Archive for March, 2016


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Monday, March 28th, 2016

The June 23rd EU Referendum

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The EU referendum: A battle between the social classes

Monday, March 28th, 2016

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The most affluent are more solidly for IN

The above breakdown is from the latest ComRes referendum poll and shows how different socio-economic groups responded to the 16 word referendum question.

The pattern shown is very similar in most referendum polls.

    The more affluent you are, the higher the social class in which you are categorised, the more likely you are to say that you want to remain within the EU.

This applies in both phone and online polls and generally the split is that ABC1 voters are more for in and those in C2 D and E are more for out.

A problem that BREXIT has is that most of its support comes from the lower socioeconomic groups and there’s evidence to suggest these are less likely to turn out in elections than they say they are going to do.

Indeed in its methodology review following the 2015 General Election polling disaster ComRes identified the lower socio-economic groups overstating their voting intention certainty as a big reason why the polls were wrong.

ComRes now includes a new adjustment in its General Election polls that weights down the the voting certainty responses from those who are less affluent.

It its referendum polls it is not, however, showing this adjustment in the headline figures. The impact can be quite considerable.

The March ComRes ITV poll had the IN lead down to 7%. If it had applied its voter turnout model that would have been a margin of 14%.

Will the same pattern be seen on June 23rd? That’s hard to say but the polling numbers we need to be following closely are the socio-economic segment splits. LEAVE needs to make inroads amongst the ABC1s.

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Mike Smithson


Boris Johnson is having a deeply unimpressive referendum campaign so far

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

If he wants to be leader, he needs to improve sharply in the next three months just to make the final two of the next Tory leadership contest.

Look at the above video from Boris Johnson’s appearance at the Treasury Select Committee earlier on this week, where his past comments/hyperbole on the EU came back to haunt him. Then there’s that tweet showing his inconsistency. Unfortunately for Boris these are the norms, not the exceptions. When he recently appeared on The Andrew Marr Show and was so unimpressive, Trevor Kavanagh of The Sun wrote of that appearance that it “may have damaged both Brexit and [Boris Johnson’s] dream of becoming our next Prime Minister.” People like Michael Gove have made a more articulate case for leaving the EU than Boris has so far.

The next general election campaign will echo the lines of the last campaign, Tory competence versus Labour chaos. That message won’t work if the Tory leader is seen as a buffoon or not as a credible Prime Minister. Despite recent appearances the Tory Party really does want to win the next general election, it would be wrong to view the next Tory leadership contest solely through the prism of only the EU referendum. The members have already said their two main criteria when choosing the next leader will be 1) Who will be the most competent PM and 2) Who has the best chance of winning in 2020. This represents good news for Theresa May, who in my opinion is value at  11/1 to be next Prime Minister, as she radiates competency.

As Matthew Parris noted in The Times yesterday (££), Boris Johnson in the past called Labour’s repeal of Section 28 “appalling”, who joked about “tank-topped bum-boys.” These sort of comments will come back and haunt Boris, whilst undoing the Tory detoxification project. Compare and contrast with Theresa May’s ‘Nasty Party’ comments, only one of those will be helped by their respective past comments, and it isn’t Boris. With Mike pointing out how the polls have a history of overestimating Boris, you can see the appeal of Boris waning with MPs further. On past performance Boris Johnson won’t survive the white heat of a Tory leadership contest.

Boris Johnson, David Cameron, and George Osborne all became MPs in June 2001, the performance so far by Boris Johnson in this referendum campaign has reminded us why Cameron and Osborne became Tory leader and Shadow Chancellor respectively within a little over four years of becoming MPs, whilst Boris Johnson was wasting away on the backbenches. History has shown, this far out it is profitable to lay the favourite for the Tory leadership, Boris is not showing any evidence why punters should break that habit. Simply not being Boris Johnson might be enough to win the Tory leadership.


PS – The Treasury select committee member Wes Streeting was deeply impressive during the questioning of Boris Johnson, coupled with his recent joke at George Osborne’s expense “Recalling a deeply, deeply unfortunate and certainly not amusing mix-up in which Barack Obama kept calling Osborne ‘Geoffrey’, Streeting had a Rainbow gag up his sleeve: “There’s probably a risk when President Obama visits next month he’ll think you’ve changed your name from Geoffrey to Bungle.”” Wes Streeting is worth backing at 66/1 for next Labour leader with Ladbrokes, I like him a lot.


Betting on Osborne’s next Cabinet job

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Billy Hills Ozzy market

Should you be betting on George Osborne going to the Foreign Office?

After a sub-optimal fortnight for George Osborne, William Hill have a market up on George Osborne’s next Cabinet job. I think backing the 5/2 on him as next Foreign Secretary might be the best option. I suspect after the referendum (assuming a Remain victory) David Cameron will have a reconciliation reshuffle and move Osborne out of Number 11.

Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary are the only jobs that won’t be considered demotions for Osborne. Philip Hammond looks less immovable than Theresa May, who will soon be beginning her seventh year as Home Secretary, a role which previously had become a political graveyard. So on that basis I’m taking the 5/2 on Osborne’s next job being Foreign Secretary.

If you think Osborne’s next role will be PM, then you’re better off backing him on the next PM/next Tory leader markets elsewhere, where you can get better odds than the 9/2 William Hill are offering in this market.



Nick Palmer says both sides in the referendum have got to stop sounding so gloomy

Saturday, March 26th, 2016


Positive messages might swing votes

It’s been widely observed that the referendum campaign is a contest between negatives. Vote Remain because leaving would reduce the country to smouldering ashes, or Vote Leave because remaining would doom us to surrender to Brussels bureaucrats forever. The impression given is that we have a choice of extremely bearish scenarios, with little hope either way.

It is generally accepted by professionals that the outcome will be decided by people who have no strong prior views on the EU (or, in some cases, even a clear picture of what it does or how it does it). What will they decide as they eye the alternative slavering bears?

The risk for Leave is that they think “It all sounds scary, but my life today is sort of OK, so I’ll vote to stay where we are”. This presumed reaction is why the betting markets are shrugging off the toss-up polls. However, the risk for Remain is that they think “It all sounds confusing, so as I’ve no strong views I think I’ll sit it out.” Since people who really feel strongly are on balance pro-Leave, the danger is surely larger for Remain.

Why are the campaigns so negative? Several reasons:

Remain is being largely run by the Conservative leadership, who are not very keen on the EU in the first place and have spent years trying to persuade backbenchers that they will make it, er, less bad.

Leave has rival, contradictory visions (EEA and “fully out”), both of which have snags: it seems safer to focus on the perceived flaws of the status quo.

British politics is predominantly negative anyway. Every General Election is fought predominantly on the perceived horrors of the other side.

Nonetheless, Remain need to do something to counter this, or they will lose. In particular, they will lose the predominantly favourable Labour voters. At present, the argument seems a sordid squabble between rival right-wingers. Do we trust Cameron and Osborne, or Boris and Farage? The obvious answer: “neither”.

Remain needs two separate new threads to their campaign to add to Project Fear – and there isn’t any reason why they need to be in perfect harmony (if Leave can have mutually exclusive alternatives, so can Remain).

First, they need to give air time in the broadcasts and debates to someone who actually likes the EU. A positive theme is needed for a section of the population who will otherwise sit it out. The core theme of this should be “It’s the first project to work constructively together across our continent for a thousand years, and it would be mad for Britain not to want to play a part in shaping it.”

This means giving Alan Johnson a prominent role. He’s making plenty of speeches but they aren’t being reported. There is a major pro-Europe Corbyn speech in the pipeline, but Johnson is crucial too: he will reach voters beyond the party faithful. Put him in the broadcasts.

Second, Cameron needs to muster a positive case for sceptics. “Yes, there are things we find frustrating about the EU. But it isn’t going away, it’s on our doorstep. It already has many advantages for us, and we need to be in there making it better.”

Just stop sounding so damn gloomy – or you’ll lose.

Nick Palmer was MP for Broxtowe from 1997-2010


After the latest Trump-Cruz blow-up David Herdson suggests a 50/1 punt on Kasich

Saturday, March 26th, 2016


He could be the only one who can stop Trump

It’s probably all over: the sex scandal now engulfing Ted Cruz means that Donald Trump is highly likely to be the Republicans’ nominee for president. Highly likely but not certain.

The dilemmas of the Never Trump brigade as to what strategy to adopt in order to stop him have their answer; there’s only one possible. They must get behind John Kasich as soon as possible in order to deny Trump the delegates he needs to win outright, before manipulating the convention to crown someone else.

Are we getting ahead of ourselves there? Perhaps – Cruz may be vindicated and the story may blow out. Betting is, after all, a percentage game and at the moment much depends on the relative credibility of the Enquirer story on the one hand, and Cruz himself on the other.

However, there he has a problem. Trump was already labelling him ‘lying Ted Cruz’ at every opportunity. As an astute observer mentioned to me, Trump’s use of adjective in relation to his rivals has been one of the most effective aspects of his campaign. The story of Cruz’s alleged infidelities plays perfectly into Trump’s description of him. So let’s work on that percentage that the story will prove terminal.

That would leave Kasich as Last Man Standing. For him to take the nomination would be a long shot. For a start, he’d need more than half of the remaining 849 delegates if we allocate Trump the vast majority of New York’s 95, as seems reasonable.

One thing that Kasich does have going for him is that not only is he a stop-Trump candidate, for the Republican mainstream he’s also a far more attractive one than Ted Cruz. Until now, his lowly position in the race has prevented that mainstream getting strongly behind him for fear of splitting the anti-Trump vote. If Cruz either formally withdraws or continues to run but collapses in support, that resolves that problem.

What’s more, if the Cruz scandal does propel Kasich into a clear second, he’ll arrive in Cleveland with far more delegates than previously looked likely. That alone would place him in a far more powerful position to push his claim for the nomination should Trump fall short (and conversely, reduces the chance of a White Knight candidate in the form of Ryan, Romney or whoever).

All the same, Trump would have a commanding lead even if he fails to quite reach the magic 1237; almost certainly more than twice as many as anyone else. The PR of rejecting someone with such a strong mandate in favour of a ‘serial loser’, as Trump might well describe him, would be sub-optimal. Passionate arguments could be guaranteed; violence and riots not ruled out. Put that together with the chance of Trump winning outright and you have his justifiably short odds.

However, as always, betting is about value and Cruz’s problems have given Kasich a credible route to the White House for the first time. The 50/1 available from Betfair, as I write, strikes me as more than double the true value. I’d make him around 9/1 for the nomination at this moment and 8/11 for the general if nominated.

Unsurprisingly, the Kasich-Clinton head-to-heads haven’t been paid much attention so far. It’s now time to do just that. The Huffington Post average gives him a 4.5% lead over her (in contrast to a 9.7% deficit for Trump and a 4.5% deficit for Cruz). Of course, those figures might well change once Kasich comes under closer scrutiny but a 9-point relative advantage against Cruz and a 14-point one against Trump is still impressive.

Now that backing Kasich is likely to be the most effective means of stopping Trump, you’d think that some effort will be put in to engineer that nomination if possible.

David Herdson

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Read all about it. The news sources that matter nowadays

Friday, March 25th, 2016


Alastair Meeks on the media influence on the EU referendum

The EU referendum has turned into a battle between the Prime Minister and the right-leaning newspapers.  In 1992 the Sun hubristically claimed to have be the one wot won it.  Will it be the Mail wot wins the EU referendum for Leave in 2016?

The world has changed in a generation.  In 1992, five daily newspapers sold more than a million copies and the top twelve biggest selling daily newspapers issued more than 14 million copies.  By 2016, only two daily newspapers sold more than a million copies – a third, Metro, gave away more than that number.  The circulation for the twelve daily newspapers with the biggest circulation was under 9 million. (The decline in Sunday newspaper circulations is still worse, with two thirds of combined circulation being lost in the last 30 years.)  As business models go, this doesn’t look alluring.

Clearly the print market is declining.  But how are the public consuming their news nowadays?  Are they shifting to online versions of newspapers?  Are newspapers as influential as ever, but through a new medium?

This is something that Ofcom has looked at in detail recently through opinion polling.  Their slides are worth looking through in detail here:

They paint a picture of a nation whose patterns of news consumption are changing fast.  89% of the public follow the news one way or another.  Two thirds watch news on TV, over 40% get it through the internet and just under a third read newspapers for news or catch it on the radio.  Unsurprisingly, the young are much more likely to get it from the internet while the old are more likely to get news from the TV or newspapers.  But even the old are rapidly giving up on newspapers – a fifth fewer named it as a source of news this year from last.

So where specifically do the public get their news? TV and radio channels dominate the sources of news that the public names.  Facebook is shooting up the ranks (its penetration nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015).  The highest ranked newspaper, the Sun, ranks tenth with just 6% reach.  By way of comparison, the top ranked news source, BBC1, reaches 48% of adults.

But how does online content change the picture?  After all, the Daily Mail, for example, has a massive online presence so just looking at newspaper sales misses that impact.  Well, it turns out that the newspaper groups still languish.  Looking at news providers by the brand through which it is provided, DMGT comes in a fourth by audience reach at 16%, far behind the BBC at 77% and ITV at 33%.  Since DMGT includes the Metro and the Evening Standard, neither of which take the same line as the Mail publications, this 16% figure greatly overstates the potential impact of the Mail’s bully pulpit.  The next largest newspaper group is News Corp with 13% reach.  Trinity Mirror scrapes in the top ten with 8% reach.  Northern & Shell, the Express’s owners, manages 7%.  Social media garners 15% reach.  Twitter may not be Britain, but social media reaches as many people as Trinity Mirror and the Express combined.

The public were asked to name their single most important source of news.  29% named BBC1. 50% named a BBC source.  The only newspaper to reach the top ten was the Sun, with just 2%.  Just 9% named any newspaper.

OK, but surely the newspapers are disproportionately important in moulding the views of their readers?  It seems not.  59% of the viewing public think that BBC TV is trustworthy and 41% say it helps them make their minds up.  The Mail newspapers tally 41% trustworthiness among their own readers and 37% of their own readers say that they help them make their minds up.  The figures for the Sun are still worse: 23% for both measures among their own readers.  Only the Guardian and the Observer are more trusted by their own readers than the BBC is trusted by its viewers.  Most newspapers entertain rather than inform their readers, who are considerably less credulous about their contents than is commonly hoped or feared.

The following conclusions can be drawn:

  • Newspapers influence relatively few people. Their sales have been declining for a generation and their audience penetration has been dropping particularly sharply recently.  Their readers appear literally to be dying off.
  • With a steep decline in sales and audience penetration for newspapers, newspapers are chasing market share. Their editorial line is more likely to be calculated to attract reliable new readers from other newspapers (the remaining newspaper readers seem to be old and very conservative) rather than designed to influence existing readers.  It should not be a surprise to find that a business is catering to its audience rather than seeking to mould its audience to its own tastes.
  • People have always chosen the news source that suits their personal tastes and that has been made much easier with the advent of Twitter and Facebook.  But this can be overstated: in Britain, news provision is still overwhelmingly dominated by the BBC.  We are nowhere near the position of the USA, where the public picks what news it gets to hear according to political inclination.
  • If you really want to influence public opinion, go on TV.

Alastair Meeks


ICM referendum findings suggest that turnout won’t be at general election levels

Friday, March 25th, 2016

EU flag

This could be good news for LEAVE

The latest ICM poll includes for the first time turnout weighting and points to two broad conclusions: that outers are more determined to vote than inners and that the overall participation level will be lower than the 66.1% that we saw at the general election in May 2015.

Before applying the turnout filter but after excluding the “certain not to vote” the latest survey, carried out after the Brussels attacks, had 43% REMAIN, 38% LEAVE and 19% DK.

After applying the filter this became 45% REMAIN, 43% LEAVE and 12% DK. ICM say this “suggests that the high proportion of Don’t knows in online EU polls are likely to be linked to not voting rather than a genuine uncertainty over which way to vote.” The pollster goes on to note:-

Just 47% say they are absolutely certain to vote in the EU referendum on 23 June – giving 10/10 on a ten-point scale – which is significantly lower compared to the proportion who typically say the same of the next general election (66%). This suggests that the actual turnout in the referendum is likely to be lower than previously suggested.

Clearly we need to see other data but that the certainty to vote levels is not currently in the same area as what is being found in general election polls points to a lower participation rate.

I’ve now begun betting on this and make money if it is lower than 65%.

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Mike Smithson