General Election Prediction

Current Prediction: Conservative majority 80

Party2015 Votes2015 SeatsPred VotesPred Seats
CON 37.8%331 40.8%365
LAB 31.2%232 27.7%198
LIB 8.1%8 7.7%7
UKIP 12.9%1 12.7%1
Green 3.8%1 4.2%1
SNP 4.9%56 4.9%56
PlaidC 0.6%3 0.6%4
Minor 0.8%0 1.4%0
N.Ire 18 18

Prediction based on opinion polls from 10-Sep-2016 to 29-Sep-2016, sampling 6,699 people.

Probability of possible outcomes

Conservative majority
Con/Nat coalition
Labour majority
Con choice of Lib/Nat
Nat choice of Con/Lab
Lab/Nat coalition
No overall control
Lab choice of Lib/Nat

The future is never certain. But using our advanced modelling techniques, we can estimate the probability of the various possible outcomes at the next general election. ('Nat' means SNP+PlaidC)

New Seat Boundaries

Scottish New Constituency Boundaries

The Boundary Commission for Scotland have published their initial proposals for the new Westminster seat boundaries in Scotland. These have now been analysed and you can see the summary analysis on the 2018 Boundaries page, as well as detailed projections for East Scotland and West Scotland.

In Scotland, the Conservatives and Labour each have only one seat. And both of these seats are vulnerable to the new boundaries, which potentially wipes out both the major parties in Scotland. The SNP are projected to win 52 out of the 53 new Scottish seats, with the Lib Dems retaining the unchanged seat of Orkney and Shetland.

Posted 20 October 2016

Poll update

Sunday's ComRes poll for the Independent/Sunday Mirror had one crucial question to the public about their preference of immigration against free trade. Given the two options:

Option 1 : The government should prioritise reducing immigration when negotiating the UKs exit from the EU,
Option 2 : The government should prioritise getting favourable trade deals with EU countries when negotiating the UKs exit from the EU
then the respondents favoured Option 2 over Option 1 by 49pc to 39pc, with 11pc undecided.

So more of the public appear to favour free trade over reducing immigration.

Posted 19 October 2016

Liberal Leaver: Making the Best of Brexit

Top Ten Consumer Rip-offs which Government can Fix

Now is the season for identifying areas where consumers are paying too much for goods and services. Some of this is driven by corporate greed but also by European and national legislation. In a post-Brexit Britain, the Government (of any political composition) has the power to make things better for consumers and cut back on economic rents. Policymakers and the competition authorities will have their own ideas, but here is the Electoral Calculus Top Ten List of consumer rip-offs which can be fixed.

1. House Prices

As everyone knows, but not everyone admits, UK house prices are too high. This is caused by a lack of supply. There are too few new houses being built. The main culprit is the planning system and planning legislation, particularly the Green Belt rules. An increasing number of people, both young and not-so-young, are having their lives blighted by an unholy combination of town hall planners and environmental activists. Families are living in small and expensive accommodation when they deserve, and should have, spacious and affordable housing.

Government should relax planning rules for new housing and look seriously at weakening the Green Belt rules.

Read the full story: House Prices are Too High.

2. Food Prices

Food prices have been kept artificially high ever since we joined the (then) European Economic Community. This is achieved both by direct agricultural subsidies of 5 billion each year and, more importantly, by tariffs imposed by the EU Customs Union. Economists estimate that UK supermarket prices are 17pc higher because of the CAP [1], costing households about 900 each year.

These high food prices hit the less well-off more than most, and are unfair and unjust. In a case of history repeating, they are a replay of the Corn Laws of the mid 1800s which kept food prices high and hurt ordinary folk.

Now is the time to leave the EU Customs Union and abolish tariffs on food imports, and abolish agricultural subsidies for British farmers. That would make food for everyone cheaper, and reduce some government spending which does more harm than good.

Read the full story: Millions suffer from food insecurity because EU rules keep food prices high – we can now change that.

3. Energy Prices

Gas and electricity prices in Britain are too high, but for two different reasons. One reason is the slippery behaviour of the established energy companies who treat loyal customers badly by putting them on their most expensive tariff. Often called the "standard variable tariff", this penalises customer loyalty, and takes advantage of consumers who don't keep up and scan around for new offers every year.

Windturbines and pylons near Dungeness Nuclear Power plant
Danger – High Prices! Nuclear and wind power are not the cheapest power sourcesPhoto: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The other culprit is the government itself, which interferes in the energy market to increase prices. This is often done in the name of environmental measures to reduce CO2 emissions, but the overall effect is to bump up energy prices substantially today in order to make a small reduction in long-term environmental harm. An egregious example is the planned Hinkley Point nuclear reactor whose high-priced electricity (according to the National Audit Office) will cost consumers 29.7 billion [2].

Government should think hard about its own actions in increasing the price of energy, using a cost-benefit framework. And Competition Authorities should take a closer interest in the energy companies' price structures.

4. Copyright

As we move more towards a knowledge economy, it is increasingly costly that national and international copyright laws have been captured by large media companies. Following intensive corporate lobbying, the length of copyright protection has increased out of all proportion. Although there is a public benefit to fostering creativity, the current law now serves corporate interests more than creators'. The law now gives copyright protection (a licensed monopoly) which extends to the death of the author plus seventy years. It's not clear how that motivates the long-dead author any more, but it certainly helps the big media firms to pick the pocket of people who enjoy films, books and music.

Government should reduce UK copyright protection back to the death of the author plus fifty years, and lobby at an international level to reduce it back to the patent-type duration of twenty years from the creation of the work.

See the full story: Copyright reform from two perspectives.

5. Professions

"People of of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices." Adam Smith's timeless warning [3] is as true for professionals such as lawyers, doctors and architects as it is for bakers and widget-makers. One the main ways that professionals achieve this is by capturing government regulation and erecting barriers to entry into their profession.

These moves are often dressed up in public-interest clothes, such as protecting the public from rogue practitioners, but the real intention and effect is to raise prices and hurt the consumer of professional services.

There is a wonderful speech by the Liberal MP William Cowper-Temple in 1874 attacking the medical profession, which at the time was strenuously objecting to the introduction of women doctors:

"The members of a profession were often unable to consider without bias innovations relating to themselves; and much as he respected the medical profession, he would still say that Parliament ought not to give undue attention to objections which they might raise in matters relating particularly to their own profession." [4]

The Competitions and Markets Authority should be asked to examine the legal, medical and architectural professions from a competition standpoint and make recommendations for legislative change to reduce barriers to entry.

Additionally the Government should be careful of medical lobbying to raise additional hurdles to foreign doctors practising in the UK following Brexit.

6. Electronic Books

The publishing industry was very keen to avoid the damage that electronic formats caused to the record business. Music, both in physical CD form and as electronic MP3 downloads, is cheaper than ever in real terms. And MP3 is generally a bit cheaper than physical CDs for new releases. The same cannot be said for books and e-books.

Several new books are more expensive as e-books than as hardbacks. Current examples available on a well-known on-line marketplace include best-sellers such as the Harry Potter stage scripts, Robert Harris' Conclave, and Ben MacIntyre's SAS: Rogue Heroes. Why should this be? The creative and editorial processes are the same for both physical and electronic formats. But the e-books do not have to be printed, bound, warehoused, transported and stored.

Somethings looks strange here. How can the electronic version cost more than the hardback?

7. Diesel Engine Pollution

Sometimes consumers pay too much money for something, and sometimes they pay with their health. One bad example is that of diesel engines in cars and vans. After lobbying from the big car manufacturers, particularly from Germany, the EU and British governments jointly pushed to increase the number of diesel engines on the road, giving tax breaks for diesel cars.

Although diesel engines reduce CO2 emissions slightly, they cause a ten-fold increase in the dangerous nitrogen dioxide gas (NO2) which causes thousands of early deaths due to respiratory illness. The UK now has places where nitrogen dioxide levels are twice the recommended EU maximum. A recent study by King's College London on behalf of Transport for London calculated that nitrogen dioxide was the most dangerous pollutant and is responsible for around 5,900 deaths annually in London alone [5].

The car manufacturers tried to cover this up by gaming the emissions tests, which was exposed in the Volkswagen scandal.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer should abolish vehicle excise duty reduction for diesel engines, and think about increasing it to a level above petrol engines until diesel engine air is fit to breathe.

Read the full story: The Diesel Engine Pollution Scandal.

8. Mobile Phones

Although mobile phone rates have come down in recent years, the rates for some services are still extortionate. Data roaming charges can be one hundred times larger than domestic data charges, especially outside Europe.

Shocked people looking at a mobile phone
How much did that call cost?Antonio Guillem ©

Even within Britain, there are still some anomalies. For instance, the main four mobile providers (O2, Vodafone, Three and EE) all offer deals which allow calls to "standard UK landlines and mobiles" within the customer's plan. But they all charge excessive "access fees" for calls to other UK numbers. These are not premium rate lines, but everyday numbers like 084 (which is meant to be a maximum of 7 pence per minute) or 087 ("up to 13p per minute"). The mobile companies slap an "access charge" of 45-55 pence per minute on top for their own profit.

Although Ofcom has taken action to make this problem more visible, it has not gone away. There isn't an economic justification for this charge, and the clustering of these excessive access charges suggests the possibility of anti-competitive behaviour. The Competition and Markets Authority should have a look into this as well.

9. Passports and Visas

Even in a post-Brexit world, people will want (occasionally) to leave Britain and visit foreign countries. And tourists and visitors from overseas will want to come to Britain and spend their money here. In both cases, they will be charged some eye-watering amounts by the UK and other governments for permission to travel. These permissions are known as Passports and Visas and have developed recently into a money-spinner for governments.

For instance, a full UK Passport now costs 72.50. That could be more than the price of the flight. And that rises to over a hundred pounds for a "one-week" service. It's worse for foreigners. A standard six-month British visitor's visa now costs about 95 to someone from India or China. And this can rise to over a thousand pounds for more specialised entry permits. Of course, there is no competition to the Passport Agency for these products.

We shouldn't be gouging international travellers whichever their direction of travel. These people are either our own citizens or inbound tourists spending sterling, or business people making trades. The Government should reduce the Passport Agency's fees to moderate levels. Immigration should be a service, not a profit-centre.

10. Free Trade

Not least of the consumer rip-offs is the high prices of goods caused by the EU's single market and customs union. It is the customs union which is the culprit here, because it keeps out cheap goods from the rest of world. This translates into higher prices in the shops for everyone.

Post-Brexit, we can lower our external tariffs and reduce the prices of goods in the shops. This is directly good for consumers because it makes their hard-earned cash go further. It is also healthy for the economy, because it keeps firms competitive. We don't do our own business any favours by trying to protect it behind tariff walls. That hurts consumers first, but also atrophies industry over time as it loses the ability to produce effectively. Tariffs are a lose-lose proposition. We should scrap them.

Read the full story: The most important Brexit negotiator is a spiv MP from two hundred years ago.


These ten rip-offs can all be cured by any Government that has the will to do so. Reform is never easy, but these changes will benefit real people throughout Britain who are getting a bad deal. They are not meant to be partisan – it should be neither left-wing or right-wing to want to see consumers hurt.

In some of these cases, the problem is companies being greedy, with a suspicion of anti-competitive price fixing (e-books, phones, energy tariffs). In some cases, corporate or vested interests have captured the very politicians and civil servants who should be regulating them, and they have got the law written to suit themselves and to hurt the public (copyright, professions, diesel engines). In other cases, it is the government policy which is itself wrong and is hurting the public (housing, food, "green" energy prices, passports, free trade). A wise policymaker is alert to problems closer to home as well as the potential of "market failure".

Leaving the EU allows us to address more of these problems, and politicians of all parties can decide whether they want to be on the same side as 64 million British consumers, or against them.


Posted 9 October 2016

New Boundaries : England and Wales

The Boundary Commissions for England and Wales published their initial proposals on 13 September 2016 for the new seat boundaries.

Electoral Calculus has performed a full analysis of the impact of the changes on the UK political make-up, as well as calculating which seats disappear, which change hands, and which fresh seats are newly created.

Visit the Boundaries 2018 page for full details and links to all regions and seats.

Also region-by-region breakdowns are available:

The user-defined predictor can now make predictions on the basis of the new boundaries (with 599 seats rather than 600, until the Scottish Commission reports).

A write-up of the Electoral Calculus' research is also available from the Daily Telegraph as both a news story and a full analysis.

Posted 15-Sep-2016