Welcome to the new age of despair in British Brexit politics

December 7th, 2017

This’ll chime with a lot of people – right, left, leaver or remainer

For the past two and a half weeks I have been semi detached from British politics being on holiday on the West Coast of the United States. I didn’t take my laptop and my main means of finding out what was happening was with my phone.

So it has been something of a shock to return to find the spirit of despair and almost desperation, epitomised in today’s Daily Record front page, at the way politics is developing.

Yesterday’s PMQs was a case in point. The revelations earlier in the morning by David Davis about the non existence of his impact papers should have provided a superb opening for Corbyn. In fact the LAB leader completely failed to exploit the situation and was barely forensic in his questioning of Mrs May. As a result the PM escaped proper scrutiny.

Davis is even a less a figure than he was and each néw development raises questions about his competence and TMay’s judgement in appointing him in the first place.

At the top of the tree is Mrs May herself and even former defenders are now deserting her.

A particularly damming analysis is from Iain Martin in the Times

“..The situation in Downing Street is even worse than commonly reported. No 10 is about as weak as it has been in living memory. The place resembles a morgue, according to a sample of visitors, or a Second World War brigade headquarters in a French chateau during the fall of France. Gavin Barwell as chief of staff is struggling to hold it all together. Nick Timothy, the former chief of staff, is at the end of a telephone providing counsel. Damian Green, the de facto deputy prime minister, is lost.

Those who say it is not all that bad are simply being lied to about the limited extent of May’s engagement and animation. There is no leader, in the sense that the British system of government requires. This absence of grip should frighten people, because government is drifting.

It means that there needs to be an urgent change. This is a point at which (Andrea Leadsom apart) anyone injecting a bit of energy and cracking the whip in No 10 and Whitehall would be better than May…

I just wonder whether we are now seeing the end game for Mrs May. Certainly the betting markets see that. 2018 is now the favourite as the year of her departure.

Perhaps the parties should be getting ready for the Maidenhead by-election. If she leaves Number 10 she surely won’t want to remain as an MP.

Mike Smithson


Ex-CON leadership favourite, DDavis, slips to just 6.6% chance on Betfair

December 6th, 2017

Commons contempt moves start against Davis

Only DGreen seen as more likely by punters to be next Cabinet exit

Mike Smithson


If the Brexit impact papers don’t exist what were the redacted papers that were made available a few weeks back?

December 6th, 2017

The reputation of BrexSec DDavis takes another dive

By all account this has been another extraordinary Brexit day. As well as TMay’s troubles with the DUP we have DDavis now saying the the impact assessment papers on 58 sections of the economy simply do not exist.

This is crazy as this long Twitter thread makes clear. These were being referred to first in July 2016.

    Maybe the move by Davis his morning was the latest wheeze to stop them being published because it is hard to believe that the Government has not been examining the impact of Brexit on all aspects of the economy.

Not too long ago, it will be recalled, heavily redacted papers were issued in a form that was totally unreadable.

The extraordinary behaviour from Davis with each successive statement on the subject apparently not being consistent with the previous one is leading to all sorts of conspiracy theories. Maybe the minister’s approach today was seen as the least worst option given what the reports actually contain.

What is extraordinary is that this man was for a long period in the summer the favourite to be next CON leader and next PM.

Mike Smithson


Moore remains odds-on favourite in Alabama even though the Dems are spending nearly ten times as much on TV ads like these

December 6th, 2017

Will the big spending Dems campaign produce a sensation?

The biggest current political betting markets in the UK are not about British politics at all. They were about the US with Trump’s survival being number one and the Alabama senate race, which takes place next Tuesday, number two.

The latter has the advantage of being settled very soon. Punters have only a few days to wait until they know whether their gamble has paid off or not.

At the moment on Betfair the Republicans, with their controversial candidate, is rated as an 80% chance with the Democratic man on 20%.

The polling has this very tight with most showing a small GOP lead though some have Moore behind.

In normal times with a normal candidate the GOP would be an absolute certainty. This is very strong territory for the party and it is only the allegations of sexual transgressions by several women that have given the Democratic Party any hope.

Everything is going to depend on turn out next Tuesday and here it is hard for pollsters to get this right.

My sense is that the Democratic campaign with ads like the ones above are designed to impede turnout amongst Republican voters and persuade Democratic ones that their man had a chance.

My view is that at current odds that the betting value is with the Democratic party who are worth a punt.

Mike Smithson


Marf on the Irish border shambles

December 5th, 2017


In late April the Tory data chief, Jim Messina, told senior Tories that his modelling pointed to a CON majority of 290

December 5th, 2017

Put this on your “Christmas” list

I’m just back in the UK after my holiday on the West Coast of the US visiting my son, Robert, and his family who have moved to LA from London in July.

Part of my holiday reading was Betting The House: The Inside Story of the 2017 Election by Tim Ross and Tom McTague which was published last month.

It is an absorbing read giving a detailed account of GE2017 based on conversations with many of the key players and provides interesting revelations that look remarkable given what we know now.

The top point for me that put all this into context is the one highlighted in the heading – what Tory chiefs were being told ten days into the campaign. This is an extract.

“.. Ten days into the campaign, Jim Messina, the American data consultant working with the Tories, told Stephen Gilbert, Lynton Crosby, Mark Textor and other senior figures that his modelling suggested the Conservatives would win 470 seats – enough for a staggering majority of 290, more than double Margaret Thatcher’s 1983 landslide – and an exponential improvement on David Cameron’s winning margin of twelve.

It was an extraordinary moment and one that caused serious concern among those at the top of the campaign who already feared expectations were spiralling out of control. Messina’s forecast was the high-water mark for the tide of Tory optimism, but right up to election day the most senior campaign officials thought they would make strong advances into Labour territory… “

Although this inevitably got ratcheted down as the campaign progressed the view throughout the seven weeks that an increased majority was a certainty had a totally adverse impact on Conservative thinking. Quite simply it skewed the party’s whole management of the election and approach to seat targeting.

This is how the authors describe what happened when in late May a poll had the lead narrowing sharply. They were so convinced of the outcome that it was dismissed.

“.. On May 25th YouGov ran a poll in the Times, cutting the Tory lead over Labour to just five points. It was the first clear sign that a real change could be happening but was widely dismissed by commentators and analysts as unrealistic. Five days later, YouGov produced something even more dramatic: a seat projection model that said the Tories were on course to lose their majority in a hung parliament. Jim Messina and Mark Textor did not believe it. Sitting inside CCHQ, Messina composed a message on Twitter: ‘Spent the day laughing at yet another stupid poll from .@yougov. Hey .@benleet do you want to bet for charity? I’ll take the over.’ Messina showed it to colleagues and asked if he could tweet it, before doing so…”

But it wasn’t just the Tory campaign that was getting a distorted view of what was happening. Labour’s private pollsters were also giving a gloomy picture for their client. This from just before polling day:

“.. The picture from Labour’s own pollsters BMG was pessimistic. For most of the campaign, BMG had been forecasting a Tory majority of 150. On election day, they thought May was on course for a majority of 80…”

In a telling point on LAB targeting the authors report that activists believe they would have come a lot closer to the CON seat totals if they’d known what was really happening.

If you are being pressed to suggest ideas of Christmas presents for yourself then mention this book. It is a must read for all who follow polls and election forecasting.

Mike Smithson


Survation Scotland poll offers great potential for Corbyn

December 5th, 2017

Picture: Latest Survation Scottish Westminster VI poll translated into seats

Over the last day or so Survation have released their Scotland specific polling, and it presents get potential for Corbyn.

Survation say

If we input today’s published vote share figures into Baxter’s Scotland model, modelling today’s figures against the vote share the parties achieved at the General Election we can see the effect on seats at play.

Although the SNP has essentially the same vote share in today’s polling as at the GE and despite the Conservatives having the worst showing overall in this poll, Labour’s slightly improved fortunes vs. the election mean that the party would pick up 7 seats – from the SNP. SNP held Fife would go Lib Dem, with the SNP picking up just a single seat – Stirling – from the Conservatives.

With most of the GB wide polls and the polling averages indicating it being very close between the Tories and Labour an improvement in Scotland will help Labour get ahead of the Tories in seats and correct the imbalance in the electoral system which favours the Tories at present.

The one thing people should remember is given the quite violent swings we’ve seen in Scotland over the last two general elections making long term predictions about events in Scotland can be quite risky.

The other impact of this polling is if the Scottish Tories are destined for third place in Scotland it could force Ruth Davidson to focus her attentions on Westminster. My own personal belief, gleaned from being a member of the Tory party for over 20 years, is that were she to stand to be Theresa May’s successor, she’d win.

Forget the Brexit ideological issues, the Tories want to win the next general election, and Ruth Davidson is perceived to be a winner among many Tories, being a Remainer won’t be an impediment to becoming to Tory leader, just ask Theresa May.

There was also a question on another indyref.

Anyone who gets overexcited by a 1% change really needs to calm down, the overall figure can be seen in two ways.

1) This is is a really shocking poll for the Independence movement, given the fiasco at Westminster, especially over Brexit, you’d think Scots would be desperate to be Leave the Union, but no, they still want to Remain part of the Union.

2) This is a really shocking poll for the Unionists, at the start of the last indyref No had a much larger leader which was whittled away by voting day, a six point lead won’t be sufficient if the next indyref campaign follows a similar to the last one.

Survation also conducted some Holyrood specific polling, which I’ll cover in more detail in a later post.



Yippee ki-yay, The British public say Die Hard is NOT a Christmas movie

December 4th, 2017