Bush gets his mojo back in the most explosive GOP debate yet

February 14th, 2016

He’s the only one ready to tak on Trump

Just caught up on the overnight GOP TV debate ahead of next weekend’s crucial South Carolina primary and what a humdinger it was. The 5.1 contenders still in the race (Carson is the 0.1) were at each other hammer and tongues right from the start. It made great TV.

Having fewer of them on the stage is producing greater clarity and allowed much greater inter-reaction.

What impressed me was how Jeb Bush has got his confidence back and how he, more than any of the others, was ready to mix it with Trump. As the clip above shows he got a good reaction from the South Carolina audience.

In the end the nomination will be won by Trump or the one who can position himself as the strongest anti-Trump. Based on the latest debate that’s going to be Jeb.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks looks at the theory of referendum motivation

February 14th, 2016


At the height of the Second World War, Abraham Maslow unveiled an important new theory of psychology.  Synthesising physical and higher needs, he arranged the drivers of human behaviour in the form of a pyramid.  At the bottom, he placed physiological needs – the physical impulses that drive every animal.  Above that he placed safety and security needs.  Rising further up the pyramid, he placed love and belongingness needs, the personal emotional connections.  Near the top of the pyramid, he placed self-esteem needs.  At the apex, he placed self-actualisation, the personal fulfilment of potential.

Until a man was fully satisfied on a particular tier of needs, he would not be driven by needs on a higher tier.  So a starving man would not think beyond his belly.  A homeless man would not think beyond where he is going to sleep that night.  Higher concerns can wait.  An unemployed man is going to be focussed on getting a job to the exclusion of more abstract matters.  And so on.

Psychologists can and do argue about the soundness of the hierarchy pyramid as a concept and in the detail.  It has, however, a brilliant simplicity for lay readers to understand and has been one of the most enduring products of this much-maligned branch of science.

Politicians have long drawn on it, implicitly at least.  “It’s the economy, stupid” makes sense if you see economic concerns as addressing safety and security needs.  If a politician can persuade the public that (a) she is a safe pair of hands for the economy and (b) her opponent would put the nation’s economic security in jeopardy, she is most of the way to being elected.  This is capable of being trumped only by physiological needs, which outside times of war or natural catastrophe is not going to be a runner.  It is not going to work at times when the populace are generally confident about the economy, which perhaps explains why the Conservatives lost so crushingly in 1997 despite having a lead on economic competence.  Since the public are innately downbeat about economic prospects, however, such elections will be rare.

Security also sits in a very low tier.  Small wonder then that David Cameron is seeking to make every aspect of government policy a choice for security.

So what of the EU referendum?  When I pointed out last week that the EU has consistently ranked relatively low on what the public rated for Ipsos-MORI on the list of most important issues facing Britain, I received a fair amount of consumer resistance.  How could such a screamingly-vital topic not be of intense import to Joe Public?

Let’s look at this month’s list of most important issues:


Where do these rank on the hierarchy of needs?  I suggest the following (numbering Maslow’s tiers from the bottom up):

Immigration – security (tier 2)

NHS – health (tier 2)

Economy – security (tier 2)

Defence – security (tier 2)

Poverty – security (tier 2)/self-esteem (tier 4), depending on context

Housing – property (tier 2)

Education – tier 2, 3 or 4, depending on context

EU – self-esteem (tier 4)

Unemployment – security (tier 2)/self-esteem (tier 4), depending on context

Low pay/fair wages – security (tier 2)/self-esteem (tier 4), depending on context

Where the EU stands out on this list is being exclusively a higher tier concern.  Membership of a supra-national body is far too abstract by itself to sit lower on the pyramid. Those citizens with only unfulfilled higher tier needs are obsessing about it.  Those citizens with more pressing daily concerns are not naming it.   A section of the political elite are prioritising their rarefied concerns over much more pressing matters for the majority.  Maslow’s hierarchy is the Westminster bubble in pyramid form.

The referendum therefore needs to be fought not on theoretical abstractions but on the impact on day-to-day concerns.  Whether this happens, I suppose, depends on how readily our comfortable political classes will look beyond their own psychological needs to deal with the much more pressing problems the bulk of the populace face.

Alastair Meeks


Gloomy numbers for LAB, Corbyn & even Cameron in latest ComRes online poll

February 13th, 2016

Dave’s favourability ratings drop 7


ComRes online poll for IoS S Mirror VI
Con 41% +1
Lab 27%-2
LD 9%+2      
UKIP 15%-1
GRN  3%=

Just one in three thinks Dave will get good EU deal


Mike Smithson



William Hill makes it 7/1 that Cameron will step down this year

February 13th, 2016


A good bet not?

William Hill say political punters have been backing David Cameron to stand down as Tory leader either this year or next, in anticipation of either a defeat or only narrow win in the EU Referendum, which has to take place before the end of 2017.

Hills currently offer 7/1 that Cameron will stand down this year, and 10/1 that he’ll go next. It is a 4/11 chance that the Referendum produces a ‘Stay’ result, 2/1 that ‘Leave’ wins.

In a comment that echoes what many on PB have been saying Hill’s spokesman Graham Sharpe said: “Punters have obviously noticed that the odds for Cameron to stand down are rather longer than for a ‘Leave’ vote in the Referendum and are gambling that defeat in the Referendum would mean he would feel obliged to resign sooner rather than later, as we already know he won’t be leading his Party into the next General Election”.

On the face of it this seems a good price but several hurdles have to be surmounted. The referendum has to take please during 2016; LEAVE has to win, Cameron has to resign in the wake of the defeat.

It is that last element that I’m not convinced of.

Mike Smithson


The hurdles Hillary has to surmount are getting higher

February 13th, 2016


She might lose the nomination never mind the general election

Eugene Debs must be grinning in his grave. OK, Bernie Sanders isn’t quite the firebrand radical that Debs was a hundred years ago but the notion that there is a credible route for a self-declared socialist to the White House is one that only a few months ago would have been dismissed with derision. Not now. Two polls released yesterday give the Independent Senator for Vermont genuine cause for hope.

The next round in the Democratic nomination race is the Nevada caucus a week today. The first poll this year there was published yesterday by TargetPoint / Washington Free Beacon, and reported a 45-each tie with the rest undecided, from a 1200+ sample size. It’s entirely possible that he could achieve back-to-back wins. Indeed, but for his supporters being useless tossers, he’d be on for the hat-trick. That Sanders did well in Iowa and New Hampshire wasn’t too much of a surprise: Nate Silver rated them as two of the three most Sanders-friendly states (after Vermont itself). Nevada, by contrast, comes in twenty-seventh. If he’s competitive there, he should be running close nationally.

And he is running her close nationally. A Morning Consult poll yesterday had the gap down to 46-39. Apart from the sensational Quinnipiac poll a week ago that reported 44-42 to Hillary, that’s well down on the 12- to 19-point leads found in the rest of the polls this month.

If those were the figures on Super Tuesday, then Hillary would probably win most of the states up for grabs that day – states which ought to favour her anyway – giving her renewed momentum through the rest of a very busy month. But that’s assuming that nothing does change. If she loses Nevada then panic really will run through her camp.

She surely can’t lose South Carolina as well (if she did, she might as well pack up), so should go into Super Tuesday at worst 2-2 in states and ahead on elected delegates but the trend has been against her for months and she’s been unable to arrest that decline so far – how much further does it have to go? Sanders dined with Al Sharpton earlier this week in a not-very-subtle move towards winning more of the African-American vote. Given Sanders’ campaigning on inequality, you have to think that he has scope to reach out to a black community that traditional politics hasn’t done a great deal for. The endorsement of a higher-profile African-American figure than Sharpton would help no end too (not that he has Sharpton’s yet).

Of course, Sanders is not Hillary’s only problem. There are three other obstacles in her route to the White House: the FBI, the Republican, and a possible Bloomberg independent run.

Regarding the FBI and the e-mail investigation, unless something outrageous is found, I doubt it will come to anything. Even if there has been a technical breach of the law, there is always the possibility of a presidential pardon, should she end up the candidate (though I doubt Obama will intervene unless he feels compelled to).

The Republican will, inevitably, be more of a problem though once again she’s lucky to be facing such an unpopular field. Trump, and it probably will be him, has awful approval ratings with many demographics that Hillary could appeal to. Trump is also highly likely to be rude and quite possibly sexist to her at some point which could go down very badly, though it does depend on how he does it – a justified comeback against perceived Beltway inherited entitlement might equally score a bullseye.

Then there’s Bloomberg. He could well run against Sanders; he might run against a damaged Hillary. If he does, he hands the election to Trump, Cruz or whoever the Republicans put up. It’d be 1912 in reverse (yes, Bloomberg ran as a Republican last time but he’s a New York liberal; he’ll damage the Democrats more without having the national appeal to win himself). In the unlikely event that he won enough Electoral College votes to throw the election to the House – winning New York, say – then the Republican wins: the GOP has a majority in 33 state delegations at the moment to just 15 for the Democrats with two tied.

All of which makes Hillary’s odds of even money to win outright completely nuts. Trump at 9/2 and Cruz at 18/1 offer far better value. Sanders at 8/1 doesn’t particularly, given the risk of a Bloomberg intervention on top of needing to beat Hillary and the Republican, but his 7/2 for the nomination is more attractive. This election has got worse and worse so far for Hillary, and it’s only just started.

David Herdson

p.s. In my New Year article, I predicted that Leave would win the referendum after the EU failed to properly get to grips with any of the big issues facing it. I did wobble on that four weeks ago, when I thought Leave’s leaderless, fractured campaign would cost it, but given the resounding raspberry given to Cameron’s draft deal (which may yet get worse), the EU seems intent on doing Leave’s job for it. They can be backed at 9/4 with PaddyPower, though the 13/2 on Cameron standing down this year with SkyBet may be better value.


UKIP vote down sharply in all this week’s local by-elections

February 12th, 2016

UKIP youth

Crompton (Lab defence) on Bolton
Result: Labour 1,961 (73% +13%), UKIP 320 (12% -9%), Conservative 302 (11% -1%), Liberal Democrat 117 (4% unchanged)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 1,641 (61%) on a swing of 11% from UKIP to Labour

Lower Stoke (Lab defence) on Coventry
Result: Labour 1,235 (57% +10%), Conservative 344 (16% +1%), UKIP 290 (13% -11%), Green Party 165 (8% +1%), Liberal Democrat 124 (6%, no candidate in 2014)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 891 (41%) on a swing of 4.5% from Conservative to Labour

West End North (Lib Dem defence) on Eastleigh
Result: Liberal Democrat 582 (53% +13%), Conservative 315 (29% -6%),UKIP 115 (10% -5%), Labour 58 (5% -5%), Green Party 28 (3%, no candidate in 2015)
Liberal Democrat HOLD with a majority of 267 (24%) on a swing of 9.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Cranford (Lab defence) on Hounslow
Result: Labour 1,264 (55% unchanged), Conservative 638 (28% +2%), Liberal Democrat 265 (11% +5%), UKIP 96 (4% -9%), Green Party 48 (2%, no candidate in 2014)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 626 (27%) on a swing of 1% from Labour to Conservative

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


The Independent bows to the inevitable and will stop its printed edition at the end of March

February 12th, 2016

How long before others go online only?

The big media news this lunchtime is that the Indy and Indy on Sunday will stop producing printed editions at Easter but is going to continue in an online form.

It had been struggling for some time and has seen a dramatic drop in the number of printed copies sold each day.

The I, however, will continue and is being sold.

This was inevitable. People have just stopped buying printed papers like they used to. Just take a trip on a commuter train and you’ll find very few people reading printed papers apart from the freebie, The Metro.

The smartphone is the new alternative and the Indy has developed a strongly online presence.

Mike Smithson


Sanders shows biggest weakness in the overnight Democratic Nominee debate: his age

February 12th, 2016

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After the massive disappointment for the Hillary campaign in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary it was back to a live TV debate overnight with the 74 year old victor in the primary, socialist Bernie Sanders.

In the aftermath of New Hampshire Andy Burnham (remember him?) Tweeted that he knew how Hillary felt that morning. The big difference is that the former LAB cabinet minister is no Clinton and attempting to compare with her made him look presumptuous and foolish.

The debate was a big event for Hillary and she needed a good performance to get her campaign back on track. I thought she did well. This was Taegan Goddard’s verdict on Political Wire:

“Hillary Clinton easily won the debate. She was confident, knew the issues and didn’t let Sanders rattle her. The New York Times reported she had media training this week and it showed.

In contrast, Sanders seemed tired, rarely smiled and was best when he was angry. He’s still great at framing the key issues of the campaign. But his phrasing is so similar in every debate that he may soon be accused of having a Marco Rubio robot problem.”

On Betfair Clinton is still evens favourite to become next President.

I think that the biggest threat to her is not Sanders or Trump but Bloomberg. If he does launch a 3rd party effort that could hurt the Clinton campaign most.

Mike Smithson