Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category


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


Hammond moves up the betting as next CON leader/PM

Thursday, November 24th, 2016


Latest next PM betting


The new Chancellor gets a good press this morning following his first set piece appearance since getting the job in July. He’s someone who has been up there within the party a long time but has never sought to hog the limelight. After GE2010 he should have become number 2 to Osborne at the Treasury but the demands of the coalition meant that had to go to a Lib Dem. Since then he’s held senior cabinet posts, most recently Foreign Secretary, that don’t get you much media exposure.

One of the great strengths of Hammond is that is something he does not seek. In many way he’s very much like John Major was in the final days of Mrs. Thatcher.

I was impressed by this from veteran political commentator, Bruce Anderson in an article headed “Watch out for Hammond, the potential PM no one saw coming“. Contrasting TMay’s PMQ performance and Hammond immediately afterwards Anderson wrote:

“..Assailed by Jeremy Corbyn’s slightly bumbling earnestness, Mrs May displayed no mastery. She seems incapable of big pictures or generosity of spirit. Reverting to that unfairly maligned-region, the Home Counties, she sounded like the crackling of autumn leaves heading for the wheelbarrow in an upper-middle class garden. There was none of the size – moral, mental, political – that we should expect from a Prime Minister. It was much the best performance Mr Corbyn has given. Afterwards, a number of the boys were wondering aloud: ‘Is the girl up to it?’

That was after Mr Hammond had sat down. He did display mastery. It was clear that he had an absolute intellectual command, which allowed him to indulge in a few donnish jokes. There is an obvious point and a satisfactory point. First, Philip Hammond would never make a living as a comedian. Second, he would never try to. If anything, he underestimates his powers of wit. That is a fault on the right side…”

I took a flyer long-shot bet on Hammond next PM at 20/1.

Negotiating BREXIT is going to be a massive challenge for Theresa May and the chances of an upset must be there. You can see Hammond as the “steady as you go” replacement.

Mike Smithson


Extraordinary. Trump wants Farage to be Britain’s Ambassador to the United States

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016


What does Theresa May do about this?

Perhaps the most extraordinary development of Trump’s victory in British terms is the Tweet, from the President-elect, giving his view on who he wants as Britain’s man in Washington.

I can’t see this being looked at favourably at Number 10 but it does put the the PM in a quandary. It is vital for so many reasons that Britain has a good relationship with the new administration but having Farage there would be extremely difficult.

It would also be politically humiliating for Mrs May to follow this course.

What’s also extraordinary is how Twitter is being used. In days gone by there would be all sorts of discreet soundings in both London and Washington over who would take on this job but the idea of this being carried out on social media is a graphic example of the new world we are in.

There’s a form of blackmail in Trump’s Tweet. If May doesn’t agree then the implication is that Britain will have far less influence and certainly less knowledge about the thinking of the Trump administration.

    Whatever you’ve got to admire the chutzpah of Nigel Farage in all of this. His link with the incoming President is going to be a constant irritant to ministers.

It will be interesting to see how the bookies price this one. Expect some betting markets to be announced this morning.

Mike Smithson


Latest leader approval polling once again highlights Corbyn’s failure to make any breakthrough with his own age group

Monday, November 21st, 2016


Conservative David Herdson wonders whether Theresa May’s meritocracy is actually a mirage

Saturday, October 29th, 2016


Why the nomination for Yorkshire’s Tory MEP will be a key test

Prime ministers are inevitably remembered for their great achievements and their great failings: Attlee’s welfare state, Thatcher’s Falklands, Thatcher’s Poll Tax, Blair’s Iraq, and so on. Theresa May’s first ministry will be defined by the success or failure of Brexit. If it’s a failure, her first ministry will be her only one.

But beneath the towering achievements and epic failures, governments leave a much broader legacy in the tone they set for the country in values and actions. May should be judged as much for the thousands of small decisions her government takes as for the few giant ones.

Helpfully, she gave the country the means to judge her when she took office. Her first speech as prime minister was almost entirely about social justice, reducing inequality and, to quote directly,

“When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

One place where her ability to put those principles into action is as great as any is within her own party. In fact, it’s not just an ability to act there, it’s a duty. Unfortunately, an early bad decision might well undermine all the fine words – and there is the risk of such a decision.

David Cameron’s resignation honours included a peerage for the (then) Yorkshire MEP, Timothy Kirkhope. As you can’t serve in both the European and Westminster parliaments, Kirkhope’s entry to the Lords meant that there was a vacancy for the Strasbourg post. The full details of what happened next are laid out in this ConHome article. To cut a long story short, when there’s a vacancy, the position goes to the next person on the party list able to take it. In this case, that should be Alex Story but because of an administrative error and the refusal of CCHQ to acknowledge that error, Story might well be unfairly passed over.


This is not the sort of thing that brings party leaders down, and nor will it. Indeed, it’s not the sort of thing that party leaders much get involved in at all. But were the Board of the Conservative Party to ratify someone else over Story, it would give the lie to May’s comment quoted above.

The Yorkshire nomination is set into particularly sharp focus by the goings on in Richmond where multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith has been given a free run as an independent after resigning in protest at the government’s policy. There might be good reason not to put a candidate up there but all the same, the impression of one rule for the rich and prominent, and another for the less-well-connected would be hard to dispel in the public mind – particularly if the Yorkshire case ends up in the courts, which is far from impossible.

The best thing for May to do would be cut through the office politics within the lower ranks of the Party and simply ensure that the normal operation of the nomination process is followed and that Story gets the nod. Were that to happen, the whole issue would simply go away before it ever came to the public’s attention. But to prevaricate or stay out would risk adding another discordant note to the government’s tone and risk further undermining her efforts to deliver systems that work fairly for everyone. After all, if you can’t deliver fairness within your own party, what chance in the country at large?

David Herdson

p.s. Keen observers might note that Alex Story was the Conservative candidate for Wakefield in 2010, and that I am now the Chairman of the Wakefield Conservative Association. Despite that, I don’t know him personally (I was still in Shipley in 2010), and have no particular axe to grind in the case other than a belief that people should be treated fairly and according to due process.


Theresa May doesn’t have a Willie and it shows. She urgently and desperately needs a Willie in her government

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

If she loses her Chancellor so early in her Premiership, people might infer Mrs May is wholly unsuited to be Prime Minister

According to Margaret Thatcher one of the prerequisites of being a successful Prime Minister was “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie.” She was referring to William Whitelaw, her deputy, as she further expanded, “Willie is a big man in character as well as physically. He wanted the success of the Government which from the first he accepted would be guided by my general philosophy. Once he had pledged his loyalty, he never withdrew it.” Her cabinet colleague, Nicholas Ridley argued that Whitelaw’s retirement [in 1988] marked the beginning of the end of the Thatcher premiership, as he was no longer around as often to give sensible advice and to moderate her stance on issues, or to maintain a consensus of support in her own Cabinet and Parliamentary Party.

I look at the current cabinet and fail to see a Willie Whitelaw de nos jours, which explains this story in today’s Mail on Sunday,

The Treasury last night moved to quash fears that Philip Hammond could be on the brink of quitting as Chancellor over the mounting Cabinet rift over Brexit.

Friends of Mr Hammond claim he has been deliberately excluded from key No 10 meetings because of his outspoken criticism of Ministers who back the ‘hard’ Brexit option of the UK leaving the single market.

They fear that, at the age of 60, he will walk out of the Government rather than stifle his opposition.

I have a lot of sympathy for Mrs May as extricating the United Kingdom from the European Union is the modern day political equivalent of The Twelve Labours of Hercules, she needs some help dealing with a fractious cabinet during Brexit, getting a Willie might help her become a truly successful Prime Minister. It would stop stories like this and stop Philip Hammond going from being 25/1 as the next out of the cabinet to 8/1 in a little over a week.

Many in the Tory party hope Mrs May is Margaret Thatcher Mark II, she might end up being Sir Alec Douglas-Home Mark II, like Sir Alec, she’s an old Oxonian who became an unelected and mandateless Prime Minister, who lasted less than a year as Prime Minister. A little over a year after Nigel Lawson resigned as Chancellor, Mrs Thatcher was forced out as Prime Minister by her own party, perhaps Mrs May truly is the heir to Thatcher.



Brexit’s victory was miniscule and a swing of just 1.85% would’ve produced a different result

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Theresa May is wrong to assert that the referendum outcome was “clear”

The chart above shows the winning margins in the four major referendums that there have been in the UK and illustrates just how small the LEAVE victory on June 23rd was compared with the other big UK rerefendums. Certainly the 1975 EC vote and the 2011 AV one gave very clear results which it is hard to argue with.

Scotland’s IndyRef in September 2014 had a double digit margin against independence and although this was not as emphatic as the two other one it has broadly closed down the issue.

Remember how ahead on June 23rd Nigel Farage was preparing for a debate in the event of a close outcome declaring the 52-48 wouldn’t be big enough. In the end it was even smaller. John Rentoul in the Indy takes issue with the way TMay is describing the outcome:

“ of the least convincing lines in her speech last Sunday was that “the referendum result was clear”. You do not have to be a last-ditch Remainer to wonder whether a 52 per cent vote was a clear enough mandate for something as big as leaving the EU.

Some Leavers might even notice that the British Election Study carried out after the referendum found that 6 per cent of Leave voters had “regrets about the way you voted”, while only 1 per cent of Remainers had. Which would mean, if they acted on their regrets, that a re-run of the referendum might have gone 51 per cent to 49 per cent the other way.”

But we are where we are and, I’d suggest, that the rookie PM has got to be more subtle about the way she expresses things. Her cack-hand approach has driven the week’s collapse of the pound on the foreign exchange markets which has caused more voices to be raised against her.

Mike Smithson


Chancellor Philip Hammond is said to believe that for the moment he is unsackable

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Meet the man now being described as the “real leader of the opposition” –

There’s an insightful article on the challenges ahead facing the Tories by the Telegraph’s James Kirkup.

Surveying the range of hurdles ahead Kirkup makes an interesting observation about Philip Hammond who replaced George Osborne as Chancellor.

Mr Hammond is, to almost everyone’s surprise, the most interesting man in the Cabinet. Colleagues say that he calculates that he is, for now anyway, unsackable, and so he has the latitude to challenge Mrs May in a way others do not.

More sympathetic to business and the argument for the single market than the PM, Mr Hammond could well emerge as Britain’s real opposition leader when Britain’s Brexit debate is played out inside the Conservative Party…”

As a general rule chancellors are pretty difficult for PMs to get rid of and when they do it is a massive political event. Hammond has also been reinforced by the manner in which his predecessor, Osborne, was sacked when TMay took over. The perception was that the niceties weren’t observed. Certainly for the PM to clashing with her choice as Osbo’s replacement to the extent that he had to go would be extremely difficult and potentially damaging.

So I think that Hammond is in a strong position but he’s smart enough to to use it effectively.

With the EU extraction strategy down in simple terms to single market versus freedom of movement Hammond is a powerful advocate of the former. Judging by her speech yesterday TMay appears to be saying that the latter is paramount.

This will be an interesting battle in the next few months.

Mike Smithson