Archive for May, 2009


Is the Tory clear-out Dave’s “Clause 4”?

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Will the focus on his miscreants be good for the party?

Over the past few days there’s been a lot of concern in Conservative circles over the way the media has put the focus on problems of Tory MPs in the expenses saga with scant attention, apparently, being given to the problems of Brown and his ministers.

We’ve seen it in abundance on the site. It’s all media bias, the “Beeb having it in for us” or that the Telegraph owners has an agenda to undermine the party.

Well the judgement of this old news hack (me) is that the reason the Tories have been making more of the headlines is that theirs are the better stories.

The Bracknell meeting, the hounding of the attractive Julie Kirkbride who was one of them (a journalist) remember, and now the affairs of the great patrician of William Cash and his photogenic daughter have been far more interesting from a news perspective than what we’ve seen from Labour.

But here’s a controversial view. I think that all of this is good for Cameron whose mission since taking up the job in December 2005 has been to rid the party of its “nasty old fashioned image” and replace it with something that’s more acceptable in today’s less deferential society.

And the fact that most of the outcomes have been major figures announcing that they are stepping down is surely good news for the leadership. In a highly visible way, you could argue, the old Tory party is being given its marching orders creating the opportunity for news faces to be brought in.

The changes also reinforce Cameron’s central control over the party machine. The old guard, who could have created problems for PM Dave, if that indeed what happens, are on their way and are being seen to be on their way.

As I posed in the headline – this could all be seen as a “clause 4 moment”.

Mike Smithson

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Are the over 55 figures the best indicator?

Friday, May 29th, 2009


Do oldies dominate when there’s a very low-turnout?

I have to admit to being completely perplexed by the polling data that we are getting about next Thursday Euro election. What worries me is the turnout level which, if it is very low, will play havoc with all the polling projections.

Pollsters have a big enough challenge in a general election when 60% actually vote – how are they going to perform if the percentage is near to the 24% who bothered to take part in the 1999 Euro parliament vote?

All the firms are asking about “certainty to vote” – the problem here is that respondents might be wanting to show they are good citizens and the proportions we are getting in the surveys might be a lot higher than that which we see on the day.

So my current thinking is to focus on that section of the electorate that we know is much more likely to vote in elections of all kinds than any other group – the over 55s. Academic studies are projecting that in the general election they could comprise nearly a half of all those who cast their ballots. Could that proportion be even higher with the Euros?

Anybody who has ever been involved in local council elections will tell you how it is the elderly who are the ones most likely to be there and how few young people take part. And this has a big impact.

From the latest YouGov data above just observe the stark difference in voting intention patterns across the age groups. The oldies are much more likely to opt for UKIP and much less likely to be backing Labour. Observe as well how the BNP is performing amongst the over-55s.

If the result is anything like the oldest segment here then Labour is a long way behind Farage’s party and will be fighting it out for fourth place with the Lib Dems.

Hopefully things will become clearer in the final crop of poll due in the next few days.

Mike Smithson


Has this now become a daily occurrence?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


How many more are in the pipe-line?

After all the pressure it’s hardly surprising that Julie Kirkbride has bowed to the inevitable and announced that she won’t be standing again. Margaret Moran’s future always looked in doubt right from the start of the Telegraph’s disclosures.

But how long is this going to go on. Are we going to see at least one a day between now and the general election? Will there come a time when the public’s thirst for sacking is quenched and we can get back to a normality?

It’s hard to say – but it’s worth pointing out that yet another key campaigning day for the June 4th elections has gone by without the key issues being examined.

It’s said that some UKIP strategists think this affair is going to hurt them – simply because it’s so hard in the current climate getting their message on Europe across.

Our cartoon is by Marf – more of her work can be found at

Mike Smithson


Is voter certainty UKIP’s secret weapon?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


What chances of Farage’s party over-hauling Labour?

There’s a buzz around the UKIP campaign HQ at the moment following a private ComRes poll which seems to suggest that they could do very well – perhaps, even, over-taking Labour for second place.

I haven’t seen any figures but my understanding is that amongst those who are certain or near-certain to vote then UKIP’s share was in the 18 – 19% region.

This was still some way behind the Labour share but no past vote weighting was applied – a factor, I would argue, that would magnify the Labour position. So my assumption is that any gap could be surmountable.

There can be little doubt that a Labour third behind Farage’s anti-EU party would make Gordon Brown’s post election position even more precarious.

From a previous ComRes poll EU poll where the fieldwork finished May 17th the detailed data shows the certainty effect. Amongst those rating themselves as 10/10 on likelihood to vote it was CON 63%: LAB 53%: LD 56%: UKIP 70%: GRN 55%: BNP 70%. These are, of course, the proportions of those saying they will vote for the respective parties.

Given that this looks like being a low-turnout election then the differences here could be critical.

There’s now a SportingIndex spread market on the range of parties while William Hill has some a good range of markets.

Mike Smithson


Could we be witnessing Gord’s final 12 days as PM?

Thursday, May 28th, 2009


Will cabinet members heed the Times and depose Brown?

There’s a remarkable main leader in the Times this morning the likes of which I cannot recall ever seeing before. For the paper is calling on cabinet ministers, in the wake of next Thursday’s expected mauling in the Euro and local elections, to rise up and get rid of the man who became their leader less than two years ago.

The Times declares:
"..The vital choice lies with his Cabinet colleagues. This, if they choose to seize it, is their moment... The fact is that Cabinet members have the power and, within a few days, the opportunity to change Labour's course and they now has to decide..They could choose action. This would involve a Cabinet minister (or ministers) resigning, voicing in public the frustration with Mr Brown's leadership that is common currency among them. Senior resignations would trigger a leadership contest that, with the slightly mysterious emergence of Alan Johnson as the likely winner, would lead in short order to a general election...."

The editorial concludes:-
"..The question is now whether any of them is prepared to act. For a long while they have steadfastly maintained, at least in public, that the cost of removing the Prime Minister from office was greater than the benefit. Perhaps the verdict of the electorate will steel one or more of them to speak the truth about power. But doing nothing is itself a choice. Either way, Labour's future is not just Mr Brown's but the Cabinet's collective responsibility."

We have, of course, been here before and the form-book suggests that they will opt for safety and do nothing.

But I sense that something might be going on and everything will be focussed on the hours and days after the local elections and then the Euro results become known. The numbers for the latter should come out in the early evening on Sunday June 7th.

It will be then that things could be most dangerous for Brown. Although he is hugely resilient and cunning his position is much weaker than he was last July when David Miliband made his abortive moves. For a start he doesn’t have the resourceful Damien McBride at his side and those at the top within the party know that this could be their last opportunity.

I’ve got nice bets on Alan Johnson at 10/1 and Brown being the first of the leaders to step down.

This could be like those incredible few days in November 1990 when the Tories finally knifed Maggie.

Mike Smithson


Tony McNulty: My 500 pound troughers” betting haul

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Did you get the 5/1 that he’d have to pay some back?

On March 28th I suggested here that you should take the 5/1 bet then being offered by William Hill that one of the first round troughers, minister Tony McNulty would “pay back any of his housing expenses”. I got £100 on so I’m looking forward to £500 in winnings and, of course, my stake back.

It’s seems a very long time ago but just eight weeks ago McNulty was then the big story and was facing a formal investigation by John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, over the £60,000 of taxpayers’ money he claimed for the mortgage on a house he owns in his Harrow constituency where his parent live.

As has been reported this was close to his constituency office and just 11 miles from Westminster. McNulty himself lives in his wife’s house in Hammersmith, three miles from Westminster.

His case has been totally over-shadowed by the deluge of other exposes but I’ve just discovered that he has paid some money back.

This is from the latest edition of the Harrow Times: “..Tony McNulty (Lab/Harrow East) came under fire in March for claiming £60,000 on a second home in Kenton, which his parents live in..This week he admitted claiming £2,600 of interest on the mortgage over four years, which he is not supposed to do..He also over-claimed on council tax by £455 over the same period but said both were a mistake and has paid the money back.

At the time I wrote: “It seems a great bet and with luck you should have the satisfaction of making some money.. .”

So tomorrow I’ll be emailing the story to Hills and asking that they settle the market. Others who got on should also get paid.

Mike Smithson


And now by popular demand – the return of Marf

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009


Welcome back from your break

Our cartoon, the first for a while, is by Marf who is just getting back to work following a break. It’s great to see your drawing on the site again and we’ve missed your often biting satire – particularly during the first stages the MPs expenses disclosures.

I like today’s because it sort of puts the whole thing into perspective. It’s North Korea that we should be worrying about

More of Marf’s work can be found at Welcome back Marf – you have been missed.

Mike Smithson


Two more June 4th predictions

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
What vote share will UKIP get in the Euro election on June 4th?
0 – 8%
9 – 10%
11 – 12%
13 – 14%
15 – 16%
17 – 18%
19 – 20%
21 – 100%
What vote share will the BNP get in the Euro election on June 4th?
0 – 3%
4 – 5%
6 – 7%
8 – 9%
10 – 11%
12 – 13%
14 – 16%
17 – 100%