Archive for March, 2017


Welcome to Article 50 day as the UK steps into the unknown

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

The big day arrives

So we are here and Theresa May will meet her self imposed target of formally invoking the extraction process from the EU before the end of March. The signed letter invoking Article 50 will be delivered to the president of the EU in Brussels in a few hours.

At home Mrs May is said to be planning to call on the nation to unite behind her and the government as it goes about the task of getting the best deal. If that means that she does not wish to face scrutiny or criticism during the process I think that she’ll be disappointed.

The country remains very divided with few of those who voted remain ready to accept that leaving is a good thing and vice versa.

For Mrs May this will be the defining period of her Premiership. Can she achieve an arrangement with the EU that does not undermine the economy and Britain’s key industries while at the same time satisfying the hard BREXIT parts of her party?

A growing worry for her and her team at this stage is the ongoing investigation into Tory GE2015 expenses in 20 or so key marginals – something that she was not responsible for but she is the leader now.

Only yesterday we heard that another police force, the the West Midlands, was submitting its file to the Crown Prosecution Service who will decide whether and who to prosecute.

From a betting perspective those who got the right timing on when article 50 would be invoked should be able to pick up their winnings later today. I had originally bet on this happening after July 1st. However after the first of the court hearings went against the government the price moved sharply and I cashed out at a nice profit which I should be able to pick up later.

No doubt new article 50 markets will be created for punters.

Mike Smithson


If indeed GfK is part of a conspiracy against Corbyn then how come other pollsters have similar numbers?

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

There’s a fierce attack in the Canary on GfK and its research director known well to PBers, Kieran Pedley.

The chart says it all and shows all three sets of published leader ratings in March. And you know what – all the numbers are very close – the Canary favourite Corbyn is doing appallingly however you look at the numbers.

So if there is a conspiracy against Labour’s bed-blocker leader then Opinium and Ipsos MORI are involed as well.

The Corbyn cultists have simply got to accept that their man is electoral poison.

Mike Smithson


Remember when the BBC’s Woman’s Hour asked David Cameron and David Davis what sort of underpants they preferred?

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

With all the fuss today about the Daily Mail’s “legs” front page let us not forget that the BBC can sometimes stray into what could be described as sexist.

In November 2005 when David Cameron and David Davis were slugging it out for the Tory leadership the two of them appeared on Woman’s Hour and were asked at the end what sort of underpants they preferred.

Another question was whether they preferred blondes or brunettes. David said the former while Cameron did not reply.

The interviewer was Martha Martha Kearney, now of the World at One, who was quizzing people about the Mail’s front page at lunchtime today.

There’s a link to the 2005 interview here

Mike Smithson


At the last Gorton by-election the Tories, led by the visionary pro-European Ted Heath, came within 557 votes of victory

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

How will the BREXIT Tories do now?

After their extraordinary gain of a by-election seat from LAB in Copeland we have heard very little of the blue team’s prospects in Manchester Gorton which is expected to take place on May 4th. Yet as the panel shows the Tories got very close to victory in the seat in 1967.

No one is suggesting that the Tories have any chance whatsoever. The result from 1967 and what we know about the area now highlights the huge demographic changes that have taken place in the UK generally and specifically in this part of Manchester. In the 60s Manchester had 9 MPs, five LAB and four CON. No more. This has been a no-go area for the blues for a long time

In November 1967 the UK was going through considerable financial upheaval and just over two weeks after the by-election the pound was devalued from the dizzy heights of $2.80 to to $2.40 – a fall of 14%. Wilson’s “the pound in your pocket” broadcast has gone down as one of the defining political moments of the decade.

The Tories were led by Ted Heath who two and a half years later pulled off one of the biggest political surprises in recent times achieving something that is unique on modern British political history. A party that had a working Commons majority was replaced with Heath’s Tories that had working Commons majority. In the changes of government in 1951, 1964, 1974, 1979, 1997 and 2010 either the outgoing party didn’t have a working majority or the incoming one didn’t achieve one.

It was the 1970-74 Heath government that took us into what was then called the Common Market. There was no referendum. That came in 1975 when Harold Wilson was trying to deal with the splits in his own party.

Alas Heath’s achievements are now viewed by the Tories in much the same way that the LAB movement views Tony Blair.

Mike Smithson


Gloomy polling news for Mr. Corbyn from the pollster that’s returning to GB politics after 12 year absence

Monday, March 27th, 2017

A new poll conducted by GfK, the first published GB political survey since GE2005 when it operated as NOP, has  Corbyn as unpopular among Brits as Trump.

GfK surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,938 GB adults between March 1st and March 15th, 2017 and found:

  • Prime Minister Theresa May is more popular than the Government overall. 46% of GB adults approve of the job she is doing as Prime Minister (just 33% disapprove) while 40% approve of the way the government is running the country with the same number disapproving (40%).
  • Meanwhile, just 17% of GB adults approve of the job Jeremy Corbyn is doing as Leader of the Opposition. 58% disapprove. 26% don’t know. These numbers are virtually identical to Donald Trump’s approval figures among British adults. 18% of Brits approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as US President with 60% disapproving and 22% saying that they don’t know.

Commenting on these findings, GfK Research Director Keiran Pedley said:

“Whilst Donald Trump’s approval rating among British adults will be the least of the President’s worries following his healthcare struggles last week, it will be of great concern to Labour supporters that Jeremy Corbyn’s approval rating among Brits is no better. With Theresa May clearly more popular than the Government as a whole and the Conservatives significantly ahead in the polls, it looks like Labour is a long way from power”.

Other findings in the poll included:

Brexit – right decision / wrong decision
Right decision 46%
Wrong decision 41%
Don’t know 13%

Westminster voting intention
CON 41%
LAB 28%
UKIP 12%
LD 7%


For first time since being sacked after getting GE2005 spot on NOP (now GfK) is back doing UK political polls

Monday, March 27th, 2017

UK Polling Report

Welcome back – you’ve been missed

One of the great jokes whenever people interested in polling have met in recent years is that is the person from NOP (now GfK) popping up to remind to remind us that the firm in its last published political poll got the outcome of the 2005 general election absolutely right.

For whatever reason the Independent, which had commissioned the firm decided, to switch pollsters after 2005 and since then GfK has not had a single published UK political poll.

That is all going to change tonight. At 10pm we will see the first GFK poll in 12 years. The last one had: LAB 36: CON 33: LD 23.. Don’t be surprised if there is quite some change in the latest numbers.

The research director in charge is Keiran Pedley who is very well known to PBers for his regular posts and of course his weekly podcast which are now an integral and very popular feature of the site.

Tonight’s numbers are embargoed but they will be published here at precisely 10 p.m.

Mike Smithson


If they hadn’t have gone into coalition the LDs would likely have been favourites in Manchester Gorton

Monday, March 27th, 2017

But at GE2015 the yellows came in 5th losing their deposit

Although the arrival of George Galloway in the Manchester Gorton race has caused a tightening of the Lib Dem odds the position is nothing like as strong as it would have been if the party had not gone onto the Coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

The chart above shows the extraordinary strength the party had in ward elections in the constituency in the period between the Iraq war and the Coalition. At one stage they held all but two of the Gorton Manchester City Council seats.

But all went pear-shaped following the decision to go into coalition with the Tories in 2010 and they had a terrible 2015 general election result dropping from 32.6% to just 4.2% and fifth place.

We have seen elsewhere that historic organisational strength, like in Richmond Park, can be reactivated particularly if their voter data is good.

A lot depends on how many LAB votes Galloway’s manages to skim off.

Gorton was 72% for remain at the referendum and we do know that those opposed to leaving the EU are probably more motivated than those who aren’t at the moment. Certainly what will be portrayed as Corbyn’s ambivalent approach will be used ruthlessly by the yellows in the next few weeks. Galloway, who announced his candidature on the website of Arron Banks was a strong proponent of Leave.

This last night from the political correspondent of the Manchester Evening News gives an interest slant on morale within Gorton LAB .

The assumption is that LAB will call the by-election on May 4th so that it will coincide with the Greater Manchester mayoral election and the other local elections on that day.

Overall it is very hard to argue against LAB holding on even though they’ve got a fight on their hands on two fronts the Lib Dems and Galloway.

Mike Smithson


Politics in a democratic one party state

Sunday, March 26th, 2017


Aged 69, Seneca the Younger had spent many years in the service of the Emperor Nero, but suspecting him of treason, the Emperor ordered him to commit suicide.  Seneca cut open the arteries of his own arms and the veins of his legs and knees, but his blood flowed slowly and his death did not come quickly.   To hasten the process, he drank poison, but still death eluded him.  Finally he was carried into a hot bath and suffocated in the steam.  Politics in ancient times meant risking everything and sometimes losing everything.

Modern democracies require politicians to take fewer risks.  We are accustomed in Britain to the idea that each party will spend time out of power, which means that the major parties keep each other reasonably honest.  But right now the Labour party look far from power, sliding in the polls even from the low levels they achieved in 2010 and 2015, and with a leader who seems more interested in building a national movement than in future forming a government.

No other party is currently set to step into the gap.  The SNP have huge support in Scotland but no desire or prospect of ever expanding from that.  The Lib Dems are too crushed from their 2015 defeat to fill the gap.  UKIP look too chaotic.  For now, despite their small majority, the Conservatives have the field to themselves.  We are in practice living in a democratic one party state.

As Seneca found out, the absence of other parties does not bring an end to politics.  So how will the new politics work in the near future?

The first thing to do is to put the opposition parties out of your mind.  They have moved beyond the category of “unpopular” and into “largely irrelevant”.  Jeremy Corbyn could advocate state guardianship of children, the abolition of private property rights and political union with Venezuela, and the only people who would notice would be despairing Blairites.  A member of the general public who actually registered the announcements would inwardly sigh again and be completely unmoved.  For most people, Labour don’t begin to come close to being a possible choice right now.

So for now the important politics take place around the Conservative party.  That doesn’t mean that the politics are exclusively within the Conservative party – UKIP and the Lib Dems in particular will each be able to influence politics by tugging on the sleeves, and the media will at times take up the role of opposition in the absence of any other – but the impact of outsiders will be relevant only in so far as it might influence figures internal to the Conservative party.  In the late 1980s, the big political battles were between Mrs Thatcher and her personal advisers and other senior Conservatives such as Nigel Lawson, Sir Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine.  Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians were commentators more than opponents.  The arguments were played out in the newspapers between different Conservative-affiliated journalists.

We can already see this happening.  The Telegraph reported the story that MPs had complained about a perceived anti-Brexit bias at the BBC with the words “More than 70 MPs from across the political spectrum have written to Lord Hall of Birkenhead”, but the rest of the front page dealt exclusively with concerns of different wings of the Conservative party.  Such is the political spectrum in 2017.

Indeed, those of a Brexitish persuasion might see that perceived anti-Brexit bias as another sign of this, as the BBC fills the vacuum of opposition.  I wouldn’t – the letter cited no examples of how the BBC had Done Down Britain (and the one programme cited in newspaper articles, Countryfile, had for weeks run an extended series of sections from New Zealand showing how its farmers had coped well over time with a shock similar to that of Brexit), suggesting that the MPs have succumbed to paranoia.

In reality, the media opposition will in large part be more apparent than real.  The media will orientate itself around differing wings of the Conservative party.  The need to keep lines of communication open with other parties will seem less pressing as the need to have access to good stories from the governing party.  George Osborne’s shock appointment as editor of the Evening Standard can be seen in that light.

The absence of external pressure on the Conservative party will make it less likely to hold together on any given topic.  As a result, they will often seem divided and the media will make great play of this.  Some will be lulled into believing that division signifies a loosening grip on power.  In fact, the opposite will be true.  With political debate taking place within the hegemonic party, the irrelevance of other parties will be increased.  For 10 years, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown led teams who sparred more or less continually.  This did not assist the Conservatives in breaking their stranglehold on power (at least, not until one of the sparring partners retired).

In short, having established complete dominance, a circle (virtuous or vicious according to political taste) is forming that will act as a powerful reinforcement of that dominance.  It will eventually come to an end but it probably will do so for other reasons.  The Thatcherite hegemony of the 1980s and the Blairite hegemony of the 2000s ended with the political demise of their founders.  But the current Conservative hegemony is nothing like as strongly founded on Theresa May.  It could founder on Brexit.  But if it doesn’t, it could be very enduring indeed.

Alastair Meeks