Archive for September, 2009

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Can Kirsty’s words give Gord another 8 months?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Will there be another “novice” put down?

This is 29 year old Kirsty McNeill, the PM’s adviser in charge of external affairs, who is said to have written last year’s conference speech with the memorable “this is no time for a novice” rhetoric.

She’s recently had a promotion at Number 10 but if Gord liked what she did last year then she’s bound to be involved again this time.

This is the last big one before the general election and Brown, even more than a year ago, needs it to be good. If it’s not then the doubters could be reinforced.

The speech is also a betting event – and I’ve just had a punt on “hard-working families”.

This afternoon, at about 5.15 pm, we are going to get a special YouGov poll with almost instant reaction.

  • On a personal note I believe that Kirsty might have been amongst the student protesters who occupied my building at Oxford University for several days in November 1999. She was then protesting about the student fee regime introduced by….erm… Labour – presumably as part of the public spending regime of the then Chancellor.
  • Mike Smithson

    ***On PB2: Jonathan on “the day Boris took my train



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    Conference season polling: What’s the point?

    Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

    Why not spend the money when there aren’t the distortions?

    One of the things to understand about the conference season is that they take place in a very artificial media environment. There’s a long-standing convention that these annual show-piece events are covered by the broadcasters almost to the exclusion of other political news.

    That was why Brown’s trip to Iraq in the middle of the 2007 Tory conference went down so badly. It was seen as a deliberate spoiler and became one of the factors behind the change of the media narrative.

    So given the backcloth doesn’t it suggest that asking people about voting intentions at this time is bound to produce odd results?

    Last night I felt a bit sorry for my co-panellist at the Labour fringe event, Ben Page of MORI, who had the poll out with Labour in third place at the same time as the YouGov tracker showing a boost.

    Labour delegates desperately wanted to believe the survey that had them in the best position – supporters of all parties are the same. Page was firm though – surveys at this time are always odd and we need to wait until the end of the conference season.

    The great thing about YouGov’s daily conference tracker is that it will show how the media impacts on the polling during this period.

    Roll on PB’s first exclusive poll – fixed for the middle of October.

    UPDATE
    Today’s Tracker from YouGov
    CON 40: LAB 29: LD 18: OTH 13

    Apologies to Ben Page of MORI for getting his name wrong when this post was published.

    Mike Smithson



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    Can Mandy put the fight back into his party?

    Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

    Or is defeatism just too widespread?

    Last night alongside Ben Page, CEO of MORI, I spoke at a fringe meeting at Labour’s conference about the coming general election and the likely outcome.

    At the end of the session the chair, Lord Foulkes, asked for a show of hands on what the audience believed would happen. They voted 1. Labour majority: 2 Hung parliament 3. Tory majority. This was a night for keeping your spirits up and there’s little doubt that they had been energised and cheered by the conference speech earlier from Peter Mandelson.

    That however was in public. In private conversations the mood was more realistic.

    What struck me was that Labour had it so easy right from September 1992 that they thought that this would run and run almost indefinitely. They believed that the Tories were so manifestly awful that there was just no way that they would face a serious threat again.

    That meant that they could find a replacement for Blair without taking too much notice of issues like Brown’s electability. They were the party that was right and their opponents wrong and that would be obvious to voters.

    So the polling, particularly of the past six months since Smeargate sent them into the 20s, has hit hard.

    They have simply not been ready for the ruthless Michael Ashcroft campaign to put the money into the key LAB>CON marginals – something that’s seen as somehow being unfair. They also find it hard to accept the data that shows Lib Dem supporters might not just withdraw from tactically voting for them – but could switch to the Tories to get Labour out.

    What I found amazing was a lack of awareness of this week’s Lisbon referendum in Ireland and the possible opportunity that a YES vote could present to Labour. A party that was confident and battle-ready would be waiting to pounce.

    The MORI poll: Ben Page confirmed to me the C36-L24-LD 25 figures reported last night and the fact that the fieldwork took place after the Lib Dem conference. I will cover this when I’ve seen more detail.

    Mike Smithson

    Mike Smithson



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    Marf on the fight-back

    Monday, September 28th, 2009

    But is “fight-back” the right language to use?

    In discussing this cartoon with Marf this after she made a point which I think is relevant – that this could be the wrong strategy for Labour. Are they building up Cameron?

    Are ordinary electors going to perceive that Labour thinks that this is a losing battle and, in Marf’s words, are they” empowering Cameron as a political beast to be reckoned with”?

    There’s something in that.

    I do think we have to wait until the whole conference has run its course and got out of the system before we can judge where we are.

    Mike Smithson



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    Labour get 5 point boost in today’s YouGov tracker

    Monday, September 28th, 2009


    CON 39% (-1) LAB 29% (+5) LD 20%(-1)

    Are we just seeing the conference effect?

    Labour get a massive boost in this evening’s daily tracker from YouGov for Sky News. The comparisons are with the tracker poll done last Friday.

    On these figures we are in hung parliament territory and the Tories would be seriously worried if this did not edge down a bit after the conference.

    Brown, of course, had lots of exposure over the weekend and the Tories are simply not being seen.

    I think that we are going to learn a lot about how the media influences voters in this daily poll. I’m hoping that we’ll get the details the same time every night.

    Mike Smithson



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    Will next week be about Brown’s 1997 pensions raid?

    Monday, September 28th, 2009

    Will this be Osborne’s eye-catching announcement?

    A couple of weeks ago at an impromptu question and answer session in Bedford the Tory Chairman, Eric Pickles, let slip that there’d be a big announcement at their conference about pensions.

    Since then I’ve been pondering over what this could be and the thought struck me that this will be Osborne’s 2009 big announcement.

    For we have sort of got used to his Monday conference sessions and no doubt we all recall his game-changing inheritance tax plan proposal two years ago while early election speculation was still rife. This helped turn the political narrative on its head.

    Given the context of the Pickles answer I think I know what it might be – the “raid” on the pension funds initiated by Brown in his first budget in 1997.

    This has always been a contentious area for Brown and shortly before he became PM the Times won a Freedom of Information battle to get the advice that Brown had been given published. It wasn’t good.

    There was even a suggestion that this was so explosive that it could undermine his leadership bid – for it’s said that the retire income of millions of people have been affected by what Brown did.

    So what a natural for the politically savvy Osborne? Announce a change that brings what Brown did twelve years ago into play.

    This will go down with those older voters who are most likely to vote.

    You read it here first!

    Mike Smithson



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    Introducing YouGov’s new conference daily tracker

    Monday, September 28th, 2009

    Will this make life easier for Gordon or not?

    There’s news this morning of a big polling development, the first product of which is seen in the panel above – the YouGov/Sky News daily tracker for the party conference season.

    This shows day by day how opinion changed during the last week and how the “conference effect” seems to decline as the news agenda moves on.

    This is unlike normal tracker polls which have generally involved only 250 fresh interviews each day, with “daily” data reflecting four days of research. Here the firm is polling a fresh sample of 1000 adults online every weekday throughout Great Britain. Thus the pollster’s surveys for Sky will provide a completely fresh and up-to-date report of daily shifts in the public mood.

    I think that this is a very welcome development and I particularly like the fresh sample each day approach.

    On top of this, YouGov will be surveying viewers’ responses to the keynote speeches of Gordon Brown and David Cameron, reporting findings on Sky within two hours of the end of each speech.

    All if this, I believe, will show the impact of media coverage on the polling number and will enable us to put it more into context. As I repeatedly say – conference season polls are not generally the best guide to what will happen in the election.

    Mike Smithson



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    Does this picture say it all?

    Monday, September 28th, 2009

    Is this how “a fighter” (his words) strides across the stage?

    The newspaper front pages (see here) are not good for the PM this morning and the most striking element is the above picture of Brown featured in the Guardian and Independent.

    It reminds me of the shots of Michael Foot at the Remembrance Day event in the early 80s wearing his duffel coat. It created an image that seemed to sum up his leadership.

    Looking back overnight the significance of the Indy’s ComRes poll is not the outcome but the fact that the paper commissioned a survey in this way. Normally you only put questions like the alternative leader ones for a purpose.

    So much is now dependent on his big speech on Wednesday and whether that will be enough to change the media narrative? He did it last year in the context of the banking crisis – will he be able to do it again? In the past twelve months he has been damaged further by his handling of the MPs expenses issue and the Smeargate exposes.

    I’m off to Brighton later this morning for a fringe event that I’m speaking at tonight. Hopefully I’ll get more of a sense of the mood amongst delegates and I’ll report back here.

  • Offensive comments. I don’t monitor the site 24/7 but I’ve had a few emails about the crude and personal nature of one post overnight. This was not acceptable and the ability to publish instantly has been withdrawn from the originator. This means that while this measure is in place all comments from him will be held up pending approval.
  • Mike Smithson