Archive for the 'Boris' Category


It might not be his objective but the Arron Banks plan makes TMay’s survival more likely

Monday, August 20th, 2018

For it to work there has to be a vacancy and there isn’t one

While LAB has continued its self destructive row on antisemitism the focus has been off the Tories in the past couple of weeks even though the blues are as split as ever over Brexit. Even so TMay might be pleased that all the latest ratings her net figures have her moving up while Corbyn has slipped sharply. Opinium, Deltapoll and YouGov now have her ahead of the Labour leader.

A big development in the CON leadership this month has been the public backing of Johnson by the controversial Leave EU backer, Arron Banks, and his plan to get lots of his supporters to become CON members so they can vote for Johnson for leader.

That he’s doing this so publicly will, I’d argue, make it more difficult to boot TMay out under the party’s leader ousting rules. For if there was a confidence ballot then the prospect of the ex-mayor being leader backed by Banks will cause some TMay-sceptic CON MPs to think twice about supporting a move that would lead to her removal.

    The prerequisite for Boris to become leader is there has to be a contest and one thing’s for sure the incumbent is not going to step down of her own accord. She has to be ousted.

We’ve been though the numbers many times before. 48 CON MPs have to send letters to the 1922 chair asking for a confidence vote which is then put to a ballot of the parliamentary party. But to actually remove a leader would require a majority of CON MPs and Johnson isn’t thought to have that level a support amongst his colleagues at Westminster.

The threat by Banks to encourage Momentum-style entryism into local Tory parties in advance of a leadership election won’t have endeared him to many CON MPs. I thought Guido got this right about Banks before the weekend.

Continually announcing plans which you don’t follow through undermines your credibility and for a right wing figure to alienate Guido isn’t smart. Banks should have bought him that lunch.

Mike Smithson


Johnson now has clear lead in the betting for next CON leader

Thursday, August 16th, 2018


Numerology. The next Conservative leader

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Let me let you in on a dirty secret.  An awful lot of lawyers are terrified of maths.  They can make words sit up and beg, but put them in front of a formula and they quiver.  When the rate of VAT rose to 20%, many lawyers were privately delighted because the calculation was so much easier to do.  Nevertheless, I have maths ahead.  You have been warned.

The Conservative party leadership race is conducted under unusual rules.  The Parliamentary party conducts an exhaustive ballot – a game of musical chairs where another seat is taken away each round – until only two candidates are left (the losers hope for party bags later).  The last two candidates then face off in a head to head with an entirely different electorate: the Conservative party membership.

In reality this election process is two different contests.  Since the final arbiters are the Conservative party members, they may or may not view things similarly to the Parliamentary Conservative party.  The Labour party experience in 2015 is instructive, where a candidate who only scrambled to make the cut with the Parliamentary party stormed to victory with the membership.

The consequence of this is that the order in which the last two candidates finish in the penultimate round doesn’t matter all that much.  Getting into the last two is all that matters.  In 2001 Iain Duncan Smith got into the last two by one vote.  He then beat Kenneth Clarke decisively among the members. A candidate doesn’t need to worry about winning the majority of his fellow MPs’ support.  He or she just needs enough Parliamentary support to be able to display his or her charms to the membership.

What this means is that any aspiring party leader wants to get into the last two against an opponent who the membership can be expected to like less.  Most candidates will be focussing on the first half of that sentence: getting into the last two.  The frontrunner might well be focussing on the second half: engineering an opponent who they can expect to beat when the members have their say. 

Let’s put a name on this problem: Boris Johnson.  The external evidence suggests that many of his fellow MPs would rather gargle glass than see him become party leader.  How many MPs need to be in this group to stop him?

The Conservative party has 316 MPs.  A candidate in the last three can guarantee making the final two by getting the support of more than a third of the MPs.  So the support of 106 MPs in the final round would get any candidate into the last two. 

In practice, fewer MPs will probably suffice unless there’s some finessing.  If the leading candidate gets the support of 150 MPs, you will make the last two with the backing of 84 MPs.  If the leading candidate gets the support of 175 MPs, you will make the last two with the backing of just 71 MPs.  Theresa May picked up the support of 200 MPs in the last round in 2016.  An equally dominant candidate would make second place achievable on just 59 MPs.

So it doesn’t matter if there are over 200 Conservative MPs who cordially loathe Boris Johnson (and there might well be).  What matters is how many either like him or see him as the best of a bad bunch if it comes to the last three.  If he gets through that test, he is going to be considered very seriously by the membership.

Can he be stopped?  Imagine for a moment that at the time of the leadership election you are the Home Secretary.  You have managed to present yourself as a fresh start in a difficult role, offering policy observations on a wide range of public topics.  You have managed to straddle the Leave/Remain divide among MPs, making you hope for some very senior endorsements and confident that you can get into the last two.  If it were down to the MPs, you might well consider yourself home and hosed.

But it isn’t.  The members will have their say and there are plenty of indications that the membership are not looking for nuance or straddling Leave/Remain divides.  They might well prefer a St George to slay Remainian dragons or, failing a knight on a white charger, a mop on a publicity-loving journalist.  The majority of Conservative MPs might have definitively decided that Boris Johnson is not fit to be leader of the Conservative party.  But if he makes the last two, they might find him foisted on them.  You need not one but two stop-Boris candidates. 

How could our putative Home Secretary avoid this personal and party disaster?  If he has enough support at his disposal, he might seek to lend some of it to a more beatable opponent.  If there were a leading Leaver who is not telegenic, widely disliked by the public and now deeply distrusted by the more intense members of the Leave community who nevertheless had a fair support base in the parliamentary party, he might feel confident that the membership would prefer him to such a candidate.

How feasible is this strategy?  Lending support to other candidates is an obviously dangerous game.  No candidate will want to risk missing out completely and so any candidate contemplating such a tactic will want to build in a margin for safety.  Also, any such tactic would almost certainly leak.  That would be unlikely to impress a membership if it thought it was being deprived by jiggery-pokery of a choice that it wanted to make.

For myself, I wouldn’t want to risk going below 130 MPs if I were in pole position, and then only if I really feared one possible opponent.  That would mean that the next candidate would need 94 MPs.  In a last three of Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, my guess is that Boris Johnson number is likely to get closer to 100 MPs’ support than 50 and that he might well make the last two whatever gaming of the system his opponents try to work out between them. 

There is another way.  To be in the last three, a candidate first needs to get through earlier rounds.  If a steadier hardline Leaver can be persuaded to stand (Andrea Leadsom maybe?), Boris Johnson might fall at an earlier hurdle if he had insufficient first preferences.  Better yet, get three or four to stand and the chances of the most dangerous opponent falling out early are much improved.  It’s not enough to be acceptable to a sufficiently large constituency of Conservative MPs, you have to be actively wanted by enough to get through the early stages. 

So those first few rounds of musical chairs play a purpose too.  It might be rather easier and more effective for a frontrunner discreetly to loan support to an unfeared rival at an early stage to get rid of that inconvenient Mr Johnson.  From the viewpoint of the Conservative establishment, there might well be more than one way to skin a cat.

Alastair Meeks


The prospect of Johnson as leader should make Theresa’s position a bit more secure

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

How many are going to no confidence her if he’s alternative?

Much has been written about the incredible resilience of Theresa May who has managed to hang on to her job now for well over a year after losing the party it’s majority in the June 2017 general election.

She became a contender in the post referendum Conservative leadership race in July 2016 with her backers arguing that she was the one for the party to get behind in order to stop Johnson.

It was a powerful appeal as we saw with Johnson himself bottling out of the fight on that extraordinary Thursday morning in early July two years ago when he realised his MP support base was nothing like as wide as he thought.

One of the ex-Mayor’s problems has always been his relations with many fellow Conservative MPs. Few appear ready to back him and speak up when required. Also the cack-handed way he dealt with Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom during the last contest caused both to enter the race.

At the moment the one CON MP who seems most ready be interviewed and publicly support him is Nadine Dorries – her of “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” fame. She used to attack Cameron and Osborne for being “posh boys” something she hasn’t raised in relation Johnson in spite of his similar educational background.

The experience of the Conservative leader no confidence procedure is that it has only ever been used once and then there was a degree of unanimity about who should be the successor. That was in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was voted out and Michael Howard took over the leadership without there being a members’ ballot.

If when parliament returns 48 CON MPs are bold enough to send letters demanding a confidence vote then you can see ahead of the MP ballot Team Theresa twisting a few arms with the message – “do you really want Boris as PM?” If all MPs voted 155 would have to back a confidence move and Johnson does not have that much support.

The betting has moved away from TMay going this year and if she makes it till 2019 she’s surely going to continue to Brexit and beyond.

Mike Smithson


BoJo’ s controversial burka comments don’t seem to have hurt him in the TMay successor betting

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

But they could make it harder getting on the ballot

With TMay herself now joining those attacking BoJo for his Burka comments the big danger he faces is not being able to get enough fellow CON MPs to support him in the first rounds of voting to get on the ballot.

It is precisely this type of comment that raises big question marks over his judgement. It appears to be attention-seeking.

I’ve little doubt that if he got to the final runoff of two that he’d do well with the membership but it is the parliamentary party that he first has to convince.

Like in many things it is his choice of language that might attract the headlines but undermines him with his colleagues.

Mike Smithson


Why I’m expecting Boris to fail in his bid to be Theresa May’s successor

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

Picture: ConHome next Tory leader polling from December 2015

Following the recent ConHome polling Mike noted that Boris Johnson had once again become the favourite to be Theresa May’s successor but I’m going to explain why I’m continuing on laying Boris as next Tory leader/PM.

1) Polls are not immutable.

Look at the picture atop this thread, back in December 2015 George Osborne had led the ConHome poll for a fifth successive month, polls are not static, they can rapidly change. It isn’t hard to see the next Tory leadership contest being held in vastly different circumstances to today.

With Liam Fox saying no deal is now odds on, anyone who is associated with Leave and said no deal was Project Fear will see their ratings fall if we get no deal.

It will be the equivalent of Gordon Brown saying he had abolished boom and bust then overseeing a rather deep recession. We all know what that did to Gordon Brown’s polling and ratings.

2) Not everyone expected to stand actually does stand.

Looking at that ConHome poll from December 2015, of the top eight candidates only three of them actually stood in the next leadership contest. The first choice of 62% of ConHome voters didn’t stand six months later. The person who actually finished second wasn’t even on the list. Boris Johnson has form for not standing in Tory leadership contests he was expected to win.

3) Polls aren’t that good for Boris when you focus on them.

The last few years have not been polling industry’s finest, and there’s a lot of scepticism around voting intentions, particularly amongst the political classes.

The YouGov poll that showed a half percent Lab to Con swing if Boris replaced Mrs May was presented by many Boris Johnson fans as a sign that only their man can win the Tories the next election.

A half percent swing is pathetic given Boris Johnson’s supposed electoral appeal and even if that poll was accurate it would likely result in a Labour led government. With other contenders doing badly the party will look to the next generation of MPs.

A YouGov poll conducted at roughly the same time gave an indication that the appeal of Boris is ephemeral. 43% of Tory voters thought Boris was an asset to the government, and the government would have been better if he had stayed, whereas 39% disagreed.

In these hyper partisan times a net 4% rating on this question from your own side is very bad for someone who hopes to lead his party.

4) Tory MPs control the first part of the leadership contest (This probably the most important factor).

This isn’t something that isn’t discussed often enough, whatever members might like, they may not get because MPs get to control who the final two are.

Tory members might pressure their MPs to vote for a certain candidate, in a secret ballot a Tory MP can back whomever they wish despite their public pronouncements.

Tory MPs have been described as the most sophisticated and duplicitous electorate in the world, Boris may find out that Ted Heath’s reported maxim that the Tory party is composed solely of “shits, bloody shits, and fucking shits” is accurate.

Additionally one thing Tory MPs have learned from the Labour party is that they will not be voting anyone purely to widen the debate, Tory MPs don’t want their own Corbyn, Corbyn after all lost last year’s general election. They won’t risk the possibility of the court jester becoming monarch.

5) The voting system will likely hinder Boris Johnson.

With the quasi-AV voting system the Tory party uses to elect their leader it is very possible for a candidate to win (or eliminate someone before they reach the final two) by being the stop X candidate.

John Major won in part because he wasn’t Michael Heseltine, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith won because they weren’t Kenneth Clarke. You could argue Mrs May won because she wasn’t Andrea Leadsom, nor Michael Gove, nor Boris.

There’s history for winning the Tory leadership because of who you aren’t rather than who you are.

It is very easy to see someone positioning themselves as the stop Boris candidate succeeding.

6) The next Tory leadership contest is going to be brutal, especially for Boris.

With what is at stake for the party and country it will strongly fought leadership contest with no one willingly giving ground and using all the tricks to win

A Westminster acquaintance of mine described Boris Johnson as a ‘Fortnum and Mason Jeremy Corbyn.’ Their logic was given how the Tories are focussed heavily on Jeremy Corbyn associations with various holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, Tories opposed to Boris would focus on Boris Johnson hanging around with Steve Bannon and the fact that Boris has used words like ‘piccaninnies’.

His tenure as Foreign Secretary will not help him win the leadership, just look at the stunts he pulled on the day he resigned. A British citizen had been murdered, most likely by Russia, a COBRA meeting had been called and Boris Johnson skipped the meeting.

My Westminster acquaintance said the actions of Boris could only be described in the language that I use when describing Mark Reckless and that’s even before we discuss Boris launching a pretty naked leadership bid the day a failed terrorrist attack in London last September.

Nobody who says Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary confirmed his suitability to be Prime Minister would be expected to pass a breathalyser test.

If Boris is expecting bouquets he’s going to be in for a shock.

Executive Summary

Like the many mistresses of bonking Boris I’m going to keep on laying him, it was profitable last time and I expect it will be again, there’s plenty of evidence to show why Boris wont be Theresa May’s successor.



BoJo back on top of the ConHome preferred next leader ratings

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Up from 8% to 29% in a month

Former Mayor of London and former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who quit the cabinet last month over the Chequers deal, has seen a remarkable upsurge in his fortunes in the monthly ConservativeHome survey of preferred next leader survey. He’s now on 29% up from the 8% of a month ago.

These monthly surveys are proving to be hugely volatile but interesting all the same.

Sajid Javid the previous number one dropped two points from 21% to 19% while Jacob Rees-Mogg drops a point to 13%.

    This has had very little impact on the next leader betting where punters rate Johnson at just a 9% chance of getting the top job. Javid and Moggsy remain the favourites in the betting.

I still wonder whether Johnson has what it takes to secure one of the top two places in the MP ballot of the names that shall go to the party membership in the postal election. His time as Foreign Secretary really did him no favours and the party will surely been looking for somebody who appears more statesmanlike.

There’s also a lot of back-story about Johnson which, no doubt, would be raised by those hostile to him should he put his name forward as a contender.

Also it is far from certain that there will be early leadership election and the money is still going on Theresa May surviving this year and to the Brexit date of March 29th. Then, I would suggest, politics will look very different and the question will be how long will Mrs May remain.

Ii is true to say that BoJo generally tops the public polls but then that could mostly be down to much higher name recognition.

Mike Smithson


Surely this means that TMay has to sack “Fuck Business” Boris?

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

He’s broken the rule within less than 24 hours