The “Pitiless Empiricism” of Elections

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Guido has said this before and he will say it again: if the Tories lose this election a large part of the blame belongs to the former Downing Street pollster Andrew Cooper, who claimed that UKIP were a “flash in the pan”. Here is the evidence in hard data form from YouGov; 5 percentage points of the 2010 Tory vote has gone to UKIP, in exchange for 3 percentage points of the LibDem vote. Pollsters and statisticians can argue about what might have been, the data suggests that the Cameroon positioning which claimed the Conservatives could win from the centre has cost at least 2 percentage points. The number of former LibDems wooed is fewer than the number of former Tories spurned and now voting UKIP.

Cooper’s “peak UKIP” theory does not appear to have been anything more than a theory. This YouGov data, based on re-interviewing 31,210 voters polled in 2010, shows Cooper’s hunch that UKIP were a “flash in the pan” which would fade away and return to the blue column was just a hunch, motivated by an ideological preference for centrist modernisation rather than any campaigning logic. Cooper was once lionised by the metropolitan commentariat – in 2011 Matthew D’Ancona claimed that his “great gift to the Conservative Party has not been liberal ideology, but a pitiless empiricism”. A real judgement based on pitiless empiricism is about to be delivered by the voters. Guido suspects that Cooper’s years as Downing Street’s Director of Strategy will be seen as wasted years when the modernisers’ distaste for conservative instincts was over indulged at the expense of a strategy to both secure the base and gain new voters. An arrogant and recklessly rushed modernisation has fatally split the right-of-centre vote.




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