Archive for November, 2007

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Have a good Wednesday Mr. Brown

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

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    What is it about Labour’s friends in the North?

Even when things are going well for a Prime Minister a Wednesday morning is probably not the best of times to be around Number 10. Over-shadowing everything when parliament is in session is Prime Minister’s Questions – the weekly ritual that has to be surmounted and where the post-holder can only guess at what he is likely to be asked.

Gordon’s usual day, we are told, starts very early with a look at the papers and these will not bring much comfort. The donations scandal involving Mr. Abrahams or Mr. Martin, whatever he likes to be called, has exploded as more names are revealed of people who have acted as proxies for him.

Also interesting are the revelations about the selective nature of his support.

    Thankfully for Gordon his leadership campaign refused money from this source although at least one of the campaigns of those running for deputy were beneficiaries.

Then there was Labour’s campaign in July’s Sedgefield by-election to replace Tony Blair, which is said to have been bank-rolled by Abrahams/Martin via proxies.

To get a sense of what Abrahams is like there is an an excellent piece by Stephen Pollard on his Spectator blog which was referred to on the thread yesterday and which is well worth reading.

Pollard recalls meetings the Fabian Society, where he worked, from 1992-1995. “One of the regular – indeed, one of the most assiduous – attendees at those meetings was David Abrahams. He would mix, as would everyone in that milieu, with backbenchers, front benchers, NEC members and Shadow Cabinet members..Many of those people are now ministers. Others are Cabinet members, some very senior. It is possible – just – that when they say they have no idea who David Abrahams is, or cannot recall ever meeting him, they are telling the truth. It is, after all, possible that there are people in the country who have never heard of, say, Gordon Brown. Possible, yes; but very, very unlikely..Indeed, far from keeping himself to himself, as is being written, Abrahams was about the pushiest person I ever came across in my time at the Fabians – and in politics, that is saying something.

Abrahams’ explanation of his behaviour makes little sense. Can he really have gone from being one of the pushiest and most self-aggrandising people I came across to being so afraid of publicity that he channelled donations through other people? I don’t think we have got remotely to the bottom of the Abrahams side of this story.”

Meanwhile on the next general election spread betting markets the buy price for Tory seats is now above 300.

Mike Smithson



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Who’d get it if Harman resigned?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

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    Could supporting Cruddas be a way showing unease about Brown?

My nomination for Iain Dale’s political blogger of the year (won incidentally by Iain Dale himself – funny that given he was the promoter and vote counter) was Paul Linford. To my mind Paul provides the best insights into Labour party matters and this evening he speculates about who would become deputy leader if Harriet finds she cannot carry on because of the donation scandal.

Clearly Harman would be out of it. Those who came in the bottom half of the ballot, Benn, Blears and Hain would, Paul suggests, probably not put their hats into the ring. That leaves Jon Cruddas and Alan Johnson.

Johnson was tipped by Guido last time as the winner and, indeed, the Daily Telegraph reported during the Manchester conference that he had done it. He’s very ambitious and would, surely be there again.

But could Johnson beat Cruddas who turned down a job offer from Brown and, as Linford notes, “..is untainted by association with any of the disasters to strike the government over recent weeks”? Paul thinks he could win.

Other possible contenders suggested by Paul could be Caroline Flint, Ruth Kelly and Jacqui Smith as well as Jack Straw.

    The danger for Brown is that such an election could be a means for the movement to register their discontent with his leadership. If it went along that route then Cruddas would be the man.

But before we jump ahead of ourselves Harman has, first, to step down.

Mike Smithson



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Is it all bad luck or is there something more?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

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    Will Gord’s actions contain the damage

Another day and another affair that Gordon has had to answer questions on – this time not just about himself but also including his deputy, Harriet Harman who also benefited from the Durham donor.

It is had to see what else he could say today even though the move will add further to Labour’s financial problems.

    But how can he and his party break out of this downward spiral of terrible stories? What can he do to recover the situation?

The challenge at the moment is that everything he does is seen in the context of the run of bad news. Any new initiative is presented as him “trying to recover the situation” thus reminding people of the problems he is having.

There’s a challenge too for Cameron in all of this. I gather that last week’s PMQ strategy of not over-playing the missing disc affair was deliberate. The Tories cannot be seen to gloat

Mike Smithson



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How dangerous is the “sleaze” tag for Labour?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

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    Is the Sun right to call it “Labour’s Black Monday”?

mail sleaze RH border.JPGThere’s a six letter word that figures prominently in a number of the papers this morning that could be very dangerous for Labour and Gordon.

It’s “SLEAZE” – a description that in the 1992-1997 Tory government seemed to get attached to almost everything. It became almost a short-hand and was very difficult for the party to cast off. In fact it’s probably taken it a decade and a half to get rid of it.

One of the drivers behind the massive Brown polling bounce in the summer, surely, was that his arrival at Number 10 allowed the party to put the “cash for honours” scandal behind it. That was about Blair – Gordon was seen as “clean”.

Even though Brown clearly had no knowledge if these latest transactions it gives a bad impression about the party. The resignation of the general secretary, while probably seen as a damage limitation exercise, somehow makes it worse.

An immediate political impact, surely, is that it’s going to be much harder for Brown to push through selective legislation that stops the Tories receiving the so called “Ashcroft money” to support marginal seats while at the same time leaving trade union support for Labour intact.

All this on top of the November ComRes poll showing Labour on 27% – 13 points behind the Tories. The Sun describes yesterday as “Labour’s black Monday” – I’m not sure it is quite that yet but Brown has a mega-challenge on his hands turning this round.

In my betting I am now back as a £100+ a seat buyer of Tory seats on the commons spread markets with two spread betting firms.

I’ll be doing more analysis on the ComRes survey later in the day.

Mike Smithson



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It’s a staggering 13 Daves with ComRes

Monday, November 26th, 2007

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    Labour drop to an amazing 27%

On the day that Labour’s general secretary had to resign over donation handling news is coming through of another terrible polling blow to Brown and his party.

According to Iain Dale the November survey by ComRes for tomorrow’s Independent has these figures with comparisons on a month ago – CON 40% (-1): LAB 27% (-6): LD 18% (+2)

Needless to say this is the biggest Tory lead that’s been recorded by ComRes ever. Back in April the firm had Labour on a similar level of 27% but in that poll the Tories were only on 36%.

It should be noted that the methodology that the firm uses, particularly the past vote weighting formula that it follows, is the least favourable to Labour of all the pollsters.

Fieldwork took place over the weekend after an awful week of bad news for the party which has continued today.

The Anthony Wells calculator suggests that these figures would produce a Commons of CON 354: LAB 224: LD 42: OTH 30 seats. Martin Baxter Electoral Calculus produces CON 357: LAB 217: LD 45 seats

I’ve started betting on the Tories again on the commons spread markets.

UPDATE 2115 I have just had confirmation of the poll from the boss of ComRes – Andrew Hawkins. He tells me that the last survey which showed such a big Tory lead was a MORI poll for The Times in August 1988, when Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister and her party enjoyed a 14-point advantage..

Mike Smithson



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Lib Dem ICM figure confirmed at 21%

Monday, November 26th, 2007

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    What’s going to happen in the end month poll rush?


It’s been frustrating weekend for Lib Dem poll watchers keen to see if their recovery is continuing. First we had the confusion in the Guardian on Saturday over the size of their share. Then we had yesterday’s BPIX poll in the MoS which failed to mention the Lib Dem total.

I haven’t been able to solve the latter but the boss of ICM, Nick Sparrow, has emailed me about his poll. This was his answer:“Mistake at the Guardian. Between the first and third editions an unseen hand (as yet unidentified) changed 21% for the LibDems (correct) into 23%. 21% (up 3%) is correct”.

Meanwhile we should be seeing the latest from COMRES in the Indy in the next day or so and we still have not had the Ipsos-Mori monitor for November. There’s also likely to be YouGov in the Telegraph at the weekend.

The next Times poll by Populus should be out early next week if the normal schedule is being followed.

Mike Smithson



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Could Gordon really go BEFORE the election?

Monday, November 26th, 2007


    Is it worth betting that Labour will have another leader?

It’s Monday and that means it’s the day of the Guardian column of Jackie Ashley – who for a long time has been one of Brown’s most enthusiastic media cheer leaders. And this morning, as she tries to assess the political damage that Gordon has suffered in the past few weeks, she touches on what has not really been debated – could he go BEFORE the general election?

Ashley writes:“..For the past few days there has been an air of drift and desperation. The prime minister seems hurt and surprised rather than roused and up for it. Once utterly loyal Brownite backbenchers, senior ones, tell me they don’t expect him to fight the next election. Blairites who kept their mouths zipped through the first months are plotting again to replace him. I have almost lost count of the number of non-political friends who say: “Sorry, I just don’t like him….what is also clear is that the prime minister’s uncertain performances in the Commons are causing real problems inside the parliamentary Labour party. He should be in no doubt. There is real anxiety, not just from Blairites or those he has offended in the past, but among the MPs he depends on.”

I think that Ashley is right about his Commons performances. The Tory approach seems to be to goad him into losing his temper and when he does that he has lost.

But can we envisage reaching a point where he could be pushed or he stood aside voluntarily? Unlike the the Conservatives and the Lib Dems Labour appears less likely to move against a failing leader. Yes Tony was pushed and he went earlier than he had planned. But that was against the backdrop of last year’s Israeli conflict when his stance caused massive stirrings throughout his party.

A lot depends on the polls and as I’ve been arguing here Labour is not doing as badly as the drip drip of negative headlines might appear. For most of the time, even during the past month, Labour has been ahead of where it was in the final months of Tony Blair.

Very few surveys have shown that the Tories have a big enough lead that can be translated into a Commons majority. Still the most likely outcome of the general election is a hung parliament.

    I cannot see Brown being ousted. But if he started to believe that he himself was impeding Labour’s election chances then you could envisage him standing aside. Unlike his predecessor the movement means everything to him.

In the betting the favourite time slot for Brown going is 2011 or beyond. On Betfair’s “Party leaders at the election” market you can get 4/1 on Cameron being the only one of Brown/Cameron/Campbell to still be there. Brown alone is 7/1.

Mike Smithson



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Should Gord be smiling after the latest polls?

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

    Why I’m scaling back on my “Tory buy” position

GB smiling RH.JPGAs far as I can see there is only one voting intention poll this morning and that is from the non-British Polling Council registered BPIX in the Mail on Sunday

Frustratingly the only figures available online are a CON-LAB split of 40%-35% with no information about the Lib Dems. The pollster found there was a 37%-37% split when it asked how respondents would vote if Tony Blair was still Labour leader.

There are other polls in the Telegraph and News of the World where no voting intention questions appear to have been asked. Such responses are not normally turnout related and it is unlikely that overall the samples would have been weighted in line with past vote recall. As a result I don’t attach that much importance to the findings, which as you would expect, are not that good for Brown or Darling.

BPIX seems pretty good for Labour especially as the fieldwork will have taken place after the latest in the Northern Rock saga, the missing data discs and the concerted attacks on Brown from the former army chiefs. The Tories are down one point and Labour down two compared with the last survey from the pollster six weeks ago.

    The message that will hearten Downing Street is that the Tories don’t seem to be benefiting from the current troubles and it is the share that Cameron’s party is getting that is crucial.

As I reported on Friday morning I was quite heavily into a Tory buy position on the Commons Seats spread markets. I had contracts giving me an average profit of £150 a seat on every Tory seat above 284. I added a further £30 at the 293 level. Since then the polls have not been as decisively pro-Tory as I was expecting and I have closed down £135 of the bets giving me a profit, to transfer to my bank account, of just on £1,000.

My Friday position of £180 a Tory seat was beyond my comfort zone when it became clear that the party’s polling shares were falling back. The great thing with this form of betting is that you can operate in the short-term.

UPDATE 11.27am: It would appear that the ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph was the same survey that the Guardian reported yesterday morning. This did have voting intention figures so some of my comments above are probably not as valid. The findings from non-voting intention questions do contain the views of many people who are very unlikely to vote. When you are betting your prime concern is what voters think.

Mike Smithson