Archive for November, 2008


Is this a gift to Cameron?

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Who’ll come out best from the Green arrest?

This morning I was expecting to be writing about a new voting intention poll following Monday’s PBR statement. Well that appears to have been held over because of the explosive political story that broke last night over the arrest of the Tory shadow immigration minister, Damian Green, by police investigating a series of leaks from the Home Office.

Clearly this is a developing story which from what we know at the moment looks like a gift to the Tory leader, David Cameron.

    The question that’s likely to dominate the coverage will be how much ministers, particularly the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, knew of what was planned?

Apparently the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was made aware so its hard to think that the Home Secretary was out of the loop. The other problems for the government are that the leaks related to one of the biggest political hot potatoes – immigration policy – and that the Tories can claim that all they were doing was to bring information that should have been available into the public domain.

Unless Green has done something really terrible in his relationship with the leaker and the leaks the “public good” defence, is going to look powerful. The opposition’s job, anyway, is to hold the government to account.

The media, of course, has a great interest in leaking because it provides a source of stories and generally coverage is sympathetic to “whistle-blowers”. Also leaking to the opposition like this is common place in British politics as we saw during the final days of the Major government in the 1992-1997 period.

So this story is going to run and, no doubt, the Tories will try to pin the blame on Brown.

Whatever the affair provides a platform for the Tories to get coverage on the front pages and in the bulletins and that of itself could lead to opinion poll moves.

0900 PLEASE NOTE: I am just about to leave to visit friends in deepest Devon where there is no internet access or mobile reception. The last time we were there was during the New Hampshire primary in January and I had to drive to the top of a hill a few miles away in order to get the barest of reception.

We’ll be there until Monday and the site will be in the capable hands of Morus and Double Carpet.

Mike Smithson


Tory Shadow Immigration minister arrested

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Unconfirmed rumours that Damien Green has been arrested

James Forsyth at the Spectator earlier broke a story that rumours were swirling around the Westminster Village that a big story was about to break about a member of David Cameron’s team. ConservativeHome indicates that it is that Damien Green MP, the Shadown Immigration Minister, has been arrested.

Sky News is reporting that the Met has confirmed a man in his fifties has been arrested, but not charged, for conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office – reportedly linked to leaks from the Home Office. Other reports are indicating offenses relating to the Official Secrets Act, though this has been denied. They are showing the story with images of Mr Green.

Nothing is being confirmed at present, though the Evening Stndard is running with this, but David Cameron has scheduled a Press Conference at 8am tomorrow. How might this affect the spread markets?

More when we have it. Stay tuned to


UPDATE: Sky News is now reporting that the Police searched both Green’s Parliamentary and Constituency offices, and has been taken to a Central London Police Station. The Conservative Party seems to be standing by Mr Green, arguing that his actions were in the course of his duties as a Shadow Immigration Minister.


Populus blow for Brown on PBR

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

News is just coming through of a Populus poll for the Times taken in the wake of Monday’s PBR statement. A voting intention question was not asked but the pollster weighted the sample by past votes which makes it politically representative.

The findings are a marked contrast with the Telegraph’s YouGov poll that was carried out on Monday evening and Tuesday. It is a real pity that there are no voting numbers.

Peter Riddell reports in the Times: “Support for Gordon Brown as the right leader to deal with the recession has fallen sharply over the past fortnight, a Populus poll for The Times has found. It shows that only just over a third of British voters think the Government’s measures to boost the economy will make things better in either the short or long term.

Just as many people think that the package announced on Monday by Alistair Darling will make no real difference to the economy either way. However, fewer than a fifth believe the measures will make things worse in the short term, over the next few months, while a quarter say they will make things worse over the long-term period of the next few years.

Since the last Populus poll on November 7 to 9, Mr Brown has dropped sharply as the best leader “right now, to deal with Britain’s economy in recession”, from 52 to 42 per cent, with a big fall among the middle classes. But he is still ahead of David Cameron, on 36 per cent, up four points. Meanwhile, Mr Cameron is still ahead, by 41 to 33 per cent, as the preferred leader to take Britain forward after the next general election.”

It’s believed that an ICM poll might also be coming out tonight.

Mike Smithson


Is this man Gord’s biggest problem?

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Will ID cards keep the Iraq switchers with the LDs?

One of the great hopes which has sustained Labour during its recent bad times is that come the general election then many of the former supporters who voted Lib Dem in 2005 will return to the fold.

For it will be recalled that this was the biggest voting dynamic in 2005. Much of Labour’s 6% decline on four years earlier could be put down to the large numbers who went with Charles Kennedy’s party in the aftermath of the Iraq War and tuition fees etc.

You hear it so often when you talk to Labour activists – surely enough of the 2005 switchers will come back to Labour in order to keep the dreaded Tories out?

The polling is ambivalent. The latest ICM poll had more 2005 Labour supporters switching to the Lib Dems than the other way round. Other surveys have been more promising for Labour but we are seeing nothing like the switch-over that Labour needs.

    Given that this must be Labour’s priority why do they seem to be doing so little about it? Thus to take one example – a big policy issue where Lib Dem supporters have stronger views than the rest is over ID cards. Many are opposed and Labour’s insistence on the plan being rolled out could create a barrier for potential returnees.

As I’ve argued here before the most interesting polling trend to track is that between Labour and the Lib Dems. It’s also the area where the polling firms are miles apart. ICM has Clegg’s party at 19% while MORI puts it at 12% – that beyond the margin of error.

Mike Smithson


PB Balance of Money Index: CON MAJ 26 seats

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Introducing PB’s new election “predictor”

In the run-up to the 2005 General Election PB first started trying to produce a regular prediction of the likely outcome based on taking the average of opinion on the spread-betting commons seats markets. These are betting arenas where gamblers can be risking large amounts of cash “buying and selling” commons seats.

The seat spreads that you see every day are a reflection of where the cash is going – hence the terms “Balance of Money” to describe it.

There will be 650 MPs in the next parliament so a total of 325 is required to form a majority. So with an average spread level for the Tories this morning of 338 seats that translates into a majority of 26.

Looking back to 2005 our first predicted outcome seven weeks before polling day pointed to a Labour majority of 57 seats which was just five seats short of what actually happened – not bad.

As we got closer to the election opinion hardened behind Labour and the final average just before the polls opened on May 5th 2005 was for a Labour majority of 94 seats. This was nearer to the final outcome than the opinion polls. Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus calculation, based on his poll of polls, was for a Labour majority of 134 seats.

So the plan is to repeat the exercise again in what is being termed the “PB Balance of Money Index”. This is computed by taking the mid-points in the spreads from the three main markets – Sporting Index, IG Index and Spreadfair – and then calculating an average.

My aim is that this will become a regular feature and I will return to it at least once a week. In the election campaign proper there’ll be a new index at least every day.

Mike Smithson


Does Marf’s cartoon sum it up?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

How secure is Labour’s polling base?

PB’s cartoonist, Marf of, has come up with another cracker which is probably not far off the mark in summing up the mood in Downing Street. For after being so far behind for so long Gord wouldn’t be human if he didn’t get a lift from another poll showing that Labour is getting quite close.

He must be careful, however, not to see seen to be using the crisis for party political purposes. That charge could be damaging.

What is interesting is that the pollsters showing the best Labour positions at the moment are the same ones that had the biggest Labour leads in that frenzied period at the end of September 2007. The others then – the telephone pollsters that weight by past vote, ICM, Populus, and ComRes – all had narrower margins though some of that was down to timing.

If in the next few days these three also report margins close to YouGov and MORI then Brown could really start to contemplate an election during 2009.

But there are a couple of dark clouds on the horizon for Labour. Firstly the detail of many recent surveys indicates that Labour’s recovery has been bigger in Scotland than elsewhere – which could mean that it is correspondingly smaller south of the border. This matters because there are so few Scottish LAB>CON marginals.

A second concern are indications that a significant proportion of 2005 Labour supporters are still reluctant to say that they will do the same again. ICM has a 73% 74% Labour retention rate while MORI is at 77%. This compares with 95% and 93% respectively for the Tories. Much of the new vote coming to Labour seems to be from non-voters from last time.

As ever we always say – let’s see more polls. We shouldn’t have too long to wait.

Mike Smithson


So who’ll come out on top today?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

The PMQs thread

With the political atmosphere becoming highly charged we can, surely, expect a lively PMQs today? This kicks off at midday and lasts for half an hour.

This will be the first time that Gord and Dave will have the opportunity to argue about the new economic strategy – for on Monday the battle was left to their proxies – both old boys of exclusive public schools – Alastair Darling and George Osborne.

If Monday had been a standard budget statement then, by tradition, Cameron would have made the response for the main opposition party. As it was it was left to Osborne who did much to recover his reputation with his own party.

Let’s see what happens.

Mike Smithson


Tory YouGov lead down to 4%

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

LABOUR 36% (nc)
LIB DEMS 14% (nc)

Will this revive early election date speculation?

A new YouGov poll that was carried out on Monday evening and throughout yesterday provides a lot of reassurance for Labour after the momentous statement by Chancellor Darling on Monday.

The splits show almost most no change on the last survey from the firm and runs against much of the so called “informed” comment that we saw in the immediate aftermath of the speech. Just look also at the PB threads of Monday evening when the general view was that this was bad for Brown and his party.

This is a bit like those post-debate polls that we saw last month in the US presidential election. On the nights the “experts” concluded that McCain had won or it was a draw yet the polling favoured the Democrat. It was said that public reaction was favouring Obama not for things that he said but for how he appeared.

    I wonder whether the “unflashy” and sobering presentational style of Alastair Darling was right for the moment. We’ll see from other polling.

One factor about YouGov is that its weightings are relatively unfavourable to the Lib Dems and quite friendly to Labour and a critical question is which pollster has got the split between these two parties right? My money is on ICM and I’ve taken out a wager that Clegg’s party will secure 17% or more of the GB vote at the election.

The best betting price on a 2009 election is 13/8.

Mike Smithson