Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


Even though TMay slumped to her worst ever Ipsos-MORI PM ratings & Corbyn has the second worst Opposition leader rating

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Never have the views of both CON & LAB leaders been so poor

Just out today is the latest Ipsos-MORI political monitor whicht has the Tories taking a lead of 4% over labour. Last time the two main parties were level pegging.

Also, as ever, included are the firm’s  leader satisfaction number a polling series that is now into its forty-third year. For the Corbyn and TMay the ratings are dreadful. The former has the second worst Opposition leader numbers on record only slightly better than last month which were the worst.

TMay’s ratings were the worst she’s experienced since becoming PM although she has a “lead” over the LAB leader in the sense there his net negatives are 16  points worse than hers.

We’ve never had a time like this when the leaders of the two main parties are simultaneously recording record lows. TMay has had Brexit while Corbyn continues to be hit by the anti-semitism rows which simply won’t go away.

In one sense the Tories are in a better position in that TMay has said she won’t fight the next general election as leader. Corbyn’s still there.

Mike Smithson


At this critical time a look at matters of Confidence in the political arena

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

In both senses of the word, confidence lies at the heart of politics. It is certainly the preference of this habitual voyeur of Westminster life. Yet the concept has been distorted beyond recognition by the stresses of Brexit.

Brexit positions cut across most parties, and MPs are clearly torn between their loyalties to their party, their electorate, their local members, the nation, the referendum result, and their consciences. But it is hard not to be cynical about how a number of them have voted.

confidence n. 1. The feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.

On January 16th 2019, the House voted by 325 to 306 against a motion of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government. Yet the day before, a huge chunk of those 325 (including the DUP) had voted against the Government’s central policy and purpose, namely the Withdrawal Agreement, when that went down to its historic 230-vote defeat. In previous times a vote of that magnitude would have been framed as a matter of confidence in the government itself, and thus treated with the seriousness it deserved.

It is clear from subsequent developments that a number of MPs could have accepted the deal but preferred not to vote for it. This may have been in the reasonable hope that they could get closer to their own position. Indeed the EU did provide some further legal assurances as a result.

However my overriding impression from both MV1 and MV2 is that these MPs – most of the ERG and many Labour MPs sitting in Leave seats – wanted the deal to pass (eventually) but without getting their own hands dirty by actually voting for it themselves. This is a failure of salesmanship on the part of the PM and a failure of whipping, but it’s also a failure of those MPs to face up to their own responsibilities.

confidence n. 2. The telling of private matters or secrets with mutual trust.

Another casualty of Brexit is this second sense of confidence. To be fair, leaks and briefings have always been integral to politics, but in recent times Cabinet has been practically live-blogged by lobby journalists, as have meetings of the PLP and the 1922 Committee. And Labour’s deputy leader attempted to set up a parallel complaints process, because of his lack of trust in their General Secretary. The EU has also been prone to leaking sensitive details of the negotiating process.

When leaders cannot trust a wider group to keep confidences, then they retreat into their bunkers. This heightens the risk both of groupthink and also PR disasters: the lack of an outside perspective leads them to choose words or actions which can cause unnecessary offence. This in turn makes securing trust from those outside their parties even harder.

“Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” – Vince Lombardi

It would be foolish to deny that Theresa May and her team could have managed the Brexit process better. Notably, she ought to have sold her deal much more assertively, and made a virtue of the all-UK nature of the backstop (a genuine negotiating win) rather than apologising for it. Given the structural difficulties of negotiating under Article 50 – perhaps something she and others ought to have been more upfront about – I think the deal itself is pretty reasonable.

But many of the criticisms of Theresa May are themselves cynical. To quote Danny Finkelstein in Tuesday’s Times: “they are all easy to say now, while not having been practical to do at the time. Even Labour was against a soft Brexit for a year or two after the referendum. And none of them were advanced by the hard Leavers. Those who argue that Mrs May’s departure is necessary if they or their friends are to back the deal are the same people who supported, indeed urged, her hard line.

We have now ended up in a position where Theresa May appears to have no confidence in the nation’s MPs, and the feeling is clearly reciprocated. The Speaker has clearly lost the confidence of a substantial proportion of the House: enough that he ought to be considering his position too. And the fact that our exit has been allowed to go this close to the wire has damaged the confidence of the country at large in our political processes.

Whichever outcome we get will polarise the electorate still further, with a sizeable minority likely to feel that something has been stolen from them. There is going to be a lot of work – for the next Prime Minister, but also for everyone involved in politics – to restore confidence in the system.

Aaron Bell

Aaron works in the betting industry and is a long-standing contributor to, posting under the username Tissue_Price. He stood for the Conservatives in Don Valley at the General Election in 2017.


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


What might the Tories learn from Labour

Friday, March 8th, 2019

The Tories might well look at Labour’s current travails over anti-Semitism and sigh with relief. “At least we’re not as bad as that.” They would be wise not to be so complacent.

Anti-Semitism is not  confined to Corbyn’s Labour or to the Left in general. The attacks on Soros by some Tory-leaning papers, even Mrs May’s “citizens of nowhere” speech, echoed some pretty standard tropes about rootless disloyal cosmopolitan people somehow undermining good old native British culture.  And there have been enough people within the Tories willing to use and spread offensive and hateful imagery and statements about Muslims, Jews and foreigners in general to show that they are not immune.

Baroness Warsi can be criticised for some of the views she has expressed (about Prevent, about Sara Khan and the Commission for Countering Extremism) but her complaints about how some in the Tory party view Muslims raise worrying questions, questions which need addressing seriously.

The most important lesson to learn from Labour’s problems is that the sooner you stamp down hard on problems, the easier it is to root them out. Early effective action makes it easier to create the right culture – a culture which is unwelcoming to those who wish to discriminate against “others” and who spread or use hateful words, imagery, insults, whether this is because they believe them or because they think them useful in some greater cause.

There are three more important lessons to be learned:-

  1. It is not enough to make speeches about clamping down on such abuse. This must be accompanied by actions, at all levels of the party from the top down, and not just when the press is looking but on a sustained basis. Those who care about such matters will notice if action is taken just for show.
  2. Establish the scale of the problem. Properly. Organisations hate doing this – it’s washing your dirty linen in public, it can be demoralising for those who don’t behave badly, it feels as if you’re giving ammunition to your opponents. But unless you know the extent of the problems you face, you cannot seriously put in place the measures needed. What’s more, it looks as if you’re trying to cover things up. So when you do try and deal with an issue, you run the risk of not being believed. Better to be open when the issues are small and resolvable than be forced into an inquiry under pressure when your credit is already low. And better this than be investigated by outside bodies, when you have lost control. The Tories would be wise to take advice – and be seen to be doing so – from the Equalities Commission on best practice.
  3. Have a robust, thorough, independent investigative and disciplinary process, staffed by people who know what they are doing and who understand how to spot and avoid an actual or potential conflict of interest. This is not that hard, if the will is there. Not doing so or just doing the bare minimum will cause endless grief; the damage to reputation will hugely outweigh the costs and be very long-lasting. It is the falsest of false economies.

This may not be something that matters to many voters, but it is emblematic of a party’s moral compass, of how it is perceived. Voters’ decisions are made as much for emotional reasons as following a cool rational assessment of parties’ policies. Labour has suffered in part because the allegations of anti-Semitism by its own MPs are at odds with its image of itself as an anti-racist party. It makes it seem – to some, anyway – nasty. It took the Tories a very long time indeed to shed their “nasty party” tag but it will not take long for them to reacquire it. (Some will argue that this has already happened.)

But why should the Tories be bothered by this? There have been no demonstrations outside Parliament or polls showing significant percentages of Muslims wanting to leave or complaints that the Tories are posing an existential threat to Muslim life in this country. Nor has Mrs May invited Tommy Robinson to tea, described him as a friend, gone on foreign trips with members of the Klu Klux Klan. Indeed not. But that is to set the bar very low indeed.

And what about the distinction between not insulting Muslims and criticising Islam? Questioning, criticising, challenging an idea, even a religious idea, is essential in a free society, no matter how uncomfortable that may make its adherents feel. All true – and there are certainly many aspects of Islam, of how a community with a fundamentally credal culture integrates into a secular one, of the realities of how some Muslim or Muslim heritage groups behave – which warrant vigorous criticism and debate.

But that criticism can all too easily be dismissed if it comes from a party which permits vulgar hateful abuse against individual Muslims and seeks, implausibly, to justify this by claiming it as merely criticism of a religion. That too is a lesson to be learned from Labour (which has sought to justify abuse of Jews by claiming that this was just criticism of a foreign country or its government). Such Jesuitical distinctions just compound the offence and the insincerity of the explanation.

So why are the Tories vulnerable to a charge of hatred of or contempt for Muslims (and other minorities)?  Three possibilities:-

  1. The legacy of the Leave campaign, the way May’s government seemed to divide the nation into patriots and outsiders, the Go Home vans, the Windrush debacle make it far too easy for some to think it acceptable to indulge in “othering”of those who look or are different. Even Johnson (in favour of permitting the burqa to be worn) could not resist using childish and bullying language when making his arguments, arguments which might have been listened to with more care had he reined back his insatiable desire for a headline. Depending on how Brexit is – or is not – implemented, it is easy to see how a “stab in the back” complaint against “saboteurs” allegedly owing their loyalty to others could morph into something much more sinister aimed at minorities.
  2. UKIP  may now be a busted flush headed by a leader determined to outdo one of his leadership rivals in anti-Muslim bigotry. But for a party once described by Cameron as full of “fruitcakes, racists and loonies”, it has been remarkably successful at changing Tory policy. Tory membership is low; the Tories are divided, exhausted, effectively leaderless and no longer really know what they are for. These are the conditions which make it vulnerable to determined entryists. It would not take many of them mouthing off about loyalty tests and the rest to create the impression that Tories hate Muslims. Even a Muslim Home Secretary born into a poor family is not sufficient inoculation against the harm that entryists can do.
  3. It is a fair assumption that many Leave voters cared more about non-EU immigration than EU migration. (Why would the Turkey and “Breaking Point” posters have been used had this not been the case?). The irony of the Brexit vote is that it is precisely this sort of immigration which has now increased to its highest level for years. Easy to see how this can create the perfect environment for a backlash against such migrants, many of whom will likely be Muslim.

Dislike of minorities does not need to be a given.  Indeed, it should be something which no decent country or party should indulge in.  But its absence cannot be taken for granted. It is not always parties’ better angels which rule.  The Tories should take no comfort from the beams in Labour’s eyes.  They should concentrate on removing the motes from their own.



If Brexit doesn’t happen on the March 29th Article 50 deadline then it might not happen at all

Thursday, March 7th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Mrs May should have declared her deal a triumph

As we move closer to the critical votes next week on Brexit the betting markets remain uncertain as to what is going to happen. The chart above shows a market that we’ve not featured on PB before – when will the UK actually leave the EU.

If Theresa May gets her deal through then the chances are that the March 29th deadline could be passed and Britain could be out of the EU at 11 p.m. that evening. The only problem is that it is a very big if indeed that Theresa May’s deal will actually get approved by MPs

In an excellent piece of analysis a couple of days ago the Indy’s John Rentoul argued that the deal that Mrs May agreed last November was in fact a major achievement and she should have been triumphalistic. He goes on:

She should have gone to the podium in Brussels on 25 November, at the end of the special summit and said: “It is game, set and match to the UK. I have secured the deal we wanted. It was a hard-fought negotiation but the EU side has conceded a UK-wide temporary customs union. That means we avoid a hard border in Ireland and we avoid a customs border in the Irish Sea. We will have the benefits of special access to the EU single market and an end to free movement of people.”

Later, when she got home, she could have been even more triumphalist. “The EU said the four freedoms were indivisible, but we divided them,” she could have told a noisy House of Commons. “They said ‘no cherry picking’ but I’ve just driven a cherry picker into the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels and taken the biggest cherry of them all. We have won control of our money, our laws and our borders while maintaining privileged, customs-free access to the single market.”

By sounding so hesitant it is hardly surprising that others shared this view over what had been agreed. This was the exact opposite of Harold Wilson and his negotiation ahead of the first European referendum in the mid-1970s. He achieved relatively little but very much overplayed it and the public went with him.

We look to our politicians to lead and sometimes that means they’ve got to bullshit a bit. Unfortunately that is not Mrs May’s style.

Mike Smithson


The resilient PM ploughs on to March 29th and her running down the clock strategy might just work

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

In a very uncertain political environment in the UK one thing we can predict with some certainty is that these few months in British politics will be the focus of massive amount of study and examination in decades to come. How did we get to where we are and most of all was the PM’s approach the right one?

I just wonder how she is going to be regarded by history. She was a Remainer she took the view on becoming the PM that it was her duty to implement the result but at the same time to do so in a manner that would cause least damage to the economy.

What is extraordinary is how steadfast she has been in her approach as we get very close to the precipice of 11 p.m. on March 29th.That is the moment when, unless there is some radical change in the law, the UK ceases to be part of the EU.

The question of the island of Ireland was always going to be a big issue and one which simply wasn’t focused by Leave during the referendum campaign. Ireland joined at the same time as the UK and the lack of a border played a big part in 1998 in securing the agreement that led to the ending of the troubles.

I’m old and for most of my working life as a journalist “the troubles” were overwhelmingly the biggest ongoing news story. What I find amazing is how little those born a quarter of a century after me have any real awareness. Being in the EU played a big part in allowing the Republicans halt their bloody fight.

The big question now is will TMay’s running down the clock strategy succeed? On the betting market the chances of the UK leaving without a deal are currently 22%.

  • The painting above is by my daughter-in-law, Lucille Smithson, a professional artist living on Los Angeles.
  • Mike Smithson


    New YouGov leader ratings finds both TMay and Corbyn struggling with their voters from GE2017

    Thursday, January 31st, 2019

    Getting on for half of GE2017 LAB voters view Corbyn unfavourably

    Only minutes after I published the previous thread bemoaning the fact that we see very few leader ratings surveys in British polls up popped YouGov with its latest favorability numbers.

    The main figures for Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are in the screenshot above. To my mind the most important cross-break is the party split from the 2017 General Election. What do those who voted for you last time now think? This, surely, is a good indicator of possible actions in a future votes.

    Theresa May appears to be making heavy weather with 2017 Tory voters with a third of them saying now that they have an unfavorable view of the leader and the Prime Minister.

    Her position, however, is not as bad as Jeremy Corbyn with those who voted for the party in 2017. Here just 47% say they have a favorable view of the leader with 44% saying they don’t.

    Clearly things can change significantly between now and the general election as we saw in 2017 but, I’d suggest, that his numbers at the moment should be a cause for some concern. The 44% is a significant figure given that the first objective for LAB at the next election will be to retain those who voted for it at the last one.

    Theresa May has, of course, told her party that she will not be leader at the next general election so in some ways this means that her figures are a bit less relevant. They are useful, though, for comparison.

    Mike Smithson


    Ahead of this afternoon’s May-Corbyn meeting the two leaders get warmed up with a spiky PMQs exchange

    Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

    If we were to predict the outcome of this afternoon’s historic meeting face-to-face meeting between TMay and Mr Corbyn based on what happened at today’s PMQs it is hard to see this taking things very much forward.

    But Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn have a joint interest for the country not to leave the EU on March 29th with No Deal. She cannot be certain of her CON votes and the complicated relationship with the DUP. This, on the face it, should put Corbyn in a stronger position.

    The problem is, of course, is that the PM always has the divisions in her own party to think about and it is perhaps hard to see her going forward with whatever the Labour leader offers.

    As has been commented on many times once you strip away the wording and rhetoric from LAB’s proposed deal and what Theresa May has there is very little difference in functional effectiveness. The UK would be still in the Customs Union in one form or another.

      The pressure on Corbyn is that he doesn’t want to see Labour’s fingerprints on a no deal brexit. If that happens he has to be able to totally blame the Tories for all the consequences. So far his ambiguity has actually not been an issue. Now that is changing.

    No doubt later on this evening we will get reports from both sides of how they saw it going.

    The BBC’s political editor, Laura kuenssberg, noted before PMQs started that both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have reputations for not talking very much in meetings. Maybe it’s all going to be silence?

    Mike Smithson