10 Tips for the Tory Leadership contest

July 2nd, 2016

What to bear in mind when anticipating developments

1. This is not Leave v Remain again

We have just been through a highly divisive referendum campaign and apart from the country itself, nothing was more divided than the Conservative Party. However, divisions can be, and are being, overplayed. Some in the media would have you believe that the Tories are split into two immutably hostile blocks. They’re not. Many on either side were not particularly committed to Leave or to Remain, all the way from the cabinet through to grass-roots members. Just because a majority of Conservative members voted Leave does not mean that Gove, Fox or Leadsom will win.

2. But the EURef campaign does matter

It might not be of overriding importance but it will still play a role. Some irreconcilables would rather chop off their own arm than vote for someone from the other side but those people probably wouldn’t have considered a crossover candidate anyway. For the rest, Europe will inevitably be a huge issue in the campaign, not just the candidates’ stances in the referendum but their position on what happens next.

3. This is two elections, not one

There are two completely different parts to Tory leadership contests, designed to ensure that the eventual leader is acceptable to both members and MPs. It doesn’t always work, as in 2001, but that’s the theory (and in 2001, it’s probable that none of the final three candidates would have been acceptable to both MPs and members, which is why none of them eventually fought the election). No candidate can get the gig without substantial support in both Westminster and the membership at large.

4. Tory elections are usually won on negative factors

Conservative leaders are usually elected as much for who and what they’re not as for who and what they are: the biggest asset a candidate has is not having any strong negatives. That’s how Duncan Smith beat Clarke and Portillo, how Hague beat Clarke, how Major beat Heseltine and to an extent, how Thatcher beat Heath.

5. None of the Leave options really work

If the Conservatives had lost the 2015 general election, Andrea Leadsom might stand a fighting chance but the fact that the Tories are in government ought to rule her out. You simply cannot expect to make a fist of being PM without the experience of cabinet or the leadership of the opposition, especially at a time like this. On the other hand, Fox is too far out of the mainstream without the redeeming feature of electability. He also remains tainted by his resignation. That leaves Gove. Yes, his behaviour towards Boris was ruthless but that characteristic isn’t always viewed entirely negatively in political circles. By contrast, his self-proclaimed lack of suitability for the job is a substantial drawback and will count. However, all else being equal, one of them should make the final two.

6. But if May polls very strongly, her supporters might vote tactically

Someone once called the Tory MPs ‘the most sophisticated electorate in the world’. That was an exaggeration but there can be no doubting the extent of second-guessing and tactical gaming that goes on to try to achieve a desired result. If Theresa May polls extremely strongly in the early rounds – on the current count, she has more backers than the rest put together, albeit with more than half the MPs still to declare – some may take the opportunity to try to lever an easier rival onto the members’ ballot paper. That could prove counterproductive, riling members and sapping momentum from May’s campaign, but might be tried all the same if the opportunity presents itself. If May could pick a candidate for the run-off it would be Crabb. We should watch closely to see whether there’s any evidence of pro-Crabb tactical votes.

7. Ignore the “Favourite doesn’t win” rule

A rule of thumb so strong that it’s almost written in stone is that the favourite never wins the Tory crown. The favourite was Boris and he’s already out; it doesn’t apply now.

8. The worse things are for Labour, the less Tory members and MPs will feel restrained by electoral pressures

Cameron might have been the second-longest serving Conservative leader since Churchill but he was never really loved by the party. It was more than happy to tolerate him while he won but too many felt that he wasn’t really sufficiently one of us. He’s unlikely to end up reviled as Heath and Blair did in their respective parties – his policies never ran that far against the grain. There is no Cameroon candidate but the longer Labour strings out its own internal conflict, the more leeway it gives to the Tory right. If there’s no formal challenge to Corbyn, that will benefit Fox and Leadsom.

9. The new leader needs to be ready for an autumn election

The stated reason would be to gain the public’s backing for the proposed post-Brexit settlement. The unspoken reason would be to capitalise on Labour’s self-mutilation. An autumn election will look like an attractive proposition if it can be finessed around the FTPA, whatever candidates might say now. The MPs, who have as big a vested interest in the outcome of an election as anyone, are therefore likely to tend further towards the safety first candidate i.e. May.

10. There won’t be a coronation

Speculation about a leadership coronation, whereby the second-placed candidate after the MPs rounds withdraws, so negating the need for a members vote, is misplaced. Even if one candidate wins handsomely in the last three, members will expect their right to a say. Selecting leaders and candidates are the two things that party members really get for their money, without having to pay extra. It will go down badly among activists if there’s a Westminster Stitch-Up. Besides, having successfully fought off three rivals, it wouldn’t be in the interests of the second-placed person to then hold back.


Most but not all factors point to May. In experience and temperament, she stands head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Her quiet Remain stance won’t help her but nor will it be fatal. As long as nothing else she does is, the faults and drawbacks of her opponents will see her through. That it will tweak Labour’s nose to elect a second female leader before Labour (or the Lib Dems) have chosen a first is a bonus.

David Herdson


The skids are under Jeremy. Members should get the chance to put him out of his misery.

July 1st, 2016



Don Brind argues against the Labour leader stepping down in favour of a unity candidate. Jeremy Corbyn must be ousted by the members if Labour’s credibility with the voters is to have any chance of being rescued. The idea of him standing down in favour of a unity candidate is understandable – but wrong.

The evidence from the polling and from local reports is that his support is eroding fast. I am convinced that he can and will be beaten in a new leadership election. In addition, unlike in 2015, people paying £3 to become registered supporters are doing do so to sack him rather than to back him.

What does that mean in practice? I believe appeals to him to stand down and “do the right thing” should be abandoned. Angela Eagle has the backers for a leadership challenge. She should launch it without delay. She should not get a clear run. Any other MP who can get the 38 backers needed to enter the contest should do so.

This approach has a number of key advantages.

  • It avoids a “coronation” — Gordon Brown’s leadership would have been strengthened if in 2007 he had been tested in hustings and debates.
  • It will strike down any “we wuz robbed” complaint from Momentum and allied Corbyn supporters.
  • It will help equip the new leader to take on the Tories.

The campaign will give the candidates the chance to develop their skills and their profile. Whoever emerges will be much stronger in taking on the Tory victor. If that person is Theresa May there is no chance of the new Labour leader matching her for profile and experience. But the hustings, debates will give and media exposure will narrow the gap. It would obviously make sense for Labour’s timetable to extend beyond the Tory declaration so we know who our leader will be up against.

Why am I so confident that Corbyn will lose the election?

Firstly there are the arguments.

The election will be an educational process. It will be made clear to members and supporters that there is no way they can put Humpty back together again. Re-electing Corbyn will not resolve the crisis at Westminster. The talented people who joined the “big tent” as shadow ministers and who resigned this week cannot be shoe horned back onto the front bench.

Although his supporters will make the most of the Chilcot report next week, unlike in 2015 Corbyn will be running on his own record. Labour have had some successes at Westminster in confronting the Tories. These have largely been down to members of the Shadow Cabinet, most whom have now deserted the leader.

The key argument against Corbyn will be that an unelectable leader means electoral defeats. But the price of failure is paid not by Labour members but by millions of families who need a Labour government to protect them from the Tories.

Then there are the numbers.

It is, of course, a matter of interpretation but I believe the YouGov poll reported on PB shows the tide is running strongly against Corbyn.

It is in line with reports from local Labour parties. One of the most interesting comes from Hackney North where, of course, the local MP is one of Corbyn’s most loyal supporters, Diane Abbott.
Abbott gave her report to the constituency party meeting on Thursday night. She spoke following a series of votes in which non-Corbynite delegates were elected to key party offices. Corbyn supporters had prepared a motion of support for him. After they had seen how the votes were going they decided not to take the risk.Momentum routinely threaten MPs opposed with Corbyn with de-selection. When she looks at her own backyard Abbott may caution that this is not a risk-free tactic.

Another set of numbers that ought to worry Corbyn is the membership of Momentum.  This week it trumpeted a 27% increase in members within a couple of days. In raw numbers that was 1,700 newcomers who had swollen the national total to around 8,000. Compare that to the nearly 90,000 “three-quidders” who made up more than a third of his winning total last time round.  Corbyn’s three rivals mustered less than 20,000 between them. There is already a drive to improve on that in the form of the website Saving Labour.  I expect this to develop into a large scale campaign get people to help rescue Labour.

The pitch will be — If you want a genuine choice at the next General Election now is the time to help Labour recover and make sure you have that option.

Don Brind


A nice problem to have: Cash in my 90/1 & 65/1 bets on Leadsom now or wait for the race to evolve

July 1st, 2016


What are the chances of her doing it?

On May 25h while perusing the Betfair next CON leader odds I saw that Andrea Leadson was available at 90 and immediately took the few pounds that was available that price. It then slipped down to 65, 55 46 nd 44 and I took that as well. My next bet on Leadsom was at 9.31am, just after Cameron had resigned, when I got 65.

The result is that I’m sitting on a very nice payday if she does end up as winner when the result is announced on September 2nd.

The question I’ve been pondering is whether to take some or all of the profits now she has tightened to the 5-6 region on the Betfair exchange.

At the moment it appears that Theresa May is romping home and there’s even been speculation that all the other contenders could pull out after Tuesday’s first round MP vote. In that case she could even become PM next week.

Funny things can happen in leadership contests particularly the Tory one and this coming weekend is going to be fascinating.

Mike Smithson


New YouGov polling finds that Corbyn has lost his LAB members’ lifeline. He now looks doomed

July 1st, 2016


His equivocal & lacklustre referendum campaign has damaged him with the members he needs



Above are some of the key findings from a new YouGov poll of LAB party members – the very people that Corbyn is looking to to help keep him in his job.

He’s portraying his current battle with his MPs as one between them and the membership who so enthusiasticly voted him to the leadership last September. Until May he was still enjoying overwhelming member support but the referendum appears to have changed all that.

    The suggestions that he might have voted leave and that close advisors were trying to sabotage the efforts to stay in the EU appear to have undermined his standing with the members he desperately needs.

If it goes to a vote it is now far from certain that he would get the backing even though a match up against Angela Eagle has him 10% ahead.

The polling undermines totally Corbyn’s claims to have ongoing membership support. I think that his days are now numbered and he’ll become another casualty of last week’s referendum vote.

YouGov has an excellent record with LAB member polling and got last September’s election almost dead on.

Mike Smithson


After the most dramatic post-war week in British politics the first electoral tests: Tonight’s local by-elections

June 30th, 2016

St. Michael’s (Con defence) on Bexley
Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 45, Labour 15, United Kingdom Independence Party 3 (Conservative majority of 27)
Result of ward at last election (2014) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,352, 1,314, 1,140 (35%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,280 (33%)
Labour 857, 769, 720 (22%)
British National Party 407 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Keith Forster (UKIP), Michael Jones (BNP), Sam Marchant (Lab), Derek Moran (Green), Simone Reynolds (Lib Dem), Ray Sams (Con)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 47,603 (37%) LEAVE 80,886 (63%) on a turnout of 75%

High Town (Lab defence) on Luton
Result of council at last election (2016): Labour 35, Liberal Democrats 8, Conservatives 5 (Labour overall majority of 22)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,442, 1,039 (53%)
Conservatives 791, 748 (29%)
Green Party 479, 329 (18%)
Candidates duly nominated: Lyn Bliss (Green), John French (Ind), Grace Froggart (UKIP), Sue Garrett (Con), Clive Mead (Lib Dem), Maahwish Mirza (Lab)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 36,708 (43%) LEAVE 47,773 (57%) on a turnout of 66%

Leatherhead North (Con defence) on Mole Valley
Result of council at last election (2016): Conservatives 23, Liberal Democrats 12, Independents 6 (Conservative majority of 5)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Conservative 1,064 (34%), Liberal Democrat 915 (29%), United Kingdom Independence Party 571 (18%), Labour 455 (15%), Green Party 122 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Simon Chambers (UKIP), Joe Crome (Lib Dem), Vicki Elcoate (Green), Marc Green (Lab), Tracey Keeley (Con)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 29,088 (53%) LEAVE 25,708 (47%) on a turnout of 82%

Rhoose (Ind defence) on Vale of Glamorgan
Result of council last election (2012): Labour 22, Conservatives 11, Plaid Cymru 6, Independents 3, United Kingdom Independence Party 1 (No Overall Control, Labour short by 2)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 810, 727 (49%)
Independent 882 (28%)
Labour 713 (23%)
Candidates duly nominated: Rachael Banner (Ind), James Fyfe (Pirate), Gordon Kemp (Con), Graham Loveluck-Edwards (Lab), Robin Lynn (Lib Dem), Ian Perry (Plaid) Adam Riley (Ind)
Referendum Result: REMAIN 36,681 (51%) LEAVE 35,628 (49%) on a turnout of 76%

Newington (UKIP defence) on Thanet to be held on July 1st 2016
Result of council at last election (2015): United Kingdom Independence Party 33, Conservatives 18, Labour 4, Independent 1 (UKIP majority of 10)
Result of ward at last election (2015): Emboldened denotes elected
United Kingdom Independence Party 884, 845(44%)
Labour 728, 713 (36%)
Conservatives 390, 363 (20%)
Candidates duly nominated: Matthew Brown (Lib Dem), Adam Dark (Con), David Green (Lab), Roy Potts (UKIP),
Referendum Result: REMAIN 26,065 (36%) LEAVE 46,037 (64%) on a turnout of 73%

Anyone who tells you that they know how these by-elections will go is telling you a bare faced lie. This time last week REMAIN were rated as a 75% chance on the betting markets, Cameron was going to stand down as PM after the local elections of 2017, Corbyn would be Labour leader until at least 2019 and the cable rate (£ vs $) was approaching a recent high. Therefore I am not even going to attempt to second guess how these by-elections will go (nor indeed will I make any future attempts to as well). For instance, will REMAIN areas revolt and elect parties that supported LEAVE? Will LEAVE areas punish those who called for a REMAIN vote? Will rock solid Conservative areas fall to the Liberal Democrats? Will UKIP gain seats from Labour as if there was no tomorrow? Will the SNP dominate Scotland to such an extent that everyone else gives up? Who knows? The main thing is that I don’t (and if anyone tells you otherwise, in the words of Public Enemy “Don’t believe the hype!”)

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


On an explosive day the latest CON leader betting and charts

June 30th, 2016

Prices updated every few minutes


The PB/Polling Matters podcast: Reflecting on the longest week in politics that just about anybody can remember

June 30th, 2016

Big Ben

On this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi try and make sense of what has happened in the past week – as news of Theresa May’s poll lead over Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s decision to stand for Tory leader breaks all around them. They discuss why Britain decided to leave the EU, the polling, who will be the next Prime Minister and what now for the Labour Party.

You can follow Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley and Leo at @leobarasi


Just months before the US looks set to elect a female President both main UK party leaders could be women

June 30th, 2016


The dramatic feminisation of the political world

Today, just a week after the referendum, there’s expected to be big developments over the Conservative and Labour leaderships.

Nominations for the successor to Cameron close and reports suggest that Angela Eagle will announce that she’s seeking the 51 required nominations to contest the Labour leadership.

The latest YouGov poll of Conservative members, the group that will ultimately decide the party leadership and next PM, has unexpectedly found that the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has a substantial lead over the ex-mayor, Mr Johnson. In a head to head match the pollster found that Theresa is 17% ahead of Boris. The widespread assumption before was that his biggest leadership challenge was going to be getting onto the ballot not whether he would win with the membership.

With Labour’s leadership crisis continuing and the hapless Corbyn clinging on in spite of being rejected by his parliamentary colleagues the next move looks set to be Angela Eagle making a formal challenge. If that happens and she wins then we could have both Conservative and Labour leadership elections taking place at about the same time with new leaders in place in September.

All this occurs, of course, in the run up to November’s White House race with US polls pointing to widening leads for Hillary Clinton over the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump.

An enormous amount, of course, could happen as all these contests unfold but there must be a reasonable chance that these three posts could all be held by women.

I wonder whether there might be a spin-off effect. Could the prospect of a woman CON leader and PM make it easier for Labour to choose a woman for the first time?

Whatever we’ve got another interesting political day ahead of us.

A big thank you to those who've contributed to the financial appeals for PB. This is helping us to maintain the viability of the site and enable us to cope with the huge spike in demand on the technical infrastructure that we've been seeing.

Mike Smithson