Archive for April, 2009

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Spread punters continue to dump Labour

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

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Sporting Index Spread Markets

At what stage will Labour bottom out?

The above are the latest Commons seats spread prices from SportingIndex which have seen further movement away from Labour and an advance for the Lib Dems. Brown’s party is now at its lowest ever level following the latest two seat shift.

On the other main market, Extrabet, the numbers are broadly the same – the only difference being the Lib Dem spread which is at 46 – 49 seats.

Only the Tory level has remained static and my guess is that we won’t see much movement there until new polls come out.

Since the budget we have only had ComRes and YouGov surveys and I would really like to see an ICM or a Populus just to provide reinforcement that they are in the same territory.

On a personal level my Labour sell and Lib Dem buy positions have now moved enough to move than cover the difference between the buy and sell price so, theoretically at least, I could close them down now and make a profit.

Mike Smithson



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What if Charles Clarke’s patience finally snaps?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

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Could he be the stalking horse to bring Brown down?

LabourHome is carrying a piece suggesting that “former Cabinet Minister is rumoured to be prepared to stand as a stalking horse candidate to trigger a leadership election”

Clarke has always been one of Brown’s most furious Labour party critics and quite often when “former cabinet minsters” are quoted on Brown-related issues the assumption is that it’s the former home secretary. Certainly Clarke has never been at the top of Gord’s Christmas card list.

Iain Dale, meanwhile has his own angle on this reporting ..a very reputable Labour parliamentary source claims that “Gordon is hating being Prime Minister.”

Perhaps the most dangerous assumption we can make is that things will go on as they are. In the current febrile atmosphere something might just snap.

Mike Smithson



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Should Clegg have shared his big moment?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

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Click here to watch

Was it a mistake to allow Dave to muscle in?

Some interesting debate on the previous thread over whether Nick Clegg was right to allow Cameron to be part of his big moment in the immediate aftermath of yesterday afternoon’s vote.

Ben Brogan in his Telegraph blog was no doubt about its significance and ran a piece under the heading “A picture that changes politics?”. He went on about Clegg: “.. His willingness to share the glory with Dave shows political smarts and a keen eye for an irresistible photo. We are still a long way from coalition politics, but the more the polls point to a hung Parliament, the more today will take on significance”

Labour is far less enthusiastic for the idea of a more united opposition must add further to the jitters of MPs. Tom Harris blogs under the headline “Just how much of a mug is Nick Clegg?” – an approach that suggests that he for one senses the real danger of the others ganging up on his party.

For in electoral terms this sends out messages to several different segments of voters that could affect the outcome in key marginals.

In LAB>CON seats it could encourage more Lib Dems to vote tactically to get Labour out while at the same time causing those considering switching to Labour to think twice.

In LD>CON seats it might make the Lib Dem defences a tad easier. It’s going to be a bit harder for the Tories to claim that a vote for Clegg’s party is a vote for Brown.

In LAB>LD contests it might encourage more Tory tactical voting but it could also make Labour supporters more determined to turn-out.

The pictures from yesterday are going to appear time and time again in all sorts of different forms. You can see them being featured in Tory leaflets in marginal Labour seats as well as in LD leaflets where Clegg’s party is the main challenger.

So should Clegg have shared the moment? Yes – his party might well end up with a handful more seats than it was expecting – although there’s a danger that it’s national vote share will decline.

General Election constituency betting

Mike Smithson



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Has John Rentoul got this one right?

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

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The Independent

Is it really all over over for Gord?

With the Prime Minister due to face another difficult vote in the commons let’s spare a thought this morning for the person who will be preparing the daily press summary at Number 10 for Gordon Brown.

For even though BBC News regarded the defeat on the Ghurkas issue as a minor down-bulletin story yesterday (a disgrace showing an inept sense of news priorities which opens them up to a charge of bias) it’s splashed over many of the front pages – aided no doubt by the photogenic presence of Joanna Lumley.

One particularly scathing attack is John Rentoul’s column in the Independent – something that could make grim reading for a PM who is notoriously sensitive about criticism – for it goes beyond the standard analysis and describes in cruel detail how he was being laughed at.

Rentoul, a Blair biographer and certainly no friend of the Brownites, is merciless in his description and what makes it so strong is that his argument rings so true. It does appear very bad for Brown.

Rentoul writes:“..The Prime Minister has lost his way. He has lost his place in the script. You know it is over when Nick Clegg cuts it as a figure of moral authority, and Brown is reduced to making up numbers such as £1.4bn as the cost of allowing all 36,000 Gurkhas the right to live here….Brown has lost the argument about the Gurkhas so comprehensively that David Cameron did not even need to rehearse his Mr Angry act. He did Mr Bipartisan instead, congratulating Clegg for setting the pace on the issue. It was a smart bit of tactical cross-party generosity that diminished Brown further.

No, you know it is over when BBC journalists start interviewing each other about how much the Prime Minister’s “authority” has been reduced. They were at it this week over the withdrawal of Brown’s plan to reform MPs’ expenses. They used to do it to Tony Blair when he was at bay over the cash for honours investigation, but they didn’t laugh at him. Blair was spared the added humiliation of YouTube ridicule.

You know it is over when black is reported as white. When everything is fitted to the template of retreat, disarray and incompetence….”

Rentoul goes on to make the argument he has put before – Labour could stem the expected election losses by switching leader. His personal favourite is Alas Johnson. We have discussed endlessly on PB how this could happen and I do believe that there is something in Rentoul’s thinking. A lot of the Labour polling collapse is down to Brown’s unpopularity and not the party. If he is out of the way then perhaps the outcome would be different.

It’s for this reason that I’ve been quite measured in my spread-betting. I’m a Labour seller at 228 seats but I’m not risking too much just in case there is a different leader.

Mike Smithson



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Could we see a CON-LD pincher movement on Labour?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

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Harry Hayfield asks: Could it be 1997 in reverse?

One of the striking things about Election 1997 was the pincher movement that Labour and the Liberal Democrats performed on the Conservatives as tactical voting happened on a scale never seen before (or as electors knew it “Vote for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservative!”).

Today we saw a pincher movement by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in Westminster which made 55 Labour MP’s vote against the government on the issue of citizenship for Gurkhas and that got me thinking “What if a similar pincher movement happened against Labour at the next election?” and the simple answer would be “1997 in reverse!”

Labour’s majority of 48 on the new boundaries is made up of their 24 most marginal seats but unlike in 1997 when the Conservative’s 27 majority (based on it’s 14 most marginal seats all had Labour as the second placed party) the Conservatives aren’t in second place in all of those top 24. The Lib Dems are second in Rochdale (number 3), the SNP are second in Ochil (number 12) and Plaid Cymru are in second in Arfon (number 15).

If we take the average of the polls in April, it suggests a swing to the Conservatives of 8.7%, so let’s take these Lab defence seats and apply a swing to 8.7% to the Conservatives. Well that nets you a very spectactular 124 net gains (8 more than they need to win power). But hold on a 8.7% swing to Con means a Lab drop of 8.7%, so what happens in seats where the Conservatives are not in second and the Lab vote drops by 8.7%.

Well, the Lib Dems have a few smiles on their faces as they gain 10 seats from Labour, Plaid Cymru gain 2 and the SNP gain 1, which means when you add them all together a total of 137 losses and now when you list these defence seats in their new colours an interesting question arises.

Leicester South (number 75) stays Labour by only a matter of 0.08%, what is to say that with the margin of errors polls have, that wouldn’t go Lib Dem? The same can be said about Liverpool, Wavetree (number 79), Oldham East and Saddleworth (number 89) and Glasgow North (number 103).

Dundee West (number 126) has a Lab majority of 5.86%. Could tactical voting by Conservatives who realise they have no chance of winning to the SNP knock that one down (as could happen in Kilmarnock (number 174) and Linlithgow (number 216) Llanelli (number 183) could also see the same thing happening as well (especially as that’s what lead to Helen Mary Jones winning the Assembly seat in 1999)?

So are we on the verge of a pincher movement to the same (or indeed greater) degree than 1997? It’s beginning to look that way and the longer Brown stays in office as Prime Minister the more likely it’s looking.

Harry Hayfield is an occasional contributor of Guest Slots to PB



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Has Nick Clegg at last found his voice?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

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What are his party’s general election prospects?

This will be a day for the Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, to savour. For in all the time that he’s been leader this is the first occasion when he came out of PMQs as the clear winner.

The anger and ferocity of his attack on Brown for Labour’s inflexible stance on the Ghurka issue hit home on all sides of the house and acted as a good trailer for this afternoon’s debate, on a subject chosen by his party, on the issue. It will also have enhanced his reputation at Westminster and given extra heart to party activists.

All this is important as we head into the general election – for to be seen to be smashing into Labour might help his party’s appeal in the key LD>CON marginal that the Tories are hoping to pick up. It should be remembered that 30 of the top 130 target seats for the Tories are held by Lib Dems where, as I’ve argued, a very different electoral dynamic will exist.

The Lib Dem were always going to be vulnerable to the charge here that they are too close to Labour and in a change election why risk voting for any other party than the main challengers to Brown’s government? Nick Clegg should be thanking Brown for the policy on the Ghurkas.

A key element in many of those LD>CON marginals has been the size of the Labour vote to squeeze. Thus the PoliticsHome marginals poll last year asked a prompted question over what people would do in their specific seats. In the south-west, the survey found that more than one in three Labour voters were prepared to switch to keep the Tories out and this was a key element.

Still it should be said that the PH home survey was forecasting that overall 44 Lib Dems would be returned compared with 62 in May 2005.

The LAB-LD battles are of a different nature and, again, Clegg’s party needs Tories to switch in seats where they are clearly the party to oust Labour. In the past Tory supporters have been more reluctant to vote tactically – will that change? We discussed the other day Brent Central where my money is on Sarah Teather to beat Dawn Butler in the battle between the two current MPs. The 15/8 that I got looks a good price.

Mike Smithson



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The PMQ thread

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Continuation thread as the two leaders clash

I’m not feeling very well today so here is a thread for this lunchtime’s PMQs. Hopefully I’ll be posting normally later.

Mike Smithson



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Could Gord lose his MP expenses gamble?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

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Mail Online

How risky is putting his authority on the line?

Given the backlash from Smeargate, the post-budget poll moves against Labour and the widespread ridicule over his YouTube video you would have thought that the last thing the Prime Minister should be doing at the moment is to put his authority on the line in a commons vote on MP expenses.

Yet that was the message coming out of Number 10 last night in what the Guardian describes as a “raising of the stakes” by Brown “…in the face of a sustained revolt within the Labour party.”

As the paper puts it: “…Brown faced a challenge last night when the cross-party Commons standards and privileges committee announced it would table its own amendment on expenses and allowances during the debate tomorrow..The committee, whose members include five senior Labour MPs…. will propose that the system of MPs’ allowances should be referred to the standards watchdog, Sir Christopher Kelly. He would report in his own time. A yes vote for the committee’s proposals would represent a humiliating rebuff to Brown whose central aim in his now notorious YouTube video – to introduce interim reforms before the summer recess – would collapse.”

What happens if he’s defeated? Given that this seems to be his personal decision there could be serious ramifications.

Is it being far-fetched to suggest that he’s putting his leadership on the line? I don’t know but his whole handling of the issue has opened him up to all sorts of criticism.

A massive problem is that the number of Labour colleagues who think he is an election winner appears to be diminishing – and if MPs think they are heading for defeat what’s the point of doing something that would keep Brown there?

Meanwhile the independent website LabourHome has a thread under the heading “Brown has to go, and soon”. The discussion is not very supportive of the leadership.

William Hill now make Brown the 1/7 favourite to be the first of the three party leaders to step down. You can get 7/2 7/4 that Brown won’t lead Labour at the election. I got bets on both these markets months ago at much better odds.