On this day exactly two years ago it was Peak Theresa May (and Nick Timothy)

April 19th, 2019

On the betting markets it was a 92% chance that the Tories would win a majority. It got even tighter than that – on the weekend after Tory performance in that year’s local elections the betting chance of the CON majority hit 97%.

Then there was:

The launch of the Tory manifesto (written by Mr. Timothy and not even approved by the cabinet) on May 18th 2017…

Mrs. May’s refusal to take part in a TV debate with Corbyn.

The Dimbleby QuestionTime Special when a nurse whose pay had stood still for eight years was told by the PM “There is no magic money tree”

The exit poll.

Mike Smithson


Biden drops 15 in new Democrat primary poll as Mayor Pete moves to within 4%

April 19th, 2019

The former VP seems to be most affected by the rise of Buttigieg

In the first democratic primary polls carried out since last weekend when Mayor Pete enters the race formally at a big rally in his home city there’s a new national poll that has good news for him and bad news for Joe Biden, the former vice president, who has yet to declare.

Biden is still in the lead – just. When the pollster Change Research last looked at this in March Biden was on 36% and Buttigie was on just two. Now Biden is down to 21 with Buttigieg up to 17.

In a separate question asking people how they’d vote listing only those who had formally declared Sanders was on 26% with Buttigieg on 21% O’Rourke on 14, and both Harris and Warren on 10%

That the rise in the Buttigieg share should be the same as the decline in the Biden share is very telling and perhaps reflects the media coverage of the race that’s been taking place this week. Maybe things will change for Biden when he formally declares that he’s running but I wonder whether the polling might cause him to ponder.

The other big event in the race this was the appearance of Bernie Sanders at a Fox News Town Hall when he which has been very much a major victory for him. Clearly Fox News is not home territory for Sanders and they weren’t going to give him an easy time. As it turned out the Senator from Vermont didn’t give the network an easy time. See some extracts here.

The latest nomination betting has Sanders on 21%, Harris on 17% and Buttigieg on 14%.

Mike Smithson


Next week could see Bercexit if some Tory Leavers have their way

April 18th, 2019

Tory Leavers might be about to make the same mistake with Bercow that they made with Mrs May last December.

In today’s Times there’s this story

Conservative MPs are to launch a further attempt to prise John Bercow from office amid anger over what they claim is the Speaker’s bias against Brexit.

The backbencher behind the move, who says it has support from the government front bench, warned Mr Bercow yesterday that “enough is enough”.

There have been reports that the Speaker wants to stay in his post beyond the summer if Brexit is not resolved. Crispin Blunt, former chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, is canvassing support among MPs for an early day motion expressing no confidence in Mr Bercow. 

He hopes to table the motion when parliament returns on Tuesday, after the Easter recess. This would not in itself force the Speaker out, but it could embarrass him, especially if it were signed by a large number of MPs. Mr Blunt is hoping to garner sufficient support to make Mr Bercow’s position untenable.

Brexiteers and senior ministers believe that the Speaker is using his position to frustrate attempts to get the prime minister’s Brexit deal through parliament….

…Mr Blunt has written to all Conservative MPs telling them that he will only table the motion if it is supported by a minimum of 100 of the 650 MPs. In his letter Mr Blunt said: “I have support from frontbenchers and expect this to be seen as a house matter.”

I think is a further example of some Leavers focussing on the wrong things and making another huge mistake. Let us assume Bercow is ousted soon, who will replace him?

We’re consistently told by many Leavers that the Commons is dominated Remainers, so it is likely the next Speaker will likely to be someone who backed Remain so we might see another Speaker who is perceived to anti Brexit.

Rather than belittle Bercow on Brexit Crispin Blunt and others really wanted to oust Bercow they might be better off focussing on the bullying allegations swirling around Bercow. Last December the Leavers tried to oust Mrs May as Tory leader and only left her stronger for a year, they could repeat that mistake with Bercow, once again they won’t have the numbers to oust their target.

A few bookies have markets up on who will be Bercow’s successor as Speaker but as far as I can see there’s no markets up on Bercow’s exit date or will Bercow be Speaker on a certain date.

The latter markets have been profitable in the past as critics of Bercow have been all heat and no light. As for the betting on who will be Bercow’s successor I’m quite content with my position on backing Lindsay Hoyle and Harriet Harman.



UK Euro elections have been no guide to what will happen at the next general election

April 18th, 2019

Even under Blair LAB never “won” a Euro election

While everybody is getting over excited at the moment about the prospect of the May 23rd Euro elections we should remind ourselves and how they have been totally non indicative of what’s going to happen at the following general election

Back in 1999, the first General Election after Tony Blair’s landslide, William Hague’s Tories came out as the top party with 33.5% of the vote 7 points ahead of Labour. Two years later at the 2001 general election Tony Blair’s party achieved another landslide which was only a couple of seats off what he had achieved 4 years earlier. Hague had been somewhat misled by the Tory success in the 1999 Euros that he focused almost his whole GE2001 campaign on the issue of the UK’s relationship with the EU. It did him no good.

For the 2004 Euros Blair went to great lengths to try to boost his party. All postal voting took place in several regions in the hope this would boost turnout. On the day the Tories led then by Michael Howard achieved a victory in the Euro elections with a similar sort of margin to William hague’s five years earlier. The following year Tony Blair went on to win a solid working Commons majority that would sustain LAB for 5 years.

In 2009 the Tories topped the aggregate vote total on 25.9% with UKIP on 16%. LAB slipped to third place. A year later at GE2010 UKIP didn’t pick up a single seat.

In 2014 Farage’s UKIP came out top with 27% of the vote winning most MEPs. This was, of course, no indicator to what would happen at GE2015 when the party just picked up one seat – Douglas Carswell’s and losing the other one it held. Carswell later quit UKIP.

This is all down, I’d argue, to two factors – the closed list voting system and voters not really believing that their ballot has an impact like at a general election. The last three UK Euro elections have been held simultaneously with the local elections thus probably boosting turnout. That will not happen on May 23rd because this year’s locals take place a fortnight today.

Mike Smithson


The extent to which the Euro elections can be treated as a referendum depends on whether the outcome supports your side

April 17th, 2019

Get ready on the evening of Sunday May 26th, when the euro elections results are announced, for the production of aggregates of the votes of the pro brexit and pro remain parties and and whoever has “won” trying argue that this is a mini referendum.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one or more of the TV results programmes creates live graphics so we can see how it is going as the numbers come in.

Clearly this is a national election and given the fact that those elected will probably only serve for about 4 months a big pointer is what the party vote totals be.

We got a today a YouGov poll on the Euro elections which had parties baking brexit, when aggregated with a small lead over the parties of remain.

For this purpose I am adding up the votes of the Tories, Farage’s Brexit party, UKIP and the DUP and comparing that with the aggregate of Labour, the Lib Dems, Change UK, the SNP, PC and the Greens and the anti-Brexit Northern Irish parties.. The former group will be put in the leave category while the latter group will be put in the remain one.

Quite how valid a measure this is will be very much dependent on what the outcome is and whether it suits people’s particular positions.

We do have other UK elections taking place two weeks tomorrow. These are the English local elections covering most of the country and Northern Ireland. I’ve no doubt that similar calculations will be made once we’ve got the projected national vote shares that are usually issued by Professor John curtice at about 4 a.m. in the morning on the BBC results programme.

The problem with using both sets of elections is that turnouts are likely to be in the mid 30s compared with the near 70% turnout that we had at the referendum on June 23rd 2016.

Whatever it will allow us to get back to the big brexit argument that is so divided the country for nearly half a decade.

Mike Smithson


Plunging opinion polls are not the Conservatives’ biggest problem

April 17th, 2019

Alice was introduced to the concept of an unbirthday party at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. By close analogy, let me introduce you to the concept of an unBrexit day. We have had rather more of these than might have been expected at the beginning of the year, with two, on 29 March and 12 April, being especially memorable events. We look set to have many more unBrexit days in the coming months and there is no guarantee that the current longstop date of 31 October will not be pushed back further.

This surfeit of unBrexit days has driven Leavers, like the hatter, mad. This has not been to the benefit of the government. The Conservatives’ poll ratings have taken a ski jump in recent weeks.  They don’t look to have landed yet and when they do it looks likely to be in an ungainly heap.

This would not matter particularly in the normal scheme of things. Governments are prone to suffer from mid-term unpopularity. So long as the government can turn things around in time for the next election, current opinion polls would be of little interest.

The Conservatives have a much bigger problem, which it is that it is difficult to see how they could turn this around. Far from the polls masking underlying strengths, if anything they have only just caught up with underlying weaknesses.

The Conservatives fought the last election in large part on delivering Brexit. Their voter base then saw itself as being on a promise. However, that promise has turned out to be easier to make than deliver, with different groups in the Conservative party having a radically different view of what that promise entailed – and in any case they did not command a Parliamentary majority even collectively.  

The Conservative party has now split into at least five component parts: Remain resisters, Remain reconstructors, government loyalists, moveable Leavers and purist Leavers. Theresa May failed, despite repeated attempts, to get them to work together.

All of them are now furious with at least two of the other groups (and in some cases all four).  Some MPs have already left the party and some at each end of the spectrum are more or less openly considering their options. All party discipline has broken down.

So the Conservatives simultaneously face a huge failure on a policy that was central to their manifesto (with the potential to be student fees on steroids) and a collapse of their internal coalition. The two are locked in a negative feedback loop: attempting to deliver Brexit undermines the internal coalition and the collapsed coalition makes delivering Brexit so much harder.

How could they solve this problem? They could try to put Brexit in the rear view mirror. That would almost certainly lead to further breakages within the Conservative party in the short term. If the end resolution were not too damaging, however, they could hope that time would heal wounds.

There are only a few problems with that idea. There is presently no approach to Brexit that commands a majority in the House of Commons.  One cannot simply be magicked up. Neither the Remain resisters nor the purist Leavers look ready to back down in relation to Theresa May’s deal (and nor does the DUP).  

Theresa May has to date done her best to stop a majority forming around a different option. She had good reason to (though it betrayed an inability to count). Any different option is going to cause still greater dissent in the Conservative party.  

Many moveable Leavers moved with the greatest reluctance. A deal based around a permanent customs union, in accordance with Labour’s policy position, or with a fresh referendum attached, in accordance with Labour members’ wishes, is going to make them incandescent.  

Ditto any of the softer versions of Brexit contemplated in the indicative votes. Perhaps the damage would be worth it for the prize of securing Brexit. That damage would, however, almost certainly include the shearing-off of a chunk of MPs, quite possibly to join Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

That also assumes that such a change of tack would work.  Labour have no incentive now to help Theresa May – the opposite. From their viewpoint the government’s inability to deliver its promise to its voters is an immensely valuable gift. Why on earth would they give it away again? Given that, my strong expectation is that some insurmountable stumbling block will be found to a cross-party deal. Labour are going to want to leave the Conservatives impaled on their own policy.

Theresa May could try to work with Parliamentarians rather than with the Labour front bench. There are two problems with this idea. First, Theresa May’s past wilful obstructiveness will have left them with no trust at all in her. She is going to have to work extra-hard to put together a deal with them. Secondly, and more importantly, their preferred deal is going to be still closer to a Remain outcome than anything the Labour leadership outwardly aspires to.

Assuming the Conservatives can conjure a Brexit outcome that does not smash their party to smithereens, the Conservatives then need to pray that it will get public acquiescence. That looks doubtful. At least a quarter of the population yearns for Fortress Britannia. At least a third of the population would sign up for the Euro. The country is getting steadily more polarised. It is likely to be getting steadily less inclined to compromise.

Those former Conservative voters who care most about Brexit are currently decamping to UKIP and the Brexit party. They are going to need a good reason to return. On the Mohs scale of Brexit, they’re looking for a minimum hardness of quartz and are not going to settle for talcum powder or gypsum. Does anyone think they’re going to get what they want?

If they did, the Conservatives would be blamed by the unconvinced for every single piece of disruption caused by Brexit. That would be one hell of a gamble to take. Fortunately for the Conservatives, they don’t have the numbers in Parliament to take it.

MPs, however, are focussing most on who succeeds Theresa May. That is the least of their problems right now. Since the new leader would face all the same problems (and would no doubt be penned in by campaign commitments), a successful resolution to their problems would look just as unlikely as under Theresa May.

From all this we can deduce two things. First, since any resolution of Brexit would fracture the Conservatives still further, any leader of the Conservatives is probably going to decide to keep pushing the moment of truth back. And secondly, the Conservatives look set to languish in the polls for quite some time.

All of which explains why I’m continuing to bet against the Conservatives winning most seats. What is their route back with their disaffected former voters? Right now, I don’t see one.

Alastair Meeks


REWRITE: What will be the party of the next MP to join TIG

April 16th, 2019

5/4 CON
36/1 DUP
32/1 GREEN
23/20 LAB
71/5 LD
32/1 PC
20/1 SNP
68/1 Sinn Fein

I have just made an awful cockup and misread the name of the market. This is about from which party will the next defector to TIG come.


Still I think my initial reading of what the market was is a good idea for a bet.

I’ve just come across this intriguing market from Smarkets on what will be the party of the next MP . The options listed on OddsChecker are featured above.

Note that UKIP, the Brexit Party nor Change UK are NOT on the list.

Working this one out you have to think where is the next vacancy going to occur and which party is most likely to win it.

A fortnight tomorrow evening we should get the outcome of the recall petition in Peterborough. If 10% of the voters there have supported the recall move that would trigger a by-election. If that is the case then it is hard to see it being other than a LAB versus CON dogfight.

This is a seat that flips between the two main parties and was taken by LAB at GE17. My guess, given the blue team’s dismal polling position at the moment, that this will be a LAB hold.

Of course it is always possible that a vacancy could happen at any time but Peterborough is the one where at least a process is in place.

Mike Smithson


Blow for Change UK as it tried to complete formalities ahead of the possible May Euro elections

April 16th, 2019

As if the people aren’t confused enough as it is

It has just been reported that the new party, change UK, has had its party logo rejected by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that it could “mislead voters”.

Apparently the emblem was a black square with the initials TIG and the hashtag “#change”.  Apparently the Commission took the view that the new party’s chosen emblem was not sufficiently well known.

But Change UK should be registered in time to take part in the coming Euro elections, if those are indeed to be held in the UK, on May 23rd.

In the convoluted voting system devised by Labour for the 1999 Euro elections voters do not choose candidates by name but rather put their cross against one of a range of parties. On the Ballot form each party logo figures above the list of candidates who have been chosen to represent them.

Without a logo the list of names of Change UK hopefuls will appear but will look slightly odd and that might just have an impact on their ability to attract votes in the election.

Ever since the rebel Labour and Conservative MPs left their parties in February the new grouping has had issues with branding.  It initially called itself the Independent group, and it is only been in recent weeks that the new term Change UK has been introduced. You can see the problem because they were known initially as TIG.

So when voters turnout on May 23rd they’re going to be faced with some unfamiliar changes in Britain’s party structure.  For as well as Change UK UKIP which won most MEPs in 2014 has now, of course split, and will remain on the ballot but will have to compete for that area of the vote with Nigel Farage’s the Brexit party.

Mike Smithson