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.

Palace intrigue

A thread for discussion of today’s release of correspondence between Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace before the dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.

At 11am today, the Australian public will finally be privy to a long-delayed footnote to the 1975 constitutional crisis when a reluctant National Archives releases material that will include correspondence between Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace from immediately before the dismissal of the Whitlam government on November 11. This follows a long campaign by Monash University historian Professor Jenny Hocking, whose efforts established the existence of the material and a stipulation by the Palace after Kerr’s death in 1991 that it should not be unveiled until 2027, and perhaps not even then. It had hitherto been the position of the National Archives that the material constituted personal communication, which Hocking succeeded in having the High Court overturn in a 6-1 ruling in May.

Happy trails

As the election campaign enters a hiatus, a look at where the leaders have been and why.

As the Easter/Anzac Day suspension of hostilities begins, it may be instructive to look at where the leaders have travelled during the campaign’s preliminary phase. Featured over the fold is a display listing the electorates that have been targeted, as best as I can tell, and a very brief summary of what they were up to while they were there. Certain entries are in italics where it is seems clear that the area was not targeted for its electoral sensitivity, such as Bill Shorten’s visit to Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel project to get some good vision presenting him as a champion of infrastructure, which happened to place him in the unloseable Labor seat of Gellibrand. There are also a few entries that clearly targeted more than one electorate, in which case the margin for the secondary elected is listed on a second line.

What stands out is that Scott Morrison has hit a number of Labor-held seats, consistent with the optimistic impression the Liberals are presenting about their prospects – an assessment which, on this evidence, does not look to be fully shared by Labor. The only activity of Shorten’s that had Labor territory as its primary target was his visit to the Northern Territory on Thursday. Of equal interest to Shorten’s pattern of travel is the clarity of Labor’s early campaign theme of health policy, in contrast of the grab bag of messages promoted by Scott Morrison.

Continue reading “Happy trails”

Election minus five weeks

Candidates on both sides of the aisle drop out of contention, Peter Dutton suffers a self-inflicted wound in Dickson, and Shooters Fishers and Farmers rein in their expectations.

Two days in the campaign, and already much to relate:

• Labor’s audacious gambit of running former Fremantle MP Melissa Parke in Curtin has proved short-lived, after a controversy brewed over comments she had made critical of Israel. Parke announced her withdrawal after the Herald Sun presented the Labor campaign with claims she had told a meeting of WA Labor for Palestine that she could “remember vividly” – presumably not from first-hand experience – a pregnant refugee being ordered to drink bleach at a Gaza checkpoint. Parke is also said to have spoken of Israel’s “influence in our political system and foreign policy”, no doubt bringing to the party hierarchy’s mind the turmoil that has lately engulfed the British Labour Party in relation to such matters. In her statement last night, Parke said her views were “well known, but I don’t want them to be a running distraction from electing a Labor government”. James Campbell of the Herald Sun notes the forum was also attended by Parkes’ successor in Fremantle, Josh Wilson.

• Meanwhile, Liberal Party vetting processes have caused the withdrawal on Section 44 grounds of three candidates in who-cares seats in Melbourne. They are Cooper candidate Helen Jackson, who dug her heels in when told her no-chance candidacy required her to abandon her job at Australia Post, so that the integrity of executive-legislative relations might be preserved; Lalor candidate Kate Oski, who is in danger of being Polish; and Wills candidate Vaishali Ghosh, who was, as The Age put it in a report I hope no one from overseas reads, “forced to step aside over her Indian heritage”.

• Peter Dutton has been under fire for his rhetorical overreach against Ali France, the Labor candidate in his marginal seat of Dickson. Dutton accused France, who had her leg amputated after being hit by a car in 2011, of “using her disability as an excuse” for not moving into the electorate. France lives a short distance outside it, and points to the $100,000 of her compensation money she has spent making her existing home fully wheelchair accessible. Labor has taken the opportunity to point to Dutton’s failed attempt from 2009 to move to the safer seat of McPherson on the Gold Coast, where he owns a $2.3 million beachside holiday home, and by all accounts spends a great deal of his time. Dutton refused to apologise for the comments yesterday, while Scott Morrison baselessly asserted that they were taken out of context.

Greg Brown of The Australian reports Robert Borsak, leader of Shooters Fishers and Farmers and one of the party’s state upper house MPs, concedes the party is struggling to recruit candidates, and will not repeat its state election feat of winning seats in the lower house. Nonetheless, it has Orange deputy mayor Sam Romano lined up as its candidate for Calare and plans to run in Eden-Monaro, Parkes and possibly New England. This follows suggestions the party might pose a threat to the Nationals in Parkes and Farrer, which largely correspond with the state seats of Barwon and Murray, which the party won at last month’s state election. Calare encompasses Orange, which Shooters have held since a November 2016 by-election.

• “I don’t trust our polling at all”, says “a senior federal Liberal MP” cited by John Ferguson in The Australian, apropos the party’s prospects in Victoria. It is not clear if the source was being optimistic or pessimistic, but the report identifies a range of opinion within the Liberal camp extending from only two or three losses in Victoria – likewise identified as a “worst case scenario” by Labor sources – to as many as seven.

BludgerTrack: 52.6-47.4 to Labor

With the final pre-campaign polls added, the poll aggregate records a continuation of the improvement in the Coalition’s position that has been evident for some time, rather than anything that might be called a “budget bounce”.

The BludgerTrack poll aggregate has been updated with the three post-budget polls from Newspoll, Ipsos and Essential Research, the combined effect of which is to reduce Labor’s two-party lead from 52.9-47.1 to 52.6-47.4. There’s also a fair bit going on within the state breakdowns – in fact, probably too much.

The recovery the Liberals believe they are detecting in New South Wales is well and truly coming through on BludgerTrack, albeit that Labor is still credited with a net gain of two seats there. A significant improvement has also been recorded in the Coalition’s position recently in Western Australia, although here too Labor is credited with a net gain of two seats. What we’re not seeing any sign of is the improved position the Coalition claims to be seeing in Queensland, where reports have suggested they are now hopeful of breaking even by gaining Herbert and limiting the damage in the south-east. BludgerTrack is stubbornly detecting a swing to Labor in the strategically crucial state of over 6%, translating into a gain of nine seats.

I would be a lot more confident of all this if I had more data at state level, which I’m hoping Ipsos might publish in due course – they appeared to have adopted the Newspoll practice last year of publishing quarterly state breakdowns, but we didn’t see one for October-December and are now due one for January-March. I’ve been trying to chase this up and will keep you posted.

Newspoll and Ipsos both provided new data for the leadership ratings, which are now detecting an uptick in Scott Morrison’s personal ratings, although the picture remains fairly static on preferred prime minister. All of which you can learn more about through the link below.

TECHNICAL NOTE/APPEAL FOR HELP: I’m hoping those of my readers who know their way around web programming might help me resolve an irritating niggle that’s been bedevilling the BludgerTrack display for some time. Namely, that the state breakdown tabs tend not to work, particularly when the page is first loaded. My own experience is that it requires a hard refresh before they will respond. Tablet users, I am told, can’t even do that well.

Based on my research, it would seem to be that the problem lies with the following bit of Ajax code. If anyone thinks they can offer me any pointers here, please get in touch by email at pollbludger-AT-bigpond-DOT-com.

$(document).ready(function() {
$.ajax({
cache: false,
type: "GET",
url: "bt-output.xml",
dataType: "xml",
success: xmlParser
});
});

Wentworth by-election final result: Phelps 51.2, Sharma 48.8

With the last remaining postal votes counted, Kerryn Phelps emerges with a winning margin of 1851 votes.

There’s a fair bit going on on the blog right now, so for those of you focused on the top of the page, note the various threads below this one: the main discussion thread, Adrian Beaumont’s post on the US mid-terms, my comprehensive Victorian election campaign summary and the one where I plead for donations.

And now to the matter at hand: the last batch of postals have finally been added for the Wentworth by-election, for which my full accounting of the results can be found here. The late postals have broken 232-164 in favour of Kerryn Phelps, who emerges with a winning margin of 38,989 (51.2%) to 37,138 (48.8%), or 1851 votes. All that remains to be done is the formal distribution of preferences, which might yet turn up a few small anomalies.

BludgerTrack: 53.9-46.1 to Labor

One new poll and no change at all on the latest poll aggregate update.

Essential Research was the only new poll this week, and it has no bearing whatsoever on the voting intention numbers in BludgerTrack. However, there is a fair bit going on in the state breakdowns, with the Coalition losing a seat in New South Wales, but gaining one apiece in Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. No new numbers this week on leadership ratings. Full results on the sidebar.

Essential Research: 52-48 to Labor

A new poll suggests voters want parliament to legislate for same-sex marriage if they can’t get their favoured option of a plebiscite, as the Coalition primary vote maintains a slow downward trend.

This week’s Essential Research finds the Coalition down a point on the primary vote to 37%, Labor steady on 37%, the Greens steady on 10%, One Nation up one to 6% and the Nick Xenophon Team steady on 4%, with two-party preferred unchanged at 52-48 in favour of Labor. The poll also finds 53% favouring a vote by parliament on same-sex marriage in the event that the Senate blocks a plebiscite, with only 29% opposed. Support for the proposed plebiscite question, “should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”, is at 60% with 30% opposed, compared with results of 57% and 28% when the same question was posed a month ago. Only 22% of respondents supported the goverment’s plan for $7.5 million of advertising to be provided for both sides of the argument, with 68% opposed. When asked about the biggest threats to job security in Australia, 31% nominated “free trade deals that allow foreign workers into the Australian market”, 23% companies using labour hire and contracting out, 18% the impact of technological change, and high wages in last place on 11%.

In other news, I mean to start shaking myself out of a spell of post-election laziness, so I’ll have BludgerTrack back in one form or another next week. In the meantime, I have the following to relate:

The Australian reports that factional arrangements ensure that Stephen Conroy’s own sub-faction of the Victorian Right will decide his successor when he vacates his Senate seat on September 30. That seems to bode well for his ally Mehmet Tillem, who previously served in the Senate from late 2013 until mid-2014, when he served out David Feeney’s term after he moved to the lower house seat of Batman at the September 2013 election. However, some in the party are said to be arguing that the position should go to a woman, specifically to Stefanie Perri, the former Monash mayor who ran unsuccessfully in Chisholm at the recent election.

• A draft redistribution proposal has been published for the Northern Territory’s two electorates, in which early 3000 voters are to be transferred from growing Solomon (covering Darwin and Palmerston) to stagnant Lingiari (covering the remainder of the territory). The transfer encompasses Yarrawonga, Farrar, Johnston and Zuccoli at the eastern edge of Palmerston, together with the Litchfield Shire areas around Knuckey Lagoon immediately east of Darwin. This is a conservative area, so the change would strengthen Labor in Solomon and weaken them in Lingiari.

• A redistribution for the five electorates in Tasmania is in its earliest stages, with a period for preliminary public suggestions to run from November 2 to December 5.

• The Liberal National Party announced last week it would not challenge its 37 vote defeat in the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, despite complaints from Senator Ian Macdonald that the Australian Eleectoral Commission had promised hospital patients it would take their votes on polling day without delivering, and that students outside the electorate were denied absent votes because the required envelopes were not available. The 40-day deadline for lodgement of a challenge closed on Saturday.