A tale of two broadcasts. Roger’s critique of the opening two broadcasts

May 30th, 2016

[Political] ‘advertising isn’t about truth fairness or rationality, but about mobilising deeper and more primitive layers of the human mind.’ – Brian Eno.

The first two campaign broadcasts couldn’t have been more different. A brutally apocalyptic one for LEAVE and a bright new tomorrow for REMAIN.

The REMAIN spot features 14 month old Sam on a baby bike in his garden and through misty slow-motion sequences a young female voice-over talks us through the opportunities young Sam will have throughout his life if we REMAIN in the EU.

He could be driving an earth mover or working in a factory with some very cheerful chums or running his own business……while watching these smiley workers the voice over tells us how the EU makes all this possible.

When a fact needs emphasising there’s a title superimposed ‘Over 3 Million Jobs……Over 200,000 businesses…..£66 million a day….’ As we near the end a gentle reminder of the £4300 it would cost every family if we leave and then seamlessly back to blonde haired blue eyed Sam and his happy family.

LEAVE open with a brief history of the NHS before a warning that it’s now in DANGER. Through a series of graphics and a female voice over we learn that every week we pay £350 million to the EU “MONEY THAT’S WASTED”. Then in urgent tones it lists …..Albania… Macedonia… Montenegro… Serbia…..TURKEY…. as the graphic points Dad’s Army style arrows from these countries to the UK plotting the course of the invasion.

Briefly recovering from this hammer blow the voice over asks what will happen to ‘OUR MONEY WHEN THE EU FACES THE NEXT BAILOUT?’….and just as you’re about to slit your wrists the mood changes……

Gentle guitar music and we’re transported to the kitchen of an elderly woman who has become unwell. The screen splits into two. On one side her story if we ‘REMAIN’ on the other if we ‘LEAVE’. No dialogue. Just two parallel stories with the titles ‘In the EU’ / ‘Out of the EU’

‘In the EU’ there are queues brooding nurses a full and threatening waiting room a snarling looking foreigner being shepherded to the front of the queue… an interminable wait. On the non EU side smiling staff small queues a comfortable bed and a nice doctor checking all went well……It looks like an ad for BUPA.

Who was the REMAIN broadcast aimed at? Clearly not Sam. At 14 months he’s far too grown up to be impressed by this cheesy nonsense. Even the £4300 was lost in this tepid blancmange. A small reminder near the end that little Sam would be able to work or play in 28 countries was as inspiring as it got. It left me wondering how John Lewis can produce a Christmas ad that makes the news for several cycles yet creating a vision that affects all our futures struggles to command our attention for three minutes.

LEAVE’s apocalyptic vision of an enlarged EU with its Dad’s Army graphics is probably targeted at elderly Labour voters. Dire warnings of a collapsing NHS have been the bedrock appeal to Labour voters at every election I can remember. Rarely do they go as far as this and rarely do they finger the culprit so confidently. The claims and scares are outlandish even by the standards of this referendum.

But honesty in political ads is not a requirement so you might as well get away with what you can and negative advertising works. It certainly showed more passion than the bland effort from REMAIN.

LEAVE 6/10 REMAIN 4/10


Roger, who has had a long and successful career in advertising has been posting on PB since 2004


Fear and loathing in the Tory Party. Whatever the result of the referendum, the Tory party is looking ungovernable

May 29th, 2016

If Labour had a decent leader, they’d be leading by at least double digits in the polls right now.



Guest slot: Polling analysis finds Labour Loses Supporters of Brexit

May 29th, 2016


Philip Walker analyses the polling and finds 3 in Every 7 of Labour’s 2015 Voters Backing Brexit Would Not Vote Labour in 2016

In the EU referendum, online and phone polls have persistently been at odds. Last week, YouGov reacted by publishing in full a set of parallel online and phone polling conducted in early May, exposing flaws in the phone sample to defend its own online method.  For polling junkies that unprecedented transparency had a further welcome consequence. A full, representative online data set of 1527 people who voted at the 2015 general election came into the public domain, allowing us map their views and link them to a host of other variables, regardless of how YouGov chose to use the data. Wikileaks could not have given us more.

YouGov’s polling data set includes 2015 general election vote, current general election voting intention, and current EU voting intention. That means we can look at the ebb and flow of each individuals’ support for each party since May 2015, and how that relates to their EU voting intention.

For Labour, this evidence should ring alarm bells. Those who voted Labour in 2015 split about 2:1 in favour of Remain over Leave. By early May 2016 that had risen to almost 3:1 for current Labour voters, thanks almost entirely to the desertion of former Labour voters backing Leave. In the sample, 42% of the 137 Leave supporters who voted Labour in 2015 would not back the party today and overall the number of current Labour voters backing Leave is 29% down on 2015.

By contrast, only 21% of the 282 Labour voters from 2015 backing Remain would not vote for the party now. Those supporters of Remain lost to Labour are almost entirely countered by new Labour supporters of Remain, including a significant tranche of former Greens whose switch of allegiance surely reflects Corbyn’s accession rather than his recent conversion to the EU cause.

Britain remains a highly Eurosceptic nation, however many might be enticed into voting for Remain with gritted teeth for fear of something even worse. YouGov found in 2014 that 61% of the electorate would favour substantially less EU integration or complete withdrawal compared to just 25% backing more integration or the status quo. For the working class (C2DE) electorate, those percentages are even more stark: 65% against 17%. Parties that seek to appeal to the working class on a Europhile platform do so at their peril.

The “Labour In” campaign, uncritically and superficially extolling the EU as the best thing since sliced bread, while dismissing out of hand concerns over EU migration, may yet bring a few of the party’s tribal supporters into the Remain camp. The polling evidence though suggests that there will be a price – that of causing more of Labour’s 2015 supporters to question their own tribal allegiance. Rather than reversing Labour’s losses to UKIP in 2015, Labour has seen further losses.

16% of the 137 Leave supporters who still voted Labour in 2015 had by May 2016 switched directly to UKIP, with another 26% switching to undecided, non-voting or other parties. No party should be content to be losing support on this scale, let alone a party in opposition to a government about to encounter the perils of mid-term. As the “Labour In” campaign gets into full swing, it could reinforce those trends by 23rd June. Just as in Scotland in 2014, Labour could end up losing significant electoral support as the price of achieving the referendum result that its MPs desire.

For all their divisions over Europe and their slide in current polling, the Conservatives are in a far better position to recover after the referendum. Conservative retention rates of 2015 supporters are only 68% for Leave and 73% for Remain, but the similarity of these suggests that much of these losses are down to the usual woes of a second year government rather than specifically due to the EU, despite the undoubted pull of UKIP now for some voting Conservative in 2015. For all its acrimony, the open debate between the wings of the party shows that the party wants to keep the door open in future for Conservative supporters of either camp. In addition, if Cameron’s successor is a prominent Leave supporter, many Conservative defectors to UKIP in 2015 and since could return in significant numbers. Do not bet against a general election before 2020 under a new Conservative leader.

There is one final statistic that should give Labour concern. 2015 voters who are undecided or who are currently inclined to no longer vote break heavily towards Leave: 39% for Leave to 28% for Remain. By turning itself into a Europhile party, Labour risks limiting its potential appeal to such swing voters to only the 61% not hostile to the EU. In contrast, by keeping a foot in both camps, the Conservatives can appeal to the full 100%.

Philip Walker

Phil Walker will be voting for Brexit and stood as a Labour candidate in Wolverhampton in the 2016 local government elections. He has previously contributed to PB as “Wulfrun Phil”.

You can access Philip’s analysis by clicking here: YouGov Apr 2016 EU Flux Values v2


Is this Ed Miliband’s route back to the Labour leadership?

May 29th, 2016

This piece isn’t an attempt to make John Rentoul’s QTWTAIN list, again, but The Daily Telegraph has reported that Ed Miliband is considering a return to Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. The Telegraph report says

The former Labour leader is said to be weighing up a return to frontline politics as sources said Mr Corbyn wants to appoint the “big hitter” and prevent a leadership challenge by giving his team credibility.

The Labour leader has reportedly made approaches to Mr Miliband about rejoining the shadow cabinet after the Doncaster North MP  turned down a previous offer made last year.

It came as Mr Corbyn posted a picture of his colleague addressing a rally they both attended yesterday, labeling the snap with the words “Ed – awesome”.

When challenged over whether he would like Mr Miliband in his senior team Mr Corbyn said: “All that’s for the future” on three separate occasions last night, but refused to say more.

The former Labour leader told the BBC that he would not comment on “Jeremy Corbyn’s reshuffle”, adding: “I’m a Labour backbencher, I’m supporting the leader, that’s a matter for him.”

A source close to Mr Miliband said he has spent the last year away from frontline politics and feels the time is now right for him to return.

Back in February Alastair Meeks tipped Ed Miliband as the next Labour leader at 200/1 and you can still get a similar price now. If you’re not already on, this could be a decent trading bet, with senior Labour MPs such as Andy Burnham and Luciana Berger looking to follow the lead of Sadiq Khan and become Mayors of the major cities of this country, the talent pool within the shadow cabinet is being drained further (and is probably an indication of the shellacking many in Labour fear that Labour will receive if they are led by Corbyn at the 2020 general election.)

When Jeremy Corbyn ceases to be Labour leader, Ed Miliband might be the only big beast left standing in the shadow cabinet/Parliamentary Labour Party, though those of a crueller disposition might say in that instance it is a case of Ed Miliband being the tallest dwarf. I suspect if Ed Miliband does join the shadow cabinet, those odds of 200/1 will fall and that might be the optimal time to trade out, especially were he to get a high profile shadow cabinet job.



LEAVE’s strong support amongst the oldies is an online phenomenon – the phone surveys paint a different picture

May 28th, 2016

This starts to explain the modal divide

After all the discussion during the week about why the phone and online polls are showing such different pictures I’ve been examining the detailed data from he last eight polls. The area where the two modes most divide is with the oldies – the group that, as we all know is most likely to turnout on June 23rd.

The chart above shows the turnout weighted percentage of those oldies expressing a voting intention in the last eight polls – four internet and four online

The very striking thing about the chart above is that the “oldies mostly going for LEAVE” narrative is driven by the internet surveys which, of course, have been showing very different EURef figures. . Just look at the big difference between their LEAVE numbers for the oldies and the phone firms.

Historically the internet pollsters have struggled with samples in the over-65 segment and those that do take part are clearly tech-savvy and might not be as representative of the full age group.

With the phone pollsters its a different story. They have far fewer problems filling the 65+ segment of their samples and, invariably, they are over-represented with their views have to be scaled down. Oldies are much more likely to be at home ready to receive phone calls.

Mike Smithson


We are getting to a point where LEAVE could be the value bet

May 28th, 2016

LEAVE Bedford statue

The record-break political gamble continues

Until now I have refrained from betting on the referendum quite simply because the odds on neither side appear attractive. My instinct tells me to follow the phone polls but I’m not convinced that IN has an 80%+ chance of victory. This is in spite of the fact that Britain’s longest-established phone pollster, Ipsos MORI, is showing a margin of 20% once those not expressing a voting intention are stripped out.

As Keiran Pedley argued in our latest TV Show there hasn’t been a big move to REMAIN in the polls – it is just that we are seeing many more phone surveys. From a period when everything was online, and better numbers for LEAVE, the past two weeks has seen the telephone polls outnumber the internet ones.

I have a target price for LEAVE and plan to bet if/when the price moves to that.

This comes down to the old formula that a value bet is one where your assessment of the outcome happening is greater than the betting price.

Mike Smithson


The EU can’t have its Turkey and eat it

May 28th, 2016


The EURef highlights Europe’s ambivalence to its buffer state

“Bridge Together”: Istanbul’s slogan for its unsuccessful 2020 Olympic bid captured well the country’s unifying potential, linking as it does not only Europe and Asia but also the secular west with the Islamic Middle East. A bridge, however, needs firm foundations and Turkey, rather than pulling two sides together, is more swayed by the forces pulling it in opposite directions.

Hence the force of the arguments this week about its potential future EU membership; arguments which had an unspoken but nasty undertone, essentially asking: “you don’t want a Turk for a neighbour, do you?”.

Leaving aside whether or not people do – and Leave and their supporters in the press are confident they don’t, probably rightly – the question is entirely moot. Turkey certainly won’t be joining the EU this decade, almost certainly won’t join during the next one and is pretty unlikely to join in the one after that.

The history of its membership ambition is telling. Turkey first applied for membership of the EC in 1987. It took twelve years to accept that application and a further six to begin talks. Another eleven years down the line to today and just one of the 33 chapters to settle membership entry has been successfully negotiated. In the meantime, sixteen other countries have joined the Union (seven of which didn’t even exist in 1987).

Turkey’s future barriers to joining the club are even more formidable. Greece and Cyprus both have vetoes making their assent unlikely unless the Cypriot question is resolved. But even if those relatively small and financially unstable countries are cowed into line, much bigger problems remain.

France may no longer constitutionally require a referendum to approve Turkish membership (that provision was repealed in 2008), but public opinion will still make itself felt and public opinion is not supportive: in March this year, fully three-quarters were opposed. With Marine Le Pen receiving the backing of up to a third of the public in polls for the first round of next year’s presidential election and the run-off highly likely to be between the centre-right and the far-right, Elysée policy will reflect that hostility with a good chance that negotiations will rapidly be placed back in the freezer.

And if France doesn’t, others will, for the same reason. Angela Merkel is under pressure from the populist right-wing AfD, which hit 15% for the first time in three polls this month; in Holland, the stridently anti-Islamic PVV is regularly polling above 35%, at shares no party has received at any Dutch general election since before WWI; and in Austria, only 21,000 votes in 4.5m kept the far-right FPÖ candidate from the presidency. A quiet revolution is happening across Europe. Quiet so far, anyway.

In fact, virtually every member of the EU has good reason to oppose a country the size of Turkey with the income of Turkey joining, even without considering cultural factors. Those in the poorer south and east would lose billions in structural funds, while those in the richer north and west would likely face a new wave of immigration. Neither is an appealing prospect.

So what of Cameron’s apparent support? Out of line? Not necessarily. The Leave campaigners were keen to play up his comment from 2010 that “I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels” but taken in isolation, the quote misses the context. Ankara was at the time reforming towards western values, scrapping anti-Kurdish legislation and abolishing the death penalty – and in his speech from which that quote is taken, he argued that Turkey needed to do more still.

The simple fact is that Cameron’s support was conditional. From the same speech that the above quote came from, he said “Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy”. However, under Erdogan, new restraints on press freedom and human rights in general have moved the country away from the Copenhagen criteria to a point where the entire process could easily be frozen again; something which would enable Downing Street to play it both ways. Turkey is of course on the front line next to Syria, which has certainly put huge pressures on the country but that too simply emphasises its differentness.

Why would it matter? In a word: Russia. The lodestone in Turkish foreign policy since at least the eighteenth century has been set by antagonism across the Black Sea. Whether supported by Britain in the nineteenth century or allied to Germany in WWI or joining NATO after WWII or the current spats in Syria, the one common thread is resisting the Bear. That’s why people like Lord Owen are wrong when they say that Turkey may leave NATO if its European ambitions are frustrated. Turkey needs NATO, or at least, it needs Great Power backing one way or another. The EU is a sideshow on that level. After all, it hasn’t taken more than a quarter of a century since Turkey’s original application because only one side’s been dragging their feet.

So given all that, why the fuss? Because in Cameron’s words, Leave thought they’d found a magic bullet. They hadn’t, not least because they not only failed to get their facts right but they provably got them wrong: suggesting, for example, that Britain didn’t have a veto on Turkey’s accession. And yet after several days where the topic was at the centre of the debate, Leave have let it drop. Have they been distracted or was that deliberate?

To return to the beginning, for all that the public don’t want high immigration, the tone of the argument was unpleasant. In a vote where facts are scarce and assertion and conjecture plentiful, credibility matters above all, and credibility can be damaged by sounding to be not a nice person (despite it not being inherently linked). As an aside, if Leave does win, Cameron trashing his own public credibility will have no small part in it.

Immigration remains one of the strongest cards Leave have to play but they played it poorly this week. Can they play it again and if they do, can they play it better next time? I think it will be difficult. As such, the net outcome this week was a narrow and ugly points win to Remain.

David Herdson


The Friday night BREXIT numbers – the polls and the betting

May 27th, 2016

EU Ref polling   Google Sheets

The trend on the Betfair Exchange

Referendum Odds   EU Brexit