Archive for the ' General Election' Category


The first months of a Corbyn government

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

It’s objectively clear that there is a genuine possibility of a Corbyn government within months, possibly even weeks. That might be after an election, or it might be simply that the Conservatives lose the will to govern: there is a limit to how long governments can function with every vote at risk of failure, and yielding to a minority Labour government which is also subject to hostile majorities at every turn may seem a lesser evil.

But there’s been very little discussion of how it would pan out. The 30-35% of the population who really like him and/or are simply Labour expect it’ll be wonderful, interestingly without many specifics. The similar number who intensely dislike him or Labour think it’ll be Venezuelan chaos. The reality is as usual likely to be somewhere in between.

The obvious question is Brexit. Depending on the circumstances in which Labour took over, there might be some tweaking of the Withdrawal Agreement – notably getting rid of the red-line objection to permanent customs union and quite possibly signing up to something close to free trade.

And even if the WA has passed, there are years of negotiation to come on the political agreement. I’d expect the end result to be something that feels like membership while being formally outside. A big difference is that Labour will want the issue settled, whereas the Conservatives seem willing to discuss it indefinitely.

Like most new administrations, Corbyn could expect a honeymoon period, reinforced by the hysteria of some of the accusations. Merely by being polite to the Queen, refraining from doubling taxes and not declaring war on Israel, he can clear the “not as bad as they said” bar fairly easily.

Moreover, Labour has had its internecine warfare phase that the Tories are having now, and nobody enjoyed it. Few MPs, however privately sceptical, will want to be the first to move to overthrow the new government. Ostensibly, there will be a period of relatively stable government, and nearly everyone will find that a blessed relief.

Problems will arise with the first Budget, which on any reasonable reading will need to have Lib Dem and SNP consent, not to mention quietly dissident Labour MPs. Looking ahead to that is making McDonnell, who is the key policy strategist, so markedly pragmatic. He will benefit from the fact that expectations are both fairly low and quite inchoate.

Nobody has wet dreams about immediate water nationalisation, nor is any other single difficult policy a must-have-now priority with most Labour voters. Higher taxes for the very rich, easing of austerity at the bottom and the shareholding scheme (which has significant benefits for public finances) will be enough the first time round. Add the first steps to state ownership of water and some pointed distancing from the excesses of Mr Trump, and most supporters will feel it’s a good start.

What then? Another election, I’m afraid. I can’t see a loose coalition carrying on indefinitely, and going for a majority in the honeymoon period, while the Tories are still trying to decide what they’re for, makes sense. If Labour gets it, though, the time for excuses will be over, and supporter expectations of nirvana will start to collide with reality.

I don’t expect it to be easy, but nor is it likely to be chaotic. A seriously left-wing government which is also cautious is unusual, and it’s hard to predict how much rope supporters will give it. But the number of people of any persuasion who expect the current Government to survive indefinitely is small.

So we’re probably going to find out.

Nick Palmer

Nick Palmer was Labour MP for Broxtowe, 1997-2010.


Defying the odds Theresa ploughs on

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

The three weeks that could make or break the PM

It has been observed many times before that the the prime minister, Mrs May, is a remarkably resilient person able to go forward when all seems doomed. Who would have thought in the aftermath of the 2017 General Election debacle that eighteen months on she would still be in Number 10 and be on the brink of securing agreement on the deal that takes Britain out of the EU?

Let us not forget that one of the prime authors of the CON GE2017 mess was the then Brexit Secretary David Davis. He was the one who was strongly arguing the case for calling an early election and yet in reputational terms he apparently got off scot-free.

Mrs May has seen that there are two objectives. Firstly to honour the result of the 2016 referendum and secondly to do so causing as little damage to the economy as possible.

Her challenge is that some on her own side are so extreme in their view of the EU that just about nothing is ever going to satisfy them in the terms of extraction from the European Union. They are probably less powerful than many parts of the media are ready to acknowledge. Remember it was only two and a bit weeks ago that Moggsy launched what appeared to be a coup to oust the PM and found he didn’t have the numbers. He’s been a diminished figure since.

For individual MPs a lot depends very on what their constituents are telling them and there are quite a lot of indications that the general public really wants to get this over with and won’t be too unhappy if the deal goes through.

Her biggest ace is the prospect of no deal and all the associated difficulties for a whole range of industries and millions of people. The realisation that that this should not be allowed to happen is a very powerful argument.

  • The Theresa May portrait above is by my daughter-in-law, Lucille Smithson, a figurative realist British painter based in Los Angeles.
  • .

    Mike Smithson


    Once again the money’s going on TMay not making it to the end of the year

    Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

    Now a 28% chance on Betfair

    The incredible uncertainty about politics at the moment continues and now there is more speculation that Theresa May might be out this year.

    She could decide to go of her own accord or end up getting voted down by MPs. That of course means 48 letters on real paper to Graham Brady demanding a confidence vote. There’ve been developments on that during the morning.

    If the 48 total is reached then the next stage would be a ballot of the entire parliamentary party and theoretically 158 would need to vote for get to go for it to happen.

    What might impact on CON MPs in a confidence vote is the possibility that they could be opening the door to Johnson becoming PM. That might be a big disincentive to voting for her exit. He’s far from popular in the parliamentary party.

    Mike Smithson

    Yay! Vanilla is working again.


    After a difficult week since the “deal” was published some welcome polling for TMay from YouGov

    Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

    This is as negative for the ERG gang as it is positive for the PM

    On the front page of the Times  this morning there is a report on part of its latest YouGov poll relating to its TMay trackers asking whether and when she should go. Last week’s poll came just as the Brexit deal was being published and had the most negative numbers yet for the PM. In just a week as the chart above shows there’s been a major turnaround.

    What’s particularly pleasing for Downing Street is that the party splits have supporters of all parties being more positive about the PM this week compared with last week with CON voters showing the biggest change. The latter wanting her to stay figures moved from 46% to 62% in this latest survey. LD voters moved from 40% to 56%.

    These changes are well outside the margin of error and suggest that there has been a change in the way voters are viewing Mrs. May.

    A week ago 43%  who voted Conservative in the 2017 general election said that they wanted her to stand down. Now that’s 27%.

    There were reports over the weekend that many Tory MPs were finding more positive support for Mrs May in their constituencies than might have been apparent from the media coverage.

    I wonder whether the reluctance of the PM’s staunchest critics in the parliamentary party to send confidence vote letters to Graham Brady has been because they detected a change in the public mood.


    Mike  Smithson


    How the “deal” has impacted on the main UK political betting markets

    Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

    The biggest gamble’s been on TMay surviving the year

    The money’s piled on an election next year


    Raab soared in the TMay successor betting

    All charts based on Betfair exchange prices by

    Mike Smithson


    2019 becomes favourite for year of next general election as punters ponder the EU deal

    Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

    After all the waiting this is a massive day for Theresa May and for the country’s relationship with Europe.

    What I find amazing is the number of MPs and other commentators, declaring that this is a bad deal and they haven’t even seen the document yet. Sobeit.

    At the end of the day the big question will be how many MPs will be ready to put their heads above the parapet and vote for no deal with all that that might mean. This is TMay’s big gamble making the uncertainty of leaving without a deal the reason to vote eventually for what is agreed.

    The big choice for remainers is rejecting the deal and hoping that this might lead to a third referendum or accepting BINO.

    The money’s going on a general election next year and on Betfair gamblers make it an 18% chance that TMay will be out this year.

    Have a good day.

    Mike Smithson


    Apart from the Chequers wobble Leave voters broadly staying with the Tories and Mrs May

    Thursday, November 1st, 2018

    YouGov’s “Best PM” ratings stable amongst Leave voters

    But Corbyn struggling amongst GE2017 LAB voters

    As we approach what could be a very critical time in British politics with a possible Brexit deal only weeks away James Bowley has shared with me the above charts based on looking at the detailed data of all the published YouGov voting intention polls since the last general election.

    The good news for the Tories and Mrs May is that after recovering from the Chequers wobble things seem to be fairly static amongst CON GE2017 voters both in the voting intention polling and YouGov’s who would make the best prime minister question.

      This suggests that she is more solidly based in the polls than the more hostile hard Brexiters in her party might like to think. The numbers indicate, that there’s a fairly large, if quiet, segment of CON voters who will swallow a Chequersish deal, without it leading to a mass-collapse in party support.

    For the Labour leader, Mr Corbyn, things are somewhat different with a sharp fall off in support as best prime minister since the last general election from those who voted for his party. That he is barely holding onto a half of them is not a good pointer to the outcome of the next general election.

    Corbynistas might like to take some comfort from the fact that at his worst Ed Miliband dropped to below 50% support as Best Prime Minister from Labour voters during the 2010 to 2015 Parliament. EdM lost GE2015.

    Mike Smithson


    After 30 years the curtains close on regular Guardian/ICM polls

    Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

    The longest lasting poll series in British politics comes to an end.

    This is something of a sad moment in British politics. The longest lasting polling series, ICM for the Guardian, has come to an end after a total of 30 years. Polls have been running from the firm in the paper at least monthly since January 1989 when ICM replaced Marplan as the paper’s voting intention provider.

    The first one, as seen in the chart above, was in January 1989 when Mrs Thatcher was still heading the Conservative Party and showing a 4% lead.

    Andrew Sparrow of the Guardian political team tells me:“We couldn’t justify the cost given that scepticism about the reliability of polling makes them less newsworthy than they used to be in the past.But we haven’t cut our links with ICM and will still be commissioning polling from them on a more ad hoc basis”

    During the three decades of running polls for the paper ICM established a formidable reputation. It was the first to take action after the GE1992 polling disaster when none of the firms got it right. Under its then boss, Nick Sparrow, it pioneered past vote weighting to deal with what was then a systemic bias towards LAB in voting polling caused partly by what was described of the spiral of silence amongst CON voters.

    For a long period Guardian/ICM polls were regarded as the “gold standard” a reputation that did not survive GE2017 when its final had the Tories with a double digit lead.

    A notable correct prediction in more recent times was the ICM/Guardian poll for AV referendum which was correct to 1 within decimal point.

    ICM also did remarkably well with the Brexit referendum with it last polls published online and phone surveys more than a week ahead showing Leave 4-5% ahead.

    The pollster that’s still around  doing voting intention surveys the longest is MORI, now Ipsos-MORI, which began in the run-up to Mrs. Tharcher’s victory at GE1979.

    Mike Smithson