Now we are down to the final 4 and CON MPs reject the contender deemed to have “won” last night’s debate

June 19th, 2019


YouGov snap CON debate poll gives it to Stewart amongst all voters by a big margin

June 19th, 2019

This raises doubts over BoJo’s ability to win converts

YouGov has published what appears to be the only poll carried out on last night’s CON leader debates. The main details are in the YouGov table above.

While there’s little doubt that the member for Uxbridge does well with Tory voters but the party is going to need much more than them in a general election and that presents something of a dilemma.  That just 7% of Remain voters gave their debate verdict to Johnson is very telling and should be worrying  as it seems set to choose Johnson.

Tony Blair was a hugely successful general election campaigner because he was able to reach voters that other LAB figures had been able to get through to. He won three general election working majorities on the trot.

One of the things that’s always trotted out in relation to Johnson is his success in London. A big factor that helped that, I’d suggest, was that each time his LAB opponent was Ken Livingstone and in 2008 when he first won the London mayoralty Cameron’s Tory party was on a roll.

By May 2008 Brown’s LAB had really run out of steam and the Tories looked as though they were heading for a Commons majority.

Maybe this YouGov poll will help keep Stewart in the race in this afternoon’s ballot of MPs


Mike Smithson





From a media perspective Team Boris will regard last night as job well done

June 19th, 2019

He’s helped by the size of the field

The Boris plan of refusing almost all media invitations meant that last night was the first time anybody had seen him facing scrutiny since TMay announced that she was going. But the nature of the programme with the BBC feeling it had to bring in questions from studios all over the country meant that the time spent with the overwhelming betting favourite was very limited.

I found him less than convincing and he could be vulnerable in one to one probing. Issues were allowed to hang that should have been probed a bit further because the programme operated on the BBC principle of being fair to all five.

We did get a glimpse of what will become a big narrative when the prospect of UK farmers facing huge tariffs for when their produce is exported to the EU on a such a scale that is going to make it very difficult.

What we need to hear is what the presumptive PM is going to do about those sections of the UK economy that could be ruined in the event of no deal. Johnson needs to be pressed hard.

I was impressed by Stewart’s response afterwards to what clearly was a lacklustre performance. The format didn’t suit him at all and his admission could help him keep in the race after tonight’s vote.

There’s a lot of betting going on and the amount wagered on the Betfair exchange is now above £7m.

Mike Smithson



If punters have this right the big loser in the CON debate was Stewart – down from a 9% chance to a 4% one

June 18th, 2019

Betfair exchange via Betdata.io

For those who didn’t watch just check out the comments on the previous thread.

Overall I don’t think it has changed much. For me the most impressive performers were Hunt and Javid. Stewart didn’t meet expectations and hence his decline in the betting.

Mike Smithson


Raab out – Stewart the big gainer

June 18th, 2019


Maybe Raab’s the one with the best chance of stopping Johnson?

June 18th, 2019

Kitchen Cabinet on choosing between the illness and the cure

Boris Johnson’s election to the Conservative leadership looks almost assured. As I mentioned on a previous thread, Gavin Williamson looks to have done wonders for BoJo’s election prospects. If you are a Boris hater, I might have some good news for you. There is a way he may not be elected. The bad news (for many) is that the only way for that to happen is to have him face Dominic Raab in the members’ ballot.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not a fan of Raab in terms of electability to the wider public. He comes across as wooden and stiff and non-likeable (although he has an impressive back story). Moreover,  some of his comments around feminism may open him up to attack later, though many in the membership may cheer his stance. However, if you don’t want Johnson as your PM, he is your man.

One way to look at this is to say which opponent, if any, Johnson would like to face in a run-off. Jeremy Hunt would be the favourite.  Easy to characterise as May 2.0, who would flip flop on Brexit and not deliver. Michael Gove would be a close second. The media would love a Gove-BoJo contest but, in reality, it wouldn’t be close. The revelations on Gove are fatal not because he used cocaine (the Conservative membership can be forgiving of personal failings, look at Cecil Parkinson) but because firstly, it shows him to be a hypocrite and, secondly, he looks the sort of guy who used it to impress – not a good look. Oh, and nobody likes a backstabber. Javid might be harder for BoJo but, again, he lacks charisma, can be accused of chickening out on Brexit and the banker angle may be an issue.

That leaves Stewart and Raab. Stewart has been a revelation but, to me, he seems a bit like Game of Thrones – all the luvvies rave about him but the general population couldn’t care less and are watching Coronation Street. His message beyond Brexit is rather vague and he looks odd (mainly not his fault but…). Moreover, BoJo would always be able to use the nuclear weapon of saying Stewart would never fulfil Brexit to persuade the membership to vote for him.

But he could never do that with Raab who could never be accused of threatening to reverse Brexit (at least by BoJo). Raab also has a second agenda he has pushed hard – reducing taxation – which would also be popular amongst the membership and which could win him votes. Boris’ policy commitments are rather, mmm, vague in comparison. Finally, he has been active, both in the media and at the grass roots level, since leaving the Cabinet, which should also help him.

One obvious riposte is that Johnson polls far better than Raab amongst the members. But the real question is how “hard” is that support. I suspect not much. Lord Ashcroft’s feedback suggest that many have negative views on Boris that can be exploited. If Raab pushed hard in a campaign, BoJo May flounder.

The one thing is, though, that I suspect Gavin Williamson is also aware of many of these dynamics and whom would also make the easiest competition for BoJo to face and who wouldn’t. Thus, Raab backers are likely to face subtle hints and threats to withdraw although he may be saved by harder line Brexiteers taking a view that Raab needs to be in the final rounds to stop BoJo reneging on Brexit. We will soon find out.

The Kitchen Cabinet


The CON race is not now about who wins but whether the next PM and leader gets properly tested and scrutinised

June 18th, 2019

With Hunt as his postal ballot opponent he’d have a much softer ride than facing Stewart

The recent history of PMs getting the job in a non-contested elections is not a good one. Gordon Brown got his coronation in June 2007 and avoided the probing that would possibly have highlighted his many vulnerabilities. The same happened in July 2016 with TMay.

Both of them,  I’d  argue, would have been better PMs and better general election campaigners if they had had the experience of facing tough contested elections with their party’s members in order to get the job.

That Johnson’s minders feel it is best to keep him away from serious scrutiny hardly gives confidence in his ability to negotiate the most critical issue facing the nation in decades – Brexit. 

From what we saw on Sunday night in the Channel 4 debate and so far during the campaign suggests that Rory Stewart could play a hugely significant role in testing Boris should he make it to the final postal ballot. A programme of hustings and TV debates is planned and the member for Uxbridge would surely prefer to be facing Hunt than his fellow Etonian who has been the surprise of this campaign.

No doubt this is what will be occupying the minds of some Tory MPs this morning as they look towards the second ballot. The result should be known by 6pm.

Mike Smithson



The favourite always wins the Tory leadership race – eventually

June 17th, 2019

It’s all about the timing

Conventional wisdom has it that the favourite never wins Tory leadership races. In one sense, this is probably true. I don’t have the historic figures but before every leadership election since the Party moved away from the old Magic Circle method of leaders ‘emerging’, there’s a good case that the person who emerged the winner was not the one seen as most likely to succeed in the period before the election was called.

However, that rule only holds good for so long and in truth, it’s not really a rule at all; more a guideline. Several elections could easily have developed differently, to the favourite’s advantage, but for chance and happenstance. Heseltine would probably have won in 1990 had Thatcher contested the second round (indeed, that’s precisely why she didn’t), or would have done so in 1992 had Howe not resigned when he did, for example.

But while the long-term favourite might have no record of coming out the winner, that’s not the case once the election is underway, as this one is now. Once you move past that mark, favourites have a much stronger record.

Even ignoring the unusual cases of 1989 and 1995, and of 1965 (which required only one round), Thatcher in 1975 and May in 2016 were clear favourites to win after the first round, and went on to do so. There is absolutely no reason based on precedent to believe that Boris won’t follow in their footsteps.

On the contrary, precedent – as well as common sense – suggests that he’s well-set to stroll over the line. The smallest share of the vote that any winner received in any round was the 23.5% support that Duncan Smith won in the first round of the 2001 contest. If anyone other than Boris is to take the crown this time, they will do so having polled little more than half that, as best: Jeremy Hunt, who finished runner-up last Thursday, secured the support of only 13.7% of his colleagues.

By contrast, Johnson appears to be continuing to gain support and if Raab is knocked out before the round-of-three, is likely to be backed by more than half the Conservative parliamentary party before the vote goes to the members: a formidable campaigning asset his team will no doubt play up, even before considering that such polling of Tory members as there has been suggests they both like and trust Boris (despite copious evidence as to why they shouldn’t).

Boris could screw it up but the overwhelming likelihood is that he won’t. I don’t expect any new (large) skeletons to fall out of his closet given how the best that those who would like to discredit him can do is to recycle old ones, and as the firmest Brexiteer on the ballot-paper once Raab is knocked out, would stand a strong chance on that fact alone, even before his other electoral assets.

In short, this will be the election that puts paid to a rule that should never have been taken too seriously in the first place.

David Herdson