‘Hung’ Parliament Guaranteed by Labour and Conservative Decline

The TV debates aren’t responsible for the Hung Parliament that will follow Thursday’s election as surely as night follows day.  A quarter of a century of decline in the combined Labour and Conservative share of the vote means that the two party stranglehold over UK politics is on its way out and Clegg’s TV performance was just a tipping point.

One of the wonderful things about the web is the accessibility of data.  The Guardian has published all of the Guardian/ICM polling data since 1984. At Election 10 we took the combined Labour and Conservative share for every poll and created the graph above.  In 1990 the two parties were claiming almost 90% of the vote between them this has shrunk to a little over 60% and it has been a steady consistent decline.   A continuation of this would mean a government taking power that was opposed by around 65% of the population.  Even our bizarre electoral system can’t sustain this.

To predict the future we must delve into the past.  In this case the past is telling us that the party is very nearly over for the reds and blues and the voters will be calling time this Thursday.

20 thoughts on “‘Hung’ Parliament Guaranteed by Labour and Conservative Decline”

  1. Interesting that you chose to start your graph in 1990, right when the combined Lab+Con vote peaked. Why did you leave out the earlier data going back to 1984?

    The current Lib Dem polls are only the 13th highest 3rd party poll figure, a full 6% off the Alliance peak in September 1985.

    That’s not to say that electoral reform is a bad idea – it’s manifestly the right thing to do. But the triumphalism over the death of the two party system is severely misplaced. It was overconfidence that led to failure twice before.

    Assume nothing – and if you want electoral reform, MAKE SURE YOU VOTE FOR IT.

    1. Peter, The reason for starting the graph at 1990 was because apart from being a round number it excluded the blip in a long term trend caused by the SDP breakaway from Labour and subsequent merger with the Liberals. It is actually more representative of the long term trend. There is no room for complacency but two party politics in the UK is doomed.

  2. That’s not the most honest of graphs to illustrate this article with, and I think you’ve been a little creative in your interpretation of the data. While there is a long-term downward trend you chose to start your graph at the highest point for the two big parties combined, ignoring the fact that it had been trending solidly upwards in the years leading up to that.

    Here’s my version of the graph, using the full data (and including LD and Other data too for comparison):

    I’m a Lib Dem supporter, but I’m worried that this kind of declaration will just encourage complacency and make people assume that as night follows day (as you say), stuff will change as a result of this election. That is by no means a done deal. Change only happens if people continue to work for it, and the full data makes the need to continue to work for change rather than just sitting and waiting for change to come far clearer.

    1. Mike, I disagree with you (naturally. The fact that the ICM data starts at 1984 is in itself arbitrary and it is distorted because there was a fall in Lab/Con support in the early eighties due to the emergence of the SDP and subsequent alliance with the Liberals. If you track back to election data right up to the post war elections the trend is in line with the trend shown in the graph for the last 20 years. You graph is much nicer and cleaner than ours though!

    1. Because with the available Guardian ICM data starting at 1990 gave the best representation of the long term trend. The 84-90 data distorts the picture somewhat. I would have liked to use data from 1960 onwards to show a 50 year trend, but it isn’t available. However if we look at the October 1959 election the combined Labour and Conservative election share was 93.2%, ten years later it was 89.5% and just under 10 years after that it was 80.08%.

  3. this special pleading about the SDP is bullshit and at the very least should have been declared prominently upfront. there’ll always be something.

    i’d ask you to show us a graph of the long term trend, going back to the earliest time you can get data for, but now to be honest, knowing nothing about you other than that you just wasted my time with your dodgy graph, whatever you presented i wouldn’t trust you.

  4. Not only do I agree with the comments above, but your use of an offset on the y-axis is a particular pet hate of mine. Not only that but you argument above could be paraphrased as “we pick the dates that gave a graph that most suited our argument”. Both techniques are deceitful.

    1. The offset y-axis does I agree over-emphasise but it doesn’t deceive unless the figures are absent. I regret however using the graph in that form. The dates were not chosen in any way to distort, it is a shame this has been suggested because in undermines the argument. Hopefully you have seen the more recent post with 50 years of actual election data (and no y-axis offset). Deceitful is a really strong accusation, yours to make but what I intended to illustrate is something that I think is both fascinating and really important for the direction of UK politics. I believe that we may be on the cusp of significant change and looking at historical trends can evidence that.

  5. Contributor :
    The offset y-axis does I agree over-emphasise but it doesn’t deceive unless the figures are absent.

    To an extent; it is very difficult to visualise what a graph looks like without the offset.

    Contributor :
    Deceitful is a really strong accusation, yours to make

    Maybe it is too strong, however the comment regarding dates (to me) sounded like selecting the data that best suited the argument. Deceptive, perhaps without malice, rather than deceitful.

  6. Which party danger Australia’s social fabric?

    Australia citizens now enter a very challenging political era for 70 years in the 2010 federal election, many reforms are demanding by voters are looking for a change with anger to share fairer resources supplied lives from the first term of government?

    Australia social fabric repair long over due?
    Voters’ voices do not hear?
    Voters’ pains do not ease?
    Voters’ cries do not care?

    ● Poverty will not be phase out if no fairer resources to share;
    ● Illness will not be reducing if no preventive measurement in real action;
    ● Agriculture will not be revitalize if urbanization continuing its path;
    ● Housing affordability will not be reach for young generation if government continues cashing from young generation debt by eating out the whole cake of education export revenue without plough back;
    ● Manufacture industry will shrink smaller and smaller if no new elements there to power up to survive,
    ● Employability will not in the sustainable mode for so long as manufacture and agriculture not going to boost.

    Ma kee wai
    (Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

  7. What democratic societies should learn lessen from Australia election 2010:
    1. What productive action has PM Julia Gillard in office 100 days?
    The Australia historical hung parliament demonstrated the big gap of inequality society between the small educated elite groups who get highest pay by talk feast used mouth work controlling live essential resources of the country in every social platforms against the biggest less educated groups who get lowest pay by hands work squeezed by discriminative policies that sucking live blood from individual poor/less wealth off?
    Voters’ voices do not hear?
    Voters’ pains do not ease?
    Voters’ cries do not care?
    When inflation is a looming threat, with the nation’s CPI growing by 3.5 per cent year on year – a 22-month high – just last month. When ultimately slow down the country’s growth and subsequently hose down the demand for Australian commodities.
    Ma kee wai
    (Member of Inventor Association Queensland since 1993)

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