England COVID “Freedom Day” plus two weeks

A drop for the Conservatives in the polls as UK COVID cases fall. Also: German polls ahead of the September 26 election, and Biden’s ratings and US COVID.

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.

Boris Johnson declared July 19 would be COVID “Freedom Day” in England, the day when virtually all remaining- COVID restrictions were relaxed. Freedom Day only applied to England, with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland retaining some restrictions.

Over 88% of UK adults have received a first dose of COVID vaccination, and over 72% have received both doses (fully vaccinated). About 95% of English aged over 55 are fully vaccinated. The vaccination coverage for the elderly, who are most vulnerable to COVID, explains Johnson’s Freedom Day.

The government could have given younger people more opportunity to be vaccinated, but they wanted to have Freedom Day during summer, when there are fewer complications from cold weather.

After peaking at over 54,000 daily cases on July 17, two days before Freedom Day, UK daily cases declined to 23,500 last Tuesday. On Thursday, cases rose to over 31,000, but have fallen every day since to below 22,000 Monday. The government and many epidemiologists had predicted daily cases would rise to over 100,000 after Freedom Day.

While cases had nearly increased to their January peaks on July 17, the rolling seven-day COVID death average has only increased to 75. That’s a massive reduction from the horrific January peak when the seven-day average was over 1,200 deaths. The UK’s vaccination program has clearly worked in reducing the severity of COVID for elderly people.

In national polls conducted the week after Freedom Day, the Conservative lead over Labour fell from the high single to low double digits to only two to five points, likely owing to public disapproval of the perceived recklessness of Freedom Day. But with daily COVID cases roughly halving instead of doubling, it is likely that the Conservatives will soon regain a large lead.

German election: September 26

The German federal election will be held on September 26. The conservative CDU/CSU has governed since 2005, with assistance from the centre-left SPD in three of those four terms. Parties require at least 5% to qualify for the proportional allocation of seats.

A few months ago, the Greens were doing much better, and the combined vote for the left parties (SPD, Greens and far-left Left) was just ahead of the combined right vote (CDU/CSU, far-right AfD and pro-business FDP). But the CDU/CSU has since regained ground at the Greens’ expense, and the right is now ahead by about a 50-43 margin. The Left party is at 6-7%, close to the threshold.

While no other party will work with the AfD, any government would need to include a right-wing party on current polls. I believe Germans were dissatisfied with their vaccination rollout, but are now better disposed, as over 51% of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated; the denominator includes children. The recovery of the CDU/CSU has implications for the Australian Coalition’s recovery once vaccinations are at a high level.

Biden’s ratings steady as US suffers “pandemic of the unvaccinated”

Over six months into Joe Biden’s presidency, the FiveThirtyEight aggregate gives him 51.5% approval and 43.4% disapproval (net +8.1%). With registered or likely voters, Biden’s ratings are 51.0% approval, 44.5% disapproval (net +6.5%). Biden’s ratings have been steady, but there has been a little recent decline. On net approval, Biden is ahead of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at this point in their presidencies.

NBC News has two maps, one showing where US COVID cases are rising fastest, and one showing the unvaccinated percentage in each state. There is correlation between these two series, but there have been large rises in Florida and California, which are both close to the fully vaccinated share of the national population (49.2%). Most states with current large outbreaks voted for Trump in 2020, but California is the exception. According to a US ABC hospital survey, 94% of COVID ICU patients were unvaccinated.

An economic danger for Biden is inflation. The US Consumer Price Index has increased 2.9% in the four months to June, for a total increase of 5.4% since June 2020. High inflation undermines wage growth. Most analysts believe current inflation is transitory, and will ease as supply chains are ramped up.

UK Batley and Spen by-election minus one day

Conservatives likely to gain a second seat at a by-election. Also covered: French regional elections and a massive stuff-up on preferential voting in New York City.

Updates

5:30pm If the expected loss had occurred, many in Labour would have been calling for Keir Starmer’s head. So Starmer and his allies will be jubilant at this result.

4:58pm Labour HOLD Batley and Spen. Vote shares were 35.3% Labour (down 7.4%), 34.4% Tory (down 1.6%) and 21.9% for the Workers’ Party’s Galloway. This result is very contrary to expectations of a Tory gain. While Galloway was expected to help the Tories by taking away from Labour, some people who may have voted Tory probably voted Galloway as he was another anti-establishment candidate. Also, the Tory lead in national polls has fallen from low double digits to high single digits. Maybe this reflects the vaccination surge for the Tories finally wearing off, plus the Matt Hancock scandal.

11:55am I need to leave soon, so I won’t be able to post the result until I get back later this afternoon. But local council by-election results look dire for Labour – you can read about them on the Britain Elects Twitter account.

11:50am Friday George Galloway stood in Batley and Spen for the Workers’ Party on a platform to the left of Labour. A tweet from a Daily Mirror correspondent says his party expects Galloway to come second, driving Labour into third.

9:15am Even though preferences were entirely optional at this NYC election, just 29.3% of all votes cast for candidates other than Adams and Garcia exhausted. That’s far less than in NSW for eg the Upper Hunter by-election, when over 60% of all minor candidates’ preferences exhausted.

9am Thursday Garcia trails Adams by almost 15,000 votes (51.1-48.9) in the corrected NYC preferential vote with over 125,000 postals still to be added that are expected to favour Garcia. Garcia edged out Wiley by just 0.1% at the second last count.

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 for the UK Labour-held Batley and Spen by-election close at 7am AEST Friday. This seat voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7% since 2017), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party. A Survation poll two weeks ago gave the Conservatives a 47-41 lead over Labour.

If the Conservatives win Batley and Spen, it would be their second gain at a by-election this term, following their early May triumph in Hartlepool. Except for 1961, when the Conservatives gained after the winning Labour candidate was disqualified, this would be the first time since 1929 that an incumbent government gained two seats at by-elections.

I believe Labour is in trouble in its seats that voted for Brexit because of education polarisation. I wrote in May for The Conversation that whites without a university education are deserting left-leaning parties in Australia, the US and the UK.

While the Conservatives have been winning in Brexit voting Labour seats, they were rebuffed at the Chesham and Amersham by-election last fortnight. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up a massive 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%), the Greens 3.9% (down 1.6%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%). This seat was 55% Remain.

This by-election was the 15th largest “two party” swing in UK by-elections. The Lib Dems and their Liberal predecessors have benefited in seven of the larger swings, with some others having MPs who switched parties before resigning and recontesting. However, Labour’s vote share appears to be their lowest at a by-election they contested.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock resigned on Saturday after pictures of him kissing his female aide were published by The Sun on Friday. Hancock’s major problem was not infidelity to his wife, but that he had advocated social distancing during COVID, but was not distancing from his aide. A national poll taken on Monday gave the Conservatives a seven point lead, down from 11 the previous week.

French regional elections and polling for 2022 presidential election

French regional elections were held in two rounds on June 20 and 27. The Guardian reported that results were disappointing for both Marine le Pen’s far-right National Rally, and incumbent president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist La République en Marche. Neither party won any regions, as the centre-left Socialists and centre-right Républicains dominated. Turnout was low, with 66% of registered voters abstaining.

The first round of the French presidential election will be held in April 2022. If no candidate wins at least 50%, a runoff between the top two is held a fortnight after the first round.

For the first round, le Pen is just ahead of Macron, by about 27% to 26%, with both well ahead of other candidates who are under 18%. In the second round, Macron is leading le Pen by about 53.5-46.5. That’s well down from Macron’s crushing 66.1-33.9 margin in 2017, though polls understated Macron’s vote then.

Preferential voting comes to New York City!

The Democratic mayoral primary for NYC occurred on June 22 using preferential voting for the first time. As NYC is heavily Democratic, the Democratic nominee is almost certain to win the November general election.

Black former policeman Eric Adams led on first preferences with 31.7%, followed by left-wing activist Maya Wiley with 22.3%, former NYC sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia with 19.5% and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang with 11.7%.

These primary votes reflected the election night count. Over 140,000 votes were added and preferences were distributed on Tuesday (US time), and Garcia was just ahead of Wiley at the penultimate count, before losing to Adams by 51.1-48.9. The nearly 16,000 Adams margin excluded over 124,000 postal votes that are expected to favour Garcia.

But late on Tuesday, the NYC Board of Elections yanked these results. Analyst Dave Wasserman said something was wrong with the 140,000 additional votes, which had low vote shares for the four major candidates – they’re mostly test votes that hadn’t been removed. Maybe we’ll get clearer results Thursday AEST, but currently this NYC election is a massive stuff-up. This will provide ammunition for Trump’s baseless fraud claims.

I will update this article in the next two days to follow developments in NYC and Batley and Spen.

Netanyahu ousted in Israeli Knesset confidence vote

Also covered: US and UK by-elections, a German state election and federal polls, and the far-left narrowly wins in Peru.

11:24am Saturday A grim Survation poll for Labour in Batley and Spen, with the Tories leading Labour by 47-41.

11:06am Friday The Lib Dems have GAINED the UK Chesham and Amersham by-election from the Conservatives. The Lib Dems won 56.7% (up 30.4%), the Conservatives 35.5% (down 19.9%) and Labour a pathetic 1.6% (down 11.2%).

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.

At the March Israeli election, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc of parties won 59 of the 120 Knesset seats, two short of the 61 for a majority. Netanyahu was given the first attempt to form a government, but was unsuccessful.

On June 2, just before the deadline expired, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid announced he had formed a government that excluded Netanyahu. Under the agreement, Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina, would be PM for two years, with Lapid taking over for the remainder of the four-year term. The coalition has parties from across the political spectrum, including a small Arab party for the first time in an Israeli government.

On Sunday, the Israeli Knesset held a confidence vote in the new government, and it won this vote by 60-59, with one Arab member abstaining. Bennett became PM, ending Netanyahu’s 12 successive years as Israel’s PM. Yamina won just seven seats at the election, while Yesh Atid won 17.

The key question is how long the present government will last. The parties that formed it are united only by their detestation of Netanyahu. As the government is headed by a far-right PM, it’s unlikely to be good for Palestinian rights.

US Democrats perform strongly in New Mexico by-election             

At a by-election for New Mexico’s first Congressional District on June 1, the Democrat defeated the Republican by a 60.3-35.7% margin. The almost 25-point Democratic victory is two points better for Democrats than Joe Biden’s margin over Donald Trump in the same district in 2020, and eight points better than the Democratic incumbent in 2020. This was much better for Democrats than the dreadful result in a Texas federal by-election on May 1.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, Biden’s current ratings are 53.2% approve, 40.7% disapprove (net +12.5%). With polls of likely or registered voters, his ratings are 53.6% approve, 41.3% disapprove (net +12.3%).

Biden’s initial ratings had high disapprovals by the standards of past presidents, and he was ahead of only Trump on net approval. But his approval has since been very steady, and he has overtaken Bill Clinton and Gerald Ford at the same point of their presidencies.

Good result for CDU at German state election

At the June 6 Saxony-Anhalt state election, the conservative CDU won 37.1% (up 7.4% since 2016), the far-right AfD 20.6% (down 3.4%), the Left 11.0% (down 5.3%), the centre-left SPD 8.4% (down 2.2%), the pro-business FDP 6.4% (up 1.6%) and the Greens 5.9% (up 0.8%). The CDU won 40 of the 97 seats, the AfD 23, the Left 12, SPD nine, FDP seven and Greens six. 5% is needed for the proportional allocation of seats, so the FDP missed out last time.

In German federal polls ahead of the September 26 election, the CDU/CSU has advanced at the expense of the Greens since my last update in early May, with the FDP also up, while the Left is close to the 5% threshold. Right-wing parties now have about 50% combined, to about 43% for the combined left. Another poor election for the left in a major European country is likely.

Upcoming UK by-elections

On Thursday, a by-election will occur in the Conservative-held Chesham and Amersham. While this seat has been Conservative-held since its creation in 1974, it voted 55% Remain at the Brexit referendum. To compensate for the loss of its Leave-voting seats, Labour needs to gain seats like C&A. Although Labour finished second in 2017, the 2019 results were 55.4% Conservative (down 5.3%), 26.3% Lib Dem (up 13.3%), 12.9% Labour (down 7.7%) and 5.5% Greens (up 2.5%).

There will be a July 1 by-election in Labour-held Batley and Spen, which voted 60% Leave at the Brexit referendum. The 2019 results were 42.7% Labour (down 12.7%), 36.0% Conservative (down 2.8%), 12.2% for an independent, 4.7% Lib Dem (up 2.4%) and 3.2% Brexit party.

Far-left defeats far-right in Peru

In the June 6 Peru presidential runoff, the far-left’s Pedro Castillo defeated the far-right’s Keiko Fujimori by just a 50.13-49.87 margin. Fujimori is the daughter of the former dictator, and has narrowly lost three runoffs. In the first round, Castillo won 18.9% and Fujimori 13.4% with the rest being too split to qualify for the runoff.

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.

Israeli election minus three days; UK local elections minus seven weeks

A right coalition under Netanyahu looking likely in Israel, while UK Labour’s polling is poor, and support for Scottish independence drops.

Live Israeli election commentary

6:40pm With 87% in, Netanyahu’s right bloc has declined to a combined 59 of the 120 seats, two short of a majority. A key reason is that the United Arab List, which was below the 3.25% threshold previously, is now back up to 4.0%. Also, Tel Aviv, a bastion of the left in Israel, reports late.

2:55pm With about half the votes counted, OryxMaps has the right-wing parties aligned with Netanyahu getting a total of 65 of the 120 Knesset seats. This is currently biased towards the right.

9:55am An updated exit poll, based on late voters, now gives Netanyahu’s right bloc 60 of the 120 seats, one seat short of a majority. As I said before, it’s still highly possible for Netanyahu to form a government even if his bloc is just short.

7:30am Wednesday The OryxMaps Twitter account has details of three exit polls. While there are differences in individual party support, all three give the most probable right-wing coalition (Likud, Yamina, Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionists) 61 of the 120 seats, enough for a majority.

Counting is slow in Israel, with most votes not counted until the afternoon our time. It will take a few more days to get final results.

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.

The Israeli election will be held on Tuesday, with polls closing at 7am Wednesday AEDT. This election will be held just over a year after the last election. Owing to failure to form a governing coalition, there were three elections in a year from 2019-20.

After the March 2020 election, a grand coalition was formed between Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’ Blue & White, with Gantz recanting on his promise to not form a government with Netanyahu owing to COVID. Before entering negotiations with Netanyahu, Gantz had received support from 61 of the 120 Knesset members; he threw away what is likely to be the best chance to defeat Netanyahu.

Under the agreement, Netanyahu and Gantz would rotate the premiership, with Netanyahu having the first 18 months. The agreement broke down at the end of 2020, when Gantz realized (surprise! surprise!) that Netanyahu had no intention of giving up being PM. The Knesset was dissolved in late December.

The 120 Knesset members are elected by national proportional representation with a 3.25% threshold. Blue & White won 33 seats at the 2020 election, but are now only polling just above this threshold.

Likud is easily the largest party in the polls with about 31 seats, well ahead of Yesh Atid with 18. Religious parties (UTJ, Shas and Religious Zionist) are likely to win 20 combined seats. The right-wing Yamina is on about nine seats. Likud plus these four parties is about 60 of the 120 seats, very close to a majority.

Even if these five parties fall short of a majority, Netanyahu may be able to form a government with the assistance of former leadership rival Gideon Saar’s New Hope. New Hope has several former Likud members, and polls give it about eight seats.

It isn’t just the opposition’s disarray that is helping Netanyahu, but also Israel’s successful vaccination program; it is the world’s leader on vaccine doses administered per capita. From a peak of 101 COVID deaths on January 20, Isreal’s daily COVID death rate has fallen into single figures.

Bad polling for UK Labour ahead of local elections

Local elections will be held throughout England on May 6, and also include elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments. Owing to COVID cancellation of 2020’s elections, there will be far more seats than usual at stake.

Last April, Keir Starmer easily won the Labour leadership. Like most incumbents, the Conservatives had a polling surge in their favour as a result of COVID. But with deaths increasing to a peak of more than 1,500 on several days in January, Labour was in a near-tie with the Conservatives in late 2020.

The UK’s vaccination drive, with 42 doses per 100 people, has been far better than the European Union (13 per 100). As in Israel, UK deaths have fallen dramatically from their January peak. As a result, the Conservatives have opened about a six-point lead over Labour.

A bad performance for Labour in the local elections probably means little for the next general election, not due until 2024. But Starmer could be ousted. It takes 20% of Labour’s MPs to nominate a challenger. Much of Labour’s left-wing membership voted for Starmer in the expectation he would perform much better than Jeremy Corbyn at the disastrous 2019 election. If Labour can’t poll better, Starmer could be replaced by a left-winger.

As with UK Labour’s support, support for Scottish independence has recently fallen. A ComRes poll in January gave Yes to independence a 13-point lead, but in March they had No up by two points, with other pollsters similar. There has been a recent dip for the SNP that could cost them a majority in the Scottish election; there is a far more proportional system for Welsh and Scottish elections than UK general elections.

German and Dutch elections

In Germany, there has been a slump in support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU that gives the three left-wing parties a realistic chance of forming government at the September election. The left nearly won outright majorities at two recent state elections. However, Wednesday’s Dutch election was dismal for the left. I covered these elections on my personal website on Friday.

Biden increases lead over Trump

Trump’s ratings fall back as the US is engulfed by protests over George Floyd’s murder. The UK Conservatives also slide. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 42.7% approve, 53.6% disapprove (net -10.9%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.7% approve, 53.8% disapprove (net -11.1%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about three points on net approval. His disapproval rating is at its highest since the early stages of the Ukraine scandal last November.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has widened to 7.8%, up from 4.5% three weeks ago. That is Biden’s biggest lead since December 2019.

In the key states that will decide the Electoral College and hence the presidency, it is less clear. National and state polls by Change Research gave Biden a seven-point lead nationally, but just a three-point lead in Florida, a two-point lead in Michigan and a one-point lead in North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump and Biden were tied, while Trump led by one in Arizona and four in Pennsylvania.

This relatively rosy state polling picture for Trump is contradicted by three Fox News polls. In these polls, Biden leads by nine points in Wisconsin, four points in Arizona and two points in Ohio. Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016, and it was not thought to be in play.

Ironically, Change Research is a Democrat-associated pollster, while Fox News is very pro-Trump. Fieldwork for all these state polls was collected since May 29, when the George Floyd protests began. A Texas poll from Quinnipiac University had Trump leading by just one point. Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016.

US daily coronavirus cases and deaths are down from their peak, and stock markets anticipate a strong economic recovery. But it is likely that a greater amount of economic activity will allow the virus to resurge. A strong recovery from coronavirus would assist Trump, but unemployment is a lagging indicator that recovers more slowly than the overall economy. The May US jobs report will be released Friday night in Australia.

Concerning the protests over the murder of George Floyd, in an Ipsos poll for Reuters conducted Monday and Tuesday, 64% said they sympathised with the protesters, while 27% did not. 55% disapproved of Trump’s handling of the protests, while just 33% approved. That’s well below Trump’s overall approval of 39% in that poll.

UK Conservatives slump after Dominic Cummings scandal

In late May, it was revealed that PM Boris Johnson’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, had breached quarantine rules during the coronavirus lockdown in March. However, Cummings did not resign and Johnson refused to sack him.

An Opinium poll for The Observer gave the Conservatives just a 43-39 lead over Labour, down from a 12-point lead the previous week. It is the lowest Conservative lead in that poll since Johnson became PM. Johnson’s net approval was down from +6 to -5. 68% thought Cummings should resign, and 66% thought Johnson should sack him if he did not resign.

However, a YouGov poll for The Times gave the Conservatives a ten-point lead, up from six points previously, implying that public anger may be short-lived. In general, the poll trend over the last two months has been towards Labour, as the UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen to be the second highest behind the US.

Another NZ poll has Labour in the high 50s

A Roy Morgan New Zealand poll gave Labour a 56.5% to 26.5% lead over National, concurring with two polls published in May. The poll was taken April 27 to May 24, so it does not account for the May 22 change in National leadership. New Zealand has just one active coronavirus case remaining, and has recorded no new cases since May 22. It increasingly appears they have succeeded in eliminating coronavirus.

US Iowa Democratic caucus minus six days

Polls show Bernie Sanders with a narrow lead over Joe Biden in Iowa. Also: the upcoming Irish election and yet more on Brexit. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

Six days before the US February 3 Iowa Democratic caucus, the RealClearPolitics poll average has Bernie Sanders narrowly leading with 25.0%, followed by Joe Biden on 22.0%, Pete Buttigieg 17.0% and Elizabeth Warren 13.5%.  Nationally, it’s 28.4% Biden, 23.0% Sanders, 14.9% Warren, 8.0% Michael Bloomberg and 6.9% Buttigieg.  In the last two weeks, Biden and particularly Sanders have gained, mostly at Warren’s expense.

Iowa is important because it helps to winnow the field of candidates, and candidates who exceed expectations often get a surge in their national voting intentions.  Three more contests are scheduled in February: New Hampshire (February 11), Nevada (February 22) and South Carolina (February 29).

The early states are important mainly to demonstrate strength; on “Super Tuesday” March 3, 36% of all pledged delegates will be awarded, and this could be decisive.  Delegates are allocated proportional to vote share in each state and Congressional District (CD), but with a high threshold of 15%.  That threshold applies to CDs, so any candidate who fails to break 15% in a CD gets zero delegates from that CD.

Biden has polled strongly with black voters, but not so well with whites.  Iowa is a virtually all-white state.  If, as some polls suggest, Biden nevertheless won Iowa, he would likely be the Democratic nominee to face Donald Trump in November.  If he fails to win Iowa, Biden is still well-placed when the contest turns to more diverse states.

You can see my Conversation articles for more on the US elections.  The strong US economy is Trump’s best asset.

Is Brexit over on January 31?  No

After the Conservative landslide at the December 12 election, Boris Johnson easily passed his Brexit deal through the Commons, and Britain will Leave the European Union on January 31.

However, there will be no major changes until at least December 31, when the transition period expires.  The transition period could be extended, but Johnson has ruled it out by legislation.  The transition period is time to negotiate a UK/EU trade deal, and pass it through parliament.

While the Conservatives hold 365 of the 650 Commons seats, 118 Conservative MPs rejected Theresa May’s deal when first put to a vote in January last year, and 75 in March.  Johnson would easily lose Commons divisions if those defections were repeated.

If Johnson agrees a soft trade deal with the EU, he is likely to anger hard Leave Conservative MPs.  If no deal were agreed, there would be a “no deal” Brexit on December 31.  With Brexit assured, there would be little incentive for hard Leavers to hold their noses and vote for a soft Brexit.

Also in Britain, there is a Labour leadership contest.  This will be decided by a preferential postal vote among Labour members, with the result announced in early April.  The main contenders appear to be the pro-Remain Keir Starmer and the pro-Corbyn Rebecca Long-Bailey.  A mid-January YouGov poll of Labour members gave Starmer a 63-37 lead over Long-Bailey, from first preferences of Starmer 46%, Long-Bailey 32%.

A Starmer victory is unlikely to help Labour in Leave-voting regions.  According to a YouGov post-election poll, the Conservatives won lower-income voters by a greater margin than higher-income voters.  They won those with the lowest education level by 58-25.

Irish election: February 8

The Irish election will be held on a Saturday.  Previous Irish elections have been held on weekdays, so this Saturday election may boost turnout.  The 160 lower house seats are elected in 39 electorates that each have three to five members.  Ireland uses Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system, so a quota for election is 25% in three-member electorates, 20% with four, and 16.7% with five.

Irish politics has been dominated by two conservative parties: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.  Currently there is a minority Fine Gael government.  Polls suggest Fianna Fáil will narrowly win the most seats, but there will be a large increase for the far-left Sinn Féin and the Greens.

Spain’s Socialists win confidence vote after election

I wrote for my personal website on January 8 that the left-wing Spanish government won its investiture vote by just two votes, 167 to 165.  Also covered: the left won the Croatian presidential election, a conservative/green government was formed in Austria, and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu easily won a primary for leadership of his Likud party.