Archive for April, 2018


Amber warning: Rudd is safe – for now

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Labour’s front-bench inexperience has been shown up as much as Rudd’s errors

Politics is not just showbiz for ugly people; it’s also sport for the energetic, enthusiastic, passionate but physically average. Although virtually all politicians go into it because they believe strongly in at least some aspects of what their party stands for and because they want to see the reforms they champion implemented, most also simply enjoy practising politics – the camaraderie of (and rivalry within) the teams, the somewhat artificial opposition, the set-piece challenges, the games within the game. They almost have to enjoy it: it’s so intrinsic to the process that it’d be deadly to go into unless you did (this testosterone-filled fact of itself goes some way to explain both the male preponderance of politicians).

Of those games, the Ministerial Resignation Chase has its own rhythms, rules, tactics and culture – as Amber Rudd is currently demonstrating. What are they?

The unveiling

The chase begins with the uncovering of some error, wrongdoing or gaffe. The minister might or might not be personally responsible (it’s a lot easier for the opposition if they are) but they are at least accountable. Getting on top of the story here – i.e. defining what the scandal is about – is key to both sides: that definition will to a large extent drive the later narrative and set the measure the minister will be judged against. In addition, the media is the third player in the game and will also be looking for scoops; something an effective politician on either side will use.

The response

The minister will invariably be caught off-guard by the unveiling. If the ambush was sufficiently intense and the scandal sufficiently potent, they’ll already be out. If not, the natural swing of the story allows them to put their case and deflect the attack. They can counterattack, throw up chaff, blame others, issue a partial apology or some or all of the above. Judge the tone of the response and the story will die; get it wrong and you make it worse.

The secondary action

The initial allegation can only go so far. If a minister can ride out two or three days, they will usually be OK because by that point the momentum will start to go out of the story. However, if they’ve misplayed the response and so given the opposition the chance to add an attack on that to their original one or – worse for the minister – if there’s a second aspect to pile on top of the first, we’ll begin to hear the dread word ‘beleaguered’; if there’s a third, it’s almost certainly game over. A wise opposition will aim for a drip-drip effect, which is likely to undermine support on the minister’s own benches.

The wildcard

The Resignation Chase isn’t a board game. There might be rules, conventions and rhythms but it doesn’t take place in isolation. The wildcard of events can easily intercede either way. To make the pressure tell usually needs at least a week. If a different big story breaks in that time, the minister is likely to get away with it providing that they can keep their head down for a while afterwards.

Denouement or fizzle

If the minister isn’t felled by the initial allegation then it becomes a trial of strength: either the cumulative pressure becomes too great and the minister falls, or else the momentum goes out of the story and he or she survives. Alastair Campbell had a ’13-day rule’, which said that if a negative story stayed in the media for that long, it would begin to impact on polling – and implicitly, where the story is focussed on an individual, if it goes on that long, resignation or dismissal is almost inevitable – but making it last that long means at least three or four cycles to the story.

Which brings us to Amber Rudd. In her case, not only did she fluff her response but she then created her own secondary action by unnecessarily upsetting Number Ten with misjudged comments on Brexit at a journalists’ lunch. An adept opposite number would have exploited both errors to the extent that she’d be reeling, if not already gone. The likes of Robin Cook in the 1990s or David Davis in the later Blair-Brown years were highly skilled in keeping the media and political focus on the questions that caused most discomfort. Dianne Abbott is not.

But the then both Dianne Abbott and most of the Labour front bench made the leap straight into the cabinet (including the leadership) without going through the on-the-job training of junior office. At times like this, it shows.

There is a final stage to the Chase, which is ‘the coda’. Having bagged one minister, the multiplying bonus is to the get another. That’s when the government itself looks shaky and the PM comes under direct pressure. But to get a second, first you must get a first. And for the moment, that doesn’t look particularly likely.

David Herdson


YouGov finds CON voters reluctant to blame Mrs. May over the treatment of the Windrush generation

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Meanwhile Ladbrokes open market on Rudd’s survival

Mike Smithson


Michael Gove looks as though he has his eye on Theresa’s job

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Now a clear third in the betting behind Moggsy & BoJo

The machinations in the Conservative Party about Brexit and Windrush has set off a little bit of a flurry of betting on the next party leader market which is currently the busiest UK politics market on Betfair.

The beleaguered Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has now slipped down to be a 3% chance. Meanwhile Michael Gove has edged up to a clear 3rd place on a 7% chance. He’s behind the old-Etonian pair of BoJo (9%) and Moggsy (185).

    Among the things that Gove offers is that he appears to be everything that the incumbent isn’t. He’s confident, fluent, can think on his feet, and is far more liberal than Mrs May – something that might become increasingly important as we have seen the mood change with the Windrush discussions.

If it wasn’t for Labour and Mr Corbyn’s problems with anti-semitism then we might have had the Windrush issue impacting on the state of the parties poll ratings. That’s not happened but it may do.

Mrs May’s efforts while HomeSec and PM to curb illegal immigration through measures which at same time makes life very uncomfortable for many of those those who are in the country legally hasn’t gone down well. That should have been sorted. Her response has been pedestrian and she’d have appeared much worse if she’d been facing a LOTO other than Corbyn.

What has sparked off some of the betting has been the Sun report that Govey, Rudd and Gavin Willanmson appear to be building up campaign funds.

I’ve not bet on Gove because we have no idea when there will be a vacancy and I’m reluctant to tie up cash for what could be years at shortish odds.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s PB/Polling Matters podcast featuring Professor Colin Rallings

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

On this week’s podcast Keiran Pedley is joined by Professor Colin Rallings of the University of Plymouth to look ahead to next week’s local elections. Rallings breaks down which results to look out for and what they might mean for the future with some interesting insight into how the UKIP vote continues to unwind across the country and how Labour might do in London following today’s YouGov poll for Queen Mary University.

Keiran Pedley


After all the wait the YouGov London local poll has just margin of error changes

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

So we are almost back where we were UPDATED

The big story from the poll is that there has been a disproportionate drop in the LAB vote in inner London.

Labour 59 (down 8 from Feb)
Cons 22 (up 5)

This puts into question whether the red team can take Wandsworth which is a key target and one which has remained in Tory hands for 40 years. It also, if the poll is right means that Westminster will remain Tory.

The main hope for LAB remains Barnet.

UPDATE – Comment from Prof Phil Cowley of QMUL

“The latest poll predicts that the Conservatives will hold both Westminster and Wandsworth, where previous polling had Labour on course to take both. In Barnet Labour is set to become the biggest party, something that has not happened since the council was created in 1964.

Professor Cowley added: “The small decline in support for Labour should mean that both Westminster and Wandsworth will be held by the Conservatives. We should however, be careful about applying a London-wide survey to individual boroughs with any certainty. Should the Conservatives manage to hold these seats, it will not be a sign of success, merely the avoidance of utter disaster”.

On the basis of this the value bet, I’d suggest, is No Overall Control in Barnet. I’ve just bet with Ladbrokes at 9/1

Mike Smithson


Ahead of this morning’s YouGov London poll what happened at the capital’s last elections and the Feb 2018 poll

Thursday, April 26th, 2018

With so little polling or other hard data ahead of next Thursday’s elections there’s a lot of focus this morning on the new YouGov London Poll from YouGov for QMUL.

As can be seen the February survey suggested that Labour were going to make huge gains and it was on this that the early betting and predictions have been made.

There has been a suggestion that the latest survey is going to be nothing like as good for Labour hence the interest that is being shown.

I understand that the poll is due to be published about 1100.

Mike Smithson


Tonight on the PB/Polling Matters podcast – Prof Colin Rallings on next week’s local elections

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

With the local elections only a week ago I am very pleased to alert to you this evening’s PB/Polling Matters podcast when Keiran Pedley’s guest will be Professor Colin Rallings who with Professor Michael Thrasher are just about the country’s leading experts on local elections. Prof Rallings will also be known to those who watch the ITV general election programmes.

This is something of a first and I think that the podcast format developed by Keiran enables the level of probing and analysis that’s not available elsewhere.

We’ll also have this morning the latest QMUL London YouGov poll which should give pointers to how the elections in boroughs in the capital are going. This is due out at 11am and I plan to post as soon as possible afterwards.

The podcast should be ready later in the evening.

Mike Smithson


The London elections’ betting edges from LAB after reports of an imminent poor poll

Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

The poll, part of the YouGov London series from QMUL is due to be published tomorrow though it appears that someone has had sight of it and has spread the word.

As it turns out the betting has, in many case, been edging away from LAB winning councils in London since Ladbrokes opened their market in early March.

Barnet, which was top of the red team hit list has moved from a LAB majority 1/5 to 8/13. The Tories have moved from 5/1 to 13/8 with NOC where it was at the start 8/1

In Hillingdon the betting opened with CON and LAB both on 5/6. Now the Tories have tightened to 1.3 with Labour out to 9/4.

Kensington & Chelsea the Tories move from 2/5 Con 1/25 which looks fairly emphatic. LAB has moved out from 4/1 to 10/1

Wandsworth is still seen by the bookies as a LAB win. It was at 8/11 ans is now 4/6. The Tories are 6/4 to hold on to their majority.

Westminster has seen CON majority tighten from 1/2 to 1/5 with LAB moving out from 6/4 to 3/1

The main bookie with markets up is Ladbrokes. The poll is expected to me published at 11am.

Mike Smithson