New leader ratings in 3 state key to Trump’s 2016 victory have him with big favourability deficits

August 20th, 2017

Those of us who stayed up all night for the White House election last November will recall the huge focus on Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan – states won by Obama in 2012 which went to the Republican last year.

These were won by the tightest of margins down to 1.23% in Wisconsin, 0.64% in Pennsylvania and 0.23% in Michigan and were central to Trump’s shock victory.

Now the latest Mairist/NBC News polling in these three states finds that Trump has a huge net ratings deficit. Given the well recorded linkage between favourability rating polls and electoral outcomes this does not look good for Trump if he is considering going for a second term.

They also send a sharp message out to his party that he could be en electoral liability which could impact on other elections. If he is to go early then senior Republican figures have to be the ones to pull the trigger.

In the betting Trump’s is now odds-on not to complete a full first term. Latest price have that at 55%.

Mike Smithson


What a small pensions policy problem says about the current state of the SNP

August 20th, 2017

Getting beyond rhetoric and identity politics

These are unsettling times for Scottish nationalists. Just over a year ago, in the wake of the EU referendum, support in Remain-voting Scotland for independence was spiking. With the British government scrambling to form a coherent line on Brexit, the Scottish government hoped to turn the crisis into an opportunity by forcing the pace for a further independence referendum

It hasn’t worked out that way at all. On the one hand, the Conservatives have successfully presented themselves as the party of the union while Labour under Jeremy Corbyn have reclaimed the badge of progressiveness. In 2017 the SNP’s coalition did not completely unravel, though they lost 21 seats, but with their support evenly spread and with their opponents’ strength geographically concentrated, the SNP face the next general election with trepidation: they could easily lose more than half their remaining seats with only a small drop in their vote share, depending how their opponents do. A Clegg-like pasting is entirely conceivable if the SNP cannot find fresh momentum.

What has gone wrong? The SNP had achieved hegemony in Scotland by presenting itself as the face of progressive politics in Scotland, binding Scottish identity to progressiveness and both to the SNP and independence. This zeugma is no longer working. The Conservatives are confronting them on identity while Labour is outbidding them on progressiveness. It seems that campaigning on the politics of identity is not enough in the long term.

How has this happened? The SNP can reasonably point to the fact that no one had anticipated the success Labour would have in the general election campaign. However, many observers had pointed out that they had employed all difficult policy decisions in the service of the campaign for independence. That was never going to work indefinitely and the only question was when it was going to stop working. The answer, it seems, is sometime around now.

There’s a useful recent case study. In the 1990s, the UK government decided to equalise state retirement ages for men and women at 65. This was enacted in the Pensions Act 1995 and would take effect for women born after 6 April 1950 on a phased basis. In 1995, the women potentially affected would have been 45 or younger. The change was much-discussed in the newspapers at the time, as you would expect. No direct communications were sent out, perhaps because it took effect from 6 April 1997 during the 1997 general election campaign, so the incoming Labour government did not pick up the baton from the outgoing Conservative government that implemented it.

This programme was accelerated in 2011 so that the state retirement age for men and women could be increased to 66 after October 2020. Again, the change was phased in.

In the last two years an action group of affected women has sprung up called WASPI. Egregiously named (Women Against State Pension Inequality is the very reverse of what they are campaigning for) but with a strong sense of injustice, they are seeking compensation for what they perceive as inadequate notice of the changes. They claim not to ask for the state pension age to revert back to age 60?, but since they are asking for a non-means tested bridging pension to provide an income until State Pension Age, this looks like a distinction without a difference.

The government has stood firm – rightly, in my opinion (I find it hard to conceive of a much less meritorious campaign in a time of straitened public finances: the main change was introduced at least 15 years before it took effect). However, WASPI campaigned vigorously for support during the general election and those opposition politicians who were on the hunt for votes were willing to offer their support. This included the SNP, who have loudly proclaimed their support for WASPI, lamenting that:

“In government, we will always use the powers at our disposal to protect the poorest in our society and mitigate the worst excess of the Tory government. However, with the limited social security powers devolved to Scotland, the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to create new pension benefits”.

Unfortunately, the SNP has been caught out on this. Scottish ministers have the power to make discretionary payments if they so wish. Labour have pointed this out to the SNP, who have abruptly changed their tack and said that it was not for the Scottish government to pay for injustices in the UK-wide social security system.

Hmm. It’s hard to see how this is “using the powers at our disposal to protect the poorest in our society and mitigate the worst excess of the Tory government”. It looks more like a cynical attempt to exploit a sense of grievance without offering any meaningful assistance (probably because the SNP, like me, does not think this is a worthwhile priority). But Labour have been able to outflank the SNP on this because of the powers that the Scottish government has but is not using. When are the SNP going to move beyond words and start acting?

For the Scottish government now has very substantial powers. Just under two years ago I pointed out that the SNP had very cautious about using the Scottish government’s powers. I suggested then that the extent of those powers meant that: “The SNP has successfully for many years positioned itself as a party for all Scotland. That time may well be drawing to a close in the next couple of years.”

I’ve made some rubbish predictions in the last couple of years so it’s nice to return to one that has aged well. Labour have enjoyed increased success with their unabashed pitch from the left and I firmly expect them to go into the next round of elections promising to use Holyrood’s powers to the utmost, including the powers to tax and spend. What will the SNP be offering? More cautious actions and stirring words? Because if they are, I don’t think that’s going to be enough. Time for the SNP to start thinking through some radical new policies for Scotland and not just rhetoric and identity politics.

Alastair Meeks


The good news for TMay’s successor is that her party’s due to exceed expectations next time

August 19th, 2017

The pattern appears to be clear

One of the great things about monitoring election betting is that it gives you a good indication of what expectations were at a particular time and these can be interesting to look back at.

The above is taken from what the spread betting seat levels were immediately before the five general elections since the millennium.

As is shown in the chart the Tories seem to alternate between exceeding expectations or falling short of them.

As we all know Team TMay went into election day in June fully expecting to secure an increased majority. This was in sharp contrast to GE2015 when the expectation was that Cameron would certainly win most seats but would struggle to reach the magical total if 326 seats. He got 332.

Five years earlier at GE2010 the polls were narrowing but it was on the margin as to whether a majority would be achieved. ATories were 19 seats short.

At GE2005 the polls did exceptionally well but Michael Howard’s Tories managed to do better than expectations.

Four years earlier at GE2001 William Hague went into the election having “won” the Euros in 1999. The feeling was that the blues would make some progress from the 1997 hammering by Tony Blair. They closed the vote gap by 3.5% but only increased their seat total by one.

If this alternating pattern continues then at the next election the Tories should do better than expectations.

Mike Smithson


From Core TV – focus on PB, Brexit, the “Democrats”, the Tory leadership and more

August 19th, 2017

No David Herdson with his usual Saturday morning post this morning but instead this TV feature on PB and many of the issues we’ve been discussing on the site over the past few weeks.

This interview, by Rob Double, was recorded yesterday afternoon for Core TV the new online news and politics channel.

My views and assessments won’t be unfamiliar to regular PBers.

Mike Smithson


The GE2017 gloss starts to come off Corbyn

August 18th, 2017

His YouGov favourability drops a net 13% on June

For only the second time since the shock General Election outcome YouGov has carried out a favourability poll on the main parties and their leaders and the contrast with the post election survey is striking.

Theresa May is moving up a notch though still in deep negative territory. She was a minus 34 – that’s down to 27%.

Corbyn is going in the other direction. He was level pegging in June and is now a net minus 13%. So overall the PM has moved a net 20 points closer.

Given his position on BREXIT Corbyn’s remain voter split is a surprising 53% favourable to 39% unfavourable. Amongst Leavers it is 68% unfavourable to 25% favourable – numbers which suggest that that Labour’s creative ambivalence is continuing to have a political impact.

The YouGov numbers also allow us to compare leader ratings with how the sample viewed their parties. Both LAB and CON rated higher than their leaders by 3 and 6 points respectively. The only recent leader who generally polled better than his party was Cameron.

Mike Smithson



Local By-Elections Review : August 17th 2017

August 18th, 2017

Park on Peterborough (Lab defence)
Result: Labour 1,713 (50% unchanged on last time), Conservative 1,375 (40% +5% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 176 (5% -3% on last time), Liberal Democrat 109 (3% +1% on last time), Green Party 83 (2% -2% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 338 (10%) on a swing from Lab to Con of 2.5%

St. Mary’s on Forest Heath (Con defence)
Result: Conservative 338 (50% +11% on last time), Labour 276 (41% +9% on last time), Green Party 60 (9%, no candidate last time) No UKIP candidate (28% last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 62 (9%) on a swing of 1% from Lab to Con

Riverside (Con defence) and Southcourt (Lib Dem defence) on Aylesbury Vale
Result: Conservative 301 (35% +4% on last time), Liberal Democrat 286 (33% +17% on last time), Labour 210 (24% +6% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 48 (6% -30% on last time), Green Party 23 (3%, no candidate last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 15 (2%) on a swing of 6.5% from Con to Lib Dem

Result: Liberal Democrat 456 (37% +8% on last time), Conservative 386 (32% +10% on last time), Labour 270 (22% -1% on last time), Green Party 58 (5% -1% on last time), United Kingdom Independence Party 54 (4% -17% on last time)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 70 (5%) on a swing of 1% from Lib Dem to Con


How Brexit is blinding us resulting in other massive issues being ignored

August 18th, 2017


The Brexit obsession is diverting attention from other big challenges

Since Britain voted to leave the EU, little of substance has happened in the decoupling process. Britain has served its Article 50 notice, the EU has established its preferred method of handling the negotiations, to which the British have acceded, and both sides have now published detailed papers on their preferred way of proceeding. The real fight, as Jeremy Corbyn said, starts here.

If this is a phoney war, then it certainly hasn’t lacked for coverage of its shadow battles. Remainers mock the ramshackle way in which the British government has put together its negotiating position, profess disdain for what they see as the government’s provincial jingoism and boggle at the starry-eyed impossibilism of the British government’s continuing attempts to have their cake and eat it. For their part, Leavers have snarled at Remainers‘ perceived lack of patriotism, labelled those with qualms about the project saboteurs and enemies of the people and set out a wide variety of mutually contradictory preferred positions which they continually seek to map onto the government positions. Position papers have been deconstructed to the nth degree. Every new utterance by a government minister, EU flunkey or holidaying ex-SPAD is dissected endlessly for detail and nuance.

Both sides noisily agree that whatever else one might think of Brexit, it is important. The news-consuming public largely seems to agree. The Express seems to be kept afloat as a newspaper by a combination of EU outrages and statins. Hitherto obscure journalists now seem to make a good living out of Remain-supporting podcasts.

Both sides are right, of course. The terms of the Brexit settlement will have a substantial impact on the prosperity of Britain (and to a lesser extent the EU). It is very possible that the negotiations will end in acrimony, greatly exacerbating the already difficult relations between Britain and the EU and the internal divisions in the UK between the two camps. This is the biggest change of direction for Britain since it sought to join the EEC as it then was. The stakes are high.

One of the big dangers of Brexit, however, is that Britain’s absorption in the process is blinding it to other important developments. The continuing excellent employment figures have rightly been widely reported, though one has to admire the Express’s ability to make a bad news story out of this by blazoning its front page with the number of migrants in jobs. The slowdown in growth passed by largely without comment.

British political types awoke from their navel-gazing when North Korea threatened to launch missiles in the direction of the US and Donald Trump promised fire and fury. But they haven’t particularly noticed that ISIS have lost Mosul or that the Gulf is currently in the throes of a cold war between Qatar, backed by Turkey, on the one hand and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on the other. Every European election or potential change of government is being seen through a Brexit prism: is Angela Merkel going to be re-elected and will her new coalition be more or less Brexit-friendly? Will the new Taoiseach be less accommodating to Britain’s preferred Brexit settlement than his predecessor? Britain’s horizons have sharply narrowed.

Politically aware Brits have picked up on the strife in southern US states over statues celebrating confederacy figures. Few seem to have picked up on the possibility of white nationalism crossing the Atlantic, though UKIP seem likely, in the wake of another large trial involving a group of largely Muslim men who sexually exploited white girls, to elect as leader one of the candidates who is standing on an anti-Islam ticket. This is a show that could be coming to a screen near you shortly.

As important as the Brexit settlement is, everything else continues. Once Brexit is no longer completely all-consuming, Britain will need to get to grips with globalisation, AI, productivity, the housing crisis, an ageing population and all the other challenges that seemed so important before the country voted to devote years to sorting out the second order problem of the precise basis on which Britain interacts with its neighbours. Since the government does not have the human or intellectual capacity to address these challenges at the same time as negotiating Brexit, Britain is set to fall years behind its cohort in dealing with them. So much for making Britain more competitive.

How to solve this problem? Oddly, it is some of those who voted for Leave who now carp that Brexit has led to a sterile debate, as though the outcome should have been closed off further discussion of the manifold problems it raised. Ignoring those problems, however, will not make them go away.

There appears to be no option to ploughing through the Brexit blizzard and accepting that will make us snow blind for some time to come. At the end, whenever that might be, we will survey a very changed landscape. Because Britain will not be prepared for that changed landscape, it is unlikely to be well-placed to profit from it.

Alastair Meeks


Why the SNP’s MPs would probably not support a vote for an early general election

August 17th, 2017

Sturgeon’s party has too many vulnerable seats

Ever since it became clear that Mrs. May’s June election gamble had failed and she’d lost her majority there’s been lots of speculation that this parliament will not go through to its full term in June 2022. Maybe but there is the obstacle to surmount of the Fixed Term Parliament Act which was part of the coalition deal in 2010. The days when a PM can pop along to the Palace and call an election are long gone.

One of the routes allowable is if the government loses a no confidence motion which is not rescinded within two weeks. The other route, as deployed by TMay last April, was to seek a Commons vote with two thirds of MPs giving the move their backing.

A confidence vote is probably where the Tories are most vulnerable although at the moment there is the deal with he DUP. Things could change over the parliament through defections, rebellions and by-election losses that it.

Such a confidence vote would require LAB to secure the full backing of other parties in the house including the SNP and there must be some doubt that they would go along with the idea.

A key factor that is illustrated in the Commons Library table above is the vulnerability of the SNP in many of the 35 Scottish seats that they currently hold. We saw how in the two years between the last two general elections SNP dropped from 56 MPs to just 35 on a Scottish vote share down from 50% at GE2015 to 36.9%.

Voting for LAB confidence motions that would lead directly to a new general election being held and would not, on current party standings, be in the SNP’s interest. Chances are that they’d lose even more seats.

It has been calculated that if LAB, CON and the SNP each finished up on 30% in Scotland then the SNP could be reduced to just 6 seats. That sliimness of some of their majorities is shown in the chart.

Mike Smithson