It's become clear from two online polls in recent days that the new question for the EU referendum has made a huge difference to the state of play, with both ICM and Survation suddenly showing a statistical tie (the former has a narrow 'Remain' lead and the latter has 'Leave' slightly ahead). As with polling on Scottish independence, there's a gulf between the findings of online and 'real world' pollsters, so it's likely that the next telephone poll will still show a significant lead for 'Remain' - but it probably won't be as big as before.
Anthony Wells has made the point that the impact of the question will disappear by polling day, because by then most people will have made up their minds how they want to vote, and the exact wording on the ballot paper won't sway them. I think that's broadly right, but in a sense it misses the point. The real significance of the wording is two-fold -
1) The new question isn't simply the one that will be used, it's also much more neutral and even-handed. So the polling done with it is likely to provide a more accurate snapshot of public opinion - meaning we may have severely underestimated the popularity of Brexit until now.
2) Polling that is more favourable for 'Leave' will to a large extent shape the course of the campaign. We saw during the independence referendum that the huge No leads reported by three of the six regular pollsters (including most disturbingly the rather artificial figures generated by YouGov's controversial "Kellner Correction") helped to suck the life out of the campaign until a very late stage, and gave some No-leaning voters an excuse not to think about the issues in too much depth, because they "already knew the result". A long campaign in which the race looks tight throughout will be a very different proposition.
I do wonder if the polls also played a crucial role in Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader. In past leadership contests, many natural left-wingers may have been deterred from voting for their dream candidate (for example Diane Abbott five years ago) by the perception that it was a complete waste of time. Probably union endorsements played the biggest role in making Corbyn look more credible on this occasion, but I suspect the two YouGov polls didn't do any harm either. It may be significant that the landslide was even bigger than YouGov suggested a month ago.
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Stephen Bush of the New Statesman has been vindicated this year by two brilliant predictions - that the Conservatives were on course to do much better at the general election than the polls suggested, and that Corbyn was a shoo-in. So it's slightly surprising that his analysis of Labour's shambolic whipping operation last night contains a number of red herrings. Firstly, the fact that John Bercow and his deputies don't vote has nothing to do with the government's real majority being 16 rather than 12. Two Deputy Speakers come from the Labour ranks, which completely balances out Bercow and the other Deputy Speaker who are both drawn from the Tory benches. It's purely and simply the failure of Sinn Fein to take up their seats that increases the de facto Tory majority by four. Secondly, absences caused by pairing arrangements can't possibly increase the government's majority - the whole purpose of pairing is to ensure that there is no impact on the majority in either direction.
On the tax credits division, Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, the DUP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP, the UUP and the Greens all voted against the government. Douglas Carswell of UKIP voted with the Tories, as did - somewhat bizarrely - the independent Northern Ireland unionist Lady Hermon, who normally votes with Labour much more regularly than her unionist colleagues do. That means the 'natural' government majority on the vote ought to have been roughly 20. In reality, it should have been lower still, because there was a minor Tory rebellion. The fact that the actual majority was as high as 35 can only be explained by non-paired absences on the opposition benches.
For all the DUP's dark hints about the consequences of Labour appointing a Shadow Chancellor who called the IRA "heroes", they don't seem to have had any qualms about voting in the opposition lobby last night. I suspect nothing much is really going to change - it's far, far easier for Labour, the SNP and the DUP to find common cause in opposing specific Tory policies (often for completely different reasons) than it would have been for them to agree on a joint programme for government.
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At PMQs today, David Cameron challenged Angus Robertson to produce a list of ways in which the "Vow" has been broken. He conveniently waited until Robertson had used up both his questions before making that demand, so I hope that the SNP get the list ready in time for the next session. It won't take long - it's been extremely well-documented that the Scotland Bill falls woefully short of the Smith Agreement in several key respects.
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Dan Hodges is moving rapidly from unhinged to fascistic -
"If Jeremy Corbyn doesn't like the national anthem, fine. He wins an election, and changes it. Until then, he sings it."
Since when has the singing of the national anthem been a legal requirement? What the hell has happened to this "open", "diverse", "tolerant" country? It appears that it is now compulsory for anti-monarchist atheists to beg God to preserve the monarchy via the medium of song.