Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Lord Ashcroft poll has Swinson beating Johnson, Corbyn and Farage in Scotland

Monday, August 5th, 2019

While all the focus on today’s Ashcroft Scotland poll has been on growing support for independence the numbers that could have most impact on an early UK general election are in the chart above. How the national party leaders are rated according to the Ashcroft question asking respondents to give a rating from 0 to 100.

One of the remarkable things about the GE2010 outcome was that Gordon Brown’s LAB did substantially better in Scotland than in the rest of GB. The party increased its vote share and picked up 41 of the 59 Scottish seat while getting hit back elsewhere.

This was put down to the fact that Brown is Scottish, sat for a Scottish constituency and that Scottish voters have a tendency to favour their own – a tendency shown this latest poll.

For in choosing Dumbarton E MP, Jo Swinson, the LDs have become the first national UK party since 2010 to be led by someone who is Scottish and this is the first Scotland only poll since the leadership change.

It is not often appreciated that until the post-IndyRef 2015 General Election the LDs were, in terms of Westminster seats, the second biggest party north of the border being particularly strong in the borders and Highland regions. The GE2010 Scottish seat split was LAB 41,LD 11,SNP 6 and CON 1.

So more positive numbers now for their leader might be boost LD hopes of what might happen at an early general election.

As PBers will know I am a Lib Dem member and the reason I voted for Swinson in the leadership election was because I hoped that she could just have an edge with Scottish voters that could have an impact in terms of seats.

Mike Smithson


Is Corbyn at risk from the mother of all political decapitations?

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Could his mighty Islington fortress be built a little bit on sand?

We’ve heard a lot about how Boris Johnson is at risk of losing his Westminster seat come the next election. His 5,034 majority over Labour in Uxbridge & South Ruislip is not at all commanding – Labour need just a 5.4% swing to take the seat – and what with Johnson leading the charge towards a No Deal Brexit, with the economic and other disruption that would cause, on top of local issues like Heathrow, the prospect isn’t one to be ignored lightly.

Some commentators have made similar observations about Jo Swinson, who holds a very similar majority to Boris in East Dunbartonshire (although over the SNP rather than Labour). They do so with less justification. There’s no particular reason why, having lost a seat they’d previously gained from virtually nowhere, the SNP would surge back to retake it in the face of a Lib Dem national revival. It’s true that that revival is less marked in Scotland than England or Wales but it’s there all-the-same, and inasfar as Brexit’s concerned the Lib Dems have least to fear of the GB-wide parties from the SNP.

However, there’s one other party leader whose name hasn’t been mentioned as being potentially at risk: Jeremy Corbyn.

“Hang on a minute”, you might well say. “Doesn’t Corbyn have a 33,215 majority, with more than a 60% lead over the Tories? How on earth might he possibly lose that?” Yes, indeed he does. And he very probably won’t lose it. But here’s how he might.

Safe seats can be measured in three dimensions, which for convenience we can call depth, length and breadth. ‘Depth’ is the size of the majority. On this score – the most traditional one – Islington North is one of the safest in the country.

But a more generic description of a safe seat might be ‘one which continually returns candidates from the same party, without significant challenge’. In other words, it’s not just the current majority but the ability to repeat it time after time that matters – i.e. length. On that level, the seat isn’t quite as safe as current numbers would have it. Corbyn’s majority in 2010 was around 12,400 and the election before it was just 6,716 – both times over the Lib Dems. While no-one other than Labour has won it since 1935, the votes haven’t always been weighed in, even relatively recently.

The other dimension is breadth: does the electorate return candidates from the same party across all forms of election? It was this point that should have flagged up before 2015 how vulnerable so many Scottish Labour seats were. Yes, they had big majorities from the 2010 Westminster election, repeating a pattern going back decades, but in council, Holyrood and European elections, their party’s hegemony had already been broken.

And on this point too, Islington North isn’t quite what it first appears. At the Council level, Labour is utterly dominant, holding 47 of the 48 seats (the other being a Green) but like the Westminster elections, this is a recent phenomenon: Labour didn’t control the council between 1998-2010, while for seven of those years, the Lib Dems did. This is not dyed-in-the-wool cultural ‘my-father-and-his-father’-style Labour country. That point was re-emphasised in the recent Euro-elections. Not only did the Lib Dems win across London as a whole then, they also finished first in Islington borough; Labour secured only 28.5% (and the Greens, 19.6%). We should note that Islington covers two seats and they’re not identical but both do have histories of substantial non-Labour votes.

“So what?”, you say. Even if there’s this pre-coalition history and a show of weakness in what’s always been a low-turnout protest election, surely things will return to normal for Labour in a general election, especially for their leader? The coalition legacy doesn’t disappear that quickly? Well, probably. But …

London is a Remainy city and Islington is a very Remainy borough, voting as it did by more than 3:1 to stay in the EU. Therein lies the slim chance for something truly spectacular, because Corbyn is notably not very Remainy, despite his party and despite his constituency. In fact, he wants to leave and demanded the invocation of Article 50 the day after the referendum: points his election opponents will no doubt raise.

If the next election is held this autumn and is dominated by Brexit, as is entirely possible, the Lib Dems are well placed to make very heavy inroads into the Remain vote – especially where they already have an established presence, and all the more so if Labour has a bad conference which concludes with more division and fudge.

Do I expect Corbyn to lose his seat in an autumn election? No. Is it possible if the stars align? Maybe, just. But while Islington North might be a step too far, not least because of the high-profile candidate and the Greens’ presence there, similar factors could well be at play in other constituencies with apparently daunting majorities. These may well offer very good value once odds start being offered on individual seats.

David Herdson


The BJohnson bounce and the LD recovery add to the pressure of the pressure on Corbyn

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

Chart Evening Standard

The Evening Standard in its reporting of the latest Ipsos-MORI poll leads on what is increasingly becoming a difficult narrative for the red team – their position in the post BJohnson voting polls and the very weak leader ratings their man has. The paper notes:

The Ipsos MORI survey found 62 per cent of Britons now believe Labour should replace him before the country next goes to the polls, which could be within months, compared with 55 per cent a year ago.

Nearly twice as many people think he rather than Mr Corbyn would make the most capable prime minister — 52 per cent compared with 27 per cent for the Labour leader, who has faced months of criticism for its failure to tackle anti-Semitism among party members and the party’s fence-sitting over the issue of a second Brexit referendum.

Labour has been hit badly by the recovery of the LDs with a largish chunk of its GE2017 voting base now backing JSwinson and her team. The situation could be aggravated by what happens in Brecon and Radnorshire where many LAB GE2017 voters could be vulnerable to a squeeze message from the LDs. In a sense this has been accentuated by the post BJohnson voting polls – the yellows here being seen as the best party to impede the new man at Number 10. LAB was on 17% at the General Election in the seat. That numbers could be a lot lower overnight.

Mike Smithson


PM Johnson’s first front pages after the day when he was most powerful

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Team Boris will be very pleased with the way the papers are treating his arrival at number 10 and and his new cabinet. They reflect that he has made a massive impact.

In one sense he is fortunate that the parliamentary summer holiday starts today day and and MPs won’t be back until early September. It was all designed like this to prevent an early vote of confidence.

One of the things about taking over as prime minister is that on your first day or two you at your most powerful. Remember how it was for TMay  just 3 years ago. She could do no wrong and got a massive boost in the polls.

She had a honeymoon that that lasted until 2200 on June 8th 2007 when the exit poll came out. My guess is that for Boris it will be much shorter.

A week today there is the Brecon and Radnorshire by election and the other new party leader elected this week, Jo Swinson, is heading there today.

Losing a seat just 8 days after becoming Prime Minister would not be a good electoral start for Mr Johnson whose appeal was that he could reach voters, apparently, that others couldn’t get to.

Mike Smithson



The first post leadership elections’ poll has Swinson’s party the main gainer and LAB below 20%

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

After all the developments in the past couple of days it is good to have some new polling carried out entirely after the announcement of the results in the Lib Dem and Conservative leadership elections.

The numbers are above and will be encouraging to Jo Swinson and very discouraging for Labour which sees its share drop to 19%.

Whenever YouGov carry out a poll you get a string of attacks from Labour supporters on social media saying the pollster is pro-Tory.  What they cease to highlight is that for the vast majority of its existence YouGov’s president, was Peter Kellner who is was married to a Labour peer and is himself a long standing LAB backer.

The pollster was just one of two to come out of the Euros polling test with its head up high. All the firms apart from Ipsos-MORI overstated by some margin the LAB share and understated the LDs

Mike Smithson



Mandate, what mandate?

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Boris’s election as Tory party leader and Prime Minister is the 8th occasion since WW2 when a new PM has been chosen in between general elections. On 5 of the previous 7 occasions, it was the Tories changing leader (Churchill to Eden, Eden to Macmillan, Macmillan to Douglas-Home, Thatcher to Major and Cameron to May). Only Macmillan and Major went on to win majorities at the subsequent election. On the 2 occasions when Labour made a similar change (Wilson to Callaghan and Blair to Brown) the successors lost.

At a time when there is so much focus on leaders (their charisma and box office appeal, how they eat or hold food, their looks, their voice and similarly important stuff) it can feel irritating and somewhat contemptuous of voters to take them for granted, for the new leader not to submit themselves to the electorate’s verdict. Still, in a Parliamentary democracy, that is how it works. If they can command a Parliamentary majority, they can be PM. Whether it is wise – or, indeed, honourable – to ignore the electorate is quite another matter.

Why might it be sensible to ask voters for a fresh mandate? Two main reasons: to increase a majority and to get a specific mandate for a change of direction or to be able to push through contentious policies. But even if the majority is sufficient, should a new PM nonetheless seek a mandate for a new or sufficiently different policy from that championed by his or her predecessor?

Pre-2016 this question has not generally arisen. Sometimes the change of PM has been forced because of retirement rather than because of any policy issue (Churchill, Macmillan and Wilson. Eden too, though that was a polite way of easing him out after the Suez disaster). Of course, there have been changes of emphasis when leaders change. Brown presented himself as a more authentically left-wing true Labour leader (by comparison with Blair anyway) but continued with the policies he had had a large part in creating and implementing. It was not really until Major that a new PM took over, in part, because he could be relied on to change a hugely unpopular policy (the poll tax).

It was May’s succession which led to a dramatic shift in British policy as a result of the referendum result. As she – and every Brexiteer – have never tired of telling us, the British people voted to leave the EU and that wish had to be enacted. That was and is the mandate.

Well, there is that mandate. But there is also the mandate which the Tory government got in June 2017 which was, as set out in its manifesto, the following:-

We need to deliver a smooth and orderly departure from the European Union and forge a deep and special partnership with our friends and allies across Europe.” And “The best possible deal for Britain as we leave the European Union delivered by a smooth, orderly Brexit.”

That is the mandate on which Tory MPs, including Johnson, were elected. It is not much mentioned these days, especially not by those keenest to talk about mandates. Curiously, many of the MPs now being reviled (Gauke, Stewart, Hammond, Duncan and others) by some of the hard Brexiteers voted for this repeatedly, unlike many of the latter. Who exactly was failing to comply with their mandate?

Now Johnson has promised that Britain will leave the EU by 31 October, “do or die” in his words. This is seen by some of his supporters as a proper mandate,  a fresh start.

Whatever it is, it is not a mandate from the voters. It is not even the mandate on which the government was elected two years ago. A No Deal Brexit, which is what departure on a fixed date on a do or die basis implies, is not a smooth and orderly departure. It is a very significant change of direction from the mandate on which the government was elected. (Arguably, it is not even justified on the basis of the referendum, which promised a deal.)

But it is certainly a fresh start. Does it not therefore deserve its own fresh mandate?

If the new PM wants an electoral mandate to reinforce the one received from circa 92,000 Tory party members, to show that the country wants the government to set off in the direction demanded by those 92,000, he has three choices in theory:-

1 ) Extend Article 50 until the date of the next General Election and get a mandate then.

Vanishingly unlikely. A pause, time to prepare, time even to find the magical technological solution to the NI border, time to come up with and enact crowd-pleasing non-Brexit-related policies might well be what the enervated country needs. But the Brexiteers are in JFDI mode and will not countenance a moment’s delay.

2) Go for a referendum on the specific question of a No Deal Brexit.

Again, unlikely. An extension would still be needed. What would the other option on the ballot paper be? And if the referendum was lost, there would be pressure for yet another resignation. Boris’s vanity would be hurt if his legacy was to be the second (not even the first!) Tory PM to lose a European referendum. And the Tory party’s nerves could not stand it, let alone the country.

3 ) So we come to the only other option: a General Election to give the Tories under Boris the mandate they need.

After all, Boris’s ability as a vote-winning machine, the reason why so many MPs have swallowed their doubts and hitched themselves to his skirts, can surely not be in doubt. What is there not to love at the idea of getting his own proper large mandate (unlike dull Mrs May), getting rid of those cussed Tory MPs not agreeing with his aims, at defeating the Brexit party, seeing off Corbyn and proving the doubters wrong? (Any comparisons with May and the polls showing her set fair for a humungous majority would be so unfair, wouldn’t it?)

Above all, if a Johnson government wanted to show that the electoral consensus was for a No Deal Brexit and in such a way as to make it very difficult for it to be reversed, in such a way as to close down the arguments within his party, to show that this was what the voters – not simply Tory members – wanted, a clear General Election win is the only way to do it. Until the government has that mandate, it – and he – will always be vulnerable to the charge that a politician elected by a statistically insignificant number has no real basis to set the country on a course different to that on which it was elected.

The naysayers in Parliament can justify their refusal to acquiesce in a Brexit they consider harmful and unsupported by voters. If a No Deal exit turns out to require something more substantial than undaunted self-belief, turns out to be problematic, even harmful, the PM will need all the support he can get. A General Election win gives him that.

Should he? Yes. Can he? There are difficulties, well covered elsewhere. Let’s assume he can. Will he? The answer to that depends on how brave and honourable you think our new PM will be.



2020 now edging toward the favourite slot in Next General Election year betting

Thursday, July 18th, 2019 chart of Betfair Exchange

With Boris due to become Prime Minister in just 6 days time there’ve been sharp changes on the Betfair year of the next general election market. As can be seen from the chart 2019 is slipping downwards and the money is now going towards 2020.

A lot of this, I would suggest, is down to a growing realisation that the Fixed-Term Parliament Act makes it quite hard for the new leader to call an election if that is indeed what he wants to do.

If he wants to initiate it in the Commons then he would require two-thirds of the entire 650 MPs to back it as happened in April 2017 when Theresa May sought to go to the country early. In the current context, I would suggest, that this would be a lot harder. In 2017 only the SNP MPs were the main group to vote against an early general election. My guess is that there would not be sufficient number of MPs of all persuasions ready vote for an early election making two-thirds rule quite hard to surmount.

The ever present position of Farage’s Brexit party in the polls represents a real threat to the livelihoods of many CON and LAB MPs.  Add, as well, a form of LD-GRN cooperation to create single anti-Brexit candidates in strongly Remain seats and the uncertainty increases. Labour’s equivocation exposes it on either side of the argument.

The other way a general election can come about if the government loses a vote of no confidence which is not rescinded  within a fortnight. The question here is whether the numbers are there. Are there enough CON MPs who would join a move to oust their own government and if there were would all LAB MPs get behind a move that could let Corbyn into Number 10? My guess is no.

Mike Smithson



The catch. Why Boris Johnson probably won’t be going for an early general election

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Bet against an early general election. Boris Johnson has ruled it out. As he is Britain’s presumed Prime Minister, we can take him at his word. And here’s why.

Let’s look at the counter-argument first. You will not lack for Leavers arguing that Boris Johnson should force an election as soon as possible. Parliament, they argue, is blocking Brexit. So Boris Johnson should call an election to obtain a mandate for leaving, deal or no deal, by 31 October 2019. The opposition could not sensibly oppose one. By this means, Nigel Farage would be put back in his crypt and with the opposition divided, the Conservatives could sweep to power.

You can see the appeal of the idea. There’s only one problem. It doesn’t work.

There are two ways in which a general election can be called under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011. First, two thirds of the House of Commons can vote for one. Or secondly, if the government loses a vote of no confidence and 14 day elapses without a new government having a vote of confidence passed in it, a general election is automatically held.

Let’s look at the direct vote first. To get to two thirds, Boris Johnson needs to get Jeremy Corbyn on board (there is no route to a two thirds majority that does not have both Labour and the Conservatives voting for the proposition).  On the face of it, that shouldn’t be too difficult: Jeremy Corbyn has been calling for an election and after the 2017 campaign no doubt fancies his chances of recreating Corbynmania.  

But Jeremy Corbyn has no reason to play on Boris Johnson’s terms, not when he can hamstring his opponent. Boris Johnson has tied his credibility to securing Brexit by 31 October 2019. This is not a deadline that Labour recognise and nor do they need to agree to it now. The clock is ticking and Labour can reasonably argue that they do not want a general election to eat into the very limited negotiating time.

In short, they can properly insist, before agreeing to an early election, on the government negotiating an extension of the Article 50 deadline to, say, 31 December 2019 so that when they come to power they have sufficient time to reach their own terms with the EU.

This is not just reasonable as a matter of principle, it’s also superb politics.  For if the Article 50 deadline is extended beyond 31 October 2019, that part of the Conservative party that has Boris Johnson on probation will decamp en masse to the Brexit party. The new Prime Minister’s credibility on his central policy would be destroyed. As Leader of the Opposition, that makes for an appealing backdrop to a general election.

Of course, once you’ve announced that you want a general election, if your opponent agrees to the principle but sets a preliminary condition that is not obviously absurd, you’re a bit stuck. So Boris Johnson would be taking a huge risk that he would be walking into a fiasco.

Whenever a politician puts a sign on his back saying “kick me”, his opponents will queue up to oblige. Seeking to call an election on your flagship policy while giving your opponents the opportunity to destroy it would risk getting the Johnson posterior booted so hard that he would clear the crossbar at Twickenham. There’s the chance that Labour might take a different approach, but would you draw up your strategy on the basis that your opponents will be as accommodating as possible?

This problem also potentially applies to arranging an election by a vote of no confidence, but there is a further problem with a vote of no confidence that should also concern Boris Johnson. In the 14 day countdown, someone else may be able to put together a majority. Given that the whole basis of seeking an election is that the government does not reliably control the House of Commons, that is quite conceivable.  

So a general election brought about by intentional acts before 31 October 2019 looks unlikely. While an election could be called immediately after that date, no one is going to thank the Government for a Christmas general election.  All this means that betting against a general election in 2019 at the current odds on Betfair of 2.36 (11/8) looks like a smart move. I’m on.

Alastair Meeks