Archive for July, 2017

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Tonight’s cartoon on the crazy staff changes in the Trump White House

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Just trying to keep up with the ins and out in the Trump White House is becoming a huge challenge. In the past fortnight we’ve seen the exits Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the first chief of staff. Tonight’s news is that the President has removed Anthony Scaramucci from his Communications Director role after he’d served for just ten days.

Quite whether things will now settle down is hard to say but the rapidity of the changes hardly gives a good impression and responsibly, surely, rests in the Oval office.

Mike Smithson




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How general election turnout has changed by age group – 1964-2017

Monday, July 31st, 2017


Commons Library Research briefing

The chart above is from another excellent new research paper that’s just been published by the Commons library. It looks at election turnout which, of course, was one of the big drivers behind the GE17 outcome.

While the big story from June 8th was the increase in the youth vote the 25-34 years olds also saw a significant increase Fewer oldies bothered to vote and we had the first downward movement with this segment since GE2001.

What we have learned over recent elections is that each is very different and we cannot assume that the trends from last time will be carried over to the next.

It is always very easy to see a battle as it happened through the prism of what happened before and that’s where mistakes can be made and why we were all so shocked when the exit poll came out.

Mike Smithson




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Chancellor Hammond may not be PM (yet) but he’s the one currently running the show & shaping Brexit

Monday, July 31st, 2017

He alone appears competent and in control

Today’s Times front page is the latest reminder of the rise and rise of Chancellor Philip Hammond in the government suggesting that he’s positioning himself as the next party leader and PM.

A good indication of Hammond’s new status is that the both the Mail and the Sun, tabloids that until 10pm on June 8th 2017 were widely regarded as politically influential, are making strong attacks. Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun calls him a remainiac while the Mail’s Peter Oborne asks “A future PM? Who does Philip Hammond think he’s kidding?

The thing, of course, is that TMay, now shorn of her fiercely anti-Hammond advisers of Hill and Timothy, has put the Chancellor in charge during her holidays and he has seized the opportunity. John Rentoul in the Indy writes:

“It would be unwise to rule out the possibility of him as leader, but the main significance of the story is that it draws attention to the thinness of the field for a Conservative leadership election that everyone thinks will be held in the next few years.

That is the context for Hammond’s assertiveness this week. I am not saying it is a leadership bid, but I think the Chancellor takes the view that good policy is the best way to promote oneself. A transition deal was always the best way to approach Brexit, but Theresa May would have held back from spelling it out, partly as a negotiating tactic but mostly out of a political hoarding instinct.

What is most remarkable about Hammond’s confidence is that he faced the sack two months ago and even a fortnight ago he was written off as tin-eared and useless at politics for his comments in Cabinet about “overpaid” public-sector workers..”

In the next CON leader betting Hammonod is in fourth place behind Johnson, Ress-Mogg and Davis.

Mike Smithson




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A week goes by and the main polling news is that Remain voters are much more relaxed about gay sex than Brexiters

Sunday, July 30th, 2017


Wikipedia

Am I the only person who yearns for the YouGov daily poll?

Given the precariousness of the government’s parliamentary situation and the massive challenge of Brexit we’ve just gone through a whole week without a single published voting poll.

    Just about the only survey that’s been published was the YouGov poll for Pink News on attitudes to gay sex with the cross tabs broken down by voting intention. Not surprisingly Remain voters (64%) were much more likely to agree that “gay sex is natural” compared with 21% of Leave voters sharing that view.

That’s as maybe but we are in an incredibly important political period and regular voting intention and leader rating numbers enable us to to monitor better the political weather. I’d love to know, for instance, if TMay gets a polling boost when she’s on holiday and the main news about her is how much her dress cost.

Also we haven’t got any new information attitudes to Brexit and the associated issues. Is that changing or remaining static?

Part of this on course is the surprise general election which took its toll on the media budgets.

Compare this dearth of polling with what we saw in the 2010-2015 period. Just about every weekday and Sunday we got a new YouGov poll as well as a host of other regular surveys.

Mike Smithson




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After what’s been described as Trump’s worst week yet the betting stays with the president surviving

Sunday, July 30th, 2017


Betdata.io

Chaos and back-stabbing have become the new norm

Based on publicly available betting data the main issue that’s attracted the interest of political punters in the past week has been whether or not Mr. Trump is going to survive as President to the end of a full term. The numbers are in the Betdata.io chart above and show that the UK betting markets rate his chances of remaining at 51%.

So far I’ve not been tempted by the Trump survival betting because I don’t like the betting options that are on offer. How many months that he serves as president would be a good spread market but, alas, the spread firms are far less imaginative than they were in the 1990s when Bill Clinton had all his troubles.

The President’s tumultuous week in which his main legislative objective of repealing ObamaCare failed is well described Peter Baker in the New York Times on the background to the latest White House staff moves.

“.The shake-up followed a week that saw the bombastic, with-me-or-against-me president defied as never before by Washington and its institutions, including Republicans in Congress, his own attorney general, the uniformed military leadership, police officers and even the Boy Scouts. No longer daunted by a president with a Twitter account that he uses like a Gatling gun, members of his own party made clear that they were increasingly willing to stand against him on issues like health care and Russia.

The setbacks came against the backdrop of a West Wing at war with itself, egged on by a president who thrives on conflict and chaos…”

At the moment the Republicans hold the White House, the House and the Senate a situation that might not survive the November 2018 mid-term elections. This should be the period when the Trump administration gets most done.

Mike Smithson




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Thirteen Saturdays ago the money was going on TMay’s Tories getting 400+ seats

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

A journalist called me to ask what was the peak position that the Tories reached in the GE2017 campaign.

I dug bag into my historical Tweets and referred him to the one above when Tories were clearing the 400 mark on the spread markets and LAB was struggling to hold onto 150.

That was, of course, after the local and mayoral elections when the the Tories did far better than even the most optimistic party backers were expecting.

The polls carried out over that weekend had the Tories with a lead of about 20%. Survation, the firm that did best on June 8th, recorded a 17% margin in its post local election poll while ICM was at 22%. Was it any wonder that the spread betting levels were what they were.

It struck me that we still don’t know what really happened on June 8th – why most of the pollsters, pundits and participants got it so wrong.

Because the expectation of a big CON victory was so widespread it has been Mr. Corbyn, who has been getting the accolades and goes into the party conference season with little to worry about.

Mike Smithson




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Back Trump to be impeached in 2019 at 18-1

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

Making enemies could cost him dear, as McCain has already shown

Donald Trump is an unusual president. Unusual in the same way that a triceratops turning up at Crufts would be unusual. He is not merely of a different species; his whole manner and understanding of the role are utterly alien to DC.

Even by his standards though, this week has been extraordinary. He publicly attacked his own Attorney General, he banned transgender people from serving in the military (without bothering to run it past the Joint Chiefs or the Defense Secretary), he has overseen his communications director describing his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, as a “paranoid schizophrenic”, he lost a key vote on Obamacare after three Republicans rebelled (including John McCain, who Trump mocked for being captured during Vietnam; a war Trump dodged serving in), and he ended it by firing the aforementioned Priebus. And that list could easily be extended.

In normal times, any one of those stories could have dominated the news for two or three days but these aren’t normal times and the rapidity with which they come means that the morning’s news may be barely mentioned by the evening bulletins.

Does it matter? If a president wants to run the White House in a way that might be unorthodox but which has worked for him in business, why shouldn’t he?

The simple answer is yes, it does matter. It matters because politics is not business and as the healthcare vote proved, the methods cannot be directly imported: Trump simply does not have the power as president to shape Washington that he had within his business. Not only can he not fire senators or congressmen, he may find that he cannot even fire members of his own administration if they enjoy sufficient support on the Hill (as Sessions does) – or if he does, it will come at a grievous price.

How high might that price be? Is it time to mention the ‘I’ word again? With Trump, it always is. None of what he’s done this week is impeachable. It may be that his transgender ban is ruled unlawful but even if it is, it’d hardly be the high crime or misdemeanour that the constitution requires. His attacks on his Attorney General are certainly unwise and probably inappropriate but it’d be a stretch to suggest they’re illegal. For that matter, there is no proscription on running a chaotic and dysfunctional administration or losing congressional votes on your platform.

What the week does demonstrates yet again is Trump’s utter disdain for the rules of politics, not just in the sense of what works and what’s effective but in that indefinable but very real sense of what’s appropriate. In a rare moment of modesty on Tuesday, he described himself as capable of being the second-most presidential president ever, after Lincoln (which nonetheless puts him ahead of Washington, for example). It’s a claim which is would be utterly laughable if it didn’t reveal the combination of delusion and rampant ego at the heart of it.

And when delusion, ego and a disdain for the rules meet (plus a thin skin and an unhealthy desire for revenge when he feels wronged), there opens up the very real possibility of Trump doing something which does finally go beyond the pale. There also opens up the likely scenario that should something of that nature occur, he’ll find himself with few defenders.

Rather than try to speculate about what might occur, or when, we’re better off looking at the politics – because impeachment is ultimately about politics. Proceedings are unlikely to be brought in 2020: that’s too close to the election and if there were some particularly scandalous behaviour, congress would still be likely to leave it to the voting public in the primaries and – if it got that far – the general election to deal with the matter.

Similarly, while there is a chance of action being taken this year or next, the odds aren’t attractive. For one thing, Trump is here protected by his otherness. Politicians will be wary of someone who ignored all the rules and yet won anyway as it implies powers in action that they do not fully understand and hence might suffer from. That’s not to say Trump is safe – he’s too hyperactive and too unrestrained for that – but it does give a layer of cover.

No, to me, 2019 offers the best value being priced as far out as 18/1 for an impeachment vote with Paddy Power. 2019 is, obviously, after the mid-term elections. That matters on two counts. Firstly, midterm elections tend to run against the White House and though that’s unlikely to result in a change of control of the Senate, where the GOP are only defending eight of the 33 seats, it could well flip control of the House – and it’s in the House where an impeachment vote would take place (the Senate conducts the trial).

The second reason is related: if the Republicans do badly, that will tarnish Trump’s aura of being able to defy political gravity. He would no doubt try to distance himself from a defeat and put it down to his party in congress but even if there were truth in that analysis, it’s not one that will easily be accepted by the congressmen whose votes would matter and whose seats would be on the line. Not that that would even necessarily matter if the Democrats gain control.

Impeachments are rare but they are rare because presidents usually play by both the written and unwritten rules. Trump doesn’t play by those rules, which is in different ways both an advantage and a handicap politically, as well as potentially courting action by the very fact of his unorthodox behaviour. They’re also rare because in reality, popularity will protect a president. Trump, however, isn’t popular – his current approval ratings are worse than anything that Obama ever recorded in his eight years. He is vulnerable to an attack on the right issue at the right time. And to my mind, 2019 is the easiest time.

David Herdson





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Latest by-election results and summary for July

Friday, July 28th, 2017

July 27th Local By-Election Summary
Fallowfield on Manchester (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 861 (77% +15% on last time), Green Party 105 (9% -13% on last time), Liberal Democrat 82 (7% +3% on last time), Conservative 72 (6% -4% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 756 (68%) on a swing of 14% from Green to Labour

Blandford Central on North Dorset (Ind defence)
Result: Conservative 310 (37% +17% on last time), Labour 307 (36% +25% on last time), Liberal Democrat 229 (27% unchanged on last time) No Green Party candidate (-12%), No Independent candidate (-30%)
Conservative GAIN from Independent with a majority of 3 on a swing of 4% from Conservative to Labour (notional swing 23.5% from Independent to Conservative)

Scotter and Blyton on West Lindsey (Con defence)
Result: Conservative 694 (44% +9% on last time), Liberal Democrat 555 (35% +9% on last time), Labour 230 (15% -1% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 100 (6%, no candidate last time) No Independent candidate (-23%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 139 (9%) on no swing between Conservative and Liberal Democrat

July 2017 Monthly Summary
Labour 8,607 votes (37.69% +8.95% on last time) winning 8 seats (+2 seats on last time)
Conservatives 7,494 votes (32.82% +4.48% on last time) winning 8 seats (+1 seat on last time)
Liberal Democrats 3,542 votes (15.51% +2.67% on last time) winning 1 seat (-2 seats on last time)
Independent candidates 1,594 votes (6.98% -2.18% on last time) winning 2 seats (-1 seat on last time
Scottish National Party 895 votes (3.92% +2.73% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Green Party 284 votes (1.24% -2.19% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Local Independent candidates 196 votes (0.86% -2.65% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 143 votes (0.63% -12.00% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Other Parties 80 votes (0.35% +0.20% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Labour lead of 1,113 (4.87%) on a swing of 2.24% from Conservative to Labour

Compiled by Harry Hayfield