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Tonight’s local by-election line-up has 3 LAB defences and an LD one

February 11th, 2016

Crompton (Lab defence) on Bolton
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 39, Conservatives 15, Liberal Democrats 3, UKIP 3 (Labour majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 2,363 (60%), UKIP 826 (21%), Conservative 456 (12%), Liberal Democrat 148 (4%), Independent 121 (3%)
Candidates duly nominated: Bilkis Bashir-Ismali (Lab), Laura Diggle (Green), Paul Eccles (UKIP), Ryan Haslam (Con), Garry Veevers (Lib Dem)

In the 2004 local elections something quite remarkable happened in Bolton, the Liberal Democrats became the largest party on the council (Lib Dem 21, Lab 20, Con 19) of course it didn’t last long and in 2006 they started a long slide to their three councillors at the moment and Bolton returned to it’s long term tradition of being a solid Labour council which poses the question therefore of whether Bolton wants an inbuilt majority for Labour or are they seeking an alternative but each option disappoints? If that is indeed the case then UKIP could be in for a very bad night indeed, after all polling 19% at last year’s elections (from a standing start in 2011) means that they have a long way to fall back.

Lower Stoke (Lab defence) on Coventry
Result of council at last election (2015): Labour 41, Conservatives 13 (Labour majority of 28)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,854 (47%), UKIP 938 (24%), Conservative 600 (15%), Green Party 259 (7%), Trade Unionist and Socialist 248 (6%), British National Party 70 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated:Aimee Challenor (Green Party), Christopher Glenn (Lib Dem), Harjinder Sehmi (UKIP), Rupinder Singh (Lab), Eliane Yebkal (Con)

When the Conservatives gained control of Coventry in 2004 Labour were sure “This is just a temporary blip” and it is true that just six years later Labour regained control and now have a majority of 28, but at the same time at the general election the three seats that make up Coventry there was a 0.45% swing to the Conservatives making Coventry North West as well as Coventry South into Labour marginal seats and whilst there is no chance of the Conservatives gaining Coventry in 2016, the fact that Coventry has seen a Labour lead of 33% in 1997 slump to just 15% in 18 years is something that will no doubt give Labour several sleepless nights for years to come.

West End North (Lib Dem defence) on Eastleigh
Result of council at last election (2015): Liberal Democrats 38, Conservatives 6 (Liberal Democrat majority of 32)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Liberal Democrat 1,156 (40%), Conservative 1,020 (35%), UKIP 446 (15%), Labour 280 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andy Andrews (Lab), Janice Asman (Lib Dem), Steven Broomfield (Con), Glynn Fleming (Green), Hugh McGuinness (UKIP)

When the Conservatives brought Eastleigh back into the fold at the general election, they managed to do so on a very fractional increase in the Conservative vote (from 39% in 2010 to 42% in 2015) the real reason was the collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote from 47% to just 26% so you would expect therefore that in the Eastleigh council elections (held on the same day) the Liberal Democrat vote would collapse compared with the 2011 local elections (and while it did fall 10%) there was only a 7% swing from Lib Dem to Con compared to the 12% swing at the general election so therefore there has to be a very strong chance that the Lib Dems should be able to hold this ward.

Cranford (Lab defence) on Hounslow
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 49, Conservatives 11 (Labour majority of 38)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 2,085, 1,813, 1,643 (55%)
Conservatives 987, 851, 801 (26%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 508 (13%)
Liberal Democrat 235 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sukhbir Dhaliwal (Lab), Nico Fekete (Green), Hina Malik (Lib Dem), Sukhdev Maras (Con), George Radulski (UKIP)

The last time that Labour had 49 seats back in 1994, the opposition was made up of 6 Conservatives and 5 Liberal Democrats and from that moment on Labour dropped so that by 2006 Hounslow was a hung council but that didn’t last too long and it only took two elections for Labour to get back to 49 councillors and eliminate the Liberal Democrats as an opposition group member. However, with the London Mayoral and Assembly elections on the way a good Conservative performance in a Labour heartland will allow them to say that they are the only challengers to Labour in the capital and that as a result, Zac Goldsmith should be elected Mayor to counter a Labour controlled Assembly.

Compiled by Harry Hayfield




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The Doctors dispute: Betting opens on whether Hunt will survive

February 11th, 2016

Andrew Marr interviews Jeremy Hunt on The Andrew Marr Show   YouTube

As the Junior Doctor furore continues, bookmakers William Hill have opened a market on whether Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt will still be in his role on January 1, 2017.

He is odds-on to survive in the job and the bookie quotes odds of 8/11 that he is still in post on Jan 1, 2017. It is evens that he will leave the position before that date.

The polling suggests that Hunt is finding it hard to take public opinion with him.

William Hill also offer 28/1 that Jeremy Hunt will be the next elected leader of the Conservative Party.

Remember to watch the PB/Polling Matters TV Show

Mike Smithson





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The New Hampshire aftermath: This week’s PB/Polling Matters TV Show looks at where the race stands now

February 11th, 2016

Where does the battle for Obama’s successor stand now?

Although the outcome in both the Republican and Democratic races in the New Hampshire primary was completely in line with the polls the results have come as a massive shock. One thing’s for sure – previous assumptions about how US elections work don’t apply any more and we look forward with a great degree of uncertainty.

This was also the biggest political betting event since the UK General Election last May.

The second PB/Polling Matters TV Show is divided into two parts. In the first Keiran Pedley looks at what happened with two US pollsters and in the second discusses with me the betting implications.

The TV show is very much new venture and we’ve been heartened by the positive reaction to the first one last week. There’ve been encouraging comments in the Daily Telegraph as well as this Tweet from veteran ITN broadcaster Alistair Stewart.

Like last week this week’s show is available in the normal audio podcast mode.

Audio here

Mike Smithson





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LEAVE moves into lead for 1st time in ICM’s EURef tracker

February 10th, 2016

Cameron European

Cameron’s “deal” not going down well

After a stormy week during which he’s come under sustained attack from the papers that were so supportive last May the latest ICM EURef poll has LEAVE taking the lead for the first time. The figures are.

LEAVE 42+3
REMAIN 41-1

This is just one point and a lot narrower than the 9% LEAVE lead that YouGov recently reported but it does reinforce that the general direction is to BREXIT.

Of course these were online polls which have tended to be much more pro BREXIT than the phone surveys but the trend is the same.

As I observed last week the EU Referendum looks set to come down to Cameron versus the Tory press.

Mike Smithson





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The GOP nomination race is effectively now down to just 5

February 10th, 2016

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Iowa and New Hampshire have slimmed the GOP field down

What a night and what an outcome. The contender who was deemed to have “won” the last debate, Chris Christie failed to make an impact in NH and returned to New Jersey to consider his position.

Given that Christie’s final act had been his debate destruction of Rubio only a few days ago it seemed that others benefited from him taking down the one who became favourite after Iowa. Maybe on reflection Christie should have used his powerful destructive tools to attack Trump. He didn’t.

This trims the field down to five with the previous long term favourite, Jeb Bush, still there and seeing a fair amount of betting on him. Before the Trump surge he was an odds on favourite and seemed to be the one who suffered most by the entry of the property billionaire turned TV star into the race.

Kasich’s strong showing overnight keeps him in the race and so the battle is now between the five of them.

Mike Smithson





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Trump and Sanders heading for big wins in New Hampshire

February 10th, 2016

CNN   Breaking News  U.S.  World  Weather  Entertainment   Video News (1)



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If Trump fails to win tonight then his bid will effectively be over

February 9th, 2016

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If Hillary can keep the gap in single figures she claim to be the “comeback kid”

As we saw after last week’s Iowa caucuses this stage in the White House race everything is all about expectations. So although Cruz won last week all the attention went on Rubio who did a fair bit better than expected.

Trump, quite remarkably, has led led in every single New Hampshire poll  since June – all  75 of them. He went into today’s New Hampshire primary with a 17% RCP polling average lead and needs a clear victory that reflects the perception that he’s the front runner. If by any chance he doesn’t make it people would question his ongoing national poll leads as well as the mountain of surveys from other states.  At least in Iowa last week he hadn’t been the leader in the polls.

Likewise Socialist 74 year old, Bernie Sanders, has to have an emphatic victory. He’s gone for a total of 40 polls all showing him in the lead and the Real Clear Politics Average currently has him 13.65 ahead. If Hillary comes in with the gap in single figures then her team will be claiming some sort of victory.

One factor about Sanders is that he’s a senator from Vermont and New Hampshire has a record of giving good support to contenders from neighbouring states.

If you are staying up have a good evening.  If it is not as clear cut as the polls we could have an exciting few hours.

Mike Smithson





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Alastair Meeks says that he EU is not as central an issue as many right wing activists think it is

February 9th, 2016

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A look at the referendum’s salience

Last Monday, UKIP wandered into another of their controversies over gay rights.  Alan Craig, who has in the past called equality campaigners the Gaystapo and described gay marriage as being as bad as the Nazi invasion of Poland, has been selected as a candidate for the London Assembly.  Most UKIP supporters are frustrated by the fuss.  They don’t believe in a relationship between sexuality and meteorology but really don’t see the views of some of their number about gay rights as an important matter when it comes to deciding how to vote.  Hold that thought.

Many of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters sigh at the amount of attention gets given to his contacts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.  Beyond a general wish to see peace established, they are not particularly exercised by the complexities of the factions or the unsavoury views of some of these people.  They are much more interested in the social justice that he stands for.  Why bother about something relatively peripheral?  Hold that thought too.

Let’s turn to the question of the referendum on the EU.  For many of the politically committed, particularly in the Leave camp, this is the paramount question of the day.  Everything is viewed through this prism.  Members of the public who have yet firmly to make up their minds about the referendum are implicitly considered ignorant.  Politicians who have yet to commit themselves publicly are regarded as duplicitous.  How could anyone not see this as being of vital importance?

Now, return to the two held thoughts.  It should not be a revelation, but apparently it is: different people place different degrees of importance on different matters.  Some people regard respect for other people’s sexuality as of prime importance.  Some people regard it as vital not to associate with those who could be seen as terrorists or anti-Semites.  For that matter, some people regard restricting abortion rights as being of touchstone importance and find the contrary view as being not just unfathomable but wicked.

What of the EU?  Well, here we have a lot of evidence of just how important the average voter thinks it is, courtesy of the long-running Ipsos MORI monthly issues poll.  And as you can see from the table at the top of the thread, it’s hardly a burning concern.  When respondents are asked to name up to three important issues facing the country, concern about the EU hasn’t registered with more than 20% of the electorate in more than 10 years.

You sometimes hear diehard Leavers argue that when respondents name immigration as an issue it’s a proxy for the EU.  There are two problems with that.  First, respondents would be quite capable of naming the EU if that’s what they meant.  And secondly, there is no obvious correlation between the salience as an issue over time of immigration and the EU.

So it’s hard to escape the conclusion that most voters just don’t see the EU as the central subject that many right wing political activists do.

Once that is understood, the actions of those politicians who treat the subject as one to be politicked with also become readily understood.  They’re not being immoral or dishonest, simply acting logically in order to promote subjects of much greater centrality to their political ideology.  Much has been written about Michael Gove apparently agonising about his intellectual belief that Britain should leave the EU and his loyalty to the Cameroon project.  Leavers are outraged that he has anything to consider here.  But if he genuinely believes that the Cameroon project is more important, why would he not swallow his principles on EU membership in order to do his best to protect it?

So for those that do care passionately about the EU, how should they respond?  First, banging on about the EU isn’t going to change many votes.  The target-rich environments are the voters who see other subjects as more salient.  So this week we have seen David Cameron painting lurid pictures of the Garden of England converted into a Hogarthian slum by migrants if we leave the EU.  Leave, of course, have been majoring on the numbers of foreigners coming to Britain for ages.  Expect risks to the economy to be conjured up, existential threats to the NHS and increased terrorist dangers to be bandied about.

None of it will really have all that much to do with the pros and cons of EU membership – the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers from outside the EU, for example, has only a tangential connection with EU membership and in any case at present is operating largely outside the nominal EU rules that have some relevance to such matters.  It won’t stop a lot of people who really should know better huffing and puffing about it at inordinate length.

I expect I’m supposed to sigh and look severely at the poor quality of political discourse in the referendum.  But I don’t.  If you believe that membership of the EU is a fundamental matter, this will be disappointing.  But if you believe that the question of EU membership is about the best means to an end, this focus on other issues that the voters believe are more important is extremely heartening.  So the question now is which side has the more persuasive arguments about these bread and butter subjects.  And which side can most resist talking about qualified majority voting and Eurozone consolidation.

Alastair Meeks