Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


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


The PB/Polling Matters Podcast: Labour’s re-brand & why 2017 won’t be all plain sailing for Mrs. May

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

On the first PB/Polling Matters podcast of 2017 Keiran discusses the future of the Labour Party with the General Secretary of the Fabian Society Andrew Harrop. They discuss Corbyn’s recent rebrand as a left-wing populist and Labour’s mounting problems including Scotland, Brexit and the daunting electoral math faced in Westminster ahead of the presumed General Election in 2020 (and what to do about it). Keiran also takes us through some recent polling and explains why he thinks 2017 will be a tough year for Theresa May, regardless of the Labour Party.

Follow Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley

You can read the Fabians report referenced in today’s podcast here 


How long can May’s honeymoon period go on?

Saturday, January 7th, 2017


Most other mid-term boosts have dissolved after 6 months

If the five years of this parliament were compressed into the space of a football match, we’d have only just reached the half-hour mark. It feels like longer, though that might be because there’s been a lot packed in: six leadership elections across the four main parties, a change of PM, an historic referendum, and Labour’s biggest crisis since at least the early 1980s.

In the normal scheme of things, Labour should be comfortably ahead by now. Mid-terms are nearly always hard for governments, as they try to implement the detail of their reforms, as the lustre of election victory fades and as internal disputes tend to become more heated away from the discipline-inducing election years.

This should be no different. Politics is Brexit and on that, as Sir Ivan Rogers has helpfully noted, the government is at best keeping its cards extremely close to its chest and at worst, paralysed by division and indecision. Contradictions abound among what ministers have said. A good opposition would be making hay.

This is not, however, a good opposition. Corbyn is improving at PMQs but as Hague could advise, you can be excellent at that and it won’t cut any ice with the public. In terms of getting their agenda into the news and scoring hits on the government that the public notice, it’s completely failing.

Some might argue that although this is in terms of the parliamentary cycle the mid-term, the change of PM means that the Conservatives are still effectively in their honeymoon period and that the polls will move accordingly. Yes and no.

One reason that the polls have been resilient might well be that the government has been so guarded about its Brexit policy and has therefore not yet upset one side or the other (bar last-ditch remainers). That can’t last. Within three months, Article 50 will be triggered (assuming the courts or parliament don’t unexpectedly get in the way), and the battle will really begin.

All the same, Theresa May shouldn’t still be in her honeymoon period. She’s only the third PM to take over mid-term in the last 40 years so there isn’t that much comparative data but it’s notable that six months after John Major took over, Labour was six points ahead in the polls; a better for the Tories than during Thatcher’s last days but still a swing of some 8% from the post-change peak.

Similarly, in 2007, the Conservatives were 10 points ahead six months after Brown moved into No 10, a swing of no less than 10% from Labour’s high point.

By contrast, what’s remarkable about this handover is that there isn’t a peak, just a generally steady plateau; one which we’re still on. Until now, the peak in support for a party after either a mid-term prime ministerial change or a general election win usually comes within 3 months of the event. Here, the gap is as wide as ever after double that.

Can she go on defying gravity in this way? As mentioned, that depends in part on how the Brexit negotiations go, once they’re underway. After all, there are more than two parties out there and if the Tories’ ratings do suffer as a result, you’d expect the Lib Dems and UKIP to pick up some support if Labour can’t.

Or if Theresa May’s own ratings suffer. Although down on her best, she still scored a net approval rating of +16 in the final YouGov poll of 2016. As a rule of thumb, a politician is usually doing well to be above -20 given that most people will oppose their party and there’ll always be some internal critics. Time and events will erode her score to something more normal.

But not straight away, unless she makes a catastrophic error on the scale of Major and the ERM or Brown and his non-election. She and her party should be good for a few months yet. That May election must be looking attractive at No 10.

David Herdson


Punters make it a 31% chance that the next general election will be in 2017

Thursday, December 29th, 2016


I might be wrong but am yet to be convinced

On the UK front next year looks set to be dominated by BREXIT – the process of extracting the UK from the EU. Doing this successfully is set to be the defining act of Theresa May’s premiership and even though the referendum decision was more than six months ago we still have little idea what this is going to mean.

The PM has managed to keep up her strategy of refusing to get into a discussion on the detail declining, we are told, even requests for enlightenment from the Queen.

The challenge she’s got is that whatever she does it is not going to satisfy all her party’s MPs never mind the country as a whole. She’s also got the ongoing problem of not having a personal mandate. The Tories have a majority because of David Cameron successful GE2015 campaign, not her, and even her CON leadership contest was won without this going to a party members’ ballot.

So the argument goes that there’ll come a time, possibly next year, when she needs to get the public’s backing for the approach to the EU extraction. With Labour looking s weak a general election would seem the logical move.

TM’s position on the Fixed Term Parliament Act has been made easier by the statement by Corbyn before Christmas that Labour would back an early election – something that would almost certainly be required to get round the constraints imposed.

I have three big reservations. On becoming PM she made it clear that she would not seek an election before 2020; a 2017 general election would be fought on the old boundaries, and she appears to be a ditherer on massive decisions which this would be.

So I’m not rushing out to bet.

Mike Smithson


A Richmond Park by election polling boost for the LDs from Ipsos MORI: up 4% to 14%

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

From today’s Ipsos MORI phone poll for the Standard
Con 40 (-2)
Lab 29 (-4)
LD 14 (+4)
UKIP 9 (+2
GRN 3 (nc)

Yellows getting biggest support in Southern England

TMay heading for cross-over perhaps in her satisfaction ratings

Fewer people think government doing good job on BREXIT


Theresa May now joint 2nd favourite as next party leader to go

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016


Nuttal & Farron prices move out

William Hill next party leader out betting with changes since Sunday
2/1 Corbyn
11/4 (5/2) Nuttall
11/4 (7/2) May
6/1 Sturgeon
7/1 (6/1) Farron

There’s been quite a bit if activity on the William Hill first party leader out market with Paul Nuttlall’s price moving out and Theresa May’s moving in. The betting sentiment suggests that the PM might not be as secure as things appear.

Certainly there’s been a fair bit of more critical coverage of May in the past 5 days as the BREXIT strategy looks even more complex. If this goes smoothly then she can look forward to a reasonably long period at Number 10. If not then the Tory party has a habit of moving very quickly and decisively.

This from Sam Coates today’s Times on the operation of the Cabinet Brexit committee is hardly going to add to confidence.

Mike Smithson


Boris gets his own back on Theresa

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Paul Waugh writes on HuffPost about tonight’s reception at Lancaster House,

“In front of hundreds of diplomats from around the globe, he made a typically maverick speech hailing Brexit, while teased the PM on everything from foreign student numbers to Nigel Farage’s links with the US and even Heathrow’s third runway.

But after days of “trousergate” controversy – sparked by former minister Nicky Morgan’s criticism of the cost of May’s leather pants – Johnson couldn’t resist the biggest target…

“We are so cosmopolitan that we drink more champagne, more prosecco, buy more German cars than anyone else,” he declared.

“And our wonderful Prime Minister actually wears lederhosen!”

Quite where this is all going will be one of the fun stories of 2017.

Mike Smithson


TMay moves to negative ratings in Scotland while fewer Scots now back independence than at the 2014 referendum

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016


Given the huge importance of Scotland as the UK moves towards BREXIT there’s a new Scotland only YouGov poll – the first since August.

These are some of the key points:-

The rise and rise of Scots CON leader Ruth Davidson continues

Scottish Greens now into double figures on Regional List voting