Archive for January, 2019


The indications are that the Article 50 exit might have to be put back

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

This impacts of the “Will Brexit happen on Schedule” betting

Mike Smithson


New YouGov leader ratings finds both TMay and Corbyn struggling with their voters from GE2017

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

Getting on for half of GE2017 LAB voters view Corbyn unfavourably

Only minutes after I published the previous thread bemoaning the fact that we see very few leader ratings surveys in British polls up popped YouGov with its latest favorability numbers.

The main figures for Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are in the screenshot above. To my mind the most important cross-break is the party split from the 2017 General Election. What do those who voted for you last time now think? This, surely, is a good indicator of possible actions in a future votes.

Theresa May appears to be making heavy weather with 2017 Tory voters with a third of them saying now that they have an unfavorable view of the leader and the Prime Minister.

Her position, however, is not as bad as Jeremy Corbyn with those who voted for the party in 2017. Here just 47% say they have a favorable view of the leader with 44% saying they don’t.

Clearly things can change significantly between now and the general election as we saw in 2017 but, I’d suggest, that his numbers at the moment should be a cause for some concern. The 44% is a significant figure given that the first objective for LAB at the next election will be to retain those who voted for it at the last one.

Theresa May has, of course, told her party that she will not be leader at the next general election so in some ways this means that her figures are a bit less relevant. They are useful, though, for comparison.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s approval ratings fall from from a net minus 3% to a net minus 32% in just one year

Thursday, January 31st, 2019


By comparison TMay’ drop from a net minus 13% to minus 20%

One of the features of conventional British political analysis is that almost all the focus is on voting intention for an election that might not take place for another few years with hardly any attention being given to leader approval ratings.

This is so different from the US where leader ratings dominate the political polling narrative. I was quite impressed ahead of last November’s American mid-term elections how projections for seats in the House of Representatives were being drawn from the declining approval ratings of President Trump. They were right. Nobody ever tries that in the UK

We are not helped in UK because we get so very few regular leader ratings. The regular Ipsos MORI poll always includes satisfaction numbers in a form that has been asked since the 1970s. But that comes out barely once a month.

The one UK pollster that does regular leader approval ratings is Opinium which is generally putting out two surveys a month. The table above, prepared by David Cowling, shows what has happened during the past year during which, of course, Brexit has totally dominated British politics.

Looking at the table so there can only be one conclusion that the leader whose ratings have suffered the most is Jeremy Corbyn. From having relatively healthy numbers at the end of January last year that’s now got worse and worse as his net figures in recent months have regularly been behind Theresa May. Vince Cable ratings are very much affected by the number of don’t knows.

    My conclusion is that there was an immediate General Election then it would not be as easier ride for Mr Corbyn to Number 10 than many seem to think.

All the changes of government have been predated by the opposition leader having substantially better ratings than the incumbent Prime Minister.

Mike Smithson


Taking stock of Brexit with fewer than 60 days until we Leave

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Let’s take stock of where we are right now. Most of the leading chains of supermarkets, together with KFC, Pret A Manger and McDonald’s, have warned that a no-deal Brexit would put Britain’s food security at risk. The Health Secretary has confirmed that medicines are going to be prioritised over food, which is simultaneously very sensible and absolutely nuts.

He has also confirmed that a lot more needs to be done to safeguard supplies of medicines, with over half of medicines having “some touch point” with the EU. The chief executive of Airbus has warned that the company would look to move operations outside the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But in two months’ time, if nothing happens, Britain will leave the EU with no deal.

There is no sense of urgency. The meaningful vote was originally scheduled for mid-December. That vote was pulled and rescheduled for mid-January. The vote having been crushingly lost, alternatives have been voted on this week.

What have we learned from them? There is as yet no majority to take concrete steps to delay Brexit though Parliament thinks no deal would be a bad thing, there is as yet no majority for Parliament to take control back from the government and Parliament has instructed the government to renegotiate the backstop and put in place “alternative arrangements” (to be defined). So that’s all clear then. It has already been rejected by the EU, and who can blame them, since it hardly looks like a stable basis for negotiation even if the EU were inclined to give up one of its long-stressed red lines.

The next meaningful vote will be held on Valentine’s Day – maybe, or maybe later than that. There is no particular reason to assume that vote is going to illuminate a path forward either.

There are now only four possible decisive actions that could be taken before 29 March: sign the deal that has already been comprehensively rejected (perhaps with a few vague words that will satisfy no one); revoke the Article 50 notice and countermand the instruction given by the people in the referendum; extend the Article 50 period; or leave with no deal.

Indeed, two of these options are highly problematic too. Any extension of the Article 50 period would need the agreement of every other EU member state: that might be quite exciting given how many wildcards are currently shuffling round that deck. Worse, it now seems impossible to enact all the legislation required to implement the deal before 29 March. Like a plane taking off from Madeira airport, Britain may already have passed the point of no return with no way of recovering from serious engine trouble that doesn’t involve some kind of major accident.

No one is changing their minds. The government still seems to be pushing its deal, though it enthrals no one and appals many.  The Labour leadership opposes it in favour of its own deal which borrows philosophically from Rorschach inkblots. Conservative Leavers oppose it without being very clear what they would actually actively accept, if they would actively accept anything.

Various MPs who voted Remain in 2016 have various schemes to mitigate or reverse the government’s plans, none of which seem close to commanding a majority.  The EU hierarchy tuts that Britain needs to get itself together, without seeming to consider that if the deal on the table looks like a complete turkey to the collective wisdom of Parliament, it’s doomed to be stuffed, which is not exactly in the EU’s interests either. Something is going to have to happen, but it’s not at all clear what.

What is most surprising is the absence so far of any sense of panic, either from the politicians or from the public. With the striking exception of Oliver Letwin, a man who seems to have more common sense than many who have ridiculed him in the past for lacking it, no politician seems in a hurry to get a deal signed. The ERG might not want one at all, Theresa May is hoping that time will tell politicians to sign her deal, those against this deal but who are opposed to no deal are expecting another opportunity to pounce and those who want another referendum are waiting for the right moment to strike.

The public has low expectations of Brexit, on balance expecting it to make things worse and indeed on balance thinking that it already has made things worse. So far, however, they really aren’t getting worried about how it might turn out. The assumption is that it will be all right on the night.

There is absolutely no evidence to support that assumption. Quite the reverse: it’s hard to imagine that McDonald’s will have intervened to warn its customers about the risk that there may be hold-ups to fast food unless they thought that risk was pretty high. These are companies who will have intervened in the most controversial political debate in living memory only if they felt that they had to for the sake of their reputation should events unfold as they fear.

The lack of competence on all sides coupled with the lack of any desire to compromise suggests that the eventual resolution is going to be chaotic. The prospect of chaos is welcomed by the hardline Leavers, who seem to see Brexit as a god to be worshipped like Shiva the destroyer, where any suffering is to be seen as the obligation to be paid to secure nirvana. Or perhaps they think of it as their Mayan sacrifice.

This enthusiasm is not shared by others. In a recent opinion poll not a single respondent who voted Remain in 2016 professed to be happy at the prospect of Brexit. I doubt whether any disruption is going to be accepted phlegmatically by them.

Nothing is going to change until panic really sets in. When it does, things will move at high speed. Lasting choices will be made quickly off the back of emotion. Theresa May is calculating that ultimately they will back her deal in those circumstances. (She might be right.  Certainly the anti no-dealers in her own party have been all discretion and no valour to date.)

The nature of that kind of decision-making, however, is that unexpected choices that might look strange in retrospect may well be made. Don’t bet the house on any outcome and don’t assume that any bet is a sure thing.

However it all turns out, it’s going to be a turbulent flight.  Buckle up.

Alastair Meeks


Ahead of this afternoon’s May-Corbyn meeting the two leaders get warmed up with a spiky PMQs exchange

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

If we were to predict the outcome of this afternoon’s historic meeting face-to-face meeting between TMay and Mr Corbyn based on what happened at today’s PMQs it is hard to see this taking things very much forward.

But Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn have a joint interest for the country not to leave the EU on March 29th with No Deal. She cannot be certain of her CON votes and the complicated relationship with the DUP. This, on the face it, should put Corbyn in a stronger position.

The problem is, of course, is that the PM always has the divisions in her own party to think about and it is perhaps hard to see her going forward with whatever the Labour leader offers.

As has been commented on many times once you strip away the wording and rhetoric from LAB’s proposed deal and what Theresa May has there is very little difference in functional effectiveness. The UK would be still in the Customs Union in one form or another.

    The pressure on Corbyn is that he doesn’t want to see Labour’s fingerprints on a no deal brexit. If that happens he has to be able to totally blame the Tories for all the consequences. So far his ambiguity has actually not been an issue. Now that is changing.

No doubt later on this evening we will get reports from both sides of how they saw it going.

The BBC’s political editor, Laura kuenssberg, noted before PMQs started that both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have reputations for not talking very much in meetings. Maybe it’s all going to be silence?

Mike Smithson


Why after last night the value Brexit bet is on the UK leaving the EU on March 29th

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Overnight I have been amongst a number of punters betting on the Betfair Brexit market that the UK WILL leave the EU on March 29th.

The Tweet exchange at the top between Phil Collins of the Times and YouGov’s Marcus Roberts sums up simply the reasoning. Essentially TMay’s long term strategy of getting her deal through could succeed because it becomes the only option on the table.

Her trip to Brussels is not likely to produce the change that the ERG were seeking but she was seen to have acknowledged their argument and was at least trying.

As the chart shows the punters had pushed the chances of the March 29th date being met down to a 18% chance late yesterday afternoon. Then, as the impact of the series of Commons votes was assimilated, the price edged up to 28% where, in my view, it remains value

The great thing about exchange betting on a busy liquid market like this is that you can change your position quickly if you see things moving.

Me suggesting that a bet is good value is NOT making a prediction. I am just looking at the odds available and assessing whether what's being offered is better than my assessment of the chances.

Mike Smithson


Article 50 Exit Day – Minus 59 and everything is now put back to February 13th

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

But could this mean getting closer to a deal?

I am starting to fear that MPs will continue not making decision right until the evening of March 29th when the UK is due to leave the EU at 11pm.

In a sense this all fits with TMay’s strategy of going right to the wire when she’d hope that MPs would shy away from the no-deal outcome.

Mike Smithson


TMay’s problem is that the vast majority of voters, including leavers, are not happy bunnies about Brexit

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Are tonight’s votes going to improve or worsen this?

Looking at this latest YouGov polling it really is quite remarkable how people feel about brexit. I suppose a lot of it is just simply exhaustion with each days news being totally dominated by the issue, something that has been going on for years it seems.

The breakdown above is not surprising for remainers though I’d have expected a more positive view from leavers.

This has become so complex that a big problem with tonight’s series of votes is that it is hard for the public understand what it going on and what it means.

Mike Smithson