Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


Dissecting Theresa May’s popularity and you find out she has the potential to be Gordon Brown Mark II

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

This week YouGov released some fascinating polling on Theresa May and her popularity. As we can see from the above chart it helps explains why Mrs May has such a colossal lead over Jeremy Corbyn on who would make the best Prime Minister and why if Jeremy Corbyn is Labour leader at the next general election, the 2020 general election is going to be the electoral equivalent of the Anglo-Zanzibar war.

But is her popularity down to Mrs May not being Jeremy Corbyn?

YouGov went onto dissect Mrs May’s popularity rating further, is her popularity down to herself or not being Jeremy Corbyn.

YouGov say that

Among those who think she would make the best Prime Minister, there is a nearly even split between those who that say it is because of her strengths (47%) and those that say it is because of Jeremy Corbyn’s weaknesses (46%). Whilst some, including many traditional Labour supporters, see Theresa May as the better of two evils this could quickly change with a more popular opposition leader.

The second threat is that were a few slip-ups or crises to occur, perceptions of her could quickly change – and this is where the comparison to Gordon Brown is perhaps apposite. At the start of his Premiership he was also seen as being strong but cold and also enjoyed a decent “honeymoon” period. Yet within a year of taking over, just 18% saw him as strong and 14% as decisive as his reputation was harmed by the financial crisis and his decision not to call an election.

Labour went from being 5-10% ahead in the polls to lagging the Tories by 15-20% and eventually lost the general election. Now, ten years after he took over, a quarter (26%) still think Gordon Brown was a “terrible” Prime Minister with a further 31% rate him as “poor.”

While history doesn’t always repeat itself, there are many potential crises on the horizon – whether it’s the complicated Brexit negotiations, economic challenges, or pressure on the NHS. If Theresa May can navigate them she could – like Margaret Thatcher – be remembered by many as a strong and decisive leader who has what it takes to get things done. But as if she fails then then in the public’s mind she could risk being seen as another Gordon Brown.

So if Labour do come to their senses and replace the electoral liability that is Jeremy Corbyn with someone more popular & competent coupled with a poorly handled Brexit negotiations or recession which is blamed on Mrs May and the Tories then Labour’s chances at the next election could improve significantly, after all on current boundaries, it only takes a swing of 0.88% to deny the Tories a majority.

With Sir Lynton Crosby’s polling indicating Mrs May would undo David Cameron’s hard work in obliterating the Liberal Democrats in the South West, so instead of Theresa May being spoken in the same bracket as Margaret Thatcher, Mrs May could be bracketed as the Tory Gordon Brown, but with Liam Fox, David Davis, and Boris Johnson working hard on the Brexit front, I’m sure Mrs May has nothing to worry about.



Where should a concerned LAB supporter direct his anger?

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

“I want us to employ the power of government as a force for good to transform the way we deal with mental health problems right across society, and at every stage of life.”

Fine words from the Prime Minister in her Charity Commission lecture in January.

It’s an issue I care about – I ran a small mental health charity for several years. But as so often with the PM the words don’t match the reality.

As a letter in the London Review of Books from Chris Purnell, who works in mental health in Kent, explains from March 16th it became harder for mentally ill people to qualify for Personal Independence Payments. A key qualifying rule now reads ‘For reasons other than psychological distress, cannot plan the route of a journey.” The effect of this exclusion and similar amendment says Purnell, “is that people suffering mental illness will no longer qualify for PIP.”

Could it be that what Mrs May used to term the nasty party is alive and well?

There’s more nastiness to come. She may have sacked George Osborne but the Prime Minister is pushing ahead with the ex-Chancellor’s plans to curb welfare payments, which according to research reported by the Guardianwill push a quarter of a million children into poverty while wiping thousands of pounds off payments for bereaved families.” The think tank Policy in Practice found that “more than 600,000 families – championed as the “just about managing” households, which the prime minister vowed to protect on her first day in government – would be hit by the child welfare cuts, while many more could be affected by other cuts.”

For a Labour supporter there is so much to be angry about with this government.

Health The head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has been told he’ll be getting no extra cash so last week was forced to announce he was shelving the target that 92% of patients would be treated within 18 weeks for non-urgent surgery. That decision says Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth breaks the NHS constitution and puts the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt “in breach of his legal duty

Education Schools face the first cuts in per pupil funding since the mid 90s according to an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported in the Independent.  “The respected think-tank calculated that real-terms terms spending on school pupils would drop by 6.5 per cent over the course of this parliament”.

Jeremy Corbyn did well at Prime Minister’s questions in challenging the Prime Minister on what undoubtedly amounts to a broken Tory election promise.

But this is where doubts surface about where I should direct my anger. However much he improves his performance the hard fact is that Jeremy is electoral poison for the Labour party. PB is awash with evidence of how Corbyn’s low ratings has dragged the party down with him.

Speak to a Corbyn supporter and you will be told about Jeremy’s fine values; about how much he cares about the NHS, education and looking after the poor and disadvantaged.

My answer is usually pretty brutal. If he really cared he would move on and make way for someone who would give us a shot at winning power. That’s the only way we can undo the nasty things the Tories are doing.

Don Brind


Richard Nabavi on the Brexit Blame Game

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

Now that the trigger has been pulled, the EU27 and the United Kingdom have begun the public posturing over the Brexit negotiations. So far this is not looking encouraging. Theresa May’s warm words about wanting a ”deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU” to include ”both economic and security cooperation” seem to have been, bizarrely, interpreted as a threat. The EU continues to insist that we have to settle the outline of the ‘exit deal’ before we can discuss what we are exiting to. They have thrown a hand-grenade into the negotiating process by appearing to want to blackmail us over Gibraltar.

As with many divorces, the parties start out claiming they want an amicable settlement, but as the specifics emerge, matters get less and less amicable. Often money becomes the focus of the bitterness, and the Brexit negotiations look well set to be no exception. The EU27 have done nothing to dampen down speculation that they are looking for an exit payment in the region of €60bn, which they claim is legally due. To make it worse, they are holding out for this to be agreed before we can even begin to discuss anything like a ‘deep and special partnership’ with the EU. So far the UK government has not risen to the bait; however, the House of Lords Brexit committee argued convincingly, in a recent report, that the UK has no legal obligation to pay anything at all.

Whatever the exact legal position, there is no possibility of the UK paying anything even remotely like €60bn, or even half that. It would be politically impossible to agree a sum which is several times what we pay each year as full members, no matter how it is dressed up or phased. Equally, though, the EU27 seem to have manoeuvred themselves into a negotiating position where they cannot do a deal which doesn’t involve a chunky exit payment. Amongst the diverse positions of the 27 EU countries, that is one thing which both net contributors and net recipients agree on. By making such a public show of it, they have made it politically very hard to draw back and agree a reasonable sum which the UK might be able to agree to. Although, logically, this shouldn’t be a major stumbling block, politically it has been set up to be so.

All this means that an acrimonious breakdown of the Brexit negotiations is quite possible, even likely, as the war of words causes attitudes to harden on both sides.

However, opposition parties rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a Brexit disaster being blamed by voters on Theresa May are badly misjudging how a breakdown of relations with the EU27 would play out in the UK. The PM has been consistent in wanting a good deal for both sides, but demands for a ludicrously high payment by the EU27, explicit mention by some EU politicians of wanting to ‘punish’ the UK, and above all a deliberate refusal to agree a mutually beneficial trade deal in time for the end of the two-year Article 50 period, would cause a polarisation of views in the UK – with most voters siding with the PM against what would look like egregious bullying by the EU. If voters are forced to choose between backing her as she stands up for plucky Britain against unreasonable demands, or seeming to side with vindictive EU bullies against Britain, she and the Conservatives will be the net political beneficiaries. The other parties (apart from the SNP) would be forced to support her, or risk looking unpatriotic. The question would simplify down to: whose side are you on?

A Brexit Breakdown would be a disaster for the UK, as well as for the EU27 – but in purely party-political terms it wouldn’t be a disaster for the Conservative Party.

Richard Nabavi


Can we end this “snap election” speculation – TMay, like Dave before, simply does not have the power to call one

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Everybody seems to be ignoring the Fixed Term Parliament Act

In the latest PB polling matters podcast we hear that polling has been going on asking the public what they think of the idea of having an early General Election. The responses are interesting but they ignore one pertinent fact:

    The prime minister, unlike all those before Cameron, does not have the personal power to go to the monarch and seek the dissolution of Parliament. The Fixed Term Parliament Act has changed that.

This legislation came about as part of the 2010 coalition deal between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. It was pressed for by the yellow team because they didn’t want to get into a situation where the Tories could just govern for a year or so and then go straight to the country when circumstances appeared most right ditching them.

The Act remains in force and will do so until such time as it is repealed. But that process of itself might not necessarily return the discretion to the prime minister. In any case a repeal act would have to go to both houses of parliament and it is highly possible that the measure could run into trouble in House of Lords which could delay it.

There are two provisions in the act for early elections and both present enormous hurdles. Firstly there can be one if two-thirds of the entire House of Commons votes for one. The proportion is based on the total legal number of MPs and would including vacancies, abstentions and, of course, the Sinn Fein representatives who do not take their seats.

    In the current Parliament 434 MPs would have to back the measure. That would mean getting Labour agreement so the choice would be in Mr. Corbyn’s hands.

The the other way a snap election can be held is if there is a vote of no confidence in the government which is not rescinded within 2 weeks.

So the Tories could have a contrived vote of no confidence in themselves which if passed would mean Mrs May would have to go to the palace and tell the Queen that the Commons had no longer any confidence in her government and she would have to resign.

In this case the sovereign would probably call the alternative Prime Minister in waiting, the leader of the opposition, to see if he could form a government.

Clearly that would be very difficult but there is just a possibility that Mr Corbyn could become Prime Minister for a very short period even if he lost a confidence vote himself a few days later.

    A reason why Labour MPs might not back a Commons motion calling for an early election is that it is so much better for them if they force the government to go through the vote of confidence process.

No doubt Mrs May has taken her own legal advice on this issue. One of the reasons why she has steadfastly ruled out an early election is that she knows the difficulty.

If you don’t mind locking money up for three years bet on a 2020 general election.

Mike Smithson


Article 50 will be invoked next week with the country still totally split over whether it is the right thing to do

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

The YouGov tracker is not shifting either way

If the Prime Minister was hoping that the ending of the parliamentary approval process for Article 50 would swing opinion more behind the move then she is going to be disappointed.

The latest YouGov tracker came out shortly before the Westminster terror attack and as can be seen in the chart the country is still totally divided on whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. There’s been very little movement since TMay became leader last July.

This is very much sets the scene for the coming months and TMay has two very different audiences to satisfy – those who want out and those who don’t. The the result on June 23rd was very close and the trend in the chart suggests that that is how it remains.

It is only the presence of Corbyn who was ambivalent to BREXIT that gives her some relief. She’s not facing someone who has the ability to exploit the situation.

Does she put the emphasis on curtailing immigration at the expense of the economy or vice versa? There’ll be huge pressures either way.

I love trackers like this because the same question is asked in the same manner every time.

Mike Smithson


Blindsided. Leavers have given the PM a free rein over the Article 50 negotiations and they’ll come to regret it

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

From now on Theresa May can ignore Parliament

Theresa May has striven mightily at every stage to avoid Parliamentary restraint on her Brexit negotiations with the rest of the EU.  She fought in the courts to the bitter end against the principle that the triggering of Article 50 required the prior approval from Parliament.  A White Paper was extracted out of the government in a manner akin to that used by Lord Olivier in Marathon Man.  The White Paper thus extracted was so anodyne that vanilla seemed tangy after reading it.  The Article 50 Bill was pushed through Parliament with every attempt to place any restraint on the way in which the government negotiates Brexit stripped out.  It received Royal Assent on Wednesday in pristine form.  The only commitment that the Government has given is to allow a vote on the final deal on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Leaving it would mean that Britain left the EU without any deal at all.  So from now on, Theresa May can ignore Parliament.

Throughout all of this process, Theresa May has been aided and abetted by the ardent Leavers and their press supporters.  Judges were vilified for issuing inconvenient judgments, to the point of being described as enemies of the people.  The more hardcore Leavers contemplated the abolition of the House of Lords when it sought to impose conditions on the Article 50 Bill.  They are no doubt surveying the outcome with great satisfaction.

Those Leavers who are regarded on their own side as intellectuals have often stressed how Brexit would restore Parliamentary sovereignty.  Yet they have fought tooth and nail to remove Parliament’s role in the exit process.  These are Augustinian Leavers – Lord give me Parliamentary sovereignty, but not yet.

But they do not seem to realise what they have done.  Because this was never a battle between Leavers and Remainers.  This was, as the courts explained in their judgments in the Article 50 case, a question of where power lay between the Government and Parliament.  The courts concluded that Parliament held the power to initiate the triggering of Article 50.

Throughout the Second World War, Parliament debated war aims, strategy and progress.  Chamberlain fell over just such a debate.  No matter how keen many Leavers are on analogies from the 1940s, even they would struggle to describe Brexit as operating on a higher plane than a global war.  But the Leaver MPs have fallen far below their predecessors, acting as lobby fodder to abdicate their role to the Government.  From now on, the executive has complete control.

It is important to understand what that means.  Between the triggering of Article 50 (A Day) and the day of Brexit (B Day), Theresa May’s government can set whatever policy it thinks fit.  It is far from clear that policy will be one of hard Brexit.  The negotiations have not yet started.  No one yet knows where they are going to finish.  Unless there is no deal at all, the deal will involve compromise on the British side in some ways.  And if the Government compromises in some ways, we can expect the ultra-orthodox Leavers to be outraged.

But they will have no direct outlet for that outrage.  The Government negotiations are not to be controlled by Parliament.  Ministers may be brought before select committees, whose members may huff and puff, but ultimately if a deal is struck it will be put before Parliament on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  Given the balance of the House of Commons, that deal will be taken.  The ultra-orthodox Leavers have voted for their own impotence.  By B Day, their vision of a Britain with no ties to the EU of any kind might well have been flushed down the pan.

Now imagine that the House of Commons had approached this differently, with a will to ensure that it kept a tight rein on the Government.  Given the small majority of the Government in the House of Commons, a relatively small number of Conservative MPs on either side of the party (perhaps even working in concert) could have secured this.  The Government could then have been required to explain its approach to MPs and win their support for approach on broad policy decisions.  The Government would have been forced to do the hard thinking that David Davis freely admitted before the select committee this week had not yet been undertaken.  It might even have helped build that consensus that the Prime Minister is set to tour the nation to build.

So when the Leaver MPs are betrayed, as in their own minds they most certainly will be, and Brexit is not negotiated to their complete satisfaction, they are going to be unable to express themselves through normal Parliamentary means.  The newspaper front pages will no doubt scream, but they will do so largely impotently.

How will the hardline Leavers continue their campaign?  They’ve just helped to close off the conventional route.  But that frustration will find a vent somehow.  But how?

Alastair Meeks


As we edge towards the enactment of the A50 Bill Nicola has just made Theresa’s task harder

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The political price of hard brexit could be a smaller UK

TMay’s reaction to Sturgeon’s InyRef2 announcement was that the Scottish FM and SNP leader was “playing politics” – a term I generally conclude to mean that what’s been said has been highly effective.

Certainly the suggestions that TMay might defer invoking A50 until the end of the month suggests there’s a need to look again at her strategy and the rhetoric she will deploy when the formal process of extraction is triggered.

On the politics of the Sturgeon move there’s an excellent analysis by the FT’s Janan Ganesh who notes that the short timetable put formard by Sturgeon is one that is “designed to be rejected, giving her, at the very least, a grievance with which to stoke nationalism.” Ganesh goes on

“..She has also earned herself some leverage over the negotiations themselves. Mrs May cannot sign off on hard exit terms without risking the loss of Scotland, three-fifths of whose electorate voted for the EU. Such terms would not just threaten material harm to a small, trading economy, they would communicate England’s hauteur to the smaller nation. But if Mrs May softens her line, she must forgo the right to make external trade deals (to stay in the customs union) or accept free movement (to stay in the single market). The first would be death to her governing vision, the second would be unsurvivable…”

The threat of losing Scotland and thus creating a much smaller UK is a powerful one.

This is going to run.

Mike Smithson


Maybe next time the Tories will have to emulate the GE2015 EdStone to show they’ll honour manifesto commitments

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

OmNICshambles, like the LDs tuition fees pledge, will be remembered

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has been in full defensive mode as he has sought to fight off the criticism that his National Insurance changes for the self-employed are in breach of a GE2015 Conservative manifesto pledge.

His responses that this just applied to one form of NIC charges really didn’t resonate and he’d be well advised to find another way of dealing with the attacks.

What is surprising is that this wasn’t anticipated. The way the Tories used the threat of increased National Insurance contributions against LAB at the last election is all on the record and cannot easily be airbrushed out.

The problem at the next election is that the blue team is going to be pressed even further on any manifesto commitments that they make and this one will be thrown back at them.

Maybe there was something in Ed Miliband headstone plan that was, as we can all record, going to be placed in the garden at 10 Downing Street, as a way of saying that they’ll keep their promises.

One thing’s for sure Cameron/Osborne would not have made this mistake.

With the second BREXIT bill defeat in the Lords, the sacking of Michael Heseltine and the reception the budget has got this has probably been the worst week of Theresa May’s government.

Mike Smithson