Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Has Labour lost its momentum?

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Are we past Peak Corbyn or was LE2018 just a bump in the road?

You can tell a lot about how well a party has done by where a leader goes to celebrate their election victories. Theresa May (no doubt unwittingly) re-emphasised her caution-first nature by travelling all the way to Wandsworth: a council the Tories have held since 1978. She could have gone to Nuneaton, where the Tories stripped Labour of a sizable majority (unlike Wandsworth, where it was the Tories losing seats), or to Redditch, Barnet or Basildon – but she didn’t.

Vince Cable, meanwhile, visited the wealthy Remain bastion of Richmond-upon-Thames, where the Lib Dems stormed to a tremendous win; one which by itself accounted for around one-third of their entire national net gains.

But the party HQ which must have had most re-planning to do was surely Labour’s. After ramping up their chances of taking Wandsworth and Westminster, they failed to take either. He could have headed for the former Tory northern jewel of Trafford but instead he headed off to Plymouth. That wasn’t an unreasonable choice – it was Labour’s only direct gain from Con this week – but that fact alone indicates Labour’s failure to move forward significantly.

And moving forward is what oppositions should be doing if they hope to win power at the next GE. Granted, Labour came very close to winning power last year but not only did they not do so but in relative terms, they went backwards on Thursday.

If you match their score against 2014, when these seats were last fought, then the 35-35 level pegging in this year’s national equivalent vote was two points worse than the Lab 31 Con 29 shares last time round (Labour is rather fortunate that a heavily disproportionate number of seats contested this time were in London, where it’s doing better than average, meaning that despite going backwards in the NEV, it ended up with more gains than the Tories). Labour was also two points ahead (37-35) in 2011 and one point ahead in 2016 (31-30), both one year into the new parliament.

Fervent Corbyn supporters will claim (and are claiming) that these historic parallels count for little, in the light of the extraordinary gains made by Labour during the last general election campaign. There’s an obvious truth that no measure of current opinion can accurately predict future elections – because minds do change between the poll and the actual vote and, in the case of local elections, because people are frequently voting on a different basis compared with a general election. Even so, the last two oppositions that went on to win a general election were to be doing much better one year into the parliament. Cameron led the Tories to a 13-point win in 2006, while in 1993, John Smith’s Labour was eight points up.

All of which begs the question: has Corbyn’s bubble burst? Is Labour incapable of turning those hundreds of thousands of members into new, additional votes, despite what ought to be opportune circumstances for an opposition?

As yet, the evidence is inconclusive. We do know that they made a difference when it really mattered last time – but is that a new rule or an aberration? What we do know is that the next election will be fought under different circumstances, with different levels of media coverage, different expectations and probably with a different prime minister and Tory campaign team. That should be enough uncertainty to place substantial question marks on both sides of the equation – but more so on Labour’s

David Herdson


Exactly a year ago this weekend ComRes had TMay’s Tories 25% ahead

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

How things have changed since

It is just a year since Theresa May made her fateful and what will be her career defining announcement about calling a general election to secure a bigger majority.

On the weekend after the news we had the initial round of voting intention polls of the campaign and those are shown in the chart above.

As can be seen the one that stands out is ComRes, which had been the most accurate pollster two years earlier at GE2015. This had the biggest Conservative lead – a whopping margin of 25 points over LAB.

    Although the final lead on election day was just 2.5% it is too easy to conclude that those late April polls were wrong.

Only a couple of weeks after the general election announcement there were the local elections where the Tories made big gains doing substantially better than had been predicted.

It was those real elections that seemed to validate the polling and reinforce the view that Mrs May’s gamble was going to pay off. The big question was not whether there would be a Tory overall majority but would it be a landslide.

My guess is that it might well have done so but for the length of the general election campaign and for the over-confidence it engendered in the Tory camp that led to the manifesto debacle and Mrs May believing that she didn’t have to face Corbyn in a leaders’ TV debate.

In total there were seven weeks between the initial call and parliamentary vote to authorise it and the June 8 election.

So we cannot conclude that the polls weren’t wrong in late April last year. What they do show is that there was a dramatic change in views of the incumbent Conservative government and particularly the Prime Minister as a result of the campaign itself.

It is very hard to envisage the circumstances in which there will be the next Conservative 25% lead.

Mike Smithson


If TMay and Corbyn are still there at the next election then Windrush & antisemitism could still be dogging them

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

These are leadership more than party issues

What a dramatic few days for both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. Two huge issues continue to dominate the news which are big negatives for each of them respectively.

The Windrush affair, which is being juxtaposed with the meeting of Commonwealth leaders, is a reminder of how Theresa May handled things when she was in the Home Office from 2010 to 2016. It was under her watch that the law was changed making life a lot harder for those who been in the UK for decades who have to prove their right to be in the country.

We have heard tear jerking stories from one elderly immigrant after another and no doubt there are others in the pipeline. All is made much harder for them because the onus is now on them individually to prove their status which in many cases is simply not there.

The anti-semitism issue within Labour stepped up a notch last night with the debate on the issue, which had been tabled opportunistically by the Tories in the Commons. Again we heard tear jerking stories from several Jewish Labour MPs which were more powerful because on the face of it Mr Corbyn appears to have done very little to change the environment in the party.

Whatever Corbyn needs to find some way to assuage some of the fears of the Jewish community and from what we’ve seen since he became leader he appears to lack the ability or inclination to do that.

Both of these issues are about race and both highlight, I suggest, blind spots in Mrs. May and Mr. Corbyn.

Let’s see how PMQs goes today.

Mike Smithson


There’s the potential for Labour to get a long term polling boost because of their anti-semitism issues

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

Chart from polling conducted by YouGov for the Campaign against Antisemitism

Older voters are more likely to endorse at least one anti-semitic statement, and remember older voters are more likely turn out to vote.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Labour will take a long term hit in the polls because of the recent coverage of their anti-semitism issues but recently we’ve seen conventional wisdom proven to be very wrong, this might be another example.

Before anyone accuses me saying older voters, Tories, and Leavers are all anti-semites it should be noted that a majority of those demographics didn’t agree with a single anti-semitic statement but a significant minority did.

That significant minority could determine who wins the next general election, if a couple of thousand voters had voted differently last June Jeremy Corbyn would have become Prime Minister.

Coupled with his other popular policies such as inter alia renationalising the railways, ending austerity, not loading students up with debt, and opposition to bombing Syria, this might might Corbyn even more appealing to some voters.

I don’t think it is any accident that Nick Griffin, a man who in the past has said ‘that there was a systematic and deliberate policy whereby six million Jews were gassed to death is for a variety of forensic and common sense reasons, [is] utter nonsense’  declared his support from Jeremy Corbyn this week on not bombing Syria and talked about voting Labour for the first time in his life.

The political kaleidoscope in Britain has well and truly been shaken, the old assumptions don’t always hold true. Labour have a proud tradition of opposing racism and bigotry, this week they have won the support of someone who in 1997 published booklet entitled Who are the Mind Benders? which outlined a Jewish conspiracy to brainwash the British people in their own homeland.



It is a mistake to look at the next election though the prism of the last one

Monday, April 9th, 2018

That was why GE2017 was seen as such a shock

Given what happened on June 8th last year you would have thought people would have worked out by now is that you cannot look at the next election by thinking back to the last one and applying the same sort of judgements relating to what happened.

So currently you will find from many committed Corbyn supporters saying that their man is going to sail through, whatever the polls might be now, because they remember what happened last year.

In fact one of the reasons why the last general election proved to be such a disaster for those in the prediction business was that people were looking at it through the prism of 2015. There was this widespread assumption because the polls had overstated Ed Miliband’s two years earlier than they were doing the same again.

    One thing I would say is certain is that we cannot assume that the Conservatives will run as poor a campaign as Theresa May did. Whoever is the CON leader, for instance, is not going to produce a manifesto with all the hostages to fortune and many more people in the party are going to scrutinise it in detail before it is signed off.

Another thing you can be sure of is that whoever is the Conservative leader will go into the TV debates well briefed and well prepared and will not allow anything like the mess ups of last time

We also have a LAB leader, who looks a lot more damaged today than he did at the end of the year. His handling of the Salisbury incident and the charges of anti-semitism have surely, been what has led to the drop in his personal ratings in latest polls.

Mike Smithson


Despite 34% voters thinking Jeremy Corbyn personally has anti-Semitic views Boris Johnson’s approval ratings are near identical to Corbyn

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Further proof that Johnson’s going to pull out of another Tory leadership contest?

I’m a fan of approval ratings as they are a very good pointers to general elections, as Mrs May’s alarming collapse in the closing stages of the 2017 general election confirmed.  So this morning’s debut poll by DeltaPoll caught my eye for this very reason.

For many Tories Boris Johnson is the man to win the Tories a majority in 2022 against Corbyn but if his ratings are on a par with Corbyn then his appeal will wane further. My view is that this polling is reflection of Johnson’s role in Brexit and his tenure as Foreign Secretary where his blundering gave succour to Putin.

If you take away Boris Johnson’s electoral appeal what exactly does he offer apart from buffoonery with the occasional classical history reference?

When Theresa May and Philip Hammond have substantially better ratings than Boris Johnson then Tory MPs and activists will look elsewhere especially Corbyn is now personally getting tainted with anti-Semitism as seen in the tweet above. Do they really want someone who has equivalent ratings to Corbyn?

In 2016 Boris Johnson declined to run for the Tory leadership after seeing his popularity take a hit then I suspect he’ll decline to run again when Mrs May is replaced if his ratings maintain this trajectory, bet accordingly.

You can view the full entrails of the DeltaPoll here.



So who wants to be the British Emmanuel Macron? There’s £50 million worth of support waiting for you

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

I’m not sure £50 million is enough to overturn the inbuilt bias that FPTP gives the Tories and Labour nor the rules on election spending.

Since the 23rd of June 2016 we regularly get stories about a new (centrist) party being formed, I generally place these stories in the same category as dog bites man and Manchester being wet*. But today’s Observer story is attracting a lot of comment because of the £50 million support.

One of the reasons I’ve not expected a new party to form in this country is because of the inbuilt bias of first past the post gives the Tories and Labour. In 1983 and 2015 when the Alliance and UKIP broke the mould in terms of share of the vote however they didn’t break the mould in terms of seats, when the number of MPs elected for those parties was not commensurate with their share of the vote, or anywhere near close.

The other reason for a lack of breakthrough for a new party is that we have strict limits on election spending, both in the short and long campaigns of a general election which is also a hindrance to well funded insurgents. A British Forza Italia would have struggled to win a general election in the UK in the way Silvio Berlusconi’s new party did in the 1994 Italian general election.

Plus as The Observer notes about this new well funded party project ‘They have the resources, but I’m not sure they have a viable plan’ said one person familiar with the project, well quite. It appears that a lot of British politics today is being about what you’re opposed to, such as Brexit, austerity, or Corbynism, you need some viable policies to show what you’re in favour of as well.

As for being the British Macron that’s probably a misleading comparison as the French voting system is very different to the voting system La perfide Albion uses. Unlike the French we don’t directly elect our head of the executive, nor do we use two rounds of voting to elect our legislature.

As for Macron being popular and a mould breaker the 24.01% Macron received in the first round was quite poor since the Fifth Republic started using two rounds of voting to elect their President, only Jacques Chirac received a lower share of the vote and went on to win the Presidency.

Under FPTP 24.01% might win you a few seats as a new party but not an election, in 1983 the Alliance polled just over 25% and won 23 out of 650 seats.


*As someone who has spent the last seven years working in Manchester and even longer spending a lot of social time there I still consider it fake news that Manchester that isn’t even in the top ten wettest cities in this country, apparently according to the experts it is only the fifteenth wettest city in the UK.


Into the political void opened between Brexit Tories and Corbynite Labour there came … no-one

Saturday, April 7th, 2018

What’s happened to the Others?

“Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government!” David Steel’s rather premature exhortation to his activists at the 1981 Liberal Conference is remembered – to the extent that it’s remembered at all – as a classic example of over-optimism verging into hubris. It shouldn’t be. For a brief moment, there really was a genuine chance that the old Lab-Con dominance had been broken. At the last poll before the conference, the SDP-Liberal Alliance had pushed the Conservatives into third place; by the end of the year, they would record an astonishing 50.5% with Gallup.

As we know, that surge would prove ephemeral – they were already on the slide before they were overwhelmed the next year by the Falklands factor – but when the Alliance score settled down, it did so into the low-20s that would be a decent benchmark for the Lib Dems through to the point when they finally succeeded in entering government. It did, however, prove that there were a huge number of people willing to support parties other than the old Big Two, even if in the end they didn’t actually do so.

Furthermore, as the years went on, and other parties such as the Greens, UKIP and the SNP became stronger, the narrative of the breakdown of the Two Party System became an acknowledged truth. By 2010, the share of the two big parties was down to 65%.

And then something odd happened: the smaller parties suddenly lost half their votes. That of itself wasn’t all that odd: the combination of the Coalition and Brexit was always likely to prove extremely challenging for Lib Dems and UKIP respectively.

No, the odd thing is that despite the political world moving on at an unusually rapid pace, despite Labour being led by an over-promoted rebellious far-left backbencher, and despite the Tories being headed by an chief administrator rather than a leader, Labour and the Conservatives continue to poll 80-85%. Even with all the opportunities of those circumstances, the rest have made no impact as all.

Why so? One obvious answer remains that the other parties remain unusually irrelevant. UKIP might have been struggling for a purpose even if it weren’t so chaotic and rudderless – though we shouldn’t be too certain on that point: the government’s Brexit is likely to take longer, cost more and be softer than many Leave voters would have liked. A well-run UKIP could have made something of that, though it wouldn’t have the same potency as advocating Leave itself; Europe remains a niche subject.

And just as the Tories have adopted UKIP’s central policy, so the Greens have found Labour tanks all over their lawn (and one or two of Michael Gove’s too). It’s not at all obvious what Caroline Lucas offers that Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t.

But the biggest conundrum is the Lib Dems. As in the 1980s, the drift of the two larger parties to their respective outer wings should be an opportunity for them, yet their poll rating has more-or-less flatlined at around the 7% they scored at the 2017 election. The Coalition might be part of that explanation but at best it is only part of it. From around December 2016 through to the end of April 2017 – after the general election was announced – the Lib Dems averaged around 10-11%. This was in the same May/Corbyn/Brexit/post-Coalition era we’re in now (apart from the collapse of UKIP: that didn’t happen until the 2017 election was called). If people were being attracted back to the Lib Dems then, it can’t be that a legacy of the Coalition is putting them off now; we have to conclude that it’s some other pull factor keeping them with the Tories or Labour, or some new push factor keeping them from returning to the Lib Dems again – or both.

We can explain a good deal of the Lib Dems’ decline during the 2017 campaign in terms of voters who’d previously defected from Labour returning to that party. What’s harder to explain is why neither they (nor other members of Labour’s coalition), nor Tory voters from 2017 have switched since. Apart from in a few pockets, it seems that Tory Remainers have gone straight to Labour, despite Corbyn’s own ambivalence to Brexit (and indeed, his other policies). The unexpectedly quiet leadership of Vince Cable can’t have helped.

Perhaps also, the changed nature of the Lib Dems is also a factor. It’s been much remarked that more than half of Labour’s membership has joined since 2015, so changing greatly the internal dynamics of that party. But the same is true of the Lib Dems too. I wonder whether the new members are not the same sort of pavement politicians who traditionally built up the Lib Dem profile locally, and that the enhanced membership numbers isn’t translating into community action.

    For all that, I don’t think it can go on. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum – and a big gap in the centre with the Lib Dems on 7-8% is near-enough a vacuum. What I’m not so sure of is what fills it.

One possibility is that the Lib Dems themselves do, for which they’d have to win votes from both Tories and Labour.

Another is that in a re-run of the 1980s, a new SDP breaks off from Labour: that’s far from impossible but nor should we get carried away by speculation. Emotional and practical ties bind MPs of all parties to their movement.

A third possibility is that the Tories make a pitch for the ground. For all the talk of the Tories heading to the right, when it comes down to it, there’s only really Brexit which stands that contention up; on domestic and fiscal matters, the Tories are, if anything, drifting left. If May or her successor can make good on the intentions she laid out when she entered Downing Street, it’ll impress a lot of centrist floating voters – though that means not getting too distracted by Brexit or allowing it to undermine taxes excessively, as well as tackling and making progress on difficult and ingrained social problems.

And the final (and least likely) possibility is that Labour does, as Blair did. It might seem implausible now given the left’s ascendency but sometimes the wheel turns quickly and one thing about short-term members is that disillusion can easily turn to departure, from where many things become possible.

The problem is that none of these look particularly likely and yet surely something has to give, somewhere.

David Herdson