Archive for the 'BREXIT' Category


The best test of a pollster is not how they’re currently doing against other firms but what happened last time they were tested

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

I am afraid that I have to disagree with David Herdson on his latest Saturday thread about YouGov understating Labour. Firstly you cannot judge pollsters’ based on their current surveys when less than 5 weeks ago they were tested against a real election involving real voters.

In the two charts above I compare LAB and LD vote shares for the May Euros in their final published polls.  Just two of them can claim to have come out of the election well with the rest trailing some way back.

Just examine some of the exaggerated figures that some pollsters were record reporting for LAB where we had a range from 13% to 25%. The actual GB figures was 14%.

Now look at the second chart showing the final LD shares. These range from 12% to 20%. The actual GB share was 20,4%.

Apart from Ipsos MORI and YouGov the rest really did rather badly.

Because of the low turnout, the 37% that actually happened was broadly anticipated, this was always going to be a challenging election for polling because turnout was everything. If one party’s supporters were less likely to vote  then that presents the pollsters with serious challenges .

The other challenge, of course, was tactical voting generally by remain backing LAB voters to the parties they saw as being most likely to succeed in their region and so the vote could produce the maximum number of MEPs. This helped the LDs and, of course, the Greens to achieve the success that they did. Whatever mechanisms YouGov and Ipsos Mori use they were able to detect better what was the big characteristic of this election.

So when I look at the current polls I regard Survation and Opinium, of the recent ones, as LAB over-staters.

Mike Smithson


The looming fork in the road and the path many MPs will have to make

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

You need to watch politics in split-screen at the moment. In both Labour and the Conservatives, a group of politicians has come to a fork in the road. In both cases, there is no shortage of fellow party supporters telling them to fork off.

Conservative Remainers have had a desperate few years. The referendum result was not the start of it. Well before they lost the referendum, they had lost their party. They have spent the last three years seeking to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit and hunkering down until the delirium has abated.

The delirium is not abating: the fever is getting worse. MPs are being threatened with deselection for opposing Brexit despite having voted for the withdrawal agreement three times. During the early stages of the leadership election campaign, there were dark whispers that Michael Gove was the preferred Remain candidate. That’s Michael Gove, leader of Vote Leave.

Both of the leadership candidates to be presented to the membership have committed to a no deal Brexit if necessary and neither has come up with a remotely plausible plan for avoiding that. When Ruth Davidson optimistically praised Jeremy Hunt for putting the Union first, Julia Hartley-Brewer, one of the high priestesses of the Brexit cult, pronounced that: “Any Tory leadership candidate who puts the Union first has absolutely no intention of delivering Brexit”.

Boris Johnson, the runaway favourite, has committed to leaving the EU deal or no deal on 31 October 2019. It does not seem possible either to enter into negotiations with the EU or to pass the relevant legislation by that date, and the warnings about what it might mean in practice continue to pile up. He is not ruling out either ignoring Parliament or proroguing it: democracy itself might be sacrificed to no deal Brexit.

Any Conservative who regards no deal Brexit as disastrous has to accept that he or she is now fighting against mainstream party thinking on what all sides regard as the central question of the age. The party is about to elect a leader and give whoever wins a mandate to force through Brexit by hook or by crook.

There is going to be no place in the Conservative party for MPs who oppose that mandate. Such Conservatives need to decide whether they are going to take arms against a sea of troubles and if so how. Or they can decide to go quietly and acquiesce with a policy that they consider disastrous. A decision to wait and see is a decision to go quietly.

That dilemma is paralleled within the Labour party. The readmission of Chris Williamson to the party so that he can stand for re-election as a Labour MP, against the recommendation on his case at a time when the Labour party is being investigated in relation to anti-Semitism by the EHRC, gives the lie to the idea that the current leadership has the slightest intention of reining in its outriders. Jeremy Corbyn and his coterie have played grandmother’s footsteps with the rest of the party on the subject, creeping back to their own ways the moment they think that backs are turned.  

To be fair, they are right to be confident. Large numbers of MPs who have condemned anti-Semitism in the party campaigned for the Labour candidate in Peterborough who during the campaign had to apologise for her past actions. As with Republican senators after school shootings, it seems that thoughts and prayers are the preferred policy prescription to avoid repeats.

Any Labour MP who is serious about opposing anti-Semitism in the varieties found on the hard left has to accept that the Labour party under its current leadership will not reform on this subject. Either in essence they accept that getting Labour elected is more important than eliminating this anti-Semitism or they leave Labour. Expressions of outrage on Twitter without further actions are simply a decision that Labour getting elected is the most important thing.  Kvetching is just a smokescreen.

Politics is about priorities and both of these groups need to think what their priorities are. Conservative MPs who think a no deal Brexit is going to be bad, maybe even terrible, for the country, might nevertheless conclude that a Conservative government even under someone as unsuitable as Boris Johnson is better than the alternative. But if they do, they have to accept the compromise that they have made, to accept that they have willed what they see as a looming disaster. If they believe that no deal Brexit must be stopped, they must act now. Later is too late.

Labour MPs appalled by the anti-Semitism permeating through the party might similarly conclude that for all its flaws a Labour party committed to redistribution and improving the lot of the poorest in society is better than the alternative. But if they do, they have to accept that they have by necessary implication downgraded the need to oppose racism. If they believe that is a compromise too far, they must act now. There is nothing to wait for.

In both cases, meaningful action is going to require a break with their party. In both cases, this would mean breaking lifelong allegiances with the high probability of ending their political careers sooner rather than later. All of them will look at the unhappy year the TIGgers will have and shudder. But they have to ask themselves, really ask themselves, what they are in politics for. Better to fail with integrity than to fail without even trying to succeed. On that basis, the TIGgers have so far all done better than those who did not follow their lead.

In life, all of us from time to time are faced with times when there is an easy choice and a difficult choice. In the longer term, the difficult choice is almost always the right one. Time for quite a lot of MPs to start making some difficult choices.

Alastair Meeks


In Brecon and Radnorshire the Remain parties are united and the big battle is between the pro-Brexit ones

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

Letter to B&R voters from ex-CON MP Chris Davies

The start of a new politics?

A striking feature of the August 1st Brecon & Radnorshire by-election is that it appears that all the pro-Remain parties including the Greens and PC have decided to stand aside and get behind the Liberal Democrats who, of course, held the seat until GE2015. So unlike other previous elections there will be a single remain choice. Meanwhile, as can be seen from the Chris Davies residents’ letter above the Tory big fight is with BXP to be the choice of Leave.

There is, of course, no mention, of Farage’s party in the letter but clearly that is what is worrying the blue team. It is bad enough having the man convicted of making false expenses claims as your candidate without having to contend with serious opposition that the BXP poses. In Peterborough, of course, the Brexit Party came within a few hundred of taking the seat from Labour.

My guess is that by election day, August 1st,  the Tories will be helped by Johnson being the new leader but Farage cannot afford to take his foot off the gas and not put in a hard effort in B&R. Every by-election has to be seen as an opportunity to further the party.

It appears that UKIP will also have a candidate there.

The remain alliance approach could be a model for future elections including an early general election. Under first part the post  having one or two of the parties standing aside in seats where another of them appears to have a good chance seems a good strategy without a formal link.

If there is an early general election I would expect this practice to be widespread.

In the betting the LDs remain 1/5 favourite to re-take the seat.

Mike Smithson



YouGov finds just 28% wanting a no deal against 43% wanting to remain

Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

I like this YouGov approach to discerning public opinion on Brexit – set out the four main option and get people to rank them.

The results, which have just been published, are in the table above.

The numbers broadly speak for themselves but notice the gender divide.  Women are less likely to make no deal their top choice than men.

Mike Smithson


Johnson appears to be planning to ignore parliament if it sought to block a no deal Brexit

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Dangerous stuff from the wannabe PM


It looks as though August 1st will be the date of the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

The signs are that today will see the writ being moved for the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to fill the vacancy created by the success of the recall petition that has seen the sitting Conservative MP, Chris Davies, forced out of his seat. This follows his conviction and sentencing for expenses fraud. The date looks set to be August 1st bang in the middle of the holiday season.

Extraordinarily it was confirmed yesterday that Mr Davies has been selected as the Tory candidate in the upcoming fight which on the face of it seems a very brave decision. He can be literally described as a “convict” by his opponents and the Tory Party approach to Law and Order can be portrayed as being bit lapse when it comes to one of its own.

What makes this really interesting is that the by-election will take place in the week after both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties will have new leaders. It also means that the by-election campaign will run parallel to the leadership campaigns that are taking place in those two parties.

No doubt Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson for the Tories as well as Ed Davey and Jo Swinson for the Lib Dems will be keen to make sure that they are photographed working hard in the by-election campaigns.

If the betting markets have this right then the Lib Dems are about to win back a seat that they gained in a 1987 by-election which was lost at the 2015 general election. But betting markets can be wrong as we saw a few weeks ago in Peterborough where the Brexit party had been odds on to take the seat but Labour hung on. At Peterborough, though, LAB disowned their MP as soon as she was convicted and put a new candidate up in the by-election.

This is the first by-election in a Conservative seat since GE2017 and since then the Tory national polling position has sharply declined while the LDs are doing better than at any time since entering the coalition in 2010.

Because of the shear size of the seat, it is the largest in England and Wales in terms of the area covered, it is a very difficult place to campaign. There are no towns bigger than 10k population and in many parts the mobile signals are almost non-existent.

No doubt a range of betting markets will emerge.

Mike Smithson







Happy anniversary. Brexit three years on from the referendum

Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

Year four in the Big Brexit house and the housemates are not getting any happier. The referendum vote saw off one Prime Minister immediately and a second is shortly to be evicted from Number 10 before Britain has left the EU. It’s entirely possible that Theresa May’s replacement might be ousted before Brexit is implemented too.

Before contemplating the fate of the next Conservative leader, let’s start by looking at how the country is shaping up now. It’s not looking good.

Opinion polling has to be taken with a pinch of salt at all times, but the polls have given a pretty consistent message for quite a long time that the country remains pretty evenly divided between those who think the decision to leave was correct and those who think the country is making a huge mistake.

The Remainers appear to have a small but steady lead (“right to leave” last had a majority with YouGov over a year ago), but it’s hardly a slam dunk: “wrong to leave” led in the most recent poll 47:41, which when you strip out don’t knows comes to 53:47. The original optimism that Brexit would be all over by Christmas has turned into trench warfare.

The closeness of public opinion has not led to increased empathy for the other side’s viewpoint. On the contrary, there is waning appetite for compromise. In the most recent YouGov poll on the government’s options, 37% would consider it an acceptable compromise or better for Britain to leave the EU with no deal.

45% would consider it an acceptable compromise or better for Britain to have a fresh referendum and vote to remain in the EU after all. Just 35%, however, would regard the negotiated deal as tolerable or better. Extreme outcomes poll better.

Yet 61% (according to a poll from Britain Thinks) agree that the only way to resolve Brexit is for all sides to compromise. No wonder 59% are fairly or very pessimistic about the Brexit outcome over the next year. 79% of Britons are reported as thinking that the country is on the wrong track.

For that compromise does not look like happening. 6 million people signed a Parliamentary petition to revoke the Article 50 notice – in effect, to overturn the referendum decision without so much as a ratifying vote. On the other side of the fence, the most recent YouGov poll on the subject disclosed that 30% think it would be acceptable to prorogue Parliament (effectively, suspend democracy) in order to prevent Parliament voting against no deal. Everyone wants compromise, but on their own terms.

What in practice is the country likely to get?  Whoever wins the Conservative leadership election (Boris Johnson, let’s cut to the chase) is going to have to try to put a government together with an ethereal majority. Indeed, it’s not absolutely certain that the winner will get to be Prime Minister: with Chris Davies recalled by his constituents and with the displeasure of a fair few irreconcilable Conservatives manifest, the winner might yet struggle to demonstrate that he will command the confidence of the House of Commons.

Assuming that challenge is passed, the next Conservative leader has already decided that the withdrawal agreement needs to be changed. Both Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are committed to renegotiate. Jeremy Hunt is prepared to delay beyond 31 October 2019 to secure such a deal while Boris Johnson is presenting that as a hard deadline. Both affect to be prepared for no deal if necessary.

The Conservative leadership race is taking place in a bubble. The candidates know their audience. An absolute majority of Conservative members voted for the Brexit party at the European elections. According to a YouGov poll, more than half of them would accept the break-up of the union with Scotland, losing Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland, significant economic damage and the destruction of the Conservative party itself so long as Brexit was achieved. Shilly-shallying is a vote-loser.

Outside that bubble, Parliament still has a substantial majority against no deal. Outside that bubble, the warnings about the effects of no deal are continuing to be made.  A Cabinet note warned that the country would not be ready for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October 2019.  The Healthcare Distribution Association warned the Brexit select committee that no deal Brexit on that date would lead to medicine shortages.  

The EU is currently in transition following the European Parliament elections so it is far from clear who any new Prime Minister would try to renegotiate with in the first place. There are shoals of legislation that would need to be passed before Brexit took effect. How this is to be achieved in a House that is out of the government’s control in the time available is at present obscure.

In short, the leadership candidates are both peddling a fantasy. Perhaps Boris Johnson is planning an early general election – from his viewpoint he might be as happy to lose it and be able to rail against Brexit’s betrayal than to win it and have to implement a programme that was either unworkable or would lead to severe disruption.

Meanwhile, the economy has started to falter. The Bank of England thinks that growth in the second quarter will be zero.  This partly reflects the unwinding of stockbuilding in the run-up to the phantom Brexit of 29 March 2019. Still, growth is at best anaemic and the political uncertainty is only increasing. Paralysis in decision-making is likely only to continue.

So three years on, the country is divided, opinions are getting more extreme and more entrenched, no one wants to make compromises and the leading candidates for Prime Minister are offering impossible prospectuses. Meanwhile, the economy falters. Happy Anniversary.

Alastair Meeks


Brecon & Radnorshire: the by-election that never was?

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

There’s a good chance it will be overtaken by a general election

The problem with being spoilt for excitement politically (apart from the complete wreckage of the party system, trust in politics and – who knows – maybe the country itself) is that there’s no time to sit back and appreciate what’s just gone before the next instalment arrives.

While that might be irritating for commentators, it has real practical effects too. The Brecon & Radnorshire recall petition has unseated Chris Davies and is due to lead to a by-election. However, it might well not, precisely because of the intensity of these crises.

When the Peterborough recall petition was successful, the writ for the by-election was moved almost immediately. That might well not happen in Brecon & Radnorshire. For the Tories, one good reason for delay is the simple fact that the Lib Dems are clear favourites to retake a seat they held up until 2015 and hold at Welsh Assembly level, and in so doing, reduce the Tories’ working majority with the not-entirely-reliable DUP to just 3.

Opinion polls suggest the Lib Dems are now polling around two-and-a-half to three times what they achieved at the 2017 general election, while the Tories are down by more than half. These are massive swings: more than enough by themselves to comfortably flip the seat, even before we take into account that by-election swings tend to be around 40% larger than the national polling at the time. Whether that rule-of-thumb still holds given the scale of movement and also the emergence of the Brexit Party is an open question but either way, Boris Johnson (assuming it is he) can expect to start his premiership with a loss, unless he can generate a sizeable honeymoon boost – or unless the election doesn’t happen at all.

There are more publicly-acceptable reasons to delay too though. Even if the writ were moved now, the by-election would be on July 25 or August 1. That’s well into the summer holidays and would potentially be a considerable inconvenience not only for voters but also for the local council running the election, which being in a massive constituency by area presumably has more polling stations than average. For context, the last time a by-election was held as far into the summer holidays as July 25 was back in 1997 (although the Norwich North and Glasgow East ones came very close in 2009 and 2008 respectively). The last by-election in August, outside of the unusual circumstances of Fermanagh & S Tyrone in 1981, was the Birmingham Ladywood one in 1977. Clearly, there’s a long-standing reluctance to schedule them then.

However, if parliament waits until the House returns on September 3 before moving the writ, the by-election wouldn’t be until at least early October, possibly later still.

That, of course, is running directly into the climax of the Brexit debates when Boris will be expected to deliver withdrawal by 31 October, with or without a deal (which means without), and a majority of MPs will be trying to stop him from doing so – a battle which will be played for very high stakes and could easily end up with a Vote of No Confidence and/or a general election, as well as another Article 50 extension or even outright revocation.

As such, there’s a meaningful chance that the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election will never take place – although if it doesn’t, it’ll be the least of our worries.

David Herdson