Archive for December, 2005


When will the Labour price reach evens?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005

    PB.C Labour General Election Index down to 55%

The spate of opinion polls following David Cameron’s election as Tory Leader of December 6th has reinforced the betting market assessment of Labour’s chances of winning most seats at the next General Election. From a peak of more than 66% during the Labour conference in September the implied probability based on best betting prices has now dropped to below 55%.

Unless there is a Labour recovery in the polls in the New Year then it might not be long before Cameron’s Conservatives move into the favourite slot.

Opinion seems to be divided between those who think that the Cameron effect has put the Tories on the road to victory and those who dismiss the 39 year old Opposition Leader’s media honeymoon as a “Nine Day Wonder”. There seems to be three things in Cameron’s favour.

  • Firstly the polls show that his most positive quality is that he is “likable as a person” with the last YouGov survey reported a 51-12% split in his favour – even Labour supporters divided 38-22 for Cameron on this point.
  • The second plus factor – the media with Cameron and his young team showing everyday their expertise here and what we are seeing is not just a honeymoon but a demonstration of their capability to command the headlines.
  • Thirdly the Brown-Blair split, seen again today with Treasury briefing on the EU budget deal, is hugely damaging to the Government and this will not be solved by Brown taking over. He is now being rated four or five points behind Blair.
  • Before drawing firm conclusions we need to wait until at least February’s polls.

    SORRY FOR THE PROBLEMS We have had a serious hardware problem which has closed the site for most of the week. We are now on new equipment.

    Mike Smithson


    ICM: Cameron increasing lead over Brown

    Tuesday, December 20th, 2005
      Guardian leader: “Get used to it: the Tories are back”

    The monthly ICM poll in the Guardian confirms the trend of recent other surveys and has Cameron’s Conservatives still ahead but doing even better against Gordon Brown.

    The shares compared with the last ICM poll nine days ago are CON 37 (nc): LAB 36 (+1): LD 21 (nc). But to the question of how people would vote if it was Cameron’s Tories against Brown’s Labour the split is CON 41 (+1): LAB 36 (-1): LD 18 (nc).

      So yet another poll has Gordon Brown doing much worse against the Tories than his party and will surely impact on the betting for next Labour leader.

    Gamblers usually respect the Guardian ICM poll more than any of the four regular surveys that come out each month and it usually has an impact on the markets. In summary the pollster puts the Tories 4% up this month against Blair’s Labour leadership, 8% up against Brown’s, with the Lib Dems down 2% and 5% respectively.

    Another betting market that might be affected is the one on when Blair will eventually go. There are many different options but a good barometer is the one that he will still be there on New Year’s Day 2008. The latest price is 2.3/1. In our view the poorer that Brown does in the polls the greater the chance that Blair will remain.

      For the message from this poll for Labour is clear – replacing Tony with Gordon makes the party’s prospects even worse.

    Overall the poll found that 66% of voters see David Cameron as a “potential Prime Minister”. Even 51% of Labour voters and 63% of Lib Dem ones regard the new Tory leader in this light. Of those saying they would vote Lib Dem in the survey 46% said that “Cameron was someone they could vote for”. Apart from this the Lib Dems will be quite pleased with their latest ICM figures. Still being on 21% in spite of all the negative publicity over their leadership must be a lot of consolation and might reinforce Charles Kennedy’s position.

    In a leader under the heading “Get used to it: the Tories are back” the Guardian notes:- “The message is hard to miss. A lot of voters like what they see. The sceptics should get real about Mr Cameron…. the message is a sombre one for anyone who thinks that Mr Brown offers an instant boost to Labour’s chances compared with Mr Blair. The evidence of this poll is that at present he does not. It is Mr Blair’s presence that keeps Labour in contention..”

    Mike Smithson


    What are we to make of Mori’s 9% Tory lead?

    Monday, December 19th, 2005
      Even if true Cameron would still not get a majority?

    With so many political developments taking place every new opinion is being put under great scrutiny and the latest, from Mori, has the biggest shock so far. bbIf confirmed by other pollsters the change in opinion it represents could totally change the landscape of UK politics.

    For the poll in the Observer reports an astonishing turnaround in the fortunes of the Tories since David Cameron became leader. Mori’s “certain to vote” top-line figures give the party a nine point lead. These are the shares compared with the last Mori poll in November. CON 40 (+8): LAB 31 (-11): LD 21 (+2). So a 10 point Labour lead in November becomes and 11 point Tory lead less than three weeks later. This is a sensational change.

      A concern that I have always have about MORI polls is that they are not weighted by past vote. This is a mechanism that ICM, Populus, NOP and YouGov use to try to ensure that they have a representative sample. You ask what people did last time and weight responses broadly in terms of the General Election result. The Mori approach is to report in their to-line figures only those “absolutely certain to vote”

    When MORI asked the Best Prime Minister question – Brown led Cameron by 31% to 27%. This was caused mostly by the pollster’s methodology and the way it presents results. The voting intention questions include only people certain to vote, while the questions on best Prime Minister included all respondents. In November the all respondents Mori figure had a staggering 17% Labour lead.

    When Mori present figures in this way then they should be consistent. They have one lot of top-line figures and all the other data should be based on that. My rough back of an envelope calculation has it that Cameron would have been significantly ahead on best PM if only those included in the voting intention figures had been included.

    The next major poll should be the December survey for the Guardian by ICM which should be out tomorrow or on Wednesday. An ICM survey just over a week ago had the Tories ahead. Will they still have a margin?

    Putting the Mori vote shares into Martin Baxter’s famous calculator which seeks to assess each seat based on a uniform national swing we get: CON 317: LAB 249: LD 48. The Tories would be seven seats short of an overall majority.

    Mike Smithson


    Why won\’t 24% of Labour supporters back Gordon?

    Saturday, December 17th, 2005
      Is it because only they think he’s doing worse on the economy?

    While the big focus in the past few days has been on the Lib Dems the major leadership issue in UK politics is on Labour because who is chosen to succeed Tony Blair will almost certainly become Prime Minister. Charles Kennedy’s future has almost no impact on that one way or the other.

    The full data-set from Populus ‘s December Times poll that had Cameron’s Tories beating Brown’s Labour by five points has just been made available and it is fascinating looking at the detail to examine current voter dynamics.

      It might be a polling quirk and you have to tread carefully when looking at subsets of data in opinion polls but it appears that only 76% of those saying they are Labour supporters would definitely back the party if the Chancellor was up against Cameron.

    Of the rest 5% said they would vote Tory and 5% Lib Dem with 4% saying they would not vote. The “don’t know” proportion was 9%.

    By contrast total of 91% of Tory supporters would go with their party and the “seepage” from the Tories to Labour was just 1% with the “don’t know” figure at 4%. The only boost for the Chancellor was that 5% of Lib Dem supporters would switch to supporting Brown’s Labour.

      Later questions on the economy provide something of an answer. Only 37% of Labour supporters agreed with the statement that “Britain ‘s economy is doing well – largely because of Gordon Brown’s policies & decisions”. Just twelve months ago the figure was 64%.

    Yet Lib Dem supporters seem to be viewing Brown’s performance in a totally different way. A total of 31% agreed with the statement – an increase of 12% on a year ago. Even Tories in the survey were more likely to agree on Brown’s contribution compared with December 2004.

    So there has been a big fall in confidence on his management of the economy amongst Labour voters while Tory and Lib Dems think he is doing better.

    In the betting the best price on Brown succeeding Blair is 0.49/1.

    Mike Smithson


    Tories take 2 point YouGov lead

    Friday, December 16th, 2005
      Kennedy’s personal ratings reach rock-bottom

    The latest Daily Telegraph YouGov poll, a little earlier this month because of Christmas, confirms the trend of recent surveys and gives wmCameron’s Conservatives a 2 point lead over Labour with the LibDems at 18%. The vote shares with changes on the survey last weekend are CON 38%(+1): LAB 36%(nc): LD 18%(nc).

      This is the best YouGov performance for the Tories since May 2004 when the internet pollster had Michael Howard’s party on 40%.

    For before Tory supporters get too buoyant they might note that in the similar Telegraph YouGov poll after Michael Howard became leader in 2003 the party was on 39% and it remained on 39 or 40 for the following five months. The main difference between now and then is that two years ago YouGov was very much out of line with the other pollsters. This time the trend seems to be the same with all the firms.

    Since September the Tory YouGov share has gone up six points with Labour dropping four and the Lib Dems dropping two. A key indicator now could be the December Guardian ICM survey which is expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.

    In the run-up to the Tory leadership election we said constantly that we would need to wait until February at the earliest before drawing conclusions about major trends. We stick with that.

    There’s bad news for Charles Kennedy – a big decline in his personal ratings. These are the shares to the question “Who would make the best Prime Minister” compared with a similar question in May. Blair 30(-7): Cameron 30 (+5 on Howard’s rating): Kennedy 11 (-8).

    The latest General Election Commons seat spreads from Cantor Spreadfair are LAB 296-305: CON 258.6-267: LD 57-59.

    A NOTE ON POPULUS. The main vote share figures in the Populus poll on Tuesday had Labour three points ahead. The head of the firm, Andrew Cooper, has confirmed to me that if they had used the same past vote weighting figures as ICM then the margin would have been down to 1%. We note that our speculation last week about Populus and the Times was wrong.

      “Politicalbetting – A wonderful web-site” – Daniel Finkelstein, the Times

    Mike Smithson


    The next Lib Dem Leader – the betting begins

    Thursday, December 15th, 2005

      Your exclusive Politicalbetting form guide

    With Charles Kennedy’s battle to remain as leader of the Lib Dems still on a knife-edge national bookmaker has put his toe in the water and opened a market on who will succeeded him – whenever that happens. The prices are being offered by William Hill and we expect them to be available online.
    The Possible Runners:
    Menzies Campbell (dark blue suit, white shirt, yellow check tie) A thoroughbred and like the last victor from the party’s Scottish stable which has provided winners for similar races before with Jo Grimond and David Steel. This would be his first time out. Has gravitas and has built up a lot of respect over his handling of Lib Dem policy on the war. The 4/5 price looks very good value.
    Mark Oaten (dark blue suit, white shirt, yellow check tie) It would be first time out for him and was quick off the mark on Tuesday with an email to all Lib Dem members with an update of his home affair brief – a move widely seen as part of his leadership bid. Could he be trying too hard? The 6/4 does not look generous.
    Simon Hughes (dark blue suit, white shirt, red check tie) Has been a runner before and had an overwhelming victory last time out on the same course in a national members’ ballot for the party presidency. But he was up against Lembit Opik not Campbell or Oaten. If it was down to him and Campbell at the final fence he might find it hard though the 11/2 looks reasonable value.

    Clearly everything depends on whether Charles Kennedy withstands the current pressure and remains or whether he feels he has to step down. That looks a tight call, especially after Menzies Campbell refused to give his leader public backing last night or rule himself our of any contest.

      A problem for all contenders is that there may be a penalty to be paid if any of them is seen to have played a part in the ousting of Kennedy – if that indeed is what happens.

    It will be recalled that in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was forced out the eventual replacement, John Major, had been away having his wisdom teeth removed and was not seen as part of the conspiracy.

    If there is no early contest then Campbell’s position would become weaker and other challengers would come into the frame . My advice is to hold onto your money until we know whether Kennedy is actually going. If there is an early departure – back Menzies.

    LATEST Lib Dem Leadership odds – click here

    Mike Smithson


    Will Kennedy\’s leadership headache continue?

    Wednesday, December 14th, 2005
      Are colleagues ready to slam the door on him?

    All the focus today is on the Lib Dem leadership and how senior MPs respond to his challenge at an angry meeting of his Shadow Cabinetck ouch that if any of them have doubts they should ” come to him by tea-time today and say so.”

    According to the Times this morning:- “Facing an unprecedented crisis of confidence, the Lib Dem leader tried to stamp on speculation by urging his most senior colleagues to stop briefing against him and rally behind him. But his plea was rejected when he faced 30 minutes of criticism of his leadership style, with senior figures insisting that the issue could not be shelved any longer. In a move that appeared to have been forced by Mr Kennedy’s critics, his Chief Whip, Andrew Stunnel, is to task members of his 23-strong Shadow Cabinet over whether Mr Kennedy retains their confidence and how tensions in links with the leadership can be settled.”

    According to the Guardian Kennedy has stated that if a leadership election was forced on him then he would run. “.. aides confirmed that he explicitly stated that he intends to fight the next election as leader – and will stand for the post if rivals try to oust him. There were immediate claims that both Sir Menzies Campbell, Mr Kennedy’s long-serving deputy, and Simon Hughes, his defeated rival in 1999, would run if there is a contest – though both have said they would not stand against the leader. Mark Oaten, the most ambitious of the party’s younger MPs would also be expected to throw his hat into the ring. “It could depend on whether Charles is genuine about saying he’d stand,” said one MP as more senior members of the Lib Dem frontbench obeyed Mr Kennedy’s injunction not to fuel the rumour mill by talking to the press. A Kennedy ally said later: “If there’s a contest Charles will run. So there is no question of a contest because he would win.”

      Barely ten weeks ago it looked a near certainty that the leadership line-up for the next General Election would be Gordon Brown, David Davis and Charles Kennedy. Could it be that none of them will make it

    Although the final decision on who should be Lib Dem leader is by a membership ballot they can be deposed if a no confidence motion is agreed by a majority of MPs. As a result of a rule change in September candidates in a leadership election have to have the support of at least ten per cent of the parliamentary party – which now would mean seven MPs.

    Many of Kennedy’s supporters point to the continued support that he gets personally in opinion polls. But the question that is usually asked is not whether electors rate him as a potential Prime Minister but whether they are satisfied with the way he is doing his job. The latest numbers, by MORI from August, give him a 46-26 rating. The YouGov question is “Do you think Charles Kennedy is doing well or badly as Leader of the Liberal Democrats?” and when this was last put in April he scored 60-25.

    So will Lib Dem MPs say Charles should go? If there is a leadership election will Kennedy stand? And if there is a membership ballot with his name on it would he win? All good questions which, hopefully, we will be able to bet on.

  • If there is an election and if he stands my money would be on Menzies Campbell who has been given a clean bill of health after treatment for cancer.
  • Mike Smithson


    PB.C\’s Labour General Election Index down just 2 points

    Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

      Populus gives Tories a 6% lead if Brown becomes Labour leader

    Our Labour General Election Index – showing the implied probability of the party winning most seats based on best betting prices – has moved just two per cent on the week in spite of all the hype associated with the change of Tory leader.

    We have restricted the graph to just the seven days since David Cameron was elected leader and, as can be seen, the change has been from 58.5% to 56.5% – the biggest movement being caused by the polls at the weekend.

    The betting market is on which party wins most seats – not on whether Labour retains an overall majority or whether the Tories can form a Government.

    Meanwhile there’s a new poll this morning from Populus in the Times showing the following shares with changes on the last poll five weeks ago. This has CON 35 (+3): LAB 38 (-2): LD 19 (nc). So the improvement in the Tory position seen in the YouGov and ICM surveys is also reflected in Populus.

      Like the recent ICM and YouGov polls the Populus survey also found that Cameron’s Conservatives would do substantially better if Gordon Brown was leading Labour. The split would be CON 41 to LAB 35. A month ago Populus asked the same question and showed a 2 point lead for the Chancellor.

    Our story yesterday suggesting that Brown might be an electoral liability caused some controversy and was described as “utter tosh” by one poster. Well now three pollsters are painting the same picture about Brown and it is hard to see this not having an impact.

    Mike Smithson