Archive for March, 2005



Monday, March 28th, 2005

On the SkyBet “will there be a hung parliament” market the odds on such an outcome not happening are 1/6.

Meanwhile on Betfair’s “no overall majority” market the odds against this being the result are 8.2/1.

Unless my maths are completely out you can be a sure winner if you bet on both. (Thanks to one of our posters to pointing this out)

Mike Smithson


Will the Labour vote hold where it does not matter?

Monday, March 28th, 2005

    Could winning the popular vote be Michael Howard’s consolation prize?

If the poll trends stay where they are at the moment then it is possible that the post-election political environment will be dominated by whether Labour supporters turnout in the 450-500 seats where their vote won’t make a difference.

    Quite simply if enough Labour supporters stay away from the polls in these seats then the party could be second to the Tories in terms of overall votes even though it would have a reasonable majority in terms of seats.

This voting pattern happened on a huge scale last time. Labour successfully held onto its vote in the marginals it was defending but the overall big drop in its margin was because supporters elsewhere did not turnout. Thus the actual voting saw Labour with a national lead in the popular vote down by a quarter while on the basis of the seats it held and won it looked as though there had been no swing at all.

The seats where Labour turnout could be right down are those in its heartlands, existing Tory seats and in constituencies where the battle is between the Lib Dems and the Tories where there could be a degree of tactical voting. The Tories do not suffer from the same problem and are likely to see reasonably good turnout levels in their strongholds

From a strategic standpoint it makes absolute sense for the Labour effort to be focussed on the potential swing seats. But if Labour’s vote does not hold up in the “other” seats it could have a huge impact on the national popular vote totals with the real possibility that Tony Blair could be returned with a reasonable majority but be second place on vote to Michael Howard’s Tories.

    If Labour win on seats but are second in the popular vote it could raise the issue of whether the victory was legitimate and you can envisage huge problems for the incoming Government with the House of Lords

In 1951 Clem Atlee’s post-war Government was beaten by the Tories even though it got a few hundred thousand votes more. But then the third party element was almost minimal and both parties were in the very high 40s in terms of vote shares. This time the vote shares of both main parties could be in the low 30s and questions of legitimacy would be easier to raise.

We expect that some betting markets on the popular vote will be opened quite soon and it might be that a Tory win bet here offers good value.

Mike Smithson


Communicate Research puts Labour lead at 12%

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

UPDATED Sunday 8am

    Is Tony Blair really heading for a 174 seat majority?

Today’s Independent on Sunday survey, conducted by Communicate Research, puts Labour at a level that is higher than it achieved in the 2001 landslide and gives the party a lead of 12% over the Conservatives that would on the Martin Baxter calculation produce a majority of 174.

With just five weeks to go before a May 5 election these are sensational figures but somewhat surprisingly the IoS story merits just three paragraphs and makes no reference to the 2001 General Election comparisons.

The March figures are with comparisons on last month – LAB 43 (+2): CON 31 (-3): LD 17 (n/c) – so both the Lib Dem and the Tories are down on their 2001 performance. The survey took place before the Howard Flight sacking and was carried out at the same time as the March YouGov poll which had just a 1% Labour lead. Clearly both pollsters cannot be right.

Polling experts observe that CR do not prompt for party choice – which usually gives bigger Lib Dem figures – and does not weight its results according to what interviewees say they voted last time. The latter is a measure used by the other telephone pollsters – ICM, NOP and Populus – to ensure that their samples are not skewed and this can have a huge impact. Without it the March NOP poll would have shown a Labour lead of 13% not the 5% that was reported.

If Communicate Research had included only those certain to vote, their figures would have been LAB 41%: CON 34%: LD 15%. As well as the YouGov poll the Communicate survey is in marked contrast to three other polls in the past five days.

CR’s Labour lead is 4% greater than ICM which does use past vote weighting and presents the party options to those being interviewed
CR’s Labour lead is 12% greater than the March Mori poll which had the two main parties level-pegging
CR’s Labour lead is 14.8% greater than the 2.8% Tory lead that the massive British Election Study reported amongst those “certain to vote” earlier in the week.

We do not expect that the poll will have a big impact on the betting markets which have seen very little movement throughout the day in spite of the Howard Flight sacking row.

Mike Smithson


Punters unmoved by the Flight case

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

    Gamblers keep their money firmly in their pockets

In spite of all the headlines and media coverage reaction on the betting markets to Howard Flight’s unguarded comments and his subsequent sacking the reaction of political gamblers has been very limited. Whatever else the affair has produced it has certainly not led to punters rushing to risk their cash by backing Labour or betting against the Tories.

The most senstive barometers are the Commons seat spread-betting markets where punters buy or sell Tory, Labour or Lib Dem seats as if they were stocks and shares. So if you buy Labour at 358 seats and they end up with 378 you’ve made a profit of twenty times your stake level. If they only get 348 seats then you lose ten times the amount. Like all markets the buy level is always higher than the sell and the bookmaker makes his profit from the “spread”.

In the past 24 hours IG Index has been unmoved with the Tories on 199-204 seats. Sporting Index lowered their Tory spread to 198-203 seats yesterday morning but by mid-afternoon is was back to 200-205 seats. At Cantor Spreadfair the day started with the Tories on 200-204 but is currently marked at 206-212 seats.

On the huge range now of conventional betting markets it has been the same story of very little movement.

    The balance of money is still on a Labour majority of 60 seats.

The next scheduled opinion poll should be from Communicate Research in the Independent on Sunday tomorrow. There might be other polls in the Sunday papers but we’ll probably have to wait until next week for surveys that take into account the Flight affair.

Our best tip is to put your money on turnout. IG Index have a spread of 58-60%. The 60% plus price with SkyBet is 5/6 and the Betfair price on 65% or more is 2.7/1.

The one reasonably certain thing you can say about the Flight case is that it has increased interest in the election.

Mike Smithson


Politicalbetting’s busiest day

Friday, March 25th, 2005

With the possible exception of the night of the US Presidential Election in November when we were recording usage in a different way this has been the site’s busiest day ever.

We are tops for unique users, page views and overall hits.

Thank you Howard Flight, thanks to all those who have made contributions and thank you to everybody for who has visited us. I am especially grateful to all those making comments who have kept within the ethos of the site of maintaining an environment where people from right across the political spectrum can feel comfortable taking part.

If you haven’t voted yet in the Guardian “Blog of the Year” contest then please do so. We need every vote and the poll closes on April 4th. Tell your friends.

Happy Easter.

Mike Smithson


The Flight sacking: who wins – who loses?

Friday, March 25th, 2005

The secret comments by Howard Flight revealed in the Times this morning and his subsequent removal as Tory candidate at Arundel at the election have made for a lively Good Friday.

It was good to see Labour moving quickly with their hastily arranged press conference providing John Reid, Ruth Kelly and Alan Milburn the opportunity to get election campaign onto the territory that Labour wants – the danger of Tory spending cuts.

It was also good to see Michael Howard’s hastily put together statement announcing that the Flight would be stopped from being a Tory candidate at the election.

    So who wins and who loses. How is this going to affect the campaign?

On the face of it this looks like really bad news for the Tories and there’s little doubt that it will enthuse Labour activists giving them a more powerful argument about voters doing anything that could let the Tories back in.

But will Howard come out of this well with his core consituency? He’s been shown to be decisive and ruthless – qualities that many in his party might find appealing. He’s also managed to take the story forward today away from the damaging expenditure cuts allegations that Flight started. You can see Tory spinners in the days to come contrasting Howard’s firm action with the departures of Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett.

Judging the reaction of the betting markets has been quite difficult because today’s YouGov poll also had an impact. What is interesting is that on the Spreadfair betting exchange there been a big move to the Tories in the Commons seat markets. Maybe this is short-term but there were hardly any punters about today prepared to bet against Howard’s party.

SpreadfairLAB 349.5 -354.5: CON 200-212: LD 65 -69

Mike Smithson


Labour’s YouGov lead down 4% in a week

Friday, March 25th, 2005

    Another poll shows its getting very close

Today’s YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph is in line with other recent polls and shows that the gap between the main parties is narrowing. The shares with comparisons from the Sunday Times YG poll five days ago are:- CON 34(+2): LAB 35(-2): LDEM 22 (-1).

Last weekend’s YG poll in the Sunday Times was taken in the immediate aftermath of Gordon Brown’s budget while the big political issue during this survey was the Tory policy on travellers.

It should be noted that unlike MORI yesterday and the big BES poll reported on Tuesday YouGov do not weight their results by whether those taking part are certain they will vote. This question was asked by YouGov but has not been a factor affecting their headline figures. We should get the detailed information on this when the pollster provides the full data set on its website.

For the Tories there will be much relief that a survey from the pollster that has traditionally reported the best figures for the party is no longer showing the five and six point deficits of the two previous surveys.

Labour will be quite worried by this latest poll because of the big drop came during a week when Tony Blair was centre stage once again – not Gordon Brown.

The Lib Dems will not be too concerned because it looks as though they will be going into the formal campaign in the low 20s.

Spread betting punters are likely to be even more attracted to Tory prices which have seen moves in the past few days.

Putting the YG vote shares into Martin Baxter’s calculator there’s is still a healthy majority for Tony Blair of 58 seats. The predicted Commons would be CON 207: LAB 352: LD 52

But that is applying the current projections to what happened four years ago. Another view of what might happen is had by working out what a uniform national swing to the 1997 figures would produce. From the Hill & Knowlton calculator, factoring in the Scottish changes, we get CON 223: LAB 324: LD 69 – an overall Commons majority of just one.

Comments: Please note that sexist, racist or homophobic comments will be deleted.

Mike Smithson


ICM put Tories 14% ahead among 55+ women

Thursday, March 24th, 2005

Polling round-up
With polls coming think and fast we’ve not featured an ICM survey, commissioned by Age Concern and the Fawcett Society among older women. The survey produced vote shares of CON 42%: LAB 29%: LD 21%. About one in five of those surveyed said they were still undeicided. The survey contrasts with a similar one before the 1997 General Election when 40 per cent of women over 55 backed Labour.

According to a report in the Independent a key issue for this group was pension provision for women and only 18% of them said Labour was doing enough to deal with what they said was a “crisis”.

British Electoral Study Update
Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report site has now published more information about Tuesday’s British Electoral Study poll that showed that the Tories were enjoying a 2.8% lead amongst those saying they were “certain to vote”. This is not a normal poll as we know it and the 3,000 who were interviewed were randomly selected from the entire electorate, contacted by the survey team who then went their homes to interview them.

Anthony notes…Probability Sampling is the ultimate in polling – you don’t have the same problems of people not using landlines, or not being available when the interviewer calls – it is as close to a genuinely random sample of the populus as is possible in an opinion poll. Whereas phone polls get response rates of something like one in six, the BES’s probability survey last election got a response rate of 53% in 2001. At this election they are also offering modest financial recompense to people who answer their poll in order to increase response rate even further.

The downside of probability sampling is that it’s very expensive and it takes ages to contact and interview people spread across the entire country. Hence the fieldwork dates for the BES survey stretches from late February until late March, so will not include any changes in support since the budget, for example. Theoretically though, it should be a very accurate picture of the voting intentions of those certain to vote.

My personal betting
The BES survey, together with today’s Mori poll which has both the Tories and Labour on 37% amongst those certain to vote, has convinced me that there is value in a Tory buy bet at the current levels of 199-204 seats. At that level Michael Howard’s party would be still 119 MPs short of an overall majority and for each seat above the buy level my profit will increase. The downside risk of them getting less than 204 is now relatively low particularly as the threat of UKIP diverting Tory votes seems to have all but disappeared.

The markets have moved in this direction today and it’s clear why.
IG IndexLAB 351-356 : CON 199-204 : LD 66-69
SpreadfairLAB 349.5 -353: CON 201-204.9: LD 65 -69

Mike Smithson