Archive for November, 2005


ICM blow for Cameron’s Tories

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

    Still not through the 33% ceiling

Tucked away in the Guardian today is the November ICM poll showing CON 33(NC)LAB 38 (+2)LD. Given the high profile that the Tory leadership contest has had in the media this must be something of a disappointment to the party.

The 33% share is what the party achieved in the General Election itself and is just one point higher than what ICM recorded in their final pre-May 5th survey.

In one way it might be useful for the Cameron camp because it is a further reminder that the party has a huge mountain to climb. There will be big expectations when the 39 year old takes over on December 6th and each poll will be analysed closely to see if he is making a difference.

The poll will also be a disappointment to the Liberal Democrats who have been rather crowded out of the media in recent weeks. Even the latest change on tax thinking did not command the attention it might have done.

For Labour the maintenance of a solid ICM poll rating will be a welcome reassurance following all the rumpus over the defeat on the Terror Bill. It might also take the pressure of Tony Blair.

Mike Smithson


PB.C “Blair Third Term Index” at 22.7%

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

    Has the PM turned the corner after the Terror Bill defeat?

The collective view of people prepared to risk their money predicting political outcomes is that Tony Blair has a 22.7% chance of completing the majority of a normal third term as Prime Minister.

Using implied probabilities based on historical and current betting prices we are making a regular feature of how punters are rating the key political issues. Our first – the betting market assessment of Labour winning most seats at the next General Election – was on Sunday. Today we focus on the political gamblers’ view of how long Tony Blair will stay at Number 10.

There are many different betting possibilities and the one we have chosen is the market on him still being at Number 10 after January 1st 2008. Although betting on these long-term markets is relatively light it does show the levels at which punters are tempted to bet.

    As can be seen there has been a sharp movement since the summer and now the market assessment is that he has a less than a one in four chance of still being there at the start of 2008. In August the rating was in the high 30s.

The big driver in recent weeks has been the defeat on the vote on the Terror Bill although there is just a sign that a recovery is on the way. We think that there is good value at the current price level on Blair staying and in coming weeks a lot depends on how he handles his fifth Leader of the Opposition. We think that he will do quite well and the third term index will rise.

We also plan to run “Gordon Brown” and “Hilary Clinton” indexes.

Mike Smithson


Is attacking Cameron on drugs the best strategy for Labour?

Monday, November 21st, 2005
    Could “Daily Mail-speak” be having less influence?

Will Labour’s first big Labour onslaught on David Cameron after, as expected, he becomes Tory leader on December 6th be on illegal drugs. Not only would an attack focus further on the ambivalence of the 39 year-old’s personal statements but it’s the one policy area where he has said a lot on the record that Labour spinners could use against him.

For one aspect of Cameron’s relative lack of front bench experience is that there is a dearth of material of him saying things on key policy issues in public. One of the reasons, I believe, why Jeremy Paxman was less effective on Thursday night was that there wasn’t much for Newsnight’s researchers to get their teeth into.

    On illegal drugs the Cameron approach is to take a much softer line than we have been used to and it will be fascinating to see if this is a vote winner or a vote loser. The danger for Labour in using the issue is that society has moved on and attitudes to drug use might be much less close to a Daily Mail front page than they were a few years ago.

We got a touch of it in yesterday’s second leadership debate on ITV’s Dimbleby programme. Cameron put the emphasis on education and treatment urging the creation of proper residential rehabilitation. Rejecting suggestions that he was soft on drugs he argued that it wasn’t credible that ecstasy and heroin were in the same drugs classification.

Davis responded in the typical “Daily Mail speak” hard-line manner that has characterised Tory drug policy. The reason, he said, why ecstasy and heroin were in the same category was that they both killed – while cannabis always caused harm and downgrading sent a disastrous signal.

A young man in the audience echoed what many have been saying – that the criminalisation of what several million people do in private discredits the political process and the rule of law.

Will the Cameron soft-line hold under the likely Labour barrage or are we seeing a change in the accepted orthodoxy that being less tough on drugs is a vote loser?

  • Meanwhile, in the betting , Cameron has eased just a touch on the the exchanges to 0.06/1. This might have been prompted by a Times reports this morning that 44% of Tory members have now voted. Such a figure might be misleading because the return envelopes are going FREEPOST and these can take 5-7 days to get through the system.
  • Mike Smithson


    PB.C chart: Labour’s chances of being top party at next election

    Sunday, November 20th, 2005

      Punters give Labour a 57% chance of winning most seats

    In spite of the emergence of David Cameron, the higher media profile over the leadership election and Tony Blair’s first ever Commons defeat punters still make Labour a very strong favourite to come out top at the next General Election.

    Our latest chart based on best betting prices shows how punters are viewing the party’s election chances whenever it is held. The implied probability of a Labour victory is, like on all our charts of historical betting prices, calculated by looking at the best price available over time.

    Although betting on who will get most seats at the next General Election is relatively light it does give a snap-shot of how gamblers are rating the chances. This is about which party gets most seats – not whether they get enough to have a majority.

      The trend shows the enormous challenge facing the new Tory leader. We are a long way from the point where gamblers will risk much on the Tories coming on top.

    From a peak at the time of the Labour conference in Brighton things started to move slightly downwards with the Tory leadership publicity and this was added to by the Terror Bill defeat in the Commons. In total there’s been a 9 point movement against Tony Blair’s party in six weeks.

    Our plan is to revise the chart every week between now and the next General Election.

    Mike Smithson


    Could Labour and the Lib Dems skip a generation as well?

    Saturday, November 19th, 2005


      Might David Milband and Ed Davey benefit from the “Cameron effect”?

    One side effect of the emergence of David Cameron for the Tory leadership has been a change on the betting markets for the Labour leadership. The 54 year old Gordon Brown remains, of course, the red-hot odds on favourite but in recent weeks there’s been money going on the 40 year old Minister of State for Communities and Local Government, David Miliband who joined the Cabinet in May.

    On the Betfair exchange he’s now at 15/1 which puts him in the second favourite position ahead of “heavyweights” such as Alan Milburn, Charles Clarke and Peter Hain.

      Like Cameron, he entered Parliament at the 2001 General Election, and like Cameron, as well, he went to Oxford where he also got a first in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

    There can be little doubt that a Cameron leadership will have an impact on the other parties. The generation aspect is clearly important and Miliband would appear to be in a good position if the mood moved against Gordon Brown.

    Unlike Labour, where we know there will be a change before the General Election, the Lib Dems look set to remain with Charles Kennedy. But if there was a vacancy then one of its brightest stars is another Oxford-educated 40 year old, Ed Davey. Like Cameron he leads for his party on Education.

    Everything, of course, depends on timing. It’s hard at the moment to envisage anything other than a Brown-Cameron-Kennedy line-up at the next General Election. But if Cameron manages to get some traction into the Tories, and that is a big IF, then the other parties are bound to be affected.

      We might yet see the 2009/10 election leaders being three men who were born within a year of each other, who all went to the same university at about the same time and who all read the same subject.

    Whatever the political landscape is changing and it will be fascinating to watch.

    SPAM-TRAP APOLOGIES. A number of comments have been held up by the spam-trap because they contained the word “Pussy” – as in “Pink Pussy” – which Jeremy Paxman sought to question David Cameron about on Thursday.

    Mike Smithson


    Cameron gets a good press after the Paxman grilling

    Friday, November 18th, 2005
      Betting price set to tighten even further

    The heavy betting in recent days on David Cameron winning the Tory leadership should continue this morning after getting a pretty good press following his combative dcinterview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight.

    In the Times, under the headline “Paxman’s cocktail of rudeness fails to shake Cameron” Ann Treneman amusingly describes the opening when Cameron was asked if he knew what a “Pink Pussy was”. She goes on “…Dave relaxed (always a mistake). “Oh, that’s a drink. And that is all Paxman needed. For these were not just drinks. They were an outrage! Jugs of pink pussy are being sold for £8 in bars owned by a company of which Dave used to sit on the board. London was awash with crime and pink pussies were involved! What did Dave have to say about that? Dave soothed us with a lullaby about how important it was to create safe cities. Paxo interrupted him: “A drink containing white rum, Malibu, strawberry liqueur, grenadine and cream! Dave did not say the obvious thing — i.e. “Pass the sickbag” — but instead demanded: “What’s the question?” And then we knew that we had a fight on our hands. Dave was showing what he was made of. He was standing up to the Big Sneer. “

    Andy Smith in the Indpendent reveals that right up to a few hours before the recording that Cameron team was fighting with the programme over where it should take place. They objected to the first planned venue – a hotel – because it was “too baronial” and would play on the idea that their man was “a toff”. Of the discussion itself Smith observes: “The interview revealed he was able to withstand intense questioning. He made a number of good-humoured complaints about Paxman’s continual interruptions. On one occasion he offered a deal: “Let me have two sentences, and then you can interrupt.” But having competed two sentences without interruption, Mr Cameron could not resist adding, “and one more thing, if I may”.

    The Telegraph suggests that “Mr Cameron launched a clearly pre-planned attack on Paxman’s aggressive style to counter the interviewer’s questioning” On the drugs issue the report notes “Although there was some ambiguity about the exchanges with the BBC Newsnight interrogator, Mr Cameron, 39, appeared to survive without making an explicit admission and stuck to his line that politicians had the right to keep private their past before entering politics.”

    On Cameron’s approach to the interview the Guardian reports “Mr Cameron also turned the tables on Paxman, telling him: “This is the trouble with these interviews, Jeremy. You come in, sit someone down and treat them like they are some cross between a fake or a hypocrite. You give no time to anyone to answer any of your questions. It does your profession no favours at all and it’s no good for political discourse.”

    The best Cameron price you can get is 0.08/1 on the betting exchanges. This will tighten today as his victory looks even more certain.

    Mike Smithson


    Can Paxman put a smile back on Davis’s face?

    Thursday, November 17th, 2005
      Will Cameron survive the “ordeal by Newsnight”?

    Six months and ten days after the marathon Tory leadership started the the look on Davis’s face says it all. After being front-runner for so long and then seeing the events in Blackpool turn the contest on its head is there anything he can hope for from the campaign’s final set piece tonight when David Cameron faces Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight?

    For if there is going to be a last minute upset then the Paxman interrogation will be the occasion for it to happen. And after putting the label of “shit” to David Davis last week Paxman is not going to pull any punches with the young ex-Etonian who stormed into contention with his speech in Blackpool barely six weeks ago.

      Are we going to see much deeper probing of the personal drugs issue which dominated events last month? How is Cameron going to cope with Paxman’s forensic approach to his policy-lite campaign strategy which he seems to have maintained so far. Or has Paxman got an ace up his sleeve that will knock the 39 year old off guard?

    With perhaps half the Tory member electors having already sent their completed ballots off it will take a sensational development to change the course of this contest – and Paxman, surely, is the only person who could achieve that.

    Given the betting prices on Cameron are so tight – the best you can get is 0.08/1 – it might be worth waiting for the interview before putting money on. If Cameron does slip up then prices could move.

    Alastair Campbell says Cameron is the heir to Alastair Campbell
    . In his rather self-indulgent column in the Times this morning Campbell notes: “…He (Cameron) knows how to craft a line and put it over. He has a feel for what tickles the media’s fancy, what makes a story and how to get it up as a headline, what combination of action and demeanour keeps the photographers happy. He knows how to take a line of attack against him and turn it into a line of attack against his attackers. These are skills all press officers deploy from time to time. And every leader in the media age needs this kind of professional support..There were plenty of times when Mr Blair would take my advice. But not for one second did I ever imagine I could do his job, let alone do it better than he did. I might have thought I did my job better than Messrs Major, Hague, Duncan Smith and Howard did theirs, but I always knew that their job was tougher. I’m not sure that Mr Cameron appreciates the difference. “

    With the new register of MPs financial interests several papers this morning look at who has provided financial backing for the two campaigns. The Guardian contrasts the backgrounds of those giving money to the two camps.“..Many of the backers of David Davis are ruthless entrepreneurs, scions of gamblers and shipping magnates, or nightclub owners – and one is a popular thriller writer, Frederick Forsyth.But the backers of David Cameron are more often wealthy philanthropists, stockbrokers, private bankers and media moguls.”

    Mike Smithson


    “Blair is about to go” rumour sets off betting surge

    Wednesday, November 16th, 2005

      What are we to make of the “Blair going” market moves?

    The implied probability, based on best betting prices, of Tony Blair leaving by the end of this year – within six weeks – has started rising again following the big surge last week after the 90-day detention defeat. The chart maps how punters have being viewing Blair’s possible imminent departure

    Meanwhile the bookmakers, William Hill, have reported taking string of bets from punters who believe an announcement that Tony Blair is about to stand down is imminent. After accepting, amongst others, a bet of £1000 at odds of 10/1 for Blair to step down before the end of this year, Hills cut the odds to 13/2, but then received another bet of £500 at those odds from a Nottingham punter, followed by another client wanting to open an account to place precisely the same bet.

    “At the same time we had people ringing us up, placing smaller bets, then telling us that they had been told that a significant announcement about Mr Blair’s future was imminent’ said a Hill’s spokesman.

    This morning the Independent ran a story that the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, was calling for Brown to take over the leadership unopposed.

      We are not convinced by the rumour. And even if it was true a process would have to be set up to select a new leader and it is hard to see how that could be truncated within the six weeks between now and New Year’s Eve. This would point to a change-over in the first quarter of 2006 – not of it all being resolved this year.

    I think we are going to have to get used to stories like this.

    Mike Smithson