Almost all of LAB’s current problems stem from eight years ago today when Gordon Brown recorded this interview

October 7th, 2015

The day an autumn 2007 vote was bottled

Eight years today an event took place from which, I’d argue, all Labour’s trouble stem – the decision by the then PM to call off what were very advanced plans to have an early general election.

Everything had been geared up for this to be called in the days after the Tory conference. Even a fleet of limousines to carry ministers about on had been booked and paid for.

Three months earlier Gordon had taken over as leader in an uncontested election and the polls turned from regular CON leads to regular LAB ones. By the end of September Ipsos-MORI recorded a 13% LAB margin and the talk was not whether Gordon would go to the country but of the red team securing a landslide.

Throughout September the new Brown government had been making a policy announcement a day, committing billions of pounds, in the build up to what was widely expected to be an early election. Even the manifesto was at an advanced stage.

    The big question was not whether there would be an early election but when it would be called.

As Labour’s poll ratings remained buoyant all the pressure was on Cameron who’d been almost totally blanked out of the news for months. Was this going to be the moment when his then short-lived leadership would come to an end? Everything rested on maximising the opportunity presented by the guaranteed coverage they’d get for their conference.

Cameron made what until today was his best conference speech and Osborne announced a big easing of IHT which went down very well with the media. Labour’s poll lead began to slip and by the Saturday Gordon had decided to end the speculation.

The above is the famous interview he recorded with Andrew Marr on October 7th 2007. His claims that there had been no change of mind because of the polls seemed totally implausible. Labour, and Brown personally, never recovered.

Mike Smithson


Cameron’s big speech – the first reactions

October 7th, 2015



Theresa May sends a strong reminder that she’s still in the race

October 7th, 2015


Even Boris’s sister has gone on the attack

If it was the Home Secretary’s intention yesterday to stir up some controversy and get big headlines this morning then the plan has worked very well.

Above is just a selection of papers which have made her conference speech the main story. The Independent, of course, is taking a strikingly different approach to the Daily Mail but in terms of impact that doesn’t matter.

Last night Rachel Johnson, the sister of Boris, went on the radio to attack the tone of Theresa May’s speech reinforcing the view that it had an impact.

This year’s Conservative Conference is the first since David Cameron announced in March that he would not be seeking a third term thus sparking off leadership speculation.

Judging by the betting markets and the Conservativehome regular polls of party members Theresa May has seen a steep drop in her position in the past 6 months. Along with Boris she has been hit most by the rise and rise of George Osborne and the now almost certain acceptance in many circles now that he is the heir apparent.

She has, however, several things going in her favour. Firstly she’s occupied the post of Home Secretary, for five and a half years and has managed to avoid many of the pitfalls that previous occupants of that job have experienced.

Secondly she is a woman and many Tories still look back to the glory days of their party when their leader was female. She was also state school educated in sharp contrast to Cameron, Osborne and of course Johnson. There are no lurid stories about fancy dining societies that she was part of while at Oxford.

The big question mark over her leadership prospects is whether under the party’s complex two stage leadership election system she could get through the first round where only Conservative MPs vote.

The second round is a ballot of the membership at large and only two candidates are put forward. If she got to that stage then memories of speeches like yesterday’s will be very important.

Mike Smithson


Great speech by Boris – but it’s had no impact on Betfair

October 6th, 2015

The money continues to go on George

This is a story that is probably going to go on for the next 3 to 4 years. Who is going to be the successor to David Cameron and will the prize go to one of the top two favourites?

Those are, of course, the Chancellor George Osborne and the mayor of London Boris Johnson. Until three months ago it was the mayor who occupied the favourite slot. Since then all the sentiment has moved to George. When the election eventually happens both have got very different problems.

    Boris could struggle to secure enough votes from CON MPs to make the final two. George could find it hard in the final ballot of members.

The interesting feature of the past 24 hours is that Boris has chosen to use the controversial tax credit changes as a stick to beat George. With the Sun in full throttle now on side in that battle you have to wonder whether there might be an Osborne U-turn of the type we saw repeatedly after his 2012 budget?

Mike Smithson


ComRes/Mail EU referendum poll finds CON voters more inclined to vote to stay than the electorate as a whole

October 6th, 2015

With the coming EU referendum dominating much of the discussion at the CON conference in Manchester ComRes has new poll for the Mail out showing some quite remarkable findings. As can be seen from the chart CON voters are more inclined to say they want to stay in the EU than the electorate as a whole.

This is the first time I can recall such a split and we need further surveys to support it before drawing too many conclusions.

ComRes also applied its new Voter Turnout Model to the results which takes in respondents’ likelihood to vote based on demographics factors such as age and social class. This suggests that if turnout patterns at the referendum were similar to those at the General Election, 35% would vote to leave, compared to 58% who would vote to stay.

ComRes also asked about the aspect of EU renegotiation Britons say is most important to them. Top of the list is restricting the benefits that EU migrants entering the UK can receive with 82% of those polled say this is important, including 55% who say “very important”. Around three in four Britons say limiting the number of people moving to the UK from the EU is important, as well as giving the UK the option to stay out of future EU treaties (78% both)

Mike Smithson


Extraordinary. The union boss who thinks that losing the election was a price worth paying to get Corbyn

October 5th, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn

Trying to understand what’s happened to the Labour movement

I was completely knocked out by the above Tweet posted last night about comments made by a union boss at the big meeting in Manchester at which Mr Corbyn was speaking at.

The message is that to members of the Corbyn cult politics is not about striving to gain power but about controlling the party and the Labour movement in general.

So the fact that the Conservatives are in government with a majority and are likely to enact things that will impact negatively on the movement is irelevant. The likelihood that the blue team, given the polling response to Mr Corbyn, is heading for another majority victory in 2020 is seen as a price worth paying.

This is about the party and the wider movement not who runs the country.

For someone like myself who looks at politics as being about winning power this seems totally and utterly incomprehensible.

Apparently it doesn’t matter to them what the Tories will do in perhaps 10 years of office. What really concerns them is that they will be running the party and will be able to change it in a manner which suits them.

The insularity is staggering.

Mike Smithson


Osborne edges up further in the next CON leader betting with Boris trailing a long way behind

October 5th, 2015

But history suggests that strong favourites end up as losers

With all the focus today being on the George Osborne speech it is inevitable that there has been a fair amount of betting on whether he will in fact become David Cameron’s successor.

His price has got really quite tight and at 38% I wonder whether that is just not offering value in a contest that could be several years away.

Anything can happen in the meantime and George’s stark could wane in the same way that Boris’s has in the last 5 months. I very much share David Herdson’s view, put strongly on Saturday, that it could be anybody.

The one thing we know about Conservative leadership contests is that the obvious favourite generally does not win. You only have to recall David Davis from 2005 or Michael Portillo 4 years earlier. The latter did not get enough votes from fellow MPs even to make the final runoff in the membership ballot.

Mike Smithson


Osborne’s speech: Content strong but his delivery not what you’d expect from a future leader

October 5th, 2015

Given the CON successes of the past year you’d expect him to be more upbeat