Archive for December, 2010


The hunting ban: A tale of two opinion polls

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010


Is it all about the questions you ask?

With David Cameron said to be planning to defer the promised free vote on the anti-hunting legislation there’s news of two opinion polls from leading pollsters which the rival lobbying groups have issued to support their cases.

Thanks to JonathanD on the previous thread for spotting this:-

He wrote: “A survey by Ipsos-Mori for the League Against Cruel Sports released on Boxing Day showed that 76% of the British public think fox hunting should remain illegal…

The Countryside Alliance has produced a poll of more than 1,000 people, carried out by ORB, showing two-thirds of people agree that the hunting ban and the time spent enforcing was not a good use of police resources.”

Both pollsters, MORI and ORB, are members of the British Polling Council

So we have two sets of findings demonstrating yet again that the wording of polling questions is critical – for it is not being inconsistent to agree with the propositions from both the League Against Cruel Sporty and the Countryside Alliance.

It’s also a good reminder to be ultra-careful when dealing with privately-funded polling.

This all comes down to what we’ve seen many times before – that people might tell pollsters that they are for something but when push comes to shove it doesn’t matter to them that much.

Mike Smithson


Are petrol prices driving the poll ratings?

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Whatgas average price of a litre of unleaded

What’ll record levels and the VAT increase going to do?

One trend that’s hardly been commented upon over the holiday period has been the rising cost of filling your car up.

Over the past few days the price has been edging upwards and we are now at record levels. This can have a political impact. Labour’s low point in the polls in July 2008 coincided with the last high in the price of a litre of unleaded. It then dropped rapidly in the final part of that year and Labour saw a big improvement.

In the immediate aftermath of the May 2010 general election prices were edging downwards. Then from July onward prices started moving upwards and this coincided with Labour’s rise.

This isn’t surprising. Outside London and the big conurbations a car is almost an essential just for people to live their lives. And when the cost of running it starts to edge up it can eat into household budgets.

And the latest moves come as we prepare for the new record 20% VAT rate – due to come into effect on January 4th.

Mike Smithson


How seriously should we take the pact call?

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Would it be too much for both parties to swallow?

The main political story this Boxing Day morning is a report of comments by an unnamed Tory minister that the coalition could go into the next election with some form of electoral pact.

According to the report by Patrick Hennessy and Jonathan Wynne-Jones, “the minister, often seen as one of a tight inner-circle of “Cameroons”, went further than any member of the government yet has in endorsing joint candidates.”

Referring to the comments by Vince Cable the minister said: “I’m sure you can find plenty of Tories who would say similar things to what the Lib Dems have been saying. People say this is a sign that things are falling apart, but the amazing thing is how well the Coalition has worked together.

This is the first time this has been tried for 70 years and we’re doing out best to make it last. I would be relaxed to the idea of having some Coalition candidates at the next election.”

Clearly this will be like a red rag to a bull for large parts of both parties. For the inevitable consequence of such a deal would be a watering down of key policy positions that are dear to the hearts of both.

All the focus on the yellows, for instance, has over-shadowed somewhat the tensions amongst parts of the blue team over Ken Clarke’s penal policies and the government’s approach to Britain relationship with the EU.

In any case this is just too early. We’ve got the Old & Sad by election a fortnight on Thursday and the coming AV referendum – the outcomes of which could shape the way the next election is perceived. If in the former, against all the current odds, there’s a Lib Dem victory with the tactical support of blue switchers then a lot changes.

My guess is that the farthest this will go is an easing off of campaigning in some seats. But hard-right Tory or left-wing Lib Dem incumbents can’t expect this sort of arrangement to see them through.

Mike Smithson


The Fourth Annual StJohn Christmas Day Crossword

Saturday, December 25th, 2010


 1.  Knowledgeable source that makes nothing clear (6)
 5.  Greek island rejected tax on property (8)
 9.  Debtor’s right to pursue gold hidden by Gordon Brown, the author (8)
10. See 2 down.
11. Spring sees the first of Earl Grey’s reforms (6)
12. Victor is a National hero (8)
14. Hannibal got confused with Tory politician (7,5)
17. English historian and ex Tory MP on the radio (7,5)
20. Pleased with newspaper backing Paulson split universal banks (8) 
22. Facial injury caused by heartless Republican (6)
23. He cut overheads in government? (6)
25. Endorses MP or MEP for instance (8)  
26. Briefly Number Ten housed a cow (8)
27. Balls left him an ineffectual fellow! (6)


  2 and 10 across. Imperialist magazine once dismissed western politician (6,6)
  3. Bath he sat in to wet the baby’s head has special tap fitted (5,6)
  4 and 21 down. King made Fred the Shred wait around after he quit (6,3,5)
  5. Right away Forte produces strong wind! (7)
  6. Firm support for committee (5)
  7. Female Home Secretary following a promotion (3)
  8. Financial company involved in income laundering (8)
13. Nationalist set about dividing US politician and Paisley (11)
15. For a pudding, I love sherry trifle, King admitted (9)
16. Gay character revealed by two Prime Ministers, one briefly (8)
18. Knock back most of Noilly Prat at first, including one for the road passenger? (7)
19. Independent politician caught harbouring love for Liberal MP (6)
21. See 4 down.
24. Times editor’s first and last word (3)

A big thanks..

A big thanks to StJohn for once again adding to our festive entertainment with his annual crossword. This has now become a PB tradition .

Best luck and a happy Christmas to all PBers everywhere – lurkers as well as posters. The former outnumber the latter by nearly 10 to one.

Mike Smithson


Was this the weirdest political moment of 2010?

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Did anybody ever work out what it was all about?

And are there any other gems we can look at during this long Christmas holiday?

Please post links in the thread below.

Mike Smithson


Why’s Labour talking down the Tories in Old & Sad?

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Would the smarter strategy be to talk them up?

An intriguing feature of Labour’s OES by-election campaign is that it is trying to confirm the ongoing media narrative that the Tories are not really trying.

The party’s campaign manager, Iain Wright who got into parliament after winning the 2004 Hartlepool by-election, has been saying “I have seen no activity from the Tories whatsoever. I think they have left it too late.”

On the face of it you’d think that the red team would be talking up the Tories in an effort to stop any tactical switching between supporters of the coalition partners. Instead they are doing the opposite.

The danger is that this will just reinforce the message to blue supporters that voting yellow is the best way of stopping Labour.

Maybe Wright has concluded that it will be easier to beat off the yellow challenge rather than contend with the blues.

Another thought is that this is all designed to fire up Labour activists to persuade them that the party might have a tough fight on its hands. For the circumstances and timing of this election mean that it will be won or lost in the ground war. If activists think that victory is a certainty then they will be less keen to brave the weather and do the grunt work.

Clearly the national poll ratings point to an easy Labour victory and Wright might be concerned about them getting complacent.

Mike Smithson


What are poll junkies going to do every night?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
Client/pollster Date CON % LAB % LD %
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 22/12/10 40 42 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 21/12/10 40 42 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 20/12/10 40 43 8
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 19/12/10 39 42 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 16/12/10 41 41 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 15/12/10 42 40 8
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 14/12/10 39 42 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 13/12/10 41 42 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 10/12/10 40 42 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 09/12/10 41 39 11
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 08/12/10 41 41 8
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 07/12/10 42 39 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 06/12/10 42 39 10
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 03/12/10 41 39 10
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 02/12/10 40 40 11
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 01/12/10 41 38 11
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 30/11/10 40 40 10
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 29/11/10 40 40 10
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 26/11/10 40 40 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 25/11/10 42 39 10
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 24/11/10 40 40 9
Murdoch’s News International /YouGov 23/11/10 42 40 10

Murdoch’s daily poll to go on holiday until January 4th

I don’t know whether this is good news or bad news but YouGov tell me that tonight’s daily poll for Rupert Murdoch’s News International will be the last of 2010 and we’ll have to wait until January 4th 2011 for the next one.

So all those who hover round their PCs at 10pm every night waiting for the latest news on the political mood of the YouGov panel, if not the nation, are going to have to do without.

I’d be surprised if there’s anything from another pollster though it might just be that we’ll see an Oldham & Saddleworth survey.

So it’s cold turkey time, quite literally given the time of year, for polling anoraks.

PB will be operating a reduced service over the Christmas period with a number of guest slots, news of our prediction competition for 2010 as well as the 2011 contest. I’m also hoping to stage the hardy annual – the annual election for PB’s poster of the year.

Mike Smithson


Could OES postal voting exceed 50 percent?

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Which party has netted the most?

At the general election on May 6th 2010 a total of 8,316 of 45,092 votes that were cast in Oldham E & Saddleworth were postal ballots – that’s almost one in five and typical of what we saw in closely contested marginal seats.

For the party machines like to “bank” as many votes as possible before the election so that on the day they can focus on getting the non-postal voters out. They are also a form of insurance against poor weather conditions or other factors that could deter electors from going to the polling station.

Given that it’s been clear for months that there there would be a winter by-election if the case went against Phil Woolas the party machines have been working flat-out getting many more of their supporters to sign up. That stage of the campaign finishes at 5pm today – the deadline for the receipt of applications.

With a low turnout on the day it could be that the overall number of postal votes is about half of the total.

Those who are on the list should get their ballots a week tomorrow when voting in the first by-election of the coalition age will start. The normal pattern is for a large number of completed ballots to be returned with a couple of days.

So who has won round one – the battle for postal votes? We won’t know until the count itself but the yellows tell me that they think they’ve matched the red team in this race. Who knows?

Clearly voters who have been signed up have no obligation to the party that has facilitated their application and it might be that the Lib Dems will see a seepage of postal votes that they thought were in the bag.

Later today nominations close. In the betting Labour is priced between 1/6 and 1/4; the Lib Dems are between 7/2 and 9/2, while the Tories have now moved out to 31/1 on Betfair.

Mike Smithson