Archive for the 'EU matters' Category


Labour’s last-ditch bid to stop its Remain backing voters switching to the LDs and the Greens

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Maybe the problem’s that its seen a pro-Brexit party

Over the weekend, there has been a flurry of apparently panicky messages coming out of the Labour Party to try to stop the seepage of support to the unequivocally pro-remain parties of the Lib Dems and the Greens. The above Tweet is the latest example.

This is all in response to the latest Euros polling where the yellows and to a certain extent the Green have been advancing and picking up, apparently, a large slab of Labour remainers. One big poll has the LDs in top slot above Labour and the Brexit party in London.

Clearly there’s a big concern in Corbyn’s team about finishing up in third place in the Euro elections with the Lib Dems and, of course, the Brexit party on top. One or two polls are now pointing to this.

There’s little doubt that a key part of the LDs strategy for Thursday’s election has throughout been to portray Labour as a pro-Brexit party which has been an easy point to make. Hardly any material goes out from the yellows without this being highlighted.

The messaging in response from Corbyn’s team is really hard to follow. Trying to frame Thursday’s vote as a battle between Labour and Farage and the hard right is quite a hard one to make to those party supporters who see it as a battle for and against Brexit.

Until now Labour’s ambivalence has worked but the signs are that it might not carry it past Thursday.

It is generally said that the final two or three days before an election are absolutely key. Most voters don’t focus on the intricacies of a battle until almost the last moment and decisions, like tactical voting, are made quite late.

Mike Smithson


The updated Wikipedia polling table for next week’s Euros

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

What is very marked is the high level of variation between the firm’s most recent surveys.

Change UK are recorded as being in a range of 2-6%

The Brexit Party from 26% to 34%

LDs from 11% to 19%

GRN from 6% to 11%

The Tories are in a much narrower range of 10% to 15%.

The possibly outlying figures from BMG might be down to the fact that in its poll the Euros voting intention was put first. With the others it was after the Westminster question.

Whatever the big picture is the Brexit party looking strong with both the LDs and Greens moving up

Update Latest Ipsos-MORI

Mike Smithson


If you are looking for clarity about what’ll happen in the Euros then you won’t get it from the latest polls

Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

Dealing with turnout is very challenging

One of the common criticisms of pollsters in recent years is that they have a tendency to herd particularly as we get closer to elections. Well for sure that’s one thing that isn’t happening this time. With just a week and one day to go the above chart shows the Brexit party lead in the most recent polls and as can be seen there is a huge gap between the figures from YouGov and those from ComRes just out this morning.

I think we ought to acknowledge that this is a very difficult election to poll because everything’s dependent on turnout and if there is differential turnout between the parties then that could have a huge impact.

One factor that people not involved in politics perhaps don’t often appreciate that the elections that see the most on the ground campaigning are for local councils.

The last time the Euro elections in the UK were held alone, without simultaneous elections taking place on the same day, was in 1999 and the turnout was 24%. This year’s election comes three weeks after the locals and I’m expecting turnout somewhere in the mid-thirties. My reasoning is that there is a much greater interest in these elections because Brexit has dominated domestic politics coverage in the UK for the last 3 years.

All the recent polls have shown turnout figures considerably higher than that we have historically associated with elections to the European Parliament. For instance the latest ComRes had 60% of its sample rating their likelihood to vote at between 8 to 10. My view is that it’s not going to happen and am betting on overall turnout in the 30-40 range,

Maybe in the final polls to be published before the election a week tomorrow we will see some convergence but maybe we won’t.

Mike Smithson


Is this expectations from the Conservatives or are they really going to finish sixth in the Euros?

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

Why David Cameron & Theresa May might soon be seen as the modern day H.H. Asquith & David Lloyd George

My first instinct to the Guardian story was this is expectations management by the Conservatives, I mean really the Conservatives finishing sixth in a nationwide election? But then I realised the evidence being used here were the arguments I made last month on the Conservatives polling 10% or lower in this election.

Last night’s polling indicated Brexit has the potential to do to the Conservative Party what World War One did to the Liberal Party so perhaps the briefings by Conservative officials to the Guardian were accurate, which brings me to the market by Ladbrokes on the Conservative finishing position (based on vote share) in the European elections which the latest polling has the Conservatives in fourth place.

Now I’m not going to bet on this market as I think my bet on the Conservatives polling sub 10% in these elections is a pretty good proxy for them finishing fourth or lower. However if I didn’t have that bet I’d be tempted to the 6/1 on the Conservatives finishing fifth.

It is clear the Conservative vote is in freefall, whilst the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens are in the ascendancy, latter two as evidenced in the local elections, whilst Labour’s core vote appears to be more solid than the Conservative core vote so it isn’t hard to visualise the Conservatives finishing fifth.



If the latest Euro polling is right the Tories are near to being pushed into 4th place

Friday, May 10th, 2019


Over the last couple of days there been the first post local elections polls on the May 23rd Euro elections. As can be seen in the Wikipedia table the Brexit party is staying pretty stable in pole position with the Labour Party about 3% behind and the Tories much further down.

In fact the latest Opinium poll has the Tories on 14% with the Lib Dems up 5 on 12%. It was always going to be, though, that the Tories were going to take a hiding in these elections. Remember in 2014 when Farage’s then party, Ukip, party came top and the Tories were pushed into third place. They are still maintaining that position on the latest polls but the Lib Dems are moving up quite sharpish.

This is one of those elections when the polls might have some impact on how people vote. This might boost The Brexit Party and if the LD upwards movement continues could help them

What the yellows will be hoping to do is establish themselves as the party of remain with the hope of squeezing LAB, CON, GRN and  CHUK voters. We’ll see.

The betting is getting livelier and is likely to increase quite sharply as we get closer to polling day.

I have 32 pence of the LDs at 990/1 on Betfair to be top party. That’s now moved in sharpish but I am still expecting to lose my stake!

Mike Smithson


Farage against the machine. Why the Brexit party’s chances are not as good as billed

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Nigel Farage’s second coming has been greeted with fanfares in the media, which love someone who courts publicity and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get it. His gaping maw can be viewed wherever you look, and he has so far been given an unimpeded run for his message that Brexit has been betrayed. His credentials as a strategic genius who delivered Brexit are taken as read. His brilliance as a politician is assumed. The imminent collapse of the current political establishment is expected.  

At the time of writing, he was most recently backed on Betfair at 48 (47/1) for next Prime Minister.  This price is shorter than that for Philip Hammond, Geoffrey Cox, Amber Rudd and David Davis. Since he is not even an MP, this shows remarkable enthusiasm for his chances.

There are a few problems with this narrative. Let’s take a look at them.

Nigel Farage is a really poor political campaigner

Put the referendum to one side for now (I will be coming back to this). His track record in seeking election to Westminster is one of almost unmitigated failure, both for himself and for his party. The only successes have been obtaining the re-election at by-elections of two incumbent MPs. One of these lost his seat at the next election.

He himself has failed to be elected to Parliament on no fewer than seven occasions, including coming third in a two horse race in 2010 when campaigning in the Speaker’s constituency.

He has a better record in the EU elections. The Brexit party can be expected to do well there. For long term impact, however, they are going to need to start making inroads into Westminster. Nothing in Nigel Farage’s past suggests that they will.

His role in the referendum is being hugely overstated

Nigel Farage’s biggest contribution to the referendum was leaning on Conservative MPs to help get it called in the first place. During the referendum campaign he roamed around like a rogue elephant, trampling across the main campaign’s efforts.

He may have reached voters that the main campaign did not reach but he also risked alienating other voters who were also needed with such stunts as his Breaking Point poster. He was certainly one of the more visible figures but he was not so much Svengali as sidekick.

Certainly he did not impress Dominic Cummings, guru of Vote Leave. Among his comments:

“We recruited more active volunteers (~12,000) in 10 months than UKIP in 25 years (~7,000 according to Farage).”

“Farage put off millions of (middle class in particular) voters who wanted to leave the EU but who were very clear in market research that a major obstacle to voting Leave was ‘I don’t want to vote for Farage, I’m not like that’. He also put off many prominent business people from supporting us. Over and over they would say ‘I agree with you the EU is a disaster and we should get out but I just cannot be on the same side as a guy who makes comments about people with HIV’.”

Without Boris, Farage would have been a much more prominent face on TV during the crucial final weeks, probably the most prominent face. (We had to use Boris as leverage with the BBC to keep Farage off and even then they nearly screwed us as ITV did.) It is extremely plausible that this would have lost us over 600,000 vital middle class votes.”

Retrospectively making him into some kind of electoral babe-magnet is rewriting history.

The Brexit party, new as it is, has major problems

Considering the Brexit party is so new, it has a remarkably chequered track record already. It has lost its chief executive over blood-curdling anti-Islamic comments and its treasurer over a pot pourri of anti-semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.

If Labour are struggling with accusations of institutional anti-semitism, the Brexit party seem to have much greater structural problems.  What is it about Nigel Farage that attracts such people?

The Brexit party’s party structure is also going to be limiting unless quickly changed. The party leader is chosen by a committee that is appointed by Nigel Farage. The party supporters get no say. Party democracy is evidently something that Nigel Farage has no time for.

While it is no doubt a great comfort to Nigel Farage that he has the same job security as Arthur Scargill, it will prove a major barrier to obtaining new recruits. Disaffected Conservative MPs will be unwilling to jump ship to a party where their status will be subject to the caprices of a man who many others had fallen foul of once their profile got too high.

This may in turn explain why Nigel Farage has yet again overpromised and underdelivered. We were told that the Brexit party was going to unveil a glittering array of candidates. Instead so far we have got the sister of a backbench Conservative MP and the usual ragbag of committed EU-haters who no one else had heard of. I suppose that this was a step up from a much-touted march that ultimately had fewer than 100 participants. It still suggests that the party structures are again likely to prove an Achilles heel for him.

Nigel Farage has a host of questions to answer about himself that he won’t be able to duck forever

Then we come to the man himself. He has never shown himself particularly deft on the defence rather than on the attack. Perhaps he will break that habit. He will need to.

As Dominic Cummings noted, he has an array of past statements that are voter-repellent (Mike Smithson noted his approach to the NHS, which is far outside the mainstream, on Monday). Those will come back to haunt him – does he still believe them? If not, why did he change his mind?

He also visibly struggles over questions about funding. The ongoing questions about Leave.EU’s finances rumble on. The answers won’t sink the referendum result but the waters lap around Nigel Farage’s feet (which is no doubt why Arron Banks is not being asked to contribute to funding the Brexit party).  

It is also worth noting that the rules on disclosing MPs’ interests are more stringent than those for MEPs. Were he ever to make it eighth (or ninth, or tenth) time lucky, journalists would be queuing up to pore over them.

He will no doubt also be watching with some concern developments over the Mueller report. He was named in passing as a possible conduit to Julian Assange for wikileaks. He was indeed seen at the Ecuadorean embassy. No doubt in due course he will be asked by reporters to explain his bit part in this drama.

Most importantly, he is campaigning on the democratic need to implement Brexit and how the MPs are betraying it. But before and during the referendum campaign he made many statements on Brexit that suggest that he was expecting a much softer Brexit then than he is campaigning for now. At some point he is going to need to come up with a convincing explanation of the discrepancies if he is going to make inroads beyond the permanently aggrieved.

Ultimately, the Brexit party may well prove extremely problematic for the Conservatives, perhaps lethal up to and including the next general election. That does not mean that it will itself have much electoral success and unlike in the 2010-15 Parliament, the diehard right is in no position to impose itself on the government, which has still greater pressures from elsewhere.

All it looks set to do is hand the initiative to pro-EU forces. For all that they are being much-derided at present, CUK look more likely to achieve their policy objectives in relation to Brexit both in the short and in the long term.

Alastair Meeks


UK Euro elections have been no guide to what will happen at the next general election

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Even under Blair LAB never “won” a Euro election

While everybody is getting over excited at the moment about the prospect of the May 23rd Euro elections we should remind ourselves and how they have been totally non indicative of what’s going to happen at the following general election

Back in 1999, the first General Election after Tony Blair’s landslide, William Hague’s Tories came out as the top party with 33.5% of the vote 7 points ahead of Labour. Two years later at the 2001 general election Tony Blair’s party achieved another landslide which was only a couple of seats off what he had achieved 4 years earlier. Hague had been somewhat misled by the Tory success in the 1999 Euros that he focused almost his whole GE2001 campaign on the issue of the UK’s relationship with the EU. It did him no good.

For the 2004 Euros Blair went to great lengths to try to boost his party. All postal voting took place in several regions in the hope this would boost turnout. On the day the Tories led then by Michael Howard achieved a victory in the Euro elections with a similar sort of margin to William hague’s five years earlier. The following year Tony Blair went on to win a solid working Commons majority that would sustain LAB for 5 years.

In 2009 the Tories topped the aggregate vote total on 25.9% with UKIP on 16%. LAB slipped to third place. A year later at GE2010 UKIP didn’t pick up a single seat.

In 2014 Farage’s UKIP came out top with 27% of the vote winning most MEPs. This was, of course, no indicator to what would happen at GE2015 when the party just picked up one seat – Douglas Carswell’s and losing the other one it held. Carswell later quit UKIP.

This is all down, I’d argue, to two factors – the closed list voting system and voters not really believing that their ballot has an impact like at a general election. The last three UK Euro elections have been held simultaneously with the local elections thus probably boosting turnout. That will not happen on May 23rd because this year’s locals take place a fortnight today.

Mike Smithson


Blow for Change UK as it tried to complete formalities ahead of the possible May Euro elections

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

As if the people aren’t confused enough as it is

It has just been reported that the new party, change UK, has had its party logo rejected by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that it could “mislead voters”.

Apparently the emblem was a black square with the initials TIG and the hashtag “#change”.  Apparently the Commission took the view that the new party’s chosen emblem was not sufficiently well known.

But Change UK should be registered in time to take part in the coming Euro elections, if those are indeed to be held in the UK, on May 23rd.

In the convoluted voting system devised by Labour for the 1999 Euro elections voters do not choose candidates by name but rather put their cross against one of a range of parties. On the Ballot form each party logo figures above the list of candidates who have been chosen to represent them.

Without a logo the list of names of Change UK hopefuls will appear but will look slightly odd and that might just have an impact on their ability to attract votes in the election.

Ever since the rebel Labour and Conservative MPs left their parties in February the new grouping has had issues with branding.  It initially called itself the Independent group, and it is only been in recent weeks that the new term Change UK has been introduced. You can see the problem because they were known initially as TIG.

So when voters turnout on May 23rd they’re going to be faced with some unfamiliar changes in Britain’s party structure.  For as well as Change UK UKIP which won most MEPs in 2014 has now, of course split, and will remain on the ballot but will have to compete for that area of the vote with Nigel Farage’s the Brexit party.

Mike Smithson