Archive for January, 2017


Trump’s net Gallup approval ratings drops 8 points in first week.

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

See full report on the latest ratings here.

The Gallup picture is in broad alignment with a Quinnipiac survey which found 44% disapproving to 36% approving.

These are quite remarkable figures. New Presidents usually enjoy a polling honeymoon.

Mike Smithson


UKIP’s leader, Doc Nuttall, no longer odds-on favourite to take Stoke Central

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

There’s been a change in the Stoke central by-election betting with renewed interest in LAB and the move to Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, easing off.

The big gap between UKIP and the main parties is that the latter have much more expertise and the basic infrastructure required to mount effectively FPTP election campaigns. UKIP, as I keep on pointing out, has never gained a Westminster seat except with defector incumbents.

A critical element in contests like this is data. It was the lack of access to the Tory machine’s data resources in Richmond Park that organisationally impeded Zac’s campaign last month.  LAB and the LDs will likely have a comprehensive history of contact with those on the electoral roll with essential information like those who are postal voters. The will be the focus over the next couple of weeks before the  postal voting deadline.

A senior Conservative figure told me a couple of days ago that those of his colleagues who had worked with Vote Leave had been quite shocked at the lack of basic election expertise they’d found amongst UKIP colleagues during the referendum.

Now whether Paul Nuttall’s UKIP will be better we don’t know but they start from a long way behind.

During 2016 the UKIP vote declined in all but one of the Westminster by-elections that they fought. They’ve also experienced the worst retention rate in local council by-elections.

This doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to pull it off but don’t overestimate their capabilities.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s corrosion is to Labour’s habits as much as to its polling

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

How long will it take to restore internal discipline in the post-Corbyn era?

“Damn your principles; stick to your party!” With such lofty dismissiveness did Disraeli once berate a colleague thinking of rebelling. It is not just hard but impossible to think of Jeremy Corbyn using like words, yet they are the currency of every successful parliamentary leader, if not always put so bluntly.

Not just the leader either. For all the myths of party whips terrorising and bribing MPs into voting for their party line, the reality is rather more mundane: whips’ offices exist not only because leaders need them but because MPs do so too. (Which isn’t to say that the more extreme stories of whips’ tactics are not true; just that they aren’t common).

Parties exist for a purpose and that purpose is only delivered if the sense of collective endeavour is sufficient to generate high levels of collective discipline and self-discipline. Put another way, sufficient for MPs to accept that their principles are best served by following the whip even when they disagree with it because they know that on a matter they’ve championed and have won party backing on, other MPs in the party will return the favour.

Self-discipline to the whip is of course is something that Corbyn is singularly poorly placed to demand. Somewhat contradictorily, as well as well-disciplined party units, parliament also needs a few mavericks willing to say ‘no’ when everyone else says ‘yes’. They’re usually wrong but occasionally they’re not and on such occasions they can spark change. At the least, their presence should ensure that the consensus has its arguments properly thought out. Corbyn was – and to a large extent still is – one such.

However, they also need to know their place, and their place is on the backbenches. They have given themselves, and have been given, latitude to breach the whip but having done so, such a record will forever prevent them from demanding loyalty from others simply on the basis of party unity. Iain Duncan Smith found this out as Conservative leader and Corbyn’s history (famously, when elected, he had voted against the Labour whip more times than David Cameron) means he’d be even less credible doing so.

That record of dissent may explain his extraordinary tolerance for rebellion against him. Before these last two years, it would have been a major media story for a whip to resign on a point of principle and unthinkable that one could vote against his or her own party and keep their job: an action that undermines every concept of what parliamentary parties are and how they work. Yet on the Article 50 bill – one of the most important pieces of legislation this parliament – not just one but two whips seem ready to do just that.

That it’s not a major media story is a measure of how normal Labour’s dysfunction has become as a parliamentary party. For some, including Corbyn, this is a feature not a bug. The Whips’ Office is in essence an elitist entity, cutting off the MPs from the membership, whether by imposition or voluntary surrender. It is what gives MPs their special status. We know, from his rejection of the overwhelming vote of no confidence against him, that he doesn’t view the MPs as having any particularly special status and so there’s a degree of philosophical consistency in him not being too rigorous about discipline in return (though this may be making a virtue of a necessity). All the same, it mitigates against his party speaking to the public with a unified and confident voice.

So much for the present but the Corbyn era will end. It might end after the next election; more probably it will be before it. The question, which falls into two parts, is what can be salvaged from the wreckage.

The first part is the more simple question of physical politics. How many MPs, MSPs, AMs, councillors and so on will he have and to what extent will lost ground be recoverable? On that score, Labour shouldn’t fare too badly, though there is a small but real risk that it might.

For all the talk of a quadruple-pincer – with the Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP and Tories all simultaneously attacking different parts of Labour’s electoral coalition – the fact is that the Lib Dems remain distrusted by many on the left, UKIP is even less organised as an effective party than Corbyn’s Labour, the SNP are close to maxed out in Scotland and there is a similar limit to how many Con-Lab swing voters can be peeled off. With no immediate existential threat – no party capable of replacing Labour in England and Wales – Labour ought to survive, and if it survives then at some point it will prosper. So far, it’s held its Westminster defences comfortably and did better than expected in the May elections. Scotland remains a disaster-zone but otherwise, it’s broadly held what it has, so far.

But there’s a more insidious nature to second part, which is what damage is the Corbyn era doing to Labour’s internal culture? Once the Conservatives got into the habit of rowing over Europe and deposing leaders it took fifteen years, two landslide defeats and six leadership elections before it managed to restore self-discipline. When even whips think that they can rebel and carry on, what hope is there for members, councillors and MPs? How hard will it be for a future leader, whether the next or a subsequent one, to re-establish a sensible level of self-control? (One not insubstantial risk is an overreaction into control-freakery).

That’s the longer term risk and, on balance, the greater one. As the Tories showed from the late-80s though to 2003, bad habits are hard to eradicate and have a price: the Tories lost well over half their seats in that time. While no party is currently able to replace Labour as one of the Big Two – as the SNP and Tories have in Scotland – they can’t rely on that being the case indefinitely. The country needs a reserve government and at the moment there isn’t one. If Labour can’t or won’t provide it, sooner or later, someone else will.

David Herdson


Macron still in 3rd place in French Presidential polling but if he makes final 2 he looks set to win

Friday, January 27th, 2017


How Mr. Trump could be booted out quickly without impeachment

Friday, January 27th, 2017

A good guide for Trump exit year punters

So far quite a few bookies have got markets up on which year Trump will cease to be President. The options range from this year, 2017, until January 2025 which is when he would leave the White House after securing and serviing a second full term.

But he’s made enough waves in his first few days for consideration to be given to the betting possibilities of him going earlier. These are the William Hill latest odds.

Anybody betting in these markets needs to consider the ways that could cause an earlier exit. Firstly there’s his health and we must remember that he’s 70 years old. Secondly there the possibility of impeachment but as we saw during the Clinton second term that’s offers little certainty.

He could, of course, fail to win the 2020 White House race in which case his exit year would be 2021.

But what about other routes? The above video made by Keith Olbermann is a good explanation of another constitutional way of forcing him to step down early. If that route was to be followed it would be driven by the politics at the time. Like all incoming Presidents Trump’s first really big electoral test will be mid-terms. These come round in November 2018,. If enough Republicans in the House and the Senate consider that he’s a threat to their political careers then something like the above process might happen.

At the moment I am biding my time and am not betting.

Mike Smithson


A cartoon ahead of tomorrow’s historic Trump-May meeting in the US and tonight’s Local By-Election Preview

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Kilmarnock East and Hurlford on East Ayrshire caused by the death of the sitting Scottish National Party member
Result of council at last election (2012): Scottish National Party 15, Labour 14, Conservatives 2, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Scottish National Party short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 944, 1,126 (47%)
Labour 1,054, 984 (46%)
Conservative 326 (7%)
EU Referendum Result (2016): REMAIN 33,891 (59%) LEAVE 23,942 (41%) on a turnout of 63%
Candidates duly nominated: Fiona Campbell (SNP), Jon Herd (Con), Stephen McNamara (Scottish Libertarian Party), Dave Meecham (Lab)
Weather at the close of polls: Cloudy, but dry 0°C
Estimate: Scottish National Party HOLD

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


There’s an argument for saying that REMAINers feel more strongly about BREXIT than Leavers

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

BREXIT appears to have the least salience with LAB voters & C2DEs

One of those involved in the LDs recent successes observed to me recently they were finding that those opposed to BREXIT have much stronger feelings about the issue than those who aren’t. In many ways this is understandable because they are against the status quo and everything is moving towards the UK leaving the EU.

I’ve been pondering over this for some time and have been looking for polling that might support or dismiss the notion. I think that the above might be what I’ve been looking for.

Each month for 40 years Ipsos MORI has been operating a totally unique poll – its Issues Index. On this those sampled are simply asked face to face “What do you see as the main/other important issues facing Britain today?”. They are given the time to respond and can name any number of things that come into heads.

Because of the unprompted nature of the approach this has been regarded over the decades as one of the best tests of the salience of issues without the question wording itself having an impact on the responses. This has stood the test of time.

It is not only the party splits that are interesting in the chart above but the socio-economic group responses as well. The ABC1s are much more likely to regard BREXIT as a key issue than C2DEs.

This might be the key to the Stoke Central by-election.

Mike Smithson


Just released: Latest PB/Polling Matter podcast with its exclusive Opinium poll findings on BREXIT

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Was the referendum decision right or wrong?

On this week’s podcast, Keiran is joined by Labour blogger and political activist Jade Azim and Addin365 CEO and tech entrepreneur Suzy Dean to discuss the recent women’s march, feminism and whether Britain made a mistake in deciding to leave the European Union.

This week’s podcast was particularly lively as Suzy and Jade hold very different views on feminism and Brexit. Jade attended the recent march in London and voted Remain whilst Suzy doubts what marching will achieve and strongly supported the Leave campaign.

Also discussed on this week’s show is the latest Polling Matters / Opinium survey which asked the public whether Britain had made the right decision in voting to leave the E.U.

Follow today’s guests here