Mayor Pete’s The One To Beat

October 16th, 2019

Iowa. Iowa. Iowa.

I keep repeating it, because it’s important. The winner (and potentially the runner up) in Iowa define the primary process. After Obama won Iowa in 2008, he saw his national polling pop more than twenty points. In a crowded a Democratic field in need of much culling, the winner’s pop could be even greater. (Simply: there are a lot of 2% candidates whose supporters will need to find new homes after they get null delegates in Iowa.)

And what’s going on in Iowa?

Well, in the last couple of days we’ve seen a couple of polls and they show one candidate surging. And that candidate’s not Elizabeth Warren.

First there was a YouGov poll last week (where the fieldwork started before Bernie’s heart attack) and that showed:

Biden 22% (-7%)
Warren 22% (+5%)
Sanders 21% (-5%)
Buttigieg 14% (+7%)

And then yesterday there was a Firehouse/Optimus poll:

Warren 25% (+2%)
Biden 22% (-1%)
Buttigieg 17% (+10%)
Sanders 5% (-6%)

The pattern from both this polls is the same: Warren and Buttigieg are on the rise while the old white men are in decline. If Sanders really is polling in single digits in a primary he won in 2016, then he will surely leave the race post Iowa.

Now, one of the curious things about Iowa is how it works. The 15% bar at the precinct level means that it is almost like an alternative vote system. Say you turn up to vote for Harris (and sit through prepared remarks and discussions for a couple of hours in a draughty church hall), but it’s clear that she won’t make the 15% mark, and your vote will be wasted… Well, then you look around for your second choice, and see if they’re well represented.

This is where organisation matters. This is retail politics at its finest. Successful candidates’ organisers cajole and persuade the newly undecided to join their groupings.

Three candidates, I would forecast, will leave Iowa with meaningful numbers of delegates: Warren, Biden and Buttigieg. The polling has Buttigieg as being very transfer friendly, which will benefit him. He also has by far the most built up ground organisation in Iowa (with Warren a little behind, and then Biden a long way behind). In many rural counties, there’s a Buttigieg office, and that’s it.

This means that Buttigieg will, I suspect outperform his poll ratings. And I suspect Biden will continue to fade. Sanders is out the race. He just doesn’t realise it yet.

So, what does that mean for Iowa? I think the delegates split something like:

Warren 40%
Buttigieg 40%
Biden 20%

(Yes, I know the numbers seem high relative to polling. That’s because most of the candidates will get zero delegates and those voters have to go somewhere.)

This means that the 15 on Buttigieg on Betfair to be the Democratic nominee is too skinny; ditto the 29 on 2020 President.

(PBers should know that I will be visiting Iowa for the first time next month. I will make sure I share my findings.)

Robert Smithson


As Johnson edges towards to the 11pm Brexit deadline the betting money’s still on a pre-Brexit general election

October 15th, 2019

Chart of Betfair movements from betdata.io

On a day when so much seems to be changing on a Brexit dale there has not been as much betting movement as you might have thought. Still the view is that Brexit’s not going to happen immediately and not before a new general election.

Tonight is just the first hurdle. If there is a draft deal that will have to be agreed by the EU27 at their meeting later in the week. And then if we have got that far Johnson will have to take it to the House of Commons at the special Saturday sitting.

From what is emerging Johnson appears to be ready to make huge concessions including having the Irish Sea as the border something that TMay turned down. I wonder if she will participate in Saturday’s debate.

Mike Smithson


“Honouring” the referendum should apply to not just to the outcome but what the official Leave campaign said

October 15th, 2019

Things are different now the country’s being led by Cummings/Johnson

Lots of talk at moment about “honouring the Referendum”. Fair enough.

Those who espouse that seem to look to the result itself rather than the promises and assertions made my the official Leave campaign in the run up to the June 23rd 2016 vote.

It was harder to make this argument when TMay was PM for she had not been responsible for what Vote Leave said.

Since Johnson became PM and recruited Cummings as his lead aide then there should be less excuse for not following the statements that the campaign was making. They should be accountable not just for their actions now but for all that Vote Leave said during the campaign. This is what they were responsible for and what helped voters to make up their minds.

So any deal needs to be judged against their assertions at the time.

Mike Smithson


With 16 days to go punters make it just a 22% chance that UK will leave the EU by the end of the month

October 15th, 2019

Chart of movements on the Betfair exchange from betdata.io

The big news for those betting on whether there will be an exit from the EU this month within the Article 50 deadline is that the market rates the chances of a deal this week as being less likely.

What we should read into that is hard to say. The EU has a long history of things going right to the wire and there must be just a possibility that something can be agreed. This has been going on for so long that many leaders just want it over.

Clearly Johnson has made concessions and that creates its own risks. You can see Nigel Farage attacking whatever comes out as being BINO – Brexit in Name Only.

The Independent is reporting that no agreement is possible before this week’s summit. Its report notes:

Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell, who is set to take over as the EU’s foreign affairs chief, meanwhile told reporters outside a meeting in Luxembourg that there might be a need to “stop the watch” and ask for more time.

“You know, in Europe, we always take decisions on the edge of the precipice, on the edge of the cliff,” he said. “Even when the last minute comes, then we stop the watch and say that we need technically more time to fulfil all the requirements, all the last minute requirements.

From the PM’s perspective he has to ensure that his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31 doesn’t damage him or his party if it proves not to be possible. Whether or not he was being foolhardy in using that rhetoric it certainly added to the sense of urgency which might give a benefit.

Domestically the real danger to the Brexiteers is the growing clamour for a confirmatory referendum which we’ve discussed in previous threads.

Mike Smithson


Today’s Top Tip for Remainers – if there’s a 2nd Referendum demand strict voter photo ID

October 14th, 2019

And driving licences by age

There’s a case for arguing that the section of the population who’d have most problems with proposed voter ID laws are the elderly who are much less likely to have a passport and/or a driving licence. Given that they were much more likely to vote Leave in june 2016 then you can argue that if the planned changes had been in place then we might have seen a different outcome.

There would likely be provision for those without the relevant voter ID to apply for some sort of document certifying their right to vote. But anything that adds to the complications of voting is surely likely to impact on turnout.

This is from the Electoral Reform Society report on the 2018 voter ID trials

Out of 45 million votes last year, there were just 28 allegations of ‘personation’ (only one was solid enough to result in conviction). And yet the government seems determined to pursue voter ID,a policy we now know could cost up to £20 million per general election. This change to how we vote is a marked departure from the trust-based British way of running elections, and with little evidence to justify it. It’s claimed that mandatory voter ID could boostfaith in the democratic process. Yet according to academic research, 99 percent of election staff do not think fraud has occurred in their polling stations…

If mandatory ID were to be rolled out nationally,it could potentially result in tens of thousands of voters being denied a say. And it would hit the already marginalised hardest: poorer C2DE social grade voters were half as likely to say they were aware of the ID requirements before the trials this May. And despite the costly publicity campaign this time, after election day,an average of around a quarter of residents were not aware of the pilots in four of the council areas – around four in 10 were not aware in Watford.

As we know the C2DE section of population were much more likely to back Leave.

Mike Smithson


Ladbrokes make it 6/4 that there’ll be another Brexit referendum before the end of next year

October 14th, 2019

And 4/1 that Remain would win

Given how difficult Johnson has had in winning votes in the House of Commons this morning’s Queen’s Speech had a touch a fantasy about it. His Government is in a minority and thanks to the Fixed-Term Parliament Act he is unable to call a general election to ameliorate the situation.

So having the monarch with all the ceremonial trappings listing the legislative plans was a bit it strange given there are simply not the CON MP numbers to get anything through. This is a programme that cannot be enacted and it was almost embarrassing that the Queen had to go along with the situation.

The big question now is whether we are heading for a new referendum on whatever deal eventually comes out of Brussels. Interestingly Corbyn loyalist and possible leadership contender, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was saying this morning that a referendum on the deal should come before a general election. That’s a good pointer to how her party could go.

Betfair have market up on which will come first – a second EU referendum or a new general election and the latter is the 1/3 odds on favourite. I have gone for the former at 3/1 which scenes an attractive price.

On the Ladbrokes betting I like the 4/1 on a Remain victory before the end of next year.

Mike Smithson


By the end of the week we just might have a better idea of which of these Brexit options will be the winner

October 14th, 2019


And we could see moves for a confirmatory referendum

The phrase from the mid-1960s originated by the then LAB general election winner and PM, Harold Wilson that “a week is a long time in politics” has continued to have resonance over the decades. No doubt we will he hear references to it this week when so much is on the agenda.

There are so many unknowns. Will what was agreed between the UK and Irish PMs at the meeting on Merseyside form the basis of a deal that the EU27 is ready to back. Is there time for that deal to be ready for Saturday when a special session of parliament will be held? If so can Johnson do what his predecessor failed three times to do and get MPs to agree it.

How are DUP MPs going to react when they see the detail of of the plans for a post Brexit Northern Ireland? Their 10 votes could be crucial in terms of getting things through the Commons.

On top of all of this there appears to be a sort soft coup taking place within LAB to marginalise Corbyn particularly on Brexit. The party gives the impression of moving more and more towards a confirmatory referendum on a Brexit deal which could impact on the overall parliamentary arithmetic.

Could Cummings/Johnson find a way round the Benn Act and make it a no deal Brexit after all?

What’s coming out of Brussels suggests there’s a desire to offer an Article 50 extension which is something that would be problematical for the PM given his earlier comments about the UK leaving on October 31st.

Have the architects of the Benn Act got something up their sleeve to add a further obstacle to no deal?

Maybe the coming days will provide the answers. Maybe not!

Mike Smithson


The Tyranny of Low Expectations

October 13th, 2019

It is generally a good idea, when facing severe criticism from an inquiry, to concede with as much good grace as possible, to keep your immediate thoughts about the idiocy of the judge to yourself and not to try and justify the behaviour which has been criticised. No good will come of it: you will look like someone paying lip service to the findings who really thinks you’ve done nothing wrong.

It is advice which the Metropolitan Police singularly failed to follow in their response to the report by Sir Richard Henriques on Operation Midland, the now notorious investigation into alleged child abuse. The day of its publication the Met’s response focused on why no senior officer had done anything wrong despite the long list of failings catalogued: 43 in total, including that, in obtaining search warrants without being fully transparent about the evidence they had, the police had broken the law. This is about as serious a failure as it is possible to have by public servants whose primary and most important duty is to uphold it. Not break it. The Met’s apology for the upset caused by the searches seemed to be quite unequal to the failure – the sort of apology you might make if you’d inadvertently interrupted someone having a bath – rather than a realisation of the very great damage done to policing and the administration of justice if those tasked with it cannot be bothered to behave lawfully.

The report by the IOPC the following day adopted the same self-justifying tone to explain why there was no basis for disciplining any of the officers involved despite its comprehensive investigation, one so comprehensive that none of the officers involved had been interviewed. What would the IOPC consider an inadequate investigation to be?

One of the critical failings was the police deciding – and publicly announcing – that allegations were true and believable before they had been investigated, as a result of an obligation to believe a victim and, indeed, to call them a victim rather than a complainant. Paragraphs 1.11-1.35 of the report on why these two practices are so seriously prejudicial to proper investigation, the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof (the foundations of our entire criminal justice system) are very well worth reading. In consequence, one of the judge’s most important recommendations was for the police not automatically to believe complainants: “If one policy decision results from this review I trust that the instruction to ‘believe’ a victim’s account will cease.”  The police seem disinclined to follow this advice. Even Vera Baird, the Victims’ Commissioner, despite being a QC, seems not to understand that belief in an allegation is not necessary to investigate it properly.

The belief that victims must be believed without question did not come from nowhere. It arose in part in response to previous police failings. In 1982 Roger Graef’s documentary series about Thames Valley Police caused a stir when the episode entitled “A Complaint of Rape” showed male policemen treating a female rape victim with harsh dismissiveness. This led to important and valuable changes in how the police investigated this most serious and sensitive of crimes. Similar changes have been made with regard to how child victims of sexual abuse are treated, both by the police and by the courts when they give evidence. All of this is welcome: old-fashioned assumptions (that women are asking for it, that children are liars) are no basis on which to investigate crimes.

Some old-fashioned attitudes still persist though: young troubled girls in care are seen as not “nice” and in effect asking to be abused by their attackers, the assumption this time being wrapped up in the mistaken and nonsensical notion that an underage child has given “consent”. At the other end, the police have veered from ignoring crimes alleged against the famous (Savile) to pursuing them with unseemly malice and a misguided focus on making media headlines (Cliff Richard).  (If there is one thing to be regretted from the decision to abandon the second half of the Leveson Inquiry is that there was no examination of the police’s relationship with the press and whether this is compatible with their policing role. It is something which needs much more scrutiny than it is, for obvious reasons, ever likely now to get.) It as if the police veer from one position to another in response to the scandal du jour without any understanding of – or firm attachment to – the long-standing principles underlying the criminal justice system

Now the police have adopted the spuriously sentimental assumption that a victim should be believed without question. To do so is fatally to confuse therapy and care with investigation. The former is laudable but not the role of the police. The latter is.

For investigators to do their job properly they need two skills above all: emotional intelligence – empathy, an ability to understand human behaviour and motivation and build a relationship with both (alleged) criminal and victim. The second is to have what Graham Greene described as the “splinter of ice in the heart”, the judgment and analysis that makes them look coolly and dispassionately at the facts, to base their opinions on what they have found and not what they would like to believe to be true, that makes them remember that they need to find and test the evidence and ensure that it is good enough to convict someone to the standard required.

As the report put it:

“Any process that imposes an artificial state of mind upon an investigator is, necessarily, a flawed process. An investigator, in any reputable system of justice, must be impartial. The imposed ‘obligation to believe’ removes that impartiality.”

If the police allow sentimental beliefs, preconceived opinions and assumptions, pressure from the media or politicians to override the judgments they need to make, they are doing a profound disservice – to the victims (who need their complaints taken seriously and investigated properly, a crucially important difference to simply being believed), to the defendants (who are entitled not to be accused publicly – or at all – on the basis of opinion unsupported by any evidence), to the public’s faith in policing, to the administration of justice itself.

What was so dismaying about the police’s response to the Henriques report was not just the rush to protect their own, the desire to explain why disciplinary action was unjustified, the belief that incompetence and negligence were not sufficient to merit any kind of action.  The approach was that the police had broken no disciplinary rules; they did not intend to cause harm and there was no evidence of criminal behaviour so that was that.  The level of incompetence and negligence on display, the failures in basic investigative tradecraft were simply to be ignored. No: what’s worse is the assumption that nothing more than this can or should be expected.

The police had passed the low bar expected of them.  43 failings in one inquiry can happen but no-one need take any responsibility.

It is a stunning failure to understand what leadership means.  Leadership means, in essence, taking responsibility for what happens in your watch – even if you are not personally to blame.  Those senior officers who were in position when this lamentable series of failures occurred were the leaders in charge.  If leadership is to mean anything, if setting an example to all those in the police service matters, if an apology is to be meaningful, if learning lessons is to be something other than a cliché to be trotted out, if integrity at the top of policing is to have substance, then those in charge of this inquiry should, in all honour, take responsibility and resign.  Not seek to evade it with self-serving justifications and remorseful cries of “Oh, if only I’d done something different.

The Home Secretary (not noted for either her empathy or integrity or, indeed, her understanding of the criminal justice system – as her latest spat with the Attorney-General suggests) has apparently asked for a further inquiry to be carried out – though since it is to be carried out by the very body which has come up with the practices roundly criticised by the Henriques report, don’t build your hopes too high. In the meanwhile, the Prime Minister has made great play of his intention to fund 20,000 more police for our streets.  Without wishing to downplay the work of ordinary policemen or, indeed the need for effective policing, with this sort of inadequate leadership and incompetence on show, it is worth asking whether this really is the best use of public money?  Maybe fixing the problems identified by Sir Richard Henriques and implementing his recommendations might come before spaffing money on more police. It can’t, after all, cost that much to remind police leaders of that well-known saying: “The buck stops here.