Understanding the Cooper surge

September 4th, 2015

In the last 36 hours there’s been some movements with Betfair and the other traditional bookies which has seen Yvette Cooper replace Andy Burnham as the second favourite in the Labour leadership race as above charts show. My initial thought it was to do with a poll, but the New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has posted this, which suggests Andy Burnham’s gaffes and poor campaign have finally caught up with him.

But Kendall’s supporters are overwhelmingly giving their second preferences to Cooper regardless. My estimate, from both looking at CLP nominations and speaking to party members, is that around 80 to 90 per cent of Kendall’s second preferences will go to Cooper. Burnham’s gaffes – his “when it’s time” remark about Labour having a woman leader, that he appears to have a clapometer instead of a moral compass – have discredited him in him the eyes of many. While Burnham has shrunk, Cooper has grown. And for others, who can’t distinguish between Burnham and Cooper, they’d prefer to have “a crap woman rather than another crap man” in the words of one.

From the outside Andy Burnham has run the worst leadership campaign a favourite has run since Michael Portillo’s 2001 leadership bid where Portillo managed to finish third in what was seen as a two horse race. You can see why Andy Burnham finished fourth in the 2010 leadership election narrowly ahead of Diane Abbott, he’s not very good at this.



Is Hillary in trouble and can ‘The Donald’ last?

September 4th, 2015

ScreenGrab ClintonTrump

Whilst Clinton and Trump set the pace, a host of other candidates are waiting in the wings.  Polling expert Keiran Pedley runs the rule over the 2016 US Presidential hopefuls.

Having spent the past week in the U.S. visiting my wife’s parents I have been able to spend some time looking at the 2016 US Presidential race in detail. Make no mistake, the campaign is in full swing, with Iowa and New Hampshire just a few short months away.

I have been struck by just how much trouble Hillary Clinton is in and also at how Donald Trump genuinely appears to be the front-runner for the GOP nomination as things stand. My instinct is that neither will end up as President but this is a tough race to call. There is no incumbent and it does seem that a real anti-establishment fervour is taking hold – among activists on both sides – which is throwing up some frankly bizarre poll numbers. The question is – will it all last?

Hillary struggles

Watching from this side of the Atlantic, it would be easy to underestimate just how much Hillary Clinton is struggling. The ongoing scandal over her alleged use of private email servers to send classified information does not look like going away. Whether fair or not – several other Secretaries of State have used similar arrangements – this scandal seems to touch on an underlying problem the Clintons face more generally. They are popular but divisive and many Americans do not trust them.

Worryingly for Hillary, this now shows in her poll numbers too. A recent ABC / Post poll showed that 53% of Americans view her unfavourably compared to 45% that view her favourably. To put this in context, at the time of Obama’s re-election in 2012 an ABC / Post poll put her at 66% favourable and just 28% unfavourable. The trend is clear. Some Democrats are now openly wondering whether further scandal (or even an indictment) could kill her campaign stone dead.

No wonder Joe Biden is considering entering the race. The Vice President recently had a very public ‘secret meeting’ with Elizabeth Warren (darling of the Democratic left) and is clearly on manoeuvres in the coming weeks. He visits Florida and Pennsylvania over the weekend and will appear on Stephen Colbert’s late night show next week. If this wasn’t bad enough for Clinton, she also faces a challenge from the left, with socialist Bernie Sanders even leading her in a recent poll in New Hampshire.

How serious is all this for Hillary? As usual, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. On average she is 24 points clear of Bernie Sanders among Democrats nationally and despite a close contest in New Hampshire, she convincingly leads in all the other early primary States. Meanwhile, it isn’t clear if Biden will really run. He has yet to put together the serious organisation and fundraising apparatus he would need to do so and could just as easily use next week’s Colbert appearance to announce he is not running and endorse Clinton as anything else.

‘The Donald’ dominates

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the early front-runner (and GOP establishment favourite) Jeb Bush has seemingly been eclipsed by political newcomers Donald Trump and Ben Carson. In fact, a recent Monmouth poll showed Trump and Carson taking a combined 48% of the vote among Republicans nationally – striking given that neither has held political office. Let that sink in – this is the Presidency of the United States!

Of the two, Donald Trump is the clear front-runner in the race. Among Republicans nationally he leads Carson by 27.2 points to 13.2 on average with Jeb Bush in 3rd place on 9.2 points. This is a commanding lead and we should take it seriously. If you need further evidence, consider that Trump is ahead in key early States too, leading Jeb Bush and John Kasich in New Hampshire and Ben Carson in Iowa.

The success of Trump to-date owes much to his name recognition, anti-Washington rhetoric and swash-buckling ‘style’. However, at times his campaign has been every bit as unconventional as the man. His decision to pick a fight with Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly is the embodiment of this. Any other candidate would have been hurt but Trump possesses a Boris Johnson-esque ability to get away with things others cannot. Meanwhile he dominates the news agenda and makes it very difficult for other candidates to gain any momentum – as the polls show.

If you can sense a ‘but’ coming it’s because there is.

The Republican race is currently a very crowded field and we don’t know how polling will shift once candidates start dropping out and endorsing each other. More importantly there are three little words that I suspect will end up being Trump’s undoing – ‘Commander-in-Chief’. Right now, he embodies the maverick anti-establishment rebel but will the Republican Party trust him on foreign policy in the end? I suspect not but for now he is very much in the race and dominating it.

The verdict: Hillary vs ?

Looking forward to 2016, I still expect Hillary Clinton to be the Democrat nominee. If she ends up indicted all bets are off but otherwise she has the experience, organisation and financial muscle to win the nomination in the end – regardless of what Biden does. If her reputation in the country is mixed, she remains popular among Democrats. She should be fine.

The Republican race is much less clear. When we consider the sheer number of candidates in the race and the fact that political novices Trump and Carson currently lead it really is all to play for. Expect Jeb Bush to stay the course and gain ground as minds concentrate on the inexperience of Carson and unpredictability of Trump. I would also keep an eye on John Kasich and Marco Rubio. Kasich is Governor of the crucial swing State of Ohio and is currently polling well in New Hampshire whilst Rubio is a young Hispanic Senator from Florida. There are compelling reasons to think both could do well if they can get more coverage nationally.

There will no doubt be many twists and turns between now and 2016. I still think that Clinton will make it but the Republican race is anyone’s guess. A potential debt-ceiling row later in 2015 could be all-important. The key question is will the newcomers fade away to be replaced by more conventional candidates or can Carson or Trump actually win the nomination? Time will tell.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley is a Polling expert at GfK and tweets about politics and polling at @keiranpedley


Six days until the ballot closes and some people still haven’t received their ballot papers

September 4th, 2015

Last night the Guardian reported that

Labour members and supporters have begun protesting to the party about their lack of ballot papers with less than a week to go before the leadership election closes.

The party initially promised that 99.9% of its electorate would have received ballot papers by 28 August, but it is now refusing to disclose how many of the 554,000 have been sent out.

However, with just four and a half working days until the ballot closes at midday next Thursday, many have taken to social media to complain to the party about worries that they could be disenfranchised in the contest.

A Labour spokesman said there was no need for people to worry because the process of sending out ballot papers is “still under way, and people can vote online right up to the deadline on 10 September.”

However, senior party figures, including Jeremy Corbyn, a leadership candidate, and Sadiq Khan, a candidate for London mayor, have urged people to contact the party for their papers to be reissued if they have not received them.

Whilst the Times have said 150,000 ballot papers were sent out late last week. All of this fits in with my supposition yesterday that there’s potential for a late swing against Corbyn given the negative stories for him that have appeared in the last few days. Had the ballot papers gone out earlier/on time then it would have been in Corbyn’s favour.

Meanwhile the New Statesman’s George Eaton tweeted this last night which will give the anyone but Corbyn movement some succour.

This might explain why yesterday with a few bookies and on Betfair Yvette Cooper replaced Andy Burnham as the second favourite to win the contest and why Corbyn’s odds lengthened a bit (but still remains the overwhelming favourite to win.) George Eaton did later tweet he was 90% sure Corbyn was going to win.

As is stands the one guaranteed winner from this leadership contest is the Tory party. Months after their campaign of Tory competence versus Labour chaos the Tories will undoubtedly point out that Labour can’t run a leadership election would you trust them to run a country?



Local By-Election Result : September 3rd 2015

September 4th, 2015

Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen on Caerphilly (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 1,002 (47% -14%), Plaid Cymru 509 (24% +14%), Douglas (Independent, nominated as UKIP) 223 (11%, no candidate in 2012), Dew (Independent) 184 (9%), Conservatives 109 (5%, no candidate in 2012), Davies (Independent) 106 (5%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 493 (23%) on a swing of 14% from Labour to Plaid Cymru
* Independent vote in by-election 513 (25%), Independent vote in 2012 (29%). Change: -4%


Just one by-election tonight – a Labour defence in Wales

September 3rd, 2015

Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen on Caerphilly (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 50, Plaid Cymru 20, Independent 3 (Labour majority of 27)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,854, 1,574, 1,282, 1,181 (61%)
Non Party Independents 508, 484, 409, 254 (17%)
Independents 438, 389, 378 (12%)
Plaid Cymru 664, 258 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Ray Davies (Ind), Ron Davies (Plaid), John Dew (Ind), Bobby Douglas (Ind, was UKIP), Lisa Jones (Lab), Rita Lukins (Con)

The natural assumption of most people to Caerphilly would be “Yawn, Labour hold, next council please!” but to disregard Caerphilly would be most unkind as this council has actually been very surprising since it’s creation in 1995. Admittedly those first elections were as predictable as ever. Labour 56 councillors out of 68 with a 63% vote share but then things “turned on a dime” in 1999.

Not only did Plaid Cymru manage to win Islwyn in the Assembly elections but as the local elections were held on the same day, Plaid did what many thought to be impossible. They won control of their first council in the South Wales valleys polling 45% of the vote and winning 39 councillors. This shocked Labour so much that one of the first actions of the 1999 – 2003 Assembly was a rule that local elections and Assembly elections would never be held on the same day ever again.

And so having regained Islwyn in 2003, Labour regained Caerphilly in 2004 and vowed never to mention 1999 again. However, the electors of Caerphilly didn’t get the memo as in 2008 Labour lost control again and although they were the largest party Plaid sprang at the chance and combining their 32 councillors with the nine Independents elected Labour were knocked out of power for the second time in fifteen years.

Added to which in Bedwas in 2012, there was more than one type of Independent, as there is in this by-election (including Bobby Douglas was who nominated as the UKIP candidate but then made a comment, that some people may class as “this is the true UKIP”, that saw UKIP sack him as their candidate and therefore we now have three Independents standing). Another reason why I use terms such as Independent, Non Party Independents and Independent Independents when dealing with Welsh local elections.

Harry Hayfield


Will Labour “go to the mattresses” if Corbyn wins?

September 3rd, 2015

4 Leaders

Don Brind hopes that peace will break out

There’s nothing erotic about going “to the mattresses”, as fans of the Godfather know. It’s violence not sex that Sonny Corleone has in mind when he declares that unless the Corleone clan get what they want “it’s all-out war, we go to the mattresses.” (It’s not safe for the “soldiers” to stay at home while the bloodletting ensues so they camp out in warehouses on those mattresses)

Fears that the Labour party would take to the mattresses after a Jeremy Corbyn takeover looked all too real in mid August. Chuka Umuna had cast himself in the Sonny Corleone role, announcing that he and shadow cabinet colleague Tristram Hunt were forming what the Standard dubbed ‘the Resistance’ group.

The Corbynistas were, it seemed, equally prepared for battle. Corbyn, who has barely couple of dozen MP supporters, issued what the Independent called a “stark warning” that he would organise “revolts by his army of grass-roots supporters” to pressure MPs opposed to his radical agenda.  “I will absolutely use our supporters to push our agenda,” he said “We have to encourage the Parliamentary Labour Party to be part of that process and not to stand in the way of democratising the party and empowering the party members.”

This week there was plenty of fighting talk from unnamed sources quoted by Rachel Sylvester in the Times  fellow columnist John McTernan told Labour MPs to get ready “to ditch Corbyn next year” The sensible 90% of the PLP should “refuse to take a job and sit resolutely on the back benches.”

Then up pops Chuka Umunna to make it clear he is miscast as Sonny Corleone. “We must all work with Jeremy Corbyn” was how the Guardian headlined the report of his speech in Amsterdam. In fact, he wasn’t conceding Corbyn victory but his emollient tone was in marked contrast to that of Tony Blair and others with whom Umunna is usually bracketed.

He acquitted the hundreds of newcomers to the party of entryism. “At a time when so many are walking away from centre-left parties across the western world and many young people do not vote, let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate”

And he was critical of New Labour’s reliance on mobilisation from the centre, rather than organising. “It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics”.
Having urged Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall to engage with Jeremy Corbyn in a previous post I was delighted with Ummuna’s call. So what if it is based on a calculation that a Corbyn leadership will be shortlived? The key thing is avoid years of posturing and backbiting that will make life easy for the Tories.

We now need a response from Corbyn. He would do well to distance himself from some of the nastiness shown by his supporters, particularly the misogynist attacks on Liz Kendall, according to blogger Adam Bienkov.  He says: “Corbyn has been rightly praised for the surge in people energetically joining the Labour party to back him. But unless those supporters take a far more inclusive approach, they could end up turning away far more people than they welcome in.”

We may well be getting ahead of ourselves, of course, Having made my mark with Mike Smithson in 2007 by predicting that Harriet Harman could beat the favourite Alan Johnson in the deputy leadership election, I take seriously the warning from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Shabana Mahmood that it’s wrong to take a Corbyn victory for granted.

In the New Statesman she says “I hear that tens of thousands of Labour party members, affiliates and registered supporters are yet to receive their ballot papers. And I am one of them. I can’t remember the last time I checked my post quite so religiously! But alas, my papers are yet to arrive.”

As a supporter of Yvette Copper, Mahmood will continue campaigning right up to close of polls next week. The eight other leadership and deputy leadership campaign teams will take the same view. For Labour members and supporters there will be no let up in the blizzard of emails, tweets and phone calls.

Don Brind


Why Corbyn might not win the Labour leadership

September 3rd, 2015


All the ingredients for Corbyn to lose are there

The Labour leadership contest seems to share a lot of the characteristics of the 2015 general election. We have the overwhelming enthusiastic social media support for a flawed candidate (that might not end up actually casting their vote), shy Tories*, the polls showing only outcome and betting sentiment heavily in favour of the polling outcome.

We’ve only had two public polls on this leadership election and the potential sampling and weighting issues with this particular electorate caused by the large surge in new members/£3 members and the purge means we should be very cautious on accepting this polling as being infallible even before we take into account the industry wide polling failure that happened in May.

Everyone in the Labour party seems to preparing for Corbyn to win based on the canvass returns so far but then again a large chunk of the Labour party thought Ed Miliband was going to become Prime Minister on May the 7th based on their canvass returns up until the exit poll came out.

The betting markets aren’t infallible either in the last week of the general election campaign and after the exit poll came out the odds on a hung parliament were shorter than the odds on Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader are now.

Last night The Sun reported that ‘less than half of the 553,954 eligible to vote in the contest have returned their ballot forms, so far, and members are swinging away from the Corbyn bandwagon after a barrage of damaging revelations about the frontrunner.’ Whilst one candidate told Krisnan Guru-Murthy around 65% had already voted. So of these 35% to 50% of voters who haven’t voted I expect these voters might not break in favour of Corbyn because of the negative stories around Corbyn that we’ve seen in recent days and weeks.

One of Ronald Reagan’s maxims was “If you’re explaining, you’re losing” and it seems to be that every day Corbyn has to explain a past comment or explain why he was meeting such a controversial friend and you have to believe that this will impact negatively on Corbyn’s chances. Also we’ve not had an opinion poll since voting began so we can’t gauge the impact of these stories.

Sometimes you have to trust your instincts. Back in April and May I thought the public especially the English public would never go for Ed Miliband as Prime Minister over David Cameron and I have a similar feeling on this. Look at how poorly Corbyn polls on the supplementaries, ComRes found ‘Corbyn and Kendall have the highest levels of people saying they would not vote for the Labour Party if they were leader (both 58%).’ This feels a lot like the barrage of polls that showed Labour ahead or tied with the Tories in the run up to the general election but the supplementary questions showed the public overwhelmingly preferred David Cameron to Ed Miliband.

Surely the Labour party aren’t going to be this stupid and self indulgent and elect someone who is a throwback to the worst mistakes and excesses of the Labour party in the 1980s? Labour supporters want to win general elections and they cannot be prepared to elect the man who they know deep down is the candidate who the Tories are praying Labour elect as leader?

So that’s why I have the nagging feeling  that like some of the others “manias” we’ve had in British politics that have fizzled out by the time the votes have been cast Corbynmania might join the ranks of Cleggmania and the Milifandom, in nine days time we’re going to find out.


*Judging by some of the comments on social media, anyone in the Labour Party who isn’t backing Corbyn is a Tory, so you can see why supporters of Burnham, Kendall & Cooper might be shy in telling pollsters and others who they really are voting for.


The way’s clear for Carly Fiorina to take on Trump directly in the next GOP debate on September 16th

September 2nd, 2015

CNN changes its rules so she can be at the top table

One of the huge problems for US broadcasters is that so many people have declared themselves as contenders for the Republican party nomination. The current count is about 16 or 17 which clearly is far too big a number for a TV debate to be manageable.

In the first debate, staged by Fox News, there were 2 tiers with those at the top featuring in the main event, and getting the greatest coverage. Amongst the so-called “undercard” debate just one contender stood out – Carly Fiorina the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and the only woman in the race. She got good coverage for her attacks on Donald Trump who, of course, was in the other debate.

The effect was dramatic: polling at 0% or 1% before the event she shot up to seven or eight in some surveys and has even topped the betting favourite, Jeb Bush. Recent polls in Iowa have her holding up a strongish position in what is the first State to decide in the nomination battle.

The next debate from CNN takes place on September 16th and the broadcaster had announced beforehand a strict set of Rules determining who should participate in the top tier based on polling averages before and after the Fox debate. Only problem was that there’ve been so few qualifying polls since the Fox debate that Carly good numbers were not enough when averaged out.

That’s now change and she looks set to be there at the top table in Boston. The coverage this is likely to produce could see her move further in the betting and the polls and I’ve had a bit of a punt.

Mike Smithson