The winner of the PB Indyref competition is….

September 20th, 2014

….David Evershed, who got the Yes percentage spot on.

David, can you contact Mike here so you can receive your £50 worth of free bets from Shadsy.

You can check out your own performance by clicking here.

Many thanks once again to Shadsy of Ladbrokes politics for donating the prize, and Mark Hopkins for developing the software for us to submit our entries.



The simple solution to the question of Scottish MPs: Do what was done in Northern Ireland in 1920

September 20th, 2014

Look at how Northern Ireland’s numbers were changed

Reduce the number of Scottish MPs

I love the wonderfully simple solution to the Scottish MPs question by JohnO on the previous thread:-

“We have been here before. Until 1972 the former Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont enjoyed full devo max powers. What was the messy, rough and ready, probably anomalous but characteristically ‘British’ answer to compensate the rest of the country? Simple. Just make the NI constituencies at Westminster far larger than their counterparts on the mainland.

Forget about the monstrosities of an English Parliament or the ghastly complexities of EV4ELs, simply reduce the number of Scottish MPs….

And, that’s it. Problem solved.”

For prior to the the 1920 Government of Ireland Act 105 MPs were elected for the whole of Ireland, of whom 30 represented constituencies in the six counties which we know as Northern Ireland. Along with the creation in the new state in the south an elected parliament for the six counties remaining in the UK was set up. This move was accompanied with a reduction of Northern Ireland seats at Westminster to just 12.

That continued to govern until, when, because of “the troubles” direct rule was introduced in the early 1970s. This meant that Northern Ireland was under-represented at Westminster. That was changed in 1982 when the total was increased to 17.

Simple. There is a precedent.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


English votes for English laws (EV4EL) – the question is whether Cameron is able to deliver

September 20th, 2014

Election pledges won’t count after the Lisbon Treaty experience

In 1787, a group of Americans came together and wrote a whole new constitution for their country from scratch in the space of four hot and humid months.  Two and a quarter centuries later, it’s still going strong.  True, they didn’t have the complicating factors of histories and traditions or established institutions that the UK has now but they did have to contend with other barriers to success, perhaps at least as high.  There is absolutely no reason why Westminster cannot resolve the West Lothian Question between now and April, if it has a mind to.

That David Cameron has placed that question centre-stage, linked to the issue of greater fiscal autonomy for the Scottish parliament, is both just and prudent.  The unfairness giving rise to the question has lingered far too long and tensions within the Union should be reduced if some parts are not given preferential treatment.  On the other hand, linking the two issues – when the Scottish one is a matter of honour for all three leaders – does as much as possible to ensure it’ll be addressed.

What is lacking is urgency.  Considering how little else parliament has to do in what remains of its time, that’s not good enough.  Never mind a draft bill; Westminster should pass a full Act by the dissolution.  That is the only guarantee that it won’t renege on the vow made by Cameron, Miliband and Clegg – a suspicion Scots could justifiably hold were nothing done beforehand given the experience of 1979.  After the more recent ‘cast iron’ promise Cameron made on the Lisbon Treaty , many might also be sceptical of his word if nothing’s done beforehand having had the chance to do so (unlike Lisbon, it has to be said, where Cameron couldn’t meaningfully deliver).

Dealing with the Question now also removes the possibility that a future different government might choose not to act.  After all, no parliament can bind its successor (nor, for that matter can any group of party leaders bind their current parliament without its consent), and one of the reasons the Question has lain unaddressed since 1999 is that it wasn’t in Labour’s interest to do so.  Already, Miliband is making sceptical noises but that shouldn’t stop the government putting legislation forward.  Much louder noises may come from behind the PM if he doesn’t.

What form that legislation should take is another matter – though determining that is precisely what parliament’s supposed to be there for.  The simplest solution of banning MPs from voting on matters that are not applicable to their constituents brings its own problems.  For example, there’d be multiple majorities in the Commons, potentially leading to gridlock if a government had an overall majority, so could decide how to raise the money to be spent on a service but not how to spend it.  It would also mean that England would still share its government with the UK, unlike any other component country of the UK: the same ministers (some perhaps from Wales or Scotland), and the same civil service.

As a first and immediate step, that might still be the best option and perhaps the only one that could be agreed by April next year, preferably with all-party support but by majority if necessary.  Nonetheless, it would still be a second-class resolution and would do little to address the disparity in the distribution of power and spending within England.  Some favour a full English parliament (and, presumably, government), but that would look too much like duplication with Westminster, leading to inevitable rivalry.

Regional parliaments and governments, on the other hand, with similar powers to that enjoyed by Holyrood, would bring greater equality in spending as well as (one would hope) more responsive government and greater diversity of policy.  Some would argue that such a move would merely produce local fiefdoms to be controlled by one party or another but the nature of politics is that opposition always finds a way.  Labour dreamed of Scotland being theirs forever, likewise London.  At some point there’ll be a non-Labour First Minister of Wales.

That, however, is for the future.  Now is the time to make good on the promise to Scotland, and to make good the democratic deficit to England.

David Herdson


It’s hard to see anyone other than Nicola Sturgeon winning the SNP leadership

September 19th, 2014

After Alex Salmond’s not unexpected departure this afternoon following the YES defeat in the referendum the bookies have installed his depity, Nicola Sturgeon, as odds on favourite. Looking down the list of possibles from the bookies it is hard to see any alternative. But who knows?

    I thought that she had good referendum campaign and managed to avoid some of the hubris that made Salmond so unappealing. She was impressive this afternoon in the immediate aftermath of defeat – not an easy time for anybody.

The party has a tough time ahead as it seeks to cash the promises on devolution made by Cameron/Miliband/Clegg towards the end of the campaign. The way the Tories are trying to adjust the offer already by linking change to the way Scottish MPs can operate is an indication that a deal is not done and dusted.

As to a bet I’m not familiar enough with the field to make any comments.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The referendum claims its first casualty – Alex Salmond

September 19th, 2014

You could have got 3/1 from Paddy Power on this during the night.

In many ways this was the natural conclusion to his fight over the years. Salmond had his brilliant success at the Holyrood elections when the SNP achieved what no other party had ever done before – a majority in the Scottish Parliament.

It was that election that set in motion the move to hold yesterday’s vote.

He’ll be missed as a political force.


Local By-Election Preview: September 18th 2014 (Referendum Day)

September 19th, 2014

Abergele, Pensarn on Conwy (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 19, Conservatives 13, Plaid Cymru 12, Labour 10, Liberal Democrats 5 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 14)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 407 (55%), Independent 186 (25%), Conservative 145 (20%)
Candidates duly nominated: Barry Griffiths (Ind), Val Parker (Ind), John Pitt (Con), Michael Smith (Ind), Rick Stubbs (Lab), Ken Sudlow (Ind), Sarah Wardlaw (UKIP)

Conwy is one of these councils were the political spectrum is so well covered that is it virtually impossible for anyone to gain an overall majority. When the council was formed in 1995 Labour and the Liberal Democrats tied for the most seats (18 seats each) with the Liberal Democrats polling the most votes which of course would have put them in a very positive mood ahead of the 1997 general election considering that they were just 995 votes behind the Conservatives in the Conwy constituency. Sadly for the Liberal Democrats it was Labour who had the momentum at that election and gained the seat recording a majority over the Lib Dems of 1,596 and although in the 1999 local elections Labour pulled ahead of the Lib Dems everything still suggested that Conwy was a right old battleground. However at the 2001 general election, the 1999 Assembly elections had come into play with the shock result that Conwy (a traditional Con / Lab, Con / Lib Dem and Lab / Lib Dem battleground seat for the past century or so) had elected a Plaid Cymru AM and as a result the Plaid vote shot up 10% with the Lib Dem vote collapsing 15% thus ensuring that the Lib Dems would take no further active interest in the seat. And that trend has continued to this day to such an extent that Aberconwy is now a three way marginal and Conwy council is a four way battleground, so when you have four Independents and a UKIP contesting a by-election, if you thought that the Scottish referendum was hard to call, this is simply impossible to call!

Crook on Durham (Ind Defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Labour 94, Independents 19, Liberal Democrats 9, Conservatives 4 (Labour majority of 62)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 771, 630, 594
Labour 719, 691, 642
Wear Valley Independents 559, 476, 450
Liberal Democrats 161, 144, 124
Greens 123, 89, 88
Candidates duly nominated: Alan Booth (Con), David English (Lib Dem), Betty Hopson (UKIP), Tony Simpson (Ind), Maureen Stanton (Lab)

If Conwy is impossible to call, Durham is easy to call. Labour, Labour and yep, you’ve guessed it, Labour again. However, not all Durham is Labour and the former Wear Valley council area had an actual opposition. In 2003 Labour’s majority of 10 was against the Lib Dems on 9 and the Independents on 6 and when Labour lost control of Wear Valley in 2007 Labour lost 6 seats, the Lib Dems gained 7 and the Independents only lost one. However when the new Durham was created, the Wear Valley was most upset at the loss of their area and the Wear Valley Independents were born (who over the last few years have managed to produce one or two suprises) however at this by-election it’s the plain old Independents who are hoping to see off the Labour challenge (but perhaps those Wear Valley Independents would be willing to help them in their efforts)

Quarry and Risinghurst on Oxford (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 33, Liberal Democrats 8, Greens 6, Independent 1 (Lab majority of 18)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Labour 848 (49%), Liberal Democrats 411 (24%), Greens 76 (4%), UKIP 69 (4%)
Candidates duly nominated: Julia Gasper (English Democrats), Katharine Harborne (Con), Chewe Munkonge (Lab), Roz Smith (Lib Dem), Liz Taylor (Green)

The gleaming spires of Oxford has hidden a battle between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens as to who is best able to challenge Labour and the reason for this is that Oxford is a Conservative free zone. Hang on? Is it me or am I suffering from a distinct impression of deja vu (he says wondering if he’s in a Monty Python sketch). Well, to a certain degree yes, after all this is the second Oxford by-election in less than a month but with the Greens only on 4% last time, this time I think we can say with absolute authority that Labour should be able to hold this one.

And then of course there’s the small matter of the referendum on the issue of Scottish Independence and with the polls all over the place (to quote Bob McKenzie from the 1970 general election) “one or two of them will be on the chopping block tomorrow”. At the two extremes of recent days we had Panelbase on Sunday saying YES lead of 8% through ICM saying NO lead of 2% to YouGov first saying YES by 2% and then saying NO by 8%. The only thing we can say with complete confidence is that whatever happens there is a very strong chance that a new Scottish turnout record will be set. The previous record was set at the February 1974 general election when 78.86% of the Scottish electorate voted. I would not be at all surprised if the turnout breaches at least 80% (and maybe if things go exceedingly well 85%).

Abergele, Pensarn on Conwy (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 160 (26% -19%), Independent (Smith) 134 (22%), UKIP 129 (21%), Independent (Sudlow) 74 (12%), Independent (Griffiths) 56 (9%), Conservative 54 (9% -11%), Independent (Parker) 10 (2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 26 (4%)
Total Independent vote: 274 (44% +19%)
Swing from Labour to Independents of 19%

Crook on Durham (Ind Defence)
Result: Labour 753 (47%), UKIP 339 (21%), Liberal Democrats 233 (14%), Independent 193 (12%), Conservative 90 (6%)
Labour GAIN from Independent with a majority of 414 (26%)

Quarry and Risinghurst on Oxford (Lab Defence)
Result: Labour 782 (42% -7%), Liberal Democrats 615 (33% +9%), Conservatives 222 (12%), Green 186 (10% +6%), Eng Dems 43 (2%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 167 (9%) on a swing of 8% from Labour to Liberal Democrats


After a challenging election the final surveys from Ipsos-MORI, Survation and Panelbase win the polling accuracy race

September 19th, 2014

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The polling lessons of September 18th

As I have been repeatedly saying over the past few weeks the referendum posed a massive challenge for the pollsters. A big aspect, featured in Marf’s carton this morning, were what became known as the “shy Noes” – those who opposed change but were often reluctant in the emotion-charged atmosphere of the election to say so.

The other big uncertainty was the record turnout with groups of voters who’d never been to a polling booth before taking part in the election. This meant that the groups that pollsters of all types find it difficult to reach – like the young, the Ds and the Es – were going to play a big part.

    In the end the final polls from Ipsos-MORI, Survation and Panelbase won the day. Congratulations to all involved.

The winning margin of 11% was larger than any of their final shares but that pointed to a hardening up of the NO support in the final 24 hours. There was also the fact of lower turnouts in YES strongholds like Glasgow.

The YouGov survey yesterday evening of those who had responded to earlier referendum polls was mostly asking how people had voted. It found differing turnout levels between YES and NO with some late swing. The British Polling Council does not usually count what are a form of exit poll when it comes to comparing election surveys.

Thanks again to Marf.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


A solid win for NO but what about that “vow” by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband?

September 19th, 2014

This front page could come to haunt the three leaders