Essential Research leadership ratings and preselection latest

A second pollster suggests Scott Morrison’s recent slump to have been short-lived, as Eric Abetz gets dumped from his customary position at the top of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate ticket.

First up, note two posts below this one dealing with ongoing electoral events: the resolution to the Tasmanian election count and the New South Wales state by-election for Upper Hunter on Saturday week.

The Guardian today reports on the latest fortnightly Essential Research poll, which includes the monthly leadership ratings. As was the case with Newspoll, this finds Scott Morrison pulling out of the slump that followed the Brittany Higgins and Christian Porter episodes, with his approval up four to 58% and disapproval to five to 32%, without quite restoring him to the respective 62% and 29% he recorded in the March poll. The recovery has been particularly pronounced with women, among whom he is up nine points on approval to 55% and down eight on disapproval to 34%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister has widened from 47-28 to 50-24; Anthony Albanese’s ratings are said to be “constant compared to his standing last month”, when he had 39% approval and 34% disapproval.

The poll also finds 48% support and 27% opposition for the India travel ban, with 41% supporting jail time and fines and 33% opposed. However, 56% said they would support allowing citizens to return “provided they complete the necessary quarantine procedures when they arrive”, with 22% opposed. There was also a suite of questions on budget priorities that are probably better saved for the full poll release, which should be along later today.

UPDATE: Full report here. Albanese turns out to be steady on 39% approval and up one on disapproval to 35%. The poll was conducted Wednesday to Monday from a sample of 1092.

Some notable preselection action to report:

• The Tasmanian Liberal Senate preselection has seen Eric Abetz, long the dominant figure in the state branch, dumped to the loseable number three position behind fellow incumbents Jonathon Duniam and Wendy Askew. A source quoted by Sue Bailey of The Mercury said Abetz won the first round of the ballot for top position with 29 votes to Duniam’s 26 and Askew’s 12, before Duniam prevailed on the second round with 36 votes to Abetz’s 31. Askew then defeated Abetz in the ballot for second position by 37 votes to 30.

• Labor’s preselection for the new seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe is in limbo after the Victorian Supreme Court ruled a challenge by ten unions against the federal party organisation’s takeover of the process should proceed to a trial on May 26. This complicates former state secretary Sam Rae’s bid for the seat, which was set to be signed off on by the national executive under the terms of a deal reached between elements of the Left and Right, with Rae being a member of the latter. The Age reports Rae “will be challenged by Maribyrnong councillor Sarah Carter and former Melton council candidate Deepti Alurkar” – I’m not sure where this leaves state government minister Natalie Hutchins, earlier identified as Rae’s chief rival. Hutchins is an ally of Bill Shorten and the Australian Workers Union, who have been frozen out of the aforesaid factional deal.

• Barnaby Joyce has easily seen off a challenge for the Nationals preselection in New England from Tenterfield army officer Alex Rubin, whom he defeated in the local members’ ballot by 112 votes to 12.

Tasmanian election endgame

A regularly updated post on the resolution of the Tasmanian election, which will occur as the preference distributions are conducted through the remainder of this week.

Wednesday night

The count was completed today in Clark, confirming that the Liberals won two seats in the division and 13 seats overall, and will thereby govern with a majority. Former Labor member Madeleine Ogilvie was the winner of the second Liberal seat, recording 5591 votes to Simon Behrakis’s 5249 before the final exclusion. The distribution of Behrakis’s preferences left Ogilvie with 10,145 votes, just short of a quota of 10,626, but comfortably clear of the only remaining candidate, former Liberal independent Sue Hickey, who had 8716. The full preference distribution can be viewed here.

In Braddon, Roger Jaensch ended the day with a 205 vote lead over Felix Ellis in the race for the third Liberal seat, after see-sawing fortunes throughout the day. Jaensch’s 27-vote lead at the end of counting yesterday turned into a 364-vote deficit after the exclusion of the first Liberal to drop out, Stacey Sheehan, and the remaining Shooters candidate; but he pulled ahead again with the next Liberal exclusion, Lara Hendriks. Next comes the exclusion of Labor’s Justine Keay, whose preferences will overwhelmingly flow to the two remaining Labor candidates, Shane Broad and Anita Dow; followed by independent Craig Garland, whose exclusion should add around 1500 votes to the Liberal tally if the 2018 election is any guide. So Ellis’s hopes likely rest on him scoring a significantly bigger share of those votes than Jaensch.

Tuesday night

The Liberals still look almost certain of gaining the second seat they need in Clark, although such is the spread of votes among candidates that none have yet reached a quota, despite the distribution of preferences from two Labor candidates, two of the five Greens, the Animal Justice, Shooters and Federation Party candidates, and the three ungrouped independents. Further Liberal, Labor and Greens exclusions will surely elect Elise Archer, Ella Haddad and Cassy O’Connor respectively, and whichever of independents Kristie Johnston and Sue Hickey drops out will elect the other.

The Liberals have built up from a collective 1.91 quotas on the primary vote to 1.97, and taking exhausted votes into account, this would be comfortably enough to win them a second seat if it was sustained through to the final count. The question is whether that will reduce significantly when the three weakest Liberals are excluded from the count, and a proportion of their votes transfer to non-Liberal candidates as preferences.

Kevin Bonham’s assessment is that the only potential threat involves Madeleine Ogilvie losing her current lead over Simon Behrakis as the second placed Liberal, and her background as a Labor and independent member being reflected in a “ridiculously” high leakage of around 35% of her preferences to non-Liberal candidates. The reduction would need to be sufficient to cancel out whatever preferences flow to the Liberals with the exclusion of three more unsuccessful Labor candidates and two from the Greens, though this won’t amount to much.

Of the two independents, Kristie Johnston polled 11.0% of the primary vote to Sue Hickey’s 9.8%, a gap that has been little changed with the preferences distributed so far, which have respectively increased them to 11.9% to 10.7%. Hickey will need strong preference flows from soon-to-be-excluded Liberal, Labor and Greens candidates, and the one Labor and two Greens exclusions so far offer little indication that that’s going to happen. As such, Hickey’s only hope is that the Liberals will indeed be reduced to a single seat and a parliamentary minority, with the last seat going to her instead.

There was a noteworthy development in Braddon where three Liberal candidates are fighting it out for the party’s second and third seats, following the distribution of leading candidate Jeremy Rockliff’s large surplus. This went well for Adam Brooks, who now looks entrenched for the second seat, and also for Roger Jaensch, who chased down a 6.9% to 8.9% deficit against incumbent Felix Ellis. Jaensch led by 55 after Rockliff’s exclusion, which reduced to 27 after later exclusions. The result will likely come down to the as-yet-undistributed preferences of the two clearly unsuccessful Liberals: Lara Hendriks with 2788 votes and Stacey Sheehan with 2343. Also remaining to be distributed are two of the three unsuccessful Labor candidates, whose preferences will mostly stay in ticket and elect the party’s two winners; independent Craig Garland; and the lead candidates of the Greens and Shooters.

The Bass count did nothing to deter the assessment below that the Greens would not poach one of Labor’s two seats. A note of technical interest emerged when the overwhelmingly dominant Peter Gutwein’s surplus was distributed, and it favoured Sarah Courtney over Michael Ferguson to such an extent that Courtney was elected first despite having trailed Ferguson 5.7% to 3.3% on primary votes. The Lyons count dispelled any doubt that the second seat would go to Jen Butler rather than Janet Lambert, with Butler extending her lead as White’s preferences not unexpectedly favoured her fellow incumbent.

Also completed today were the preference distributions for the two Legislative Council contests. Windermere was confirmed as a Liberal gain upon the retirement of independent Ivan Dean, with Nick Duigan recording a 4.1% margin at the final count over the Labor candidate, former federal Bass MP Geoff Lyons. Duigan recorded 37.8% of the primary vote to Lyons’ 27.0%. Preferences from the three independents, Will Smith (21.2%), Rob Soward (9.7%) and Vivienne Gale (4.2%) favoured Labor by an insufficient 53.9% to 46.1%.

Labor’s Craig Farrell ended up being re-elected in Derwent with a 5.7% margin over Liberal candidate Ben Shaw, having fallen just short of a majority on the primary vote with 49.2% to Shaw’s 40.8%. The balance of 10.0% went to Animal Justice, whose preferences favoured Labor by a ratio of around two to one. This puts the numbers in the chamber at Labor five (steady), Liberal four (up one) and independents six (down one), which is a record high for the major parties.

Monday night

The count for the Tasmanian election reaches a milestone this morning with the cut-off for arrival of postal votes. My live results facility continues to offer exquisite detail on the vote totals here, but the game now is the complicated procedure of Hare-Clark preference distributions. These are done manually, in contrast to the procedures for the Senate and state upper houses, and will accordingly be take some time to complete — with results from the distribution, I gather, to be published piecemeal as the process unfolds (I must confess to never having paid this much attention to the late stages of a Tasmanian election count). This post will be updated with the details as they emerge.

Electoral commissioner Andrew Hawkey tells The Mercury he expects the all-important count for Clark to be resolved “late Wednesday or Thursday morning”, with Braddon, Franklin and Lyons to follow Thursday afternoon or evening and Bass not to be finished until Friday. To briefly summarise the situation:

Clark. This is presumably being prioritised in the count because it is on this Hobart-centred electorate that the result hinges, with the Liberals to secure a majority of 13 seats out of 25 if it can win a second seat, and Premier Peter Gutwein committed to resigning if the party falls short. Ella Haddad of Labor, Elise Archer of the Liberals, Cassy O’Connor of the Greens and an independent — either Kristie Johnston or Sue Hickey — are each assured of a seat, leaving the last seat as a race between a second Liberal and whoever remains out of Johnston and Hickey. With the Liberals on 1.91 quotas and Johnston and Hickey on 1.25 quotas between them, it will take extremely tight flows of preferences from Labor, the Greens and minor parties to cost the Liberals the second seat. The second Liberal would either be former Labor member Madeleine Ogilvie or Simon Behrakis.

Braddon. The result here will be three Liberal and two Labor, with only the identity of the second and third elected Liberals in doubt. Jeremy Rockliff has overwhelmingly dominated the Liberal ticket with 27.5% of the vote, with the preferences from his 10.8% surplus to decide who wins out of Felix Ellis (8.9%), Adam Brooks (also 8.9%) and Roger Jaensch (6.9%).

Franklin. A formality: Liberal members Jacquie Petrusma and Nic Street will be re-elected, Labor newcomer Dean Winter will join incumbent David O’Byrne as one of Labor’s two members at the expense of incumbent Alison Standen, and Rosalie Woodruff will be re-elected for the Greens.

Lyons. The Liberals will win three seats, with incumbents Guy Barnett, Mark Shelton and John Tucker to be re-elected; Labor will win two, with Rebecca White dominating the ticket and her preferences to decide the result between incumbent Jen Butler and non-incumbent Janet Lambert — very likely the former, since incumbent preferences tend to flow to other incumbents.

Bass. The vague prospect that the Greens would poach one of Labor’s two seats having faded, the result here will be three Liberal (Peter Gutwein, Michael Ferguson and Sarah Courtney) and two Labor (Michelle O’Byrne and Janie Finlay).

Upper Hunter by-election minus twelve days

An important New South Wales state by-election attracts a large field of candidates, with Shooters Fishers and Farmers and at least one independent looking competitive in a marginal Nationals-held seat.

Less than two weeks to go until the Upper Hunter by-election, on which hinges the parliamentary majority (though not, by any stretch, the hold on power) of Gladys Berejiklian’s government. Conversely, a bad result for Labor may put pressure on the leadership of Jodi McKay, who would appear to be struggling with low name recognition: the last poll that gauged her personal ratings, from Ipsos was back in October, had her at 22% approval and 25% disapproval, leaving fully 53% uncommitted. My guide to the by-election can be found here – it needs an update, and will get one later today.

The by-election has attracted a bloated field of 13 candidates, including five independents alongside the nominees of the Nationals, Labor, One Nation, Shooters Fishers and Farmers, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, Animal Justice and Sustainable Australia. The Nationals preselection was won by construction engineer David Layzell ahead of Singleton mayor Sue Moore – according to Max Maddison of The Australian, both Coalition and Labor strategists believe the local branch had “missed a trick” by overlooking Moore, who had been widely expected to win.

Labor’s candidate has been carefully chosen to assuage local concerns about its commitment to coal mining: Jeff Drayton, CFMEU mining division official and former Muswellbrook deputy mayor. As an approving Daily Telegraph reports, Drayton promises to be “just as loud just as often” as federal counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon, specifically regarding “inner-city greenies telling us what to do”, a designation that “most likely” applies to his own party’s climate spokesman, Adam Searle.

Absent from the field is the Liberal Party, the seat being reserved to the Nationals under the Coalition arrangement. This has given Malcolm Turnbull, who owns a farming property in the electorate, licence to stick his oar in by endorsing Kirsty O’Connell, Aberdeen farmer and independent candidate. Turnbull’s advocacy for the local area to transition from mining was one reason the Nationals were at the forefront of the successful charge to overturn his recent appointment to the state government’s Net Zero Emissions and Clean Economy Board. Turnbull suggests Gladys Berejiklian would “privately appreciate” O’Connell being elected ahead of Layzell.

Another independent is former Dungog mayor Tracy Norman, who has entered a preference swap with O’Connell, a move that was likewise applauded by Turnbull. Both O’Connell and Norman were critical of a recent Independent Planning Commission ruling to extend operations at a coal mine near Muswellbrook, which was applauded by the Nationals, Labor, One Nation and Shooters candidates along with independents Archie Lea and Steve Reynolds.

Two items of polling have emerged, though both are now showing their age: a uComms poll for the Australia Institute that looked encouraging for the Nationals, which was covered in this post; and a poll commissioned by Shooters Fishers and Farmers, and reported on in fairly vague terms by Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph, had “the Nationals at 25, Labor 21 and Shooters 18 on primaries”. The latter result was quite a bit better for its commissioning party than the former, which had Shooters on single figures.

Miscellany: election timing, Victorian ALP turmoil, compulsory super

Renewed uncertainty over federal election timing, courts involved in a Victorian ALP preselection, and a poll finding overwhelming support for higher super contributions.

Below this post is a live commentary thread on local and regional elections in the United Kingdom from regular guest contributor Adrian Beaumont; I myself am overdue for new posts on late counting in Tasmania and the looming Upper Hunter by-election on May 22, so stay tuned for those over the next few days. Other than that:

• A report by Max Maddison of The Australian suggests the pendulum may be swinging back to a federal election sooner rather than later, due to “the turmoil of the start of the year dissipating and the rate of vaccinations slowly increasing”. This is said to be reflected in the New South Wales Liberal Party’s commencement of preselection proceedings this week for 13 seats, for which nominations will close on May 21.

The Age reports that Victoria’s Supreme Court will today consider a last-minute bid by ten unions to prevent the Labor national executive from choosing a candidate for the new federal seat of Hawke on Melbourne’s north-western fringe. The national executive had been expected to vote today to endorse former state secretary Sam Rae as part of a deal between elements of Rae’s Right faction, notably federal front-bencher Richard Marles, and the Socialist Left. This freezes out the rival Right forces associated with Bill Shorten and the Australian Workers Union, who favour the rival claim of state minister Natalie Hutchins, who is also invoking the cause of affirmative action. The legal action seeks to establish that the federal party organisation had acted improperly in taking over the state branch in response to the Adem Somyurek branch-stacking scandal.

• The Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods has published results from a survey of 3459 respondents on “attitudes towards and experiences of retirement and social security income during the COVID-recession and initial recovery”. Among other things, it finds 55.0% support for an increase in compulsory superannuation from 9.5% to 12% as per current legislation, with 20.8% thinking it should be lifted even higher. Only 20.4% said it should remain at the current level, and only 3.8% believed it should be lowered or eliminated altogether.

UK local, Scottish and Welsh elections live

Live commentary on today’s UK elections, and a Westminster by-election in Labour-held Hartlepool, where a poll gave the Conservatives a 17-point lead. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Results Summary

In England, Labour suffered a crushing Westminster by-election loss in Hartlepool, with the Tories romping to a 52-29 victory in a Labour-held seat. Labour’s vote was nine points down on what they got with Jeremy Corbyn as leader in the December 2019 general election – and that was a bad loss overall.

In English local council elections, the Tories won the BBC’s Projected National Share by 36-29 over Labour, a bad result for an opposition party. With all 143 councils up for election reported, the Tories have gained over 200 councillors, while Labour has lost over 300. The Greens are up almost 90 councillors.

In Scotland, the SNP fell one seat short of a majority, but will be able to continue governing with the Greens. In Wales, Labour is one seat short, but will continue to govern with the Lib Dems. The Welsh result contradicts English results. Labour’s Sadiq Khan was easily re-elected London mayor.

Live Commentary

10:16am Monday With all 143 English councils declared, the Tories control 63 (up 13), Labour 44 (down eight) and the Lib Dems seven (up one). The Tories won 2,345 councillors (up 235), Labour 1,345 (down 326), the Lib Dems 586 (up seven), the Greens 151 (up 88) and UKIP zero (down 48).

10am With 132 of the 143 English councils declared, the Tories control 58 councils (up 12), Labour 44 (down seven) and the Lib Dems five (steady). The Tories have 2,205 councillors (up 239), Labour 1,268 (down 301), the Lib Dems 524 (down eight), the Greens 121 (up 70) and UKIP zero (down 43). These elections were good for the Tories and Greens, and bad for Labour and UKIP.

9:48am For the London Assembly, Labour won 11 of the 25 seats (down one since 2016), the Tories nine (up one), the Greens three (up one), the Lib Dems two (up one) and UKIP zero (down two). Labour will need support from either the Greens or Lib Dems on measures opposed by the Tories. Labour won nine of the 14 FPTP seats.

9:07am With 11 of 13 mayors declared, Labour has gained two from the Tories. Mayoral elections use preferential voting, and Labour won in one of their gains after trailing on first preferences. In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, primary votes were 40.5% Tory, 32.8% Labour and 26.7% Lib Dem. Labour won by 51.3-48.7 after preferences.

8:58am Labour’s Sadiq Khan is re-elected Mayor of London by 55.2-44.8 over Tory Shaun Bailey. Primary votes were 40.0% Khan, 35.3% Bailey, 7.8% Greens and 4.4% Lib Dem.

6:57am Labour fell just short of a majority in Wales, winning 30 of the 60 seats (up one since 2016). The Tories won 16 (up five), Plaid Cymru 13 (up one) and the Lib Dems one (steady). The Labour/Lib Dem coalition will continue. List vote shares were 36.2% Labour (up 4.7%), 25.1% Tories (up 6.3%), 20.7% Plaid Cymru (down 0.1%), 4.3% Lib Dem (down 2.2%), 4.4% Greens (up 1.4%) and 1.6% UKIP (down 11.4%). Labour won 27 of the 40 FPTP seats.

6:48am Sunday The SNP has fallen one seat short of a Scottish parliamentary majority, winning 64 of the 129 seats (up one since 2016). The Tories won 31 seats (steady), Labour 22 (down two), the Greens eight (up two) and the Lib Dems four (down one). The SNP won 62 of the 73 FPTP seats, but only 40.3% of the list vote (down 1.4%). The Tories won 23.5% in the list (up 0.6%), Labour 17.9% (down 1.2%), the Greens 8.1% (up 1.5%) and the Lib Dems 5.1% (down 0.1%). The SNP/Green coalition will continue.

10:18pm Labour is still on 30 seats in Wales, one short of a majority, after 56 of the 60 are declared. There’s one four-member region to go. In England, with 97 of 143 councils declared, the Tories are pulling well ahead of Labour, who have lost over 200 councillors.

11:23am After these seven of 14 FPTP seats declared, Labour’s Sadiq Khan leads Tory Shaun Bailey for London mayor by 39.0% to 37.0%. Of the seven remaining seats, five voted Labour and two Tory in 2016. Khan should increase his primary vote lead when these are counted, and will benefit from Greens and Lib Dem preferences. It will be closer than polls expected, but Khan will win.

10:35am As well as the mayor, there is a London-wide Assembly. So far, only seven of the 25 Assembly seats have been declared. These are all FPTP with list seats to be added later. Labour has won four of the seven, and the Tories three; there is no change in any seat declared from 2016.

10:17am With 87 of the 143 English councils declared, the Tories control 36 councils (up six) and Labour 33 (down four). The Tories have 1,379 councillors (up 153), Labour 864 (down 186), the Lib Dems 273 (down 25) and the Greens 78 (up 51).

10:10am Labour is on the verge of a majority in Wales. They’ve won 30 of the 52 seats declared so far (up one), with 12 Tories (up four), nine Plaid Cymru (down one), one Lib Dem (steady) and zero UKIP (down four). If Labour wins one of the eight regional seats in two regions to be declared, they will have a Welsh parliamentary majority. However, they may have maxed out in those regions owing to their FPTP dominance.

8:05am In Wales, two of the regional lists have been declared. Labour now has 27 of the 47 to be declared so far (up one), the Tories 12 (up four) and Plaid Cymru eight (down one). One FPTP and three four-member regions remain. A majority is 31 seats.

7am Labour has won 26 of the 39 Welsh seats declared so far, steady since 2016. The Tories have eight (up two), Plaid Cymru five (down one) and the Lib Dems zero (down one). Labour and the Tories’ vote share have both increased 5% from 2016, with UKIP down 12%. One FPTP remains to be declared, then the 20 regional seats.

6:50am In Scotland, the SNP have won 39 of the 48 seats declared so far, a gain of three for them since 2016. The Lib Dems have four (steady), the Tories three (down two) and Labour two (down one). All seats declared so far are FPTP seats, not the proportional list. So far, the SNP have gained 1.3% in their vote share. There will be no further counting until tonight AEST.

6:39am Saturday The BBC’s Projected National Share, based on English councils to declare so far, is 36% Tory, 29% Labour and 17% Lib Dem. The seven-point Tory lead compares with a one-point Labour lead in 2016 and an 11-point Tory lead in 2017, the last time councillors elected here were up. Governments usually perform worse at council elections than general elections, so this is very bad for Labour. The Lib Dems always do worse at general elections than at council elections.

6:21pm After 16 of 143 councils declared, the Tories have overtaken Labour in both councils controlled and total councillors.

6:17pm Most councils declared so far last elected in 2016, when Labour won nationally by one point and UKIP was still strong. The Tories have consolidated the UKIP vote. An exception is Northumberland, last elected in 2017. The Tories were up one seat there and Labour down three. 2017 was already very bad for Labour (they lost by 38-27 nationally).

4:16pm Labour got THRASHED in the Hartlepool by-election by 23 points. That’s even worse than the 17 points in the Survation poll. Another seat to add to the Tories’ big majority in the Commons. Labour’s vote was nine points worse than under Corbyn in Dec 2019! RefUK measured against Brexit party support in 2019.

3:20pm The Greens gain a ward in Stockport from Labour.

3:15pm Labour GAINS a ward in Northumberland from the Tories. A better result for Labour than most so far.

3:06pm: So far, we’ve got complete results from only 11 of 143 English councils, nothing from Scotland or Wales and nothing from London. This BBC item says it’ll probably take until Saturday night to get full results (Sunday morning AEST). It’s taking longer than usual due to COVID precautions and a high number of elections.

1:47pm Scotland and Wales will start counting Friday morning UK time (tonight AEST).

1:42pm After nine of 143 English councils declared, Labour have 98 councillors (down 28), the Tories 53 (up 24), the Lib Dems 22 (up three) and the Greens three (up two).

12:57pm In the first council to officially change hands, the Conservatives won 12 of the 13 up for election (up seven) in Harlow, to have an overall 20-13 majority over Labour.

12:35pm Swing of over 40% (!!) to the Conservatives in a ward on Nuneaton and Bedworth council. Tories now have a majority on that council for first time since 2008.

11:51am Labour is already conceding defeat in the Hartlepool by-election.

10:35am No councils officially declared yet, but there have been dreadful results for Labour in northern, pro-Leave areas.

9:12am The first result is in from a ward in Northumberland, and it’s grim for Labour. They held, but only by two points as the Tory vote surged 27 points with no UKIP.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Polls close for today’s UK elections at 7am AEST. In the UK, all votes for a seat or council are gathered in one place and counted there. Scotland and Wales use regional lists, and we will not know the regional result until at least all First Past the Post seats in that region are declared. I expect we will need to wait until at least Saturday morning AEST for final results.

The biggest news since Monday’s article is a poll for the Westminster by-election in Labour-held Hartlepool. This Survation poll, conducted April 23-29 from a sample of 517, gave the Conservatives 50%, Labour 33%, two independents a combined 12% and the Greens 3%. A previous Survation poll, in early April, gave the Conservatives a 49-42 lead over Labour.

While Hartlepool has been Labour-held since 1964, it voted to Leave the European Union in 2016 by nearly a 70-30 margin. At the December 2019 general election, Labour was only saved by a split between the Conservatives and Brexit party. Labour had 37.7%, the Conservatives 28.9%, the Brexit party 25.8% and the Lib Dems 4.1%.

In Australia, single-seat polls have been particularly error-prone, but it would be unusual for a poll to be wrong by 17 points or more. Losing Hartlepool would be a disaster for Labour.

UK local, Scottish and Welsh elections minus four days

Two polls have a sizeable swing back to Labour before Friday’s (AEST) elections. Also: Joe Biden’s ratings after 100 days and German election polls.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

UK local government elections will be held on Thursday, with polls closing at 7am Friday AEST. Elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments will also be held. Owing to COVID, no elections were held in 2020, so these elections will combine the normal 2021 with the rescheduled 2020 elections.

The key statistic for assessing the performance of the parties is the Projected National Share (PNS). This is calculated by assuming elections were held across the whole UK, correcting for bias in where elections were actually held.

In the 2016 cycle, which would normally have been up in 2020, the PNS was Labour 31%, Conservative 30%, Lib Dem 15% and UKIP 12%. In 2017, it was Conservative 38%, Labour 27% and Lib Dem 18%. The 2017 local elections were held a month before the 2017 general election at which the Conservatives lost their majority.

The Scottish and Welsh elections use first past the post with regional lists. Parties that win a large proportion of FPTP seats will earn few regional seats, so the system is far more proportional than the simple FPTP used at UK general elections and most councils.

National UK polls currently give the Conservatives about 42%, Labour 35%, the Lib Dems 8% and the Greens 5%. In the last week, two polls have shown a shift to Labour, with the Conservative lead in Survation dropping from six points to one, and in Opinium from 11 points to five. This narrowing has not been replicated in all polls. If it is real, perhaps it is attributable to PM Boris Johnson’s recent scandals.

In Scotland, the Britain Elects tracker has the Scottish National Party (SNP) on 62 of the 129 seats, three short of a majority. The Conservatives have 26 seats, Labour 25, the Greens 11 and Lib Dems five. This outcome would likely result in a continuation of the existing SNP/Green coalition. There has been a recent slide in SNP support in both FPTP and regional list polling, and No to independence has pulled ahead 51-49.

Labour is likely to remain the largest party at the Welsh election, though they will find it difficult to find a governing partner. In other important contests, Labour’s Sadiq Khan is certain to retain London’s mayoralty. There is also a Westminster by-election in Labour-held Hartlepool. In 2019, Labour would probably have lost Hartlepool, which they have held since 1964, if not for vote splitting between the Conservatives and Brexit party.

After first 100 days, Biden has 54% approval rating

It is 102 days since Joe Biden began his term as US president on January 20. In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, his ratings with all polls are 54.0% approve, 41.1% disapprove (net +12.9%). With polls of likely or registered voters, Biden’s ratings are 53.8% approve, 42.0% disapprove (net +11.8%). For the duration of his presidency, Biden’s approval has been between 53% and 55%.

FiveThirtyEight has ratings of presidents since Harry Truman (president from 1945-53). At this stage of their presidencies, Biden’s net approval is only ahead of Donald Trump and Gerald Ford (who took over after Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974).

The US economy, boosted by stimulus payments, appears to be recovering very well from COVID, but attempted illegal immigration has surged since Biden became president. The key question is how Biden’s ratings look at the November 2022 midterms, when the president’s party normally loses seats.

Democrats performed badly at a federal House by-election in Texas on Saturday. Trump beat Biden by just three points in this district, but Republicans overall crushed Democrats 62-37. Democrats failed to make the top two, meaning the runoff will be R vs R.

Greens narrowly lead CDU/CSU in Germany

In January the moderate Armin Laschet won the CDU leadership, but was challenged for the joint leadership of the CDU/CSU by the CSU’s Markus Söder. The CSU only runs in the state of Bavaria, and is regarded as more right-wing than the CDU. On April 19, the CDU’s federal board ruled in Laschet’s favour by 31-9.

Since this vote, the Greens have surged into the mid to high 20’s, while the CDU/CSU has fallen to the low 20’s. Overall, the left-wing parties (Greens, Social Democrats and Left) are a little ahead of the right-wing parties (CDU/CSU, far-right AfD and pro-business FDP). Will this polling movement hold up until the German election on September 26? Germany uses proportional representation with a 5% threshold.