Archive for February, 2018

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An artistic solution to the Northern Ireland border conundrum

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018



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PaddyPower makes it 3/1 that TMay won’t survive beyond the end of March

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

And it’s 2/1 that there’ll be a general election this year

A spokesman for the bookie said: “Theresa May’s time as PM has been a constant case of one step forward followed by several steps backwards – and that’s just her political viewpoints. The pressure is ramping up on May, and the odds are shortening that she’ll be ousted, prompting another General Election and – likely – another Brexit Referendum.”

UK POLITICS ODDS:

2/1 General Election to be called in the UK in 2018

5/2 DUP to remove support for Conservative Government

3/1 Theresa May to be removed as Conservative Leader in Q1 2018

5/1 EU Referendum to be held in 2018

Not sure that I find any of these attractive though there might be something in the DUP bet.

Mike Smithson




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Chris Rennard’s “Winning Here” – the requiem for the battered Lib Dems or the handbook for another revival?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

A review of Chris Rennard’s newly published “Winning Here”

    “ Paddy’s personal ratings were shown to be very high in our poll, even at the outset of the by- election campaign. This helped to persuade him of the validity of the other poll findings.”

Thus Chris Renard then the LD director of campaigns and elections coaxed Paddy Ashdown into accepting his formula for winning the 1993 Newbury by-election. The humour and shrewdness about people’s motivation mark this first volume of his political memoirs (just published by Biteback): it never becomes a mere boastful catalogue of Rennard’s election trophies.

Lord Rennard has measured out his life in by-elections. This book revisits a varied series of by-elections from Liverpool Edge Hill in 1979 to Dunfermline in 2006. He had learned early on how much the U.K’s third party needs the boost from by-election success to improve its tally of seats in general elections. And, as the apostle of targeting seats for general elections, he in effect simulated by-elections in those seats which gave full scope for Lib Dem campaign techniques.

His first chapter “An Unusual Introduction to Politics in Liverpool” describes his immersion in the community politics developed by the Liverpool Liberal councillors, year-round leafleting, canvassing and campaigning. These continue to characterise the party’s approach to elections.

Without self-pity he writes about his loving but straitened upbringing. It was a Liberal Councillor who had helped Rennard’s disabled mother to get her widowed mothers’ allowance. Orphaned when nearly 17, Rennard then showed abnormal self-reliance in getting through sixth form and university. This he combined with a massive workload for the local Liberals. His heroic labours take on a Victorian resonance, an example of self-help straight out of Samuel Smiles.

When the Edge Hill by-election was called shortly before the 1979 General Election, the Liberals nationally stood at 5% in opinion polls, damaged by the Lib-Lab Pact and the impending trial of former party leader. Jeremy Thorpe, for conspiracy to murder. The Liverpool Liberals were in good campaigning shape with Rennard already a seasoned and trusted part of the machine.

The victory of David Alton at Edge Hill meant the saving of the then Liberal Party. They moved up in the polls and held eleven of their fourteen seats in the General Election that followed immediately: a lesson not lost on Rennard. During the Alliance years he became Alton’s agent and helped him win the new seat of Mossley Hill from third place. He then became the East Midlands organiser, in charge of the West Derbyshire by- election in 1986 when the Liberals failed to take the seat by 100 votes.

In 1990 by which time Rennard had become the LD Director of Campaigns and Elections the IRA murdered Ian Gow – CON M.P for Eastbourne. Paddy Ashdown was reluctant to put forward a candidate for the ensuing by-election since he did not wish the party to be seen to benefit from terrorism. This caused Rennard to send Ashdown an irate memo setting out reasons to stand:“.. It will not be seen to be bold and courageous to recommend not fighting- it will make you a laughing stock in Walworth Road, Downing Street and eventually in the quality press that you threw away this chance.”

The LD victory in the subsequent by-election made it clear that the LDs were back in business: “a safe seat had been lost to a party that Mrs Thatcher herself had recently branded as a ” dead parrot” Six weeks later she resigned as Prime Minister.”

Successes in Ribble Valley and Kincardine and Deeside followed, strengthening the LDs in the run-up to GE1992 but the hoped-for big increase in LD seats failed to materialise. Rennard argues that speculation about a hung parliament and proportional representation, which he himself had wanted to avoid, was promoted by Ashdown in the last days of the 1992 – and this deterred Conservative voters whom the Lib Dems had hoped to win over.

    Rennard’s attitude towards Ashdown rather resembled that of a kindly school master trying to make sure that a gifted pupil bored with the syllabus does himself justice in the exams.

This pattern repeats itself in Rennard’s account of the LD revival which began with the Newbury by-election in 1993 where Rennard shows himself to have been a sceptic about Ashdown’s preoccupation with Lib-Lab cooperation, believing that careless talk about coalition would cost votes. Based on his Liverpool experience the Rennard approach in any election campaign was to find out the issues on voters’ minds and to deal with those issues rather than go on about constitutional reform which polling suggested was only of interest to a minute fraction of voters,

Rennard’s strategy at GE1997 delivered 46 LD seats, the largest third party contingent since 1929 a number which had increased to 62 at GE2005. By then Charles Kennedy had become the Liberal Democrat leader and Rennard writes sensitively about the alcoholism which was to cost Kennedy the leadership. Ever practical, however he saw the Dunfermline by-election of 2006 as a means to give the party a boost after Kennedy’s downfall.

Throughout the book Rennard refers – never at great length – to his health problems of depression and diabetes-, problems not eased by his long irregular hours and it was these problems which caused him to step down as the Paty’s chief executive.

Certainly this book is generous to colleagues and friends, and suggests he is loyal and considerate in his personal dealings.

Steve Lawson



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Suddenly the money’s going on 2018 being the year of the next General Election

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Exactly three weeks ago 2018 was rated as just a 3.8% on Betfair’s “Year of Next General Election” market. Tonight it has reached 18.3% and is now the third favourite.

Clearly there is an enormous amount of political turbulence and TMay might find herself in trouble should the problems with Brexit continue but I’ve not shifted my view that the election will take place as planned in 2022.

Rees-Mogg remains betting favourite for next PM.

Thanks to Betdata.io for the chart showing matched bets on the Betfair exchange.

Mike Smithson




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If the 7 Sinn Fein MPs take their seats TMay’s future & possibly Brexit would be down to the Tory EU rebels

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Lots of talk about today of the possibility that the Irish nationalist party, Sinn Fein, taking up its MP seats at Westminster. A call has been made by the prime minister of the Irish Republic, Leo Varadkar, who is saying that the Sinn Fein MPs should take up their seats at Westminster in order to make things better for Ireland.

On the face of it this seems simple but I’m am less sure. For a century Sinn Fein MPs who’ve been elected to Westminster have said they will not make the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen and don’t take up their seats. This is fairly fundamental to them and the party will point out that at the time of standing they made clear that this is what they would do.

At the last election 7 Sinn Fein MPs were returned though one seat is currently vacant awaiting the outcome of a by-election.

Seat totals from GE2017
CON 317
LAB 262
SNP 35
LD 12
DUP 10
Sinn Fein 7
PC 4
GRN 1
Ind 1
Speaker 1

Given that we would assume that the DUP’s 10 MPs will go on supporting the Conservatives then on paper at least Theresa May should be able to cope with any critical vote.

The big problem, and the power, would shift to the Tory Rebels such as the former cabinet Ministers Ken Clarke. Dominic Grieve with several other names hovering in the background.

If SF turned down the request from the Irish PM then the party could be held responsible in both parts of Ireland for all ythe problems Brexit could cause. This will be a close decision.

Mike Smithson




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The Tory headache that no one talks about – the 3.2m GE2017 CON voters who backed Remain at the referendum

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

These exceed the 2.6m GE2017 LAB leave voters by some margin

We get lots of talk about Labour having to be mindful that a significant part of its voters at the last election also voted Leave in the referendum.

But we don’t seem to hear much about what in terms of a percentage of the overall number of voters at the last election, the total of Conservative Remain voters exceeded them.

The above chart which has been highlighted by Election Data on Twitter is based on data from the BES which carried out extensive studies at both elections.

So far since the last general election the polls suggest there has been very little movement between those who voted Conservative and those who voted Labour but we cannot assume that that position will continue.

The electoral maths suggest that it is Rees-Mogg, BoJo, TMay or whoever leads the blue team at the next general election has by far the biggest challenge keeping Tory Remain voters on board.

Until yesterday, perhaps, the idea that this voting group could be susceptible to Corbyn’s Labour seemed a fantasy.

    Now the challenge is that if we do end up with a softer Brexit than the position BoJo/JRM are identified with then it is Corbyn who is seen as having made the running.

Mrs May has some very dangerous waters to navigate. Her speech this week could be crucial.

Mike Smithson




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The CBI give a thumbs up to Corbyn and Brussels said to be looking “kindly” at speech

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Over to you Mrs. May



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Corbyn speech has made TMay’s Brexit challenge even harder

Monday, February 26th, 2018

The numbers get tighter

The big black cloud that hangs over Mrs May and her team is the possibility that LAB MPs will be whipped to support an amendment backed by one of her Tory Rebels on Brexit.

Since the failure to hold on to the Conservative majority on June 8th her path forward has always been precarious but what has not happened in a major way so far is for an issue to emerge that allows a united Labour Party to join with other non-CON MPs in The Commons to vote with rebel Tory MPs against the government. Sure Mrs May still has the DUP but she also has got the Anna Soubrys & co or her own side who are not going to be shifted.

Essentially Corbyn is moving to a position that is not that much different from that which Tony Blair, when opposition leader from 1994 to 1997, would endeavour to join with rebel conservative MPs in order to undermine the Major government.

This is a smart politics by Corbyn and one which really we should have seen from his party sometime earlier.

The talk of making one of these key decisions a confidence vote simply does not apply anymore. The format for such a move is strictly laid down by the Fixed Term Parliament Act and that does not allow a confidence vote link to a specific issue. So even if Mrs May does lose on a Brexit issue the chances are that with the DUP she would still survive a Commons confidence vote. It is this fact that makes it easier for anti-Brexit CO MPs to rebel. There is less risk of letting Mr. Corbyn in.

William Hill now make it odds on that Mrs. May won’t survive 2018. Maybe.

Mike Smithson