Archive for the ' General Election' Category

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As ICM reports another gigantic CON lead Number 10 moves to squash the “snap election” speculation

Monday, March 20th, 2017

ICM/Guardian poll
CON 45% (+1)
LAB 26% (-2)
UKIP 10% (-1)
LD 9% (+1)
GRN: 4% (-1)

This morning there have been two significant announcements from number 10. Firstly article 50 will be invoked next week on March 29th. Secondly it is being made very clear that there will be no general election. This is how the Guardian is reporting the latter:

“…In the past Theresa May has said repeatedly that she has not plans to call an early general election, but this morning her spokesman was firmer, saying: “There is not going to be one [an early general election]. He also appeared to rule out any election before 2020, the date when the next one is due under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, saying that any election outside the FTPA timetable would be early…

Before the announcement Ladbrokes were offering just 5/1 on a general election taking place on May 4th – day of the local and mayoral elections.

No doubt the prime minister’s team have looked fully into the legal aspect of the fixed term Parliament Act that was part of the Coalition agreement in 2010 to see if there is a way round. But quite simply the prime minister’s power to select election dates has now been taken away although there is a process within the act for creating an early election. The ability of earlier PMs to go to the country when it most suited them is no longer there.

The way that some people have been talking and reporting this suggests that they haven’t quite caught up with the change in the law that took place as part of the Coalition agreement with the Lib Dems seven years ago

The article 50 timing announcement is not really a surprise. This was always going to be the case once the legislation went through Parliament unamended as happened last week.

The ICM poll is simply totally awful for Mr Corbyn’s Labour but no doubt the old stubborn bed blocker, without the self-awareness to realise HE is a large part of the problem, will just stick it out.

We await the May elections to see if the polling is reflected in a substantial number of Labour losses. That might just trigger pressure on the leadership but the way the party is structured these days Mr Corbyn seems secure.

Mike Smithson




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ComRes becomes the 3rd pollster in a week to have UKIP fourth

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

ComRes for Indy and S Mirror
CON 42
LAB 25
LD 12
UKIP 10

Over the past week YouGov, Ipsos-MORI and now ComRes have found UKIP in fourth place. Partly this is down to the LDs advancing and partly to UKIP’s shares slipping.

LAB, meanwhile is now a colossal 17% behind in very serious trouble indeed. Things don’t look good for Corbyn’s team in the May round of local and Mayoral elections.

Since Corbyn was re-elected as leader last September the party’s plight has got worse and worse and they are now shedding support to the LDs. Mr Corbyn, however, looks unassailable because of the party’s rules.

Amongst other questions ComRes found its sample split over the Brexit process, with roughly equal proportions agreeing that Parliament should be able to veto the Government’s proposed Brexit vote as disagreeing (38% v 42%)

The poll found people more likely to agree than disagree that they do not expect Britain to complete leaving the EU within the current planned two year period (47% v 32%), although there is no clear majority.

The Government’s U-turn on an increase in National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed chimes with voters – more than half (54%) oppose the measure.

A worrying feature for the blue team is that a greater proportion of the sample agreed that Theresa May’s Government does not have the best interests at heart of ‘people like me’ (44% compared to 33%). This suggests that LAB under a decent leader would have something to build on.

Similarly, the public are more likely to disagree than agree that the Budget overall was fair (40% v 34%).

Mike Smithson




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Next Prime Minister: Gus O’Donnell at 250/1?

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Time to think about some contingency planning

The last few years have seen a profusion of long-odds political bets come in. When they have, it’s been because the bookies, the punters or both have misread the electorate, the candidate(s) or the process. I think there’s another outside opportunity now.

This week’s Budget cannot in any sense be regarded as priming the Conservatives for a snap election. Presumably, Philip Hammond didn’t anticipate quite the reaction to his NIC proposals that did come but he must have known that there wouldn’t be street parties. Anyone who didn’t believe Theresa May’s denial before the Budget that she’d be seeking an election in May has more reason to do so now.

That announcement, however, was couched in careful terms: the Number 10 source said than an early election was “not something she plans to do or wishes to do”. Maybe not, but it might be something she feels forced to do if the Brexit Bill cannot be passed as she’d like it.

It has to be said that that scenario also looks less likely, with the Lords expected to back down if the Bill is returned to them shorn of their lordships’ amendments. For the time being though, let’s run with the event that there’s deadlock.

Current thinking about an early election is still rooted in the pre-FTPA days, when a prime minister could call on the Queen and expect a dissolution at will. William Hague’s call this week for an early election was out of that book. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that, and it’s in that process that the betting opportunities lie.

If the PM is forced into a position where she felt obliged to go to the country, her first course would be a Dissolution Motion in the Commons. It’s far from inconceivable that such a motion would pass. Corbyn has been vocally bullish about Labour’s chances in an election and enough Labour MPs might go with a whip to support the motion on the basis that it would be the best bet of both removing Corbyn, limiting the damage he could do and stalling the boundary review. On the other hand, politicians are frequently adept at finding principles that provide cover for tactically beneficial actions, and voting it down at least gives the chance for something to turn up.

In which case, we’d be looking at the messy option of a Vote of No Confidence. Some have argued that this isn’t really an option because it’d make the government look ridiculous if its backbenchers No Confidenced it. I don’t agree. With proper preparation, laying out what would happen if the Commons didn’t back the Dissolution vote, the public would be less likely to regard it as absurd.

The problem is less the PR than keeping control of the process. Put simply, no-one knows what would happen next if the Tories No Confidenced their own PM. That alone would be constitutionally new territory, even before the dynamics of the FTPA come into play.

Previously, if a government was No Confidenced, then the PM would have the choice of staying in office and calling an election (as in 1979) or resigning the government. If he or she resigned the government then the opinion of constitutional experts such as Vernon Bogdanor is that the Queen should call first on the Leader of the Opposition. (In fact, it’s not so clear cut: had Blair been defeated on the Iraq vote – not technically a Confidence vote but as near as makes no difference – and resigned, she would surely have called on Brown, after taking consultation from leading ministers; IDS would have been an onlooker along with everyone else).

But things have changed: the rules, and crucially, the time-periods, are more prescriptive. It’s quite possible that if a majority government – any majority government in theory but let’s stick with the current one for simplicity – No Confidenced itself, the Queen would still go through the motions of inviting senior politicians to form their own government. Obviously, neither May nor any other Conservative would accept, as that would prevent their objective of forcing an election. Corbyn might accept but if he did, his government would fail to receive the Commons’ confidence. On the other hand, he might refuse a commission or it might never be offered, given Labour’s support in the Commons.

Then what? It’s possible that we might simply have a game of pass-the-parcel, where whoever had been most recently asked to the Palace when the two weeks runs out gets to keep the position for the duration of the election campaign but there’s little doubt that commentators and many members of the public would see that as the Palace exhibiting bias. That’s also the reason why once she’d lost office, May could not realistically be recalled until after the election. But if May wouldn’t form a government and Corbyn couldn’t, who could?

This is where we need to think outside the box, because ‘the box’ is our preconceptions governed by precedent, and the FTPA renders a lot of the precedent null by creating the new situation. As Sherlock Holmes didn’t quite say: once you eliminate the impossible, then whatever remains needs to be taken seriously. And if it is impossible to appoint a politician until after the imminent election, and it is necessary that someone do the job, then it follows that a non-party individual must take it on, on a caretaker role.

There would, in fact, be some precedent for that kind of outcome: the Duke of Wellington ran the government for a month in 1834 while Peel returned from Italy, after the previous Whig ministry was turned out – though Wellington was very much of Peel’s party. Better examples might be found abroad. In Greece, when no government could be formed after the May 2012 election, a government of Independents was appointed, many of whom were not even parliamentarians. In Italy, Mario Monti headed a technocratic government appointed with the consent of the politicians to deal with the crisis of the day there.

Who might be asked to take on such a demanding role? Ideally, it would have to be someone with government experience, experience of the legislature, someone who is respected on all sides as both capable and impartial, is without excessive links to any one business or other lobby group, who could be trusted to represent the country in the interim and who could – if necessary – take the big decisions that cross a PM’s desk but who would also have the discretion not to take decisions best left to the incoming administration.

Others can make their own nominations but to me, the figure that best fills those requirements is the former Cabinet Secretary Lord (Gus) O’Donnell. To that end, I’ve had a modest bet on him at 250/1 with Ladbrokes.

One advantage of the bet is that if – as is likely – the Brexit Bill doesn’t result in a snap election, the scenario still holds good for any other crisis of the first order that might necessitate an early dissolution. With the rest of the Brexit process and the potential for a second Scottish independence vote, to name but two of the more obvious candidates, the next few years won’t be short of other opportunities.

None of which is to say it’s likely; it’s not. But it is a good deal more likely than the once-in-1000-year event that the odds imply.

David Herdson





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Theresa May should not be allowed to create any new peers until GE2015 expenses fraud allegations have been resolved

Friday, March 10th, 2017

There’s lots of talk that Theresa May is planning to create a big batch of new CON peers to deal with the problems her government is having with the upper house.

But let us not forget that the formal investigations by the police and the Electoral Commission are still going into the election expenses in key marginals and we do not know whether the narrow Tory majority on a national vote share of 36.9% in May 2015 was secured legitimately within expenses limits.

Judging by the pace of recent reports it looks as though things are coming to a head and in the circumstances it would be wrong for Mrs. May to be allowed to create a significant number of new peers.

The allegations started with a series of Channel 4 reports by Michael Crick nearly a year ago. His latest report which was screened last night is linked to above.

I’d suggest that it is constitutionally not right to create a significant number of new Tory peers until we know what is happening. After all such a move would alter the balance in the upper house in favour of the Tories and question marks still hang over the party’s 2015 campaign.

Mike Smithson




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LAB moves to 19% deficit with YouGov, drops vote share in all latest by-elections & loses seat to CON

Friday, March 10th, 2017

The Corbyn leadership disaster continues

The first full post budget voting intention poll is out and YouGov in the Times finds the Tories extending the lead to 19% – the biggest gap for eight years.

In the latest round of local elections Labour continues to flounder losing voting shares in all the seats it contested and losing another seat to the Tories.

The combination is appalling and as long as the current leadership remains intact it is hard to see anything other than a big Conservative majority at the next general election.

It just appears that the voters have given up on the red team.

The YouGov polling on the budget itself was good for the Chancellor even though 55% thought that he had broken a general election manifesto pledge by making the changes for self-employed National Insurance contributions.

On the measures themselves all of them got good numbers of support.

Overall, 32% told YouGov that it was fair, with 24% saying it wasn’t.

I plan to do more on the poll when the dataset is published.

Mike Smithson




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Three reasons why I am not betting on an early general election

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The Prime Minister says there won’t be one and I believe her

One thing that we have learnt about Theresa May since she took over Downing Street last July is that she does endeavour to follow the statement she makes. She has said repeatedly that there will be no election and it would appear highly opportunistic for her to go against that. It would also be out of character.

Labour will not vote for one given their double digit polling deficits

The Fixed Term Parliament Act states that the only way an election can be called short of a confidence motion being lost is for the House of Commons to pass a motion by a two-thirds majority. That means that LAB would have to vote for one and in the current context it is hard to see that happening.

Although Corbyn has said in the past that he would support such a move the polling has moved so much against his party that it really is very hard to see him giving his support to something that would produce a Tory Landslide. The many backbench MPs who could find themselves out of a job would also be very reluctant.

The Tories moving a vote of no confidence in themselves would look absurd

The act does allow a general election to be called if the government loses a vote of no confidence and that has not been overturned within two weeks. The optics the Tories doing this on themselves would be simply appalling and would be very hard to explain. It would all sound so devious as a means of getting round the law and you could see the Andrew Neil’s of this world giving a good grilling to those CON MPs who backed it asking whether they had confidence in the Mrs May’s government or not.

The betting favourite is for an election in 2020 or beyond. I’m sticking with that.

Mike Smithson




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The Times reporting that the Tories are “deeply worried” about possible action over the GE2015 expenses investigation

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Could this be another scalp for Michael Crick?

The Times is reporting that the Tory GE2015 election expenses investigation, first brought to light by Channel 4`s Michael Crick, is getting to a point where charges could be be brought.

“.. Downing Street is “deeply worried” about the outcome of a police investigation into claims of expenses fraud during the 2015 general election.

Senior figures fear that the results of up to half a dozen constituency votes could be declared void — causing hurried by-elections — if prosecutors decide to make an example of the party. Criminal charges against key individuals are also possible.”

The cases are about allegations that the Tories exceeded the maximum expenses limit in a number of key marginals where there are strict rules on how much can be spent on constituency campaigns.

After the election the agents and candidates sign formal statements that there declaration of expenses is an accurate one and if there is any action then these people are thought likely to be the ones singled out.

It will be recalled that the Tories exceeded by some margin the projections of how many seats their national vote share would produce for them.

A police source quoted by the Times said “that files were expected to be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service within weeks”.

One of the seats which has been highlighted is Thanet South where the Tories beat off a challenge by UKIP’s Nigel Farage.

It is really hard to assess where this will lead and whether we could see by-elections in what were key marginals two years ago.

The Tories would feel confident seeing off a LAB challenge in seats where the red team was their main opponent. Nigel Farage and some of the LD seats they took could be a completely different proposition.

Mike Smithson




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Ipsos MORI has LAB, the traditional party of the working classes, 16% behind amongst C2DEs

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

How long can the red team keep Corbyn at the controls?

The latest Ipsos MORI poll is out and has more polling numbers to fuel the Corbyn must go narrative.

Perhaps the most striking figures are in the socio economic split featured above with Corbyn’s party trailing by 16% amongst the C2DEs – the working classes. Essentially under the current leadership LAB has lost its core vote.

Other data in the poll is hardly encouraging. These are the leader satisfaction ratings amongst declared LAB voters.

A lot is is hanging on the two by-elections a week today. If LAB loses one of them then Corbyn will be in even more trouble.

Mike Smithson