NEW PB/Polling Matters podcast: Explaining the Labour ‘surge’ and predictions for June

May 24th, 2017

On this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast, Keiran is joined by Matt Singh and Leo Barasi to discuss the tightening polls and what might happen in June. The team discuss whether Labour’s recent poll surge is ‘real’ and what might be behind it. Matt unveils his analysis of what will happen in June based on his model. A model which succesfully predicted the 2015 General Election when all of the polls said the race was close.

Later in the show, Keiran unveils new Polling Matters / Opinium polling that looks at how opinions of the main party leaders have changed since the election began. Also included in the survey is a question about who voters would trust to negotiate Brexit – May or Corbyn – with numbers trended from when the question was last asked in June.

One not to miss. Listen to the show here

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A Labour view of the party’s looming electoral disaster

May 23rd, 2017

Don Brind looks at landslides past

I have a soft spot for Lib Dem peer Dick Taverne even though I cut my teeth as a Labour Party press officer trying to end his political career.

His letter to the Guardian this week struck a chord. “Mrs May is riding high, apparently heading for a general election triumph, idolised by the tabloids for defying those beastly Europeans who seek to do Britain down. Today’s winners often end up as tomorrow’s losers,”

Taverne has always been a strong Europhile and fell out with his local party in 1973 when he supported the Tories in voting for entry to the Common Market. His resignation to fight a by election saw me drafted in by Transport House.

I failed to stop him romping to victory in the by election but my contribution to his demise was the suggestion to local party chairman Leo Beckett that they would do better with a woman candidate. I recommended a Transport House colleague Margaret Jackson who went on to defeat Taverne in the second of the 1974 General Elections. Margaret married Leo and as Mrs Beckett ascended briefly to the leadership of the party and Briatin’s first woman Foreign Secretary.

Taverne descended into relative obscurity and waited until 1996 to get his peerage. We are all now on the same side of the Europe argument. I was very taken by his four examples of Prime Ministers whose triumphs turned sour.

• “In 1902 Salisbury delivered a Tory landslide with the Liberal opposition deeply divided in the aftermath of the Boer war. Four years later saw an all-time record anti-Conservative landslide.

• “Chamberlain was a hero when he came back from appeasing Hitler in 1938 and proclaimed “Peace for our time”. The few dissidents led by Churchill were denounced as warmongers. Then Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia.

• “In 1956 Eden launched the Suez war with strong nationalist support. It proved a disaster and soon his reputation lay in tatters.

• “In 2003 the invasion of Iraq led to a widespread outbreak of patriotic fervour – but destroyed public trust in one of Britain’s most successful and popular recent prime ministers.”

Another cautionary example is offered by my old journalist mate Denis McShane, former Labour MP and minister for Europe writing in Prospect  He dubs Theresa May’s philosophy “Rectory Toryism” which he argues looks like a return to the 1960s, “when state control of society and economy was at its apogee.” It was also the era of Harold Wilson who led Labour to a landslide in 1966.

McShane suggest this election “ may turn out to be curiously similar to that of 1966, in which Harold Wilson obtained a large majority. Worryingly for Theresa May, his government only lasted four years and Wilson lost the next election, after becoming not the master of events, but their prisoner.”

Neither Taverne nor McShane mention 1992 but to me there are echoes of John Major’s short-lived triumph. As Tim Montgomerie observed on Conservative Home some years ago,  “John Major presented the party unashamedly as the low tax party. The Tory campaign relentlessly attacked Labour … Major picked a combative party chairman. Chris Patten (who) fought against Labour with rottweiler determination.” Remind you of anyone? Lynton Crosby?

Less than six months after amassing a record 14 million votes Major saw his government implode on Black Wednesday, never to recover.

The obvious point about Taverne McShane and myself is that we all fear the worst – we believe the polls and expect Team Theresa to get their landslide.

That said, I am hoping London may buck the trend. Having done some door knocking at the weekend I am cautiously sanguine about the prospects for the re-election of the charismatic Rosena Allin Khan in Tooting. And according to a friend of the redoubtable Joan Ryan Labour in Enfield North have been buoyed by a recent council by election. Labour matched the Tories in increasing their votes by around 13 per cent as the Green and UKIP voters collapsed.

Green switchers may be less easy to detect than UKIP switchers but they could be important. In 2015 there were a group of seats where the shift of a small number of Green voters would have deprived the Tories of a gain: (Tory majority in bold) Gower 27 1161; Derby N 41 1618; Croydon C 165 1454; Bury N 378 1141; Morley&Outwood 422 1264; Plymouth S&D 523 3401; Brighton Kempton 690 3187; Weaver Vale 806 1183; Telford 730 930

If Labour are to spring any surprises on June 8th they will probably come from this list.

Don Brind


Just to confirm: Friday’s Pre-GE2017 gathering WILL be taking place

May 23rd, 2017

Several people have been asking if Friday’s PB gathering is still going to take place. The answer is yes. It will start at the Lord Raglan pub, 61 St Martins le Grand, St Pauls EC1A 4ER from 6.30pm. An area downstairs called the Fireplace has been booked.

As well as being close to St Paul’s the Lord Raglan is only minutes walk away from Farringdon and City Thameslink stations with their direct links to Gatwick and Luton airports, Brighton and Bedford.

Everybody welcome whether PB posters or not.

Looking forward to seeing faces old and new on Friday.

Mike Smithson


A prolonged suspension of the campaign at this critical stage is bad for democracy

May 23rd, 2017

The GE2017 campaign should be resumed by Thursday at the latest

We are just two weeks and two days from the General Election and next week, with the Spring bank holiday, sees large numbers, particularly parents of school age children, going away.

It was right that campaign activities were suspended by the parties today but things need to be restored in order to allow the proper scrutiny ahead of this huge political decision that the nation will be taking.

Michael Crick surely has it right with this Tweet

Thursday seems about right for a re-start.

GE2017 betting meanwhile is carrying on. Both Sporting Index and SpreadEx have CON 383-389 seats with LAB at 171-177.

Hopefully the suspension won’t apply to the polling.

Mike Smithson


GE2017 campaign suspended though what that means is hard to say

May 23rd, 2017

The awful events in Manchester last night have inevitably caused the general election campaign to be paused. All parties are saying that campaigning activity is being suspended.

The LDs, for instance, have told activists that until further notice, public campaigning activity – that includes canvassing, campaigning online, leaflet delivery and any street stalls should not take place.

I would assume that the broadcasters will postpone planned events which could stop UKIP leader Paul Nuttall’s Andrew Neil interview tonight.

The other set piece BBC events, the debate and Question Time specials are scheduled to begin on May 31st so I’d guess probably will go according to plan.

With the final batches of postal ballots arriving this week a lot of votes will be cast and the candidates’ freepost deliveries are all in the system and are hard to delay.

At GE2015 21% of all votes that were made were by post a large proportion of them being returned within a couple of days of being received. So this week will be a big voting week irrespective of the Manchester tragedy.

Mike Smithson


Reports of 20 dead after what appears to be terrorist incident at Manchester concert

May 23rd, 2017


Marf on GE2017 looking a bit more competitive and TMay’s “social care” turnaround

May 22nd, 2017

As well as what’s being described as a U-turn over her manifesto pledge on social care there’ve been two new polls during the day all showing LAB making progress.

The one that has shown the biggest move is the YouGov Wales poll for ITV. The figures, if repeated, suggest that LAB’s lead over CON is now greater than it was at GE2015 in the Principality.

The one national poll so far has been ICM which is showing a similar picture of LAB progress but still a long way behind.

The betting markets have been relatively stable.

Mike Smithson


TMay U-turns on her controversial manifesto social care policy

May 22nd, 2017

Delete Strong & Stable replace Strong & Swerving

With just two weeks and 2 days of campaigning left Mrs. May has u-turned on one of the flagship policies in her manifesto – the plans for social care.

This follows a sharp move in some polls although even on present numbers she is sure of a substantial working majority.

In all the time I’ve been writing about politics (my first election was GE1970) I cannot recall a time when a major party has has to go back on a manifesto pledge in such a short period.

    The real damage from this is what it does to the Theresa May brand. Her strong and stable image was resonating well as the polls have shown. People want a competent leader even if they don’t always agree with the policy platform.

I agree with the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow that the best thing to be said about this is that she has moved quickly which should mitigate some of the damage.

Mike Smithson