We can’t rule out “no effect” or indeed positive effects

Earlier this week the results of the National Student Survey (NSS) 2020 were released.

The survey was fielded during a difficult academic year for universities. The University and College Union (UCU) initiated industrial action as part of a long-running dispute over pay, pensions and working conditions. UCU members in dozens of institutions went on strike in November/December 2019 and February/March 2020. The second period of strikes was curtailed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but fieldwork for the NSS (which had begun on the 6th January) continued uninterrupted, closing on the 30th April 2020.

In this post, we combine data from the NSS with data that measures support for strike action at each university. If you are unlikely to read to the end of this post, our analysis suggests that we cannot rule out the possibility that the strikes had no effect on overall levels of student satisfaction. Indeed, our best estimate is that strikes had modest positive effects on satisfaction levels. One implication of this analysis is that university management cannot use the strike as an excuse for poor results in this year’s NSS. A second implication is that UCU and its members cannot use the NSS to argue that strike action has significant costs for universities in terms of student satisfaction. …


I find large positive effects on Lib Dem vote share of between two and four percentage points

The dispersion of the Remain vote between multiple competing parties created strong incentives for coordination in the 2019 election. Three “Remain” parties (the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and Plaid Cymru) were able to coordinate at the elite level, agreeing a joint candidate in 60 seats, but this coordination was limited in comparison to the Brexit Party’s decision to stand aside in Conservative held-seats and recommend a tactical pro Conservative vote in 100 more seats. In order to fill this “coordination gap”, several websites offering tactical voting advice sprung up. Here, I review those sites and their effects.

It's not possible to give an exhaustive list of tactical voting advice sites, so I concentrate on four sites which, for various reasons, became important during the…


tl:dr no substantively significant association, but there may be a weak negative link

Yesterday’s general election was the first December general election since 1923. Although there was no significant snowfall, the weather was pretty dreich across much of the country. This wet weather led to concerns about turnout being lower than it might otherwise have been, had the election been held in the spring.

Turnout in the election was down, despite changes to the electoral register which ought in theory to have boosted turnout by removing duplicate entries and deceased voters. …


As a public law case where multiple senior judges have disagreed, the prorogation cases will be heard by a large panel

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Institution of the Court of Session by James V in 1532, detail from the Great Window in Parliament House, Edinburgh. By Kim Traynor — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28683825

Earlier this morning (Wednesday 11th September), the Inner House of the Court of Session ruled that the prorogation of Parliament, which took place on Tuesday morning, was unlawful. All three judges agreed.

The decision follows a previous ruling by a Division Court of the High Court of England and Wales, composed of the Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls, and the President of the Queen's Bench division.

The unexpected decision from the Court of Session now presents the Supreme Court with an almighty headache. …


(Some careful interpretation required)

In 2016 I produced estimates of how each Westminster constituency had (probably) voted in the UK's EU membership referendum.

These estimates were necessary because the referendum was counted at the local authority level rather than the Westminster constituency level.

The 2019 European Parliament elections were also counted at local authority level, and so I have carried out the same remapping exercise.

You can find these estimates at this Google Sheet. A short writeup is also available. Replication materials are here.

If you are using these estimates, please remember two things.

  1. These figures on their own tell us almost nothing about future general elections. I estimate that the Brexit party won the most votes in over four hundred Westminster constituencies. The Brexit Party will not win four hundred seats in a future general election. European Parliament elections are different from Westminster elections in many ways. The electorate is different, the voting system is different, the parties competing are different, the issues discussed (if any) are different, and the levels of campaign activity and interest are different. If European Parliament elections results were a good guide to subsequent general elections, UKIP would have won scores of seats in 2015 rather than just one. …


The speech said nothing about how Brexit would occur, but much on how the PM views the legislature

Earlier this evening the Prime Minister made a speech on Brexit.

The speech — billed this afternoon as an "appeal to the nation" — contained no new information, no new proposals, and no indication as how to the UK might reach an agreement with the EU, and thereby avoid a disorderly Brexit.

Instead, the speech revealed more about how the Prime Minister views Parliament — as the home of “political games and arcane procedural rows”.

There was, in the late nineteen nineties and early two-thousands, a debate in the study of British politics as to whether the British system was becoming “presidentialised”, and whether prime ministers increasingly acted as though they had the same unmediated rapport with the electorate that presidents do. …


tl;dr version: Agreement requires uncertain cross-party agreement and very good whipping

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Why so glum, chum?

At present, betting exchanges imply that the probability of the UK exiting the EU without a deal is around 24%.

That’s about the same as the probability of the average Bundesliga game ending in a draw.

That is already a very high figure for what many people would regard as a very bad outcome.

I worry because I think that figure of 24% is too low. I think the figure is closer to 40%; colleagues whose opinions I greatly respect place it higher at 60–70%.

These numbers are subjective judgements of probability, rather than inferences from past data. Brexit is either unique or sufficiently distinct from other processes as to defeat comparison. There is no other regional trade association which is comparable in depth to the present-day EU, and so we cannot generalize on the basis of past examples of regional disintegration. At the same time, the EU is not a state, and so it is difficult to generalize on the basis of past peaceful secessions (Singapore and Malaysia; Norway and Sweden; Iceland and Denmark). …


A new working paper shows voters were only slightly less likely to vote for incumbent MPs with the opposite view on Brexit

Next Tuesday, MPs will vote on the government’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement (WA).

When they vote, MPs will have to weigh several different factors.

One of those factors is public opinion — and more particularly, opinion in their constituency.

According to the polls, the government’s deal is the worst form of Brexit — except for all the others.

Some have tried to use public opinion to persuade MPs.

“Vote down the deal”, they say, “else you might lose your narrow majority”.

But does that claim really work? …


tl:dr not likely

Parliamentary elections will be held on Sweden on Sunday.

Because the party has grown in support, and because some party activists are racists and Nazi sympathisers, people are concerned about the possibility that the Sweden Democrats will top the poll.

How likely is this? I can think of three ways of quantify how likely this is.

First, we can look at averages of polls, and assume that polls work like they are supposed to work in the textbooks. …


tl;dr it's a trade-off between independence and party cohesion

Constituency Labour parties in Vauxhall and Birkenhead have expressed no-confidence in Kate Hoey and Frank Field respectively.

The proximate cause was a vote on an amendment to the government’s Trade Bill (New Clause 18), where Hoey and Field, together with two other Labour MPs, voted with the government against an effort to keep the UK inside the Customs Union under certain circumstances. Had these four Labour MPs followed the Labour whip, the government would have been defeated.

With some exceptions, people who support Brexit also support Hoey and Field in their campaigns against de-selection, and vice versa.

Independently of Brexit, there are principled reasons why one might either support or oppose moves to de-select these two MPs. …

About

Chris Hanretty

Professor of Politics, Royal Holloway

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