Archive for the 'Brexit Party' Category


Another conference boost for Jo Swinson – this time from LAB

Monday, September 23rd, 2019

Corbyn the opposition leader with the worst leader ratings ever gets his way

The big political news has been the Labour conference decision to reject a move that would have seen the party take out-and-out Remain position in the run-up to the likely early general election.

Delegates rejected a composite motion that would have seen the party pledge to campaign for remain.

Whether this was electorally wise only time will tell but my guess is that the biggest cheers for the vote would have come from the LDs who are currently taking about a quarter of the LAB GE2017 vote.

It does mean that in a general election LAB will not be on one side or the other giving Swinson party a clear run for the Remain vote and Johnson the unambiguous supporter of Brexit.

The nature of the vote was somewhat chaotic and given the importance of this to the party’s electoral future it was perhaps unwise not to have gone to a card vote.

Mike Smithson


The Bad Boys Of Brexit. A review

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

The “Bad Boys Of Brexit” relates the adventures of Nigel Farage, Aaron Banks and Andy Wigmore and the campaign from July 2015 to the referendum and beyond, with a later addendum taking the story up to the May election announcement . It’s told in diary format as written by Aaron Banks, one of the leaders of The blurb tells us that “every Remainer should steel themselves to read it, because the mindset that it captures…is driving change on both sides of the Atlantic.” (Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian).

Well, whatevs. The blurb works if you live in the Westminster bubble, and I assume many such read it and made many serious pronouncements on WHAT IT ALL MEANS. Well, OK, if you must, but that misses the point, which is: the book is a hoot. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and deliberately so, and not for post-modern sarcastic reasons. Let me explain.

Firstly, you have to note that although it’s nominally written by Banks, it’s actually ghostwritten by Isabel Oakeshott (with help from Banks and Andy Wigmore, the third wheel of the Banks/Farage/Wigmore triad) and she reconstructed the events from texts, emails, notes and half-remembered events. The genre is constructed reality, that grey area where real people speak words that are plausibly their own and accurately represent what they said but are ordered and set to make the narrative flow and form a story. The best example of this genre is “Top Gear” and as Clarkson once said, it takes hours to write the script for an unscripted show. This book flows really well.

Secondly, everybody is as rich as Croesus. Seriously. Banks isn’t an Arthur Daley car salesman from Bristol, he owns a diamond mine in Africa and flies there and back insouciantly throughout the book. Millionaires walk on and off like bit parts: there is Stuart Wheeler, there is Jim Mellon, here are the Masons, there is a politician, well hello my Lord Ashcroft OHMIGODITSTHEDONALD. It’s “Stella Street” for the rich and infamous and I want Oakeshott to write Banks’s biography.

Thirdly, Oakeshott’s Banks has a waspish tongue and it’s hysterical. He disparages everybody who is not Dominic Cummings, Matthew Elliot, all come in for forthright comment and his barbs at Douglas Carswell are cheerfully libellous. In real life it would be unpleasant but his Oakeshott avatar is poised *just* enough to turn him into a cheeky chappie and speaker of inconvenient truths, a witty gadfly not a creep.

Fourthly, and this is where the book really takes flight, it gradually begins to dawn that this is an episode of “Top Gear”. It’s the Brexit Special, where our three chums wander thru an event, messing up, having a laugh, and curiously winning. They are proper buccaneering semicrims on the Empire model, gliding thru casino and boardrooms, the “Persuaders” telepodded with Clarkson/May/Hammond, Roger Moore urbanity and Tony Curtis tough.

All the battles are cheerfully lost and nothing ever seems to work – Banks tries to organize a concert and a song and flops hugely, his staff are full-stretched trying to keep things going – but the war is won. Lesser books would ram the leave message home here, but Oakeshott is skilful and the persuasion slips down smoothly: people write in with small donations, volunteers volunteer, a great task is underway and the people are marching.

The extended book ends when May announces the election, and Banks cheerfully berates the reader for looking for the deliberately-omitted index. When you consider what happens next, ending it here is probably for the best. Farage should have retired to the House Of Lords and accepted the thanks due the most successful politician of his generation, not the CPAC groupie he turned into; Banks’s unpleasant side became more apparent; and so on as reality overwhelmed the polite narrative.

But never mind the facts, print the legend. The chums are best remembered in one of the book’s more memorable moments when, after winning the Referendum and having drink taken, Farage and Banks skinny dip in Bournemouth (Farage insists pants-on), cocking around on a provincial British shorefront. Brexit Madlads forever…

The “Bad Boys Of Brexit” reviewed here was the paperback version, ISBN: 9781785902055, published by Biteback  in print and available new at £9.99 or free from your local library. Support your local library godsdammit… 🙂


Viewcode is a statistician who works in the private sector


Perhaps we ought to remind ourselves that Farage’s parties are rubbish in first past the post elections

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Following the Brexit party’ flop in the Brecon and Radnorshire by elections the leader for life, Nigel Farage, has this afternoon published the above tweet with the faces of self first group of candidates to be selected by his party for a possible coming general election.

In all his years in politics whether with UKIP and now with the Brexit party Farage has struggled to win under the first past the post system. In his UKIP days Farage tried and failed seven times himself to become an MP. The only success he has had in getting someone at Westminster was persuading Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless to defect from the Tory Party and join UKIP in in 2014 resigning their seats and then successfully defending them in the following by-elections.

At GE2015 only Carswell retained his seat but not so long afterwards fell out with Farage, quit UKIP and did not stand at GE17.

In the aftermath of of the party success in the May 23rd euros the Brexit Party got close in Peterborough when a 30.9% vote share was enough to get LAB across the line. We had the usual excuses about postal votes but how much effort Farage’s party put into this aspect of the campaign?

On Thursday in the seat of Brecon and Radnorshire the Brexit party slipped to third place with just 10.5% of the vote suggesting that it momentum is waning.

An idea of Farage’s view of campaigning on the day consisted of a plane flying repeatedly over the constituency pulling a banner. This had been the plan in Buckingham at GE2010 when as UKIP’s candidate he was hoping to oust John  Bercow. Unfortunately the plane, with Farage in it, crashed.

This is all about the grunt work of knocking on doors building up databases and having effective get out the vote operations on the day. The basis of that is good data based on solid voter contact in the preceding weeks.

I always thought when Carswell defected to UKIP that he would bring with him that level of know how which could have transformed UKIP. Whatever reason that didn’t happen.

All of this does not mean that the Brexit Party is not going to have an impact at a general election but it is mainly to to split the pro Brexit vote rather than to win MPs. The Tories, though are learning fast and their impede the Brexit Party effort on Thursday saw BREX only pick up half the votes that the only poll of the campaign suggested it would get a couple of weeks earlier.

Mike Smithson


And so to next week’s Brecon & Radnorshire by-election where new leaders Swinson and Johnson will face their first electoral tests

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Number Cruncher Politics Brecon Poll

Can PM BoJo win back CON to BREX defectors?

One of the extraordinary features of UK politics at the moment is just how much is going on. Not only will this week see the outcomes of two party leader elections but there’ll be a new PM and in just over a week’s time there’ll be the first CON defence in a Westminster by-election since 2016. Inevitably this battle,in Brecon and Radnorshire will be portrayed as a Swinson versus Johnson.

At the weekend Number Cruncher Politics published an online poll on the by-election – the results are in the panel above and indicate that the LDs could win back the seat the lost at GE2015 from the Tories.

This is more than a battle for bragging rights but one which could have serious ramifications. A loss would make the Tory parliamentary situation even more precarious than it already is and might add to the pressure on Johnson to go for a general election.

The key numbers that the LDs are en route to regaining the seat are not that much of a surprise to but fieldwork took place before the leadership changes. Their national polling is substantially better than two years ago and they’ve been doing very well in local by elections.

The figure that stands out is the second place for the Tory candidate – an ex-MP whose criminal conviction for expenses fraud triggered the recall petition that created the vacancy. Farage’s Brexit Party can only manage third.

Given the Brexit Party’s huge success in the May Euro elections and how near it got last month in the Peterborough by-election you’d have expected it to be a lot closer. Like Peterborough Brecon voted leave in the referendum and like Peterborough the vacancy was created by a successful recall petition triggered by a criminal conviction for the incumbent MP Unlike Peterborough Brecon was not a marginal at GE2017 when the Tories retained it with a 19,5% majority,

A key factor for Boris is whether he is able to appeal to Tory voters who have defected to BREX and the by-election should give us an indication of that.

Farage’s parties have a long history of struggling with first past the post elections and the only times they’ve ever won Westminster seats were in 2014 when two Tory MPs resigned their seats after switching to UKIP.  One wasn’t retained at GE2015 and the other saw the incumbent MP, Douglas Carswell, quitting Farage’s then party and not standing at GE2017.

I should add that single constituency polls are very difficult for pollsters because of the challenge of finding a big enough sample. They have been somewhat out of favour since GE2015 when many were tested against real results and failed.

The LDs are now 1/8 favourite to regain the seat.


Mike Smithson



And now the Tory Brecon bar chart to try to beat off the Brexit party

Friday, July 12th, 2019

From a Tory campaign AD Brecon & Radnorshire by-election

Boris’s first electoral test – getting more by-election votes than Farage

It might be a too big an ask to expect the Tories to retain the Brecon and Radnorshire seat where the by-election takes place on August 1st but the party would dearly love to win more votes than Farage’s Brexit Party.

The circumstances, the fact that their candidate is the former MP who was deprived of his seat following the successful recall petition after his criminal conviction for expenses fraud is not a good starting point.

On top of that the many sheep farmers in this huge constituency who rely on exports to Europe are not enamored by the prospect of a no deal Brexit which would mean that their products would have a 40% tariff placed on them. Their livelihoods and those in the constituency who rely on the sheep trade are at stake.

The main opposition and 1/5 odds-on favourites to retake the seat lost at GE2015, the Liberal Democrats, are the only remain party in the race following agreements with the Greens and PC applied not to field candidates.

Such tight odds have not made the by-election overall winner an attractive betting market though there is now a another option from Ladbrokes which looks extremely interesting. Which of the Conservatives and the Brexit Party party will win most votes?

Currently the bookie makes it 1/2 for the Tory and 6/4 for Farage’s party. Given how well the latter did in Peterborough a few weeks ago coming with in a few hundred votes of beating Labour then the 6/4 looks attractive.

The one thing that could change that, of course, is that by August 1st there will be a new Conservative leader, most likely Boris Johnson, and my guess is that the expectation that he will give a boost to the Tories is priced into those odds.

Failing to beat the Tory vote total here would severely blunt the momentum that Farage has built up for his party since the successes in the May euro elections.

The Tory battle to recover the ground taken by Farage is the first electoral battle for the new leader.

Mike Smithson


The Midas touch. Living in a world of abundant knowledge

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

In the middle ages, Timbuktu was fabulously wealthy. It controlled the gold trade and it had all the riches that you would expect from that. Mansa Musa, the sultan, had a fortune that you couldn’t dream away, you couldn’t wish away.  

The sultan, as a good Muslim, performed the hajj, making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Being fabulously wealthy as well as a good Muslim, he travelled with a retinue of 60,000 men. All along the way, he gave gold to the poor and did good works.

He was like the sultan in one of the stories in the One Thousand Nights And One Night. However, his good deeds had terrible consequences. He gave so much gold away that he destabilised every country he passed through. The foundations of their economy, built on the scarcity of gold, were rocked.

Less dramatically but with long-lasting effects, when Spain conquered the New World, the vast quantities of silver and gold brought home caused enduring inflation in Europe for centuries. El Dorado hid dangers.

When something previously scarce becomes much more common, we value it much less. If the streets of London really were paved with gold, that would imply that Londoners didn’t value the stuff very much.

Suddenly, we find ourselves in a world of abundant knowledge that is effortlessly accessible. This is a blessing, but a disruptive one. It is an irony that the current era is often referred to as an Information Age and that we are said to live in a Knowledge Economy. The value attributable to raw information has declined vertiginously. Knowledge now litters our world like oranges in the streets of Seville and most of it is about as valued.

There are exceptions. Personal information, time-sensitive information and information exclusively held by one provider are all examples of information that may still have substantial value. The norm, however, is for information to be freely available and thus customers expect to pay, if at all, only for convenient access to it.

This has disrupted many industries. Whole professional castes were initially built around their control of access to information: lawyers, doctors and journalists, to give three examples. The barriers are being broken down. To retain relevance, professionals need to prioritise selling other services. Doctors and lawyers have positioned themselves with success by selling their skill in interpreting the data (in fairness, they had been doing this long before their knowledge base became widely publicly available).  

Journalists have had less success with this approach: their skill in interpreting data has not been demonstrated to enough potential customers to be sufficiently superior to amateurs for them to retain their role as paid guides to the modern world. Why buy a dog if you can bark yourself?

Politics has also been disrupted by this abundance of information. More than in most areas, the rewards for using false, misleading or partial information are high. If a doctor gives a patient incorrect information, the patient may die. If a politician gives a voter incorrect information, the politician may get elected.

Even so, the same general point stands. For generations, politicians have presented themselves as experts: “the man in Whitehall knows best”. Now he doesn’t. Anyone who is interested can bury themselves in reliable official statistics, public reports (and those of thinktanks) and review comparative studies from other countries. 

Civil servants have trained their entire career to weigh competing policies, but politicians, the decision-makers, generally have not. A citizen who is well-informed on his or her chosen subject will probably leave the politician flatfooted.

This is a career crisis. If politicians are not going to offer policy, what are they going to offer?

If there’s one thing that the politics of the last few years has shown, it’s that standing as a leader who puts capable administration before ideology does not have the same appeal to the public that it used to do. The public are looking for rousing themes, not triangulation.

Commentators have written much about the rise of populism. Certainly Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Donald Trump and Matteo Salvini match this well. It doesn’t really explain the parallel success of the Greens across Europe, the Lib Dems’ recent resurgence in Britain or for that matter Jeremy Corbyn and Die Linke in Germany. Other commentators have written much about the fragmentation of politics, which is certainly not happening in the US and is a questionable explanation in Britain, given the two main parties scored their highest collective tally for generations in 2017.

I suggest that both of these explanations capture some but not all of what is going on. We live in a world where information is near enough free for anyone who wants it and so politicians selling evidence-based policies have been correspondingly devalued. Those who can peddle simple and easy big ideas are rising in value relative to them.

As a result, politics by mood board is in the ascendancy. Politicians about whom the public say “say what you like about X but…” can say what they like.  Parties whose policies can be summed up in three words will take votes off parties with nuanced policy platforms. There’s a reason why Nigel Farage is abandoning the idea of a manifesto for the Brexit party.

Still, it feels that politicians have yet fully to grasp what the public needs in the age of abundant information. By and large, so far the populists are strikingly unpopular among the populace as a whole, with loyal followings but a low ceiling on their support. At some point a gifted politician with a captivating personality is going to articulate a simple vision that forges a consensus. That politician will have the Midas touch.

Alastair Meeks


The best test of a pollster is not how they’re currently doing against other firms but what happened last time they were tested

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

I am afraid that I have to disagree with David Herdson on his latest Saturday thread about YouGov understating Labour. Firstly you cannot judge pollsters’ based on their current surveys when less than 5 weeks ago they were tested against a real election involving real voters.

In the two charts above I compare LAB and LD vote shares for the May Euros in their final published polls.  Just two of them can claim to have come out of the election well with the rest trailing some way back.

Just examine some of the exaggerated figures that some pollsters were record reporting for LAB where we had a range from 13% to 25%. The actual GB figures was 14%.

Now look at the second chart showing the final LD shares. These range from 12% to 20%. The actual GB share was 20,4%.

Apart from Ipsos MORI and YouGov the rest really did rather badly.

Because of the low turnout, the 37% that actually happened was broadly anticipated, this was always going to be a challenging election for polling because turnout was everything. If one party’s supporters were less likely to vote  then that presents the pollsters with serious challenges .

The other challenge, of course, was tactical voting generally by remain backing LAB voters to the parties they saw as being most likely to succeed in their region and so the vote could produce the maximum number of MEPs. This helped the LDs and, of course, the Greens to achieve the success that they did. Whatever mechanisms YouGov and Ipsos Mori use they were able to detect better what was the big characteristic of this election.

So when I look at the current polls I regard Survation and Opinium, of the recent ones, as LAB over-staters.

Mike Smithson


Brexit: Some Inconvenient Facts that the Tories need to face

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep” – Saul Bellow

There are illusions aplenty amongst Tory MPs about how Brexit is going to be achieved by the current candidates for leader, Boris chief among them. Perhaps – like Baldrick – he has a cunning plan. One can but hope. It seems almost indecently rude to spoil these illusions with something as vulgar as facts. But here goes, anyway.

1. There is only one Withdrawal Agreement agreed with the EU which is consistent with both the EU’s own red lines and those of the British government, at least as they currently stand. Under that agreement there will be a transitional period. Without it there is no transition.

2. The EU has stated – and made it a legal condition of the extension of Article 50 to 31 October – that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated.

3. The EU has also stated that it is not going to abandon the backstop contained in the WA. Ireland is a member of the EU. Britain is currently seeking to become an ex-member. The EU is not going to place the interests of the latter over those of the former, no matter how much this might offend Britain’s amour propre or sense of superiority over a country it has often treated with condescension or contempt.

4. Unionist politicians consider the maintenance of the link with Great Britain more important than anything else. It is their raison d’être. Any different treatment of Northern Ireland implying that it is not somehow as British as the rest of Britain will get a “Never, Never, Never” response.

5. Different British red lines could result in a different Withdrawal Agreement. What those different red lines might be – and their implications, whether for the relationship with the EU or for UK domestic politics – have not so far been discussed by Tory leadership candidates. There is still a little time. Whether there is a will is quite another question.

6. Any different Withdrawal Agreement will need the agreement of the EU and need to be consistent with its red lines.

7. If a new Withdrawal Agreement is to be negotiated and agreed and approved by Parliament, this will take time. It will almost certainly take more time than is available between now and the expiry of the Article 50 deadline given the summer holidays, the Parliamentary recess, the disbanding of the EU’s negotiating team and the fact that the EU is currently in the process of changing its key personnel, who will not be in place until after the deadline has expired.

8. Therefore, for a new Withdrawal Agreement to be agreed and approved by Parliament, an extension of Article 50 will be required. As implied by the remarks of Mark Rutte, the Dutch Prime Minister, the EU will almost certainly want to have some substantive and credible evidence that (a) there has been a change in the British government’s negotiating position; and (b) it can get the required Parliamentary approval for whatever is agreed. The EU has already spent some considerable time negotiating Cameron’s deal (rejected) and the Withdrawal Agreement (rejected three times). For Britain to rock up to Brussels saying “Let’s have another go. Third time lucky, eh!” is unlikely either to impress or be effective.

9. An extension beyond Halloween is not consistent with the promises made by either Johnson or Hunt, assuming that they have been saying the same things in private to all their supporters as they have in public. Quite why Trick or Treat day has been fetishised by the Tories to the extent it has (despite having been imposed on Britain by those frightful Eurocrats) is a matter best left to whoever provides therapy to Tory MPs these days. The important fact is that it has been. In Continental Europe, the following two days are All Saints and All Souls.  From April Fools to the Day of the Dead. Someone in Brussels had a dark sense of humour when the date was chosen.

10. If the date is key, then the only option for the Tories is to take Britain out of the EU on that date without any sort of deal.

11. Whether Parliament will seek to stop this or be successful in doing so is unknowable. There is a lot of sound and fury from some MPs. Whether it will signify anything who can say.

12. An election may change the Parliamentary arithmetic. Or it may not. The last PM who tried to get a large majority to strengthen their hand found that that elections are, polls notwithstanding, easier to call than to win. The polls are much less favourable for the Tories now. What an election certainly won’t do is create any more time.

13. The EU is assuming that Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister, a relatively safe assumption. It is also assuming that he will change his policy once he becomes PM, that promises or statements made during a campaign will be ignored or finessed away once he is in power. This may be a dangerous assumption to make.

14. Others here have a faint hope that Johnson’s very untrustworthiness means that he can be trusted to break his promises and avoid a No Deal exit. It is a curious and slender peg on which to hang one’s hopes.

15. It is unlikely that the country will be ready for No Deal or for what could happen thereafter. See, for instance, this report in relation to medicines.

16. A No Deal exit means a complete break overnight. With no transitional arrangements. There is no such thing as a managed No Deal since the Withdrawal Agreement is the way in which Britain’s exit was going to be managed. On 31 October Britain will be a member of the EU. On 1 November it will be a third country. “Just like that!” as Tommy Cooper might have said. As a comparison, when Britain joined in 1973, there was a 7-year transitional period.

17. The consequences of such an abrupt rupture – on Britain’s economy, its trading relationships, its society, the parties advocating it, those opposing it, its relations with the EU, its relations with other countries – are unclear and potentially far-reaching. They could well overwhelm the administration and make it harder for it to deal with all the many other tasks which a government has to handle.
18. The EU has made it clear that it will do whatever will be necessary to protect its interests following a No Deal exit by Britain. Such actions may also benefit Britain – but by happenstance only. The EU will not feel obliged to do anything to assist Britain to live more easily with the consequences of its choices unless this is also in the EU’s interests. It is quite likely that this will be presented here as the EU “punishing” Britain or being vengeful. The anger which EU countries will feel at having been put in such a position will be ignored.

It was Harold Macmillan who famously said that governments could be blown off course by “Events, dear boy, events”. Too true. Most governments have sought to avoid such events or, at least, be in a position to steer a steady course through them. The Tories now seem intent on creating a veritable tsunami of events – with Britain at their centre – with little more than a wing, a prayer and (most likely) under the guidance of an unprincipled leader with the ability to make jokes. If nothing else, it is an unusual position for a soi-disant conservative party to take.