Donald Brind says that if Ken is expelled it will be a Labour gain

April 29th, 2016


Those who care about the Palestinians have to be careful how they attack Israel

Let me say at the start that I deplore the government of Benjamin Netanyahu which I believe uses overwhelming military power to make life misery for people in neighbouring territories. When the occupied people react violently to the oppression the response ordered by Netanyahu is, I’d argue, routinely disproportionate.

My rather strangulated prose is to illustrate a point. If you believe in justice for the Palestinians be careful about how you attack Israel. There are six million obvious reasons for being sensitive. Although the idea of a Jewish homeland predates the Holocaust the two are now inextricably linked.

Students of dodgy history will relish the similarity between Ken Livingstone’s claims about Hitler and Zionism and those of Netanyahu who told World Zionist Congress that “Hitler only wanted to expel the Jews, but Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti convinced him to exterminate them”. The liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz says that claim “was rejected by most accepted Holocaust scholars.” It has been widely derided on social media, a reminder that Netanyahu doesn’t speak for all Israelis.

When Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London I worked for his brilliant deputy Nicky Gavron. Her German mother was prevented from competing in the 1936 Olympics – because she was a Jew – and fled to Britain. Nicky celebrated the contrast between Berlin Olympics and the 2012 Games in diverse London.

What a pity ex-Mayor Livingstone didn’t talk to his former deputy about the reality of Nazi Germany and about the wisdom of entering into the row about anti-Semitism in the Labour by talking about Hitler and Zionism. But Livingstone doesn’t do wisdom. He is a man-child: 70 going on 17.

    His apparent purpose was to defend the Bradford West MP Naz Shah. He ended up knifing her in the back. And he inflicted collateral damage on his friend, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Now, the fear amongst Labour supporters is that this two-time loser in London Mayoral contests will damage the chances of Sadiq Khan on May 5th. The Survation polling reported by here was taken before the row blew up.

I am still optimistic for Khan – who I first proposed should be Labour’s candidate back in 2009. Whereas Livingstone underperformed Labour’s Assembly team by more than 10% in 2012, Khan’s 16 points lead in the Survation poll is on a par with the Labour lead in the Assembly vote. I think a Khan Mayoralty will be a powerful unifying force in the capital and beyond, leading the fight against anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia.

And I think Naz Shah will also have an important role to play in this area when she has served her suspension. What makes her case different from that of Ken Livingstone is the contrition she has shown in her Commons apology and in an article for Jewish News. She details her heartfelt regret and engagement with Jewish organisations in the search for interfaith understanding.

She is a smart, resilient woman, well-liked amongst her PLP colleagues. Her contrition will, I have no doubt, mean her party membership is restored after a suspension that marks the seriousness of her offence.

Ken Livingstone doesn’t do self doubt. He will seek to tough it out and I expect his lack of contrition to lead to expulsion. I will put that down as a Labour Gain.

Donald Brind


Sadiq Khan 20% ahead of Goldsmith according to Survation phone poll

April 29th, 2016


So on the face of it a great poll for Sadiq Khan, Labour, Corbyn and those PBers who got on the Labour man at 33/1 in March 2103 when Henry G Manson tipped him.

But the survey took place before the blow up involving the last LAB mayor of London, Ken Livingston and phone polls have not had a good record on London Mayoral contests.

Of the 2012 final polls the least accurate was the only phone survey.

There’s also an issue that Labour voters might be less likely to turnout given it looks like a foregone conclusion.

Just in case I’ve been laying off large parts of my 2013 Sadiq bet at odds of up to 17/1 on Betfair so I’m certain of a substantial pay day next Friday whatever happens.

Mike Smithson


Choosing Cameron’s successor – the process and the possibles

April 28th, 2016


Alastair Meeks thinks they’ll select in completely the wrong way

Epigone is an underused word.  Originating from the ancient Greek for “offspring”, it means “undistinguished successor”, referring to the sons of the Seven Against Thebes who sought to avenge their fathers.

Politics is littered with epigoni.  Margaret Thatcher was followed by John Major, who had imbibed the economics but lacked the lustre.  John Major was followed by William Hague, who lacked not just the lustre but also the gravitas.  William Hague was followed by Iain Duncan Smith, who lacked not just the gravitas but any concept of strategy.  When he was replaced by Michael Howard, the Conservative party was in danger of disappearing up its own fundament.

The same point can be illustrated through Labour.  Tony Blair was followed by Gordon Brown, who had spent so long craving the top job that he had forgotten why he wanted it.  Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn further demonstrated the law of diminishing returns, with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour exploring the concept of a political party without a functioning hierarchy.  Labour can be expected to recover at some point but long is the way and hard.

In each case the successor was chosen to address some of the perceived weaknesses of the previous leader (in the case of John Major, the ability to unite the party; in the case of William Hague, the ability to unite the party; and in the case of Iain Duncan Smith, the ability to soothe the party’s soul) and in each case the selection process overlooked some of the previous leader’s compensating virtues.

The Conservative party will shortly be required to select a new leader.  They will select in large part on the basis of addressing perceived flaws in the current leader.  So where does David Cameron apparently go wrong?

When David Cameron steps down, whether sooner or later, he will leave a divided and unhappy party behind him.  Many Conservatives think he is insufficiently reliably Conservative and more think he is insufficiently Eurosceptic.  There is no shortage of Conservative MPs who think that he pays insufficient regard to their opinions.  So if one is drawing up an identikit of the next Conservative leader, anyone who is perceived to be trustworthy, Eurosceptic, old school Conservative, a unifier and consultative is going to be off to a flying start.

What does that mean for the betting?  It means that those who trade off their star quality rather than their ideology or who seem careerist are under a serious handicap.  Those who are seen as pivotal in the EU referendum debate on either side (but especially on the Remain side) will find it hard to present themselves as a unity candidate.

None of the front rank candidates clear all these hurdles but some clear more than most.  Boris Johnson hits every single one.  Yet he is currently the front runner in the betting.  He is in with a shout (and a considerably better one than George Osborne, who remains far too short) but he looks less likely than Michael Gove or Theresa May. Jeremy Hunt or Philip Hammond would also meet the required negative attributes better than Boris Johnson if they decide to throw their hats in the ring.

If David Cameron stands down in a couple of years’ time, there will be new contenders to reckon with who will look less sullied than Boris Johnson.  If David Cameron has kept him out of the Cabinet (or given him a menial role) and his period as London Mayor has waned in the public memory, he will look like a much longer shot.   Boris Johnson’s poor referendum campaign means that he is now a clear lay.  I have bet accordingly.

But the Conservatives will go about selecting a leader in completely the wrong way (in fairness, all political parties usually make the same mistake).  As stated above, they are likely to pick their next leader on the basis that he or she does not have faults that David Cameron has – in other words, for what they aren’t rather than for what they are.  When you look at the political leaders who really stood out, they are remembered for their positive attributes.  It would be better to select a leader for those attributes in the first place.  Then we would have rather fewer epigoni.

Alastair Meeks


It’s not just LAB that has an anti semitic problem

April 28th, 2016

On a day dominated by the extraordinary events within Labour and the suspension of the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, Prof Tim Bale has Tweeted about some 2015 polling.

As can be seen those sampled were asked whether they thought that “Jews have too much influence on this country”. 18% of Ukip voters agreed compared with 10% of LAB ones and 9% of Tories.

Tom Mludzinski if ComRes gets it right with this Tweet.

What I find hard is to work out whether this will have any impact in the elections a week today. On the face of it this could damage the red team’s hopes in London though I’ve been impressed by the way Khan has dealt with this.

Mike Smithson


Next Thursday could start to restore our confidence in the polls

April 28th, 2016

Exit poll

Alastair Meeks on the importance of the London, Scottish & Welsh surveys

The 2015 general election was a disaster for the polling companies. On the eve of the election, all the pollsters were predicting a hung Parliament with the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck. In the event, the Conservatives were 6% ahead of Labour and got an overall majority.

Since then, the pollsters have flagellated themselves, put on hair shirts and sought to uncover what exactly went wrong. They have conducted investigations, issued reports and held symposia on the subject. They have put in place corrective measures. But we don’t yet know whether the time for remorse is over. There remains a gnawing anxiety that the pollsters might still be getting it wrong.

The general election was not an isolated failure. The Scottish independence referendum polling was fairly uniformly 3% off, the same margin as the standard general election error. This wasn’t much noted at the time but if the error had been 3% the other way from the published polls, Scotland would now be independent. In a close referendum, accuracy to plus or minus 3% is not much use.

The EU referendum betting reflects that. The betting markets are apparently moving independently of any polling. Opinion polls are being treated as having junk status. This seems excessive. We can at least expect them to be giving us a sense of which way opinion is moving, even if their absolute accuracy is suspect.

In any case, we have an upcoming opportunity to calibrate their accuracy. The 5 May round of elections will allow us to see the accuracy of polling in Scotland, Wales and London on those elections. There has been plenty of polling of all three of these elections. So watch them carefully: they will be invaluable in helping us determine how effectively the pollsters have got to grips with their problems.

If the polls perform reasonably well against the actual outcome, take note. So if Mayor Khan has won a comfortable victory, Labour are left running a minority government against a Plaid Cymru opposition and the SNP increase their overall majority, perhaps it’s time to start taking the polls a bit more seriously again when placing your bets. After all, it would be a shame to be completely discounting a potential source of information, wouldn’t it?

Alastair Meeks


This week’s TV show: The Obama EURef effect, the fight to be his replacement, & the battle to win Wales

April 27th, 2016

ThePB/Polling Matters TV Show and Podcast

This week in the TV studio Keiran Pedley and I were joined by pollster Rob Vance and, via Skype, by the leading Welsh political expert, Professor Roger Scully of Cardiff University. (apologies for one or two sound issues)

The latter was particularly interesting given the Tata Steel decision and the proximity of the Welsh Assembly elections on next week on May 5th.

Next week there’ll be no TV studio because of partners in this venture, Tip TV, are moving to a new purpose built studio. There will be a podcast.

Update- the audio podcast version of the show

Mike Smithson


Immigration looks set to be Leave’s last card

April 27th, 2016

Alastair Meeks looks at the outers

The Remain side has started the fight at a furious pace, leaving Leave gasping for air after two blows to its solar plexus.  First, it got hit by a Treasury report claiming that by 2030 each British household could be £4,300 worse off if it voted to leave the EU.  Then Barack Obama weighed in with his view that if Britain were to vote to leave the EU, it would join the back of the queue for new trade deals.

The Leave response to both has been dazed and confused.  In each case a multitude of Leave campaigners came out with a multitude of response lines, good and bad, and in each case the most ill-judged was pounced upon by Remain and pawed at for days on end.  As a result, the public could gather the impression that Leave think that £4,300 is a bargain basement price for getting out of the EU and that Barack Obama’s ancestry is pivotal to understanding why he is saying that the USA wouldn’t race to do a trade deal.  We are seeing Gresham’s law of political debate, where bad arguments are driving out the good ones.

Leave’s own campaign was mauled by Remain also.  Leave’s prospectus for Brexit is being portrayed by Remain as the Albanian option, drawing on an unwise Leave reference to a list of countries with similar deals (in different circumstances).  It is unlikely that floating voters’ hearts pulse to a Balkan beat.

Leave need to regroup and they need to get a grip.  It was always going to be hard running a tight campaign when so many big egos were at loggerheads as to who should be in charge but the effort has to be made.  Perhaps the first week’s failures will chasten some of those big egos.  Perhaps.

Leave need to get back to home territory for a while.  The public’s number one topic of concern in opinion polls is immigration and Leave need to try to tie getting that under control to a decision to leave the EU.  This connection is tautologous in the heads of many Leavers but it is nowhere near as secure in the public’s minds as those Leavers seem to believe.  Further work is needed here.  So it is no surprise to see Michael Gove take on this subject this week.

Immigration in the public’s mind comprises many different things: economic migrants from the EU; economic migrants from outside the EU; asylum seekers arriving in Britain; illegal immigrants to Britain; and disorderly migration to the EU (of both asylum seekers and economic migrants) from non-EU countries.  These in turn tie in with many different concerns: competition for jobs; pressure on public services; sense of community; law and order; and the EU’s response to social challenges.  Some of these have nothing to do with the EU, some of these are entirely the product of our membership of the EU and some of these are indirectly affected by our EU membership.  But they all get jumbled up together in the Leave campaign’s arguments.

Clearly Leave benefit from this jumbling to some extent.  In order to make an argument, however, they need to pick one or two attack lines out of this and run them hard. So, what to pick?

Leave need to avoid anything that could be construed as dogwhistling on race – dragging the US president’s parentage into the debate emphatically does not help in this regard.  The voters for whom such arguments are clinching are anyway almost certainly already in the Leave camp.  For that reason I would not recommend majoring on the security threats caused by some migrants.

Leave would do far better to focus on the economic impact of immigration, in particular the impact on wages.  The last notable contribution to the debate from Stuart Rose, the nominal leader of the Remain campaign, was to note that Brexit would lead to wage rises.  It is incomprehensible that Leave have not been exploiting this relentlessly ever since.  But they seem more intent on inhaling the fragrant air of freedom than on informing the public about any economic advantages of their position.

The clip at the top of the thread shows the editor of the Independent, from 2:36 to 3:02, fluently explain how immigration is perceived to be good for the rich and bad for the poor.  In fact, the evidence is quite nuanced on the point as this Bank of England report shows – “the biggest effect is in the semi/unskilled services sector, where a 10 percentage point rise in the proportion of immigrants is associated with a 2 percent reduction in pay”.   Nevertheless, no one is going to persuade the public in the next two months that wages aren’t held down by immigration.  So Leave should take full advantage.

The Treasury report in support of the government policy of Remain was founded on the assumption that there would be 3 million more migrants in Britain by 2030.  Leave should be hammering that home.  (Of course, Leave’s own economic projections are also built on the assumption of large numbers of migrants, but that doesn’t need to be mentioned.)  By playing on a sense that not only have the Remainers not done anything about immigration, they don’t want to, Leave can hope to lead a peasants’ revolt against the establishment.  They can also hope to attract working class Labour supporters without whom there is no plausible route to a victory for the Leave campaign.

Can Leave stick to a single message of this type?  That may be their biggest challenge.  With so many divas, it will be hard to get them singing in harmony.  Or even singing the same song.

Alastair Meeks


Sweeping victories across the board for Trump and a good night for Hillary wins in the Dem races

April 27th, 2016


The overnight results

Real Clear Politics

The Republican nomination

Winner 2016 White House Race