Archive for January, 2019


NEW PB / Polling Matters podcast. Deal or no deal. Plus are the Tories really ahead in the polls?

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

On this week’s podcast Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi discuss the fallout from a hectic week in Westminster. They ask whether a General Election, 2nd referendum or ‘no deal Brexit’ have become more or less likely and explain why politicians claiming that the Tories are ahead in the polls are not telling the full story.

Listen to this week’s episode below:

Follow this week’s guests:


As the Tory Brexit crisis continues Corbyn’s “Best PM” ratings drop to post GE2017 low

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Chart @Statto

And Cable puts the pressure on Corbyn over 2nd referendum

A fast moving day following the Tory victory in last night’s Commons confidence vote has seen the focus on Mr, Corbyn who has refused to meet the PM.

In another move the LD leader, Vince Cable, has told Corbyn that he cannot expect his party support in a future confidence vote unless the LAB leader addresses the second referendum issue. He’s seeking to undermine the ongoing assumption by LAB that the other parties’ MPs will always line up behind to red team to undermine the blue one.

James Forsyth in the Speccie writes:

“..The aim of this tactic, to make clear that Labour can’t force a general election and so Corbyn needs to decide on a second referendum.

Now, Labour are already attacking the Lib Dems for being prepared to prop up the Tories. But the question for Corbyn is how long can he hold out against a second referendum without Labour’s splits on this issue becoming more visible..”

Meanwhile in the betting punters make it a 35% chance that there’ll be a general election this year – down from 42% last night.

Mike Smithson


If there’s a second referendum then LEAVE’s “Tell them Again” message would likely win the day

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

With increasing regularity at the moment the national Westminster polls are asking how respondents would vote if there was a new referendum on Brexit. In the main the responses a fairly similar with those wanting to stay in the EU having a lead between 7 and 10%.

I am not convinced there has been that much switching. Being a Leaver or remainer is almost akin to supporting City or United in Manchester. You are one side or the other but you see almost no movement between supporters of the two teams even if one is doing better the other.

Over whether the UK should stay or leave the EU people are what they are and I very much agree with the Conservatives peer, former MP and campaign expert, Robert Hayward, who has put out an analysis saying that if we do have a second vote then the outcome will be very similar. He writes:

“..I think many of the polls (quite a few of which show limited movement) are asking a series of complex questions and the results are being spuriously aggregated.

The message ‘tell them again’ is simple, clear and full of meaning.

Given that at the previous referendum the majority of final polls showed remain in the lead (just) and that one on the day gave a remain lead of 10% it would be risky to pursue another referendum without a regular lead of 60-40. (This is generally thought to be the view held by the SNP re a further vote in Scotland)

Yes we all know people who have moved in one direction or another (in my case very few). However, the people I know who have moved have done so from Remain to Leave.

The shifting demographics might make a difference but I have been struck in recent days by friends who don’t normally express a view and who have written strong emails/texts saying we need to get on with it. I think there could be just as many extra C2s, D1s etc who would turn out to negate any extra youth support.

There were people who voted remain because of campaign fear who would not do so again. Overall I believe there is a strong possibility is that Leave could win again.”

Because I run PB people tend to talk to me about their politics and like Lord Hayward I have yet to come across a Leave to Remain switcher.

Mike Smithson


Now what?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

There are no good options from now on, no cost-free ones, anyway. There never were. If this point had been made 2½ years ago – and indeed at any point thereafter – we might not be where we are now.  So now what?

Well, for those who want a No Deal Brexit doing nothing is the best option.  Just wait.  Tick. Tock. …… Until 11 pm on Friday 29th March 2019. Exciting, isn’t it? Like  small children waiting for Father Xmas to appear. As Jacob Rees-Mogg might put it: Fiat Brexit ruat caelum.

And what about the rest of us, those who view with rather more apprehension the prospect of doing something which has not been done by any advanced, sophisticated (no sniggering at the back, please) country in living memory?

Well, here are two options.

  1. Take Back Control

Yes really: do the one thing which thanks to the ECJ – Oh, the irony! – is unequivocally, unambiguously, within Britain’s control without any interference from Johnny Foreigner: revoke Article 50. But, but, but…… the will of the people, no Parliamentary majority, May won’t do it, a democratic outrage etc etc. Yes, yes: all true. All very good points. But if Parliament really doesn’t want a No Deal Brexit – despite having enacted legislation achieving exactly that a year ago – then, absent any other choice, this is one thing it can do.

If Parliament could strain at the gnat of the EU Withdrawal Act it should have no difficulty at swallowing the camel of revocation. It does at least preserve the status quo – not something to be sniffed at in these febrile times. It enables Parliament and the country to do what they have so signally and dismally failed to do in the last few years: work out what they want to do, how to get there and what sort of relationship Britain wants to have with the European Continent.

A strategy, in short. (I know, the very idea!).  And in detail – not in the sort of airy fairy generalised motherhood and apple pie language which has been used, the sorts of speeches known, somewhat sniffily by some civil lawyers, as jury speeches: all emotion and heartstrings, not much analysis or facts, the sorts of speeches which sound superficially plausible, get applause from the audience and fall apart moments later. Potemkin speeches – whether or not accompanied by Pinocchio-style dancing.

There are lots of objections to this choice, some of them serious and very well-grounded. Not doing what people voted for 3 years ago, having told them you would, is not a course of action a democracy should generally take, not without very good reason anyway. Still, it is not quite as unusual and outrageous as those objecting to it make out. It happens after every election, after all.  (Tuition fees, anyone?) And it was the Labour government which went to court to establish the legal principle that a manifesto promise – about a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (yet more irony!) – could not be relied on (R (Wheeler) v Office of the Prime Minister). Manifesto promises are worthless, the highest court in the land has ruled.

Still, those who voted Leave and those who think that a democratic vote should generally be honoured would have reason for complaint. In politics, if not legally.

So that takes us to –

  1. A Fresh Referendum

If the people voted on the concept of Leave in 2016, who not ask them now to vote on the reality? Why not ask them: Do you want to leave on the basis of this Withdrawal Agreement, with the future relationship still to be negotiated? Or, knowing what you now know, would you prefer to Remain? Of course, this would need the EU’s agreement to an extension of Article 50 but let’s assume they give it. And that the price (yes – there will be one) is not too high.

Divisive? Yes – but the country is divided anyway. Why the need to vote again?  Well, 3 reasons: we know what the terms of departure are, which were not known in June 2016, the world has changed in 3 years and a vote by the people again undercuts to some extent those who think that the people are not being listened to.

Would it be unkind to suggest that there is a touch of fear in those who argue so fervently in favour of implementing one vote and equally fervently against asking the people to confirm that decision? A fear that perhaps the people might not do this, might not have been impressed by how their representatives have behaved, a fear that the Brexiteers’ vision might be found wanting. It would certainly not be unkind to suggest that many of those most in favour of a People’s Vote now were much less keen on the People voting once the result of the first vote came out.

Or Parliament can continue with its furious displacement activity – VoNC, cross-party talks or perhaps not, muttering groups in corridors, demands that the EU renegotiate, amendable motions or even movable amendments, alternative plans, interviews on College Green etc.  Meanwhile tick tock.

As I said, there are no good options.



On Betfair a March 29th UK EU exit now just a 15% chance whilst the 2nd referendum betting moves more to NO

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

Live Betfair exchange odds monitoring from


After the likely failure of today’s confidence vote then what?

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

The winning margin will set the baseline for future challenges

The outcome of this afternoon’s confidence vote in HMG is not really in doubt following the assurances made last night by Moggsy and representatives of the DUP that they would be backing the government. The real interest will be the size of the winning margin because it will almost certainly represent the maximum for both those for and against and looks like being the baseline for future such votes in the House.

The numbers in the vote this afternoon will be a good guide to the DUP of the value of their confidence and supply support for Mrs May’s government. If they are the ones, as is likely, who are keeping the Conservatives (a majority below 20) afloat then that will surely lead to further demands and add to their leverage.

The outcome this afternoon will indicate whether Labour is be able to count on the votes of all 5 MPs who were elected at the general election and no longer take the party whip.

Looking forward if the actions of the courts result in there being a vacancy in Peterborough then a CON gain in the by-election could have a significant impact decreasing the CON majority deficit by two.

In the 1974-79 parliament by election losses by LAB played a big part in eroding its minute majority and forced in into a pact with the Liberals. It was only when that broke down that Callaghan’s government was defeated in a confidence vote.

A great strength of Theresa May’s position is that if there was a general election it would create the risk of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister – something that’s anathema to just about everybody within the Conservative Party. Even those Tory MPs most hostile to her are not going to want to be accused of letting him in.

There is no question that the pro second referendum SNP and Lib Dems are going to back Corbyn’s move this afternoon. But what about future confidence votes if the Labour leader is seen as the one who blocked another referendum? The current unity might not prevail in the future.

Mike Smithson


Punters now think it is even less likely that the UK will leave the EU on March 29th

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

To my mind the most significant thing to come out of the catastrophic defeat for the government on its Brexit deal was the statement by Theresa May that she’ll look to consulting with other parties.

I just wonder if that is paving the way for a second referendum. Clearly the other main parties, LAB after its likely confidence vote failure tomorrow, the SNP, the LDS, PC and the Green are all committed to a second vote.

    It would be politically easier if the the decision to go to the country again was a joint one. The move would also a less difficult time getting through the Commons.

One thing that TMay has been saying repeatedly which is surely right – rejecting the deal makes Brexit happening at all less likely.

It is hard to conclude otherwise that the ERG’s strategy has not been very smart.

Mike Smithson


On the spread betting markets the number of Brexit deal “ayes” for TMay’s deal slips five during the afternoon

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

For me the most satisfying, if risky, form of political gambling is on the spread betting markets where the more you are right with your prediction the more you win – with, alas, of the converse being the case.

So on SportingIndex this afternoon there has been a lively market on who many MPs are going to vote “Aye” in the voting that starts in less than an hour.

At 3pm you could have “sold” the number at 222 MPs – that’s now slipped to 217.

If you bet at that level and the outcome was, say, 210 MPs then you would win the difference between the actual outcome and your bet – in this case SEVEN, times your stake level. The worse it is for Mrs May the more money you would make.

If you think that it is not going to be as bad for the PM then you “buy”.

Because of the open-ended nature of the outcome spread betting is only for those comfortable with taking big risks.

Mike Smithson