Those Labour Purge Suspensions – the real numbers

Jeremy Corbyn won the Labour leadership election yesterday with 62 per cent of the vote. Congratulations to him on a convincing win. On social media there has been a lot of chatter about how that his margin of victory would have been much larger if the deliberate purge of his supporters had not happened.

I’ve seen some very high figures bandied about, some vent suggesting well over 170,000 people were prevented from voting. This seems like a very high figure so I thought I’d dig around to see what numbers I could find. I am not going to get into the rights and wrongs of decisions of the NEC to suspend or expel people – I solely want to make an objective assessment of the scale of those prevented from voting.

First, I want to start by quoting my sources for this analysis. Given that it is Corbynites who are claiming there has been a massive purge I will quote data I have sourced by two prominent Corbyn supporters. One is NEC member Christine Shawcroft who has a long track record of being on the left of the party and she is a prominent Corbyn supporter. Using Christine as a source has the added benefit because as an NEC member she has access to data other people may not get and she has kindly published it on Facebook. The other source is MP Richard Burgon who is in the Shadow Cabinet and other prominent Corbyn supporter.

Now let’s look at the suspensions. For reasons of brevity when I refer to “suspensions” I actually mean “suspensions and expulsions.”

Suspension from the party because of complaints about abusive behaviour, membership of a proscribed organisation, support for another party etc. A final reason for suspension is (and I paraphrase many Corbynites) “suspension for some ridiculous reason to deliberately purge Corbyn supporters.”

According to a post on Richard Burgon’s Facebook page there were 654,006 ballot papers distributed.  And according to a post on Christine Shawcroft’s Facebook page 11,250 complaints were put in. Over half of them were discounted. The 11,250 complaints represents 1.7 per cent of the selectorate for this election.

As Christine herself notes “If I was trying to conduct a purge of Party members or supporters, I wouldn’t dismiss half the complaints.” In fact two out of every three complaints were dismissed.

She goes on to say “of all the complaints, 3,963 led to suspension and expulsion.”

The total number of suspensions and expulsions amounts to 0.6 per cent of the selectorate for this election.

If some of the reports of individual accounts of suspensions are correct then it certainly looks like the wrong decision was made and they are likely to be successfully appealed. But there can be no doubt many of them will be reasonable. 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.

There is no way determining if the suspensions were disproportionately aimed at Corbyn supporters or how many will be successfully appealed but we can say for sure they only amount to 0.6 per cent of the selectorate and not all of this 0.6 per cent were Corbyn supporters, and not all of them will be successfully appealed.

Given this evidence, the idea that there has been a systematic purge of the selectorate using suspensions that disproportionately impacted on the result is plain wrong. So, if after reading this blog, you are still promoting this idea you are wilfully  spreading disinformation and being divisive.

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 categories).



Match outcomes for Premier League referees for 2010/11 – 2015/16

Referees outcomes

The graph above shows the match outcomes (home win, draw and away win) as a percentage of the total number of Premier League matches officiated by that ref. The graph is for every ref in the seasons from 2010/10 to 201o/15/16. That is 2,660 matches. I got the data from here.

The dashed lines show the home win, draw and away win percentages across the 2,660 match sample so you can compare each ref with the average across the time period.

The number in brackets after each ref’s name is the number of games tat they have refereed.  I’d say that it’s only worth trying to draw firm conclusions from those refs who have refereed more than 50 matches as that gives enough data to smooth out any outliers.

Those refs near the top who have officiated at over 100 matches seem quite consistent in their results profile, apart from:

  • A Taylor who seems to give significantly fewer home wins, and signficantly more away wins.
  • L Mason who gives more away wins and fewer draws than average.
  • N Swarbrick who appears to give a lot fewer home wins than average.

To really understand how significant these deviations are I’d need to do a standard deviation calculation weighted by the number of matches officiated at. But I didn’t have time for that.

I was also surprised to see that more matches end up as an away win than as a draw. I thought it would be the other way around.

Why have I done this? Mainly because I can to hone my Excel skills. Also, if you are prone to the odd wager on the football this is information that might help you.

An Excel nerd point: the use of the horizontal dot plot required some significant wrangling as Excel does not have this type of chart as an option. Look here for the instructions on how to do it.

Fact checking Paul Mason

Today on Radio 4 Paul Mason claimed, that if there had been a snap general election after the EU referendum, Jeremy Corbyn could have been in a position to form a minority government because it was his belief that:

Eighteen of the top twenty marginals in England and Wales could have been won by Labour if one to three thousand Green voters would come back to Labour

You can hear his very words on the Daily Mirror website here. When I heard his claim it startled me as I very distinctly remembered posting a while back that there were ten seats where the Green vote was bigger than the Tory majority. So I thought I’d do a proper fact check on Paul’s claim.

I make no comment on his claim about the motivations of the resignations of the shadow cabinet ,when he says they “feared” it was their “last chance” to unseat Jeremy Corbyn before a “winnable” general election.  I am solely fact checking the claim that 18 of the top 20 marginals  made in the quote above.

Below is a list of the top 25 marginal seats where Labour came second in the 2015 general election. It is in order of smallest majority to overturn. The seats in red are the ones where the Green vote is more than the majority.

Pau Mason top 20 odd marginals

Lets fact check Paul’s claim…

First, 0f the top 20 marginals only 10 of them have a Green vote larger than the majority of the winner. So his claim is wrong.

Second, of all the seats in England and Wales there are only 11 that could be won if all the Green voters switched to Labour. So, even if you gave Paul the benefit of the doubt about the top 20 seats, even looking at all seats, his claim that there are 18 seats that could be won to Labour by Green voters switching still does not stack up.

So, Paul has been fact checked and sadly his claim has been found to be wrong. I don’t know if he misspoke, or just misunderstood the numbers. If you want to take a look at my data go here.

Edited to add:

With Sinn Fein not taking their 4 seats in Westminster, 324 seats are required for a working majority. The Tories got 331.

If those 11 seats went Labour of the seats above were won by Labour the Tories would have 321 seats (remember one of 11 the seats is a Lib Dem seats).

This would mean the Tories would not have a majority in Westminster but remember there are eight DUP MPs who would almost certainly vote with the Tories as would the one UKIP MP (who was a Tory). So the Tories could easily form a government.

Does Clive Lewis’s Progressive Alliance add up electorally?

Yesterday Clive Lewis suggested that Labour should form a progressive alliance with the Greens, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems, even going so far as to say “frankly, I want to be in government with Caroline Lucas, not against her.”

This certainly rattled some cages in many parts of the Labour Party. Setting aside the arguments around the desirability of this proposal, it set me wondering if such an alliance could actually win the next general election. So I took the model I produced last August, to see if non-voters could help Labour win the next election and modified it.

The modified model assumes some form of electoral pact in England where Labour do not stand candidates where the Greens and the Lib Dems have MPs. Likewise the Greens and Lib Dems do not stand candidates in any of the other seats Labour are fighting.

The model then allows you state what percentage of Green and Lib Dem voters will vote Labour if the party they voted for in 2015 does not stand a candidate. I’ve assumed 90 per cent of Green voters will vote Labour and 66 per cent of Lib Dem voters will vote Labour (it seems likely to me a smaller proportion of Lib Dems than Greens will switch to Labour). But you can change the figures in the interactive model below.

At the end of this post are more details about the model, but you can see that such a progressive alliance would be hard to form, even accounting for a Corbyn-led Labour Party enthusing some non-voters to vote Labour. Of course, there are other factors to consider in Clive’s proposals and the model is a simple one, but it does give an idea of the numbers.

And now, on to the model. See below. Enter your values in the red boxes and the graph will change. Note the graph gives the seat for each party and the bar at the bottom gives the total seats of the “progressive alliance” of Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru.

As ever if you think I’ve got anything wrong please let me know in the comments field.

If you want to use it on a phone or tablet you need to double tap one of the red cells to get it to bring up the keyboard.

  1. The turnout in the 2015 general election was 66.1 per cent.
  2. You can find the general election turnouts since 1945 here and you’ll see that turnout was only above 80 per cent twice: 83.9 per cent in 1950 and 82.6 in 1951. Originally my model has assumed a Corbyn-led Labour Party could get turnout up to 75 per cent, but a few people pointed out at nearly a 10 point increase this was unrealistic. So I’ve changed it to 72 per cent as this matches the turnout in the EU referendum. But you can change this parameter yourself on the model.
  3. It would be wrong to assume all the new voters because of increased turnout would vote Labour, some would be motivated to vote Tory to “stop Corbyn.” Originally I assumed 85 per cent of new voters would vote Labour. Again many people said this was unrealistic as the evidence is non voters tend to split on similar lines to the other party votes. Fair enough but it is clear Corbyn is engaging with the disaffected so it is plausible to assume the non voters who do turn out are more likely to be Labour voters, and I’ve set this at 66 per cent. You can change this parameter yourself on the model.
  4. My model only looks at seats in England and Wales as and assumes SNP will retain all their seats but will form part of a progressive alliance.
  5. Finally, this is based on the 2015 boundaries and the Tories intend to reduce the number of seats from 650 to 600 and they will seek to get boundaries redrawn in such a way that it benefits them. So whatever the results this model shows, it will be harder for Labour if the boundaries are redrawn.

Dodgy use of opinion polls

This graphic has been doing the rounds on Twitter. It is perhaps one of the most misleading use of opinion poll data I’ve ever seen. 

The graphic comes from this Ipsos MORI poll. Here is the link to the charts for the poll and I’ve reproduced the page with the graph on below. 

You can see there are actually two graphs. The one on the left is the one at the start of this blog post and is the one doing the rounds on Twitter. It shows Labour with a 5 point lead. The one on the right is shows a 1 point lead for the Conservatives. 

So what’s the difference? The one on the left gives the voting intention for all the people sampled. The one on the right gives “headline voting intention” which weights the result to take account of the likelihood of people to actually vote. 

This is massively important because if you don’t do this you get a distorted picture. Indeed in the 2015 general election the pollsters overestimated the Labour vote share. 

In their post election analysis the pollsters came to the conclusion that the reason they overestimated the Labour vote share was because they overweighted the likelihood of many Labour voters (particularly younger voters) to vote. 

So by choosing the graph on the left the person who tweeted this has presented a distorted picture that magnifies the errors in the polls done prior to the 2015 general election. No one credible ever quotes opinion poll results without weighting for turnout. 

They have either been guilty of blatant and deliberate cherry picking, or if I’m being generous, an unwitting confirmation bias. Either way it massively distorts the data. 

For the avoidance of doubt this post is not meant to be pro or anti any party, or party leader. It is meant to be pro-clarity and anti-distortion. 

And finally, I will add my six laws of opinion polls to help understand opinion polls more clearly. 

First law: If an opinion poll gives a result you don’t like and your defence is “they can’t be trusted” that’s fair enough.

Second law: If you have ever said “they can’t be trusted” but you have used an opinion poll to back up your preferred issue then you have broken the first law.

Third law: If the poll says what you would like it to say how sure are you that you are not guilty of confirmation bias?

Fourth law: Whilst voting intention polls are not great at precise predictions of vote share, they are broadly right. 

Fifth law: Remember every poll has a margin of error. Find out what it is.

Sixth law: It is dangerous to rely on one poll as the result could be an outlier within the margin of error (see fifth law) and/or you could be guilty of confirmation bias (see third law).

Does buyer’s remorse affect the EU referendum result?


I’ve seen a screenshot of the results of a ComRes post EU referendum poll, asking voters if they are happy with the results of the referendum result.

The polls shows that 1% of Leave voters are unhappy with the result. Given 17.4 million people voted Leave this is 174,000 unhappy Leave voters.

There was a winning margin of 1.3 million votes and even if all of the 174,000 Leave voters actually have buyer’s remorse and would have voted Remain, it would still have been a win for Leave, albeit with a reduced winning margin of 0.95 million votes.

For Remain to be able to claim buyer’s remorse is a significant factor they need to be able to show that at least 4% of Leave voters were unhappy.

For the sake of full disclosure: I voted Remain

Edited to add:

This morning a Twitter user @jabd1980 hit me up with the following very pertinet question:

Twitter pic regrexit

So I went onto the ComRes website and found a margin of error calculator. So I stuck in the figures of 33.5 million for the population size (total number who voted) and sample size of 1,069 (given on the screenshot) and got a margin of error of 3.0.

This means the buyer’s remorse effect is just on the edge of the margin of error. But only just.


EU referendum result breaks the law

EU ref results as percentage of whole electorateYes, the result does break the law. However, it is not a law that invalidates the result, but it is one rather ironically, that has the word “union” in it.

The EU referendum result gave a 51.9% Leave to 48.1% Remain result on a 72.2% turnout.

The graph here shows that when you look at the whole electorate (not just those voting) you will see only 37.4% of the whole electorate voted Leave and 34.7% voted Remain, with 27.8% of the electorate not bothering to vote.

Why does this matter? Only a few weeks ago the Trade Union Act 2016 came into law and this has impacted upon me and millions of other trade unionists. The government have “modernised” (a euphemism for “massively restricted “) the way strike ballots work as follows (taken from the government website):

The Trade Union Act will ensure industrial action only ever goes ahead when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%.

In important public services, including in the health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors, an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all eligible members must be met for action to be legal.

As a country we can  take the massive decision to withdraw from the EU based upon 37.4% of the electorate voting for it but cleaners in a school who want to take strike action need to have a 50% turnout and meet an additional threshold of 40% of support from all eligible members to take strike action.

It would not be enough to get a simple majority as with the EU referendum.

So there you have it, the EU referendum results breaks the law: the law relating to trade union strike ballots.

By the way, I am not posting this because I think the referendum result is invalid; I voted Remain but I do accept the result. I am posting this to make the point workers have had a second class democracy imposed upon them.