Archive for June, 2012


Is Number 10 getting too heavy with the Lords reform rebels?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Will opposing really be “an interesting career” move?

In what sounds a rather sinister move a Number 10 spokesman has said that those Tory MPs who rebel on the Lords reform proposal will be making “an interesting career move”. That sounds a bit Mafiosi.

The problem about being fierce is that it could be counter-productive – though with a possible ministerial re-shuffle in the offing aspiring ministers might not be too keen on upsetting the boss.

    Clearly Cameron is totally focused on the boundary change plan which lowers the bar by four or five points on what Tory vote share would produce a majority.

    If he and his ministers are not seen to be active enough in promoting the upper house bill then the Lib Dems might not support the new electoral map.

Given how crucial the boundaries are to the next election outcome it is surprising that there are not options on the betting markets. The only one I can see is from PaddyPower which has 2/5 on a 600 seat house of commons and 5/4 against there being no change.

At the moment I cannot read it and even if this gets through the commons it’s hard to see the Lords voting this through.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


On the 5th Anniversary of Blair’s exit from No. 10……

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Would Labour still be in power if they’d stuck with Tony?

Exactly five years ago today, June 27th 2007, was a pivotal point in British politics. It was the moment when the triple general election winner Tony Blair stood down and when Gordon Brown took over after Labour MPs had given him the job without a contest.

Blair, of course, was one of only three leaders in Labour’s entire history to lead the party to overall majorities

The clip featured above from Newsnight gets over the flavour very well. I thought Cameron handled the final Blair PMQs particularly well.

I’ve often wondered whether the red team would have clung on if Tony Blair had not been forced out.

The polling from the final few months months before he stood aside suggests that he might. The table below, based on the named leader question from three different pollsters, points to a Brown premiership polling about 5 points worse in relation to the Tories than a Tony Blair led party.

I argued strongly at the time that Brown was an electoral liability rather than an asset and I think that subsequent events showed that that was right.

Poll Date CON lead with Blair CON lead with Brown Brown Handicap
ICM/Guardian 20/05/07 2 8 -6
Populus/Times 13/05/07 4 10 -6
ICM/Guardian 22/04/07 7 12 -5
Populus/Times 15/04/07 8 11 -3
ICM/Guardian 18/03/07 10 15 -5
YouGov S Times 16/03/07 6 10 -4
Populus/Times 04/03/07 8 13 -5

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Should George have held firm on the duty increase?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Why allow a victory for the Sun and Ed Balls?

Given the pressure that’s been rising this afternoon’s announcement by the chancellor not to go ahead with the fuel duty increase is not that great a surprise.

Labour had a been upping the ante and the newspaper that apparently calls the shots in Downing Street, the Sun, had been campaigning hard including a special piece from Ed Balls

After all so much from his March budget has subsequently been amended that it’s clear to all that it doesn’t take much pressure to change the chancellor’s mind.

    Isn’t this going to make it much harder with future budgets from Osborne. Anything he announces has now become negotiable and he just looks weak.

A smarter chancellor with his eye on the ball would have foreseen in March that this was going to be problematical and the right time to have made the announcement was then not this afternoon?

Osborne’s just left himself with a pile of problems for the future.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


June Guardian ICM poll

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Labour maintains its 5% lead from last month.


Conservatives 34% (-2%)

Labour 39% (-2%)

Lib Dems 14% (+3%)


The Lib Dems will be very relieved to move away from their fifteen year low with ICM that they achieved last month.

Before the adjustment for those who refused to say who they will vote for, the Labour lead would be 10%, which is in line with other pollsters,  but as the Guardian notes

Past experience has demonstrated that this is a valuable way of ironing out the wilder vicissitudes of the electoral cycle to give a more reliable prediction.

The 13% of voters who indicate support for smaller parties break down as 3% for the Scottish nationalists (down two points on last month), 2% for Plaid Cymru (up one), 3% for the Greens (unchanged), 3% for Ukip (down one) and 1% for the BNP (unchanged).

As has been noted previously, UKIP seem to do better with online pollsters.

On the economic front,

When asked to put aside party preference and consider only who they would trust to run the economy properly, just 36% of voters endorse David Cameron and George Osborne, which is a substantial eight-point decline on the 44% rating they enjoyed on the same questions just a month ago.

The only comfort for the prime minister and chancellor is that their Labour counterparts have taken an identical eight-point dive in the financial trust stakes, falling from 35% to 27% over the same four weeks, with growing numbers refusing to indicate trust for either team.

However Cameron and Osborne should note, it is their lowest rating (on the economy) in the Guardian/ICM series since the general election.

In December 2011 the Tory lead on the economic front was 21%, and prior to the budget in March the lead was 17%

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 22-24 June 2012. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. 



Can the SNP and Greens work together in the pro-independence campaign?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

James Kelly on the pro-independence campaign

If there is to be a Yes vote in the Scottish independence referendum, a prerequisite is surely that the Yes campaign itself is as broadly-based as possible, and extends well beyond the SNP’s ranks. The potential is certainly there – the Scottish Green Party is supportive of independence, and its charismatic leader Patrick Harvie attended the Yes launch, where he was accorded virtual parity with Alex Salmond.

The Scottish Socialist Party will also be campaigning for a Yes vote, as will the popular independent politicians Margo MacDonald and Dennis Canavan. However, doubt has recently been cast on whether all of these disparate groups and individuals will be able to work together under the same umbrella, with some press reports indicating that the Greens and Margo MacDonald were withdrawing from the official Yes Scotland campaign.

Those reports have since been vehemently denied. The Greens have made clear that, while they have concerns about the SNP’s dominance of the campaign, they have yet to make a decision about whether to participate, and will do so at their annual conference. The alternative would be to run their own pro-independence campaign, stressing the party’s preference for an independent Scotland that breaks decisively from the Westminster model.

Even the merest possibility of two ‘competing’ campaigns ought to concern anyone who wants to see a Yes victory. Veteran nationalists are haunted by memories of the 1979 devolution referendum, which produced a much lower Yes vote than initially expected. To some extent this was due to tribal hatred between Labour and the SNP, and their inability to work together. Labour’s Donald Dewar later learnt the lessons of that campaign, and as a result was remarkably generous towards the SNP during the second devolution referendum in 1997.

The gut instinct of many Labour MPs and activists would have been to portray a Yes vote to devolution as a vote against both the status quo and independence. Instead, they were instructed to effectively go along with the SNP line that devolution could open the way for independence in the future – but only if the Scottish people voted for it. The result of that unprecedented compromise was a whopping victory for the Yes side.

The present-day Yes campaign must follow the same path, and show generosity to the aspirations of the smaller participants. Perhaps the reason why it has found it difficult to do so thus far is that Yes Scotland is more lop-sided than its 1997 forerunner, with the SNP supplying the vast bulk of the manpower and finance. But it would be a strength, not a weakness to acknowledge that there are multiple views within the campaign about what an independent Scotland would look like.

The electorate are mature enough to understand, for example, that a Yes vote is not automatically a vote for the SNP’s preference of retaining the monarchy, or for the Greens’ preference of an elected Head of State. There was a spoof tweet the other day that made me laugh : “How on earth are we going to settle all these impossible questions? An election or something?” Quite so.

It’s for political parties to argue the case for their preferred model of independence in a post-referendum election. The Yes campaign ought to be coalescing around support for the principle of independence itself – nothing more, nothing less.

But that means the Greens will have to give a little as well. In many ways, their complaint seems to be not that the Yes campaign is not inclusive enough, but that it is not exclusive enough. They believe that only by providing a very specific manifesto for an independent Scotland will the Yes campaign be able to excite people. But while the Green vision for independence would indeed excite many people, it would also repel huge numbers of centrist and centre-right voters.

All of the component parts of the Yes campaign will therefore have to modify their outlook somewhat and adhere to the guiding principle : “other versions of independence are also available”.


James Kelly is a regular commenter on PB 


The June ICM poll is out – but no VI figures yet

Monday, June 25th, 2012

We are going to have to wait

The monthly telephone poll by ICM for the Guardian is out this evening but so far the paper has not reported the voting intention figures.

It’s putting emphasis on views of global warming which it notes have hardly changed since ICM posed a near-identical question just ahead of the Copenhagen climate conference of 2009. 57% accept that man made global warning is happening.

In May the firm had the Tories in their best position in relation to Labour of all the polls. The shares were CON 36/LAB 41/LD 11. I guess we’ll have to wait for the voting numbers.

This post will be updated if we get the figures.

Tomorrow: I’m off to hospital for an operation and should be back on the site on Wednesday.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Will protecting oldies’ perks stop the seepage to UKIP?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Is this why seniors are being favoured over the young?

If the polls are to be believed the age segment which has shifted most to UKIP in recent months has been the oldies. Most days the News International survey by YouGov shows them supporting Farage’s party more than any other sector of the electorate – a trend that’s seen from just about all the pollsters.

The oldies are the group which seems to have turned most against Dave in the leadership ratings. From very big margins only three or four months ago there has been a sharp decline in backing for the PM from the over 60s.

    So is this why the one section of the population that has been least affected by the austerity programme have been the oldies even those who are relatively well off.

    We get free local bus travel throughout England, a payment towards fuel costs at Christmas, and free TV licences when we turn 75.

That last benefit was introduced in such a cack-handed manner by Gordon Brown resulting in millions of households where there are younger people still getting the exemption. This is all are provided irrespective of the financial position of the recipients.

Does Dave think that bribing pensioners will stop then considering voting UKIP or not voting at all?

Everything goes back to the final TV debate of the 2010 general election. By all reports there was a level of panic at the time in the blue camp as it was becoming increasingly apparent that they were going to miss out on a majority. Then Dave was asked about pensioners perks which had been the subject of mischief-making by Labour.

    Dave’s response with the cameras on him was: “We will keep the free television licence, we will keep the pension credit, the winter fuel allowance and the free bus pass. Those letters you’ve been getting from Labour are pure and simple lies…”

Since then the challenges facing the coalition on the economy have got worse and worse and now the thinking is that next round of cuts should be targeted on the young.

I think Dave has got this badly wrong. It looks so cynical.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Why the SNP is playing down the consequences of YES

Monday, June 25th, 2012

How changing the question added 16 points to NO’s lead

There’s new polling out from TNS-BMRB into the form of wording for the Scottish Independence referendum due to take place in October 2014. The firm effectively carried out four separate polls of Scottish voters putting different wording to each.

The SNP’s proposed question received the highest level of agreement with independence:

Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

Yes 40% No 60%

Exchanging the word ‘agree’ for ‘think’ had no impact on response:

Do you think that Scotland should be an independent country?

Yes 40% No 60%

The proportion supporting independence fell by eight percentage points when both options were presented in the question:

Do you think that Scotland should be an independent country or do you think that it should remain part of the United Kingdom?

Scotland should be an independent country 32%: Scotland should remain part of the UK 68%

The order in which the two options appeared within the expanded question had negligible impact upon response:

Do you think that Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom or do you think that it should be an independent country?

Scotland should be an independent country 34%: Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom 66%

This polling comes out on the day the NO campaign is being launched. Its head, Alistair Darling, picks up the fear factor with a warning that there is “no way back” if the country votes YES.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB