Archive for the 'Theresa May' Category

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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



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Betting on Mrs May outdistancing Mrs Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

William Hill have a market on whether Mrs May being Prime Minister for longer than the country’s first female Prime Minister. To be honest I’m not enthused by either option. To win the  10/1, you’d be tying up your money for the next eleven years, I can think of better things to do with my money than given William Hill an interest free loan for eleven years.

For this bet to pay out Mrs May would have to win the 2020 and 2025 general elections, whilst Jeremy Corbyn remains Labour leader the 2020 general election should be a slam dunk for Mrs May, if Labour choose someone more electable post a general election shellacking then calling a 2025 general election will be hard. (As an aside, Labour don’t need to win a majority to form a government, they can probably be 70 seats short of a majority, and the reality of Parliamentary arithmetic would mean we’d get a Lab/SNP alliance with the possible acquiescence of the Lib Dems, Greens, and SDLP, assuming Scotland hasn’t seceded by then.)

As for taking the 1/25 on Mrs May not lasting as long as Mrs Thatcher, this is also a no bet for me, she’ll be Prime Minister until 2020 at least (assuming no early election) and if the most recent YouGov and Ipsos Mori polls are accurate, she’s on course for a decent three figure majority, so that should keep her in place for a few years post 2020. I can see her standing down in 2024, so we’re looking at this becoming potentially becoming at minimum seven year interest free loan to William Hill.  I can think of a lot of other better priced bets that have higher chances of paying out this week.

That we have such a market is probably reflection of truly dire state that Labour party finds itself in whilst it is led  by Jeremy Corbyn, I think Abraham Lincoln had brighter prospects when he picked up those theatre tickets than a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party does.

TSE



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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




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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 



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How long can May’s honeymoon period go on?

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

theresa-may

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





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

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

year-of-next-general-election-betting-odds-betdata

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