Archive for April, 2018


Punters still make next year the favourite for TMay to stand down

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

In spite of all the talk about “leadership challenges” there’s been little change in the Betfair betting on when TMay will cease to be leader.

Next year remains the solid 37% favourite with 2018 a 25% shot.

A few weeks go I got 8/1 with a bookie that she’d be out this year which I regarded then as value. The latest prices don’t tempt me.

But there is little doubt that she has done remarkably well to survive for so long and the longer she stays, I’d suggest, the greater the chance of her making it though to the next election.

But we do live in interesting times and anything could happen. Harold Macmillan used to call it “Events dear boy”.

Mike Smithson


Why the threat of a confidence vote on TMay has far less potency than it appears

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

Talk of letters to Graham Brady is probably just talk

It has been reported over the weekend that Mrs May could possibly face a challenge over the issue of whether Britain remains in a Customs Union after Brexit.

Hardline Brexiteers are absolutely resolute that this should not happen and have been making vibes that should Mrs May concede what seems to be the position of Brussels then she could face a confidence vote.

There are warnings about that in order to make the PM more resolved in her stance then letters are ready to go to Mr Graham Brady, pictured above, the chairman of the 1922 Committee demanding an immediate vote of no confidence in her leadership.

Brady is required under the party’s rules to hold an immediate secret ballot of CON MPs should he receive 48 such letters.

But the letters are not the end of the matter. If there was such a ballot Mrs May would have to be defeated and that would open the way for a new Conservative leadership election which could take weeks or even months to complete.

    But would Mrs May be defeated? Isn’t it likely that loyalists who fear an alternative leader or the turmoil of a prolonged contest might garner round the incumbent to ensure that she stays in power?

In that situation a victory by Mrs May would enhance her position and make it stronger. The party rules make it clear that she would then have a year’s immunity from a further challenge and that would take her through to Brexit and beyond.

It should be noted that the rules of the party have changed since 1990 when Mrs Thatcher faced a direct leadership challenge. Now to get rid of a leader a confidence vote, like that which happened with IDS in 2003, has to be taken first. The loser of a confidence vote is barred from competing in the following leadership contest.

A failed coup against the PM would create stability and underpin Mrs May’s position. This is, of course, why the hardliners cannot risk it.

Mike Smithson


Early voting from the Arizona 8th special election suggests this won’t be another Alabama or Pennsylvania

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Maybe not a third Democratic special election victory on the trot?

After the sensational Democratic party wins in the recent Alabama and Pennsylvania special elections there’s a lot of focus on Arizona 8th Congressional District where voting takes place next Tuesday. The earlier two elections saw victories for the Democratic Party which were particularly striking because because they were in places Trump had done so well at WH2016.

There’s been a bit of excitement on this latest “special” election because an Emerson poll found both parties neck and neck with the Republican just a point ahead.

Before you have a punt check out this from ABC News on early voting:

“..Indications from early vote data show that Republicans still maintain a strong advantage in the district.

As of Friday, 151,532 early votes have been cast in the district. According to data from the Arizona Secretary of State’s office nearly half of the early votes cast have come from Republicans, and over half of early votes have been cast by voters over the age of 65. In the February primary election, a total of 116,732 ballots were cast according to the official canvas results from the Secretary of State’s office, indicating a slight uptick in turnout in a race where the large majority of votes will be cast early.”

I’d reinvested a small part of my Alabama and Pennsylvania winnings at 9/2 on the Democratic candidate but that was before I’d read the ABC report.

Mike Smithson


Exactly a year ago this weekend ComRes had TMay’s Tories 25% ahead

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

How things have changed since

It is just a year since Theresa May made her fateful and what will be her career defining announcement about calling a general election to secure a bigger majority.

On the weekend after the news we had the initial round of voting intention polls of the campaign and those are shown in the chart above.

As can be seen the one that stands out is ComRes, which had been the most accurate pollster two years earlier at GE2015. This had the biggest Conservative lead – a whopping margin of 25 points over LAB.

    Although the final lead on election day was just 2.5% it is too easy to conclude that those late April polls were wrong.

Only a couple of weeks after the general election announcement there were the local elections where the Tories made big gains doing substantially better than had been predicted.

It was those real elections that seemed to validate the polling and reinforce the view that Mrs May’s gamble was going to pay off. The big question was not whether there would be a Tory overall majority but would it be a landslide.

My guess is that it might well have done so but for the length of the general election campaign and for the over-confidence it engendered in the Tory camp that led to the manifesto debacle and Mrs May believing that she didn’t have to face Corbyn in a leaders’ TV debate.

In total there were seven weeks between the initial call and parliamentary vote to authorise it and the June 8 election.

So we cannot conclude that the polls weren’t wrong in late April last year. What they do show is that there was a dramatic change in views of the incumbent Conservative government and particularly the Prime Minister as a result of the campaign itself.

It is very hard to envisage the circumstances in which there will be the next Conservative 25% lead.

Mike Smithson


Fewer than 3 in 5 of GE2017 LAB voters prefer Corbyn as “next PM”. Maybe the magic of last June is evaporating

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

YouGov VI: CON: 43% (+3) LAB: 38% (-2) LD: 8% (-1)

There is a new YouGov poll for the Times which has the Tories moving to a 5% lead compared with the level pegging that they had a week ago.

The fieldwork took place at the start of the week and before the Windrush issue really caught hold as a big media story.

A finding that should concern LAB is that of those who voted for the party on June 8th last year fewer than three in five (58%) say they prefer Mr Corbyn as PM.

This has been declining steadily since the general election when it was in the 80s but to drop below 60% is really quite striking. Generally most people respond to this in polling question in line with their party choice.

No doubt Corbyn’s enthusiastic backers will try to attack the pollster and the poll but there can be no doubting the trend. After the election 80%+ of GE2017 LAB voters chose Corbyn with YouGov.

My main caveat over the polling is that the fieldwork took place early in the week before the Windrush affair was dominating the media narrative. There’s no doubt that that was bad news for Mrs May but we haven’t seen any numbers to support it.

It is a Saturday and we could see some other polls in the Sunday papers.

Mike Smithson


The Palace is laying the groundwork for a Regency

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

The Queen won’t abdicate but she might still retire

The beauty of the Commonwealth lies in its pointlessness. Far from being a hindrance, the fact that it doesn’t have a purpose is a feature, not a bug. No-one is being swept along by ‘the Project’ and rarely does anyone expect anything from the two-yearly get-togethers – and that lack of clear agenda, combined with an informal atmosphere with leaders parted from advisors and officials, is what can create the space to nudge international discussions on one topic or another in a positive way – such as the focus today on addressing poor vision among the world’s poor. The meetings are in that sense rather like a working funeral, except without the need for a death.

This one, as well as the generalised statements of intent, did take a decision: to appoint the Prince of Wales as its next Head, in due course – an ambiguity we’ll come back to. Such a decision was necessary because the role isn’t officially hereditary: a technical nicety the media have fixed on while ignoring two more important aspects of the story. Firstly, the timing. There was no need to appoint Charles (or anyone) today. With most jobs, the normal process is to wait for a vacancy and then decide who’ll fill it. The variance from that norm here is worth commenting upon. And secondly, the Queen herself openly lobbied for the role to remain tied to the crown. When someone who for over sixty years has studiously avoided any public political involvement chooses to proactively engage in a political process, we should take notice.

In fact, the tie to the Crown might not be quite so tight. This is where it might get intriguing. I wonder whether she might be planning on retiring from the Headship of the Commonwealth. While it is undoubtedly a role that means a lot to her, it’s also one that she’s not really able to physically fulfil. She hasn’t made an overseas visit since 2015 (to Malta) and is unlikely to do so again. While she can – and does – send her children and grandchildren abroad to represent her, it’s not quite the same.

    Now that the succession as Head of the Commonwealth has been assured – and because that role isn’t officially tied to the Crown, so could be given up by her without it impinging on her coronation vows – she could stand down and formally hand it over, while still remaining queen.

To do so would obviously be a huge marker in a transition process. Yet that’s a process that’s been underway for some time and with good reason. Today is the queen’s 92nd birthday. It’s easy for our familiarity with her on our TV screens and internet pages to obscure that fact but she is a very old lady whose job requires her to work hard. Certainly, she has a lot of support in her duties and in her private life, and she seems in good physical and mental shape. Even so, she’s at an age where the average person has long since retired. Indeed, she’s at an age where the average person has been ten years dead.

The general assumption is that retirement is not an option: her coronation oath is literally sacrosanct, as, to almost the same degree, is the promise she made on turning 21 to devote her whole life to the people of Britain and the Commonwealth. However, that devotion can take a number of forms and none of her vows explicitly prevent her from handing standing aside, should the burdens of office become too great. Indeed, arguably, they could be said to require it.

We are not at that point now but I do think plans might be being put in place to at least make it an option in the future. After all, if Prince Philip can retire, and if several monarchs from across the world, from Spain to Japan, can do so, why not her too?

What won’t be on the table is abdication. Apart from the connotations with Edward VIII, there would be too much of a problem with Commonwealth countries: each one would require an Act of Parliament to alter the succession in that manner. By contrast, the ‘soft retirement’ option of a regency need only affect Britain: the queen’s role is carried out in all her other realms by the relevant governor-general, something which could happily continue irrespective of her personal status. There are, of course, negative associations both with a regency and a Prince Regent too but events would overcome the former while the latter title need not be used.

Whether or not such an arrangement comes about, it seems clear that the transition of royal duties is accelerating. When the next CHOGM takes place in Rwanda in 2020, I would not be at all surprised to see Prince Charles open it as Head of the Commonwealth, irrespective of whether he is yet king or not.

David Herdson


The Tories hold on against an SNP challenge in Scotland but lose 2 seats to the LDs in England

Friday, April 20th, 2018

Highland on Perth and Kinross (Con defence)
Result: Con 1,907 (47% +2% on last time), Lab 239 (6% no candidate last time), Lib Dem 78 (2% -1% on last time), Green 104 (3% -1% on last time), Ind (Taylor) 280 (7%), Ind (Baykal) 12 (0%), SNP 1,466 (36% +1% on last time)
Conservative lead over SNP of 441 (9%) on a swing of 0.5% from SNP to Con
Total Independent vote: 292 (7% -4% on last time)
No candidate elected on first count, Baykal (Independent) elminated
Details of further counts not published save Conservative HOLD

Lymm South on Warrington (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 769 (43% +11% on last time), Con 649 (36% -2% on last time), Lab 328 (18% -1% on last time), UKIP 25 (1% -9% on last time), Green 24 (1% no candidate last time)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 120 (7%) on a swing of 6.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Thatcham West on West Berkshire (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 820 (48% +9% on last time), Con 523 (31% -17% on last time), Lab 130 (8% -6% on last time), Green 130 (8% no candidate last time), UKIP 91 (5% no candidate last time)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority 305 (17%) on a swing of 13% from Con to Lib Dem

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


LAB might now be back level pegging in voting polls but Corbyn’s leader ratings should be a cause for concern

Friday, April 20th, 2018

His handling of the antisemitism issue might be driving this

The above the data comes from Opinium the only pollster which does at least a monthly survey of leader approval ratings which means that we have sufficient data points to identify trend. The last numbers were from fieldwork last week before Tuesdays antisemitism debate in the Commons which got a lot of very negative coverage ad helped to deflect a little from Mrs. May’s Windrush problem.

What is striking is the very big difference we have with the leader numbers and the trend in voting polls which have very much been stable over the last few months.

The chart of surveys since the election last June shows an initial boost for Mr Corbyn who went into positive territory. Then there was something of a decline followed by these latest numbers which might be down to the ongoing row within the Labour Party on its treatment of antisemitism.

What we do know is that if we’d been following the leader ratings rather than the voter poll movements before the last election the result would have been less of a shock. Corbyn’s were improving and May’s declining in the run up to polling day. It was the same at the 2015 election when although the voting polls were relatively level Ed Miliband trailed badly on the leader ratings.

In fact in all recent elections when the voting polls got it wrong the leader ratings were better pointers.

Mike Smithson