For first time since being sacked after getting GE2005 spot on NOP (now GfK) is back doing UK political polls

March 27th, 2017

UK Polling Report

Welcome back – you’ve been missed

One of the great jokes whenever people interested in polling have met in recent years is that is the person from NOP (now GfK) popping up to remind to remind us that the firm in its last published political poll got the outcome of the 2005 general election absolutely right.

For whatever reason the Independent, which had commissioned the firm decided, to switch pollsters after 2005 and since then GfK has not had a single published UK political poll.

That is all going to change tonight. At 10pm we will see the first GFK poll in 12 years. The last one had: LAB 36: CON 33: LD 23.. Don’t be surprised if there is quite some change in the latest numbers.

The research director in charge is Keiran Pedley who is very well known to PBers for his regular posts and of course his weekly podcast which are now an integral and very popular feature of the site.

Tonight’s numbers are embargoed but they will be published here at precisely 10 p.m.

Mike Smithson


If they hadn’t have gone into coalition the LDs would likely have been favourites in Manchester Gorton

March 27th, 2017

But at GE2015 the yellows came in 5th losing their deposit

Although the arrival of George Galloway in the Manchester Gorton race has caused a tightening of the Lib Dem odds the position is nothing like as strong as it would have been if the party had not gone onto the Coalition with the Conservatives in 2010.

The chart above shows the extraordinary strength the party had in ward elections in the constituency in the period between the Iraq war and the Coalition. At one stage they held all but two of the Gorton Manchester City Council seats.

But all went pear-shaped following the decision to go into coalition with the Tories in 2010 and they had a terrible 2015 general election result dropping from 32.6% to just 4.2% and fifth place.

We have seen elsewhere that historic organisational strength, like in Richmond Park, can be reactivated particularly if their voter data is good.

A lot depends on how many LAB votes Galloway’s manages to skim off.

Gorton was 72% for remain at the referendum and we do know that those opposed to leaving the EU are probably more motivated than those who aren’t at the moment. Certainly what will be portrayed as Corbyn’s ambivalent approach will be used ruthlessly by the yellows in the next few weeks. Galloway, who announced his candidature on the website of Arron Banks was a strong proponent of Leave.

This last night from the political correspondent of the Manchester Evening News gives an interest slant on morale within Gorton LAB .

The assumption is that LAB will call the by-election on May 4th so that it will coincide with the Greater Manchester mayoral election and the other local elections on that day.

Overall it is very hard to argue against LAB holding on even though they’ve got a fight on their hands on two fronts the Lib Dems and Galloway.

Mike Smithson


Politics in a democratic one party state

March 26th, 2017


Aged 69, Seneca the Younger had spent many years in the service of the Emperor Nero, but suspecting him of treason, the Emperor ordered him to commit suicide.  Seneca cut open the arteries of his own arms and the veins of his legs and knees, but his blood flowed slowly and his death did not come quickly.   To hasten the process, he drank poison, but still death eluded him.  Finally he was carried into a hot bath and suffocated in the steam.  Politics in ancient times meant risking everything and sometimes losing everything.

Modern democracies require politicians to take fewer risks.  We are accustomed in Britain to the idea that each party will spend time out of power, which means that the major parties keep each other reasonably honest.  But right now the Labour party look far from power, sliding in the polls even from the low levels they achieved in 2010 and 2015, and with a leader who seems more interested in building a national movement than in future forming a government.

No other party is currently set to step into the gap.  The SNP have huge support in Scotland but no desire or prospect of ever expanding from that.  The Lib Dems are too crushed from their 2015 defeat to fill the gap.  UKIP look too chaotic.  For now, despite their small majority, the Conservatives have the field to themselves.  We are in practice living in a democratic one party state.

As Seneca found out, the absence of other parties does not bring an end to politics.  So how will the new politics work in the near future?

The first thing to do is to put the opposition parties out of your mind.  They have moved beyond the category of “unpopular” and into “largely irrelevant”.  Jeremy Corbyn could advocate state guardianship of children, the abolition of private property rights and political union with Venezuela, and the only people who would notice would be despairing Blairites.  A member of the general public who actually registered the announcements would inwardly sigh again and be completely unmoved.  For most people, Labour don’t begin to come close to being a possible choice right now.

So for now the important politics take place around the Conservative party.  That doesn’t mean that the politics are exclusively within the Conservative party – UKIP and the Lib Dems in particular will each be able to influence politics by tugging on the sleeves, and the media will at times take up the role of opposition in the absence of any other – but the impact of outsiders will be relevant only in so far as it might influence figures internal to the Conservative party.  In the late 1980s, the big political battles were between Mrs Thatcher and her personal advisers and other senior Conservatives such as Nigel Lawson, Sir Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine.  Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians were commentators more than opponents.  The arguments were played out in the newspapers between different Conservative-affiliated journalists.

We can already see this happening.  The Telegraph reported the story that MPs had complained about a perceived anti-Brexit bias at the BBC with the words “More than 70 MPs from across the political spectrum have written to Lord Hall of Birkenhead”, but the rest of the front page dealt exclusively with concerns of different wings of the Conservative party.  Such is the political spectrum in 2017.

Indeed, those of a Brexitish persuasion might see that perceived anti-Brexit bias as another sign of this, as the BBC fills the vacuum of opposition.  I wouldn’t – the letter cited no examples of how the BBC had Done Down Britain (and the one programme cited in newspaper articles, Countryfile, had for weeks run an extended series of sections from New Zealand showing how its farmers had coped well over time with a shock similar to that of Brexit), suggesting that the MPs have succumbed to paranoia.

In reality, the media opposition will in large part be more apparent than real.  The media will orientate itself around differing wings of the Conservative party.  The need to keep lines of communication open with other parties will seem less pressing as the need to have access to good stories from the governing party.  George Osborne’s shock appointment as editor of the Evening Standard can be seen in that light.

The absence of external pressure on the Conservative party will make it less likely to hold together on any given topic.  As a result, they will often seem divided and the media will make great play of this.  Some will be lulled into believing that division signifies a loosening grip on power.  In fact, the opposite will be true.  With political debate taking place within the hegemonic party, the irrelevance of other parties will be increased.  For 10 years, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown led teams who sparred more or less continually.  This did not assist the Conservatives in breaking their stranglehold on power (at least, not until one of the sparring partners retired).

In short, having established complete dominance, a circle (virtuous or vicious according to political taste) is forming that will act as a powerful reinforcement of that dominance.  It will eventually come to an end but it probably will do so for other reasons.  The Thatcherite hegemony of the 1980s and the Blairite hegemony of the 2000s ended with the political demise of their founders.  But the current Conservative hegemony is nothing like as strongly founded on Theresa May.  It could founder on Brexit.  But if it doesn’t, it could be very enduring indeed.

Alastair Meeks


If this is accurate, then you might wish to update your Trump impeachment, conviction, resignation, and exit date betting

March 26th, 2017




New poll finds increasing support for a second referendum with 66% of REMAIN voters now wanting one

March 25th, 2017

But overall most of those sampled continue to be against

Keiran Pedley looks at new poll numbers from the Polling Matters / Opinium series ahead of the Prime Minister invoking Article 50 this week.

Listeners to this week’s (revamped) PB/Polling Matters podcast (see below) will know that we have a new survey out this week. Our most recent poll tracks public opinion on last year’s Brexit vote. In December, we asked a nationally representative sample of the British public whether they thought there should be another vote on EU membership once the terms of divorce are known and we asked the same question again last weekend.

In some ways the results offer something for everyone. At a headline level, a majority are opposed to another referendum, with exactly the same number in opposition now as were opposed in December (52%). This is primarily because Leave voters continue to be committed to the decision they made last year. However, there has been a 5 point increase in the overall number in favour of another vote. This appears to be driven by those that said ‘don’t know’ in December now saying that they support another referendum with Remainers particularly consolidating behind such a position.

Q. Once we know what terms the government has negotiated, should there be a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, where voters can choose between leaving under the terms negotiated or remaining in the EU after all?

Now for a number of reasons we shouldn’t get too exercised by these findings. These results could be a one-off and there is little sign of consistent Brexit regret in opinion polls. Theresa May certainly has no interest in holding another referendum and the Labour Party is not calling for one (despite some 60% of their voters in favour). However, we should still keep an eye on these numbers. If this trend is real and continues then expect someone of signifance in the Labour Party to come out in support in the future. In any case, if the opinion of the Remain vote is hardening on this subject, the potential for that group of people being a significant organised political force in the longer term only grows.

Incidentally, a fascinating subplot in Britain’s political future will be how the opinion of Millennials evolves on this issue. 53% of 18-34s support another vote with just 34% opposing. Now this shouldn’t surprise given what we know about the composition of the Remain vote in 2016. The question is whether such attitudes will change as these voters get older or are they set in stone (as they are on certain cultural issues)? If they are, expect the issue of Britain’s position in Europe be a live one long beyond we have officially left the EU.

Article 50 brings sky-high expectations

Turning our attention to this week, our poll also asked how confident the British public is on the type of Brexit deal May and the government will deliver:

How confident are you that Theresa May and the British government will be able to negotiate a Brexit deal that is good for the UK?

49% Confident

41% Not confident

 10% Don’t know

Expectations here are split in ways you would expect that I won’t therefore dwell on e.g. Remain vs Leave, Labour vs Conservative, young vs old and so on. However, what is striking is the confidence of Leave voters. Some 72% are confident a ‘good deal’ can be delivered. Now what a ‘good deal’ tangibly means to them and whether May can meet those expectations is going to be critical for her political survival. Meanwhile, we should also pay attention to the one area of the UK with the lowest confidence in any Brexit deal. That is Scotland where 62% are pessimistic that a ‘good deal’ can be reached. Ominous signs.

Much is made of the apparent finality of the 2016 vote in terms of the European question. It may very well be so given the state of the Labour Party right now. But I can’t help but feel that things could change and change quickly should Brexit negotiations go badly. You need tunnel vision not to see that there is a path for a ‘second referendum’ becoming a major political issue. In any case, we are now approaching the ‘business end’ of Brexit. The time for words is nearly over. Now Theresa May has to deliver.

Keiran Pedley presents the PB/Polling Matters podcast (latest episode below) and tweets about politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley


Check out the latest podcast below:

Notes on the poll: Opinium surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,003 GB adults online between 17-21 March, 2017. Tables will be available on their website in due course.


UKIP drops to ZERO MPs following Carswell’s decision to leave the party

March 25th, 2017

In happier times – Farage with his CON defector in 2014

But no by-election, he’ll remain in Commons as an independent

This lunchtime’s announcement from Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton, that he’s to leave UKIP is hardly a surprise. He had been largely detached from the party for months and and it really became a question of not if he would leave the purples but when.

He always appeared uncomfortable with UKIP’s emphasis on immigration and campaigned in the referendum with Vote Leave.

But he is not as some had expected re-joining the Conservatives. He said that he will remain as an MP as an independent. I guess is that he might well join the blues again possibly before the general election.

Given that he resigned and fought a by-election two and a half years ago after he defected to UKIP he would have found it difficult to go directly to the Conservatives and not do the same. Becoming an independent is less of an issue.

    All of this highlights what has become Ukip’s bugbear – its abject failure to be able to secure seats under first past the post. Almost the only elections where it has been successful have been there’s does a proportional element – for the European Parliament and, of course, the list seats for the Welsh Assembly.

The UK leaving the EU in 2019 will put an end to its MEP representation and the next Welsh elections are not till 2021. That’s a long time for the party to go through.

So Britain’s most dysfunctional party becomes even more dysfunctional.

Mike Smithson


Even at only 1/2, Macron remains the value bet

March 25th, 2017

The centrist looks close to home and hosed right now

France is no stranger to revolutions. It’s therefore hardly surprising that there’s a ready temptation – particularly after the Brexit vote in the UK and Trump’s election in the US – to seek both contemporary and historic parallels in the possibility of a Le Pen victory in May. Indeed, it’s so tempting that the odds have come quite out of line with the real chances.

There are only two simple facts to remember: firstly, at virtually no point has Le Pen led in any of the opinion polls, against any of the major candidates. Only in a few head-to-heads against Hollande did she ever breach 50%, and that says as much about the popularity of Hollande and the PS as it does about Le Pen. And secondly, she is highly likely to make the second round, having enjoyed the solid backing of at least a quarter of the electorate for the last four years.

This isn’t to say that she can’t win. It is possible if Fillon could somehow push Macron back into third but it’s hard to see a scenario whereby the French public lift Fillon high enough to make the run-off, only to then reject him. Even now, after the battering he’s taken during March, he still leads Le Pen by about 13 points – and that’s when he’s only polling around 18% as against the mid-20s scores of Macron and Le Pen.

Might Macron suffer his own scandal? In a race in which there’ve already been so many twists and turns, we can’t rule the possibility out but it hasn’t happened so far and even if it did, would it count for all that much against such a flawed field? Not that there’s been much of a sniff of potential scandal anyway, despite this being the time when all candidates – even Le Pen – have an interest in taking him down. (It would be wrong to argue that if she did have some secret folder, she’d be better to wait for the second round: no-one knows how effective a negative campaign will be until it’s run and going early with it produces a more beatable run-off opponent – whether Macron or Fillon – if it works and buys time if it doesn’t).

Could the polls be wrong? Again, we can’t rule it out but not only would they would have to be all wrong by a long way, they’d also need to have the trend wrong. Over the last month, Le Pen has lost the 3-point first-round lead she had and instead, Macron has opened up a 1-point lead of his own. Fillon, by contrast, has drifted from about 20 down to 18, while the main candidates of the left – Hamon and Melenchon – trade blows in the low double-figures. Who is going to come out of the pack to deny the centrist?

There is of course still almost a month still to go to the first round but with Macron eight points or so clear of Fillon and heading outwards, and with him well over twenty points clear in a head-to-head against Le Pen, it would take something truly remarkable to lose it now.

After the experience of Trump and Brexit, commentators are naturally sceptical about being too dismissive of the chance that an electorate will take a leap in the dark. In those cases, however, the odds always overrated the mainstream (as noted on politicalbetting many times). This is different. The structure in France works heavily against the extremes. While odds of 1/2 aren’t terribly exciting, they still represent a 50% return in six weeks, which isn’t at all bad – particularly when the true odds, by my reckoning, are less than half that.

David Herdson


Local By-Election Review March 2017

March 24th, 2017

Higher Croft on Blackburn with Darwen (Lab defence, death of sitting member)
Result: Labour 446 (58% +12%), United Kingdom Independence Party 190 (25% -8%), Conservative 133 (17% -4%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 256 (33%) on a swing of 10% from UKIP to Lab
However, late yesterday afternoon it was discovered that the Labour candidate should not have been nominated as he was employed by an organisation that Blackburn with Darwen council have a material interest in, therefore the election was declared null and void

Leominster South on Herefordshire (Ind defence, death of sitting member)
Result: Green Party 318 (41% +10%), It’s Our County 143 (18%, no candidate at last election), Conservative 139 (18% -9%), Independent 116 (15% -28%), Liberal Democrat 64 (8%, no candidate at last election)
Green GAIN from Independent with a majority of 175 (23%) on a notional swing of 4% from Green to It’s Our County (actual swing 10.5% from Con to Green)

Dunster and Timberscombe on West Somerset (Con defence, resignation of sitting member)
Result: Liberal Democrat 174 (50%, no candidate at last election), Conservative 115 (33% -27%), Green Party 38 (11% -29%), Labour 23 (7%, no candidate at last election)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 59 (17%) on a notional swing of 38.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat (actual swing 1% from Green to Con)

Monthly Summary: March 2017
Conservatives 8,011 votes (36% -1% on last time) winning 11 seats (+2 on last time)
Labour 6,214 votes (28% -2% on last time) winning 3 seats (-3 on last time)
Liberal Democrats 3,222 votes (15% +8% on last time) winning 3 seats (+2 on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 2,098 votes (10% -1% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 on last time)
Green Party 1,173 votes (5% -2% on last time) winning 1 seat (+1 on last time)
Independents 1,128 votes (5% -2% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 on last time)
Other Parties 143 votes (1% +1% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged)
Conservative lead of 1,797 votes (8%) on a swing of 0.5% from Lab to Con

Conservatives GAIN Hutton on Redcar and Cleveland from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Kersal on Salford from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Waltham Cross on Broxbourne from Lab
Conservatives GAIN Derwent on the City of Derby from UKIP
Liberal Democrats GAIN Hailey, Minister Lovell and Leafield on West Oxfordshire from Con
Green Party GAIN Leominster South on Herefordshire from Ind
Liberal Democrats GAIN Dunster and Timberscombe on West Somerset from Con