Archive for February, 2006


Will activists still be “processing” postal votes this May?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
    Who’ll lose most if “vote farming” is banned?

With the outcome of this May’s local elections taking on an increasing importance a key factor could be whether there is a clamp-down on party workers getting involved in the postal vote process. For when turnout drops to 30% or below winning the potal vote pack border.jpgpostal vote battle becomes even more crucial.

Now, according to a Guardian report, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives are pressing the government to put a “national concordat” in place to stop activists interfering with the postal ballot process.

It is reported that ministers will announce a national voluntary agreement before May but those responsible for administering elections believe that there has to be compulsion.

For at the heart of the problem is that the process of voting by post is quite cumbersome for the voter and if the party machines do not get involved then far fewer people will cast their ballots in this way thus reducing turnout even further.

First you have to fill in forms to apply for a postal vote.
Then when you get your pack you have to mark the ballot paper and then put it into envelope number one.
Then you have to fill in a form and get your signature witnessed by someone who has to provide their address.
Finally you have to put all the bits together into envelope number two and ensure that it is put in the mail.

Is it any wonder that even at the General Election only three out of five people who had applied for postal votes in some seats actually used them.

But last May, in the post-Birmingham environment, activists were much less likely to visit those registered as postal voters to make sure that everything way OK.

For many on the postal list the problem of finding a witness can be critical. It is here where a normal follow-up by the party machine could be very helpful. An enthusiastic party worker can take away all the hassle of getting all the bits of paper together, act as a witness, and then ensure that the package is put in the post.

It is this process that those responsible for running elections want to stop. For there are fears that if the party workers call round to collect the postal ballot packages then they might put the elector under undue influence and even fail to send on those “not voting the right way”.

    Labour believes that it is the main beneficiary from moves to boost turnout and is opposed to anything that makes postal voting more difficult. But there could be a political cost if it’s not seen to be taking action after last year’s Birmingham vote fraud case.

My guess is that Ministers will resist a compulsory approach leaving open the possibility of another Birmingham. For if Labour is right about the electoral impact of easier postal voting this could affect the results on May 4th.

Mike Smithson


Tories back to 3% lead with ICM

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

    Labour drops two points to the Lib Dems

The February ICM survey for the Guardian, which was one of the key points in the PB.C prediction competition, has CON 37%(nc): LAB 34%(-2): LD 21%(+2).

So the Conservative lead over Labour returns to where it was at the start of the year and the Lib Dems go back to the share they had before Charles Kennedy resigned.

What seems to be happening is that the Tories have moved up 4-5 points in almost all the polls under their new leader and this is being sustained. The actual position in relation to Labour is determined by how the aggregate Lab-Lib Dem total splits. This is a solid 54-55% and if the Lib Dems are up then the Tory lead is greater and if it is down then Labour is in the lead.

  • For the Tories David Cameron has made clear progress but the party is still a long way from where it needs to be even to win more seats than Labour in a General Election.
  • For Labour the elevation of Gordon Brown to his wider new role has yet to have an impact.
  • For the Lib Dems there will be great relief to be back at above 20% with the problems of January being behind them.
  • The next poll should be the February YouGov survey for the Daily Telegraph. In recent months the internet pollster has recorded much lower Lib Dem shares than ICM. Thus in the last survey the Tories were on 37% – the same as today’s ICM figure – but the Lib Dem were down at 15% resulting in a Labour share of 39%.

    The General Election betting, which we have not looked at for a while, has Labour at 0.91/1, and the Tories at 1.12/1.

    The 2006 PBC competion entries are listed here.

    Mike Smithson


    Is the move to Huhne the “real thing”

    Monday, February 20th, 2006

    lib dem chart 2102.png

      Time to back Ming at 2/1

    What is happening on the Lib Dem leadership betting markets? After a week when the prices on Chris Huhne and Ming Campbell hardly moved – which itself seemed odd – we’ve seen a huge swing to Huhne during the past 36 hours as the chart above shows.

    This graph traces the best betting price shown as implied probability every six hours for the past three days and the move today has been extraordinary. A lot of money has been going on tightening the Chris Huhne price and allowing the Ming level to weaken.

      Is this just a natural betting market or are there one or two individuals with deep pockets who are determined to reinforce Huhne’s position as betting favourite?

    We do not know. In the absence of any new polling material we think that the current Ming price at 2/1 is good value and represents a good way of reducing exposure for those who stand to win a lot on Huhne.

    Mike Smithson


    Will we be any wiser after this week’s polls?

    Monday, February 20th, 2006

    brown-cameron=small huhne.JPG

      Could we see a better measure of Cameron vs Brown?

    We are now in the final part of February and the only polls we have seen this month have been the usual Populus survey in the Times and the much misreported Sunday Times YouGov survey eight days ago.

    What we have not had is a proper voting intention question if Brown was leader – a measure, surely, while will increase in importance in the coming months. The last time this was put was in early January in an ICM poll in the News of the World. Then Cameron’s Tory’s were three points ahead – one point less than against Blair.

    The Sunday Times YouGov survey sought to do this by deleting any reference to the Lib Dems and made it a straight preference – Brown or Cameron. The results were interesting but were not a voting intention as many parts of the media tried to suggest including the Spectator which had almost a whole article based on this misconception.

    Given the uncertainty over who will take over as Lib Dem leader it’s quite hard for a pollster to devise a question that measures this properly. ICM usually put it like this: “Suppose the Conservative Party were to be led by David Cameron, Labour by Gordon Brown and the Liberal Democrats by ???????. If there were to be a General Election tomorrow how would you vote, would you vote Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat or for another party?”

    ICM’s monthly survey for the Guardian should be out within the next couple of days and it will be interesting to see if they have ducked this for February. The actual Tory-Lab margin is one of the points in our 2006 competition. The entries are stored in one of our new permananent pages – see list in the right-hand column.

    Also likely to be out this week is the February YouGov poll for the Telegraph and we might see the month’s MORI poll. This has recently been carried by the FT.

    What I am really hoping for is a newspaper-commissioned Lib Dem members’ leadership poll ahead of the ballot closure on March 1st. Surely this is one that the Telegraph would like to commission? Here’s hoping!

    The Lib Dem leadership betting has seen a further move to Chris Huhne and away from Ming Campbell after prices had been almost constant for a week. Huhne has now tightened 0.65/1 from 0.81.

    Mike Smithson


    When David Steel played the toupee card

    Sunday, February 19th, 2006
      Could covering up baldness become an issue these days?

    Little politcal betting interest in the papers this morning apart from an Observer survey of branch chairs showing Ming Campbell and Chris Huhne running neck and neck. This has 19 branch chairs going for Campbell, 18 for Huhne and 6 for Simon Hughes. Clearly this was a very small sample but it does indicate the closeness of the race and is in line with the one published YouGov survey.

    david steel border.JPGSimon Hoggart in the Guardian, meanwhile, has been recalling Liberal leadership elections gone by.

    In his weekend diary column he describes the Liberal Party race of thirty years ago between David Steel and John Pardoe, who was said to be the activists choice. In the later stages of the campaign Steel alleged that his challenger had a wig.

    Hoggart goes on: “This Lib Dem leadership election is pretty tame stuff. Back in 1976 David Steel, a tough political knife-fighter, knew that his opponent, John Pardoe, was easily riled and that his ill-temper could end any chance he had. So he mused in front of two reporters (me and the man from the Daily Mail, as it happens) about Pardoe’s missing bald patch. Where had it gone? When the articles appeared, Pardoe duly went berserk, talking about “descending into the sewer” and the “drip drip drip of the total lie.” Steel won easily. They seem innocent times.”

    Modern toupees and hair transplants are much harder to detect although Google images can often provide pictures of a person over several years when it is possible to detect that something was done to their tops. It will be recalled that allegations were made on the site about one of the candidates in the Tory leadership election.

    The Lib Dem betting, funny this, has remained almost totally solid. Huhne barely moves out of the 0.8-0.81/1 range while Campbell stays at about 1.56/1.

    Mike Smithson


    Who’s behind the Huhne TV betting sprees?

    Saturday, February 18th, 2006

    chart campbell post newsnight2.png

      Are £1,000s being spent keeping Huhne up and Ming down?

    For the second time in eight days there’s been unusual activity on the Lib Dem markets in the immediate aftermath of a TV programme that might have affected punters’ views of the chances of Chris Huhne and Ming Campbell.

    It happened, as the chart above on the Ming Campbell prices illustrates, in the minutes after last night’s Newsnight programme featuring the critical report on Chris Huhne by investigative journalist, Michael Crick.

    As Guido reports at one stage somebody with deep pockets offered £5,000 to lay Campbell at 1.46/1 thus hindering a tightening of the 64-year old’s price. At the same time the opposite was going on with the Huhne price.

    What was interesting was that this followed the same pattern that we saw after last week’s Question Time debate. The chart below shows how the Betfair betting exchange price changed during that programme and straight afterwards.

    QT price.PNG
    The main scene for this is Betfair – the biggest betting exchange and the place where many other parts of the betting industry look to see how markets are developing.

    With momentum counting for an enormous amount in this Lib Dem race then maybe someone is prepared to risk a few thousand pounds to keep their man looking in a good light.

    Mike Smithson


    Could Michael Crick affect the Lib Dem betting?

    Friday, February 17th, 2006

    Michael Crick.jpg

      What’s he got to report about the Lib Dem favourite?

    A story running on Guido’s blog suggests that there is a less than flattering report about Chris Huhne on Newsnight on BBC2 this evening. It is said to be by Michael Crick who has built up a reputation for digging up things from the past of politicians.

    Indeed one of the great jokes is “Q. What are the five most terrifying words in the English language. A. Michael Crick is in reception”.

    Who knows what or whether Crick has anything? We will just have to wait and see.

    Whether anything could now have an impact on the election is a moot point. Most Lib Dem members are said to have voted.

    Chris Huhne’s best price is currently at 0.79/1.

    Update. This is on Newsnight’s web-site:

    Michael Crick seeks out the Third Man. Who is Chris Huhne, of the trio of Lib Dem leadership candidates? What does he believe in? What are his passions? And does he have any noisy skeletons rattling away in his wardrobe?

    Mike Smithson


    Can Dick Cheney get out of this one?

    Friday, February 17th, 2006


      It’s 4/1 that he’ll be out by the end of the year

    After the weekend shooting incident in Texas in which the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, shot a friend in the face there’s now a market on whether he will hang onto his job.

    The Irish-based exchange, Tradesports, has two two betting options – that he’ll resign by June 30th or that he will resign by December 31st. The latest prices converted from the binary basis on which the exchange operates are about 9/1 that a resignation will come by June and 4/1 for the end of December.

    Like all these issues the main criticism is not about the incident itself but about the V-P’s actions afterwards. For the first the world heard about the accident came in a posting on a local web-site 24 hours later.

      The suggestion that Cheney was trying to cover up the incident is the most damaging and this 24 hour gap is going to take some explaining.

    Dick Cheney has accepted the blame for shooting Harry Whittington, 78, a Texan lawyer, in an interview with the Murdoch-owned Fox News. “You can’t blame anyone else. I’m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend,” he said.

    Is it a good bet? Hard to say but those close to George Bush have a habit of surviving even the most difficult situations.

    The picture on this article has been changed.

    Mike Smithson