats that were won or lost by each party in 2017. The graph uses histogram bins of 2,500.

Three things strike me:

1. In 2017 Labour increased the majorities of safe seats and made them even safer. This can be seen by the dark red line shifting significantly to the right. Much of the Labour surge means Labour piling up extra votes where they are of little use other than to flatter the MP.

2. In 2017 the number of Labour seats with a majority of 2,500 or less decreased. These are what would be seen as classic marginal seats. Form a Labour perspective this is good as they will have fewer marginals to defend.

3. Conversely for the Conservatives in 2017 the number of seats with majorities of of 2,500 or less increased. This means they have more marginals to defend. Again this is good for Labour.

Below is the 2017 comparative frequency distribution of the seats held by each party. You can see Labour has far more ultra-safe seats where the votes have piled up.

Finally, turning to the biggest part of the surge, the graph below shows the 46 seats where Labour added on more than 10,000 extra votes. The colour coding shows which seats were Labour holds, Conservative holds and Labour gains. It shows quite convincingly that the biggest part of the Labour surge only (where Labour put on 10,000 or more votes) only helped Labour gain four seats out of the 46 seat where the biggest surges happened.

Any future “mass Labour surge” needs to be make a bigger difference to maximise the seats gained rather than making already big majorities bigger.

Pie chart to show how Brexit will weaken our trading power

Those in favour of hard Brexit, like Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox seem to think once we leave the EU we needn’t bother about trade with the EU so much, as we will have the freedom to trade with the rest of the world in a free and easy manner.

After taking a look at GDP data from the World Bank here, I don’t share the good doctor’s prognosis.

The US economy is currently the largest economy on the planet with 24.7 per cent of global GDP. The EU (including the UK) is second largest with 22.4 per cent of global GDP.

Currently, as a member of the EU, the UK is part of the second largest global trading block. That makes the EU (and by extension the UK) a very lucrative trading partner.

But when we leave the EU, the EU will still be the second largest trading block (albeit with a reduced share of global GDP down to 18.5 per cent). The UK will fifth largest trading block with 3.9 per cent of global GDP.

Post Brexit the EU are not going to give the UK an easy trade deal, and the US and China will still see the EU as their primary trading partners rather than the UK.

Now, imagine you are India, Brazil, Canada, or any of the other 160 countries that are smaller than the UK but still make up one-third of world’s GDP. Now ask yourself would you rather focus your time on getting good trade deals with the US, the EU and China, or would you want to get spend your time on thrashing out a trade deal with the UK?

I’m generally not a fan of pie charts for the reasons given here, but in this case I think a pie chart illustrates my point well – see below.

The UK economy is significantly smaller than the big three trading blocks and is broadly comparable to Canada, Brazil and India. We will not be one of big players.


Those Labour Purge Missing Ballot Papers – the real numbers

Yesterday I posted about the “Labour Purge” and the suspensions that had been carried out by the NEC. The (relatively) very low figures surprised me and they surprised a lot of other people. Two quite reasonable questions were asked by a few people.

First, my data source was questioned. So I will restate my figures came from Labour Party NEC member Christine Shawcroft. She is resolutely on the left of the party and has been so for many years. She was on the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA) slate in the recent NEC elections. The CLGA were very clearly pro-Corbyn, and Christine continues to be a vocal supporter of Corbyn. Christine has no motivation whatsoever to publish fake figures to downplay the number of suspensions. It simply is not reasonable to seek to discredit these figures because of her political motivation.

The second question that was raised was “what about the people who had missing ballot papers?” That is a very good question and I will turn to that now.

In a Facebook post here Christine says “The figures show that 5,000 people asked for replacement ballots (ie they hadn’t got the first one for some reason).” According to a post on Richard Burgon’s Facebook page there were 654,006 ballot papers distributed. So the 5,000 ballot papers amounts to 0.8 per cent of all papers issued. And remember nearly all of these people will have had a new paper reissued.

So, 3,963 people (or 0.6 per cent of the selectorate) were suspended and  5,000 people (or 0.8 per cent of the selectorate) did not get a ballot paper initially. Has there been a deliberate and systematic purge by the NEC that denied masses of Corbyn supporters their vote? I’d suggest the evidence says no because:

  1. Of the 3,963 people (or 0.6 per cent of the selectorate) were suspended we know many of them will have been for valid reasons. You only have to look at the pro-Corbyn Labour Abuse and anti-Corbyn Gentler Politics twitter accounts to see the reports of abuse. Abusive behaviour is definitely happening. Also some people have been found to be members of other parties. So the number of “wrong” suspensions is going to be fewer than 3,963.
  2. Some of the people being suspended will invariably have been Smith supporters.
  3. Of the 5,000 people who reported that they had not got a ballot paper nearly all will have been reissued with a new ballot. Of course, some may not have received the replacement ballot paper, but the actual numbers who, in the end, did not get a ballot paper is much, much less than 5,000.
  4. Some of the people not getting their ballot papers will invariably have been Smith supporters
  5. Even if you make the highly implausible suggestion that all suspensions were “deliberate and wrong suspensions of Corbyn supporters” and all 5,000 missing ballot papers never got replaced and they were all “deliberate exclusions of Corbyn supporters” it amounts to 8,963 people or 1.4 per cent of the selectorate. It will have had negligible impact on the result.

Given the huge amount of outrage on social media about the NEC’s wilful and deliberate exclusion of Corbyn supporters through suspensions and missing ballot papers I was genuinely surprised by these figures, and maybe you are too. But if you are want to dispute them you either need to provide your own figures (and data source) or explain why an undoubted prominent Corbyn supporter would supply the wrong figures. If you answer either of these two questions then please do comment as if my conclusions are wrong I’m happy to be corrected.

Although I’m not really a fan of pie charts (see here for why) I think I pie chart illustrates my point well (I will admit they do have their  very occasionally – usually when there are only two or three categories).