Archive for December, 2017

h1

Theresa May is set to conduct a major reshuffle in January, but will she end up causing even more problems for herself?

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Five more malcontents on the backbenches might be a mistake.

Both The Sunday Times and The Sun on Sunday have stories about Mrs May planning to conduct an extensive reshuffle in January.

This is quite a bold move by Mrs May, in December she effectively fired her oldest friend in politics, in January she’s on course to fire her campaign manager from her leadership campaign, although Lord Adonis may have saved Grayling from the chop.

Speaking about that leadership contest, she’s might be axing Andrea Leadsom which again maybe a mistake.

With the forthcoming Brexit votes and the precarious majority thanks to the DUP Mrs May has, adding five further malcontents onto the backbenches could imperil those votes even before we consider the problems that Craig Oliver has identified. Mrs Leadsom might see this as casus belli to launch a leadership challenge.

Another troublesome member might be Boris Johnson, The Sunday Times say

Chancellor Philip Hammond is safe in his post, but senior May aides want to persuade Boris Johnson to take a souped-up Brexit delivery job, probably based in the business department, after a turbulent time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Johnson’s allies say he would regard that as a demotion and would fight it.

May was warned by her former chief whip, Gavin Williamson, not to hold a reshuffle before the local elections in May.

But Julian Smith, the new chief whip, has sided with Gavin Barwell, May’s chief of staff, to convince the prime minister that party management will be more difficult if she does not beef up her top team and promote younger MPs.

For those betting  on Jeremy Hunt as Theresa May’s successor there’s good news.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is tipped to take over the Cabinet Office role vacated when May’s closest cabinet ally Damian Green was forced out before Christmas, but the prime minister is not expected to give Hunt the title of first secretary of state.

One ally said: “Jeremy is a peacemaker and a negotiator, and that’s what’s needed to deal with the rest of the cabinet and the devolved administrations.”

But the stories do have a bit of a contradiction, The Sunday Times say Greg Clark is going to get sacked, whilst The Sun on Sunday says Greg Clark is tipped for a big promotion.

Of those tipped to join the cabinet are Brandon Lewis, Damian Hinds, and Dominic Raab, I’d be delighted with the latter’s promotion, having backed him to be Theresa May’s successor.

TSE



h1

Three tips on who might be Theresa May’s successor

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

A few days before Christmas I had lunch with a friend who has followed the Tory party for decades and knows it quite well. Inevitability the conversation turned on who might be Mrs May’s successor, their observations had a quite the impact and led to an update to my betting portfolio.

My friend and I are of the consensus that if Mrs May survives into 2020 then her successor is likely to be someone who is currently not in the cabinet but if she falls well before then her successor might be three people in the cabinet that aren’t often discussed.

Tip 1 – Andrea Leadsom – The tallest dwarf left standing

I’ve been quite dismissive about Mother Superior Leadsom but then I realised the logic on backing her is quite sound, even if it might make Tories like myself cry like a disgraced televangelist if she becomes Tory leader and PM.

Simply Mrs Leadsom might be the last one standing from the Leave/Right wing/Divergers faction of the cabinet because of the flaws of the other candidates.

Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary has been seen by many as a failed audition for the top job, his reputation has been diminishing from the 30th of June 2016, when it was a case of Borisus interruptus in the race to suceed David Cameron.

His tenure as Foreign Secretary is littered with mistakes from making an intervention, seen by many as an attempt to force Mrs May’s hand on Brexit on the day of an attempted terrorist attack in London to the problems he’s caused Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. No one can say with a straight face that his tenure as Foreign Secretary has made Boris look more Prime Ministerial.

It won’t be David Davis either, like Boris Johnson his tenure in government hasn’t been stellar, where the minister for winging it has been caught out on several occasions, and he’s been effectively sidelined more and more in the Brexit negotiations and saw Mrs May get the praise for a successful Phase I of the talks.

It won’t be Michael Gove for a very simple and blunt reason, he’s pissed off far too many people in the Tory party. He’s annoyed people like David Davis with his actions over Brexit to the point David Davis contemplated resigning over Gove’s actions.

The Cameroon wing which has substantial numbers in Parliament still hasn’t forgiven Gove for going against Cameron in the referendum. When David Cameron goes pheasant shooting he likes to name the pheasants Michael Gove because when he shoots the pheasants called Gove it makes Cameron feel better. Pathetic and childish from David Cameron? Maybe, but it does display the animus for Gove.

Gove has also annoyed supporters of Boris Johnson when Gove ended Boris Johnson’s leadership ambitions in 2016, Ben Wallace, a Boris supporter, publicly announced he wanted to go all Game of Thrones and remove Gove’s penis. As an aside Ben Wallace is tipped to join the cabinet in the next major reshuffle.

You simply cannot annoy people to that level and expect to become Leader. When I said Michael Gove was a lot like Judas Iscariot the retort I was given was ‘Gove’s nothing like Judas, Judas had the decency to commit suicide after his betrayal.’

It won’t be Liam Fox because of Adam Werritty. Despite the lessons of the last general election the Tories are expected to spend a lot of time at the next general election trying to convince the electorate that Jeremy Corbyn is a national security risk. The Tories having as leader someone who had to resign in disgrace as Defence Secretary isn’t the best person to exploit that attack line, so Adam Werritty will scupper Liam Fox’s leadership ambitions.

Penny Mordaunt also has issues, being Prime Minister requires gravitas, I’m not sure her past dares of repeatedly saying ‘cock’ in a speech to Parliament will help her on the gravitas front.

Jacob Rees-Mogg will also struggle on that front, the gap from backbench MP to Prime Minister is an insurmountable gap for many, and that’s even before we get to the policies of Mr Rees-Mogg which seems like to be like a parody of Harry Enfield’s Tory Boy character.

So all these other flawed candidates could see Mrs Leadsom be seen as the least worst option for that particular wing of the party coupled with promulgating the idea that she was right about Theresa May’s flaws. You can get 16/1 with BetVictor on Andrea Leadsom succeeding Mrs May.

Tips 2 and 3 – Time to uncork the Gauke and David Lidington

These two chaps aren’t normally mentioned in discussions about Theresa May’s successor, but because of issues with other candidates they might end up winning the contest.

Amongst those candidates that could be described as Remainers/One Nation/Aligners it is easy to see Amber Rudd’s majority being a bar to her being a candidate, like Philip Hammond has enraged far too many people to be leader, and there’s a danger Jeremy Hunt is peaking too soon which presents opportunities for Gauke and Lidington.

David Gauke, Brexit apart, might have the most difficult portfolio of any cabinet minister as he oversees the introduction of universal credit. Universal credit is something which some observers think could be as damaging for this Tory government as the poll tax was for Mrs Thatcher’s government. Universal credit effects people who claim benefits and are in work, the sort of people  whose votes the Tories need to win if they want to win a majority.

Gauke appears to be mitigating the problems of universal credit so his stock will improve. Gauke also spent six years working as a minister in George Osborne’s Treasury, he will have learned from the best during those six years.

I shared the details of the lunch with some of PB’s most esteemed gamblers, one of whom earlier on this week staked £55 at 350/1 on Gauke being Mrs May’s successor. That gave me great reassurance on backing Gauke, even if I backed him at more modest 3 figure odds.

David Lidington has been touted as Damian Green’s successor which theoretically makes him a great trading bet to be Theresa May’s successor, he appears to have no enemies in the party.

Like Gauke, Lidington’s currently 100/1 to be next Tory leader with Ladbrokes, earlier on this week he was around 460 to 470 on Betfair.

Taking the 100/1 on both of them that Ladbrokes are offering represents value in my opinion.

My lunch companion did point out it was a volatile time for the Tories, if we had have had this lunch two months earlier we’d have been talking extensively about Sir Michael Fallon as Theresa May’s successor.

TSE



h1

Local By-Election Review 2017 – how the parties have performed

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

To describe 2017 as a year of two halves would be absolutely correct, as the general election held on June 8th marked a distinct dividing line not only at Westminster (between a Conservative majority of 12 and no majority) but also in local by-elections with the electoral pendulum swinging rapidly from one side to the other and so therefore it is best to look at the year before and after the general election

Before the General Election (January 1st – June 7th 2017)
Prior to the general election, it was the Liberal Democrats who were having the biggest successes but in the crucial context of the Conservative / Labour battle it was the Conservatives having a field day gaining seats like Hutton on Redcar and Cleveland in February on a 10.5% swing from Lab to Con, Coulby Newham on Middlesbrough in April on a 7% swing from Lab to Con or even Marsh Home on Blackburn with Darwen on an 8% swing from Lab to Con

After the General Election (June 9th – December 2017)
But as soon as the polls closed on General Election Day, that progress stopped dead. Marine on Worthing in August on a swing of 17% from Con to Lab, North Worle on North Somerset in the same month on a 9% swing from Con to Lab (akin according to a friend of mine from the area to Labour gaining Beaconsfield in a general election) and even Marsh Barn on Adur in October on a 8.5% swing from Con to Lab (where the Labour vote increased by a staggering 35% on last time)

So if anyone ever tells you that local by-elections are boring, you tell them “See that 2017? Was that boring?”

Harry Hayfield



h1

Defining Britain: who wins that battle will likely win GE2022

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

The UK’s self-image must change post-Brexit – but to what?

By rights, the Conservative Party should have disappeared a long time ago. On the wrong side of the Reform debate before 1832, their opponents dominated the middle of the nineteenth century. That was in no small part down to divisions within the Tories but was also because the Liberals had a better vision to sell to a rapidly industrialising and urbanising Britain and to its newly enfranchised electorate. As the vote was distributed wider and wider – and hence further and further down the social scale – you’d think that a party of landed privilege would be left behind.

Instead, from Disraeli on, the Conservatives have been consistently better than its opponents at selling their vision of the concept of Britain to its voters and giving those voters a stake (even if at times only a perceived stake) in that vision. From the benign but mighty imperial force of Disraeli and Salisbury, spreading prosperity at home and civilisation abroad, to the Thatcherite revolution of a property-owning democracy freed from the shackles of the man in the ministry, electoral success has ridden not just on the back of effective government, important though that is, or off the fortune of splits in the opposition, though that too helped on several occasions, but on winning the battle of ideas as to what it means to be British.

That battle matters now more than usually. We are living in an era where the concepts of self-image matter to an unusual extent, and not just in Britain. Barack Obama won in 2008 by appealing to the light side of the concept of America: ‘yes, we can’. He appealed to the idea of a free nation that built itself into a global superpower by its own hard work, overcoming innumerable obstacles in its manifest destiny to bring peace as the world’s last great hope. Trump won eight years later by tapping into the reverse of that same exceptionalism, of a nation whose great and peculiar values and institutions were under threat from malign forces, foreign and domestic and which needed protecting.

These identities may be exaggerations of a partial truth – ones which turns a blind eye to inconvenient evidence or history – but they have enough truth in them to be believable to those who want to believe. And who doesn’t want to believe in something?

Which brings us to a problem facing the Conservative Party of today: it doesn’t have a clear vision of what Britain’s identity is, whereas Labour does. That’s not to say it doesn’t have policies or values – it does – nor even that May doesn’t have an underlying philosophy: again, she does and it’s one that she implied on the steps of Number Ten when she first became PM although it’s notable that she spent much most time in that speech identifying problems to fix – she will always be a pragmatic and practical politician.

Where, however, do the Conservatives find an image of Britain to sell to the country? As with everything political at the moment, the issue returns to Brexit. That Brexit must be delivered is a political necessity but the type of Brexit and the enthusiasm with which it is delivered remain unanswered questions – hence the difficulty the government has had in formulating a policy – because ultimately, it hasn’t settled on what it means to be a modern Britain in today’s world and today’s Europe outside of the European Union. Does it, as Andrew Adonis alleges, take up UKIP’s rose-tinted view of some golden age gone? No, it doesn’t and it hasn’t and his caricature of the Conservatives is one that many Ultra Remainers seem happy to project onto the Conservatives merely for having the temerity to do what the electorate told them to. But if UKIP’s language and image of Britain is rejected, how do the Conservatives come up with a convincing post-Brexit national vision which allies to the practical consideration of putting together an election-winning coalition of voters?

Against which, Labour does have a national story to tell; one of a country where ordinary people have been sold out to the interests of the rich and powerful. As a critique, it’s one of opposition rather than government and, as such, will not be easy to translate into positive change in government. It will be much easier to destroy that which is opposed than to successfully fill the voids created. Indeed, it shares more with Trump than Obama on that score. All the same, that’s a problem for after Labour forms a government. In the meantime, stagnant real wages, rising debt and falling home-ownership are legitimate hooks on which to hang a narrative of a country which is not delivering returns for working people.

Perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The next election isn’t due for well over four years and a lot will happen in that time. The shape of Brexit will be known and will probably have been delivered. That alone will limit the choices available to parties, as well as enabling leaders – particularly those in government – to spend more time on domestic bread-and-butter matters. Still, for all that individual policies and people matter, the values and visions they tie into and promote matter more. Theresa May would do well to articulate much more clearly her vision of Britain for the 2020s and beyond – or if she can’t do that, she needs to think about where the limitations of the Brexit process will leave her and make a virtue of that outcome before it happens anyway.

David Herdson

p.s. Thanks to Southam Observer for a comment which acted as the spur to this article.





h1

The challenges facing the Conservatives

Friday, December 29th, 2017

The Conservatives are in power and in disarray.  They possess a will to power but no common view on what to do with it.  For now the bulk of the party is intent on pursuing Brexit to its bitter conclusion.  But what then?  What indeed.  For the Conservative coalition has been turned upside down.

Charles gave a crisp summary a couple of weeks ago of the three Conservative tribes. All three have abandoned their usual stances in the face of the referendum result.  The Ultras, who oppose change, have – enthusiastically – sought radical upheaval in order to perfect Brexit.  The Radicals, who seek a global role for Britain and for free trade, have – with varying degrees of enthusiasm – turned their back on Britain’s most profound international and trading endeavour: some regret this and some are persuading themselves that new roles will be found.  The Paternalists, who seek compromise in pursuit of social stability, have found themselves in the midst of the biggest social upheaval for a generation and firmly pressing one side of a binary decision.   Everything has been subordinated to Brexit.

The Conservatives are guilty of double think.  On the one hand, they think that Brexit is so important that every previous belief and credo must be jettisoned to the extent that it gets in the way of leaving the EU.  On the other hand, they think that once Britain has left the EU normal service will be resumed, since the public will speedily move on to every day topics.

This looks hopelessly optimistic.  Once Britain has left the EU, Leavers will pocket the policy success and move on, probably to complain about why immigration isn’t coming down (whether or not it actually is).  Meanwhile, committed Remain supporters are unlikely to forgive or forget for the foreseeable future.  Those who implemented Brexit are not going to get a hearing from them this year, next year or in all likelihood in 15 years time unless they have shown through the means of implementation that they have sought to be inclusive. The Conservatives have not sought to be inclusive.

That by itself is not fatal to the Conservatives’ chances.  While many of those committed Remain voters would in previous eras have been natural Conservative voters, this portion of the electorate is probably the one third who a recent opinion poll found would support joining the euro.  There is still another two thirds to go after and new coalitions can be built.

The Conservatives have in practice been building an electoral coalition around the Leave coalition, apparently without particular thought to the long term consequences of this.  It’s all very well being the party of the old, the uneducated, the insular and the obsessed, but that rubs off on your image.  Despite the fact that Labour is headed up by the most leftwing and inexperienced leadership in living memory, the Conservatives now have only a slender lead on economic competence over Labour: Philip Hammond, the epitome of a stolid Conservative chancellor, had only a 9% lead for best Chancellor in a recent opinion poll over John McDonnell, his Mao-brandishing opponent.   They look reactionary, uncaring and obsessed.  Labour have many defects of their own but by staying above the fray on Brexit they have avoided the taint of weirdness that the Conservatives are volunteering for in the eyes of many voters. 

There is more than another year of this to go.  And that timescale will be met only on the basis that everything goes quite well from here, which is itself an assumption so mini-heroic that it is awaiting its own confectionery tin.

The Conservatives can’t afford to wait that long.  If they want to retain power in the short, medium and long term, they need to rediscover a sense of purpose that does not involve Brexit.  Indeed, they need to determine what a good Brexit would look like.  That means that they need to ask themselves a question which they have not allowed themselves to ask since the referendum: is there anything more important than leaving the EU?

The answer for most normal people to this question is an emphatic yes.  Many Conservatives will scratch their heads at the concept.  But if you are going to be telling the general public that policies on the economy, housing, education or the NHS are going to be determined by the Brexit settlement, a lot of voters are going to think that you’ve got the cart before the horse.

Conservatives seem to be putting those questions on hold until Brexit is out of the way.  The voters won’t.  And if the Conservatives don’t, voters will take a lot of persuading that the Conservatives have the right priorities for the country.

What should the Conservatives be focusing on?  In the past they have succeeded when they have persuaded a plurality of voters that they are best placed to grow the economy in a manner that fairly rewards the aspirations of the ordinary voter.  That looks like a good place to start.  The Conservatives’ big problem at present is that if they put Brexit ahead of this, the public won’t be persuaded.  Indeed, for many working voters the Conservatives’ fixation with Brexit is symbolic of their warped priorities and their inability to tackle the problems in the housing market, low pay growth, poor productivity and out-of-date infrastructure.  So it’s time for the Conservatives to start talking about what they think is more important than Brexit.

Alastair Meeks




h1

Tories are aping DTrump when they claim the electoral system’s rigged against them

Friday, December 29th, 2017

The Telegraph’s making a fool of itself

I know it is the holiday season and all that with political news thin on the ground but the Telegraph should have looked at the basic numbers from GE2017 before inferring that somehow the electoral system is rigged against the Tories and for Labour.

This might have been true after GE2005 when Blair’s LAB won 55% of the seats with 35.2% of the votes but things have moved on since then. The basic fact from June 8th is that the Tories won 48.9% of MPs with 42.4% vote while LAB won 40.3% of MPs with 40% of vote. The LDs secured 1.8% of MPs with 7.4% of vote.

    Under the current boundaries the Tories would win 13 more seats (out of 650) than Labour if they both get 42% and there is a uniform swing. Under the proposed new boundaries, the gap increases to 37 seats out of 600.

Those basic numbers point to the opposite of what CON ministers and the paper is suggesting.

One of the political problems the Tories have got with this is that under the current proposal the DUP looks set to lose three seats to Sinn Fein becoming the second party in Northern Ireland.

TMay’s “supply and confidence” partners are not going to do anything that supports a plan that would negatively affect them. Without the DUP’s votes it will be a struggle getting this through the Commons.

So please no whinging. This is naked political self interest by the Tories.

Mike Smithson




h1

In the absence of divine intervention defeated Alabama Republican Moore launches action to overturn result

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Betfair punters might have to wait even longer

Today was supposed to be the day when the hard fought and controversial special election in Alabama to elect a Senator was due to be formalised,

In the Sensational result 2 weeks ago the Democrats beat the controversial Republican, Roy Moore by 1.5%. Instead of accepting the outcome Moore said on the night “Realise when the vote is this close, that it’s not over” and that he’d “wait on God and let this process play out“.

Most of the conventional bookies paid out on the day but Betfair has been waiting for the result to declared officially.

Moore, who was given vocal backing by Nigel Farage, a former UKIP leader, now claims that there was election fraud on December 15th and that the result should be nullified.

Quite what evidence he has is not clear and the decision is down to Alabama’s Secretary of State.

For me this was my biggest betting event since the general election and I’ve money at stake which is being held by Betfair.

Hopefully we’ll know during the day what is going to happen.

Assuming the Alabama outcome is upheld it changes the balance in the US Senate from 52-48 to 51-49 – a margin so tight it could create huge problems for the Trump administration in getting legislation through.

Mike Smithson




h1

Alastair Meeks and his predictions for 2018

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

I broke my habit of recent years last year and didn’t make any predictions for the coming year (I had no time at the end of last year).  That was fortunate because I would have got almost everything wrong.  However, it is a good discipline to make these predictions if only so that I can identify what I thought was going on and think about why I was wrong (or right) later on.  That way I might actually get better.

So what is going on at the end of 2017?  Britain is at the start of a five year fixed term Parliament.  However, the government is a minority Conservative government, with supply and confidence from the DUP.  This does not make for a stable outlook.  The DUP has no great love of the Conservative party, being ideologically much closer to UKIP and only its unbridled hatred of Labour gives the Conservatives any measure of security.  The government has already been defeated in several Parliamentary votes on a variety of topics, as will occur whenever the DUP decide that they don’t need to take the heat for difficult decisions or whenever a sufficient number of Conservative backbenchers decide that they are going to splinter from the party line to take.

The economy has been lacklustre all year: when the rest of the world is seeing healthy growth, Britain’s economy is anaemic, having slipped from first to last place in the G7 since the referendum result.  That said, it has continued to grow – slowly – and employment statistics continue to sparkle even as wages and productivity continue to disappoint.  Economists seem to be predicting that Britain will remain in a holding pattern pending Brexit.  Some straws in the wind suggest that Britain’s economy might surprise a little on the upside in 2018 but we’re unlikely to see anything amazing.

Britain is in the throes of extended negotiations over the terms of Brexit with the EU.  2018 will be dominated politically by these in the same way that the second half of 2017 was.  While the preliminary agreement in December was hailed as a great triumph, it is only base camp.  The sherpas have got some hard climbing ahead of them and their masters haven’t been up to much so far.

In the circumstances, you would expect an opposition that had unexpectedly gained seats at the general election to be resurgent, poised to take over at a moment’s notice when the government collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions.  But while Jeremy Corbyn now has complete command of the Labour party, Labour is making no further headway in the polls.  Labour has successfully straddled the divide between Labour Leave supporters and militant Remainers and the price of doing so is to have to remain in Opposition while Brexit remains unfinished business.

What of the Lib Dems?  What indeed?  They gained a few seats in June and no vote share.  Vince Cable has made no impression since becoming leader in the wake of the general election.  They continue to await a new role.

The SNP meanwhile had a nasty shock in June, losing seats to both Labour and the Conservatives in a unionist pincer movement.  The risk of this being extended at a future election is obvious to all.  The SNP need a strategy for dealing with this, and fast.

Anyway, time for some predictions.

  1. There will be a Brexit deal, substantially on the EU’s terms

The real news from the December preliminary agreement was that both the UK and the EU want to do a deal.  The deal that was done was largely on the EU’s terms.

The EU had insisted on a first stage to deal with three points.  It wanted the money sorted and it got the money sorted, being promised a sum that was twice as much as the FT had estimated would be needed in October 2016.  It wanted citizens’ rights sorted and they have been sorted.  It wanted a commitment to the special circumstances of Northern Ireland being addressed and it got one, with as much fudge as Theresa May needed.

Theresa May is using tactics without strategy.  Politically, that serves her quite well, even if it isn’t good for the country.  Despite caving in on more or less everything, the media coverage of her initial deal was excellent and her opponents on all sides were discomfited.  Aside from a few rumblings from those Leavers whose preferred version of Brexit would be tectonic, she carried all before her at home.

We can expect to see the same trick repeated.  Since the government has no strategy and no deal is worse than a bad deal, a bad deal will be done, substantially on the EU’s terms.  This time the risk of hardliners opposing the deal will be much greater.  There seems, however, to be a majority in the House of Commons for a bad deal.  So I expect that a bad deal will be done and Theresa May will again look like a winner.

Much of the year will be taken up with alarums, excursions and brouhahas on the Brexit negotiations.  We should ignore them all.  We won’t.

  1. The party leaders will stay the same

This is a distinctly risky prediction.  For starters, all three of Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable might voluntarily stand down in the next twelve months.  Theresa May might consider that after a Brexit deal is done she is functus officio.  Jeremy Corbyn is of an age where he might consider that he could hand over to someone younger and spend more time with his manhole covers.  Vince Cable is still older and many Lib Dems think he is just keeping the seat warm for Jo Swinson in any case.

In practice, I don’t expect any of them to step down voluntarily next year (2019 is a different matter).  The Brexit deal will need to be steered through Parliament and I expect that would take Theresa May into 2019.  The revolution is incomplete in Labour without an heir apparent.  If Jeremy Corbyn is to stand down, he needs to anoint a chosen one first.  Vince Cable shouldn’t have taken the job if he only intended to serve for a year.

There is no shortage of pretenders to Theresa May’s crown.  However, the ones that want loyalty lack sufficient Parliamentary support (or there would already have been a challenge).  Perhaps the Brexit deal will offer a pretext and a candidate for MPs to rally around.  The expectation must, however, be that there will not.

  1. There will be more Cabinet departures

This is not particularly a Brexit prediction, though it is easy to see how Brexit could induce a resignation on principle.  Theresa May has already lost three Cabinet ministers in quick succession and seems unable to command or offer the same loyalty that David Cameron managed.  Further departures should therefore be expected.  If she is willing to throw her most senior minister, a longstanding friend, under a bus, no one is safe.

  1. Labour and the Conservatives will remain roughly neck and neck in the polls

Since the general election, the polls have not moved much.  Labour may have inched ahead while the various Brexit trackers suggest that the public might be edging towards doubting the wisdom of the decision to Leave.  But this is all very much at the edges.

Both main parties have uneasy coalitions.   The Conservatives are a combination of believers in Brexit and those who regard the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour government with horror.  Labour are a coalition of evangelical acolytes of Jeremy Corbyn, old school social democrats and devastated Remain supporters looking for a place from which to oppose the Conservatives effectively.  These coalitions look as if they will stay coalescent for as long as Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour.  The success or otherwise of completing a Brexit deal looks unlikely to have a major impact on polling.

I’m also not expecting to see too much change in the polling on the referendum decision.  If a deal is concluded, as I now expect, and the economy does OK in 2018, Leave might well start to pull ahead a bit – maybe as far as 55:45.  But the only concessions that the government has made to Remain supporters have been extracted by the EU.  If the government wants to start converting Remain supporters in numbers it is going to need to show that it can include their values in its vision of Brexit.  Since it isn’t even trying, we can expect a hardcore group of Remainers for the indefinite future.  Christmas 2018 is likely to have just as many family arguments about Brexit as Christmas 2017 and Christmas 2016.  Happy New Year!

Alastair Meeks