Archive for February, 2018


The one thing that could impede Brexit is a high-level Leave defection

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Get ready for more of this in the next 13 months

I’m sure that this week’s tour of Britain by the anti Brexit bus, featured above, will bring some comfort to those who believe that leaving the EU is wrong and want to stop it.

The Leave bus during the run up to June 23rd 2016 become iconic and clearly it is quite smart to use the same approach and visual identity in this campaign. It is also a reminder of the £350m a week claim that featured on that bus.

Maybe it will help add to the turbulent mood. Maybe not.

    For to my mind the only way that the anti-Brexiteers can stop the UK leaving the EU is if some big political figure closely connected with Leave decides to switch sides. A Boris perhaps?

Maybe as we get closer to the day and the complications of leaving continue to mount such a person could emerge and present themselves as the saviour because they see it as the best way of furthering their own ambitions.

One thing is for sure and that is that the Leave faction is nervous about what might happen hence the attempts to rubbish the Good Friday Agreement because of the complications across the Irish Sea.

The message from this latest bus campaign is that there are people who think it can be stopped and are going to ratchet up their efforts.

Whether this will all be to no avail I don’t know. Whatever the next thirteen months are set to be interesting

Mike Smithson


The juvenile CON attacks on Corbyn have simply reinforced the LAB leader

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Now legal action

The above interview between Andrew Neil and Minister Steve Baker on today’s Daily Politics just about sums up the reason why Conservative have got it so wrong in the attacks on Corbyn.

Some of them appear to have built on the revelations in the media with their own view about what this means and now, Mr Corbyn, is taking legal action. I thought that Andrew Neill’s approach was correct although I felt sorry for Steve Baker being the one in the Tory representative spot for today’s PMQs programme. Whoever had been sitting in that chair would have had the same treatment.

What this illustrates is that that overstating a case can undermine it. If you make an attack and get part factually wrong you are in danger of getting more discredited than your target.

There’s also the danger of being less believed in future attacks when your evidence maybe stronger.

There is a lot that the Conservatives could learn from the Labour government of 1997-2010 when it come to media management.

Mike Smithson


TMay in third place as “best PM” in latest YouGov London poll

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Best PM?
NOTA 36%
Corbyn 31%
May 24%
Cable 9%

London Local elections voting
CON 28
LAB 54
LD 11

London GE voting intenton
LAB 53%
CON 33%
LD 8%

With the votes in London at the May local elections likely to dominate coverage a new YouGov poll QMUL has bad news for the Conservatives.

The numbers in the local elections voting suggests that the Conservatives could be facing the loss of several key Boroughs to LAB and having tough fights to hold onto to 2 SW London Boroughs where the LDs are the main contender.

I’m highlighting the best PM figures because they show a great lack of support for all the main party leaders although in this case Corbyn has the edge over May. The striking figure, though, is the numbers who simply don’t know which exceeds the totals for all three mentioned.

The data shows that just 59% of GE17 LAB voters were ready to back Corbyn and 69% of CON one Mrs. May.

Mike Smithson


Tick Tock Two. There is more than one countdown taking place

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Looking beyond March 29 2019

Earlier this week I wrote about the likelihood that Britain will leave the EU on the current scheduled date of 29 March 2019. My logic was simple: the timetable is preset, adjusting it requires the consent of a lot of different parties and there is no sign yet that many people in Britain have changed their minds. You can still back that proposition at 5/4 on Betfair and it still looks to me to be outstanding value.

For the last few months, the polls on the referendum have shown a pretty consistent picture. With the benefit of hindsight, the public is evenly split but on balance thinks that leaving the EU was the wrong decision. Few have changed their minds. Slightly more Leave voters than Remain voters are open to the idea that they got it wrong but the shift has been caused by non-voters at the referendum breaking decisively for Remain.

In the short term, this doesn’t really have any significance. Unless public opinion moves far more decisively towards a change of heart, the momentum from the referendum vote will comfortably carry the country over the precipice of leaving the EU next March.

Then what? Imagine a Britain where no one ever changes their mind about Brexit. It’s easy if you try – social media is full of hardcore supporters on both sides yelling at each other across a chasm of values. The public has had over two years of hearing the arguments on both sides. Perhaps it’s not that surprising if most people should have reached a firmly settled resting point.

If everyone has picked their side in the Brexit values war, how does the war end? It’s a war between young unhappy metropolitans and old uneducated provincials: the blue and the grey, if you like. In this war of attrition, the young have time on their side.

In a very few years with no one changing their mind, Leave supporters will die off disproportionately, leaving a substantial structural majority for the pro-EU side in a surprisingly short space of time unless the members of the Leave Majority who have joined the Great Majority are replaced by new recruits. A country that eventually decisively believed that leaving the EU was the wrong decision would be highly likely to explore rejoining it at some point in the future. More than one clock is ticking.

What this means, therefore, is that Leave need not just to take Britain out of the EU but to start the process of changing their erstwhile opponents’ minds. They have three possibilities: the facts change to an extent that reachable Remain supporters change their minds, the public decide that regardless of who’s right or wrong they don’t want to think about Europe any more or Leave are able to reposition Brexit in a different place in the values war.

Leave supporters have done their best to minimise their chances on all fronts. What have Remain voters heard since the referendum? Accusations that opponents of Brexit are enemies of the people, saboteurs and traitors. Leave advocates have done everything to ensure that the public are forced to pick a side.

Those that have already picked Remain have been entrenched in that decision ever since. Leave supporters rightly note that dismal economic projections are not going to shift anyone from Leave to Remain. They seem unaccountably optimistic that good economic news might do the reverse. Values trump facts. This is not a one way street.

What of a charm offensive? Leave have gone in the opposite direction, claiming ever more stringent versions of Leave are required if Britain is not going to Brexit in name only. Boris Johnson supposedly sought to reach out to Remain supporters in his recent speech advocating a liberal Brexit, which, however, was trailed in advance with the use of the word “betrayal”. You have to wonder what is going on under that blond mop.

If Leave supporters really are going to make the case for a liberal Brexit, they are going to need to choose their language carefully. One-off speeches aren’t going to do the trick. Until you’re sick of the sound of your own voice, you haven’t said it enough. The most prominent Leavers, however, have the problem that many Remain supporters are already sick of the sound of their voices.

In practice, however, Leave cannot make the case for a liberal Brexit because a large part of Leave’s own supporters want no part of that. So a repositioning of Brexit looks predestined to fail.

Right now Leave’s best bet is sheer fatigue. But that would still leave the country in the long term believing that it had made a wrong turn in 2016 and was just making the best of a bad job. Even if that works, that’s not a very auspicious legacy, is it?

And that looks the likeliest best case scenario. At least as likely is a scenario where the public in time comes decisively to reject Brexit, rejoin the EU (presumably on worse terms than Britain left it) and where Leave becomes synonymous with a reactionary disaster.

So, how do Leavers propose to take things from here? They’ve spent far too long fighting the last battle. The next one is going to require a strategic genius.

Alastair Meeks


The money continues to go on Brexit NOT happening by March 29th next year – but the gap’s tightening

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Twelve month chart from

Everyday for months, it seems, the news has been dominated by developments over Brexit and tinight, of course, we have the letter from 62 conservative MPs saying to Theresa May that they want a hard exit.

But the Westminster numbers remain very tight and it is hard to come to any definitive conclusion over what form of Brexit will be agreed or whether something else might come along to put a total spanner into the works.

One such one diversion over the past few days over Northern Ireland relates to the implications for the Good Friday Agreement, which of course was what brought the Troubles to an end in 1998. The way some proponents of hard Brexit are ready to rubbish the Good Friday Agreement suggest that they see the danger for their position of this not being resolved.

Meanwhile March 29th 2019 gets even closer.

Mike Smithson


Trump critic Mitt Romney could prove problematical for Trump if, as likely, he’s elected senator

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

The Republican White House nominee in 2012 and Trump critic, Mitt Romney is running to become the next Senator for Utah – a GOP stronghold. Given the tightness of the current split in the Senate, 51 Republican to 49 Democratic, the former nominee has the potential to cause problems for the White House.

During the 2016 campaign Romney was a persistent Trump critic describing the man who was to become President as a “fraud” who was “playing the American public for suckers.

It has been reported that Trump sought to try to persuade the incumbent Senator for Utah to stay after he’d announced his plan to retire in order to stop Romney.

Romney shas said he generally approved of Trump’s agenda, but would not hesitate to call out the president if needed.

“I‘m with the president’s domestic policy agenda of low taxes, low regulation, smaller government, pushing back against the bureaucrats,” Romney said. “I‘m not always with the president on what he might say or do, and if that happens I’ll call‘em like I see‘em, the way I have in the past.”

Trump said on Twitter that Romney “will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”

I wonder whether Romney might also be thinking of running for the nomination at WH2020

Mike Smithson


UKIP as a political party – one of the big casualties of Brexit

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

How Brussels created the electoral system for UKIP to prosper

One of the ongoing political developments that has amused many since the referendum has been the UKIP leadership and the problems the party has in ensuring that whoever is gets the job lasts the course.

    An of the success of UKIP over the years is that it owes so much to Brussels for seeking to impose similar voting systems for MEPs across the whole EU. If that had not happened then it is hard to see how it could have emerged as an electoral force rather than a fringe pressure group.

For the 1999 MEP elections the EU resolved that all countries should elect their MEPs using a form of proportional representation. What played a key part, and probably crucial, in the UK was the decision of the Labour government ahead of the 1999 elections to have it operated on the basis of the closed party list.

This meant that voters simply chose a party and not individual candidates to be the Euro MPs and reduces the needs for individual MEPs to build up a presence with voters. Amongst most other EU countries the PR system operates but an open list exists and voters choose the order in which candidates by name they want to represent them.

It was that 1999 election that first saw UKIP MEP going to Brussels and in each succeeding euro elections the party increased it’s representation significantly to 2014 when it topped the poll in the UK.

If all goes to plan UKIP will lose all its MEPs on March 29th next year and its only elected politicians will be a few remaining local councillors and members of the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies, elected by the regional list, whose terms end in 2021.

Unless UKIP can miraculously find a way of winning first past the post elections it will be electorally dead.

Mike Smithson


There’s greater than a 1.25% chance that Emily Thornberry will be next PM

Monday, February 19th, 2018

My little punt this afternoon

One of the things about running a site about political betting and being a punter myself is that I like to spend a few minutes each day casting my eye over the markets to see if anything interesting is happening.

I’m usually on the lookout for long odds bets where my assessment of the chances of it coming off is better than how the market is pricing it.

One such one I took this afternoon. It was at the place of 80 on Betfair that Emily Thornberry will be the next prime minister.

We’ve discussed at length how before how difficult it is going to be for a LAB PM to come directly after Mrs. May. That would require the incumbent to continue until after she has lost another general election and the widespread perception is CON MPs are not going to let her do that.

The general view is probably right but, as we saw with Gordon Brown in the years before GE2010 there was a great reluctance to oust an incumbent PM with a general election not that too far away. The same could happen with Mrs. May.

Although Corbyn is the strong second favourite to be next PM you’ve got to go down a long way, in my case to odds of 80, to find another LAB MP as a contender and that person is Thornberry – the clear favourite to succeed JC.

Given the massive ambivalence that Corbyn and his inner circle has on Brexit we cannot assume that he’ll stay in post all the way to the general election. He’s also getting old.

Mike Smithson