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Ipsos-MORI finds that more electors might tactically vote

November 21st, 2019

And GE2019 has the historically highest “important to me” rating

Mike Smithson





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New constituency poll for LAB-held Great Grimsby looks dire for the incumbent

November 21st, 2019

Like all seat polls this has a very small sample (401) but the overall figures look promising for the Tories in one of its key northern targets and bad for LAB.

Looking at the detailed data LAB is currently retaining only 53% of its GE2017 share compared to GE2017.

If this is a reflection of what is happening in similar seats that’s very good news for the Tories.

One factor is that a largish slab of the GE2017 LAB vote there is still undecided. Another factor is the more of the LAB vote from last is going to the Brexit party. The fieldwork was carried out last week and so all before the Tuesday debate.

It should be said that single seat polls have not got a great reputation following the huge number that were carried out by Lord Ashcroft ahead of GE2015. The vast majority of those surveys took place well before the election. This time we have seen a raft of polls from Survation and Deltapoll that have carried out in October and this month so perhaps more relevant.

In comparative terms we are three weeks away from election day although postal voters in many seats are receiving their packs this week. Things can change.

On the betting markets you can still get the Tories 4/6 in Great Grimsby with some of the bookies. My guess is that that will tighten once news of this poll becomes more widely known.

We have yet to see a full national GB poll which was carried out after the Tuesday ITV debates.

Mike Smithson




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The November WH2020 Democratic debate and another reminder that they do these things better in the country where Boris was born

November 21st, 2019

Biden makes another gaffe so situation normal

Overnight we have had the latest Democratic party debate as part of the prolonged process to determine who should fight against Donald Trump in the presidential election next November.

The event took place after a weekend that had seen new polling in Iowa and New Hampshire showing the 37 year old former Rhodes Scholar, Pete Buttiegieg, moving to clear leads in Iowa and New Hampshire – the first two states to decide. Their caucus and primary take place in early February.

TV debates between the contenders have been taking place every month since June and the events have caused big movements in the betting. Initially Kamala Harris leaped into the favourite slot after an effective attack on former VP Biden. But she was unable to sustain it the following month and has slipped very sharply in the betting.

The current favourite, Elizabeth Warren has slipped progessively since the summer while Buttiegieg has continued to rise.

Meanwhile two times White House failure, Jo Boden, continues to lead in the national polls and, as seen in the clip above, made another boastful claim about himself that simply was not true bringing derisory dismissals from at least two of the other contenders.

My 770/1 super longshot, Amy Klobuchar, had a good night and will hope for better post-debate poll ratings.

What’s impressive is how well the big US TV networks cover these – there’s lot that UK TV could learn.

Mike Smithson




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Swinson’s Choice

November 20th, 2019

There is an ancient tradition in Britain of beating the bounds, where once a year, various members of the community walk the boundaries of their parish to fix its location and protect it from encroachment. In some cases, they would take boys and whip them, with the intent that such a traumatic event would be fixed in their memory.

The general elections of 2015 and 2017 were certainly traumatic events for the Liberal Democrats, and they clearly still weigh heavily on the party’s collective memory. The shadow of the decision to go into coalition hangs over their campaign even as they try and edge their way into a new era.

In the lead up to that 2010 General Election the Lib Dems were positioning themselves as open to a deal with either party, the sensible moderating force that could be a safe harbour for voters that were feeling disgruntled but not disgusted with the two largest parties. A realignment without a rejection. In April 2010 the Telegraph reported that “Nick Clegg had delivered his most outspoken attack on Gordon Brown, calling him ‘a desperate politician.’” Which in 2019 sounds practically friendly.

Nine and a half years on and Jo Swinson’s Liberal Democrats are singing a very different tune. The gloves are off and the knives are out and coated with vitriol. Boris Johnson is a serial liar, Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to the economy, both are utterly unfit to lead the country. In the event of a hung parliament she has ruled out supporting either of them. This campaign will be an exercise the creativity of her speechwriters as they hunt for new epithets to keep things fresh, and Swinson appears to relish being in the thick of the fight.

This leaves the JSLDs with few options open to them if there is a 2017 style election swing and a hung parliament is the outcome. Nick Clegg was faced with the choice of pursuing a Conservative coalition, a Labour-led rainbow alliance on a razor thin majority or allowing a Conservative minority government (and probably a hasty second election). The rest is recent, and for the Lib Dems painful, history.

That Swinson is attacking the leaders rather than their parties is a tactic aimed at attracting wavering voters rather than post-election positioning. Neither party is going to engage in the messy process of replacing a leader with a hung parliament. It’s hard to see how a climbdown is possible. Politics is a business that demands conflict and compromise in quick succession but there are limits even so.

If Jo Swinson is faced with a similar choice to Nick Clegg, she seems set to take the opposite path and refuse any deals and abstain through to a minority government or a new election. The alternative version history will play out with a separate set of pitfalls. Will allowing a Conservative minority government to take power leave them painted as Tory lackeys (as the Labour party will doubtless try to do). Will there be a new election and with it the task of dealing with questions of what the Lib Dems are realistically for if the (PR supporting) party is not interested in coalition.

We may learn what many suspected all along, that Clegg (and now Swinson) had no good options open to them.

Tomas Forsey

Tomas Forsey is a longstanding PBer who posts on PB as Corporeal and tweets as PBcorporeal




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Seduced and abandoned. The DUP’s chances in the general election

November 20th, 2019

Even as a famous swordsman, Boris Johnson must be proud of the way that he has so comprehensively screwed the DUP. His Prime Ministership has not so much been a refutation of their strategy as a confutation of the DUP themselves.  

The DUP have for many years campaigned as unflinching unionists.  Though they choose to forget the fact now, they campaigned against the Good Friday Agreement as a sell-out. They are not ideologically Conservatives: they are free-spending cultural conservatives of the type of party that UKIP once aspired to be or, on their better days, as the Blue Labour movement once described.

It was perhaps not too much of a surprise that they should have campaigned for Brexit. Indeed, they acted as a conduit for funds for the Leave campaign that were used across mainland Britain, including a cover wraparound for the Metro. Who knows whether that aggressive pro-Brexit stance helped get Leave over the line?

With the benefit of hindsight, that looks to have been a terrible decision. The DUP did not take Northern Ireland with them – it voted decisively to Remain.  The resultant upheaval has done more to put Northern Ireland’s place in the union in question than any other development since the Troubles ended.

Worse, Theresa May came back with a deal that the DUP vehemently and successfully opposed on the basis that its backstop placed unacceptable constraints on Northern Ireland, only for Boris Johnson to come back with a deal that drives a wedge in the union down the Irish Sea. If implemented, Northern Ireland’s glidepath towards a united Ireland looks inexorable.

Meanwhile, the Northern Irish Assembly remains suspended. It resat for a day as the DUP sought to stop Westminster imposing gay marriage and abortion rights on the province, to no avail. The DUP now look those most dangerous of things for any political party: impotent and ineffectual. They are finding out the hard way that it is a short step from the “never never never never” of Ian Paisley to the “never never never never never” of King Lear.

The DUP now find themselves under attack from all sides. Unionists of all stripes decry them as having failed to stand up sufficiently for the union.  Leavers have fallen silent. Nationalists sense that the tide of history is flowing in their direction.

Opinion polling in Northern Ireland is sparse, largely carried out by the excellent Lucid Talk.  Its most recent poll, taken earlier this month, made grim reading for the DUP (with recorded changes from the last UK general election):

DUP 28% (-8%)

Sinn Fein 24% (-5%)

Alliance 16% (+8%)

SDLP 14% (+2%)

UUP 9% (-1%)

Lucid Talk are looking to produce an MRP-based poll in the final week. It should make for gripping reading.

At the last election, the DUP took 10 seats and Sinn Fein took 7, with the remaining seat taken by the remarkable independent unionist Lady Sylvia Hermon, who is standing down this time. She will be much missed by many, though not by the Conservative and Labour leaders, both of whom felt the lash of her tongue at different times.

What might happen this time? Here are the 18 seats presented from a DUP betting perspective. Note that once you get down to the green part of the table, the DUP may not be in contention or even standing. 

Despite the DUP’s recent history of complete failure and despite the most recent polling, bettors are actually expecting the DUP to get through this election in reasonable shape. They are 5/6 (the bookies’ evens) or better to take 10 seats again, albeit a different 10 from those that they currently hold. Lady Sylvia’s surprise decision not to stand again has opened up a seat for them that they would not have been expecting and they are helped in Belfast North – which promises to be a battle royal – by the fact that their main opponents there, Sinn Fein, are also struggling to match their performance last time round.

The party on the rise, the Alliance party, suffer from exactly the same problem as the Lib Dems, their sister party in Great Britain: they are undoubtedly doing much better but it’s hard to tell exactly where. Like the Lib Dems, many of their prices are hard to square with electoral reality.  

They are short-priced in North Down and South Antrim, but they did not reach 10% of the vote in either constituency last time round. It’s more likely in both seats that the Alliance will siphon off enough votes from the UUP this time to let the DUP hold the seats. The Alliance in practice may be hoping to establish themselves with some good second places this time round.

Like their sister party, the Alliance party appeal particularly to younger urban voters, particularly those keen to put the province’s sectarian history behind them.  So you would particularly expect to find them in the nicer areas in and around Belfast. Those familiar with the TV series The Fall will have seen that middle class Belfast in the streets of south Belfast around the Malone Road is very comfortable indeed and the Ormeau Road has more than its fair share of hipsters. The SDLP will be hoping to retake Belfast South from the DUP, particularly since Sinn Fein have stood aside (they took 16% of the vote last time) but since Northern Ireland’s urban professionals are much more clustered than in England, the 5/1 on the Alliance in that constituency might represent value. It’s a wild seat where the winner has got more than a third of the vote in only one election since 2001.

Belfast East is the Alliance’s other big chance.  On paper, the 10% swing required is more than the 8% swing that polling suggests has taken place between the DUP and the Alliance, but again the concentration of younger urban professionals may mean that we can expect outperformance by the Alliance in such constituencies. I’d rather be betting on the Alliance at 15/8 than on the DUP at 2/5.

Elsewhere the SDLP can hope to take Foyle and perhaps South Down just by standing still. In such seats quite a few unionists already vote SDLP to try to keep out Sinn Fein.

At present, it looks as if the seats will show broad stasis at this election between unionists and nationalists, with a slow rise of the unaligned.  Like the fortune of Mike in Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, the DUP’s power looks set to decline gradually then suddenly.  This, however, is the gradual stage.

Alastair Meeks




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On the betting markets the debate has changed nothing

November 20th, 2019

The betdata.io chart shows the last five days on the Betfair exchange and as can be seen there was almost no movement. The Tories are still rated by punters as having a 65% chance of securing a majority.

This verdict is very much the same as what many leading commentators are saying but I wonder whether the instant view is correct. In the past the on the night judgements have been less than an accurate guide.

One thing we’ve learned from US TV debates is that the impact on public opinion can more relate to how the contenders looked and handled themselves rather than what was actually discussed.

At WH2008 the fact that McCain never looked at Obama in the first debate became a post event issue and was seen as a big negative.

I thought that Johnson’s big mistake was to repeatedly talk over the moderator and never stick to the time limits. This came over as him believing that the rules don’t apply to him and at times it looked like bullying. . Thankfully the studio audience took him down a peg or two with their derisory laughter.

Corbyn’s clearly rehearsed statement on anti semitism was pushing it a bit too far and he got a negative reaction from the audience. I don’t think that a lot of what he said LAB had done will stand up to scrutiny thus ensuring that anti semitism will continue to be an issue.

I look forward to the post-debate leader ratings.

Mike Smithson




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And the big verdict – most voters found the debate frustrating

November 19th, 2019



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And so to the first leaders’ TV debate of GE2019 – without a remainer

November 19th, 2019

Watch live on PB from 8pm GMT