Another debate, another victory for Hillary

October 20th, 2016

But was this the zinger of debate season?




Ahead of the final debate Betfair gives Trump just a 16% chance of being next President

October 19th, 2016


The debate starts 2am UK time.



Latest Ipsos Mori polling sees the Tories with an 18 (eighteen) point lead

October 19th, 2016

Surely on these figures the Tories should comfortably hold Witney tomorrow with an increased share of the vote?

On the approval ratings that are often better predictors of general elections than voting intention figures

Three months in Theresa May is doing worse than Gordon Brown but better than Margaret Thatcher

But if general elections, unlike referendums, are won ‘on it’s the economy, stupid’ these are troubling numbers for Mrs May



Corbyn goes to war with the PLP yet again

October 19th, 2016


The Labour leader’s apparent decision to back Kate Hoey as the chair of the newly-created Commons Brexit select committee is an error, argues Joff Wild

Jeremy Corbyn just cannot help himself. After supposedly heartfelt pleas for unity during the Labour party leadership contest, he has followed up on his controversial dismissal of former chief whip Rosie Winterton by seemingly opposing the election of Hillary Benn as chair of the newly created House of Common Brexit select committee. But not only that, it looks as if he is throwing his weight behind Kate Hoey to take the job instead. The result of the vote, in which all MPs take part, is expected later today

Of course, in classic Corbyn style, the man himself was nowhere to be seen near the nomination papers; but the fact that prominent supporters of his such as Clive Lewis, Paul Flynn and Dennis Skinner publicly backed Hoey’s election gave the game away. They would not have done so without a nod and a wink from the man in charge.

For a long time, Benn had been the only candidate to take the Brexit committee job – which has been allocated to Labour – and he was backed by a large majority of the party’s MPs, as well as the wider party. This was not only to ensure a forensic examination of government ministers’ Brexit plans, but also to form a strong partnership with Labour’s shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer, who has already been receiving rave reviews after less than two weeks in the job.

Hoey’s last minute candidacy has thrown all this into doubt. It will also infuriate a large number of MPs and many, many ordinary party members. Putting to one side the fact that a Brexit committee chaired by a Leave supporter is likely to give ministers more leeway than one which is chaired by a Remainer, they will recall that Hoey not only actively advocated a Leave vote, but that she stood shoulder to shoulder with Nigel Farage after the publication of UKIP’s highly controversial Breaking Point poster. While the former is forgivable, the latter is not – Hoey’s own constituency party unanimously voted to censure her over it back in September.

Corbyn, of course, has history with Benn, while his commitment to the UK’s EU membership has always been suspect. It is, therefore, no surprise that he may have doubts about the former shadow foreign secretary in such a prominent and potentially powerful position. That he has expressed them in the way he has may also indicate that he is having second thoughts about the Starmer appointment too; we shall see about that.

But in giving the green light to Hoey, Corbyn has made a mistake – just as he did when he attended an SWP event the weekend before last, having said he wouldn’t, and provoked outrage among his own supporters. Corbyn could have given Benn a free run and proved his commitment to making peace with the PLP, he could even have backed a less controversial alternative; but, as we know, that’s not Jeremy’s style. He thinks he is untouchable and acts accordingly – the nomination of Hoey was another opportunity to provoke which was too good to refuse.

A while back on PB I wrote a piece in which I argued that it would be a mistake to see Corbyn backers as one homogenous mass. Instead, I said, there are many types. It is understandable that those outside the Labour party do not see this, but it looks to me like Jeremy Corbyn – a man who has never knowingly left his comfort zone in 40 years – doesn’t realise it either.

To Corbyn , feted by his close circle and adored at mass rallies, it seems as if the entire left-of-centre world outside the PLP is on his side. But in reality that isn’t the case. Instead, a lot of his support is conditional and depends on him delivering results, if not today then certainly within the next two years. Those results include improved opinion poll ratings, successful election campaigns and a more unified party.

Corbyn’s worshippers will not mind whatever he does, but sacking Winterton, hanging out with the SWP and backing someone who became an apologist for UKIP during the referendum campaign are potentially serious missteps. If Labour fails to make headway as the Tories move ever rightwards and their private arguments become more public, Jeremy being Jeremy will cease to be a positive and will instead become an increasingly bigger negative. When that happens, Corbyn will discover that today’s powerful supporters – inside the trade union movement, in particular – will start to look for alternatives. Should things not change, I expect that to happen in 2018.

Joff Wild

Joff Wild posts on Political Betting as Southam Observer. You can follow him on Twitter at @SpaJW


Nicola Sturgeon should go for a second Independence referendum says Alastair Meeks

October 19th, 2016

A year ago I wrote about why Nicola Sturgeon was so chary of committing to a second referendum on independence.  With the SNP hegemonic in Scotland but with Yes continuing to lag in the polls, I formed the view that Nicola Sturgeon would probably not seek an unequivocal mandate for a second referendum in the SNP’s manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections for fear of losing one.  So it proved.

What has happened since then?  Lots.  First, the SNP surprisingly* failed to secure another overall majority at Holyrood.  Secondly, Britain voted to leave the EU, against the wishes of the majority of Scots.  Having campaigned for an independent Scotland in Europe for more than a quarter of a century, the SNP are facing both halves of that proposition being dismantled in the next couple of years if nothing is done.

Awkwardly, despite an initial spasm of polling support for Scotland going it alone in the wake of the Brexit referendum, that has now subsided and on current polling a second independence vote would also be lost.  This has led many to suggest that the SNP should continue to stall on the idea.  Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon’s own behaviour has pointed in that direction, announcing the release of a draft bill to hold a second referendum but hinting that she would only hold one if Britain goes for hard Brexit.

Why is the independence cause not doing better, given that the SNP remain dominant in Scottish politics and the rest of the UK is going in a different direction?  The standard answer is that it’s the economy.  With the price of oil in the doldrums, the 2014 economic case has been much impaired.  Meanwhile, Brexit makes it harder for an independent Scotland to maintain unimpaired its trading links with the rest of the UK: if it sticks with the EU, it could easily find itself on the other side of an economic Hadrian’s Wall in the event of hard Brexit.  Received wisdom reckons that the Scots would not take such a risk and that a second defeat for a referendum would make the subject truly untouchable for many years to come.  On that basis, it is reasoned, Nicola Sturgeon should continue to stall about calling a referendum.

Received wisdom on this occasion has the strategy 100% wrong.  Nicola Sturgeon should now be pursuing a referendum as aggressively as she can.  She has nothing to lose.

It is absolutely true that the economic case for independence has not developed to the SNP’s advantage.  The important point which is routinely missed is that there is no reason now to believe that there will be a more opportune time in the future.  And right now there are compensating advantages to holding a referendum that will never be repeated.

If a referendum on Scottish independence is held at a time when Brexit remains unsettled, Yes campaigners would have the unrepeatable advantage that there really would be no status quo -either future, whether Scotland in Europe or Scotland in post-Brexit Britain, would involve substantial disruption for the Scots.  Why not, Yes could reasonably argue, get everything out of the way in one go?

Moreover, Yes could seek to piggyback off Brexit.  If the English could pluck up the nerve to Leave, why shouldn’t the Scots now say Yes?  After all, Remain warned of economic disruption, which Leave voters nonchalantly – perhaps too nonchalantly – shrugged off.  Shouldn’t the Scots show similar backbone?

The power to call such a referendum is, strictly speaking, one for Westminster.  It would be presentationally highly unattractive for Theresa May to be seen as blocking the opportunity for the Scots to have their say in very changed circumstances.  The SNP would gleefully present this as a Scotland vs Westminster battle and in all probability a lot of Scots would agree.

A Scottish independence referendum could find Theresa May doing the splits in her negotiations with the rest of the EU and the campaigning for the union.  She might simultaneously be seeking to negotiate soft Brexit with Brussels while warning of the effects of hard Brexit in Scotland.  She would struggle to keep her credibility.

None of this means that Yes would win.  Yes might well lose again.  But if it was going to lose in 2019, it was going to lose in 2023 as well.  Meanwhile, a Scottish referendum campaign would give all of Nicola Sturgeon’s Westminster opponents the most almighty headache.  You should always do what your opponents least want you to do.   On that basis, Nicola Sturgeon should go for it.

Alastair Meeks

*Actually, I tipped this outcome at 8/1 on the morning of the election.


Is Witney saving all its love for EU?

October 18th, 2016

This by-election could be pivotal to the type of Brexit Mrs May’s government tries and obtains, and if she decides to hold an early general election.

If the Lib Dems do pull off a victory in Witney this Thursday the implications will be felt outside West Oxfordshire. It might determine the type of Brexit Mrs May’s government chooses to pursue, additionally with Theresa May transferring into Theresa Maybe over Heathrow expansion and becoming the second Tory Prime Minister this year to suspend collective cabinet responsibility the Tory majority of 12 looks incompatible with good, stable governance, though Mrs May’s approach as Prime Minister may also be exacerbating those problems.

Theresa May and her team must look at the opinion polls and think with the double digit leads she enjoys an early election is tempting. For the record, I expect a Tory hold with a fall in the Tory share of the vote, because

  • i) It is a by election and we generally see swings against the sitting government in by-elections
  • ii) David Cameron by virtue of first being party leader and then Prime Minister built up an impressive share of the vote, that should unwind as he is no longer the Tory candidate

Though I suspect many will try and spin it as a vote against ‘hard’ Brexit and Mrs May, though I thought it was a sign of Tory nervousness that both Mrs May and David Cameron campaigned in Witney last weekend, usually sitting Prime Ministers don’t go campaigning like this in by-elections.

Not since Oxford housed the King Charles I after his expulsion from London during the civil war has the politics of Oxfordshire been so important in a fractured country.




The Brexiteers, Juncker’s fifth columnists?

October 18th, 2016


How the Leavers may have ultimately signed the United Kingdom up for the single currency, the Schengen agreement, an EU Army, and a United States of Europe.

Despite all the hype and bluster, the court case, and Parliamentary scrutiny, the United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union within the next few few years, and both will rapidly change because of Brexit.

Without the United Kingdom inside the EU stopping and vetoing more federalist ideas nor without our influence advocating pro business policies such as one of Margaret Thatcher’s finest acts as Prime Minister, the single market, the EU will become a very different beast to what it is now, especially amongst the Eurozone countries.

Whilst I’m not a supporter of the single currency, it always seemed flawed to me to have economic and monetary union without a full political union, and with the problems with Greece, I fully expect to see more integration in the EU, especially within the Eurozone.

But the EU doing very well won’t convince people in the U.K. to rejoin the EU, the other condition will be for the reality of Brexit to be seen as a mistake by the voters, or to put it bluntly, such as the fears of Brexit that Boris wrote about before he came out for Brexit actually happen.

Laissez les bon temps rouler might as well be the Leavers’ motto for a post Brexit U.K. but if the good times don’t roll then what? If Brexit turns out to be an economic mistake for the U.K., which translates to things like mass jobs losses, high inflation, and an economic slump then there may well be pressure to rejoin the EU. As an aside, it is far too early to conclude, one way or the other if Brexit has been an economic disaster or success, for every Sterling slide or a spike inflation, there’s some good news such elsewhere such as ING moving jobs to London. We will only have an idea once the final Brexit deal has been agreed if Brexit is good or bad for the economy.

We have some polling which already shows more Leavers regretting their vote than Remainers and with it looking like the poorest will be hit the hardest most by Brexit then that figure may very well rise.

In an ever evolving world some ideas that the U.K. public oppose today, they may very support in the future, for example with the possibility of Donald Trump in The White House, given Trump’s pronouncement that as President he wouldn’t automatically defend NATO allies under attack, supporting or joining a EU Army makes sense in those circumstances.

In any future deal for the U.K. to join the European Union, the U.K. will be the supplicant, so we won’t be able to dictate any favourable terms, and new members of the EU will have to sign up to things like the Euro, The EU Army, and the Schengen agreement, possibly all of them, and with the U.K. having already left the EU once, there maybe no future Article 50 option a second time. There would be a great irony if the Leavers end up helping the U.K. become a full member of a federal Europe, Jacques Delors, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, Jean Claude Juncker, and Sir Edward Heath may end up thanking Leavers for their help in realising their dream.


P.S. – It won’t necessarily mean a future referendum on taking us back into the EU, all it needs a Pro/Rejoin the EU party to win a majority at a general election, 48% might not be enough to win a binary choice referendum but in the right circumstances, 48% can win a landslide under first past the post. Perhaps Leavers should start supporting electoral reform such as the alternative vote to stop this scenario unfolding.


The Nearest-run Thing – the BREXIT result was tight but so have other referendums

October 18th, 2016


Sunil looks at close referendum outcomes

“It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” – those were the immortal words of one Arthur Wellesley (the Duke of Wellington) in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815.

I keep seeing comments on PB.com, and the wider MSM, about the EU Referendum being a close result, with the implication that it was the closest referendum result in human history, and that because it was such a narrow win for LEAVE, that somehow that made the result illegitimate. Perhaps I exaggerate with the previous sentence, but you know what I mean!

True, the winning margin was only 3.8%, and it was true that for much of the night of 23/24 June, as the results came in, it could have gone either way. I personally was prepared to wake up in the morning to a REMAIN victory. But in the end, that didn’t happen. As the results started to trickle in, I decided to stay up, and almost against all the odds (and more pertinently for our blog, the betting!), LEAVE pulled it off. The result was LEAVE 52%, REMAIN 48%. Or, for fans of decimal points, LEAVE 51.9%, REMAIN 48.1%, on a turnout of 72.2%. The nearest-run thing indeed!

Or was it? Have there been any referendums with closer results? Were they regarded as illegitimate? Or did the aforementioned results result in sour grapes from the losing side? Perhaps, unsurprisingly, I can give you two relatively recent (ie. within the last 20-ish years) referendum results that were much closer.

The first was held in Quebec, the majority French-speaking province in Anglophone-majority Canada. It was the second of two sovereignty referendums, and was held in 1995, fifteen years subsequent to the first referendum, where the NO (to sovereignty) side won rather convincingly with 59.6% of the vote compared with the YES side’s 40.4%.

The second referendum, in 1995, resulted in a markedly narrower victory for the NO side, even narrower than LEAVE’s win in June 2016. In this second Quebec vote, the NO team got only 50.6%, and YES got 49.4%, on a massive turnout of some 93.5%, a record for any election in Quebec. The swing from the 1980 vote was 9% to YES, and the winning margin was only 1.2%, less than a third of LEAVE’s margin at EU Ref!

There was an undercurrent of, shall we say, “moaning” from the losing side, mostly to do with what exactly constituted spoilt ballots, as well as some campaign funding grumbles, though to this date there has NOT been a third referendum, and Quebec has remained part of Canada and the Commonwealth.

But even more recently, and with UK relevance, was an even closer result. I guess some of you can remember the very tight result at the Welsh Devolution Referendum of 1997. I remember staying up for that on results night thinking that the Welsh, in contrast to the Scots seven days earlier, would reject devolution. And yet, the YES (to devolution) side pulled off an even narrower victory than the NO team in Quebec. The result was YES 50.3%, NO 49.7%, a margin of only 0.6%, half of the margin in Quebec. I’m sure the ghost of the Iron Duke would have revelled in that result!

And the constitutional implications of this closest of results? Wales duly got her devolved assembly, despite the winning margin being only 6,721 votes on a 50% turnout. The Government of Wales Act 1998 ensued, and the formation of the National Assembly for Wales occurred in 1999.

To close this header, I would like to put it to you: if these two examples of very close referendum results can be respected by the losing “teams”, at least in the long term, why not the result for the UK’s EU Ref in June 2016?

Sunil Prasannan


N.B. Some of you may well remember the Scottish Devolution Referendum of 1979, a result that was almost exactly the same as EU Ref: YES to devolution 51.6%, NO 48.4%. I felt that it was a little too far in the past to include with Quebec 1995 and Wales 1997, but the YES side in this case were thwarted by the 40% rule for that legislation, where 40% of the total electorate was needed for the legislation to pass. Given turnout was 63.7%, YES got only 32.9% of the electorate. There wasn’t any turnout threshold for Quebec, Wales or EU Ref.