Archive for October, 2011

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Will Dave’s Tories ever side with Tim Montgomerie’s “The Little Guy”?

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Henry G Manson’s weekly column

A week ago Tim Montgomerie astutely identified the need for the Conservative Party to being on the side of ‘the little guy’ as part of a renewed effort to win their first majority since 1992. The ConHome Editor pointed to research of marginals from Lord Ashcroft that showed that ‘among target voters there is a sense that we are a party of the rich’. This is something that will not change overnight but can only hope to be achieved as a result of careful planning and commitment.

Yet in the last week we have seen a multi-millionaire advisor to the Prime Minister propose that employers should have complete freedom to sack employees without challenge. This was seemingly spun heavily by Downing Street despite opposition from their Coalition partners and a low likelihood that this would ever be implemented. For what purpose was this proposed? To flash ankle to disaffected backbenchers following the EU rebellion? To bounce Vince Cable to taking a stronger line against on other employment laws? Instead it certainly served to suggest the last defence against an unfair dismissal could be removed by the Conservative Party.

The Sunday Telegraph commentator Jenny McCartney recognises the damage this could do to the Conservatives:

‘It looks bad: Mr Cameron might not live like an ordinary person, but he has got to start imagining rather better what it might feel like to be one. It will prove increasingly hard for him to talk the language of one-nation Conservatism, if when the voters look up from their shrinking bank statements, all they can see is “them” and “us”.’

Elsewhere £350M cuts to legal aid are likely to force people with modest incomes to pay to represent themselves in court. The Chief Executive of the Law Society observed “the losers will be victims of wrongdoing, who will in future be simply too intimidated by the financial risks to seeking redress.” The ongoing closure of Citizens Advice Bureaux as a result of substantial cuts further erodes support for people in need of support. Similarly those who want to access Child Support payments are set to face new upfront and ongoing maintenance charges. All are ‘little guys’ in one form or another.

What Cameron may not realise is that a considerable number of people in this country do not trust their employer to work in their interests or feel particularly secure in their job. Beecroft’s proposal would give the green light to employers to unfairly dismiss employees for a raft of motivations and prejudices. Existing Employment Law in the UK does not deter job creation but instead merely aligns Cameron’s party with the strong over the weak.

Montgomerie’s hope that the Conservative Party will appeal to ‘the little guy’ in 2015 took another step backwards this week.

HenryG Manson @henrygmanson



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Labour open up their biggest post-change YouGov lead

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Are we seeing the polling impact of Monday’s vote?

The overnight YouGov poll for the Sun saw Labour move to a seven point lead over the Conservatives – the largest gap since the firm changed its weighting methodology earlier in the month.

A deficit of seven points is a big margin particularly as the Tories need to be at least seven points ahead to have any hope of securing a majority.

In the past I have not given too much emphasis to the daily poll but the latest weighting changes have added to my confidence.

You should never, of course, read too much into one poll but I wonder whether we might be seeing the polling fall-out from the big EU vote in the commons.

Not only did the blues come over as being split but as Michael Ashcroft observed in ConHome because “it suggested to ordinary voters that the Conservatives are far away from them when it comes to priorities – the most important issues facing the country, and their families.”

“..The point is not whether they agree with us over Europe: the sceptical Tory view, articulated over many years by William Hague and others, is close to the centre of gravity in public opinion. The question is whether it matters to them as much as other things matter, and the fact is that it does not..”

We are at that stage in the polling cycle where there are not many other national polls about so it might be a little while before we see comparative data.

Betfair, meanwhile, still has a Tory majority as favourite as the next election outcome.

@MikeSmithsonPB



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Eurozone: Crisis, What Crisis?

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

A guest slot by Robert Smithson

If you read The Telegraph, or the pb.com commenters, you could hardly fail to come to the conclusion that the Euro has been a disaster for all involved. Riots in the streets of Athens, austerity in Ireland, and the bumblings of Euro-summits serve only to reinforce the view. Yet, as always, the truth is rather more nuanced.

Since January the first 1999, when the Euro was introduced, GDP per head in the Eurozone has grown at much the same rate as the US, the UK or Japan. Sure, there are developed economies with higher growth rates (Canada, Norway and Australia spring to mind), but by and large these were beneficiaries of the last decade’s resources boom.

GDP per Capita Change, 1998-2010


Source: Bloomberg
All data is constant currency, 2010 US$

Of course, such growth is not always sustainable. If we had Greece on the chart, it would have shown the fastest rate of expansion, powered by a massive 100% increase in debt-to-GDP. Let’s see how much better (or worse) the same economies fared in terms of expansion (or contraction) of debt loads:

Change in debt-to-GDP, as % of GDP


Source: OECD

Hmmm: so Eurozone debt as a % of GDP has increased less than in Japan, the UK or the US, with some spectacular performances from the Belgians, the Finns and the Spanish. (Perhaps one might suggest: the issue was more the level of indebtedness going into the Eurozone in 1998, rather than the absolute performance of the economies in the dozen years since.) And, by the way, overall debt loading in the Eurozone is no worse than in the other major economies (with the group as a whole, being a little behind the USA and Japan). Interestingly, those Eurozone countries with the worst overall debt positions (Greece being the glaring exception) did best at stabilizing or reducing their debt to GDP – notably Belgium and Italy.

Debt-to-GDP, 2010


Source: CIA, OECD, World Bank

But there must be some area where the Eurozone economies have been particularly terrible, right? How about unemployment?

Change in Unemployment levels, 1998-2000


Source: OECD

That’s right: since the start of the Eurozone, Italy and Germany have seen remarkable falls in unemployment, while the US, Ireland, Spain and the UK have seen substantial rises. Of course, one might point out that the US (or Ireland, for that matter) started with much lower unemployment rates than Germany or Italy… but even that doesn’t hold up particularly well: Italy’s unemployment rate is 7.9%, Germany’s is 6.6%, and the United States is at 9.1%. This is not to deny there are some serious unemployment blackspots in the Eurozone: Spain has unemployment of 20.9% – a similar level to Scotland in the 1980s, and that country at least had the benefit of big fiscal transfers from a wealthy neighbour. (Although it’s worth mentioning that stultifying labour regulations in Spain mean that many ‘casual’ jobs never get reported in official statistics.)

But there must be something for the Eurosceptics to hold onto right? Continental Europeans have to hate the Euro, yes? Well, let’s look to the most recent elections in Germany, to Berlin regional government. There, the national government’s junior partners, the free-market FDP, took a radical Eurosceptical line (which would still put them somewhat in line with Ken Clarke), hoping to benefit from dissatisfaction with the Greek, Portugese and Irish bail-outs.

How did they do? Well, they saw their vote drop from 9% to 2%. The ‘Pirate Party’, whose sole policy position concerns the abolition of copyright laws, outpolled them two-to-one.

Robert Smithson



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How Dave/Ed/Nick are rated by party voters

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The Tory voter view of David Cameron

The Labour voter view of Ed Miliband

The LD voter view of Nick Clegg

All this, of course from today’s Ipsos-MORI monitor for Reuters.



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Labour extend their lead with Ipsos-MORI

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

And another pollster records an increase for “others”

The October MORI political monitor for Reuters is just out and has margin of error changes which see Labour extend their lead from 2% last month to 4% today. It’s CON 34 (-1): LAB 38 (+1): LD 12 (-1): OTH 16 (+1).

In the leader ratings Ed Miliband has moved up from last month’s worst ever position. He’s now on 34% satisfaction an increase of 3. Cameron’s up one at 40% while Clegg is down one on 30%.

The Reuter’s report notes: “The poll found 55 percent of respondents think David Cameron’s coalition government has done a bad job of managing the economy while 36 percent feel it has done well.

Over three-quarters, 77 percent, said the government had done badly in keeping unemployment down and just 15 percent said it had done a good job. Britain’s unemployment rate rose to 8.1 percent in the three months to August, its highest level in 15 years.

Six in 10 respondents disapproved of the government’s performance on taxation and public expenditure while half, or 51 percent, said the government ha done poorly in protecting British interests in the global recession…

But while the government scored badly, just 20 percent think that a Labour government with current leader Miliband as prime minister and Balls as Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) would do a better job of managing the economy.”

Those poor ratings on the economy for the Miliband/Balls are similar to what ICM found earlier in the week.

The fieldwork was completed on Monday – the day of the big Commons referendum debate.

There’ll be more detail when the full data is published later this morning.

@MikeSmithsonPB



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Wednesday evening in the PB NightHawks Cafe

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

This is the place for PB’s informal overnight conversation where lurkers who have never posted before are particularly welcome.

Have a good evening – tomorrow I’m hoping that we’ll see the MORI October poll. Last month it was 35-37-13.

@MikeSmithsonPB



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Should the Tories still be favourites to get a majority?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
General election outcome Betfair
CON MAJ 1.46/1
NO OVERALL MAJ 1.78/1
LAB MAJ 2.65/1

Are there too many obstacles to success?

This is first post on the betting for next time – which almost certainly will be be on May 7th 2015 – three and a half years off.

The only general election market I’ve been tempted by is on which year where I’ve built up a reasonable position at odds averaging just short of evens on 2015. I regard these wagers as my Betfair Savings Certificates.

But what about the outcome. Are punters right to make a Tory majority the favoured outcome?

Given that the latest round of polls has Labour with leads ranging from 4 – 8% and, even with the boundary changes, the threshold for Miliband’s party is likely to be lower than for the Tories then the current pricing doesn’t seem right.

There’s also the potential for Europe to blow up again at any time which could be damaging to the blue team. Michael Ashcroft has this right in his ConHome article this morning.

I find it hard to see beyond another hung parliament with just the possibility of a Labour overall victory.

This is not a market I’ve entered – it requires you to lock money for quite a long time – but if I was to bet it would be that there won’t be a Tory majority.

@MikeSmithsonPB



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What’s the fixed term parliament act done to politics?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Has it taken the “fizz” out of the process

Just over six weeks ago the fixed term parliaments’ act finally became law setting the next general election date as May 7th 2015. While it is true that there are a couple of ways that an election could take place before that the current coalition arithmetic means that these look unlikely.

Reflecting on what’s happened since it strikes me that the change is having a profound affect on the whole political process and the way it is reported.

Thus the Liam Fox business and Monday’s EU referendum vote were not covered in terms of their impact on the government’s survival – that’s now taken almost as a given.

One of the great uncertainties from previous times and the subject of much speculation, the election date, has been removed from the media narrative.

The consequence is that people don’t need to think about party battles for the next three and a half years and they won’t do.

Maybe this is behind the big trend in all the polls – the rise of “others”. The Populus poll this month had the total at an 17% – a remarkable share for a phone survey – and other firms have been near that.

Consider also how this year’s autumn conference season went off like a damp squib. Hardly anything newsworthy happened and at two of them the organisers even had trouble filling the auditoriums for the leaders’ speeches. That’s rarely happened in the past.

After the conference season the BBC announced that they would be scaling back their coverage next year and there was hardly a whimper. Those looking for the usual conference polling bounces were disappointed. These simply did not happen.

Let us just be thankful for Boris versus Ken next May and, of course, the 2012 White House race.

@MikeSmithsonPB