Archive for March, 2018


Europe won’t split Labour – but it does present a problem for GE2022

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Can it really hold the Remain vote while ignoring the issue?

It’s not true that the Conservatives have been split from top to bottom on the subject of Europe for the last 70 years. Occasionally, peace broke out and something approaching a consensus arose. The first decade of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership was one such, when the Tories were enthusiastic about the EEC and keen to complete the Single Market. Later, under William Hague, the party settled on what amounted to ‘thus far and no further’. But for most of the post-war era, EU enthusiasts have competed with sceptics for ascendency in policy and in the party.

That contest is, of course, still very much on. The great battle of In or Out is over for the time being, but the nature of Out is still up for grabs – or at least, as up for grabs as the scope for doing a deal with the EU allows. As yet, Britain’s engaged in a lot of can-kicking with warm words about the future. Fundamental contradictions remain to be resolved, particularly in Ireland.

For all that, it’s not the Tories who’ve just lost a front-bench spokesman over Europe. Owen Smith’s dismissal has the political feel of suicide-by-cop.

    His was surely a sacking waiting to happen as soon as he called for a second referendum. It also smacks of opportunism. Labour’s voter and activist base remains strongly favourable to the EU and being sacked for voicing their views is unlikely to go down badly.

Not that it will make any difference. This isn’t a repeat of the mass resignations that followed Hilary Benn’s dismissal in 2016. Corbyn enjoys support among more than enough members to make any challenge to him utterly forlorn, and since the last leadership election, he’s gained control over the NEC, will shortly have the top level of Labour’s professional staff appointed on his watch (not by him directly but by an NEC favourable to him). Even the MPs are in the main either supine or supportive. It’s amazing what a good election can do.

The reality is that the leadership is in a position to define the parameters of Labour’s Europe policy quite tightly, which means that the question of Brexit itself is not to be asked. There will therefore be no second referendum and no mechanism for Britain to remain. Sometime next Spring – probably on March 29, Britain will leave. Furthermore, for the same reasons, come 2021, the UK will not only have left the EU de jure but will have done so de facto.

That is the point at which the Conservatives are likely to settle down into what passes for peace on Europe. There will be the disenchanted on both sides but the likelihood is that most MPs and members will accept the deal done and the general policy and will be happy to put the European Union behind them.

Not so for Labour. Well over three times as many Labour voters believe that Britain was wrong to leave the EU than believe it was right. A minority – but a vocal and potentially influential one – would have it as a priority to rejoin. Corbyn will no doubt rebuff those calls: he likes the flexibility that being outside the Single Market brings. However, that’s a problem for 2022.

Granted, there’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and then, and we may well find ourselves diverted from that destination by the uncertain eddies of parliament and European negotiations. Will the government get its A50 deal this year? Can it sign a final agreement before December 2020 – or an extended deadline before the election? Will May retain her premiership through the process and if not, who will succeed her and what would he or she do? Will Corbyn remain leader of Labour (he looks secure for now but four years is a long time)? How hard a Brexit will ultimately be agreed? Will the DUP stay on board? Will the government even survive to 2022?

Individually, the answer to all the yes-no questions there is probably ‘yes’ but collectively? These are volatile years politically and it would be foolish to ignore the known-unknowns.

However, assume Brexit pans out relatively smoothly and that an acceptable formula is devised for N Ireland. What does Labour promise in its manifesto? Should it apply to rejoin or should it accept the new status quo? The leadership would no doubt like to let matters lie and to focus on domestic issues. It might not be so easy to do so. Conference in particular, which simply by the nature of the sort of people who become delegates is likely to have a disproportionately large number of Euro-enthusiasts compared to Labour’s voter base, could be vocal in calling for renewed membership.

Whatever is decided will have appreciable electoral consequences. Not all the large swing to Labour in London last year was a Brexit vote but a fair bit is likely to have been, despite Corbyn’s studied indifference to the issue. Those votes need to be retained in some way, without that issue and with the challenge – probably – of a new PM to campaign against.

As with the Tories, Europe is a policy which splits Labour and, for some, generates high passions. For all that, it won’t make or break either party: too much is invested elsewhere. What it is likely to do though, for Labour at least, is place a sizable barrier between the party and a fair portion of its potential voters.

David Herdson


LAB MP Wes Streeting hits the nail on the head about Corbyn’s party and antisemitism

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

The ongoing narrative about the Labour and Jewish people could blow up in Corbyn’s face

Mike Smithson


CON, the LDs and SNP net gain of one each while LAB finish all square. This week’s local elections

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Penicuik on Midlothian (Lab defence)
First Preference Votes: SNP 1,663 (35% unchanged on last time), Con 1,433 (30% +4% on last time), Lab 1,310 (28% +2% on last time), Green 344 (7% +1% on last time) (No Lib Dem candidate this time -7%)
SNP lead on the first count of 230 on a swing of 2% from SNP to Con
Estimated Lib Dem split: 57% to Con, 29% to Lab, 14% to Green
No candidate elected on first count, Green candidate eliminated
Second count: Green Transfers Con 1,496 +36, Lab 1,414 +104, SNP 1,803 +140
No candidate elected on second count, Lab candidate eleminated
Third count: Lab transfers Con 1,788 +319, SNP 2,237 +434
SNP GAIN from Labour on the third count

Bunbury on Cheshire East (Con defence)
Result: Con 663 (53% -17% on last time), Lib Dem 342 (28% no candidate last time), Lab 178 (14% -4% on last time), Green 60 (5% -7% on last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 321 (25%) on a notional swing of 22.5% from Con to Lib Dem (6.5% from Con to Lab)

Leek West on Staffordshire, Moorlands (Con defence)
Result: Lab 487 (43% +23% on last time), Con 370 (33% -1% on last time), Lib Dem 218 (19% +8% on last time), Ind 61 (5% -4% on last time) (No Green candidate this time -12%, No local Independent candidate this time -15%)
Labour GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 117 (10%) on a swing of 11% from Con to Lab

Worksop South East on Bassetlaw (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 1,004 (77% +10% on last time), Con 197 (15% +9% on last time), Lib Dem 98 (8% +5% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -24%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 807 (62%) on a swing of 0.5% from Con to Lab (17% from UKIP to Lab)
Estimated UKIP split: 42% to Lab, 38% to Con, 21% to Lib Dem

Central and Walton on Aylesbury Vale (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 551 (41% +18% on last time), Con 425 (32% -1% on last time), Lab 267 (20% +1% on last time), Green 61 (5% -3% on last time), Ind 44 (3% no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -17%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 126 (9%) on a swing of 9.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Ridgeway on Chiltern (Ind defence)
Result: Con 268 (38% +17% on last time), Lab 230 (33% no candidate last time), Lib Dem 203 (29% +12% on last time) (No Independent candidate this time -61%)
Conservative GAIN from Independent with a majority of 38 (5%) on a notional swing of 8% from Con to Lab

Ockendon on Thurrock (UKIP defence)
Result: Con 696 (36% +7% on last time), Lab 696 (36% +9% on last time), Local Independent 531 (28% no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -44%)
Tied election between Con and Lab on a swing of 1% from Con to Lab (25.5% swing from UKIP to Con)
After the drawing of lots, the Conservative candidate was deemed elected
Conservative GAIN from UKIP

Harry Hayfield


The money starts to go on Biden for the nomination but I’m far from convinced

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

The spotlight turns to Obama’a V-P after threat to “beat up” Trump

Over the past couple of days there’s been renewed betting interest in former vice president Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination.

It all started with a spat with Trump sparked off by Biden comments at an anti-sexual assault rally in Florida when he cited lewd comments Mr. Trump made in a 2005 about grabbing women. He said:

“A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it, “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’”

Inevitably the compulsive Twitterer in the White House responded:

“Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!

Biden is an able campaigner and can command media attention. A CNN poll in January had him beating the incumbent by 17 points in a theoretical match-up – a result that said more about his name recognition than anything else. The same poll had the aged Bernie Sanders 15 points ahead.

Age is a huge problem for the former V-P. He’s currently 75 and would be 78 if he was elected. Even by American standards, surely, that is far too old. My guess is that age-related issues would emerge during a primary campaign if he decided to go for it.

Three of the four topping current betting for the Democratic nomination are heading for 70 or above good the other one, California senator Kamala Harris, is much younger and has been making her mark as a fierce critic of the trump administration.

Mike Smithson


At last the Pennsylvania Special election is resolved with the Republicans conceding defeat

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

What had been a 627 vote lead on the night became more than 800

Overnight the GOP contender in last week’s Pennsylvania special Congressional election, Rick Saccone, conceded defeat which means that the sensational victory by the Democrats in a District won by Trump by a 20% margin at the last presidential election has been confirmed.

The margin was incredibly tight. With more that 228k votes cast the margin on the night was 627 votes. That’s now move out to 800+

In the final days before before the election the betting switched a fair bit between the Republican and the Democratic contenders because the polls were so split.

I, like many other than PB, took the view that in a 50-50 situation the best betting option is the one with the longest price. This was the right betting strategy even for those who ended up backing the Republican and losing.

I was fortunate that I placed my bets on the Democrat when he was at 2.4 on Betfair or quite a bit longer than evens.

One thing that we are learning about betting on American politics is that it can take time to settle the markets if there is a close outcome. Bookies have learnt by hard experience not to pay out on the basis of the on the night winner.

One of the confusing factors for British punters is that the postal votes can be counted a week our so after the main count.

Mike Smithson


That Survation 7% LAB lead poll looks very much the outlier – but then so did the firm’s final GE2017 survey

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018


Looking at all the published polls for 2018 that Survation 7% lead survey a couple of weeks back looks and very much out of place.

The other best polls for LAB this year were a Survation 3% lead one in January and a similar margin in Ipsos-MORI phone survey with fieldwork starting three days beforehand.

In normal circumstances we would just regard the latest Survation as one on its own and concentrate on the latest ICM/Opinium/YouGov which have CON leads of two or three percent.

The problem is that Survation’s final GE17 survey, with a 1% CON lead, topped the accuracy table when all the other established firms were showing blue margins of up to 12%.

This is going to continue until we see the polls tested once again in a general election and we might have to wait for four years.

Mike Smithson


You can’t fault Corbyn’s ambition in going to Trafford to launch Labour local election campaign

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018


Ladbrokes make it 12/1 that they’ll take the council

Expect to hear a lot more than usual about this year’s local elections for the simple fact that the London boroughs are voting and this tends to alert the London based media into realising that elections are actually taking place. The only problem is that they will focus on the London boroughs and perhaps not give the same attention to what’s happening outside.

At the local election briefing on Monday by Conservative peer and elections specialist. Lord Hayward, about threw quarters of all the questioning and discussion from the assembled journalists was about London. Lord Hayward anticipated that by leading off on what’s happening outside the capital. Alas it has ever been thus.

So good on Corbyn for heading north for Labour’s local elections launch a measure the party will hope might help them gain the council. Lord Hayward had it moving to from CON hold to no overall control.

Giving the red team’s performance on June 8th last year there is still a lot of optimism about. Labour has a non-secret weapon which no other party can claim – its half million members. For local elections require activists on the ground knocking on doors and delivering leaflets – areas where the reds have a huge advantage if they can persuade enough within the party that activism is more than sending Tweets.

Ladbrokes, to their credit, have quite range of local election markets up focusing on who will win control of councils which could swing. I cannot recall a bookmaker with so many bets available cthis far out from the local election which gives an indication of how they feel their interest will grow

Hopefully Betfair will take notice and we could have some exchange betting going on.

Mike Smithson


The bad news for LAB from Prof John Curtice – Corbyn has NOT solved its turnout problem

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Relying on previous non-voters not a viable winning strategy

The conclusion from John Curtice’s new analysis:

After the collapse in turnout in the 2001 election (and, indeed, in local elections held at the same time) considerable concern was expressed about the apparent disengagement of voters from the electoral process. A particular source of worry for some was the marked decline in turnout amongst the latest generation of new voters who, it was feared, might now never adopt the habit of voting, thereby depressing turnout in the longer term. Much of the increased turnout amongst the youngest cohort of voters was in evidence in the 2015 election, and indeed the 2016 referendum. The 2017 election seems to have witnessed little more than the continuation of that pattern

A decade later, it appears that the picture is not as bleak as it sometimes was painted. Turnout has recovered considerably amongst the electorate as a whole, albeit not as yet back to above the 70% mark. Voters’ motivation to vote seems to have strengthened, while the increased polarisation of political debate (most likely about Brexit as well as the differences between the parties about domestic policy, see Curtice, 2017) seems to have created a greater incentive to vote than was in place when New Labour moved to the centre and came to dominate the political scene. Meanwhile, although still relatively less likely to vote, the latest generation of young voters have not aped their predecessors in shunning the ballot box in unprecedented numbers.

What, however, this development seems to have had relatively little to do with was the particular appeal of Labour’s campaign in the 2017 election. Much of the increased turnout amongst the youngest cohort of voters was in evidence in the 2015 election, and indeed the 2016 referendum. The 2017 election seems to have witnessed little more than the continuation of that pattern. Meanwhile, there is little evidence that Labour particularly benefitted from the increased turnout that did occur. In the event, Jeremy Corbyn struggled just as much as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to persuade those who sympathised with the party to turn out to vote.

The Labour leader would be unwise to presume that winning over the previously disengaged will prove a likely route to securing the keys to 10 Downing St. next time around.

The full paper can be found here.

Mike Smithson