Archive for September, 2012


Are we getting closer to an EU referendum?

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

If so what would be the outcome?

According to the BBC’s Nick Robinson David Cameron is set to address Tory back-bench concerns over the EU with a major speech in the next couple of month on Britain’s relationship with Brussels.

Under the heading “David Cameron considers a referendum on Europe” Robinson writes:-

    “..The pressures on the prime minister are now much greater than they were before the 2010 election – UKIP is building support and many Westminster insiders believe they could win the 2014 European Parliament elections; Tory backbenchers are restless and even pro-Europeans like Peter Mandelson are arguing that a referendum is inevitable.

    One proposal being suggested by some close to the prime minister is a promise for a referendum on, or before, a fixed date towards the end of the next Parliament – for example in 2019.

    The Foreign Secretary William Hague has described Europe as like a ticking timebomb for the Conservative Party. For years he has advised the prime minister that it is best not to try to defuse it but simply hope that it won’t go off.

    I understand, though, that David Cameron now accepts that he can no longer continue to lecture his party not to obsess about Europe and will have to lead the debate…”

As to the form of the referendum the view is that whatever the question on the ballot it would “morph into a yes/no verdict on EU membership”

Will it happen? I’m beginning to think so. Certainly that was the view of those I spoke to in Brighton this week.

The pressures are building up and UKIP’s rise in the polls is making many Tory MPs very nervous.

As far as I can see there are no current betting markets though I’m sure some will be put up.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Ashdown’s appointment makes it more certain that Clegg will survive

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Dave is now the most vulnerable party leader?

Probably the most significant aspect of Clegg’s conference speech was the appointment of ex-leader, Paddy Ashdown as head of the party’s 2015 general election campaign.

This has been discussed in terms of his ability to reach Labour tactical voters who are central to the party holding onto those seats where the Tories are in second place. He’s also good at motivating activists.

Ashdown, as we saw with his relations with Blair, was always more inclined to Labour than Clegg. Indeed, during those heady days after the inconclusive general election result in May 2010 Ashdown was doing his best to keep the option of a Labour deal on the the table.

    But what’s really significant about having Ashdown on side is the way it buttresses Clegg’s own position as leader.

    Grandees have always been hugely influential within the party and it’s hard to envisage a successful attempt to oust Clegg or persuade him to step down without Ashdown being on board.

The former leader and ex-SBS officer is now totally wedded to Team Clegg and will be so until May 2015 and beyond. While he’s there Clegg is much more secure.

There are several betting markets on which leader will go first. While Boris is on maneuvers Dave takes over the most vulnerable slot. The William Hill 4/1 that Clegg will last longer than Dave looks like good value.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


And as we look forward to the Conservative conference….

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

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    Tory inactivity on the ground is helping the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

    Why’ve the blues taken their foot off the gas?

    Whenever anybody has talked about leadership challenges at the Brighton LD conference this week the message that you hear is that this would only happen once incumbent MPs start to panic.

    Given that in the lion’s share of seats that the yellows will be defending the Tories are the main challengers you’d have expected that the blues would be working hard on the ground.

    That doesn’t seem to be happening according to the Tweet above from James Forsyth, political editor of the Spectator in which he suggests that the blue team is not being very active in the LD held seats where they need to do well at the general election.

      I’ve made my own inquiries in three or four of the constituencies and got a similar message to James.

      Maybe it is all “below the radar” with phone contact but there is not the level of literature going out or much face to face contact with voters.

    A big reason has been the prolonged boundary change process which is not going to happen. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Tory chairman, Grant Shapps, faced up to reality and ordered that the process of candidate selection should begin on the basis of the 2010 boundaries.

    It’s much harder to campaign between general elections when you don’t know who your candidate will be and you are facing a well-known LD incumbent.

    We are now moving into the second half of this parliament and you would expect to be seeing a ratcheting up of campaigning in the 30-40 Lib Dem seats where the Tories are in second place.

    Whatever Lib Dem incumbents who face Tory challengers are not as jumpy about hanging on as the opinion polls might suggest and that I believe is helping Nick Clegg’s position.

    Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


    Dick Morris says Romney by 4 points

    Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

    Should we listen to the ex-Clinton man who advised UKIP?

    Since the party conventions the polling and the betting in the White House race has all been one way – to Barack Obama.

    The narrative is firm – the president is going to be re-elected and Mitt Romney’s gaffe-prone campaign will fail.

    There are few voices expressing any other point of view but I thought that this Fox News interview with Dick Morris was worth looking at. He makes the counter case very forcefully and his point that this is all about turnout is strong.

    If you believe him and he’s correct there’s money to be made and of course the PB William Hill White House race prediction competition which closes at 1000 BST. Very few entrants have plumped for Romney.

    Hat-tip for the Morris interview to PoliticalWire.

  • In 2004/5 Dick Morris had a key role in the emergence of UKIP – see here
  • Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


    Happy 2nd anniversary Mr. Miliband

    Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

    Two years on and he’s the most secure of the three

    September 25th 2010 is a date I remember fondly. I’d made a big call a couple of days earlier that Ed was going to beat his brother Dave in the leadership contest and so it happened – albeit by the tightest of margins.

    I had EdM bets ranging downwards from 33/1 and my winnings on that day were enough to buy a brand new car.

    For much of the period that followed there was continued speculation about how long he’d stay there. Well he’s got to the two year point and he’s now the most secure of the three main party leaders. His Labour conference next week won’t be like the LDs this week and the Tory conference in a fortnight – leadership speculation is not driving the narrative.

    The big pollsters are not including alternatives to Ed in their named leader questions. There is no equivalent to Boris and Vince hovering in the background.

      In terms of the numbers Ed has seen the Labour lead grow and grow in recent months culminating in the latest ICM poll which, for the first time in nine years has a Labour lead in double figures.

    Yet somehow he hasn’t quite captured the hearts of Labour voters in the way that David Cameron continues to do with the Tories. Ed, of course, is miles ahead of Nick Clegg who sees yet another set of very poor numbers in the ComRes online survey for ITV news.

    If the polling and betting is to be believed then Ed looks set to be PM in May 2015. That’s when his troubles will really start.

    Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


    The Michael Ashcroft polling that should cheer the Lib Dems up

    Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

    ConHome Sept 26 2011

    Although it’s a year old the findings are still valid

    This post has been put up following a promise I made at the Times/Populus Lib Dem conference fringe meeting yesterday. It relates to Michael Ashcroft polling from September 2011 which was carried out in Tory seats that were vulnerable to Labour and the Lib Dems.

    There’s has been nothing like it before or since and I’d contend that the general thrust is still valid. The Lib Dems were doing okay in the key CON-LD battle-grounds where they’s hope to pick up gains in 2015. The major polling change in the past year has been a decline in the Tory vote and the rise of Labour. The LDs are broadly in the same territory.

    As can be seen on voting intention two questions were asked – a standard national one and a second which sought to get respondees’ views on what they would do in their own constituencies. It’s the change there that was striking.

      Thus while the national figure was 12% it was 18% in these key marginals – a figure that rose to 31% when the constituency point was pressed. More than half the increase comes from Labour voters who, seemingly, were ready to switch to stop the Tories.

    The third table points to a possible explanation. Even that far out from the general election Lib Dem activists appeared to be working harder in the seats that matter to them.

    At the general election I don’t expect that the yellows will make a serious effort in many more than 75 seats. In the rest there will be a token presence with no resource support.

    Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


    Two in three say Osborne’s regional pay plan should be scrapped

    Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

    Just one in 5 back the chancellor

    A new Survation survey commissioned by the TUC suggests that Osborne’s message on regional pay in the public sector is not getting across.

    The survey’s publication has been timed to coincide with the Lib Dem conference where the issue of reducing the public sector wage bill by moving away from national pay rates will be discussed.

    61% told Survation that the plan was unfair with more than 70% of Lib Dem voters taking this view.

    A problem for the Tories is that the proposals could fall hardest in the Midlands and the North where many of the marginals won in 2010 are located.

    As was noted time and time again here during the election marginal seats in England are more common in small and medium sized towns where impact of the public sector pay plan is likely to be largest.

    Mike Smithson