UKIP the Kingmaker? The unseen effects of the UKIP vote

When looking at the results of the last general election, is it very easy to judge the effect of a party by the number of seats it won. Despite getting almost 4 million votes, UKIP only won a single seat, and so were often said to have had little effect on the outcome. However, it is easy to overlook the fact that in a First Past The Post system, UKIP votes may have come at expense of one of the larger parties, and so may have changed the results despite not winning the seat.

Take, for example, the seat of Barrow and Furness:

Barrow Results

Here, we have a clear example of how UKIP did not win the seat, but may have prevented the Conservatives from winning.

Unsurprisingly, the opposite also exists, as happened in Bedford:

Bedford Results

Here, Labour could potentially have won the seat if it weren’t for UKIP taking votes from them.

It is important to here challenge the idea that UKIP voters are a ‘far right’, and are naturally Conservative voters if UKIP aren’t an option. While that is certainly true for a large number of UKIP voters, the party’s demographics, especially in terms of economic background, more closely match that of Labour, and the UKIP manifesto made several notable attacks on Conservative policy in line with Labour, for example condemning the ‘Bedroom Tax’ and promising to repeal it. As such, UKIP is liable to take voters from both parties, and if it were to collapse, its voters would be split between the parties, not solely going to back to the Conservatives, although polling data does suggest that people who voted UKIP in 2015 were more likely to have voted Conservative than Labour in 2010.


While there is no perfect way to show how UKIP may have affected the results, below are the seats where the UKIP vote was more than twice the vote difference between the Conservatives and Labour. Readers should note this method, as applied to future voting predictions, is entirely arbitrary, but works well to show the potential UKIP have to change the outcome of the next election.

Firstly, the seats that Labour could lose – in total, 31 seats, as shown on the map below:

LAB - UKIP map

Note that although UKIP did not have a strong turnout in London, it could be enough to change 5 Labour seats there.


The Conservatives have slightly less to worry about, with only 23 at risk:

con - UKIP map [fixed]


The 54 seats above represent one possibility of what could happen in 2020. The referendum in 2017, depending on its results, could mean the collapse of UKIP, but as Scotland has shown, it’s also entirely possible that their vote will go up again. The same is true for their huge vote resulting in only a single MP – voters could become disillusioned at the unfairness of their situation, but could also get fired up and push harder to get what they want. Either way, both Labour and the Conservatives will need to understand that UKIP’s influence exceeds its single MP. Labour need to win all the Conservative seats they can get to have a chance at power in 2020; the Conservatives, at only 6 MPs over the magic number of 325, will have to fight hard against UKIP’s gains if they are to retain their majority.

The UK vs Western Europe – How do we compare

This article is a straightforward comparison of how various European countries perform on a variety of metrics. For a fair comparison with the UK, non-western countries, and micro-states have been omitted. The comparisons will include any or all of the following 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. If a country does not compare in a given list, the most likely reason is the difficulty of obtaining accurate data, not a deliberate omission to skew the picture.

Firstly, some good news when we compare healthcare systems. This chart isn’t a comparison of western Europe, but gives a pretty clear picture anyway.

NHS wins -D

As you can see, the NHS is rightly something of which all Brits can be proud.


Next, incarceration rates

Incarceration map

Source: http://www.prisonstudies.org/world-prison-brief

The above map shows the number of prisoners per 100,000 citizens. In the map, Scotland, N Ireland and England & Wales are three separate numbers, with England & Wales and Scotland being the highest two rates in western Europe. Interesting to note is the lower rate for N Ireland.


Next GDP per capita

GDP per capita

Source: IMF, 2014

The chart above shows GDP per capita, and the UK is the fourth lowest of the 16, only above Spain, Portugal and Italy.


Next a chart showing cost of living.

CPI

Source: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_by_country.jsp

The Consumer Price Index shows the cost of living as compared to the cost of living in New York City, which has the score of 100. Here, the UK has the fourth highest cost of living of the 16, only behind Switzerland, Norway and Denmark.


Next, rail prices

  1. UK            –   £3,268
  2. France      –   £   924
  3. Germany  –   £   705
  4. Spain        –   £   653
  5. Italy          –   £   336

The above list shows the price a commuter would pay annually if they were to live 23 miles away from the capital city of each of the five major western European countries. In this metric, more than any other, the UK really shows significant problems.


Next, average rent

Rent

Source: https://www.housing.org.uk/media/blog/private-renters-in-uk-pay-double-the-european-average/

While not quite as extreme as the rail difference, Brits also have to pay, by some margin, the most expensive rents per month in western Europe. At €902, it is a significant amount more than the next most expensive, Ireland, at €679.


Next, the GINI coefficient

GINI map (fixed)

Source: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/tgm/table.do?tab=table&language=en&pcode=tessi190, 2013 figures

The GINI coefficient is a measure of how unequal a country is in terms of wealth, where a lower number means more equality. Here, the UK is the fourth highest, behind Italy, Spain and Portugal


Next, a look at the average income of the bottom 20%

  1. Germany       –   £7,918
  2. France           –   £7,486
  3. Belgium        –   £7,308
  4. Denmark      –   £7,209
  5. Netherlands –   £6,671
  6. UK                 –    £5,639

Source: http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2014/06/the-poor-in-britain-are-among-worst-off-in-western-europe/

As you can see, our bottom 20% receive noticeably less than their counterparts in mainland Europe. This difference is even more stark when the cost of living is accounted for.


Moving off money, we shall now look at teenage pregnancies.

Teen

Source: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/births-by-area-of-usual-residence-of-mother–england-and-wales/2012/sty-international-comparisons-of-teenage-pregnancy.html

As the above chart shows, Britain leads in western Europe by some margin on teenage pregnancies, both in 15 – 17 and 15 – 19 rates.


Finally, slightly better news in education.

Country

Maths

Reading

Science

PISA 2012 Average

494

496

501

Austria

506

490

506

Belgium

515

509

505

Denmark

500

496

498

Finland

519

524

545

France

495

505

499

Germany

514

508

524

Ireland

501

523

522

Italy

485

490

494

Luxembourg

490

488

491

Netherlands

523

511

522

Norway

489

504

495

Portugal

487

488

489

Spain

484

488

496

Sweden

478

483

485

Switzerland

531

509

515

UK

494

499

514

Source: http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-overview.pdf

PISA is an organisation that measures 15 year olds in 65 developed countries on math, reading and science. Although we do not perform overly well compared to western Europe as a whole, this is one of the few areas where the UK performs better than Scandinavia.


Overall, when looking at the ten areas above, is it quite clear that the UK has a lot of work to do, other than in healthcare. The UK, with its large wealth gap, poor pay for the bottom 20%, high rents and high railway cost, is becoming a particularly difficult country to live in if you do not make a high wage.

Keynesianism vs Austerity – responding to the crash of ’08

In the final Prime Minister’s Questions before the 2010 General Election, David Cameron said the following:

“As this is the last PMQs this parliament it is the last chance for this prime minister to show he is accountable for the decisions he has made… This prime minister would wreck the recovery by putting a tax on every job. This government would wreck the recovery.”

This article will examine a variety of economic factors and compare how the Brown/ Darling response to the crisis affected the economy compared to that of Cameron/ Osborne.


Firstly, a brief description of each of the two approaches:

Brown’s key approach was the bailout for the banks. In a classic Keynesian response, it was Labour’s understanding that the deficit would be dealt with in time, but the current priority was for the government to spend in order to fix the problems of credit for businesses and unemployment. The package had three main parts, but it essentially boiled down to £500bn of support for the banking sector. Other measures included a new top tax rate of 50p for income over £150,000, and a one year decrease in VAT from 17.5% to 15%.

Cameron’s entire plan was different as he worked on an entirely different economic model. For him, the key to economic success was to restore the global market’s confidence in the UK by a concentrated effort to end the government’s spending deficit (originally by 2015; currently aimed from 2019). In a speech on the 28th May 2010, Cameron highlighted his three key areas for economic change: firstly, ‘liberalising the economy’ through cutting red tape and keeping taxes low for businesses; secondly ‘modern support’ of the economy from the government – this included high-speed rail connecting the country, Gove’s encouragement for academies and free schools, allowing schools better to provide skills for children, and IDS’s welfare reforms, as it was seen that overly generous benefits were a disincentive for people to get back into work; finally, he wanted to ‘rebalance the economy’, and although detail was less precise in this section, Cameron pointed out that the economy was reliant on too few sectors, based in London and SE England, and he wished to ‘encourage’ technology industries throughout the UK. Important tax changes included gradually lowering the corporation tax rate from 28% to 20%, reducing the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, and an increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20% (despite promises not to do so).

A series of graphs will now be examined relating to various economic factors, and three sections will be highlighted in each: the crash (in orange), Brown’s response (red), and Cameron’s response (blue). It is important to note that in economics, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and a single graph is not definitive proof of anything. However, if enough areas show the same trend, it can be assumed that the correlation might start to hint at causation.

Graph of Gross Domestic Product 2004 – 2014

GDP chart 2 coloured

Here we see a sharp drop in GDP during the crash, a recovery under Brown, and a mild decrease then mild increase, overall flatlining, under Cameron.

Graph of output per job

Output per job coloured

This graph charts output per job, and shows two years of decline when Cameron takes over.

Graph of consumer confidence

CC Index colouredHere, again, Brown’s response succeeds in boosting consumer confidence, which drops again under the first few years of Cameron, eventually rising again in 2013.

Graph of UK manufacturing output

Manufacturing

Considering that one of Cameron’s key points was that the economy was too dependent on sectors like finance, and need more manufacturing, above graph is quite damning. Even the growth in 2013 peaks at the end of Q1 2014 and heads down again.

At this point, readers should be getting a clear picture – the crash causes a slump, recovery sets in under Brown/ Darling, and the recovery stops under Cameron/ Osborne’s austerity. We have already seen this happen in GDP, job output, consumer confidence, and manufacturing output, but this same pattern is also found in:

  • Real earnings growth
  • CPI inflation
  • Monthly mortgage approvals
  • Business volume expectations
  • Industrial production output
  • Construction activity
  •  Business investment

There are several sectors where there has been a steady picture with the two governments, for example import/export balance, but almost no examples of the austerity measures being more successful than the Keynesian ones. Claims by Osborne that the treasury in bringing in more tax than ever are deliberate half-truths, concealing the fact that this is only true in terms of a whole number – when inflation is factored in, or when measured as a percentage of GDP, this is no longer true. A single claim in favour of Cameron/ Osborne’s economic strategy is that the percentage of adults in work is approaching a record high, although this was following a trend that been climbing since 2000, and does not factor in the proportion of people in part-time work.

Once again, Cameron’s claim:

This prime minister would wreck the recovery by putting a tax on every job. This government would wreck the recovery”

In light of the information above, readers can see that this claim is perhaps not as true as Cameron would like us to believe.

The Myth of Spendthrift Labour & Frugal Conservatives – UK government deficits 1961-2015

In the last two elections, the Conservative party has been incredibly successful at stating as fact the idea that the Labour party is inherently wasteful in spending, whereas the Conservatives are naturally better at holding the nation’s pursestrings – an idea that Labour did very little to challenge. However, the graph below shows that this idea has little truth to it.

Graph showing governmental deficit in billions of pounds Sterling, 1961 – 2015. 

Deficit graph

There are a number of points to note from this chart. Before any analysis, it must be noted that the numbers are as they were at the time, and thus not adjusted for inflation. This explains why the numbers get exponentially bigger as time goes on. With that in mind, let’s compare some numbers. Firstly, under MacMillan, Douglas-Home and Wilson’s first period in office, the deficit remained exceptionally small, with both Conservatives and Labour. Heath then takes office, and running a small deficit becomes the norm. As seen in the chart below, this was most  likely caused by a drop in tax receipts during a period of economic trouble. During Wilson’s 2nd office and Callaghan, the deficit more or less stays stable, although factoring in inflation perhaps a slight decrease in real terms, but not much movement regardless. The switch from Callaghan to Thatcher again takes place with a period of economic trouble, and Thatcher spends the first two thirds of her time in power running the same size of deficit, although again with inflation, her £8.5bn deficit in 1979 was in real terms larger than her £8.4bn deficit in 1986, but like Callaghan, not much movement overall. In 1988 and 1989 Thatcher has surpluses of £6bn and £0.6bn – the first surpluses since Wilson’s (Labour) surpluses of £0.9bn and £0.3bn in ’69 and ’70. At this point it is useful to look at a chart of GDP.

GDP chart

You’ll notice that so far we have had two dips – 1974 and 1979 – the first was absorbed by a Labour government with little effect on the deficit, and the second also absorbed softly, but this time by a Conservative government. Come the 1990 crash, this ability to protect government deficit levels is greatly reduced, likely due to the shift in the UK economy away from primary and secondary industries, towards tertiary ones. Major proceeds to run a series of sizeable deficits, although readers are again reminded that inflation is a key factor in these deficits appearing larger than those before. Enter Blair in 1997, and for the only time since WWII, the UK enjoys three years in a row of surpluses. A change in policy leads to a significant increase in spending, mainly on health and education, and once again a reasonably sized permanent deficit appears, although marginally smaller than Major’s. The economic crash of 2008 causes an enormous jump to £100bn in 2008, and ~£150bn in 2009. It is useful for readers to note that in the large spending jumps, both under Brown and under Major, are not in fact caused by an increase in spending: the deficit is caused by the spending being higher than tax receipts, and in both these cases the economic difficulties resulted in a sharp drop in tax receipts, thus increasing the gap between income and expenditure. A final point to note is the incredibly slow recovery from 2010 onwards. The national debt in 2010 stood at £0.76tn, and treasury estimates put the 2015 figure at ~£1.4tn, a little shy of doubling the national debt.

So when all is compared the idea of either party being spendthrift or frugal compared to the other holds little truth. Each government is largely the same as the government that preceded it, and in the past 54 years, there have been only 7 years of surplus: two with Wilson, two with Thatcher, and three with Blair. However, in politics facts matter a lot less than opinion, and unless Labour can convince the public that their ability to manage public finances is no worse than the Conservatives’, they will be at a great disadvantage in 2020.

What if “Did Not Vote” were a party? Examining the 2015 GE results in a new light.

In the 2015 GE, the voter turnout was 66.1%, not especially high, although the highest for a number of years:

Turnout

This turnout meant that roughly 30m people voted, out of a possible ~46m. Turnout across the country varied greatly even among constituencies that were beside each other – in Dunbartonshire East, the turnout was 82%, compared to its neighbour Glasgow North East at 57%.

In total, just over 11m people voted Conservative, and 9m for Labour, compared to the 16m who did not vote. This article examines the hypothetical world where every non-voter was replaced by a vote for the “Did Not Vote”(DNV) party (and we’ll give them the colour turquoise).

Firstly, it is important to remember that if we used a ranked voting system, and all voters ranked every candidate (i.e. did not rank three and leave three blank), then any seat with a turnout over 50% would have to win against a DNV candidate. However, since we use First Past The Post, in any seat where the turnout was below 66.6% and the winner got below 50%, the DNV candidate must have won.

An example of where FPTP gave an unusual result would be in Belfast South (turnout 60%). Here are the results:

South Belfast

From this you can see that the winning party, the SDLP, only had 24.5% percent of the vote. However, this does not factor in the 60% turnout. In reality, only ~14% of eligible voters voted for the winning party, compared to 40% for our hypothetical DNV party.

While it might be easy to say that this was the result of NI’s multi-party system, and mainland Britain would never have as little as 14% deciding, the truth is not wildly different. If we examine Tristram Hunt’s seat, Stoke-on-Trent Central, we see similar numbers: although Hunt had a comfortable lead over his rivals (39.3% for Hunt, vs UKIP on 22.7% and the Conservatives on 22.5%), his constituency had the incredibly low turnout of 49.9%. When non-voters are included, this means Hunt only received 19.6% of possible votes, compared to 50.1% of voters ‘choosing’ DNV. This example both shows the incredibly low percentage of the vote that some MPs need to win their seat, and also the importance of realising that our thought experiment is very much just that, and not like the real world where Hunt enjoyed a comfortable majority. Conversely, in seats with very high turnouts, it is possible for the winning candidate to have won a lower percentage of cast votes than Hunt, but to have ‘defeated’ the DNV candidate.

So now lets look at the UK results as a whole.

To start, here are the real results of the 2015 GE, and the map of their placement.

GE results coloured

Results map


But when we factor in our DNV party, the results change radically:New results

From the above, you can see that the DNV vote party is the new run-away winner. Now, the DNV have more seats than the Conservatives have in real life, and the Conservatives have fewer than Labour really have. Since the SNP only lost 7 seats, they are now ahead of Labour. Plaid Cymru lost all its seats, and every Northern Irish seat was lost, bar one for the Ulster Unionists. The Liberal Democrats lost six more seats, leaving only Nick Clegg and Tim Farron. Not included in the results is the speaker, who kept his seat.

Here are the same results on a map:

Constituency map coloured

It is interesting to note that of Labour’s 43 seats, only 6 were outside the Leeds/ Wirral/ Manchester and London areas. The Conservatives tended to lose most of the cities they once had, and many of the rural constituencies along the English coastline. The SNP largely avoided losing its seats due to the high turnout, almost certainly due to the sustained political interest following the independence referendum.

Although it would impossible to create a real party like our DNV party, the above map does show possible changes to come in the next few parliaments. As the evidence shows that non-voters are more likely to come from lower-income backgrounds, it will be the challenge of both Labour and UKIP to try and convince some of the 16m non-voters if they wish to improve in 2020.