1 January 2014

New Year Predictions 2014

At the start of the year I post about some of the predictions which people have come out with in the previous 12 months –for the record so far, see my post a year ago. This year I’ve picked three (and a half), mostly about the UK 2015 election, the outcome of which may well become apparent in the next 12 months. I’ve avoided the opinions of politicians – obviously Michael Gove is going to say he’s convinced that the Tories will get a majority in 2015, whether he believes it or not. Instead here are some opinions from observers, not players.

Firstly this from John Rentoul in his Independent Eagle Eye blog in July:
I suspect much of the Labour Party has lulled itself into a false sense of Swedenism* because some polls suggest that people think Osborne is an objectionable piece of work. Of course they do; he is a politician and he is currently in government. What this poll does, however, is to compare his policies with those of the other lot, had they been in the despised position of being in government. 
If Labour haven’t persuaded the voters that things would have been better under them by now (and I’m one of the 32 per cent in that last question, incidentally), they are unlikely to do so by the time of the election, now that the economy is picking up a little. And if Labour cannot do that, it cannot win. 
*Swedenism, n: The attribution to the electorate of generous social-democratic qualities.
Next an Oxford academic, Steve Fisher, in October, all very quantitative and objective at 559 days in advance, in a post on his Elections etc blog, pithily titled: A long-range forecast for a 2015 British General Election based on current polls and historical polls and votes:
Forecast Election Day Shares and 95% Prediction Intervals 
Con : 40.2 plus or minus 11.8 i.e. between 28 and 52 
Lab : 31.8 plus or minus 6.6 i.e. between 25 and 38 
LD : 11.8 plus or minus 14.5 i.e. between 0 and 26 
Forecast Election Day Seats 
Con : 337 
Lab : 265 
LD : 21 
Con majority of 24
Another quant with a high reputation is Nate Silver, “the man who knows everything” according to Will Pavia in The Times (£) in April:
What about Britain’s coalition government, I say. Will it survive? He thinks for a moment. “So, I’ve never quite understood,” he says. “What are the Liberal Democrats getting out of the coalition exactly?” He really does ask the most acute questions. As I struggle to supply an answer, he says: “And does Labour have a charismatic leader?” His prediction, based only on the fact that “you have had a rough several years economically”, is that David Cameron will not be re-elected. 
“He’s awfully unpopular right now,” he says. “Look, this is dangerous, because I can extrapolate from the political science literature in the US. In the US context, the economy is not everything, but it’s an awfully large factor and the personalities of the candidates don’t matter very much in nine out of ten cases. I’m not sure if that’s as true in the parliamentary system. I think the economy bit has generally been shown to be true across different parts of the world.” Cameron might as well call in the removal men.
The “half”? Later in the year, Silver also gave his opinion on the outcome of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum in the Scotsman:
... [he] said polling data was “pretty definitive”. “There’s virtually no chance that the Yes side will win”, he said. “If you look at the polls, it’s pretty definitive really where the No side is at 60-55 per cent and Yes side is about 40 or so. “Historically, in any Yes or No vote in a referendum, it’s actually the No side that tends to grow over time, people tend not to default to changing the status quo. 
… “If there was a major crisis in England – if the Eurozone split apart and there were ramifications economically (for the UK) – the maybe things would reconsidered a little bit. But he added: “For the most part it looks like it’s a question of how much the No side will win by, not what the outcome might be.”

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