Amber Rudd now clear third favourite in the CON leader betting

February 17th, 2018

JRM 18%..Bojo 10%..Rudd 8%..Gove 6%..Hunt & Raab 5%..Davidson & Williamson 3%

However you look at the next Conservative leadership betting there’s one thing that is probably not going to happen – that the two men heading the betting at the moment, old Etonians Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, are going to be fighting each other in the membership ballot which, of course, is of the two who top the secret ballot of party MPs.

BoJo and Moggsy, I’d suggest will appeal to the same broad audience within the parliamentary party that the chances are that one of them will not make it. My view at the moment is that the former mayor is probably more popular amongst Conservative MPs than Rees-Mogg but that could change.

The interesting Befair movement in recent days has been more support from punters for the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, the woman, who of course, stood in for Theresa May in the TV debate against Corbyn at the general election.

She comes over as very much a safe pair of hands. The only question mark about her is that she has a minuscule majority in her home seat of Hastings and Rye.

Generally, party leaders do better in their own constituencies than the party as a whole particularly at their first general election after their elevation. A big exception to this was last June when Theresa May saw decline in her seat which was very much against the run of what was happening to the party in the country as a whole.

Rudd, of course, was a remainer and a lot would depend on the timing of the election. She’d probably do better after Brexit has happened than before.

Mike Smithson


Lib Dems can do it on a drizzly Thursday in February – but what about on 3 May?

February 17th, 2018

By-election gains may well be yet another false dawn

Up until last year, Sunderland had carved out for itself one, and only one, niche in British political life: it counted its votes at general elections faster than anywhere else. For six successive elections from 1992 to 2015, the southern Sunderland seat was the first to declare in the country. Other than that, the city was politically unremarkable: it’s returned two Labour MPs ever since the 1960s and the Red team is similarly dominant at local level.

2017 saw a bit of a turnaround on both scores. Local rivals Newcastle won the race to be the first to declare at the general election, while five months previously the Lib Dems gained a local by-election on a massive 36% swing. That was admittedly back at a time when Labour was very much struggling for support nationally, polling in only the upper-twenties, but it was still an extraordinary result.

Nor was it a one-off. In the first two months of the year, the Lib Dems gained two seats from Labour and no fewer than six from the Conservatives, despite the national polling showing the Tories up in the 40s while the Lib Dems remained marooned on around 10% with most firms. Against that, they lost just the one seat (to an Independent). They’d had similar success in 2016 by-elections, gaining 30 councillors that way and losing just four.

And yet come the local elections in May, Tim Farron’s party lost a net 42 seats, with net losses in each of England, Scotland and Wales. The tremendous by-election successes were simply not replicated when there were a large number of simultaneous elections, when voters’ attention was focussed more nationally, and when there was a larger turnout. The fact that the general election campaign was already underway no doubt played a part in the Lib Dems’ relative failure there but only a part. After all, activists will still work where they are most effective and given the relatively small number of target seats, in many areas, those priorities would be local rather than national.

So what of this year? Well, in a carbon copy election, the Lib Dems once again pulled off a Sunderland spectacular, gaining Pallion ward on a 33% swing, and followed that up this Thursday with three very impressive gains from the Conservatives (two in Teignbridge borough, proving that it’s not all down to targeting).

And yet. The national polls are worse for Vince Cable’s party than they were in May last year, and while the Tories are off even more (they were in the high-forties in early May 2017), Labour is far better off.

Not that that’s the best comparator. Local elections run on a four-year cycle and those being contested this time were last fought in 2014, give or take the odd boundary review. Back then, Ed Miliband’s Labour held about a two-point lead over David Cameron’s Tories, with Nigel Farage’s UKIP in the mid-teens and Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems around 8-9%. The local elections were no doubt affected by the simultaneous Europoll, contributing to the election of 166 UKIP councillors. The Westminster VI polls translated directly to the local election NEV, with the Labour gaining a 2-point lead in the NEV, UKIP on 17% and the Lib Dems as usual outscoring their Westminster share, taking 13%.

What can we expect this time? The battlefield in this round has thrown up the curious possibility of all the main parties doing well and badly at the same time.

UKIP is not a main party any more and will be annihilated at the election. They may well lose every single seat, though there’s the possibility of isolated exceptions clinging on due to a local profile. That means that the other parties effectively start off with net gains of over 150.

Labour will be most pleased about London being the main battleground. More votes might be cast elsewhere but the capital always attracts disproportionate media attention, which will suit Labour very nicely given how they gained a swing in the multicultural, pro-Remain world-city three times that of the national average at the general election.

By contrast, while the Tories might worry about their prospects in London, the rest of the country (that country being England – there are no Scottish or Welsh elections), looks more fertile ground given the direct windfall from UKIP and the polls showing a small swing from Lab to Con and a larger one from LD to Con since May 2014. The Blue Team should reasonably expect to make net gains – something which a government party has only achieved once since the 1980s, and that previous exception (2011) being mainly at the expense of a different governing party.

As for the Lib Dems, they, like Labour, have opportunities in London – albeit in far more restricted areas – but after that can expect a tougher fight. They do, however, have one of their two mayoralties to defend in Watford, where Dorothy Thornhill is seeking, and should comfortably win, a fifth term. But that should be one of the few high points. The Sunderland or Teignbridge results remain much more likely to be another false dawn than a yellow sun rising.

David Herdson


UK Special Elections Super Thursday 1 : February 15th 2018

February 16th, 2018

Higham Ferrers on Northamptonshire (Con defence)
Result: Con 1,414 (57% -3% on last time), Lab 557 (22% +3% on last time), Lib Dem 336 (13% +2% on last time), UKIP 109 (4% -6% on last time), Green 81 (3%, no candidate last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 857 (35%) on a swing of 3% from Con to Lab

Higham Ferrers, Lancaster on East Northamptonshire (Con defence)
Result: Con 611 (56%), Lib Dem 244 (22%), Lab 189 (17%), Green 33 (3%), UKIP 22 (2%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 367 (34%), no swing due to unopposed return last time

Worstead on North Norfolk (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 509 (73% +40% on last time), Con 118 (17% -25% on last time), Lab 73 (10% -2% on last time) (No Green candidate this time -13%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 391 (56%) on a swing of 32.5% from Con to Lib Dem

St. Pauls on Tendring (UKIP defence)
Result: Con 378 (38% +11% on last time), Ind 160 (16%), Ind 134 (13%), Lab 114 (11% -2% on last time), Lib Dem 79 (8% no candidate last time), UKIP 71 (7% -30% on last time), Green 70 (7% no candidate last time)
Conservative GAIN from UKIP with a majority of 218 (22%)
Total Independent vote: 294 (29% +7% on last time)
Swing: 2% from Ind to Con (20.5% from UKIP to Con)

Ruxley on Epsom and Ewell (Residents defence)
Result: Residents 398 (37% -8% on last time), Con 340 (32% unchanged on last time), Lab 264 (25% +11% on last time), Lib Dem 67 (6% -3% on last time)
Residents HOLD with a majority of 58 (5%) on a swing of 4% from Residents to Con

Carterton South on West Oxfordshire (Con defence)
Result: Con 388 (63% +1% on last time), Lib Dem 146 (24% +18% on last time), Lab 83 (13% +2% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -15%, No Green candidate this time -6%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 242 (39%) on a swing of 8.5% from Con to Lib Dem (8% from UKIP to Con)

Chudleigh on Teignbridge (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 575 (41% +28% on last time), Con 564 (40% +7% on last time), Lab 262 (19% +4% on last time) (No Green candidate this time -15%, No Independent candidate this time -25%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 11 (1%) on a swing of 10.5% from Con to Lib Dem (26.5% from Ind to Lib Dem)

Dawlish Central and North East on Teignbridge (Con defence)
Result: Lib Dem 1,287 (71% +48% on last time), Con 535 (29% -1% on last time) (No Labour candidate this time -15%, No Green candidate this time -15%, No Independent candidate this time -17%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 752 (42%) on a swing of 24.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Grassmoor on North East Derbyshire (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 459 (49% -10% on last time), Con 368 (39% +22% on last time), Lib Dem 111 (12% no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -24%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 91 (10%) on a swing of 16% from Lab to Con (7% from UKIP to Lab)

Armthorpe on Doncaster (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 1,431 (75% +34% on last time), Ind 466 (25%, no candidate last time) (No Conservative candidate this time -22%, No UKIP candidate this time -29%, No Green candidate this time -9%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 965 (50%) on a notional swing of 4.5% from Ind to Lab (actual swing: 31.5% from UKIP to Lab)

Holgate on City of York (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 1,521 (50% +23% on last time), Lib Dem 982 (32% +19% on last time), Con 334 (11% -8% on last time), Green 203 (7% -9% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -12%, No Independent candidate this time -9%, no other party candidate this time -4%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 539 (18%) on a swing of 2% from Lib Dem to Lab (15.5% from Con to Lab)

Halton Castle on Halton (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 522 (70% unchanged on last time), Ind 133 (18% no candidate last time), Con 88 (12%, no candidate last time) (No Lib Dem candidate this time -8%, no UKIP candidate this time -17%, no other party candidate this time -5%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 389 (52%) on a notional swing of 9% from Lab to Ind (8.5% from UKIP to Lab)

Morecambe North on Lancashire (Con defence)
Result: Con 1,332 (49% -14% on last time), Lib Dem 809 (30% +22% on last time), Lab 580 (21% -1% on last time) (No Green candidate this time -7%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 523 (19%) on a swing of 18% from Con to Lib Dem (6.5% from Con to Lab)

Bonnybridge and Larbert on Falkirk (SNP defence)
First Preference Vote Count: Con 1,088 (32% +8% on last time), Lab 813 (24% +8% on last time), UKIP 35 (1% no candidate last time), Green 124 (4% unchanged on last time), SNP 1,295 (39% +5% on last time) (No Independent candidates this time -22%)
Swing: 1.5% from SNP to Con
SNP HOLD on the fifth count

Summary of votes cast, share, seats won and change on last time
Conservatives 7,558 (33% unchanged on last time) winning 5 seats (-2 seats on last time)
Labour 6,868 (30% +4% on last time) winning 4 seats (unchanged on last time)
Liberal Democrats 5,145 (22% +12% on last time) winning 3 seats (+3 seats on last time)
Scottish National Party 1,295 (6% +3% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time)
Independents 893 (4% unchanged on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Green Party 511 (2% -4% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Resident’s Association 398 (2% -3% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time)
UKIP 237 (1% -10% on last time) winning 0 seats (-1 seat on last time)
Conservative lead of 690 (3%) on a swing of 2% from Con to Lab

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


After last week’s shock YouGov 4% CON lead LAB edges back ahead

February 16th, 2018

And the female split is with the red team once again

One of the things that always seems to happen is that when a shock poll comes out it that people try to rationalise it with their own reasons and theories.

So the analysis of last week’s YouGov 4% CON lead poll showed that there had been marked move by female voters towards the Conservatives. All sorts of ideas were put forward including that maybe Labour, and Mr Corbyn, were being hit by the “MumsNet” effect because of support in the trans debate by the party.

I am told that there had been a fierce debate on Mums Net about the trans issue with huge threads and strong views being expressed.

I pointed out at the time that YouGov was alone with its women moving to CON trend and we should wait for other data.

Now we have it in the form of another YouGov poll with different top line results and gender voting split.

What we are seeing is the limitations of polling and the dangers of taking a cross tab and looking at it in isolation.

At this stage in the electoral polls are not seeking to predict the next election but acting as a barometer on current opinion.

So essentially we are where we were with the two main parties very much level pegging.

Mike Smithson


Boundary conditions. How Brexit might be helping to lay the ground for the SNP

February 16th, 2018

Some international boundaries are easy to understand. The Pyrenees form a natural frontier between Spain and France. The Kattegat conveniently separates Sweden and Denmark. While in the past each pair of countries has seen their border shift over time, the current resting place looks very natural.

The boundary between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland does not come in that category. There are few obvious natural boundaries along the route. Donegal is almost cut off from the rest of the Republic of Ireland. Roads snake in and out of the border. Despite or because of its fraught history, it is all rather arbitrary.

The boundary was established in some disorder at the height of the Irish war of independence. As a quick solution, the six most north-easterly counties were retained within the UK on their existing county lines. This made no particular sense on religious grounds, since substantial parts of those six counties were majority Catholic even at that time. The boundary was originally supposed to be reviewed but in the end the review proved too controversial to see through to its conclusion. So the impromptu boundary stuck.

The contrast between the border’s informal origins and its fraught history is stark. After a lot of bloodshed, a way forward for Northern Ireland was brokered through the Good Friday Agreement. Any Brexit settlement is going to need to deal with not just the way in which the EU and the UK wish to establish their ongoing relationship but also to address the hopes and fears of both Northern Irish communities.

The Northern Irish border will be the main land border between Britain and the EU (pedants will note that there will also be EU/UK land borders at Gibraltar and in Cyprus). If Britain is to be outside the customs union, as hardline Leavers are suddenly insisting is essential to honour the Brexit vote, the UK is going to need to put in place a system for monitoring the new trade boundary.

If it fails to do so, it will in substance be giving the EU preferential access over other nations with which the UK trades. It is hard to see how that is consistent with Britain’s Most Favoured Nation obligations under the WTO, under which it must offer all WTO members the terms offered to the otherwise most favoured trading partner. And it needs to do so in a way that is not going to have either the nationalists up in arms because the border has been resurrected or the unionists up in arms because the boundary of the customs union has been moved to the Irish Sea. In each case, “up in arms” has the nasty potential to be literal rather than metaphorical.

The main part of the Brexit agreement is going to require all the élan of Fred Astaire. Those aspects that deal with the Irish border are going to require the skills of Ginger Rogers, who did everything that Fred Astaire did, but in high heels and backwards.

Other better brains than mine are looking at how this might be achieved. For present purposes, I’m going to assume that a solution of some kind will be found. I’m a sunny optimist, you see.

At that point, the UK government will have provided the Scottish government with a route map to dealing with many of the trickier aspects of independence. The Irish border is longer than England’s borders with Scotland and Wales put together. The two English counties and the two Scottish counties that border each other are collectively bigger and emptier than the five Northern Irish counties that border the Republic of Ireland (never mind the Irish counties on the other side of the border).

The practical, legal and technological problems of a border between Scotland and England look far more straightforward than those of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. A precedent would have been established as to the nature of the enduring relationship between the two sides after they had disentangled.

When the Scottish independence referendum was fought in 2014, one of the biggest weaknesses that Scotland faced was on the practicalities of transition to independence. In a few years’ time the Scottish nationalists may well find themselves with a manual for many aspects, courtesy of Brexit.

For now, the cause of Scottish independence has slipped back slightly from its high water mark. The unionist cause, having been in disarray, has become more organised. After an initial spasm after the EU referendum result, it seems that Scottish opinion is as-you-were so far as independence is concerned.

The SNP, however, has not given up on the cause and it will be waiting for the right moment to declare that a generation is up. When it does, it will be much better prepared on the technicalities than first time around. So Unionists are going to need to be much better prepared than they were last time round on the questions of identity. They don’t look it yet.

Alastair Meeks


Get ready for one of the biggest local by-election nights in years

February 15th, 2018

Will tonight’s results reinforce polls view of a shift to CON?

The 14 seats in almost all parts of the country feature 7 CON defences; 4 LAB ones + UKIP, SNP & a local Residents’s group a seat apiece. So we are like to get a relatively good picture.

It is highly unusual to have so many contests all on the same night. Between them nearly 90,000 people will have been able to vote today although I’d be surprised if more than a third of them did.

Andrew Teale has written his usual comprehensive preview of each seat which is well worth looking through.

Result should start coming through at about 2300.

Update 0200: Results summary

Mike Smithson


On the biggest current political betting market Trump now given a 64% chance of survival

February 15th, 2018

Trump amazing powers to distract are stopping bad news taking hold

With all the focus on Brexit and Theresa May’s survival in the UK it is sometimes easy to forget that from a political betting point of view the big markets are in the US and particularly on whether Donald Trump survives his first term.

We’ve not looked at this for some time but as the chart above shows the price, on Betfair, have moved quite sharply in his favour from a position when he was 50/50 to the current 64% chance that he’s going to make it through to the end.

    One of the abilities that Trump appears to have is being able to move the subject when a very difficult story appears about him in the media.

So much White House news comes out almost everyday it is very difficult for a particular story to take hold and events that would have brought other presidents to their knees have somehow been bypassed. Remember all the news that was coming out before Christmas on the book about Trump in the White House with comments from his former chief of staff which were less than flattering to the president. Yet now that is long forgotten.

Whether this can continue in the next three years we don’t know and there’s a suggestion from Taegan Goddard that this might be getting harder.

I’ve not bet on this market and I don’t think I will do because I think that Trump is going to survive and I don’t locking up cash in odds on positions that won’t resolved for three years.

Mike Smithson


Moggy moves to his highest betting level yet for next CON leader following negative reaction to BoJo’s Brexit speech

February 15th, 2018

You can get better odds on JRM as next PM

I’ve not bet on Moggy for next CON leader because I still don’t think that he’d get to the final membership ballot round of a leadership contest. As the chart show he’s now soared on the Betfair exchange.

The other big question mark is whether there will be an early contest and that is far from clear especially given current CON poll ratings and TMay’s huge resilience. She is still regarded by many within the party as the safest pair of hands.

There’ve also been some suggestions that Rees-Mogg’s Catholicism could be an issue in a leadership contest

If you want to bet on JRM then you can get better odds on him for next PM.

Mike Smithson