Labour is paying a price for its elongated leadership contest

July 21st, 2015

The welfare vote abstention looks like a mistake

I was recovering from an operation last night and am only now catching up on the big welfare vote in the commons.

Labour’s abstention move does look like a mistake and was the product of the party not having a confident leader in place to steer the party through the mine-field that had been carefully set by Osborne.

As it is the party looks as though it has connived in helping the controversial changes go forward as others, like the much slimmed down LD contingent, are rushing to point out. These things get remembered.

The real problem is the time-scale taken to choose the new leader. This could all have been wrapped up in less than two months. Instead there’s another month and a half to go before one of JC/LK/AB/YC is in place.

Mike Smithson


Donald Trump now topping a poll in race for the Republican nomination

July 21st, 2015

Should we take this seriously or is it just a passing fad?

With all the focus on Labour’s trials and tribulations as it goes through its leadership election we have not really focused on the coming fight for the White House in 2016 which almost certainly will be the biggest political painting event of next year.

On the Democratic Party side things look relatively settled with Hillary Clinton the odds on favourite. The Republican battle looks to be the most interesting with several names coming in the latest being the property billionaire and TV presenter, Donald Trump.

New polling featured in the clip above suggests that he is doing very well and has even the potential to win the prize. I find it hard to take his bid seriously and his comments about John McCain in the second clip reinforce that view.

At the stage polling can often be skewed to the best known which is what might be happening here.

William hills currently have him add 28/1 for the nomination which just might be a good punt.

The strong favourite for the Republican nomination is the brother of George Bush, ex Florida Governor, Jeb Bush.

Can Trump managed to get himself into a situation where his bid is taken very seriously? I’m not so sure but he might. American elections can operate very strangely.

Mike Smithson


Henry G Manson with an interesting LAB leadership bet

July 20th, 2015

LAB4 looking right

How are the 2nd and 3rd preferences going to work out?

In all the discussion about the rights and wrongs of Labour’s response to the government’s Welfare Bill, this article from Gary Gibbon lays out one of the political factors for Burnham – the order of candidates between him and Yvette. Gibbon writes:

‘It’s a bit of mug’s game guessing the leadership contest results but the candidates are endlessly doing just that, gaming what second preferences they need to chase and what first preferences they might need to steal. That latter scenario is now going through some Burnham supporters’ minds. If Andy Burnham came first and Jeremy Corbyn narrowly beat Yvette Cooper into second place, Andy Burnham might not be in a position to stay top of the pile in a second round because his harvest of second preferences might be meagre from Liz Kendall.

He might never get his hands on the Corbyn second preferences because the second round results could push Yvette Cooper ahead of Corbyn leaving Andy Burnham in third place and the next to be eliminated.’

The Constituency Labour Party (CLP) nominations race is close It is quite possible that Corbyn will finish highest in the first round before being rapidly overtaken. Similarly it’s possible as Gibbon describes that having Burnham could fall behind Cooper after Kendall’s nominations are applied. It’s going to be close, unpredictable but I’ve said from the outset that I didn’t think Burnham wasn’t sufficiently ahead to deserve such short-price favouritism.

The last Labour leadership contest had David Miliband in the lead on round one before getting famously pipped. In the Deputy contest Jon Cruddas led the first slap before Harriet Harman overtook Alan Johnson. It really wouldn’t be that big a shock if the first round leader didn’t go on and win the leadership. So having recommended backing Yvette Cooper when she was 9/4 and then 4/1, I think the following outcome is worth taking and also providing some value and insurance.

Ladbrokes: 1st preference vote leader not elected 2/1 (Ladbrokes).

I think evens and above is value. Personally I make Corbyn value to get the most first preference votes at 2/1 with Ladbrokes, but I prefer this other bet at the same price because of its versality.

Henry G Manson


Peak Corbyn?

July 20th, 2015

As noted yesterday, there appears to be the start of the Stop Corbyn campaign, yesterday’s Observer editorial weighed in with “If Jeremy Corbyn is the answer then Labour is asking the wrong question.”

This campaign to stop Corbyn might be working, the above tweet from Ladbrokes points out Corbyn’s chances are ticking down, perhaps it might be prudent to take the 5/1 on Corbyn finishing last in the Labour leadership race, but given the lack of publicly available polling, I can understand people’s reluctance in not taking up this bet.

Come Last


You can access the Paddy Power market by clicking here.



Meanwhile leadership turmoil isn’t confined to LAB. It’s not all sweetness & light in the blue team

July 20th, 2015

Osborne, the new betting favourite, accused of briefing war against the mayor

It was inevitable that when David Cameron said before the election that he wouldn’t seek a third term that this would, at some stage, trigger off media interest and speculation about succession in the Tory party.

The big difference with Labour is that the Tory battle could be about who succeeds as PM.

Everybody knows that Boris has a big interest here and in recent weeks, particularly since the budget, Osborne has moved much more into the frame. On some betting markets he has been favourite. When the Chancellor made his budget speech earlier in the month he took a humorous swing at Boris something that has not gone down well with the occupant of London’s City Hall.

Several papers have picked this up including the Telegraph whose political editor, Peter Dominiczak, writes:-

“..allies” of Mr Johnson claimed that David Cameron, Mr Osborne and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, are attempting to “humiliate” Mr Johnson and destroy his chances of becoming prime minister.“He’s trying to neuter Boris before he’s even got going”

They claimed that Mrs May and Mr Osborne are orchestrating a bid to “cut Mr Johnson down to size” and that the plot is tacitly condoned by Mr Cameron.

The big problem for Boris is that Cameron can be very helpful to the Chancellor in all sorts of ways. Osborne plays a huge part in ministerial appointments and, no doubt, will have big say in what job Boris gets after he steps down as mayor next May. Osborne, also, is likely to be told of Dave’s plans well before Johnson and Cameron can control the timing to help his chancellor.


John Rentoul thinks that private poll was leaked by Liz Kendall

July 19th, 2015

4 Leaders

In today’s Independent on Sunday, John Rentoul writes

I fear that the story of a private poll that put Corbyn in the lead was a desperate ploy by the Liz Kendall campaign. My view is that Kendall is easily the best candidate, and the only one who has a chance of winning the next election for Labour without relying on the Conservatives to fall apart. But I accept that her campaign, after its flying start, has not gone well.

She was responsible for the only memorable line of the campaign so far, her reflex retort when Andy Burnham said, “The party comes first, always” – “No, the country comes first.” But otherwise she has failed to hit the strong lines she needs.

She has in my view been admirably reckless in offending the easily offended activists who think the only thing wrong with Ed Miliband was that he was a neo-liberal sellout. But that is not how you win internal elections in the Labour Party.

Assuming John Rentoul’s observations are accurate, on one level, the leak has worked, since that poll was leaked, people have been focussing on what electing Jeremy Corbyn would mean for the Labour party. This has  led to the formation of the the stop Jeremy campaign. Last night a few MPs who nominated Corbyn are now expressing regret for nominating him whilst others are already planning to remove Corbyn were he to be elected leader.

Leaked private polls are a lot like bikinis, what they show is certainly eye catching but what they hide is vital and much more important. The fact the leak didn’t say was Kendall on course to win or best placed to stop Corbyn, something which would have given her campaign some momentum displays Kendall’s weakness in the race.

That doesn’t inspire confidence in her campaign’s tactics and strategy, so you should be laying her, her odds are plummeting, just look at the trend on the Betfair, especially after the poll was leaked, in the tweet below.

Yvette Cooper is probably now best placed to win the Labour leadership election, she already has the advantages of not being being Ed Miliband with a Scouse accent, nor is she the Blairite cuckoo in the nest that seems to annoy so many Labour activists, if she can frame herself as the best stop Corbyn candidate then she should win.



How SNP supporters could sabotage the EU referendum

July 19th, 2015

Could tactical Scottish Nationalist voters win it for OUT?

Panelbase polled 1,002 voters in Scotland and 956 voters in the rest of the UK from June 26th to July 3rd and got the above results on the forthcoming EU referendum, so this isn’t an analysis of English and Scottish sub-samples but a properly weighted poll.

A few weeks ago Nicola Sturgeon said

“I previously stated my view that if Scotland were to be taken out of Europe despite voting as a nation to have remained, it would provoke a strong backlash amongst many ordinary voters. Quite what the result of that would be no-one can perceive but I’ve stated before that this could be one scenario producing the kind of material change in circumstances that would precipitate popular demand for a second independence referendum.

Bluntly, I believe that the groundswell of anger amongst many ordinary people in Scotland under these circumstances could produce a clamour for another independence referendum that may well be unstoppable.”

In light of these comments by the First Minister, I wonder if some supporters of Scottish independence might vote tactically for OUT in the EU referendum, to ensure the UK as a whole votes to leave the EU, but ensuring Scotland votes to remain in the EU, purely for the greater good of ensuring a second Scottish independence referendum.

Scotland voting to remain in the EU whilst the rest of the UK voted to leave, would also amplify the differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, which would also be good for the Scottish independence movement.

An informal UKIP/SNP alliance would be the most unlikely alliance since the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but politics, like war, breeds strange allies. If the focus of the EU referendum becomes about Scottish independence, then the IN side might struggle to come up with a response that satisfies both Scotland & England/Rest of the UK and ends up displeasing both.


The Panelbase poll also brought more good news for the SNP and bad news for Labour in next year’s Holyrood election.


Antifrank: Hanging tough – the Conservative intake of 2015

July 18th, 2015


Antifrank looks at the new members of the Tory parliamentary party.

Despite relatively few seats changing hands in May, more than a fifth of Conservative MPs – 74 in total – were not in the last Parliament.  They will have a big influence on the dynamics of the Conservative party in government.  What do they look like?  Well, here they are:

I’ve ploughed through MP websites, interviews and newspaper articles to find out more about them.  In the course of this, I’ve seen more Labradors than is healthy for any normal man to look at.

Less than 30% of the new Conservatives are women, compared with 60% of the new Labour intake.  Assessing racial and sexual diversity is more fraught (not least because not all candidates’ self-identification is explicit) so I have not performed a headcount, but the Conservatives do seem to have proportionately more MPs from ethnic minorities than previously.

The biographies of many of the new MPs look familiar.  Much has been made of Scott Mann, the Cornish postman, but he is an exception rather than the rule.  At least 17 of the new Conservative MPs have previously earned their corn as political professionals and I expect that is an undercount owing to the reticence of some candidates to advertise the fact.  I count 11 business owners (some CVs are a little hazy) and 13 lawyers of various stripes.  Seven new MPs have backgrounds in PR, communications and events management.  Four new MPs had military careers.

The contrast with the background of new Labour MPs is instructive.  Few of the new Conservative MPs have a public sector background.  There are two doctors and a nurse, a police officer and two government lawyers, two teachers and the four ex-military men.  No new Conservative MP advertises his or her previous main job was as a charity worker or official, though many draw attention to their charitable work (which in some cases is very impressive indeed).  For the new Conservative MPs, charitable work is something to be done when giving back to the community while for new Labour MPs, working in the charitable sector is a normal career.  We will no doubt see this difference in world view on the floor of the House of Commons in the coming years.

What of their opinions?  For Conservative MPs the big topic for the next few years will be the referendum on membership of the EU.  David Cameron was extremely effective in getting these candidates to rally around the policy of having a referendum, but will he be able to bring him with them once the renegotiation is concluded?  The new MPs don’t so much divide between Europhile and Eurosceptic as between those who avoid talking about the subject, those who give their views when prompted and those who won’t shut up about it.

For some of the new MPs, maybe eight to ten, it seems likely that campaigning in the referendum for Out will outweigh party loyalties.  They include a former leader of UKIP and the campaign organiser for the Referendum party in 1997.  Several of the new intake have signed up for Conservatives for Britain, a Eurosceptic campaign group.  None of the new MPs rebelled on the vote about public information during the purdah period during the referendum campaign (one seriously considered doing so), so they’re keeping their powder dry for now.

I have found only one new MP, Flick Drummond, who so far has identified herself as pro-Europe. However, I suspect that those who have stayed quiet to date will generally follow a party line when the time comes.  The broad mass of the new MPs are content either to take the “negotiate then decide” line or to take the line that they would vote Out now but are open to persuasion.  But the awkward squad has received reinforcements.

What of the wider politics of the intake?  This was neatly summed up by Chris Green, the new MP for Bolton West:

“As Paul Goodman has previously highlighted, the Party has the Soho and the Easterhouse modernisation movements.  Almost invariably the Soho element costs us support in Bolton West and the Easterhouse element wins us support.”

Both groups are well-represented in the new intake (I think we can take it that Chris Green sees himself as being in the second group), though there appear to be more acolytes of George Osborne than Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson.  But he might also have mentioned the traditional small c conservative MPs, who are perhaps most numerous of all.  These MPs, temperamentally similar to David Cameron and who would no doubt see their role as MPs as part of the Big Society, would be readily recognisable to previous generations of Conservative MPs.  The Conservative party, as you would expect from the name, is not changing all that fast.

The single strongest theme among the new MPs’ campaign literature, heavily encouraged by Conservative Central Office, is a focus on local topics.  Nearly all the new MPs majored on plans for their local constituencies.  Quite a few of the new MPs have commented almost exclusively on these.  Craig Williams, MP for Cardiff North, explains why:

“You get the occasional person who says, “Why on earth are you banging on about potholes in your leaflet, that’s nothing to do with Westminster?” Well, it’s because it matters to the resident of Cardiff North.”

This has worked brilliantly for getting these MPs elected (the Conservatives have learned much from the Lib Dems), but this may cause problems in the future.  Far too many MPs have prioritised superfast broadband in their constituency for the Government to sideline this and many have named the improvement of local transport infrastructure, which is laudable but expensive in these straitened times.  Amanda Solloway has already had to express her disappointment at the postponement of the electrification of Midlands Mainline.  Others will also be disappointed.  The government is going to need to draw up strategies for implementing the new MPs’ tactics for getting elected.  It is unclear whether it has realised that yet.

The challenges for David Cameron of getting any repeal of the Hunting Act through are clear.  Several of the new intake are explicitly opposing it.

Who to look out for in the new intake?  Some names are already very familiar in senior Conservative circles.  The Mayor of London’s team has swept into Westminster.  Boris Johnson’s deputies, Kit Malthouse and Victoria Borwick will both make an impression (I’m taking it as read that everyone is keeping an eye out for Boris Johnson).  Oliver Dowden is one of the few new MPs who arguably took a step down in government circles by becoming a Conservative backbencher, having previously been David Cameron’s chief of staff.  He is unlikely to stay there for long.  James Cartlidge has already been added to David Cameron’s team for preparing for Prime Minister’s Questions.  Given the importance of this, he is presumably marked for early promotion.

Of those who are not already insiders, Johnny Mercer stands out as a gifted natural communicator.  His maiden speech justly won acclaim and it was no one-off.  He has the direct and incisive English of a soldier and clear thoughts to communicate with it.  The Conservatives will be fools if they do not make full use of him early on: he looks like a star in the making.  On the right of the party, Chris Green can express his views clearly and vividly, as shown above.  Andrea Jenkyns, who defeated Ed Balls, is uncategorisable and doesn’t look likely to be shy to voice her opinion.

As a general theme, there look to be a lot of forthright characters in the new Conservative intake.  And this new intake, like the 2010 intake, look unlikely to be particularly biddable.  With such a small majority, the government is going to need to accept defeats from time to time as a normal part of business.  It looks set to be a lively Parliament.