Archive for July, 2006

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How serious a position is Tony Blair in?

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

blair serious.jpg

    Why I’m putting more money on him going this year?

Three news stories in the past couple of days have caused me to put more money on Tony Blair not surviving in the job until the end of the year.

First the reports that Lord Levy – Blair’s tennis partner, Middle East envoy and fundraiser – did not answer police questions after his arrest but repeatedly said “no comment” indicate, surely, that this is getting serious. If this goes to the next stage and a charge the Prime Minister would be very exposed.

Second the court appearance by Des Smith – the schools’ fundraiser – yesterday in which his lawyer spoke of “a well-established link” between the provision of financial support for specialist schools and preferment of honours. The hearing was on a driving charge and his solicitor was trying to explain the pressure that his client had been under. If this is what is being said on his behalf in open court what has he told the police inquiry?

Thirdly reports of Rory Bremner’s conversation with Blair while they were holidaying near each other in 1996. A Sunday Times report from last year picked up by Guido has “…..After a pleasant game with Blair and making a few jokes at the expense of John Major, then prime minister, Bremner raised a serious point. “I said, ‘We’re laughing at John Major now, but if you get into power the boot will be on the other foot and you’ll be on the receiving end.’ “Blair laughed rather nervously and said, ‘Uh, um, how does Lord Bremner sound to you?’ ” It was a joke, Bremner emphasises, “but he was aware of patronage and bringing people within the circle”. If Blair was saying this to a comedian what has he said to other people over the past ten years?

In all betting you have to judge the odds you are being offered against your personal assessment of what is going to happen. I’m not predicting that Blair will go but I do believe that the chances of a departure in the final quarter of the year are higher than the price of 5/1 that I bet at overnight.


Mike Smithson



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The Guardian continues to tease us

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
    The wait for the July ICM poll continues

sophia loren.jpgIt’s now just on 2am and I am off to bed. There is no sign on the Guardian’s web pages of the July ICM survey even though they must have had the data for a couple of days.

After suggesting yesterday that the paper was playing a form of striptease this appeared in our comments thread at 5.19pm yesterday evening – “Sorry to keep you waiting for the rest of the poll. It will be out soon. The results are interesting for all three parties, I promise…”. The writer was Julian Glover who usually covers polls for the paper. He is clearly taking his inspiration from Sophia Loren – seen here in a 1963 shot.

Please use this thread to discuss it when it does come out.

Mike Smithson



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Comments thread on ICM poll data

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

For some reason the comments facility on the previous article does not work. Please can we use this one.



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Was the Newsnight report of its ICM survey misleading?

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

    ..and why are men unmoved by Cameron?

From the full dataset, now available, from last week’s ICM poll for Newsnight it’s clear that the leadership ratings presented on the programme might have given a misleading impression.

A chart was shown indicating that those interviewed rated Cameron at 41, Brown at 37: and Campbell at 24 when asked whether the three had the qualities needed to be Prime Minister. This prompted discussion here because the shares added up to 102%.

Now from the full data it’s clear that the interviewees were never asked to rate each of the three against each other. What happened was that there were separate questions for each of them and it was entirely possible for somebody to say that Brown, Cameron and Campbell all had the qualities.

Gordon Brown’s figures were 37% saying he had the qualities but 57% saying he hadn’t – a deficit of 20%.
David Cameron had 41% saying he had the qualities against 50% saying he hadn’t – a deficit of 9%.
Ming Campbell had 24% saying yes to 64% saying no – a deficit of 40%.

For comparison purposes Newsnight should have shown the different deficit figures not just the proportion of those saying yes in each case.

    Tucked away in the details the poll was further evidence of the huge gender gap in British politics. Men are almost unmoved by Cameron but are more likely to look favourably on Brown. With women it’s the other way round.
  • Amongst men the net figures were: ; Brown -14%: Cameron -16% – the Chancellor just two points behind the Tory leader.
  • Amongst the women in the survey it was Brown -25%: Cameron -2% – the Chancellor 23% behind
  • This is a massive gap and reinforces similar gender data from other surveys.

    COMMENTS:- For some reason the comments feature and this article clash. Please could you use the thread above which does work.

    Mike Smithson



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    Polling junkies be warned: the Guardian plays ICM striptease

    Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
      If you want to know how the parties are doing you’ll have to wait

    guardian july 25 06.jpgIf you had hoped to wake up this morning to read how the parties are getting on as recorded in the longest running and most authoritative polling series in British politics – then tough.

    The Guardian has decided to play polling striptease with its ICM July poll so although there are hints of goodies to come the paper is making us wait for the key data that we yearn for.

    For although the Guardian has its July ICM poll as the splash story there’s no information, in the online edition at least, of what the actual voting intention poll shares are. There is the odd “glimpse of flesh” with data on how supporters of the different parties are viewing the US and events in the Middle East but not the real thing.

    Because the ICM poll in the Guardian has been carried out at least once a month since July 1984 and because the pollster has pioneered techniques to ensure representative polling samples it’s the one with the most clout. The other two polling series with monthly newspaper slots, by Populus in the Times and YouGov in the Telegraph, only started after the 2001 General Election.

    Amongst the findings that are published this morning are:-

  • 30% of those surveyed say Blair has got the relationship with the US about right, while 63% saying he has tied the country too closely to the US.
  • Amongst Labour supporters the figure is 54% while Tories came out at 68% with 83% of Lib Dems being critical
  • On Israel’s operation in Lebanon those surveyed split 61-22% in the view that the country had over-reacted.
  • There’s also been a big decline in those believing that the Iraq invasion was justified although Labour supporters are still in favour of Government policy by 48-36
    • This is all interesting information which will add to the backcloth as the domestic political reaction as the events are examined. But these figures give us no hint at all about how the next General Election might go.

    To those who say that the polls are totally irrelevant this far from a General Election I would point to ICM’s record with the Tory vote in the two years between the Iraq War and polling day. The pollster carried out 26 surveys for the Guardian recording the following shares:-

    1 poll had the party at 35%
    4 polls had the party at 34%
    11 polls had the party at 33%
    5 polls had the party at 32%
    3 polls had the party at 31%
    2 polls had the party at 30%
    Actual election result – The Tories got 33.2%

    All this is why I, for one, will take notice of what ICM reports tomorrow. Hopefully all will be revealed then – or like the good striptease act could they make us wait even longer?

    Mike Smithson



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    Could we be within 15 months of a General Election?

    Monday, July 24th, 2006

      Would Brown’s first move to be to seek a fresh mandate?

    With John Prescott suggesting yesterday that there’ll be an announcement “very shortly” on the Labour transition there continues to be speculation that the first act of an incoming Gordon Brown government would be to ask the Queen to dissolve parliament so there could be an immediate General Election.

    Brown would then be able to go to the country to get his own mandate and secure a full term of up to five years in charge at Number 10.

      If the change-over time-table follows the widely canvassed date of September 2007 then a General Election could take place at the end of October 2007 – barely fifteen months away.

    Brown’s election platform could be on the issues that would differentiate him from what has gone on before – a new approach on Blair’s reform agenda that goes more with the grain of the party, firm action on sleaze and political funding and most of all, a distancing of the UK from the Bush White House.

    One of the proponents of an immediate General Election, Ken Livingstone has said:“The media is so negative and so destructive that there would be about a 48-hour honeymoon, then it would be an unrelenting ‘Tony wouldn’t have done this, Tony would have done this differently, you haven’t got a mandate for that’.”

    Would Brown do it? As we saw during his first few days as Chancellor in 1997 Gordon is almost certainly planning some dramatic initial initiatives to make his mark on the job. I remain to be convinced, however, that one of these could be calling a General Election. The Labour government would not even be half way through a full term and you can hear the Tories accusing him of “cutting and running”.

    There’s another factor – the personality of Gordon himself. For the great watchword of his whole political career has been one of caution and he’s always seemed to be reluctant to take moves which would appear to be in his best interests.

      In 1992 he ignored the strong pressure from Tony Blair to run against John Smith and there were many times during 2004 when the leadership would probably have been his if he had been prepared to take a risk.

    A lot would clearly depend on how Labour was doing in the main polls when he took over. Gordon would like the comfort of a clear margin because an election result that made Labour’s position worse, even though retaining an overall majority, would be seen as a major blow right from the start

    Another factor, surely, would be money. Labour has huge debts and might like a longer period under the new leader to get the finances into a better state. The Tories, by all reports, seem to have gone through a period of successful fundraising and would probably be much more able to fight a 2007 campaign.

    In the Labour leadership betting Brown is at 0.42/1 while Blair holding on until the end of next year has become the favourite again in the change-over timing markets.

    Mike Smithson



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    Prize Competition: What will follow “Hug a Hoodie?”

    Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

    cameron-orange-hoodie.JPG

      Can you predict David Cameron’s next amazing policy initiative?

    There’s little doubt that “Hug a Hoodie”, like the earlier attack on WH Smith’s for selling Chocolate Oranges, have becoming defining themes for the new Tory leadership.

    But what’s going to be next? Clearly it has to be something that is so distant from what you would expect to hear from a Tory leader that it will, at first, appear totally shocking.

      Can you use your imaginiation to guess what will be the next David Cameron policy move that will have a similar impact?

    There are two prizes on offer – both copies of my book on politics and betting that’s just been commissioned and will be published during 2007.

  • The first will go to the most amusing and original answer.
  • The second will be decided after David Cameron’s Tory conference speech in the autumn and will go to the entrant that got closest.
  • I’ll choose the first winner this week and announce it next weekend.

    In my absolute discretion I will decide which are the winning entries. Only comments posted by 2359 on Tuesday July 25th will be considered. If two or more entrants have the same idea then the first one on the list will be the chosen. You can enter as many times as you wish.

    Please write your prediction in the comments thread below remembering to put a valid email address in the box which will not be published.

    Mike Smithson



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    Sean Fear’s local election commentary

    Friday, July 21st, 2006

    respect bnp.JPG

      The Shape of Things to Come?

    It is an axiom of politics in Northern Ireland, that an increase in support for Sinn Fein stimulates an increase in support for the DUP, and vice versa. In the early Eighties, electoral success for Sinn Fein was matched by success for the DUP. In the late Eighties, support for both parties declined. Since 1997, support for both parties has surged, leading them to eclipse their more moderate rivals.

      I wonder now if something similar is starting to happen in the North Eastern quarter of London, and adjacent parts of Essex. This part of London has seen growing success for two parties at the extremes of British politics; namely, the British National Party and Respect.

    The BNP’s success in winning 11 seats in Barking & Dagenham, and 6 in Loughton, has received widespread publicity. Less commented on has been the fact that Respect won almost 25% of the vote, on average, across Tower Hamlets and Newham.

    Its most spectacular result came in Shadwell, Labour since 1919, which it won in a landslide, unseating the Labour leader in the process. The number of council seats it won, 14, was slightly disappointing, but the fact that East London’s Muslim population is growing should enable it to win additional support in the future, provided the party does not disintegrate, as minor parties are prone to.

    The BNP obviously have the potential to extend their appeal across this part of London, as last week’s by-election in a middle class part of Redbridge demonstrated.

    In turn, a growing Muslim population, and hence an increased vote for Respect, could well stimulate even more white voters to vote BNP. Labour and the Conservatives could both find themselves caught in the middle, in a similar position to the centrist parties in Northern Ireland (support for the Liberal Democrats has now vanished in most of this part of London).


      In principle, both parties detest each other. One is a party of the extreme left; the other a party of the extreme right. Paradoxically, like so many of their ideological ancestors, both parties have a good deal in common.

    Plausible allegations of anti-semitism have been made against members of both parties; both tend to be extremely socially conservative, regarding modern Britain as decadent; and both are anti-capitalist. It is no accident that Nick Griffin forged links with extreme Islamist groups in the 1980s, and, at that time, regarded Iran as a model state.

    Both parties are likely to be represented on the London Assembly, following the next round of elections in 2008.

    Last night’s by-elections saw one gain and one loss each for the Conservatives and Lib Dems and one gain for Plaid Cymru.

    Warwickshire CC: Wellesbourne:
    Con, 1112, Lib Dem 776, Lab, 227.
    Stratford DC: Wellesbourne: Con 897, Lib Dem 804, Lab. 197. Two Conservative holds in very marginal seats.
    Chichester DC: West Wittering. Con 868, Independent 330, Lib Dem 139, BNP 123, Lab 48. Conservative hold. Once again, UKIP have shown how inept they are at fighting local elections, by failing to contest a seat where they had previously won almost 20% of the vote.
    Dover DC, Little Stour and Ashton: Con 892 and 748, Lib Dem 336 and 254, Lab 111 and 110. One Conservative hold, and one gain from the Lib Dems. This gives the Conservatives control of the council.
    New Forest DC, Totton West: Lib Dem 535, Con 498, Lab 79. Lib Dem gain from Conservative.
    Conwy UA, Rhos: PC 957, Con 861, Lab 221. Plaid gain from Independent. This is an excellent result for Plaid in a seat last won by the Conservatives, in a by-election last year. The absence of independent candidates, however, makes it hard to determine its significance.
    Macclesfield DC, Hurdsfield: Lib Dem 500, Lab 170, Con 82, Green 45, Independent 53. An easy Lib Dem hold.
    Hartlepool UA, Park: Con 468, UKIP 208, Lab 121, Lib Dem 99, BNP 68, No Description 51. An easy Conservative hold.

    Sean Fear is a London Tory