Archive for August, 2007


Has Cameron finally reverted to a core votes strategy?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

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    Are “hard-edged” Tory policies what centre ground voters want?

These are the front pages of the Telegraph and Mail this morning and show support for the Tory leadership that hasn’t come from these papers in a long long time.

The Mail reports the moves in glowing terms and notes that “the focus on crime will delight Tory MPs who have been desperate for their leader to unveil concrete policy proposals on what they see as the leading concern for many voters.” Its main leader appears under the headline – “At last, Mr. Cameron is talking like a Tory”.

It’s the same tone in the Daily Telegraph which reports the moves in these terms: “Answering calls from many in his party for more “hard-edged” Conservative policies, he disclosed a sweeping law and order offensive to address the problems of gun crime, alcohol abuse, lack of discipline in schools and family breakdown.”

    But isn’t Cameron simply following in the footsteps of his predecessors – when the going gets tough you swing to the right? How’s this going to go down with the centre ground voters who have moved in his direction since he took over?

Won’t the emphasis on “traditional Tory issues” make it easy when the election finally comes for Brown to argue that the Conservatives are like they have always been. Isn’t this precisely how Labour wants the main opposition party to be perceived?

For the anti-crime programme that is being outlined looks very similar to that which came from his predecessor, Michael Howard, and looks like a major change of direction – which of itself provides ammunition for Labour.

This is going to be a fascinating conference season.

Mike Smithson


What are the political allegiances of the PBC community?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

    Take part in our simple “poll”

An issue that’s often raised on the site is what is the political make-up of those who visit PBC. So to find out and to test some new online polling software I’ve created the following “poll”.

This is not a voting intention question – it asks for the party you most associate with not who you would vote for if there was a general election tomorrow. Many PBC users, I guess would vote tactically and, also, at least 15% of our daily audience is from outside the UK.

So please take part and it will be interesting to see the result.

polls What British political party do you most associate with?
Liberal Democrat


Mike Smithson


Who’ll be the PBC posters of 2006/7?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007


    Your chance to nominate and vote

With the end of the holiday season and the September party conferences a new political year is about to start. But before the old one, 2006/07 finally closes I thought that it would be a good moment to celebrate those who have enriched our discussions, and in some cases helped us make winning bets, through their contributions to the site’s discussion threads during the past year.

    Who, for you, has been the Poster of the Year? Who has consistently provided insights and contributed to our understanding of complex events and has added most to our discussions?

Politicalbetting would not be the site it is but for the thousands and thousands of comments that are posted here each week. Each day, I’ve worked out, there’s something like 30,000 words all of which has made this the site to understand what is happening not just in UK politics but overseas as well.

In the past twelve months we’ve had the dramatic US mid-term elections where against all the odds the Democrats won both houses. We’ve seen the fight for the French Presidency and we have been looking forward to next year’s White House race.

In the UK there’s been the dramatic ousting of Tony Blair and the whole Labour transition, the deputy leadership contest, the big changes in local councils in England and elections for the Cardiff and Edinburgh governments. And of course we had the July by elections.

There will be five categories:- Conservative Poster of the Year – for the Tory who has who has made the best contribution. Labour Poster of the Year – for the Labour poster who has who has made the best contribution. Lib Dem Poster of the Year – for the Lib Dem who has who has made the best contribution. Specialist Poster of the Year – for the person who has brought special knowledge to a particular area or activity. Poster of the Year – for the person who, overall, has made the most significant contributions during the period.

How the elections will work. Please record your nominations setting out your reasons on this thread. You can nominate more than one person in each section but please give reasons. This will form the basis of the short-lists that I will draw up.

Nominations will close at 8pm on Thursday and anonymous online voting will start on Friday morning. Voting will continue over the weekend. The winners will be announced next Monday

UPDATE NOTE The competition categories have been changed since this was published an hour ago.

On holiday from this weekend.
I will be away from this Friday through to Monday September 17th enjoying the delights of the Basque country with my wife, Jacky. During that period Paul Maggs will be standing in as guest editor. Paul has played a key part on the site running our competitions and I am grateful that, once again, he has offered to take on the role to give me a break. If you have ideas for guest articles then please could you contact Paul ASAP here.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s ICM lead now 5%

Monday, August 27th, 2007

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    The Tories up a point on a fortnight ago

guardian aug icm.JPGIt’s multi-Gordons once again this morning but only half the number that accompanied the last poll, YouGov’s 10% lead, and one less than when the pollster, ICM, last carried out a survey two weeks ago.

The fieldwork for the firm’s August survey for the Guardian finished four days ago on Thursday so is already a little out of date. It won’t have been affected by the Liverpool shooting which has been dominating the headlines. These are the headline figures compared with the last poll from the firm two weeks earlier – CON 34%(+1): LAB 39%(nc): LD 18%(nc).

The one point decline in the lead is only marginal but the current 5% compares with the 7% margin that the pollster was reporting five weeks ago which will give some comfort to the Tories. I was expecting a Labour lead of about 4% so Brown’s party is in a slightly better position than I thought they it be doing at this stage. The Lib Dems will be pleased to be maintaining their 18% in contrast to drops from other pollsters.

As can be seen the headline over Julian Glover’s report is “Poll warning to Brown over October election gamble”. Certainly 5% does not provide the safety margin that the Brown camp would be looking for and as I’ve argued before Brown is not going to go to the country unless there’s a very good prospect that he’ll be returned with a majority bigger than what Blair secured in May 2005. Anything less would look less like an endorsement by the electorate and more like a partial rejection.

One key finding that might dampen the “election now” hawks is that 55% of those surveyed felt it was “time for change”. In the September 2006 poll the firm found 70% agreeing with the statement. So some movement there but that 55% number still looks pretty high.

Glover’s Guardian piece highlights the very different swings that seem to be taking place in the regions with Labour doing disproportionately better in the North. But the samples from these regional segments are too small to draw significant conclusions.

My betting. This poll will not persuade me to be either a buyer or seller of Labour seats on the commons spread markets. My main position is on how many weeks Gordon will serve as PM before the election. I’m a buyer at 80 weeks from last June and I’ll remain one.

Spreading false information.
On Saturday night a poster calling himself “tipster” published detailed figures which he said was a leak from the Guardian poll. They showed an 8% Labour lead and this has proved to be a spoof. This is not acceptable on a betting site and he has now been banned from posting.

Mike Smithson


What are the politics of the Rhys killing?

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

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    Is this putting the Tories back in the game?

In an excellent post yesterday my nomination for political blogger of the year, the Labour-leaning Paul Linford, produced a potted history of crimes which, he argued have changed the political consensus.

Running through Jamie Bulger in 1993 which arguably gave the then shadow home secretary, Tony Blair, heightened prominence, Linford touches on the political impact of the Dunblane massacre in 1995, the Philip Lawrence murder which is back in the headlines following the news that the culprit, Chindamo is due for parole, as well as the latest horror.

Every so often, Linford argues, “.. an individual crime takes place in Britain that is seen as so horrendous and which provokes such a degree of public outrage that it actually shifts the political consensus.”

Lindford concludes “…But simply by virtue of having been in power for ten years in which the problem of gun crime in particular has continued unabated, Labour is once again vulnerable on the issue. The political impact of the James Bulger murder was to catapult youth crime to the top of the agenda and put Tony Blair in pole position to become Labour leader and later Prime Minister.Fourteen years on, the combined political impact of the Chindamo ruling and the Ryan Jones killing might just be to put David Cameron back in the game.”

This morning the main splash in the Sunday Times is a chink that the shadow home secretary, David Davis, has found in the government’s record providing him with the opportunity to go on the attack. Davis is no stranger to Home Secretaries on the back back foot and Jacqui Smith, the current post-holder, is the fourth that he has had to face.

Is Linford right about the opportunity for Cameron? He might be – next weekend’s polls could give us a sense of how opinion is moving.

Mike Smithson


Could smoking be what does for Charles next time?

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

kennedy drinking badge.jpg

    Would the train incident thwart any come-back plan?

It’s August and yesterday we got what looks like becoming a hardy annual in the run-up to the Lib Dem conference – the Charles Kennedy come-back story.

This year’s has been sparked off by his comments yesterday at Scotland’s “Festival of Politics” after he was asked if he was “..going to be the comeback kid?”

According to the BBC report he replied: “When you have been the leader of a national political party obviously you know what is involved, you are still of an age where you have got something to contribute, but you don’t have the relentless and remorseless demands upon you in quite the same way.”.In response to questions over his health, Mr Kennedy said: “I’m happy and fulfilled in what I’m doing and it’s up to me to keep it that way.”

On the face of it Kennedy could pose a serious challenge if he was to put himself forward in a new leadership contest. He’s far better known than any other Lib Dem and the relative failure of the man who ousted him, Ming, might encourage the party membership to go for a known and apparently safe pair of hands.

No doubt we will see poll findings suggesting that the party would be doing better if Kennedy returned and there’s a possibility that this could become the media narrative at next month’s conference.

My guess is that he would have a chance provided he could satisfy everyone that he has cracked his drinking problem. But there is a big problem – a story that did not get much publicity because it happened in the days after Brown’s arrival at Number 10 but which would be raked up if he did decide to try to get his job back.

This is the incident in July when he was warned by the police after he lit up on a train. It happened during the first week of the smoking ban in England and Kennedy was probably fortunate to get off with a warning after police intervened.

    It’s not the smoking that matters here but the apparent flagrant disregard of the smoking ban. It would also raise questions about his ability to control his addictions.

In the immediate aftermath of Ming’s election in March 2006 there was a betting market on his successor. For a short while you could have got 100/1 on Kennedy – a price that did not last long after it was published here on the site. I got £20 on at 33/1.

Mike Smithson

The fridge magnet featured is available here


The polling famine is nearly over

Friday, August 24th, 2007

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    The Guardian’s August ICM survey should be out this weekend

After two weeks without any national voting intention surveys – a period which has seen intense speculation about how the main parties are doing in the new political context – I am advised that we should see results from the Guardian’s August ICM “over the weekend”. That’s likely to mean either tomorrow or on Bank Holiday Monday.

The paper’s uninterrupted polling series with ICM is the longest running in the UK, is one of the most respected and from a gambling point of view the most market sensitive. ICM’s last two surveys, for the Guardian in July and the Sunday Mirror a fortnight ago, both had Labour leads of 6%.

ICM operate a strict turnout filter and only include in their headline figures those who say they are seven out of ten or more in their certainty to vote. The pollster was also the pioneer of past vote weighting – the mechanism whereby samples are adjusted to be “politically representative” by finding out how respondents voted last time.

    If there is to be an early general election then the Brown camp will be looking, surely, for that 6% margin to be being maintained.

ICM generally has the best figures for the Lib Dems and Ming’s party will be hoping for some good news after YouGov put them on 14%.

Sean Fear’s Friday slot won’t be appearing today. He’s been otherwise engaged.

Mike Smithson


Is YouGov 10% contributing to GB’s referendum trap?

Friday, August 24th, 2007

GB plate.jpg

    Can the leadership be challenged without Labour paying a price?

Aside from the dramatic rise in street violence the issue that’s dominating the political scene is the growing threat of a revolt within the wider Labour movement over GB’s decision not to have a referendum on the EU treaty. There’s a report this morning that at least 40 Labour MPs are calling for talks on the EU plan to be re-opened and a number of unions are gathering forces ahead of next month’s TUC conference.

According to the Guardian Brown “looks set to face an embarrassing defeat…with three unions in favour of an active “no” campaign to urge the public to throw out the proposed changes altogether.” A key factor in union thinking is that “…Tony Blair secured an opt-out from the new charter of fundamental rights, which increased union rights to industrial action in the other 26 EU countries.”

    What is striking is the willingness of parts of the movement to join the Tories in opposing the GB line so soon after he became leader. Have some been seduced by the polls into believing that victory at the next election is now a near certainty?

There’s little doubt that union and party activists have an extra spring in their stride at the moment compared with the dark days only six months ago when some polls were reporting double digit leads for the Tories. Labour has got through the potentially tricky period of the succession unscathed and Brown is proving to be so much more popular than anyone could have imagined.

The problems facing the Tories and the Lib Dems (remember them?) only add to the mood of confidence. Labour feels invulnerable.

A big factor, I believe, is that the firm showing the biggest Labour lead is YouGov which has traditionally been seen by the movement as pro-Tory. “If the internet pollster has us so far ahead,” I’ve heard Labour people saying, “...then it must be true.” Anybody who observes that none of the other firms have found margins anything like YouGov’s 10% is dismissed as a killjoy.

And it is against this background that the party attack on Brown’s EU policy is gathering force. Dangerous stuff.

Mike Smithson