The Foreign Office goes on the PR offence over Russian Salisbury disinformation

March 20th, 2018

What say you Mr. Corbyn?

The above video which has been issued by the Foreign Office looks appears to be a very different approach to diplomacy in relation to Russia than we have seen before.

Clearly in the current situation where this is all about winning the battle for hearts and minds and who do you believe getting your case out there is highly important.

Having looked at the video a couple of time I think it’s quite impressive. It is simple a straightforward and uses the graphics very well – it certainly won’t be out of place on social media. It is, perhaps, a shock that the Foreign Office should be acting in this way. You normally expect them to be working behind closed doors not going public in a big way,

There is the ongoing situation that the leader of the opposition and member of the Privy Council, Jeremy Corbyn, seems to be going out of his way not to criticise Moscow in any way.

Mike Smithson


The last 24 hours on the Betfair exchange Brexit betting market

March 20th, 2018


Mike Smithson


It looks as though it could be after Easter before Pennsylvania punters get paid

March 19th, 2018

The above from the Wikipedia page on last Tuesday’s Pennsylvania special election sets out the result as it stands at the moment but those who have bet on It are going to have to wait some time before this has been resolved.

The on the night winner was the Democratic contender but the margin was a fraction of a percent and it looks as though there will be a recount or some other move that could impact on the outcome.

Interestingly the Republicans have placed TV ads to find out if individual voters had any difficulty getting their votes cast on the day suggesting that some sort of court challenge could be possible.

In a letter the party’s lawyer outlined five areas of concern, ranging from calls about machine errors to confusion about polling places and a dispute over whether a Republican attorney could watch part of the elections process.

So we have yet another US election where punters are going to have to wait for their money. Before Christmas, of course, we had the Alabama Senator race where the Democrats won by a tight margin.

I understand why the bookies have to be careful. Back in 2012 at the Iowa caucuses the bookies paid out on Mitt Romney who was, after all the votes had been verified, the loser. Those who had backed Rick Santorum, some like me at long odds, were mighty displeased when our winning bets were countermanded by the on the night result.

Mike Smithson



New Survation CON voter poll finds that 50% say Brexit should go ahead even if the deal threatened jobs and living standad

March 19th, 2018

But by 46% to 30% they’d back government if it proposed a second referendum

There’s a new 1,507 sample Survation poll, restricted just to GE2015/GE2017 Conservative voters, which seeks to get their views on Brexit and related issues. Fieldwork took place last week.

It appears that the sample was chosen by getting back to those who had participated in Survation polls ahead of the two previous elections. It was commissioned by a body called Citizens for Britain which is a grass roots organisation of stop Brexit Tories.

I have highlighted here four of the key findings. I assume that the data from the poll will appear on the Survation website in the next day or two.

The big picture from the numbers is that a significant number of CON voters are committed to leaving the EU whatever the consequences.

There is a second referendum question asking how those sampled would view such a move if this is what the government wanted. The phraseology makes it difficult to make comparisons with other second referendum polling.

If you believed that the Brexit deal negotiated by the government threatened jobs and living standards in the UK, which of the following is closest to your view?

Government should reconsider leaving 36%
Government should not reconsider leaving 50%
Don’t know 13%

If your MP believed that the terms the EU had agreed with the UK regarding Brexit were significantly negative for the UK, would you or would you not support them in their decision to oppose the deal in Parliament?

Would support 35%
Would not support 33%
Don’t know 31%

When the UK Government’s negotiations over the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU are complete, if the government were to propose a referendum asking the public if they will accept or reject the deal, to what extent would you support or oppose this?

Support 46%
Oppose 30%
Neither support or oppose 15%
Don’t know 9%

How well or badly do you think the government are doing at negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU?

Well 51%
Badly 40%
Don’t know 9%

Updated with further finding

If your MP believed that the UK being in a modified (new) form of a customs union with the EU, where key aspects of the customs union were retained but the UK would have some autonomy in its ability to make trade deals with other countries, would you or would you not support them in their decision for the UK to be a member of such an arrangement?

Would support 47%
Would not support 24%
Don’t know 29%

Mike Smithson


Labour candidates fear doorstep questions about Corbyn and the Kremlin

March 19th, 2018

Labour members on the front line are worried about how voters will react to Jeremy Corbyn’s equivocal response to the attempted assassination in Salisbury of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.

The front line in this case is the May local elections, including polls in the 32 London boroughs where the Tories fear they are in for a drubbing.

But at a training session last week for new candidates in one of those boroughs the very first question was about how to respond on the doorstep to perceptions that the Labour leader is soft on the Kremlin.

The candidates were advised to focus on the fact despite his apparent scepticism Corbyn had backed Theresa May’s expulsion of Russian diplomats. Furthermore, a host of Labour figures including their local MP and Shadow Ministers Nia Griffiths, Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer had firmly laid the blame on the Kremlin.

Worried local campaigners will also have noted that the Shadow Chancellor, John Mc Donnell strongly condemned President Putin. He told Robert Peston 
“We support exactly what the Prime Minister said and we condemn Russia for this. Whichever way you look at it (Vladimir Putin) is responsible … All the evidence points to him”.

McDonnell denied that he was contradicting his leader who he said had given what he described as a “constructive critique” which had been “misread” by others.

In my view McDonnell’s description is valid when applied to Corbyn’s Guardian article  in which he said “the use of military nerve agents on the streets of Britain is barbaric and beyond reckless” and attacked the Putin regime for “its conservative authoritarianism, abuse of human rights or political and economic corruption.”

But the damage had been done by his inept presentation of his case in the Commons on Wednesday which dismayed Labour MPs on the front and back benches and, of course, delighted Tories and their media allies who plan to make Corbyn’s alleged lack of patriotism an election weapon.

There are obvious dangers for Labour that this could work in a General Election. The question of whether Corbyn measures up as a Prime Minister could be a bigger issue than it was in 2017.

But will it be a lifeline for the Tories on May 3rd — Will the fears of the Labour candidates I was with last week be realised?

To an extent that will depend on the effectivenesss of Labour’s counter attack. They will highlight the Tories’ fondness for Russian cash. Boris Johnson confirmed to Andrew Marr  that he did take tennis match with David Cameron for which the wife of a former Putin minister had paid £160k at a Tory fundraiser.

Laboiur will also seek to show that they have been making the running on tackling dirty foreign money while the Tories have been dragging their feet. McDonnell told Peston that his proposed levy on properties owned by foreign companies would didn’t just apply to Russian oligarchs, but Russians made up “at least a quarter” of those who would be affected.

Perhaps Labour’s best hope is that the elections are genuinely local and that health, education and housing will be at the top of voters’ minds.

I’m still optimistic that on May 4th it will be the Tories looking for alibis for bad results, especially in London.

Don Brind


Oh those Russians, you may have just ended the Labour party as we know it

March 18th, 2018

Today’s Sunday Times report

Senior Labour MPs appalled by Jeremy Corbyn’s performance over the Salisbury poisoning have been in secret talks with the Liberal Democrats and at least one Conservative MP about forming a new political party called Start Again.

Plans for a new pro-European centre party have been openly discussed as part of cross-party discussions on Brexit, according to sources present.

One of those involved in the plotting — a former member of the shadow cabinet — told The Sunday Times that Corbyn’s refusal to blame Russia for the attack would cause MPs to abandon Labour. “This is a watershed moment,” the MP said. “It has caused a number of people to question why we are in this party.”

Sources say a number of possible names — including the Democrats, Back Together and Regain — have been discussed for a new party to launch after Brexit in the spring of 2019, but Start Again has emerged as the “working title” of the new party

Details of Start Again emerged after reports last week that Chuka Umunna, the former shadow business secretary, recently called Sir Vince Cable, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, to complain that he had “jumped the gun” by publicly revealing that Labour MPs might join forces with the Lib Dems.

Pro-remain MPs and peers, including Umunna and Chris Leslie, the former shadow chancellor, and Wirral South MP Alison McGovern meet every Wednesday to discuss tactics.

Others present include Anna Soubry, the Tory MP for Broxtowe, who told the New Statesman magazine in March last year: “If [a new party] could somehow be the voice of a moderate, sensible, forward-thinking, visionary middle way, with open minds — actually things which I’ve believed in all my life — better get on with it.”

I can’t see this happening, Anna Soubry has already denied any involvement.

Additionally the first past the post voting system really does hinder an entrant/emergent party, whilst many the cite the 1 MP UKIP got in 2015 with 12.6% of the vote the better example might be the 23 MPs the Alliance got with 25.4% of the vote with many defector incumbents.

As Simon Danzcuk can attest to, being the incumbent MP counts for very little when you’re up against an official Labour candidate. More and more people will be regretting voting against adopting AV in 2011.

I suspect we’ll see grumbling from Labour MPs but it appears to be all light and no heat but no substance. Corbyn polling 41% in Great Britain at the last election and currently leading the Tories by 7% with the most accurate pollster at the last election makes in my view any defections from Labour unlikely.




If the DUP can make Martin McGuinness Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland then we shouldn’t rule them out making Corbyn Prime Minister

March 18th, 2018

A Brexit deal that separates the Six Counties from the rest of the UK could rupture the DUP and Tory alliance for years.

Over the last few years many observers on politics, myself included, have made assumptions that turned out be very wrong. Lib Dem incumbency would save them from a catastrophic seat loss in 2015, the electorate wouldn’t vote to make themselves poorer by Leaving the European Union, and Jeremy Corbyn’s backstory & a divided Labour party would see a Corbyn led Labour party pummelled at the 2017 general election to name but three assumption that proved hugely wrong.

But I’m starting to wonder if another assumption might turn out to be similarly wrong, that assumption being the DUP will never do anything that makes Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister. I’m not going to repeat the many reasons why Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell are repulsive to the DUP, but then I remember the photograph above.

The DUP went into a power sharing agreement with the political wing of the IRA and made a former IRA Chief of Staff Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. If they can do that then they can easily make Corbyn Prime Minister.

They may do that if Mrs May is seen to betray Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations and see Northern Ireland more aligned with the EU than with Great Britain.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s takes his whip from Rome, will he take his whip with the DUP too?

As an agnostic someone’s Catholicism isn’t really an issue for me* but the Catholicism of the favourite to succeed Theresa May might be an issue for the DUP and for Jacob Rees-Mogg. Throughout the history of the DUP there’s been a lot of things that will alarm Catholics and make you wonder if they’ll ever make a Catholic the Prime Minister.

  1. Ian Paisley Senior said of the European Union it was ‘a beast ridden by the harlot Catholic church.’
  2. When Pope John Paul II addressed the European Parliament Paisley held up a red poster and shouted ‘”Pope John Paul II – Antichrist” and began shouting, ”I renounce you as the Antichrist!”’
  3. When the late Queen Mother visited the Pope in The Vatican he observed ‘Her visit to the Vatican was spiritual fornication and adultery with the Antichrist.’
  4. He also said of Catholics that ‘they breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin.’ I wonder what the DUP think of the father of six Jacob Rees-Mogg and vice versa.
  5. Paisley also said ‘he considered all Catholics to be members of the Irish Republican Army, which he branded as a collective of terrorists.’

Whilst you can argue that Ian Paisley’s time has gone no one senior in the DUP ever repudiated Paisley’s comments, additionally you regularly still see articles like ‘Anti-Catholic bigotry of many in DUP still significant.’

Back in 1994 when the Loyalist Paramilitary the UDA came up with a Doomsday plan in the event of a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. The plan discussed taking Catholic hostages as part of creating a Protestant Homeland. The ”Doomsday” scenario recognises there would be large numbers of Catholics left within the Protestant homeland and offers three chilling options on dealing with them — expulsion, internment, or nullification.

Current DUP MP Sammy Wilson described the Doomsday plan as ”a very valuable return to reality”.  Would Jacob Rees-Mogg really want to ally himself with such a party?

With Jacob Rees-Mogg admitting he takes his whip from the Roman Catholic Church then in some DUP eyes Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister might seem the attractive option.


*Unless their opponent were a Pastafarian, that would make me more likely to vote for the Pastafarian.


Ahead of the May local elections Prof Michael Thrasher on the resources of The Elections Centre

March 17th, 2018


Several recent up-dates and have been made to the Elections Centre website that should interest followers of Politicalbetting as we approach what appear to be an intriguing set of May local elections. The website also has two important additions – a new section covering council by-elections and another that hopefully will push the local elections database beyond the million candidate mark.

The councils compositions calculator now covers the position up to and including last May’s local elections. There are other websites that track recent changes, particularly useful when councillors switch party allegiance or vacancies arise, but no-one else as far as we know lets users look at each council’s composition over time. In the case of the London boroughs, of course, the starting year is 1964. Another modification is that the data are now arranged in descending rather than ascending year order, figuring that most people want to focus on recent electoral history. Summary data from both the 2016 and 2017 May local elections have been added to what we refer to as ‘theme’ and ‘year’ tables. Those familiar with the Local Election Handbook will know that these tables replicate the summary information contained in that series. So, those looking for data on turnout, contestation, the fate of incumbents, numbers of women standing and elected, for example, then the themed tables would be the place to start:

Alternatively, if the user wants to view the overall picture or examine each party’s performance in specific authorities then the year tables are more useful. So, with one eye on May 3 people may want to note how the parties fared in the 2014 equivalent local elections, the proportion of seats contested last time compared with this and the likely efficiency of each party’s votes to seats conversion. Of interest will be party shares of votes and seats for each council. The parties of interest are Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, UKIP, Independents and Others. In the case of Wales, Plaid Cymru is added.

We’ve been covering council by-elections since the early 1980s. In the early days, there were very few published sources for these data but that has changed markedly over the past decade. Some websites specialise in alerting everyone to new vacancies and impending by-elections while others provide invaluable background information about each contest. Another group of sites provide details of each result, whether the seat represents a gain/loss and in some cases the change in vote share since the last May election. A frustration for us has been that sites often overlook the percentage turnout of voters and/or the ward electorate. Most (though still not all!!) council websites contain these figures but finding the relevant page is sometimes a challenge.

Our frustration is now over, it appears. One of the growing legion of election enthusiasts is now sharing his extensive by-election data with us . The data include by-elections from the beginning of each May (i.e. coincident with the main May elections) through to the following April. The series, thus far, begins in 2015-16. The most recent file covers the period since May 2017 but please don’t expect up-dates to occur on the Friday morning following the latest batch of Thursday contests.

The huge merit in these new files is that the author includes not only the electorate and turnout data but a wealth of hitherto difficult to extract information. For each by-election there is also a list of the candidates, the name of the previous incumbent and the cause of the vacancy. Useful summary sheets provide an overview of seat gains and losses, the results in chronological order as well as breakdowns by type of authority (London, metropolitan boroughs etc) and country/region.

Please leave feedback via email on the website if you like this new development or have suggestions for ways in which it might be presented differently.

Our own data on by-elections (more than ten thousand results and counting) covers a much longer period but we have never recorded details of the candidates standing, only the parties represented on the ballot paper. Nevertheless, depositing these data online is something that we’ve discussed and in principle agreed to do. Watch this space, therefore.

Finally, a new development for a long-term project. The British Local Elections Database, available at the data archive at Essex University, contains results for council seats from the late nineteenth century onwards. At the last count the database contains details for over nine hundred thousand candidates that have stood for local election over the past 130 years. Although the data include all elections held since the 1973 reorganisation the period 1945-1972 is patchy and is largely restricted to the former county boroughs.

However, Alan Willis has been busy rummaging through the local newspaper archives that have recently become available online. He has compiled a series of 27 spreadsheets (no elections held in 1948) for the more than three hundred non-county boroughs, ranging alphabetically from Abergavenny to Yeovil . For some authorities the information is reasonably good but for others it is not. We are appealing for assistance in building the data coverage. So, for those who might have newspaper clippings stored in the attic or know of alternative online sources for some of the missing data then look at the current data and get in touch. Help us past the one million candidate mark!

Michael Thrasher