Archive for July, 2016


A hundred days to go until the 2016 White House election on November 8th

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Electoral College 2016 Forecast

James Burt (The White Rabbit) looks at where we are

There are now less than one hundred days to go before America goes to the polls in the 2016 Presidential race.

If a week is a long time in politics, then three months is enough for some pretty big shifts in popular opinion. However the party conventions have given an indication of what Clinton and Trump will be trying to do in to do in that time.

The most sustained campaign by either side has been Trump’s determination to target a generation of white, working class Americans who see themselves as the “losers” in the game of globalisation. This group feels out of touch with politicians on Capitol Hill, and a progressive, metropolitan elite. By tying together Clinton with the establishment and pro-free trade big business, Trump hopes to provide a contrast to his self-made, straight talking, politically incorrect outsider status.

With that in mind, it is possible to get some sort of picture of the White House race as it will develop in the next hundred days. I have assume that the race will be fairly close, as it looks like at the moment, so that individual states will take the contest. Of course if one side develops a significant national lead, then the individual state picture will be rendered moot.

The six states in green represent likely battleground or marginal states, largely responsive to the national polling picture. Donald Trump would need to win all of them to gain to seal his route to the White House. However the three states in purple reflect an alternative, based on Trump’s unique pitch to the white working class. They are the states which, in my view, are most likely to be swung not by the candidates’ national campaigns, but by Trump’s success in peeling off a section of the Democratic vote that saw all three states go blue under Obama. Success in these three states can offset losses elsewhere, most importantly including the green states.

Clinton won’t make Trump’s task any easier, of course. On paper, Clinton is four or five points ahead in these states and is already set to defend that lead. Tim Kaine, whom she selected as her running mate, is a former governor and current Senator for Virginia, and Clinton has begun her post-Convention campaigning in Pennsylvania. Michigan hasn’t voted for a Republican President since 1988. It will be a formidable challenge for Trump to see success in any of them, but it is clearly one he wants to take on.

Opportunities to bet are currently too sparse to allow any value I could identify, but this should change as the election nears.

James Burt (TheWhiteRabbit)


According to Michael Crick Steven Woolfe has failed to get on the UKIP ballot

Sunday, July 31st, 2016


This’ll will turn the betting on its head

On seeing Crick’s Tweet I managed to lay as much was was available on Betfair. If this is indeed the case I’m £666 up on the afternoon.

When the Crick Tweet came out Woolfe was a 72% chance on Betfair.

Big question now is who will get the job.

Mike Smithson


Odds-on UKIP leadership favourite, Steven Woolfe, should know today whether or not he’ll be allowed on the ballot

Sunday, July 31st, 2016


The Moss Side born barrister looks well placed build on UKIP’s strengths in LAB’s Northern heartlands

Steven Woolfe MEP is the red hot odds on favourite to become UKIP leader in succession to Nigel Farage who stood down after the referendum. He’s said to have the backing of Arron Banks.

He’s articulate, telegenic and an effective communicator on TV. Unlike Farage who is very much of the South East, Woolfe is from the north West where the party has had some good results in the past. He was elected to the European Parliament in May 2014. He’s in his 40s, ambitious and on the face of it looks the ideal person to take the party forward in the post-Farage period.

The only problem at the moment is a little local difficulty over his eligibility. According to the Indy the party’s top brass is meeting today to resolve the question of whether he is actually a party member or not. The report goes on:

“..Under party rules, any candidate in the contest to succeed Nigel Farage must have been a party member for at least two years. Mr Woolfe was a Ukip MEP and party spokesman on immigration during all that period, but documents – also leaked – show that he allowed his individual party membership to lapse in December 2014, and renewed it only in March. A panel that is due to meet on Sunday, when nominations close, will have to decide whether that disqualifies him..”

UKIP has a record of being fairly strict on matters like this and it might be tricky to make a exception for him.

Hopefully we should get some news by the end of the day.

Judging by the betting (he’s a 63% chance on Betfair) punters think he will be on the ballot and will win the leadership.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Parliamentary pain is not just bad for Labour, but for the country as a whole

Saturday, July 30th, 2016



Joff Wild on the divides in the main opposition party

Today’s Daily Telegraph ran an intriguing piece about plans being hatched by some Labour MPs if, as expected, Jeremy Corbyn wins the party’s leadership election in September. According to the newspaper’s political correspondent Ben Riley-Smith, rebels are exploring the possibility of setting up a semi-independent party in the Commons that would have its own leader and front bench, and would aim to replace Corbyn’s Labour as the official opposition. There may even be a legal challenge about ownership of the Labour name.

Time will tell if the story has any legs – I have my doubts – but it does speak to a real and profoundly important issue: what happens when the party that holds the second most seats in the Commons – and will almost certainly continue to do so even after catastrophic general election defeat – has no real interest in providing an alternative to the government or in seriously opposing it inside Parliament? For that is the situation we face should Jeremy Corbyn be elected Labour leader once more.

Both Corbyn and John McDonnell have explicitly rejected Parliament as a means through which to secure significant change. In an interview with Vice in April last year, McDonnell – sitting next to Corbyn – stated: “You can’t change the world through the parliamentary system.” He continued: “Getting political representation is important, but change comes through using direct action, campaigning, and trade unions.” Corbyn agreed: “Get involved in campaigns, in a union, with the peace movement, get involved with Occupy & UK Uncut”; before adding as an afterthought: “and also be in a political party.”

For Corbyn and McDonnell, and other members of the hard left, what really makes a difference is demonstration and agitation. Thousands on the street or packed into halls, hundreds of Tweets and reTweets, hundreds of thousands of Facebook likes and myriad groups are a far more potent weapon than a parliamentary majority and the compromises that inevitably come with securing one. Yes, seriously – Martin Robbins in this week’s New Statesman sums it up perfectly.

Their attitude is probably best illustrated by the interactions they have had with a number of shadow ministers – or lack of them. You only have to read accounts from the likes of Lilian Greenwood, Angela Eagle, Sharon Hodgson and Thangam Debbonaire, as well as Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, to see how seriously Corbyn and McDonnell take Parliament. They just don’t think it matters. (What is it about the hard left and women, by the way?)

Away from Parliament, Corbyn-supporting Momentum has rejected winning elections (except within the Labour party). In a Tweet sent out on 10th July, the organisation’s millionaire founder Jon Lansmann memorably stated: “Democracy gives power to people, “Winning” is the small bit that matters to political elites that want to keep power themselves”. Lansman, of course – like fellow Momentum leader, the ex-Liberal Democrat public schoolboy, James Schneider; Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s Winchester-educated director of strategy and communications; and Corbyn himself – has never needed a Labour government or had to worry about the possible consequences of a Tory one.

The same can be said of many Labour members, 75% of whom are ABC1s (full disclosure: that includes me). As Nick Cohen observed in a powerful piece for the Spectator last year, Corbyn’s middle class Labour supporters actually do pretty well under Tory governments and are not directly affected by policies that may have a negative impact on the poorest and the most vulnerable. Most Labour members and the party’s leaders do not need to worry personally about bedroom taxes, cuts to public services, reduced benefits and increased NHS waiting times. Instead, they can afford to put ideological purity before the dirty work of pursuing power.

Then there are the unions. A bulwark against Militant entryism in the 1980s, all too often these days their most vocal members – the small minority that are involved in union activity and vote in union leadership elections – are on the hard left. As we have seen, the likes of Unite leader Len McCluske cannot afford to upset them if he wants to remain in charge. So despite Corbyn taking anti-union positions on issues such as pharmaceutical R&D, Trident and, just this week, the future of Hinkley Point, McCluskey has no choice but to put the weight of Unite behind the Labour leader. If he were to do otherwise, he would very quickly be out of a job.

Thus, the Parliamentary Labour party is faced with a leadership that does not regard Parliament as a route to real power, an all-pervasive activist organisation that explicitly rejects “winning”, a membership that has no reason to believe in the importance of compromising treasured political principles to gain victory and the leader of the country’s most powerful union having to placate a small, hard-left part of his membership to remain in a job. None of them have a Labour government as a priority. No wonder some Labour MPs may be looking for new ways to hold the government to account.

But this is not only an issue for Labour MPs and the minority of Labour members that seem to share their views about the primacy of Parliament. It is also a problem for the country as a whole. For without a serious Parliamentary opposition, who is there to hold the government to account?

In the absence of a functioning shadow front bench led by someone whose overwhelming desire and priority is to replace the Prime Minister, the government essentially has free rein to do as it wishes. And that lack of scrutiny has the very real potential to lead to sloppy decision making, bad policy and harmful outcomes for the country as a whole. If governments do not believe they can lose elections, they get careless and make mistakes. Can we really be confident that we will get the best Brexit possible, for example, if the only people Theresa May need worry about as she negotiates the deal are right-wing Tory malcontents and Nick Clegg?

A Corbyn victory over Owen Smith will not resolve the impasse between the PLP and the leadership, nor is it likely to change the way that Corbyn views Parliament or does business there. That’s not just disastrous for the Labour party, it’s bad for our entire system of government. At some stage soon, the Speaker will surely be compelled to have quiet words behind the scenes about the effect Labour’s turmoil is having on the functioning of Parliament. Corbyn and McDonnell are likely to ignore these, just as they have ignored the PLP. What happens then is anyone’s guess; but, for the good of the country, something is going to have to give.

Joff Wild (Southam Observer)


Time to put UK primaries to bed

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Big Ben

Elitism has a rightful place in politics

A colleague told me this week that she felt let down that she couldn’t vote in the Conservative leadership contest. Never mind that her politics are somewhere between Jeremy Corbyn and Natalie Bennett, or that I – like the rest of the voluntary section of the Conservative Party – didn’t get a vote in the leadership contest, she’s of the opinion that everyone should be entitled to have a say in the internal democracy of political parties. She is of course wrong, though it’s interesting that the notion has built up that the right not only should exist but does do so.

Allowing anyone to participate in something which they’re likely to want to sabotage is obviously foolhardy and even Labour, in opening its leadership contest to self-defined ‘supporters’, does at least reserve the right to deny the vote to those it believes don’t support its objectives.

That’s not the only reason why it’s a mistake to spread the franchise too far though. Democracy can be a very imperfect system when the electorate is large but the voting pool is small – that is, when the turnout is very low. Jeremy Corbyn’s election and likely re-election is the clearest example of how a well-motivated minority can overwhelm an ambivalent majority but hardly the only one.

From the union leaders dancing to their left-wing executives’ tunes, to Trump winning his nomination despite – like Corbyn – very poor overall approval ratings, to Sanders running Hillary close, an excess of democracy has frequently undermined its own purpose.

Hardly surprising then that faced with the unknowns of a membership vote, the Conservative MPs managed to keep the process in-house for a second time in the last three leadership elections. We don’t know of course how much internal pressure, if any, was put on Leadsom to withdraw before she reached her decision to stand back but the simple fact that she did act in that way is telling.

What was also telling was the almost complete acceptance of that decision by the Conservative Party. Perhaps the lack of an embedded tradition of membership leadership votes helped there: it’s doubtful that the Labour membership of 2015, never mind that which they have now, would have been quite so sanguine about an outcome decided solely by MPs.

And yet the contrast is clear. The Conservatives replaced their leader with little fuss and selected an obviously capable individual to the role, while Labour is engaging in a contest where none of the most qualified candidates are even standing.

So, whither democracy? Should we just leave things to an elite? No. It’s not as simple as that either.

Firstly, that elite has to be a meritocracy. It may well be fine to leave things up to MPs providing that the MPs themselves are accountable, though this may be where things become difficult because if they’re too accountable to a party base which is unrepresentative of the party’s support then the system still breaks down – and given the lack of interest shown by the general public in joining political parties, their membership may always be unrepresentative of their voting base. On the other hand, without a meaningful system of entry to and removal from that elite, it ceases to operate in the wider interest. Ultimately, it’s a balance that can only hold with a sizable degree of self-restraint on both sides.

Also, that elite has to be representative: one problem with any party leaving matters to its MPs is that large parts of the country won’t be represented in the decision making process, and those will be parts which share social and/or geographic similarities.

Finally, but crucially, we should remember that the system does work if enough people become engaged. Vocal minorities can be rejected (or supported, as the case may be) by the majority when that majority’s mobilised – but that only happens when they see good reason to be involved.

Which brings us to primaries. Trump was elected through primaries and though he won more primary votes than any previous Republican, he’ll need more than four times as many in November. Likewise, Corbyn may well win 300,000 votes in the leadership contest but that’s still less than one in thirty of what Labour will need come the general election. The views of the other 29 are just as important.

The Conservatives also trialled primaries in several constituency selections prior to the 2015 election, as well as on a few earlier occasions. I suspect we might hear little more of the idea. Apart from being expensive and of unproven utility for the local campaign, they come with the quite real risk of the poll being subverted by those who wish the party selecting ill.

The public are happy to engage at general and local elections and, within reason, at referendums. But where the whole electorate cannot be engaged then decisions are best left to a small elite who are best placed to decide. The experiment of wider internal democracy has been tried and has failed. For the good of all involved, it would be best to let it quietly expire.

David Herdson


The LDs winning streak continues in the latest round of local elections – now 7 gains in July

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Harry Hayfield’s round-up contests in principal auhorities

Newlyn and Goonhavern (Con defence) on Cornwall
Result: Liberal Democrat 247 (24%, no candidate in 2013), Conservative 234 (23% -23%), Yeo (Independent) 163 (16%), Mebyon Kernow 161 (16% -28%), Labour 77 (8% -2%), Tucker (Independent) 75 (7%), Thomas (Independent) 54 (5%)
Total Independent vote: 292 (29%, no candidates in 2012)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 13 (1%) on a notional swing of 23.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Harringay (Lab defence) on Haringey
Result: Labour 1,054 (46% +3%), Liberal Democrat 765 (33% +3%), Green Party 325 (14% -3%), Conservative 99 (4% -2%), United Kingdom Independence Party 36 (2%, no candidate in 2014)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 289 (13%) on no swing between Labour and Liberal Democrats

St Julian’s (Lib Dem defence) on Newport
Result: Liberal Democrat 948 (54% +12%), Labour 432 (24% -22%), United Kingdom Independence Party 156 (9%, no candidate in 2012), Conservative 135 (8% -5%), Plaid Cymru 71 (4%, no candidate in 2012), Green Party 25 (1%, no candidate in 2012)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 516 (30%) on a swing of 17% from Labour to Liberal Democrat

Carshalton Central (Lib Dem defence) on Sutton
Result: Liberal Democrat 1,250 (43% +5%), Conservative 1,061 (37% +12%), Green Party 211 (7% -1%), Labour 176 (6% -3%), United Kingdom Independence Party 150 (5% -11%), Christian People’s Alliance 29 (1% -1%)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 189 (6%) on a swing of 3.5% from Liberal Democrat to Conservative

Droitwich West (Con defence) on Wychavon
Result: Conservative 281 (42% -2%), Labour 161 (24% +3%), United Kingdom Independence Party 132 (20%, unchanged), Liberal Democrat 97 (14% -1%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 120 (18%) on a swing of 2.5% from Conservative to Labour

Summary for July 2016
Labour 12,230 votes (30% +3% on last time) winning 8 seats (-2)
Conservatives 10,305 votes (26% -3% on last time) winning 10 seats (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8,981 votes (22% +11% on last time) winning 9 seats (+7)
Green Party 2,571 votes (6% +1% on last time) winning 0 seats
United Kingdom Independence Party 2,480 votes (6% -5% on last time) winning 1 seat (-1)
Independents 1,919 votes (5% -6% on last time) winning 2 seats (-2)
Plaid Cymru 1,043 votes (3% +1% on last time) winning 2 seats
Other Parties 662 votes (2% -1% on last time) winning 0 seats

* change on last time equals difference between total vote at by-elections and average vote at the last elections

Seats CHANGING HANDS in July 2016
Liberal Democrats GAIN Newquay, Treviglas on Cornwall from United Kingdom Independence Party
Liberal Democrats GAIN St. Teath and St. Breward on Cornwall from Independents
Liberal Democrats GAIN Astley on North Norfolk from Conservatives
Conservatives GAIN Bryam and Brotherton on Selby from Labour
Liberal Democrats GAIN Trowbridge, Grove on Wiltshire from Independents
Liberal Democrats GAIN Westone on Northampton from Conservatives
Liberal Democrats GAIN Totnes on South Hams from Labour
Liberal Democrats GAIN Newlyn and Goonhaven on Cornwall from Conservatives

Local By-election Summary since General Election 2015
Labour 158,769 votes (29% unchanged on last time) winning 88 seats (+3) from 256 candidates (+12)
Conservatives 142,488 votes (26% -2% on last time) winning 100 seats (-15) from 281 candidates (+17)
Liberal Democrats 71,159 votes (13% +3% on last time) winning 40 seats (+13) from 215 candidates (+37)
Scottish National Party 50,106 votes (9% +5% on last time) winning 26 seats (+3) from 31 candidates (-2)
United Kingdom Independence Party 45,297 votes (8% -3% on last time) winning 8 seats (-6) from 197 candidates (+57)
Green Party 29,967 votes (6% -1% on last time) winning 4 seats (+1) from 152 candidates (+26)
Independents 21,207 votes (4% -1% on last time) winning 14 seats (unchanged) fielding candidates in 86 wards (+2)
Plaid Cymru 5,765 votes (1.07% +0.46% on last time) winning 6 seats (+1) from 20 candidates (+7)
Other Parties 15,861 votes (3% -1% on last time) winning 10 seats (+1) fielding candidates in 74 wards (+1)


WH2016 – updated polling and betting

Friday, July 29th, 2016


Now let’s see if Hillary gets a polling bounce that out does Trump’s last week

Friday, July 29th, 2016


I didn’t stay up overnight to watch Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the end of the Democratic convention but it seems to have been well received.

The betting markets have moved a notch back towards here but we need to see a full range of post convention polling before we can start drawing conclusions.

If the polling averages from next Monday onwards are just showing this to be level pegging then Trump could be said to be the winner of the convention season.

On one measure, TV audience ratings, the Democrats have been getting about 15% more viewers than the Republicans last week which is a possible indicator. No figures yet for the final day.

I switched my Trump betting position to Clinton at the start of the week on the assumption that she would get a polling bounce.

One contribution last night that’s getting big attention was this from Muslim man whose soldier son was killed while on duty.

There’ll be much more if this in the next 102 days. Trump is a non conventional candidate fighting in a totally non conventional way. The formal campaign, which starts at the end of the conventions, has begun a month earlier than usual. A lot can happen between now and November 8th.

Trump’s ability to attract media coverage can work for him or against.

Mike Smithson