Just one by-election tonight – a Labour defence in Wales

September 3rd, 2015

Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen on Caerphilly (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Labour 50, Plaid Cymru 20, Independent 3 (Labour majority of 27)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 1,854, 1,574, 1,282, 1,181 (61%)
Non Party Independents 508, 484, 409, 254 (17%)
Independents 438, 389, 378 (12%)
Plaid Cymru 664, 258 (10%)
Candidates duly nominated: Ray Davies (Ind), Ron Davies (Plaid), John Dew (Ind), Bobby Douglas (Ind, was UKIP), Lisa Jones (Lab), Rita Lukins (Con)

The natural assumption of most people to Caerphilly would be “Yawn, Labour hold, next council please!” but to disregard Caerphilly would be most unkind as this council has actually been very surprising since it’s creation in 1995. Admittedly those first elections were as predictable as ever. Labour 56 councillors out of 68 with a 63% vote share but then things “turned on a dime” in 1999.

Not only did Plaid Cymru manage to win Islwyn in the Assembly elections but as the local elections were held on the same day, Plaid did what many thought to be impossible. They won control of their first council in the South Wales valleys polling 45% of the vote and winning 39 councillors. This shocked Labour so much that one of the first actions of the 1999 – 2003 Assembly was a rule that local elections and Assembly elections would never be held on the same day ever again.

And so having regained Islwyn in 2003, Labour regained Caerphilly in 2004 and vowed never to mention 1999 again. However, the electors of Caerphilly didn’t get the memo as in 2008 Labour lost control again and although they were the largest party Plaid sprang at the chance and combining their 32 councillors with the nine Independents elected Labour were knocked out of power for the second time in fifteen years.

Added to which in Bedwas in 2012, there was more than one type of Independent, as there is in this by-election (including Bobby Douglas was who nominated as the UKIP candidate but then made a comment, that some people may class as “this is the true UKIP”, that saw UKIP sack him as their candidate and therefore we now have three Independents standing). Another reason why I use terms such as Independent, Non Party Independents and Independent Independents when dealing with Welsh local elections.

Harry Hayfield


Will Labour “go to the mattresses” if Corbyn wins?

September 3rd, 2015

4 Leaders

Don Brind hopes that peace will break out

There’s nothing erotic about going “to the mattresses”, as fans of the Godfather know. It’s violence not sex that Sonny Corleone has in mind when he declares that unless the Corleone clan get what they want “it’s all-out war, we go to the mattresses.” (It’s not safe for the “soldiers” to stay at home while the bloodletting ensues so they camp out in warehouses on those mattresses)

Fears that the Labour party would take to the mattresses after a Jeremy Corbyn takeover looked all too real in mid August. Chuka Umuna had cast himself in the Sonny Corleone role, announcing that he and shadow cabinet colleague Tristram Hunt were forming what the Standard dubbed ‘the Resistance’ group.

The Corbynistas were, it seemed, equally prepared for battle. Corbyn, who has barely couple of dozen MP supporters, issued what the Independent called a “stark warning” that he would organise “revolts by his army of grass-roots supporters” to pressure MPs opposed to his radical agenda.  “I will absolutely use our supporters to push our agenda,” he said “We have to encourage the Parliamentary Labour Party to be part of that process and not to stand in the way of democratising the party and empowering the party members.”

This week there was plenty of fighting talk from unnamed sources quoted by Rachel Sylvester in the Times  fellow columnist John McTernan told Labour MPs to get ready “to ditch Corbyn next year” The sensible 90% of the PLP should “refuse to take a job and sit resolutely on the back benches.”

Then up pops Chuka Umunna to make it clear he is miscast as Sonny Corleone. “We must all work with Jeremy Corbyn” was how the Guardian headlined the report of his speech in Amsterdam. In fact, he wasn’t conceding Corbyn victory but his emollient tone was in marked contrast to that of Tony Blair and others with whom Umunna is usually bracketed.

He acquitted the hundreds of newcomers to the party of entryism. “At a time when so many are walking away from centre-left parties across the western world and many young people do not vote, let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate”

And he was critical of New Labour’s reliance on mobilisation from the centre, rather than organising. “It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics”.
Having urged Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall to engage with Jeremy Corbyn in a previous post I was delighted with Ummuna’s call. So what if it is based on a calculation that a Corbyn leadership will be shortlived? The key thing is avoid years of posturing and backbiting that will make life easy for the Tories.

We now need a response from Corbyn. He would do well to distance himself from some of the nastiness shown by his supporters, particularly the misogynist attacks on Liz Kendall, according to blogger Adam Bienkov.  He says: “Corbyn has been rightly praised for the surge in people energetically joining the Labour party to back him. But unless those supporters take a far more inclusive approach, they could end up turning away far more people than they welcome in.”

We may well be getting ahead of ourselves, of course, Having made my mark with Mike Smithson in 2007 by predicting that Harriet Harman could beat the favourite Alan Johnson in the deputy leadership election, I take seriously the warning from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Shabana Mahmood that it’s wrong to take a Corbyn victory for granted.

In the New Statesman she says “I hear that tens of thousands of Labour party members, affiliates and registered supporters are yet to receive their ballot papers. And I am one of them. I can’t remember the last time I checked my post quite so religiously! But alas, my papers are yet to arrive.”

As a supporter of Yvette Copper, Mahmood will continue campaigning right up to close of polls next week. The eight other leadership and deputy leadership campaign teams will take the same view. For Labour members and supporters there will be no let up in the blizzard of emails, tweets and phone calls.

Don Brind


Why Corbyn might not win the Labour leadership

September 3rd, 2015


All the ingredients for Corbyn to lose are there

The Labour leadership contest seems to share a lot of the characteristics of the 2015 general election. We have the overwhelming enthusiastic social media support for a flawed candidate (that might not end up actually casting their vote), shy Tories*, the polls showing only outcome and betting sentiment heavily in favour of the polling outcome.

We’ve only had two public polls on this leadership election and the potential sampling and weighting issues with this particular electorate caused by the large surge in new members/£3 members and the purge means we should be very cautious on accepting this polling as being infallible even before we take into account the industry wide polling failure that happened in May.

Everyone in the Labour party seems to preparing for Corbyn to win based on the canvass returns so far but then again a large chunk of the Labour party thought Ed Miliband was going to become Prime Minister on May the 7th based on their canvass returns up until the exit poll came out.

The betting markets aren’t infallible either in the last week of the general election campaign and after the exit poll came out the odds on a hung parliament were shorter than the odds on Corbyn becoming the next Labour leader are now.

Last night The Sun reported that ‘less than half of the 553,954 eligible to vote in the contest have returned their ballot forms, so far, and members are swinging away from the Corbyn bandwagon after a barrage of damaging revelations about the frontrunner.’ Whilst one candidate told Krisnan Guru-Murthy around 65% had already voted. So of these 35% to 50% of voters who haven’t voted I expect these voters might not break in favour of Corbyn because of the negative stories around Corbyn that we’ve seen in recent days and weeks.

One of Ronald Reagan’s maxims was “If you’re explaining, you’re losing” and it seems to be that every day Corbyn has to explain a past comment or explain why he was meeting such a controversial friend and you have to believe that this will impact negatively on Corbyn’s chances. Also we’ve not had an opinion poll since voting began so we can’t gauge the impact of these stories.

Sometimes you have to trust your instincts. Back in April and May I thought the public especially the English public would never go for Ed Miliband as Prime Minister over David Cameron and I have a similar feeling on this. Look at how poorly Corbyn polls on the supplementaries, ComRes found ‘Corbyn and Kendall have the highest levels of people saying they would not vote for the Labour Party if they were leader (both 58%).’ This feels a lot like the barrage of polls that showed Labour ahead or tied with the Tories in the run up to the general election but the supplementary questions showed the public overwhelmingly preferred David Cameron to Ed Miliband.

Surely the Labour party aren’t going to be this stupid and self indulgent and elect someone who is a throwback to the worst mistakes and excesses of the Labour party in the 1980s? Labour supporters want to win general elections and they cannot be prepared to elect the man who they know deep down is the candidate who the Tories are praying Labour elect as leader?

So that’s why I have the nagging feeling  that like some of the others “manias” we’ve had in British politics that have fizzled out by the time the votes have been cast Corbynmania might join the ranks of Cleggmania and the Milifandom, in nine days time we’re going to find out.


*Judging by some of the comments on social media, anyone in the Labour Party who isn’t backing Corbyn is a Tory, so you can see why supporters of Burnham, Kendall & Cooper might be shy in telling pollsters and others who they really are voting for.


The way’s clear for Carly Fiorina to take on Trump directly in the next GOP debate on September 16th

September 2nd, 2015

CNN changes its rules so she can be at the top table

One of the huge problems for US broadcasters is that so many people have declared themselves as contenders for the Republican party nomination. The current count is about 16 or 17 which clearly is far too big a number for a TV debate to be manageable.

In the first debate, staged by Fox News, there were 2 tiers with those at the top featuring in the main event, and getting the greatest coverage. Amongst the so-called “undercard” debate just one contender stood out – Carly Fiorina the former CEO of Hewlett Packard and the only woman in the race. She got good coverage for her attacks on Donald Trump who, of course, was in the other debate.

The effect was dramatic: polling at 0% or 1% before the event she shot up to seven or eight in some surveys and has even topped the betting favourite, Jeb Bush. Recent polls in Iowa have her holding up a strongish position in what is the first State to decide in the nomination battle.

The next debate from CNN takes place on September 16th and the broadcaster had announced beforehand a strict set of Rules determining who should participate in the top tier based on polling averages before and after the Fox debate. Only problem was that there’ve been so few qualifying polls since the Fox debate that Carly good numbers were not enough when averaged out.

That’s now change and she looks set to be there at the top table in Boston. The coverage this is likely to produce could see her move further in the betting and the polls and I’ve had a bit of a punt.

Mike Smithson


The pollster that was first to pick up the scale of the SNP surge now has and IndyRef YES with 9% lead

September 2nd, 2015


Getting ready for the expected Corbyn victory – leading party figures change their approach

September 2nd, 2015

Undermining contenders is one thing – being seen to undermine the party leader is another

As ever the News Statesman’s George Eaton hits the nail on the head with these Tweets. Even Mr. Corbyn’s biggest opponents have got to be careful that they are not seen to be attacking a newly elected leader.

This is why I don’t think there’ll be an early move against JC – assuming that that is the outcome. Something will be needed to trigger it off and the new man will need to be given space in the early days.

Mike Smithson


Reports say the EU referendum could be held as early as next April

September 1st, 2015

On the day Cameron accepted the electoral commission suggestion to change the wording of the EU referendum question, and UKIP turned the OUT movement into a modern day equivalent of the People’s Front for Judea versus the Judean People’s Front, this is probably the most interesting news of the day. It may be an indication that Cameron isn’t as confident of winning the referendum as the polls currently suggest, hence the early date.



Predict the winner and first round shares in the LAB leadership ELECTION in PB’s prize competition

September 1st, 2015

The closest will get a £100 free bet from William Hill

Using the bespoke NoJam template you will need to enter vote shares down to decimal points for four contenders as well as naming the overall winner of the election. The prize will go to the person with the smallest overall error who has correctly named the winner.

I am delighted to announce that William Hill has agreed to provide a competition prize of a free £100 bet. If the winner does not have an account then he/she will have to open one to receive the prize. This is only open to people over the age of 18.

Al the entries can be seen here. As usual I am in my absolute discretion the total arbiter of all matters relating to the competition. Entries close on Thursday at 10pm.

Click on the menu to check what others are doing and the overall summary prediction.

Thanks to Mark Hopkins for creating the competition widget.

Best of luck.

Mike Smithson