Seat projection from today’s ICM poll has CON ahead on MPs even though behind on votes

January 16th, 2018

When’s the Corbyn Clique going to work out that the system now works against LAB?

The latest ICM Guardian poll out and the figures – C40/LB41/LD7 – are included above in the seat projection from Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus.

As can be seen that although the Conservatives are one point behind on votes this, according to the projection, will put them one ahead in terms of seats.

This reflects a big trend that first was noticed at GE2015 when the Lib Dems were hammered after the years in Coalition. The Tories who had suffered most in relation to LAB on the votes/seats in the previous four elections found themselves benefiting disproportionately from the sharp decline of what was then Clegg’s party.

    The effect is that now on the same vote share the Tories will probably get 20-30 more seats than Labour. If the system is biased then it is to the blue team though they’ll continue, no doubt, to whinge quoting 2005.

LAB, for want of a better term, “wastes” more of it votes chalking up big shares in its heartlands than the Tories who are more vulnerable to the LDs.

Interesting in the latest projection above that the LDs move up two seats even though their share is down on GE2017. The reason, of course, the that in this poll the Tories are down even more.

Projections on the proposed new boundaries have the system biased even more to the blue team.

All this means is that Mr. Corbyn’s LAB needs vote share leads far in excess of anything it has managed to achieve since June to be sure of him becoming PM.

Mike Smithson


Jared O’Mara is what happens if your candidate is chosen by the party without a proper selection process

January 16th, 2018

The pressure mounts on the MP who’s never spoken in the Commons & hasn’t been there for three months

The politically influential Yorkshire Post has now got its teeth into Jared O’Mara – the Labour MP who was suspended in October after revelations of homophobic and misogynistic comments online. He’s being described with the prefix “Shamed“.

He was elected for Sheffield Hallam last June winning the seat from Nick Clegg but has yet to make a maiden speech or even speak at all in the House. When his comments were revealed LAB opened an enquiry and he was suspended from the party. That was back in October and still we don’t know what the outcome is going to be.

What is clear is that O’Mara did not become the Labour candidate in what was a key target for the party by going through a normal selection process. Because of the surprise nature of the last election LAB short-circuited the process in some seats in order to get candidates in place. Why this should have happened is far from clear given that other parties were able to have normal selections in the normal way within the extended time period of the campaign.

His absence from the House means that LAB has been one person short in the key votes which could have been critical giving how close some of the decisions have been. there are, of course, more of these to come given the precarious position of the Tory parliamentary situation.

Quite what LAB can do about him is hard to say you given that they can’t force O’Mara to resign his seat. If he stays in such a situation he will become a continuing embarrassment for Team Corbyn. The Yorkshire Post, for one, is not going to let this go.

Mike Smithson


Never forget that the vast majority of those who voted for Trump are happy with their President

January 15th, 2018

And the betting continues to point to his survival

Mike Smithson


The coming West Tyrone by-election would only matter if the winner took his/her seat at Westminster

January 15th, 2018


The seat will have land border with the Irish Republic and EU following Brexit

At last we have the first by-election of the 2017 Parliament. It is in West Tyrone in Northern Ireland where the sitting Sinn Fein MP has decided to resign following controversy over things that he posted on the internet.

Given that following his party’s normal practice he has never taken his seat at Westminster the margins from last June look so great that the coming battle seems largely irrelevant.

The only way that could change would be if Sinn Fein changed its boycott policy or else another Republican was allowed to stand. Clearly the numbers show that there is little potential here for the DUP or any of the protestant parties.

With Brexit getting closer by the day and the Irish issue looming large I wonder whether we could in fact see some other candidate emerge who would want to take up the seat at Westminster. Given the tightness of the Conservative position that could make things a little bit more pressured for Mrs May and her team.

It used to be that there was a range of nationalist MPs elected in Norther Ireland but over the years they have all been replaced by SF who don’t sit. The effect of this is that the Ulster Catholic community has been without a political voice in London for many years.

This could be the election to change that but I don’t think it will.

Mike Smithson


UKIP voters are the only ones who think Donald Trump is more intelligent than average

January 15th, 2018

I doubt if the occupant of the White House reads the Observer or actually look at polling that is anything other than flattering him. But if he did he is his current apparent anger with the UK would have been reinforced.

One of the questions was whether British voters thought that Mr Trump was above or below average intelligence. The findings by party splits are in the chart above.

As can be seen overall there was an extraordinary low view of Mr Trump’s intelligence almost across the board. Just 18% of those polled thought that Trump was above average intelligence and even UKIP voters, the most favourable to the president, it was just 34%.

This is the context in which British politicians have to be aware of as they deal with Trump and US related issues. I thought it was wrong, for instance, for Boris Johnson to attack Labour over the cancellation of Trump’s visit.

Mike Smithson


Mrs May’s weird plot to make Gavin Williamson her successor is likely to fail

January 14th, 2018

Mrs May is annoying far too many people in the party & that will cause her and her preferred successor problems in the future

Trying to understand Mrs May’s recent reshuffle has been a challenge, but over the weekend a few people suggested it was all part of a weird plot to make Gavin Williamson Tory leader, Iain Martin says

Theresa May’s reshuffle was rubbish for a reason it seems. In the days that followed this week’s half-hearted reconstruction of the government, MPs, ministers and aides tried to make sense of what the Prime Minister and her closest supporters thought they were doing when they kept changes to a minimum. An astonishing picture is emerging as various factions across the Tory parliamentary party compare notes.

Contrary to expectation, the party’s “young talents” – such as Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab – were deliberately not fast-tracked into the cabinet. Others were sidelined, stalled or given “hospital pass” postings. Why? So that they would not have any cabinet experience this year, deliberately handicapping them if they want to run for the leadership later this year or next.

The Mayite candidate when that contest eventually comes thus has a head start and is already in the cabinet. That is the defence secretary Gavin Williamson so vigorously promoted as the future of a grittier “Nottingham not Notting Hill” Conservatism, by Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff. Timothy still has a great influence on May, who has long relied on his political skills.

What is in it for May? A cabinet minister says that if her supporters prevail then she gets to stay a good bit longer than anticipated beyond 2019, supposedly redeeming her  legacy and earning a better place in history. Or if she falls early, via an emergency, Williamson is well-placed and those other youngsters outside the cabinet are left at a disadvantage. That cabinet minister thinks there will be hell to pay as more MPs realise what is going on, but we’ll see.

The Sunday Times has one minister saying ‘Damian Hinds was promoted to the post of education secretary because “he is Gavin Barwell’s best mate”. Barwell is May’s chief of staff.’  Another ‘minister who had been expecting a promotion told friends he had complained to the chief whip and was told: “Sorry, there are other agendas at work here.”’

So we have a lot of annoyed and frustrated Tory MPs and ministers, it appears that Mrs May’s government is more of chumocracy than David Cameron’s government ever was and that will lead to retribution for Mrs May and the likes of Williamson & Hinds. The Sunday Times also speculates these actions might lead to a leadership challenge against Mrs May.

If Mrs May stays for at least another two years we probably will see at least one more reshuffle, probably in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU in March 2019. If she attempts another reshuffle like this one, she should be facing a leadership contest, you simply cannot annoy your MPs and ministers like this all in the attempt to game the next leadership race.

In the next Tory leadership contest both Gavin Williamson and Damian Hinds could be recipients of a backlash from Tory MPs for Mrs May’s actions. In the next PM/Tory leader markets I’ve been laying Gavin Williamson for quite some time, this week’s events seem to confirm the wisdom of that, his very rapid (over)promotion to Defence Secretary is seen as even more of a mistake by the week.


P.S. – Earlier on this week Michael Gove said the next Tory leadership contest final two could be between Williamson & Hinds, the interesting aspect of this is that both are Remainers. Anyone who sees the next Tory leadership contest exclusively through the prism of Remain vs Leave or think being a Remainer will be a disadvantage are making a mistake. The next Tory leadership contest will be viewed through the prism of who is best placed to win the next general election.


If Scotland has its own Secretary of State then so should London

January 14th, 2018

Graphic: The last two general election results in London via the BBC

We were promised a New Year reshuffle.  In the end, it resembled not so much a game of musical chairs as musical statues, with only Justine Greening, Patrick McLoughlin and James Brokenshire falling over.  Theresa May was unable to impose herself more fully on her Cabinet.  The chief points of interest were in the adding of social care to the Secretary of State for Health’s remit and the adding of Housing to the Communities Secretary’s remit.  All the Prime Minister seemed to be able to do is give out some stinking badges.

So let’s have a look at some of the stinking badges.  As with so many aspects of the British constitution, the role of the Secretaries of State has developed haphazardly.  The title of “Secretary of State” came into existence under Queen Elizabeth I, though the role itself dates back to at least the reign of Henry III.

Originally there was just one secretary, but from Henry VIII’s time onwards, two held the office.   The number of Secretaries of State fluctuated between two and three between 1708 and 1854.  From 1858, this increased to five.  After the First World War, grade inflation resulted in there being eight Secretaries of State.

After the Second World War, numbers were briefly reduced to five, but when Harold Wilson became Prime Minister he began the present practice of making most Cabinet ministers Secretaries of State.  The current Cabinet includes 18 Secretaries of State (the other full members of the Cabinet are the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Leader of the House of Lords and the Chairman of the Conservative Party).

It is a curiosity that while Secretaries of State are allotted different responsibilities, their powers under legislation are not usually confined by government department.  If legislation gives power to a Secretary of State it can normally be exercised, at least in theory, by any Secretary of State.  No Act of Parliament is required to create one.  This explains in part why the Prime Minister can chop and change responsibilities of Secretaries of State so freely.

The remits are not particularly obviously thought-through.  Three are geographical (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).  The rest are thematic.  Two are directly Brexit-related.  Two others (Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) are also international in theme.  The other 11 cover those areas that Prime Ministers past and present have deemed most important.  Few of the roles are of any great antiquity.

Theresa May indulged in a bit of tinkering, as noted above, but the whole layout looks ripe for a proper rethink, as and when Britain gets a Prime Minister who is strong enough to bruise egos.  Let me give a bit of help.

Devoting four different Secretaries of State to different aspects of international affairs seems extravagant, even at the time of Brexit.  But a still greater anomaly is the fact that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are each allocated their own Secretary of State.  After the early decades of the 18th century, Scotland made do without a Secretary of State until 1926.  Wales didn’t get one until 1964 and Northern Ireland had to wait until 1972.  So none of them have any particularly antique constitutional claim to a dedicated Secretary of State.

All three have had extensive devolution in the last 20 years, so they now have plenty of politicians looking after them locally – or should do, in the case of Northern Ireland.  Wales and Scotland were allocated only part of Secretaries of State under Labour between 2003 and 2008.  Civilisation did not obviously crumble.  A Martian might wonder why there isn’t a single Secretary of State for Devolution.

The contrast with the governmental status of London is stark.  London is more populous than Scotland and Wales put together.  Its GDP is bigger than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together.  Its Mayor has far more limited devolved powers than Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.  It is disproportionately important to the economy of Britain as a whole and the tax revenues it produces keep the rest of the country in the style to which it has become accustomed. 

At the same time, some of the worst examples of deprivation are found in London and it faces very pressing social problems largely absent elsewhere.  London is more different from the rest of the country than any parts of the rest of the country are from each other.

You might have thought that London would merit a Secretary of State, given its obvious great importance, unique nature and unique problems.  But in fact it has only a part-time junior minister, who is separately expected to act as a minister of state for transport.  (Lest this be thought to be a party political point, it should be noted that Labour does not have a shadow minister for London.)  It seems that London barely registers in the government’s thinking.

As things are currently set up, the government is unthinkingly treating London as a cash cow and sending out the signal that London’s needs are of third order importance to it.  With London profoundly alienated from the present government in the wake of the Brexit vote, that looks a dangerous line to take in the long term.  There’s only so long that Londoners will put up with being taken for mugs.

Alastair Meeks


The YouGov Brexit tracker continues to show that those who think it is wrong have the edge

January 13th, 2018

The comparison with a year ago is greater than the margin of error

With all that has been going on with Donald Trump I have yet to post on PB my regular chart showing the trend in YouGov’s Brexit tracker since the referendum took place.

Because every change in every single pole be regarded as simply within the margin of error what I tried to to take the average for YouGov findings each month and reflected this in the chart.

We are seeing a situation where the trend is quite clear and that there has been a discernible though small shift from those who think that the referendum outcome was right to those who think that it was wrong.

Looking at the detail of the polling the movement is largely caused by more Leaver backers from June 2016 now saying don’t know. There have been few switchers.

Interestingly in the first poll 2017 those who thought it was right had a 4 point lead. The first poll of 2018 has those who think it was wrong how has a 4% lead.

Whatever I do not think we have seen a big enough to shift for ministers to be concerned. The critical thing in all of this is the position of Mr Corbyn who has never convinced anybody that he is a remainer. That could spell problems for him at some time given that LAB voters overwhelmingly believe the referendum outcome was wrong. He is out of step.

Hopefully we might see some more polling tonight.

Mike Smithson