Archive for the 'General election' Category


A nice way to spend your Sunday afternoon, watching This House

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

Like Mike Smithson I love the play This House, I saw This House at the theatre back in 2012 and when it was repeated in the cinemas in 2013, so I utterly delighted a wider audience will be able to see this.

I was born in the late 70s but I’ve always been fascinated by these crucial votes in Parliament, particularly the 1979 vote of no confidence, something which is a pivot moment in the history of this country.

It’s fascinating to see alternative history if things had happened differently. The SNP MPs who helped usher in a Thatcher premiership and eighteen years of Conservative government, is that a long game the SNP were playing that might see Scottish independence realised within the next decade

Frank Maguire, the Irish Nationalist MP, who abstained in person, some say because Roy Mason’s tenure at the Northern Ireland office that gave the IRA such a good hiding, which saw deaths plummet, did Maguire really want the approach of Thatcher to the IRA?

Then there’s the honourable decisions taken about an agreement between Walter Harrison and Bernard Weatherill that would have seen Callaghan win the vote of no confidence. If that had happened then who knows, Thatcher may have failed to win an Autumn 1979 election, which would have seen her ousted and saw a non Thatcherite replace her.

So if you’ve got just over two and a half hours spare, watch this, you won’t regret it, the show will be removed from YouTube on Thursday, so it won’t be up for much longer.



To add to BoJo’s woes it’s Corbyn not the PM who’ll decide when there’ll be an election

Wednesday, September 25th, 2019

PMs without majorities shouldn’t be able to call elections

The Fixed-term Parliament Act was the most lasting constitutional change to come out of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition.

It was always said that it was unnecessary because the main opposition party would always vote for an election if that was offered as we saw in April 2017. That thinking has changed this past month with Corbyn’s LAB not taking the bait. He knows that the new parliamentary arithmetic means that LAB in conjunction with other opposition parties are now in the driving position when it comes choosing the date.

Corbyn’s ducking of the offer twice means that he and not the PM can determine whether or not there will be a general election and no doubt Labour will decide when the best moment is for the party.

This is a complete turnaround from what used to exist. The ability to call elections up to 2011 was part of the prerogative powers that were in the hands of the prime minister even if they led a minority government.

The fact that Johnson is in a theoretical minority of -43 seats is what is behind his current weakness – a fact that doesn’t seem to have registered with Cummings the man who is really in charge

The big question, of course is whether an election takes place before or after the crucial October 31st Brexit date. The Johnson/Dom reasoning is clearly that the Tories stand a far better chance of offsetting likely losses to the SNP and LDs by going in October. It would be easier to focus the election almost entirely on Brexit before the due date rather than afterwards.

If there’s an extension that puts Johnson in a more vulnerable position because of his much repeated assertions that the UK would be out by the end of October.

Before the FTPA even a PM like Johnson who has never won a Commons vote could choose general election date at a time when it was most beneficial to his or her party. Now that’s changed and those who want the act repealed should appreciate that they are giving an extraordinary power to the incumbent PM. Maybe they would think differently if their opponent was running the country?

Mike Smithson


The flaw in going into an election about “the will of the people” is that those thinking Brexit was wrong have a 6% lead

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

This rather narrows the target audience

This polling Tracker from YouGov has been asked at least twice a month since the 2016 referendum and the big trend is that there has been a shift from those thinking Brexit was right to those thinking that brexit was wrong.

This matters, I would suggest, if there is to be an election which is presented as being about the People vs the Politicians as is being suggested by many commentators this morning.

For the fact is that there has been a shift in opinion in views of Brexit and that it well over a year and a half since the YouGov tracker has found a lead for those thinking Brexit was right. Public opinion has not shifted very much but it has shifted and the steady leads for Brexit wrong should be a concern.

This is the trend table from YouGov which has not been updated with the latest poll. Until about GE2017 Brexit right was mostly in the lead.

The fact, of course, is that the UK remains totally split on the issue and Johnson could be going into dangerous territory by appealing to fewer than half of the voting population.

Mike Smithson


LDs just ahead of the Tories in 20 top CON-LD marginals YouGov poll

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Just released on the YouGov website today is the above poll commissioned by the People’s Vote in the 20 most marginal Tory seats where the Lib Dems are the main challenger.

As can be seen the Lib Dems just have the edge of just one percent ahead  The interesting figure is the 11% LAB share and my guess is that that would be squeezed very tightly in a general election in places where the Lib Dems would be the main challengers to the Tory incumbents.

Given that we might only be weeks away from a  General Election we should expect a lot more surveys like this.

Mike Smithson


Why many pollsters overstated LAB so much at the May Euros and what could be happening with current VI polls

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019


GE2017 LAB voters forgetting what they did could be causing distortion

After the 1992 polling debacle when John Major’s Tories won an overall majority even though all but one of the pollsters had LAB ahead a big effort was launched by ICM to find out what had gone wrong and we’ve all heard about “shy Tories” less willing to take part in polls.

The firm’s Nick Sparrow in conjunction with Prof John Curtice came up with what is known as past vote weighting to ensure samples were balanced. Basically respondents were asked how they voted last time and their responses were adjusted so that the sample broadly reflected the previous election.

It worked well and for GE1997 and GE2001  ICM became top pollster. At GE2005 another pollster, NOP, used the same approach and got the result spot on.

By GE2010 most pollsters had adopted mechanisms on the past vote model to ensure balanced samples. The only problem is that you cannot rely on those sampled to remember how they voted.  According to an excellent analysis by Anthony Wells of YouGov is what is happening at the moment with many of those who voted for Corbyn’s LAB at GE17.  He writes:

“How to deal with false recall used to be one of the big methodological debates within British polling. Ipsos MORI still don’t use past vote weighting at all because of their concerns over false recall. In more recent years, recalled vote seemed to be closer to reality, and it has become less of an issue. But with the recent major shifts in party support it may once again become a major concern.

At YouGov we have the advantage of a huge, well-established panel, meaning we have many thousands of people from whom we collected past vote data in 2017, before their memory had chance to play tricks on them. Many other companies do not, and must rely on asking people to recall now how they voted in 2017.

This difference may well explain some of the present variation in Labour support between different companies (I suspect it may not be coincidence that the two companies who avoided significantly overstating Labour support in the recent European elections were Ipsos MORI, who don’t use past vote weighting, and YouGov, who are able to use data collected back in 2017 for past vote weighting).

To illustrate Wells did a test with the same data from the sample but processed differently. One using what those on its panel said they did at GE17 and another on how they now recall their vote. As can be seen there’s a marked impact on the LAB share.

The reason for the variation is that the smaller number of those recalling now that they voted LAB at GE17 means that the responses of those who said they did have to be weighted up in order to fit a past vote weighting model.

Mike Smithson




In spite of all the uncertainty a 2019 general election is still less than a 50% chance in the betting

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 chart of movements on Betfair Exchange

Will Boris be tempted?

Last night’s ComRes poll suggesting that the Tories under Johnson could secure a 40 seat majority raises the question once again of whether the new leader would risk going to the country soon after taking over the leadership.

The reasons are powerful. The need to get Brexit through by the end of October and, of course, a desire to underpin the perceived democratic legitimacy of his position. Johnson would be the first PM ever to have got the job as a result of a ballot restricted to his party’s membership.

There’s also the huge issue over Commons numbers as he tries to further the Brexit process. He looks set to be in an even worse parliamentary position than TMay with the likely loss in the Brecon by-election and the real possibility of some Tory MPs refusing to back him in a confidence vote.

Labour, still plagued by the lack of resolution over the charges of antisemitism and the ongoing divide over Brexit, might be an easier foe in September of October than Corbyn’s party was in June 2017.

As can be seen from the chart the betting chances of a 2019 election slipped markedly after reaching a peak in late March. The trend is moving upwards but it is still only a 43% chance.

But after working so hard to become leader and PM would Johnson dare risk it all by going to the country early. TMay’s GE2017 experience still casts a shadow over the party.

One way the next election might be unlike other recent contests is that the pro-Remain parties could get their act together and agree just one contender in each constituency as is happening at the Brecon by-election. The most accurate pollsters from last May have a GRN plus LD aggregate approaching 30% which could put a pact in a powerful position.

Mike Smithson




2019 now moves to the favourite slot as year of the next general election

Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Chart of Betfair price movements from

The big betting move following Johnson’s thumping victory in the first round of the CON MP leadership voting has been renewed interest in the next general election taking place this year. This has now moved to favourite on Betfair.

A challenge for a Boris-led CON party is going to be keeping the parliamentary grouping together because, if not, you could see him failing a government confidence motion at the first hurdle which, if not rescinded within a fortnight, would trigger a general election.

His challenge is the same one that TMay faced but more so – MP numbers. It doesn’t take many CON MPs to not back the government in a confidence vote for this to be lost.

His victory in today’s vote was stunning and far exceeded most expectations. It is hard to see anyone other than him entering Number 10 when this process is all over.

Maybe we will have to rethink the “rule” that long term favourites for the Tory leadership don’t make it?

The major limitation on PM Boris is now the member for Uxbridge himself. In the next week or so he mustn’t do anything that raises any doubts about his character or ability to carry out the role.

To be sure he’s going to face a scrutiny in the media the likes of which he has never faced before.

Mike Smithson


Observer reporting that CON MPs would block TMay’s plan to call snap election

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

From the Sunday papers that we have now got in the Observer reports that Tory MPs would block the prime minister if she sought to call a general election. This has been heavily hinted at since the Brexit votes were lost on Friday.

Before the Fixed Term Parliament Act the choice of choosing a general election date was totally in the hands of the prime minister. The act changed that and now a election can only be called if two-thirds of all MPs back one in a vote or there’s a vote of no confidence.

The paper reports:-

In a sign of the collapse in authority suffered by the prime minister, cabinet ministers are among those warning that there will be a serious campaign by Conservative MPs to vote against an election headed by May, a move she hinted at last week to break the Brexit deadlock.

The threat of an election immediately angered both pro-Brexit and pro-Remain MPs. May would need a two-thirds majority in the Commons to secure one, meaning a serious rebellion by Tories could block it. May would then be forced to secure an election by backing a no-confidence vote in her own government, which only requires a simple majority of MPs.

So this takes away one of TMay key weapons. Her only chance of getting her deal through is by putting it to MPs for a fourth time.

The other way she could try to call can an election is by contriving a vote of no confidence in her own government.

One poll tonight from Delta has LAB with a 5% lead.

Mike Smithson