Archive for February, 2007


Great polling moments – January 13 1995

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

jan 13 1995.jpg

On a day like today it is perhaps worth recalling one of the worst polls ever for the Tories – this the January 1995 survey for the Daily Telegraph by Gallup. This poll did not use past vote weighting to ensure a politically balanced sample.

Just four days after the fieldwork for Gallup was completed ICM began their January 1995 poll for the Guardian. When the past vote weighting adjustments were made this came up with CON 30: LAB 48: LD 18. – quite a difference and not that far off from the General Election result two and a half years later. This had CON 31: LAB 44: LD 17.

Gallup no longer carries out UK political surveys.

Mike Smithson


Has this been made to be as damaging as possible?

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

    Will Labour MPs respond to the Guardian’s call for Brown to be challenged?

guardian20070220.jpgThis is the front page of the Guardian that will be screaming out across newstands throughout the UK this morning and it looks as though it has been designed deliberately to make it as damaging as possible for the Chancellor.

For as any newspaper man or woman will tell you it is what appears “above the fold” that matters – and with the numbers 29-42 splashed there against pictures of Brown and Cameron in the most sensational way nobody could accuse the Guardian of underplaying their ICM February poll this morning.

As I wrote when news of the survey came out last night – “A lot will depend on how the Guardian choose to report the poll tomorrow”. Well we have our answer.

For as happens so often with polls it is not the numbers themselves that matter but how the paper that commissioned the survey chooses to play it and what aspects it seeks to blow up.

In his report on the findings Julian Glover noted that “The result suggests that Labour hopes that recent stories about Mr Cameron’s past would drive voters away from the Conservatives have come to nothing…The poll was carried out last weekend, after press reports about the Tory leader’s use of cannabis at school and suggestions in some quarters that he had used hard drugs. The poll also follows the publication of a photograph of Mr Cameron dressed as a member of Oxford’s exclusive Bullingdon dining club, which prompted suggestions that the Tory leader, an old Etonian, would be seen as a elitist toff who could afford dress up in £1,000 jackets.”

In its main leader the paper notes bitingly: “It is usual for an outgoing party leader to be replaced by someone more popular than themselves, but in the case of the impending Labour succession things seem to be the other way around. Mention Mr Cameron’s name, and the Tory vote rises.”

    My interpretation of the poll is that this is not so much about Brown but about Cameron. The more the Tory leader is in the news the higher his poll ratings go. Conversely the more that Brown figures on the news agenda the worse it seems to get. The Chancellor certainly did not help himself with last week’s World Cup bid announcement.

In the Labour leadership betting the Brown price has eased from 0.19/1 to 0.21/1 overnight. It might drift a touch more this morning.


ICM puts the Tories back at 40%

Monday, February 19th, 2007

    ..and the pollster reports a 13% lead if it’s Cameron vs Brown

A huge boost for David Cameron’s Tories is reported to be in tomorrow’s ICM poll for the Guardian. According to CONHome the figures are with changes on last month CON 40 (+3): LAB 31 (nc): LD 19% (-4).

This is only the third time that ICM has recorded a 40% share or more for the Tories in a decade and a half and the nine point margin puts the party in a situation where it could conceive of a parliamentary majority.

On the second question to be asked in the poll – how would you vote if it was Cameron’s Tories vs Brown’s Labour vs Ming’s Lib Dems – there’s an even bigger boost for the Tories. The shares are with comparisons on January – CON 42% (+2): LAB 29% (-3%): LD 17% (-3).

    The 13% Tory margin on this question is by far the largest that any pollster has recorded since Cameron became Tory leader in December 2005.

So again we have ICM being the pollster that is finding the largest Tory shares. The named leader question is in sharp contrast to what Populus found just two weeks ago. Then Labour’s relative position against the Tories was 2% better with the Chancellor in charge. ICM has Brown’s Labour doing 4% worse.

There has been a big change in the way that Populus is asking this question and in their current forms the approaches of the two pollsters cannot be compared with each other. I will do another piece on this during the week.

    I have long said that the only thing that stands between Gordon and Number 10 are bad poll findings. Well they don’t come much worse than this.

A lot will depend on how the Guardian choose to report the poll tomorrow. In the betting Gordon is still at 0.19/1 for leader – maybe that will change a bit tomorrow.

Mike Smithson


Some small site issues

Monday, February 19th, 2007

I’ve been trying to update a few things. Unfortunately, my meddling seems to have meant that Peter the Punter’s column is unavailable for comment!

Hopefully everything else should be working fine, and normal service should soon be resumed.



Peter the Punters Politicians Popularity Predictions

Monday, February 19th, 2007

ptp 1902.jpg

    The Sun Shines on Johnson

One highlight in another generally quiet week was the Sun’s support for Deputy Leadership candidate, Alan Johnson. Never underestimate the influence of the old currant bun. He’s this week’s best buy – 2 points at 83.3

The other best values are probably to be found amongst the ‘sells’. Look for those who are having a bit of a quiet time. Hilary Benn fits the bill, especially as he starts from a high perch; Tony Blair is having a relatively quiet week now that ‘cash for honours’ seems to be calming down – we suggest tentative sells of 1/2 point each at 61 and 92.5 respectively.

Let’s hope for a livelier week. These dull periods make life far too easy for our amiable adversary, Anthony IG Wells – despite which we had every reason to be pleased with……

Last Week’s Results Four weeks into this game and a few things are becoming clearer. It isn’t enough to correctly infer popularity ratings, we have to figure if Anthony has figured them right too. Last week we correctly mainlined that Hash Dave would go higher. Trouble was, Anthony worked that out too and preempted us by raising the price. We should have passed but couldn’t resist and dropped 0.7 points as a result.

But YouGov’s finest missed Boris’s bounce; we didn’t, and picked up a plus of 1.8. John Reid broke marginally in our favour – plus 0.2. So, a net win of 1.3 takes our running profit to 6.4 points (£64 to a £10 stake). Not bad, in a light news period, where trends have been difficult to pick out.

Week ended 12th February 2007
David Cameron – Buy 90. Score 89.8 Loss (0.7)
Boris Johnson – Buy 91.8 Score 93.6 Profit 1.8
John Reid – Sell 73.0 Score 72.8 Profit 0.2
Profit for week 1.3
Profits from earlier weeks 5.1
Total profit to date 6.4

Don’t forget our recommendations are made first thing Monday, shortly after IG put up their prices. There is of course no reason why you shouldn’t hold fire until you see if there is any market reaction. In fact, there’s a good case to be argued that the optimum time to bet would be shortly before IG close their books on Friday afternoon. Prices don’t seem to move much during the week and you will have had the benefit of assessing the week’s political news.

Good luck, whatever you do.

Note: The prices have changed a touch since Mike prepared the visual.

Peter the Punter


How secure is internet voting from the hackers?

Monday, February 19th, 2007


    Who’ll win and who’ll lose from the new way of casting your ballot?

In the continued effort to improve voter turnout the Government is staging a number of experiments with different voting methodologies for the May 3rd local elections. Among them is internet voting. These are the different tests involving the internet:-

  • Rushmoor Borough – Remote internet voting the week before polling and on polling day
  • Sheffield City – Remote internet and telephone voting the week before polling
  • Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough – Remote internet and telephone voting the week before polling
  • South Bucks District – Remote internet and telephone voting the week before polling day and on polling day, electronic counting
    • Is this something that we should be concerned about because, after all, many of us have confidence in internet security to do our banking online?

    The Electoral Reform Society view is that it is not satisfied that the internet voting is sufficiently secure for public elections. Even if it were secure technically, the Society says, there is a risk of interference in the voting process – bribery, intimidation, theft of PIN numbers, etc.

    It is pointed out that even the US Department of Defense in 2004 pulled its internet voting system in 2004 because it wasn’t secure. The possibility of the vote being hacked for political reasons is high – either by altering the result or just crashing the electronic voting system must be there.

      There is also a technical worry – what happens if it all breaks down. I feel uncomfortable about letting NTL, or whatever it is called now, having a role in our electoral system

    My other concern is the same as with postal voting – that some voters might be intimidated into following a particular line which they would not do so with the privacy of a conventional ballot. It is often said that women might be most at risk in certain households.

    But what about the raw politics? Is this going to make any difference to the outcome? Which party will be best at getting its cyber vote out? It is always said that increasing turnout gives Labour a benefit – but does it?

    Mike Smithson


    Are all parties scared of the motoring lobby?

    Sunday, February 18th, 2007

    notw motoring.jpg

      How can green agendas be pursued in the face of onslaughts like this?

    The News of the world is running a big feature today, part of which is reproduced here, launching a campaign on motoring taxation. This follows a week which has seen the Downing Street website petition on road pricing attract more than a million supporters and comes on the eve of a massive extension of London’s congestion charging zone.

    The question that all parties have to face is how much they can back measures to tackle congestion and green taxation when faced with reactions like this. For Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems have all been forthright in their rhetoric over global warming – but how politically can they do anything about it?

      Labour and Gordon Brown still bear scars from the September 2000 fuel crisis when for a day or so the country looked as though it was being brought to a standstill. The then green tax policy on petrol was diluted however much Gordon tried to dress it up.

    Even now whenever we look back at historical opinion polls we always have to make a special exception over what happened during that month when Hague’s Tories went into the lead.

    As we saw seven years this is an issue that can take everybody unaware and shows the limits of what is possible when ordinary people feel that their freedom to drive their cars is threatened in any way.

    In the short-term, as the News of the World vividly shows this morning, it’s the Government of the day that is most vulnerable yet this is a very hard one for either the Tories or Liberal Democrats to make capital from. “Speaking up for the motorist” might be good for the red-tops but would just look like opportunism from the now Jaguar-less Ming and the cycling Tory leader, David Cameron, with his chauffeur following on behind.

    One approach is not to knock motorists in general but to focus on a few like the Lib Dem Council move in the London borough of Richmond to levy higher residents’ parking charges on owners of “gas-guzzlers”.

    Whatever the extent to which motoring can be constrained could have an impact on the general election if one of the parties manages to get it right.

    Mike Smithson


    Miliband moves into the 2nd favourite slot

    Saturday, February 17th, 2007

    chart 1770207 labour leader.jpg

      Meanwhile the Guardian continues its barrage against Brown

    The chart shows the changing betting exchange prices in the Labour leadership markets where for the the Environment Secretary, David Miliband, has now taken over as second favourite from the Home Secretary, John Reid.

    This is a big change and reflects, in part, the heavy media backing that seems to be gathering round, first, the idea of a proper challenge to Gordon and secondly for Miliband himself. The latter has, of course, ruled himself out of the race in several statements but no matter – he’s a politician isn’t he?

    The Guardian, meanwhile, continues its anti-Brown coverage this morning and this should not be underestimated. If by any chance that the Chancellor does not make it then the paper will have played a pivotal role.

      For one of the great weapons that the Guardian has at its disposal is the choice of issues to test in its monthly ICM poll. Questions that probe Brown’s vulnerabilities could help frame the internal party debate.

    The next survey in the paper is due out next week or possibly the week after. Today there’s a sharply argued piece by Martin Kettle under the headings “Brown has every reason to be frightened of Miliband – Support for a man who denies he will stand for the leadership exposes the depth of doubts about the chancellor”.

    This is how Kettle sum it up: “First: now as in 1994 – the year of the last leadership contest – Labour risks losing a general election under Brown that it might otherwise win. Second: as chancellor Brown is too intimately bound up with Labour’s decade to be a credible fresh opponent for Cameron. Third: there needs to be a mainstream challenge so that the quality of Brown’s leadership claims can be properly assessed. Fourth: a contest would be good for Labour’s standing, and even for Brown’s. Fifth: there are no personal downsides for Miliband from challenging Brown, even if he loses. Sixth: Miliband might actually win – and as it happens this is the outcome the Tories fear most…..these are fears that dare not speak their name in public except through journalists willing to report them. Not the least of the disabling legacies to Labour of the dysfunctional Blair-Brown relationship is that a party full of sensible people seems to have collectively mislaid the ability to have an honest and grown-up political discussion about its achievements and problems.”

    Anti-Brown pieces in papers like the Telegraph are one thing and have little impact. Anti-Brown pieces in the Guardian are read by the wider movement and can influence the debate.

    Personally I have doubts about Miliband and find it hard to see how he could progress. Maybe I’m wrong but I will not change my betting just for now.

    Mike Smithson