Archive for December, 2006


Why I am sticking with my Cruddas for Deputy bet

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

    How September’s 125/1 shot is making the running

The long holiday weekend and for all but one of the declared candidates in Labour’s deputy race a chance to relax with their families or to get away from the political process.

For John Cruddas, however, this was the ideal time to maximise the headlines on what is always a very slow news period. So his warning about Labour’s membership declining at 27,000 a year made it onto most of the bulletins yesterdays and commands a fair amount of space in today’s papers.

    This was smart campaigning and shows what an operator Cruddas is. For when it comes to using the media the “unknown candidate” is sweeping the floor with his opponents.

His message that Labour has to be rebuilt from the grassroots in order to reconnect with the electorate seems ideally honed to resonate with those who are still members of the party and will account for a third of the total votes in the electoral college.

It also reinforces his core proposition that his bid is very different from the cabinet ministers whose main concern can be portrayed as jockeying for position in a Brown-led government.

What must have been very satisfying for him yesterday was getting the party chair, Hazel Blears, to respond by saying he was using the membership data in a “sensational way”. It just sounded pathetic and underlined the argument that Cruddas has been making.

My reading of what is happening is that the membership will just about put up with a Brown coronation but they want their chance to vote THEIR man into the deputy slot – a view that is echoed amongst many leading trade union figures.

In the betting my only regret was not getting on at the 125/1 on him that was available just before the Labour conference.

Mike Smithson


And now the winners of our competitions….

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

march 2004.JPG

    PBC’s first ever poster and David R get the prizes

The first person ever to post a comment on PBC, Tim Hill (AKA Big Tall Tim) and David R are the winners of our two outstanding competitions – on the US Mid Terms and the “2006 Prediction Contest“. Tim, whose first post from March 29th 2004 is reproduced above, is a close friend and is a former PPC and Councillor for the Lib Dems in Bedfordshire.

These were the top results:-
Big Tall Tim
peter the punter
Liberal Neil
Arb Seeker
Mark Senior

Tim won on the tie-breaker on Joe Lieberman’s performance. We done to everybody. A full list of how everybody did is available to download here – Mid-Terms Competition1.xls

The top entries in the “Predicting 2006 Contest” are:-
1 David R 533
2 Stephen Thomas 531
3 Max 525
4 Chris Took 523
5 Russell 522
6 Anatole 511
7 Norfolk Yokel 504
8 aschamberlain 502
9 Hagmark 486
10 Julian H 485

A full list of entries and scores is available to download here – 2006 competition1.xls

The winners get a copy of my book on politics and betting that is due to be published during 2007. Thanks to Paul Maggs who, yet again, has done a brilliant job managing the entries and producing the result spreadsheets.

Tomorrow I am going away for a few days and have prepared four articles linked to the 2007 Prediction Competition which will be posted on New Year’s Eve. The plan is that these will provoke discussion ahead of the entry thread next Sunday. Part 1 tomorrow is on the “Lib Dems in 2007.

  • Please note that the introductions for the rest of the week have been pre-written and I will not be producing any original material until next week.
  • Mike Smithson


    PBC now more popular than the Speccie and the Staggers

    Monday, December 25th, 2006

    speccie and staggers.JPG

      Happy Christmas to everybody?

    A new report from Alexa, the Amazon off-shoot that monitors internet traffic world-wide, places as the sixth most visited news and media politics site in the UK ahead of even the sites of those well established political journals the New Statesman and the Spectator.

    YouGov is up there at number two because of all the traffic generated by its online polling. In the past week users filling in surveys have given it a page view rating of 30 as those surveyed have gone from one question to another.

    That there are three blogs in the top six shows starkly how the political media is changing. Thus Guido is in fourth place with Tim Worstall site rated at number five.

    This is the table as it appears on Alexa.


    Alexa also publish a list of the most popular UK political blogs where PBC is in third position. Surprisingly ConservativeHome does not make the top 10 although Anthony Wells and his UK Polling Report site is in fourth place.

    One factor that helps flatter PBC is that many visitors come back to the site time and again during an ordinary day. Alexa, unlike some other web usage trackers, does includes an element for page views in its calculations. Thus over the past week visitors have carried out more than 20 page views a day compared with 1.3 for Guido.

  • Coming up on PBC over the holiday will be results of the 2006 Prediction Competition and the US Mid Terms contest. There will also be our 2007 Prediction competition when we will discuss the main areas to be covered before setting out the questions themselves on New Year’s Eve.
  • A big thank you to everybody for their help during the year. Special mention to Philip Grant (Book Value) who has stood in as guest editor when I have been away, Paul Maggs who has managed our competitions, to Sean Fear for his regular weekly columns, to my son Robert for managing the technical side and my daughter-in-law, Lucille for the overall design. Thanks also to those who have written guest slots and to everybody for visiting the site and for taking part in our discussions.

    On an average day PBC has a staggering 30,000 words of news, comment and opinion. I do hope you have found time to get some work done as well!!

  • Mike Smithson


    YouGov puts the Lib Dems down at just 15%

    Sunday, December 24th, 2006

    ming campbell campaign - big group.JPG

      Ming’s party at lowest point since the Mark Oaten revelations

    A new YouGov poll in the Sunday Times this morning has the Lib Dems down at their lowest point with the internet pollster since the Mark Oaten crisis during the leadership contest earlier in the year. The shares are compared with the Telegraph YouGov poll reported on Friday are – CON 37% (nc): LAB 32% (-1): LD 15% (-2).

    This decline is in line with the trend from other polls. Earlier in the week the pollster which has been showing the best Lib Dems ratings, ICM, had the party down 2% at 18% and Mori was reporting a similar 2 point fall off in support.

      In the six months before David Cameron’s election as Tory leader what was then Charles Kennedy’s party was averaging more than 20% with YouGov – so according to today’s numbers support is down by a quarter.

    This comes at a time when Labour has come under serious pressure following the loans probe and the Saudi arms case issue.

    The Sunday Times runs the YouGov story under the headline “Women Flock to Cameron” and focuses on the differential male-female support that we have reported on here before. It notes that the Tories have an 8% lead amongst women but only a 1% lead amongst men.

      This cuts both ways. With these same figures the paper could easily have put the focus on the apparent failure of the Tories to increase support from men

    Also the Sunday Times chooses to compare Labour’s 32% share in today’s survey with the first YouGov poll of 2006 when Blair-Brown’s party was on 40%. That’s an unfair comparison because that poll was taken just after the Mark Oaten case when the Lib Dems had slipped to 13%.

  • The other big political news in the Sundays is a report in the Indy under the heading “No 10 ‘in panic’ as Yard extends ‘cash for honours’ inquiry”. According to Marie Woolf, the paper’s political editor, “….police are understood to have widened their inquiry and to be examining several aspects of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) which the party is believed to have flouted. Sources close to the inquiry believe the case for a prosecution is getting stronger.”

  • Mike Smithson


    Is Tony still the magic maker?

    Saturday, December 23rd, 2006

      Should Gordon be worried about the eulogies to Blair

    blair xmas card.jpgTucked away in the detail of yesterday’s YouGov poll were the responses to the question “Who would make the best Prime Minister”? When the options were Blair, Cameron and Campbell 79% of Labour voters said Tony with just one per cent naming Cameron

    But when the same question was asked with Gordon Brown substituted for Tony Blair the proportion of Labour voters going for Brown dropped to 71% with 6% naming Cameron.

    The same effect was seen with the forced choice question – “would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative Government led by Cameron or a Labour Government led by Brown/Blair”. A total of 90% Labour supporters went with the Blair-led option but this number dropped to 79% when Brown’s name was substituted.

    For in spite of everything there appears to be a significant group of voters who went with Labour because of Tony and might fall away when he goes.

    All of this could be magnified in the coming months as we get nearer to the Blair departure. For we are already starting to see the eulogies to Tony Blair – one of which, by Matthew Parris, appears in the Times this morning. Under the heading “I’m no fan of the man, but I do love Blair’s Britain” Parris goes on to record the good things that have happened to British society in the past nine years.

    Parris writes: “..And there has been, as gradual as it is signal and (I hope) permanent, a steady reduction in the level of general censoriousness in public life. In its way this is every bit as health-giving as a reduction in the volume of noxious gases in the atmosphere, and it is clear to me that Mr Blair himself has helped to lead it. Whether or not he “does” God (as Alastair Campbell put it), this Prime Minister does not do preaching, moralising or finger-wagging. The news media, even the red-top tabloids, have followed suit. Look at the sympathetic way the victims of the Suffolk murders have been treated by the press and broadcasters in recent weeks…..In democratic politics it is no small thing to catch a changed wind early, to let it fill your sails, and to help steer the spirit of a nation into different waters. This Mr Blair has done with a deftness, with a sensitivity to national mood that has been unequalled by any British politician I can remember. And the result has been good. That at least is a legacy of which he should be proud.”

    For those of us who like predicting General Elections I fear that 2007 is going to be a frustrating year. How will Labour be viewed when the man who made it OK for many in the middle classes to support the party finally steps down? Will the dramatic changes that a likely Brown government invigorate the party?

    I find this hard to call. The polling numbers don’t look good for Gordon but he will surely be perceived very differently when it is Sarah and him posing on the staircase of Number 10 and not the Blairs?

    Mike Smithson


    Tory YouGov lead down to 4%

    Friday, December 22nd, 2006

      But it’s 45-32 on the Cameron-Brown forced choice

    big ben th thin.JPGThis month’s YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph shows very little movement on a month ago. These are the shares – CON 37% (nc): LAB 33% (+1): LD 17% (+1). So the overall Tory lead is down a point with Labour and the Lib Dems both putting on a point.

    But the named leader measure that YouGov uses – a forced choice asking “would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative Government led by Cameron or a Labour Government led by Brown” – shows a widening gap. These are the responses to that question for the past year:-

    NOV 2005 CON 37: LAB 46 (LAB +9)
    FEB 2006 CON 37: LAB 43 (LAB +6)
    JUN 2006 CON 44: LAB 38 (CON +6)
    AUG 2006 CON 43: LAB 36 (CON +7)
    OCT 2006 CON 46: LAB 33 (CON +13)
    NOV 2006 CON 43: LAB 34 (CON +9)
    DEC 2006 CON 45: LAB 32 (CON +13)

    So on this measure there has been a fall back in the Brown recovery that we saw in November. This question, of course, is forced and is not about voting intention but the huge falling off in support for a Labour Government under Brown in barely ten months should be worrying for the party. The Chancellor needs better numbers when questions like this are asked.

    But there’s is a glimmer of good news for Gordon in another question – when asked, however, who would make “the best PM” respondents in the survey went Cameron 28%: Brown 27%: Campbell 6%..

    So people are ready to rate Brown almost alongside Cameron when asked “who is best” but much prefer the younger man when pressed on what sort of Government they would like.

    Will there be a Brown bounce when he eventually takes over – and in what direction will it go? If these and other poll findings are right then the best thing that can happen to Cameron’s Conservatives is for the Chancellor to take over from Blair. All hypothetical of course – but Brown needs better numbers to ease the jitters in his party.

    UPDATE – New Mori Poll
    The Ipsos-Mori poll for December is now up on the firm’s website and shows, with changes on last month CON 37 (+2): LAB 36 (+3): LD 18 (-2).

    These are based on people saying they are “100% certain to vote” and Mori, as we have discussed at length here before, does not weight by past vote recall in order to ensure a politically balanced sample.

    The voting figures are based on the responses of 1,075 “100% certains”. The non-voting question have Gordon Brown with a 42-42 satisfied-dissatisfied rating and Cameron with 28-33. It is not clear from the site what the base is for the non-voting questions.

    Mori do not ask a named-leader voting intention question or a forced choice like in the YouGov poll.

    As ever because of its sampling methodology I do not attach as much importance to Mori as ICM, Populus or YouGov.

    Mike Smithson


    Should Populus and ICM be showing Labour leads?

    Friday, December 22nd, 2006

      Why is less importance attached to the view of Labour voters?

    Detailed data from the December ICM and Populus polls shows that the reported shares followed the biggest scaling back of the views of those who said they voted Labour last time since the last election. If this process had not happened then, in spite of all the recent troubles, Blair-Brown’s party would have probably had poll leads.

    For in each of the two polls that we have had in December more than half those who answered the “how did you vote last time” question said they had supported Labour at the last election. With both firms this vote recall proportion is the highest figure since May 2005. Normally they find an average of about 44%.

    It will be recalled that the actual Labour share at the last General Election was just over 36%. So what the two leading phone pollsters do is adjust their samples, allowing for a level of misremembering, to bring it more in line with the General Election result and these are the figures that we see published. The December 2006 “adjustments” were the biggest I have ever seen.

      If Populus and ICM had operated like Ipsos-Mori and Communicate Research, which don’t use such an approach, they would probably have reported significant Labour leads.

    Understanding what is going on is central for those who like predicting and betting on election outcomes. I recently found this article from ICM, written after the 2001 General Election, which sets out the firm’s rationale for its methodology.

    Pollsters hope that by getting the demographic profile of their samples to match the whole population, polls will give an accurate picture of voting intentions. Trouble is the days when all the toffs voted Tory and the flat capped working classes supported Labour have long gone. A demographically representative poll is no longer necessarily politically balanced. Added to which, response rates are low and falling. Some groups within the population are difficult to interview and some don’t want to reveal their voting intentions. But at present the pollsters simply replace refusers with others who share the same demographic profile, ignoring the possibility that, in doing so, it may be easier to find Labour voters…

    You would have thought that most people could remember how they voted in the last election. Yet according to one poll conducted just three weeks after the 2001 election only 26% remembered having voted Conservative (7% too low) while 48% said they had voted Labour (6% too high). On the face of it, such polls simply contain too many Labour voters and too few Tories.

    So why not use past voting behaviour to ensure the polls are demographically and politically representative? Some say you can’t trust past votes because some people forget how they voted and others align past votes to present intentions, but it’s the only candidate in town. Of course pollsters have to make some allowance for faulty recall, but the indications are that if the pollsters were to target recall votes closer to the outcome last time they will also get more accurate predictions.

    I believe that there is a strong case for the ICM-Populus approach which is why I rate their polls ahead of Ipsos-Mori and Communicate Research. If, as happened this month, half your respondents are saying they voted Labour last time then clearly the sample is not balanced.

    Latest prices on which party will win most seats at the next General Election are: CON 0.86/1: LAB 1.18/1.

    Mike Smithson


    Is Miliband replacing Reid in the “what if” slot?

    Thursday, December 21st, 2006

    miliband chart dec 06.jpg

      Is the “Climate Change” debate giving him the opportunity to shine?

    The Labour leadership has appeared such a certainty for so long that we have barely discussed the “events dear boy – events” scenario of who would be in contention if something untoward happened to Gordon Brown or his campaign.

    And there’s one figure who has started to pick up support again – David Miliband the young Environment Secretary. As the chart showing best betting prices illustrates there has been a bit of a move to Miliband which is probably linked to a series of recent assured performances on the climate change issue.

    As the FT’s, Gideon Rachman, wrote this week there has been a flurry interest in the scientific case on climate change following a long and closely-argued attack in the Sunday Telegraph by Viscount Christopher Monckton, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher – “who like many Thatcherites suspects that global warming is a socialist plot.”

    The Monckton article has “become a new sacred text for climate-change sceptics” and has helped keep it on the news agenda. All this has provided an excellent platform for the quiet intellectual approach of Miliband who always seems to be popping up in the media at the moment.

    Clearly Miliband is not going to run against Gordon – but in the “what if” scenario he must be a better bet than John Reid.

    Mike Smithson