Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


Corbyn is more in touch on Europe with the voters Labour needs to win back than his MPs or members

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Most of Labour’s lost voters are Leavers

This has not been the best week for Jeremy Corbyn. He lost another Shadow Cabinet member and two other frontbench spokesmen, suffered a sizable rebellion on Europe (whereas, unlike one upon a time, the Tories presented an almost united front), prompting several thousand members to resign; yesterday’s YouGov poll confirmed that the Conservatives’ lead remains in the mid-teens, and Labour suffered a devastating local by-election loss in Rotherham, which the Lib Dems took on a 38% swing.

That last item, which ought really to be the most trivial – all sorts of odd things can happen in local by-elections, particularly where there are peculiar local issues – might all the same have a particularly bitter taste.

Rotherham was a strongly Leave area in the EU referendum, voting more than 2:1 for Brexit. That Labour should lose the seat not to UKIP, who started a clear second and whose own share was more than halved, but to the arch-Remain Lib Dems is testament to the fact that Brexit is not all-consuming as a divide (in fact, in a simultaneous by-election in a different Rotherham ward, Labour gained the seat from UKIP).

That’s unfortunate for Corbyn because his position on Brexit is a good deal closer to the sort of voter that Labour’s lost since 2015, not just in Rotherham and Sunderland but across the country.

The ICM poll taken on 20-22 Jan gives good evidence of this. 37% of Labour’s 2015 vote supported Leave, as against only 32% of their current voters. We can’t calculate a precise figure because there’s churn so it’s not possible to assume that simply subtracting the current base from that at the election will give us the deserters. Even so, if we take that as representative of the net change, it implies that the lost voters split 58/42 for Leave.

Yesterday’s YouGov paints much the same picture. Unlike ICM, YouGov don’t release the raw figures for each question and answer, nor is there a specific question on how people voted at the referendum but they do ask if people think the decision to leave was right, and the headline figures there mirror the referendum closely (albeit that there’s a small amount of churn). 34% of their 2015 support think it was right to leave but only 29% of their current voters do – the same 5% difference ICM report, which again implies that the lost voters are Leave-heavy and very probably in a Leave majority.

Corbyn ought to be ideally placed to attract these voters back. He’s certainly more in tune with them than his parliamentary party is, or than his members are. His strategy of respecting the public’s Leave vote while trying to score tactical victories in parliament is exactly the one that an opposition should be following. It will only work, however, if he can bridge the gap between the parliamentary and London Remain wing and the Leavers in the country. The risk is that he fails to satisfy either and that the voters, who probably left over other issues, remain detached from their former party.

David Herdson


Corbyn the rebel has made the wrong call on the Article 50 vote and his party will suffer ever more

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

So here we are. The Article 50 bill starts in the Commons with Mr. Corbyn ordering his MPs to back the Tories – something that is going to be remembered.

The dilemma was obvious – the majority of LAB voters voted REMAIN but the majority of LAB MPs are in areas that voted LEAVE. This is only problematical if there’s evidence that it would lead to voters switching on the issue and there isn’t.

It is also based on the fallacy that in local and national election those turning out would split precisely in accordance with the way their area voted.

Another factor that undermines the strategy is that the Lib Dem revival in local elections that we are seeing is more marked in areas that voted LEAVE than voted REMAIN.

So you can’t simply apply the template of the referendum to other elections.

Remember this from earlier in the month – what happened in LEAVE friendly Sunderland.

Mike Smithson


The Tories are looking to Copeland for endorsement of Mrs. May’s plan for BREXIT

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

But what happens of the blues don’t take the LAB seat on February 23rd?

Last night a Copeland voter emailed the above copy of a personalised letter that had come to him from Theresa May. The contents are very revealing about what message the Tories are hoping will come from them taking the seat from LAB in 23 days time.

The Tories are looking to the result as a vindication of the strategy outlined in the PM’s speech earlier in the month. Notice how in the letter the PM doesn’t move into any other policy area this is all about BREXIT and getting some mandate for her approach.

If the betting markets have got this right the Tories are in with a 58% chance of what would be an unprecedented outcome in recent times for a ruling party – to take a seat from the opposition.

    But the strategy has its risks. What happens if the Tories fail to take Copeland? What would that say about about public backing for the BREXIT plan.

We now live in an era when we don’t have by-election polls. There was one in Richmond Park with 4 weeks to go that had Zac 27% ahead but that’s been the only published one this parliament.

So at the moment there’s little to base any Copeland forecasts on apart from the Tories dominant national polling position. Only problem with that is that it isn’t being reflected in council by-elections.

Mike Smithson


The lack of options for Brexit Britain

Monday, January 30th, 2017


Since the Brexit vote, British politics has been curiously alternativeless.  The government rules without any effective opposition.  The Prime Minister was installed by her party as the only imaginable choice once the other would-be contenders had been properly scrutinised.  Theresa May was not particularly inspiring.  But what else could the Conservative party have done?

The Prime Minister has spent some months reviewing her options, only to find that she has none.  She has rightly concluded that controls on immigration are a non-negotiable feature of any Brexit deal, given the basis of the referendum campaign.  So, making a virtue out of necessity, Theresa May has announced that Britain will not be seeking continued membership of the single market (knowing that it was not on offer if Britain insisted on controlling immigration from the EU).  She is looking for a swift agreement on limited terms, accepting that a more comprehensive agreement is in practice impossible.  But what else could she have done?

Having burned its bridges with the rest of the EU, Britain must find new friends – or rely more heavily on existing ones.  And as Thucydides said over 2000 years ago, “It is the habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire”.  So Theresa May concluded that despite disagreeing strongly with Donald Trump on many matters, including the importance of NATO, the appropriate response to Russia and tariff-free trade, she needed to get as close to the incoming administration in Washington as possible.  There were obvious risks given the new president’s apparent waywardness, his loose relationship with the truth, his past boorishness towards many women and a smorgasbord of troubling policy positions.  Britain had to proceed on the basis that those could be contained or sidestepped.  From that point, the British government’s foreign policy in relation to the USA was founded on hope.  But what else could she have done?

The Foreign Office secured the undoubted coup of getting Theresa May to meet Donald Trump first of all the world leaders.  And she gave a serious and thoughtful speech to assembled Republicans in which she announced that “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over”.  Once again, the Prime Minister made a virtue of necessity, given the new president’s own clearly-expressed views on the subject.  This marks a sharp break from the liberal interventionist consensus of the last two decades.  But what else could she have done?

No one can accuse Theresa May have being underprepared for her meeting with Donald Trump.  She seems to have taken to heart Thucydides’ words that “It is a general rule of human nature that people despise those who treat them well, and look up to those who make no concessions.”  With firmness she publicly declared on his behalf that he was fully committed to NATO.  He was charmed sufficiently to guide her through a colonnade.  From that point on the two of them will be forever inextricably associated in the public’s eyes as being hand in hand.  That was a hostage to fortune that Theresa May must have regretted from the very moment that she felt his paw grasp her.  But what else could she have done?

When the Prime Minister left the USA, the consensus was that she had added to her stature.  It unravelled all too quickly as Donald Trump signed an executive order on Holocaust Memorial Day to ban those born in seven countries from entering the USA.  (The president seems unaware that the approved way of interpreting his words was seriously but not literally and seems dead set on being taken seriously and literally.)  This caused outrage in Britain well beyond the usual sources, with a series of Conservative MPs queuing up to condemn it.  A petition to deny Donald Trump the state visit that Theresa May had promised him has accumulated signatures at a record-breaking pace, soaring far past the million mark in a day.  As I write, she seems trapped between wanting to recognise the undoubtedly real disgust that many Britons feel about this policy that affects prominent Brits, including Sir Mo Farah, and not wanting to offend Donald Trump, whose goodwill she so desperately needs.  She looks simultaneously venal and feeble.  But what else can she do?

The contrast is starkly made with other European leaders.  Angela Merkel, for example, has felt no need to rush to Donald Trump’s side.  She has been able to set her own course and has felt uninhibited in condemning this policy.  She is able to do this because she has more options, options that are derived in large part from Germany being in the EU.  Britain, it is becoming painfully clear, is out of options.

Does this mean that Britain should backtrack on Brexit?  No, that ship has sailed.  But the limits of the control taken back are becoming painfully apparent.  That man Thucydides first recorded the view that “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”  Britain is getting a crash course in the truth of this dictum right now.  Ancient history has never seemed more modern.  Expect Britain to have to suffer much more in the coming years.

Alastair Meeks


Polling Matters / Opinium survey: Public backs Brexit as the right decision by 52% to 39%

Monday, January 30th, 2017

New polling this week shows Leave voters are convinced they made the right decision as Remainers stumble on leaderless writes Keiran Pedley

With Trump and May very much making the headlines this week you may have missed the second Polling Matters / Opinium survey (full data here). This survey sought to measure public perceptions of the Brexit vote seven months on and also the strength of feeling on either side. The overarching message is that the public backs Brexit as the ‘right decision’ by 52% to 39% with 40% saying the decision was ‘definitely right’ and 23% saying the decision was ‘definitely wrong’. Some of the key data can be found below.

Do you think the United Kingdom made the right decision or the wrong decision in deciding to leave the European Union? (Fieldwork Jan 10/12 2017)

The results are relatively easy to explain. 93% of Leave voters remain committed to Leave being the ‘right decision’ whereas only 77% of Remain voters think Brexit was the ‘wrong decision’. Similarly 75% of Leave voters think Brexit was ‘definitely right’ versus 48% of Remainers that think it was ‘definitely wrong’. Perhaps some Remainers simply accept the referendum result or perhaps they weren’t that committed to EU membership in the first place.  Whatever the case, with Theresa May’s Conservatives as many as 16 points ahead in the polls, Leavers have little to worry about. Brexit is happening.

Who leads Remainers?

Perhaps a more interesting question is ‘who leads Remainers now?’ We appear to be witnessing something of a political realignment around the referendum result as Theresa May rebrands the Conservatives as ‘the Brexit Party’ (with some success in the polls it should be said). However, on the other side, Remainers look divided and leaderless as Jeremy Corbyn demands Labour MPs back the Article 50 vote when it comes to parliament. The Lib Dems have had some electoral success opposing Brexit but a significant breakthrough looks unlikely. Right now, the most significant opposition to Brexit looks like coming from the SNP. Significant not because it threatens Brexit but because it threatens the breakup of the UK.

Maybe the political realignment point is overdone. Whilst it is true that 25% of Conservative voters think Brexit was the ‘wrong decision’ and 33% of Labour voters think it was the ‘right decision’ old habits, it seems, still die hard.  Without the Labour Party offering full throated opposition to Brexit a genuine realignment around the referendum result appears unlikely. What will be interesting in the short term is how Labour’s grassroots react to Corbyn’s commitment to Brexit. With 60% of Labour voters saying that Brexit was the ‘wrong decision’ and that number likely bigger among members Corbyn may be about the face the biggest crisis of his leadership so far. It is clear that many on the left are losing faith. The question is will they go as far as to abandon him altogether?

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley is a regular contributor to PB and editor of the Polling Matters podcast.  He tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley

Check out the latest PB/Polling Matters episode below.

Note on the podcast: This week’s episode was somewhat controversial as guests Jade Azim and Suzy Dean traded blows on feminism and Brexit. Some people loved it but others found it too combative. Rest assured, this episode does not represent a change in the podcasts direction. We should be back to normal next week.


Betting on whether or not we’ll have another EU referendum before 2019

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

Paddy Power have a market up on whether we’ll have a referendum on a UK-wide referendum on in/out EU membership or on acceptance of new membership terms. Must offer option of membership terms. I’m backing the No side of this bet.

I just cannot see Theresa May realistically offering a referendum on these terms, unless she was interested in her tenure as PM rivalling Neville Chamberlain’s or Alec Douglas-Home’s tenure for brevity.

The more realistic way I can see a second referendum on these terms is if Mrs May calls an early election on Brexit if Parliament delays Brexit and she manages to loses to a party or parties who promise a second referendum, but you can get better odds on an early election (such as 10/1 on a 2018 general election or the 9/2 or 33/1 on Labour or the Lib Dems winning the most seats.)

But backing the 1/5 seems the better option to me, we’re leaving the EU, we might rejoin the EU in the future, but the wishes of the electorate as expressed on June 23rd need to be honoured and delivered upon and the polling indicates even those that voted Remain wish to see the vote honoured, so there’s no real net vote gain in offering a second referendum.

With interest rates at 0.25% and the best interest rate on saving/current accounts around 3%, a 20% return in less than two years seems like a good deal.



There’s an argument for saying that REMAINers feel more strongly about BREXIT than Leavers

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

BREXIT appears to have the least salience with LAB voters & C2DEs

One of those involved in the LDs recent successes observed to me recently they were finding that those opposed to BREXIT have much stronger feelings about the issue than those who aren’t. In many ways this is understandable because they are against the status quo and everything is moving towards the UK leaving the EU.

I’ve been pondering over this for some time and have been looking for polling that might support or dismiss the notion. I think that the above might be what I’ve been looking for.

Each month for 40 years Ipsos MORI has been operating a totally unique poll – its Issues Index. On this those sampled are simply asked face to face “What do you see as the main/other important issues facing Britain today?”. They are given the time to respond and can name any number of things that come into heads.

Because of the unprompted nature of the approach this has been regarded over the decades as one of the best tests of the salience of issues without the question wording itself having an impact on the responses. This has stood the test of time.

It is not only the party splits that are interesting in the chart above but the socio-economic group responses as well. The ABC1s are much more likely to regard BREXIT as a key issue than C2DEs.

This might be the key to the Stoke Central by-election.

Mike Smithson


Viewpoint: Tribal Tim Farron attacks Corbyn and lets TMay off the hook.

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Labour’s Don Brind says the LD leader has a soft spot for the PM.

The Lib Dem leader told Politics Home In a really peculiar way I felt slightly proud of her when she became prime minister.”  A very odd thing to say, isn’t it?

Since you’re asking, Tim – Yes it is a bit odd. Not only is she a Tory. She is the Remainer who failed to campaign in the EU referendum and now, with all the zeal of a convert, is determined to drag the country into a hard Brexit regardless of the economic carnage that could ensue.

Farron explained that his link with May dates back to 1992 when they were candidates in the safe Labour seat of North West Durham. “I remember thinking she was a very straight person. I enjoyed being on the campaign trail with her.”

Today, the Lib Dem leader does, of course, criticise the Prime Minister for choosing “the most extreme interpretation of the referendum result … which is not only going to be massively damaging to the livelihoods of every family and business in the country but will rob the public purse of – on the government’s own figures £220bn. But Farron lets May off the hook by claiming there is no difference between her approach and Labour’s. “You have the Labour party basically hugging Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party – and we’ve heard it from Keir Starmer and Hilary Benn too – they’ve just given up.”

Farron has a tough task in reviving the Lib Dems after the 2015 massacre. He clearly hopes to boost their current poll shares by siphoning off Labour votes from amongst the 48% who voted Leave.

But let’s be clear that putting Corbyn and May in the same boat is divisive claptrap which has nothing to with fighting Brexit and everything to do with Lib Dem tribalism.

After chiding Labour for not standing aside in Richmond by election the Lib Dems – and the Greens — will be fighting Copeland where they both lost deposits in 2015 with around 3% of the vote. Although I expect Labour to win it’s possible that Lib Dems and Green can take votes from Labour. If that leads to a Labour defeat the result would strengthen the Tories and/or Ukip and with it the forces of Brexit.

The fact is that it will be Labour parliamentarians who do the heavy lifting in countering the worst extremes of Brexit. They are at the core of the cross party group reported by the Observer to be drawing up plans to “halt hard Brexit “

I sat in on a meeting last week of Labour parliamentarians brought together by the Labour Movement for Europe , Everyone there was as at least as passionate Europeans as Farron but with a much more intelligent view of the challenges facing the anti-Brexit cause.
One wise old bird said “Labour MPs face a choice between being a hawk, a dove or an ostrich – and all have their good points.” There is no sure-fire way of fighting Brexit and keeping quiet while watching how things develop is at least as valid an approach as launching a frontal assualt.Three key priorities emerged from the discussion.

First is the need for unity in confronting Theresa May’s version of Brexit. Let’s hope Tim Farron hears the message.

The second is the need to organise effectively in Parliament where the main battle will not be over triggering Article 50 but over the Great Reform Bill. There are lots of smart people in the Commons and the Lords who will make parliamentary sovereignty.

The third priority is, as one former minister put it, a need “to change the tone of the conversation in the country.” That is partly a matter of better communications but it is also a question of being listened to by Labour voters who supported Leave. That is why Jeremy Corbyn’s shift on the issue of immigration is regarded by many as a vital first step.

As is well known a majority of Labour MPs supported Remain but represent areas that back Leave. It is that very fact that which makes how Labour wrestles with the issue crucial. There may be frustration at the performance of Jeremy Corbyn but many will agree with the MP who said; “Any Labour leader would struggle with the issue.”

Don Brind