The worry for LAB is that last night’s PLP could be a foretaste of the next four and a half years

October 13th, 2015

This is what happens when a leader has so little support from his MPs

By all accounts last night’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party was one of the most fractious and bad tempered in living memory. The division between the leadership and the rest couldn’t be greater. The problem, of course, is that Jeremy Corbyn is the second leader in succession who wasn’t the choice of his party’s MPs. This was all so predictable.

A week before the leadership results were announced Declan McHugh and Will Sherlock wrote in New Statesman of the rumblings about how the Parliamentary Labour Party and other internal structures might be used to constrain him.

“..Labour’s new figurehead will face a PLP overwhelmingly opposed to him. Many will question the legitimacy of his election and some will reject his authority. From day one, he will face a significant number of Labour MPs not merely against him but actively out to get him. There has probably never been a situation where a leader of the Labour Party has been so far removed from the parliamentary party which he supposedly commands..

..Corbyn’s lack of authority and support within the wider parliamentary party puts a major question mark over his long term prospects as Labour leader. He would certainly lose any direct trial of strength against the PLP.”

Like many I’d taken the view that a key figure was going to be the newly elected deputy leader, Tom Watson, who has repeatedly reminded people that he has his own separate mandate being elected at the same time as Corbyn. The only problem now is that Watson is facing his own storm over the sex abuse allegations. For the time being at least he might not be the force in the party that he might have been.

On top of all of this Corbyn and McDonnell have not handled themselves well. To take one instance it should have been blindingly obvious to Corbyn when he put himself forward that in the event of victory he would become a member of the Privy Council. If that was going to be an issue then he shouldn’t have sought the leadership.

This one is going to run.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s LAB gets to within 4% with ICM equalling the party’s best since the general election

October 12th, 2015

This could calm the nerves of those worried about the new leader

As the above panel shows there have been precious few voting polls since the general election. Many of the pollsters and those who commissioned them have cut back on their efforts pending the review a what went wrong on May 7th.

But some have carried on notably the major phone poles of ICM, Ipsos, and ComRes. There is, of course, no YouGov daily poll which was the focus of so much attention in the 4½ years leading to the last general election.

The worst fears of many within LAB was that the election of Corbyn could have caused it problems. Maybe that will happen but so far there is nothing to suggest that the party is being perceived much differently from what it was before he became leader.

The October surveys are generally regarded as being important indicators because they are the tests of opinion following the end of the conference season.

Mike Smithson


David Cameron’s popularity – the reason why we are having an EU referendum and the reason why LEAVE is likely to lose

October 12th, 2015

The reason, of course, why we are having an EU referendum is that the Conservatives had such a stunning and surprise victory in the general election. One of the key factors in that, I would argue, is the personality and popularity of David Cameron himself.

Without the “Cameron premium” then it’s likely that the Tories would not be in power and able to decide.

Just look at the polling above which was taken just before the general election. This is the regular Ipsos “like him like his party tracker” and as can be seen Cameron was enjoying a fairly big lead over the Conservatives. This is in sharp contrast at to Ed Miiband whose personal numbers were a long way behind the totals saying they liked LAB.

So whatever Cameron is doing or saying in relation to the coming referendum I believe will be absolutely crucial. If he himself is recommending acceptance then I think REMAIN will win.

Look at this other polling from YouGov of which magnifies the point. On the first question leave is 3% a head. To the second question relating to David Cameron REMAIN has a big margin.

Mike Smithson


In the past 6 weeks EU referendum polls have ranged from a 3% LEAVE lead to a 19% REMAIN one

October 12th, 2015

Looking at the numbers on the day the REMAIN campaign launches

The chart above is based on the difference between the REMAIN and LEAVE figures, before netting off the don’t knows, in all the EU referendum polls since the beginning of September.

What is absolutely extraordinary is the sheer range of findings. These run from a LEAVE lead of 3% to a REMAIN one of 19%. Why this should be is very difficult to understand. It might just reflect that opinion on the issue is still very much in a state of flux or it could indicate a methodological split.

    The ComRes numbers are in line with its earlier polling. At the end of May to a different form of question ComRes had a REMAIN lead of 17% while one by the pollster just before the general election had the margin at 22%.

ComRes polling for the Mail is carried out by phone. All the others since the question format was agreed, including the ICM ones, are online.

What I would really like to see is some more telephone polling on the subject from other pollsters because we seem to be seeing a methodology divide? The only other firms now doing phone polling on a regular basis are ICM and Ipsos MORI.

The only conclusion you can come too from all of this is that it is very difficult to make any predictions at the moment. The outcome could be either way.

Mike Smithson


It would be a mistake for Sadiq Khan to attack Zac Goldsmith’s out of touchness

October 11th, 2015

YouGov London JPEG

YouGov have published their latest polling on the London Mayoral race, YouGov say

What’s remarkable is just how evenly matched [Khan and Goldsmith] are, right down to the different aspects of their personality. Likeable? Its 41%/41%.  Good in a crisis? 26%/27%. Up to the job of Mayor? 38%/39%.

There’s only one area where you start to see a major difference – whether the two men are ‘in touch with ordinary people’. 41% think Mr Khan is, compared to only 18% for Zac Goldsmith. His multi-millionaire status is one weak point for the Tory, and you can expect his rival to make a lot of noise about it.

I think it would be a mistake for Khan to make much of Zac’s perceived out of touchness, because during the last parliament and in the election campaign itself Ed Miliband and Labour were consistently seen as more in touch with the voters than David Cameron and the Tories, the polling also showed the Tories were seen as “appealing to one section of society rather than the whole country.”

But despite all of that the Tories still won a majority, so these perceptions aren’t quite the disadvantage they might initially appear to be if you have other positive qualities. Khan should focus on policies not personalities.

This is going to be a fascinating election because London was one of the rare highlights for Labour at the general election where they led the Tories by 9% (up from 2% in 2010) but you get the feeling if Zac Goldsmith is polling near identically on most of the polling questions in a ‘Labour city’ then this race is going to be a lot closer than May’s election results suggest despite Goldsmith lacking the pizazz of Boris Johnson.



Rose might front Remain but he won’t lead it

October 11th, 2015

Amateurs playing at politics will get swept aside by the professionals

Politicians are not popular; not now and rarely ever. The bickering, the pettiness, the game-playing, the dirt thrown – much of which sticks to some extent, including to the hands throwing it – the actual policies proposed or implemented, the negative characteristics of those involved: none raises the esteem in which our leaders are held.

Which is why politicians frequently seek to appropriate some of the popularity of celebrities; those personalities to which the public, or parts of it, look up to as role models, whose views, opinions and behaviours are to be admired and copied: footballers, actors, comedians and the like. That there is mutual hypocrisy involved in this is beside the point. Politicians engage because it furthers the causes they believe in and celebrities do it because it allows them the chance to do ‘serious’ (and to gain free publicity).

Stuart Rose is, however, not a celebrity. Nor is he really a politician. He is a Conservative member of the House of Lords but has never stood for election nor held public office (Lords membership apart). You can see why that appeals to those looking for someone to front the Stay campaign for the EU referendum: he is not without political experience but comes with a strong track record of success in business. On the face of it, his credibility there should play favourably in winning the minds of voters who are not ideologically committed and will vote based on pound-and-pence arguments.

But that reasoning is wrong. For a start, a Conservative peer and an ex-FTSE100 Chief Executive is not a voice of the people. Although many people do have contempt for politicians, that extends readily to other readily identifiable members of the faceless establishment so it’s unlikely that he’ll get any credit as an independent voice. But there are two other reasons why his appointment is a mistake.

The first is that he’s essentially an amateur in politics. The In campaign will no doubt be advised by highly-skilled politicians such as Lord Mandelson but there’s a reason why for all the distrust of them, people still vote for politicians (and generally politicians of established parties), even when given the option. Their negative attributes are not so much a consequence of politicians as of politics, which of necessity requires dispute and argument, and where personal attacks are inevitable.

Celebrities who get involved in the political sphere soon find themselves subject to a level of scrutiny far beyond that to which they are accustomed. But it’s not just that the gloss will soon be swept off any outsider who chooses to get serious; it’s also that politicians act as they do because they know from the experience of many years what works and, more particularly, what doesn’t.

There is, after all, nothing particularly special about politicians as a breed. So either the celebrity will end up aping the tactics and behaviours of more seasoned politicians, usually badly, or they will try to do something different and often come even more of a cropper. In either case, why not just go with the professional in the first place?

And here’s the second point: those professionals are going to get involved either way. National-level politicians do not sacrifice what they do in terms of time, effort, privacy, family life and – in some cases – income and personal standing, for the fun of it. They have strong beliefs that they want to see advanced. Campaigning is what they do and, for the more successful, is what they are good at.

They will get involved in the referendum campaign not because it is a duty but because it is a passion. And as with Alistair Darling’s underwhelming leadership of No in Scotland, where the nominal leader doesn’t come up to scratch, he or she will be overtaken by more effective performers if the issue is important enough. That vote in Scotland was important enough. The AV referendum wasn’t. The EU poll will be: too many people care too much for any other outcome.

And one who will care greatly is the prime minister himself. It will be on the terms and conditions that he has negotiated that the electorate will vote. He cannot but throw himself into the fray when the future of his own policy is at stake. (This works both ways: in the unlikely event that he publicly accepts that he couldn’t get the terms he wanted then unless he resigns on that point, the dynamics of the situation will mean he can have no choice but to become the face of Out). It is simply not a matter which can be delegated.

David Herdson


The latest Politicalbetting/Polling Matters podcast: Conservative Conference special

October 10th, 2015

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Keiran Pedley talks to Asa Bennett of the Telegraph and Rob Vance

Polling Matters is back and Keiran discusses the Tory Party conference with Asa Bennett of the Telegraph and Rob Vance. Just how strong are the Conservatives right now? Who succeeds David Cameron? And what will the London Mayoral race tell us about the wider political situation in Westminster in the longer term?


Geoffrey Howe RIP – Remember this sensational speech that ended the Thatcher era?

October 10th, 2015