Why those opposed to Brexit shouldn’t get too excited by the BMG 10% Remain lead poll

December 17th, 2017

Ex-YouGov President, Peter Kellner, says be cautious

The former President of YouGov and leading political commentator, Peter Kellner, has written a comprehensive note about the BMG poll for the Indy which has Remain 10% ahead to a question of how those sampled would vote in a future referendum. In his look at the BMG numbers Kellner notes:

“First, they are mainly driven by a seemingly huge shift in people who did not vote in last year’s referendum. Sure, the Remain camp is being swelled by young adults who abstained last time or were not old enough to vote. But previous BMG polls included this phenomenon. During the summer, when previous non-voters were asked how they would vote in a fresh referendum, they divided fairly steadily: around 45% Remain, 25% Leave. Now, suddenly, BMG say the divide is 67%- 16%. As this group comprises more than a fifth of BMG’s total weighted sample (299 out of 1,363), this 51-point Remain lead within this group accounts for the whole of the reported overall Remain lead.

However, BMG did not actually interview 299 previous non-voters. Its unweighted subsample was barely half that: 156. The margin of error on such a subsample is large – and the very fact that BMG could not track down as many non-voters as it wanted, provides a clear warning (as I know from my experience at YouGov) that the sub-sample may not be as representative as one would like.

Secondly, if it were true that, despite these sampling issues, there had been a sharp shift among non-voters to Remain, there would be some echo of this among other groups. In particular, one would expect to see clear signs of growing buyers’ remorse among Leave voters. That wouldn’t apply to hardline anti-EU voters – something like two thirds of those who voted Leave 18 months ago. But it would be likely to have some effect on the one-third who were “instrumental” voters: people who are not viscerally anti-EU, but believed that Brexit held the best hope of more jobs, higher pay, less crime, a better-funded NHS and improved access to public services such as local schools and social housing.

The point is that any weakening of these pro-Brexit arguments that is liable to shift large numbers of non-voters into the Remain camp, should also produce some shift among the “instrumental” Leave voters. But BMG’s figures produce no evidence of this. There is no statistically significant rise in buyers’ remorse among Leave voters in this poll compared with previous BMG polls.

The third reason to doubt that BMG’s figures reflect a public reaction to last weeks’ Government defeat in the House of Commons is that the poll was conducted before the vote. Its fieldwork dates were December 5-8 – that is the week before last.

Fourthly, other polls within the past fortnight show no indication of a lurch to Remain. Two YouGov surveys and one ICM poll indicate that nothing much has changed in recent weeks, despite the turbulence surrounding the events leading to the EU’s decision to allow Brexit negotiations to move to stage two. They are consistent with a narrow Remain lead, compared with a narrow Leave lead before this year’s general election. Over the past six months, as I discussed in a recent blog, there has been a small shift to Remain, but only a small shift.

To say this is not in any way to denigrate the quality of BMG’s work. Small subsamples of hard-to-reach groups must always be examined with care, for they are liable to trip up even the best research companies. BMG seem to have been unlucky, not culpable.

The larger point is one that applies to enthusiasts on any side of any issue. It is important to resist the temptation to cherry-pick those polls and findings that support one’s case, and ignore those that don’t. Remember the warning of those great 20th century philosophers, Simon and Garfunkel, in The Boxer: “All lies and jest: a man hears what he wants to hear, and disregards the rest”.

Like all shock polls we need to see if other surveys from other organisations show the same broad trend. So at the moment we must wait. As Peter writes it is too easy for people to believe what they want to believe.

Mike Smithson


Making Amber Rudd Tory Leader & Prime Minister might be the only way to ensure she holds her seat.

December 17th, 2017

Every Tory leader since WWII has increased the Tory share of the vote in their constituency in their first general election as leader except Mrs May

It appears Amber Rudd’s majority of 346 in Hastings & Rye is seen as a bar on her being Theresa May’s successor as some Tories don’t want the symbolic moment of the next general election to be the Tory PM losing their seat. Nor do they want their leader spending most of the campaign in their constituency trying to hang on when they could be more effective across the country.

But if we look at the charts above, we can see every Tory leader since World War Two, except Mrs May, has seen an increase in their share of the vote in their constituency their first general election as leader. It appears being party leader meets with the approval of your local electorate.

On swings to the Tories, every Tory leader has seen a swing to them except Theresa May, John Major, and Edward Heath, the swing against Heath can be attributed to the snap election called by Harold Wilson which say Labour increase their majority.

In 1992 John Major saw his majority increase from an impressive 27,044 to an eye watering majority of 36,230. By contrast in June Mrs May saw her majority fall from 29,059 to 26,459. The notional swing against Major was from the fact that the previous general election the party in second place was the SDP who by 1992 were defunct, and in Huntingdon both the Liberal Democrats and Liberals stood splitting the vote and allowing Labour to come through the middle to take second place, a situation that seems unlikely to happen in Hastings & Rye.

So long as Mrs Rudd doesn’t run a general election campaign as bad as Theresa May’s 2017 campaign, history suggests Amber Rudd will hold her seat if she’s the incumbent Prime Minister and Tory leader, having such a small majority shouldn’t be a bar on her becoming Prime Minister.


N.B. For Alec Douglas-Home I have calculated the increase/swing as the change from the 1963 by election, as he wasn’t the incumbent at the previous general election. I nearly excluded him from the list given the unique circumstances of his ascension to the Premiership


Jacob Rees-Mogg might not even be a Tory MP at the time of the next Tory leadership contest

December 17th, 2017

Could JRM be without the Tory whip at the time of the next leadership contest?

One of the reasons I’m laying Jacob Rees-Mogg in the next Tory leader/PM markets, apart from the the fact he’s the favourite. There’s also the not so insignificant chance he might not have the Tory whip at the time of the next Tory leadership contest. One of the requirements to stand for the Tory leadership is that you need to be a Member of Parliament in receipt of the Tory whip.

Watching that video in the tweet above it is clear Jacob Rees-Mogg is unhappy and incredulous that Mrs May could be charting such a course of action on Brexit. In the words of Harry Cole it might a case of ‘Backbench blowhards gonna blow,’ but we must remember including Bob Spink, in the last decade the only three Tory MPs to have defected from the party have defected to UKIP, the EU matters quite a lot to some Tories.

Achieving a successful Brexit requires a lot of pragmatism and compromise, so far Mrs May’s recent approach has that in plentiful supply, Mr Rees-Mogg’s comments don’t seem to have much pragmatism and compromise, it isn’t hard to see Jacob Rees-Mogg becoming a self-consumed malcontent over Brexit.

Whilst it might come as a shock to Tim Montgomerie and Nadine Dorries, the Euro-sceptic wing of the Tory party do have a history of rebelling against a Tory government on matters related to the European Union, most (in)famously over the Maastricht Treaty, to the point where Rupert Allason had the whip removed, the following year several more Tory MPs had the whip removed for not supporting John Major’s government on another EU related matter.

When I hear talk of ‘vassal state’ alarm bells start going off in my head about the political judgment of the person making such comments. A country with an independent nuclear deterrent is no vassal state. The fact that Boris Johnson uses the ‘vassal state’ phrase in this morning’s Sunday Times comes as no surprise to me.

The rebels of yore were prepared to risk ending a Tory government, I won’t be surprised if current Euro-sceptics are prepared to bring down the May Government even with the attendant risk of making Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister if they don’t get the pure Brexit they want.

When betting on the next Tory leader/PM markets it might be wise to think ‘Is this candidate likely to have the Tory whip at the time of the next leadership contest?’ It could be the difference between making a profit or a loss.


PS – Hat-tip to David Herdson for being the inspiration behind this thread.


Farage’s man’s refusal to admit defeat means Betfair Alabama punters won’t get their winnings this side of Xmas

December 16th, 2017

It is now 5 days since the white supremacist, Roy Moore, lost the special election in Alabama for the US Senate.

The vote margin of 1.5% was in excess of that which is allowed under state law for a losing candidate to call for a recount.

The winner, the Democrat, is widely regarded as such and there is no suggestion anywhere that the result can be overturned. All the focus now is on the political consequences of the GOP position in the Senate being cut to 51-49.

Most bookies have paid the punters who backed the Democrats. Not so yet on the Betfair exchange which saw nearly £0.75m being traded.

Under state law the result will be formalised on December 28th which looks as though it will be the day when Betfair and will settle the market.

So if you’ve made money on Alabama on Betfair it looks as though you are going to have wait.

Mike Smithson


As we edge towards to the year end three seasonal political betting tips

December 16th, 2017

At the end of a tumultuous year, some early thoughts for 2018 and beyond

Date of the Next UK election: 2022, 5/2 SkyBet

In one sense, this is a great bet. Yes, there’s a lot that could happen over the next four and a bit years but the FTPA makes it hard for an early election to be forced unless the government wants to, and after the experience of this last year, why would it? If this last week has taught us anything, it’s that the divisions within the Conservatives are being exaggerated (unlike the vituperation against the handful of occasional rebels from outside). Assuming that there is a Brexit deal done, chances are that there’ll be a near 100% Tory vote for it: see the Article 50 vote for details. Similarly, the DUP are very likely to back the deal, not least because they’ll have significant input into the government’s position. With fewer by-elections these days, I’d put the chances of the parliament running its course at over 50%. Of course, the downside is that four years is a long time to wait for a relatively short-odds bet.

Next Conservative Leader: lay everyone short of 20/1

As with all ‘next leader’ markets, the biggest variable is when the election will be. There is a reasonable chance that it’ll be next year – Theresa May continues to live too much in the bunker – but the PM has also proven flexible enough that enough critics are likely to be bought off in a crisis to prevent a challenge. The May elections could prove troublesome for the Tories in London but Corbyn places a ceiling on the Labour vote and with no resurgence for the Lib Dems or any other party, the Tories are likely to sit comfortably in at least the mid- to high-thirties, which will cushion any losses outside the capital. They won’t be a trigger. Nor is it going to be easy for the Tories to justify spending up to two months navel-gazing during the Brexit negotiations. For all those reasons, I expect the handover to happen after Match 2019. One window is in the summer of that year, another is as late as 2021. Obviously, ‘events’ may intervene but the chances of them doing so are being overrated.

So who to succeed? The top six in the betting markets at the moment are Jabob Rees-Mogg (13/2), Boris Johnson (9/1), David Davis (11/1), Amber Rudd (12/1), Andrea Leadsom (14/1) and Ruth Davidson (16/1). I don’t like any of those odds. For all that outsiders have done well in elections recently – Corbyn and Trump most obviously but also in a different way, Macron in France – we should remember that the Conservative membership backed Cameron over Davis twelve years ago and was probably set to back May over Leadsom. Yes, there is an ideological fringe but the first quality demanded is not purity, it’s proven ability. On that basis, I’d rule out JRM, Boris and Leadsom. Davis has never been much of a team player, Rudd is a possibility but holds a very marginal seat, and Davidson doesn’t hold any seat in Westminster at all. If the election is in 2019, never mind 2021, the field is likely to look quite different. Lay the lot. Within the cabinet, I’d be looking to someone like Jeremy Hunt (33/1) but there’s a good chance the next Con leader isn’t even in the cabinet yet.

Next Cabinet minister to leave: take your pick top-side of 20/1

The golden rule here is lay the favourite – currently Damian Green at a ridiculous 1/3). Yes, Green is in a spot of bother and could be out before Christmas but from the leaks we’ve heard, there may not be a slam-dunk case against him and we know that May will be reluctant to lose one of her closest political allies. Frankly, this market’s something of a lottery: while some resignations are predictable as possibilities at least, many are not. On that basis, I would simply look to those above 20/1, not for any good political reason but because of the unpredictability of the market.

David Herdson


Local By-Election Results : December 14th 2017 and December Summary

December 15th, 2017

Bradwell on Newcastle under Lyme (Lab defence)
Result: Con 360 (46% +22% on last time), Lab 396 (51% +5% on last time), Lib Dem 25 (3% unchanged on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -23%, No Green candidate this time -3%, No Independent candidate this time -1%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 36 (5%) on a swing of 8.5% from Lab to Con

Newchapel on Newcastle under Lyme (Lab defence)
Result: Con 216 (43% -7% on last time), Lab 197 (39% -11% on last time), Ind 86 (17%, no candidate last time)
Conservative GAIN from Labour with a majority of 19 (4%) on a swing of 2% from Lab to Con

Shevington with Lower Ground on Wigan (Lab defence)
Result: Con 183 (12% +1% on last time), Lab 601 (38% -2% on last time), Lib Dem 125 (8% no candidate last time), Green 72 (5% +1% on last time), Ind 55 (3% -23% on last time), Local Ind 552 (35% no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -19%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 49 (3%) on a notional swing of 18.5% from Lab to Shevington Independents (actual swing 10.5% from Ind to Lab)

Langworthy on Salford (Lab defence)
Result: Con 402 (33% +27% on last time), Lab 765 (63% +14% on last time), Lib Dem 15 (1% no candidate last time), Green 30 (2% -4% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -25%, No Independent candidate this time -11%, No Other Parties candidate this time -2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 363 (30%) on a swing of 6.5% from Lab to Con

Rockingham on Barnsley (Lab defence)
Result: Con 272 (19% +11% on last time), Lab 938 (67% +15% on last time), Lib Dem 199 (14% no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -32%, No Other Parties candidate this time -8%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 666 (48%) on a swing of 2% from Con to Lab (swing of 23.5% from UKIP to Lab)

Handside on Welwyn Hatfield (Lib Dem defence)
Result: Con 691 (33% -9% on last time), Lab 260 (12% -4% on last time), Lib Dem 1,105 (52% +16% on last time), Green 51 (2% -4% on last time)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 414 (19%) on a swing of 12.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Watcombe on Torbay (Lib Dem defence)
Result: Con 355 (31% +8% on last time), Lab 121 (11% -8% on last time), Lib Dem 655 (57% +14% on last time), Green 9 (1% -5% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -9%)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 300 (26%) on a swing of 3% from Con to Lib Dem

Westward Ho! on Torridge (Con defence)
Result: Con 128 (19% -21% on last time), Lab 35 (5% no candidate last time), Lib Dem 63 (9% no candidate last time), UKIP 90 (13% no candidate last time), Ind (Laws) 321 (47%), Ind (Mason) 47 (7%) (No Green candidate this time -24%)
Independent GAIN from Conservative with a majority of 193 (28%)
Total Independent vote: 368 (54% +18% on last time)
Swing: 19.5% from Con to Ind

December 2017 Monthly Summary
Labour 6,210 votes (40.43% +6.42% on last time) winning 6 seats (-1 seat on last time)
Conservatives 4,358 votes (28.38% +3.10% on last time) winning 1 seat (-2 seats on last time)
Liberal Democrats 3,022 votes (19.68% +8.72% on last time) winning 4 seats (+2 seats on last time)
Green Party 577 votes (3.76% -4.25% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Local Independent candidates 552 votes (3.59% +3.59% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Independent Candidates 509 votes (3.31% -1.56% on last time) winning 1 seat (+1 seat on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 130 votes (0.85% -12.58% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Labour lead of 1,852 votes (12.05%) on a swing of 1.66% from Con to Lab

Lib Dem GAIN Newport on North Devon from Con, Lib Dem GAIN Godalming Central and Ockford on Waverley from Con, Con GAIN Newchapel on Newcastle under Lyme from Lab, Independent GAIN Westward Ho! on Torridge from Con

On December 22nd, I shall be publishing my review of the year in local by-elections (of which there have been no fewer than 311, therefore would like to ask for member’s thoughts on the following topic: “Of all the local by-elections held in 2017, which was your favourite and why?”. The local by-elections that receive the most mentions will be summarised in detail, therefore please make your submissions either in the comments below to on Twitter with the hashtag #FaveLocals2017 to @harryhayfield by December 20th.

Harry Hayfield


To get the tone right it has to come from the top

December 15th, 2017

Cyclefree on why this is so important

During the 1983 campaign, Saatchi suggested a poster showing Michael Foot on Hampstead Heath with his walking stick looking like a scruffy old man and the caption “Even Pensioners are Better Off under the Conservatives”. Thatcher was furious, refusing to use it, calling it disrespectful and undignified.

Similarly, in 2005 Labour withdrew two proposed posters which were criticised for recycling, whether intentionally or not, anti-Semitic tropes in the way they portrayed Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin. (Darkly ironic this in light of the current Labour party’s difficulties with the same issue.) Both parties’ leaderships realised that while winning is the most important thing in politics, how one wins also matters. Tone matters, not just for the campaign but, more importantly, for how the winner governs in the years long after the details of the campaign have been forgotten.

And so, alas, to the referendum campaign. Whatever the arguments about Farage’s posters about Turkey or queues of migrants, even those in the official Leave campaign felt uncomfortable about them, and not simply because of factual inaccuracies (most election campaigns are full of statements which would hardly win the George Washington Prize for Truthfulness) but rather because of the unpleasantly chauvinistic message, all too horribly reminiscent of the way certain groups have been picked on in the past as the source of a country’s problems, without whom all would be sweetness and light.

Wishing to control immigration into a country is a respectable position which does not – and, critically, should not – depend on saying hateful things about those you wish to exclude. Indeed, doing the latter, as Farage did, coarsened and debased an argument which, more than many others, needs to be made from first principles rather than in ad hominem and abusive way. Equally, those who deplore how Farage made his arguments would do well not to give the impression that seeking to control immigration, ipso facto, makes a person racist or fascist or a Nazi. All countries (and associations of them, including the EU) have some form of control over who is let in, however unevenly enforced.

Even so, these posters might have been forgotten or implicitly repudiated if May’s government had in its first few weeks and months consciously sought to adopt a conciliatory, friendly and welcoming approach to those left bewildered (at the very least) by the result. And chief among these were the EU citizens who had come here, legally, in good faith, to work and contribute and their families, spouses, friends, colleagues.

Not to mention those who felt that there was no existential conflict between their identity as British citizens and as EU citizens and resented being forced to choose. As well as others from immigrant communities, who worried that they too might, if the wind changed, be picked on. In truth, everyone is in some way part of some minority. So when politicians start adopting a hard-line “us and them” tone it creates a nervousness in more voters than just those being explicitly targeted.

It should not need saying but the vote was, for many, a difficult and finely balanced decision. Calling those who voted to Remain “traitors” or “saboteurs” or implying that they had no loyalty to Britain by voting to Remain in an organisation, membership of which had been British policy for decades and was supported by every major political party, was not calculated to heal the divisions caused or exposed by the referendum. And even if some of those who voted Remain wanted to find a way to ignore or reverse the referendum result, it would still have been better to remember Churchill’s dictum: “In victory, magnanimity”. Or, ironically enough, the prayer that Thatcher quoted when first elected PM.

The referendum brought a fair amount of discord. There has been little attempt to bring harmony in its wake. Indeed, there has not been much realisation that this should even be attempted. Easy to blame this on the government’s small majority or on May’s fear of her ultra-hard Brexit wing or on the annoyance caused by those who disapproved of or wished to subvert the result or on the stupidly triumphalist tone of some of the winners. But the government should have been bigger than its opponents. It should have realised that implementation of a difficult decision in an almost equally divided country would require enormous goodwill from as many people as possible, both in Britain and abroad.

It should have sought to preserve the reality of Britain as a country which, for all its faults, has generally rejected nativist, race-based “blood and soil” concepts of belonging, rather than appear to give succour to those who seem to want to turn back to an era when there was an “Aliens” passport queue at British ports. It should have realised that its own long-term self-interest, let alone the country’s, required it to reach out to the voters of the future.

Perhaps Conservatives need to be reminded of what Burke told them – that society is a partnership not only between those who are living – let alone only those living who support your particular view of the world – but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are to be born. The Tories may have forgotten this but the young, who turned away from them at the election, did not and are making their voices heard as loud as any newborn.

So, what now? It may be too late for May to do this. She has enough to do trying to implement Brexit. What of her obvious (at least in their own minds) successors? I will stick my neck out and say that none of them will do. They are already yesterday’s men and will be even more so at the time of the next election, leadership or general.

The next successful Tory leader, the next successful PM (the two are not necessarily the same) should – maybe ( if we’re lucky) even will – be the person who realises that reaching out to those who feel left behind by the referendum result is necessary, as necessary as implementing the wishes of those who voted to leave because they felt left behind. A person who can find a way of defining what a successful post-Brexit Britain might look like, who realises that the young will be those largely creating that Britain and can find a way to help them do so successfully.

A person who finds the right tone to speak to all the country and not merely those who vote for his/her party, who finds a way to answer peoples’ concerns about immigration, change, globalisation and all the rest without doing a bad impersonation of failed or toxic politicians of the past or nostalgically wishing life would go back to how it used to be.

A person who perhaps in themselves and their experiences until now embodies what a successful, prosperous Britain less divided than now might be like.

Perhaps something for ambitious politicians to ponder over their holidays?



How Brexit means different things to different groups and people

December 15th, 2017

This has always been the challenge for TMay

Mike Smithson