Archive for April, 2017

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The death of populism?

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

As the outcome of round 1 of France’s Presidential election became clear, the relief in the rest of Europe was palpable.  The French were not going to follow the perfidious British and vulgar Americans and vote in as their leader a populist promising to epater the European bourgeoisie.  Europe was safe.  Populism would remain a miserable Anglo-Saxon affair and much good would it do them.

Perhaps.  But maybe there are rather more continuities between the US and France than this rather Panglossian view is prepared to admit.  And Britain, not for the first time, seems to be following its own path.

Consider: for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic (59 years and still going) neither of the two main parties has made the run off and one of the candidates was (until yesterday) the leader of a party seen as on the disreputable fringe with fascist and anti-semitic antecedents (with some doubting how far the party has really changed on that score).  The front runner and almost certain next President is someone who has never held elected office before, who set up a movement based around his personality barely a year ago, who has managed to attract crowds of adoring supporters and who has, despite his own elitist and impeccably establishment background, managed to present himself as the candidate of “change”.

Doubtless his supporters would choke on their brioche at the suggestion that he is a Gallic version of President Trump.  His investment banker smoothness and engaging smile are a sharp contrast to Trump’s deliberately aggressive persona.  They may hide a sharp brain or nothing more than vacuous platitudes and fear masquerading as tolerance but, like Trump, he will very likely be elected because enough voters feel that the political establishment has failed, want change (quite what is not clear) but fear the sort of change offered by his opponent.  Less happily, and also like Trump, he may find it much harder than expected to get any sort of meaningful change enacted without a strong party supporting him in the legislature.  Still, platitudes, smiles and good speeches can provide good cover for a lack of effective action for quite a long time, as both Blair and Cameron showed.

And what of France’s alternative?  Whatever the reasons for her departure from the FN, Le Pen represents a strand of French politics which has always existed, is never quite able to achieve the sort of electoral success which would test its policies and show them wanting and is therefore never completely killed off.  A sort of political herpes.  But unpleasant as it is to admit it, Le Pen has rather more continuity with mainstream French politicians of the past than her detractors will allow.

Even her recent statement that it was not France which rounded up Jews during the war but the Vichy regime, as if the latter had nothing to do with France, was no different to the justification given by President Mitterand (whose activities during the pre-war and early Vichy period did him no credit) for refusing to give an official apology to French Jews for what France did to them.  “I will not apologise in the name of France,” he said in 1994.  “The Republic had nothing to do with this.  I do not believe France is responsible.”  A sentiment echoed almost word for word by Le Pen in recent days.  Still, given that President Chirac apologised on behalf of France in 1995, it is troubling – and disgraceful – that over two decades later Le Pen still uses the same sophistry used decades earlier by post-war politicians who, to be generous, needed a polite fiction to help heal a wounded nation.

It is this wordplay, a feeling that her concern for the have-nots, the losers from globalization, her worries about France’s undoubted problem with disaffected Islamic communities and the risks of terrorism are not motivated by genuine concern or by a desire to find solutions beyond the superficially easy ones of scapegoating a system or currency or community but are, rather, being used as a means to gain power which will – if the polls are right – prevent her winning.

Still, let’s not get too complacent.  If such a politician can get 40% of the vote in the country of The Declaration of the Rights of Man (as polls suggest she might), imagine what a party without such baggage, without such ante post mistrust of motives might do.  And the problems she has correctly identified will not go away, indeed will likely worsen.  Populist – but toxic – parties provide an easy excuse for mainstream parties and less uncouth politicians to ignore difficult problems until they force themselves onto the national stage, with unpredictable consequences.

And so to Britain which astonished itself by blowing a giant raspberry at pretty much everyone last June.  And yet, nearly a year later it looks as if the only winner from this act of lese-majeste will be Europe’s oldest and most successful political party led by a dull, dutiful, serious middle-aged woman with little on her CV until this point beyond a racy choice in shoes, one memorable phrase and survival at the Home Office. The party which agitated for Brexit has disintegrated, the party traditionally on the side of the have-nots is having a nervous breakdown and the Lib Dems are ever hopeful but largely irrelevant.  Britain’s populist revolt is being smothered in the Tories’ python-like embrace.

Whatever the peculiarities of British, US and French politics, these three leaders and would-be leaders have this in common.  Elections over, the real tests for Macron, May and Trump will be what they can deliver to those who have placed their hopes in them and whether they will be able to take those voters with them when the inevitable difficulties and disappointments arise. 

Cyclefree



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New polling suggests that CON London strongholds could be vulnerable to Stop Brexit candidates

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

The Survation Kensington poll in the chart above has been commissioned by a body called the Stop Brexit Alliance (SBA) to rest the feasibility of putting forward candidates in London CON strongholds where neither Labour not the Lib Dens have any chance, My understanding is that other similar seats are being looked at and hopefully we will have the data within the next few days.

The standard voting question in this poll found CON 46%; LAB 29%: LD 16.6%: UKIP 1.3%: GRN 6.9%. The figures in the chart are when the addition of a Stop Brexit candidate was added.

Opinion on Brexit in the constituency remains strong. When asked how people would vote if there was another referendum the sample split REMAIN 69.2% to LEAVE 24.3%.

One of the driving forces behind the Stop Brexit Alliance is a former CON MEP, John Stevens, who stood in the 1999 Kensington and Chelsea by-election and beat Nigel Farage to second place at GE2010 in Buckingham . He would be the candidate in Kensington if it is decided to go ahead.

What would make a huge difference to the initiative is if the LDs stood aside.

Single seat polling is very challenging for pollsters and did not come out of GE2015 well. Add onto that the hypothetical nature of the question here and we have to treat this with some caution. But we do know that London was overwhelmingly for Remain and pro-Leave incumbents, like Victoria Borthwick in Kensington, could possibly be at risk.

I am told that the poll dataset will be made available on the Survation website. Fieldwork was from April 25th to April 27th.

Mike Smithson




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Corbyn to quit or not to quit on June 9th, that is the question

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.  – Hamlet Act V, Scene II

William Hill have a market up on whether Jeremy Corbyn will announce his resignation before 11pm on June 9th. Whilst it might sound like the epitome of hubris and arrogance to assume that a Tory majority is nailed on, it isn’t hubristic and arrogant when you remember the Labour leader is Jeremy Corbyn, a man who is setting all sorts of polling records for the wrong reasons.

In recent years the  standard operating procedure is for the party leader of Labour or the Tories that doesn’t win the general election resigns as party Leader, however I feel Corbyn will break this recent precedent. For the following reasons.

  1. One of the things we’ve learned about Corbyn a leader, no matter how bad the polling, no matter how bad the local council election results, no matter the record breaking by election loss in Copeland, he’s quite impervious to the criticism. He genuinely believes in his project to transform for Labour and the country, and won’t let something like a general election defeat get in the way of that.
  2. Corbyn can argue, with some justification, because of Theresa May’s nefariousness in becoming another liar politician and calling an early election in stark contrast to her promises not to do so, he would be justified in being allowed to stay on as leader after a general election defeat. Corbynism is a five year project, you really can’t judge him after fewer than two years of him being leader.

Earlier on this week it was reported that ‘Staff at Labour’s headquarters could go on to strike if Jeremy Corbyn tries to cling on as party leader if he suffers a major defeat on June 8. Sources told The Times workers fear the hapless leftie will refuse to step down even if Theresa May romps to victory next month.’

On that basis I’m taking the 5/6 on him not announcing his resignation before 11pm on June 9th. He’s one stubborn bugger, he kept calm and carried on even after 172 of his 232 MPs declared no confidence in his leadership. Corbyn, I expect, won’t be channelling his inner Hamlet from Act V, Scene II and go quietly after the mother of all electoral shellackings.

Although the way Mrs May is blowing huge Tory leads in this campaign so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if William Hill introduce very shortly a similar market on whether she’ll announce her resignation before 11pm on June 9th as the Tory party will prove once again it is an absolute monarchy moderated by regicide if she fails to win (a majority) against Corbyn.

TSE



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Latest French polls not quite as good for Macron as they were

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

But he still leads by wide margin

The French election comes to its final round next weekend and the polls are showing a slight edge towards Le Pen though it is still very hard to see a pathway to victory for her.

What is intriguing is this Wikipedia analysis of how second round votes are splitting by what people did on the first round.

Clearly there are lot of voters yet to make up their minds and this is giving a touch of hope to Le Pen backers. Things are not as good as they were from Macron amongst supporters of the ultra left Melenchon as can be seen from the declining shares he’s picking up from this source.

Macron remains 87% favourite on Betfair which I think is good value.

Mike Smithson




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Caught in the backwash. The SNP subsides and the Conservatives surge

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Alastair Meeks who accurately predicted the SNP tsunami of 2015 looks at the best Scottish seat bets

In 2010, not a single seat in Scotland changed hands.  Electoral politics north of the border has got a bit more dynamic since then.  2017 will not be as wild as 2015 but the polls suggest a fair amount of movement.

The SNP already have 56 out of the 59 seats that they compete in, so their room for progress is limited. Indeed, the SNP have a job on their hands keeping what they’ve got.  Recent polls suggest that they have fallen back to the lower 40s while the Conservatives are polling something around 28% or so.  Scottish Conservative backers, never a reticent bunch, are getting excited again, this time with some reason.  Not much less than in England, there appears to be a wave election going on – not so much as in 2015 in Scotland, but still substantial.  The polls this month are suggesting a 10 to 12% swing to the Conservatives from the SNP.  Such waves are never distributed evenly and some seats will swing much more heavily than others.  How to pick them?

We have a recent example and I intend to follow it.  In 2015, the SNP didn’t so much have a wave election as a tsunami.  There is a strong correlation between SNP performance in 2015 and its absolute vote share in 2010, at least at the bottom end.  The seats with the ten lowest SNP vote shares in 2010 included all three of the seats that the SNP did not take in 2015 and four of the five most marginal SNP seats for this election.  It seems that we should look to prior vote share rather than swing required.

Using that measure, odds against bets on the Conservatives in Perth & North Perthshire, Moray and perhaps even Angus and Banff & Buchan seem worth considering.  Sure, they’re all already two way marginals but if swing is going to happen somewhere it’s going to happen in areas where the Conservatives are already strong and which are decisively anti-independence. 

If you disagree with me then you need to identify where the apparent Conservative rise is coming from (or conclude that it isn’t happening in reality, which is hard to reconcile with the recent polls).  I may be stereotyping wildly but I can’t picture Glasgow proving fertile territory for them.   If the Conservatives aren’t gaining much traction there, then they must be doing disproportionately well in other areas.

The Conservatives will in all probability hoover up in the Borders and they may take some other outside prospects but the odds now seem too short to me.  One possible exception is East Renfrewshire.  While they start with a relatively low vote share of 22% in 2015, they had tallied 30% in successive elections suggesting that Jim Murphy had got a lot of Conservatives to vote tactically for him.  He’s not standing this time and I expect the Conservatives to return home, bringing some friends with them.  In a very unionist seat, even 8/11 might be fair value.  I’m still not backing them, mind.

The Lib Dems haven’t shown progress in the polls, but hope springs eternal among the Scottish sandalistas.  Just by standing still, they potentially benefit from a swing towards them from the SNP as the SNP high tide subsides a little, while the 2015 election at least clarified which seats the Lib Dems are in best contention for representing the tactical unionist option.  Uniform national swing suggests they might take Dunbartonshire East and Edinburgh West, and you hear persistent murmurs about Fife North East based on their Holyrood performance last year.

While the Lib Dems obviously have good chances in all of these constituencies if they can harvest tactical unionist votes, their prices at present look too short in all of them.  The position is still clearer in Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, where the Lib Dems are 4/6 favourites despite an 11% deficit behind the SNP, few Labour or Conservative voters to squeeze and with their former incumbent unable to stand.  I’m on the 11/10 with the SNP here and feel these odds should be at least the other way around.

All three of the holdouts against the SNP are marginals, but only one looks in serious jeopardy.  In the feverish aftermath of the 2015 election, SNP supporters sought to oust Alistair Carmichael judicially and despite failing to do so, hopes remained high for a while that the SNP could take his seat at the next election.  The moment, however, seems to have passed and while the SNP will try hard to take both Orkney & Shetland and David Mundell’s constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, both seem unlikely to fall, with the unionist majority in each seat now knowing clearly who to back.

The remaining seat, Edinburgh South, also has a clear unionist majority.  However, it also has a Labour MP and Labour have continued their freefall in the polls in Scotland since 2015.  The Conservatives will fancy their chances of taking the seat from third as the replacement unionist party and the SNP could yet slip through the middle.  Betfair Sportsbook prices all three almost identically, with Labour and the Conservatives at 13/8 and the SNP at 8/5.  Given the low prior Conservative vote share in 2015, they seem unlikely winners to me.  If pushed, I’d back Labour.  But I’m staying out of this one.

Alastair Meeks




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Why the Tory lead might be even larger than the polling implies

Friday, April 28th, 2017

 

The Labour and Lib Dem vote is substantially softer than the Tory vote

In this month’s Ipsos MORI poll it found that the Labour and Lib Dem vote is softer than the Tory party vote, this came as a surprise to me. 

One of the reasons I’ve had doubts that the Tory lead is quite as huge as the polling implies is that some of the switchers to the Tories might bottle it on voting day, but look at that chart above, 78% of Tory voters have definitely decided to vote Tory, compared to just 56% of Labour voters and just 40% of Lib Dem voters.

So this makes me think if you’re betting on the spreads, or evaluating your position(s) Labour and the Lib Dems should be sells, and if you bought the Tories at say 378 and  they are currently 392 on Spreadex, you might want to cash out, but as ever, do your own risk, with spread betting the losses can be very large.

The question is can Labour and the Lib Dems find an electoral Viagra that will harden their support or will the Tory vote flop for some of the reasons I listed last week?

TSE



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Who’d be best for Britian – Macron or Le Pen. YouGov finds LEAVE voters want the fascist

Friday, April 28th, 2017

The second round polls since Sunday

Wikipedia

The betting’s barely moving



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New YouGov Scottish poll suggests the Tories could make 7 gains in Scotland

Friday, April 28th, 2017


Graphic – The times

And the LD could triple their Scottish seats

The main General Election polling news overnight has been a YouGov/Times survey of Scotland which suggests that the Conservatives could start to win back some of the seats in Scotland that they held more than a quarter of a century ago.

The Lib Dems could also stage a small recovery tripling the Scottish total to three seats.

Labour, which at GE2010, won 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats, is still projected to be down at just one. It was that Scottish wipeout that was the dominant feature of the 2015 election and enabled the Tories to portray Ed Miliband as being in the pockets of the SNP.

We will get a better idea of opinion in Scotland next Friday when we have the results of the Scottish local elections which were last held in 2012.

Mike Smithson