Archive for May, 2016


Is this Ed Miliband’s route back to the Labour leadership?

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

This piece isn’t an attempt to make John Rentoul’s QTWTAIN list, again, but The Daily Telegraph has reported that Ed Miliband is considering a return to Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. The Telegraph report says

The former Labour leader is said to be weighing up a return to frontline politics as sources said Mr Corbyn wants to appoint the “big hitter” and prevent a leadership challenge by giving his team credibility.

The Labour leader has reportedly made approaches to Mr Miliband about rejoining the shadow cabinet after the Doncaster North MP  turned down a previous offer made last year.

It came as Mr Corbyn posted a picture of his colleague addressing a rally they both attended yesterday, labeling the snap with the words “Ed – awesome”.

When challenged over whether he would like Mr Miliband in his senior team Mr Corbyn said: “All that’s for the future” on three separate occasions last night, but refused to say more.

The former Labour leader told the BBC that he would not comment on “Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle”, adding: “I’m a Labour backbencher, I’m supporting the leader, that’s a matter for him.”

A source close to Mr Miliband said he has spent the last year away from frontline politics and feels the time is now right for him to return.

Back in February Alastair Meeks tipped Ed Miliband as the next Labour leader at 200/1 and you can still get a similar price now. If you’re not already on, this could be a decent trading bet, with senior Labour MPs such as Andy Burnham and Luciana Berger looking to follow the lead of Sadiq Khan and become Mayors of the major cities of this country, the talent pool within the shadow cabinet is being drained further (and is probably an indication of the shellacking many in Labour fear that Labour will receive if they are led by Corbyn at the 2020 general election.)

When Jeremy Corbyn ceases to be Labour leader, Ed Miliband might be the only big beast left standing in the shadow cabinet/Parliamentary Labour Party, though those of a crueller disposition might say in that instance it is a case of Ed Miliband being the tallest dwarf. I suspect if Ed Miliband does join the shadow cabinet, those odds of 200/1 will fall and that might be the optimal time to trade out, especially were he to get a high profile shadow cabinet job.



LEAVE’s strong support amongst the oldies is an online phenomenon – the phone surveys paint a different picture

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

This starts to explain the modal divide

After all the discussion during the week about why the phone and online polls are showing such different pictures I’ve been examining the detailed data from he last eight polls. The area where the two modes most divide is with the oldies – the group that, as we all know is most likely to turnout on June 23rd.

The chart above shows the turnout weighted percentage of those oldies expressing a voting intention in the last eight polls – four internet and four online

The very striking thing about the chart above is that the “oldies mostly going for LEAVE” narrative is driven by the internet surveys which, of course, have been showing very different EURef figures. . Just look at the big difference between their LEAVE numbers for the oldies and the phone firms.

Historically the internet pollsters have struggled with samples in the over-65 segment and those that do take part are clearly tech-savvy and might not be as representative of the full age group.

With the phone pollsters its a different story. They have far fewer problems filling the 65+ segment of their samples and, invariably, they are over-represented with their views have to be scaled down. Oldies are much more likely to be at home ready to receive phone calls.

Mike Smithson


We are getting to a point where LEAVE could be the value bet

Saturday, May 28th, 2016

LEAVE Bedford statue

The record-break political gamble continues

Until now I have refrained from betting on the referendum quite simply because the odds on neither side appear attractive. My instinct tells me to follow the phone polls but I’m not convinced that IN has an 80%+ chance of victory. This is in spite of the fact that Britain’s longest-established phone pollster, Ipsos MORI, is showing a margin of 20% once those not expressing a voting intention are stripped out.

As Keiran Pedley argued in our latest TV Show there hasn’t been a big move to REMAIN in the polls – it is just that we are seeing many more phone surveys. From a period when everything was online, and better numbers for LEAVE, the past two weeks has seen the telephone polls outnumber the internet ones.

I have a target price for LEAVE and plan to bet if/when the price moves to that.

This comes down to the old formula that a value bet is one where your assessment of the outcome happening is greater than the betting price.

Mike Smithson


The EU can’t have its Turkey and eat it

Saturday, May 28th, 2016


The EURef highlights Europe’s ambivalence to its buffer state

“Bridge Together”: Istanbul’s slogan for its unsuccessful 2020 Olympic bid captured well the country’s unifying potential, linking as it does not only Europe and Asia but also the secular west with the Islamic Middle East. A bridge, however, needs firm foundations and Turkey, rather than pulling two sides together, is more swayed by the forces pulling it in opposite directions.

Hence the force of the arguments this week about its potential future EU membership; arguments which had an unspoken but nasty undertone, essentially asking: “you don’t want a Turk for a neighbour, do you?”.

Leaving aside whether or not people do – and Leave and their supporters in the press are confident they don’t, probably rightly – the question is entirely moot. Turkey certainly won’t be joining the EU this decade, almost certainly won’t join during the next one and is pretty unlikely to join in the one after that.

The history of its membership ambition is telling. Turkey first applied for membership of the EC in 1987. It took twelve years to accept that application and a further six to begin talks. Another eleven years down the line to today and just one of the 33 chapters to settle membership entry has been successfully negotiated. In the meantime, sixteen other countries have joined the Union (seven of which didn’t even exist in 1987).

Turkey’s future barriers to joining the club are even more formidable. Greece and Cyprus both have vetoes making their assent unlikely unless the Cypriot question is resolved. But even if those relatively small and financially unstable countries are cowed into line, much bigger problems remain.

France may no longer constitutionally require a referendum to approve Turkish membership (that provision was repealed in 2008), but public opinion will still make itself felt and public opinion is not supportive: in March this year, fully three-quarters were opposed. With Marine Le Pen receiving the backing of up to a third of the public in polls for the first round of next year’s presidential election and the run-off highly likely to be between the centre-right and the far-right, Elysée policy will reflect that hostility with a good chance that negotiations will rapidly be placed back in the freezer.

And if France doesn’t, others will, for the same reason. Angela Merkel is under pressure from the populist right-wing AfD, which hit 15% for the first time in three polls this month; in Holland, the stridently anti-Islamic PVV is regularly polling above 35%, at shares no party has received at any Dutch general election since before WWI; and in Austria, only 21,000 votes in 4.5m kept the far-right FPÖ candidate from the presidency. A quiet revolution is happening across Europe. Quiet so far, anyway.

In fact, virtually every member of the EU has good reason to oppose a country the size of Turkey with the income of Turkey joining, even without considering cultural factors. Those in the poorer south and east would lose billions in structural funds, while those in the richer north and west would likely face a new wave of immigration. Neither is an appealing prospect.

So what of Cameron’s apparent support? Out of line? Not necessarily. The Leave campaigners were keen to play up his comment from 2010 that “I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels” but taken in isolation, the quote misses the context. Ankara was at the time reforming towards western values, scrapping anti-Kurdish legislation and abolishing the death penalty – and in his speech from which that quote is taken, he argued that Turkey needed to do more still.

The simple fact is that Cameron’s support was conditional. From the same speech that the above quote came from, he said “Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy”. However, under Erdogan, new restraints on press freedom and human rights in general have moved the country away from the Copenhagen criteria to a point where the entire process could easily be frozen again; something which would enable Downing Street to play it both ways. Turkey is of course on the front line next to Syria, which has certainly put huge pressures on the country but that too simply emphasises its differentness.

Why would it matter? In a word: Russia. The lodestone in Turkish foreign policy since at least the eighteenth century has been set by antagonism across the Black Sea. Whether supported by Britain in the nineteenth century or allied to Germany in WWI or joining NATO after WWII or the current spats in Syria, the one common thread is resisting the Bear. That’s why people like Lord Owen are wrong when they say that Turkey may leave NATO if its European ambitions are frustrated. Turkey needs NATO, or at least, it needs Great Power backing one way or another. The EU is a sideshow on that level. After all, it hasn’t taken more than a quarter of a century since Turkey’s original application because only one side’s been dragging their feet.

So given all that, why the fuss? Because in Cameron’s words, Leave thought they’d found a magic bullet. They hadn’t, not least because they not only failed to get their facts right but they provably got them wrong: suggesting, for example, that Britain didn’t have a veto on Turkey’s accession. And yet after several days where the topic was at the centre of the debate, Leave have let it drop. Have they been distracted or was that deliberate?

To return to the beginning, for all that the public don’t want high immigration, the tone of the argument was unpleasant. In a vote where facts are scarce and assertion and conjecture plentiful, credibility matters above all, and credibility can be damaged by sounding to be not a nice person (despite it not being inherently linked). As an aside, if Leave does win, Cameron trashing his own public credibility will have no small part in it.

Immigration remains one of the strongest cards Leave have to play but they played it poorly this week. Can they play it again and if they do, can they play it better next time? I think it will be difficult. As such, the net outcome this week was a narrow and ugly points win to Remain.

David Herdson


The Friday night BREXIT numbers – the polls and the betting

Friday, May 27th, 2016

EU Ref polling   Google Sheets

The trend on the Betfair Exchange

Referendum Odds   EU Brexit


LEAVE’s repeated refusal to accept that its £50m a day claim is untrue could cause problems if it wins

Friday, May 27th, 2016

The basis for ministers to dismiss such a referendum result perhaps?

Yet again the independent statistics watchdog has had to step in a declare that the key number that forms the basis of the LEAVE campaign is untrue.

This has been used consistently by the outers and it has formed the basis for the core message. It has been saying that “£50m a day saved” could go into the NHS yet the amount of the actual cash available would be far less. Post election the INNERS would have very strong ground for complaint and you could just see Cameron dismissing a LEAVE outcome.

To make a claim knowing that it cannot substantiate could put them on shaky ground if they win by a narrow margin. It really is rather surprising that it has continued to pursue this approach.

Why not use the IFS approved figure of £150m a week? It still sounds a lot.

Mike Smithson


Making sense of the EUref polls? Watch discussion with Matt Singh, Keiran Pedley & Mike Smithson in PB Polling Matters TV Show

Friday, May 27th, 2016

We’re back. After a gap of three weeks while our hosts, Tip TV, moved into new premises the PB/Polling Matters TV show is on the air and inevitability it was dominated by the referendum.

Keiran Pedley and I were joined by Matt Singh from Number Cruncher Politics. Is Leave really losing and what changes are pollsters making to their methods as polling day approaches? We also look ahead at the implications of the referendum on British politics in the longer term including David Cameron’s future and who might replace him.

The show is also available as an audio podcast

Mike Smithson


Local By-Election Preview : May 26th 2016

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Northallerton South (Con defence) on Hambleton
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 27, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (Conservative majority of 26)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,414, 758 (49%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 762 (26%)
Labour 739, 654 (25%)
Candidates duly nominated: Caroline Dickinson (Con), Chris Pearson (Yorkshire First), Dave Robertson (UKIP), David Tickle (Lab)

Northallerton (Con defence) on North Yorkshire
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 45, Independents 8, Liberal Democrats 8. Labour 7, Liberals 2, United Kingdom Independence Party 2 (Conservative majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 825 (52%), United Kingdom Independence Party 489 (31%), Labour 259 (16%)
Candidates duly nominated: Michael Chaloner (Green), Caroline Dickinson (Con), Chris Pearson (Yorkshire First), Stephen Place (UKIP), David Tickle (Lab)

The North Yorkshire section of the Green Party probably cannot believe their luck. In a week of a local by-election to the county council (caused by the death of the sitting member who was also a district councillor on Hambleton) the county go ahead and vote in favour of hydraulic extraction (or “fracking” as it is commonly known) despite the fact there his a lot of anger and hostility to the policy which the Greens themselves also oppose.

If the Greens don’t manage to win this (and get their first seat on the council ahead of the local elections next year) then maybe it is possible that economic considerations outweigh environmental concerns in the leafy Conservative shires.

Stapenhill (UKIP defence) on East Staffordshire
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 25, Labour 12, United Kingdom Independence Party 1, Liberal Democrat 1 (Conservative majority of 11)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,251, 1.235, 865 (32%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,228 (31%)
Conservatives 963, 819, 714 (25%)
Green Party 488 (12%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sally Green (UKIP), Thomas Hadley (Green), Craig Jones (Lab), Susan Paxton (Ind),
Michael Teasel (Con), Hugh Warner (Lib Dem)

UKIP have a problem when it comes to local by-elections. It’s a problem that has been demonstrated in Wisbech, Camborne, Watton and Newington and that problem is “being simply unable to hold a local by-election defence”. Since the general election up to the local elections at the start of May UKIP have managed to lose six of the eight seats they have been defending in local by-elections and (to make matters worse) seen their vote share drop from 10% at the last elections to 7% now

Fervent UKIP supporters will of course say “But that’s in the past, we have shown that we can win seats where we have contested before, look at Thurrock!” (and yes, whilst I agree that in Thurrock, compared with 2012, UKIP’s vote increased by 21%) they have yet to show this resilience at the local by-election level.

Harry Hayfield