If the DUP can make Martin McGuinness Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland then we shouldn’t rule them out making Corbyn Prime Minister

March 18th, 2018

A Brexit deal that separates the Six Counties from the rest of the UK could rupture the DUP and Tory alliance for years.

Over the last few years many observers on politics, myself included, have made assumptions that turned out be very wrong. Lib Dem incumbency would save them from a catastrophic seat loss in 2015, the electorate wouldn’t vote to make themselves poorer by Leaving the European Union, and Jeremy Corbyn’s backstory & a divided Labour party would see a Corbyn led Labour party pummelled at the 2017 general election to name but three assumption that proved hugely wrong.

But I’m starting to wonder if another assumption might turn out to be similarly wrong, that assumption being the DUP will never do anything that makes Jeremy Corbyn Prime Minister. I’m not going to repeat the many reasons why Jeremy Corbyn & John McDonnell are repulsive to the DUP, but then I remember the photograph above.

The DUP went into a power sharing agreement with the political wing of the IRA and made a former IRA Chief of Staff Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. If they can do that then they can easily make Corbyn Prime Minister.

They may do that if Mrs May is seen to betray Northern Ireland in the Brexit negotiations and see Northern Ireland more aligned with the EU than with Great Britain.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s takes his whip from Rome, will he take his whip with the DUP too?

As an agnostic someone’s Catholicism isn’t really an issue for me* but the Catholicism of the favourite to succeed Theresa May might be an issue for the DUP and for Jacob Rees-Mogg. Throughout the history of the DUP there’s been a lot of things that will alarm Catholics and make you wonder if they’ll ever make a Catholic the Prime Minister.

  1. Ian Paisley Senior said of the European Union it was ‘a beast ridden by the harlot Catholic church.’
  2. When Pope John Paul II addressed the European Parliament Paisley held up a red poster and shouted ‘”Pope John Paul II – Antichrist” and began shouting, ”I renounce you as the Antichrist!”’
  3. When the late Queen Mother visited the Pope in The Vatican he observed ‘Her visit to the Vatican was spiritual fornication and adultery with the Antichrist.’
  4. He also said of Catholics that ‘they breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin.’ I wonder what the DUP think of the father of six Jacob Rees-Mogg and vice versa.
  5. Paisley also said ‘he considered all Catholics to be members of the Irish Republican Army, which he branded as a collective of terrorists.’

Whilst you can argue that Ian Paisley’s time has gone no one senior in the DUP ever repudiated Paisley’s comments, additionally you regularly still see articles like ‘Anti-Catholic bigotry of many in DUP still significant.’

Back in 1994 when the Loyalist Paramilitary the UDA came up with a Doomsday plan in the event of a British withdrawal from Northern Ireland. The plan discussed taking Catholic hostages as part of creating a Protestant Homeland. The ”Doomsday” scenario recognises there would be large numbers of Catholics left within the Protestant homeland and offers three chilling options on dealing with them — expulsion, internment, or nullification.

Current DUP MP Sammy Wilson described the Doomsday plan as ”a very valuable return to reality”.  Would Jacob Rees-Mogg really want to ally himself with such a party?

With Jacob Rees-Mogg admitting he takes his whip from the Roman Catholic Church then in some DUP eyes Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister might seem the attractive option.


*Unless their opponent were a Pastafarian, that would make me more likely to vote for the Pastafarian.


Ahead of the May local elections Prof Michael Thrasher on the resources of The Elections Centre

March 17th, 2018


Several recent up-dates and have been made to the Elections Centre website that should interest followers of Politicalbetting as we approach what appear to be an intriguing set of May local elections. The website also has two important additions – a new section covering council by-elections and another that hopefully will push the local elections database beyond the million candidate mark.

The councils compositions calculator now covers the position up to and including last May’s local elections. There are other websites that track recent changes, particularly useful when councillors switch party allegiance or vacancies arise, but no-one else as far as we know lets users look at each council’s composition over time. In the case of the London boroughs, of course, the starting year is 1964. Another modification is that the data are now arranged in descending rather than ascending year order, figuring that most people want to focus on recent electoral history. Summary data from both the 2016 and 2017 May local elections have been added to what we refer to as ‘theme’ and ‘year’ tables. Those familiar with the Local Election Handbook will know that these tables replicate the summary information contained in that series. So, those looking for data on turnout, contestation, the fate of incumbents, numbers of women standing and elected, for example, then the themed tables would be the place to start:

Alternatively, if the user wants to view the overall picture or examine each party’s performance in specific authorities then the year tables are more useful. So, with one eye on May 3 people may want to note how the parties fared in the 2014 equivalent local elections, the proportion of seats contested last time compared with this and the likely efficiency of each party’s votes to seats conversion. Of interest will be party shares of votes and seats for each council. The parties of interest are Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, UKIP, Independents and Others. In the case of Wales, Plaid Cymru is added.

We’ve been covering council by-elections since the early 1980s. In the early days, there were very few published sources for these data but that has changed markedly over the past decade. Some websites specialise in alerting everyone to new vacancies and impending by-elections while others provide invaluable background information about each contest. Another group of sites provide details of each result, whether the seat represents a gain/loss and in some cases the change in vote share since the last May election. A frustration for us has been that sites often overlook the percentage turnout of voters and/or the ward electorate. Most (though still not all!!) council websites contain these figures but finding the relevant page is sometimes a challenge.

Our frustration is now over, it appears. One of the growing legion of election enthusiasts is now sharing his extensive by-election data with us . The data include by-elections from the beginning of each May (i.e. coincident with the main May elections) through to the following April. The series, thus far, begins in 2015-16. The most recent file covers the period since May 2017 but please don’t expect up-dates to occur on the Friday morning following the latest batch of Thursday contests.

The huge merit in these new files is that the author includes not only the electorate and turnout data but a wealth of hitherto difficult to extract information. For each by-election there is also a list of the candidates, the name of the previous incumbent and the cause of the vacancy. Useful summary sheets provide an overview of seat gains and losses, the results in chronological order as well as breakdowns by type of authority (London, metropolitan boroughs etc) and country/region.

Please leave feedback via email on the website if you like this new development or have suggestions for ways in which it might be presented differently.

Our own data on by-elections (more than ten thousand results and counting) covers a much longer period but we have never recorded details of the candidates standing, only the parties represented on the ballot paper. Nevertheless, depositing these data online is something that we’ve discussed and in principle agreed to do. Watch this space, therefore.

Finally, a new development for a long-term project. The British Local Elections Database, available at the data archive at Essex University, contains results for council seats from the late nineteenth century onwards. At the last count the database contains details for over nine hundred thousand candidates that have stood for local election over the past 130 years. Although the data include all elections held since the 1973 reorganisation the period 1945-1972 is patchy and is largely restricted to the former county boroughs.

However, Alan Willis has been busy rummaging through the local newspaper archives that have recently become available online. He has compiled a series of 27 spreadsheets (no elections held in 1948) for the more than three hundred non-county boroughs, ranging alphabetically from Abergavenny to Yeovil . For some authorities the information is reasonably good but for others it is not. We are appealing for assistance in building the data coverage. So, for those who might have newspaper clippings stored in the attic or know of alternative online sources for some of the missing data then look at the current data and get in touch. Help us past the one million candidate mark!

Michael Thrasher




It’s Cold War, Jim: but not as we know it

March 17th, 2018

Russia is hostile and aggressive but it’s not a return to pre-1991

Nutcases and tyrants have historically had an easy ride in their own day; their crimes frequently being attributed to the unauthorised actions of ‘evil advisors’ rather than being commissioned from the top. Occasionally, this is true (the Peasant’s Revolt against Richard II might be one example – though Richard was only 14 at the time, and still a duplicitous and cruel character), but generally it isn’t. Time and again, foreign analysts advise their own governments that these dictators are under pressure from hard-liners, only for it later to turn out, after the regime has fallen and the papers are released, that they were themselves the most extreme hard-liner.

In some ways, that’s not too surprising. A leader inclined to push the boundaries can do so more readily than an underling worried about over-stepping the mark, who might then make themselves into a ready scapegoat.

Which means that when it comes to the Salisbury incident, it’s almost certain that even if the specific plan wasn’t authored or even signed off in the Kremlin, the method and the class of target will have been. That, of course, assumes that the Russian state was behind the attack but given the change in tone that occurred literally overnight from the French and US governments, the most reasonable explanation was that they’ve been shown, and convinced by, the reports. If so, Russia has made a clear strategic call that will have massive implications for the future of Europe for years to come.

Of course, the attempted murder of one foreign national in a foreign country is small beer beside the effective invasion, occupation and annexation of a whole region of Ukraine, or the civil war engendered in the east of that country, or invasion and occupation of parts of Georgia, or the disregard for human life shown by the Russian military in Syria.

The common threads, however, between the Salisbury attack and the much more aggressive actions Russia has taken internationally over the last ten years or so are firstly, the lack of concern about any response from the West, but secondly, the lack of any desire to form good or even working relations with the West. Putin has chosen his course for Russia and he is not bothered that it will set relations back thirty years.

Or not. There’s been a lot of talk about Cold War 2.0 this last week. That’s perhaps a little too Anglo-centric a view. It’s certainly true that the attack, rather than being in Salisbury, could have been in Strasbourg or Stuttgart or Stockholm or San Francisco – but it wasn’t. There has been support and sympathy from Britain’s allies but not as yet any deep buy-in to a new cold war. Not that we should really expect that yet: there isn’t that much of a consensus in Britain either, whether within parliament or the country at large.

But a cold war is upon us anyway, whether we like it or not, and it’s been declared by Russia. What’s perhaps confusing is that it doesn’t look like the last one. We’re used to the concept of a cold war being defined by the global blocs of the 1945-91 stand-off, where the Soviet Union and United States competed not just geopolitically but ideologically. There is no such ideological conflict today and nor is the world so neatly divided. Russia feels compelled to put on the facade of elections, such is the triumph of the ideal of democracy, and the contest feels more like those of the multipolar nineteenth-century. Indeed, the defining geostrategic contest of the twenty-first century will very likely be between the USA and China, into which Russia doesn’t fit on either side – which may be another reason it feels freer to act.

What is almost certain is that last week’s events won’t be the last time Putin acts aggressively overseas, as long as he can exploit weakness in his rivals. Britain’s disengaging from the EU is one such weakness, as is a US president whose policies are unpredictable and erratic. He isn’t interested in co-operation because he believes – rightly going by experience – he can get more by action.

That has profound implications for the Baltic states, for the EU, for NATO, for the US, for defence spending and for much else besides. Is it in Britain’s interest to defend the Estonian border, only a few dozen miles from St Petersburg? But if not, what value is NATO, and where do Britain’s essential interests start? How do they tie in with the interests with other NATO countries? After all, in the last cold war, those economic and ideological ties gave an additional cohesion, beyond the perceived Soviet threat. Without those binding factors, inevitably, the differing economic and foreign policy imperatives make any meaningful unified response to any challenge much harder – as does Europe’s (including Britain’s) disintegrating political mainstream: finding consensus within countries is almost as hard as finding it between them.

But the challenge is there and sooner or later can’t be ducked. Chances are, going by today’s cynicism and anti-establishment wave, it’ll be later.

David Herdson


After last week’s Tory loss of 5 local by-elections the blue team returns to its winning ways

March 16th, 2018

Two CON holds and a gain

Stamford, St. George’s on South Kesteven (Con defence)
Result: Con 309 (46% +13% on last time), Ind 174 (26%, no candidate last time), Lab 114 (17% +1% on last time), Lib Dem 68 (10%, no candidate last time), Green 13 (2% -10% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -19%. No Stamford Independent this time -19%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 135 (20%) on a notional swing of 6.5% from Ind to Con (16% from UKIP to Con)

Stamford, St. John’s on South Kesteven (Con defence)
Result: Con 327 (39% -10% on last time), Ind 267 (32%, no candidate last time), Lib Dem 156 (19%, no candidate last time), Lab 66 (8%, no candidate last time), Green 15 (2%, no candidate last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -22%, No Stamford Independent candidate this time -29%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 60 (7%) on a notional swing of 21% from Con to Ind (9.5% from Stamford Independent to Con)

Longbeck on Redcar and Cleveland (Ind defence)
Result: Con 494 (33% +7% on last time), Lib Dem 397 (26% +12% on last time), Lab 337 (22% +4% on last time), Ind 282 (19% -3% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -20%)
Conservative GAIN from Independent with a majority of 97 (7%) on a swing of 2.5% from Con to Lib Dem (5% from Ind to Con)

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


Theresa May may well yet achieve her ambition of leading her party at the next election

March 16th, 2018

There’s no talk now of letters calling for a confidence vote

One of the features about the current Russia crisis is what it is doing to perceptions of Theresa May. The latest polling overnight showing her getting huge backing from voters for the way she is handling things reflect how her approach is very much resonating with the public mood.

I thought yesterday her walk-about in Salisbury contrasted so much with some of the awful public appearances at the general election campaign less than a year ago when her discomfort with people became so clear and was almost certainly a factor in why she didn’t win a majority.

She’s helped, of course, by the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is having a bad crisis having got the public mood wrong and looking isolated even within the parliamentary Labour Party.

    It has become just a touch harder to see Labour, under Corbyn, winning the next general election and him becoming Prime Minister.

When the overnight YouGov/Times poll asked about the response of the party leaders, 53% think TMay has responded well to the incident, 23% badly; 18% think Corbyn has responded well, 39% badly with saying 43% don’t know.

If it continues in this vein then this is only going to reinforce Theresa Mays position even more. In a sense she has looked even more prime ministerial well Corbyn has looked less.

To think that only a few weeks ago there was renewed speculation about the number of CON MP letters calling for a confidence vote in Mrs May going to the 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady.

This could all carry Theresa May through unchallenged as Conservative leader to way beyond Brexit and who knows she might even now make it to the next general election.

  • The YouGov the voting intention figures were CON 42%(+1), LAB 39%(-4), LD 7(=).
  • Mike Smithson


    The extraordinary comment on Russia by the DefSec and the man who TMay is said to want to succeed her

    March 15th, 2018

    Has Gavin Williamson (AKA “Private Pike”) blown it?

    I’ve been in London all day and have only just viewed the above for myself – the comment from the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson that Russia should just “go away and shut up”. Apparently this wasn’t just a spur of the moment comment but one that he had drafted before.

    It hardly seems the sort of language you would expect a minister in a senior position to make in the current situation and just gives ammunition to those CON MPs who are opposed to him.

    His appointment to the job last November was highly controversial because he had no previous ministerial experience. His main claim to fame was his management of TMay’s leadership campaign in 2016.

    He’s currently rated at about 25/1 to succeed Mrs. May. My guess is that will ease further out.

    Mike Smithson


    Now the US orders sanctions against Russia for interference at WH2016

    March 15th, 2018

    This is starting to get serious


    The Pennsylvania result – What happens when you try to take away publicly funded healthcare

    March 15th, 2018

    The moves against ObamaCare seems to have been a big vote driver

    The US pollster Public Policy Polling carried out an on the day survey during Tuesday’s special Congressional election in Pennsylvania District 18.

    What is interesting from the data is that health care ranked as a top issue for 52% of voters and only 19% said it was not that important or not important at all. The data shows that the Democrat, Conor Lamb, won big especially among voters for whom health care was a top priority.

      Among voters who said health care was the most important issue for them, Lamb beat his Republican opponent, Rick Saccone by 64-36 and among the broader group of voters who said it was either the most important or a very important issue Lamb beat Saccone 62-38.

    On health care, voters said Lamb better reflected their views by 7 points (45% to 38%) over Saccone. With independents, that gap widened to 16 points with 50% saying Lamb’s health care views were more in line with theirs to only 34% for Saccone.

    Voters were less likely to support Saccone because of the Republican health care agenda. Saccone’s support of the Republican health care agenda made 41% of voters less likely to vote for him and only 28% more likely to support him. Those sampled in this heavily Republican district disapproved of the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act
    by 14 points (53% to 39%).

    A total 48% believed Republicans are “now trying to undermine and sabotage it since they failed to repeal it”. Among independent voters, the disparity is even wider with only 33% supporting the GOP’s health care repeal efforts to 63% opposing them.

    In what has been a deeply Republican district, 44% of voters support the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) while 42% oppose it. Only 38% of voters think the best path forward on health care is to repeal the Act, to 59% who think it should be kept in place with fixes made to it as necessary.

    This was a district, of course, that Trump won by 20 points at WH2016.

    Mike Smithson