Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Osborne’s Standard has surely got this right – TMay is in office but not in power

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

As we move into the most difficult fortnight for a prime minister in decades the former Chancellor and now editor of The London Evening Standard, George Osborne, has come out with the above front page about Theresa May.

He’s right. A situation where ministers feel able to ignore the government line is dangerous enough and, without sackings or resignations, almost unprecedented.

I always thought she was wrong to try to hang onto her job after losing the Tories their majority in the needless general election that she called. Clearly this has taken an enormous amount out of her not helped by her voice going at a critical moment.

Later today the Commons is likely to vote for an effort to be made to extend the Article 50 timetable so the UK doesn’t leave the EU as planned on March 29th.

In spite of last night’s vote legislation is required to extend the date from the British perspective and we don’t know how the EU will react.

It must be asked whether the PM has the personal and political strength to take this forward though a Tory leadership contest at this time would simply amplify the crisis.

Meanwhile business is totally unable to make plans because it does not know what will happen. What has been widely underestimated is the extent that so much of commercial and industrial activity is integrated into Europe already.

I always thought that TMay’s objective was laudable. She was trying to honour the result of the referendum while at the same time doing so in a way that caused the minimum amount of damage to the British economy. Unfortunately her lack of flexibility and other personal characteristics have been exposed.

Mike Smithson


In all of this 2019 remains betting favourite for “year of next general election”

Thursday, March 14th, 2019 chart based on Betfair exchange

How punters are seeing the dramatic Brexit moves

Given the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit it is understandable why an early General Election is relatively highly rated by punters. The chart above shows the betting over the past 6 months and although 2019 has been quite a bit higher, at 45%, it still retains its position as favourite even at 37%.

Under the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act the next election is due to take place in 2022 to and inevitably that retains its position as a second favourite.

The next few days up to the March 29th article 50 deadline could be crucial and we could see anything happening before Brexit itself.

One inhibiting factor, surely, is Theresa May herself. She got badly burnt two years ago by calling an election early when she ended up losing the party its overall Commons majority. If it hadn’t been for her call on going in 2017 then there would not have been the need to rely on the DUP that we see at the moment.

It’s also clear that the Conservative Party is ready to put up with Theresa May while Brexit continues to be a dominating issue but once that’s resolved the support she’s likely to get from her fellow MPs will surely decline. They don’t want her to lead the Tories at the next general election something that she conceded in the confidence move against her in December.

Theresa has been helped, of course, by the fact that there is no obvious successor and although Boris Johnson is currently the favourite he’s not had odds above 20% since that weekend after the general election in 2017.

If Corbyn’s LAB remains in the polling doldrums you could see TMay’s successor being very tempted to underpin his/her position with an early general election.

Mike Smithson


Conservative approach. The seats that will decide whether the Conservatives will form the next government

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

Link to the map above.

Ready for another general election? The last one was less than two years ago but with a hung Parliament dealing with a hugely controversial central question, the threat of another constantly hangs over us. Personally, I very much doubt whether we will see one before the due date in 2022 but as any Boy Scout would tell you, we would do well to be prepared.

In theory there should be a boundary review implemented in this Parliament. That never looked particularly likely when the make-up of the new Parliament became clear and with party discipline breaking down, the chances of MPs voting the changes through now look slim. So it seems that the next election will be fought on boundaries that were last reviewed for the 2010 election (2005 in Scotland).

Anyway, let’s start with the election as it looks for the party of government, the Conservatives. At the moment, the Conservatives look to be ahead in the polls. Poitics is, however, particularly volatile right now. So let’s assess it from both directions.

The result last time was incredibly close in more than one way. The Conservatives held 17 seats with a majority of less than 1000 and missed out on 19 seats by a similarly close margin. A tiny swing either way and the Conservatives would either have had a clear overall majority or would probably have been out of power.

Let’s not confine ourselves quite so closely. There are 44 seats that the Conservatives would lose on an adverse 3% swing and 37 that they would gain with a 3% swing in their favour. These 81 seats will determine the fate of the government.

Overlaying all of this, of course, is Brexit. A seat like Kensington that voted strongly to Remain in the EU seems unlikely to swing in the same way at the next election as a seat like Dudley North that voted strongly to Leave the EU, even though the Conservatives will need just 25 more votes to take each. I suppose that you could argue that Brexit is already priced into the 2017 result and therefore can be discounted as a cause of additional swing. I don’t buy that, myself.

How should we look at these seats? I have compiled a map, set out at the top of this page, that divides these 81 seats into eight groups. Brexicity is based on the estimated Leave vote share. I have arbitrarily assumed that a seat with a Leave vote share of more than 60% is strongly Leave and that a seat with a Leave vote share of under 40% is strongly Remain.

We can see pretty quickly that even in 2017 Brexit wasn’t everything.  Some of the Conservative targets are seats that they lost despite being stuffed with staunch Brexiteer voters. Peterborough and Crewe & Nantwich stand out in this regard, but Ipswich, Bedford, Lincoln and Derby North all voted Leave in 2016 and all left the Conservative column in 2017. Labour’s focus on other topics in the election proved more important in those seats. Equally, the Conservatives made good progress in Scotland even in strongly Remain-voting seats like Stirling and Gordon where their stance on the union proved more important.

There is a fairly even scatter of Remain and Leave-voting seats in this set.  If this card is to be played by either the Conservatives or Labour, they are going to have to be prepared to lose as many seats as they gain by the gambit, unless they can do it with a bit more subtlety. Perhaps, as last time, the Conservatives can campaign on Brexit in England and Wales and on the union in Scotland. It didn’t work very well last time, mind.

The next thing that stands out to me is how small-time this battleground is. There are ten seats in London but the metropolitan areas of Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield, Hull, Cardiff, Swansea, Glasgow and Edinburgh are represented by just four seats: Edinburgh South West, Bolton West, Dudley North and Wolverhampton South West. The election is going to be won and lost in small and medium-sized towns. Labour has spent a lot of time talking about its policy for these places. This is why.

The Conservatives should be thinking very carefully about London. They have seven seats to defend in the capital and all of those seats voted Remain. Are they going to abandon them or how are they going to tailor their message to these seats, bearing in mind that Iain Duncan Smith, Theresa Villiers and Zac Goldsmith, all strident Leavers, represent three of them?

The Conservatives have traditionally been strongest in the area south of the line between the Severn and the Wash. But just 12 of their 37 easiest targets are in that area this time. They are going to have to go outside their comfort zone if they are to make progress.

North of that line, just two seats on the list outside Scotland voted Remain: Pudsey and Westmorland & Lonsdale.  The north midlands and Yorkshire look to be central to the next election result. If the Conservatives are going to play the Brexit card, they should be doing so with a northern accent.

Conversely, 23 of their 44 most vulnerable seats are south of the Severn-Wash line.  Labour should and will be thinking about how it talks to that audience. The battleground seats in this area are much more evenly divided between Remain and Leave. Last time they did well by simply shifting the conversation away from Brexit completely. They are no doubt intending to do the same thing again this time too.

To sum up, the Conservatives will win or lose the next election in small and medium sized towns. Brexit doesn’t look as if it will be a magic bullet for them and may lose as many key seats as it gains for them. Two things might give them hope: new policies that appeal to local England and their opponents’ ability to alienate the voting public. Right now, the second looks a more reasonable hope than the first.

Alastair Meeks


If it’s any consolation to LAB – the last CON 10%+ leads were in the days before GE2017 – and we know what happened then

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

The overnight YouGov poll giving the Conservatives an 11% lead was the worst for LAB since the 2017 general election. I like to look at polls in context which is why above there there is the full Wikipedia list of all GB voting intention polls this year.

The big picture is that LAB is on the decline and the Tories are moving up a bit. Although you’ve got a range of Conservative leads between 4% and 11% surveys it’s the trend that matters and there can be little doubt that this has been going against the red team in the past few weeks.

When news of the latest YouGov came out I did a quick check back through the polling to find the last time that the Conservatives were in this territory. This of course this led me to the week before the June 8th general election in 2017. That was such a disaster for some pollsters and obviously will give some consolation to Corbyn and his team.

We also now have a new polling series and that is those where the TIGers are listed. The Wikipedia list of those is reproduced below.

I should be noted that different question are asked by each firm and we are getting very different outcomes for the new group.

Mike Smithson


New Opinium poll has LAB moving from level-pegging to 8% behind in just a week

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

LAB 32-5
CON 40+3
LD 5-3

The first of what could number of polls tonight is from Opinium for the Observer and sees the Tories take an 8% lead up from level-pegging a week ago. That’s quite a movement.

Clearly the week has seen another political story dominate the headlines that is not Brexit and much of the focus of the new Independent Group has been critical of LAB and particularly its leader. Corbyn looks less like a prospective PM than just about anytime since GE2017 when his party still lost but not by as much as many predictions.

The polling might reinforce the chatter about Mrs May taking advantage of LAB’s apparent problems and calling a new general election. Bjut that couldn’t not take place before the March 29th Article 50 deadline and if there was a move it would come later.

Even if a whole range of pollsters report 7%+ CON leads I’m far from convinced that she’ll be tempted to go to the country. The memory of what happened two years ago will surely cause the greatest caution.

This post will be updated if there are other polls.

Mike Smithson


William Hill make it odds-on that none of the original LAB and CON TIGers will hold their seats

Thursday, February 21st, 2019

The basic bet is whether any of the founding 11 TIGers are going to be returned as MPs at the next general election.

The names listed are Heidi Allen, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Anna Soubry, Chuka Umunna and Sarah Wollaston.

I’d reckon that Chuka Umunna and Sarah Wollaston would be in with a fighting chance with, I’d guess. high name recognition in their constituencies. I think Heidi Allen in Cambridgeshire South might be in with a good chance given that her main opponents when she was a CON candidate was the LibDem.

Anna Soubry has a high profile and you cannot write her off.

My reading of the bet is that they could stand in seats other than their current constituency though I’d guess they’d fare better on home turf.

The experience of the switchers to the SDP at GE1983 was that most struggled to hold on but some did. That’s possibly a good guide.

I’ve had a small bet that at least one will be returned.

Mike Smithson


Why the TIGers make the DUP less powerful and a 2019 general election less likely

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Betting that it won’t happen this yet might now be value

We all remember the dramatic Commons no confidence motion last month that TMay won but only with the help of the DUP. Without their 10 votes her government would have gone down and we would now be coming to the end of a general election campaign. At the time Mr. Corbyn warned that they make other attempts.

Well since the departure of 7 of his MPs yesterday the LAB leader is in a less powerful position. This is from the Indy’s John Rentoul:

“ consequence of today’s defections is that it makes an election unlikely even if the DUP abandons Theresa May over Brexit. Umunna and Chris Leslie were emphatic at the news conference that they would not contemplate helping to make Corbyn prime minister. That means that in a future vote of no confidence in May’s government, they would refuse to force an election – and remember that in last month’s confidence vote May would have lost by one if the DUP had voted against her..”

If Corbyn cannot force an early election on a confidence vote then the only way it can happen is if TMay uses the provision of the Fixed Term Parliament Act that allows an election to be called if two thirds of MPs vote for it. My view is that after getting her fingers burned badly at GE2017 she’ll be even more cautious about going early.

Mike Smithson


On the Betfair exchange LAB’s chances of winning most seats next time drop to a 41% chance

Monday, February 18th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

On what is quite a momentous day in British politics it is quite hard to single out a specific market that has seen change. The one I’ve chosen is the next general election where punters who only last month rated LAB as a 50-50 chance to win most seats now put it at 41%.

A lot depends on reaction to the move and whether the development gets traction in the media. For the individuals concerned these are massive personal decisions but they have made their choices.

For Corbyn’s LAB this isn’t good news and, as David Herdson was pointing out on Twitter, means that with other MP losses this parliament we have seen the equivalent of getting on for half the LAB gains from GE2017 are now wiped out. The smaller LAB is at Westminster the less powerful it is to influence events.

In many way this was always on the cards. In 2016 Corbyn, as I pointed out on the previous thread, only managed to win support of 20% of the parliamentary party in a confidence vote.

Clearly there’ll be lots of speculation about where the group of seven end up. Could we see an enhanced centre party emerging taking in the independents, the LDs and Caroline Lucas? Clearly there will be closer working together.

I also wonder whether Corbyn’s tenure might not be as long as is widely perceived. How will the unions view the weakened party? How will John McDonnell react.

Mike Smithson