Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


Blow for Change UK as it tried to complete formalities ahead of the possible May Euro elections

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

As if the people aren’t confused enough as it is

It has just been reported that the new party, change UK, has had its party logo rejected by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that it could “mislead voters”.

Apparently the emblem was a black square with the initials TIG and the hashtag “#change”.  Apparently the Commission took the view that the new party’s chosen emblem was not sufficiently well known.

But Change UK should be registered in time to take part in the coming Euro elections, if those are indeed to be held in the UK, on May 23rd.

In the convoluted voting system devised by Labour for the 1999 Euro elections voters do not choose candidates by name but rather put their cross against one of a range of parties. On the Ballot form each party logo figures above the list of candidates who have been chosen to represent them.

Without a logo the list of names of Change UK hopefuls will appear but will look slightly odd and that might just have an impact on their ability to attract votes in the election.

Ever since the rebel Labour and Conservative MPs left their parties in February the new grouping has had issues with branding.  It initially called itself the Independent group, and it is only been in recent weeks that the new term Change UK has been introduced. You can see the problem because they were known initially as TIG.

So when voters turnout on May 23rd they’re going to be faced with some unfamiliar changes in Britain’s party structure.  For as well as Change UK UKIP which won most MEPs in 2014 has now, of course split, and will remain on the ballot but will have to compete for that area of the vote with Nigel Farage’s the Brexit party.

Mike Smithson


The favourite to succeed TMay as CON leader, a Mr. Johnson, gets his knuckles wrapped for a fake polling report

Friday, April 12th, 2019

In January Mr. Johnson wrote in his Telegraph column that:

“Of all the options suggested by pollsters – staying in the EU, coming out on Theresa May ’ terms, or coming out on World Trade terms – it is the last, the so-called no-deal option, that is gaining in popularity. In spite of – or perhaps because of – everything they have been told, it is this future that is by some margin preferred by the British public.”

A reader complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the regulator arguing that no poll backed up Mr. Johnson’s assertions.

IPSO has now ruled that there was no polling to back this up and has ordered the paper to print a correction.

Well done the reader who complained. I get sick and tired of people making assertions like this without backing it up with detail.

Whether this will impact on his leadership ambitions only time will tell. No doubt he’ll find a way to bluster out of it when pressed.

Mike Smithson


If the Tories lost a Brecon and Radnor by-election it could be the end

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

One of the significant constitutional changes that came out of the coalition era was a process for MPs to be recalled. We saw this used for the first time in Northern Ireland last year and we are seeing a recall petition taking place in Peterborough at the moment.

The law lays down specific circumstances in which ia petition can be triggered and one of them is the MP being convicted of parliamentary expenses fraud as has happened in Brecon and Radnor.

At the 2015 general election the Tories took the long-standing Liberal Democrat seat which is the largest constituency by land area in England and Wales. The party retained second place in that election and in 2017 and if there was a by-election would throw absolutely everything into it.

Because it is sheer size and lots of distant remote communities a lot depends on good organisation – things like established delivery networks which can be difficult to organise from scratch.

If a recall petition is held and succeeds then my money would be on the LDs fighting hard to re-take seat in a by-election. That would present Mrs May or whoever is leading the Tory party with an even bigger headache and reduce the Conservatives effective majority with the DUP by 2.

So you can expect a battle royale with both the blue and yellow teams throwing absolutely everything into it.

Is it going to happen? I’d say yes to the recall petition the question being whether the required 10% of the electorate threshold would be reached.

Mike Smithson


Cooper-Letwin has probably killed Brexit

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

The stars that brought Brexit about are falling out of alignment

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are not what you would call transactional politicians. May was famously described by Ken Clarke as a “bloody difficult woman” whose time at both the Home Office and No 10 has been marked by single-minded stubbornness. Corbyn, by contrast, was for decades an activist-politician on the fringes of Labour, and has maintained many of the habits and practices afforded the awkward squad MP despite or even because of his new status as Leader of the Opposition: he regards his twin elections as party leader as an endorsement of those policies and methods. Little surprise then that the talks aimed at finding a compromise way forward to break the Brexit deadlock have ended in failure.

That the talks are happening at all is a measure of how desperate the PM is. It was always going to be extremely difficult to find a deal that could simultaneously have won the support of the EU, the Commons, enough of her MPs to avoid being overthrown, and the DUP so as to avoid being No Confidenced. It might always have been an impossible task: it probably is now.

The one thing that could have forced the hands of enough players to have secured agreement was pressure of time. May has been criticised for running down the clock and to an extent, that’s fair: it has been a deliberate strategy. However, it’s not the whole story: the clock has also run down as a natural consequence of the unwillingness of so many other participants in the drama to compromise too. The EU has bargained hard; Tory MPs (not just the ERG) chased unicorns long after the season was closed; opposition MPs remained overwhelmingly against the Withdrawal Agreement despite it being almost entirely in line with their Party’s policy in terms of Phase One of the process. Moving too far in any one direction couldn’t manufacture a majority and risked the government into the bargain. There are many things she could and should have done differently that might have generated greater reserves of goodwill and space for manoeuvre now but I’m doubtful that even if she (or some hypothetical alternative PM) done so, there was a viable road to a ratified Withdrawal Agreement.

Unless time forced (or forces) the matter. Take away the impossible and all that remains is No Deal, Revoke or her deal. That, at least, was the case until Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin (via an obliging John Bercow) threw a spanner in the works.

It’s only becoming clear now how important that precedent-breaking decision was to allow MPs to amend the business order motion. This isn’t to blame Bercow in particular. The government generally has too much power over parliament and if a majority exists for something then there ought to be the means to express that. All the same, the consequences of having done so are now escalating rapidly and are likely to continue to do so.

From originally taking control of business simply to express opinions on Brexit options (and, in keeping with the rest of the process, failing to find majority support for anything), MPs went way beyond that original intent and rammed a Bill through the Commons against the government’s opposition – something previously inconceivable; it will likely become law on Monday.

Pre-empting that political fact, the PM has now asked for another A50 extension and, crucially, all-but conceded that European Parliament elections will be held next month. It has to be far more doubtful that she would have done so had the Cooper-Letwin Bill not gone through. In that case, May could have gone to the EU on Wednesday still asking for an extension to sort out the implementation by May 22 or June 30 but in the expectation that the Council would stick to its previous position: approve the Agreement first – which would have set the scene for a final Meaningful Vote on Thursday against a hard deadline little more than a day away.

In truth, No Deal is not off the table and, as such, remains dangerously unexpected as an outcome, even if its chances have fallen since last week. While May can be mandated to request an extension, the EU can’t be mandated to agree it and the Commons can’t mandate itself to approve the terms of such an extension in advance (or has in effect chosen not to do so). There remains too great a belief in the Commons in its control over events.

With Brexit likely to be kicked into the longish grass next week at the European Council, if the delay suggested by Donald Tusk is ratified in the hope that something will turn up in Britain in the interim to break the deadlock, attention inevitably turns to what that might be.

Before going there, we need to remember that if something doesn’t turn up then we’ll simply be repeating the process of the last six months for twice as long. Absent of the time and process pressures that force MPs to vote for their second- or third-best option, they’ll be back to hunting unicorns.

But something almost certainly will turn up. Theresa May is highly unlikely to be Prime Minister of Leader of the Conservatives next March. I still expect this summer to be the natural time to replace her although if she doesn’t stand down then, either voluntarily or under irresistible pressure, then her 12-month protection still expires in time for a replacement in the early part of 2020.

What an A50 extension to March 2020 does mean is that the Tory leadership contest would take place with Britain still in the EU. That will change the election’s dynamics and considerably increase the chances of a prominent and (in the eyes of believers) unsullied Brexiteer winning; something not conducive to reaching agreements – or conducive to good government for that matter if the record of Brexiteer cabinet ministers is anything to go by.

However, the consequences of a long extension don’t end there. The EP elections are manna to Change UK, UKIP and the Brexit Party alike. PR, the lack of local candidates, the national campaigns, the capacity to make protests, the focus on the EU, their clear messages set against the difficulties beset all three established main GB parties: all could help to propel the two newcomers and the returning UKIP to the forefront. Such a result would not only have a spill-over effect on Westminster voting intention and media coverage, it would add to the internal pressures within Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.

What it won’t do is produce a Second Referendum, or at least, not immediately. Opposition remains sufficiently high among MPs (and especially between the Tory government and Labour front bench), and the details of such a poll remain sufficiently contentious to mean that no decision will be taken on one before the summer recess. Unlike the Cooper Bill, this isn’t one that MPs could force through.

There is though an even higher chance of a general election. The chance of one being prompted by the DUP defecting after May’s Withdrawal Agreement gained consent has diminished but there are now many more realistic routes. The government is only a few MPs from losing a majority even with the DUP and a change of leader and policy could easily shed those. Likewise, a new PM might try to cash in on a honeymoon period (real or anticipated) in the autumn. The Newport West result will have encouraged Tory MPs that things aren’t quite that bad, and while the EP elections might be bad for the Tories on the right, they could be even worse for Labour on the left with Change as well as the other established left-of-centre parties challenging them. That too would lessen the Con fear of a general election – whether wisely or not given the Pandora’s Box being opened.

What it does mean is that May’s deal is finally doomed and with it, her premiership; its last chance of ratification will fall with a long extension. However, that deal, for all its faults, remains just about the only one that could be done with a Tory government. If it isn’t acceptable then No Deal remains the only option – and that would have to be after a general election that returned a largeish Tory majority: unlikely under a Boris or Raab.

Any other result will see a Brexit which is already slowly but steadily slipping away, vanish like melting snow in the April sun.

David Herdson


Boost for beleaguered TMay as the Tories hold second place in Newport W with swing from LAB to CON

Friday, April 5th, 2019

Top six parties finished in the same order as at GE2017 and GE2015

The Newport West by-election result has gone very much as expected and in line with national polling with the Tories losing a smaller share of the vote than LAB thus making a swing from LAB to CON.

When the seat became vacant the general view was that this would be like other earlier by-elections with a LAB hold on a very much reduced turnout which is what has happened.

What is interesting is that the Tory vote has held up slightly better on what happened at the general election which must put heart into the party after a very difficult period over the Brexit negotiations.

It also puts into doubt that a general election tomorrow would put Mr. Corbyn in NUmber 10.

The bid by disgraced former Conservative MP, Neil Hamilton, to take the seat for UKIP failed although he did increase his party’s performance on the general election.

It should be noted that historically it is very unusual for there to be a swing from the opposition party to the main governing party in a midterm by election. This is not good for LAB though the party must be relieved that it has at least held the seat unlike it Copeland 2 years ago.

The top six parties finished in the same order as at the last two general elections.

An immediate impact of the by-election is that LAB’s strength in the Commons increases by one which in the current context could be significant.

Mike Smithson


The attention now turns to TMay’s attendance at the 1922 committee

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

The speculation is that she’ll set out an exit timetable.

This is from the Speccies, James Forsyth:-

Speculation is rife that she will use the meeting to announce a timetable for her departure, though there’s no official line from Number 10 on this.

I understand that Tory switchers are being told that Theresa May will go if the withdrawal agreement bill gets royal assent, which would have to be by May 22nd. This would, obviously, require meaningful vote 3 to pass – though … John Bercow is not keen on the vote happening at all.

Rhe meeting starts at 5pm.

Mike Smithson



With a CON leadership contest perhaps imminent new Ipsos-MORI poll has good and bad news for Johnson

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Above is a chart just issued by Ipsos Mori on its latest polling on which of a number of leading politicians appear “Prime Ministerial”. Theresa May, clearly, gets a home advantage because she is the incumbent but Corbyn will not be happy with his numbers which are the worst of all in those who were polled.

Johnson has the most positive rating  of all the prospective CON leaders 24% but also has the biggest negative number  of  64%. This is a serious problem for the Tory Party If by any chance they choose the former Mayor and former Foreign Secretary.

The worst numbers in net terms are those of Michael Gove the environment secretary. So the top two in the betting for next CON leader get the worst ratings.

Mike Smithson




The road to Brexit gets even more complicated

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Picture Judy Goldhill

After another dramatic evening at Westminster TMay is still there but with far less control

A series of Commons votes have taken place in the past hour including one that is potentially very troubling for TMay. MPs voted to take control of the Brexit process which is a big defeat for the government.

On Wednesday a series of  so-called indicative votes will be held to try to to see if there’s a majority for a form of Brexit.

Meanwhile TMay has ruled out a third vote tomorrow on her Brexit deal but says she says she could hold vote later this week.

LAB leader Corbyn declares the PM’s deal “dead” and she must abandon it.

Mike Smithson