Archive for the 'Boris' Category


Nothing up my sleeve

Sunday, August 4th, 2019

Boris Johnson has been Prime Minister for under a fortnight and he has immediately put his imprint on government. Boris Johnson is seeking to play hardball with the EU over revising the withdrawal agreement’s terms. He has made no attempt to charm his putative negotiating partners, refusing to talk with them until it is accepted that the backstop is dead. Indeed it is not at all clear who in Brussels currently could negotiate with him, given that the new Commission president has not yet taken office and the outgoing Commission president and his Brexit negotiator now have no mandate to enter such discussions.

The chances of No Deal Brexit are, in Boris Johnson’s view, a million to one, but a Martian would conclude otherwise. Sterling has slumped on the exchange markets as investors have decided that the risk of major disruption has markedly increased. 

The Chancellor has sanctioned a budget of billions to pay for a public awareness campaign about preparing for no deal Brexit, the biggest public awareness campaign since the one in the 1980s to raise awareness about AIDS. Don’t Die Of Ignorance: wise words indeed.

There has been plenty of energy from the new government, an energy that disguises the fact that it isn’t actually doing anything. How could it? It faces the same problems with Parliamentary arithmetic that faced Theresa May. In fact, they are worse, because Boris Johnson has decisively broken with those members of his own party that oppose no deal Brexit.

What is going on? They say that the best place to hide a secret is to tell it on the floor of the House of Commons. The next best place, it seems, is to put it on the front of the Telegraph. On the Saturday after the change of Prime Minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg acknowledged that the government’s opponents probably had the numbers to defeat it in a vote of no confidence. This arresting observation was not made the lead. Talk about missing the story.

So the government is working on the assumption that it is going to be short-lived (or at least, that its longevity is out of its own control) and that it will expire well before 31 October 2019. Now if that is your working assumption, you really aren’t all that bothered about what happens after that date – the aim is to set up matters so that you can plausibly argue that you were following an excellent plan but were thwarted by rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, conmen, muggers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers and Methodists. Quite what Londoners have done to deserve that reputation, I have no idea.

This is opposition as government. The government is not so much pushing policy as anticipating its own defeat and planning for it.

This can work in one of three ways. First, if there is a vote of no confidence and no alternative government can be formed, there will be a general election that the Conservatives can fight under the banner “Who Governs Britain?” without the risks of being seen to call an unnecessary election.  Next, if an alternative government is formed, it gives an easy line for Conservatives to rally around without having to make the hard choices that would be required in a serious negotiation with the EU or that would follow a no deal Brexit. And third, Britain might leave the EU in circumstances where no one is at the wheel so everyone can avoid the blame for any disorder that emerges as a consequence.

Any of these three work on party political terms for the Conservatives. If you believe that Boris Johnson is more interested in the longevity of his political career than in the good of the nation or Brexit, it’s a logical strategy to follow.

For once, I want to end with a question to which I do not know the answer.  Imagine there is a vote of no confidence and the government loses. There are then 14 days during which attempts to form an alternative government can be made. During those 14 days, Parliament continues to sit. Who controls the Parliamentary agenda during those 14 days? In normal circumstances, the government sets that agenda, but it has just been defeated. Would MPs take back control of that agenda? And if so, what would they do with it? That seems to me to be a very important question indeed right now.

Alastair Meeks


It should be between 2am and 4am that we get the Brecon result

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

For reference the result from GE2017

How other new PMs fared


BJohnson’s first Ipsos-MORI leader satisfaction ratings in NEGATIVE territory

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

The historical comparisons don’t look good

As well as the Ipsos voting numbers we have the firm’s satisfaction ratings which it has been asking in the same form since the 1970s. This means that there are records going  back decades and we can easily make comparisons.

From the helpful chart above BJohnson becomes the first PM to take over mid-parliament with a negative rating – that is fewer people were satisfied with him than were dissatisfied.  This might not be a good position to be planning an early general election

I’ve long regarded standardised  leader ratings like this as a much better indication of electoral campaigns than voting intention polling as was shown at GE1992 and GE2015 when the pollsters had a pretty poor time.

The main consolation for BJohnson is that the leader of the opposition, JCorbyn, continues to have appalling numbers. A total of 69% said they were dissatisfied and just 19% satisfied. This is slightly better than last month but he continues to have the worst opposition leader numbers ever.

Mike Smithson


The BJohnson bounce and the LD recovery add to the pressure of the pressure on Corbyn

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

Chart Evening Standard

The Evening Standard in its reporting of the latest Ipsos-MORI poll leads on what is increasingly becoming a difficult narrative for the red team – their position in the post BJohnson voting polls and the very weak leader ratings their man has. The paper notes:

The Ipsos MORI survey found 62 per cent of Britons now believe Labour should replace him before the country next goes to the polls, which could be within months, compared with 55 per cent a year ago.

Nearly twice as many people think he rather than Mr Corbyn would make the most capable prime minister — 52 per cent compared with 27 per cent for the Labour leader, who has faced months of criticism for its failure to tackle anti-Semitism among party members and the party’s fence-sitting over the issue of a second Brexit referendum.

Labour has been hit badly by the recovery of the LDs with a largish chunk of its GE2017 voting base now backing JSwinson and her team. The situation could be aggravated by what happens in Brecon and Radnorshire where many LAB GE2017 voters could be vulnerable to a squeeze message from the LDs. In a sense this has been accentuated by the post BJohnson voting polls – the yellows here being seen as the best party to impede the new man at Number 10. LAB was on 17% at the General Election in the seat. That numbers could be a lot lower overnight.

Mike Smithson


A week on from Johnson being called to the Palace and so far so good

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

How much of the bounce will be seen in Brecon?

It is just a week ago that TMay went to the Palace to step down as PM and for the new Tory leader, BJohnson, to be invited to succeed her.

Going back over the years new prime ministers’ taking over between general elections almost always see a boost in their party’s position in the voting intention polls. This happened with with John Major in 1990, Gordon Brown in 2007 and of course Theresa May in 2016. So the trends in the table above are not unexpected. Perhaps the biggest aspect for Johnson is that the Tories are taking votes back from the Brexit party.

Boris appears to have approached his new job in the same manner as Gordon Brown. A huge number of announcements, an impression of a lot of activity and of course seeking to maintain the media’s attention with something new every day. The polling has been good both the voting intention and the best prime minister numbers and you get the sense, just like Brown in 2007, that he is looking towards an early general election.

The only cloud on horizon is the Brecon and Radnorshire by election tomorrow where the Tories are defending a majority of 19.5%.

The big challenge here, leaving aside the fact that they Tory candidate has a criminal record, is that there is only one clear anti-Brexit party but there are two very clear options for those who are for Brexit. If Farage’s party didn’t exist or had not been in the race than the prospects for the Tories to hold the seat would have been substantially greater. But they’re not and the pro Brexit vote tomorrow will be split.

The seat is one which at the referendum in June 2016 voting went very much in line with the national split of 52 to 48.

It just might be given the publicity that that always Johnson’s been getting that that the Tories could perform better than expected and run the Lib Dems very close.

One of the factors, though, is postal voting. There are about 10,000 in the constituency and the ballot packs went out 12 days ago and most of them will, if normal patterns are being followed, would have been returned pretty quickly. That means that quite a number of voters will have made their decisions before the Boris bounce.

My guess is that both CON and the LDs will take 40%+ of the votes.

On Betfair the Tories are rated as having a 13% chance of winning a figure that has gone up markedly in the past two days.

Mike Smithson


Continuing uncertainty over a no-deal Brexit sees the pound drop even further

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

The markets could be what puts most pressure on Johnson

After a week of almost positive coverage there’s a big cloud hanging over the new government as a result of uncertainty on the currency markets. The pound has slipped sharply against both the US dollar and the Euro.

The effect of this is seen at some airports where the amount you get for a pound is in some cases lower than 1. Although the initial brunt of this will be borne by holiday makers abroad this will increase the cost of everything that has to be imported.

Currency crises can be bad news for governments. John Major never really recovered from the ERM crisis in September 1992 that saw big drops in the value of sterling.

In a way it is surprising that this wasn’t anticipated. Johnson doesn’t have a solution to the hard border in Ireland issue which the backstop was designed to deal with. By ruling that out in such emphatic terms the rookie PM has a problem particularly with his rhetoric on the UK leaving on October 31st.

Mike Smithson


On what’s currently the biggest UK political betting market punters make it a 35% chance that there’ll be an no deal Brexit this year

Monday, July 29th, 2019 chart of Betfair price movements

The above market was put up a few weeks ago by Betfair and has yet to be discussed on PB. In terms of the level of betting it is by far the current biggest market and one where it is quite hard to judge.

On the face of it the Johnson regime appears determined to leave by October 31st and it is hard to square his position with what is a big red line from Brussels – having an acceptable solution to the Irish border issue.

A key factor here that hasn’t been given much attention is Nancy Pelosi – Speaker of the house of Representative and arguably as powerful in the US as Trump. She has stated emphatically that anything that undermines the Northern Ireland peace agreement would mean that Congress would not approve a trade deal with the UK. She said: “We made it clear in our conversations with senior members of the Conservative Party earlier this year that there should be no return to a hard border on the island.”

Members of the US congress played a key part in the 1998 deal that ended the decades of troubles in Ireland and feel a sense of ownership.

I’m not confident backing either side in this market. I cannot see the Johnson government wanting to be remembered as the one that caused the economic disruption of no deal but it is hard to square this with current rhetoric.

Mike Smithson


Plus ça change …..Boris’s first few days have followed TMay’s 2016 footsteps

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

Less than a week is, of course, far too short a time to make a comparison, especially one which will infuriate Boris fans. Who cares? They have their man as PM. They can take a bit of teasing.

So here goes. Our new PM seems to be following in the precise footsteps of the old PM.

  • On ascending to No 10, speeches about unity in the country and party.
  • A brutal and wholesale clear-out of the old guard to create a Cabinet in their image. (Take that, party unity!  You all have to agree with me!!) An element of petty and personal revenge: what did Boris have against Penny Mordaunt, for instance, a Brexiteer whose main fault seems to have been to have supported his opponent? (Yes – the question has answered itself.)
  • Some surprising appointments: May appointing Boris (she must be rueing the day) and Boris picking Priti and Raab. (What is it with PMs appointing plainly unsuitable Foreign Secretaries? Even Blair did it with Mrs Beckett. Mind you, in comparison to some of her successors, she seems in retrospect to be a fountain of calm common-sense.)
  • The Svengali-like ferocious adviser, there to provide the brains and steel and protection: Cummings now. Timothy and Hill for May.
  • The barn-storming first appearance in Parliament as PM. Remember how Mrs May compared herself to Mrs T, with her somewhat lamely delivered “Remind you of anyone?” quip. But it got the cheers, much as Boris’s well-worn attack on Corbyn (itself little more than a rehash of what Gove has said before) did.
  • The “Stand Up to the EU” speech – a mish-mash of well-worn tunes: “We Will Not Be Moved” / “No Pasaran”* / “Believe in Britain” etc lightly sprinkled with optimism and determination and belief, like so many Smarties on a cake. If this can be accompanied by suitably ferocious newspaper headlines, ideally with the White Cliffs of Dover somewhere in the picture, so much the better.
  • The promises to the poorer / left-behind bits of Britain: a speech from Mrs May about the JAMS and getting rid of “burning injustices” then. Boris now promising to spend money on the poor towns of the North and their transport and social care and so many wonderful things. It is positively Shakespearian in its vaulting ambition: “I will do such things – What they are yet I know not, but they shall be the wonders of the earth.” (I know. They should be the terrors of the earth but that is to be so negative about Brexit and Project Fear-y that a little rewriting of the Bard is surely allowed.)
  • The absolute 100% determination – no ifs, buts or doubts – to leave on a specified date. Do or die.
  • The visits to adoring fans. Surely not in the case of Mrs May. Well, yes. She was, remarkably it must now seem, very popular when she first became PM. She seemed to have the common touch and be liked by people who were not obvious Tory voters. Her polls were stratospheric. If truth be told, her polls were rather better than Boris’s are now. But give the boy time. It has only been a few days.
  • The cast-iron promise not to have a General Election.
  • The reaching out to the US. Remember how keen Mrs May was to visit Trump, to hold his hand even and her pathetic wish at the next EU leaders’ meeting to tell fellow European leaders what she had learnt from him, as his new best friend. It was unkind of them not to indulge her. Surely she had learnt so much more than what their own ambassadors were telling them? And now Boris and Trump are, apparently, already negotiating their new trade deal which, Donald assures us, will be 3 times better than what there is now. Boris is fond of his classics. Could someone please play the part of the Roman slave whispering in his master’s ear to remind Boris that with Trump it is “America First“? If a trade deal will be 3 times better it will be 3 times better for the US. That’s the country Trump cares about.
  • They even have the same desire to fulfil a childhood ambition: to be “world King” for Boris. And for May? Well, she was reportedly annoyed that Mrs T got to be the first woman PM. Might Britain be better governed if public life was not seen as a form of therapy for childhood slights?

Will this new blond character follow the same story arc as the last one?  It will be so exciting, won’t it, waiting to find out?

(*Yeah: I made that bit up. No filthy foreign Commie songs for global Britain. Still, the wartime meme will insist on breaking out and La Pasionaria’s cry that it is better to die on one’s feet than live on one’s knees should surely be appropriate for a country free at last and not a Vassal State, no sirree.)