The Euro elections are being totally overshadowed by Scotland and that could have an impact on May 22nd

April 17th, 2014

Maybe it is because I’m on my way home from Edinburgh after being immersed totally in Scottish politics for two days but I am convinced that the immensity of what will be decided on September 18 is overshadowing everything.

    The very idea that the Union that has been in place since 1707 might come to an end is what everybody is focusing on to the exclusion of almost everything else in current politics.

This means, for starters, that the Euro elections and locals on May 22nd are going to get nothing like the attention that you’d expect from the final national Electoral test before GE2015.

Look at the political stories that we are seeing at the moment – the bickering between the three parties that make up NO, the speculation over Cameron’s future should it go the wrong way and the analysis of what rUK politics could look like.

What I can’t work out is who will benefit five weeks from today. Will the possible lack of attention make UKIP’s task hard or easier in reaching its stated goal of “winning”?

Would a third place for the Tories be less damaging because all the attention is elsewhere?

Who knows? But I’m pretty certain that this totally exceptional period will have an impact on the local and Euro results.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The Scottish IndyRef totally dominates current political betting activity with virtually no interest in the May 22 Euros

April 17th, 2014

Do punters think that May 22 is not very important?

One of the great things about the Betfair exchange is the amount of data that’s available on each of its markets.

The chart above is of the total amount of matched bets in £ on the current live UK election markets. As can be seen both the GE 2015 markets, which have been up for nearly four years, attract a lot of interest but not on the scale of the September 18th referendum in Scotland when the nation’s future will be decided.

If the Indy Ref polling continues to get closer I can see the total amounts bet jumping into the millions making it, by far, the biggest political betting event outside the general election and the White House race.

This really does suggest that the people of Scotland, where I am at the moment, are taking a huge interest in September’s vote. Their future is at stake.

    What I find really surprising is the comparative lack of interest in the May 22nd Euro elections. Given that there’s a possibility that the purples could come out on top I’d have expected to see much more betting interest.

There are, of course, many other places to bet but we don’t get information like that published and constantly updated by Betfair. Inthe past these numbers have proved to be a good pointer to overall betting interest.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY. The next Dirty Dicks (opposite Liverpool Street station in London) gathering will be at 6.30pm on Friday May 2. An event for Yorkshire and the north is planned for Ilkley on Monday July 7th

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Corporeal asks: Will the dog bark

April 16th, 2014

Sex and politics is an explosive mix and one that has driven a lot of scandals in British history, from Parnell’s divorce through the Profumo affair, Jeremy Thorpe, and up to the present day scandals to not even scratch the surface. The most recent rumours (that I happily don’t know enough about to make any troublesome innocent faces) aren’t either as influential or as shocking (the Duchess of Argyll’s divorce case is inexplicably obscure now) as the most infamous historical episodes, but sit comfortably on the lower level of dirty laundry that comes around regularly.

Actually regularly is an understatement, the rumours or stories are constant and familiar to almost anyone with any familiarity with politics, and particularly the world of young activists or staffers. It’s not even an open secret, it’s just open.

It’s tempting to suggest that this is just the revelations of close observation, the only difference with politicians is the microscope applied to them. No doubt if you trained a magnifying lens on any sector of society you’d find plenty of ongoing goings-on, but there is far more to it than that, a confluence of factors that breed a particular type of environment.

Power is its own particular type of aphrodisiac, but political power brings an extra ideological edge to it. If power is sexy then righteousness mixed with power is another level again, and a sense of shared righteousness is beyond even that.

So much for attraction, politics also provides opportunity (or risk, depending on your perspective). Frequent stays away from home at a second address, leaving aside the intense communality of election campaigns or party conferences  (and by-elections are notorious for people being thrown together and then getting together).

So much for the backroom party gossip, there is also a darker more unsavoury side to it.

Politics also places a lot of young and comparatively powerless people close alongside older, more elevated and revered persons and this kind of structure lends itself unpleasant results. Rennard-gate was disheartening (particularly for Lib Dems) not just because of the allegations themselves, or the “investigation”, but that certain older Lords suggested that low level sexual harassment, the not-that-occasional grope is expected and also nothing to worry about.

They are utterly and disgustingly wrong on the second point, and depressingly accurate on the first one. As with expenses, politics is often at the back of the line for modernisation, the culture still hangs over a lot of Westminster and this is especially true of the Lords with its older membership.

Sarah Wollaston MP passed police contact details to people who came to her with allegations, since the acquittal she’s faced everything from apology demands to House of Cards style conspiracy theories. Whatever you think of the investigation itself helping someone who wishes to contact the police do so is surely the correct action here. That she has been vilified in some quarters reflects badly on the critics rather than on her.

The unique nature of political parties is itself a contributing factor, not least in its inherent discouragement of reporting. The victims of the harassment have a personal commitment to the party and so a vested interest in avoiding any public relations damage. Equally there aren’t really any alternative parties to shift to, allegiance is largely defined by personal principle so a shift of organisations is both harder than moving companies and comes with a certain stigma.

Alongside that there is the notoriously murky world of party advancement, something so subjective that it defies transparency. Nepotism scratches the back of cronyism behind principle compatibility, personal rapport and political alliance where a good word in the right ear goes a long way, and a reputation for kicking up a fuss can follow you even further. It all adds up to pressure to keep quiet, smile, and get along.

The traditional method of discipline is the party whip, whose role of enforcing party loyalty to maintain a positive public image leaves them in a less than ideal (to say the very least, and not even mentioning their personal working relationship with the MPs) position to act in such cases,

The unusual nature of politics means it is more vulnerable to these kind of incidents, but the protections have traditionally been far laxer than other workplaces.

The Rennard allegations were one of the most disappointing things I’ve heard as a Lib Dem, not least for the comments by some of the Lords excusing them. Nigel Evans was acquitted, but the spotlight on his behaviour has brought an anonymous wave of stories detailing various levels of sexual harrassment.

What depresses me further is my conviction that whatever the truth (or not) of those two sets of high profile allegations, what they have brought is attention into a culture of harassment puttering along below the surface, while the circumstances that allow it to perpetuate are largely still in place. This is not all MPs by any means, but it seems reasonable to call it a significant number.

The question now is whether anyone is actually going to do anything. Will the party hierarchies fear what they might find if they went looking, or rather do they fear what they might have to admit to already knowing about if they stopped looking the other way? Will the Commons authorities feel strongly enough about the ‘integrity and honour of the House’ to get really involved? Many of the tales after all are taking place literally on their turf in the Parliamentary bars.  How hard and for how long will the media investigate and keep the story going?

Westminster was rocked by the expenses scandal, not that it was going on, but that the media informed the public about it (and the public really cared). Will anyone care as much about widespread allegations of sexual harassment?

So far we have a third of young men and women working in parliament reporting suffering sexual harassment, and the party whips have been told to tighten things up, opening of hotlines and independent complaints processes, and a promise to look into reform of procedures.

I hope the commitments are followed through on, proper reforms, pathways, structures, and all the rest of it are put into place, I hope they work. Although the Chairman of the 1922 committee has already pointed out problems in the Conservative plans there are improvements being made, or at least touted. But if I’m honest I’m sceptical, and cynical, and doubting of how much of a cultural change will happen and how long it will take. I doubt in the hope of being proven wrong.

I (and I should mention I’ve never been more than on the very humble outer fringes of politics) have heard for years now that this is a hurricane just waiting to touch down, and when it breaks it’ll be a massive scandal. So far, still up in the air. Isolated cases come and go but the big picture stays under wraps.

Will this be the time everything breaks open? I hope so, but sadly I doubt it. I’d encourage you to read the articles that are written with more anonymous anecdotes but don’t worry if you miss them, I suspect they’ll all get written again next year when he have another isolated incident that happens to make the news.



Betting on the number of Lib Dem MEPs

April 16th, 2014

Ladbrokes have a market on how many MEPs the Lib Dems will have after the Euros.

If we apply UNS to the ICM poll for the Guardian, they will end up with zero MEPs. Now this election is conducted in regions under the d’Hondt  method so a straight UNS calculation may not be apt.

That said, the poll fits is a continuation of of dire European Election polling for the Lib Dems, and the trend isn’t in their favour. The polling may get worse for them, as there’s very little opportunities for them to do so  and increases the likelihood of them getting zero MEPs, on that basis, and the expectation that the price wont last, (It was at 5/1 this morning) I’ve gone for the zero MEPs option.



Are we really only five months away from Dave’s resignation?

April 16th, 2014

Benedict Brogan wrote the other day

David Cameron will resign if he loses Scotland. A Prime Minister who allows the break-up of the United Kingdom cannot suffer such a statement of no confidence and continue in office.

That much is understood in Downing Street, where a gnawing doubt about the referendum gets worse by the day. The vote takes place in five months this Friday. Angst rather than panic describes the feeling apparent among those involved – but is it just a momentary loss of nerve, or a dawning realisation that something is seriously wrong?

That’s a pretty sensational revelation. I have my doubts, but iff Brogan is right, then it maybe worth reviewing the next Prime Minister market. If Cameron does resign in the wake of a Yes vote, then I think the next Tory leader (and ergo next Prime Minister) will come from the following four.

William Hague – I’ve always viewed him as the if Dave ever fell under a bus candidate. Will he want it? I suspect he may not, but in the scenario of Scotland seceding from the Union, he may.

Theresa May – Who has been quietly impressive at the Home Office, which had turned into a political graveyard for others, as a result, the bookies make it between her and Boris as favourites for the next Tory leader. (As an aside, given the scenario outlined above, I can’t see Boris being able to run in this leadership election)

George Osborne – Two years ago following the omnishambles budget, I would have thought Larry the Cat had a better chance at being next Tory Leader than George. But times change, his personal ratings and the economy have improved, as well at the Tory polling in the aftermath of the budget, it is not as outlandish as it seemed a few years ago.

Philip Hammond – If UKIP maintains or improves on its current polling, then some Tories will conclude their best chance of getting back those Con to UKIP switchers, is to back one of the two Tory cabinet ministers who would vote to leave the EU. (The other Michael Gove, I suspect will be on team Osborne.) Hammond like Theresa May has impressed quietly. That said, he was accused of undermining the No campaign earlier on this week.

Looking at the odds on the next Prime Minster, I’ve backed the above four, they are in some way, proxies for a Yes vote, and at odds of 16/1 and higher, they in my opinion represent better value than the 11/4 you can get on Yes winning in September if Brogan is right.

Odds on the next Prime Minister (as at midnight)




European Elections 2009 : Summary of Results

April 15th, 2014

European Election Results 2009

UK 2009 Winners

Conservatives 4,193,706 votes (27.63%) winning 272 count areas and 25 MEP’s
United Kingdom Independence Party 2,495,782 votes (16.44%) winning 9 count areas and 13 MEP’s
Labour 2,375,361 votes (15.65%) winning 59 count areas and 13 MEP’s
Liberal Democrats 2,078,723 votes (13.70%) winning 11 count areas and 11 MEP’s
Green Party 1,302,705 votes (8.58%) winning 3 count areas and 2 MEP’s
British National Party 941,491 votes (6.20%) winning 0 count areas and 2 MEP’s
Scottish National Party 321,007 votes (2.11%) winning 22 count areas and 2 MEP’s
Plaid Cymru 123,816 votes (0.81%) winning 4 count areas and 1 MEP
Other Parties 1,340,174 votes (8.83%) winning 0 count areas and 0 MEP’s
Conservative lead of 1,697,924 votes (11.19%) with a majority of 164 count areas and 12 MEP’s

Over the next few weeks I will be outling the prospects for each of the main parties (Con, Lab, Lib Dem, UKIP) as well as the other parties (Plaid, SNP, BNP, Green) in the forthcoming European Elections and based on the polls on the eve of poll produce a forecast map showing not only what districts are likely to go to which parties but also the number of MEP’s elected by region (and the change on 2009).

I am therefore opening the comments section for people to ask what their local area result was in 2009. All of the results have been standardised to the districts being counted this year and all I need to know is the name of the council that you will be electing at the next set of elections in 2015 (for England), 2016 (Scotland and Wales).

Harry Hayfield


Are we reaching a tipping point for Nick Clegg’s leadership?

April 15th, 2014

One of the constants in this parliament is each May, in the local elections, the Lib Dems lose a significant number of councillors and the Lib Dems insouciance to it all. With other parties, it may have triggered speculation about the Leader/a Leadership election. The Lib Dems motto seems to be “Keep Calm and Carry On”

I suspect this year the Lib Dem response is going to be different to another night of bad results, as this cycle of elections features a nationwide election, The European Parliament Elections.

If you look at the above graph, the Tories have seen a slight recovery in the last year, but their coalition partners have not, which must be galling for the Lib Dems. The current polling is pretty dire for the LDs, with them polling around 7 or 8 per cent with a lot of pollsters.

On inspection of the Guardian ICM Euro poll, table 7 shows more voters are planning to vote Green than Lib Dem (24 to 23). Whilst this is but one poll, the fact it is with ICM, the pollster most favourable to the Lib Dem, finishing fifth behind UKIP and The Greens a year before the General Election will cause the Lib Dems to review  their whole strategy and leadership.

I think it is a distinct possibility that the SNP will have more MEPs than then Lib Dems will have in Great Britain. Those are the things that trigger leadership elections.

Add in Nick Clegg’s poor performance in the debates, particularly the second one, which was meant to be an opportunity for the Lib Dems to do well, the polling showed it was pretty dire for Clegg and the Lib Dems. In hindsight, putting a man with the negative ratings of Clegg against the man with the positive ratings of Farage may have been a blunder. The one saving grace was more people didn’t watch it.

Given the prominence that the Leaders have in general election campaigns, the Lib Dems may conclude thanks Nick, but it is time to move on.

The other interesting aspect is that it may well be in David Cameron’s interests that Nick Clegg is replaced. A more left leaning Lib Dem leader such as Tim Farron or Vince Cable maybe the way to get those 2010 Lib Dems switchers to Labour back, as the block of the electorate is currently of one of the two biggest obstacles to David Cameron remaining in Downing Street post May 2015.

It maybe worth looking at the Lib Dem leader at the next general election market as the value has gone out of the next Lib Dem leader market.   Cable and Farron could represent value, as I think the next Leader will be someone who is perceived to be the left of Nick Clegg. Or back the 3/1 Paddy Power are offering on Clegg not being the Lib Dem leader at the next election. 



CON might have big leads with all voters on best PM and the economy but it’s a different picture with the key swing group

April 15th, 2014

The 2010 LDs now saying LAB are Ed’s most enthusiastic backers

The two big reasons, it is argued, why Labour should not put place too much confidence in current poll ratings are Ed’s personal poll numbers in relation to Dave and the ongoing Tory lead on the economy. No party, it is said, has ever won power when it is behind on both.

That might be the case though there are very few data points and modern polling is very different with so much more information being made available.

    But surely the voters to look at are not the overall figures but those specifically who have changed their allegiance since 2010. Swing voters in key seats could have a disproprtionate impact on the outcome.

Over the past few days I’ve been trying to find if there is any publishd polling that allows us to examine more closely the 2010 Lib Dems who now say they are voting Labour. band.

The poll data isn’t something that is normally available and you need a very big sample to get meaningful figures. Fortunately there was one poll where this specific information has been extracted and which had a big enough sample – the Lord Ashcroft examination of Lib Dems last year.

The data in the charts is old but it is all that is publicly available. More current private polling has been carried out which I understand is showing a similar picture.

Looking at this poll it is hard to see many of the switchers returning.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble