Archive for the 'Tories' Category


Tactical voting didn’t win it for the Scottish Tories

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

But genuine gains from the Lib Dems and Labour did.

Jeremy Corbyn would be prime minister today if the Scottish Tories had done as badly three weeks ago as they did in 2015 (or any of the previous four elections). Without the dozen gains north of the border, a deal with the DUP wouldn’t have given her the numbers and a deal with anyone else couldn’t have been done. It would have been game over.

Given the different nature of politics in Scotland, where the unionist-nationalist split is at least as potent as the progressive-conservative one, that raises the intriguing question as to whether tactical Labour and/or Lib Dem unionist votes – to keep the SNP out – had the unintended but very real effect of keeping Theresa May in.

In fact, no, they didn’t. Indeed, one unremarked feature of the Scottish results was how unchanged the Labour and Lib Dem shares were in the seats the Tories won. In more than half of the 13 constituencies, neither other unionist party put on or lost more than 5% in vote share. In these, the swing must have been dominated by direct SNP-Con switchers.

Of the six seats where there was a change of more than 5% in the Lab or LD share, the common feature is that the change was always a decline from the party which won in 2010 but which lost the seat in 2015. That might be evidence of tactical voting but more likely is that it’s simply the incumbency bonus unwinding. In a few cases – East Renfrewshire or Gordon, for example – there may well also have been an unwinding of a pro-Lab or pro-LD tactical vote from 2015.

In fact, in two of the three seats that went LD-SNP-Con, Labour also polled substantially better in 2017 than 2015 (where they lost, or came close to losing, their deposit), again suggesting a lack of tactical voting. Besides, in only one of the seats (Stirling) was the result particularly close. Even if some of the falls in the shares of the other unionist parties was down to tactical voting, it wouldn’t have been decisive.

In addition, the Conservatives won five of the thirteen seats from third. That’s not wholly indicative of a lack of tactical voting – the previous result is only one factor in determining who is best-placed as a challenger – but it strongly hints in that direction.

So a straight-forward swing on both independence and economic-social axes? Not quite. If we compare 2017 against 2010 rather than 2015, a different picture emerges. That both the Lib Dems and Scottish Labour have suffered disastrously since 2010 is hardly news. All the same, it’s notable that in every single seat the Scottish Tories now hold, both Labour and the Lib Dems have gone backwards, generally by large amounts. Across the 13 seats, the Labour and Lib Dem shares have fallen by at least 5% in 22 of the 26 instances, by double-digits in 14 of them and by at least 20% in seven instances. Both SNP and Tories have gained, roughly equally.

These seats are not, of course, a cross-section of Scottish opinion and we should be extremely wary of drawing general conclusions. All the same, the Tory share in them is up by at least 9% in every seat gained and by much more in most. These gains have come almost exclusively from the Lib Dem and Labour voters of 2010. It might not have been tactical and it might have been a positive vote for the union and against a second independence referendum, but the decisions of these ex-progressive alliance supporters of Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg still resulted in Theresa May rather than Jeremy Corbyn forming a government.

David Herdson


It would appear some Tory MPs are determined to see a British En Marche happen

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Why else would they back Leadsom? It is very reminiscent of Labour MPs backing Michael Foot just before defecting to the SDP so their old party was saddled with an unappealing leader.

Business Insider report today that

Dozens of Conservative MPs have urged Andrea Leadsom to run for the party leadership since Theresa May’s failure to win a majority in the general election.

Leadsom — who stood to replace former prime minister and Tory leader David Cameron in 2016 — has been urged by a growing number of her parliamentary colleagues to put her name forward a second time, friends of the MP for South Northamptonshire have told Business Insider.

May has been under pressure ever since the Conservative Party failed to retain its parliamentary majority at the June 8 election. The party lost 13 seats while Labour gained 30, despite most polls predicting a comfortable Tory victory.

Looking at the odds, you can get 50/1 on Mrs Leadsom being next Tory leader, and as far as I can see she’s not listed on the next PM markets, which tells you everything about her chances, even as a trading bet it doesn’t seem very appealing.

In a lot of ways Mrs Leadsom was very lucky that during the last Tory leadership election Michael Gove’s transformation into the lovechild of Francis Urquhart and Niccolò Machiavelli effectively took out the two most prominent Leave campaigners in the Tory party.

I suspect she wouldn’t be that lucky this time, plus there might be other more appealing Leavers that would stand, and the other consideration is since that infamous Mother superior interview, she has in no way managed to rehabilitate herself with the public nor the party, or even tried to do so.



Ex-strong favourite BoJo slips even further in the next CON leader betting to just an 8% chance

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

This appears to be between Davis and Hammond

There’s been a lot movement on the next CON leader betting markets since we last looked at it a week ago. BoJo continues to decline and, indeed, has stated that he would not want it at the moment.

The race, if that is indeed what we re watching, seems to be polarising around the Brexit Secretary, David Davis and Chancellor Philip Hammond. If there was to be an early contest, and that is far from certain, these are the two that punters think have the best chance.

Of the other options Ruth Davidson is not an MP while the accomplished Amber Rudd has a very small majority in her Hastings and Rye constituency.

    I’ve been impressed with both Davis and Hammond in the post election period and believe they’d both do better than the incumbent who will be tarred forever by her disastrous decision to call the general election and the manner in which she fought it.

There’ve been consistent reports that Tory MPs will “move” soon against TMay and even reports that we could see a repeat of Michael Howard’s elevation in 2003. Then there was a vote of no confidence in IDS and Howard was the agreed only contender to put himself forward.

Looking back at that period there appeared to be more consensus within the party then than we see now.

I’d suggest Davis probably needs a vacancy to occur faster than Hammond. His chances are closely linked to the Brexit negotiations and he could be damaged if he’s not seen to have done well. Because of the weakness of the woman who got the party into its electoral mess the reassuringly nick-named “Spreadsheet Phil” is in a strong position and can probably bide his time.

Mike Smithson


After just 3 Tory PMs in 37 years we might soon see 3 Tory PMs in just 3 (yes three) years

Sunday, June 25th, 2017

The Sunday Times report

Philip Hammond is being lined up to replace Theresa May as prime minister as part of an alliance with David Davis to deliver Brexit safely.

Ministers said this weekend that Hammond should be anointed as leader before October’s party conference provided he vows to stand down after two years so that someone else can lead the Conservatives into the next election.

A former cabinet colleague has claimed the chancellor believes he is equipped to do the job. “He told me that if Theresa May could be prime minister, so could he.”

The elevation of Hammond — dubbed “Spreadsheet Phil” — would be greeted with resistance by some Eurosceptics who are suspicious of his interventions demanding a soft Brexit that puts jobs and business before controls on immigration.

But ministers believe that can be surmounted if he appoints Davis, the Brexit secretary, deputy prime minister and makes clear he is a caretaker leader.

 Under one plan gaining traction with Tory MPs, May’s successor would announce that there would be a general election after Brexit in 2019 in which the public could have a say on the final deal.

If I were Philip Hammond, I’d offer to be Prime Minister for two years, then say he’ll trigger a Tory leadership contest in 2019 in which he’d stand rather than be a placeholder Prime Minister that Mrs May is now.

What is clear following Mrs May’s calamitous decision to hold a snap election, which turned into the greatest strategic blunder since the fall of Singapore, which saw her lose David Cameron’s majority is going to cost Mrs May her job, it is now a matter of when she is toppled, not if.

At the time of writing you can get around 7/1 on Hammond as next PM and with some newer bookies you can get 8/1 on him as next Tory leader, and 5/2 on Mrs May not to be PM on the 1st of October with William Hill.



David Davis moves up in sharply in the betting for TMay’s successor. Now a 27% chance

Monday, June 19th, 2017

What we don’t know is whether there’ll be a vacancy or not

What a totally crazy political period. The Brexit negotiations have started and Mrs. May’s Tories go into Wednesday’s Queen’s speech without a formal deal being announced on whether the 10 DUP MPs will support the blue team and enable the Tories to get a majority at the end of the debate.

In all of this the 2005 CON leadership loser, David Davis, now moves up sharply in the betting.

It could be that TMay, in spite of the huge failure of her GE17 gamble, remains in post and it might be years before the market is settled. Alternatively it could all happen this or next week.

Happy punting.

Mike Smithson


Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for May

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Poor Mrs May, will she even make it as one year as Prime Minister? Meanwhile in Lib Dem news



Picking the nation’s leader. Why the Conservatives are running out of options

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

We’ve been here before. For the second time in less than a year, the Conservatives are on the brink of replacing a leader between elections while in power. Yet right now they are in such a tizz, they aren’t considering some of the critical considerations that such a responsibility entails.

If the Conservatives replace Theresa May, they are not just choosing a new leader for themselves but the nation’s Prime Minister. They will find it unusually difficult to justify replacing Theresa May and remaining in office without a further election. The recent election was fought by them almost exclusively on her merits, to the point that the party’s name was almost invisible on much of the campaign’s literature. Two weeks have not yet passed since the general election and if the nation were to have an entirely different proposition imposed on it for the next five years, voters might reasonably conclude that the government lacked any mandate.

That probably won’t bite in the short term. If we can believe anything in the polls any more, it is that the public have definitively lost faith in Theresa May for now. Any replacement will be accepted as the lesser of two evils. But he or she is going to need to be capable of being presented as a continuity candidate (without the identified leadership flaws) for that.

The Conservatives cannot put forward someone without the credentials to fulfil that role, especially with the Brexit negotiations imminent. If they were to choose anyone with inadequate experience would definitely be placing party or ideology before country.

They would also be breaking a long-established practice when replacing Prime Ministers between elections. As I noted last summer, every internal replacement of an incumbent Prime Minister since the Second World War until that point had been either a former Foreign Secretary or a former Chancellor of the Exchequer or both. James Callaghan managed the full set, having previously been Home Secretary as well. The last Prime Minister to replace the incumbent – other than through an election – who had not previously held one of those roles was Balfour, and he was the last man to hold the title of First Lord of the Treasury without being Prime Minister, during his uncle’s ministry. Theresa May had been a very experienced Home Secretary and so she met the experience threshold as well.

Of the names being seriously floated to replace Theresa May, only Philip Hammond really has sufficient experience to be presented as oven-ready. At a push, you might make the case for Boris Johnson or Amber Rudd, though 11 months’ experience in a great office of state where neither has exactly sparkled isn’t exactly compelling. David Davis looks to be the wrong side of the line to me – even if you treat his role in Brexit negotiations as equivalent to a great office of state, the role hasn’t really got going yet.

Some of the names being wishfully floated are ludicrous. Not only is Ruth Davidson entirely lacking in ministerial experience, she isn’t even an MP. The silliest suggestion so far (in a crowded field) was Isabel Oakeshott floating Graham Brady’s name – not only does he not have a jot of ministerial experience, he would struggle to be recognised outside his own front room. But he’s “sound” on Brexit, so that’s alright.

The Conservatives have been in power continuously for seven years, but when it comes to ministers experienced at the highest level, their cupboard is bare. It seems to me that the Conservatives have three options consistent with their responsibilities to the nation: they can struggle on with Theresa May; they can replace her with Philip Hammond; or they can go into voluntary opposition and pick someone else. Anything else would be an insult to democracy.

Alastair Meeks


The Tories must leave and give Corbyn his chance

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

A tawdry May-DUP deal is not something Con MPs should sign up to

According to the plan, this should have been the week when Theresa May stamped her authority on her government, her Party and the country. A reshuffle to mould her ministers in her image; a Queen’s Speech to tackle the issues she cares about, in the way that she wants to tackle them; and five years in which to do that, to deliver Brexit and to tee up another term. How the gods laughed.

Instead, May demonstrated – and continues to demonstrate – that while she’s perfectly capable of handling the business of government, she’s hopelessly inept at the politics and PR of government. Unfortunately, the various aspects can’t be separated, nor can any of them be ignored. Not if a PM wants to last in office anyway.

The evidence of the tin ear of May and her inner team to dealing with the politics and PR of running a government and party is already huge. Ministers need to be treated with respect, not only because that is their due out of position but because they hold independent power as substantial figures in Westminster. Instead, they were belittled by a pair of over-mighty SpAds. Journalists need to be humoured with stories, anecdote and copy. Instead, they were locked away from the action during the election and not allowed to even hold the microphone when asking questions. How unsurprising that they didn’t see or report things favourably. The excess of control and the desire to hide from any perceived risk is the antithesis of leadership and betrays a deep lack of self-confidence. And if May can’t be confident in her abilities, why should anyone else?

Not that the failings ended with the election. The human touch was again lacking in handling defeated MPs and – most obviously to the public – in not meeting those who have lost everything in the appalling Grenfell fire, exacerbating the problem by citing ‘security’. The Queen went.

It should be obvious now to Tory MPs that this is part of a pattern; that the behaviour is not just a bad run but is characteristic of May’s way of working and is not going to change. As yet, we know little of the DUP negotiations but again, where is the involvement of other ministers or of the parliamentary party? There is no collegiality; there is no recognition that the smallest rebellion puts her majority at risk. If left to run by themselves, events will ensure that May cannot serve for long. It would be far better to pre-empt that inevitability by not undermining the Northern Ireland process by so overtly aligning with one side, by not undermining the case for fiscal responsibility by agreeing to whatever the DUP come up with (and, consequently, by having to find several dozen times as much to satisfy Barnett consequences for the rest of the country), and by keeping control of events.

Which is to say that May must go.

However, what then? Whoever is leader of the Tories still faces the same parliamentary arithmetic. If the DUP are spurned, the government has no reliable majority. The answer is simple: it too should go. Jeremy Corbyn has already indicated that he is ready to form a government; he should be allowed to do so.

In some ways, Corbyn lost the election: he won fewer votes than the Tories and he won fewer seats than the Tories. In another way though, he won. The argument for fiscal responsibility was lost. This was admittedly partly by default through the unwillingness of May to allow Hammond any airtime or to endorse Osborne’s policies but all the same, the country again believes in magic money trees. And it will continue to do so until it is proven that such trees are not magic but poisonous.

Corbyn should therefore be given time to enact his policies and the country given the chance to judge. The Tories remain in a position where they can block an early election, which can easily be justified through to next May at least on the grounds that the public neither wants nor needs a new election and that Labour should get on with the job they asked for, and can block any legislation that would be too difficult to reverse.

Is this a high-risk strategy? In some senses, yes – giving the ground to your opponent always is. On the other hand, if the choice is between an unstable Labour minority government now and a potential Labour majority government elected after a zombie Tory minority government stumbles and falls in 18 months to two years, it’s a question of the lesser of two evils.

And the lesser evil is Corbyn, now.

David Herdson