Archive for December, 2015


Star War images: Jedi Jezza and Stormtrooper Osbo

Thursday, December 31st, 2015


The Donald Brind column – from a Labour perspective

An old joke was given fresh legs just before Christmas when George Osborne set out to sprinkle some stardust on his image with an appearance at the premiere of Star Wars.

Q. Why did 4,000 people boo George Osborne? A. Because that’s how many the cinema holds.

In the original version it was the 80,000 capacity of the Olympic stadium that limited the opprobrium heaped on the Chancellor during the 2012 Paralympic games. From Osborne’s point of view this counts as progress – not everyone, it seems, booed him this time round.

But the joke won’t go away. Osborne’s image as a Star Wars villain is well established on the Left.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn, who has been likened to a Star Wars Jedi by one of his Shadow cabinet, was doing a bit of image building in a share-my-passion encounter with Olympic hero Bradley Wiggins who was guest editing the Today Programme.  I share this passion – one of my regular bike rides takes me through Bushy Park along the route that Sir Bradley rode in 2012 on his way to gold in the Olympic time trial.

Olympian hero chatting to cycling Labour leader sounded like a great listen. In the event, it was a bit underwhelming. Unlike sport, politics ‘wasn’t about winning’ said Corbyn. In sport “the reality is you are in it to win. Politics is different. I am not that competitive a person in that sense. I am much more a community co-operative kind of person.”

He didn’t expect to be Labour leader but was doing his best. Could he become Prime Minister? asked Wiggins Mr Corbyn said: “Yes we could. The opportunity is then to actually seriously unlock the potential in young people particularly. To do something about balancing our society, improve housing. Be a force for human rights.”
I found it terribly flat and uninspiring. I want a Labour leader with passion and desperation to be in power.

So maybe I should be happy at the thought that Corbyn will assert his authority and show his steel with a “revenge reshuffle” of his front bench team. It would certainly be at odds with his nice guy image, according to one of the potential casualties Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher.

In the New Statesman Dugher likens his leader to a Star Wars Jedi. He says “the idea that Jeremy Corbyn is a person motivated by ‘revenge’ is something that I don’t recognise for a single second”, adding: “Revenge is not very Jedi. It’s also not very new politics.”

He said reshuffle talk tended to drown out Labour attacks on the government or the positive things Labour would do differently in government.

There’s a bigger danger for Corbyn in my view. The reshuffle is aimed at bolstering his authority. It is more likely to make him look weaker – and therefore less effective as Leader of the Opposition.

Donald Brind


All the pollsters finding that current LAB voters reluctant to give Corbyn their full backing

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Corbyn has got the Ed Miliband problem

Looking back over GE2015 polls what should have raised questions about the voting intention findings was that in all the leader ratings of different forms Ed Miliband was always a long way behind Cameron. I made that mistake.

People are voting for a Prime Minister and their view of the contenders is, as I’ve argued, a much better pointer to election outcomes than their party choice where the polls have failed twice in the past six general elections.

A factor that undermined Ed Miliband’s numbers throughout the five years of his leadership was that Labour voters were not giving him support on anything like the same scale as Tory voters were for Cameron.

So as a new tracker for the next general election I’m going to do monthly examinations of the support from declared LAB voters are giving to the party leader in all the different forms of leadership question from the main pollsters that monitor this regularly.

Once we know whom the Tories choose to succeed Cameron my comparison will be with be with that person. In the meantime my chart shows Corbyn’s backing from LAB voters compared with Cameron’s support from CON ones.

As can be seen the picture is the same across the range of pollsters with their different question formats. Unless things change or the Tories elect someone who struggles with its voters LAB looks as though it has chosen another loser.

Mike Smithson


Local By-Election Review 2015 : Part One

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Running before the Storm : Before the General Election (24 local by-elections)

It was fairly obvious as soon as Big Ben chimed midnight ushering in the arrival of 2015 that everyone’s mind would instantly focus on the general election (indeed some of the parties started campaigning almost immediately the Christmas decorations came down) but local by-elections are no respecter of national campaigns and within days of those decorations coming down the local by-election circus started up again in Bolsover where Labour were seeking to defend Bolsover North West. And whilst they did, they got an awful scare from UKIP who polled 40% of the vote and came within 21 of creating the first UKIP gain of 2015 but there in settled a pattern of UKIP polling very well in heartland areas, a pattern that continued in Crowbrough West on Wealden when from a standing start they polled 41% of the vote against a solitary Conservative. But they were not the only ones making ground ahead of the election, the SNP were also making their presence felt. Kirkcaldy East (in the heart of the constituency soon to be vacated by Gordon Brown) the SNP held the seat on a 13% swing, Armadale and Blackridge on West Lothian was an SNP hold in March on a 5% swing to the SNP, Buckie in Moray SNP gain from Independent on a 17% swing to the SNP from the Independents and perhaps the biggest kick for Scottish Labour in Glenrothes West a 9% swing to the SNP from Labour in a seat they hadn’t win in a by-election just a few months earlier. Whilst this was all going on north of border, in the rest of the country it was pretty much steady as you go. Labour gained a seat from UKIP on Harlow, the Conservatives did the same on Essex, and even the Liberal Democrats got into the mix by gaining Whyteleafe on Tandridge from their coalition partners. As the general election appeared on the horizon Labour won the last local by-election before the general election holding their seat of Walney South on Cumbria on a 3.5% swing from Conservative to Labour and went into the election knowing that that same swing nationwide would enable Ed Milliband to claim that he had the mandate to govern.

% Votes Cast: Labour 33%, Conservative 22%, SNP 18%, United Kingdom Independence Party 8%, Independents 6%, Liberal Democrats 5%, Green Party 4%, Plaid Cymru 2%, Other Parties 3%
Seats Won and change on last time: Labour 9 (unchanged), Conservative 8 (+1), SNP 4 (+2), United Kingdom Independence Party 0 (-2), Independents 2 (unchanged), Liberal Democrats 1 (+1), Green Party 0 (unchanged), Plaid Cymru 0 (-1), Other Parties 0 (-1)

Mark Hall on Harlow: Labour GAIN from UKIP
Bocking on Essex: Conservative GAIN from UKIP
Buckie on Moray: Scottish National Party GAIN from Independent
Glenrothes West and Kinglassie on Fife : Scottish National Party GAIN from Labour
Llantwit Major on the Vale of Glamorgan : Conservative GAIN from Llantwit First Independents
Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath ar Eilean Siar / Benbecula and North Uist on the Western Isles: Independent GAIN from Labour
Cadnant on Gwynedd: Labour GAIN from Plaid Cymru
Whyteleafe on Tandridge: Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


How much should those with 33/1 Sadiq Khan vouchers cover themselves on a Zac victory?

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015


A betting position that’s very nice to be in

Back in March 2013 Henry G Manson gave what might prove to be one of the best ever political betting tips here when he said get on Sadiq Khan, then at 33/1, for next London Mayor.

At the time other Labour figures were seen as having better chances of being selected as candidate for the next Mayoral election. Henry G, with his great knowledge of how LAB works, thought differently and made a strong case for Khan. This was his key point from nearly three years ago.

What puts Sadiq Khan in such a great place for this contest is that Ed Miliband also made him Shadow Minister for London two months ago. This remit will enable him to meet, speak, campaign, engage with the whole London electoral college for this selection ahead of elections in 2014 and the general election a year later. The unions played a large role in these selections and would likely to lean more towards Khan more than Lammy.

That all worked out exactly as Henry envisaged and those like me who took his advice could be in for a nice payday. I’ve got £100 on Sadiq at an average of 33/1 and I can’t work out whether to ensure that I end up a substantial winner whatever the outcome by investing part of my projected Khan profits on Zac.

Looking at the polling this is relatively tight but Khan currently has the edge. This is, of course, a low turnout general election and the Tory plan will be to follow Lynton Crosby’s two successful Boris campaigns by putting a lot of focus in the outer boroughs where higher turnout levels are likely.

I don’t see either contender having the same personal following of Boris Johnson or even the 2000 version of Ken.

The big London issue, Heathrow expansion, has been neutralised with both Zac and Sadiq being against.

I know quite a few PBers took Henry’s advice in 2013 – what are they doing?

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks compares his predictions for 2015 with what actually happened

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

2015 – the past is a country of which I knew little

Every year I sit down at Christmas and try to work out what will happen in the following twelve months.  I do this not because I have any great confidence in my predictive power – as you’re about to see, that would be an illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect – but because it is useful to have a record of what I thought might be going to happen and to see where I have gone wrong in the past to see if I can learn any lessons.  This year I have much to chew on.

This time last year I made the following predictions here.

  1. The next election will produce a hung Parliament

I was really confident about this prediction this time last year and I was really wrong.  I take absolutely no comfort from the fact that almost everyone else thought the same, including the main party leaders.  Despite the fact that I have long professed to be very sceptical about opinion polls, it turns out that I placed far more uncritical reliance on them than they merited, even though I intellectually understood their flaws.

Most of my other mistakes flowed from this unconscious reliance on the polls.  I have given more thought to this mistake than any other political point this year.  But I still have no clear view as to how to avoid similar mistakes in the future. 

  1. It will be neck and neck between the SNP and the Lib Dems as to which is the third party

Well this wasn’t right either.  The SNP got 56 seats and the Lib Dems got 8.  It was in fact neck and neck between the Lib Dems and the DUP as to which was fourth.

I did at least spot the SNP were going to break through, though a year ago even I was understating it (and at the time I was an SNP bull).  What I didn’t spot was that the Lib Dems were going to be obliterated.

  1. UKIP will get a good poll rating and few seats to show for it

I got something right then.

  1. The Greens will take precisely one seat: Brighton Pavilion

 Make that two things.

  1. The debates will take place, basically in the format put forward originally by David Cameron

The debates did take place, but in a much-changed format.  I’ll give myself half marks for that.

  1. The election campaign won’t change very much, but a lot of people will try to persuade you otherwise

I’m actually quite happy with this prediction too.  The polls didn’t really alter throughout the campaign.  And both main parties came to the same conclusion in their post-election post mortems – in the words of Cowley and Kavanagh in the British General Election of 2015: “Although the reports differed on details, they largely came to the same broad conclusion: Labour lost not because of things it did in the six weeks of the election campaign or because of events in the year or so before, but because it failed on fundamentals about the economy, spending and immigration.”

Although I misunderstood what was going on, I did at least understand that the election result was in reality determined well in advance.  The election campaign produced much heat (and a surreal excursion into pledge by menhir), but not much movement.

  1. The next government will be a Labour minority government

See point 1.  Enough said.  Cough.

  1. All change at the top (mostly)

This was a better prediction than it looked. Few general elections actually lead to a heavy turnover of party leaders.  What stood out before the last election was the weakness of all of the party leaders’ control over their own parties.  The exception was Nigel Farage, who puts to the sword anyone with the temerity to question his methods.  (Those methods resulted in UKIP getting just one MP who, like the Pirates of the Caribbean, regards UKIP’s code more as guidelines than actual rules.  It remains to be seen whether Nigel Farage’s tight grip is to UKIP’s ultimate advantage.)

This election despatched two party leaders immediately and a third (Nigel Farage) resigned and then unresigned, to much mockery from outside his party.  David Cameron’s surprise victory put him beyond challenge for the rest of 2015.  His internal enemies are for now vanquished.


Making predictions is chastening.  It does, however, force you to confront your mistakes.  Last year I made a giant mistake (which in truth I had been pursuing as an idée fixe almost since the 2010 election).  I guess if I have a single lesson that I have drawn so far, it is not to get too attached to a single interpretation.  An idea can be good, well-reasoned, have backing evidence and still be wrong.  I shall be trying to keep my mind more open to alternatives in future.

Alastair Meeks


The internal squabbles in Mr. Corbyn’s Labour – part 105

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015


Zac to win mayoralty, Corbyn to survive, Trump to fail: Ipsos MORI poll on what people think will happen in 2016

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Welcome 2016 – Prediction Time

It’s that time of year when people look to the next year and start making predictions. One new development on this that I don’t recall seeing before is a national phone poll as seen in some of the charts above from Ipsos MORI.

On the political list the one that is out of line with the betting markets is who’ll replace Boris as London Mayor. The poll, as can be seen, has Zac as the strong favourite. Punters make Sadiq a strong favourite. On this we need to remember that this is a national poll one not just restricted to London. My guess is that a survey confined to just those living in the capital would have a different view.

Corbyn to survive is broadly in line with the betting as is for Donald Trump not to become US president.

Mike Smithson


Cross-over voting could be the biggest threat to Trump in New Hampshire the 1st full primary state:

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

RCP New Hampshire GOP

Voters decide which party primary to vote in and non-Republicans might try to stop Trump

One of the hardest thing for many in Britain to understand is that each state in the US operates its primaries differently. Iowa has it caucuses where the party choices are determined in 1,600 precinct meeting across the state. The organisation of these is carried out by the parties.

In New Hampshire where the first full primary takes place voters can decide at the polling station which election to take part in. They can cast their ballot in the Republican one where Trump (see above) continues to dominate or the Democratic one where Bernie Sanders has been running strong.

This is from a National Journal article raising the possibility that Democratic voters might switch to the Republicans to impede the controversial real estate billionaire.

“..Un­like many states where only mem­bers re­gistered in a party well ahead of time can vote in that primary, New Hamp­shire per­mits “un­declared” voters to re­gister in a party on the day of the elec­tion—and then switch back to un­declared as they leave the polling place.

“You’re a free agent that day,” says Uni­versity of New Hamp­shire polit­ic­al sci­ent­ist Dante Scala. “Es­sen­tially re­gister as a Re­pub­lic­an or a Demo­crat for 15 minutes.”

In addition independent and undeclared voters are able to vote in the the Republican primary.

In terms of TV audiences for the debates this White House Race is attracting more public interest than ever before at this stage. Donald Trump has become a polarising figure particularly as a result of his comments on Muslim immigration. My guess is that we’ll ssee record levels of cross over voting than in New Hampshire.

The knock on effect is fewer voters will take part in the Democratic contest and that might hurt Hillary.

The question is which of the GOP contenders stands to benefit most. If the objective is to stop Trump then it will be the Republican opponent who looks best able to win. The polls will play a big part.

Mike Smithson