After an extraordinary and dramatic political year so little has changed in the battle between CON & LAB

January 16th, 2017

The main moves – UKIP down LD up

After this morning’s YouGov poll came out I was asked on Twitter for the comparative numbers for a year ago and other points during 2016. The data is in the chart above and shows quite extraordinary that Labour and the Conservatives have almost the same numbers this month that they had a year ago.

This is a period which has seen the election of a Muslim mayor in London, Brexit, and, of course, a new UK PM, the victory by Donald Trump in the White House Race.

ILooking at the polling numbers between now and the year ago the only real change has been that the LDs have progressed quite nicely and UKIP has Fallen. At one stage Farage’s party, as it then was, touched 20% but things started to decline after the referendum. It remain to be seen whether under its new leader UKIP will reach the heights again.

The big factor in domestic politics has been the time has marches on. We are now one year closer to the May 2020 General Election date that is laid down in the fixed term Parliament Act. The time margins for a LAB recovery are now much narrower.

In the coming months so much depends on how to Theresa May’s government is seem to have handled the extraction process from the European Union. On that we will get the prime minister’s speech tomorrow. Then hopefully within next week we should see the Supreme Court ruling on Article 50.

Mike Smithson


A cartoon to start this historic week

January 16th, 2017

Copyright Helen Cochrane & Nicholas Leonard 2017


Donald Trump, Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt feature in the big stories overnight

January 15th, 2017


Want to bet on footage of that golden shower appearing on a porn site? Yes WEE Can

January 15th, 2017

Paddy Power have some Donald Trump specials up, to be honest most of these appear to be taking the piss, as it were, and serve to act as an excellent way to contribute to Paddy Power’s bonus fund.

For example take the bet on the golden shower footage to appear on porn website ‘RedTube’, not being an expert (sexpert?) on niche websites like this, I believe there are many many many more websites of this nature on the internet, that the footage could end up on, that alone makes it an unattractive bet even before you consider the subject material.

The only bet if I was forced to choose would be the 7/4 on Trump NOT to complete his first term in office, because Ladbrokes are offering 11/10 on Trump to leave office via impeachment or resignation before end of 1st term (which doesn’t cover all the possibilities as the Paddy Power bet, such as Section IV of the XXV Amendment being enacted.)

Speaking of Ladbrokes, they also have a few Trump specials

The one I’m backing is the 1/25 on Trump to be inaugurated on the 20th of January. Yes I’m aware a 1/25 tip is likely to be the shortest priced tip in the thirteen years of PB but with interest rates of 0.25 per cent, a 4 per cent return in five days seems very good.

Despite the best efforts of an alumnus of the finest university in the world, Trump will be inaugurated, the only circumstances that prevent him being inaugurated will make it unlikely you’ll be paid out on the other side of the bet, circumstances like nuclear war, a pandemic, the rapture, or the zombie apocalypse, those type of things.



Analysing the best PM polling – is it as good for Theresa as it appears?

January 15th, 2017

Graphic: The most recent YouGov polling on who would make the best PM

It has become a regular occurrence.  At least once a month, YouGov release an opinion poll.  Each recent month, the Conservatives have recorded a very comfortable lead over Labour.  And each month, Theresa May has recorded an enormous lead over Jeremy Corbyn in the public’s assessment of who would be the best Prime Minister.  This has widely been taken to mean that the Conservatives’ position is even stronger than the headline polling suggests, given the quasi-presidential nature of the modern British politics. Is that true?

First things first, this is not generally thought to be the most reliable measure of a party leader’s standing.  The Prime Minister has the institutional advantage of actually being in the job, making it easy for the public to imagine them in the role.  For example, Gordon Brown still led by this measure in early 2008, well after the botched election that never was that was widely thought to have punctured his credibility.  But it’s worth looking at because it in part reflects the institutional advantages that any government has over the opposition.

When Theresa May took over as Prime Minister, the initial split on this measure when YouGov first polled in July 2016 was May 52% Corbyn 19% Don’t Know 30%.  In the most recent YouGov poll earlier this month, this had moved to May 47% Corbyn 14% Don’t know 39%.

It is perhaps not surprising that Theresa May has lost some of her early support – it is usual for the gloss to come off honeymoons slowly – but Jeremy Corbyn, far from profiting, has seen his own position deteriorate.  So both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have lost supporters to “Don’t Know” at an equal rate over this period.

There has been much chortling among Conservative supporters about Jeremy Corbyn being outpolled by “Don’t Know” but this is not in fact unusual for a party leader.  In five years of YouGov’s polling, Ed Miliband never beat “Don’t Know” once (though he came within one percentage point twice).  David Cameron also spent most of the last Parliament lagging behind “Don’t Know”, after 2011 only clearly overtaking it in the last two months of polling.

Nor is Jeremy Corbyn’s 14% unprecedentedly low.  YouGov have been polling on this question since 2003 and Iain Duncan Smith twice recorded 14% on this measure, regularly lagging behind Charles Kennedy in third place.  This, however, is not perhaps a comforting example for Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

Two main things stand out about the party leaders’ respective standings on this measure.  First, Theresa May is polling at historically high levels.  It is rare for either party’s leader to poll in the 40s with YouGov, never mind the 50s.  The Conservatives can indeed be quite pleased about this.

Secondly and in my view more importantly, the “Don’t Know” levels are surprisingly high. They are not unprecedentedly high and indeed throughout the last Parliament they quite regularly topped 40%.  However, if conventional political wisdom is to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn is out of his depth, a joke and far too extreme for the British public.  Yet nearly 40% find themselves unable to give a preference for Theresa May, presumably finding this a difficult choice.  Considering this is a relative judgement not an absolute judgement, this suggests either that conventional wisdom is writing Jeremy Corbyn off too quickly or that Theresa May has so far failed to particularly impress large chunks of the public even when measured against a very undemanding target.  Since Jeremy Corbyn is only persuading 14% of the public of his relative merits, I lean towards the latter explanation.

YouGov’s approach is not the only measure of leadership popularity.  Ipsos MORI in particular have polled on satisfaction ratings for many years.  And on this measure also Theresa May’s figures, while good, are not that amazing for a newly-installed Prime Minister.  David Cameron, for example, had higher satisfaction ratings in his first few months in office (only coming to an end at the time of the university tuition fees saga).  Given the exceptionally weak opposition that she faces, she might have hoped to have been doing better still during her political honeymoon.

As the public are getting to know her, her net satisfaction ratings – as is to be expected – are starting to decline.  Those who previously gave her the benefit of the doubt while they were making their minds up have now decided to give her the thumbs down.  This decline will probably continue.

As always, you can look at the polls and see what you want to see.  But as I hope I have demonstrated, there is at least the possibility that Theresa May’s poll ratings flatter to deceive.  She’s safe enough while she’s faced with a useless opponent.  If she finds herself up against someone more competent, she might find herself struggling far more quickly than most pundits currently could imagine.

Alastair Meeks


Now you can bet on how many LAB MPs will quit as during 2017

January 14th, 2017


Interesting new betting market up from William Hill on how many LAB MPs will quit the Commons this year. The bar has been set at six which seems reasonable given that we know about Copeland, Tristram Hunt and Andy Burnham’s promise to resign if he’s elected as Mayor of Greater Manchester.

There are lots of rumours circulating about other possibly escapees from the PLP and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw other developments in the next few days.

The Parliamentary Labour Party has not been a happy place since September 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader. Less than seven months ago Labour MPs by 80% to 20% voted against Mr Corbyn in a motion of confidence. Corbyn has hung on since then.

What is causing disquiet for many MPs is the prospect of the boundary review and the impact that is likely to have on their continued presence in the House of Commons after the next election. Both Copeland and Stoke Central were due to be seriously affected by the review and it was no surprise that the sitting MPs feared  for the selection process that was likely to happen if they’d have wanted to stay.

On top of that there must be many MPs whose sole reason for being in politics is that they aspire  to ministerial office and can now see no future for Labour under Mr Corbyn.

There are others who have felt deeply uncomfortable by some of the policy positions espoused by the current leader a particularly on international matters,  defence and BREXIT. Corbyn’s clumsy handling of the anti-Semitism issue hasn’t helped either.

So a further four MPs on top of the three that we already know about seems a reasonable total and the bet looks value.

Mike Smithson


Copeland is still the better bet for the Lib Dems

January 14th, 2017

But will they be distracted by Stoke Central?

The Tories love governing, Labour loves protesting and the Lib Dem love winning elections. With the return to form of the Lib Dems in gaining by-elections, all is now once again well with the world. They might still be languishing in fourth place in the national polls but in actual elections, Farron’s party has been performing admirably well over the last year and in particular over the last few months.

Thursday produced two more spectacular examples in local by-elections, where they gained one seat from the Conservatives on a 23% swing in Hertfordshire, and another from Labour in Sunderland (from fourth) on a swing of no less than 35%. This ties in with a tweet I saw this week from Glen O’Hara that traditionally Labour voters are very much considering the Lib Dems as an alternative. Obviously, we should be wary of reading too much into two by-elections, never mind a single tweet, particularly when the national polls indicate only a modest Lib Dem recovery. Even so, the runes are there to be read.

Which begs the question: can they follow up on their gain in Richmond Park with another Westminster gain? Neither upcoming contest looks particularly fertile ground on the face of it. The Lib Dems lost their deposit in both seats, finishing fourth in Copeland and fifth in Stoke. Only twice in British history has a party won a by-election from fourth or lower (the SNP in Glasgow Govan in 1988 and George Galloway for Respect in Bradford West in 2012). However, these are strange times and both seats do offer opportunities.

In Stoke, the Lib Dems have the stronger history to fall back on. They finished second in 2005 and 2010, and although they lost most of their votes in 2015, they lost them to Labour. If a substantial Lab-LD swing is now taking place or at least there to be won, then unless Labour can recover the votes they themselves lost to UKIP, they could easily be vulnerable to whichever party established itself as the main challenger. However, their second places were not particularly strong: their best vote share was 21.7% in 2010, which was still 17% behind Labour and below their national average that year.

On the other hand, while the Lib Dems have a much weaker record in Copeland, they have two advantages (one of which may yet also apply to Stoke). Firstly, both Tories and Labour look to be running entirely negative campaigns, with Labour attacking the Conservatives over NHS concerns (which has some local resonance), and the Tories going on Corbyn and his anti-nuclear stance. The problem there is that in a two- (or more) party system, mutual negative campaigning can simply depress the votes of both parties that engage in it, to the benefit of a third party.

And that third party is the Lib Dems. Their toxicity from the Coalition years is clearly declining. They are once again becoming the ‘none of the above’ party in small FPTP elections where they can focus a campaign, which is something UKIP struggles to do. With UKIP having won a referendum and lost a role, with Labour suffering under catastrophic leadership, and with the Tories a little unsteady under a defensive and cautious May, the door has again opened to the Lib Dems everywhere outside of Scotland.

The second and more certain point about Copeland is that it’s very, very remote. It’s a trek for someone living in Greater Manchester, never mind the South. Local resources will matter more than in most by-elections, particularly with Stoke a more accessible alternative for MPs to help out in. Although the Lib Dems have little presence in Copeland itself, they have plenty in neighbouring Westmorland & Lonsdale: Tim Farron’s constituency (though even that isn’t particularly close to most Copeland voters).

What of the Lib Dems’ European stance? Won’t this be a disadvantage in two strongly Leave seats? To an extent, yes, but only to an extent. The reality is that there were plenty of Remain voters too, even in Leave seats. More relevantly, Brexit won’t be the only issue. If the Lib Dems can establish themselves as a clean alternative to the parties throwing mud, they have a chance to do something extraordinary.

But only in one of the seats. By-elections are labour-intensive and expensive (even more so when the MP future-dates his resignation). All parties except Labour have a choice to make about which to prioritise but the Lib Dems most of all. After all, winning by-elections is what they’re about. Copeland, where they’re up to 50/1 should be that choice.

David Herdson


Labour’s challenge in retaining Stoke Central is equal if not greater than in Copeland

January 13th, 2017

I was one of the lucky ones and managed to get £20 on the LDs at Ladbrokes Stoke Central market when the odds were 50/1. That’s now moved in sharply to 7/1 which I think is still reasonable value.

Labour must be favourite though this could be very challenging. The party is less effective on the ground since JC and his team arrived. The massive increase in members does not appear to have added to the party’s ability to fight elections. Some specifics on Stoke:

TURNOUT: At GE2015 fewer than half the electors in Stoke Central turned out to vote which was the lowest in the entire country. Based on this my reckoning is that the by-election turnout will be in the region of 28%-33% which means that the most effective campaigns can have real advantages. This will be about foot-soldiers on the ground..

BREXIT VOTE. Although Stoke went strongly for LEAVE we cannot assume that those voting in the by-election will split with the same proportions. The lower the by-election turnout, I’d suggest, the greater the proportion of REMAINERS voting in the by-election.

LOCATION Unlike Copeland Stoke is extremely well served by rail and road. It is just off the M6 and A50, only 84 minutes from Euston and 34 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly. This means that all parties will be able to flood activists into the area for the critical 4-5 weeks of the campaign.

Given UKIP’s second place last time Nuttall’s party should be in a position to do well eating into both the CON and LAB support bases. The question is how far the LAB vote will be cut down from the 39% at GE2015. My guess is that there’ll be a real fight between CON and UKIP to establish them as the best choice for leavers.

GE2005 and GE2010 saw the LDs in second place though, like elsewhere, they got smashed at GE2015 following the coalition years. If they scent victory they’ll flood the area and there’ll almost daily deliveries of different leaflets and campaign newspapers. This has the effect of diluting the impact of other campaign’s material.

Mike Smithson