Archive for the 'Tories' Category


Tissue Price on Osborne’s leadership ambitions and his EURef problem

Monday, January 11th, 2016


The Chancellor is 13/8 favourite to be Next Conservative Leader.

He is 15/8 favourite to be Next Prime Minister. And on Betfair, you can get nearly 2/1 and 5/2 about the two propositions.

But the folk wisdom on backing the next Tory leader is that the favourite never wins. That the winner is more about who he isn’t, than who he is. You have to go all the way back to Eden to find a clear case of the long-term favourite succeeding, and that’s despite several changes to the method of election since then.

Yet isn’t Anthony Eden the most appropriate comparison? He had been Churchill’s most trusted lieutenant ever since 1940, when Winston appointed him Secretary of State for War, and he then served as Deputy Prime Minister in Churchill’s first Conservative government.

Moreover, this next Tory leader will, in all probability, be the first since MacMillan to inherit the job as favourite to win the next General Election. Unsurprisingly most leaders don’t step down when it looks like they’re going to win! Accordingly there is, unusually, a strong case for continuity – which Osborne undoubtedly represents.

In fact, the most apt (and indeed obvious) comparison is probably from the other side: Gordon Brown. Eden & Brown are not a very propitious pair of parallels, but we’re only worried about picking the winner here!

Turning to the mechanics of the election, it seems pretty clear that Osborne already has the MP nominations in the bag. He might even have enough nominations to (in theory) “choose his own opponent” – someone who controls over two-thirds of the votes can do so. Even a financial apocalypse on the scale envisaged by Damian McBride might not be enough to stop him, as it’s arguably even easier to make the case for continuity in an uncertain world.

So that 15/8 looks pretty massive to me, as a certain runner in a two-horse race. Except, of course for…

The Referendum

George favours Remain. A clear majority of the Cabinet will favour Remain. Probably the majority of the MPs will favour Remain. Tory voters currently lean Leave by about 55-45: manageable. But Tory members will break more decisively for Leave. ConservativeHome’s 71-24 survey finding (NB not a poll) is probably at the extreme end, but I would not be surprised to see at least a two-thirds majority in favour of Brexit.

So how can George win amongst this electorate? Firstly, by remembering that not all members care about Brexit above and beyond everything else. Secondly, by campaigning very respectfully for Remain, and letting others campaign against Leave. And thirdly, and most intriguingly, by maintaining unity through having a foot in both camps.

A Cabinet Minister – via James Kirkup of the Telegraph – explains:

“Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, has no fear of Brexit. It would be no surprise if he emerged as a Leave campaigner.But he’s also a strong supporter of Mr Osborne, even a protégé, some say. So what if the master very privately gave his apprentice permission and even encouragement to cross the line and put himself at the head of the Leave campaign. Mr Osborne, sometimes described as an octopus with tentacles in every nook and cranny of politics, would pull off the remarkable feat of having a presence in both campaigns in the referendum.

The Osborne-Javid ticket would thus become a symbol of Tory reunification and harmony after the referendum, able to speak for both Remain and Leave supporters…” 

This certainly has the ring of plausibility. The Business Secretary has already slapped down “Stronger In” for attempting to suggest that he was in favour of Remain:

Of course, the referendum might actually be won by Leave – but even then I would not see this as fatal for Osborne’s chances: this would probably have been seen coming via polling and he would accordingly have campaigned cautiously. The case for unity would still be strong; what would be critical would be his proposed approach to exit negotiations.

All-in-all, I would suggest Osborne remains value, and I would recommend backing him for Next PM (better value than next Tory leader) at anything over 6/4 – Betfair is your first point of call. For full disclosure, I am also long on Javid, May, Hunt, Paterson, Halfon and Brady.

Tissue Price



Keiran Pedley asks Is 2016 the year David Cameron loses the Conservative Party?

Monday, January 4th, 2016

Cameron European

After a turbulent year the Prime Minister enters 2016 stronger than ever writes Keiran Pedley. But will it last?

In many respects 2015 was a year of contradictions.

On the one hand, it was the year of the political insurgent. UKIP won the best part of 4 million votes at the General Election (though failed to make the breakthrough in seats it had hoped for), the SNP won 56 of 59 seats at Westminster and Jeremy Corbyn swept away the New Labour establishment to become leader of the Labour Party.

Of the above, the SNP surge in Scotland is of most lasting political significance. We had a good idea it was coming but the rise of the SNP in Westminster has changed British politics forever. It is hard to see Labour governing again without some form of SNP consent, yet to be successful Labour will need to ‘sell’ such an arrangement to English voters in a way it failed to do so last May. Perhaps ‘Tory fatigue’ will eventually sell it for them but we cannot assume so. Most importantly of all, whilst the SNP is so dominant north of the border, the question of Scottish Independence can never truly be settled.

Cameron supreme

On the other hand – despite the political upheaval mentioned above – it seems the more things change the more they stay the same. David Cameron now leads a majority Conservative government he would scarcely have dreamed of this time last year. The key to his success? A clear and consistent message based on strong leadership, economic competence and security. Whether good or lucky (you choose) Cameron has restored his fundamental appeal to his party (that he is a winner) and can seemingly choose the timing of his departure at some point this parliament. Meanwhile the fundamental ‘rules’ of how elections are won – in marginal seats on leadership and the economy – appear intact.

Trouble ahead

Yet, as ever in politics, we should not get too carried away. Cameron’s legacy is far from secure. The next stage of his premiership will be dominated by efforts to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the E.U. and the resulting referendum campaign. Although the timing of such a campaign is not set, the current assumption is that Cameron’s renegotiation will be completed by this February’s European Council meeting; with the referendum itself to follow at some point this year. The timing of the referendum may change – Cameron has until the end of 2017 to hold one – but if it is held this year 2016 may prove to be the most turbulent year of Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative Party to-date.

Assuming – as most do – that Cameron campaigns for ‘remain’ he should be fairly confident of victory. Low public expectations on what his renegotiation will achieve – 74% think little or nothing at all – should perversely help him as anything he does deliver will be presented as victory. Polling on the referendum outcome itself is ambiguous. Telephone polling shows strong leads for ‘remain’ but online polling shows a close race. However, it is reasonable to suggest that if the Prime Minister backs ‘remain’ then ‘remain’ will prevail. It is not clear that the ‘leave’ campaign can answer the question of ‘what comes next’ in the event of withdrawal and the public currently sees withdrawal as more risky then remaining by a margin of 45% to 36%. This perceived risk of withdrawal is only likely to grow once the Prime Minister recommends ‘remain’ and the business community backs him. The ‘leave’ campaign has it all to do.

Divided Conservatives

If Cameron can be confident that he will carry the referendum vote he can be far less certain as to how his party will react. It is safe to say that the Conservative Party has never settled its position on Europe and the referendum campaign promises to be a divisive one – with several Cabinet ministers expected to campaign to ‘leave’.  Even more importantly, there is strong grassroots support for ‘leave’ among Conservative supporters. 71% told the influential conservativehome website in November that they would vote to leave.

The real risk for David Cameron (and perhaps more so George Osborne) is that in winning the E.U. referendum they lose the Conservative Party. With strong grassroots support for ‘leave’ it is surely inevitable that a ‘big beast’ such as Boris Johnson or Theresa May will throw their weight behind the ‘leave’ campaign. A limited renegotiation followed by a vote for ‘remain’ may not concern the general public too much but cries of ‘betrayal’ will be strong within the Conservative Party. This will provide a major headache for Cameron in his remaining years as Prime Minister (perhaps even a leadership challenge) and could prove fatal to George Osborne’s chances of succeeding him. After all, what is the use of being a ‘winner’ if your supporters cannot agree on what ‘victory’ is?

So far David Cameron and George Osborne have emerged unscathed – even strengthened – during a period of intense political change in the UK. However, if the E.U. referendum does come this year that may all be about to change.

Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK. You can follow Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley


Taking the 66 to 1 on Michael Fallon as next Tory Leader

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

National Security is going to feature heavily in 2020 and that’s not good news for Corbyn nor Labour but it might be good news for Michael Fallon

The attack in the video above on Ed Miliband during the general election campaign was absolutely brutal and deeply personal but the most important thing for both the Tories and Labour, it was an utterly devastating for Ed Miliband and Labour. With 71% of voters not trusting Corbyn to safeguard Britain’s national security you can see the Tories repeating their attacks on Corbyn and the risks he presents to national security. Especially if he keeps on making gaffes like his comments on shoot-to-kill in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks

When you add in John McDonnell’s back catalogue on the IRA, then you don’t have to be imbued with the genius of Sir Lynton Crosby to know the 2020 general election will see national security feature heavily because the country won’t elect as Prime Minister someone they consider a risk to national security.

This isn’t a Tory conceit but reality because when senior Labour people like former Defence Secretary Lord Hutton say ‘Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to national security’ the Tory leaflets and adverts in 2020 (and prior to that) write themselves.

The cynic in me thinks David Cameron’s terrorist sympathisers comment wasn’t said as an off the cuff comment for private consumption, as one of the Tory Party’s first responses to Corbyn becoming Labour leader was to say Corbyn is a threat to national security and your family’s security.

In May 2015 the Tories pushed their competence and security v chaos/risk meme, if the Tories want to emphasise their competence and their strong lead on matters of national security then Michael Fallon makes sense as Tory leader, as with his attack Ed Miliband he can cope with the white heat of a general election campaign.

As has been noted before, often winning the Tory leadership is about who you aren’t not about who you are, which helps previously unfancied candidates, Michael Fallon could easily be the stop X candidate, which has helped long odds candidates.

With the Trident replacement vote expected this year and the ongoing campaign against and threats from ISIS, 2016 might be the year that Michael Fallon’s public profile rises. Whilst some might say his age might count against him, he turns 64 this year, but he’s five years younger than the favourite to be the President of the United States of America.

At the time of writing, Michael Fallon’s best odds as next Tory leader were 66/1 with Paddy Power. 



LAB’s one big hope is that the Tories will tear themselves apart over the EU

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015


What’s the post EURef blue team going to be like?

The Tories have a long history of tearing themselves apart over Europe. Who can forget how in the weeks after John Major’s sensational election victory in 1992 huge fault lines started to develop in the party. It wasn’t helped by “black Wednesday” – that extraordinary day when Britain could not sustain the value of sterling on the foreign exchanges markets and the country had to leave the ERM.

How lucky Tony Blair was a couple of years later to take over the red team when the Conservatives, the party ostensibly in power, had to try to get business through when so many of its MPs we so ready to rebel.

The events of the 1992-1997 parliament destroyed the Tory’s reputation for more than a decade and half.

Next year’s referendum isn’t going to create a sense of blue unity whatever the outcome. If it goes for LEAVE it’s hard to see Cameron surviving. If it goes for REMAIN the hard line Euro sceptics are never going to forgive him and everything he said and did during the campaign will be subject to the most intense scrutiny.

For the latter, of course, a defeat means that the chance of realising their dream, a UK free from Brussels, will be even further off than it has ever been.

The fact that Labour is so split and divided at the moment is going to make matters worse. CON dissenters will have less to fear about rocking the boat because the alternative, Corbyn-led LAB, is perceived as being so piss poor.

There’s nothing that Corbyn has done in his 100+ days as leader to suggest he’s got the political wherewithal to exploit the likely blue divisions.

Whatever an interesting UK politics year ahead.

Mike Smithson


While latest polling might not be good for Corbyn it also raises questions over Osborne

Monday, December 21st, 2015


The problem Osborne’s got is the party’s electoral system that was devised by William Hague during his 1997-2001 period as leader.

Basically there is an exhaustive ballot of MPs to choose two of their number whose names will go forward to the membership in a secret postal ballot. Given that so many of the blue team at Westminster owe their positions to Osborne it is highly likely that he’ll make the final cut. The issue is whether the membership will back him. Polling numbers like the ones from Opinium over the weekend raise questions.

Of course there is a distinction between CON voters as a whole and the party membership that will decide but Osborne always faces what hit the odds-on front-runner, David Davis, is September 2005. He’d been the long-standing favourite and received most public endorsements from MPs yet suddenly the party went potty over a relatively new face, David Cameron. The rest is history.

On Betfair Osborne retains his favourite status with punters rating him as a 38% chance. I’m not sure that it’ll be him or Boris. Like in previous CON contests someone quite surprising could emerge.

Mike Smithson


The Tory bullying scandal claims the scalp of ex-party chairman, Grant Shapps

Saturday, November 28th, 2015


BBC News

Could this take the media pressure off Mr. Corbyn?

Until now the ongoing Tory bullying scandal has been largely over-shadowed by the events within LAB. This could possibly change following this afternoon’s resignation from his post as a minister of the party chairman at the General Election last May, Grant Shapps.

All this follows the apparent suicide two months of 21 year old CON activist, Elliott Johnson, whose body was found by the East Coast main line at Sandy in Bedfordshire.

Since then there’ve been allegations of bullying and sexual assault within the party.

Mike Smithson


If the parliamentary Tory party had followed the polling in 1990 John Major would not have become PM

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015


Often winning the Tory leadership is about who you aren’t not about who you are.

Twenty-five years ago today Lady Thatcher announced her decision to resign as Prime Minister, but if the parliamentary Tory party had followed the polling then her successor would not have been John Major but Michael Heseltine. The above polling was not atypical of the time, Michael Heseltine was seen as the best person to revive the Tory party’s electoral fortunes.

So why didn’t Heseltine become Tory leader? Because in the recent past, the winners of Tory leadership elections has often won in part because they weren’t someone else. In 1990 one of the main reasons John Major won was because he wasn’t Michael Heseltine as Lady Thatcher’s supporters couldn’t stomach her assassin succeeding her, taking their cue from her when she said “the Cabinet should unite to back the person most likely to beat Michael Heseltine.”

It can be argued that in 1997 William Hague won because he wasn’t Ken Clarke, that in 2001 Iain Duncan Smith won because he wasn’t Michael Portillo nor was he Ken Clarke. With the quasi-AV voting system the Tory party currently uses to select their leader, you can see a Stop-X candidate doing very well in the forthcoming Tory leadership contest.

In the past few days George Osborne has seen some pretty poor personal polling, he nor any other potential contender who is polling badly shouldn’t be too disheartened given what happened in 1990. Less than eighteen months after the above poll, John Major led the Tory party to a general election victory and obtained the highest ever number of votes a party has received at a general election, an achievement that hasn’t been bettered since, as we learned in May, opinion polling isn’t infallible. This polling precedent might also give Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters some succour too.

The other factor to remember that this the first time the Tory membership are involved in choosing the leader whilst the party is in government, will the membership go for someone who is seen as the most electable or will they choose by some other metric?



The Tories would be in a stronger position over the Lords if at GE2015 they’d attracted more than 36.9% of the vote

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

National vote shares at GE2005 & GE2015 levels do matter

Yesterday afternoon the Cameron biographer, pollster and former Tory treasurer, Lord Ashcroft, made the above perceptive Tweet about the limitations of the current government’s power. While in the 2010-2015 parliament this had been because of the Lib Dem coalition the reality now is that the Cameron government’s main limitation is the House of Lords.

Much has been written about last week’s vote by the upper house to impede George Osborne’s tax credits plan but there hasn’t been much about the challenges a majority government has when it has secured it with a national vote share of 36.9%

This is in sharp contrast to 2005 when Tony Blair’s LAB majority on 35.2% of the national vote sparked off a fair amount of discussion about legitimacy. In England at that election, it will be recalled, the Tories came top on votes but were a 100 English seats short of Labour.

It was in that context ten years ago that the Lib Dem group in the House of Lords declared that they would not be following the Salisbury convention which broadly ensures that election winners can enact specific policies in their manifestos. So it wasn’t surprising that after this May’s election the yellow team the Lords, now 100+ because of all the new peers created by Mr Cameron, announced that it was taking the same view of the Conservative 36.9% national vote share.

The big impact of the general election outcome in the upper house was that all those LD peers moved from government to opposition.

A quirk of first past the post in an increasingly multi party political environment is that the chances of overall majorities with UK vote shares in the mid-30s are much higher. Indeed two of the past three elections have produced such outcomes.

If the Tory vote share in May had been close to 40% or above then there would have been much more pressure on opposition peers not to do as they did. 36.9% wasn’t enough and we will see other clashes in the coming months and years.

National vote shares do matter.

Mike Smithson