Archive for August, 2018


Be thankful you are not a LAB party press officer having to make excuses for the leader day after day

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Danny Finkelstein hits the nail on the head in the Times article linked to in the Tweet above when he says that never before has Corbyn been accused of saying something so directly and unequivocally antisemitic.

Having once been a PR man for Seamus Milne’s Dad, ex-BBC D-G Alastair Milne, I very much sympathise with those who daily have to deflect criticism of the party leader. It’s hard when you seem to be making the same excuse each time. This time just about the only defence they could come to was that the remarks were taken out of context.

Ex-SDPer, longstanding Times writer and now Tory peer, Finkelstein, writes:

“The best that could be said of Mr Corbyn’s comments is that they were addressed to a specific group of people, not all Zionists and certainly not all Jews. And these people had behaved in an annoying fashion, or at least one that annoyed him. That’s all context can do for him.

Yet what this means is that Mr Corbyn told Jewish individuals with whom he disagreed that they weren’t properly English. The fact that they were specific individuals robs him of any chance to suggest that the remarks were ambiguous. The only thing that could help him is if the individuals came forward and it turned out that they weren’t Jewish after all and that Mr Corbyn knew that. This is vanishingly unlikely…”

It is hard to see what closes this down for Labour. Corbyn’s leader ratings have slumped dramatically since March and that has meant far fewer poll leads for the red team.

Mike Smithson


Meanwhile Corbyn is back as “next PM” favourite on the Betfair exchange

Friday, August 24th, 2018

But at 14% chances neither looks very strong

And after a wobble 2019 is favourite for TMay’s exit

Data from

Mike Smithson


YouGov finds that the number of LAB voters thinking Brexit is wrong reaches new high

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

This could add to the pressure on Corby as we move to conference season

The big issue within LAB that’s going to cause problems for the leadership at next month’s conference is the pressure for another referendum. It’s been quite amazing that Corbyn has been able to sustain a position for long that is so different on leaving Europe than the bulk of who support the party.

So, no doubt, the factions that are demanding a firm conference vote on whether there should be a second referendum will be heartened by these latest figures from YouGov which show that backing for the view of the Brexit was wrong is at a record level amongst supporters.

Will it matter? What the big fear amongst of leadership, we are told, is that there could be a split and the whole Labour movement still has a collective fear of that following what happened in the 1980s when the SDP was formed. They don’t need to be reminded that from that schism winner was for many years Maggie’s Conservatives. The trigger for a split could be Brexit.

Mike Smithson


Irrespective of whether there’s an impeachment move it’s going to be harder for Trump to win again at WH2020

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Is there value betting that he won’t be re-nominated?

It is hard to take any other view than that the last few days have not helped Donald Trump in his attempt to win the presidency again in 2020.

I’ve highlighted the Tweet above because it broadly set out a key point about the Trump vote last time and whether that will stay with the incumbent. Yes his core will remain solid but there are other voters as well. It is the ambivalent ones that Mr trump has most to worry about and the more this saga continues the more tricky it will be for him to navigate.

So what about the betting? It’s important to note that impeachment is something that the House of Representatives does and getting rid of the President is in the hands of the Senate. It is becoming increasingly likely that the midterms in November will lead to the Democrats taking the house but because of the Senate seats that are up this year it is going to be mighty difficult for the upper house to stay in anything other than Republican hands.

I’m not convinced that Trump would go of his own accord and I think that the chances of him surviving till the end of his first term are quite high. That brings us to the 2020 presidential election campaign and the first thing he has to do, of course, is win the nomination for his party.

These latest developments might just encourage some presidential hopefuls for the Republican party to put their hats into the ring and be ready to challenge the incumbent.

    A key factor in the primary process is that in many states voters can choose which party primary election to take part in. That’s the rule that applies in New Hampshire and you could see independents and Democrats voting for the most likely stop-Trump contender.

New Hampshire is, of course, the state that traditionally has the first full primary.

A few weeks ago I suggested here that the best value bet for the next presidential election was laying Trump in the nomination market. For non-punters this means that you are betting against him being re-nominated. What’s good about this is that the odds are still very strongly in Trumps favour and that you can get a pretty good price.

When I raised this last month the but I got was at 1.3 on Betfair which works out at about 77%% chance of him being read nominated. That’s now moved up to 1.6 a 62.5% I think there’s still value in the market.

Mike Smithson


If Corbyn’s LAB can make progress in Scotland there are some easy SNP pickings

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Table – Commons Library

But recent polls suggest LAB will lose Scottish seats

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is in Scotland for a big speech at today’s Edinburgh television festival and more importantly to try to revive the party north of the border where under Ed Miliband in 2015 it was virtually wiped out.

Then LAB’s Scottish contingent of MPs was reduced from 41 seats to a single MP. At the general election last year some recovery was made and the party came out with 7 Scottish MPs. This was still a long way down from the glory days but it was progress. A big challenge is that with the rise of Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives LAB is now seen as the third party in Scotland where they used to be totally dominant.

The table at the top above shows the quite precarious nature of the SNP position in many seats. It also shows how a party with broad support can achieve an amazing seat haul (just under 60%) under first past the post with 36.9% of the vote. Even in the SNP’s safest seat Nicola Sturgeon’s party only secured 47% of the vote and as can be seen there are quite a number which were retained in June 2017 with majorities of less than 1,000.

As an election junkie I love the potential for huge changes in seats in Scotland with relatively small vote shifts. If the next general election north of the border finished up like the latest polls than LAB could be down to a single seat. However if they made just a little bit more progress they could be back as the top party there.

One of the things you have to factor in is that you can’t make projections for Scotland based on GB polls. What you need to do is look at the Scotland only ones because north of the border there is a very different political ecosystem and conventional swing analysis from a national perspective doesn’t work.

Unfortunately you don’t get that many Scotland only polls and the Wikipedia list above represents all of those that have been published since the general election. The next round of them will be particularly interesting given the Corbyn’s current initiative seeking to step up a gear. Will that be enough to put them in contention yet again there?

If Labour can improve in Scotland then the chances of the party coming top overall at the next general election are that much higher.

Mike Smithson


Labour Post-Corbyn: Is there hope for Labour’s moderates?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

For all the controversy over anti-Semitism and Jeremy Corbyn’s curious selection of international friends, there seems little doubt that Corbyn’s position as Labour leader is secure. Losing a vote of confidence amongst his own MPs by 172 to 40 didn’t dislodge him, and since then his position has been strengthened by the GE2017 campaign. Accusations of anti-Semitism and terrorist sympathies are water off a duck’s back.

However, it doesn’t follow that he will remain leader for an extended period. If this parliament lasts the full course, the next election will take place just before his 73rd birthday. If he is still leader then, it seems likely that he will want to step down not too long afterwards. Labour’s post-Corbyn era may be no more than four or so years away, perhaps less.

What then? The populist, hard-left Labour Party of today is unrecognisable compared with the centre-left party of Miliband, Brown and Blair, of Mandelson, Cooper and Darling. After Corbyn, will there be a return to that tradition, or is the party changed forever? Should the moderates hold out hope, or sink into despair?

At the moment, the party is being held together by Corbyn’s personal popularity within the membership. Without that binding force, there will inevitably be a struggle for the heart and soul of the party; there is no charismatic leader-in-waiting who will be able to retain Corbyn’s personal aura. Therefore it is the balance of power within the institutions of the party which will determine the post-Corbyn direction. Given the leftwards shift of the membership, the hard-left’s increasing grip on the NEC, and the organisational heft of Momentum, the route to moving the party back towards the centre looks fraught with difficulty.

We can tease this out further by postulating possible scenarios for Corbyn’s departure:

  • Pre-Election: An early departure, before the next election, would mean that the party wouldn’t feel any strong electoral imperative to change course. It would remain a hard-left party, and fight the next election on a Corbyn-style platform.
  • Electoral failure: A clear-cut failure by Corbyn in the next election, with Labour going backwards and the Conservatives gaining a majority, would greatly strengthen the hand of the moderates. If Corbyn departs after a poor result, the current Corbynistas, without his personality to unite and inspire them, could splinter and drift off. Further, the unions might decide that a more centrist positioning was a prerequisite for defeating the Tories. It’s a long shot, but this is a possible route for the moderates to regain control. It would be the mother of all battles, though.
  • Electoral stalemate: A result which leaves the parties in broadly the same position as now would produce stalemate within Labour as well as in parliament. This would simply postpone the reckoning.
  • A minority or majority Labour government: In the short-term, this would be a big boost for the hard-left, who would be able to point to significant electoral success as vindication of their politics. The moderates would be completely sidelined. However, the party would then be faced with actually governing. Expectations from Labour supporters would be sky-high, but with hard-left policies damaging the economy, a front-bench team totally unsuited to government, and probably with the parliamentary chaos of a hung parliament, the most likely outcome would be a very unpopular government which taints the Labour Party for many years. The moderates might eventually get their party back, but only after years in the wilderness.
  • A Labour split: There has been much talk of a new party being formed. If this SDP Tribute Band does ever get off the ground, the short-term effect would be to help the Conservatives. In the longer term, if it can achieve critical mass, such a party could lead a realignment which sidelines the hard-left Labour Party and end up as the natural alternative to the Conservatives, especially if the latter go the full Rees-Mogg. However, under our FPTP electoral system, this realignment would be extremely hard to bring off; most probably it would simply hand power to the Tories for many years.

However you slice it, it doesn’t look likely that Labour after Corbyn will be any happier a place for the centre-left than Labour under Corbyn. Despair seems the most appropriate emotion for Labour moderates. Conservative moderates will be watching in trepidation.

Richard Nabavi

Richard Nabavi is a long-standing PB contributor and a member of the Conservative Party.


ICM poll: Tories would be worse off if either BoJo or Moggsy succeeds TMay

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

And the Washington Post describes TMay as “A Great PM”

Those of us who were around following the polls in 2007 remember how the succession of Gordon Brown as Labour leader was going to undermine the red team. Poll after poll found LAB’s position deteriorating when Brown name was mentioned and I certainly took that on board.

As it turned out the new Labour leader gave the party a huge boost in his first three months as leader. Browns personal leadership ratings soared while Cameron’s dropped to the lowest point ever. LAB looked to be in a very strong position and all the talk was of an early General Election.

It all fell flat for Brown after his dithering over whether to call an October 2007 General Election or not. He never went on to match the numbers he had seen during his political honeymoon.

All of his has made me some what sceptical about poll findings like the one featured in the Guardian article.

Generally whoever succeeds as prime minister gets a big boost because all the attention is on them and, of course, they aren’t their predecessor. Brown in June-October 2007 had the benefit of not being Tony Blair while TMay two years moved up because she wasn’t Cameron.

Meanwhile there’s a remarkable upbeat feature on TMay in the Washington Post.

Mike Smithson


PB Video Analysis: How To End Illegal Immigration

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

OK, call me Amerocentric, but this video is really all about the US and illegal immigration. Specifically, in the US more than 3% of people are illegal immigrants, more than twice the level of the UK, four times that of Switzerland, and something absurd relative to Norway. Now, the US has poor people on its Southern border – but probably fewer than Europe has on its. Mexico is as rich as Turkey, and a lot richer than – for example – Ukraine. So why do so many people head to the US? And what can the government do about it?

The wall is one answer, an attempt to choke off the supply. But how effective can it be? It won’t stop people overstaying their visa, or hiding at the back of 40 foot containers, or claiming asylum. It will probably help, but there may be better ways.

And so this video looks at why the US system doesn’t work, and what things from around the world do work. You see, it is possible to end illegal immigration, and to do it efficiently. Only the things that work don’t fit neatly into 260 characters.

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’