Archive for February, 2005


Is the Iraq war still an issue?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

Will voters care about today’s Guardian revelations?

The extent to which the Iraq war will be a General Election issue could be tested by revelations in the Guardian today that the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, warned Prime Minister Tony Blair less than two weeks before the invasion that military action could be deemed illegal.

According to the report, the Government was so concerned that it might be prosecuted that it set up a team of lawyers to prepare for legal action in an international court and a Parliamentary answer issued days before the war in the name of Lord Goldsmith was actually drawn up in Downing Street.

The advice of the Attorney-General has never been published and today’s revelation will, no doubt, lead to more calls that it should be and keep this in the headlines.

For Labour, as time has gone on, and particularly since the Iraqi elections in January, the issue of why Britain went to war in the first place has dropped down the agenda although the polls show that the proportion of people opposed to the military action remains very high.

The problem for the Tories is that it is hard for them to raise issues about the war because they supported it and whenever Michael Howard has tried to pursue specific matters the charge of him being “opportunistic” has been difficult to avoid.

For the Liberal Democrats the Guardian story could not have been better timed because they have tended to get drowned in the initial skirmishes of the election campaign and Sir Menzies Campbell is one of their most effecting spokesmen.

© Mike Smithson 2005


Do women prefer Michael?

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

    Why is Howard beating Blair for female support?

With the betting markets moving a notch to the Tories following the Guardian ICM survey further information from the poll, now available, shows the potential big gender gap at the coming election.

Interviewees were asked to rate whether a number of leading politicians were “an asset or a liability to their party”. Tony Blair came out with a rating of 45-43 in favour – but there was a huge difference between the men surveyed and the women. The males went for Blair by 48-42 while the women gave him a negative rating.

With Michael Howard the overall rating was 45-35 that he was an asset – a good result given that Labour’s key strategy in recent weeks has been to demonise the Tory leader. But amongst the men surveyed the gaps was much less – 46 to 40. With the women, however, Michael Howard was rated as an asset by 48 to 30 – a very big margin.

Charles Kennedy had an overall asset-liability ratio of 57 to 23 but he scored slightly higher amongst the men than the women.

    Given that it was Blair’s success in attracting women to New Labour that was the back-bone of the 1997 landslide this new trend could be very significant.

The pollsters are currently testing all sorts of different approaches to finding out our view of different personalities. For the YouGov survey expected in the Telegraph on Friday people are being asked who they most like watching and listening to on the radio and television.

The ICM poll has led to more money going on the Tories to win most seats at the General Election. Since last night on Betfair the price has dropped from 9/1 to 15/2 and lower. Clearly this is a very long-shot but some punters have been encouraged to take the plunge.

© Mike Smithson 2005


ICM – Labour Lead down to 3%

Monday, February 21st, 2005

    Is Howard’s campaigning having an impact?

The February ICM poll in the Guardian tomorrow shows that Labour’s lead has dropped to 3%. The vote shares with changes on the same poll last month are: LAB 37 (-3) : CON 34 (+3) : LD 21 (n/c).

For the Tories this is the best position with ICM since March last year and suggests that Michael Howard’s high-profile initiatives on crime and immigration are making an impact.

For Labour the poll will be a big disappointment because it is the first full survey since the the party cranked up the campaigning ten days ago with six-stop helicopter tour, the pledge card launch, Labour’s spring conference and Tony Blair’s high profile day on Channel 5.

For the Lib Dems the 21% share will be a great relief as it follows the Populus and NOP surveys earlier in the month which had Charles Kennedy’s party at 18%.

Although a 37-34 split would give Tony Blair a very substantial majority on a uniform national swing they are starting to get into the range where the outcome could be less certain. Using the Martin Baxter calculator with a 2% tactical unwind factor and you get LAB 356: CON 206: LD 54 – a Labour majority of 64.

ICM is probably the most market-sensitive of the pollsters and there is little doubt that this will have a big impact on the spread-betting markets where we expect Labour to drop and the Tories to rise.

Surveying for the ICM poll took place before the announcement of the Tory council tax plan for over-65s. The next major poll should be YouGov in the Telegraph on Friday. The last YG poll had Labour just 1% ahead.

IG Index spread prices: LAB 354-361 : CON 191-198: LDs 68 -72 .
Spreadfair prices: LAB 355.9-360 : CON 191.2-194.7 : LDs 68 -70
When comparing spreads remember that with Spreadfair you pay a commission on any profit. If you are opening a spread-betting account please use the link and mention Politicalbetting. We get a commission which helps defray some of the costs of keeping the site going.

© Mike Smithson 2005


Where have all the opinion polls gone?

Monday, February 21st, 2005

    After the poll famine – the feast: we hope!

With the opening of the offical campaign for a May 5 General Election only weeks away there’s been a dearth of opinion polls. So far in February there have been just three national surveys and we are now three-quarters of the way through, what is admittedly, the shortest month.

    Compare that with January when we saw a total of ten polls including five extra surveys beyond the five regular ones that are usually commissioned every month.

So far Labour’s pledge card, Tony Blair’s “I want to make up” speech in Gateshead, and the party’s response to the Tory plans on immigration have hardly been put to the test. Likewise the Tory move on health checks for immigrants has not been surveyed in terms of its impact on the party shares.

The Lib Dems, meanwhile are anxious to see if the big drops reported by Populus and NOP are also there from other pollsters.

    Although we all moan about the polls – when we don’t have them those who try to gamble or predict the outcome of elections have nothing to go by. We are flying blind.

Well the period of poll famine is nearly over. The Guardian’s monthly ICM survey should be published in the next day or so; the Telegraph’s monthly YouGov poll is usually featured on the final Friday while the Independent on Sunday has made the last weekend of the month the slot for its Communicate Research report.

We wondered whether the newspapers that commission opinion polls have decided that the election is such a foregone conclusion that they are preserving their polling budgets until the campaign itself.

© Mike Smithson 2005


General Election Betting round-up

Monday, February 21st, 2005

    The betting moves a notch to Labour

Overall there has been a slight change in market sentiment towards Labour although not all the betting prices have shifted.

If you are making any General Election bets we would be grateful if you could click on the links below. This site costs now costs a lot of money to run and to keep going without being too out of pocket we hope to receive some commission from bookmakers. Currently this goes nowhere near to covering our costs but every little helps.

When the election is declared we are hoping to have streaming odds which will be constantly up-dated.

Party winning most seats. The week has seen a very slight easing in the Labour price .
LAB: 1/8 CON: 6/1 (9/1 BF) LD: 66/1(129/1 – BF)

A Hung Parliament?. No change on the week.
Yes: 7/2 No : 1/6

General Election Date. There’s been a hardening of the April-June price and an easing of the odds against it being before March 31st.
Apr – Jun 2005 : 0.09/1 Jan – Mar 2005 : 15/1Jul – Sep 2005 : 54/1
After Mar 2006: 109/1 Oct – Dec 2005: 149/1 Jan – Mar 2006: 199/1

Turnout. There’s been a big move towards a higher turnout which was at more than 3/1 just three weeks ago.
0% – 55%: 9/4 55% – 60%: 7/4 60% +: 5/4

Labour Seats. The two bookies in this market are going in slightly different directions. Find the bet that makes most sense to you.
0 – 339: 7/4 0 – 345: 7/4 340 – 365: 15/8
345 – 375: 13/8 366 +: 6/4 375 +: 7/4

Tory Seats. The markets are taking a slightly more pessimistic view of Michael Howard’s chances of getting above the “magic” 200 seat level.
0 – 189: 6/4 190 – 205: 2/1 205 +: 2/1

Lib Dem Seats. Slightly confusing because the bookies have different ranges but the Lib Dems are down just a touch.
0 – 64: 2/1 65 – 70: 9/4 65 – 80: 11/8
71 +: 11/10 81 +: 5/2

Plaid Cymru Seats. No change on week.
0 – 3 : 4/1 4: 5/45 +: 11/10

SNP Seats. No change in Scotland either.
0 – 4:7/4 5: 13/8 6 +: 13/8

Full IG Index Commons Seats Spreads Again a slight shift to Labour at the expense of the Tories but still no sign of a Veritas option. Come on IG – there’s people here who want to bet R K-S
LAB 355-362 (+2) : CON 190-197 (-2) : LD 68-72
SNP 5.5-6: PC 4.5-5
RES 0.5-1 UKIP 0.1-0.6
DUP 8-8.5: SF 5.5-6: UUP 2.5-3: SDLP 1-1.5

© Mike Smithson – 2005


2012 Olympic Bid – Punters stick with Paris

Monday, February 21st, 2005

In the wake of the euphoria following last week’s visit to assess London ability to stage the 2012 Olymic Games some UK bookmakers have tightened the odds on the capital being chosen.

Paris, however, remains the very firm favourite, and its price only eased a touch during last week’s visit. It is an even stronger favourite on the non-UK markets.

The best UK bookie price on London is now 7/2; the Betfair betting exchange has 4.1/1 but with the US-focussed Tradesports you can get about 6/1.

The best Paris odds from UK bookies are, by comparison, 4/9. The Betfair price is 4/11 while the international odds are touching 1/4.

The decision should be made in July.


Fighting off unwanted comments

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Unmoderated sites like this offer easy pickings for the spam merchants and we have to keep it under control all the time. As users might have noticed we have had a very bad weekend.

Until now we’ve mostly been the target of on-line gambling sites – not porno ones. That has changed and we have had to broaden the range of words and phrases that will not get through. This will mean that some legitimate comments might not be published straight away.

Please try to avoid words or phrases that could be picked up by our defences. Thus quoting directly from an Alistair Campbell email will result in your comment being blocked!

The main preventative devices are to only accept comments from those who are registered and/or to have moderation in place all the time. I’m not keen on either of them.


How YouGov’s Peter Kellner keeps the anoraks out

Sunday, February 20th, 2005

    Don’t tell him that you read the Guardian or the Indy

Being the one alternative voice in the UK polling industry Peter Kellner, boss of the internet firm, YouGov, is going to come under intense scrutiny in the coming weeks and none more so than over the way those his firm surveys are “self-selecting”.

For instead of a pollster going out to find “random” voters to interview all of YouGov’s polls are confined to a panel of more than 50,000 people who have pre-registered for the opportunity of being paid to be polled. About 3-4000 of them are invited by email to take part in each survey.

A concern expressed repeatedly on this site is that that those who bother to register have a keen interest in politics and in no way can be described as typicial. On the face of it this seems a good argument and one that the firm has taken into account. For one of the questions when you register is which daily newspaper you read.

    If the Guardian or Indpendent is your main paper then you are probably going to receive less invitations to take part in surveys and when you do your views will not register anything like the “value” in terms of the top-line results as, say, a Sun or a Mirror reader.

For the last YouGov poll for the Mail on Sunday two weeks ago this is how readers of the different papers were “rated”:-

Express/Mail 1.0
Sun/Star 1.24
Mirror/Record 1.11
Guardian/Independent 0.64
Financial Times/Times /Telegraph 0.87

So the party preference of every Sun reader was multiplied by 1.24 which is nearly double the value given to the choices of Indy/Guardian readers – a move designed by YouGov to ensure that their sample was representative.

The precise numbers change with every poll because it all depends on who responds. But invariably the views of the readers of “heavy-weight” papers, who are probably more likely to take part, are discounted while those of the “red-tops” are put at a premium.

Is it a good system? We will know better the day after May 5th – if that is, indeed, polling day. In the meantime YouGov will point to their record to show how much better they have been than the conventional pollsters in getting elections right.

© Mike Smithson 2005