Archive for June, 2005

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Could Cheadle give Charles Kennedy a headache?

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

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    Do the Tories stand any chance of wininng?

The mood amongst Liberal Democrats at the PB.C party at the weekend was that defending the Cheadle by-election a fortnight today might be a tougher challenge than the current Betfair price might suggest. There are a number of issues:-

Will Labour supporters switch?
With a Lib Dem majority in 2001 of just 33 votes Cheadle was right at the top of the Tory hit list and this put the squeeze on Labour which saw its share drop from 14% four years ago to 8.8% on May 5th. Will these voters do the same again? A factor is that there’s no love lost between party activists in that part of South Manchester after Lib Dems took neighbouring Withington in a bitter contest in May.

What does South Staffs say about Tory turnout? Any Lib Dem hope that Tories might be less keen to turn out because of the ructions over the party leadership was knocked on the head by their increased majority and vote share in last week’s South Staffordshire ballot. Also the underlying figures in the opinion polls show that the Tory vote nationally is holding up – something that did not happen after the 1997 and 2001 landslides.

Will UKIP’s withdrawal from the race have an impact? Although the anti-EU party got less than 500 votes on May 5th UKIP had the potential to eat into the Tory vote at the by-election. They won’t be standing and if the vote’s tight then where the UKIP hundreds go could be crucial.

Will the postal voters turnout? Almost all the 8,000+ electors who applied for postal votes will still be on the list and in a by-election situation the parties will do more than they did on May 5th to ensure that these electors vote. At the General Election there was a marked reluctance in the post-Birmingham context to get involved after the postal ballots had arrived. Many of the 8,000 were secured through the Tory pre-election direct marketing campaign.

Although it’s hard to see the Lib Dems being beaten the current price of 2/15 offers no value.

Mike Smithson



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Who’ll win the ID cards shoot-out?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

    Will the bill give David Davis a chance to shine against Clarke?

With about 20 Labour MPs rebelling in last night’s second reading vote on the ID cards bill the betting exchange, Betfair has opened a market on whether the Government will get the legislation on the statute book during this session of Parliament.

This is the first time that I can recall that gamblers have been able to have a punt on a specific piece of legislation although so far there’s almost no liquidity in the market and the options are very limited. Under the terms of the bet the bill has to become law during this session which means, effectively, by October or November next year.

Given that this is such a flagship piece of legislation that has been introduced right at the start of the session there is plenty of parliamentary time available. Although there will be many concessions and the bill is likely to have a tough time in the House of Lords it is hard to see it going down completely within the time-scale.

    From a betting perspective the real interest might be how the Tory front-runner, David Davis, performs.

For as Shadow Home Secretary he is leading the fight against the bill and critics and supporters within the party will be watching carefully to see how he handles himself. Will it help or hinder his chances of becoming Tory leader for which he is currenty 1/2 favourite.

If Davis cannot make the most of a parliamentary situation where there’s huge opposition on the Labour benches then the doubts might grow. On the other hand his contest with Charles Clarke gives him a great opportunity to shine.

Mike Smithson



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The funny mathematics at ICM

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

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    Have people really forgotten how they voted already

In their latest poll ICM had Labour with a 7% lead compared with the 3% that real voters gave the party in the election seven weeks earlier. Fine you might conclude – the ructions over the leadership are clearly causing problems. However from the detailed data from the survey, now out, it’s possible to draw a different conclusion.

  • More people said they would vote Tory now than told the interviewers that they voted for the party at the General Election
  • Fewer people said they would vote Labour than told the pollster had voted for the party on May 5th
  • Fewer people said they would vote Lib Dem than said they had gone with the party at the General Election.
  • On May 5th, as we all know, the vote split in Great Britain was LAB 36.2%: CON 33.2%: LD 22.7%. Yet from my mathematics it seems that ICM, was working on a split of LAB 38.1%: CON 31.1%: LD 22.25%. when doing the calculations for its latest survey.

    The challenge for any phone pollster is that it takes 5-6,000 unsolicited randomised phone calls to find 1,000 people who are ready to be be surveyed and those that do invariably are more pro-Labour than the population as a whole. This problem is not new – it’s just that those who respond to such calls tend to be this way.

    So to ensure that their samples are representative ICM and other pollsters do some complex mathematics – they weight the data in accordance with what happened at the election and then make an assumption that a proportion have forgotten what they did.

      And for reasons that I cannot fathom ICM seem to think that even after this short time there’s a big difference between the number of people saying they voted Labour and those that actually did do.

    The notion of interviewees overstating past vote intention for Labour might have been correct in the aftermath of the 1997 and 2001 landslides but I question whether it’s right in the current climate. It will be interesting to see how the other pollsters deal with this.

    Before May 5th I wrote several articles about the phone pollsters’ number crunching and placed a four figure sell spread bet on the Labour vote share which I said was inflated because the markets were believing the pollsters. At the time I said I was “putting my money where my mouth was” and was rewarded with big profits.

    Mike Smithson



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    Could the Tories risk a young leader again?

    Monday, June 27th, 2005

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      Has the Hague experience blighted Cameron’s chances?

    Apart from having gone to Eton – his parent’s decision, one assumes, and not his – the other concern about David Cameron’s candiditure is his age. After the experience of William Hague, who was surely promoted too quickly, there are worries about handing the leadership to someone in their 30s.

    The Howard pattern – going for someone in their 60s – was going in the opposite direction and this might be another factor that could hurt Ken Clarke.

    My current favourite market on the contest is Sporting Index’s BetHilo spread on the age of the next Tory leader. The current spread is 51-53 years which, in many ways, looks a more cost effective way of betting on David Davis than the current best bookie price of 1/2.

    Assuming that the new leader will be in place on November 1st 2005 this is what a £50 a unit spread bet would produce for each of the leading contenders:-

    Ken Clarke born 2nd July 1940 +£600
    Malcolm Rifkind born 21st June 1946 +£300
    David Davis born 23rd December 1948 +£200
    Andrew Lansley 11 December 1956 -£250
    Liam Fox born 22nd September 1961 -£350
    David Cameron born 9th October 1966 -£700

    So a BUY bet gives you Clarke, Davis and Rifkind while with a sell bet you are on Lansley, Fox and Cameron and your winnings or losses will be determined by the actual age of Michael Howard’s successor when the transition takes place.

    My sense is that the party will go for an old ‘un rather than a young ‘un and the buy bet might produce a good return.

    Mike Smithson



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    Revealed – some of the faces behind the names

    Monday, June 27th, 2005

    A full round up of pictures from the party is available at the site of Lucille de Villiers - the fiance of my son Robert and the designer of the Politicalbetting masthead.

    I’m having some problems putting them on this site but this is my favourite – Sophia and Graham seeing each other’s point of view!

    This has Book-Value and Robert in the foreground with Augustus Carp and Icarus at the bar.

    In this one TomThumb (pink shirt) talks with Valerie while Icarus is still at the bar.

    This is the famous Tabman – the site’s most prolific contributor with more than 3,000 posts.

    No Politicalbetting gathering could be complete without Rik Willis – Tory candidate at Sutton & Cheam who revealed at the party that many years ago he had been a member of the SDP.

    The view of almost all those who were there was that we should do it again which we will.

    Thanks to Lucille for the pictures, Book-Value for organising the event and IG Index and others for their sponsorship.

    Mike Smithson



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    Will the party talk be about parties?

    Saturday, June 25th, 2005

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      The faces behind the names – all revealed tonight!

    With Politicalbetting users gathering in London this evening for their post-General Election party there can be little doubt that the focus of discussion will be the South Staffordshire result.

    Although nobody doubted that the Tories were going to win very few election-watchers stuck their necks out to forecast that Patrick Cormack would have been returned with an increased majority. Before Thursday the view of many, including me, was that this was a remarkably tough test for the Tories particularly because of the strength of UKIP there in the Euro elections last year and the fact that the EU has moved up the political agenda.

    Yet the UKIP share did get into double figures while at the same time the Tory share exceeded what happened in 2001 and what the national swing from May 5th would have indicated.

      Has there ever been an election where both the UKIP and Tory vote shares have risen?

    This was going to be tough for Labour because there was no risk of the Tories forming a government – the key message that got voters out at the General Election. But what was surprising was that Tony Blair’s tough stance on the EU, which has huge across the board support, seems to have done his party no good. This was something that many participants in our discussion forums had been predicting yet it did not happen. Why?

    And are there any portents for the Lib Dems – hot favourites in next month’s Cheadle by-election following their poorish performance here? The party came out with a vote share that was lower than they got there in 1992 even though their current national opinion poll ratings are much higher.

    Tonight’s party, at a pub in Belgravia, has been sponsored by IG Index and organised by book_value@hotmail.co.uk. There have also been one or two other donors. Thanks to all and I am really looking forward to meeting many of the people behind the names on the site.

    Mike Smithson



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    So what does the South Staffs result mean?

    Friday, June 24th, 2005

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      Does Cormack’s victory have implications for Cheadle?

    The victory by Patrick Cormack in the delayed South Staffordshire election with an increased majority is very much in line with our first call on the contest on May 24th when we urged users to get on SkyBet’s Labour vote share market which was then offering evens at 30% or less.

    Fortunately Skybet’s withdrawal from the market at the weekend meant that anybody tempted by my forecast that UKIP would eat into the Tory vote did not lose any money. Thank you SkyBet. UKIP did get into double figures but the party must be very disappointed not to have made greater inroads especially at a time when the EU is very much in the news.

      What yesterday’s result underlines is that electors will only come out for Labour to stop the Tories returning to power. When you take that element away, as in the Euro elections last year or in South Staffordshire, then Tony Blair’s party does badly.

    The Lib Dems have always struggled in South Staffordshire and they continued to do so in the latest contest. The inability to spend money as though this was a Westminster by-election prevented any real band-wagon effect.

    The Cheadle contest on July 14th should be totally different because the limit on expenses will be many times more than was available to the parties in South Staffordshire. The one Cheadle betting market has the Lib Dems as 1/10 favourite.

      Against that there’s little doubt that Tory morale will have been boosted enormously by the Cormack victory and this could make the coming by-election closer than the betting odds suggest.

    Mike Smithson



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    Is now the time to bet against Brown?

    Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

      Is his “automatic succession” still a near certainty?

    Yesterday’s little Commons concession over the operation of Gordon Brown’s tax credit system is a timely reminder of what a dangerous a position the Chancellor of the Exchequer holds.

    For although he has had a fairly charmed life until now you cannot assume that things will continue to go well for the politician who gave up his chances of becoming Labour leader at that famous dinner at the Granita restaurant all those years ago. Is Gordon Brown the certainty that the 0.27/1 betting price tag suggests or is there now a case to look for opportunities to bet against him?

      Or put it another way does the price of 100/28 represent good value on Brown NOT being the next Labour leader?

    We have said many times here that we do not like these very long-term markets where you could be locking up your money for months or even years. An exception could be made here because the main Labour leadership market is on the Betfair betting exchange where you can back and lay and where, if you have predicted trends correctly and prices move in the direction that you forecast, then you can get your stake out. Sadly there is very little liqudity on this market at the moment.

    So much of Brown’s future is tied up with the timing of Tony Blair’s departure. When it looked as though he would be out within months, or certainly next year, the price on the Gordon Brown was even tighter – at 1/5. Now we know there will not be a UK referendum on the EU Constitution and the Prime Minister has discovered a new crusade on the reform of EU finances an early change looks much less likely.

      And the longer that Gordon Brown has to wait the greater the chances of something going wrong.

    Will Gordon Brown, when the time to choose does come, still be seen by fellow MPs, Labour’s membership and the trade unions as the overwhelming obvious choice to take the party to a fourth successive General Election victory? There’s enough uncertainty about to make that 100/28 price tag look tempting. The only problem is that there are so few Brown backers about on Betfair that the most you can get on is about £5.

    IDENTITY BORROWING There have been one or two cases recently of users posting using the identity of another regular participant. This is not fair on the person who is being impersonated. We operate the forums without the need to register and where, unless you use phrases words or letter combinations in the spam trap, posters self-publish instantly. Can we keep within the sprit of the site?

    Mike Smithson