Bursting Our Balloon



They called it wrong again.

‘sheet poll number cruncher Shane Heneghan writes

Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure let me just say that I was spectacularly wrong about this. I predicted a remain vote of about 52%. The voters gave me the exact opposite result.

When the dust settles, the fact that this was the second major failure in a row of the British polling industry, a country where the polls are traditionally remarkably reliable, should be dealt with but at the moment that is way down our list of considerations.

Let’s just take a step back for a minute and look at what happened.

This situation we are in now is unprecedented and no one can seriously tell you what will happen next. Anyone who says they can is a liar and probably has a very specific agenda.

But for the sake of argument ‘ll go through some of the hypothetical models of Britain’s future that have been going through my head in the past while:

The Norwegian-Icelandic Model
This involves joining the European Economic Area and would leave the UK in a close economic relationship with the EU while giving them an emergency break on freedom of movement and removing them from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The UK would also lose it’s right to appoint a commissioner, elect MEPs and send ministers to the Council of the European Union and still have to pay handsomely into the EU budget while receiving little or no benefit.

The Swiss Model
Much the same as the above only in this case the relationship would be governed by a series of bi-lateral treaties. I think this is the most likely outcome as it gives the UK much more flexibility.

(It is important to note that the above two options involve membership of the Schengen passport free zone which I am assuming Britain will continue to avoid like the plague.)

The Singapore model
In short, this involves the UK being treated as if it were a third country completely detached from Europe. It implies that tariffs and customs inspections would again applied to goods traded between the rest of Europe and the UK. This is by far the most radical option and in many ways the least likely given the close nature of the vote.

There are a few other things to keep in mind in the next few days.

Corbyn has got to go
A man who leads his party in a referendum and fails to convince great swathes of his electoral base of his position will probably have to do the honourable thing sooner or later. A leadership election will almost certainly be triggered by the Parliamentary Labour party in the next few days. The shadow cabinet is already in disarray and the departure of Hilary Benn does not help.

2) This vote is not binding.
The British Parliament is literally the beginning and the end of UK democracy. Referendums have no legal status and if the House of Commons votes to ignore this referendum in the morning then it’s dead in the water. Of course, even if this is entirely legally plausible, it is more or less politically impossible and would probably lead to UKIP forming an armed militia within about six months.

A slightly more likely prospect would be if a new moderate Labour party leader won an election before the exit negotiations concluded on a platform of maintaining full membership. That may sound unlikely but there is a solid 48% voters that feel hard done by and a sliver of the winning side with buyers remorse who may back them and when you factor in that the Conservative party is almost certainly going to lurch towards the right after Cameron leaves them it just might make this scenario a runner.

3) A northern Irish border poll really is a non starter.
We have already seen how the Democratic Unionist Party have moved heaven and earth to stop gay marriage being introduced to Northern Ireland- imagine the effort they would mount to stop a vote on Irish unity. Sinn Féin can hardly be blamed for raising the idea- what else are they for? But the relative silence of the SDLP is also telling. This issue simply is not on the table at the moment despite the North’s difference of opinion with mainland Britain. Things may change if Scotland votes for independence.

4) Britain may drift ideologically into the Atlantic
Future right wing governments in Britain may not be bound by EU social legislation and may slash “red tape” such as maternity leave, paid holidays, anti discrimination rules and other such nonsense dreamed up by water cooler dictators in Brussels. In terms of foreign policy in general they will be even more dependant on the so called “special relationship” with the Americans- how reciprocal that relationship is anyone’s guess.

Finally, I don’t like historical hypotheticals but I can’t help but speculate that John Major should have held a referendum on the Maastricht treaty in 1991.

Presumably, he could have won and used it to silence “the bastards” in his party while nipping the rising tide of Euroscepticism in the bud. This would have probably solidified his premiership more so than his eventual “Back me or sack me” leadership contest.

He didn’t and UKIP was founded in 1994.

Shane Heneghan is a Brussels-based election and poll watcher. Follow Shane on Twitter

51 thoughts on “Bursting Our Balloon

  1. ahjayzis

    In fairness, 2/3 of Labour voted Remain. What level of a Remain vote would have qualified as ‘good’?

    1. mildred st. meadowlark

      Precisely ahj. The Tories have had a smear campaign against Corbyn since the election. This sounds like more of the same.

    2. Barry the Hatchet

      +1 The Blairites in the Labour Parliamentary Party have been looking for any excuse to oust Corbyn since he was elected, to further their own selfish ends at the expense of both party and country. Whatever your political leanings, it is clear that Westminster needs a strong opposition right now, to hold the Government to account – particularly in light of the litany of broken pre-referendum pledges made by the leave side. This infighting is pathetic and shameful.

      1. phil

        Lab should wait for the chilcot report in 2 weeks time, I suspect it might soften the cough of a lot of Blairites

      2. ahjayzis

        I also don’t see them putting up a candidate. The 3 from last time were a snoozefest. Hilary Benn is a pound shop parody of his dad, and he who wields the knife, etc.

        This is time wasting. I voted Corbyn and he disappointed me during the ref, big time, but there’s no obvious alternative and this is NOT the time to spend three months in an internal fight right at the time the Tories are falling apart. Guardian published a poll today and based off this mess the Tories are LEADING Labour after the vote. Scandalous treachery from the PLP, they’re handing Johnson/May the election.

        1. scottser

          Shall we join the UKIP militia, for the craic like?
          Ugly uniforms, but the chants are hilarious..

    3. Rob_G

      A huge proportion of the Labour heartland (Wales, northern England, midlands) voted for Brexit. If he can’t deliver votes in these areas, he’s got to go.

      1. ahjayzis

        I’ll agree with you when you tell me which MP would have stood a better chance of delivering those heartlands?

        Liz Kendall? Yvette “we need to reflect” Cooper? Come on. This was a revolt AGAINST the special advisor class, having one of them in charge would’ve hurt the cause, not helped it.

        1. Me

          Exactly, Guardian has just published piece from Britain Stronger in Europe leader saying as the Labour heartlands were lost Corbyn should go. So who is there to replace him and connect with those heartlands?
          Plus, younger voters supported remain in the main and there is also support for Corbyn among younger voters. Maybe an effort to engage more of the youth rather than attempts to win back these areas who may or may not vote in the election (Ive not seen the numbers but a comparison between voting levels in these areas between GE and Ref might be interesting)

          1. Sido

            How is Labour to galvaise the support of younger voters? It has nothing of any value to offer.
            Any strategy that does not consider their Northern heartlands will leave them in a cardboard box with the liberals.
            And here’s the problem, those Northern heartlands are predominantly leave. If they don’t go back to representing their constituents (which incidentally is the job they are paid to do) then they are in big trouble.

        2. Rob_G

          Do you know, I don’t know. Someone who won’t have 15 of their cabinet resigning over the course of a weekend would be a start.

  2. Mark Dennehy

    “Corbyn has to go for failing to win the referendum that was mainly between Cameron and Farage in the first place”

    “Referenda results are not legally binding and basically don’t mean much at all”.

    Bit inconsistent there really…

    1. Medium Sized C

      Not really.
      Not at all actually.

      You just picked two sentences from two different contexts and tried to make them a contradiction.

      1. Mark Dennehy

        “Person A must go because of Thing B, which really doesn’t mean that much anyway”.
        That’s not two separate contexts, it’s one context.

        1. dav

          a blairite won’t agree with you, they want to see a democratically elected leader fall, that is all.

          1. Sido

            The modern Labour party is essentially in the Blairite mould – wrapped in red wrapping paper for sales purposes. They need to reorganize themselves and quickly or the next conservative leader will call an election on them (to “confirm his/her mandate) They don’t have long and their choices are stark.

  3. Mark Dennehy

    Also, the SDLP’s not been silent. From today:

    “The swirling uncertainty of a Brexit must now be met with a firm determination to protect the Irish national interest. The SDLP will be fighting to ensure this happens. That will require the Irish government and all parties across the island to defend the agreements and progress which stretch back to 1998.

    We will defend Northern Ireland’s position in the European Union. That means immediate discussions with governments in Dublin, Edinburgh and elsewhere in Europe as well as directly with the EU in Brussels.

    This requires co-operation from all parties in the Assembly who supported the campaign to remain. The DUP’s minority voice cannot become a veto on progress or democracy.

    The Scottish First Minister has made it clear that the Scottish Parliament will not consent to any UK government notification to leave the European Union. The Northern Ireland Assembly must respect the views of the people of Northern Ireland and do the same – we cannot and will not consent to steps by London to leave the European Union.

    In addition, there can be no return to a physical border across this island. There must remain freedom of movement for people, goods and services across Ireland. What we have, we must hold. For the sake of our economy we must also now ensure the full and fast integration of economic interests across this island. This is now driven as much by necessity as it is by political ideology.”

  4. Turgenev

    Imagining a DUP man – “No Pope here! We won’t join those homosexual-marriage-legislating liberals… though at least they’re sound on the unborn… Home Rule is Rome Rule…”

    1. Mark Dennehy

      …you know Ian Paisley has been advising his constituents to get Irish passports since Friday and has been signing their application forms non-stop?

  5. Frilly Keane

    you present a fairly disgraceful bias in your report above Shane

    ” Corbyn has got to Go”

    Just who da’ûck do you think you are?
    One thing you absolutely are not

    An Independent Polling Professional

    And consider this.
    Maybe it was your bias that influenced your polling results

    1. Medium Sized C

      The traditional labour voter base featured heavily in the Leave vote.
      A lot of labour supporters in the UK are calling for his ouster.
      The mans own front bench are resigning in droves.
      He pretty much has to go.

      There is nothing wrong with expressing an informed opinion and there is less wrong with expressing an opinion that Corbyn is harming the labour party.
      You get free reign to post what ever thing you like once a week.
      Who do you think you are?

      1. Frilly Keane

        I’m not posting opinion here under my Professional practice

        Shane Heneghan is.

        Frilly Keane is a bloggard
        I don’t proffer Frilly Keane as an opportunity to enhance my profile or market my professional profile

        Big difference

    2. Sido

      Your observations don’t really alter the fact, that he is, to all intents and purposes ******.

      1. Frilly Keane


        But one thing’s for sure
        Shane Heneghan’s polling is tainted with bias
        And therefore

  6. john

    I thought some of the polls had brexit and those who didn’t were in the margin of error. Combined with the weather on the day I wouldn’t describe it as a total failure.

  7. Patsy8

    The last time these people were asked to vote on anything even remotely significant they came up with “Boaty McBoatface”.
    How is anyone surprised ?

  8. Me

    Im really curious about the anti Corbyn push. He himself tweeted on Thursday that he had voted remain, he had offered a considered but qualified support for Europe (7/10 I think was how he put it). Should he have lied and insisted he gave total support? Wasn’t there already enough dishonesty going around in the campaign?
    He was accused of not being on the ground enough though he did more than many others on the other side.
    This was a Tory party issue that became a national one. On Scottish independence he came out to support remain and share a platform with Cameron and the result was a near total wipe out of Labour support in Scotland. Was he to commit to sharing a platform with Cameron again and risk the associations?
    We are being told that a lot of Leave support is from people offering a protest vote which suggests there was limited, if any, chance of changing their minds. Particularly now the narrative is about out of touch London elites not understanding the rest of the country.
    So Corbyn out and then what, a more to the centre/Blairite state of the party before he was leader. The party that didnt bother to challenge welfare cuts in parliament because ‘the people voted this government in so they seem to want this’?! This is like a mini shock doctrine type approach, change while things are unsteady and troubled. Had he come out all guns blazing and Leave had still won would be hearing their support for him them, I seriously doubt it. Had Remain would he be thanked for his contributions, again I imagine vocal support for him wouldnt have followed.
    Seems like an opportunistic coup from a group who don’t want to admit where their political views lie (close to Lib Dem or even torythan traditional Labour I would suggest)

    1. Sido

      Has Britain remained then Crobyn would have remained, At least for a while. He is collateral damage. With Dave gone Labour could find themselves looking at a General Election.

  9. KevM

    Corbyn in power post the next election is exactly what Britain needs.

    He brought 2/3rds of his party with him. How much of the Tory party went with Cameron?

    The Blairites coup against Corbyn was coming regardless of the brexit result.

    1. Rob_G

      Corbyn can’t win over the centre; this all but guarantees another 10 years of unbroken Tory rule. #CorbynMustGo

        1. Kieran NYC

          There’s a difference between being conservative and not voting for the horrific, brain-dead (in the main) Left in Ireland.

      1. ahjayzis

        Corbyn hasn’t lost an election in the 9 months he’s been leader. He matched Miliband’s record breaking local result just last month.

        Methinks the Tory doth protest too much.

  10. Robert

    Corbyn does not have to go. Corbyn is great. The fact that he didn’t put 100% into campaigning leave just meant he knew which way the wind was blowing. The beauty of Corbyn is he has respect for, and espouses, the actual democratic process, rather than just trying to capture it and manipulate it to his own pre-determined agenda. The current “coup” is nothing more than a bunch of professional political types trying to use this as an excuse to push an agenda they’ve had since he was elected. Best of luck to Corbyn, he’s the best hope the UK has for representative democracy.

    1. Nigel

      That’s stupid. if it was a political calculation it’s worse. Even a losing full-throated campaign would have benefited him, galvanising Labour support, because a loss was always going to fall on the pig’s head guy. Worse still, considering how close it was, it would have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, putting more responsibility for the loss on him. Either way it was a chance to become a strong unifying figure, and he blew it.

  11. CousinJack

    Its amazing how much commentary British politics gets on Irish media and how little Irish people understand British politics considering the closeness of media and culture.
    Typical Irish discourse on British politics is Labour good, Conservatives bad, which is ironic when most Irish people are right centre voting (FF and FG = Tories)
    Also if you look at the geographic spread of the referendum vote leave was dominated by traditional labour and liberal areas, where as remain was dominated by right wing voting areas (the SNP are as centre right as FG).
    But don’t let facts stand in the way of tories bad labour good

    1. ahjayzis

      Simple. Irish right-wing parties talk like left-wing parties. It makes Irish people completely unaware of how right-wing parties talk when they’re more honest, like in the US and the UK, hence the revulsion when they hear/see it red in tooth and claw. The results are the same but the rhetoric in Ireland is more cuddly.

      1. Sido

        Oh come on to suggest that FF&FG are the UK Tories is imaginative and stretching it a bit.

        1. manolo

          They might talk different, but when it comes to actions, there are plenty similarities in policies between the tories and those two.

    2. Kieran NYC

      Also Irish left-wing parties are traditionally fractious, intellectually bankrupt and woeful.

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