Archive for September, 2017


PB / Polling Matters podcast: German election special & Labour conference reaction

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

On this week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast, Keiran is joined by Dr Roland Kappe of UCL to discuss the recent German election results and what happens next.

Keiran and Roland look at the results that stood out, why the AfD did so well (and whether comparisons with UKIP are valid) plus what form of coalition Angela Merkel could form and why the German election result might be bad for Brexit negotiations.

Elsewhere on the show, Keiran reviews the latest polls and gives his snap reaction to Corbyn’s conference speech on Wednesday.

Follow this week’s guests:



Listen to the show below


Conference and its aftermath could be BoJo’s best chance of moving against TMay & becoming PM

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Could the end-game for Theresa start next week?

Yesterday I heard directly the story the story that has been doing the rounds  that the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, had already got the backing of 38 fellow CON MPs ready to send letters to the chairman of the 1922 committee calling for confidence vote on TMay’s leadership. If this is correct he needs just a few more if he is to pull the trigger to try to bring GE17 failure down.

Clearly there is no love lost between the one time front runner for the leadership and Mrs May. Yesterday the Times was reporting that the whips were ready for a snap Johnson resignation which could be the precursor to a leadership intervention – a story of itself that supports the rumours.

For there’s little doubt that every week that Mrs. May remains in the job then the chances of Boris becoming PM decline.  Action needs to happen soon but will it?

The Tory mythology that the assassin doesn’t get the crown is only really supported by what happened in November 1990 when it was John Major and not Michael Heseltine  who became CON leader and PM. A decade or so earlier Mrs. Thatcher herself was the assassin when a leadership election was forced on Edward Heath which she won.

In many ways BoJo is helped by the continued polling strength of Corbyn and LAB. He has traditionally been seen as the Tory who could reach voters that other party figures couldn’t as evidenced by his two London Mayoral victories.

If we get to a contest then Johnson’s biggest challenge will be making it to the final two whose names go on the membership ballot.

What is for sure is that the next few weeks could be intriguing.

Mike Smithson


Looking at conference rhetoric – the politics of fear and the politics of hope

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

A guest slot by CycleFree

It has become a truism that political campaigns based on fear are doomed to fail. Positive visions, hope and excitement are what we want, apparently. And there is some evidence to support this: Corbyn’s genuinely inspiring campaigning for what he has said and believed these last four (five?) decades, the increasingly desperate Remain campaign and, of course, May’s abysmal GE campaign, which wholly failed to explain why Corbyn’s choices and what they say about his character, judgment and, therefore, how he would govern would affect voters and in ways which resonated with them.

But is this entirely true? Labour’s campaigns have always stoked fears that the NHS will be destroyed if the Tories are in power. Leave’s campaign last year was based in very large part on fear of foreigners, specifically fear of Turks and young male migrants/refugees from unsavoury parts of the world. Corbyn would likely never have won as many middle class/middle aged voters as he did were it not for the latter’s fear that the Tories would take their homes and savings in old age if they fell ill, a fear skilfully exploited by Labour with the “dementia tax label. In both the latter cases, the campaign which won (the referendum or argument) was the one which best exploited people’s fears as well as presenting an appealing vision of a better way (No University Fees! Keep Your Home! Freedom from the EU!) however unachievable, superficial or lacking in detail that vision may have been or, in the case of Brexit, is now being shown as being.

And so to this week’s Labour conference. Forget the now inevitable argument about whether Labour is tackling anti-Semitism within its ranks (it isn’t and it won’t). Forget the ignorant insults aimed at a 96 year old man and his grandson (take a bow Emma Dent-Coad, MP for Kensington. That’s just what your Grenfell Towers constituents elected you for). Forget Shami making a fool of herself yet again suggesting laws one doesn’t like can be ignored. After all she is only following an earlier Baroness and Attorney-General who thought laws were only for others. Forget even Corbyn’s speech: undoubtedly well received in the hall and elsewhere.

No. The most significant thing said this week was McDonnell’s statement that the next Labour government would not be a traditional” Labour one. We would be well advised to take this statement seriously. Traditionally, Labour governments have all sought to reassure as well as be radical: reassure voters that the economy would be safe, if more fairly run, that taxes would only be on the rich, that public services would be nurtured and valued, reassure business that Labour would invest, reassure the markets that Labour would be a sensible custodian of the nation’s finances.

McDonnell’s and Corbyn’s primary aim is not to reassure, other than as a tactic. It is to change very radically Britain’s economic and political settlement. And the “run on the pound” and “war gaming” remarks are not an error. They are an indication that they intend seeing their measures through and taking whatever steps may be necessary to do so. The fact that these may be unprecedented or harmful or have unintended consequences or hurt those who have voted for them may count for little or nothing. So what might these measures be if, say, money starts flowing out of Britain the day after McDonnell gets made Chancellor? Capital controls? Temporary bank closures? Limits on how much people are allowed to take out? A tax on all savings held in banks in the UK above a certain limit? Conversion of savings into bonds or shares? Seizure of savings above a certain limit?

Alarmist? Improbable? Why? All these things happened to ordinary people in Cyprus a mere 5 years ago. Sure they happened as part of a bank bailout and were blessed by the EU and there were special circumstances: the fact that so much Russian and other “dirty” money was in Cyprus made it easier for some to justify. Still, if it happened there, it could happen here and justifications would be easy for Labour to construct. No-one loves the rich or the markets or bankers, especially if they are seen as obstructing an elected government. For the past 30 years or so, the assumption everywhere has been that you can’t or shouldn’t even try to buck the markets. But bucking the markets is exactly what Corbyn and McDonnell want to do. The Tories would do well not to underestimate both the breadth of Corbyn and McDonnell’s vision nor their determination.

If those opposed to this want to make the case for why it will be harmful, they need to start some war gaming of their own. They need to explain how such measures will affect ordinary voters now, not by reference to the 1970’s: not “the markets won’t wear it” or “remember Callaghan and the IMF” but “you won’t be able to pay for that foreign holiday or buy stuff from Amazon in Luxembourg” or 20% of the money Mum had put by for her care has been taken or “the money saved/to be given to us as a deposit for a home will be in shares you won’t be able to sell for years” or “Dad has to pay a wealth tax on his house out of his pension and can’t”. They need to start demolishing, forensically, item by item, those Labour proposals which won’t work – and only those – and they need to start making the case now.

Fear of losing what you have is a powerful motivator, as the reaction to the dementia tax showed. Fear of being made worse off is equally powerful, as the reaction to university fees and interest rates on the loans also showed. It is a key part of any effective campaign. It is not the only one, of course. It won’t necessarily win on its own. So we will have to wait and see for the Tory Conference whether the Tories are capable of attacking Labour intelligently or only each other and, more critically, whether they have any positive story to tell the country.



LAB takes 4% lead in new YouGov Times poll

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

This could put even more pressure on TMay’s Manchester conference

The polling that’s taken place since TMay’s much vaunted Florence speech on Brexit has not been good to the Tories although the numbers are all within the margin or error.

Yesterday the Guardian ICM poll had LAB moving to a 2% lead after being level pegging. Tonight YuGov has LAB 4% ahead up 3 with the Tories back in the 30s.

    Whilst in normal times this might not be significant we are just a few days off the CON party conference in Manchester where the early vibes are suggesting that we might just see the start of a challenge to the incumbent.

Those in the blue team wanting TMay out won’t be too fussy about issues like polling margin of error. The signs, you can hear them saying, are that the leader who lost the the party its majority is not hacking it with the public.

Of course what we might just be seeing is the conference effect. Parties often see boosts in their polling positions when they are getting the extra media attention from their conference.

Mike Smithson


If there was to be a new Brexit referendum then LAB voters would be overwhelmingly for REMAIN

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Lots of talk at the LAB conference today of a second Brexit referendum. This comes amidst new GQRR polling that suggests more support for the idea including 70% of LAB voters.

The chart above, based on the latest Opinium data, shows the splits by party support if such a move was to take place.

Essentially the country remains totally split on the issue and no doubt this will figure strongly in Manchester next week at the Tory conference.

What I can’t work out is how such a vote would come about. Maybe the Lords will try to insert an amendment when the Brexit bill is going through the upper house.

Another big unknown is whether TMay will escape the party conference and the weeks afterwards unscathed. There are rumblings but who knows?

Mike Smithson


ICM finds Corbyn making ground against TMay across a range of key policy areas

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017


Team CON should be most worried about the economy numbers and pensioners

During the election campaign in May ICM asked voters to rate May and Corbyn on a range of nine key policy areas as shown in the table above.

At the time, of course, all appeared to be going well for the incumbent PM who looked set for a huge victory. In its latest Guardian poll ICM has revisited the questioning and finds that the position is nothing like as good for the Tory leader as it was.

    The biggest change has been on “making Britain a fairer country” where in May the PM enjoyed a 19% lead. That’s now moved to a 15% deficit a turnaround of 34 points. So much for the aspirations she made in Downing Street after becoming PM in July last year.

For me the change in the managing the economy rating is the most significant and here TMay has moved from enjoying a 28% lead over JC to a 14% one. That’s starting to look worrying and isn’t helped by the apparent division between the PM and her Chancellor seen again following Hammond’s TV interviews on Sunday.

The May polling took place after the CON manifesto launch and I suppose it was surprising then that TMay still had a lead, albeit a small one, on protecting the interest of pensioners. That’s now gone into negative territory and exposes a vulnerability. The lower turnout level amongst the 65+ group was one of the reasons why TMay failed to retain her majority. It appears that pensioners are still solidly for the Tories but can they be relied on to turnout in the same way that helped give Cameron his majority at GE2015?

At the moment TMay continues to be ahead of Corbyn on Brexit but that is declining.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Brighton exuberance over Corbyn isn’t supported by his leader ratings

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Things have barely moved since June 8th

Opinium – Leader Approval ratings

Ipsos-MORI – Leader Satisfaction Ratings

The former BBC Political Research chief, David Cowling, has produced the above tables so we can track how leader ratings have moved over the past six months. These are important because historically they have a good record on pointing to electoral outcomes. The GE2015 outcome would have been less of a shock if we’d tracked EdM’s personal numbers rather than the voting intention polls.

The mainstays of leader ratings, the pollsters that do it at least once a month are Opinium and Ipsos-MORI. The two ask a different question but the broad picture is the same on Corbyn. He’s slipped back from his post-general election high.

Meanwhile Mrs. May is making something of a recovery though her position is miles away from the 20% plus net positives that she enjoyed in the weeks after declaring her intention of holding an election.

It used to be that parties got polling boosts in the surveys immediately after their conferences. Whether that will hold good this tie we’ll have to see.

Mike Smithson


Nearly of third of current LAB voters not sure that Corbyn would make the best PM

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The soft under-belly of LAB support

Labour’s leader might seem to have conquered all before him following the party’s unexpected performance at GE17 but quite a number current LAB supporters appears to have doubts about the man is now into his third year as party leader.

In the GE17 campaign the Tories believed that some of the decisions and associations from Corbyn’s past would have had a negative effect on the performance of the main opposition party but the blue attacks didn’t appear to resonate with the target audience.

The issue with last time, of course, is that the main narrative was that TMay’s Tories were going to win big and red team backers with qualms about the leader could vote with the apparent assurance that JC was not going to do it. Now that has changed and Corbyn is the betting favourite to be next PM.

This latest polling should flag up a worry for Labour though I doubt whether it will. JC is totally in command and can shape the party as he wants.

It should be noted that the alternative in the YouGov question is Theresa May who in some polls has leader ratings which are inferior to Corbyn.

Mike Smithson