Archive for the 'Lib Dems' Category


The main lesson from the Brecon result: Demonstrating the effectiveness of Remain parties working together

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

A model for the next General Election?

Reflecting on the Brecon outcome the most striking feature which hasn’t really been commented on is that in a seat in Wales that PC felt able to step aside in order  to help defeat the pro-Brexit Tories.

Given the relative closeness of the outcome it’s clear that this decision and that of the Green Party played a crucial part in this election and no doubt lessons will be learnt .

We have a first past the post voting system that almost helps the Tories and Labour at the expense of smaller parties. Here, in this by election, there was only one option for voters who wanted to express their choice for a Remain party and that was the Lib Dems. My guess is this decision of the Greens and PC made it easier for for Labour supporters to vote tactically.

There is little doubt that this lesson will be noted and acted upon. You can see situations where the Lib Dems step aside  in seats where the Greens look as though they have the best chance of winning and, of course, there might be other seats in Wales where similar decisions can be taken by PC.

It also shows the impact of the referendum result on British politics and how it can be impacting on the traditional party system.

There had been many rumours that a number of those MPs who switched from the Tories and LAB earlier in the year might be ready to move to the yellows. This has many practical consequences particularly where you have a sitting LD parliamentary candidate in a seat where the CON or LAB MP switched to TIG or whatever it is called now.

The Brecon result demonstrates that collaboration can work.

Mike Smithson





Jo Swinson wins the LD leadership contest

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

She takes over with the party on the up

It has just been announced that 39 year old Jo Swinson has won the Lib Dem leadership race with 62% of the vote against her former ministerial colleague in the coalition, Ed Davey.

She’s the first woman to lead the party and was first elected as an MP at GE2005. She lost her seat, East Dunbartonshire, at GE2015 only to win it back two years later.

Her leadership starts at a time when the party has started to turn the corner from the coalition years coming second in the May Euro elections and making 700+ gains in this year’s locals.

Her party is the one that has the clearest position on the big issue if the day, Brexit, and has big hopes of winning the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election a week on Thursday. It has also attracted a leading LAB defector Chuka Umunna with talk of possible other MPs dissatisfied with their parties.

In the betting she was clear leader from the start,

Now the bookies are standing by to open up betting markets on Swinson’s successor.

Mike Smithson


Survey of LD members has Swinson ahead of Davey by 54% to 46%

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Who knows – the party could be choosing a future PM?

So far the LD leadership contest has attracted little media coverage but is it just about feasible to contemplate that in the current political environment the next leader of the the strongly pro-EU LDs could be a future PM. James Kirkup sets out an interesting scenario on the Unherd political site.

Meanwhile there’s what’s described as an “informal survey” of LD members that got the last contested election in 2015 to within two points has just been published. It has Jo Swinson beating Ed Davey by 54% to 46%.

The “poll” has been carried out by “Harry’s Blog” and has sought to weight the findings by the party membership demographics from Tim Bale’s QMUL party leaders project. The report notes:

“Men appear to be voting overwhelmingly for Jo Swinson, with 62% of them joining Jo, and only 38% going wavy for Davey. Women, on the other hand, are splitting in the opposite direction, contrary to what many expected at the beginning of this campaign. 57% of them are voting for Ed, while 43% of them are voting for Jo.

The other trend to note is one of age. A whopping 68% of 18-24 year olds say they will be voting for Jo Swinson … and,a massive 78% of those over 65 say they will vote for Ed Davey – which could be crucial, as over 65s make up the largest proportion of the party’s membership.”

On Betfair Jo Swinson is currently an 81% chance.

As regular PBers will know I have been a member since the party’s foundation in the late 1980s and have participated in every single leadership ballot. My record is not very good and my first choice on the ballot has NEVER been the eventual winner. So I have bet on the contender who didn’t get my vote.

Make of that what you will.

Mike Smithson


The LD battle is a lot tighter than the current betting suggests

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Ed Davey has a better than a 17% chance

If you want to base a predictions on the Betfair market then Jo Swinson, the 39 year old ex Lib Dem minister in the Coalition, is heading for a clear victory in the Lib Dem leadership contest. Her opponent, former cabinet minister Ed Davey, is currently at just a 17% chance on the betting exchange with Swinson on an 83% one.

As might be expected I know a lot of Lib Dems who will be participating in the election and I find far less commitment to either candidate than you would imagine. There is a growing view that Ed has had the best campaign so far but we don’t know how that will translate into votes.

Whoever wins they will be accepted by the party and there isn’t the factional fighting that we’re seeing in the Tory leadership battle.

Following the successes in the May locals and the strong second place in the Euro elections the party is in good spirit at the moment and has seen quite a growth in new members. With the position in the polls now hovering around the 20% the new leader will inherit a much better situation than Vince Cable did 2 years ago.

But who is it going to be? From my soundings with LD members I find many seem to be conflicted and find it difficult to make a choice. I noticed that this view is supported by those Lib Dem members who have been posting on PB of late.

Online voting started yesterday with a mailing going to those who will be voting by post in the next few days.

My only bet has been on Ed at 5.8 on Betfair because my sense is that his position is somewhat stronger than the current odds equating to at 17% chance suggest. As ever this is not a prediction but an assessment of betting value.

Mike Smithson



The best test of a pollster is not how they’re currently doing against other firms but what happened last time they were tested

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

I am afraid that I have to disagree with David Herdson on his latest Saturday thread about YouGov understating Labour. Firstly you cannot judge pollsters’ based on their current surveys when less than 5 weeks ago they were tested against a real election involving real voters.

In the two charts above I compare LAB and LD vote shares for the May Euros in their final published polls.  Just two of them can claim to have come out of the election well with the rest trailing some way back.

Just examine some of the exaggerated figures that some pollsters were record reporting for LAB where we had a range from 13% to 25%. The actual GB figures was 14%.

Now look at the second chart showing the final LD shares. These range from 12% to 20%. The actual GB share was 20,4%.

Apart from Ipsos MORI and YouGov the rest really did rather badly.

Because of the low turnout, the 37% that actually happened was broadly anticipated, this was always going to be a challenging election for polling because turnout was everything. If one party’s supporters were less likely to vote  then that presents the pollsters with serious challenges .

The other challenge, of course, was tactical voting generally by remain backing LAB voters to the parties they saw as being most likely to succeed in their region and so the vote could produce the maximum number of MEPs. This helped the LDs and, of course, the Greens to achieve the success that they did. Whatever mechanisms YouGov and Ipsos Mori use they were able to detect better what was the big characteristic of this election.

So when I look at the current polls I regard Survation and Opinium, of the recent ones, as LAB over-staters.

Mike Smithson


Meanwhile in the leadership battle in the party that won four times as many MEPs and more than twice the CON vote last month

Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Inevitably the Tory leadership contest is totally dwarfing coverage of other political developments including the battle for the leadership of the party that totally out-performed the Tories in last month’s Euro elections. Yet given the parliamentary situation the outcome of this postal members’ ballot could be crucial.

Last night I attended a hustings in London, sponsored by the New Statesman and hosted by its political editor,  Stephen Bush. There are two candidates both of whom were ministers during the coalition government – Jo Swinson and Ed Davey – the latter having been in the cabinet.

The question which caught them both to when they were asked over what they were most illiberal. It was a bit like the famous question to TMay during the GE2017 when she was asked what the naughtiest thing she had ever done. Perhaps that could be asked to Boris whenever he gets pinned down.

Both were impressive in different ways and clearly the process of doing successive hustings meetings in different parts of the country has honed up their skills. Whatever this is good training for general elections.

I continue to be a Lib Dem member and would be happy with either of them and find it very difficult to choose,  The challenge for Davey, who is someone I have known since before he became an MP, is that there is clearly a feeling within the party that the next leader should be a woman. He does, however have the most experience.

The LDs are going through something of a renaissance simply because, unlike LAB and CON, they have a clear view on the overwhelming main issue of the day – Brexit.  The “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan from last month might have been unedifying but at least it was clear.

Swinson is the favourite having tighter odds on Betfair at the moment than Boris has in the CON leadership betting.

Mike Smithson


Meanwhile in that other leadership race…

Monday, June 17th, 2019

Dr Foxy on how the Swinson Davey battle is shaping up

Understandably the focus of political interest and betting is on the contest to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party, and most likely Prime Minister. This does rather overshadow the ongoing contest for the leadership of the Liberal Democrat Party, which finds itself in the rather unfamiliar position of rude health. Having had some excellent results in both Local Elections and in the recent Euro elections, Vince Cable contrasts sharply with Theresa May by leaving the role on a high, with the party polling at its best for nearly a decade, and united over the major issues of the day.

The choice facing the Liberal Democrats is between the strong favourite Jo Swinson, current Deputy Leader, and Ed Davey who is rated by punters as the outsider. There were around 200 in the audience for the East Midlands hustings with a significant minority of members who had joined in the last few weeks amongst the more veteran members.

The differences of policy direction between the two were modest and nuanced rather than the gaping chasms afflicting the Labour and Conservative Parties. Discussion ranged over a broad range of topics as a result, from environmental issues, fracking, restoring trust in politics and government, support for marginalised communities, the role of positive discrimination in promoting diversity, campaigning support for local parties and the integration of new members such as Chuka Umunna.

PBers would be either disappointed or relieved to find the important topics of Scottish Independence and Proportional Representation were as untouched as a pineapple topped pizza. Perhaps surprisingly, Brexit was little discussed, with both candidates strongly pro-EU membership. The differentiation between the two was subtle on policy, but quite different in style and presentation.

Ed Davey was on home turf, having been born and schooled in Nottinghamshire with a backstory of being orphaned at the age of 11. He was clearly proud of his work in the 2010-15 Coalition, particularly for his time as Secretary of State for the Environment and Climate Change.

Similarly he cited other achievements such as introducing the clause that repealed the homophobic Section 28, and the abolition of compulsory retirement ages. His background as an economist seems to give him a stronger leaning to market mechanisms and more inclination to incentives than heavy handed state intervention.

His points were well supported by evidence, and well argued in an assertive but not bombastic style that comes over well in more weighty interviews and debates. He rather reminded me of Clem Attlee in his ability to achieve change rather than just talk. In his closing speech he did rather give in to hubris by talking of being Prime Minister rather than just party leader.

Jo Swinson has been particularly active in the #PeoplesVote campaign, speaking to the mass rally in Parliament Square, and working closely with other parties on this. She clearly works well on common platforms, and this may be important both for integrating new members and for electoral strategy and in a hung parliament. She seemed a little stiff initially, but warmed up as the evening progressed, and was particularly passionate about environmental issues and reaching new audiences and voters. While also a member of the Coalition government, she did not emphasise this as much as Davey. She seemed to model herself more in terms of Jacinta Arden as a political heroine.

In all, I left the hustings in good spirits and would be happy with either as leader. Both were well rooted in the party, and strongly pro-environment amongst the other Liberal Democrat values of compassion and inclusivity. Both were happy to acknowledge that they had changed their minds over issues over the years, and both had known political defeat and despair losing their seats in 2015 as well as demonstrating the grit and drive to get them back. Both were approachable and demonstrated good emotional intelligence when speaking afterwards, and having selfies with supporters. Eavesdropping other attenders on the way out, most seemed to think that the decision was finely balanced as to who would be better.

I think that the race will be closer than expected, and that while Swinson should be favourite, I would not bet on her at current odds. Ed Davey is running a good campaign and had a lot of audience support. 6/1 at the time of writing is good value and I have backed him, and will be voting for him.

Dr Foxy

Dr Foxy has been a Lib Dem member for 5 years, having previously been a member of the Labour Party 1994-2002.


Chuka joins the Lib Dems but will he be able to retain Streatham at the next GE

Thursday, June 13th, 2019