Local By-Election Preview : October 27th 2016

October 27th, 2016

Rhyl West on Denbighshire (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Lab 18, Ind 12, Con 9, Plaid 7, Lib Dem 1 (No Overall Control, Lab short by 6)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 378, 361 (43%)
Conservatives 106, 99 (25%)
Independent 142 (17%)
Plaid Cymru 125 (15%)
EU Referendum Result: REMAIN 23,955 (46%) LEAVE 28,117 (54%) on a turnout of 69%
Candidates duly nominated: Les Harker (Con), Alan James (Lab), Keith Kirwan (Lib Dem), Norman Shone (Ind), Mark Webster (Ind)

Collington (Ind defence) and Darwell (Con defence) on Rother
Result of council at last election (2015): Con 31, Ind 4, Lib Dem 2, Lab 1 (Con majority of 24)
EU Referendum Result: REMAIN 23,916 (41%) LEAVE 33,753 (59%) on a turnout of 79%

Collington : Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 1,309, 1,220 (40%)
Conservatives 973, 847 (30%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 417 (13%)
Green Party 282 (9%)
Labour 280 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Andrew Burton (Con), Deirdre Earl-Williams (Ind), Michael Phillips (UKIP), Sara Watson (Lab)

Darwell : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,419, 1,213 (42%)
United Kingdom Independence Party 574 (17%)
Liberal Democrat 564 (17%)
Green Party 510 (15%)
Labour 347 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: John Barnes (Con), Antonia Berelson (Lab), Edward Smith (UKIP), Mary Varrall (Lib Dem), Andrew Wedmore (Green)

It may have taken me a long time, but with help I have managed to calculate the notional map of the House of Commons for a 600 seat House, therefore tomorrow there will be a summary of all the local by-elections in October, over the weekend the new shrunken House of Commons (and a view as to who the biggest losers are), the next set of local by-elections on November 3rd and then the weekend after that USA 2016, the Congressional Battleground. After all, the real question now is “Can the Dems retake the House and the Senate?”


Labour’s “cunning plan” for the Richmond Park by-election

October 27th, 2016


Don Brind says its to inflict misery on Zac by helping him get re-elected

“The man’s a disgrace. His office is just along the corridor from mine and I never see him. He obviously doesn’t want to be an MP.

The thoughts of a veteran MP provide the perfect justification for Labour fighting the Richmond Park by-election despite the call from an interesting trio of young MPs for Labour to stay out of Zac Goldsmith’s “vanity project”  Shadow Business Clive Lewis, shadow Treasury minister Jonathan Reynolds, and backbencher Lisa Nandy argue in Labour List the Tory could be unseated is Labour stay don’t contest the west London seat.

Theresa May has sought to neutralise Goldsmith’s protest against the Heathrow decision by not putting up a Tory candidate and the Labour trio argue “the fight will come down to a two way contest between him and the Liberal Democrats, whose vote will be split with the Greens and Labour, “If there is any chance of kicking Goldsmith out of Parliament, the vote against him must not be split. That’s why we think Labour should consider not standing a candidate in this by-election.”

There is a special contempt for Goldsmith within Labour ranks following his nasty and divisive campaign against Sadiq Khan for the London Mayoralty. As the New Statesman’s George Eaton memorably observed “There’s one thing worse than losing, it’s losing with dishonour.”
But for Goldsmith now the one thing worse than losing is winning – but with a dramatically reduced majority. He would denied to freedom his fellow old Etonian David Cameron has achieved for himself by quitting Witney. He would be a lame duck MP, the modern equivalent of Peter Griffiths, who won Smethwick for the Tories with a racist campaign in 1964. He was branded by Harold Wilson as “a parliamentary leper.”

The idea of a “progressive alliance” with Liberal Democrats and Greens favoured by Lewis, Nandy and Reynolds is, for the moment at least, a minority cause within Labour. The Liberal Democrats are scorned for their role in Coalition with the Tories and it’s noted that some leading Greens backed the green-tinged Goldsmith for Mayor.

    The problem for Goldsmith, of course, is that his stance on Heathrow is matched by Lib Dem opponent Sarah Olney but her anti Brexit views are much closer to the almost three in four local voters who backed Remain.

So Labour’s “cunning plan”  is for her to lose but not by much. And it looks like a reasonable bet Expect to see Lewis, Nandy and Reynolds given top billing in her election material.

The famous Baldrick line was deployed by Jeremy Corbyn used at Prime Minister’s questions — Theresa May’s cunning plan, he said was to have no plan. As May observed Baldrick was played by Labour supporter Tony Robinson who supported Owen Smith for the leadership. Robinson tweeted he is still a Labour member. “Haven’t left, active member for 40 yrs. But if David Davis needs any help with Brexit Baldrick stands ready to serve.”

Donald Brind

Catch up on the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast


The big hope for Trump now is that there will be a polling fail as large as in the UK at GE2015

October 27th, 2016


But the signs from US early voting seems to back up the polls

Twelve days to go before the US elects Barack Obama’s successor and so far at least the polling both national and in the key swing states suggests a return to the White House after a gap of 16 years for Hillary Clinton. This time, of course, as President not as First Lady.

Following the wobble in August and September ahead of the first TV debate her polling position has looked strong. Extraordinarily she has been the betting favourite to be next President ever since the markets were opened immediately after Obama’s re-election in 2012. Now she is rated by punters as an 85%+ chance.

Of course polling can be wrong and we all remember that night eighteen months ago when Ed Milliband looked as though he might be taking a trip to the Palace the following day. It was not to be and interestingly the polling under estimate of the Tory position then was almost exactly the same as the gap now in the US national polls.

All the post election reports of GE2015 suggested that the postal voting was running strongly for the Tories. Information on this is very restricted in the UK and, indeed, it is illegal to reveal what data there is.

That is different from the US where we are getting quite a lot of news from various states which broadly back up the polls. It’s estimated that 40% of the votes in this election will have been cast before polling day.

But I’m not ruling anything out. I’ll only believe that Trump has failed when sufficient numbers are in on November 9th.

Mike Smithson


The PB Polling Matters TV Show & Podcast: Brexit, Zac’s by-election, UKIP’s leadership and whether LAB has a polling floor

October 26th, 2016

Detailed analysis of the issues and the numbers

A huge amount has happened in UK politics since the last show two weeks ago and joining Keiran Pedley (@KeiranPedley) are Asa Bennett (@AsaBenn) of the Telegraph and Leo Barasi (@leobarasi) of noiseofthecrowd.com

BREXIT still totally dominates UK politics and the programme seeks to look at its likely impact in the by-election and, of course, the impact on the differents part of the UK.

Another area for analysis is Labour’s polling plight and whether there is a floor. Also in the show is a look at the UKIP leadership fight and the prospects for a Stop Brexit party.

Update – The audio only version of the podcast is available below.

Mike Smithson


In betting terms the Richmond Park by-election is one of the tightest races in decades

October 26th, 2016


Currently the bookies make Zac the favourite by a whisker

I can’t recall the opening 24 hours of a political betting market where the outcome has appeared so tight. First the opening odds all made Zac the favourite. Then that moved to the LDs until news came through the the Tories would stand aside. That led to the Zac price tightening and for a short while you could get the LDs at longer than evens.

No more. The best you can get with the traditional bookies is evens on the LDs and 5/6 Zac.

An intriguing development has been the suggestion by three senior LAB MPs that the party should also stand aside.

The peg for this is the continued bitterness against Goldsmith for the manner, said to be racist, in which he ran his failed campaign for London Mayor earlier in the year. The efforts to try to portray Sadiq Khan as an extremist were clumsy and are going to feature a lot in the coming weeks. How he handles that could be crucial.

I don’t think that Labour would go so far as not putting a candidate up but, no doubt, Team Yellow will pick up some of the comments which will feature in specific appeals to LAB voters.

There’s also a suggestion that the Green party might also stand aside which might seem odd given Zac’s ecological background. Where he’s deemed to have gone wrong was backing LEAVE in the referendum.

The Tory exit from the race will make this even more a referendum on Goldsmith himself. For the moment my money, at odds of up 6/4, is on the LDs. They are the form team at the moment.

Mike Smithson


Situation critical. How the NHS could affect the path of Brexit

October 26th, 2016


That £350m “commitment” could be damaging

The debate in Britain about health spending is fundamentally dishonest.  The left constantly press for large increases in spending.  The government constantly boasts about ever-increasing spending at or above inflation levels.  Voices on the right frequently argue for scaling back the health services that the public sector provides.  None of them address what Britain needs.

Britain’s health needs are growing at a rate far faster than inflation, even if one uses measures of healthcare inflation.  Those needs are not growing in line with prices but demography.  40% of NHS spending is devoted to those aged 65 and over, though that group comprises only 18% of the population, with this spending concentrated in the older age bands.  70% of NHS spending in England is directed towards just 25% of the population – those with incurable long term conditions.  As the nation’s population inexorably gets older and as those with incurable long term conditions can be supported more effectively, costs will inevitably rise.

Make no mistake, it is good news that we are living longer and that those with health needs can be supported more effectively.  But that good news comes with a cost and one that rises as we age.  By 2039 the Office for National Statistics estimates that those aged 75 or over will increase from 8% of the population to over 13% of the population.  (Besides being the most needy of resources, the over-75s are also the most violent.)    Healthcare costs, if no changes are made to NHS coverage, will rise far in excess of inflation for the next generation.  Increasing funds for the NHS is like throwing cakes at a bear.

There is no easy solution.  To make the books balance, either taxes will need to rise steeply, other government spending will need to be reduced significantly or NHS services will need to be cut sharply.  Probably we will need to see a combination of all three.  There is a crunch coming and it cannot be deferred indefinitely.

That crunch may be coming very soon indeed.  75% of acute hospitals are in deficit – only 8% of NHS providers were in deficit in 2009/10.  The NHS has managed to keep the show on the road in the last few years by spending more than it receives.  That is not a sustainable model in the long term and may not be sustainable in the short term.  Ambulance response rates are worsening, waiting times after referral are deteriorating (cancer treatment waiting time targets have not been met since 2014) and A&E waiting time targets are now routinely being missed, with the latest quarter showing the most patients delayed in a decade.  Pressures are building up in the system.  The sense of crisis building is palpable.

The government will be hoping for another quiet winter in the health service, as are we all.  Given the state of hospital finances and current performance, there is no particular reason to expect that hope to be met.  The media reporting on a crisis in the NHS this winter looks considerably more likely than not.

The public aren’t expecting this at all.  They’ve just voted in a referendum where they were told that £350 million a week could be saved for the NHS.  Reasonably enough they are going to ask why this has not happened.  They are unlikely to be impressed to be told that the money is not going to be available, that actually the £350 million was earmarked for other things as well, that Brexit has yet to happen, that the Leave camp are not the government and that it wouldn’t make all that much difference anyway.  Pointing at the small print will just leave the public feeling duped and angry.

If the public think that they have been had, this is probably going to do nothing to assuage concerns about how Brexit is developing.  Theresa May has pencilled in March for triggering Article 50 (subject to whatever the courts might rule about this).  Nothing much looks likely to happen before then and the vacuum about what Brexit means seems likely to continue till then, with increasing alarm among the public about the absence of a disclosed plan.  If Leave’s flagship policy comes to be seen as a con in the public’s eyes, public confidence in the whole idea is likely to dissipate at high speed. 

So Leavers should be thinking right now what they’re going to be telling the public if the NHS does go through a rough patch this winter.  The NHS’s problems could rapidly become their own.

Alastair Meeks



The Richmond Park battle with Zac is an absolutely must win for the LDs

October 25th, 2016


If they can’t recover here then they are in trouble

To be frank I had been getting concerned about what we’d be doing on the site after the November 8th US election. PB is at its best when there are real elections taking place and there are real things to bet on. So I was absolutely delighted to get the news that we are to have a by-election in Richmond Park where Zac Goldsmith has quit because of the Heathrow decision.

At the moment we don’t know what his status will be and what the Tories will do. Will he stand as an anti LHR3 Independent or will be be adopted again as the official Conservative candidate by his local association?

My sense is that it will be the former with him getting tacit support from his local party who will not select a candidate.

This is all making the betting rather odd. William Hill are offering 10/1 on CON winning. What would happen to those bets if Zac is re-selected? Hard to say.

Judging by the betting pattern this afternoon the LDs have their tails up and believe that they can win. Ladbrokes opened with them as 6/4 second favourite. They are now 4/5 odds-on favourite.

Let there be in no doubt. The LDs have to win this seat if only to reinforce the narrative that 18 months on from the coalition they are on their way back. On the face of it this is well within the bounds of possibility. A swing only marginally larger than that saw last week in Withey would do it. They were also second place there last time so will find it easier to make the tactical argument.

Zac was hugely popular as seen in his GE2015 result. The shine, however, has gone off that to some extent following his London mayoral campaign which has been labelled as racist. He’s also a leaver in a REMAIN stronghold.

The party will throw everything at the battle which because of its location will get far more media attention than other by-elections.

Mike Smithson


UPDATED Heathrow expansion to go ahead: Zac Goldsmith resigns

October 25th, 2016


As had been widely predicted Theresa May’s government has decided to go ahead with the expansion of Heathrow. A third runway will be added to the two that have been in place there for 70 years. A short time ago Zac Goldsmith announced that he was quitting his Richmond Park seat.

The immediate political interest is what is the Richmond Park CON MP and 2016 Mayoral candidate, Zac Goldsmith, going to do. He has long threatened to resign thus producing a by-election. He’s made it known that he wants to talk to his constituents first and will be announcing his intentions tonight.

    It was hard to see how in view of his past position he could do other than carry out his threat.

The immediate political interest is the by election in Richmond Park. Until 2010 large parts of his seat were in Lib Dem hands and after Witney the yellows must feel that they have a chance of winning. Zac might stand as an anti-LHR Independent in which case it is not clear what the Tories would do. It is hard to see them giving him a free ride.

The LDs require a swing a fraction more than they achieved in Witney last week to win. They start, though, in a better tactical position having been second at GE2015.

The by election will be about BREXIT as well as LHR3 and the seat recorded one of the biggest REMAIN totals anywhere in the UK on June 23rd.

I’d make the LDs the favourite.

Mike Smithson