Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


PB Video Analysis: Five Things That Will Surprise You

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We’re all routinely wrong. Mostly that’s because we’re simply don’t know any better. But increasingly it’s the result of us reading things on Facebook, Twitter, and the like that push persuasive narratives. The stories make sense, so we believe them.

But all too often, the data and stories don’t match. And when they don’t… well, our first instinct is to discard the data, looking for reasons why it’s not true.

So this video looks at five things where reality and perception are misaligned. I’m talking Chinese trade, Spanish unemployment, British food, Western fertility, and illegal immigrants from Mexico.

And I’m talking really fast…

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’


Topping, who served with the British Army in Northern Ireland during the troubles, on Ulster and Brexit

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Kenneth Allen / Bloody Sunday mural, Bogside

Why the border issue is so important to both sides

Why, when we’re busy trying to Brexit, is everyone hung up on Northern Ireland? Why should we let this small part of the UK, with a population just larger than Newcastle’s, dictate seemingly our entire Brexit settlement? Terrorism, people say. But we don’t give in to terrorists, so why does Northern Ireland and its terrorists get such special treatment?

For most people in the UK, terrorism means the odd bomb scare, suspicious package, or a thankfully rare terrorist incident. Whereas it once defined the island of Ireland.

Let’s imagine the scene: a long walk in the countryside on a beautiful summer’s day. You gaze out over the rolling hills and, amongst the trees swaying gently in the wind and the gambolling lambs, you see an army patrol dressed in camouflage kit, helmets and face paint, carrying machine guns. Is one of them pointing their gun at you? Shortly, a helicopter emerges from the distance, drops like a stone to land, and picks up the soldiers. Then, with its door gunner on alert, it rises steeply backwards, upwards and away. You continue your walk.

Or imagine you’re off to Tesco and pass fully armed soldiers either patrolling on foot, or in armoured vehicles with machine guns sticking out of the top. Perhaps they’ll stop and ask you who you are, where you’re going – questions you’d have to answer. Or they might take an hour to search your car. And all this because you know there is a threat of violence from the local communities.

How could such scenes exist in the United Kingdom? Well they did, in Northern Ireland, and that was the Troubles. Northern Ireland was at war, both with itself, and with the British Forces sent initially to protect the Catholic community in 1969. That military operation lasted 37 years and the internal conflict which brought it into being is what people fear when they talk about a return to the bad old days: complete disruption of the civic society that you and I take for granted.

There has been progress since, of course. The Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement assured Unionists that until a majority wanted otherwise, NI would remain part of the UK, while the Nationalists for their part saw a raft of cross-border bodies established. And times have changed in other ways also. Gerry Adams is in parliament now and surely no more than a handful of hot-heads want a return to the armed struggle? Isn’t it all – wasn’t it always – gangsters and criminals?

While not as intense (3,500 people died during the Troubles), there has been continuous terrorist-related activity since the GFA was signed, including murders, shootings and weapons finds.

    To think that no dissident Republican groups are or would be willing to fight for a united Ireland today is wishful thinking; to dismiss them as gangsters or criminals is to misunderstand the history of Irish Republicanism.

Army patrols in NI would routinely visit the 208 Border Crossing Points (BCPs, more than the EU has with all points East) of which 20 were official; the remainder, located in streams, fields, forests or woods, were often used to smuggle various substances – diesel, livestock (“dizzy cows” were taken back and forth over the border to collect agricultural subsidies), or, of course, weaponry and terrorists. One of the consequences of the GFA, and the reduction in violence, is that there are no more “official” BCPs; you can cross the border anywhere you want.

And it is this last issue that represents the toughest Brexit nut to crack. All mooted options, whether Chequers, any of the backstop agreements (Joint Report or Withdrawal Agreement), or any other solution, must be seen through the prism of how it affects the border.

Again, why? There are customs posts throughout the world without accompanying violence.

A hard border between the RoI and NI would inflame the Nationalists as it would create a more tangible separation between Eire and the UK, representing a setback in their quest for a united Ireland. It would also violate the spirit of the GFA, and the many pronouncements made by Theresa May. A border in the Irish Sea, meanwhile, would inflame the Unionists as it would create a de facto separate state of the island of Ireland. It has also, of course, been outlawed by the UK Parliament.

And ludicrous as it sounds, the fact that all parties have stated they don’t want one, has not prevented the border being used as a negotiating tool in the Brexit negotiations.

During the Troubles, a hard border provided a call to arms for Republican paramilitary groups. In the absence of some kind of as yet non-existent technological solution, people fear that any kind of border infrastructure created now would have the same effect. Which would in turn bring reprisals from Unionist paramilitary groups. And pretty soon you are back to the Troubles. And that is why it all matters so much.

Topping is a regular poster on PB


Celebrating Theresa May – against all odds she’s still there and looks to continue to Brexit and beyond

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

The great survivor hangs on

My most significant betting loss since the last election has been on Theresa May failing to survive 2017. This was placed in the aftermath of her disastrous conference speech last October which just seemed to sum up her whole predicament – trying to carry on after losing the party its majority.

We all recall the early hours of the morning of June 9th 2017 when the former Chancellor, George Osborne sacked pronounced on television that she was “a dead dead woman walking”.

Yet she’s still there nearly fourteen months later with the objective of remaining in place to at least March 29th next year when the article 50 process runs out and Britain is due to exit the EU.

One of the less commented features of her government is how she has survived almost all the critical Commons votes when on paper at least she was probably doomed. The progress of the Lords amendments to the Brexit bill was a case in points as was the recent trade bill.

This comes on top of the regular briefings by MPs who don’t give their names that a confidence move is in the offing if she continues to operate in a particular way. This has become such a regular feature and she just ploughs on.

    Her approach to Brexit – honour the referendum outcome causing as little damage as possible to the economy might not satisfy the head-bangers but then nothing will. If they’d had the numbers to get her out they would have done so meaning their threats are all piss and wind.

She’s protected to some extent by the leadership reforms introduced by William Hague. Sure it only takes 48 letters demanding a confidence vote for one to take place but that’s not the end of the story. They need a majority, perhaps 155, MPs in the secret ballot to support it and if that doesn’t happen then she’d be immune from such a threat for a year.

Chequers has gone down like a bowl of cold sick but her opponents have failed to come up with any feasible alternative. They’re happy to snipe at her but not be constructive.

She’s also helped that just at this moment when she appears vulnerable Labour gets entangled up with its antisemitism row that for the Tories is the opposition dispute that keeps on giving.

Mike Smithson


UKIP might be edging back in the polls but was the biggest vote loser in the July 2018 Local By-Elections

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

July 2018 Local By-Election Summary

Conservatives 13,142 votes (37% +3% on last time) winning 11 seats (-1 seat on last time)
Labour 11,198 votes (31% +2% on last time) winning 9 seats (-1 seat on last time)
Liberal Democrats 5,670 votes (16% +5% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 seat on last time)
Independent Candidates 2,278 votes (6% +3% on last time) winning 2 seats (+2 seats on last time)
Green Party 862 votes (2% -5% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Plaid Cymru 747 votes (2% +1% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time)
Local Independent Candidates 737 votes (2% -1% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 515 votes (1% -9% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 seat on last time)
Other Parties 498 votes (1% +0% on last time) winning 0 seats ((unchanged on last time)
Conservative lead of 1,944 votes (6%) on a swing of 0.5% from Lab to Con

Harry Hayfield


TMay sees a huge drop in her YouGov leader ratings in three months

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

The Brexit splits are costing her and her party dear

The chart above sets it out clearly the dramatic collapse that Mrs May has seen in her YouGov Well/Badly leader ratings since the start of April.

I’ve been following these ratings for years and cannot recall a fall by such a large amount over such a short period for any leader.

Of course she faces a huge challenge and it would be very difficult for any leader to negotiate his or her way through the Brexit minefield. Trying to respect the referendum result while ensuring that what happens doesn’t seriously undermine the economy including several key industries would have taken its toll on anyone.

    At least she is helped now that her main protagonists within the party chickened out of trying to oust her.

They are happy under the cloak of anonymity to brief journalists about letters calling for a confidence vote going to the chairman of the 1922 committee but then nothing happens.

This has been going on for such a long time and we can only conclude that those who want her out our “frit” using Mrs Thatcher’s memorable term.

She only has to survive the next couple of days and we will reach the parliamentary recess which, surely, puts off a challenge until the autumn.

Mike Smithson


My 270/1 shot for the White House indicates that he might run

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Watch out for John Hickenlooper – Governor of Colorado

Back in early April I reported that I’d backed Governor John Hickenlooper for the presidency at odds of 270/1 on Betfair.

One of the things about super long-shots is that you generally don’t know when you place your bet whether your man/woman will actually make a bid. So today’s strong indication that he is considering putting his hat into the ring is a big step forward.

I’d first noticed Hickenlooper a couple of years ago when he was being tipped as Hillary Clinton’s running mate and I liked what I saw. He appears to be everything that the Trump isn’t lucid, self-deprecating, intelligent and someone who comes over well. He’s also appears to have a strong sense of public service and has a good record in Colorado and Denver where he used to be mayor.

At this stage he’ll be assessing whether a bid is feasible – will he get the backing of key figures in the party and donors? My guess is that the most important thing the party will be looking for is someone who appears as though he/she could be competitive against Trump.

Today’s comments are exactly what you would expect from a potential runner at this stage. Even though WH2020 is more than two year away the battle will start in only about nine months.

Mike Smithson


BoJo’s resignation speech – some reaction

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

It certainly wasn’t up to the Sir Geoffrey Howe standard


The big post-Helsinki polling question is will Trump’s ratings recovery be hit?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018


Judging by the US media there’s no doubt that Helsinki was bad for Trump. But was it? Will he still retain the support of his base? What will be the electoral impact of yesterday.

US polling uses leader ratings much more widely than the experience in the UK and the first post meeting ratings numbers are eagerly awaited.

As can be seen from the chart he has been enjoying something of a recovery. Will that be sustained or will he fall back.

Mike Smithson