Archive for July, 2007

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How much damage has Miraj done?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

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    Was Cameron right to reveal the peerage request?

The ongoing saga that is the Tory party took another turn today with the revelation from David Cameron that Ali Miraj, the former parliamentary candidate who had attacked his leader, had only yesterday asked to be made a peer.

My first reaction on hearing this on Radio 4′s Today programme was to think that Cameron had made a big error. But now I’m not so sure. I thought that Miraj came off worse to Cameron in the bulletin clips and looked like someone who was taking revenge because his ambition had been thwarted.

Alas it will be some time before we find out what the public reaction is. After today’s two surveys we are about to enter a polling famine with perhaps only two to three surveys appearing during the month and then in a few weeks time.

Whatever it has at least kept politics in the headlines as we enter the silly season and when you produce a blog like this that is to be welcomed!

If you want to bet on Cameron’s survival this appears to be the best market.

Mike Smithson



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Has the Brown bounce run out of steam?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

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    And bleak news for the Lib Dems from Populus and CR

There are still lots of smiling Gordons to illustrate our main article this morning but not quite on the same scale as recent polls have suggested. The surveys are from two pollsters who have hardly figured as successive YouGov and ICM polls have reported big leads for Labour in the past three weeks.

Populus in the Times has with comparisons on its last poll at the start of the month CON 33% (-1): LAB 39% (+2): LD 15% (-3)

Communicate Research in the Independent has compared with its last survey carried out before Gordon moved into Number 10 CON 34% (-3): LAB 37% (+5): LD 16% (-2)

Both pollsters operate in a similar manner. Both use the telephone and very often their fieldwork is carried out by ICM; both use past vote weighting to ensure politically balanced samples and both give a value to voting intention responses based on how likely it is that respondents say they will vote.

Compared with ICM Populus operate a past vote weighting formula that is slightly more favourable to Labour. So if today’s survey had used ICM weightings my back of an envelope calculation suggests that we would be seeing a 4% or 5% Labour lead.

A key factor in the CR poll is that just 47% of Labour supporters said they were “certain to vote” compared with 64% of Tories and 53% of the Lib Dems. As far as I can see the Labour proportion of “certains” is the lowest in any CR poll this year. At the end of April, just before the local elections, the pollster found that 67% of Labour supporters were in the “certain” category.

    So while Labour has expanded significantly its overall base of support since Gordon came the newer supporters might be less certain of their intention – suggesting volatility

There will of course be comparisons with the YouGov poll in Friday which had Gord’s party 9% ahead. The internet pollster does not weight by whether people say they are certain to vote and this possibly explains why its lead is so much larger.

The big losers this morning are undoubtedly the Lib Dems who have seen drops in their shares from both firms – further confirmation that a number of Labour supporters are returning home now that Tony Blair is not leading them.

These new numbers should slightly ease the pressure on Cameron and my guess will make a 2007 general election less likely. The range of general election betting markets is here.

Mike Smithson



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Could Gordon torpedo the Tory EU lifeboat?

Monday, July 30th, 2007

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    Where would Cameron stand if the EU referendum issue was closed down?

One of the most brilliant moves by Tony Blair was his amazing U-turn in April 2004 on having a referendum on the EU constitution. For in one short announcement he completely undermined the Tory campaign for the Euro Election seven weeks hence. The demand for a referendum had been Michael Howard’s device of uniting the Tories on the contentious EU issue.

At a stroke Blair had taken away Howard’s protection and this in many ways helped open the UKIP split. The only problem for Blair was the referendum commitment but, lucky beggar that he was, the French turned it down in May 2005 effectively killing the new constitution stone dead.

    Now we don’t have an constitution but a proposed new treaty which provides the same unifying policy for Cameron that Howard thought he was enjoying.

The polls are on the Tories side on this one. YouGov reported on Friday a 58%-17% split on supporting the referendum idea. Cameron will, no doubt, use this as his major theme as he seeks to re-establish his authority at the Tory conference in October.

Unlike most other Tory policies which Gordon Brown has stolen – including the border police last week – the new PM has continued to oppose a referendum and dealt with Cameron’s points on this at the last PMQs by saying “I see we are back to the old agenda”.

But what if Brown himself decided to change his mind and to oppose the Treaty – would that torpedo Tories?

Bruce Anderson raises this possibility in today’s Independent “…Were he to say that, after examining the constitutional text in detail, he finds himself unable to recommend it to Parliament, it would be hard to know whose teeth were grinding the loudest: Nicolas Sarkozy’s, Angela Merkel’s, or the Tory party’s. Shooting the European fox would be much easier than banning fox-hunting. It would also please Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre, the editor of the Daily Mail.”

If Tony got away with it three years ago what’s to say that Gordon is not going to follow suit?

Mike Smithson



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Could Lembit solve Ming’s London problem?

Monday, July 30th, 2007

    Is this the man to take on Boris and Ken?

lembit cheekie girls.JPGWhile all the focus has been on Cameron’s poll ratings little attention has been paid to Ming Campbell’s position. Last Friday’s YouGov poll had Lib Dem supporters saying by 54% – 24% that he should be replaced by someone younger.

On the list of Ming’s current problems is next May’s London mayoral election and finding a candidate who’ll manage to get noticed amidst all the media focus on Ken and Boris. A disaster for the LDs next May in London is going to put further pressure on his leadership.

Who can they choose who has what it takes to get more than a rare look-in when the media are likely to be obsessed with Johnson-Livingstone confrontation?

Until the Boris as candidate notion emerged Ming’s party could take comfort from the problems David Cameron was having finding someone to be the Tory flag carrier. But now that has all changed and the party needs someone good with electoral appeal to be in place very quickly.

A characteristic of this election is that it is very personal and in the last battle in 2004 about one in four of the voters who had supported the Lib Dems in the London Authority elections switched to Ken for the mayoral. With two high profile candidates in the frame for the main parties you could see even more seepage of the Lib Dem vote.

One possibility that is being talked about within the party is Lembit Opik who is eloquent, great with the media and has what appears to be a main requirement for the role – a colourful reputation! Lembit is also hugely ambitious and with no element of self doubt.

But would Lembit run? One factor is that he has got an eye on the next Lib Dem leadership contest and running for mayor would certainly increase his profile amongst the party membership. He might even look more serious when compared with Boris. Lembit might just be tempted.

Mike Smithson

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YouGov boost for Boris over Ken?

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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    The Internet pollster has him 6% ahead amongst Londoners?

Tucked away in the detailed data from YouGov’s July poll for the Daily Telegraph is a question about the mayor of London that I have not seen reported anywhere – how Boris and Ken are doing against each other for the London Mayoralty.

For when asked “If you had a vote and had to choose, who would you prefer to see elected as the next Mayor of London, Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone?” those surveyed split Boris 36%: Ken 35%: Dont Know 29%.

But this was, of course, a national poll and the vast bulk of those surveyed don’t live in the capitial will have no vote in May next year. Also it was asking a forced question with no option to say Lib Dem or any other party or candidate. But amongst the Londoners in the survey the split was Boris 46% Ken 40%.

To give an idea of the impact of Boris the same Londoners in the survey gave the following shares on the main voting intention question for the next general election CON 35%: LAB 45%: LD 18%. And to YouGov’s “Cameron’s Tory government against a Brown Labour one” forced choice the Londoners split LAB 48%: CON 36%.

So the pulling power (if that is the best term to use in relation to Boris!) of Johnson in London is quite extraordinary and he appears to be doing so much better than his party.

Johnson, of course, still has to fight a campaign to get the Tory nomination. If he does win, as seems highly likely then it might be worth a bet.

UPDATE: The overall number of people polled was 1837 of which 236 were in London, so the numbers are small.

Mike Smithson



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Does this data make an early election less likely?

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

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    Could Labour be doing less well than the headline figures suggest?

If Gordon is thinking about a 2007 general election then every bit of data will be scrutinised to spot the trends so he can be absolutely sure that Labour would be heading for victory with a comfortable majority.

The above table has been clipped from the full data from ICM’s Guardian poll this week that had Labour’s margin down a point but still with a healthy 6% lead. What it shows is the view of people who said they actually voted last time for one of the three main parties and how their voting intentions have changed since.

Make no mistake – this is not good news for the Tories but it does suggest that the situation might not be quite as bleak as some headlines have suggested.

Cameron’s party’s retained vote proportion of 91% is at its lowest level than in any Guardian ICM poll this year. In January it was at 96%. But the Tories are still picking up more Labour and Lib Dem 2005 voters than they are losing so that overall amongst this group they are up.

Labour is doing substantially better on these figures than in any other Guardian ICM poll this year but it is still a net loser amongst 2005 voters

The Lib Dem retention figure is bigger than it has been in other ICM Guardian polls this year but still, overall, it is a net loser.

The big caveat about taking this data is that it is not the full sample. It only includes those who said they voted for the three main parties and does not take into account those who voted for SNP, PC, UKIP, Green or any other party at the last election. It also does not include those who for whatever reason did not vote in 2005 but intend to do so next time.

But you are looking at the intentions of those who said they were in the 61% of the electorate that actually voted in May 2005.

This week two pollsters who have not figured much since Gordon Brown became prime minister will be publishing results. The Independent’s Communicate Research has not carried out a survey since before the succession of Gordon while Populus for the Times just had the poll taken during the first weekend afterwards and which had a 3% Labour lead. These two follow a fairly similar approach to ICM.

Since Gordon came to power there have been four ICM polls, three from YouGov, one from Ipsos-Mori and the one from Populus. It will be good to get a different view.

Election date betting is here with 2007 now down to 4/1. In my betting I am now reducing my spread position on the number of weeks until the general election.

Mike Smithson



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Would the Tories really do better with Hague?

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

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    Assessing the alternatives to Cameron: 1. Hague

Ths is the first in a series of articles in which I will look at the possible alternatives to David Cameron should, for whatever reason the party find itself choosing another leader.

This is something that I don’t think is likely to happen but it just might. The potential of several figures will be examined before I reveal the identity of the person I have good reason to believe that Labour most fears.

And that person is definitely not the former leader and current shadow foreign secretary, William Hague. His claim has been reinforced by an article from the founder of YouGov and Jeffrey Archer’s former campaign manager, Stephan Shakespeare. He suggested that Rupert Murdoch had decided that he wanted Hague back in the charge and his media outlets might promote such a line.

    I don’t buy this. During the recent troubled weeks Cameron has been getting reasonable support from the Sun and its editorial after this week’s PMQs must have been encouraging

If Brown continues to oppose an EU referendum he could see increasing hostility.

The reason why Hague would be a disastrous choice for the Tories is that Labour would be able to paint it as a return to the past. Cameron has shown that he can secure broader appeal for his party which is vital if any progress is to be made. Because Hague’s been there before it would be much harder for him to be seen as a change figure.

Quite simply Hague has got too much baggage. My guess is that Hague, who was very bruised by the 2001 election knows this and would not want to submit himself to the experience again.

Mike Smithson



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Sean Fear’s Friday slot

Friday, July 27th, 2007

    Can Labour Retain the South?

I wrote some months ago that the Conservatives could not win a working majority without significantly increasing their presence in the North of England. Conversely, Labour cannot retain a working majority without holding onto a significant number of seats in London and the South of England, particularly the South East. It was Tony Blair’s particular skill to be able to win over large numbers of affluent Conservative voters in the South, enabling Labour to win seats it had never held before.

Following the boundary changes, according to Anthony Wells, there will be 29 seats with Labour MPs, where the party’s percentage majority over the Conservatives is 3% or less. These include 11 seats that have notional Conservative majorities, as a result of the changes. Some commentators consider that a number of these remain notionally Labour seats, but all are agreed that the boundary changes have not been helpful to Labour in these seats. In addition, another 4 Labour seats are vulnerable to a similar swing to the Liberal Democrats. Were they all to fall, then Labour would be left without an overall majority.

Out of these 33 seats, 21 are located in London and the South of England. Of those, 14 have Labour leads of under 2% (including notional Conservative leads). In all but two of these, Hastings and Rye and Islington South, Labour have performed very poorly in recent local elections. Labour could retain an overall majority, even if it were to lose all of these Southern marginal seats, but it would be such a small majority as to call into question Gordon Brown’s ability to govern for a full term.

The history of John Major’s last administration suggests that it is better for a government to lose an election outright, than to hold on to power with a very small majority and see its authority sapped through endless backbench rebellions and defeats.

David Cameron seems to appeal to Southern voters far better than to voters in the North and Scotland. Were the overall vote shares of the parties to be largely unchanged at the next election, Labour’s majority would probably fall quite significantly, were the Conservatives to put on votes in the South, and lose them in the North, because the Conservatives have far fewer marginal seats in the North and Scotland than Labour has in the South.

Gordon Brown has demonstrated over the past couple of months that he is no fool. He will be well aware of his party’s vulnerability in the South, and will make every effort to retain these vital seats.

Last night, there was just one by-election in Powys CC, Grungog. Liberal Democrat 234, Independent 143, Independent 98, Conservative 95. Liberal Democrat hold.

Sean Fear is a London Tory