For Politicalbetting’s 15th anniversary today – a special cartoon from Marf

For Politicalbetting’s 15th anniversary today – a special cartoon from Marf

Exactly 15 years ago today PB was launched

Today PB celebrates it’s 15th birthday,  making it, I’d suggest, just about the longest surviving major political blog in the UK.

We were up and operational before Guido, Conservative Home, Labour list and many of the other major political sites that we are familiar with today. I cannot recall a site that existed before we did that is still active.

When PB was launched on March 23rd 2004 Tony Blair still had another General Election to win, Michael Howard was leader of the Conservative Party and Charles Kennedy the Lib Dem leader. UKIP was starting to make rumbles but not that great.

It was just about a year after the Iraq War which continued to dominate US politics. In the US George W Bush was seeking to win a second term and the Democrats were trying to choose a candidate they hoped would be able to unseat him.

In the UK the big betting election was the 2004 London mayoral race when Ken Livingstone, this time as a Labour candidate and not an independent as in 2000, was seeking to retain the job. I had taken the view, wrongly as it turned out, that Ken would struggle harder to attract crossover votes from other parties as a Labour candidate rather than as an independent as in first election 4 years earlier.

A few weeks before the site was launched the odds-on favourite for the WH2004 Democratic nomination, was the former governor of Vermont Howard Dean. At the time my day job was taking me to Vermont every few months and had got to know the head of a college there who knew Dean and who shared my passion for electoral analysis. He told me in unequivocal terms that Howard Dean would “blow himself up” at some point and would never make it. Given that Dean was odds-on favourite this was a good and potentially profitable insight.

At the time Betfair had a forum section where people could discuss specific markets and I took a bold stand and announced that a good bet was that Dean would not win the nomination. When he did indeed “blow himself up” after failing to win the Iowa caucuses my reputation soared within that small community.

A prominent Democratic contender was John Kerry while at the same time someone called Kerry was doing very well in one of the TV talent shows on which there was betting. Followers of the latter on the Betfair forums would burst into our discussions and make it extremely difficult. It was repeated interjections on the night of one of the primaries that that made me decide that what we needed was our own space away from Betfair. My son, Robert, suggested I registered the site name Politicalbetting.Com. He has continued to handle the not inconsiderable task of managing the technical side ever since.

We launched on March 23rd 2004 with a site logos that had been designed by my daughter in law Lucille. Early promotion was on the Betfair forums and within a very short time we started to build an audience. Right from the start we got good response and lively discussions were sparked off. I think that we hit a chord because we were looking and speculating about political outcomes with the added dimension that we would back our views up with cash.

Amongst the early participants who are still with us today were Sean Fear, David Herdson and Nick Palmer then MP for Broxtowe.

At the end of 2007 I took early retirement and since then my “job” has been PB. The site has been greatly helped by a TSE, my deputy, and a team of really excellent contributors who are providing political commentary and insights not seen in the MSM. Thanks to all of them.

Thanks also to all of you who visit often several time a day and take part in the discussion forums. You make the site what it is today.

  • Thanks to Marf, who first produced a cartoon for the site in 2008, for creating the above especially for this day.

    Mike Smithson

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