Remembering Mark Senior – poster on PB 2004-2017

September 25th, 2017

Last week, a couple of days before the end of my holiday, we had the sad news that ones of PB’s leading posters almost since the site started, Mark Senior, has died.

Over nearly a decade and a half he became a key part of the site’s unique commenting community and although I never met him I am sure that others feel like I do that we know him from our interactions over such a long period.

I’ve not been able to find a picture of Mark but we do know that he was an assiduous follower of local elections, polling and a was regular contributor to this and other sites. His knowledge and memory in these area was quite extraordinary and he would never shy away from fights. He was also a very strong supporter of the Lib Dems as those who have followed discussions of PB will have been very much aware and why I have illustrated this with an appropriate picture.

If anyone knows more about Mark or has a picture it would be great to hear from them.

In 2005 Mark won one of the first PB competitions predicting a by-election outcome and two years later was elected LD poster of the year.

This was his last post here on August 17th 2017:

I am able to ascertain that his last visit to PB was on September 1st.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

Mike Smithson


It looks as though Angerla Merkel will hang on in Germany

September 24th, 2017

Click on image for latest


The latest PB cartoon, this time on the travails of travels with Ryanair

September 24th, 2017


I now have huge doubts about the political judgment of Philip Hammond

September 24th, 2017

Hammond’s plan to make Boris PM days after the general election failed because David Davis wanted to be PM.

Tim Shipman of The Sunday Times has published the first excerpts of his new book, which covers the last 15 months or so of UK politics including the general election and the aftermath of Mrs May’s appalling campaign which saw her lose David Cameron’s majority, as we can see from the tweet

One of the most fascinating bits from the first excerpt of the book is the tweets above, Philip Hammond was going to help Boris Johnson become Prime Minister in the early hours of June 9th.

Like many others I have Michael Govesque doubts about Boris Johnson as Tory Leader/Prime Minister, so anyone who tries to make Boris Prime Minister goes down in my estimation and makes me dubious about the political nous of said people. Additionally anyone making that analogy about the First Triumvirate should know it did not end well for Caesar, Pompey, nor Crassus.

The Sunday Times last night also reported

Rebel leaders claimed last night that up to 50 Conservative MPs now want May to resign, more than the 48 who would be needed to force a vote of no confidence in her leadership.

So this does make me think we’re only one bad mistake, or something Brexit related which annoys either the hard core Leavers or those on the opposite viewpoint, from a vote of confidence being triggered in Mrs May, which makes betting on Mrs May’s exit date even more challenging.


PS – It is definitely worth reading the whole of Tim Shipman’s twitter account from last night for more excerpts from his book.


How the 2017 general election result would have looked under different voting systems

September 23rd, 2017

If Jeremy Corbyn does become Prime Minister I expect electoral reform, as part of wider constitutional reform, will happen, without the need of plebiscites on the matter. Whilst Labour leaders do say in opposition they favour electoral reform but then ignore it when they are elected, like a brilliant thought during an orgasm, it gets lost in the ecstasy of ‘victory’. I think Corbyn will not do a Blair on the topic of electoral reform.

The chart above, from the Electoral Reform Society, it should be noted that under three other voting systems, only one of them would see the Tories having more seats than Labour, that voting system is AV, the Tories must really regret opposing AV in the 2011 referendum, under AV the Tories would have won an even larger majority in 2015, which may have stopped Mrs May calling a snap election.

The Tories theoretically have at least nearly five years left in government they should use that time to introduce electoral reform before someone else does introduce a new voting system that is detrimental to the Tory party.



Deadline 2021: the clock might (or might not) be reset but it is still ticking

September 23rd, 2017

May’s Brexit concessions still deliberately risk a Crash Brexit

So now we know what the longest cabinet meeting of the century achieved: everyone united around the proposition that if there’s a row to be had, it can wait. That’s as true of internal cabinet divisions as it is of the main UK-EU negotiations. At some point the crunch will come – but not yet.

It was always extremely likely that the UK would ask for some form of transitional period and it’s equally likely that the EU will agree. The reasons are simple: it’s in both sides’ interest to do so.

For Britain, it avoids the cliff-edge (or it takes a longer road towards it), and it grants flexibility in that interim period to negotiate both with the EU and with third countries around the world – something we aren’t supposed to do under EU law and probably wouldn’t have the capacity to do yet even if the desire was there.

For the EU, it fills what would otherwise be a sizable hole in the budget while taking Britain away from the EU’s core meetings (which an extension of the formal withdrawal period under Article 50 wouldn’t). For both sides, it avoids a damaging disruption of trade and of goodwill.

That’s not to say that such a deal will be easy but it will be a lot easier than the final settlement. The structures, the rules and the payments that will be needed for the transitional period are either in place or can be built out of the pre-existing arrangements. By contrast, the post-2021 arrangements will indeed need flexibility and innovative thinking – neither of which has been on abundant display so far.

Theresa May will also need flexibility and innovative thinking to keep her own support supportive. Again, agreeing the interim arrangement (or the offer of one) was the easy bit. Hard Brexiteers might grumble about what amounts to an extension of Britain’s membership and the extra fees associated with that but it’s not an issue to die in the ditch over. Likewise, the Irish border question can be fudged for now, if the UK continues to adopt EU rules more-or-less in entirety, but must be addressed eventually. At the risk of disappearing into the fractal-like politics of Northern Ireland, that issue will matter to the DUP both in its own right and because it’s likely to complicate the devolution process given Sinn Fein tends not to be keen on internal Irish borders.

2021 is also the deadline for another simple reason: the government has an overwhelming necessity of tying up the process before the next election (and not just the next UK election: the next German federal election after this weekend should be in autumn 2021 with the French elections following in spring 2022).

So despite the warmer tone, we should take seriously not just May’s suggestion of a maximum of “around two years” for the transitional period but also “life outside the Union with or without a deal”, and of explicitly accepting the possibility that negotiations might fail to reach an agreement: in other words, no deal remains an option and Britain might walk if the price isn’t right.

Kicking the can down the lane is standard diplomatic and political fare, particularly so within the EU. This time, however, assuming that the EU agrees to the extended timetable, leave really does mean leave, which is where the arguments will really happen, in Brussels and in Westminster. And leave will mean out of the Single Market, the Customs Union and the direct jurisdiction of the CJEU.

Those looking for splits within the Tory Party should note that May has today reiterated these red lines with virtually no murmurings from her party. That should be some consolation to her but only a little: the MPs (and wider party) might be signed up to the vision but the devil will be in the detail. In particular, come 2021, whether to take the terms on offer or to walk. That will be a massive call, one which if mishandled could bring about not just resignations but the downfall of the government. And it could well be mishandled on either side. This is a new process and pride, both individual and institutional, could well prevent the compromises necessary. In fact, given the slow progress so far, I’d say it’s odds-on that no final agreement will be reached by 29 March 2021.

David Herdson

p.s. I should say something about how her speech has transformed Theresa May’s survival prospects. Previously, 2019-21 was the most likely time for her departure. Now, given the necessity for stability during that period, when so much is up in the air, the chances of her going then are much reduced. Instead, the prospect of a summer 2021 departure has markedly increased. Similarly, by settling the Brexit question in the short term and without any major domestic reforms in the offing (itself quite remarkable), there is now a window of opportunity should MPs find reason to need it.


The reaction to Theresa May’s Florence speech – as we are set to effectively remain in the EU until 2021

September 22nd, 2017



The Political Betting Local By-Election Conference Bounce Index : Week One

September 22nd, 2017

Over the next few weeks the major parties will be holding their party conferences and just as in every other week there are local by-elections all over the country, therefore for the duration of this Parliament we will be keeping track of how the parties do in the week of their party conferences. This week the Liberal Democrats met in Bournemouth and there were three local by-elections in Chesterfield, Oadby and Wigston and Waveney, so let’s see how they did and get a score to place on the board that Corbyn meeting in Brighton will need to match this time next week.

Holmebrook on Chesterfield (Lab defence)
Result: Liberal Democrat 510 (50% +22% on last time), Labour 435 (43% -8% on last time), Conservative 62 (6% -7% on last time), Independent 14 (1%, no candidate last time). No Other Party candidate this time (-7%)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Labour with a majority of 75 (7%) on a swing of 15% from Labour to Liberal Democrat

Oadby, Uplands on Oadby and Wigston (Lab defence)
Result: Liberal Democrat 435 (39% unchanged on last time), Labour 384 (34% +3% on last time) , Conservative 295 (26% -3% on last time)
Liberal Democrat GAIN from Labour with a majority of 51 (5%) on a swing of 1.5% from Liberal Democrat to Labour

Oulton Brand on Waveney (Con defence)
Result: Conservative 527 (50% +9% on last time), Labour 357 (34% +5% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 112 (11% -11% on last time), Liberal Democrat 54 (5%, no candidate last time) No Green Party candidate this time (-8%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 170 (16%) on a swing of 2% from Labour to Conservative

% Change on last time
Labour +1.46%, Liberal Democrats +9.99%, Conservatives -1.90%, UKIP -4.69%, Green -3.04%, Others -1.83%

So Vince scores +9.99% and sets the marker for Corbyn in next week’s local by-elections. Will the mantra of “for the many not the few” be repeated during his conference speech and will be enough to ensure that Labour poll an increase of greater than 10% in next week’s local by-elections? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Compiled by Harry Hayfield