Archive for the ' General Election' Category


CON lead over LAB drops 9% in latest Ipsos MORI phone poll

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

As postal voting starts in Richmond Park the yellows back in double figures

The LAB and CON changes are both beyond the normal margin of error. It should be noted that the CON share of 47% in the October survey from Ipsos MORI was not matched in other polls and might well have been an outlier.

Clearly everything over the past weeks has been focussed on WH2016 and BREXIT with little focus on the normal internal Westminster machinations.

These days we get very few Westminster voting polls and Labour will be much relieved to be back in the 30s.

The Richmond Park by-election is two weeks tomorrow.

Mike Smithson


The Telegraph’s reporting that ministers preparing for snap spring election

Friday, November 4th, 2016

But what would they do about the Fixed Term Parliament Act?


The government should resign if the Courts prevent it from invoking Article 50 by itself

Friday, November 4th, 2016


Brexit is too important to be left to the whims of unelected peers

Why should an advisory referendum be binding? That is the question at the heart of the government’s determination to invoke Article 50 without going to parliament. It’s a difficult – but not impossible – case to argue, and one I will argue.

It’s not a political argument. The case there is far simpler. Firstly, there is the risk that the process might be blocked altogether, were the vote to be lost. That’s unlikely in the Commons, where MPs have constituency Associations to placate on the Tory side, and local electorates to consider on the Labour one. The Lords however, where the Conservatives hold fewer than a third of the seats, is another matter. Enough noises have been made to the extent that the referendum was ‘advisory’ (a point the High Court repeated yesterday) that they may feel bold enough to attempt to delay Brexit pending events turning something up.

The second reason why the government would rather not have to go the parliamentary route is that while they might receive assent to leave the EU, their small majority would leave them vulnerable to the motions being ambushed by amendments so as to give them a framework for negotiation far narrower than they’d like, and quite possibly contrary to what they’d like.

But the High Court has said that parliament must have a say. Curiously, it didn’t specify what sort of say is needed, although the logic of their learned lordships’ conclusions point strongly to a full Act of parliament.

It is somewhat presumptuous of someone who has no legal training and whose knowledge of constitutional processes and principles is merely that of an enthusiastic amateur (and, 20 years ago, an undergraduate), to tell the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls that they’re wrong. Presumptuous but not necessarily inaccurate. I think they are.

The judgement yesterday is, I think, wrong in the specifics and the fundamental principle in question, though the two are closely related.

On whether the royal prerogative is applicable, the High Court decided that the rights, privileges and duties granted by an Act of Parliament cannot be annulled by the executive exercising the royal prerogative. That of itself is fair enough but as regards Article 50 it fails to recognise that parliament has already been consulted.

It was consulted first when the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008 incorporated the Lisbon Treaty into UK law. Parliament could, had it so chosen, written into the Act that no government could trigger Article 50 (which Lisbon introduced) without a prior vote in parliament. Section 6 of that Act defines nine provisions that do need explicit authorisation from parliament; withdrawal from the EU is not one of them. The assumption therefore must be that the pre-existing powers were maintained. The judgement did in fact address this point but in effect ruled that the passage of the 1972 Act had already abrogated the prerogative with regards to withdrawal (hence, presumably, no explicit authorisation was required in the 2008 Act as it was already required before it).

Parliament was then again consulted when the European Union Referendum Act 2015 was passed. Again, this could have specified the mechanics of the withdrawal process but it did not. In fact, the Act is entirely silent about anything after the referendum is concluded. Here, we enter the wider constitutional question not properly considered by the High Court: to what extent did the referendum of itself confer legitimacy on the government to trigger Article 50?

Perhaps the most striking thing about yesterday’s judgement is how little the referendum features in it. It is written off in a few short paragraphs near the end as ‘advisory’ and hence of no legal standing. Consideration of the triggering of Article 50 is therefore made as if the government were acting in isolation, as if no referendum had taken place.

This stance runs throughout the judgement, where the very first sentence of the sections considering the merits of the case states “the most fundamental rule of UK constitutional law is that the Crown in Parliament is sovereign”, and goes on to cite various important examples and cases, some going back to the early seventeenth century.

In doing so, I’d argue that it hasn’t taken sufficient account of the change to the constitution that the innovation of referendums have brought about. More specifically, they haven’t sufficiently questioned what the actual nature of sovereignty is or why it lies where they say it does. Does it lie in parliament and only in parliament or does it actually lie with the people, as usually expressed through their representatives in parliament?

The court repeats the mantra that it is the former, and bases that on historic authority and constitutional case law. In practice, however, it is the people who are sovereign. The balance of power between executive, parliament and people was not set eternally in 1689; for one thing, the electoral basis of parliament was continually broadened until it encompassed almost the entire adult population precisely because more restricted franchises were seen as meaning it lacked sufficient legitimacy. Implicitly, parliament is subject to the authority of the people and such power as it has is held on temporary sufferance.

If so, that throws a different constitutional light on referendums. Whether formally binding or not within the terms of the Acts that enabled them, they are the expression of the sovereign people. As such, their results ought not to need any ratification in parliament. MPs and peers clearly accepted the legitimacy of putting the question in the first place and it follows that they were willing to contemplate either outcome.

It is telling that since the early 1970s, there have been over 50 referendums in the UK, either across the whole country or in some nation, region or locality. With but one exception, the decision that the relevant electorate reached was always implemented – and in that one exception (the Scottish 1979 devolution vote), the Yes vote was not translated into action not because parliament countermanded the poll but because the pre-set requirement for an absolute level of support was not reached. The weight of numbers suggests that it is now a constitutional principle that there is no such thing as an advisory referendum; the results of all plebiscites will always be respected, subject only to pre-determined criteria. To the extent that parliament retains an overriding power, this should be seen as equivalent to the royal reserve powers: exercisable only in exceptional circumstances where normal politics has ceased to function.

The Court itself notes that the 1972 Act does not in fact abrogate the royal prerogative with respect to activating withdrawal, it in effect puts it into abeyance pending some legitimate triggering mechanism. The referendum provided that mechanism.

So much for the possible arguments for the appeal. What happens if – probably when – the government loses again, in the Supreme Court?

Theresa May and David Davis could introduce an Article 50 Authorisation Bill. I believe they would be wrong to do so, at least initially. Apart from anything else, it would legitimise the argument that the referendum was of no consequence and that parliament – either House – could amend or vote down the bill as they see fit.

Instead, the constitutional issues at stake are of such import that if the people’s decision cannot be directly carried into action, the government should resign via a forced No Confidence vote, making it clear that it is necessary to seek the ultimate authorisation, from the people themselves. As no other government could be put in place, a general election would be triggered for late January in which the Conservatives should run explicitly to seek a mandate to implement the referendum result.

Such a strategy is not without very significant risks. The Tory Party might be deeply divided. Questions would undoubtedly be asked as to what sort of Brexit each party favoured, and would be hard to answer while keeping all wings together. Other issues would inevitably intrude in the election campaign – after all, it’s not for politicians to determine the agenda in entirety. The public might not like being forced into yet another poll. Jeremy Corbyn might even end up briefly as prime minister. All the same, those are risks that would have to be run if a government is to have the clear mandate necessary to force through a Brexit Bill.

David Herdson


More polling showing that the Tories have nothing to fear from LAB or its leader

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016



Maybe an early election is on the cards

Its not been a good day for Theresa May. The decision on Article 50, if upheld by the Supreme Court next month, completely undermines her strategy for dealing with EU extraction. She’s going to find it much harder to follow her Home Office practice of keeping things very much to her close advisors without involving other people.

Article 50 will get through but the parliamentary process could be a struggle with enormous pressure for her to state objectives and ongoing questioning of ministers.

Fortunately the official opposition continues to struggle to get heard and for people to be convinced. Labour and Corbyn look like certain losers and its hard to see how that can change.

Corbyn remains the only LAB leader ever never to have had a poll giving him positive ratings.

I had been sceptical until today about the chances of TMay going for an early election. The court case could change that because her party is so split on what it sees Brexit as. I can envisage a deal being hammered out in Brussels for which TM feels she needs to get a mandate if only to deal with internal party pressure.

Mike Smithson


Two new Westminster voting polls with the same picture: Corbyn/McDonnell/Milne’s party in dire trouble

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

They used to blame the “plotters” – maybe they should look at their own hapless leadership

Until September 24th the red team’s leadership had a ready made excuse whenever terrible polling numbers came out – it was all the fault of the MP plotters who had launched the confidence move against Corbyn in the aftermath of the referendum.

Well Corbyn got re-elected in September and the LAB’s polling position is still appalling and miles behind where the lead opposition party should be if it is to have any chance whatsoever at a general election.

Today we’ve got two new Westminster polls out and the numbers are very much the same. LAB is in the 20s while CON is in the 40s.

Corbyn doesn’t seem to have desire or expertise to resonate with ordinary voters. He only seems to care about true believers. He appears happiest at rallies when he is enthralling the faithful. His main aides, John McDonnell and PR man Seamus Milne are no better just part of the irrelevance. This is all about controlling the party without having any regard to the country.

It is if they have already given up on the general election.

For sure Labour has got a lot of members but they are of no use whatsoever unless they are ready to help the party become an efficient election machine.

This has created a vacuum in British politics. They tell me that nature abhors vacuums. We’ll see.

Mike Smithson


Get ready for another CON by-election defence if the Heathrow expansion is given the go-ahead

Monday, October 17th, 2016


Zac’s 23k majority looks strong

One of the most predicted by-elections of this parliament, at Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond Park, looks set to come about if the government, as expected very shortly, announces that it is going ahead with the expansion at Heathrow.

Zac, of course, was the Tory candidate in May’s London Mayoral election and would likely have resigned his seat then if he’d beaten Sadiq Khan. That wasn’t to be but Zac’s long-standing threat to resign if LHR3 goes ahead remains. He reiterated it again over the weekend and there can be little doubt about his intentions.

Such has been the high possibility of a by-election there that the Lib Dems already have a candidate in place and much groundwork has been done for a campaign. Other parties the same.

What we don’t know is whether Zac himself would fight the seat as an independent. He’s said to be hugely popular locally and saw a huge increase in his vote at GE2015. His majority was 38.9% which looks impregnable.

Large parts of his seat used to be in Lib Dem hands and the party has a strong organisation. So we could have a three way fight with Zac facing the reinvigorated Lib Dems and an official Conservative candidate. This could be very hard to call.

I’d think that the official Tory would be third.

Mike Smithson


A couple of general election betting markets

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

Next GE

Ladbrokes have a market up on if the Tory or Labour share of the vote will rise or fall at the next general election. On the Tory front it is no bet for me simply because whilst the Tory party is doing well at the moment the Brexit negotiations do have the potential to tear asunder the Tory Party like the Corn Laws did a couple of hundred years ago, which could potentially boost UKIP.

On the Labour front if Jeremy Corbyn remains Labour leader at the next general election, then the 4/6 seems the best option, even if pay out is nearly four years away, however the only way I can see Labour’s share of the vote rising at the next election is if Jeremy Corbyn isn’t the leader and he isn’t replaced by someone from the Corbynite left.

In that case, it might be more prudent to wait until the bookies open up their markets on ‘Labour leader at the general election’ markets where there could be potential value.



Round up of 65+ polling on the man 56% of his backers think is going to lead LAB to a GE victory

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Different pollsters, different questions same picture

A few days ago I Tweeted a 65+ breakdown from a recent poll and found myself being attacked for highlighting a small sample subset with all the inherent possibilities for distortion. Fair enough.

So I’ve gathered the oldies data from the latest polling and put in into one chart with comparison on TMay. What’s striking is how similar the picture is from each of the surveys. The oldies simply haven’t taken to the party leader who is of their generation but they are strongly for the new Tory leader.

Note the the surveys ask different questions. ComRes and the PB/YouGov polling used the favourabilty format. Ipsos MORI sticks to its satisfaction question that it has used since the 1970s while the Times YouGov Scotland poll has the well/badly format.

The voting numbers show a very similar pattern. Labour under Corbyn is struggling most with older voters who, as we all know, are the most likely to turnout.

Another issue with the 65+, segment is that its importance ratchets up with each election because increasing life expectancy.

Mike Smithson