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. CArfrew
    “Did Hatton push party democracy even at the expense of his favoured policies, resulting in a rather more moderate line to his own views?”

    I have no idea of the answer to the question, or what point you are trying to make. I just thought that there was a similarity in that both ol Corby and Hatton are/were left-wingers who seem(ed) prepared to split the Labour party in pursuit of their aims.

  2. @Oldnat.

    I didn’t mount an ad hominem attack, which is why you couldn’t cite how.

    The point of my post is very straightforward: to point out it’d be good to balance pro-SNP etc. activism with the many examples of Indy nonsense.

  3. @Pete B

    Well I didn’t expect you to answer it, it was rhetorical.

    You might see similarities, but it’s possible it’s the differences that are the salient thing…

  4. Assuming that this report in Politics Home is accurate (yeah, I know – anything on the current Lab civil war that is reported is as likely to be accurate as a JK Rowling account of anything) – then my constituency was very wise to dump Katy Clark as its MP in 2015.

  5. @Thoughtful


    the taking of one innocent life is like taking all of Mankind… and the saving of one life is like saving all of Mankind.

    Seems to indicate a fairly peaceful intent to me.

    Personally why anyone would chose to live their life based on an iron age religion I find a bit strange but each to their own.


    I think the result is a foregone conclusion, and the electorate hasn’t changed that much in its overall complexion despite the changes.

  6. Carfrew

    What a silly post at 11:36. :-)

  7. @Coups

    Given claims it’s no biggie, you guys don’t half get yourselves in a larger over oil prices

    Because you know it is a biggie. Not only did it blow a whole in Indy sums, but it shows how your own side is just as capable of foisting the nonsense you complain of in others.

  8. Larger = lather

  9. @oldnat

    Chill and with a little neo-soul…

  10. Fave bit from Candy’s link – which is well worth reading – was actually in the comments…

    “Michael Josem

    I thought the name “Britain Stronger in Europe” was the worst part, since it has the obvious abbreviation of “BSE”. BSE is, of course, the abbreviation for mad cow disease too.

    Dirk Singer

    Dominic Cummings the Vote Leave campaign director made a point of calling Remain “BSE” at every opportunity.

    Mike Hind

    And, amusingly, there was a map of the areas affected by BSE immediately following the referendum. You guessed – it mirrored the Leave areas precisely.”

  11. @Carfew

    Look at the polls no one cares.

    The only folk that care are people that use the oil price to back up the ‘too wee, too poor’ nonsense & yes it is irritating & sometimes I’d like to respond ‘the only reason you fawn over the previous union is because of our worthless oil’ it’s a unionist obsession because you wish it was yours.

  12. Couper2802

    I doubt that Carfrew fawns over anything (other than storage and Thorium perhaps). He just likes to be irritating.

  13. @Coups

    Well, some peeps do care if you spread bile. Like the Too Wee stuff… I don’t mention oil prices in that context, (have always made clear I don’t think the oil price need stop independence), but instead to point out how your side spreads rubbish too. You continue to do this in trying to brand me a British Nationalist earlier, another ad hominem.

    You guys seem to love making nonsense up. But maybe it’s better on WoS?

  14. @Oldnat and Coups

    Got an answer for what happens under FFA if there’s a shortfall yet? Or is it just immature provocation all night long?

  15. Carfrew

    ” is it just immature provocation all night long?”

    Depends on when you go to bed, I suppose. :-)

  16. Nah you do it loads in my absence. Figures you wouldn’t even have an answer on FFA.

  17. I don’t know if I trust this site but then I don’t trust anything anymore. But this is explosive if true

  18. Wow.

    Does make you wonder, just how many times does a leader have to be stabbed in the back in the interests of “saving the party”?…

    Doesn’t it ever get old? Surely they must tire of it after the first few dozen times?…

  19. Derek Hatton is still around and allegedly back in the party. Nowadays, he is a multi millionaire property developer having made a fortune selling dodgy timeshares.

    Always good to see socialists living by their principles.

    I don’t know if I trust this site but then I don’t trust anything anymore. But this is explosive if true

    How is it explosive? It’s a backbencher’s job to put pressure on their party leadership. Given that you support Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell this is something you should already be well aware of.

  21. And as an aside, ask yourself why right-wing blogger Paul Staines might have an interest in keeping Jeremy where he is. Ask yourself the same question about our centre-right nationalist friends Oldnat and Couper2802.

    Hint: it’s not because they think he’ll win.

  22. RAF

    @”The PLP should just have backed Corbyn and let him have a couple of years at the helm to reposition the party somewhat and reconnect with the Membership. Then, if he suffered the catastrophic losses many in the PLP think his leadership would lead to, they could have replaced him with an Owen Smith type.”

    That certainly make logical sense.

    But in light of their experience of his “leadership”-the failure to communicate , the tendency to attend fringe events on fringe topics dear to him etc it would have been a big ask. It would probably have resulted in the same retreat to the backbenches & an increasingly fractious relationship.

    I really do think that these are two very very different “parties”. I remember well McDonnell’s remark that their “movement” doesn’t believe in “leaders”.

    There is an interesting observation over on pb about the equivalent populist “movements” in Europe. Over there the system has thrown up new parties-Five Star in Italy being the closest model to Corbyn’s . Podemos in Spain etc They have put pressure on the “old parties” and garnered VI in their PR systems.

    Whereas a combination of The Labour Party rules & FPTP has facilitated a “populist” entryism which is destroying an “old party” from within.

    Perhaps one should turn to the science of parasitology to discover what happens next ?

  23. The other issues with the argument that the PLP should have waited longer iare

    – that after the referendum and Cameron’s resignation a snap general election looked very likely (the Tories still have a wafer thin majority so there’s no guarantee that the government won’t collapse before 2020
    – it’s become increasingly clear that Corbyn has no interest in winning the 2020, he’s just using his leadership to try and make his fringe dominant in the party
    – they need to get rid of Momentum before they start triggering reselections.

  24. @Carfrew
    Re Foot doing OK in 1982, not really.

    The last opinion poll (late March) before the Argentine invasion (first week in April) showed Conservative 35, Alliance 33, Labour 30, which is not really a success for Labour…

    The party that REALLY got shafted by the Falklands was the Alliance.

  25. If the Labour party is to be an effective opposition, let alone regain power, it has to realise that it can only do so as a coalition, certainly of the different factions within it and ideally with the Greens, Lib-Dems and Scot Nats. At present it seems to be operating on the premise that it can only be effective if one or other of its factions wins. This seems to me a process of mutually assured destruction. It’s arguably exciting to take part in this exercise but from my viewpoint absolutely horrible to watch.

    Has anyone any suggestions on what constructively could be done?

    Failing that I would, for once, much rather talk about polling and whether, for example, the analysis of mass media has anything to contribute to it.

  26. “Corbyn will elaborate his plan to scrap tax relief scheme for drugs research by pharma companies – McDonnell #r4today”

    Jamie Angus
    Today Programme

    They really are nuts.

  27. @Charles

    I agree that some electoral agreement amongst the left/ centre left parties would be really good, as we look set for a prolonged period of the Conservatives being in the ascendancy.

    Electoral cooperation relies on trusting people who you have normally competed against. The big problem I can see is what you have identified. Could Labour’s would-be partners trust Labour?

    The answer, judging from the social media feeds I follows, is a resounding no. Clearly JC is more preferred among Green supporters mostly, but the biggest issue how the PLP have gone about challenging him. The perception I suspect is that it has been devious, under-hand and undemocratic.

    Under current circumstances, I think any form of electoral coalition among the left is dead, as all trust has been utterly shattered.

  28. CMJ

    I think it might be the Centre Left which is dead.

    And a May administration channelling Jo Chamberlain isn’t going to make resurrection easy.

    A combination of May & Corbyn seems likely to finally close the space so successfully occupied by Centre Left Triangulation.

    The Far Left seems to have found it’s messiah & the vacated vehicle which was Blair’s Labour Party awaits his occupation of it.

    Perhaps the UK voting public will be well served by the clear blue water appearing once more.

    I would love to hear the views of Rob Sheffield on this topic.

  29. @ COLIN
    The Corbyn wing are trying to win the leadership election. By keeping drug companies in the news they hope it will reflect badly on Owen Smith.

    Reflect badly with people who have a vote in the Labour leadership election, that is. They are not interested in appealing to the general public at this stage (if they ever are).

  30. @FuntyPippin

    If I’m centre-right then a couple of years ago as a Labour Party member – by your definition – I’d be supporting and voting with the Blairite plotters……errr no.

    Keep Corbyn because an independent Scotland would rather deal with a WM leader with broadly the same values and positions as Scotland than right-wing, extremists

  31. @Colin

    The Labour Party was set up to give representation to the people who did not have a voice in parliament, the poor, the tenants, the workers. If there is a parasite it is the middle-class careerist Blairites that are the parasites. The ‘workers’ can’t infiltrate the Labour Party it was set up for them, they are the Labour Party.


    How is it explosive? It’s a backbencher’s job to put pressure on their party leadership.

    I don’t really think it is the ‘job’ of any MP “to put pressure on their party leadership”, other things should take priority, you would think. But anyway, you’re missing the point. Conor McGinn isn’t a backbencher, he’s a Whip. He’s supposed to be (maybe paid to be) supporting his Party’s duly elected leader, not undermining him. And certainly not trying to coordinate other Whips to do likewise. That’s why it’s so ‘explosive’

    […] ask yourself why right-wing blogger Paul Staines might have an interest in keeping Jeremy where he is. Ask yourself the same question about our centre-right nationalist friends Oldnat and Couper2802.

    I don’t like or trust the Guido mob anymore than you do, but I suspect if the message wasn’t genuine we would have heard by now (these things are more easily proved technically one way or other). And if you think either OldNat or Couper2802 are ‘centre-right’, you really haven’t been paying attention.

    It’s worth pointing out that Scottish Yes supporters attitude to Corbyn is determined by two things. One is a fellow-feeling arising from the similar experience of having nearly all the conventional media (including the bits that are supposed to be impartial) ranged against you. The other is that most of the leadership and apparatus of Scottish Labour is violently anti-Corbyn and so there’s an element of ‘my enemy’s enemy’.

    The other issues with the argument that the PLP should have waited longer are
    – that after the referendum and Cameron’s resignation a snap general election looked very likely (the Tories still have a wafer thin majority so there’s no guarantee that the government won’t collapse before 2020

    Because nothing prepares a political Party for an immediate election like launching a civil war within the Party and against your own activists.

    – it’s become increasingly clear that Corbyn has no interest in winning the 2020, he’s just using his leadership to try and make his fringe dominant in the party

    Well, despite the efforts to “dissolve the people / And elect another” it looks like his ‘fringe’ is already dominant. But presumably he actually wants to do both – like any sane politician does. The people who seem uninterested in winning are the PLP with their antics.

    – they need to get rid of Momentum before they start triggering reselections.

    It’s possible some reselections may indeed start happening, but that will be entirely due to the foolish and reckless behaviour of some MPs. In practice they were extremely unlikely before that because no one knows what will happen about the 2018 boundary revisions and, if they happen, they are going to be so extensive that reselection will need to happen in most cases.

  33. We seem to be back in the very territory where our sponsor gave us a heavy slapping a couple of days ago.
    I’m resisting the temptation.

  34. @RogerMexico

    Scottish Labour is split on Corbyn. The Leader Kezia is anti-Corbyn and the Deputy Leader Rowley is pro-Corbyn.

    Rowley is also pro-second independence referendum & doesn’t rule out voting Yes. Kezia is still on the have her cake and eat it fence of staying in UK and EU.

    Needless to say there are no ‘Labour Split’ headlines in the MSM

  35. COLIN

    “Corbyn will elaborate his plan to scrap tax relief scheme for drugs research by pharma companies – McDonnell #r4today”
    Jamie Angus
    Today Programme
    They really are nuts.

    I don’t know about this one. The big pharmaceutical companies have not really been very good at producing genuinely new drugs (rather than ‘me-too’ versions of existing ones) in the last few decades. Notoriously they spend more on marketing than on science. If this money is redirected towards innovative university and other research in the UK, then it might be better than just splashing it out on corporate welfare. As always the details will be important.

    (Obviously they will be trying wind up Owen Smith as well of course).

  36. “We seem to be back in the very territory where our sponsor gave us a heavy slapping a couple of days ago.”

    Yes, it looks like we’re in for another 6 weeks of various labour supporting posters setting out their positions for their dysfunctional and increasingly irrelevant party.

    This thread is nominally about the referendum polling, but all we seem to get on that is the usual suspects who can’t or won’t accept the result.

    They’re like a bunch of footballers who, having conceded the winning goal in the last minute of injury time, are still arguing with the referee long after the final whistle that the scorer was offside.

  37. @Roger Mexico

    I think you’re being a little too kind about potential non-Smith-related rationales for the Corbyn proposal. The boundaries of the R&D tax credit programme are pretty tightly drawn around the activities which contribute directly to development of new products (i.e. not marketing), and applies to all science and technology industries, not just pharma.

  38. @Robert Newark
    ‘TM will appeal to a lot of right wing Labour people. Corbyn will never appeal to Left wing Tories.

    It doesn’t matter if he gets a million members. It’s irrelevant.’

    I agree with that – and would go further and suggest that even 3 million members would be irrelevant .

    On a separate issue, I do dissent from the widely held view that Labour MPs such as Margaret Beckett are to blame for the party’s troubles by having nominated him last year. The blame for Corbyn’s victory should fall on the shoulders of Harriet Harman who as Acting Leader forced the party to abstain on the Welfare Reforms in Osborne’s July 2015 Budget. It was the outrage in reaction to that decision that gave Corbyn the momentum that carried him to his stunning victory. Without that he would almost certainly have done no better than a distant third behind Burnham and Cooper.

  39. I think the tax relief proposals for pharma companies is going to be interesting. I await the details with interest, but the initial press preparation appears again to be a big error – they have identified a ‘villain’, and said something negative about what they will do. In general terms, R&D tax relief is extremely important for industry and is the kind of thing a decent left wing government should be pursuing with vigour.

    I’m assuming that Corbyn will be looking to divert the tax relief to other forms of research as a better way to develop new drugs. If so, this is what they should be saying now, not headlining with the ‘punishment’ of a traditional left wing bogeyman.

    So again, we may have an interesting policy approach (or not – it might just be poor – we’ll find out soon) presented in a completely cack handed manner, with the story already set about a crazed left wing extremist setting himself against one of the UK’s leading research sectors.

  40. Roger Mexico.

    Yep-best not let Parmaceutical Companies anywhere near Drug Development-it involves all that nasty profit making.

    Yes-far better to let “The Government” do it-they no best.

  41. @ Colin

    ‘Perhaps one should turn to the science of parasitology to discover what happens next ?’

    So cute :)

  42. @ FuntyPippin

    ‘it’s become increasingly clear that Corbyn has no interest in winning the 2020, he’s just using his leadership to try and make his fringe dominant in the party’

    ???? Evidence? and the LP membership has doubled … fringe?

  43. Why is it a problem that Smith worked for a pharmaceutical company? The NHS has to get its drugs from somewhere, so it could be argued that he was helping the NHS.

    I think I heard Corbyn saying that he intends to fund government-sponsored research instead which is an option, but it didn’t exist when Smith was in his job. Also it would be prey to all the inefficiencies inherent in anything run by the government.


    Only the Opposition Chief & Deputy Chief whips get additional salaries.

    According to Parliament’s Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Rosie Winterton is Opposition Chief Whip but is silent on who is the deputy.

    According to They Work For You, Alan Campbell is Deputy Chief whip.

    Of course, both sources could be out of date, but it looks as though McGinn does his whipping for love rather than pecuniary advantage.

  45. David Carrod: This thread is nominally about the referendum polling, but all we seem to get on that is the usual suspects who can’t or won’t accept the result.
    They’re like a bunch of footballers who, having conceded the winning goal in the last minute of injury time, are still arguing with the referee long after the final whistle that the scorer was offside.”

    Well, you seem keen to resurrect the topic.

    I suspect many Leave campaigners do indeed see the referendum as like a football match. hence the, “you lost, get over it” meme.

    Given the importance of the event for the future of our nation, I prefer Dunkirk as an analogy. “You lost, get over it, accept the inevitable” was the German attitude. But Brits who cared about the future of their country preferred to fight on. We’ve lost a battle, but not necessarily the war.

  46. @ COLIN

    ‘Yep-best not let Parmaceutical Companies anywhere near Drug Development-it involves all that nasty profit making.
    Yes-far better to let “The Government” do it-they no best.’

    Roger Mexico wil do much better at disentangling your contention than I. However, as all parasitologists know, there are no profits in developing drug treatments for a vast range of very nasty parasitic infections because the people and countries they affect are too poor.

    The profit seeking pharmaceutical companies develop many similar drugs against hypertension, and provide ‘data’ as to why increasing numbers of the rich world’s population should be treated, when at the same time, a million (mainly babies) die of Malaria every year. I could cite many others .. leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis, schistosomiasis etc etc which are also ignored .. but the really big failure is in not developing new antibacterials.

    The case for having at least one nationalised pharmaceutical is overwhelming. And that is without considering the distorting impact of the pharmaceuticals on trade deals, global trade and medical practice.

  47. @Sygyzy – not too sure about the idea of a nationalised pharma co. It may help, but I suspect there are a great number of other possible options to improve the situation. I don’t know, so I’m interested in Corbyn’s ideas.

    Differential tax relief depending on the research topic is one idea. Also, why go to the expense of setting up new state owned research facilities? How about contracting private companies to research specific drugs and diseases, with the state owning a share of any results? The NHS is also a great provider of data, which is already being sold, but again, the state has a resource that it can use to influence the direction of research. Then there is the whole area of university research spending.

    I restate – I don’t know what the best answer is, as I don’t know this sector at all. However, the politics of this from Corbyn is again, very poor, if you have an interest outside your own party activists. Just imagine what the talk would be this morning if the briefing had been ‘Corbyn seeks to develop new antibiotic treatments and a cure for malaria’ or somesuch? Instead, it sounds like a same old same old left wing attack on private enterprise.

    Poor media management, again, which is what I keep saying. Labour will be pasted in 2020 if this carries on, and Corbyn has proven time and again that he can’t do this.

  48. Syzygy
    “However, as all parasitologists know, there are no profits in developing drug treatments for a vast range of very nasty parasitic infections because the people and countries they affect are too poor…….The case for having at least one nationalised pharmaceutical is overwhelming”

    So we should have a nationalised pharmaceutical company in order to sell drugs cheaply to the third world? If we did have one, why not get it to develop stuff for the UK?

  49. SYZYGY

    You don’t get it at all do you. The growth in Corbynite Labour membership is mostly based on young left wig students. The sort of broad church required to win GE’s, is a million miles away from the clique that surrounds McDonald and Jezza. I utterly agree with Funtypippin, Corbyn and Co are not remotely interested in winning GE’s, just left wing rabble rousing. They will totally demolish the Labour movement, correction, they already have.

  50. @Roly
    I don’t want to get involved in this debate again but I think your contention is wrong. There are many older to geriatric new members in the Corbyn bulge. What the balance is, nobody I suspect knows because we don’t even know how many of the latest tranche are Corbynistas of any age at this point.

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