Almost a month on from the referendum campaign I’ve had chance to sit down and collect my thoughts about how the polls performed. This isn’t necessarily a post about what went wrong since, as I wrote on the weekend after the referendum, for many pollsters nothing at all went wrong. Companies like TNS and Opinium got the referendum resolutely right, and many polls painted a consistently tight race between Remain and Leave. However some did less well and in the context of last year’s polling failure there is plenty we can learn about what methodology approaches adopted by the pollsters did and did not work for the referendum.

Mode effects

The most obvious contrast in the campaign was between telephone and online polls, and this contributed to the surprise over the result. Telephone and online polls told very different stories – if one paid more attention to telephone polls then Remain appeared to have a robust lead (and many in the media did, having bought into a “phone polls are more accurate” narrative that turned out to be wholly wrong). If one had paid more attention to online polls the race would have appeared consistently neck-and-neck. If one made the – perfectly reasonable – assumption that the actual result would be somewhere in between phone and online, one would still have ended up expecting a Remain victory.

While there was a lot of debate about whether phone or online was more likely to be correct during the campaign, there was relatively little to go on. Pat Sturgis and Will Jennings of the BPC inquiry team concluded that the true position was probably in between phone and online, perhaps a little closer to online, by comparing the results of the 2015 BES face-to-face data to the polls conducted at the time. Matt Singh and James Kanagasooriam wrote a paper called Polls Apart that concluded the result was probably closer to the telephone polls because they were closer to the socially liberal results in the BES data (as issue I’ll return to later). A paper by John Curtice could only conclude that the real result was likely somewhere in between online and telephone, given that at the general election the true level of UKIP support was between phone and online polls. During the campaign there was also a NatCen mixed-mode survey based on recontacting respondents to the British Social Attitudes survey, which found a result somewhere in between online and telephone.

In fact the final result was not somewhere in between telephone and online at all. Online was closer to the final result, and far from being in between the actual result was more Leave than all of them.

As ever, the actual picture was not quite as simple as this and there was significant variation within modes. The final online polls from TNS and Opinium had Leave ahead, but Populus’s final poll was conducted online and had a ten point lead for Remain. The final telephone polls from ComRes and MORI showed large leads for Remain, but Survation’s final poll phone poll showed a much smaller Remain lead. ICM’s telephone and online polls had been showing identical leads, but ceased publication several weeks before the result. On average, however, online polls were closer to the result than telephone polls.

The referendum should perhaps also provoke a little caution about probability studies like the face-to-face BES. These are hugely valuable surveys, done to the highest possible standards… but nothing is perfect, and they can be wrong. We cannot tell what a probability poll conducted immediately before the referendum would have shown, but if it had been somewhere between online and phone – as the earlier BES and NatCen data were – then it would also have been wrong.

People who are easy or difficult to reach by phone

Many of the pieces looking of the mode effects in the EU polling looked at the differences between people who responded quickly and slowly to polls. The BPC inquiry into the General Election polls analysed the samples from the post-election BES/BSA face-to-face polls and showed how people who responded to the face-to-face surveys on the first contact were skewed towards Labour voters, only after including those respondents who took two or three attempts to contact did the polls correctly show the Conservatives in the lead. The inquiry team used this as an example of how quota sampling could fail, rather than evidence of actual biases which affected the polls in 2015, but the same approach has become more widely used in analysis of polling failure. Matt Singh and James Kanagasooriam’s paper in particular focused on how slow respondents to the BES were also likely to be more socially liberal and concluded, therefore, that online polls were likely to be have too many socially conservative people.

Taking people who are reached on the first contact attempt in a face-to-face poll seems like a plausible proxy for people who might be contacted by a telephone poll that doesn’t have time to ring back people who it fails to contact on the first attempt. Putting aside the growing importance of sampling mobile phones, landline surveys and face-to-face surveys do both depend on the interviewee being at home at a civilised time and willing to take part. It’s more questionable why it should be a suitable proxy for the sort of person willing to join an online panel and take part in online surveys that can be done on any internet device at any old time.

As the referendum campaign continued there were more studies that broke down people’s EU referendum voting intention by how difficult they were to interview. NatCen’s mixed-mode survey in May to June found the respondents that it took longer to contact tended to be more leave (as well as being less educated, and more likely to say don’t know). BMG’s final poll was conducted by telephone, but used a 6 day fieldwork period to allow multiple attempts to call-back respondents. Their analysis painted a mixed picture – people contacted on the first call were fairly evenly split between Remain and Leave (51% Remain), people on the second call were strongly Remain (57% Remain), but people on later calls were more Leave (49% Remain).

Ultimately, the evidence on hard-to-reach people ended up being far more mixed than initially assumed. While the BES found hard-to-reach people were more pro-EU, the NatCen survey’s hardest to reach people were more pro-Leave, and BMG found a mixed pattern. This also suggests that one suggested solution to make telephone sampling better – taking more time to make more call-backs to those people who don’t answer the first call – is not necessarily a guaranteed solution. ORB and BMG both highlighted their decision to spend longer over their fieldwork in the hope of producing better samples, both taking six days rather than the typical two or three. Neither were obviously more accurate than phone pollsters with shorter fieldwork periods.

Education weights

During the campaign YouGov wrote a piece raising questions about whether some polls had too many graduates. Level of educational qualifications correlated with how likely people were to support to EU membership (graduates were more pro-EU, people with no qualification more pro-Leave, even after controlling for age) so this did have the potential to skew figures.

The actual proportion of “graduates” in Britain depends on definitions (the common NVQ Level 4+ categorisation in the census includes some people with higher education qualifications below degree-level), but depending on how you define it and whether or not you include HE qualifications below degree level the figure is around 27% to 35%. In the Populus polling produced for Polls Apart 47% of people had university level qualifications, suggesting polls conducted by telephone could be seriously over-representing graduates.

Ipsos MORI identified the same issue with too many graduates in their samples and added education quotas and weights during the campaign (this reduced the Remain lead in their polls by about 3-4 points, so while their final poll still showed a large Remain lead, it would have been more wrong without education weighting). ICM, however, tested education weights on their telephone polls and found it made little difference, while education breaks in ComRes’s final poll suggest they had about the right proportion of graduates in their sample anyway.

This doesn’t entirely put the issue of education to bed. Data on the educational make-up of samples is spotty, and the overall proportion of graduates in the sample is not the end of the story – because there is a strong correlation between education and age, just looking at overall education levels isn’t enough. There need to be enough poorly qualified people in younger age groups, not just among older generations where it is commonplace.

The addition of education weights appears to have helped some pollsters, but it clearly depends on the state of the sample to begin with. MORI controlled for education, but still over-represented Remain. ComRes had about the right proportion of graduates to begin with, but still got it wrong. Getting the correct proportion of graduates does appear to have been an issue for some companies, and dealing with it helped some companies, but alone it cannot explain why some pollsters performed badly.

Attitudinal weights

Another change introduced by some companies during the campaign was weighting by attitudes towards immigration and national identity (whether people considered themselves to be British or English). Like education, both these attitudes were correlated with EU referendum voting intention. Where they differ from education is that there are official statistics on the qualifications held by the British population, but there are no official stats on national identity or attitudes towards immigration. Attitudes may also be more liable to change than qualifications.

Three companies adopted attitudinal weights during the campaign, all of them online. Two of these used the same BES questions on racial equality and national identity from the BES face-to-face survey that were discussed in Polls Apart… but with different levels of success. Opinium, who were the joint most-accurate pollster, weighted people’s attitudes to racial equality and national identity to a point half-way between the BES findings and their own findings (presumably on the assumption that half the difference was sample, half interviewer effect). According to Opinium this increased the relative position of remain by about 5 points when introduced. Populus weighted by the same BES questions on attitudes to race and people’s national identity, but in their case used the actual BES figures – presumably giving them a sample that was significantly more socially liberal than Opinium’s. Populus ended up showing the largest Remain lead.

It’s clear from Opinium and Populus that these social attitudes were correlated with EU referendum vote and including attitudinal weighting variables did make a substantial difference. Exactly what to weight them to is a different question though – Populus and Opinium weighted the same variable to very different targets, and got very different results. Given the sensitivity of questions about racism we cannot be sure whether people answer these questions differently by phone, online or face-to-face, nor whether face-to-face probability samples have their own biases, but choosing what targets to use for any attitudinal weighting is obviously a difficult problem.

While it may have been a success for Opinium, attitudinal weighting is unlikely to have improved matters for other online polls – online polls generally produce social attitudes that are more conservative than suggested by the BES/BSA face-to-face surveys, so weighting them towards the BES/BSA data would probably only have served to push the results further towards Remain and make them even less accurate. On the other hand, for telephone polls there could be potential for attitudinal weighting to make samples less socially liberal.

Turnout models

There was a broad consensus that turnout was going to be a critical factor at the referendum, but pollsters took different approaches towards it. These varied from a traditional approach of basing turnout weights purely on respondent’s self-assessment of their likelihood to vote, models that also incorporated how often people had voted in the past or their interest in the subject, through to a models that were based on the socio-economic characteristics of respondents, modelling people’s likelihood to vote based on their age and social class.

In the case of the EU referendum Leave voters generally said they were more likely to vote than Remain voters, so traditional turnout models were more likely to favour Leave. People who didn’t vote at previous elections leant towards Leave, so models that incorporated past voting behaviour were a little more favourable towards Remain. Demographic based models were more complicated, as older people were more likely to vote and more leave, but middle class and educated people were more likely to vote and more remain. On balance models based on socio-economic factors tended to favour Remain.

The clearest example is Natcen’s mixed mode survey, which explictly modelled the two different approaches. Their raw results without turnout modelling would have been REMAIN 52.3%, LEAVE 47.7%. Modelling turnout based on self-reported likelihood to vote would have made the results slightly more “leave” – REMAIN 51.6%, LEAVE 48.4%. Modelling the results based on socio-demographic factors (which is what NatCen chose to do in the end) resulted in topline figures of REMAIN 53.2%, LEAVE 46.8%.

In the event ComRes & Populus chose to use methods based on socio-economic factors, YouGov & MORI used methods combining self-assessed likelihood and past voting behaviour (and in the case of MORI, interest in the referendum), Survation & ORB a traditional approach based just on self-assessed likelihood to vote. TNS didn’t use any turnout modelling in their final poll.

In almost every case the adjustments for turnout made the polls less accurate, moving the final figures towards Remain. For the four companies who used more sophisticated turnout models, it looks as if a traditional approach of relying on self-reported likelihood to vote would have been more accurate. An unusual case was TNS’s final poll, which did not use a turnout model at all, but did include data on what their figures would have been if they had. Using a model based on people’s own estimate of their likelihood to vote, past vote and age (but not social class) TNS would have shown figures of 54% Leave, 46% Remain – less accurate than their final call poll, but with an error in the opposite direction to most other polls.

In summary, it looks as though attempts to improve turnout modelling since the general election have not improved matters – if anything the opposite was the case. The risk of basing turnout models on past voting behaviour at elections or the demographic patterns of turnout at past elections has always been what would happen if patterns of turnout changed. It’s true middle class people normally vote more than working class people, older people normally vote more than younger people. But how much more, and how much does that vary from election to election? If you build a model that assumes the same levels of differential turnout between demographic groups as the previous election then it risks going horribly wrong if levels of turnout are different… and in the EU ref it looks as if they were. In their post-referendum statement Populus have been pretty robust in rejecting the whole idea – “turnout patterns are so different that a demographically based propensity-to-vote model is unlikely ever to produce an accurate picture of turnout other than by sheer luck.”

That may be a little harsh, it would probably be a wrong turn if pollsters stopped looking for more sophisticated turnout models than just asking people, and past voting behaviour and demographic considerations may be part of that. It may be that turnout models that are based on past behaviour at general elections is more successful in modelling general election turnout than that for referendums. Thus far, however, innovations in turnout modelling don’t appear to have been particularly successful.

Reallocation of don’t knows

During the campaign Steve Fisher and Alan Renwick wrote an interesting piece about how most referendum polls in the past have underestimated support for the status quo, presumably because of late swing or don’t knows breaking for remain. Pollsters were conscious of this and rather than just ignore don’t knows in their final polls, the majority of pollsters attempted to model how don’t knows would vote. This went from simple squeeze questions, which way do don’t knows think they’ll end up voting, are they leaning towards or suchlike (TNS, MORI and YouGov), to projecting how don’t knows will vote based upon their answers to other questions. ComRes had a squeeze question and estimated how don’t knows would vote based on how people thought Brexit would effect the economy, Populus on how risky don’t knows thought Brexit was. ORB just split don’t knows 3 to 1 in favour of Remain.

In every case these adjustments helped remain, and in every case this made things less accurate. Polls that made estimates about how don’t knows would vote ended up more wrong than polls that just asked people how they might end up voting, but this is probably co-incidence, both approaches had a similar sort of effect. This is not to say they were necessarily wrong – it’s possible that don’t knows did break in favour of remain, and that that while the reallocation of don’t knows made polls less accurate, it was because it was adding a swing to data that was already wrong to begin with. Nevertheless, it suggests pollsters should be careful about assuming too much about don’t knows – for general elections at least such decisions can be based more firmly upon how don’t knows have split at past general elections, where hopefully more robust models can be developed.

So what we can learn?

Pollsters don’t get many opportunities to compare polling results against actual election results, so every one is valuable – especially when companies are still attempting to address the 2015 polling failure. On the other hand, we need to be careful about reading too much into a single poll that’s not necessarily comparable to a general election. All those final polls were subject to the ordinary margins of error and there are different challenges to polling a general election and a referendum.

Equally, we shouldn’t automatically assume that anything that would have made the polls a little more Leave is necessarily correct, anything that made polling figures more Remain is necessarily wrong – everything you do to a poll interacts with everything else, and taking each item in isolation can be misleading. The list of things above is by no means exhaustive either – my own view remains that the core problem with polls is that they tend to be done by people who are too interested and aware of politics, and the way to solve polling failure is to find ways of recruiting less political people, quota-ing and weighting by levels of political interest. We found that people with low political interest were more likely to support Brexit, but there is very little other information on political awareness and interest from other polling, so I can’t explore to what extent that was responsible for any errors in the wider polls.

With that said, what can we conclude?

  • Phone polls appeared to face substantially greater problems in obtaining a representative sample than online polls. While there was variation within modes, with some online polls doing better than others, some phone polls doing worse than others, on average online outperformed phone. The probability based samples from the BES and the NatCen mixed-mode experiment suggested a position somewhere between online and telephone, so while we cannot tell what they would have shown, we should not assume they would have been any better.
  • Longer fieldwork times for telephone polls are not necessarily the solution. The various analyses of how people who took several attempts to contact differed from those who were contacted on the first attempt were not consistent, and the companies who took longer over their fieldwork were no more accurate than those with shorter periods.
  • Some polls did contain too many graduates and correcting for that did appear to help, but it was not a problem that affected all companies and would not alone have solved the problem. Some companies weighted by education or had the correct proportion of graduates, but still got it wrong.
  • Attitudinal weights had a mixed record. The only company to weight attitudes to the BES figures overstated Remain significantly, but Opinium had more success at weighting them to a halfway point. Weighting by social attitudes faces problems in determining weighting targets and is unlikely to have made other online polls more Leave, but could be a consideration for telephone polls that may have had samples that were too socially liberal.
  • Turnout models that were based on the patterns of turnout at the last election and whether people voted at the last election performed badly and consistently made the results less accurate – presumably because of the unexpectedly high turnout, particular among more working class areas. Perhaps there is potential for such models to work in the future and at general elections, but so far they don’t appear successful.

892 Responses to “What we can learn from the referendum polling”

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  1. I thought Tancred came from the Crusader – the one who on the way back got into some trouble in Constantinople by missing an “i” or adding it. Do you believe in homousion or homoiusion?

  2. ON
    “Obviously, anyone randomly posting “we” (without implicitly or explicitly describing the context) can be assumed to be arrogant, self-centred and (as would be described in Scotland) a numptie.”

    Obviously for anyone posting from that part of a Union which is 80%+ of the population ‘we’ can be assumed to mean the entire Union unless otherwise specified. If referring to events before the Union, ‘we’ should be taken to mean the English if I am writing.

    Pandering to Welsh, Irish and Scotch Nationalists is ok, provided English Nationalists are not automatically decried as racist or ‘Little Englanders’ for instance. I know you don’t do this, but others on this board do.

  3. Anyways, here is a link to a fabulous Norman the Conquerer song form Horrible Histories.

    (Great show, the kids love it and the parents do to!)

  4. test

  5. CMJ
    Love the link!

    The problem with the Normans is that their descendants still form a significant proportion of the ruling classes. e.g. David Cameron

    Anglo-Saxons and Danes rise up!

  6. @Pete B

    They do loads of brilliantly funny songs to major historical figures and events.

    They do a spoof of Match of the Day – Battle of the day, and take the rip out of Ghengis Khan, for example.

    The series is masterclass in factually accurate, but really entertaining family programming. My own have watched from age 6, and now love history.

  7. @Pete B

    I have responded to you, but have gone into moderation for some inexplicable reason!

  8. Pete B

    Yep. There is nothing wrong with English folk wanting to run their own affairs. Seems a sensible idea to me.

    I don’t have a problem with UK or British Nationalists having similar opinions (though obviously, if they want the British/UK majority to determine Scotland’s path, then there is a serious conflict).

    I do have a problem with any kind of nationalism which suggests that “their” nation is better than other ones, or that they are entitled to rule over others.

    Equally, any kind of nationalism that is based on some idea of “ethnicity” is abhorrent,

    I always rather liked Mazzini’s idea of “the nation” – that it consists of those who feel that they belong to it – and that (in Europe) these nations should combine to form a pan-European unit.

  9. ON
    ‘Equally, any kind of nationalism that is based on some idea of “ethnicity” is abhorrent,’

    Until recently, most nationalisms would have included a majority of a particular ethic group. Modern travel has changed this slightly, but because nationalism may have coincided with an ethnic group does not mean that it is based on it. I don’t know the actual figures but I would guess that Scotland is less ethnically diverse than England and the SNP is the dominant political force. This does not mean that the SNP are racists.

  10. G’night from me.

  11. If Scotland is allowed to hold a 2nd referendum I wonder how the 1 million people who voted to leave the EU would vote.

    On the subject on Willy the conqueror, I found several of his coins whilst metal detecting, stunning to look at and hold.

  12. @Old Nat

    It seems to be par for the course that the opposing sides in referenda tell lies. It is also true that any truths they happen to tell will be called lies by the other side. In the case of ‘better together campaign’, its clearly rubbish that Scotland can’t get by on its own. Denmark does perfectly well so why not the Scots? By contrast the better together campaign were right to call attention to the instability of the oil price which, to my memory was comprehensively rubbished by the ‘yes’ campaign. Issues about the difficulty of having a common currency without a common fiscal policy were also probably valid.

    My personal feeling is that we are currently in danger of getting the worst of all possible worlds with Scotland independent and in the EU and England out of the EU and on its own. Unless we are careful we will end up with a ‘hard’border and taxes charged on sizeable proportion of the £100 billion plus business that we seem to do with each other. Some of this will attract tax, the bulk of which go, on present arrangements, to Brussels.

    Surely we can come to some kind of an arrangement that suits all sides.

  13. @LASZLO

    I am of proud Norman heritage. Look up Tancred D’Hauteville.

  14. @OLDNAT

    I don’t want to argue endlessly with you about the merits of the Norman conquest or otherwise, but in my opinion this historical event brought England out from being a Scandinavian backwater into the heart of Europe. You will disagree and you are welcome to do so – goodnight.

  15. I think this quote from Owen Smith shows the disconnect between MPs and Ordinary people

    “It’s not much of an employer who says ‘work for me, work harder or I am going to sack you all”

    Ive never had an employer who didn’t have that attitude

  16. @OLDNAT

    “Ah! You are a British Nationalist who has dreams of your nation being “great”.”

    Calm down please. I am not a nationalist – English, British or of any other description. If Scotland wishes to go its own way, so be it, but I would be saddened, just as I would if Northern Ireland did the same.
    I don’t want to be forced into an English fortress kingdom while the rest of the British Isles are in the EU. This is what I find depressing.

  17. Well, there are two sayings about being too proud of the ancestors (my members were made members of the nobility sometime in the 17th century (judging from the time, they committed some treason against some Hungarian uprising to get it), and I have good Slovakian, and Hungarian blood, and it seems that the surname comes from the southern plains of the Ukraine).

    “He, who is boasting too much about his ancestry is proud of them rather than their successors.”

    “He, who is boasting too much about about his ancestry is like the potato – what is value there, it is under the ground.”

    Perhaps I’m too CE.


    Well that is what needs to change! I work as hard as I please and my manager can sometimes say the usual BS at appraisal time that I need to be more proactive and do this, that and the other. My response to this would be: pay me double and I’ll do it. What we need is the abolition of the old common law concept of master and servant, which is what all UK employment legislation is based on. We need a bill of rights for employees and the expectation that people cannot be treated as commodities to be traded and sold through dodgy TUPE arrangements or sacked for imaginary ‘poor performance’ when in reality the employer doesn’t like the employee.

  19. Charles

    “It seems to be par for the course that the opposing sides in referenda tell lies”

    Perhaps more appropriately, each side stretches the interpretation of speculative interpretation to breaking point?

    “Surely we can come to some kind of an arrangement that suits all sides.”

    That would be sensible. But the Velvet Divorce in Czechoslovakia suggests that it is difficult to achieve.

    As I understand it, the problem wasn’t the stance of either the Czech politicians (equivalent to English) or the Slovak politicians (equivalent to Scots) but the Czechoslovak politicians (equivalent to British).

    It was the failure of the last of these groups to accept the requirements of Slovak autonomy (and the reduction of their power) that provoked the divorce.

    In the case of the UK, the wishes of most Scots have been clear for over 30 years in polling – not quite the Hong Kong equivalent, but something less than that (though polling on that new idea would be interesting to see!)

    Of course an appropriate accommodation could be reached, though I suspect it requires all sides to adopt a “post-modernist” idea of independence and sovereignty.

    Currently, I see little sign of the “British” moving to such an understanding of sovereignty in the modern age.

  20. @old
    I couldn’t agree with you more! (Hopefuly I understand you but I think I do_

  21. @CR

    Effective managers persuade and encourage with carrots, and do not cajole and threaten with sticks.

    He gives every sign of being the latter type of manager. Far from being a “nice man”, I think we had a glimpse of the real Corbyn on Channel 4 tonight, when the mask slipped a couple of times and he raised his voice to speak over the (female) interviewer. Reminiscent of his aggressive “lunge” (yes, I know it wasn’t actually a lunge) a couple of weeks back, again at a female journalist.

  22. Talking about mask slipping…

    Liz Kendall was shifting uncomfortably in her seat on This Week when the SNP MP exposed how nasty the Labour back-benches have been to Jeremy Corbyn, claiming “they treated him from the start with visceral hatred” …I watched it happen from the word go” … axe to grind, just observed it all every week from close up on the same side of the chamber.

  23. @ Carfrew

    Apologies for not getting back to you sooner – I have had internet connection problems.

    This is all a bit o/t, but I had seen you asking for evidence, so when I came across the tweet, in passing, I decided to mention it. It’s quite handy for the people who did claim that “No means In” – and they do exist – that better evidence seems to be lacking.

    What’s not clear is how much they believed it when they said it –
    in September 2014, nobody “knew” there was going to be an EU referendum, because nobody “knew” the Tories were going to win an overall majority – even The Other Howard was only making a prediction. The common expectation was that Labour would form a government (= no referendum) or that the coalition would continue (= referendum can be dropped, with the Lib Dems getting the blame).

    Of course anyone who thought things through properly could work out that there might be a Tory victory, followed by a referendum, followed by leaving the EU. But those who decided to vote No “because there’s going to be a Labour government”, ignoring the fact that there are elections scheduled for 2020, 20205, etc, which might have a different outcome, were not thinking things through properly.

    In any case, there was probably no need to provide hostages to fortune with “guarantees”, because it could be predicted that few people would be aware of the propositional fallacy of denying the antecedent (if A, then B; not A, therefore not B, where A = Yes and B = leaving the EU).

  24. Oops! 2025, obviously – I doubt if there will still be a Westminster Parliament in 20205, and I’m not going to know about it anyway.

  25. @ANDREW

    “Meanwhile I have been listening today to interviews on the radio with Leave voters who believed
    1) That Turkey is about to join the EU (how tragically laughable is that now!)
    2) that citizens of other EU countries jump the queue for council housing and get free cookers and dishwashers that British people can only get a loan for…
    3) That they did not like David Cameron and hence voted Leave”

    Yes, but there were plenty of people around who voted Remain for equally spurious reasons.

    Ones I’ve heard include:

    1) I don’t want to be accused of being a racist or approving of the murder of Jo Cox
    2) If we vote to leave, Farage will become prime minister
    3) I’ve just renewed my passport, which says EU on it. I don’t want to have to do that all over again.

  26. @Cambridgerachel – “I think this quote from Owen Smith shows the disconnect between MPs and Ordinary people

    “It’s not much of an employer who says ‘work for me, work harder or I am going to sack you all”

    Ive never had an employer who didn’t have that attitude”

    Blimey. You really are one eyed and one eared about this. It’s the context. Owen Smith was talking about being deselected from Parliament, for disagreeing on policy and delivery with a party leader. It was a threat from Corbyn, who lets be honest, has never been happy toeing the party line.

    Smith was using a metaphor, and if you can’t see that then it explains why labour is in such deep trouble.

    @Paul Bristol – do you really, really believe that the SNP has no axe to grind when discomfiting it’s main rival the Labour party?

    Wow. We are in never never land.

  27. neoliberal

  28. @Paul Bristol

    “Talking about mask slipping…
    Liz Kendall was shifting uncomfortably in her seat on This Week when the SNP MP exposed how nasty the Labour back-benches have been to Jeremy Corbyn, claiming “they treated him from the start with visceral hatred” …I watched it happen from the word go” … axe to grind, just observed it all every week from close up on the same side of the chamber.”

    It’s called PLP Exceptionalism. Whatever they do is good, fair and right because it is they that have done it.

  29. Good to see Corbyn admitting a mistake in his day after the vote statement that A50should be triggered quickly.

    Quite how he made such a blunder is beyond me, but no doubt his supporters will say that it wasn’t a blunder, and that this is just a nicer kind of politics.

  30. @Alec

    It depends what you mean by “triggered”, and what you expect of the 24 month A50 process (heads of terms? Full settlement?), and if the first, how long you expect transitional measure to run until the second.

    It can really be argued either way and the devil is in the detail.

    What would be helpful is if the government could give some kind of indication of when it expects to be in s position to trigger A50 (Q1 2017, Q4 2017 etc).

  31. Alec

    “It’s the context. Owen Smith was talking about being deselected from Parliament, for disagreeing on policy and delivery with a party leader. It was a threat from Corbyn, who lets be honest, has never been happy toeing the party line. ”

    Except, of course, that Corbyn threatened no such thing.

  32. Once again we have reports that France, in the persona of Monsieur Hollande, is saying ‘no free trade without free movement’. But if we look at the stats from 2015 (source: EUstats), we see the following:

    Country / Exports to EU / Imports from EU (in billions EUR)

    China / 350.4 / 170.4
    USA / 248.9 / 371.3
    Russia / 135.5 / 73.9
    Switzerland / 102.3 / 150.9
    Japan / 59.8 / 56.6

    All of those billions of Euros traded without any conditions of free movement.

    In the same period, the UK exported £223 bn of goods and services to the EU, and imported £291 bn worth (source: ONS).

    Are they going to jeopardise all that for the sake of some political dogma? Somehow, I think not.

  33. And everything is still hunky dory in the make believe world of the Brexiteers:

    Life is nice in la-la land!

  34. Is this the Owen Smith who was outed as a lobbyist for Pfizer , the company who were too ruthless to buy a UK company even for a Cameron Government? I’m hardly a lover of Corbyn but if his CLP deselected him, I’d give them a cheer Bring back David Ennals, at least in those days being an MP wasn’t the key to ripping off the NHS.

  35. @Raf – thankyou. You made my point for me rather precisely.

    Corbyn admitted he had made a mistake (a very big one, in the eyes of many) but there you go analysing words and details to try and claim it wasn’t, in fact, necessarily a mistake, even after the man himself admits he got a majpr strategic call wrong.

    @Norbold – as with @Raf.

    Did Corbyn’s speech leave some (many/most) with an impression of uncertainty regarding his statement and motives, so much so that the Chief Whip has to issue a clarifying statement?

    The answer is obviously yes, so it is the unavoidable conclusion that the speech was badly written. This is precisely what he did with the antisemitism report launch – I know he didn’t actually equate Isreal with Isis, but his speech and delivery was so cack handed that it created sufficient space for the story.

    No matter how much you choose to defend him, the stream of errors, missteps and missed opportuntiies piles up. He and his team are simply not up to the job of presenting an effective opposition, but there will be those who argue black is white.

  36. Alec

    I was sitting with my family, all working class, some on Zero hours contracts, all unfortunately brexiters. Owen Smith said that on TV, and we all thought it was stupid, General consensus, he’s a plonker. Im not arguing the merits of the issue, I’m saying that stuff like that Owen quote makes labour unelectable because it shows that they live in a totally different world. Comes across like pathetic whining.

  37. @OLDNAT

    I honestly don’t think there is majority support for independence in Scotland. I think a compromise will be reached in which dev-max will be offered by May and an EEA type arrangement for all of the UK. Sturgeon will accept that, albeit reluctantly.

  38. @David Carrod – for a start, you’ll need to take Switzerland off you list, as they are subject to free movement.

    Secondly, you miss the point – ‘free trade’ insn’t the same as ‘trade’. Yes, we can still trade with the EU without free movement and being outside the free trade area, but this wouldn’t be tarrif free trade.

    In the cases you cite, trade is subject to tarrifs. The critical point is that, if it transpires that we do not stay in the free trade area, we would be moving from a position of free trade to tarrif trade, and the result is highly likey not that trade would cease, but it would be adversely affected by tarrifs.

  39. Alec

    Ordinary folk don’t care about that silly spin stuff, its only the latte drinking classes in that care. But they do care about labour being disunited. Theres two problems with the Rebels strategy, the first is that people don’t want to vote for a disunited party. The second is that all the arguments against corbyn make the Labour party sound elitist and out of touch. Maybe the Rebels have a plan to undo the damage but I doubt it, the more I hear from them the more I think plonkers.

  40. @TANCRED

    “And everything is still hunky dory in the make believe world of the Brexiteers:”

    Obviously not according to the trots at the BBC. But an equally unbiased report suggests a different picture:


    “only the latte drinking classes in that care”

    I sat in the Waitrose café this morning sipping my latte and reading about the LP problems in The Independent. Did I care? Not a jot.

  41. @Alec

    Flash PMI’s been out for 2 hours now. We’re not paying you for Corbyn bashing, we’re paying you for predictions of recession by the end of the year based on those snapshots continuing and not being a temporary blip. Now pull your finger out or we’ll have to consider a deselection process :-)

  42. In the meantime Merseyside Police denied that they would have advised Eagle to cancel her constituency surgery.

    Considering the last two days, the Brexit referendum was a sweet latte in comparison what’s coming in this LP leadership campaign.

  43. @Cambridgerachel – well if you really think that being incapable of getting a message across via the media without creating an unintended story is ‘silly spin stuff’ than fine – live in opposition for as long as it takes for you and your family to realise that effective campaigning matters.

    Corbyn’s terrible speech actually made British Jews very upset because it was so incepetently scripted and delivered. A child could have seen that one coming, and his statement on reselection was no better.

    This is why Labour are slumping in the polls and went backwards in the May elections.

    I know very little of Owen Smith, and I await his policy ideas with interest, but so far his presentation seems to be a reasonable balance of solid media management and ‘normalness’.

  44. If “ordinary people” didn’t care about the optics of “spin” and making public statements that don’t accidentally threaten people… Then we’d all live in a much better world.

    Alas, they do, so it actually does matter that a public figure can’t make a prepared speech to the media without making some major mis-step in phrasing that undoes the point of making the speech in the first place.

  45. @ David Carrod
    I would take Russia off the list as well – their exports to the EU are almost exclusively raw materials, principally oil and gas, which are necessarily easy to trade because the soft trade barriers are minimal (as long as the energy content and chemical composition of the gas meets the contractual standard then you are done).

    That is totally different to the UK attempting to export manufactured goods and especially services, here soft import barriers can be significant barriers to export success. our situation, without a free trade agreement, would be more similar to the USA, China or Japan.

  46. I note that the IHS report makes the significant finding that there is not expected to be a recession, with all sectors other than the service sector showing strong resilience and continuing to expand. Well, in Europe that is.

    For the UK, the IHS report finds the economy has already retracted, and that a recession should be expected.

    I am apologise to all those who were eagerly awaiting news that Brexit would inevitably lead to the break up of the EU. It seems we are not exactly essential to them.

  47. @ Jayblanc

    I don’t think that most of them are mis-steps, but rather calculated, which then get confused as the media is forgotten. These mis-steps are for various factions of the followers to engage with.

    Here is an example. There was a pro-Corbyn meeting yesterday in Liverpool with about 600 attending. I read about it only in the Liverpool Echo which helpfully had a live reporting on it with with a number of videos. Clearly, different speakers engaged with different aspects of Corbyn’s speeches, and also they “translated” them for themselves.

    It could be Machiavellian, or just something that comes naturally from his experiences (this is why my main concern with Corbyn is the lack of path from slogans to policies and the fragmentation of the slogans relative to his vision).

    In general, he has no chance with the media as it declared war on him on day one. However, he has to account for the media by seeking for compromises, which then create an even bigger loss in the battles with the media.

  48. @Shevii – yes, apologies. Back to the day job.

    The PMI data is staggeringly bad, with the consensus from respondents that this is directly related to the Brexit vote. In context, the slump in confidence is of the same magnitude as at the start of the big recession seven years ago, so on the face of it it looks very serious. ‘Real’ data – output and new orders – were reported to both be in decline for the first time in four years.

    However, to be entirely consistent, I would add a caveat. I have pointed out many times before that my impression, backed up with the data, is that in general, PMI data tends to accurately reflect the direction of travel and broadly speaking the timing of changes, but does have a tendency to overstate the peaks and troughs and the pace of change.

    Some time ago I posted on why this might be, which effectively comes down to the way survey respondents reporting change are dealt with statistically, and I won’t bore people with the details now. Brexit has clearly introduce great uncertainty and an element of fear in the business community, which in turn is likely to affect real world decisions.

    It’s very difficult to say whether this sentiment will dig in and become long lived, or whether things will settle in the coming months and the impacts look more mild.

    For what it’s worth, my gut feeling is that this particular set of figures is probably an example of the PMI data being a bit too exuberant. Having said that, if you look at the long term PMI charts, they have been going downhill for quite some time. I also think that we should expect a bout of inflation fairly soon from the fall in sterling. With business confidence low, I would imagine wage rises will stutter, and if this coincides with rising inflation, I thing we may see a more general drift downwards of business confidence and real world indicators.

    In short – these figures are probably worse than it actually is, but it is going to get difficult.

  49. @ Alec

    “In short – these figures are probably worse than it actually is, but it is going to get difficult.”

    A good summary.

    Indeed the correlation between PMI and GDP is strong, but PMI over-emphasises the peeks and the slumps (it’s even worse in China’s case).

    I also agree with the impending inflation, although I’m not quite sure of the outcomes – partly because monetary easing has already started and a fiscal easing is certainly on the cards.

  50. The UK Constitutional Law Association has an interesting post on constitutional issues arising from the recent referendum, see Masterman & Murray’s A House of Cards?, perhaps especially the pensultimat para:
    Consideration of the status of the decision reached by virtue of the referendum also hints that sovereignty – a term which is as misused as it is malleable but which still undoubtedly occupies a central place in the constitutional milieu – may also be under threat. The sloganeering of the Brexit camp offered the promise that the exercise of direct democracy via the referendum would ‘bring back control.’ What of that control – what of the will of the popular sovereign – in the event that the ‘all of the benefits, none of the costs’ model of integration with Europe turns out to be a pipe dream? What of the popular sovereign if – faced with an immovable EU looking to guard against further fractures – parliamentarians make concessions on free movement in order to secure access to the single market? In appealing to the sovereignty of the people on the basis of promises which may not in practice be deliverable the referendum holds the potential to expose a rift between direct and representative democracy. Should that rift widen – and in so doing undermine the notion of parliamentary sovereignty by diminishing its representative underpinnings – then Brexit may well turn out to be more damaging to the domestic constitutional order than the external influences of EU law may ever have been.

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