Archive for the 'Referendum' Category


Who loves Dom?

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

Cummings has burnt too many bridges to survive committing the cardinal British political sin: hypocricy

25 January 2016 is not a date that has gone down in history. Despite that, the events of that day were critical to Britain voting to leave the EU, with all that’s meant since. That morning, Dominic Cummings was summoned to a meeting that was intended to remove him from running the Vote Leave campaign.

The meeting did not turn out as its board intended. Cummings responded by asserting that key senior Vote Leave staff as well as a good deal of the rest of the office, would walk were he sacked; assertions that a few quick phone calls validated. In the face of losing pretty much their whole staff less than five months before the referendum day, they backed down. The rest is well known: the data mining, the social media campaigns, the £350m/week, the signing up of Gove to Leave, and the Boris Johnson – without Cummings at its head, there’s every chance that Leave would have lost (probably not by much but lost all the same).

The crucial point here though is that Cummings needed leverage to see off the coup, in the form of support from his Vote Leave colleagues; support he was confident he would get. It was all very well him being rude to the MPs who were notionally his bosses because ultimately, they didn’t have the power to remove him and once the point had been proven, he could ignore them at will.

This is a lesson he appears to have forgotten. Since ascending the heights of Boris Johnson’s key advisor, he’s retained his legendary rudeness and contempt for norms but without any obvious sign of building up the sort of Praetorian Guard that saved him at Vote Leave. He has a patron, of course – and a very powerful one at that, in the form of the Prime Minister. That, however, may not be enough for at least three reasons.

Firstly, a political patron has to balance the value of retaining their valued adviser against the damage that keeping him does. Johnson’s own political position is strong for now and he won’t be brought down even if he retains Cummings. Doing so, however, would spend valuable political capital with both the public and with MPs; capital the PM might not want to spend.

Secondly, neither the PM nor Cummings seem on top of their game at the moment – perhaps for health reasons. Cummings may well have come up with the “Stay home; protect the NHS; save lives” slogan: it certainly has his feel about it. There would be a deep irony if so. But that apart, the government hasn’t been co-ordinated recently, messages have been mixed, policies have had to be U-turned (the NHS immigrant charges, for example – an obvious bad policy to anyone with any political nous), and the media game is slipping badly. Any Odyssean Project seems still-born. So if he’s not doing much useful, is the pain worth it?

But most of all, Cummings is guilty of that greatest of British sins: hypocrisy. When people are prevented from attending the funerals of loved ones, from meeting critically ill family members, from all sorts of normal interactions in the interests of preserving the nation’s health, he – who quite possibly wrote the slogan that sums up the government’s strategy in eight words – not only didn’t stay home but didn’t stay home when he had Covid-19 symptoms. That kind of hypocrisy is not forgiven by the public.

Nor will forgiveness easily be extended to a protective patron who grants his friends special favours when livelihoods (and indeed lives) are being lost on a great scale. Such matters are not always critical but nor are they necessarily forgotten and they will continue to weigh in the balance.

The only way people usually survive such scandals is if they are effectively unsackable, as Cummings was in January 2016. He no longer has that ultra-loyal bodyguard – and even if he did, he’s in a different position now and is less important to Number 10 than he was to Vote Leave. I don’t see how he survives this. And I don’t see why he should.

David Herdson


How each of the constituencies voted at the Referendum

Tuesday, October 29th, 2019

The projections from Prof Chris Hanretty of Royal Holloway

One thing’s for sure in the coming battle is how individual seats voted in the referendum on June 23rd 2016. Above is the standard reference on this projected by the leading political scientist, Prof Chris Hanretty of Royal Holloway. Most seats are just projections but in a number there are real results coming from councils which issued data down to ward level.

I have the spreadsheet set up so that they are in ascending order by leave vote. You can make your own adjustments.

This is going to be an election without precedent because the UK is on the brink of leaving the EU. I’d expect those seats with the heaviest remain and leave votes to perform in very different ways.

In the strong leave seats expect a battle between Farage’s Brexit party and the Tories while in strong remain seats there’ll be a fight for which party should be the first choice for those opposed to Brexit.

Mike Smithson


On the day of Johnson’s Brexit plan the latest polling on how voters view the referendum decision

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

The 9% Brexit wrong gap is one of the biggest seen since 2016

This is YouGov’s tracker which has been asked least twice a month since the referendum in June 2016. The format of the question has been unchanged and in the early day just about all the findings had Brexit being “right”.

That changed in late 2017/q18 and so far this year Brexit “right” has trailed.

Mike Smithson


Let’s put an end to this rubbish thinking about LAB being vulnerable in its Leave Westminster seats

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

"There is some chatter in the Labour groups about the party adopting a radical Revoke and Reform policy at a September General Election. Not the usual suspects, this comes from Corbyn supporters. In which case Labour better prepare for annihilation by the Brexit Party in its Leave seats in the North and Midlands and Wales even if they hold onto London and other big cities and university towns"

The majority of its GE2017 gains from CON were in seats that voted for Brexit

One of the ongoing narratives that makes me want to scream is in the the above comment on the previous PB thread. The idea that Labour is vulnerable in Leave area presented as some immutable “law” that doesn’t stand up to serious examination.

Firstly the polling after the last election showed that FIVE times as many CON voters had made Brexit main reason for voting as they did at GE2017 as LAB ones. Brexit is a much much less of an issue for LAB ones than Tories.

This is backed up if you look at the pattern of the results from that election. Corbyn’s LAB made 28 gains from the Tories the majority of them in seats which had voted leave.

These were:

Bury N
Weaver Vale
Warrington South
Portsmouth South
High Peak
Derby North
Crewe and Nantwich

Note with the by-election in mind that the list of LAB gains from CON includes Peterborough.

The Conservatives offset some of their losses making 20 gains overall just seven of which were in constituencies which had voted Leave. The rest were Remain. That, admittedly, is distorted by the 12 gains in Scotland from the SNP all but one of them had voted Remain.

The Tories also regained from the Liberal Democrats Richmond Park as well as taking Southport, both Remain areas. Tim farron’s team made 5 gains from the Conservatives including one, Eastbourne, which had voted Leave.

Mrs May called the 2017 general election and tried to make it all about Brexit. She lost her majority because that wasn’t a sustainable position to carry her party through the campaign. Other issues came into play.

Just because the headbangers are obsessed with Brexit doesn’t mean that everybody else is.

Labour might be vulnerable at the next election but it will be the party’s leadership rather than Brexit that will be the problem.

Mike Smithson


The first consequence of the Euros – LAB appears to be edging closer to a second referendum

Monday, May 27th, 2019

It was inevitable after their drubbing in the Euro elections that LAB was going to have to look at its current policy of ambiguity when dealing with Brexit and the second referendum question.

Remember LAB was at one stage odds-on favourite to come top in the UK Euro elections and even in the run up last week was odds on to beat the LDs to second place.

What is clear is that LAB was not even a close second to Cable’s party and, of course, it lost the former stronghold of London to the LDs.

So something has to give and assuming that McDonnell is talking for the leadership as a whole then it looks as though we could see a change.

One thing about the Tory performance is that MPs would be reluctant to give their votes to a general election. After TMay’s experience at GE2017 the party has little stomach for doing other than trying to see the parliament out till 2022.

Mike Smithson


The big picture from the turnout figures so far annouced is that the more an area was for Remain the more people voted yesterday

Friday, May 24th, 2019

Although there has been no exit or other polling there has been a mass of data from the local authority areas that began verifying the ballots overnight.

The big picture so far is in the headline – there’s a correlation between the percentage of those who voted yesterday and what the area did at the referendum. So far it seems that the more for Leave places were the lower turnout levels there were yesterdsy.

Now we should be careful rushing to judgment here because all we have is data from a relatively small number of council area and, of course, what happened in the referendum. But if a significantly higher proportion of people voted in Remain area that does suggest that the Greens and LDs might be doing well.

There has been no information from London yet – the ballot verifications are taking place in the morning – but I’m increasingly confident that my 7/2 bets on the LDs winning the vote in the capital might be a winner.

The Tweet above is from Ashfield – a strong leave area where the turnout was low in comparison to, say, the 47% in the strong remain city of St Albans.

Mike Smithson


The extent to which the Euro elections can be treated as a referendum depends on whether the outcome supports your side

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Get ready on the evening of Sunday May 26th, when the euro elections results are announced, for the production of aggregates of the votes of the pro brexit and pro remain parties and and whoever has “won” trying argue that this is a mini referendum.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one or more of the TV results programmes creates live graphics so we can see how it is going as the numbers come in.

Clearly this is a national election and given the fact that those elected will probably only serve for about 4 months a big pointer is what the party vote totals be.

We got a today a YouGov poll on the Euro elections which had parties baking brexit, when aggregated with a small lead over the parties of remain.

For this purpose I am adding up the votes of the Tories, Farage’s Brexit party, UKIP and the DUP and comparing that with the aggregate of Labour, the Lib Dems, Change UK, the SNP, PC and the Greens and the anti-Brexit Northern Irish parties.. The former group will be put in the leave category while the latter group will be put in the remain one.

Quite how valid a measure this is will be very much dependent on what the outcome is and whether it suits people’s particular positions.

We do have other UK elections taking place two weeks tomorrow. These are the English local elections covering most of the country and Northern Ireland. I’ve no doubt that similar calculations will be made once we’ve got the projected national vote shares that are usually issued by Professor John curtice at about 4 a.m. in the morning on the BBC results programme.

The problem with using both sets of elections is that turnouts are likely to be in the mid 30s compared with the near 70% turnout that we had at the referendum on June 23rd 2016.

Whatever it will allow us to get back to the big brexit argument that is so divided the country for nearly half a decade.

Mike Smithson


The Leaver case for a second referendum

Monday, March 18th, 2019

A guest slot by Dots

Once upon a time a grand and determined queen wanted to build a bold new home on the hilltop. Everyday her men would work hard to build the palace only to find on following day their work undone in piles of rubble. The queen was advised to seek help of a local boy born to a virgin mother. The boy advised why the palace could not be built, in a pool beneath the hill two dragons were entwined in combat. He told the queen to dig looking for the lake and the dragons, only once their conflict is resolved can the palace stand and the lands be at peace.

Here in present day is an argument giving UK the best opportunity to come together and move on results from a second referendum endorsing a form of brexit. I will now explain this argument from the point of view of voting leave and wishing to see the 2016 result respected.

A few hours after 2016 result Cameron was in EU asking for a form of leave as close as possible to his deal, still today in the minds of some who could torpedo MV3 this week, Common Market 2.0 was that leave on the ballot paper. Norwegians walk around in their form of vassalage boasting they are not in EU, some claim this also is the leave Britain voted for. Others say Canada+ is leave voters wanted, and others say its May’s deal voters endorsed.

The option was leave, the campaign didn’t paint a picture of leaving with no deal nor May’s controversial deal anymore than it defined Common Market 2.0, Canada FTA+ or Norwegian vassalage. Some of these leave outcomes are contradictory and completely different end points.

Now let’s be honest, if polls showed leave with 20 point lead if there was second referendum, would many be very hostile to a new public vote on the deal, because it’s is so clearly undemocratic and brexit betrayal, actually be in favour?

This is how I answer the question. It does not surprise me brexiteers are hostile to second referendum. They have convinced themselves that the perfect storm that won them 2016 would not be repeated. They would lose brexit. But if they are correct or not in that certainty of defeat, (side stepping if they should be allowed to reshape Britain if they are convinced they couldn’t win again tomorrow) their opinion doesn’t matter in terms of democratic steps that can tie up this conflict between direct and representative democracy.

Giving people a vague open ended option and no say in how political lords and masters interpret and impose it, is recipe for impasse and unhappy outcome rather than strong democracy. It’s actually easy for leavers to advocate a 2nd referendum on the basis that the 2016 vote told politicians to go off and make a good plan for it. A second vote is endorsing or rejecting that plan/stitch up MPs come up with, because if you genuinely support direct democracy over representative, this sequencing completes good model of direct democracy. It’s identical to democracy government insists underpins industrial relations.

The reality of the impasse today is Leavers arguing the best democratic outcome is let the executive or representative interpret and decide the 2016 leave vote. I argue let the people have a say in how MPs ultimately interpret 2016 result, I argue this not to bury brexit, but to save brexit from becoming a bad deal or vassalage. I argue it as our best opportunity to unearth and separate those warring dragons and restore peace to these lands.