Betting on will there be a Tory leadership contest in 2018

August 12th, 2018

Why I’m betting on no leadership contest in 2018.

Paddy Power’s market on whether there will be a Tory leadership contest in 2018 intrigues me. I’ve confirmed with them the precise terms of this bet. A vote of no confidence being called will not be enough, what needs to happen is for either Mrs May to lose a vote of confidence or resign and the Chairman of the 1922 committee to start accepting nominations for Mrs May’s successor.

After Chequers went pop and we saw DExEU’s midnight runners, David Davis and Steve Baker resigning around midnight, and then Boris Johnson resigning a few hours later it seemed inevitable Mrs May would be ousted this year. But she’s still in place and from that my reading of the situation is that there’s no majority for in the Parliamentary Conservative Party for ousting Mrs May.

If the most recent YouGov poll is a harbinger for the wider polling community then it will be that the Chequers Deal doesn’t mean Corbyn and that will help secure Mrs May for the rest of the year. As Mike observed the other day the prospect of Boris Johnson, the worst Foreign Secretary since Lord Halifax, succeeding Mrs May will likely reduce the chances of a leadership contest in 2018.

The only realistic way I can see a contest this year is if by October/November a no deal cliff edge Brexit is inevitable, that would likely see carnage on the financial markets and the end of Mrs May, if not the government.



This poll just about sums Brexit up – 60% don’t care what happens over Brexit they just want it to be over

August 11th, 2018

This is good news for TMay

I’m starting to like some of the original output from DeltaPoll – the new pollster established a few months ago with Martin Boon, ex-ICM and Jo Twyman ex-YouGov at the helm.

In this question which came out during the week I think they’ve touched the mood of the nation. This seems to have gone on for so long and people are just bored.

Notice in the splits that Remainers are less likely to take this view but then that is understandable.

It is against this background, I’d suggest, that TMay’s Chequers strategy might eventually resonate. Her plan is essentially BINO, Brexit in Name Only, and is designed to honour the referendum result while causing as little damage as possible to the economy.

A lot now could depend on Labour and how influential Corbyn remains within the party. His strong pro-Brexit stance is very much out of line with his party supporters but he has held to it until now. The party conference, however, could be interesting with a big move going on to get backing for another referendum.

The antisemitism row has clearly weakened him and whether he can continue to stick with his policy on that and hold firm on his Brexit approach is very much a moot point.

Mike Smithson


PB Video Analysis: How Bad Is The US-China Trade Deficit?

August 11th, 2018

The US runs a trade deficit with China of $375bn. It’s a staggering number, larger than the economies of Ireland or Israel. Little wonder than Donald Trump frets that the US is being taken advantage of.

But how meaningful are bilateral trade numbers anyway? Should governments aim to balance volumes of trade with other countries, or is it all a bit irrelevant? And if you impose tariffs on countries with whom you have deficits, will your overall balance of trade improve?

With the help of Tom, Dick and Ludovic, I’m answering that question.

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’


Answering a poll question is NOT the same as having an opinion

August 10th, 2018

The above tweet from former Labour Party pollster James Morris strikes me as being very apposite and goes to the heart of how we use polling outcomes. For unless there is some effort within the poll to ascertain how strongly people feel about a subject then it can be hard to interpret results.

We know that with voting intention surveys almost all pollsters now try to ascertain how certain it is that respondents will actually vote but what about other findings? Those sampled might have a view when pressed but how strongly do they feel about it.

Are, for instance, ordinary voters really going round saying how angered they are about Chequers or do they not feel that strongly about it. Clearly those who are hostile, like the MP named in the tweet, are going to give an interpretation to a polling outcome that most supports their own position. A better measure, I’d argue, are the TMay leader ratings.

I’m sceptical of polling questions which require a very long preamble to explain what it is that an opinion is being sought. If the issue isn’t known to the respondent and doesn’t come over simply then you cannot assume that people really have the knowledge to make a judgement.

The other thing that does annoys is when the pollster knocks out all the don’t knows and refusers and gives you a net number so the total adds up to 100%. We really do do need to know what the other figure is so we can pass judgement. I tend to ignore these polls.

I’d argue that the fact that 40% of samples now have no view on whether Corbyn or May is the best prime minister says more than saying that Corbyn is 12 points behind on this question.

I like long-term tracker questions where they are sufficient data points to see if there is a trend when the same question as has been asked in the same format.

Mike Smithson


YouGov finds that just half of those who voted LAB at GE2017 choose Corbyn as “Best PM”

August 10th, 2018

The detailed data from the latest YouGov Times poll shows that when asked just 50% those sampled who voted Labour at the last election chose Corbyn in response to who would make the Best PM.

This is the worst polling for the LAB leader since the election and has Corbyn showing the same sorts of ratings from past party voters as Ed Miliband was getting ahead of GE2015.

This is all a long way from the post-GE2017 polling when Corbyn’s support on this question amongst who had voted for the party was touching 80%.

It comes at a time when his leadership has been under sharp scrutiny over the bespoke antisemitism policy that has caused so much anger in the Jewish communities and amongst Corbyn’s own MPs.

The strongest thing in Corbyn’s favour at the moment is that his supporters control just about all the lvers of power within the party and of course he continues to have the strong backing of members.

He isn’t going anywhere and it is hard to see him and close adviser, Seumus Milne climbing down on the definition of antisemitism.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s YouGov has the worst LAB voting figures and the worst Corbyn best PM rating since GE17

August 9th, 2018

It is hard to conclude other than that the ongoing row within Labour over anti-semitism is taking its toll.

It is a general rule that parties that appear to be split lose support from voters and the news from the red team has been negative for months.

This has manifested itself in so many different stories that have kept LAB+antisemitism in the headlines.

Corbynistas say that anti-semitism is being used as a smear against the leader. Maybe there is an element in this from some quarters but that evades the question of whether the party has got this right.

Mike Smithson


The prospect of Johnson as leader should make Theresa’s position a bit more secure

August 9th, 2018

How many are going to no confidence her if he’s alternative?

Much has been written about the incredible resilience of Theresa May who has managed to hang on to her job now for well over a year after losing the party it’s majority in the June 2017 general election.

She became a contender in the post referendum Conservative leadership race in July 2016 with her backers arguing that she was the one for the party to get behind in order to stop Johnson.

It was a powerful appeal as we saw with Johnson himself bottling out of the fight on that extraordinary Thursday morning in early July two years ago when he realised his MP support base was nothing like as wide as he thought.

One of the ex-Mayor’s problems has always been his relations with many fellow Conservative MPs. Few appear ready to back him and speak up when required. Also the cack-handed way he dealt with Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom during the last contest caused both to enter the race.

At the moment the one CON MP who seems most ready be interviewed and publicly support him is Nadine Dorries – her of “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” fame. She used to attack Cameron and Osborne for being “posh boys” something she hasn’t raised in relation Johnson in spite of his similar educational background.

The experience of the Conservative leader no confidence procedure is that it has only ever been used once and then there was a degree of unanimity about who should be the successor. That was in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was voted out and Michael Howard took over the leadership without there being a members’ ballot.

If when parliament returns 48 CON MPs are bold enough to send letters demanding a confidence vote then you can see ahead of the MP ballot Team Theresa twisting a few arms with the message – “do you really want Boris as PM?” If all MPs voted 155 would have to back a confidence move and Johnson does not have that much support.

The betting has moved away from TMay going this year and if she makes it till 2019 she’s surely going to continue to Brexit and beyond.

Mike Smithson


Those whom the Gods wish to destroy. What happens next now that Britain has gone mad

August 8th, 2018

So now we know.  A majority of Leavers are stark staring bonkers.  The signs had always been there: the swivel-eyed attacks on the judiciary as enemies of the people for giving judgment in a case, on the governor of the Bank of England for doing his job, on the Chancellor of the Exchequer for having regard to fiscal prudence, calling Remain supporters saboteurs and traitors and exulting in the Prime Minister’s condemnation of citizens of nowhere.  The most recent hate figure is the Electoral Commission for having the temerity to investigate electoral offences committed by Vote Leave.

There had even been polling that should have given us a clue.  A year ago YouGov recorded that 61% of Leave voters thought that significant damage to the British economy would be a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the EU.  A plurality thought that Brexit causing you or members of your family to lose their job to be a price worth paying for bringing Britain out of the EU.  This was largely taken as an expression of intensity of feeling: the polling was taken seriously but not literally.

Just this last week we have had a poll showing that 58% of Leave voters rated Britain leaving the EU as more important than maintaining peace in Northern Ireland.  This rose to 63% among Conservative Leavers. 

Some commentators tried to explain this away as an unwillingness among Leavers to be cowed by terrorism.  Except there had already been separate polling showing that a strikingly similar 63% of English Leavers thought that even if part of the price of Brexit was Northern Ireland leaving the UK and reuniting with the rest of Ireland, that would be a price worth paying.  Similarly, 61% of English Leavers thought that even if part of the price of Brexit was Scotland leaving the UK that also would be a price worth paying. 

All the evidence points one way: the polling needs to be taken literally.  Something like a third of the population is so strongly motivated for Britain to leave the EU that any consequence up to and including the destruction of the United Kingdom and the outbreak of violence is acceptable. 

More polling would be useful.  Would the collapse of the NHS be a price worth paying?  How about the independence of London?  How about a massacre of the first born?  It would be useful to know the limits to which Leavers would prioritise Brexit.  Their hatred of the EU has so far yet to be fathomed.

The analysis that this reaction needs is less political and more psychiatric.  How can it be that a third of the population can have such crazed priorities?

You have to pity the politicians that must bargain with such a large feral segment of society (or you would if they had not played such a large part in creating it).  Some earnest commentators will tell us that the concerns of these voters must be listened to and addressed.  But voters, even a fairly large section of voters, do not automatically possess oracular wisdom.  We need to bear in mind the possibility that they have been driven doolally.  The evidence is pointing strongly that way.

All of this has betting implications.  First, if like me you believe that the ERG have somewhere between 60 and 100 MPs within their penumbra, the chances of a Conservative leadership contest in the short term are slim.  The uncrazed majority of Conservative MPs will not risk the ERG getting their man into the last two for the membership to consider because it looks highly likely that the membership are going to choose the most Leavey candidate available regardless of any other defects: omnia vincit Brexit.  Theresa May might need to suffer any number of indignities but she is the nurse whose hand will be clung to for fear of something worse.

Next, if a deal is done between Britain and the EU (and I expect it will, given this is in control of the government, which retains a tenuous and incoherent grip on sanity, and MPs, of whom only a relatively small sliver share the majority Leave obsession), that deal will command no legitimacy with either Remainers or Leavers.  There are going to be two simultaneous stab-in-the-back myths circulating simultaneously.  This ain’t going away any time soon. 

However unpalatable it might be, a third of the population makes for a tempting target market.  Nigel Farage is already sniffing around trying to work out how he can make himself relevant again.  If the Conservative party looks as though it has failed to deliver Brexit in the minds of these diehards, he stands a very good chance of doing just that.

So when that Conservative leadership contest does come, the winner will probably be someone who can present themselves as a hardline uncompromising Leaver, regardless of their other qualities.  Boris Johnson is now manifestly unfit for the top job.  He might yet get it.

All of this in turn will shore up the opposition to Brexit.  Remember, polls are now showing a clear lead for Remain over any individual form of Brexit.  With the government seeming to be in the grip of ideologically-driven obsessives, the unconverted are going to be casting around for the most effective way of opposing them.  Right now, for all its defects, that looks likely to be Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. 

None of this sounds like good news for Britain.  It isn’t.  A third of the population want to burn the house down and right now no one is manning a hose.  Who knows how much is going to survive their efforts?

Alastair Meeks