Archive for October, 2007


Guest slot by Alexander Drake

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

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    Australia Decides 2007 – Part 1

Since John Howard asked the Governor-General for an election on Saturday 24 November, we have seen the first two weeks of the 2007 Australian election campaign, and in short – Rudd is retaining his substantial lead in the polls, and he has been the net “winner” of the campaign to date.

Since the start of the 6 week campaign, John Howard and Kevin Rudd have released their tax policies (both proposing substantial cuts), and met for the first (and only) debate of the campaign. Most pundits gave the debate solidly and clearly to Rudd.

The result of this fortnight so far has seen a swing to Labor, rather than the commentariat’s expectation of a narrowing in the gap between the parties. The latest Newspoll has Labor on 58% of the two party-preferred (up 2), against the Liberal-National Coalition, on 42 (down 2). I recommend using Newspoll as the yardstick for measuring how the parties are performing nationally. Newspoll appears in Tuesday’s edition of the Australian (, and is the pollster of choice for Australian politicos.

In recent threads, and via email, I have been asked by other PB-ers whether the mood for a change of government is as emphatic as the one in 1997 in Britain. My answer to that is “in some ways yes, and some ways, no”. The dividing line seems to partially be based on age, and to a lesser extent, on region.

Generation Y – the YouTube/Facebook generation – seems to have most heavily swung to Kevin Rudd and Labor. John Howard is the only Prime Minister most of them can remember and they seem to be very keen for a change. Some of the Murdoch state-based newspapers have quoted polling during the campaign suggesting that around 70% of 18-24 year olds are keen for a Rudd government. On the other hand, the swing among older generations is less pronounced.

From a betting perspective, the figures on Betfair say it all – the weight of the money is very much on Labor winning government. But go a little deeper and look at the seat-by-seat betting. The vast majority of money bet on individual seats is tied up in Bennelong (held by John Howard) and Wentworth (held by Environment Minister, lawyer in the “Spycatcher” case, and leading republican, Malcolm Turnbull). Both men are defending previously safe Liberal seats with now-narrow majorities that should fall if there is a uniform national swing that is sufficiently strong to deliver government to Labor. However, both men are favourites to hold their seats. What might this suggest?

Consider where the leaders have been campaigning in this week. For example, Kevin Rudd spent some time campaigning in Kew, a wealthy area in the safe Liberal seat of Kooyong in suburban Melbourne, the seat held by Sir Robert Menzies. While I don’t believe Labor will win Kooyong, it suggests to me that Labor’s polling shows big swings to the ALP in previously safe Liberal seats. The Liberals may well hold on to the odd marginal – particularly outside Sydney and Melbourne – but we may see some jaw-dropping results within the big cities on election night.

Towards the end of the campaign, I’ll write another piece on the campaign, and a guide on what to expect on election night if you are interested in following it on the web. In the meantime, feel free to leave questions and comments for me on this thread.

Alexander Drake is a former adviser to a cabinet minister in the Howard government


Has Huhne found the weapon to beat Clegg?

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

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    Could the “no” to the Trident replacement help him and his party?

After a period when the main complaint about the Lib Dem leadership race was that both contenders appeared the same the man who came second last time, Chris Huhne, has put a new issue on the table – should Britain spend the billions on replacing Trident and maintaining its independent nuclear deterrent?

In an interview with the Observer Huhne declared it would be ‘ridiculous’ to spend up to £15bn updating the UK’s ageing submarine-based nuclear arsenal. This was he said “a Cold War relic”

I think that this is a very significant move that should resonate well with largish sections of the party membership – which is probably a lot more left-wing than most of those who vote for the party in elections. Clegg, meanwhile, has suggested that he would strongly support the Trident replacement.

For more than half a century the issue of Britain’s independent nuclear capability has been a major fault-line in the nation’s politics and the need to replace the existing system means that it’s still there. If the left-winger John McDonnell had managed to find the nominations to challenge Brown for the Labour leadership then Trident would figured largely in that race.

Not replacing Trident and the total reliance on the US that it implies also fits well with the Lib Dems opposition to the Iraq War. A Lib Dem party following a Huhne policy could cause problems for Labour as it seeks to attract and retain those supporters who switched in 2005.

I’ve now got more than £100 on Huhne at average odds of 2.82/1. That seems the value bet.

Mike Smithson


Now Ipsos-Mori reports a one point Labour lead

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

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    Are we entering the era of Boat Race politics?

The massive monthly face-to-face survey by Ipsos-Mori is out in the Observer this morning and shows that Labour, on 41% have just pipped ahead of the Tories on 40%. The actual figures with comparisons on a telephone survey from a sample of half the size from the same pollster a fortnight ago are CON 40%(-1): LAB 41%(+3): LD 13%(+2).

Looking at today’s figures with the last directly comparable poll, Ipsos-Mori’s September face to face survey of nearly two thousand and we get a real sense of the magnitude of the political earthquake that we’ve experienced over the last few weeks. CON 40%(+9): LAB 41%(-3): LD 13%(-2).

The poll is actually quite old with the fieldwork taking place from October 18th to 23rd – so it started in the middle of the week before last.

The headline voting intention questions are based solely on those “certain to vote”. The findings from the other questions in the poll are based on all the responses – so include the views of a large number of people who have little or not intention of taking part in the democratic process. For this reason I tend to attach to them much less importance.

There has been a big change in the net satisfaction ratings of the two main leaders- something that we saw in Friday’s numbers from the YouGov panel. Brown has moved from plus 18% to minus 1% while Cameron has gone from -22% to minus 2%.

The paper describes the poll ushering in a “new era of ‘boat race’ politics in which Labour and the Tories are almost neck-and-neck.”

We’ll have to see what the October surveys for ComRes and ICM, where the fieldwork has been carried out this weekend, come up with. Unlike Ipsos-Mori both these pollsters apply weighting based on how respondents said they voted in 2005. This has the effect of depressing Labour levels because for some reason many more Labour supporters seem ready to answer the randomised unsolicited phone calls from polling firms than supporters of other parties.

Mike Smithson


Is there money to be made from the yellow optimists?

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

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    What’s behind the Lib Dem price rally?

If you feed the latest figures from the main pollsters that have reported since the Tory conference into the Anthony Wells commons seat calculator the highest number that you get for the Lib Dems is 21 MPs from the Populus survey three weeks ago. The latest ICM poll makes it 18 seats with both YouGov and Ipsos-Mori showing a bare 11 seat total.

Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus site is even worse with his poll of polls producing precisely zero Lib Dem MPs after the next election on his seat calculator.

Yet just take a look at the overnight spreads from Sporting Index and Spreadfair reproduced above. The current LD buy levels are equal and in Spreadfair’s case, higher than what was available after the party’s conference in September when ICM was reporting a 19% share and Populus 17%.

This is not just affecting the Lib Dem spreads. The number of Tory seats being projected by the markets is now much lower than the seat predictors are suggesting.

Now the standard Lib Dem answer, which I buy into, is that the party incumbents have a very good record of holding on in spite of what national conditions might be like. Highly selective targeting of resources and activists tends to lead them to retaining seats that the national trends would suggest that they should lose. Also there is the tactical voting element. If Labour supporters want to impede the Tory resurgence in LD>CON marginals then there’s a strong incentive to switch.

It might be, also, that we’ll see Tory tactical voters in LD>LAB marginals like Manchester Withington.

But surely the punters risking big money on the spread markets don’t believe that Huhne or Clegg’s Lib Dems will finish up only being down 12 seats on their 2005 total?

With three polls due out in the next few days we might see a bit more movement. The spread that is under-valued here is the Tory one and a buy bet here might be the right thing to do.

Mike Smithson


A special note from Peter the Punter

Friday, October 26th, 2007
    Tote ‘Ten To Follow’ Competition – A Entry?

The Tote’s popular Ten to Follow competition for the jumps season kicks off shortly. As well as being a decent value bet, it provides lots of fun throughout the season and attracts much support from serious and occasional punters alike. The general idea is that you pick out ten horses from the Tote’s list and they score points as and when they succeed in their races during the season. Entry is £10 per line. There are monthly prizes and a top prize of £700,000 minimum. Team entries are common; in fact, in view of the fierce competition, individual entries are unlikely to be successful. You really need to put in a lot of lines to have much chance.

Mike has agreed that I can use the Site to organize such a team-entry, under the name Anybody out there interested?

I will do all the admin and organize the financial side. Any prize money would be split pro-rata according the stake. Minimum stake is £1; no maximum. I will draw up a short agreement for people to accept so there is no arguing in the event we do get lucky. If possible, I would like a couple of other PBers (StJohn? Yokel? Anybody?) as Committee Members to help with running the thing and ensuring fair play, so let me know if you don’t mind giving up some time to this.

If you are interested in subscribing, or helping out, please drop me a line at . Please state how much you want to be in for and give your real and ‘stage name’ and the email address to which you want communications sent. Please note that this email address will be visible to other members of the syndicate. (Sorry, but the admin becomes impossibly time-consuming otherwise.)

Do let me have your suggestions for horses to include in the group entry. If there’s enough support, we should be able to cast our net pretty wide and include some ‘coupon busters’ which other syndicates are likely to overlook.

Entries have to be in by midnight on Wednesday 12th November, but the earlier you can let me know of your interest, the better. I’m away for a few days now – urgent business at Chepstow and Aintree – but I will reply next week to any emails that come in over the weekend and I’ll report the level of interest on Site and answer any general queries there.

Full details of the competition can be found at .

Peter Smith
(Peter the Punter)
October 26th 2007


Sean Fear’s Friday slot

Friday, October 26th, 2007

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    Focus on Wales

“Punter” has asked me to comment on the Welsh constituencies on several occasions. As there are 40 Welsh constituencies, then my comments on the likely outcome at the next election must be brief.

Wales has been a left-wing stronghold since 1885. Firstly, it was monolithically Liberal, and then, after a period of confusion in the Twenties and Thirties, almost as solid for Labour up till 1979. Even in 1931, Labour won no fewer than 18 out of 35 Welsh seats, at a time when the Party had been reduced to 52 seats nationwide. In a typical election, Labour could expect to win around 30 seats in the Principality. That hold was shaken, when the Conservatives performed very well in 1979 and 1983, winning 14 seats to 20 for Labour, but from 1987, Labour recovered its dominance, in most parts of Wales. According to Anthony Wells, in 2005, Labour would have won 30 seats on the new boundaries, the Liberal Democrats 4, Conservatives 3, Plaid Cymru 2, and Peter Law would have won Blaenau Gwent.

Labour will retain a clear majority of Welsh seats at the next election, but may well lose quite a few. Of their seats, 21 look solid to me, namely Aberavon, Alyn & Deeside, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff South, Cardiff West, Clwyd South, Cynon Valley, Delyn, Gower, Islywn, Llanelli, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Newport East, Ogmore, Pontypridd, Rhondda, Swansea East, Torfaen, and Wrexham. The Conservatives have outside chances of taking Vale of Clwyd, and Newport West, where they performed very well in the Assembly election, and the Liberal Democrats have an outside chance of taking Swansea West, but Labour would be heading for a very bad defeat were it to lose those three seats.

Arfon, notionally Labour, but with a sitting Plaid Cymru MP will be an almost certain Labour loss, particularly as Plaid won it easily in the Assembly. Likewise, it is very hard to see the party retaining Aberconwy, where it has a notional lead of only 1,000 over the Conservatives. Remarkably, however, Plaid won this seat in the Assembly. In a general election, however, I would expect anti-Labour voters to choose the Conservatives, rather than Plaid. Cardiff North produced a huge Conservative win in the Assembly, and likewise, must be almost certain to fall. Carmarthern West and South Pembrokeshire was won by the Conservatives at Assembly level, and will produce an extremely tight contest at the next election. Labour have however, held on against the odds, at both Parliamentary and Assembly level, in Vale of Glamorgan, a constituency which would be solidly Conservative if it were located in Southern England. In all likelihood, Labour will retain this, unless there is a strong swing to the Conservatives at the next election. Finally, Ynys Mon will produce yet another nail-biter between Labour and Plaid. If Labour’s support is down overall, compared to 2005, then Plaid will take this.

Among the other parties, Plaid will hold Dwyfor Merionedd and Carmarthern East and Dinefwyr easily. I would also rate them as favourites to regain Ceredigion from the Liberal Democrats, given that it is a majority Welsh-speaking seat, and they won it comfortably in the Assembly. The Conservatives will retain Monmouth easily, and are probably home and dry Clwyd West and Preseli Pembrokeshire, unless things go very badly wrong for them at the next election. The Liberal Democrats will retain Cardiff Central, Brecon & Radnor, and Montgomery, where the inhabitants plainly elect their current MP for his entertainment value. Given that Dai Davies was able to retain Blaenau Gwent in the by-election, and Trish Law was able to win it at Assembly level, he must remain favourite to retain the seats.

Overall then, my prediction for Wales would be Labour 25, Conservative 6, Plaid 5, Liberal Democrat 3, Independent 1.

Last night’s by-elections were generally good for the Conservatives.

Bridgnorth District – Broseley West: Independent elected unopposed.

Cumbria County – Penrith: Lib Dem 800, Conservative 380, Independent 123, Green 34. Lib Dem hold with a strong swing from the Conservatives.

Great Yarmouth Borough – Nelson: Labour 329, Independent 257, Lib Dem 96, Independent (NF) 49, Green 43 . Labour hold. The Conservatives backed the main independent. The National Front vote collapsed, compared to 2006 and this May.

Harlow District – Little Parndon and Hare Street: Labour 794, Conservative 598, Lib Dem 117 Labour hold.

Harlow District – Toddbrook: Conservative 728, Labour 713, Respect 102, Lib Dem 67. Conservative gain from Labour. This makes the Conservatives the largest party on Harlow District Council, for the first time.

North Devon District – Witheridge: Conservative 448, Lib Dem 318. Conservative hold. The Conservatives won control of North Devon in May, and will be pleased to have held this marginal seat.

Penwith District – Gwinear, Gwithian and Hayle East: Conservative 493, Independent 192, Labour 170 Conservative hold. For some reason, the Liberal Democrats didn’t contest this seat, where they ran close in May.

Sefton Metropolitan Borough – Manor : Conservative 922, Lib Dem 769, Labour 419, BNP 94, Ukip 71. Conservative gain from Labour
Wrexham County Borough – Stansty: Labour 370, Lib Dem 271, Conservative 50, Plaid Cymru 45. Labour gain from Liberal Democrat with a huge swing.

I don’t usually comment on Town Council elections, but one that took place in Waltham Abbey yesterday, was notable for the fact that the BNP came within 18 seats of taking a seat from the Conservatives.

Sean Fear is a London Tory activist and writes a weekly column here.


YouGov shows the Tory lead is being sustained

Friday, October 26th, 2007

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    ..and a boost for Huhne in his bid for the Lib Dem leadership

After the longest period without a national voting intention poll since August 2006 there’s the regular survey from the YouGov panel in the Daily Telegraph this morning which shows no change on the last poll from the firm almost two weeks ago. The headline figures are CON 41% (nc): LAB 38% (nc): LD 11% (nc)

What we don’t have from YouGov is any adjustment for likelihood to vote. In the last poll this question was asked and the three point Tory margin became nine points amongst “those certain to vote”. We’ll have to wait until the detailed data is published to see if that element was examined.

So both main parties will probably be satisfied with the status quo – the Tories will be relieved that the dramatic changes of early October remain and Labour won’t be too unhappy at this level.

In the Lib Dem race 16% of party supporters said Chris Huhne would do the better job improving the party’s fortunes compared with 14% for the odds on betting favourite, Nick Clegg. This is very good news for the man who ran against Ming last time and might be an indication that members are not as strongly for Clegg as the betting suggests. Clearly neither contender has established much public recognition. Amongst all in the survey Clegg led Huhne by 10% to 5%.

Amongst the list of non-voting questions there’s been a big move to Cameron. Brown’s net approval rating has moved from plus 11 last month to minus 14. Cameron has gone from minus 27 in September to plus 4% in this latest poll.

The big damage to Brown has come in his reputation for “being decisive”. In May he had a 52-17% positive score on the question – this week that is down to a 42-37% negative.

Overall there is not a lot here that will affect the general election betting markets. In the Lib Dem leadership betting the small lead that Huhne has over Clegg amongst party supporters will be seen by his campaign as a big boost. I’ve put a bit on Huhne at 3.1/1 – if other surveys show a similar level trend then this price will probably tighten.

Mike Smithson


Would Gord have benefited from a proper contest?

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

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    Does a leadership election hone up the candidates’ campaigning skills?

Just looking back at how the Lib Dem hopefuls, Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne, performed on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show it struck me what a good training ground for a general election running for the leader of your party is.

The normal political dialogue outside election times does not provide the opportunities for the kind of exposure and probing that a leadership election demands and those who have been through the process, whether finishing as a winner or a loser, come out better at the end.

For they have to deal with personal questions and be expected to make instant statements articulating what their values are and why they should be supported. All the time they have to be conscious of how their presentation style and what they are saying is going down with the people whose votes they are seeking.

If Gordon had gone through a similar process last May-June I believe that he would have gained enormously and would have been better equipped to campaign for a Labour fourth term. Also the issue of what his vision was and where he stands would have been put to the test then.

In addition a contest would have brought one or two Labour front-benchers to the fore and given them experience and public recognition that could have been very helpful at the general election. Labour’s deputy election hardly caused a ripple and who has heard much of the winner since?

The Tories made the same mistake with the Michael Howard coronation in 2003. Contests are good for the party and for the development of individual politicians.

As for the Lib Dem race some of my earlier doubts about Nick Clegg are starting to melt away. Both him and Huhne look good and are probably as effective communicators as anybody in Brown’s cabinet. In spite of the current polls that bodes well for the party in an election campaign.

I think that Clegg is probably going to do it but Huhne’s campaign experience might result in the margin not being as great as the current betting odds suggest.

Mike Smithson