Archive for June, 2016


After the most dramatic post-war week in British politics the first electoral tests: Tonight’s local by-elections

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

St. Michael’s (Con defence) on Bexley
Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 45, Labour 15, United Kingdom Independence Party 3 (Conservative majority of 27)
Result of ward at last election (2014) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,352, 1,314, 1,140 (35%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,280 (33%)
Labour 857, 769, 720 (22%)
British National Party 407 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Keith Forster (UKIP), Michael Jones (BNP), Sam Marchant (Lab), Derek Moran (Green), Simone Reynolds (Lib Dem), Ray Sams (Con)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 47,603 (37%) LEAVE 80,886 (63%) on a turnout of 75%

High Town (Lab defence) on Luton
Result of council at last election (2016): Labour 35, Liberal Democrats 8, Conservatives 5 (Labour overall majority of 22)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,442, 1,039 (53%)
Conservatives 791, 748 (29%)
Green Party 479, 329 (18%)
Candidates duly nominated: Lyn Bliss (Green), John French (Ind), Grace Froggart (UKIP), Sue Garrett (Con), Clive Mead (Lib Dem), Maahwish Mirza (Lab)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 36,708 (43%) LEAVE 47,773 (57%) on a turnout of 66%

Leatherhead North (Con defence) on Mole Valley
Result of council at last election (2016): Conservatives 23, Liberal Democrats 12, Independents 6 (Conservative majority of 5)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Conservative 1,064 (34%), Liberal Democrat 915 (29%), United Kingdom Independence Party 571 (18%), Labour 455 (15%), Green Party 122 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Simon Chambers (UKIP), Joe Crome (Lib Dem), Vicki Elcoate (Green), Marc Green (Lab), Tracey Keeley (Con)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 29,088 (53%) LEAVE 25,708 (47%) on a turnout of 82%

Rhoose (Ind defence) on Vale of Glamorgan
Result of council last election (2012): Labour 22, Conservatives 11, Plaid Cymru 6, Independents 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 810, 727 (49%)
Independent 882 (28%)
Labour 713 (23%)
Candidates duly nominated: Rachael Banner (Ind), James Fyfe (Pirate), Gordon Kemp (Con), Graham Loveluck-Edwards (Lab), Robin Lynn (Lib Dem), Ian Perry (Plaid) Adam Riley (Ind)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 36,681 (51%) LEAVE 35,628 (49%) on a turnout of 76%

Newington (UKIP defence) on Thanet to be held on July 1st 2016
Result of council at last election (2015): United Kingdom Independence Party 33, Conservatives 18, Labour 4, Independent 1 (UKIP majority of 10)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
United Kingdom Independence Party 884, 845(44%)
Labour 728, 713 (36%)
Conservatives 390, 363 (20%)
Candidates duly nominated: Matthew Brown (Lib Dem), Adam Dark (Con), David Green (Lab), Roy Potts (UKIP),
Referendum Result: REMAIN 26,065 (36%) LEAVE 46,037 (64%) on a turnout of 73%

Anyone who tells you that they know how these by-elections will go is telling you a bare faced lie. This time last week REMAIN were rated as a 75% chance on the betting markets, Cameron was going to stand down as PM after the local elections of 2017, Corbyn would be Labour leader until at least 2019 and the cable rate (£ vs $) was approaching a recent high. Therefore I am not even going to attempt to second guess how these by-elections will go (nor indeed will I make any future attempts to as well). For instance, will REMAIN areas revolt and elect parties that supported LEAVE? Will LEAVE areas punish those who called for a REMAIN vote? Will rock solid Conservative areas fall to the Liberal Democrats? Will UKIP gain seats from Labour as if there was no tomorrow? Will the SNP dominate Scotland to such an extent that everyone else gives up? Who knows? The main thing is that I don’t (and if anyone tells you otherwise, in the words of Public Enemy “Don’t believe the hype!”)

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


On an explosive day the latest CON leader betting and charts

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Prices updated every few minutes


The PB/Polling Matters podcast: Reflecting on the longest week in politics that just about anybody can remember

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Big Ben

On this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi try and make sense of what has happened in the past week – as news of Theresa May’s poll lead over Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s decision to stand for Tory leader breaks all around them. They discuss why Britain decided to leave the EU, the polling, who will be the next Prime Minister and what now for the Labour Party.

You can follow Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley and Leo at @leobarasi


Just months before the US looks set to elect a female President both main UK party leaders could be women

Thursday, June 30th, 2016


The dramatic feminisation of the political world

Today, just a week after the referendum, there’s expected to be big developments over the Conservative and Labour leaderships.

Nominations for the successor to Cameron close and reports suggest that Angela Eagle will announce that she’s seeking the 51 required nominations to contest the Labour leadership.

The latest YouGov poll of Conservative members, the group that will ultimately decide the party leadership and next PM, has unexpectedly found that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has a substantial lead over the ex-mayor, Mr Johnson. In a head to head match the pollster found that Theresa is 17% ahead of Boris. The widespread assumption before was that his biggest leadership challenge was going to be getting onto the ballot not whether he would win with the membership.

With Labour’s leadership crisis continuing and the hapless Corbyn clinging on in spite of being rejected by his parliamentary colleagues the next move looks set to be Angela Eagle making a formal challenge. If that happens and she wins then we could have both Conservative and Labour leadership elections taking place at about the same time with new leaders in place in September.

All this occurs, of course, in the run up to November’s White House race with US polls pointing to widening leads for Hillary Clinton over the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump.

An enormous amount, of course, could happen as all these contests unfold but there must be a reasonable chance that these three posts could all be held by women.

I wonder whether there might be a spin-off effect. Could the prospect of a woman CON leader and PM make it easier for Labour to choose a woman for the first time?

Whatever we’ve got another interesting political day ahead of us.

A big thank you to those who've contributed to the financial appeals for PB. This is helping us to maintain the viability of the site and enable us to cope with the huge spike in demand on the technical infrastructure that we've been seeing.

Mike Smithson


Huge YouGov boost for Theresa May on the night before nominations close

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

The first poll of members has big CON member backing for the Home Secretary

Let us lust remind ourselves how the CON leadership election works. There will be a series of secret ballot of MPs until they get down to a final two – then the choice will be made by party members in a postal ballot.

So of all the polls the ones we should pay most attention are those tonight from YouGov which has very good news for May and disappointing news for the long term front-runner, Mr. Johnson.

Of course it might be that these will not be the final two and in the past the Tory election process has thrown up surprises. In 2001 the big favourite, Michael Portillo, did not make the final cut and the Tories ended up with IDS who was ousted two years later.

I think that Johnson suffers from not having been a cabinet minister and in this election the party is choosing the next PM.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks on the political and economic crises of breathtaking proportions

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016


Where do we go now?

One of the most haunting Arthurian legends concerns Sir Balin.  Merlin had long prophesied that he would “strike a stroke most dolorous that ever man struck”.  Shrugging off this particular instance of Project Fear from an expert, Sir Balin entered into a feud with the family of King Pellam.  Being pursued by the king through his castle, Sir Balin seized “a marvellous spear strangely wrought” and dealt a fierce blow to the king.  The spear turned out to be the spear of destiny that struck Jesus and the blow caused immeasurably wider devastation than Sir Balin could have conceived.  Sir Thomas Malory recorded that: “all that were alive cried, O Balin, thou hast caused great damage in these countries; for the dolorous stroke thou gavest unto King Pellam three countries are destroyed, and doubt not but the vengeance will fall on thee at the last.”

You can probably see where I am going with this.  Since the referendum, we have had concurrent constitutional, political and economic crises of breathtaking proportions.  The position of Scotland and Northern Ireland in the union is now in serious question.  The future direction of the EU has been thrown into complete confusion.  The government is functioning on emergency life support only while the opposition is no longer functioning at all.  In the meantime, Britain’s Standard & Poors credit rating has dropped two notches, the pound has suffered its biggest fall in one day against the dollar ever, markets around the world have crashed and recession is beckoning with a dark cloak, a skeletal finger and a voice that speaks in block capitals.

It is of course far too early to conclude that Brexit is a disaster.  Even the chirpiest Brexiteer, however, would have to concede that the barometer is currently firmly pointing to stormy.  With all of the prominent Leave campaigners queuing up to rat on the Leave campaign promises, it is becoming increasingly unclear what the benefits of Leaving are now supposed to be.  It has reached the point where Leave supporters are angrily blaming the government for not telling them.

What next?  It is important to differentiate between what needs to be done now and what can wait.  This week’s chief task is to stabilise the markets, so far as possible.  George Osborne and Mark Carney have done this to the best of their ability.

And then it is time for great minds to discuss ideas.  The Conservatives are to hold a leadership contest and it is apparent that it will be contested.  The various candidates should be setting out their vision for how to implement the referendum result   The winner is likely to be setting policy that will set the course of the nation for two generations, so this had better be well thought-through.  A newspaper column dashed off carelessly isn’t going to cut it.  For the sake of the nation, the Conservatives need to have a searching examination of the options between the different candidates.  This matters as leadership contests very rarely really matter.

The Lib Dems have already set out their position: to rejoin the EU. UKIP’s position is easy to guess – to prioritise restricting freedom of movement above all else.

But what of Labour?  What indeed.  Right now, their small minds are discussing people.  All discussion is focussed on whether Jeremy Corbyn should remain as leader.  But that is only the immediate problem.  It is likely that there will be a general election later this year in which the main policy topic will be how to negotiate with the EU.  The Lib Dems have a position.  UKIP has a position.  The Conservatives will painstakingly have established a position.  But as of today it is hard to contemplate even the mechanism by which Labour can form a policy position.  The party has effectively ceased to function.

A general election is pending.  Labour is running out of time to form a policy position.  As they argue among themselves about how the party is to be led, their leading figures risk complete irrelevance in the debate that is going to dominate British politics for the foreseeable future.  If Labour is irrelevant in the debate, the likely electoral consequence is obvious.  The most lethal stroke from the referendum result might be to the continued existence of the Labour party itself.

Alastair Meeks


Team Corbyn shouldn’t assume that he’ll get “three quidders” vote like last time

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

Things have moved on since last September

I’m hearing that plans are afoot by those who want Corbyn out to replicate his very successful campaign a year ago to win the “three quid” vote. These were those who were able to take part in the leadership election by registering as party supporters by paying £3.

Then there was a huge effort by Corbyn backers to get people to sign up and this played a big part in the size of his victory. A year on opponents are planning something similar which could make the election more challenging.

The party’s leadership election rules haven’t changed since last and there will still be provision for people to register and be part of the election. What might change is that the fee could be increased – maybe to £5 or £10.

So far I’ve been unable to establish is whether those who were on the list for the 2015 election will be able to vote in the coming one. One reading, I’m told, is that was a one off list and those three quidders who did not go on to join the party will not automatically be able to do so in the next election.

Overall a new leadership election is going do be nothing like as easy for Corbyn as it was last time. If his opponents do manage to get organised, and they seem highly motivated, then he could have a fight on his hands.

Mike Smithson


An SDP Mark 2 is now a real possibility within 4 months

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016


It’s war within Labour and one side must lose

To have publicly lost the confidence of three-quarters of your MPs would normally be regarded as a resigning matter. In 1995, John Major set himself the private target in his party’s leadership election of 65% of his MPs, aware that without a substantial lead his authority would be terminally damaged. Indeed, the Tory leadership election rules at the time required a 15% lead in the first round in order to ensure that no other candidate with substantial support was passed over without at least a second thought.

Such practical considerations are clearly not of concern to Jeremy Corbyn. In defiance of all the usual principles of parliamentary party democracy, his argument is that MPs should respect the independent mandate their party handed him; that MPs cannot override or veto the decision of the Labour electorate at large.

That’s all very well but the Labour whip is now practically meaningless. A whip only works through a circular flow of power whereby everyone gains from the discipline it brings. But when discipline breaks down to the extent that the leadership cannot fill its own front bench because so many MPs refuse to serve on it, how can the Labour Party have a policy on anything in anything other than a theoretical sense?

In fact, there is a danger that it goes one stage further, and that the rebels – which comprises the great majority of the PLP – organise their own whip. If that happened, it could easily become the embryo for a whole new party.

But that is to get slightly ahead of ourselves. Before then, there is almost certain to be a Labour leadership election. Angela Eagle is widely reported as being willing to be the one to raise the standard against Corbyn. The three immediately important questions are, firstly, is that report right, secondly, if she does stand, will it drag a second challenger out, and thirdly, can she – or someone else – defeat Corbyn?

I’m not sure that Eagle is an ideal candidate. She voted for military action in Syria last year, for example, which is surely running against the grain of Labour opinion. If members are willing to accept someone with such views, they’d be much better off going for Hilary Benn who has shown much more talent for leadership. She only finished fourth in last year’s deputy leadership contest; a better candidate would be the one who won it. However, if they’re not prepared to wield the knife then the next leader will have to be someone who is.

If, that is, they win. The experience of his leadership over the past nine months means that Corbyn can never again be the candidate he was last summer. All the same, he retains the support of the big unions and Labour’s membership base has shifted left since last year’s election. He would have to be in with a fighting chance of winning again.

At this point, there is the question of whether he’d be on the ballot. Having been mad to put him on last time, Labour MPs would be mad to keep him off now, if it’s decided that he even needs nominating (the rules are unclear but I’d take the view that he’d automatically be on). The Labour mainstream can only win back control of their party if they are seen to do it democratically, and that means defeating the left head-on in a proper contest.

If they fail, they will have run out of options. At that point, having deployed the nuclear option and missed, the left would surely feel entitled to retaliate. Even if they didn’t, they couldn’t go back to the status quo ante. The letters written this week cannot be unpublished, the resignations undone and the vote of no confidence unheld. We are now at a point where either the leadership must go or the MPs must. Put simply, if Corbyn is still in place come October, SDP2 is almost inevitable.

Almost but not quite. The one thing that could prevent it is an early election. If a new Conservative leader chose to go to the country for a mandate for his or her Brexit plan (officially – unofficially it would be to capitalise on Labour’s travails), the Labour Party would have no option but to muddle on. There would be time neither for deselections nor the setting up of a new party and it’d be a new world after polling day. This assumes that a Tory PM could finesse an early election through the mechanisms within the FTPA but it’s not an unreasonable assumption.

But absent that scenario, a split by Christmas is inevitable if the Eagle fails to land her prey. I very much doubt it’d be an option that many within Labour would look on with relish: too many will remember the fate of both SDP1 and Labour during the 1980s. But what option would there be?

David Herdson