Monday, 16 June 2014

The latest election round: what have we learned about UKIP? Part 3: the wild card effect

So far I have looked at the recent round of election results from the perspective of UKIP's own chances of winning seats. Now I shall look at what the data from these election results implies for the other parties' chances. This comprises two elements: where and who.

Well, it now seems clear that UKIP voters are going to be found in many areas in significant quantities. While I am sceptical of their abilities to win many (or even any) seats, they are going to be active players across the eastern side of England, in the north midlands, along the south coast and in the south west.  They are also going to rack up votes, if not seats, in Yorkshire and north east working class constituencies.

Some of these seats will be two way fights between an incumbent and UKIP: I would ordinarily expect UKIP of standing little chance of getting the sort of vote share that would cause a strong incumbent any jitters.  But UKIP are going to gatecrash a host of two way and three way marginals, pulling votes from the serious contenders in unpredictable ways.

This is potentially very profitable for those can identify who this is going to benefit.  Or very expensive if you don't spot an undercurrent.


One difficulty in working out the impact of this is that UKIP voters are come in several different types.  I've already taken one look at this:

While I have been considering the "who" question on a national level for some time, I had not given too much thought to how the background of UKIP voters intersected with individual constituencies until prompted to do so by an observation of another_richard in the comments section on  Put another way, much attention has been given to the nature of the coalition of voters that UKIP is putting together.  Far less attention has been given to how other parties' coalitions are being affected by this.

Others will be able to do this with far more psephological accuracy than me, but as it happens I doubt that would be particularly helpful for betting purposes.  We only need a rough idea.  So with the sort of precision that you could find only in a saloon bar, I set out a cariacature of the previous coalition of each party.

Labour: unionised workers, public sector workers, lower paid workers, the workless, those from ethnic minorities, professionals who are progressive values-driven.

Conservatives: professionals (other than those who are progressive values-driven), higher paid workers, the self-employed, home owners, the elderly, the battlers.

Lib Dems: localists, professionals who are progressive values-driven, protest voters.

UKIP have put together a coalition built on very different lines, comprising those intellectually hostile to the EU, the socially conservative, those hostile to immigration, those in low paid work and protest voters. These cut across former party boundaries.

Labour is vulnerable to losing lower paid workers and some of the workless, while other parts of its coalition, such as those from ethnic minorities or progressive values-driven professionals, are most unlikely to be tempted to vote purple next year.  In some geographical areas, this barely affects the Labour vote.  We saw that Labour had a very good performance in London in May, reflecting the fact that Labour's vote here largely comes from the UKIP-resistant part of Labour's coalition.  Its vote similarly held up well in the Core Cities.   Because of the shape of their coalition, they are likely to lose little of their vote in university towns to the Kippers (helping to explain the short prices on Labour in Bristol West, Leeds North West and Cambridge).

But in areas where Labour's vote is much more drawn from those in lower paid work, UKIP appear to have undermined Labour's efforts.  They lost control of both North East Lincolnshire and Thurrock. Labour also seem unclear how to identify the categories of voters that they have lost with any precision: in Swindon they won the popular vote but went backwards in seat count.  Labour is likely to lose disproportionately high shares of its coalition in less urban and less well-educated workforces.

If Labour have problems with UKIP, the Conservatives have bigger problems still.  UKIP has bitten a big chunk out of its battler vote - the lower paid workers who have philosophy of self-reliance and who have modest aspirations.  This is especially a problem in Essex and Kent for the blue team, but a problem everywhere for them.  Those intellectually hostile to the EU tend to be fewer in number and more evenly spread.

The Conservatives will also lose proportionately more of their vote in less urban and less well-educated workforces.  Some seats are going to be like a slow bicycle race in reverse, where the party that loses fewer voters to UKIP will take the seat.  In such seats, if in doubt then the assumption has to be that Labour will lose fewer voters than the Conservatives, simply because the Conservatives have been losing more voters to UKIP than Labour have.

Overall, the rise of UKIP is good for Labour in its battles against the Conservatives, but there will be some very different results in different seats.

The Lib Dems have seen their coalition splinter into three.  Its share of progressive values-driven voters has largely decamped to Labour, while the protest voters have taken their protest elsewhere, either to Labour or to UKIP.  In seats where the Lib Dems finished third in 2010, the effect of UKIP picking up the protest vote will be irrelevant on the seat count: the race in such seats will remain between Labour and the Conservatives, and that switch of protest will not affect that race.

Where things get interesting is where former Lib Dem voters were half localists, half anti-metropolitan protest voters.  This was a relatively common combination in the south west and the risk of even some of these voters moving to UKIP is potentially very dangerous for the Lib Dems, where they hold a string of seats with small majorities over the Conservatives.

How to tell how this is playing out in individual seats?

Ah yes, I was hoping you weren't going to ask me that.  Whoever gets that right is going to be highly in demand.  I don't think I've got it remotely right yet (though I don't think anyone else has either).

I do have some ideas though.  In the Labour/Conservative marginals, I'm working loosely on the basis of "low education, high education, public sector/private sector".

In areas with high rates of people with no qualifications (the average rate for England & Wales is 23%, we can expect both the Labour and Conservative vote to be fraying in the direction of UKIP.  Where the jobs are disproportionately to be found in the public sector, we can expect the Conservatives to suffer more heavily from this than Labour, and vice versa when the area's jobs are disproportionately in the private sector.

In areas with high rates of people with degree level qualification, I expect the relatively few professionals who are UKIP-friendly to all come from the Conservative side of the fence.  But when you find such high rates in an area which also has high rates of people with no qualifications, the impact of UKIP - whether in favour of Labour or the Tories - is likely to be magnified.  A seat centred around private sector employment and lots of people with both no qualifications and degree level qualifications is likely to have a Conservative-voting middle class and a Labour-voting working class, making the seat more favourable to the Conservatives than it might otherwise appear.  A seat centred around public sector employment and lots of people with degree level qualifications is likely to have a Labour or Lib Dem-voting middle class and thus Labour will be more UKIP-resistant.

You can do your investigations on local authorities here:

It's laborious, but valuable.

Betting implications

This is all very well, but what does this mean for betting purposes?  The important thing to remember is that UKIP's rise is already taken into account in the polling, so we only want to be making further adjustments where there is going to be a disproportionate impact one way or the other.

The Labour/Conservative marginals of most interest are those where the Conservatives' coalition is relatively less damaged, simply because the Labour individual constituency prices are on average not as good value as betting on Labour getting most seats or an overall majority.  (Labour may be value at 2/1 in Great Yarmouth, however.)

As an example of potential differential impact, another_richard drew attention to Sherwood as a seat where Labour's support was largely working class while the Conservatives' support was much more drawn from middle class professionals.  The east Midlands has other such marginals (Erewash and North West Leicestershire) and similar seats can be found elsewhere, such as Swindon South and Milton Keynes South.  The Conservatives in Erewash at 6/4 look interesting.

The other battleground that needs reassessment is the south west.  To date, the focus has been on the extent to which the Lib Dems could retain tactical Labour votes.  If the Lib Dems are going to lose a slew of votes to UKIP as well, seats that looked safer will look much less safe.  The Conservatives are odds against in North Devon and St Ives and evens in North Cornwall.  They look worth backing in all three. They should perhaps be firmer favourites in some other seats in the region too.

This is very much dipping a toe in the water, and others will have more and probably better ideas how to tackle this.  Given that UKIP is going to be a disruptive force up and down the country in 2015, it is essential to have a strategy for factoring in its impact when betting in individual constituencies. Ignoring it is not an option, unless you want to lose money.

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