The Shock Of The Blue – The new Conservative intake of 2019 (Part 1 of 2)

January 16th, 2020

The Conservatives secured a thumping mandate at the general election, getting 365 MPs in the new Parliament, up from the 317 that Theresa May managed in 2017. This increase of 48, however, actually masks a much greater turnover. 109 of those 365 MPs were not in the last Parliament. More than one sixth of the new Parliament is comprised of new Conservative MPs.

Most of these MPs are relatively unknown.  They will, however, play a critical role in this and future Parliaments. So who exactly are they?

The sheer number of these MPs makes answering this question a substantial logistical challenge. Your dynamic duo have teamed up, looking at local newspapers, Facebook and wikipedia pages, constituency websites and twitter accounts, to be exposed to the words “Get Brexit Done” at a rate that far exceeds the annual recommended dosage. Here is a table with the background data to these two articles.

What have we found? 

  • Gender: 35, just under one third, are women. Though a long way short of parity, this is a significant increase on the 21% of Conservative MPs who were female in the 2017 Parliament.  
  • Sexuality: It has been widely reported that 20 of these MPs are LGBT – we have not checked their bedroom activities or looked under their clothing to confirm, but if so the 6% of LGBT Tory MPs in the 2017 Parliament will increase significantly
  • Former MPs: 10 are former MPs who have made a reappearance (some, but not all, in their previous constituencies). At least three have become candidates partly through family connections: two are spouses of the previous MP and one is the daughter of a previous candidate. One MP is the son of Patrick Mayhew and another is the niece of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
  • Former SPADs: As always, it is hard to count exactly how many former spads have shinned one knee length further up the greasy pole – many candidates are reluctant to advertise their previous political experience. There are at least 10 former advisers to ministers and five former MPs’ assistants. The true numbers are likely to be higher. So this intake has its share of political insiders.
  • Other previous occupations: What of the rest? The sandwich shop owner, the musician and the bricklayer may catch the eye, but as usual we find plenty of bankers and lawyers. Any move by the Parliamentary Conservative party away from the professional classes is incremental rather than seismic.
  • THAT issue: There is, however, one major sea change. Previous intakes of Conservative MPs, up to and including the 2017 intake, had been dominated by MPs who voted Remain. Not so this time: there are fewer than a dozen new MPs who admit to voting Remain and most of those are retread MPs. The 2019 cohort is chock-a-block with enthusiastic Leavers. Many campaigned energetically for Leave in the referendum campaign. Even Kensington has an MP who wants a tough Brexit (though she neglected to advertise this to her constituents). Perhaps most indicative of the mood, Kate Griffiths claims to have voted Leave though she participated in a photo-opportunity with her husband as he went to cast his Remain vote. Many have already joined the ERG. Given the expulsion of retirement of almost all its prominent Remainers, the Conservative party’s capture by Leavers is now complete.  But we need to qualify this statement slightly: a few of the new intake, e.g. Anthony Browne (South Cambs), have recorded reservations at the prospect of No Deal. Some more may have reservations in private. This could become significant if the negotiations with Brussels get into trouble later in the year.
  • Non-Brexit opinions: Beyond Brexit, the new MPs have been strikingly coy about policy commitments. Most have thrown themselves into a very localist agenda, perhaps at the instigation of CCHQ. Reviving local high streets is a common position, though none are so rash as to say how this might be accomplished.  At least two new MPs, not content with Brexit, are campaigning for their constituencies to secede from their current local council. There are many MPs vowing to get their share of funds for their local NHS and infrastructure. With so many MPs making these two elements central to their personal campaign, the government is going to need to keep on top of them. NHS funding needs outstrip inflation as the population grows, ages and expects more expensive treatments. This could be a major flashpoint for the government.

The localist agendas could lead to conflict in different ways. For example, southern MPs are campaigning against HS2 and northern MPs are campaigning for it. They can’t both win, though some fudge or can-kicking might be the result.

What is also interesting is what is NOT there.  In their statements of priorities, very few MPs other than those with a military background, mentioned defence, or Britain’s place in the world (other than Brexit) and few discuss deregulation, privatisation or any of the other issues that motivated the Conservatives in the 1980s and 1990s.  

In the next article we move from the overall picture to look at some of the individual MPs who are worth keeping an eye on – for good reasons and bad.

Alastair Meeks and Fishing


New Survation LAB leadership poll has RLB ahead and shakes up the betting

January 15th, 2020


Remember Starmer only got 31% of first choices in the YouGov LAB members’ poll

January 15th, 2020

How valid are the findings now?

A fair amount has happened in the LAB leadership race since the YouGov members’ poll which was carried out over Christmas. The big number that people recall is that after six rounds of lower preference distribution Starmer was beating RLB by 61% to 39%. The first preferences were:

  • Stamer 31%
  • Long-Bailey 20%
  • Phillips 11%
  • Cooper 7%
  • Lewis 7%
  • Thornberry 6%
  • Nandy 5%

Since then Cooper has not entered the race and Lewis failed to make the cut amongst MPs. We are now in the constituency and affiliates nomination stage and it is clear that not all the five survivors will make it to the postal ballot in March. If it comes down to three then second preferences will be key and I’d suggest that the Christmas holiday lower preference polling when there were six choices will be far less relevant. What has happened since and is yet to happen will have an impact.

There’s been the surprising trade union support for Nandy with the possibility that she could meet the threshold on this round without having to worry about the branches. Another factor is that the electorate is changing. The Sun is reporting that 60k new members have been added since the general election.

At the moment I’d rate Starmer as a 50% chance somewhat lower than current betting odds and Nandy at least level-pegging with RLB.

Mike Smithson


Bernie and Buttigieg the main betting gainers following the overnight Iowa debate

January 15th, 2020
Betfair market from Betdata.io

The debate is over and the general verdict is that none of the contenders had a standout performance. The Betfair market shows Buttigieg getting the biggest uplift and squeezing past Biden. What was interesting is that those who’ve seen all the debates seemed to be taking a different view than those just new to this one. The view of Buttigieg was that he was just like he has been seen before. Newcomers to watching the debates seemed more impressed This took place in Iowa where on February 3rd we have the caucuses and my guess is that for many likely participants would have been watching a WH2020 debate for the first time even though they started last June.

Looking forward to the night so much is dependent on the ground games of the leading contenders and Buttigieg’s team will be pitching their man as the one best able to stop Bernie.

Mike Smithson


The NUM backs Nandy

January 14th, 2020

I am sure that those PBers who gamble will forgive me for getting a little bit excited by the above tweet that Nandy has secured the backing of the National Union of mineworkers. Now I know that we don’t have mines any more than and that according to Wikipedia the NUM has barely 100 active members but my next Labour leader betting is an absolute disaster area. For the only green on my Betfair account on who should succeed Corbyn is on Lisa Nandy so any positive news about her is me clutching at straws.

I don’t know how significant getting the NUM’s endorsement is going to be but it should help her with the immediate task in stage 2 of the race of ensuring that her name will go forward in the members’ ballot in March. The hint in the Tweet of possibly getting the GMB’s backing is extraordinary and if that happened she would then need just one of the smaller affiliate organisations that link to Labour.

Mike Smithson


The second stage of LAB’s leadership race sees Starmer drop a touch but he’s still a very strong betting favourite

January 14th, 2020
Chart of Betfair odds from betdata.io

This is our first look at the Corbyn successor betting since it entered its second stage – the battle for nominations from constituency parties, and affiliated organisations a segment that includes the trade unions. This will continue for more than a month before the ballot packs go out to the party’s selectorate. Contenders have to reach a certain level of nominations to make it to the postal vote.

As the chart shows there has been a little bit of levelling off of support for Starmer but he’s still at over 70%. His main worry, I’d suggest, is the gender issue and the fact that the party has never had a female leader. Interestingly Yvette Cooper, a former leadership contender, has now come out for Starmer. On 5Live today she said:

‘There’s lots of strong women standing… you know it’s been a hard decision for me as well about who to nominate in this race because I have always argued it’s time we had a Labour woman leader and we also need a Labour woman prime minister. ‘We are not going to get any of that unless we also have a way to turn around the problems Labour are facing at the moment, and so I nominated Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner because I think they are the best people to get us out of the hole that we’re in.’

That’s an important move from someone who looked set to be leader in 2015.

Mike Smithson


It was dislike of Corbyn not Brexit that was the main driver of LAB’s GE2019 losses

January 14th, 2020

And this was most pronounced in the North and the Midlands

If the Opinium survey on the day of the General Election is accurate then the departure of Corbyn, as will happen on April 4th with the new Labour leader, should have a significant impact on the party’s recovery.

You can see why Corbyn loyalists anxious to avoid the blame pouring on the their man should want to stick with the theory that LAB had its worst result since 1935 because of Brexit. But they wrong and this largish sample on the day poll which didn’t get much attention really undermines that. The regional split as seen in the chart sets this out clearly.

LAB lost 60 seats on December 12th 45 of them in the Midlands and the North which were the parts of the country where dislike of Corbyn was the greatest.

The question for the party now is whether its new leader will fare better. I thought Starmer was smart making the point of launching his leadership campaign in the North.

Note that the chart does not include Wales because there is no separate polling data.

Mike Smithson


A primer on the Iowa caucuses – three weeks today

January 13th, 2020

The Iowa caucuses can play such important part in the nomination process that I thought that the above short feature from CNN was worth putting up simply to explain a political process that really is without parallel in the UK and for that matter in most of the US. What is extraordinary is the seriousness that many Iowans take their role of being the first State to decide to the extent that on a cold February evening they are ready to attend meetings which might take 2 or 3 hours out of their lives.

Another aspect of the Iowa caucuses is the difficulty of forecasting and polling because only a small proportion of people in the state actually take part. This makes polling challenging. Thus the latest survey for the Des Moines Register involved telephone interviews with 3,131 registered voters of which just 701 said they would definitely or probably attend the 2020 Democratic caucuses. That is a lot of phone calls for a relatively small final sample.

That latest poll found that 58% of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers say they could be persuaded to support a different candidate (45%) or say they haven’t decided on a first choice yet. This suggests that there is the possibility of late changes which are not picked up the pollsters. Voters might arrive at the caucus meeting in their precinct waiting to hear what others say before they choose.

Mike Smithson