Archive for June, 2006


When he goes will Labour lose Tony’s personal vote?

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

blair labour roses.jpg

    Could 1 in 25 Labour supporters switch if there is no Blair?

With Tony Blair reported this morning to be ready to announce the date when he will stand down it is worth asking whether this will be all good for the party in the polls.

    For a close look at detailed findings from this week’s YouGov poll suggests that the Prime Minister has a small but significant personal vote which will not be there when he is gone.

These are electors who will only vote Labour if he is the leader. It has long been suggested that this group exists but until this survey, I believe, it has not been possible to make a reasonable guess at the numbers of Labour voters involved.

  • To the question If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative Government led by David Cameron or a Labour Government led by Tony Blair? the Labour voters split: LAB 92% – CON 1%.
  • But when precisely the same question was put with Gordon Brown named as the party leader the Labour voters split LAB 88% – CON 4%.
    • So this seems to suggest that Tony does indeed have a personal vote with about one in 25 Labour voters prepared to switch when he steps down.

    This question was, of course, artificial and was forced. There were no options to indicate support for other parties but it is interesting nethertheless.

    The great consolation for Gordon Brown is from the responses of Lib Dem voters to the two questions. With Blair named as Labour leader the Lib Dems split LAB 40% – CON 33%. When the Chancellor’s name is substituted for Blair the numbers were LAB 48%: CON 28%. The reason, of course, that these shares do not add up to 100% is because of the “don’t knows”.

    It has long been known that when Tony Blair led Labour to the landslide victory in 1997 he attracted a significant number of Tory voters who had never before contemplated voting Labour. At the 2005 election the big move was from Labour to the Lib Dems and clearly some of these will return when Tony moves on.

    I find it extraordinary that after all his trials and tribulations Tony still has what appears to be a significant personal vote.

    Remember to enter the PBC by-elections competition. This closes this evening at 7pm. Get your predictions recorded here by that time. For latest by-election betting click here.

    Mike Smithson


    Who’ll be the winners for Westminster & Cardiff?

    Tuesday, June 27th, 2006


      Test your skill in Double Carpet’s By-Election Competition

    With this Thursday’s by-elections in outer London and South Wales presenting the parties with their first major tests at the ballot box since May’s local elections, you are invited to make your predictions for Blaenau Gwent and Bromley & Chislehurst, and put your punditry skills to the test against the rest of the readers.

    To make for smooth running of the competition, please enter your predictions in the order set out below. For each party, you may make your predictions to one decimal place.

    What will be the percentage vote shares for the following parties?

    Blaenau Gwent (House of Commons)

    Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, Independent (Dai Davies)

    Blaenau Gwent (Welsh Assembly)

    Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru, Trish Law (no party description)

    Bromley & Chislehurst

    Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, UK Independence Party

    The Scoring: Your score for each party will be the difference between your prediction and the actual result (regardless of whether you are under or over in your prediction). Thus if you predict the Lib Dems in Bromley to win 37.2% of the vote and they get 26.9%, your score is 10.3. Your scores will be added up for all fourteen predictions, and the entry with the lowest combined score is the overall winner.

    The winning entries for the three individual by-elections will also be announced, and in the event of a tie for the overall competition, the player who has the best predictions for any individual by-election will be the winner.

    Your entries should be posted by no later than 7pm on Wednesday 28th June, and in the event of any dispute, the competition organiser’s decision is final.

    Paul Maggs (“Double Carpet”)

      This thread is for entries only. Please use the previous thread for comments on the competition and the by-election.


    Why Alan Johnson at 15/2 is great value

    Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

    Johnson chart cropped.jpg

      Is now the time to put more on?

    The chart, based on best betting prices, shows how punters are rating in terms of implied probability the Labour leadership chances of the the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson. After tipping him when his leadership price was 18/1 I’ve now gone into the market again.

    Johnson’s chances of winning are much better than 15/2 and as we see today with the Charles Clarke story, the pressure on Blair to go early is gathering momentum. This is a good bet because:-

    Continuing Tory polls leads. Ultimately Labour will choose the leader most likely to beat Cameron. Sentiment about Brown’s role will count for little as the party faces the prospect of defeat. From where I sit Johnson looks better equipped than Brown. He’s likable, he’s sharp and, yes, he’s English.

    It looks like there will be a contest. The big question mark was whether there would be an election at all. But all the talk about a Brown coronation has been put aside following the aggressive move to crank up the Trident replacement issue knowing how it touches raw nerves within the party. This makes it highly likely that there will be a challenge leaving the road open for Johnson to come in.

    Johnson might be the best left-wing way to oppose Brown One of PB.C’s most long-standing Labour contributors, Richard, made this astute observation on Sunday “the more subtle of Brown’s disappointed left-wing followers might realise that they’re better off with a Blairite like Johnson (who has nothing to prove) than a Gordon Brown who, because of his Scottishness and his irresponsible previous sucking-up to the likes of Bob Marshall-Andrews (recorded in Rawnsley’s book Servants of the People), feels the need to be more Blairite than Blair.

    Johnson’s recent recent appearances have been impressive.
    His defence of the criminal record check fiasco for teachers on the Today programme last Tuesday took the heat out of what could have been a difficult issue. And his style seemed to go down well with the Question Time audience last week. People respond to politicians who are self-deprecating, generous and lucid.

    Take the 7.5/1 that’s currently available.

    By-elections competition. Details of this will be posted here at about 6pm.

    Mike Smithson


    YouGov shows Tories increasing their lead

    Monday, June 26th, 2006

      And it’s 44-38 on a straight Cameron-Brown choice

    A new YouGov poll in today’s Daily Telegraph has the following with changes on four weeks ago: CON 39 (+1): LAB 32 (nc): LD 17 (+1).

    When asked which they would prefer a Cameron-led Tory party or a Brown-led Labour the Tories win 44-38. This compares with a 45-36 lead when asked to choose between a Cameron-led Tory party and a Blair-led Labour.

      Although these were not voting intention questions but a forced choice they should bring some comfort to the Brown camp. The problem is that when voting intention question with named party leaders are asked then the polls that have carried out surveys show the Labour deficit increasing

    This survey should not be confused with what ICM and Populus have been doing on the same issue. Forced question do not tell you how people will vote.

    The Lib Dems will be pleased that there has been a small recovery from the pollster that has been consistently giving them the worst ratings.

    The Tories will be pleased about the resilience of their lead which is now quite substantial.

    will be pleased that at least there is the prospect of something better with a new leader.

    Mike Smithson


    “Labour loses majority with just 1% swing” – new report

    Monday, June 26th, 2006

      How boundary changes hurt Brown and make “PM Dave” one step closer

    The Tory price on the General Election seat markets is likely to tighten following a big story in the Times this morning on new research on the impact of the boundary changes. Currently the Betfair price has Labour at 1.04/1 to get most seats slightly behind the Tories at 0.98/1.

    But the report, by Lewis Baston and Simon Henig for the House Magazine, also underlines the challenge facing Cameron as he seeks to gear the Tories up to win an overall majority. The Tories still need a swing of 9-10% from Labour for Cameron to be certain of forming a Government – down from 11% on the boundaries used at the last election.

      Labour suffers because almost all the new seats that will be created would have gone to the Tories or Lib Dems last time – while of those that are being abolished two thirds are Labour.

    In terms of numbers they suggest that of 13 new seats created 10 would have been Tory in 2005 with one for Labour and two for the Lib Dems. Of nine abolished seats six are Labour, two Tory and one Lib Dem.

    The authors conclude “The boundary review heightens the risk to Labour from a relatively small swing of votes that already exists because of the number of highly marginal seats..After the changes, a swing of only just over 1 per cent would destroy the majority, while under unchanged boundaries it would take a 1.8 per cent swing. The situation was uncomfortably tight already, and now Labour has the tiniest margin for slippage.”

  • The suggested new Tory seats include Braintree, Derbyshire Mid, Devon Central, Kenilworth & Southam, Northamptonshire South, Witham, Wyre & Preston North, Filton & Bradley Stoke, Meon Valley, Norfolk Mid/Broadland, and York Outer.
  • The authors believe that the following nine fairly safe Labour seats will become much more doubtful: Basildon, Conwy, Crosby, Ealing Acton & Shepherds Bush, Hampstead & Highgate, Milton Keynes South West, Penistone & Stocksbridge, Regents Park & Kensington North, and Sunderland South.
  • Seats going from Tory to Labour include Lancaster & Wyre, Northampton South, Rugby & Kenilworth, Croydon Central and possibly Kettering.
    • All of this will add to Labour’s jitters as it is coming to terms with continued poll deficits for the first time in a decade and a half.

    In the betting on the actual General Election outcome “no overall majority” is the 1.52/1 favourite, with a Tory majority at 2.2/1 and a Labour majority at 2.45/1

    Mike Smithson


    Will replacing Trident see Gordon home safely?

    Sunday, June 25th, 2006


      Is raising nuclear deterrent issue the sure way to Number 10?

    Lots of analysis in the Sunday papers this morning on the reasons behind Gordon Brown’s decision to raise the British nuclear deterrent issue in his Mansion House speech.

    Given that opposition to an independent deterrent was only dropped from Labour’s policy portfolio after a bitter and long battle that ended 1989 the general view is that Gordon wants to provoke a left-wing challenge in the coming leadership contest which should see him safely home.

      It would be just like Labour’s campaign against the Lib Dems in 2005 except it would be the left that was presented as the great danger rather than the Tories. Why risk voting for anybody else but Gordon, the Brownites would argue, when putting your cross by Milburn, Reid or Johnson could let an in ultra-leftie?

    So they would not have to argue for the strengths of their man – just that he’d be the best at stopping something awful. As a strategy it worked with three General Elections – so why not with the Labour leadership election?

    Melinda Kite in the Sunday Telegraph notes: “A contest rather than a coronation was made more likely by the Chancellor’s announcement, last week, that he would go ahead with a replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, a declaration that has infuriated the Left and sparked renewed vigour in its search for an alternative.”.

    In a long analysis in the Observer Andrew Rawnsley goes into Brown’s political thinking behind raising what is still a very sensitive issue in the party.

    He notes: “It was unashamedly designed – Mr Brown’s acolytes make no pretence otherwise – to try to make the Chancellor a more appealing figure to Middle England.The Chancellor has never enjoyed parting with money for the armed forces when he would rather be spending the cash on tax credits or public services…he assumes that the bulk of voters want to retain a bomb with a Union Jack painted on its nose, even if there is presently no one obvious to point it at. He evidently believes that Middle England won’t willingly give up its weapons of mass destruction…..Nye Bevan upset his left-wing admirers when he argued that Britain had to have nukes because she could not be sent ‘naked into the conference chamber’. Gordon Brown thinks that he must say he will retain nukes if he is not to be sent naked into the next general election.”

    As for the chances of Brown becoming leader John Rentoul in the Indy on Sunday refers to the discussion on PB.C earlier in the week.

    Rentoul writes: “On the website last week, someone asked if they should bet their £10,000 pension lump sum on Brown for a “nearly certain” 38 per cent return. The consensus among the gamblers was “No”, because politics is simply too uncertain. Politics is much worse than that, of course. It is unkind and unfair. Brown has taken the decisions about this country’s nuclear future that the voters want, and yet I fear that they will not reward him.

    I maintain my view that Brown is far from a certainty for the job and that Alan Johnson is his biggest threat. The Brown price is now 0.39/1 while Johnson has tightened a touch to 8.6/1.

    Mike Smithson


    Can Labour’s Viagra firm lobbyist regain Nye’s old seat?

    Saturday, June 24th, 2006
      How will he get on against the former steel-works shop steward?

    nye bevan.JPGAmongst the giants in Labour’s history few can compare with Nye Bevan whose most lasting political achievement, surely, was the creation, against huge opposition, of the National Health Service in the cash-starved Britain in the aftermath of the Second World War.

    He was born in Tredegar and in 1929 was elected as Labour MP for the Ebbw Vale constituency which are now part of Blaenau Gwent.

    This will be the scene on Thursday of the by-elections caused by the death of Peter Laws – the independent who won the seat from Labour in 2005 after the row over the party’s all-woman short-list policy.

    Labour were determined not to make a mistake this time with their candidate but I wonder whether anybody thought of the uncomfortable contrast with Nye when they chose Owen Smith as their standard bearer.

      For while the candidate, in the Nye tradition, has close links with the NHS Smith’s day job is as a political lobbyist for the US pharmaceutical company that has Vigara within its product portfolio

    The only opinion poll, by NOP two weeks ago, suggests that Smith will re-take the seat for Labour thus restoring the party’s majority at Westminster to what it was before they lost the Dunfermline by-election.

    Carrying on the Peter Laws fight is his former agent, Dai Davies, who has a more traditional Labour background and was a shop steward at Ebbw Vale steelworks before its closure four years ago. He’s evoking the memory of the area’s greatest son in his campaign and says “Do you think that if Nye Bevan was walking down the streets of Blaenau Gwent now, he would choose New Labour as his party”.

    Although the poll had Labour ahead I’ve put a few pounds on Davies holding the seat. The price is 1.2/1. The Smith odds for Labour are 0.7/1. Labour always has trouble getting its vote out and my guess is that those wanting to “give the Government a kicking” will be more motivated to vote.

    Mike Smithson


    Sean Fear’s local election commentary

    Friday, June 23rd, 2006
      Where Do the Liberal Democrats go from here?

    Since 1997, the Liberal Democrats have regularly polled a national equivalent vote share of 25-30% in local elections, a very good performance historically. What must be frustrating for them is that this has led to no real increase in the proportion of council seats which they hold (around 20% of the overall total).

    This is because the Conservatives have recovered strongly in local elections over the same period. Throughout the 1980s and during the Major years, the Liberal Democrats took hundreds of council seats from the Conservatives.

    By 1997, they had forced the Conservatives into third place in local government. Yet since then, the Conservatives have very largely regained the territory they lost to the Liberal Democrats when in government. Although the Liberal Democrats have made some impressive gains from Labour, they have made no headway overall.

      In my view, the Liberal Democrats have no choice but to accept that the days of large gains from the Conservatives are over – at least until there is another Conservative government.

    They must instead concentrate their efforts against Labour, and aim to take advantage of the fact that Labour’s vote share is likely to fall well below 25% in next year’s round of local elections. There must be a real prospect of their doing significant damage to Labour in its heartlands, and winning boroughs like Oldham, St. Helen’s, Rochdale, and perhaps even Sheffield.

    Labour currently have only about 1,600 more council seats than the Liberal Democrats, and there is a fair chance that the Liberal Democrats can push them into third place in local government by the time of the next election. At that stage, the Liberal Democrats may even be able to convert their strength at local level into strength at Parliamentary level, as they did in former Conservative strongholds in 1997.

    I do not whether it is better for the Liberal Democrats to tack to the Right, and seek to win the anti-Labour vote in these areas, or to tack to the Left, and aim to pick up disillusioned Labour voters. I would welcome the views of Liberal Democrat posters on that point.

      One thing that the Liberal Democrats must do is to see off the challenge from the Green Party. Both parties poll well among the urban intellectual Left, and under our first past the post system, that means they damage each other’s chances.

    It’s clear that the Liberal Democrats would have had rather a good set of London results on May 5th, were it not for the fact that the Greens polled so well across the Capital.

    Last night’s by-elections resulted in one gain for the Conservatives, but Labour will be pleased to have held two marginal seats.

    Breckland DC – Swaffham:
    C 851, Lab 243, Lib Dem 189. Con hold on a huge swing.
    Cumbria CC – St Johns: Lab 658, C 430. Lab Hold. A rare swing to Labour compared to 2005.
    East Hertfordshire DC – Great Amwell: C 314, Lab 36, Green 26, Lib Dem 25. Con hold, in a part of the World where the Conservative vote is weighed rather than counted.
    Hertfordshire CC – Knebworth Codicote: C 1759, Lab 322, Lib Dem 310, Green 133. An easy Conservative hold.
    Lancaster CC – Skerton West: Lab 826, C 336, BNP 220. An easy Labour hold. The absence of an independent makes any comparison with last time difficult.
    Mid Devon DC – Yeo: Lib Dem 565, C 382. Lib Dem hold.
    Plymouth CC – Southway: Lab 1624, C 1517, Lib Dem 214, BNP 200, Ukip 139, Green 53. Lab hold. Labour will be extremely pleased to have held this seat, which they narrowly lost in May, although both Labour and the Conservatives sharply squeezed the Liberal Democrats in this contest.
    Weymouth and Portland BC Westham West: C 436, Lab 412, Lib Dem 340, Ind 58. Con gain from Lib Dem.

    Sean Fear, a Tory activist, writes a regular column on local elections.