Archive for December, 2016

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With 2016 drawing to a close the PB/Polling Matters poll of the year

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

As we approach 2017, Keiran Pedley reviews the winners and losers of the past year and breaks down the 2016 PB/Polling Matters survey results.

Earlier this month we conducted the first annual survey of PB readers and Polling Matters listeners. 657 respondents took part and this post looks at some of the results and I give my own perspective too. We asked everyone about their winners and losers of 2016, biggest shocks, defining moments and the thorny issue of the ‘PB poster of the year’.

Biggest political shock of 2016?

Poll winner: Donald Trump wins US election

Keiran’s choice: UK votes for Brexit

To begin the survey we asked respondents to name their biggest political shock of 2016. Donald Trump’s election as US president was the runaway winner with 59% of the vote. The UK voting to leave the EU was second with 36%. No other individual event came close to matching these events as the chart below reflects.

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I doubt that many will be surprised by these results. Few predicted Trump’s victory. For large portions of the primary season the talk was of brokered conventions and then the manner of his victory was something of a fluke. Clinton won the popular vote by more than two percentage points yet Trump achieved a solid Electoral College victory due to some razor thin victories in the American mid-west. I cannot claim to be one of those that saw Trump coming but from the summer onwards I was less bullish on Clinton’s chances than my fellow podcasters. Funnily enough I did say Clinton would win by around two points. I just didn’t anticipate that such a margin would not deliver her the presidency.

For me the bigger shock was Brexit. I was guilty of believing the conventional wisdom that phone polls were more accurate than online and that ‘don’t knows’ would ultimately break Remain in the face of a sustained campaign by government and business that they should do so. What happened, a four point victory for Leave on turnout some seven points above that of the General Election the previous year, was astonishing.

Biggest winner of 2016

Poll winner: Donald Trump

Keiran’s choice: Donald Trump (with Theresa May a close second)

Continuing the theme above, Donald Trump was chosen as the ‘biggest winner of 2016’ with 50% of the vote. Nigel Farage was second with 28%. Other choices included Theresa May with 13% and Sadiq Khan with 6%.

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It really is hard to argue with this. The US presidency remains THE prize in world politics and Trump won it against all the odds and breaking all of the so-called ‘rules of the game’. No one else can reasonably come close when we consider who the biggest winner of 2016 was. I just wish I could be impressed. For a rich man he won in a cheap way. Let’s see how he does.

There is an interesting debate to be had about the UK. It would be churlish not to acknowledge Nigel Farage as a big winner. Whatever you think of him he achieved his life’s work and secured his place in history – all without ever taking a seat in the House of Commons. Quite remarkable. However, for me the biggest winner in the UK was Theresa May. Having campaigned for Remain she managed to become Prime Minister and enjoys a commanding poll lead over Labour and strong personal ratings. My suspicion is that this will begin to change in 2017 but for now she is in something of an insurmountable position. Given where she started in January 2016 this is some change.

Biggest loser of 2016

Poll winner: Hillary Clinton

Keiran’s choice: David Cameron

For the less coveted ‘biggest loser of 2016’ award we see a continuation of our US theme with Hillary Clinton chosen by 45%. David Cameron was second with 35%. Other notable choices included Zac Goldsmith on 16% and Michael Gove on 6%. Those choosing ‘other’ often opted for ‘everyone’ or ‘the world’ whilst George Osborne was also mentioned. Make of that what you will.

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The choice of Clinton continues our US dominated theme and so isn’t a surprise. Having come so close and seemingly finally broken that highest glass ceiling she fell at the final hurdle despite winning the popular vote. Many will say that this was all self-inflicted but it is hard not to feel a pang of sympathy – even if, like me, you had hoped that Joe Biden might get the nomination instead. What I would say is don’t underestimate how devastating her defeat was for good, ambitious women who looked to Clinton as a role model. As the husband of one, I can well understand the sadness, especially given who she lost to. We should remember that Clinton’s defeat isn’t just about Clinton herself.

Personally, I wouldn’t say Clinton was the biggest loser of 2016. I have gone back and forth on this given the spectacularly bad year Zac Goldsmith had but I have chosen David Cameron as my ‘biggest loser’ of 2016. He had taken on all-comers in 2015 and emerged victorious yet barely a year later he was out of office and defined forever by Brexit. He called a referendum he didn’t expect to have to deliver and thought he would win if he did. Perhaps Cameron was always lucky rather than good and in this case his luck finally ran out. I will leave that for others to decide.

Defining moment of 2016

Many were chosen but come on, there is only one isn’t there?

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PB poster of 2016

Now for the reason you are all here. I tallied up 235 eligible votes and here are the top 4.

Mike Smithson (59 votes)

TSE (32 votes)

Sean T (29 votes)

Plato (26 votes)

Mike’s runaway victory may prompt cries of ‘fix’ in the comments section but it really was a runaway win (Mike – I will send you my bank details as agreed). On a more serious note, I am sure we will all extend our thanks to Mike and TSE for keeping the site going all these years. It really is appreciated. Other notable mentions (e.g. double figures) go David Herdson, Alastair Meeks, Cycle Free and yours truly. Sadly I couldn’t get my 11 votes to somehow make the top 4 which at least proves that sometimes pollsters just have to take the numbers as they are!

Final word

If I can be serious in closing I couldn’t do a review of 2016 without mentioning the tragic murder of Jo Cox. I wasn’t sure on the appropriate way to bring it up but I couldn’t ignore it and so hopefully I can do it justice. We should all remember, however animated politics makes us, that real people with real families are involved. Many will curse 2016 for the deaths of celebrities or because politics didn’t go their way (and there is nothing wrong with that) but we should remember that for the Cox family life will never be the same again. I can only wish them my heartfelt condolences and I am sure everyone on this site will want to do the same. Jo was a decent woman trying to make the world around her a better place and for all their faults we should remember that the overwhelming majority of politicians (and people in politics) are too.

 Happy new year to all at PB!

Keiran Pedley tweets about public opinion and polling at @keiranpedley



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After a Year of Revolt, what’s in store for 2017?

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

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There might well be scares but there won’t be shocks

Few would have predicted twelve months ago that Donald Trump would be about to be inaugurated, that Theresa May would be prime minister and that Paul Nuttall would be leader of UKIP. Those who did should have cashed in nicely. There were straws in the wind for all of these (though most would have anticipated a change of UKIP leader after a Remain win, not a Leave), but the odds were still strongly against.

Can 2017 provide even more shocks and surprises? After the last two years, it’d be foolhardy to rule it out but my guess would be that the narrative of year will be of a mainstream fightback under pressure (though this narrative won’t necessarily be correct: the local trends are likely to remain towards the political insurgents; it’s just that this year’s elections have them starting further back).

Domestically, politics is Brexit. We’ll get the Supreme Court ruling next month on whether the government can trigger Article 50 without the need to go to parliament. After the strong ruling in the High Court in the applicant’s favour, I’d be surprised if the Supreme Court overturned that decision (although as said here, I think there are strong grounds for doing so). That’s going to mean the early months being dominated by the triggering legislation, in order for Theresa May to hit her end-of-March deadline.

My expectation is that parliament will give the government what it wants – a clean Act not tying its hands with conditions. There probably aren’t the numbers in the Commons to force amendments through and the Lords are unlikely to risk more than token opposition (which is to say that they’ll back down when the Commons reverses any amendments they pass). However, there’s a chance they won’t, in which case there is a serious chance of a May 2017 election, particularly given that Corbyn has said he’d support a dissolution motion were one brought. Given that Corbyn, the PLP and the government might all have reason to want an early election, and that the critical time for the Brexit votes ties in with dates when an election would need to be called to coincide with the local elections, I’d put that chance at about 1 in 3 – though the best odds of 7/4 don’t offer value.

If there is an election, the secondary markets however might do. A Labour leadership election would be likely to follow, where Clive Lewis (10/1) might be worth a punt (with the added advantage that if there’s not an election, the bet still runs). ‘Who governs?’ elections can go wrong for governments but I doubt one would if called because Labour and Lib Dem peers were frustrating Brexit (which is one reason I don’t think they will), and with Corbyn still as Labour leader.

More likely, in the absence of an election, is that the Tory lead will decline as internal divisions over Brexit make themselves felt and the process itself struggles onwards against both domestic and EU opposition. In the ‘Next cabinet minister out’, the Three Brexiteers are top-priced but I’d look elsewhere. As a rule, the payouts in this market are hard to predict months in advance and come about due to incidents of the moment. My tip would be to take your pick of anyone 20/1 and up. What I wouldn’t expect – even in the event of a Con win after a general election – is a major reshuffle. May made huge changes on coming to office and is unlikely to want to repeat that only nine months on.

If there’s not an election, the other domestic betting question is about Corbyn’s longevity as leader: will there be another challenge and will he see the year out? The Unite leadership contest is to some extent a proxy but union elections have notoriously low turnouts and with both the status quo and Momentum-type activists going for him, McClusky should be secure. If he does lose, however, I wouldn’t expect Corbyn to see the year out. Even if he wins, the tide is now probably flowing against the Labour leader. However, as they found last year, the capacity of a Labour leader determined to cling on is immense and were his opponents to lose a second challenge, it’d damage the credibility of a third in 2018 or 2019. Because it’s now a one-shot option, and because a general election is unlikely in 2018, I think Corbyn will see the year out.

Internationally, the year starts with Trump’s inauguration. This will undoubtedly mark a change in style in the White House and in policy too – though quite where his priorities will lie are anyone’s guess. A leader can only fight on so many fronts; is it the Wall, Healthcare, foreign policy or something else? Or will he simply lead an incoherent administration shouting about everything but achieving very little? You can make a good case either way. He ought to go on healthcare, where he at least has congressional support.

In Europe, the course for this year’s elections is probably already set: centre-right administrations will win weak mandates in the Netherlands, France and Germany against populist insurgents. This will then be wrongly credited as a ‘fightback’, after Brexit and Trump. In reality, all three elections will see the mainstream retreat locally. All the same, Wilders, Le Pen and the AfD will end the year with lots of votes but no power.

All of which is to count without Black Swans. Even a series of terrorist attacks is unlikely to swing the European results – the Netherlands votes as soon as March; Fillon would play sufficiently to the same law, order and culture market as Le Pen to see her off; while the AfD have become too extreme to capitalise effectively. Brexit also seems to have consolidated support for the EU among Europeans; 2017 is unlikely to change that dynamic.

The other big Black Swan risk – a major economic downturn, perhaps induced from China – is real but would take time to feed through to political consequences. One to watch for by 2020 rather than 2017.

All in all, after the shocks of 2015 and 2016, we should see a quiet 2017. Famous last words.

David Herdson





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NEW PETITION calling for everyone to be able to see a GP within 48 hours needs your support

Friday, December 30th, 2016

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2017 will be dominated by Brexit but we shouldn’t lose sight of the real pressures facing our NHS, whatever your politics, writes Keiran Pedley

Until 2016, I was typical of many thirty-somethings in that I had little need to see my local GP too often. This year that changed. Due to a recurring issue I found myself having to see the GP more regularly. Nothing critical, I’m fine, but this experience opened my eyes to a real problem and prompted me to want to find out more. In this post, I want to share my experience, start a debate and hopefully win some support for a petition I have started.

The issue I want to talk about is the availability of GP appointments in the UK.

In my experience this year I have found making an appointment a struggle. It can take two weeks or more to get an appointment and not just in isolated circumstances. On the first couple of occasions I put it down to hard luck and thought little of it. However as the year progressed I continued to have the same experience. On speaking to friends and family, I have found that others have had the same experience (or worse) yet some experience no issue at all – a real ‘postcode lottery’. I decided to dig deeper.

A real problem that is getting worse

Recent headlines, buried between celebrity deaths and Trump’s latest tweets, have convinced me that something is happening that requires more attention. The incoming head of the Royal College of GPs, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, has warned that patients run the risk of having to wait up to a month to see a GP in crunch periods. Her warning comes after a survey of GPs in 2016 estimated that the average waiting time for a GP appointment was approximately 13 days and getting longer. Another survey published in 2016, the respected GP-Patient survey conducted by Ipsos Mori, estimated that one in five wait a week or longer for an appointment with the trend moving in the wrong direction (sample size n=124,235 patients).

Table 1: Time taken to see a GP (one week or more)

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Source: Ipsos Mori GP-Patient Survey.

It is clear from these findings that many patients are waiting more than a week to get a GP appointment and the problem is getting worse. These figures and Dr Stokes-Lampard’s warning should concern us all. The longer it takes to see a GP, the more patients are put at risk (with non-urgent problems potentially becoming urgent), the greater the pressure placed on A&E departments and the harder it is to genuinely create a health service based on preventative care. Both the scale of the problem and the direction of travel are worrying and there is a very real risk that this issue gets buried in 2017, whilst the government understandably is preoccupied by Brexit.

Take action – support our petition

So what can we do about it? As a start, I have created a petition calling on the government to set a target that everyone should be able to see a GP within 48 hours of making an appointment and I am asking for your support. The purpose of this petition is not to apportion blame or to start a party political row. Nor is it to pretend that there is an easy solution. In starting this petition, I want to raise awareness of the problem and try to place it further up the political agenda. But I can’t do that without help.

I urge everyone to support this petition – even if your personal situation locally is fine. Perhaps you weren’t aware of this problem before today because you were unaffected. However, it is clear that there is a problem and it will get worse unless political leaders are put under pressure to address it. One petition won’t solve the problem alone but with enough backing it can at least get MPs talking about it and that is step in the right direction. The 48 hour target may be ambitious but right now the most important thing is to change the direction of travel and for that reason I ask you to support this petition.

How you can help.

To support this campaign click here to sign our petition or paste this URL into your browser https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/176412.

We would also encourage you to share this petition with your friends and family on Facebook or by email so that we can try and get as many signatures as possible.

For further info contact Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley

Thanks for your support.

Keiran Pedley




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Not long to go until those end of year political bets are resolved

Friday, December 30th, 2016

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What wagers have you got outstanding?

At the end of the biggest political betting year ever we’ve still got pile of wagers to be resolved and that won’t happen until midnight tomorrow night. These are ones relating to whether things will or will not happen during 2016.

My main one has been on Article 50 not being invoked during 2016 – a bet that saw a fair bit of activity until TMay’s CON conference speech in October when she announced the March 31st 2017 deadline. In the weeks after June 23rd there was a broad assumption in some camps that the process would start pretty quickly and this was odds-on for a time.

My other end of year bet was the 10/1 wager placed at the end of February that Osborne would not be the Chancellor at the end of 2016. Well that came home in July and Hills paid up then. Just about nobody would have predicted that he would end the year without being in any ministerial post.

What about other PBers? Have you got bets that will be resolved at midnight tomorrow?

Mike Smithson




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The Netflix series “The Crown” is a must watch for political junkies

Friday, December 30th, 2016

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For the past few days I’ve watched all ten parts of the “The Crown” – the compelling big budget series from Netflix which centres on the life of the Queen. One you’ve watched the opening minutes of episode one you become hooked and I can heartily recommend it.

What makes this particularly appealing from the the political perspective is the portrayal of the monarch’s relations with the prime ministers and the big political developments that it covers.

It is written by Peter Morgan whose first big political drama was his 2002 film “The Deal” about the famous agreement between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown in the Granita restaurant in May 1994. Four years later Morgan did the excellent “The Queen” which focused on the relationship between Tony Blair and the Royal Family following the death of Princess Diana.

The first series of “The Crown” covers the period from the 1937 abdication crisis right through to when Sir Anthony Eden taking over from Churchill in 1955. The efforts to oust Churchill much earlier and to bring the Queen into the argument are fascinating. An episode that’s particularly striking is on the politics of the Great Smog of London in 1952 which was estimated later to have claimed the lives of 12,000 and paved the way for clean air legislation. The then LAB leader, Attlee, thought he had Churchill but then the smog lifted.

One feature of Netflix is that when one episode finishes it automatically moves on to the next one and you find yourself watching far more at one time than you planned to.

My understanding of the politics of the post-war period has been enhanced and I cannot wait for series 2. Watch it.

Mike Smithson




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Local By-Election Review 2016

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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19 of the 26 LD local council gains since BREXIT have been in places which voted LEAVE

Votes cast, change on last time, seats won and change on last time for 2016
Labour 147,049 votes (29% +1% on last time) winning 85 seats (-5 on last time)
Conservatives 146,074 votes (29% -2% on last time) winning 97 seats (-33 on last time)
Liberal Democrats 76,877 votes (15% +4% on last time) winning 50 seats (+27 on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 46,112 votes (9% -4% on last time) winning 10 seats (-3 on last time)
Independent candidates 24,810 votes (5% unchanged on last time) winning 22 seats (+6 on last time)
Green Party 23,604 votes (5% -1% on last time) winning 2 seats (+1 on last time)
Scottish National Party 23,463 votes (5% +3% on last time) winning 8 seats (unchanged on last time)
Plaid Cymru 4,133 votes (1% unchanged on last time) winning 5 seats (+3 on last time)
Other Parties 11,268 votes (2% -1% on last time) winning 8 seats (+4 on last time)
Labour lead of 975 votes (0%) on a swing of 1.5% from Conservative to Labour

Post EU Referendum Local By-Elections
Results in councils which voted to REMAIN
Labour 32,751 votes (32% -1% on last time) winning 20 seats (-4 on last time)
Conservatives 22,179 votes (22% +1% on last time) winning 11 seats (unchanged on last time)
Liberal Democrats 14,554 votes (14% +3% on last time) winning 7 seats (+4 on last time)
Scottish National Party 14,029 votes (14% +6% on last time) winning 4 seats (-1 on last time)
Independent candidates 6,344 votes (6% unchanged on last time) winning 4 seats (unchanged on last time)
Green Party 5,688 votes (6% -4% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 on last time)
Plaid Cymru 2,577 votes (3% +2% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,898 votes (2% -2% on last time)
Other Parties 2,862 votes (3% -2% on last time) winning 2 seats (+1 on last time)
Labour lead of 10,572 votes (10%) on a swing of 1% from Labour to Conservative

GAINS in councils that voted to REMAIN
Liberal Democrat GAIN Leatherhead North on Mole Valley from Con
Liberal Democrat GAIN Totnes on South Hams from Lab
Labour GAIN Irvine West on North Ayrshire from SNP
Scottish National Party GAIN Renfrew South and Gallowhill on Renfrewshire from Lab
Farnham Residents GAIN Farnham, Shortheath and Boundstone on Waverley from Con
Farnham Residents GAIN Farnham, Castle on Waverley from Con
Labour GAIN The Lochs on Fife from Local Independent
Liberal Democrat GAIN Plasnewydd on Cardiff from Lab
Labour GAIN Coatbridge North and Glenbolig on North Lanarkshire from SNP
Liberal Democrat GAIN Stow on Cotswold from Con
Liberal Democrat GAIN Culloden and Ardersier on Highland from Lab
Scottish National Party GAIN Garscadden and Scotstounhill on Glasgow from Lab
Conservative GAIN Inverurie and District on Aberdeenshire from Lib Dem
Conservative GAIN Banff and District on Aberdeenshire from SNP
Plaid Cymru GAIN Grangetown on Cardiff from Lab
Conservative GAIN Eltham North on Greenwich from Lab
Conservative GAIN Abbey on Bath and North East Somerset from Green
Scottish National Party GAIN Arboath East and Lunan on Angus from Ind
Independent GAIN Carnoustie and District on Angus from SNP

Results in councils which voted to LEAVE
Conservatives 53,900 votes (35% -1% on last time) winning 48 seats (-13 on last time)
Labour 35,998 votes (23% -1% on last time) winning 26 seats (-6 on last time)
Liberal Democrats 31,780 votes (20% +9% on last time) winning 28 seats (+19 on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 17,538 votes (11% -4% on last time) winning 5 seats (-3 on last time)
Independent candidates 9,266 votes (6% unchanged on last time) winning 9 seats (unchanged on last time)
Green Party 3,196 votes (2% -3% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Plaid Cymru 767 votes (0% unchanged on last time) winning 2 seats (+2 on last time)
Other Parties 3,279 votes (2% -1% on last time) winning 2 seats (+1 on last time)
Conservative lead of 17,902 votes (12%) on no swing since last time

GAINS in councils that voted to LEAVE
Conservatives GAIN Bryam and Brotherton on Selby from Lab
Liberal Democrats GAIN Astley on North Norfolk from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN St. Teath and St. Breward on Cornwall from Ind
Liberal Democrats GAIN Trowbridge, Grove on Wiltshire from Ind
Liberal Democrats GAIN Newquay, Treviglas on Cornwall from UKIP
Liberal Democrats GAIN Westone on Northampton from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Newlyn and Goonhaven on Cornwall from Con
Labour GAIN Silverdale and Parksite on Newcastle under Lyme from UKIP
Liberal Democrats GAIN Alston Moor on Eden from Con
United Kingdom Independence Party GAIN Beaver on Ashford from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Catterick on Richmondshire from Ind
Conservatives GAIN Gravesham East on Kent from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Grangefield on Stockton-on-Tees from Lab
Liberal Democrats GAIN Four Lanes on Cornwall from UKIP
Liberal Democrats GAIN Mosborough on Sheffield from Lab
Liberal Democrats GAIN Tupton on North East Derbyshire from Lab
Labour GAIN Christchurch on Allderdale from Con
Labour GAIN Arley and Whitacre on North Warwickshire from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Hadleigh on Suffolk from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Teignmouth Central on Teignbridge from Con
Plaid Cymru GAIN Cilycwm on Carmarthenshire from Ind
Liberal Democrats GAIN Adeyfield West on Dacorum from Con
United Kingdom Independence Party GAIN Headland and Harbour on Hartlepool from Lab
Liberal Democrats GAIN Broadstone on Poole from Con
Residents GAIN Limpsfield on Tandridge from Con
Conservatives GAIN Rothwell on Kettering from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Strood South on Medway from UKIP
Independent GAIN Heacham on King’s Lynn and West Norfolk from Con
Independent GAIN Abergele, Pensarn on Conwy from Lab
Labour GAIN Witham North on Braintree from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN St. Mary’s on the East Riding of Yorkshire from Con
Plaid Cymru GAIN Blaengwrach on Neath and Port Talbot from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Reedley on Pendle from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Ferndown on Dorset from UKIP
Liberal Democrats GAIN Southbourne on Chichester from Con
Independent GAIN Maldon West on Maldon from Con
Labour GAIN Horsehay and Lightmoor on Telford and Wrekin from Con
Independent GAIN Moreton Hall on St. Edmundsbury from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Blackdown on Taunton Deane from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Bovey on Teignbridge from Con
Liberal Democrats GAIN Chudleigh on Teignbridge from Con

Compiled by Harry Hayfield



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Punters make it a 31% chance that the next general election will be in 2017

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

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I might be wrong but am yet to be convinced

On the UK front next year looks set to be dominated by BREXIT – the process of extracting the UK from the EU. Doing this successfully is set to be the defining act of Theresa May’s premiership and even though the referendum decision was more than six months ago we still have little idea what this is going to mean.

The PM has managed to keep up her strategy of refusing to get into a discussion on the detail declining, we are told, even requests for enlightenment from the Queen.

The challenge she’s got is that whatever she does it is not going to satisfy all her party’s MPs never mind the country as a whole. She’s also got the ongoing problem of not having a personal mandate. The Tories have a majority because of David Cameron successful GE2015 campaign, not her, and even her CON leadership contest was won without this going to a party members’ ballot.

So the argument goes that there’ll come a time, possibly next year, when she needs to get the public’s backing for the approach to the EU extraction. With Labour looking s weak a general election would seem the logical move.

TM’s position on the Fixed Term Parliament Act has been made easier by the statement by Corbyn before Christmas that Labour would back an early election – something that would almost certainly be required to get round the constraints imposed.

I have three big reservations. On becoming PM she made it clear that she would not seek an election before 2020; a 2017 general election would be fought on the old boundaries, and she appears to be a ditherer on massive decisions which this would be.

So I’m not rushing out to bet.

Mike Smithson




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The winners under First Past The Post should rigidly adhere to election spending laws

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

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The chart above is self-explanatory and illustrates clearly how well the electoral system treated the Tories at the last election and how hard it was on the smaller parties particularly UKIP.

General elections are won in the marginal constituencies where clearly the parties focus their resources both financial and people.

But the law lays down very strict spending limits on how much can be spent by each party within each seat. Parties shouldn’t be able to buy victory simply because they’ve got most money.

After the election each candidate and his/her agent have to sign a declaration of expenses. A false declaration is a criminal offence.

So free resources that don’t cost money such as enthusiastic volunteers for clearical tasks, delivering and canvassing are at a premium. If you start paying for items like this during the official campaign period then it can eat into the maximum that’s allowed.

Earlier in the year Channel 4’s Michael Crick ran a series of reports suggesting that the Tories in some of their key targets and defences might have gone over the limit. This is now being investigated by the Electoral Commission and we await its report.

In these days hidden campaigning such as use of social media and the phone plays a huge part and tracking expenditure can be harder but it is right that limits should be adhered to.

Mike Smithson