In May we might find out if Corbyn is the liability for Labour the Tories hope he is

February 7th, 2016

The London Mayoral election might help determine if Corbyn is the toxic liability for the Labour Party the Tories hope he is and many in Labour fear he is

Looking at the above tweets it is clear that the Tory plan for winning the London Mayoral contest is to portray Sadiq Khan as Corbyn’s man in London. This makes sense given the dire personal polling Corbyn has, coupled with some of his more interesting policy positions and comments should be a negative for Khan.

Cameron then upped the ante as it were, by saying Londoners will become Corbyn ‘lab rats’ if Sadiq Khan becomes Mayor, that comment earned the Prime Minister the wrath of Khan, though it probably betrayed Khan’s concern that the attacks might have an impact.

The Tories have made several unpopular missteps since winning a majority last May, something an effective opposition would have exploited  just like they should be exploiting Cameron’s EU referendum difficulties. The YouGov EU referendum poll that made painful reading for Cameron, still had the Tories with a double digit lead. All of this could be lulling the Tories into a false sense of security about the next general election, where on current boundaries, a swing of 0.44% could deny the Tories a majority.

Simply not being Jeremy Corbyn might not be enough for the Tories to win a majority in 2020, the toxic Corbyn meme could well be this parliament’s idée fixe like the last parliament’s idée fixe was a guaranteed hung parliament in 2015.

If Khan wins with a bigger than anticipated majority in May, then we might conclude that the attacks on Corbyn have no impact, just like they didn’t in the Oldham West & Royton by election which Nigel Farage dubbed as a referendum on Jeremy Corbyn. Those who say Crispin Blunt in a room full of poppers or the corpse of Sir Edward Heath could lead the Tories to a majority in 2020 against a Corbyn led Labour Party might need to re-evaluate their beliefs.

If Goldsmith does win in May, then it may spur the Parliamentary Labour Party into action against Corbyn lest they go the same way as Khan at the 2020 general election.



Rubio slips back on Betfair following what’s described as “robotic” NH debate performance

February 7th, 2016


The Twitter verdicts of leading pundits

After his surprisingly close 3rd place in Iowa all the narrative in the GOP Race has been about the young Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

The polls since have been have been good and he was widely being tipped as the one who could stop Trump. That was before the final TV debate that ended a few hours ago in New Hampshire.

The Tweets above from leading commentators speak for themselves. It was alaways likely that Rubio would be the one who’d take the most flack and he flunked it.

So who will benefit? In New Hampshire that looks like be Trump and possibly Kasich who has been polling reasonably well in the state.

This ain’t over till it’s over.

Mike Smithson


The other divide in EURef polling: the more positive it looks for BREXIT if actual words not used

February 6th, 2016


The ballot format gives a significant boost for REMAIN

Since August PB has been featuring a regular table on the state of voting intentions for the referendum. For the sake of consistency the only polls that are included are those where the actual wording on the ballot, as above, is used.

Some polls have used different formats like Lord Ashcroft in December in his large sample online poll. He wrote:

“Rather than replicate the referendum question itself we asked people to place themselves on a scale between zero, meaning they would definitely vote for the UK to remain in the EU, to 100, meaning they would definitely vote to leave. Just under four in ten (38 per cent) put themselves between zero and 49, showing they were inclined to remain, and nearly half (47 per cent) gave themselves a score between 51 and 100; 14 per cent placed themselves at 50, meaning they were completely undecided.”

That suggested much stronger towards BREXIT than almost all of the polling using the actual words that will be used in the election.

Ipsos-MORI phone polls have been testing opinion on an EU referendum since 1977 and clearly wanted to continue with their original phrasing that so historical comparisons can be made. To deal with the fact that we now know the wording they are using a split sample with quite striking results as seen in the chart above.

So in each Ipsos-MORI EU referendum polling we have two completely different sets of numbers. The last two from the firm have had the actual REMAIN lead 7% greater than when their tracker format is used. In every case since the wording was finalised REMAIN does better when it is used

ORB have experienced the same difference.

All this leads me to conclude that the agreed referendum format gives REMAIN an advantage.

Mike Smithson


Assessing Marco Rubio: A surge or just a bubble

February 6th, 2016


David Herdson on why he’s yet to be convinced

Ted Cruz can feel a little hard done by. It was he, after all, who won the Iowa caucus, beating Donald Trump, the reports of the pollsters, and indeed everyone else. Normally, that would be enough to fire him into the media spotlight as the man with the momentum. Not this time. The ‘momentum’ badge has instead been awarded to Florida senator, Marco Rubio.

Although he finished only third in Iowa, he’s made good headway in the polls since the caucus result, leading Cruz for second place in the five New Hampshire surveys conducted at least in part since Tuesday, as well breaking back into the twenties in one national poll for the first time since November. The question is whether that’s a ‘push’ reaction away from two not very appealing leading candidates with voters alighting on Rubio as the nearest convenient alternative, or a ‘pull’ effect where voters are genuinely attracted to what he stands for.

My instinct is that it’s the former. If voters were keen on him for his own merits then he would have been polling much more strongly before now. In a sense, he got lucky by being in the right place at the right time: he was the leading alternative conservative candidate to Cruz when Trump went negative to good effect against the Texan. In another, simply being in that right place takes skill: a lot of other candidates spent a lot of money to far less effect.

That matters but it’s not decisive. What is clear is that the public are willing now to give him a hearing. Even if he did back into the spotlight, he now has the chance to make the most of it. By the same token, he will now likely be the focus of relentless attacks from his fellow candidates well beyond what he’s experienced so far.

Indeed, that’s already happening. Bush, Kasich and Christie, all of whom need good results in the granite state to kick-start their campaigns, are all competing with him (as well as each other) for the mainstream vote – not that Rubio is particularly mainstream but he’s more so than Cruz or Trump are and if the establishment candidates can’t find traction their support has to go somewhere. Likewise, Cruz is competing with him for the conservative vote and providing he can avoid getting too drawn into a row with Carson over his campaign’s Iowa tactics, should also be gunning for Rubio, probably over immigration. They have their best opportunity tonight, in the last debate before the primary.

How well will he stand up? Former candidate, now Rubio-backer and Senate colleague Rick Santorum didn’t exactly help when asked to state Rubio’s top Senate accomplishments couldn’t name any.

    This is an extremely difficult race to call. Rubio has undoubtedly moved forward since Monday but is that poll rise a still-ongoing trend, a one-off step change or a bubble ready to burst?

He still trails Trump in the NH polls and if the Donald does win on Tuesday then Rubio’s record of a third and a second won’t look too hot against Cruz and Trump with a state a piece, another likely Trump win (in that scenario) in South Carolina and a Cruz-friendly Super Tuesday; Nevada would then be Rubio’s last best hope. On the other hand, if he wins in New Hampshire then he really does take the momentum with him, probably all the way to the White House. What’s clear about 2016 is that no potential president has broad popular appeal; the least worst will win. Rubio has the potential to be everyone’s second favourite, picking up transfers as Christie, Kasich, Bush, Fiorina and Carson drop out. He also has the potential to be everyone’s second favourite and so miss out in New Hampshire as people vote for their first preference.

All of which is to say that whoever takes New Hampshire for the GOP is strongly odds-on to take the nomination with it. I just wish I could see who is going to take New Hampshire.

David Herdson


The left could be preparing for Corbyn to stand down & be replaced by McDonnell

February 5th, 2016


Might be a good bet

Just had a small bet at 18/1 on Betfair on the shadow chancellor, John. McDonnell, being Corbyn’s successor.

This follows speculation this afternoon started by Ken Livingston that McDonnell might be the one to take over when Corbyn goes.

What’s odd is that the former London Mayor should be talking in these terms at all barely five months after Corbyn was elected.

There have been suggestions that Corbyn has found aspects of the job, particularly what could be seen as intrusions into his family life, difficult to cope with.

It’s known that Ken is very close to Corbyn and I wonder whether there’s something behind this being raised now. Certainly the shadow chancellor is regarded as very much a tougher egg who wouldn’t shy away from some of the difficult confrontations that leadership sometimes entails.

One thing’s for sure – now the left is in control of the party they are not going to give you up power easily.

Alistair Meeks suggested betting on McDonnell here in October when he was 50/1.

Mike Smithson


CON loses 2 of the 3 local by-elections it was defending overnight

February 5th, 2016

Bottisham (Con defence) on East Cambridgeshire
Result: Conservative 421 (44% -8%), Liberal Democrat 403 (42% +10%), Labour 99 (10% -6%), UKIP 43 (4%, no candidate in 2015)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 18 (2%) on a swing of 9% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Measham South (Lab defence) on North West Leicestershire
Result: Labour 257 (43% -12%), Conservative 202 (34% -11%), UKIP 141 (24%, no candidate in 2015)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 55 (9%) on a swing of 0.5% from Labour to Conservative

Hexham West (Con defence) on Northumberland
Result: Non Party Independent 501 (37%, no candidate in 2013), Conservative 454 (33% -15%), Labour 200 (15% unchanged), Independent 125 (9%, no candidate in 2013), Green Party 89 (7%, no candidate in 2013)
Non Party Independent GAIN from Conservative with a majoruty of 47 (4%) on a notional swing of 26% from Conservative to Non Party Independent

Oswestry South (Con defence) on Shropshire
Result: Green Party 518 (48% +16%), Conservative 367 (34% -12%), Labour 95 (9%, no candidate in 2015), Liberal Democrat 91 (8% +2%)
Green GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 151 (14%) on a swing of 14% from Conservative to Green


YouGov has LEAVE lead up to 9% in survey taken immediately after this week’s key referendum talks

February 5th, 2016


On Betfair REMAIN drops a notch to a 66.7% chance


So far in the referendum campaign members of the YouGov have been tending to be more in favour of BREXIT than those most other online firms and certainly there’s a massive gap between YouGov and the EURef phone polls.

However the events of this week and the coverage they’ve been getting have not been good for Cameron’s position on the vote that is reported to be being planned for June 23rd.

The YouGov polling took place in the immediate aftermath and later surveys will indicate whether the impact has been sustained.

The betting reaction has been relatively muted as seen in the latest Betfair data.

I’ve yet to place a referendum bet.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s local by-election line-up: 3 CON defences and a LAB one

February 4th, 2016

Bottisham (Con defence) on East Cambridgeshire
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 36, Liberal Democrats 2, Independent 1 (Conservative majority of 33)
Result of ward at last election (2015) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,100, 1,002 (52%)
Liberal Democrats 678, 634 (32%)
Labour 347, 339 (16%)
Candidates duly nominated: Steven Aronson (Lib Dem), Daniel Divine (UKIP), Steven O’Dell (Lab), Alan Sharp (Con)

East Cambridgeshire is the essence of what has been happening to the Liberal Democrats since 2003 (their high water mark in local elections). At those elections, the Liberal Democrats polled 27% in the national projected vote share (tying with their performances in 1994 and 1987) and in those local elections they won 3,577 seats and controlled or had a hand in controlling 53 councils (including East Cambridgeshire where they had 18 councillors to the Conservatives 15 and the Independents 6), however just four years later and it was all reversed. Although the Liberal Democrat share in the national projected vote only fell by 3%, the Conservative share rose by 5% and that 4% swing was enough to cause the Conservatives to gain overall control in East Cambridgeshire and then the rot really started. A 3% swing from Lib Dem to Con saw the Conservative majority on the council increase to 11 and another 2% swing in 2015 saw the majority rocket up to 33 (on a swing of 5% overall since 2003). Since the general election though, the Liberal Democrats have started to recover some of their lustre but I think a 10% swing since May is asking just a little too much.

Measham South (Lab defence) on North West Leicestershire
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 25, Labour 10, Independents 2, Liberal Democrat 1 (Conservative majority of 12)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Labour 654 (55%), Conservative 533 (45%)
Candidates duly nominated: Annette Bridges (Con), Martin Green (UKIP), Sean Sheahan (Lab)

North West Leicestershire has always been a right royal battleground. Labour had a majority of 2 in 2003, which became a Conservative majority of 16 in 2007, then a Conservative majority of 4 in 2011 and then a majority of 12 in 2015, so when you have a seat that only requires a 5% swing for the Conservatives to gain it, you can imagine just how much chomping at the bit is going on in a constituency that has been swinging away from Labour almost since it went Labour in 1997. However, there is a complication this time around and that is UKIP. They will clearly poll very well (as they do in wards they did not contest last time) but who will their presence hurt the most? If it’s the Conservatives then Labour are home and dry, if it’s Labour then that gain becomes all the more likely.

Hexham West (Con defence) on Northumberland
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 32, Conservatives 21, Liberal Democrats 11, Independents 3 (No Overall Majority, Labour short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 848 (48%), Liberal Democrat 540 (31%), Labour 261 (15%), United Kingdom Independence Party 105 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Tom Gillanders (Con), Derek Kennedy (Non Party Independent), Anne Pickering (Ind), Nuala Rose (Lab), Lee Williscroft-Ferris (Green)

Oswestry South (Con defence) on Shropshire
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 48, Liberal Democrats 12, Labour 9, Independent 1, Independent Community and Health Concern / National Health Action 1 (Conservative majority of 22)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Conservative 488 (46%), Green Party 337 (32%), United Kingdom Independence Party 175 (16%), Liberal Democrat 62 (6%)
Candidates duly nominated: Carl Hopley (Lab), Duncan Kerr (Green), Christopher Schofield (Con), Amanda Woof (Lib Dem)

Both Northumberland and Shropshire have a lot in common. They are very councils with very large land areas (Shropshire has a land area of 3,487 square kilometres and Northumberland 5,013 square kilometres), both had at one point Liberal Democrats in a position of power (in 2008 the Liberal Democrats were the largest party on Northumberland and in 2005, the Liberal Democrats were the offical opposition on Shropshire) and both councils have a claim to be “a town and not much else” (with Morpeth being the county town in Northumberland and Shrewsbury being the county town in Shropshire), so with so many similarities it is amazing how divergent the two councils are nowadays, with Labour in minority control in Northumberland and the Conservatives in majority control of Shropshire and with the Liberal Democrats in oppsition to the Conservatives in Hexham West and the Greens in opposition to the Conservatives in Oswestry South. We’ve only had one Green gain since the general election in Dorset, so could we have a second tonight or could we have undoubted evidence of a Lib Dem fightback with three Lib Dems gains from three Lib Dem candidates?