Archive for June, 2018

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NEW PB/Polling Matters podcast: NHS funding, ‘Brexit dividends’ and UK drugs policy

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

On this week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast, Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi look at public opinion on the NHS as it hits 70 years old in light of the government’s promise to pump in extra cash. Keiran takes us through what the public think of the policy and whether they would accept tax rises to pay for it alongside data on how perceptions of the quality of care provided by the NHS have changed over time.

Later in the show, Leo looks at public opinion on UK drug laws, especially those related to cannabis as the government looks to change the law and discusses how policy might shift in the future. Leo also raises the important distinction between ‘decimalisation’ and ‘legalisation’ that appears to go over many commentators heads.

Finally, Keiran and Leo briefly look at US public opinion on the Trump administration’s policy of separate children of immigrants from their parents at the US border. Spoiler alert: it’s very unpopular.

Follow this week’s guests:





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Kirsty Wark heads the betting for the next QuestionTime host

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Several bookies have now got odds up who is going to succeed David Dimbleby as the host of the long running BBC series Question Time. Most of them showing a similar assessment to Ladbrokes which features in the panel above.

My understanding is that the program is made by an independent production house which clearly will have a view about who should take over from Dimbleby. So this is not going to be a sole BBC decision. The Producers will be looking for somebody who is nimble enough to be fully aware of who is in the audience and the sorts of views that they might wish to express.

This choice is very important politically because not only is there the run of the mill series of weekly shows but at General Election times the main TV event featuring the leaders has been the Question Time special hosted by David Dimbleby. I thought that TMay lost her majority with that tin-eared “there’s no magic money tree” response the the nurse who hadn’t had a pay rise for eight years.

The Newsnight presenter, Kirsty Wark, is currently the favourite and certainly she would appear to have the qualities that would make her a strong successor successor in the in the role.

No doubt there will be a lot of speculation within the Westminster village and within the media generally and it is hard to make a judgement.

Given that the only men presenters of the programme since it was first broadcast have been man then that is, surely, a strong case for a woman to take this on.

there are other “runners” in the betting – I’ve just listed those at the top.

Mike Smithson




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Losing today’s Brexit vote could prove fatal for Mrs. May’s premiership

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Can the rebels be curtailed yet again?

After the Brexit bill defeat for the government on the in the Lords on Monday the issue is now back in the commons and there’ll be a big vote on whether to accept what the Lord’s decided.

    The stakes are very high indeed because if the measure goes through it will have a huge impact on the way that ongoing negotiations on the deal take place. Essentially if it passes Mrs Mays hands will be very tied and it will also be symbolic that she is losing control.

After the big improvement in her position following the Russian attack in Salisbury in March things have got much more difficult for the Prime Minister as the Brexit bill has gone through Parliament. The key issue is who makes the final decision and that is something that Mrs May throughout has wanted to keep to herself.

A loss in today’s vote might be just what triggers enough MPs to send letters to the chairman of the 1922 committee seeking a confidence vote and it is far from certain that she would survive it. A problem is that she is alienating both remainers and leavers within the parliamentary party. Also the affairs from her tenure at the home office that have come into the public domain have not helped her. She appears on some issues to beat tin-eared and out of tune.

This Tweet is from Anthony Goodman of ConservativeHome.

I’m not convinced of the “it will lead to a new general election” argument. A new leader, Javid/Hunt/Gove perhaps, could well carry on without going to the country.

I should add that I’m not, as yet, betting on this.

Mike Smithson




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Trump’s hardline policy on immigrant children has become a testing time for the White House

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Maintaining Republican party support looks challenging

The polling is not good for the President. According to a CNN poll two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the practice of taking undocumented immigrant children from their families and putting them in government facilities on US borders, Only 28% approve.

Among Republican voters 54% support the policy but 34% don’t.

This all comes in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Mike Smithson




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Older voters more likely to back legalisation of cannabis for medical use than the young

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

The Sajid Javid move is in line with public opinion

The big news from Westminster this afternoon is that the Home Secretary has announced a review on the legalisation of cannabis for medical use – something that has become a big issue because of the Billy Caldwell case.

The main recent poll on this comes from a YouGov survey last month and I illustrate the age splits in the chart above.

What I find really interesting is that the older age groups are more likely to back such a move than the youngest segment. I put this down to older people having more experience of relatives and friends going through the pain and misery of debilitating conditions.

What is extraordinary is that Britain seems to have a harsher regime of cannabis outlawing than other countries.

I think that Sajid Javid has read the public mood well and could get the political benefit. Proposing major policy changes at the Home Office, where Theresa May was for 7 years, is in many ways an implied criticism of the Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

Mike Smithson




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On Betfair 2018 is once again favourite for TMay’s exit

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Is she going to be able to survive?

Over the past year I’ve had a pretty good record with my political bets which have come to fruition. I was on the Democrats in the Alabama and Pennsylvania special elections and, of course, backed the LDs to beat the Tories in last week’s by-election. I lost on the Arizona special election and my long-shot for the Tory leadership, Damian Green, fell by the wayside earlier in the year.

My other significant losing bet was on the above market – TMay’s exit dates. I didn’t think she would survive 2017 which, much against many predictions, she did. Her resilience has been and still is remarkable.

The latest machinations over the Brexit bill and the House of Lords vote have once again pushed this year into the favourites slot on Betfair for the year when Theresa May ceases to be Prime Minister but I’ve not been tempted.

The odds, though, are not that tight and this is moving about a fair bit depending on how successful the parliamentary moves are for her.

    My reading of the prime minister is that she has no very fixed views on the sort of Brexit she would like. What she wants to do is to achieve that which she said she would and take the country out of the European Union at the end of next March as planned. Everything is about what’s expedient so deals will be done and then undone as she seeks to get from one day to the next.

Her problem remains – the massive gulf that has dominated Tory politics for a quarter of a century over Europe.

The only circumstance that would lead her to going early is if there a commonality of interest between both sides of the party for a new leader.

Mike Smithson




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And so the “meaningful vote” issue gets put back into the bill by the Lords

Monday, June 18th, 2018

The problems for TMay mount

I have to say that I haven’t been following politics tonight but the battle of Stalingrad.

The problem here is that the ex-CON Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, thought he had a deal last week when the bill was before the Commons and he didn’t push his original amendment. That ministers appear to have reneged on that arrangement was always going to be tricky and Peers have made their view clear.

Thankfully we have the World Cup to entertain us.

Mike Smithson




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Javid goes on the offensive at cabinet over cannabis for medical use

Monday, June 18th, 2018

TMay looks tin-eared on the Billy Caldwell case

Las month YouGov found that 75% of those polled backed allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical use – with just 12% opposing. Support was fairly even across the parties with 73% of Tory voters giving their support.

In the past few days we’ve seen the heart-breaking case of Billy Caldwell and Javid has given his firm view and now has been blocked from raising it at cabinet.

Given the widespread interest in the Caldwell case and where public opinion stands on the medical use of cannabis this has the potential to develop into a serious issue for the PM. It raises all the issues about her that we saw in last year’s general election campaign.

It’s interesting that Javid, who is becoming a rising star, sought to push it.

Could it be pot that eventually bring Theresa down?

Mike Smithson