Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Election Battlegrounds: Guzzledown

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Political Betting doesn’t often discuss exhibitions of 18th century art, but I can highly recommend the Hogarth exhibition currently showing at the commendably eccentric Soane Museum in London. It is a very rare opportunity to see in one place all of Hogarth’s masterly sequences of ‘Modern Moral Subjects’, including A Rake’s Progress, A Harlot’s Progress, and Marriage A-La-Mode.

Most topical, though, is The Humours of an Election (1754-1755), depicting a (literally) hard-fought election in the two-member constituency of Guzzledown, Oxfordshire. In the first painting we see a riotous dinner where the two Whig candidates (one is ‘Sir Commodity Taxem, Bart’) are soliciting votes in joyously dubious ways whilst the Tories parade outside with an anti-Semitic banner (some things were different in those days). The Whig election agent falls back having been hit by a brick thrown through the window. Look carefully and you can see his canvassing returns (‘Sure’ and ‘Doubtful’ – a lot of Doubtfuls but only one Sure). In the third painting we see polling day; the Tory GOTV operation seems to be very effective as the dying and infirm are being dragged up to cast their votes, while the Beadle, who is supposed to ensure that the election is properly conducted, is fast asleep. Meanwhile there is a dispute about whether a soldier veteran, who has lost both hands, can take the necessary oath by placing his hook on the Bible. No-one cares that the coach carrying Britannia is in trouble as the two coachmen are absorbed in playing cards, with one of them cheating. In the fourth painting… well, go and see for yourselves.

Most relevant to today is the second painting, Canvassing for Votes, shown above. In the centre is a canny voter taking bribes from both sides. The landlady is counting her profits. The Tory candidate, beneath a campaign sign showing money pouring into Guzzledown, is buying trinkets from a pedlar to curry favour with the voter’s daughters on the balcony. At the back the Whig campaign HQ, the Crown Inn, is being attacked in an act of self-harm by a mob indignant at excessive taxes, with one stupidly sawing away at the sign which will crash down with him on it into the crowd below.

Of course, nowadays our elections are much less crude. We no longer have candidates using their own wealth to bribe voters to support them. Instead we have politicians trying to bribe us with other people’s money, or more subtly, with our own. We have even progressed as far as having politicians successfully bribing us with an entirely fictional number painted on the side of a bus.

Nonetheless the central problem remains: inasmuch as voters pay any attention, they pay attention to the wrong things, to pedlars’ trinkets rather than real issues. So let me cut to the chase and focus on a few key questions which voters and journalists should be asking of the three main party leaders:

To Boris Johnson: “You know perfectly well that there is no chance of having a trade agreement agreed and ratified by the end of next year. So which is it: a crash out at the end of next year with the No Deal you’ve sought to avoid, or an extension which you’ve pledged not to ask for?”

To Jo Swinson: “You know perfectly well that you are not going to be PM. If the Conservatives get a majority, we will have left the EU at the end of January; would you then help Boris implement a trade agreement against the inevitable opposition of the ERG? Or, if the Conservatives don’t get a majority, which of Corbyn and Johnson would you help into No 10, and on what terms?”

To Jeremy Corbyn, or if you want a more coherent answer, to John McDonnell: “You know perfectly well that all the spending commitments you’ve made aren’t a programme for government, they are an unfiltered and unsorted wish-list of eye-wateringly expensive suggestions. Which are your priorities, and which are just fantasies?”

Don’t expect answers, but if you are in London, do go to the Hogarth exhibition. It is on until the 5th January. Top tip: take a magnifying glass.

Richard Nabavi


Focus on Wokingham where two ex-CON MPs are slugging it out against each other

Friday, November 15th, 2019

The longstanding Brexiteer versus the defector to the LDs

The Berkshire constituency of Wokingham is one of the most intriguing battle grounds at the General Election for it is where the veteran Brexiteer, John Redwood, is seeking to defend his seat against the remain backing former CON MP from the neighbouring constituency, Philip Lee. Redwood has been MP there since 1987.

It will be recalled that when Parliament resumed in September it was while Johnson was speaking that Phillip Lee crossed the floor of the House of Commons from the Tory benches to sit next to Jo Swinson. His defection left the Tories with no working majority in the House of Commons

Lee and Redwood, of course, have totally different views of the EU with the former being closer to voters in Wokingham than the latter. At the referendum Wokingham went 57% remain.

This is a seat which is part of the Unite to Remain alliance and there is no Green standing. The key importance of this is that it is a signal to LD activists outside the area that it is a key battle ground and where they should help.

There was a small sample Survation poll which had Redwood 4% ahead.

In Euro2019 the LDs came top in Wokingham with 33.45% with the Greens getting 11.3%. The Tories were estimated to have got 13.4% with BP at 29.4%. LAB was at 4.9%

The question here is whether Redwood has built up support over the past third of a century there to get re-elected. Everything depends on the importance of Brexit to those who voted for Redwood at GE2017.

Ladbrokes currently make the Tories 1/4 favourites with the LDs at 11/4 which I regard as value. I’d assess this as closer to 50/50.

Mike Smithson


The voting polling’s bad for LAB but Corbyn’s ratings are even worse

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Above is the Wikipedia list of all the published polls since the general election campaign began. The overall picture is of not that much variation with the Tories in a range of 37-42%,  LAB 27-31% and the LDs 15-17%.

The one party where there’s a lot of variance is Brexit which has a polling range of 4-10%. That’s largely explained by YouGov’s methodology change that factors in the fact that Farage’s party will be only be contesting non-CON seats.

Generally I’m not a great fan of voting intention polling as a means of getting a feel for how things are going – leader ratings have historically been a better guide.

What’s  pleasing about the current election is that we are getting a wider range of regular leader ratings than we’ve seen before.

The weekly Deltapoll have joined Ipsos-MORI and Opinium in always including a ratings element. Ipsos MORI has also added a favourability question.

Swinson has the the largest number, 33%, saying don’t know and that should get smaller during the campaign. Johnson tops on favourability while Corbyn has the most saying they have an unfavourable view. This is in line with other pollsters and other question formats.

Mike Smithson


Just six months ago Betfair punters were making LAB the favourite to win most seats

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

How things can change rapidly in politics

The above chart shows how views of the general election “seat winner” market have changed so much in the past six months. On May 12th Corbyn’s party was rated as a 48.1% chance ahead of what was then TMay’s Tories.

This reflected the polling. The Tories failed to record a single polling lead between April 5th and May 30th.

That was all a time when the party was totally divided by Brexit and the repeated failed attempts to get the withdrawal agreement passed by the Commons. It was in that context that TMay quit as leader thus opening the way for Johnson.

Her real problem is that the repeated failed commons votes highlighted the huge divisions within her party and generally voters don’t warm to parties that are split.

That Johnson’s party should now. if punters have got this right, be a 94% chance of coming out as seat winner with a 62% chance of a majority is, in many ways, a testament to his ruthless approach and the continued divisions with the official opposition.

If this turns out to be right then LAB would be heading for a fourth successive general election defeat.  The last time LAB suffered a fourth consecutive defeat paved the way for Tony Blair.  Somehow I don’t see a figure like that emerging after December 12th.

Mike Smithson


Prof John Curtice does not make a prediction – Summing up where we are

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Punters give Johnson a 62% chance of a majority


It’s Johnson’s bad luck that the floods have happened in Yorkshire home of many of his GE2019 target seats

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

So another day goes by and still the misery continues for many families in South Yorkshire who have suffered because of the flooding. These are situations which are very tricky for a PM because just about nothing he can do or say is going to resonate well.

This has also played havoc with the carefully worked out programme for the campaign itself. I don’t know what was on the Cummings PR grid for this week because it has been totally sidelined.

Given we are just a fortnight or so from the postal ballot packs going out and four weeks away from the big day the question is whether the Tories will be hit at the ballot box by the flooding.

No doubt there will be a detailed analysis on this from Prof John Curtice in his planned definitie book on GE2017.

Will this impact be confined to Yorkshire or will the TV pictures have been seen nationally on social media and have a wider effect?

A problem he has is that he is barely better than TMsy when confronted with “ordinary people”. He’s awkward, lacks empathy and doesn’t respond well to being attacked.

What is ironic, of course, is that seats like those in the Doncaster area were among the prime targets identified to Tory planners as possible gains from Labour.

Mike Smithson


Tories trading today at record highs on the Commons Seats spreadbetting markets

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

With nominations for GE2019 closing at 4pm tomorrow we are just four weeks away from polling day. Postal voting is likely to start perhaps a week and a half later depending on the local authority.

The Tory polling position is nothing like as dominant as it was at this stage in 2017. Indeed four weeks ahead of that election ICM had CON 49%, LAB 27%, Farage’s party 6%, LD 9. TMay’s team was totally dominating the narrative and LAB looked doomed.

Then, of course, came the Tory manifesto with its dementia tax plan and the whole mood of the election totally changed. But just because the narrative changed last time round does not mean it will be the same.

My view is that the final week is going to be crucial because the country could be then so much closer to Brexit actually happening. A majority for Johnson would ensure that the referendum would be honoured while if he fell short then Brexit would be in doubt. If LAB is still some way behind in the polling then the possibility of Corbyn being PM would be far less.

This is likely to matter most in those seats where Remain came out top. Will Tory-voting remain backers stick with their party? The question then is whether possible CON losses in Remainia will be more than offset by gains from LAB.

Mike Smithson


Farage looks set to lose his BBC Election Question Time slot following BP’s candidate withdrawal move

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

It is being reported in the Times and other papers that Farage could lose some of his key TV debate slots following his move to pull BP candidates in Tory seats.

Although Farage is not standing in the election and is not an MP he was allocated the same number of TV debate slots as Jo Swinson including the Question Time special when it was planned that he, Swinson, Corbyn and Johnson would be the line-up.

Farage had “earned” his slots as a result of his party’s performance in the Euro elections in May but that looks as though it is being reviewed because there will now only be BP candidates in non-CON held seats. Clearly moving from a leader who could theoretically win the election and become PM to one where that is no longer possible changes his status.

It could also impact on the number of party election broadcasts that BP is allocated.

One of the reasons why the main head to head events on both ITV and the BBC are restricted to just Corbyn and Johnson is that including Swinson would have made it harder not to have Farage as well. This is now being tested in the courts by the LDs

Meanwhile YouGov has changed its methodology so that the only option put to poll respondents will be those parties that are standing in their seats. This gives a boost to the Tories in the pollster’s latest survey for the Times.

Mike Smithson