Archive for May, 2009


Could this give Saffron Waldon to the Lib Dems?

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009


Is Heffer too right wing to become the “White suit” candidate?

If I was the Lib Dem PPC in the Essex seat of Saffron Walden I’d be getting very excited this morning following the announcement by controversial Telegraph columnist, Simon Heffer, that he plans to stand against the sitting MP, deputy speaker, and MP allowance claimer, Sir Alan Haselhurst.

    Just look at the numbers. The notional 2005 result in the seat was:
    CON: 25593 (50.5%)
    LD: 14715 (29%)
    LAB: 8139 (16.1%)
    OTH: 2258 (4.5%)
    MAJ: 10878 (21.5%)

A quick check of Heffer’s Wikipedia entry would provide lots of material to go at. For the pro-hanging, pro-Iraq War Heffer was also a financial backer of Neil Hamilton’s unsuccessful libel action against Mohammed Al-Fayed. Hamilton, it will be recalled, lost his safe Tory seat at Tatton in the 1997 general election to the original man in the white suit, Martin Bell.

As a candidate you cannot imagine the pro-tie wearing Heffer being a warm people-person who would go down well on the door-step. In terms of interpersonal skills the Telegraph columnist is probably the match for Gordon Brown.

In a campaign, of course, he would attract a fair bit of coverage in the Telegraph and elsewhere but there’s a danger that this sort of move could be seen as a “vanity trip” which could eat into the Tory vote but would not attract backing from elsewhere.

I’m becoming very sceptical by all these ex-celebs and has-beens who fancy their chances as independents. Esther Rantzen’s planned run in Luton South looks highly opportunistic and the troubled incumbent, Margaret Moran, might be forced to step down anyway.

And could some body tell me who this person David Van Day, is? He plans to take on Nadine and is described as “the former Dollar singer” – I’ve never heard of them either. I think he has a tough job – in terms of name recognition and popularity Nad wins by miles.

That was why, of course, the sacked Number 10 communications boss, Damien McBride, included her on his smear email list – a factor, I would suggest, that will help her get re-elected in the neighbouring seat to where I am, mid-Bedfordshire, at the general election.

Let’s hope this all opens up some more betting markets.

Mike Smithson


Will Labour lose all of these a week on Thursday?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


Am I going to win my William Hill bet?

Nearly a month ago William Hill put up a market for a short while on the June 4th country councils elections that in several places are happening at the same time as the Euro elections.

The bet was simple: 2/1 that Labour would lose control of all of its remaining county – the four featured above.

So it’s been very interesting following the canvassing reports of Nick Palmer – MP for Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire which is one of the four remaining Labour-controlled bodies.

Nick’s report tongiht was quite interesting and he talked about “…a marked shift from “former Labour, now doubtful” back to Labour. What seemed to be driving it was not that they were warming to us but seeing more Tory activity both nationally and locally – people were seeing it less as a referendum on Labour and more as a choice between us and the Tories, pushing them back to their usual preference. One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but ’twas good.”

Of course there is always a difference between what those marked as Labour loyalists will tell canvassers, particularly if one is the local MP, and what might happen on the day.

My view was based on the simple fact that when these seats were last fought the election was held on General Election day 2005. The turnout was of general election proportions. That’s not going to happen next week and Labour’s problem is always that it finds it difficult getting its vote out when the government of the country is not at stake.

We’ll know on June 5th.

I think I’m going to win my bet.

Mike Smithson


Two June 4th prediction surveys

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
What will Labour’s GB vote share be in the June 4th Euro Election
0 – 16%
17 – 18%
19 – 20%
21 – 22%
23 – 24%
25 – 26%
27 – 100%

The second poll has now been fixed

What will be the turnout across the UK in the June 4th Euro election?
0 – 20%
21 – 25%
26 – 28%
29 – 31%
32 – 35%
36 – 38%
39 – 100%


Can Dave go on “out-Blairing” Tony Blair?

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009


Has he created another 24 hours not talking about Europe?

I am coming to the view that when it comes to tapping into the public mood and dominating the news agenda David Cameron is even smarter than the past-master, the leader that Labour foolishly sacked, Tony Blair.

Just consider what’s happening at the moment. There’s just one week and one day left in the campaign for five yearly election of members of the European Parliament and yet another news cycle goes by without the EU being an issue. For the reaction to the Telegraph’s MP expenses exposes and now the talk about constitutional change has simply pushed the core matter that people will be voting on off the agenda.

For David Cameron and the Tories – for whom the EU issue always has the potential to explode – this must be like Christmas coming earlier. The last thing he wants talking about is the party position on referendums on the Lisbon treaty or the grouping that his party’s MEP plan to belong to in Brussels after the June 4th election.

As an example of his skill in agenda-changing his article in today’s Guardian is a classic. He’s managing to move on from the change narrative of electoral reform to more Tory-friendly territory – the power of Number 10 Downing Street.

His carefully-worded suggestions “giving serious consideration to introducing fixed-term parliaments, ending the right of Downing Street to control the timing of general elections” pushes the debate into new territory that both highlights Brown’s refusal to go to the country and underpins Dave’s new persona as a constitutional reformer.

For to many the heart of what’s wrong with the way we are governed is the ability of the Prime Minister of the day to choose the election date. Meanwhile another news cycle goes by without the EU being an issue – something that might just impede the UKIP band-wagon.

  • On Sunday I shared a bottle of Medoc with a political observer whose insights I value and often shape my thinking. He made this comment: “Cameron is every bit the match for Blair when it come to working what to say to chime with the public mood. The difference is that Cameron has a passionate interest in politics – something that Blair never had”.
  • Mike Smithson


    Will you be profiting from the great turnout gamble?

    Monday, May 25th, 2009


    Is this the nearest thing to a certainty that you’ll get?

    In political betting I am always wary of the term certainty but sometimes an opportunity arises when I’m convinced that what I’m betting on will come about.

    The last time I had this feeling was nearly a year ago when Ladbrokes had a market up on whether Labour would lose its deposit in the Henley by election. To me it seemed a certainty that Labour would get less than 5% and every day I bet the maximum that Ladbrokes would allow me – irrespective of the price.

    Now I think another opportunity is there waiting. This is on the William Hill market on what the turnout will be across the UK in next week’s Euro election.

    All the thinking about the prices in this market seems to have been driven by the 38.5% that was achieved nationally when the elections were last held five years ago. But just look at the chart on the left and check the turnout in 1999. when it was down to a low of just 24%.

    The reason for the decline in 1999 was mostly down to the fact that this was the first time PR had operated and voters had to choose between party lists in a few massive regions. The personal link between a candidate and the voter was broken and lack of elector interest was the outcome.

    But it was not be like this five years later. Tony Blair was desperate for Labour not to get a hammering in the run-up to the last general election so he put in two measures to get the turnout up and, hopefully from his standpoint, maximise the Labour vote.

    The timing of that years local elections (which include all the big English conurbations and the London mayoral race) was switched to the Euro-election day. On top of that Blair fought with the Electoral Commission and managed to ensure that all-postal voting took place in four of the bigger English regions.

    The impact was massive as the charts show. Overall national turnout was up from 24% to an incredible 38.5% – the biggest changes being in the regions where there was all-postal voting.

    Fast forward to 2009 and the Blair special turnout enhancers aren’t there. There’s no all-postal voting and only a small minority of voters, mainly those in the English shire counties, will have local elections as well.

    Which brings me to the betting. On William Hill political markets you can get 6/4 that it will be less than 30% while the price on 30-34.99% is 9/4. Bearing in mind what’s happened in the past I cannot see how it can be above 34.99%. I’m betting on both options with most of my money weighted to the below 30%.

    Mike Smithson


    An afternoon with Alistair Campbell

    Monday, May 25th, 2009


    What would the great spinner have done about Johnson?

    This thread has been “prepared earlier” because I’m off to Wembley for the Championship play-off final between my team, Burnley, and Sheffield United. This’ll be the third time that the “Clarets” have played at Wembley since 1962 and I will have been there on every occasion.

    Burnley’s most well-know supporter is, of course, Alistair Campbell and I’m sure he’ll be amongst the crowds this afternoon as will the town’s MP, the St Paul’s Girl’s School and Balliol College Oxford-educated minister, Kitty Ussher, who lists “supporting Burnley Football Club” amongst her interests.

    It’s said that Kitty has a season ticket but rarely attends matches. Maybe she’ll make it to Wembley today because it’s much more convenient for her London home which has been the subject of the Telegraph’s expenses exposes. Last month this was designated her “main home”. According to the Burnley Express in January Kitty spoke 112 times in the house during 2008 without mentioning Burnley once.

    Her seat is Lib Dem Labour target number 21. I wonder whether she’ll renew her season ticket after the election?

    Meanwhile the focus within her party today might be on Alan Johnson’s Times article which could be be seen as part of a leadership plot.

    Mike Smithson


    Expenses: It’s back to exposing the Cabinet again

    Monday, May 25th, 2009


    Will this re-ignite the anger?

    After a period when the Telegraph’s daily revelations about MPs expenses were starting to get a bit routine the paper has turned once again to the detailed affairs of the cabinet – folk you would think would have the political skills to know better.

    Thus the main lead in the Telegraph this morning looks as though it could have real damage on ministers beyond the standard outrage of what they and other MPs have been claiming in expenses.

    For one of the most persistent attacks on the government’s taxation policies is that it had made the process so complicated that it is very hard for ordinary tax-payers to complete their returns without professional advice.

    As the paper reports: “Under HM Revenue and Customs rules, most people are not allowed to claim the cost of employing an accountant to fill in a self-assessment tax form as a legitimate business expense…MPs’ use of the separate allowance scheme for office costs enables them to claim tens of thousands of pounds from public funds every year..Several of the Cabinet ministers who claimed for accountants have already faced allegations that they sought to manipulate the expenses system for personal gain.”

    It gets worse for Alistair Darling for the Telegraph goes on:-

    “In total, the taxpayer has spent more than £11,000 on accountants for Cabinet ministers. A bill submitted by Mr Darling in February, 2008, included the cost of receiving tax advice for “the treatment of rental expenses against income”. During 2007, Mr Darling rented out his London flat after becoming Chancellor and moving into a grace-and-favour apartment..In total, the Chancellor claimed more than £1,400 for accountancy bills in two years.”

    The renewed look at the Cabient could start to get really serious. It’s one thing for back-benchers to be threatened with de-selection but we are in totally different territory when we find out things that the man who so desperately wants Brown’s job, Ed Balls, put in a claim for “two Remembrance Sunday poppy wreaths”. It was rejected.

    This shows a political ineptness that could cost Balls dear – and makes my bet that he’ll lose his seat at the general election look even better.

    His wife, Yvette Cooper, meanwhile, was among eight ministers who got the tax-payer to pay for their digital cameras. Jacqui Smith’s husband has a tax-payer funded £240 IPhone….and so on and so on.

    General Election betting: All Markets

    William Hill political markets.

    Mike Smithson


    Will the Sunday Express win the first PB Polling Dunce award?

    Sunday, May 24th, 2009


    What do we think of this attempt to gauge public opinion?

    This weekend, the penultimate before the June 4th Euro elections, I am please to announce the launch of PB Polling Dunce award which has been specially designed by Marf. The objective, I hope, is self-explanatory.

    And our first nominee is the Sunday Express for its piece below on Westminster constituency surveys which were carried out in Salford, Worcester and Basildon and according to the paper the results were very bad for Labour.

    Yet we have no idea from the report how the surveys were carried out, whether a proper polling firm was used, what weightings were put in place and the format and wording of the questions that were put. We are not even told whether the polling was by phone, face to face interviews or online. Without such core information it’s hard to conclude whether the conclusions are valuable or rubbish.

    For instance was the raw data weighted in line with the specific demographics in the selected areas and how did they go about the “certainty to vote” calculations?

    In addition, which is highly questionable, the paper has taken the numbers from Hazel Blears’s Westminster constituency in Salford and conclude that “BRITISH National Party leader Nick Griffin is on course to win a seat in the European Parliament next month on the back of a tidal wave of public anger over MPs’ expenses”.

    For the voters in her Salford seat are a minuscule part of the massive North West region which includes the whole of Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester (Met County), Lancashire, Merseyside (Met County), Blackburn with Darwen UA, Blackpool UA , Halton UA , and Warrington UA. It might be that those that were interviewed in salford were representative of region but that must be a remote possiblity.

    It might be that the BNP is set to take a seat in the region but polling like this does not support this either way.

    Maybe I’m too much of a purist but what a waste of time and effort.

    Our first nominee for the PB Polling Dunce Award

    Sunday Express

    Mike Smithson