Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category

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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




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Theresa Maybe? Definitely not

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

It’s only eight weeks since The Economist’s cover story but the mood has changed decisively

At the turn of the year Theresa May was besieged by many similar opinion pieces, several of them prompted by Sir Ivan Rogers’ resignation on 3rd January. Indecisiveness was the central charge, specifically over Brexit but also with regard to the operation of her Downing Street office and some rushed and/or reversed policy announcements. Her predecessor’s alleged nickname for her – “Submarine” – was used against her in articles that specifically did call for a running commentary.

And yet barely eight weeks later she dominates the scene to such an extent that three-figure majorities seem to be the mere beginning of her possibilities. Bruce Anderson writes, without hyperbole, that the “Tories have an historic opportunity to dominate British politics.”

These eight weeks have been busy – the Supreme Court verdict, the Trump trip, the progress of the Brexit Bill and the by-elections – but a flannelly White Paper aside, Mrs May hasn’t had to reveal much more of her thinking. The FT’s Janan Ganesh sums this all up: “Theresa May runs an imperious government and still no one knows if it is any good.” She may well be a submarine, but if so she’s clearly an Astute one.

She has, of course, been lucky in her opponent, and for once I’m not talking about Corbyn. Gina Miller’s misguided case showed why politics is usually best left to the professionals. Though I do not question her right to have brought the claim, and I thought the Supreme Court’s verdict was unsurprising and sound, she won a victory that King Pyrrhus himself might have thought a touch costly. This process: (a) bought Mrs May’s government some time; (b) united the bulk of her party behind her; (c) made [some of] the Remainers look unreasonable; and most of all (d) helped to persuade the public to accept a harder Brexit, at least as our stated opening negotiating position.

The signs were there earlier

The Economist had a point that some of Downing Street’s early policy announcements were a bit muddled. I think this is chiefly attributable to the surprisingly swift nature of her elevation to the top job [and the associated promotion of her staff] and the fact that she didn’t have the discipline of an internal leadership election.

No premier since Alec Douglas-Home has emerged so suddenly and surprisingly; on top of that one of the foremost policies of the entire nation had just been ripped up. In such circumstances it was unsurprising that some mistakes were made, and also that there was quite substantial briefing against the new brooms. I suspect the aforementioned resignation letter will serve as the high-water mark for such briefing!

But all the while the Conservatives were pulling further ahead in the polls. Momentum activists may wish to attribute this to the so-called “chicken coup” but, as others on here have noted, the polling was both a reaction to the fact of Brexit and a recognition that Theresa May can reach parts of the electorate that David Cameron simply couldn’t.  To borrow a couple of graphs from Theo Bertram:

There are some more figures in his excellent recent blog post, but the core of it is his conclusion that “David Cameron put off working class voters, Theresa May does not.” Allied to the Corbyn effect the top-line polling results are staggering, and Copeland is a clear manifestation of them.  Against this, the referendum cleavage still poses substantial risks to the Conservatives, as Alastair Meeks pointed out. The Liberal Democrats are surging against the Tories in council by-elections – in both Remain and Leave areas – and of course they took the Remain heartland of Richmond Park in December. Her strategy may well concede some losses to the Lib Dems at the next general election; the hope is clearly that gains from Labour and the SNP will outweigh them.

It may seem trite but the obvious comparison is indeed with Mrs Thatcher. The Economist article uncharitably describes her first term as shambolic; she certainly struggled with her inherited political position. Monetarism was derided by experts in much the same way that Brexit is. Yet enough people trusted her sense of purpose and the idea that she was fulfilling a mandate for fundamental change. She too broadened the Conservative coalition, aided and abetted by an utterly unsuitable Labour leader.

Brexit remains a unprecedented challenge and the negotiations will bring more certainty, meaning Mrs May may find it difficult to keep all wings of her party satisfied. Like Mrs Thatcher, she will eventually find that no one gets to live forever in politics. But it doesn’t look like she’ll slide away either.

Tissue Price



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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