Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category

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Fifty shades of grey voters. Corbyn’s punishing polling with older voters.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Corbyn is doing worse with older voters, and history shows older voters turn out to vote and are a growing demographic.

A few weeks ago whilst looking at the polling entrails I was struck by how much of a lead with older voters Mrs May was developing over Jeremy Corbyn in the best Prime Minister polling. As we can see with the chart above, there’s a clear correlation with the older you get, the more you prefer Mrs May as Prime Minister.

With the recent YouGov poll, just 7% of the overs 65s think Corbyn would make the best Prime Minister, whilst 75% thought Mrs May would be.

Whilst some of this is an incumbency bonus because Mrs May is Prime Minister, these figures are explained because of the poor esteem Corbyn is held in by the electorate as evidenced in most polls.

When looking at how the over 65s plan to vote at the next general election from the most recent polls in the chart below, there’s some occasionally eye watering figures that appear, as Ipsos MORI looking like an outlier, with four of the regular pollsters showing the Tories leading Labour by at least 41% with the over 65s. This is something I shall be tracking over the next few months on PB.

With the recent Opinium and YouGov polls, Labour are now in third place with the over 65s, behind UKIP. With YouGov Labour are only 3% ahead of the fourth placed Lib Dems.

Adam Ludlow of ComRes pointed out that by 2020 “people aged 65+ will make up a quarter of the adult population” and coupled with the greater propensity of older voters to vote, these figures tend to presage an absolute shellacking for a Corbyn led Labour party at a general election, to use a popular culture reference, at the next general election a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party is set to play the role of Anastasia Steele to the electorate’s Christian Grey.

TSE

A couple of technical points about the second  chart. 

i) The ICM figure is from the VI before the spiral of silence adjustment, as the post spiral of silence figures are presented as headline figures and not broken down by demographics. The Tory lead with all voters over Labour before the spiral of silence was 20%, afterwards it became a 18% Tory lead.

ii) Ipsos MORI split their figures into two groups, 65 to 74 year olds, and 75 year olds and over, to ensure consistency for comparative purposes, I’ve averaged these two out to get an overall aged 65 and over figure.



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The return of Butskellism

Friday, February 17th, 2017

On seeing Sarah Bernhardt play Cleopatra a Victorian matron exclaimed: “How different, how very different, from the home life of our own dear Queen!”  Leave supporters might voice similar sentiments about the very different ways in which Theresa May and Donald Trump have chosen to capitalise on their respective ascents to power.

President Trump has chosen to lead the nation as he campaigned – divisively, aggressively and with scant regard for longstanding conventions.  His spokesman has pronounced that the president’s national security actions will not be questioned, including by the judiciary, and he warned about judicial intervention, “we will make sure that we take action to keep from happening in the future what’s happened in the past.”  President Trump has become deeply embroiled in a scandal over the extent of Russian links and influence over his administration.  Meanwhile he has found time to quarrel over the size of his inauguration crowd and go into bat on his daughter’s behalf with a department store that had dropped her range of clothes.  He seems intent on dismantling longstanding conventions and consensuses and rewriting ethical rules in order to ram through whatever he wants to achieve.

Mrs May has gone in a very different direction.  In order to understand this, we first need to see how policy stood when she took over.  David Cameron and George Osborne had run an administration that was in the main socially fairly liberal but economically dry as dust.  The 2015 election was fought on the basis of the Conservatives offering eye-watering financial discipline for the current Parliament in order to generate a budgetary surplus and then branding Labour as profligate for failing to match this.  The Conservatives’ election victory was fought and won on austerity.  Ever since 1979, the Conservatives had stood on a platform of economic rigour.  David Cameron’s leadership was unusually liberal but otherwise entirely in keeping with his predecessors from Mrs Thatcher onwards.

Theresa May’s administration has upended this completely.  With Philip Hammond, she has quietly junked the economic machismo.  The projected fiscal tightening has been completely abandoned. 

Instead, Theresa May has focused on meeting the concerns of the “just about managing” – echoing Ed Miliband’s focus on the “squeezed middle”.  She has taken the opportunity given by Labour’s disarray to steal some of Labour’s policy proposals from the last election.  Ed Miliband himself has wryly noted that his idea of seizing land that was not developed quickly enough had gone “From Mugabe to May in a few short years”.  The government is also looking at developing longer tenancies for renters – another Miliband policy that was fiercely attacked by the Conservatives when it came out.

In short, Theresa May has moved the economic consensus sharply left, spotting vacant territory.  Having won the last election on traditional Conservative terrain, the Conservatives have found themselves abandoning it without even noticing.

Instead, the Conservatives are differentiating themselves by moving to the right on social concerns.  This is embodied by the way that Theresa May has interpreted the Brexit vote.  She is prioritising controls on freedom of movement and aggressively seeking to reduce immigration, even to the point of reneging on previous commitments to take in child refugees.  We have learned that she doesn’t approve of self-described citizens of the world and she gracelessly poked at Emily Thornberry for not taking her husband’s name.

So Theresa May has completely reversed the political dividing lines.  Instead of seeking to differentiate the Conservatives from Labour on economics, she is seeking to do so through social conservatism. In contemporary terms, she appears to be seeking to make the Conservative party into a Christian Democrat party – more like Angela Merkel than Margaret Thatcher or Queen Elizabeth I.  The irony in that, given that Brexit looms over everything else at present, is obvious.

In British historical terms, what Theresa May seems to be setting up post-Brexit is a return to the post-war consensus commonly nicknamed Butskellism (a hybrid of RAB Butler’s and Hugh Gaitskell’s names), where the two parties basically agreed on leftish economics and slugged it out over social matters.  It would leave UKIP purposeless and the left divided for the foreseeable future.  So it’s easy to see why it would appeal to a Conservative Prime Minister in the current political landscape.

Also ironically, many of the most enthusiastic Leavers, including the erstwhile head of Vote Leave Michael Gove, are fervent economic Thatcherites and socially fairly liberal.  How much they welcome political developments since the vote must be open to doubt.

Of course, Butskellism is now widely regarded to have been a generational failure, leaving Britain as the sick man of Europe lagging far behind the more dynamic nations on the continent.  Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Alastair Meeks




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First polling on Trump’s UK visit has 49% supporting and 36% opposing

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

In spite of the massive petition against it and the huge furore and demonstrations within the last 48 hours new UK polling this morning finds that 49% telling a YouGov Times poll that the visit should go ahead with 36% saying it shouldn’t.

That means that public appeared to be backing Theresa Mays line on the controversial invitation.

I suspect that if it’s felt that the security issues would be so great a polite way of postponing the visit would be created. You can see one of the parties having a minor illness or something of that nature which means that it is postponed.

Whatever the gloss from what at first appeared like triumphal visit to Washington last week by the PM has fallen away following the executive orders from the White House on refugees, Muslims, and immigration.

Mike Smithson




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The Tories are looking to Copeland for endorsement of Mrs. May’s plan for BREXIT

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

But what happens of the blues don’t take the LAB seat on February 23rd?

Last night a Copeland voter emailed the above copy of a personalised letter that had come to him from Theresa May. The contents are very revealing about what message the Tories are hoping will come from them taking the seat from LAB in 23 days time.

The Tories are looking to the result as a vindication of the strategy outlined in the PM’s speech earlier in the month. Notice how in the letter the PM doesn’t move into any other policy area this is all about BREXIT and getting some mandate for her approach.

If the betting markets have got this right the Tories are in with a 58% chance of what would be an unprecedented outcome in recent times for a ruling party – to take a seat from the opposition.

    But the strategy has its risks. What happens if the Tories fail to take Copeland? What would that say about about public backing for the BREXIT plan.

We now live in an era when we don’t have by-election polls. There was one in Richmond Park with 4 weeks to go that had Zac 27% ahead but that’s been the only published one this parliament.

So at the moment there’s little to base any Copeland forecasts on apart from the Tories dominant national polling position. Only problem with that is that it isn’t being reflected in council by-elections.

Mike Smithson




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The lack of options for Brexit Britain

Monday, January 30th, 2017

 

Since the Brexit vote, British politics has been curiously alternativeless.  The government rules without any effective opposition.  The Prime Minister was installed by her party as the only imaginable choice once the other would-be contenders had been properly scrutinised.  Theresa May was not particularly inspiring.  But what else could the Conservative party have done?

The Prime Minister has spent some months reviewing her options, only to find that she has none.  She has rightly concluded that controls on immigration are a non-negotiable feature of any Brexit deal, given the basis of the referendum campaign.  So, making a virtue out of necessity, Theresa May has announced that Britain will not be seeking continued membership of the single market (knowing that it was not on offer if Britain insisted on controlling immigration from the EU).  She is looking for a swift agreement on limited terms, accepting that a more comprehensive agreement is in practice impossible.  But what else could she have done?

Having burned its bridges with the rest of the EU, Britain must find new friends – or rely more heavily on existing ones.  And as Thucydides said over 2000 years ago, “It is the habit of mankind to entrust to careless hope what they long for, and to use sovereign reason to thrust aside what they do not desire”.  So Theresa May concluded that despite disagreeing strongly with Donald Trump on many matters, including the importance of NATO, the appropriate response to Russia and tariff-free trade, she needed to get as close to the incoming administration in Washington as possible.  There were obvious risks given the new president’s apparent waywardness, his loose relationship with the truth, his past boorishness towards many women and a smorgasbord of troubling policy positions.  Britain had to proceed on the basis that those could be contained or sidestepped.  From that point, the British government’s foreign policy in relation to the USA was founded on hope.  But what else could she have done?

The Foreign Office secured the undoubted coup of getting Theresa May to meet Donald Trump first of all the world leaders.  And she gave a serious and thoughtful speech to assembled Republicans in which she announced that “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over”.  Once again, the Prime Minister made a virtue of necessity, given the new president’s own clearly-expressed views on the subject.  This marks a sharp break from the liberal interventionist consensus of the last two decades.  But what else could she have done?

No one can accuse Theresa May have being underprepared for her meeting with Donald Trump.  She seems to have taken to heart Thucydides’ words that “It is a general rule of human nature that people despise those who treat them well, and look up to those who make no concessions.”  With firmness she publicly declared on his behalf that he was fully committed to NATO.  He was charmed sufficiently to guide her through a colonnade.  From that point on the two of them will be forever inextricably associated in the public’s eyes as being hand in hand.  That was a hostage to fortune that Theresa May must have regretted from the very moment that she felt his paw grasp her.  But what else could she have done?

When the Prime Minister left the USA, the consensus was that she had added to her stature.  It unravelled all too quickly as Donald Trump signed an executive order on Holocaust Memorial Day to ban those born in seven countries from entering the USA.  (The president seems unaware that the approved way of interpreting his words was seriously but not literally and seems dead set on being taken seriously and literally.)  This caused outrage in Britain well beyond the usual sources, with a series of Conservative MPs queuing up to condemn it.  A petition to deny Donald Trump the state visit that Theresa May had promised him has accumulated signatures at a record-breaking pace, soaring far past the million mark in a day.  As I write, she seems trapped between wanting to recognise the undoubtedly real disgust that many Britons feel about this policy that affects prominent Brits, including Sir Mo Farah, and not wanting to offend Donald Trump, whose goodwill she so desperately needs.  She looks simultaneously venal and feeble.  But what else can she do?

The contrast is starkly made with other European leaders.  Angela Merkel, for example, has felt no need to rush to Donald Trump’s side.  She has been able to set her own course and has felt uninhibited in condemning this policy.  She is able to do this because she has more options, options that are derived in large part from Germany being in the EU.  Britain, it is becoming painfully clear, is out of options.

Does this mean that Britain should backtrack on Brexit?  No, that ship has sailed.  But the limits of the control taken back are becoming painfully apparent.  That man Thucydides first recorded the view that “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”  Britain is getting a crash course in the truth of this dictum right now.  Ancient history has never seemed more modern.  Expect Britain to have to suffer much more in the coming years.

Alastair Meeks




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A cartoon ahead of tomorrow’s historic Trump-May meeting in the US and tonight’s Local By-Election Preview

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Kilmarnock East and Hurlford on East Ayrshire caused by the death of the sitting Scottish National Party member
Result of council at last election (2012): Scottish National Party 15, Labour 14, Conservatives 2, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Scottish National Party short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 944, 1,126 (47%)
Labour 1,054, 984 (46%)
Conservative 326 (7%)
EU Referendum Result (2016): REMAIN 33,891 (59%) LEAVE 23,942 (41%) on a turnout of 63%
Candidates duly nominated: Fiona Campbell (SNP), Jon Herd (Con), Stephen McNamara (Scottish Libertarian Party), Dave Meecham (Lab)
Weather at the close of polls: Cloudy, but dry 0°C
Estimate: Scottish National Party HOLD

Compiled by Harry Hayfield



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Betting on Mrs May outdistancing Mrs Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

William Hill have a market on whether Mrs May being Prime Minister for longer than the country’s first female Prime Minister. To be honest I’m not enthused by either option. To win the  10/1, you’d be tying up your money for the next eleven years, I can think of better things to do with my money than given William Hill an interest free loan for eleven years.

For this bet to pay out Mrs May would have to win the 2020 and 2025 general elections, whilst Jeremy Corbyn remains Labour leader the 2020 general election should be a slam dunk for Mrs May, if Labour choose someone more electable post a general election shellacking then calling a 2025 general election will be hard. (As an aside, Labour don’t need to win a majority to form a government, they can probably be 70 seats short of a majority, and the reality of Parliamentary arithmetic would mean we’d get a Lab/SNP alliance with the possible acquiescence of the Lib Dems, Greens, and SDLP, assuming Scotland hasn’t seceded by then.)

As for taking the 1/25 on Mrs May not lasting as long as Mrs Thatcher, this is also a no bet for me, she’ll be Prime Minister until 2020 at least (assuming no early election) and if the most recent YouGov and Ipsos Mori polls are accurate, she’s on course for a decent three figure majority, so that should keep her in place for a few years post 2020. I can see her standing down in 2024, so we’re looking at this becoming potentially becoming at minimum seven year interest free loan to William Hill.  I can think of a lot of other better priced bets that have higher chances of paying out this week.

That we have such a market is probably reflection of truly dire state that Labour party finds itself in whilst it is led  by Jeremy Corbyn, I think Abraham Lincoln had brighter prospects when he picked up those theatre tickets than a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party does.

TSE



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Timing is everything. A review of Theresa May’s speech

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

Whatever else you think of Brexit, we are being led by powerful currents taking us far from familiar shores. Whether we find safe harbour or end up washed up on the rocks is yet to be seen.

Theresa May has grasped this. After months of silence and having insisted that she would not give a running commentary, she has delivered a speech which offers as much clarity as anyone could have wished for about Britain’s negotiating strategy. Her government is to prioritise controlling immigration and as a result she is not going to attempt to keep Britain in the single market. In her words, the future relationship between Britain and the EU will be “Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.”

Presented as a strategy, this is in reality an admission of defeat. Some Leaver ministers have spent the last six months skipping like Julie Andrews enumerating some of their favourite things about the EU that they intended Britain to continue to benefit from. The Prime Minister is obviously more securely tethered to reality and has recognised that the EU’s many statements that it would not allow Britain to cherry-pick are not bluffs. She has concluded that controlling immigration is a non-negotiable component of Brexit and is proceeding accordingly. Rather than spend months pursuing the impossible, she isn’t going to make the attempt. Instead, she’s going to cut her losses now.

While this is an admission of defeat, it is also politically sensible. The Prime Minister has called this “Clean Brexit” and a more precise turn of phrase would be “Cauterised Brexit”, burning off some tissue in order to seal the wound. This was for centuries standard medical practice after amputation and entirely applicable here.

The domestic reaction came in two stages. That night, the tabloids were ecstatic. And the next day, HSBC and UBS announced their plans to relocate jobs from London – an early illustration of how Cauterised Brexit may have major costs.

For the first time, the Prime Minister also offered some olive twigs to the rest of the EU. She proclaimed her belief that the vote was not a rejection of shared values or to do harm to the EU itself (she would do well to slap down publicly some of her more excitable backbenchers on this last point). She stated that other Europeans would still be welcome in this country.

Despite the clumsy attempts at veiled threats that Theresa May dropped about how Britain could act in a hostile manner if a deal wasn’t reached, the speech received a moderate reception in the chancelleries of Europe (less so in the European press). The sense of realism and the dialling down of the rhetoric has undoubtedly helped. While there is still an enormous amount of work still to be done even to realise the very restricted Brexit that Theresa May is imagining, the risk of a chaotic Brexit has receded quite a way as a result of this speech being delivered.

The whole effort, however, has been undermined by a major flaw that is potentially very damaging indeed. Quite simply, this speech was far too late. The timetable for Brexit is demanding and Theresa May had long ago committed herself to triggering Article 50 in the early part of 2017. There is nothing that she said this week that could not have been said at the Conservative party conference. It would certainly have been a far better conference speech than the one that she actually delivered. Three precious months have been lost.

And it’s not as though those three months have been valuably or even neutrally spent. In the meantime, the British government has been burning its remaining capital with other European nations, insulting them, belittling them and threatening them. The mood is icy.

Brexit was always going to be a brutally difficult course to navigate. But by her delay, Theresa May might well find that the flood tide has been missed. Shallows and miseries might well be impossible to avoid now.

Alastair Meeks