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Timing is everything. A review of Theresa May’s speech

January 19th, 2017

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

Whatever else you think of Brexit, we are being led by powerful currents taking us far from familiar shores. Whether we find safe harbour or end up washed up on the rocks is yet to be seen.

Theresa May has grasped this. After months of silence and having insisted that she would not give a running commentary, she has delivered a speech which offers as much clarity as anyone could have wished for about Britain’s negotiating strategy. Her government is to prioritise controlling immigration and as a result she is not going to attempt to keep Britain in the single market. In her words, the future relationship between Britain and the EU will be “Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.”

Presented as a strategy, this is in reality an admission of defeat. Some Leaver ministers have spent the last six months skipping like Julie Andrews enumerating some of their favourite things about the EU that they intended Britain to continue to benefit from. The Prime Minister is obviously more securely tethered to reality and has recognised that the EU’s many statements that it would not allow Britain to cherry-pick are not bluffs. She has concluded that controlling immigration is a non-negotiable component of Brexit and is proceeding accordingly. Rather than spend months pursuing the impossible, she isn’t going to make the attempt. Instead, she’s going to cut her losses now.

While this is an admission of defeat, it is also politically sensible. The Prime Minister has called this “Clean Brexit” and a more precise turn of phrase would be “Cauterised Brexit”, burning off some tissue in order to seal the wound. This was for centuries standard medical practice after amputation and entirely applicable here.

The domestic reaction came in two stages. That night, the tabloids were ecstatic. And the next day, HSBC and UBS announced their plans to relocate jobs from London – an early illustration of how Cauterised Brexit may have major costs.

For the first time, the Prime Minister also offered some olive twigs to the rest of the EU. She proclaimed her belief that the vote was not a rejection of shared values or to do harm to the EU itself (she would do well to slap down publicly some of her more excitable backbenchers on this last point). She stated that other Europeans would still be welcome in this country.

Despite the clumsy attempts at veiled threats that Theresa May dropped about how Britain could act in a hostile manner if a deal wasn’t reached, the speech received a moderate reception in the chancelleries of Europe (less so in the European press). The sense of realism and the dialling down of the rhetoric has undoubtedly helped. While there is still an enormous amount of work still to be done even to realise the very restricted Brexit that Theresa May is imagining, the risk of a chaotic Brexit has receded quite a way as a result of this speech being delivered.

The whole effort, however, has been undermined by a major flaw that is potentially very damaging indeed. Quite simply, this speech was far too late. The timetable for Brexit is demanding and Theresa May had long ago committed herself to triggering Article 50 in the early part of 2017. There is nothing that she said this week that could not have been said at the Conservative party conference. It would certainly have been a far better conference speech than the one that she actually delivered. Three precious months have been lost.

And it’s not as though those three months have been valuably or even neutrally spent. In the meantime, the British government has been burning its remaining capital with other European nations, insulting them, belittling them and threatening them. The mood is icy.

Brexit was always going to be a brutally difficult course to navigate. But by her delay, Theresa May might well find that the flood tide has been missed. Shallows and miseries might well be impossible to avoid now.

Alastair Meeks





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This week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast looks at Theresa May’s speech and looks ahead to Trump’s inauguration

January 19th, 2017

This week’s podcast is split into two parts.

In part one, Keiran is joined in the studio by Adam Drummond, Head of Political Polling at Opinium. Keiran and Adam discuss all things data in the aftermath of Theresa May’s big Brexit speech. They discuss the public’s reaction to May’s speech, attitudes to ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Brexits (and why numbers are not always what they seem), immigration polling, May’s approval ratings and polling on the NHS. Keiran also explains why he does not think Labour’s polling ‘floor’ is as bad as others make out.

In part two, Keiran is joined on the phone by US political expert (and Polling Matters regular), Jon-Christopher Bua. Keiran and Jon-Christopher discuss Trump’s inauguration, what his transition says about the type of president he will be and what happens next once he takes the oath of office. Jon-Christopher also gives his perspective on the future of healthcare in the US and what a Trump foreign policy might mean for Europe. Finally, Keiran and Jon-Christopher discuss how history will judge Obama’s presidency.

Follow today’s guests on twitter:

@keiranpedley

@jcbua

@AGKD123



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The Sun re-does its classic front page on the day of the 1992 general election

January 18th, 2017

This was from election day in April 1992

Tomorrow’s front page



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Paul Nuttall’s doing the right thing by seeking to join Carswell in the Commons at the first opportunity

January 18th, 2017

 

This could be a tight 4 way contest

The main non-BREXIT UK political news during the day has been that UKIP leader, Paul Nuttall, looks all set to become candidate in the Stoke Central by-election – the seat being made vacant by the Tristram Hunt departure. On Betfair the development has caused UKIP chances to move from 29% to 31%

At GE2015 the purples beat the Tories by 33 votes into second place there and look to be in a reasonable position to contest it. There’s no doubt that with the leader flying the flag UKIP would put absolutely everything into it.

I admire Nuttall’s decision because he’s ready to take a gamble. I always thought that Farage made a mistake in 2013 not being candidate in Eastleigh where he had stood previously.

But there’s no question that he has a major challenge on his hands. Labour will be working very hard to defend the seat; the Lib Dems, who were runners-up in 2005 and 2010 are on a roll when it comes to by-elections and carry the pro EU message, and of course, the Tories might fancy their chances.

Another risk is that it is almost certain that there’ll be a big stop UKIP move with one or two of the other parties trying to argue that only they can stop the purples  from advancing. The fact that UKIP will be running a high profile campaign could increase turnout across the board.

UKIP do have a councillor  on Stoke City Council which suggests that they have some form of organisation.

A lot is going to depend on the timing and, of course, how BREXIT  looks at the time of the vote.

 

Mike Smithson




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My 66/1 long-shot bet for the 2020 White House race: Democratic Senator Kamala Harris from California

January 18th, 2017

Could she be the one to take down Trump?

With Trump’s inauguration taking place on Friday there’s been a flurry of betting activity on the newly elected Senator from California, Kamala Harris, for the next White House Race in 2020. This followed a lot of coverage of her part in fighting against Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions.

In November she became the second black woman and first Indian American elected to serve in the Senate. She’s a former Attorney-General for California and is the daughter of an Indian-American mother and Jamaican-American father.

As I’ve found in the past it can pleasurable and profitable backing a long-shot three to four years out and watching their progress. Occasionally you might back a winner.

My reading of the Democratic party 2020 race is that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will simply be too old to contemplate running. Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren (15/2) is currently favourite and she’s likely to play a big part in her party’s opposition to the incoming president. She was strongly tipped to run last year but didn’t. Maybe 2016 was her best chance.

Michelle Obama (8/1) is also being tipped but somehow I can’t see her taking the plunge.

For bets that won’t mature for nearly four years I like long-shots and have 53 year old Harris at 66/1 for the Presidency and 40/1 for the nomination. As I write these odds are still available and might be worth a punt.

Mike Smithson




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Theresa May’s big speech – a round up of reaction

January 17th, 2017



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Polling background to the PM’s big BREXIT speech

January 17th, 2017



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The verdict on the Corbyn relaunch: Jeremy must try harder

January 17th, 2017

“Message discipline and clarity is like good underwear. You don’t want to wave it around but you notice if it’s not there.”

The tweet by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith didn’t mention Jeremy Corbyn by name but her tweet was undoubtedly prompted last week’s “relaunch.”

Smith who was appointed the country’s first woman Home Secretary by Gordon Brown in 2007 was of course aware that supporters of the Labour leader scorn the New Labour virtue of message discipline.

I’m a true believer. Message discipline is a vital part of winning elections, something I’m rather keen on. So, I had Smith’s comment in mind when I replied to a charming member of Team Corbyn who asked during the Fabian conference on Saturday what I thought of the relaunch.

There were two things wrong with it, I suggested. Firstly, the key message that Labour was “not wedded” freedom of movement of EU citizens frayed round the edges under the pressure of media interviews.

The second sin was that he scooped himself – offering an alternative story about capping of high pay that detracted from the message on migration  One of my media training colleagues likes to quote an American trainer’s dictum: “if you want them to eat chicken, don’t lay out a buffet.”

Team Corbyn will have been pleased with the Guardian assessment of the Fabian speech,  judging it  to be “one of the most polished and well-crafted he has delivered as Labour leader, something being attributed to the influence of his new speechwriter, David Prescott, son of the former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott.” I welcomed the young Prezza’s here last month.

On the debit side, however, were comments from commentators sympathetic to Labour. John Harris on Today  said that delivering on a radical agenda needs deep thoughts and strategic thinking. He accused Corbyn of making it up as he goes along and shooting from the hip.

“A reasonable idea, an argument worth starting is destroyed, becomes literally incredible by the end of the day.” And  Will Hutton in the Observer  accused the Labour leader of “blundering, ill-prepared” into the high pay argument.

For me the lesson of the relaunch is that Corbyn needs to try harder. Labour does need to be talking about immigration but much more important is developing a coherent economic policy that convinces voters that Labour will make them better off. Resentment against excessive high pay and campaigning against austerity won’t cut through unless the top lines of Labour’s appeal are about promoting and sharing prosperity.

That is, of course, what Theresa May is promising and her massive approval rating leads over Corbyn have got many Labour members worried about what could happen if she call an early election. Alastair Meeks recent PB post suggesting
suggesting the Prime Ministers poll ratings “flatter to deceive” were therefore comforting and, to me, persuasive. “She’s safe enough while she’s faced with a useless opponent. If she finds herself up against someone more competent, she might find herself struggling far more quickly than most pundits currently could imagine, ” argued Meeks.

In the end, that is the case for a change of Labour leader. But In the meantime, all we can ask is that Jeremy Corbyn is the best leader he can be. The relaunch wasn’t perfect but as a signal that he now sees reaching out beyond his devoted following as the test of his leadership is undoubtedly a big plus.

Don Brind