Archive for June, 2018


Gove now level-pegging with Corbyn in the next PM betting

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Mike Smithson


Joe Biden raises doubts about whether he’ll run for White House in 2020

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Obama’s Vice President for 8 years, Joe Biden, has been talking about the next White House Race and says he “feels guilty” about not wanting to run.

Ahead of the 2016 election there was considerable speculation over whether he would run against Hillary Clinton for the nomination. This went on and on and in the end he made it clear that he would not put his hat into the ring. This followed the death of his son.

Inevitably , although he is in his mid 70s, he is being questioned about next time and his statements in a recent interview have rather poured cold water on the idea that he would seek to win his party’s nomination.

Currently on Betfair he is in the second favourite slot behind the California senator, Kamala Harris.

Clearly he has high name recognition, is good on TV and continues to make policy speeches and publish articles. He’s become a very strong critic of the incumbent particularly for the way America’s allies are being alienated.

I would expect that speculation will continue for some time and that it will be a long period before he finally rules himself out. But I don’t think he’s going to make a bid.

Mike Smithson


Suddenly Tory cabinet indiscipline moves to the top of the political agenda

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Maybe it was BoJo that started it but very quickly we are seeing leading cabinet figures seeking to set the agenda away from the principle of cabinet collective responsibility. This could be very dangerous for TMay who clearly does not feel she has the strength to sack the rebels.

With DefSec, Gavin Williamson, demanding zillions extra for defence the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liz Truss is this morning attacking cabinet colleagues particularly Michael Gove.

Perhaps they should all take a breath and read Danny Finklestein’s piece in the Times this morning. On Boris he writes:

“He is being asked to take his share of responsibility for the government’s airport decision. If he is unwilling to do so, he really can’t continue in office. After all, if the rules don’t apply to him, why should they apply to anyone else? Why should the chancellor not hightail it to some supposedly vital meeting thousands of miles away when the prime minister next asks him to vote against a customs union?

Mrs May should appreciate that in allowing Mr Johnson to behave like this she is altering the constitution. Collective responsibility isn’t a law, it’s simply a custom and once the custom is broken it will be hard to restore it. Without collective responsibility, cabinet government ceases..

These are dangerous times for the government.

Mike Smithson


The 2018 London Local Elections : The religious factors analysed

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

On Thursday Willesden Green (a place well known to fans of DangerMouse) returned three Labour councillors in the election that was deferred from the local elections, but in doing so completed those local elections and allowed us to make the following analysis. Normally I do so with a commentary of my own, but given the subject matter I shall let the figures do the talking and allow other members to form their own opinions.

Harry Hayfield


A little local difficulty. A forgotten part of English democracy

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

I’m a dutiful son and I visit my parents regularly. They live in Hadleigh, a quiet market town in south Suffolk. Hadleigh has never quite made it onto the tourist trail. This is a little odd because Kersey, a couple of miles away, is a staple of Christmas cards and meerkat adverts and Lavenham, a few miles further away, is besieged with visitors.

Hadleigh has a magnificent guildhall and deanery tower and charming medieval buildings in abundance, many of which are slathered in pargeting, but it has somehow missed the attention. So it is largely left in prosperous quiet.

I was paying my filial dues at the weekend. Mum knows I have a bit of an interest in politics (the gambling is not discussed; non-conformists don’t approve). So she shows me a couple of election fliers she’d received. What did I make of them? I took a look.

It turns out that all is not well in Hadleigh. The town council has been riven with factional in-fighting. This has percolated into the pages of the Suffolk Free Press and the East Anglian Daily Times. Now a group of well-organised dissidents, under the banner “Hadleigh Together”, have forced a referendum of confidence in the town council, alleging mismanagement and that it is dysfunctional. The town goes to the polls on Thursday. Both sides had issued leaflets putting their case. The dissidents’ case can be found here and here.

I can honestly say that I had never heard of such a thing. So I did some digging. And I found out that I know rather less about the English political system than I thought. For parish residents have long had the right to call for parish polls on whatever topic they choose, provided that a third of electors present at a parish meeting are in favour (and not fewer than 10). At this point the local district council must hold a poll. The result is advisory only.  The Hadleigh Together group have called for just such a parish poll.

This mechanism has been used hundreds of times over the years (no one seems to know how often, no one seems to have been interested enough to keep track). The subject matter has been many and varied: at least one parish conducted a parish poll on whether to hold a referendum on EU membership – it passed convincingly, as it happens.

All this time commentators have been telling us that referendums weren’t a longstanding part of British politics and it turns out they were wrong. Voters up and down the country have been passing judgements on car parking arrangements, low level radioactive waste and whether to allow a Tesco’s for many years. No doubt you all knew this. I didn’t.

It’s easy to be condescending about this and allude to Passport To Pimlico insular localism. Easy, and wrong.  The decisions of town councils have direct impact on the residents and giving the residents a direct say is a safety valve.  If, as in Hadleigh, there are electors unhappy about the plans for the cemetery, it is healthy for them to be able to take direct action about that.

All politics is local.  It would be amusing if what finally definitively killed Boris Johnson’s chances of leadership was his pusillanimous response to the Heathrow third runway vote, given his vaulting ambition, but no MP can afford to neglect the interests of the area that he or she represents.

The government consulted on whether to tighten up the rules on parish polls at the fag-end of the 2010-15 coalition government, but so far as I can see nothing came of it.  Instead of treating this voter power as an irksome anomaly, perhaps the government should extend its use to borough and district councils.  If voters felt more empowered, perhaps they would be more engaged with the political process more generally.  This is, after all, something that politicians of all stripes claim to want.  If, like parish polls, such council referendums were advisory only, the risk of batty decisions being mandated on low turnouts would be much reduced.

One way or another on Thursday, Hadleigh’s local politics are going to be given a jolt.  All sides seem to agree that the logjam on the town council needs to be broken in one way or another.  The parish poll looks to have been an efficient way of seeking to do just that.  Isn’t this something that British politics at rather more elevated levels than town councils might benefit from right now?

Alastair Meeks


TMay deserves to be congratulated for at least making a decision on LHR

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

The PM’s winning streak continues

By a walloping Commons majority last night, 415 votes to 119, the ongoing procrastination over the expansion of Heathrow has been resolved and at last the indecision over the airport’s future is over.

That it should have taken so long for it to get to this stage says a lot about big infrastructure decision making in the UK – remember how the Channel Tunnel was opened in December 1993 but it took fifteen years before the high speed rail link to London was finally operational.

Those who bet at evens that the third runway would be agreed will soon be getting their winnings.

What is striking is that the decision should come from a government headed by a woman who is said to back away from making decisions. Well on this one she has done something that Cameron failed to do causing years of delay.

Having spent a large part of my life living under the flight-path in south west London I am only too aware of how strong feeling is about the airport. Yet approving the expansion there was really the only alternative.

In the end it was Labour giving its MPs a free vote on the issue and with UNITE strongly backing the plan this meant that it was going to get through. As it turned out the Labour vote split 110 to 94 in favour. There were just 8 CON MPs who voted against.

Mike Smithson


Trump’s Gallup approval rating drops a net minus nine in a week

Monday, June 25th, 2018

The immigration clampdown is hurting him and possibly his party

We’ve now got the first Gallup approval ratings for the period entirely after the immigration clampdown that saw children being forcibly separated from their parents.

His approval number is down 4 points in a week to 41% while his disapproval jumped 5 points to 55%. This reflects the hammering he has been getting in the media and even from parts of his own family.

What made this particularly challenging for him were the TV pictures and sounds of the crying children on being taken away from their parents. It was a lot harder for the normal Trump response of “fake news” – the coverage made this heart-rending.

He has found it very hard in the past to deal with issues when the TV coverage, like on the size of the crowds on his inauguration didn’t match the spin.

The big question is the political impact in the run up to this November’s midterms particularly as it was beginning to look as though the Democrats hope of taking the house were looking less likely.

Mike Smithson


This Bloomberg reports on the referendum, polling and the hedge funds is a must read

Monday, June 25th, 2018

One thing the article does not cover is that there were strong rumours in the days leading up to the referendum that the postal votes were looking good for leave. This is an area that it is difficult to talk about because any revelation coming from the verification of postal ballots in local authorities round the country is a criminal offence.

Quite what the source was we will never know but there was information about.

Looking back to that momentous night I thought that far too much credence was being put on the YouGov poll which was presented almost in the same manner as a general election exit poll.

What convinced me to bet on leave at 0054 was the Newcastle result which had nothing like the remain margin that it should have done. At the time I thought it odd that this did not have the impact on the betting that I thought it should.

Mike Smithson