Archive for the ' General Election' Category


LAB takes clear leads in the GB polls but Scotland remains a problem

Monday, July 16th, 2018


Just 8 years ago it won 41 Scottish seats – latest polls have that down to 1

The two GB polls over the weekend from Deltapoll and Opinium were both very good for LAB showing clear leads which weren’t down to its share increasing but the biggest shares for UKIP since GE2017.

Certainly based on these figures if there was an early general election then Corbyn’s party would be in a strong position to become top party although an overall majority might be more of a struggle.

An issue, which I’ve raised before is that Scotland remains a massive problem for the party. We don’t see many Scotland only polls but the Survation one that came out at the end of last week was very much in line other surveys – the SNP progressing, the Tories in second place with Labour in third.

Even at GE2010 when LAB lost its UK-wide majority 41 of the 59 seats north of the border returned Labour MPs. The Scottish seat projections based on the latest polls have this down to a single MP. What used to be a certain stronghold is in danger of being wiped out.

In a House of Commons of 650 seats Corbyn’s LAB really needs to get closer to the LAB 41 seat GE2010 haul in Scotland. Unless it can do the swing needs to be higher in England and Wales.

Also we are just under four years away from the next general election and it is hard to see TMay, or her successor, using the processes laid down in the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to go early.

I don’t buy the argument that a new CON leader would press the general election button even if the blue team returned to double digit leads.

Mike Smithson


For all the machinations of the past few days the betting is still on this Parliament running its full course

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

It is hard to see the mechanics of an earlier election

Almost inevitably whenever there are big political developments taking place people start to speculate about whether there could be an early general election. It is certainly possible that should Mrs May fail to survive then her successor as Conservative leader might want to cement his or her position with the country by going early.

There is no constitutional reason at all why a new leader would have to call a general election. Mrs May didn’t feel the need to do so when she took over in July 2016 and made clear then that she would continue till the end of the Parliament. It was only after the Easter walking tour in Snowdonia last year that that view changed.

    It is always said, and this was borne out by what happened on June 8th last year, that those that seek to go to the country early risk getting punished by the voters. I’m sure the GE2017 experience has sunk deeply into the Conservative consciousness and that whoever replaces the Prime Minister will be reluctant to make that gamble.

The main reason for Theresa Mays successor to call an election would be to do what she was unable to do last year and secure a majority for the Conservatives. One of the problems with GE2017 is that putting your confidence in the polls is not necessarily a reliable guide to whether you will succeed.

Labour could try to force an early election but it would need to win a majority on a confidence motion against the government and simply the MP numbers are not there. Even if Mr Corbyn could persuade the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and the other small parties to back it he still would not have the votes to exceed the Conservatives plus the DUP.

Corbyn might also find that the likelihood of the SNP and LDs backing such a move has been undermined by Labour’s ambivalence on Brexit.

In spite of all that has happened in the past few days and the potential for even more serious Conservative splits I believe that the next election will be as planned in the summer of 2022.

Mike Smithson


Labour continues to struggle in Scotland where it used to hold 41 of the 59 seats

Friday, June 29th, 2018

But the low-hanging fruit for Corbyn’s party is still there

There is a new Scottish poll out this morning and the picture remains gloomy for LAB. As can be seen Panelbase still has the party in third place behind, of course, the SNP and the Conservatives.

What makes this particularly disappointing for Labour is that for decades Scotland was the bedrock of the party’a support throughout the UK and its dominance underpinned its parliamentary position. So at both 2005 and 2010 Scottish Labour had 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

It was, as we are all aware, the upheaval in politics north of the border in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum that changed everything. Although the SNP lost the referendum it attracted new support in a very major way in the aftermath. In 2015 it took 56 of the 59 Scottish seat.

That slipped back to 35 seats at GE2017 but the Tories were the main beneficiaries.

    But don’t write Scottish LAB off. Many of the SNP seats are held with very slim majorities and could be vulnerable to the red team with quite minor shifts.

In fact the SNP last time did not get above a 47% vote share in any of its 35 Scottish seats.

One of the reasons why I focus on Scottish polls is that there’s the potential for a lot of seat changes following the trend of the past two general elections. It has become the part of the UK with the most political turbulence.

All this this matters to LAB particularly because it needs to be making inroads in its former Scottish strongholds if it is to have any hope of getting close or exceeding the overall Conservative MP total at the next election.

Mike Smithson


Britain’s brittle stalemate

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Lewisham East reveals the essential weakness of all three national parties

Interpreting by-election results is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some, it’s true, are unambiguous in their outcome for one party or another. Lewisham East is not one such.

Labour can happily chalk up that they got the job done without fuss. They won the seat and no clear challenger arose. However, it was nothing like a ringing endorsement. The turnout was dire (only the 16th occasion since WW2 that the turnout in a by-election was less than half the previous general election, as Matt Singh notes in his excellent summary of the by-election). That alone is good evidence that there was no great enthusiasm for any of the competing parties (nor of any great desire to punish any of them either). With Labour’s vote share slumping by more than 15%, this was no great result to write home about. Much has been written about the gains by the Lib Dems but it should also be noted that the Greens and WEP took about 6% between them. Corbyn’s Labour should not be shipping votes to those sort of parties.

Not that the Tories can celebrate. There was the potential to do reasonably well in Lewisham, where the Party’s vote has been solid over the years. A low turnout combined with a 35% Leave share to go at while Labour and the Lib Dems fought on strongly Remain platforms should have formed the basis for holding more share than they did and for making a better fist of fighting for second place. As it happened, Labour’s troubles meant that there was a nominal Lab-to-Con swing of more than 4% but that’s small comfort (that said, Rod Crosby, once of this parish, would have said that fact pointed to a Con majority next election; I remain of the view that such methodology is overly deterministic). The best that can be said of the Tory performance is that there was no embarrassment, which is a low bar.

And the Lib Dems? Surely they had an outstanding result? Well, it depends on how you look at it. On the one hand, yes, they gained a swing of nearly 20% – the largest for 35 years against a Labour defence while Labour was in opposition – and they quintupled their vote share. However, on the other, these achievements were a consequence of not quite reversing the disasters of 2015 and 2017. Despite throwing the kitchen sink at the campaign, the Lib Dem vote share failed to match their general election share in the seat in 2010. A resurgence, yes, but expensively bought and not one that holds many lessons for broader elections.

The simple truth is that all the parties have serious weaknesses; something which shows up equally well in the opinion polls. There’s surely little doubt that were Labour led by a Blair, not only would the Conservatives not be polling in the forties but they wouldn’t even be in the thirties. Likewise, against a government easily comparable to John Major’s beleaguered administration, Labour doesn’t even have a lead and the Lib Dems are in single figures.

Digging below the voting intention questions gives even better evidence for the general lack of enthusiasm in the options on offer. In the most recent YouGov poll (11-12 June; Con lead +3), some 66% responded that they thought the government’s Brexit negotiations were going badly, including 40% of Tory voters; the net score of -45 for the well/badly balance was the worst yet recorded. Despite that, the Conservatives still had a lead of 10% over Labour as to which party would handle Brexit best.

On the face of it, the impression is of two immutable blocks of voters stuck in mutual hostility: the voting intention figures have barely shifted since the 2017 general election (there was a small swing to Labour immediately after it, which gave Labour a small lead, but that has now dissipated). However, to the extent that that’s true, it’s surely only so because of the number who are locked in because of fear of the other. Were that fear to lessen, not only would some be attracted directly but others, who felt the need to back the Tories out of fear of Corbyn, or Labour out of fear of the Tories and Brexit – for example – could explore other parties or abstaining. The stalemate is hard but brittle.

David Herdson



General Election 2017 : One year on

Friday, June 8th, 2018

At 10.00pm this evening, a year ago, the Prime Minister’s gamble backfired. Whether this was due to the polls being misleading from the start (indicating a Con lead of 25% at the start of the campaign), the so called “youthquake” (identified by the Britsh Election Study) or reasons best summed up by Brenda from Bristol of “Oh, no, not another one!” we simply cannot tell, but we do know this. The Conservative overall majority was lost and if it had not been for saving grace of twelve Conservatives gains in Scotland (all from the SNP), the Prime Minister would not have been able to govern with the DUP and the whole history of the UK from that moment could have changed.

But what has happened in that year since? Well, completely unnoticed by everyone (save us who have a vested interest) 397,562 real votes have been placed into no fewer than several hundred real ballot boxes across the United Kingdom electing no less than 255 real councillors, and in those 255 by-elections the people of the United Kingdom have told us this: “Thank you, UKIP, and good night”

Yes, if proof was ever needed that the age of UKIP is over, then here it is. UKIP in the year since the general election, have seen their vote share fall by 10.48% compared to last time.In fact it is even worse than that for them. Last time, in these 255 by-elections, UKIP had a candidate in 88 of them (35%), now they only had a candidate in 69 of them (27%).

It is now that I am expecting those surviving UKIP supporters to declare “Now come on, all parties have problems fielding candidates in the year after a general!” to which I would reply “Then please explain why there are 90 more Conservatives, 89 more Labour, 110 more Liberal Democrats, 50 more Greens, 21 more Independents and even 9 more Local Independents standing than last time” and add that compared to last time UKIP are the only major party who are fielding fewer candidates than last time.

And what of the main parties? Well, it’s clear that the Labour and the Liberal Democrats are picking up the UKIP spoils, to which of course Labour supporters in Mansfield will be screaming “But we lost Mansfield to the Conservatives!” and Conservative supporters will be screaming “But we lost Oxford West to the Lib Dems!” so let’s look at those changes through the prism of the referendum.

In those councils that voted REMAIN Con +2%, Lab +5%, Lib Dem +6%, UKIP -6%, in those councils that voted LEAVE Con +3%, Lab +6%, Lib Dem +7%, UKIP -11% and yet these changes have a very marked difference in seat changes

Well, there’s your answer. I cannot say what answer it is but that’s the answer the UK is giving a year since that general election.

Harry Hayfield


If we are to have a 2018 general election then the Tories will have a significant financial advantage

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

I’m still of the view that the only way we’ll have a general election this year is if Parliament votes against Mrs May’s Brexit plans and she’s left with no alternative to call a general election, although a bit of free advice, don’t call it the ‘Who Governs Britain’ election.

But if we do have an election it appears the Tories would have a financial advantage but a financial advantage didn’t help the Tories that much in 2017.

UKIP did get some loans but currently they appear to be an ex party that seems to be focussing on defending the founder of the English Defence League a convicted fraudster and admitter of contempt of court.



There’s a Sheffield rally style hubris around Jeremy Corbyn and Labour should be afraid

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

Picture: From Saturday’s Times

Never get high on your own product.

Ever since Labour’s sensational and better than expected general election of last year I’ve felt Corbyn’s been a bit hubristic. First there was him telling Michael Eavis that he would be PM by Christmas 2017 and now there’s JezFest that could cost see Labour with a million pound loss.

Despite the result last June Corbyn finished with fewer votes and seats than the Tories and it should be remembered that many observers said it was the worst Tory campaign in history.

Hubris leads to bad political decisions such as in the targeting of seats, assuming some seats are in the bag when they aren’t and targeting seats that were never in play.

Two examples I can think of is following their surprise victory in the 1999 European elections the Tory party assumed they had 100 gains in the bag for the 2001 general election and that turned out to be a very dangerous assumption.

The other one is Labour in 2015 thinking everyone who voted Labour in 2010 were in the bag, whilst the events in Scotland rendered that extremely flawed, without the eight Tory gains from Labour in England and Wales David Cameron wouldn’t have a won a majority.



On another planet

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Rebel Tory MPs have lost a sense of reality if they think an election will improve their position

Politics is supposed to be the art of the possible. In one sense that’s just a truism: that which happens is, by definition, within the bounds of the possible. However, this week’s shown up again that Bismarck’s aphorism is only true to a degree. There are plenty of politicians who are not interested in the possible but only in their own priorities. And there are others who are sufficiently deluded as to believe that their own priorities are possible, against all available evidence.

Dominic Cummings is not a politician, though he is hugely political. The driving force behind the Leave campaign is not a happy man at how the government is going about delivering it – or, as he sees it, not delivering it. In a blog post earlier this week, he made a lot of criticisms of ministers, Tory Leave MPs, civil servants and others about how they have gone about Brexit. Much of that criticism is fair enough but the mistake he makes is far too frequently to ignore the world outside Whitehall. He is not alone in this error.

The truth is that while Theresa May and her team have struggled both to formulate a policy and to implement it, this is only in part down to establishment resistance, poor advice, poor strategy and the other causes Cummings blames. It’s also down to two much simpler things.

Firstly, the government still wants to have its cake and eat it – or at least, it does officially. In truth, it must know that it cannot leave and retain most of the benefits with little of the cost or responsibilities but that doesn’t square with, on the one hand, the commitment to leave, and on the other, the desire not to significantly impede trade and other links.

And secondly, numbers. Corbyn might be offering the Tories a few free passes on Brexit that his MPs would rather he didn’t but even he has his limits. May is clearly being pulled in all directions in part because she hasn’t got a firm grip herself but mainly because she’s constantly having to assuage her own factions in order to ensure she retains a majority.

Which is presumably why the notion of another early election has again reared its head this week, with claims that Tory MPs are preparing for a snap poll this autumn. It may be that this talk is simply a ruse to enable MPs to be reselected for their constituencies as early as possible (if so, this will of itself work against the Boundary Review being approved – MPs with an assured seat will be less likely to destroy it than those who only assume that they’ll be readopted). However, it may be that the talk is in earnest.

The suggestion from the anonymous MP in the Metro was that an election would somehow clear the air. This is the point at which the art of the possible has become the art of delusion.

    Any strongly Leave Tory MP who thinks that their cause would be aided by an early election is on another planet.

In fact, it’s not clear whether the MP even understands the process. He (let’s assume it’s a man) says that a Vote of No Confidence in the PM would probably lead to a general election. That might be true but it’s convoluted. For a start, a VoNC in the PM within parliament wouldn’t carry any constitutional weight; it’s only such a vote in the government that’d matter. Perhaps he’s lazily using one as shorthand for the other. If so, the government would only lose if the DUP withdraw support or if at least five Tories vote against their own party – something which would immediately result in their expulsion, assuming that the government wanted to win.

In this scenario, the Conservatives would be in obvious chaos, without a meaningful Brexit policy (and unable to implement one if it did exist), losing the support of its own MPs or its ally, and suffering serial defeats in the Commons. How could it credibly run an election campaign? What would it be campaigning for? How could it say what it would do? In such a state of paralysis, it would be a sitting duck for Corbyn’s energetic campaign assertions.

On the other hand, if he meant that the Tory MPs would No Confidence the PM, then he’s talking about a party leadership election. While that could in theory be carried out quickly – as those that resulted in the election of Howard and May were – that would almost certainly not be the case if the Tories were deeply divided. We’d be looking at maybe six weeks of a Tory leadership campaign, followed by another five or six weeks of a general election, if the new PM felt, as the MP presumably he would, that a national mandate was necessary.

While under this scenario, the Tories wouldn’t necessarily be heading for the certain defeat that they would if they lost control of the Commons, it’d still take around three months out of what is already a tight negotiating timetable, meaning that the only options then would be to take the deal on offer from the EU (in which case, why bother with the elections), to reject the deal (which would be an exceptionally high-risk and potentially high-cost option), or to request an extension. These options would also be the only ones open to a Labour government, should one form in the late autumn.

So we return to what’s possible. An election this year would very likely lead to a Labour government and/or a Soft Brexit on the EU’s terms – and just perhaps, no real Brexit at all. You’d expect Tory MPs to do everything possible to avoid that outcome. Given that together with the DUP they have a majority, that shouldn’t be too difficult. What isn’t possible is to change things the other way: there simply neither the time nor the opportunity to shift the parliamentary maths towards Leave. Nor is there time to do as Cummings suggests, and ‘rewire’ the mechanics of power in Whitehall, even before considering whether such a revolution would be a wise idea in the middle of the most complex negotiation in generations.

All in all, I think that the 7/1 offered against an election this year (Betfred) is short by at least a factor of three. There is neither the need nor the desire for yet another national poll and it’d be an act of both desperation and foolishness were Tory MPs to trigger one – and while some might be desperate, they’re not foolish.

David Herdson