Archive for July, 2008


Was Obama making Kinnock’s Sheffield mistake?

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

    Did his foreign trip make him look too presumptuous?

Barack Obama has returned to the US after his whirlwind foreign tour to find that some polls are now going against him. Was it wise or not and should he have avoided the mass rally in Berlin?

We don’t know the long term impact but after sifting through the reports again I could not help being reminded of Labour’s famous Sheffield rally a week before the 1992 General Election. This came over in the media as though it had been arranged to celebrate Neil Kinnock’s victory over the Tories.

What he said that day and his whole demeanour did not go down with the voters. He gave the impression of taking the coming election for granted – he was being presumptuous. He was also reminding the public what a Kinnock-led government might look like which with the benefit of hindsight that was not wise.

    Voters like to feel that what they are doing is important and if you act as though an election is a done deal then they might just bite back.

Ever since his nomination became a certainty Obama has looked as though he might fall into the Kinnock trap. The creation of an Obama “seal of office” was quickly withdrawn but the overseas tour went ahead in a form that could be portrayed as though he assumed he was in the White House already.

What should have been presented as a fact-finding mission to prepare himself came over as though he regarded the little matter of the election on November 4th as a minor inconvenience.

This is on top, of course, of middle America’s long-standing distrust of foreigners.

A full range of White House betting markets is here.

Mike Smithson


Tory lead with Populus up three points

Monday, July 28th, 2008


    Glasgow doesn’t seem to have had too much impact

The latest Populus Poll for the Times is just out and shows that the Labour deficit has nudged up just two points even though the fieldwork took place during a weekend when the big story was the party leadership and the reaction the the by-election.

In a way it does not add much to that we already know – Labour continue to languish in the 20s with the Tories touching the mid-40s. All of this adds up to a possible Tory landslide should the nation vote in these proportions in a general election.

The Populus poll at the start of the month had the margin at just 13% which was the lowest of any of the pollsters.

On what would happen if Labour did ditch Brown Peter Riddell writes: “Ministers plotting to remove Gordon Brown receive a warning that just a half (52 per cent) believe it would improve the party’s fortunes. This is roughly the same as the 53 per cent when the question was last asked in May despite increased speculation about his future. But there has been a three point rise to 44 per cent in the number saying replacing him with “a younger, fresher, more charismatic alternative” would not make Labour more likely to win.”

So there we are – what will probably be the last poll for several weeks.

The original graphic had some wrong figures. This has now been amended.

Mike Smithson


Is it worth a punt on 33/1 Veneman?

Monday, July 28th, 2008


    Could Obama choose a former Bush Secretary of Agriculture?

I’ve been given a tip that Ann Veneman, the former Bush Secretary of Agriculture and now CEO of UNICEF might be a good bet for Barack’s VP choice.

Certainly there’s been a fair degree of comment in the US media over the past few hours. She looks an interesting choice.

I’ve no idea how good the information is but I’ve put £100 on at the 33/1 that Ladbrokes were offering.

Mike Smithson


Could Bruce Anderson’s Gord story be true?

Monday, July 28th, 2008


    Is this just part of the media frenzy?

There’s been a lot on the blogsphere this afternoon about a story that the Independent’s veteran political writer, Bruce Anderson, tells in his column today. This could have an impact.

The stories are seeping out from No. 10. The other day, Gordon Brown was convinced that Dominic Grieve, the shadow Home Secretary, had made such a strong attack on 42-day detention as to impugn his commitment to national security. Although Downing Street advisers trawled and Googled, they could not find the quote. Their boss expressed gratitude for their efforts in the way that a sergeant-major would thank a recruit for a speck of dust on his rifle. Mr Brown then stationed himself at a terminal. For the next four hours, he sat there unavailingly, emanating gloom and rage. The non-psychiatric interpretation of his behaviour is termed “the playing politics with national security syndrome”.

Shortly afterwards, John Prescott was in No. 10, showing around some children. “What’s he doing in this building?” exploded Mr Brown. “Get him out of here.” (He surely cannot regard Mr Prescott as a potential leadership challenger – otherwise, things are truly desperate).

Embarrassed aides explained that, you know, Mr Prescott had been Deputy Prime Minister until last year, and what harm could there be in showing kids around? Gordon Brown’s response was to shut himself in the Cabinet Room for the next two hours, talking to no-one.

It’s very hard to assess this veracity of this account but the fact that it has been published and is being discussed is keeping the issue alive.

hat-tip Stephen Pollard

Mike Smithson


Is Harriet the danger for Tory landslide punters?

Monday, July 28th, 2008


    Could a “game-changing” Gord replacement upset the media narrative?

There’s been quite a bit of activity on the Tory landslide markets where punters have driven the price down from 4/1 at the end of June to 6/4 with William Hill at the moment. Ladbrokes have also got a market. Yesterday the price on the Tories getting a majority of 100 or more was 3/1 and looked quite an attractive bet. Today that’s down to 9/4.

Given the overwhelming polling evidence and the precedent of John Major’s government being unable to recover from a much better position in 1995-1997 this seemed liked good value. But there’s one factor that is holding me back – the distinct possibility of a new Labour leader with the capacity to change the whole game and turn round the media narrative.

I don’t think David Miliband, who flunked his chance last year, has that capability and it was Jack Straw, remember, who ran Gord’s campaign so successfully that almost the entire parliamentary Labour party was too scared to put up an opponent. There’s a lot that he said from that period that could come back to haunt him.

Alan Johnson really blew it with his failed bit for the deputy leadership. He’s supposed to be a “good communicator” in the same way that Nick Clegg’s supporters were claiming last year. I don’t see it in either of them.

And I know that when I mention the name of Harriet Harman there will be groans from some PBers but so be it. I’m not going to disguise my view just because a number of you don’t agree with me. In my judgement she has much more potential to attract favourable coverage and move the ratings than any of the other names that are mentioned – if only because of the novelty of Labour, after all these decades, choosing a woman.

Nobody ever got rich, remember, betting against Harriet Harman.

Live political betting odds.

Mike Smithson


Labour get a little closer with YouGov

Monday, July 28th, 2008


    ..but yet another poll points to a Cameron-landslide

What is probably the final poll of July, from YouGov in the Daily Telegraph, is out this morning and the numbers show a minor improvement for Labour compared with the latest survey from the firm earlier in the month. Note that my comparisons are with that poll, not June’s Telegraph survey.

The shares with changes on the last poll from the pollster are CON 45 (-2): LAB 26% (+1): LD 17% (+1).

The fieldwork took place from Wednesday to Friday so took place mostly before the Glasgow East by election result was known and the massive speculation about Brown’s job prospects that have been dominating the headlines ever since. Generally the vast bulk of YouGov’s online responses come in the first couple of days and my guess is that the post by-election element of this was less than a fifth.

So the polls of the past fortnight have been broadly in the same ball-park ranging from ICM’s 15% Labour deficit to the ComRes figures in the Indy on Saturday which had a 22% margin. However you crunch the data there is no comfort for Brown.

The dramatic Labour collapse that followed Darling’s budget in March has been sustained and the time available for a recovery before the presumed May 2010 general election date has got shorter. The directly comparable polls are also worse for Labour now than they were for John Major’s Conservatives at the same stage before the 1997 election.

For those who like risking their money on the commons seats spread betting markets the latest batch of polls, on top of Glasgow East, present a real predicament. For if Brown is forced out or goes of his own accord then a new leader could come in and enjoy a honeymoon. So I’m biding my time.

More from ComRes: People, by 52% to 36% no longer regard the Tories as the “nasty party” according to more data, just out, from Saturday’s poll for The Independent.

A total of 22% of Labour supporters and 44 per cent of Lib Dems believe Dave would make a better prime minister than Gord. Overall, 52 per cent of the public agree, while 34 per cent disagree. Scotland is the only part of Great Britain which prefers Brown.

Live political betting odds.

Mike Smithson


Will it be the union bosses who finally sink Gordon?

Sunday, July 27th, 2008


    What if the party’s paymasters say he has to go?

The founder of the MORI polling organisation, Bob Worcester, has made the most astute observation on a day that has been dominated by the future of Gordon Brown.

In a Radio 4 interview he said that it wasn’t the men in grey suits “that Brown has to look out for, it’s the men in black suits, from the trade unions, as they are the paymasters now..The party is skint, and if they say he goes, he goes.”

For in the explosion of media speculation about Brown’s tenure at Number 10 Worcester is the only one I have heard who has linked it to the party’s very serious financial problems.

This must be right. Things are reported to be so precarious that if the heads of the half dozen major unions threatened to pull the plug then Brown would have no real alternative. As we have seen in recent weeks they’ve come to recognise the leverage that they have but until now the focus has been on the policy changes that they want.

It’s not a big step to move from policy to the leadership itself. If they are convinced that Labour could do better with somebody else then Gordon is doomed.

Mike Smithson


Is Alan Watkins right?

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Wikimedia Commons

“Your turf accountant… doesn’t have a clue”

Amongst all the articles about Brown and Obama today there’s this piece by Alan Watkins in the Independent.

    [The odds] are largely made up – to begin with, at any rate. I once talked at length to a representative of one of our largest bookmaking firms, who specialised in political betting. It was, he explained, a very small part of their turnover. They did it for the sake of the publicity, which was usually favourable and always free. It was, as he said, “a bit of fun”.

Watkins goes on to say: “The bookies also got it wrong in Glasgow East. They were there, on the spot, taking bets. Their conclusion, according to Thursday’s papers, was that Labour would just manage to hang on. There is no disgrace in getting a by-election or any other result wrong. What it shows is that bookmakers are not a unique repository of political wisdom.”

So to what extent is Watkins right? Where do bookmakers, and the betting markets in general, stand as a barometer for the state of the political weather? Contributions welcome, especially from PB’ers who bet regularly or who are themselves part of the bookmaking fraternity.

UK update

John Prescott has warned that a leadership challenge would be “pointless and divisive” and that no potential successor had the “right skills” to replace Brown, while Harriet Harman said the party was focused on leading the country rather than plotting. Market links for party leaders at the next election and next Prime Minister.

International round-up

New Zealand (election date TBC, 15 November latest):

Austria (election 28 September)

Finally, opinion polls from around the world, including state polling for the US, from the excellent Angus Reid site.

Double Carpet