Archive for February, 2019


If it’s any consolation to LAB – the last CON 10%+ leads were in the days before GE2017 – and we know what happened then

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

The overnight YouGov poll giving the Conservatives an 11% lead was the worst for LAB since the 2017 general election. I like to look at polls in context which is why above there there is the full Wikipedia list of all GB voting intention polls this year.

The big picture is that LAB is on the decline and the Tories are moving up a bit. Although you’ve got a range of Conservative leads between 4% and 11% surveys it’s the trend that matters and there can be little doubt that this has been going against the red team in the past few weeks.

When news of the latest YouGov came out I did a quick check back through the polling to find the last time that the Conservatives were in this territory. This of course this led me to the week before the June 8th general election in 2017. That was such a disaster for some pollsters and obviously will give some consolation to Corbyn and his team.

We also now have a new polling series and that is those where the TIGers are listed. The Wikipedia list of those is reproduced below.

I should be noted that different question are asked by each firm and we are getting very different outcomes for the new group.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s Brexit Betting round-up after Corbyn’s referendum commitment

Monday, February 25th, 2019

No deal by March 30 drops to a 14% chance 0500 UPDATE

Leaving the EU on schedule rated as a 19% chance

The charts, generated by are based on live betting movements on the Betfair

Mike Smithson


Tom Watson plans a new LAB MPs grouping and there’s little Milne/McCluskey/Corbyn can do about it

Monday, February 25th, 2019

He’s LAB’s deputy with his own separate mandate

It is very hard to think of any other organisation where a deputy can operate in the manner that Tom Watson is doing at the moment. His response to the defection of nine MPs has been very much to sympathize recognising the culture within the party that led to their decisions. He’s also forwarded to the leadership 50 cases of anti-semitism which he wants investigating.

You wonder what Seamus Milne, Len McCluskey, and Jeremy Corbyn think about this which looks like a direct challenge to the man who was elected leader in 2015 and was reelected a year later each time with a second substantial majority.

Tom Watson was elected deputy at the same time as Corbyn in 2015 and is effectively unsackable by the leader. My reading is that the only way of getting rid of him is to put forward a challenge to his position and there would be another deputy leadership election. That would then be voted on by the membership.

Watson wants his new group to give a platform to those MPs whose views are not currently represented within Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and effectively to give them a voice and help them shape policy.

As TSE pointed out yesterday it was Tom Watson in 2006 who initiated what looked like being a series of minsterial resignations which led to Tony Blair announcing that he would step down the following year. He’s somebody who understands the party and it’s machinations and clearly has a lot of support.

He’s not someone you don’t want as your enemy and he sees his role as protecting Labour.

The biggest issue that will be focused on in the coming days and weeks, no doubt, will be the way that Corbyn and his team have been deflecting the growing calls within the party to back a second referendum on Brexit. The danger for Corbyn is that if a No Deal brexit does take place then he will be seen as jointly responsible with the Tories. This will be Corbyn’s Nick Clegg tuition fees moment writ large – not to be forgotten.

Mike Smithson


The past three months have been tough for both main leaders but the polling suggests that Corbyn has been hit the most

Monday, February 25th, 2019

For all the different polling questions being asked at the moment I prefer tracker questions which use the same format in the same way in poll after poll to get an historical picture of how things are developing. The best, as I repeatedly argue, are leader ratings which rarely get the attention they deserve often being ignored completely by the media outlets that commission them.

Unlike voting intention surveys which seek to establish what respondents might or might not do at an event more than three years hence leader ratings seek opinions which, of course, are what opinion polls are best at.

Deltapoll, the new name on the block founded a year ago by Joe Twyman, ex-YouGov, and Martin Boon, ex-ICM, has joined Ipsos-MORI and Opinium being part of a very select group of pollsters that carry out regular ratings of this form. Other firms may occasionally include a question but not on a regular basis so we can track the data. Each of them might ask a different leader rating question but they always ask one set of standardised question.

The Delta format is to ask the “well/badly” question and the past three laest surveys for TMay and Corbyn are featured in the chart above. Both have seen their net negatives get bigger since December but with Corbyn being it the hardest. The trend in with the other leader ratings pollsters is the same.

The question for Labour is whether and when this can be reversed.

Wikipedia has an excellent page where most, but not all, leader ratings are

Mike Smithson


Back with Brexit punters make it just a 20% chance that there’ll be a no deal UK exit by March 30th

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Mike Smithson chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

And its a 22% chance that the UK will leave as planned on March 29th

Mike Smithson


It appears Blair slayer Tom Watson has his sights on Jeremy Corbyn

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Tom Watson’s appearance on the Andrew Marr show was very interesting as per the tweets above.

That Labour’s deputy leader has publicly brought the antisemitism issue to Corbyn with the fifty cases makes life very difficult for Corbyn. With a third of voters thinking Corbyn is an antisemite this presents an opportunity for Corbyn to turn around that perception but given past form Corbyn will only make it worse.

Corbynites should be concerned about Watson is doing this, and so publicly, anyone with an understanding of history knows Watson played a crucial role in the early departure of the great Satan Tony Blair. If Watson can help topple the three times general election winning leader he’ll be able to take down the general election loser that is Corbyn.

If the Corbynite fan club is castrated on social media then it will be harder for Corbyn to survive a putsch which makes me think this is part of a very clever plan by Tom Watson.


PS – Meanwhile Mrs May is determined to ensure more Tory defections to the TIGgers as even loyalists who backed the deal are getting exasperated 


Birds of a Feather

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Many Tories seem to think that, however bad their problems, they are as nothing compared to the complaints about bullying and anti-Semitism so widely canvassed by ex-Labour MPs this week. They have yet to be accused of racism by tearful MPs, the polls appear to put them in a small lead and once Brexit is sorted they can get back to doing what they do best, or so the hope appears to be. (Though whether a party which claims to have learnt the lessons of the dementia tax proposal thinks that rushing through without proper debate death taxes by way of large increases in probate fees has really learnt those lessons is perhaps for another time.)

Much the same view animates the Labour leadership.  Ignore the pro-forma expressions of disappointment. The departing MPs are wrong, opportunistic, being manipulated, self-interested 0r simply don’t like the new more voter-friendly leadership; the sooner they leave, the better seems to be the feeling.

But it’s not just in this somewhat delusional and complacent response that the parties resemble each other. Consider:-

The Mandate That Must Be Obeyed: Given the way some MPs talk about the referendum result, you would think that the majority for Leaving the EU was 82/18. In the ever more shrill insistence that the referendum result must be enacted no matter what or how, no matter how opinion may have changed, no matter how damaging the consequences of how the Tories have chosen to implement it may be, no matter how the facts may have changed, in the insistence that any pause, any rethinking, any search for confirmation that this is what the country wants to do now in light of what it now knows is somehow the death of democracy.

The Tories have started to resemble those on the Left demanding the implementation of Conference resolutions, now, no ifs, no buts, no concessions to practicalities that made Labour Conferences in the 1970’s and 1980’s such brutal affairs and compelling viewing. Impossible promises are in the process of being pickled into rigid dogma. The Will of the People has become a new (and very French) addition to our constitution.

Similarly, Corbyn’s supporters point to his two victories with Labour members. True. The small matter that his MPs voted that they had No Confidence in him is brushed aside as inconsequential and unimportant and was ignored. Who cares what MPs think in a Parliamentary democracy?  The members love him and have voted for him. The leader needs no other mandate. These are dangerously reductive ways of looking at how democratic legitimacy and consent that lasts are built and maintained, especially in a divided country.

Demands for purity: There is only one way. Anything else sullies the purity of the goal to be reached. Any compromise is bad. Any agreement which does not give us everything we want is a trap. Any reaching out to others is a sign of weakness. All that is needed is faith and standing firm and Utopia will be ours.  The complex and messy realities of working out a modus vivendi with our European neighbours can be discarded for a pure No Deal Brexit, untainted by anything as mundane as customs forms, tariffs, approvals, licences and the rest.

The concept of an insurance policy, invented by the British over 300 years ago, is an intolerable restraint. “Ourselves alone” seems to be the motto. A shame the Sinn Fein MPs do not take up their seats.  Perhaps they might educate some in the Tory party on what such noble-sounding statements can lead to in practice.

Authoritarianism not authority: May and Corbyn too seem to think that as leaders they do not need to persuade those who disagree or show by their actions what they claim to be or reassure the hurt and left out; mere assertion is sufficient. (“This agreement is good.” “I have always been against racism.”) Leaders have no responsibilities as leader beyond implementation of a manifesto or referendum result, as if this was like following an instruction manual. (And if it were, it would be an IKEA manual with key pages missing.)

If MPs are unhappy or dissatisfied or being attacked, well, they can come and see them. But a leader should not be expected to do anything themselves to deal with dissatisfaction or its causes. Nelsonian blind eyes are held up to bullying even as the leader’s acolytes do the dirty work.

Man management, emotional intelligence, empathy and apologies are for sissies. Here is the manifesto. Believe in it or get out. There is the complaints form. Fill it in and wait. I’m sorry you’re upset. But it has nothing to do with me. Rarely can have both main party leaders displayed such similar combinations of narcissism, weakness, rigidity, deviousness and blindness to what is happening in their name and under their noses.

Casting out the unbelievers. There have always been true believers, usually few in number until success came. Thatcher famously asked “Is he one of us?” But she never totally shunned her wets and some became some of her most successful Ministers. Now there is talk of saboteurs and traitors and people who have been party members for years being derided as not proper Labour or Conservatives, of being no loss. Years of service count for nothing.

Demands for loyalty are made to a leader who consistently showed little loyalty to his own leadership. His disloyalty should be considered principled and everyone else’s to him unacceptable lèse-majesté. Even the very concept of legitimate opposition and disagreement is seen as tainted and unwelcome. Deselections are in the air. The wagons are drawn ever tighter. If you’re not with us, you’re against us.

This is not the normal politics of discussion within a broad church. It’s the politics of the sect, of paranoia, of exclusion, of intolerance, of a bossy rigid authoritarianism too insecure or unwilling to debate or admit the possibility of being wrong, of looking for enemies and scapegoats, of feeling victimised and misunderstood even when you’re in charge and victory is in sight. And the more it is criticised the more it is convinced that it must be right, that criticism can only be malicious, a smear, invented or weaponised by those determined to see the project fail.

And so we get to the Stab in the Back Myth– if the project, whatever it is, fails it cannot ever be because it was wrong or badly implemented or irrelevant to people’s real needs or because its inherent contradictions could not be reconciled or because it promised the undeliverable or because the leader passively enabled the wickedness of others. No, it can only be because others undermined the party, the manifesto, the government, the leader. Someone else is always at fault.

Scapegoats are fashionable again.  Jews, of course, as they have always been. How dare Luciana Berger raise Corbyn’s support for an anti-semitic mural just as Labour’s local election campaign started. And the EU – that perennially useful scapegoat for Britain’s ills. The Irish, impudently and tiresomely insisting that Britain keep to a promise not to put at risk a hard-won peace.

Plus a host of others: business, Remainers, civil servants, Blairites, anyone remotely sceptical of the idea that maybe – just maybe – the process of Brexiting has developed not necessarily to Britain’s advantage, anyone concerned that it is Corbyn’s politics, speeches, actions and inactions which have led to the spread of anti-semitism and intolerance in his party and render him the wrong person to lead it or the country.

When the Withdrawal Agreement was finalised last November, Juncker was asked what he would miss when Britain left. He mentioned British pragmatism. Judging by the state of our two main parties, that is something we lost a while ago.



New Opinium poll has LAB moving from level-pegging to 8% behind in just a week

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

LAB 32-5
CON 40+3
LD 5-3

The first of what could number of polls tonight is from Opinium for the Observer and sees the Tories take an 8% lead up from level-pegging a week ago. That’s quite a movement.

Clearly the week has seen another political story dominate the headlines that is not Brexit and much of the focus of the new Independent Group has been critical of LAB and particularly its leader. Corbyn looks less like a prospective PM than just about anytime since GE2017 when his party still lost but not by as much as many predictions.

The polling might reinforce the chatter about Mrs May taking advantage of LAB’s apparent problems and calling a new general election. Bjut that couldn’t not take place before the March 29th Article 50 deadline and if there was a move it would come later.

Even if a whole range of pollsters report 7%+ CON leads I’m far from convinced that she’ll be tempted to go to the country. The memory of what happened two years ago will surely cause the greatest caution.

This post will be updated if there are other polls.

Mike Smithson