Archive for November, 2011

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Will London’s Labour voters give Boris a second term?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Has the red team got the wrong candidate?

The chart shows the trend in Betfair prices in next May’s battle for the mayor of London in which Ken will be trying to win his old job back.

I write “trend” which in this case means no real movement. Apart from a little drop for Boris six weeks ago from which he quickly recovered the figures have remained remarkably consistent. Punters rate this as a 65-35 battle.

Given how much stronger Labour is nationally than last time you would expect Ken to be in much better position and EdM could be looking for another big trophy for his party next May.

But there’s nothing so far to suggest that Boris is vulnerable and this could take the gloss of what should be a good set of local elections for Labour.

The problem is that in spite of all the dire warnings 4 years ago (remember the great Guardian onslaught) Boris is popular even amongst many Labour voters. This is one of those elections where the individual is more important than the party affiliation.

The latest YouGov poll last week has Boris with an overall 8 point lead. To a forced choice “Boris or Ken” question a nearly quarter of Labour’s general elections voters who expressed a view said they’s go with the Tory.

If you can’t even get party supporters to back your candidate then, surely, your task is hopeless?

Ken shouldn’t be surprised by this dynamic because the last time he was elected, in 2004, many Tory voters in the capital switched to him for mayor.

My strong view is Labour would have been in a better position with a different candidate – one without baggage and with a fresher vision for the capital.

UPDATE: New ComRes London poll has Boris 8% ahead

There’s a new ComRes poll out for the Evening Standard which has Boris with a similar lead over Ken as in last week’s YouGov poll.

Unlike YouGov the ComRes findings are turnout weighted and the final shares of those giving 1st or 2nd prefs to Boris or Ken are 54:46.

The poll detail shows the same effect as described above of a signficant slab of Labour voters supporting the Tory.

Men seem to be backing Boris more than women. With the former the split is 57-43 while the latter shows 51-49.

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonPB



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Is Sarah Palin about to join the Newt band-wagon?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Could her intervention be decisive?

For those who love to follow and bet on the White House race it’s been an eventful and absorbing weekend with a lot of money being wagered.

The table above from the Intrade website says it all – from being given a greater than 70% chance by the punters on the betting market only a few days ago the ex-Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, has seen his price edge down to its current 57.4%.

At the same time all the attention has focused on Newt Gingrich, the controversial ex-house speaker, who has seen his Intrade price move from single figures to its current 23.8%. Can Mitt really be beaten?

Yesterday the Manchester Union Leader, the biggest and most influential newspaper in New Hampshire, came out with a ringing endorsement for Gingrich – a move which is being seen as a massive blow to the favourite. The state, of course, is where the first proper primary will be held in early January and Romney, from just across the border in Massachusetts, is almost a local. One or two polls there have had him in the 40s and he’d been regarded as a near certainty.

The Romney camp will be acutely aware that four years ago their man was in almost as good a polling position until the Union Leader came out for John McCain.

The second development that’s attracting lots of attention is a suggestion on the influential political site, Real Clear Politics, that 2008 GOP VP nominee, Sarah Palin, might endorse Newt.

RCP’s Scott Conroy writes: “..But Palin would likely have the biggest influence if she were to back a candidate before the Iowa caucuses. Her still considerable clout with the evangelical and Tea Party-leaning wings of the party could have a particularly significant impact in Iowa and in the first-in-the-South primary in South Carolina.

Aides emphasized that while Gingrich currently appears to be the front-runner for Palin’s endorsement, her thinking could change.”

The Iowa caucuses are on January 3rd with the New Hampshire primary a week later.

We haven’t seen much polling for a few days but all that could be about to change. Which way is the race being seen now?

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonPB

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Will this help ministers over their HS2 decision?

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

YouGov on two massive infrastructure plans

With the decision on HS2 – the high speed rail link to the midlands and the north – said to be imminent there’s some supporting YouGov polling on the project in the Sunday Times.

As can be seen from the chart backing for the railway is running at 2 to one. Looking at the detailed data support seems to be pretty consistent across the party divides.

What could be explosive is the route if the go-ahead is given. One cabinet minister, Cheryl Gillan, is 2/1 favourite with Ladbrokes to be the next cabinet minister out following resignation threats if the route runs through her constituency.

On the other big infrastructure plan that is being suggested, a Thames estuary airport, the poll had voters being opposed.

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonPB



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Survation has UKIP into double figures

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

But is this down to the methodology change?

In what is only its second national voting intention survey Survation, for the Daily Star Sunday, is reporting a share for UKIP which is markedly higher than the other pollsters. Unlike its first poll this one was carried out online.

In its first poll earlier in the month Survation used the telephone and found just 4% saying they would vote UKIP – so a massive difference between that and these latest numbers.

As can be seen from the chart a total of 22% of support went to parties which are traditionally categorised as others. That’s an extraordinarily high percentage.

I have discussed the methodology with the firm which has promised a blog post explaining how it was carried out. I will postpone my comment on that until after the explanation is published.

Whatever this is a real boost for the anti-EU party and comes at a difficult time for all three of the main parties on the issue.

Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has CON 34: LAB 43: LD 11 – so Labour with a nine point lead.

UPDATE: Has Survation fallen for YouGov’s Scottish trap?

The pollster has now explained the methodology that was used. The key point was this:-

“In this new survey we listed all parties in the the order of votes received in the 2010 General Election while randomising the top FOUR parties to the survey taker to avoid a common pitfall of online surveys – eg clicking the top answer.”

This meant that UKIP was given a much higher level of prompt than in any other poll which almost certainly explains some of the difference between its phone poll share of 4% and the the latest survey’s 11%. The firm says that the conventional approach “biases the poll in favour of those three prompted parties to the detriment (or not) of the “others”.

YouGov’s Anthony Wells, has put up a post on UKPR arguing that the conventional approach is not producing inaccurate shares for minor parties when tested against real elections.

YouGov has been down this prompting road before. In the Holyrood elections in 2007 the firm’s conventional prompt was changed half way through the campaign to include minor parties. This boosted support for “others” from 11% to 19%, and saw the Scottish Greens going from 4% to 9% in the final poll. The party ended up getting 4%.

What we need is a means of testing the potential for minor parties in a manner that works. There has been some interesting work recently on this which I’ll cover in the next post.

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonPB



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Is Romney the David Miliband of the GOP race?

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

The 4/7 betting favourite continues to defy the polls

We are less than six weeks away from the point where real voters in real elections in the US start to vote to choose the Republican nominee for next November’s presidential election.

For once those first results in the January 3rd 2012 Iowa caucus start to come in then the whole process will come alive and, if previous elections are anything to go by, change the whole dynamic. Very early on we can expect a number of would-be presidents withdraw from race and we’ll be speculating over where their support will go.

What’s currently interesting from a betting perspective is how the ex-Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, is remaining a solid 4/7 odds-favourite when the polling evidence suggests that he’s in second place.

Mitt’s betting position is a bit like David Miliband’s was in late September 2010 in the Labour leadership election.

The polling pointed to a victory by his brother, Ed, yet the elder Miliband stuck rigidly to a price also of about 4/7 right until the penultimate day.

It’s my recall that some of the strongest “it must be David” protagonists are today in the “it must be Mitt” camp.

Just like with Mitt Romney today the received opinion was that this was David’s victory so the evidence was simply ignored. I was arguing furiously here that it was a genuine 50-50 contest yet few were brave enough to defy the markets and take a punt based on the polling.

Ed Miliband, who I’d backed down from 33/1, became my biggest political betting win of all time and I bought a brand new car on the proceeds. I’m hoping to have another big win in the GOP race where I think that Mitt’s chances are no better than evens.

@MikeSmithsonPB



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How does Osborne unpick the Pensions Triple-Lock?

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Will the Autumn Statement feature another U-turn?

One of the early announcements the government made after coming to office was that in future the state pension would rise in line with whichever was the highest of the inflation rate, the increase in earnings, or 2.5% – the so-called Triple Lock. At the moment, it’s the inflation measure that’s highest and even using CPI, rather than RPI, that still lands the government with a hefty 5.2% increase. It’s a lot of new money to find next year when economic growth is slow, fragile and vulnerable to an increasingly stormy global picture.

As should be obvious from a moment’s thought, without some compensating mechanism, the ratchet effect means that the commitment has to impose an ever-greater burden, even leaving aside longer life expectancy and the current deficit: the pension can only ever go up or stay the same, measured against average income.

That fact leaves the Chancellor caught between a fiscal rock and a political hard place. The Treasury could really do without that bill landing on its desk but having set up the mechanism, it’s going to be awfully difficult to U-turn on it.

Those affected vote in big numbers (and vote disproportionately Tory at that), though the Lib Dems – whose policy this originally was – would no doubt be just as loath to be seen to perform another U-turn.

While it’s only the pension which is affected by the Triple Lock, other benefits are also due to rise by inflation, at a time when earnings are falling behind. That’s not only expensive for the government but goes against their policy of making work pay. The logic of that points to increasing only by earnings but there is another alternative – to introduce a more sustainable formula which might later be rolled across to pensions. One option would be to take the mid-point between the two highest figures within earnings, inflation and 2.5%.

The Winter of 2011/12 looks highly likely to see massive turbulence in the Eurozone, of a like nature to that which brought about the 2008 Credit Crunch. Even an orderly shaking out of the debt- or deficit-burdened PIIGS group will put banks across the continent and beyond right on the defensive as they work out exposures both to the debt write-offs and on how they stand on Credit Default Swaps and similar financial instruments. That could easily lead to another Crunch and recession. A disorderly break-up would be worse yet.

With that risk looming, it should be no time for the UK government to be taking on unnecessary spending on pensions or benefits. Failing to do so, however, is likely to produce a significant political backlash – not an easy dilemma to resolve.

My prediction is that Osborne will stick to the policy on the pension; the get-out clause in the short term being the scheduled increases in pensionable age. If he does, he’s gambling that the Triple Lock can be sustained until 2015, because as with all U-turns, if it must be done, it is best that it be done quickly.

David Herdson



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Can Ed Miliband afford a repeat of this?

Friday, November 25th, 2011


Click to play

Henry G Manson looks to next week’s strike

In the 5 months since the last round of industrial action in June Ed Miliband has had ample opportunity to develop a stance of the forthcoming strikes over pensions. There was plenty of choice. This was a chance for Labour to develop an alternative policy or to defend the past reforms from a Labour government that made public sector pensions more affordable.

The Labour leader could have tackled some of the myths swirling around of ‘gold-plated’ pensions which for many are just £6,000 a year for a lifetime of service and contributions. Ed could have been really bold and apologised for Gordon Brown’s raid on private sector pensions and then developed his party’s own plans on how they will substantially improve the lot in the private sector alongside defending those in the public sector. Instead there’s nothing. The cupboard is bare.

During this 5 month period Ed Miliband’s stance has not developed. Last night on Channel 4 News he was repeating the ‘get round the negotiating table’ line with industrial action now just days away.

On Wednesday the music is going to stop. The Labour leader is going to have to say and do so much more. As the Guardian highlighted some Shadow Cabinet members ‘regard greater clarity almost as important as the actual position.’

Ed cannot wish away difficult decisions. For a man supposedly aspiring to be Prime Minister one day, the lack of decisive decision-making and leadership is there for all to see by MPs, party members, supporters the country and off course trade unionists.

Unless Ed raises his game in these important coming days then events may turn against him in 2012 quicker than some of us had previously thought.

HenryG Manson @henrygmanson



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Concern about the EU jumps to a six year high

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Is it set to rise further?

The latest Ipsos-MORI issues index is out and the big movers have been fuel prices, up 4 to 9, and the EU/Europe/Euro which has gone from 4% in October to 8% now. This is its highest level since 2005.

For much of the period since then the level of concern recorded by MORI has been in the 2-3% range.

This polling is unique in that respondees are not prompted at all during their face- to face interviews. They are invited to name as many issues affecting the country as they like.

Many see this structure as being a good test of salience – how strongly people feel and clearly, this is rising sharply.

@MikeSmithsonPB