From Core TV – focus on PB, Brexit, the “Democrats”, the Tory leadership and more

August 19th, 2017

No David Herdson with his usual Saturday morning post this morning but instead this TV feature on PB and many of the issues we’ve been discussing on the site over the past few weeks.

This interview, by Rob Double, was recorded yesterday afternoon for Core TV the new online news and politics channel.

My views and assessments won’t be unfamiliar to regular PBers.

Mike Smithson


The GE2017 gloss starts to come off Corbyn

August 18th, 2017

His YouGov favourability drops a net 13% on June

For only the second time since the shock General Election outcome YouGov has carried out a favourability poll on the main parties and their leaders and the contrast with the post election survey is striking.

Theresa May is moving up a notch though still in deep negative territory. She was a minus 34 – that’s down to 27%.

Corbyn is going in the other direction. He was level pegging in June and is now a net minus 13%. So overall the PM has moved a net 20 points closer.

Given his position on BREXIT Corbyn’s remain voter split is a surprising 53% favourable to 39% unfavourable. Amongst Leavers it is 68% unfavourable to 25% favourable – numbers which suggest that that Labour’s creative ambivalence is continuing to have a political impact.

The YouGov numbers also allow us to compare leader ratings with how the sample viewed their parties. Both LAB and CON rated higher than their leaders by 3 and 6 points respectively. The only recent leader who generally polled better than his party was Cameron.

Mike Smithson



Local By-Elections Review : August 17th 2017

August 18th, 2017

Park on Peterborough (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 1,713 (50% unchanged on last time), Conservative 1,375 (40% +5% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 176 (5% -3% on last time), Liberal Democrat 109 (3% +1% on last time), Green Party 83 (2% -2% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 338 (10%) on a swing from Lab to Con of 2.5%

St. Mary’s on Forest Heath (Con defence)
Result: Conservative 338 (50% +11% on last time), Labour 276 (41% +9% on last time), Green Party 60 (9%, no candidate last time) No UKIP candidate (28% last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 62 (9%) on a swing of 1% from Lab to Con

Riverside (Con defence) and Southcourt (Lib Dem defence) on Aylesbury Vale
Result: Conservative 301 (35% +4% on last time), Liberal Democrat 286 (33% +17% on last time), Labour 210 (24% +6% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 48 (6% -30% on last time), Green Party 23 (3%, no candidate last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 15 (2%) on a swing of 6.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Result: Liberal Democrat 456 (37% +8% on last time), Conservative 386 (32% +10% on last time), Labour 270 (22% -1% on last time), Green Party 58 (5% -1% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 54 (4% -17% on last time)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 70 (5%) on a swing of 1% from Lib Dem to Con


How Brexit is blinding us resulting in other massive issues being ignored

August 18th, 2017


The Brexit obsession is diverting attention from other big challenges

Since Britain voted to leave the EU, little of substance has happened in the decoupling process. Britain has served its Article 50 notice, the EU has established its preferred method of handling the negotiations, to which the British have acceded, and both sides have now published detailed papers on their preferred way of proceeding. The real fight, as Jeremy Corbyn said, starts here.

If this is a phoney war, then it certainly hasn’t lacked for coverage of its shadow battles. Remainers mock the ramshackle way in which the British government has put together its negotiating position, profess disdain for what they see as the government’s provincial jingoism and boggle at the starry-eyed impossibilism of the British government’s continuing attempts to have their cake and eat it. For their part, Leavers have snarled at Remainers‘ perceived lack of patriotism, labelled those with qualms about the project saboteurs and enemies of the people and set out a wide variety of mutually contradictory preferred positions which they continually seek to map onto the government positions. Position papers have been deconstructed to the nth degree. Every new utterance by a government minister, EU flunkey or holidaying ex-SPAD is dissected endlessly for detail and nuance.

Both sides noisily agree that whatever else one might think of Brexit, it is important. The news-consuming public largely seems to agree. The Express seems to be kept afloat as a newspaper by a combination of EU outrages and statins. Hitherto obscure journalists now seem to make a good living out of Remain-supporting podcasts.

Both sides are right, of course. The terms of the Brexit settlement will have a substantial impact on the prosperity of Britain (and to a lesser extent the EU). It is very possible that the negotiations will end in acrimony, greatly exacerbating the already difficult relations between Britain and the EU and the internal divisions in the UK between the two camps. This is the biggest change of direction for Britain since it sought to join the EEC as it then was. The stakes are high.

One of the big dangers of Brexit, however, is that Britain’s absorption in the process is blinding it to other important developments. The continuing excellent employment figures have rightly been widely reported, though one has to admire the Express’s ability to make a bad news story out of this by blazoning its front page with the number of migrants in jobs. The slowdown in growth passed by largely without comment.

British political types awoke from their navel-gazing when North Korea threatened to launch missiles in the direction of the US and Donald Trump promised fire and fury. But they haven’t particularly noticed that ISIS have lost Mosul or that the Gulf is currently in the throes of a cold war between Qatar, backed by Turkey, on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the other. Every European election or potential change of government is being seen through a Brexit prism: is Angela Merkel going to be re-elected and will her new coalition be more or less Brexit-friendly? Will the new Taoiseach be less accommodating to Britain’s preferred Brexit settlement than his predecessor? Britain’s horizons have sharply narrowed.

Politically aware Brits have picked up on the strife in southern US states over statues celebrating confederacy figures. Few seem to have picked up on the possibility of white nationalism crossing the Atlantic, though UKIP seem likely, in the wake of another large trial involving a group of largely Muslim men who sexually exploited white girls, to elect as leader one of the candidates who is standing on an anti-Islam ticket. This is a show that could be coming to a screen near you shortly.

As important as the Brexit settlement is, everything else continues. Once Brexit is no longer completely all-consuming, Britain will need to get to grips with globalisation, AI, productivity, the housing crisis, an ageing population and all the other challenges that seemed so important before the country voted to devote years to sorting out the second order problem of the precise basis on which Britain interacts with its neighbours. Since the government does not have the human or intellectual capacity to address these challenges at the same time as negotiating Brexit, Britain is set to fall years behind its cohort in dealing with them. So much for making Britain more competitive.

How to solve this problem? Oddly, it is some of those who voted for Leave who now carp that Brexit has led to a sterile debate, as though the outcome should have been closed off further discussion of the manifold problems it raised. Ignoring those problems, however, will not make them go away.

There appears to be no option to ploughing through the Brexit blizzard and accepting that will make us snow blind for some time to come. At the end, whenever that might be, we will survey a very changed landscape. Because Britain will not be prepared for that changed landscape, it is unlikely to be well-placed to profit from it.

Alastair Meeks


Why the SNP’s MPs would probably not support a vote for an early general election

August 17th, 2017

Sturgeon’s party has too many vulnerable seats

Ever since it became clear that Mrs. May’s June election gamble had failed and she’d lost her majority there’s been lots of speculation that this parliament will not go through to its full term in June 2022. Maybe but there is the obstacle to surmount of the Fixed Term Parliament Act which was part of the coalition deal in 2010. The days when a PM can pop along to the Palace and call an election are long gone.

One of the routes allowable is if the government loses a no confidence motion which is not rescinded within two weeks. The other route, as deployed by TMay last April, was to seek a Commons vote with two thirds of MPs giving the move their backing.

A confidence vote is probably where the Tories are most vulnerable although at the moment there is the deal with he DUP. Things could change over the parliament through defections, rebellions and by-election losses that it.

Such a confidence vote would require LAB to secure the full backing of other parties in the house including the SNP and there must be some doubt that they would go along with the idea.

A key factor that is illustrated in the Commons Library table above is the vulnerability of the SNP in many of the 35 Scottish seats that they currently hold. We saw how in the two years between the last two general elections SNP dropped from 56 MPs to just 35 on a Scottish vote share down from 50% at GE2015 to 36.9%.

Voting for LAB confidence motions that would lead directly to a new general election being held and would not, on current party standings, be in the SNP’s interest. Chances are that they’d lose even more seats.

It has been calculated that if LAB, CON and the SNP each finished up on 30% in Scotland then the SNP could be reduced to just 6 seats. That sliimness of some of their majorities is shown in the chart.

Mike Smithson



Calling Theresa May a “Nazi” totally undermines Chapman’s anti-Brexit crusade

August 17th, 2017

Threat almost over as far as ministers are concerned

We’ve all been entertained this week by the stream of Tweets from the ex-political editor of the Mail and former chief aide to the BrexSec DDavis, James Chapman.

It has livened up what had been a quiet August and provided some interesting revelations and attacks on his the man who was his boss until June.

But moving to a position where he’s now describing the PM as a “Nazi” suggests he has gone too far. Godwin’s “law” has come into play and Chapman, I fear, is going to be taken a lot less seriously.

Theresa May is many things, most seriously for her party an election loser, but she cannot be equated to the Germans in the second world War.

Chapman will start to fade and his Tweets less potency. This is a great pity because some of his points and observations on the implications of Brexit seemed highly relevant.

Mike Smithson


UPDATED: On the face of it Vince Cable would be taking a risk doing anything with the Chapman “Democrats party” move

August 16th, 2017

The big development in the Chapman “Democrats party” move is the above Tweet from the ex-Mail political editor and former chief aids to DDavis.

There’s no doubt, as the YouGov polling above shows, that LD voters are much more likely to be pro-Remain than any other party and there would have been a risk for Cable in turning down the Chapman overtures.

But the LDs are a well established party where there are still bitter memories of the SDP in the 1980s with the eventual merger with the Liberal party to create the “Social and Liberal Democrats” in 1987. Cable comes from the SDP wing.

After that merger several leading SDPers, notably David Owen, didn’t join and remnants of the old party found itself often fighting battles with the new merged party. Back in 1989 when I ran for County Council as a Lib Dem my main opponent was from the continuity SDP and the fight was tough.

The LDs having been battered by the voters following the coalition are ultra sensitive to the dangers of a new party and a repetition of what happened in the 80s. They cannot allow themselves to be subsumed by Chapman.

I think Cable is well aware of the issues. The main thing is to impede the form of Brexit that TMay seeks.

UPDATE: The LDs have issued statement saying there is no question whatsoever of the party supporting the launch of a new party but that they will work with others to try to stop an “extreme Brexit”.

Mike Smithson


The Ladbrokes 20/1 that the Brexit Secretary, DDavis, will be next Cabinet minister out looks like a value bet

August 16th, 2017

Good bets are not predictions but an assessment that the chances of a particular outcome are better than what the bookies are offering.

Given all the noise round the BrexSec in the Tweet Tsunami from former DD aide James Chapman I reckon that the Ladbrokes 20/1 that he’ll be the next cabinet minister out is value.

The Chapman allegation point that is really striking and I’d suggest most damaging is the one the Times is highlighting this morning – the allegation that DDavis only works three days a week.

    Given how crucial these negotiations are to the future of the country the suggestion, true or false, that the man in charge is not giving it his full focus is one that hits home.

TMay is due to arrive back at Downing Street after her four week holiday tomorrow and no doubt she’s been giving a lot of thought to the challenges ahead. Maybe we could see some cabinet moves as TMay seeks to assert her authority.

An early exit for Davis is surely greater than a 20/1 chance.

Mike Smithson