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

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?



CON leads moves to 15% with ComRes online while Corbyn sees 10% drop in his favourability ratings

November 21st, 2015


Con 42% (NC)
Lab 27% (-2)
LD 7% (NC)
UKIP 15% (+2)
Green 3% (NC)
SNP 5% (NC)
Other 1% (NC)

And Osbo’s leadership hopes take another blow

The ComRes leader ratings paint a very different picture from that which we saw from Ipsos earlier in the week. This is down to the question. ComRes ask favourability questions while the Ipsos-MORI rating relates to leader satisfaction. The latter found 28% of 2015 CON voters saying they are satisfied with Corbyn – a number which is very telling in itself.

George Osborne has the second worst rating of a UK politician at a net minus 19%. If his hopes of replacing Dave are to be realised then those figures have to improve markedly. Boris continues to dominate.

Only half of Labour voters view Jeremy Corbyn favourably (53%) – this compares to 85% of Conservative voters viewing David Cameron favourably.

40% say LAB MPs should oust Corbyn

What could be worrying is that when asked “Labour MPs should remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party” 40% of those sampled said yes with 31% disagreeing, Of LAB voters 20% say their leader of just ten weeks should be ousted against 56% who say he shouldn’t.

The sample was split 39-39 on whether they trusted Dave to keep them and their family safe. This was in sharp contrast to Corbyn where only 17% said they trusted him on this and 58% said they didn’t.

Overall a very poor poll for LAB and its new leader.

Mike Smithson


How Corbyn compares with Trump on the betting markets & other Saturday afternoon points

November 21st, 2015

Next President & next PM betting

IDS’s and JC’s leadership elections

ComRes favourability numbers coming up but where’s Nigel?

Now they’re polling on whether Corby will be ousted


Time to back Biden (if you can)

November 21st, 2015



It may be worth having a cover against Hillary

US presidential elections are brilliant. The fractal-like complexity of the process by which someone ends up in the White House provides endless scope for novelists, script-writers and conspiracy theorists to come up with weird and wonderful ways for the most implausible individuals to follow in the footsteps of Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelts and Obama. And in theory, they could.

The reality, of course, is that the nominations are usually all but decided within two months of their having started, the conventions are publicity shows, and that everything is clear on election night before the voting in the west is over.

But not always. While the 2000 election ultimately conformed to type, the consequences of an faithless Bush elector or two, if low, had to be taken seriously (in fact, Gore suffered a faithless, abstaining, elector; Bush’s stayed solid). Likewise the possibility that Florida’s votes might be annulled or not cast, resulting in the elections being thrown to Congress. All the same, one way or another, the president was going to be Bush or Gore.

Fast forward to next year. Hillary Clinton seems almost certain to be the Democratic nominee. She only has one challenger, Bernie Sanders, and he’s so far to the left he should be unelectable. That is, of course, something we’ve heard before and it didn’t stop Corbyn from winning but the kind of activism Corbyn benefitted from will be hard for Sanders to achieve given the larger turnouts in US primaries compared to the Labour leadership. In reality, it’s Hillary’s to lose.

Except lose it she might. The e-mail affair is one of those scandals that many are vaguely aware of in the sense of it being a political football without a killer punch; of interest only to those paid to take an interest. Her husband went through much the same with Whitewater almost a quarter of a century ago when he was running for the White House. But while it is rumbling on, there’s the possibility that there does lie a smoking gun and that someone will find it. What then?

This is where there not being a serious challenger to Hillary makes things interesting. Were Hillary to fall under a political bus (or a health-related one, for that matter), I don’t believe that the Democratic establishment would leave the field open to Sanders. Were it to happen early in the primary campaign, clearly there’d be scope for someone else to take her place; were it to happen late, Clinton delegates could be released and advised to switch to an acceptable alternative; were something to happen really late – after the nominations – the Democrat National Committee would need to find someone themselves, though here we are getting into the realms of political fantasy.

All the same, the chances that something politically fatal to Hillary might happen at some point are not infinitesimal – in which case, who steps in to the gap? By far the most obvious answer is the current Vice President, Joe Biden. He was talked of as a possible candidate for much of the year and while he ultimately opted not to run, were he offered the job I can’t see him turning it down. In what would then be a safety-first situation, it would be difficult to find someone with more safety attached.

The biggest difficulty in backing him may simply be the act of getting a bet on: as far as I can tell, no conventional bookie is offering odds at the moment, though at the time of writing he was 199/1 on Betfair (but with only a tiny amount available). As a cover against a Hillary slip-up, that’s a good price. In fact, at the moment I’d suggest that’s around double his true odds.

David Herdson


Why it might not be wise for UKIP to go too hard on expenses and allowances in Oldham

November 20th, 2015

This from the UKIP candidate

And a bit of history


Leader of the Opposition is the toughest job in British politics. If Jeremy didn’t know it before, he knows it now.

November 20th, 2015


From a LAB perspective: Donald Brind’s weekly column

The Bishop of Chichester George Bell was celebrated in a BBC Radio Great Lives programme a couple of years ago for a wartime speech in the House of Lords condemning the bombing of German civilians. Bell was no pacifist but he argued that “ to justify methods inhumane in themselves by arguments of expediency smacks of the Nazi philosophy that Might is Right.” The speech was made in February 1944, months before Allied boots landed on the ground in Normandy. Bomber command were taking the fight to the Nazis.

On the Great Lives programme the advocate for Bell was Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens who described the bishop’s speech “one of the clearest, most coherent and measured statements ever made about the war”. It was no surprise, therefore, that Hitchens produced one of the stand out pieces of commentary in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. ” Really want to beat terror?,” he asked. “Then calm down and THINK – Could we please skip the empty bravado?” He said. “This is a time for grief above all else, and a time to refrain from sound bites and posturing . France is stricken, and we should weep with her.”

He questioned whether four decades of vast spending used to spy on and fight terrorists had made us any safer. “It is remarkably hard to defend yourself against an enemy whose language few of us speak, yet who speaks ours and can move freely in our world, and who is willing, even happy, to die at our hands – or his own – if he can kill us first.”

Hitchens also challenged the “dubious and dangerous use of pilotless drones to conduct summary executions of our enemies. Few can be sorry at the death of Mohammed Emwazi (the so-called ‘Jihadi John’), but what precedents are we setting? For the moment, our fanatical foes do not have drones of their own. One day, they will.” So here in a right wing paper that we Lefties love to hate was a tract which chimed with the attitudes and feelings of the party’s peace loving leader.

But being Leader of the Opposition is a far tougher job than being a bishop and or a newspaper columnist. It is arguably the “Toughest Job in Politics” – the title of a 2008 BBC programme by Julia Hartley-Brewer which examined the travails of one David Cameron.

It’s true too that times of crisis, if handled well, are likely to produce a political bonus for the government of the day. The Falkland factor certainly contributed to the cult of Thatcher. Whether the invasion of Iraq produced a “Baghdad Bounce” for Tony Blair, I can’t recall but it was certainly talked about. If it did happen the effect dissipated long ago.

Times of perceived danger face any leader of the Opposition with a challenge — to capture the public mood; to offer a mixture of reassurance along with a willingness to confront difficult questions. For Jeremy Corbyn the test was always going to be tougher still. Even if he had been pitch perfect he could expect the likes of Simon Danczuk, John Mann or Mike Gapes to spot some bum notes.

In the event his performance was far from perfect. His interview with Laura Kuenssberg , in which he spoke against police being able to shoot to kill, was, to put it kindly, inept. . From thereon, people were scrambling to put distance between themselves and their leader. Among them was the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn who told the Today programme “I can’t speak for Jeremy”. The mood was captured by a wide angle shot of the Commons with Corbyn flanked by just a couple front benchers, one of them Diane Abbott.

Then along came Ken. A bad idea, Livingstone’s appointment to the party’s defence review, was badly handled. And the man himself doubled up on the disaster by insulting, then making an unconvincing apology to, front bencher Kevan Jones.

What makes it all so depressing for the majority of Labour MPs — who are moderate, loyal to the party and keen to make the best of a bad situation — is that they see around them hardworking shadow ministers taking the fight to the Tory Government. And winning arguments, notably, over the cut in tax credits and police numbers, on the crisis in the NHS underlined how the threatened strike by junior doctors and on the short-sighted policies on renewable energy.

A couple of other positives are the success for the Labour Movement for Europe in lining up Jeremy Corbyn, his whole Shadow Cabinet and 214 MPs behind the Remain campaign and another defeat on the government in the House of Lords – this time over votes for 16 and 17 year olds in the EU referendum.

But with a huge black cloud hanging over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party you need a powerful telescope to spot the silver linings.

Donald Brind


This weeks PB/Polling Matters podcast seeks to find out what UK Muslims really think about terrorism

November 20th, 2015

And how is public opinion changing on Syria?

On this week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast, Keiran speaks to Tom Mludzinski of ComRes about the firm’s polling among British Muslims earlier this year before speaking with Maria Sobolewska from the University of Manchester about her work looking at Muslim public opinion in the UK on terrorism and other issues. We then close the show with Tom Mludzinski again explaining how support for military action in Syria has increased since last Friday but that this comes with some caveats – not least will such support last?

Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and presenter of the podcast ‘Polling Matters’. He tweets about polling and politics at @keiranpedley


The return of Marf and tonight’s local by-election review by Harry Hayfield

November 19th, 2015


Welcome back Marf

Watton (UKIP defence) and South Smallburgh (Lib Dem defence) on Norfolk
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservative 40, United Kingdom Independence Party 15, Labour 14, Liberal Democrats 10, Green Party 4, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2013):

Watton: United Kingdom Independence Party 808 (34%), Conservative 662 (27%), Independent 569 (24%), Labour 270 (11%), Green Party 102 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Timothy Birt (Green), Claire Bowes (Con), Keith Gilbert (Ind), Joe Sisto (Lab)

South Smallburgh: Liberal Democrat 879 (31%), Conservative 844 (29%), United Kingdom Independence Party 768 (27%), Labour 274 (10%), Green Party 107 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alison Bradnock (Lib Dem), Anne Filgate (Green), Paul Rice (Con), David Spencer (Lab), Barry Whitehouse (UKIP)

Norfolk has a membership of 84 seats and these will be the sixth and seventh by-elections respectively on that authority since 2013 (in other words a twelfth of the council will have had by-elections since 2013) and of those seven by-elections UKIP have lost three (one to the Conservatives, one to Labour and whichever party gains Watton). And it’s not just seats they are losing either. Comparing the vote in the local elections in 2013 with the by-elections, UKIP have fallen from 26% to 21% (with the Conservatives going from 29% to 28%, Labour from 28% to 33% and the Lib Dems going from 11% to 13%) suggesting therefore, as I have mentioned before, that when UKIP appear on the scene as something fresh and never seen before, people treat them as a “None of the Above” candidate but once they appear on the ballot again (as we will see in Oldham West in a fortnight’s time) they are tainted by the same brush and therefore may not poll anything like as much support as they did.

Epsom West on Surrey (Lib Dem defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 58, Liberal Democrats 9, Ratepayers 7, United Kingdom Independence Party 3, Independents 2, Green Party 1, Labour 1 (Conservative majority of 35)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Liberal Democrat 854 (28%), Ratepayers 693 (23%), Labour 616 (20%), United Kingdom Independence Party 494 (16%), Conservative 389 (13%)
Candidates duly nominated: Kate Chinn (Lab), Chris Crook (Green), Neil Dallen (Ratepayers), Robert Leach (UKIP), Julie Morris (Lib Dem), Karan Persand (Con)

Epsom and Ewell is a funny little council. There it is nestled between Conservative Kingston upon Thames and Liberal Democrat Sutton in Greater London and to the south by Conservative Reigate and Banstead and Conservative Mole Valley. And yet what has it been doing since 2003? Ignoring the lot of them, by electing a Ratepayers majority every single time. In 2003, they had a majority of 10 which increased to 12 in 2007, then up to 14 in 2011 and currently stands at 24 making it a beacon for those who think that local councils should not be run by politicos, but by the local community themselves. And this attitude has even spread into the county council as well. Even back in 1993, the Ratepayers won two of the five seats in Epsom and Ewell on Surrey County Council and polled 27% of the vote. In 2005 they had won four county seats polling 32% of the vote, which they held in 2009 polling 50% of the vote and despite boundary changes that saw the number of seats fall to four, they still managed to poll 45% of the vote and win two of them. All of which suggests that the Lib Dem fightback will need to not only see off a Labour and UKIP challenge, but a Ratepayer challenge as well.

Aylesford Green on Ashford (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2015): Conservatives 34, Labour 4, Independents 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 1, Liberal Democrats 1 (Conservative majority of 24)
Result of ward at last election (2015) : Labour 725 (55%), Conservative 592 (45%)
Candidates duly nominated: Adrian Gee-Turner (Lib Dem), Alex Howard (Con), Christine Kathawick-Smith (Ashford Independent), Gordon Miller (Lab), Thom Pizzey (Green), Harriet Yeo (UKIP)

Now, before you all start complaining and say that I need to brush up on my typing skills, let me assure you that is NOT a typo. At the local elections in Ashford and in the parliamentary constituency of the same name, Labour polled 18% of the popular vote and in the Aylesford Green, Beaver and Stanhope wards topped the poll. Now, I will admit that Ashford and Labour do not go together in quite the same way as Preston and Labour, but at local elections if a councillor is popular enough then anything can happen (which makes this by-election featuring a first time UKIP and a local independent as well rather too tricky to assess.

Kidwelly on Carmarthenshire (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Plaid Cymru 28, Labour 23, Independents 22, People First 1 (No Overall Control, Plaid Cymru short by 10)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 571 (44%), People First 300 (23%), Independent 238 (19%), Non Party Independent 177 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: Stephen Bowen (People First), Fran Burke-Lloyd (Independent), Stephen Davies (Con), Dilwyn Jones (Plaid), Vivian Summers (NPI), Ryan Thomas (Lab)

Dewi (Plaid Cymru defence) and Llanaelhaern (Llais Gwynedd defence) on Gwynedd
Result of council at last election (2012): Plaid Cymru 37, Independents 19, Llais Gwynedd 13, Labour 4, Liberal Democrats 2 (No Overall Control, Plaid Cymru short by 1)
Result of wards at last election (2012):

Dewi: Plaid Cymru 254 (57%), Labour 154 (35%), Liberal Democrats 35 (8%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andrew Joyce (Lib Dem), Eirian Roberts (Lab), Gareth Roberts (Plaid)

Llanaelhaern: Llais Gwynedd 353 (50%), Non Party Independent 238 (34%), Plaid Cymru 85 (12%), Independent 32 (5%)
Candidates duly nominated: Eric Cullen (Ind), Wayne Issac (Llais Gwynedd), Aled Jones (Plaid)

Ah, Welsh local elections. The Marmite of local elections in the UK. You either love them or you hate them mainly due to the varying shades of Independentness you have. Indeed, at the local elections in 2012 there were a total of 282 Independents elected polling 18% of the popular vote be they Independent (candidates nominated as Independent), Non Party Independents (candidates who refused to place a party name in their nomination) or as the People First candidate has been duly nominated “Truly Independent”. Here on Ceredigion we have a group who call them Independent Voice made up of two councillors who were elected as Independents, but refused to have any truck with the ruling Independent group but still joined up with them to form a majority coalition with Plaid Cymru. So, as much as you may like them (or indeed loathe them) Independents will always feature in Welsh local elections from now until well, forever I guess (unless Leighton Andrews decides on a form of local government where the Independent vote is spread so thinly that they can never win)

Compiled by Harry Hayfield