Biden is polling far better in the national primary surveys than in the first two states to decide

April 25th, 2019

With Obama’s former VP, 76 year old Joe Biden, today entering the race for the WH2020 Democratic nomination he does so from a position of strength in national polls of party voters.

The chart shows the latest Real Clear Politics polling average national lead for Joe Biden over Bernie Sanders and Pete butcher Jack compared with the latest surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire. These are, of course, the first two to decide and where all the active presidential campaigns have been paying lots of visits at the moment.

As can be seen from the charts there’s a biggish divide between the national picture and what is happening in Iowa and New Hampshire. This could be the case because in these two traditional starting primary states voters are paying much more attention to the race than those elsewhere.

Both Iowa and New Hampshire take a lot of pride in their status as being the first on the primary calendar each four years with the Presidential elections I just wonder whether this explains the gap.

If so that reinforces the notion that a part of Biden’s polling position is down to the fact that he is the better known. He is of course a regular fighter for the presidency and has failed several times before going back to 1988.

Mike Smithson


ChangeUK is learning the hard way that there’s more to running a political party than just getting a few MP defectors

April 25th, 2019

The struggles of the new party

The widely reported problems it is having with its selection of some candidates for the European elections together with the difficulty getting a logo registered are just indications of the teething trouble that ChangeUK is having in its attempt to establish itself as a new political force.

This will likely be amplified a week today in the English local elections which cover almost all the English counties with the exception of London and a couple of other places. The Tories are defending more than 4k seats and the chances that are that this will not be a comfortable night for Mrs May.

From what we can judge so far (and this is all anecdotal) is that the main beneficiaries will be the Lib Dems and the Greens both parties which are fiercely hostile to Brexit. CUK will not be getting any seats because it is not putting up any candidates.

This could be problematical in the CUK efforts to present itself as the main vehicle for the anti Brexit vote. If the Lib Dems and the Greens have taken a few hundred seats as might happen, then they surely will argue that they are the parties of Remain.

    It has barely been noticed that that there is a high degree of cooperation taking place between the Greens and the Lib Dems at a local level in a number of council areas with one party or the other standing aside in wards where they think one of them is in with a chance.

Unless there is something that causes Tory turnout to get back to normal local election levels then the two parties are going to be able to present themselves as the true groupings for anti-Brexit voters.

ChangeUK going AWOL for the biggest set of local elections in the four year cycle of these elections might in retrospect not look smart.

Mike Smithson


So all that talk of TMay’s imminent ousting was just piss and wind

April 24th, 2019

Journos should be more sceptical about ERG briefings

I don’t know about you but I’m getting a bit tired of all these headlines about Theresa May on the point of being ousted. This started, it will be recalled, last autumn and what amounts to the same has been an almost never-ending source of political “exclusives” since.

Could it be that the source of these s is actually a very small group of the more vociferous hardliners that are associated with the ERG. Surely the media have woken up to fact by now that they do not speak for backbench opinion within the Conservative Party.

Sure Tory MPs are not very happy at the moment but one of the reasons for that is that the ERG group has been so strong in its opposition to Theresa May’s that it has failed to get through the Commons.

The hardline brexiteers have got to accept that the referendum was won by the narrowest of margins and indeed a swing of 1.9% could have produced a different outcome. That meant, surely, that the nation wanted Brexit of some form but of the very softest nature.

People who were betting on Theresa May’s early departure, I’d suggest, are probably not going to win.

Mike Smithson


Biden might be topping the polls for the Democratic nomination but the questions remain

April 24th, 2019

Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

But is he overpriced in the betting?

As can be seen in the chart Joe Biden has moved back a bit in the betting for the Democratic nomination for WH2020 White House Race. His team is making it known that tomorrow he will formally enter the race with a specially prepared video that will be distributed.

This launch contrasts sharply with the mass rallies that he key opponents had with all the associated media coverage.

Because 76 year old Biden was Obama’s vice president for eight years he is very well known and many argue that it is this that is driving his current place in the polling rather than a real indication of what is going to happen. At this stage, of course, most primary voters have not given much thought to something that they won’t have to decide until next year.

Whatever he faces two very big obstacles which could undermine his effort. Firstly there’s a question of fundraising where other opponents, notably Sanders Harris and Mayor Pete who have raised millions. Biden starts from scratch.

Unlike the other contenders he doesn’t have a big supporter database that he can easily contact and although he has help from some of those who were behind Obama’s successful effort in this area. But quite a few of the key people from those campaigns are now working with Biden’s opponents.

He starts as the New York Times is highlighting, with zero dollars. Simply to match the amount raised already by Bernie Sanders he’s going to have to an enormous amount a day between now and Christmas something that will divert his attentions from the race itself. That’s a huge challenge.

The other big concerns over Biden are the allegations of inappropriate physical contact with women. Just go into Google or YouTube and search “Creepy Joe” and you’ll get an idea of what is involved. Chances are that after his formal announcement then more will come out and no doubt supporters of the other contenders are going to help this along.

I still think this is between Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Mayor Pete with just a possibility that Elizabeth Warren might get some traction. Her policy based approach could resonate.

Mike Smithson


Farage against the machine. Why the Brexit party’s chances are not as good as billed

April 23rd, 2019

Nigel Farage’s second coming has been greeted with fanfares in the media, which love someone who courts publicity and is prepared to do whatever it takes to get it. His gaping maw can be viewed wherever you look, and he has so far been given an unimpeded run for his message that Brexit has been betrayed. His credentials as a strategic genius who delivered Brexit are taken as read. His brilliance as a politician is assumed. The imminent collapse of the current political establishment is expected.  

At the time of writing, he was most recently backed on Betfair at 48 (47/1) for next Prime Minister.  This price is shorter than that for Philip Hammond, Geoffrey Cox, Amber Rudd and David Davis. Since he is not even an MP, this shows remarkable enthusiasm for his chances.

There are a few problems with this narrative. Let’s take a look at them.

Nigel Farage is a really poor political campaigner

Put the referendum to one side for now (I will be coming back to this). His track record in seeking election to Westminster is one of almost unmitigated failure, both for himself and for his party. The only successes have been obtaining the re-election at by-elections of two incumbent MPs. One of these lost his seat at the next election.

He himself has failed to be elected to Parliament on no fewer than seven occasions, including coming third in a two horse race in 2010 when campaigning in the Speaker’s constituency.

He has a better record in the EU elections. The Brexit party can be expected to do well there. For long term impact, however, they are going to need to start making inroads into Westminster. Nothing in Nigel Farage’s past suggests that they will.

His role in the referendum is being hugely overstated

Nigel Farage’s biggest contribution to the referendum was leaning on Conservative MPs to help get it called in the first place. During the referendum campaign he roamed around like a rogue elephant, trampling across the main campaign’s efforts.

He may have reached voters that the main campaign did not reach but he also risked alienating other voters who were also needed with such stunts as his Breaking Point poster. He was certainly one of the more visible figures but he was not so much Svengali as sidekick.

Certainly he did not impress Dominic Cummings, guru of Vote Leave. Among his comments:

“We recruited more active volunteers (~12,000) in 10 months than UKIP in 25 years (~7,000 according to Farage).”

“Farage put off millions of (middle class in particular) voters who wanted to leave the EU but who were very clear in market research that a major obstacle to voting Leave was ‘I don’t want to vote for Farage, I’m not like that’. He also put off many prominent business people from supporting us. Over and over they would say ‘I agree with you the EU is a disaster and we should get out but I just cannot be on the same side as a guy who makes comments about people with HIV’.”

Without Boris, Farage would have been a much more prominent face on TV during the crucial final weeks, probably the most prominent face. (We had to use Boris as leverage with the BBC to keep Farage off and even then they nearly screwed us as ITV did.) It is extremely plausible that this would have lost us over 600,000 vital middle class votes.”

Retrospectively making him into some kind of electoral babe-magnet is rewriting history.

The Brexit party, new as it is, has major problems

Considering the Brexit party is so new, it has a remarkably chequered track record already. It has lost its chief executive over blood-curdling anti-Islamic comments and its treasurer over a pot pourri of anti-semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.

If Labour are struggling with accusations of institutional anti-semitism, the Brexit party seem to have much greater structural problems.  What is it about Nigel Farage that attracts such people?

The Brexit party’s party structure is also going to be limiting unless quickly changed. The party leader is chosen by a committee that is appointed by Nigel Farage. The party supporters get no say. Party democracy is evidently something that Nigel Farage has no time for.

While it is no doubt a great comfort to Nigel Farage that he has the same job security as Arthur Scargill, it will prove a major barrier to obtaining new recruits. Disaffected Conservative MPs will be unwilling to jump ship to a party where their status will be subject to the caprices of a man who many others had fallen foul of once their profile got too high.

This may in turn explain why Nigel Farage has yet again overpromised and underdelivered. We were told that the Brexit party was going to unveil a glittering array of candidates. Instead so far we have got the sister of a backbench Conservative MP and the usual ragbag of committed EU-haters who no one else had heard of. I suppose that this was a step up from a much-touted march that ultimately had fewer than 100 participants. It still suggests that the party structures are again likely to prove an Achilles heel for him.

Nigel Farage has a host of questions to answer about himself that he won’t be able to duck forever

Then we come to the man himself. He has never shown himself particularly deft on the defence rather than on the attack. Perhaps he will break that habit. He will need to.

As Dominic Cummings noted, he has an array of past statements that are voter-repellent (Mike Smithson noted his approach to the NHS, which is far outside the mainstream, on Monday). Those will come back to haunt him – does he still believe them? If not, why did he change his mind?

He also visibly struggles over questions about funding. The ongoing questions about Leave.EU’s finances rumble on. The answers won’t sink the referendum result but the waters lap around Nigel Farage’s feet (which is no doubt why Arron Banks is not being asked to contribute to funding the Brexit party).  

It is also worth noting that the rules on disclosing MPs’ interests are more stringent than those for MEPs. Were he ever to make it eighth (or ninth, or tenth) time lucky, journalists would be queuing up to pore over them.

He will no doubt also be watching with some concern developments over the Mueller report. He was named in passing as a possible conduit to Julian Assange for wikileaks. He was indeed seen at the Ecuadorean embassy. No doubt in due course he will be asked by reporters to explain his bit part in this drama.

Most importantly, he is campaigning on the democratic need to implement Brexit and how the MPs are betraying it. But before and during the referendum campaign he made many statements on Brexit that suggest that he was expecting a much softer Brexit then than he is campaigning for now. At some point he is going to need to come up with a convincing explanation of the discrepancies if he is going to make inroads beyond the permanently aggrieved.

Ultimately, the Brexit party may well prove extremely problematic for the Conservatives, perhaps lethal up to and including the next general election. That does not mean that it will itself have much electoral success and unlike in the 2010-15 Parliament, the diehard right is in no position to impose itself on the government, which has still greater pressures from elsewhere.

All it looks set to do is hand the initiative to pro-EU forces. For all that they are being much-derided at present, CUK look more likely to achieve their policy objectives in relation to Brexit both in the short and in the long term.

Alastair Meeks


The Euro elections are all about vote shares not how many MEPs each party secures

April 23rd, 2019

Will the aggregate votes of the Brexit parties exceed those that oppose it?

Lots of talk today about the various lists that the parties are putting up for the unexpected euro elections on May 23rd. To remind ourselves in this election voters put a cross by a party name in a particular region and their votes are allocated according to a complex system that seeks to proportionately distribute the numbers of MEPs.

But what matters is surely, in the current context, will be the vote shares of the various parties. We’re going to see, whether we like it or not, efforts to aggregate the votes of those parties that are against Brexit and those parties that are for it.

The narrative on the Sunday evening after the election when the votes are counted will all be about this being a shadow referendum. Whichever side “wins” is going to argue that that represents the current position. If it is anti-Brexit then that will add to the pressure for another vote.

For this purpose UKIP+Brexit+CON+DUP will be seen as the pro-Brexit total while LAB+SNP+LD+CHK+GRN+PC the anti Brexit total.

Which group are more motivated to turnout? Will it be those who want to support the referendum outcome from 2016 or be those who want to overturn it? It will be as simple as that.

So far I cannot find a bookie who has got wise to this but it will come. The only markets I can see are those on which party will win most MEPs and how many seats each party will get.

At the moment I find it difficult to call. Maybe next week’s local elections will give us a pointer?

Mike Smithson


The CON Westminster polling looks dire as we head into next month’s local and EU elections

April 23rd, 2019

Down 15-20 on the Tory GE2017 election outcome

To get a good sense of how voting intention polls are going I always think it is best to look at all the recent surveys to spot the trend. And this April there is one big and clear message – the Tories are in a mess as we edge towards next week’s local elections and of course the Euro Parliament elections three weeks later.

Although the polls in the table above are strictly about the next general election they probably give a good pointer to fact that it is going to be a struggle for the blue team especially as we’re getting all these reports of significant part of the Conservative General Election vote from last time now saying that it will be voting for Farage brexit party.

There is little doubt that the locals will see the Tories losing a lot of council seats and the interesting question is which party will be the big gainer. ChangeUK has hardly put up any candidates and Lib Dems and Greens are working hard, sometimes quite closely together, and that could prove very promising for them.

Whether the parliamentary Conservative Party is able to change the rules to allow a further challenge to Theresa May is hard to say. But there’s little doubt that if her party has big losses on May 2nd then that will make it extremely difficult for her. The real surprise, of course, was that Tory MPs allowed her to carry on in the June 2017 after TMay into an unnecessary General Election with a majority and ended up without a majority. She’s really been on borrowed time since then.

Mike Smithson


On healthcare Farage, Trump’s biggest British cheerleader, is vulnerable

April 22nd, 2019

Those opposed the Brexit party should change the subject to the NHS

Last November Donald Trump took a beating in the midterm elections when his opponents, the Democrats, were able to make his threats to undermine what public health system there is in the United States into an issue. This is an approach that will be used at WH2020 for once something has become an an entitlement then it is exceedingly difficult and politically dangerous to take it away.

In the UK, of course, the NHS has become something of a religion and none of the mainstream parties dare to do anything but support it. Is it any wonder that successive CON Health Secretaries have made sure that wear an NHS button badge. In the referendum campaign the official Leave organisation made extra funding for the NHS their pivotal selling point.

In the past Farage has talked of the NHS being replaced  by private health insurance a move that was not supported when he was in UKIP.  A few years ago he told UKIP supporters:

“I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare. Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company, than just us trustingly giving £100bn a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us.”

If I was advising Mrs May at this difficult time I would say launch a speech defending the NHS against the Farage  threat. This would get big headlines and take the subject away from brexit.

Farage has never made any secret of his views on the NHS and in this he is treading along very tricky ground in the UK because of the very strong public support that there is there and this covers backers of all parties.

Mike Smithson