Archive for August, 2009

h1

Could Gord pull off another conference coup?

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Why I’m not risking any cash at the moment?

Over the past four months I have studiously avoided the spread betting markets on the number of seats each of the parties will get at the next election – something that’s felt very strange because for years this has been my main betting arena.

My Labour sell and Lib Dem buy contracts have been closed down at reasonable profits as I have waited to see how things look in for the post conference season in mid-October. For so much can happen at this time of year.

Who forgets how gloomy things looked for Mr. Brown twelve months ago. The polls, see here, were even worse for Labour than they are at the moment culminating in the September 2008 Ipsos-MORI survey that had CON 52: LAB 24: LD 12.

Then we had the Lehmans collapse followed a week or so later by Gordon Brown’s speech to the Labour conference in which his comment about now “being no time for a novice” seemed to hit home against both David Miliband and David Cameron. By the end of November one poll had Labour just one point behind suggesting the possibility of a fourth Labour majority government.

Could Brown pull of something at this year’s Labour conference in Brighton? Certainly if there is no move on the leadership then Labour will unite round the PM. And don’t under-estimate Brown when he’s doing set-pieces especially when they are as important as this.

What will matter are not the immediate post-speech polls but the ones that are carried out a week or so after the Tories have finished their gathering in Manchester.

I still think that the Tories are on their way to a big victory – but at the moment I’m not risking any cash on it.

Mike Smithson



h1

Labour back to the mid-20s with YouGov

Monday, August 31st, 2009


CON 42 (nc) LAB 26 (-2) LD 18 (nc)

So all the August polls are in the same territory

Whether or not there’s a big effort at the Daily Telegraph to get us to buy printed copies of their paper I do not know but their August YouGov poll is now out and is not online.

The figures are as above with the changes on the Sunday Times YouGov poll – the last from the pollster – in mid-August. Then a 28% Labour share was the biggest from any of the firms and might have been giving Brown Central some extra hope.

Well although the latest changes are well in line with the margin of error the 2 point slip be a disappointment to them while being an extra boost for the Tories. This is how the latest polls from all the major firms are lining up:-

YouGov – CON 42: LAB 26: LD 18

MORI – CON 43: LAB 26: LD 17

ICM – CON 41: LAB 25: LD 19

ComRes – CON 41: LAB 24: LD 18

All three main parties are within a very narrow range with each of the surveys and the differences are all within the margin of error. There hasn’t been a Populus poll this month and we might be seeing another ComRes poll tonight.

A factor in all the polls is that the total for “others” has not fallen back as sharply as many, including me, were predicting after the June 4th Euro Elections. Will support for these parties – UKIP, the Greens and the BNP – decline as we get closer to polling day? If not what will the impact be?

Given what ICM boss, Nick Sparrow, was saying here last week about August polls ahead of general elections then could these shares be a reflection of the actual result?

Mike Smithson



h1

Could Jack Straw himself be behind these stories?

Monday, August 31st, 2009


Times

How close will the Megrahi case get to Mr. Brown??

This is the key extract from this morning’s main lead in the Times that follows on from the leaked letter in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

“Gordon Brown was dragged into the centre of the row over the early release of the Lockerbie bomber last night after it emerged that a key decision that could have paved the way for the terrorist to serve his sentence in Libya was approved by Downing Street.

A source close to Jack Straw told The Times that the move to include Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi in a prisoner transfer agreement in 2007 was a government decision and was not made at the sole discretion of the Justice Secretary. “It wasn’t just Jack who decided this. It was a Government decision. Jack did not act unilaterally.”

The term “a source close to.. “ is often code about the source of the story itself. If it’s not the justice secretary, Jack Straw, himself is this coming out with the minister’s knowledge and tacit approval? I have absolutely no idea but the main beneficiary of this disclosure would see to be Straw.

We cannot rule out the possibility, of course, that somebody else might be setting him up?

Why doesn’t Brown Central follow the old adage – “It all else fails try the truth”? It might be simpler in the long run.

Mike Smithson



h1

LDP out in Japan’s political earthquake

Sunday, August 30th, 2009


Asahi.com

Hatoyama will be next PM, DPJ has majority on its own

The results from Japan’s general election are not quite complete, but what is clear is that the voters have delivered an earthquake to the ruling LDP, which has governed the country for almost all of the last 50 years. The DPJ has confirmed that it will lead a coalition including the Social Democrats and the People’s New Party, despite the fact that it will have about 70 more seats on its own than are needed for a majority.

The Japanese polls (some with samples of over 100,000!) have proved reasonably accurate, and although there were large numbers of undecideds in the figures, these have not broken in favour of the LDP – the country has voted overwhelmingly and decisively for change. The DPJ’s manifesto (something of a novelty in Japan) has been seen as having contributed to their success, while on issues of high salience to the voters, the DPJ was comfortably preferred.

Yukio Hatoyama is expected to be confirmed as the new Prime Minister in a session of the Diet in mid-September, and it’s thought that the new Finance Minister may be 77 year-old Fujii Hirohisa, who has been persuaded to come out of retirement, while ex-leader Ozawa, who quit after a corruption scandal earlier this year, may become the party’s Secretary-General, with some speculation that he will be in a “string-pulling” Mandelson-type role.

For the LDP, it has been a 1997-style rout, with some big names losing their seats, including Finance Minister Yosano, and 2008 leadership contender Yuriko Koike, although outgoing PM Taro Aso and former PMs Mori, Abe, and Fukuda look to have held on, although Kaifu, PM in the early 1990s, looks to have lost.

By far and away the best blog I have seen on Japan is Observing Japan, which is a must-read for anyone following the country – although author Tobias Harris has described new PM Hatoyama as the DPJ’s weakest link. This really is a sea-change for Japan, and we now wait to see how the new DPJ government conducts itself, and what will happen to the once-mighty LDP after this cataclysmic defeat.

Double Carpet

Editor’s Note – congratulations to David Herdson, who currently leads the Japan Election Game.



h1

Would Cameron have done a similar Gaddafi deal?

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Aren’t dirty deals sometimes necessary?

The Tories, quite rightly in political terms, are trying to squeeze as much as possible from the latest revelations suggesting that the Lockerbie bomber’s release was one of the prices that the Labour government seems to have been prepared to pay as part of an oil deal with the Libyans.

But what would a Cameron government have done in such a situation? Would it, in the interests of ensuring energy supplies, have followed exactly the same thinking as went on within the Labour government two years ago?

My guess is that a Tory government would have acted in the same way.

Where I think that Labour is going wrong here is in trying to cover up what has happened and by hiding behind the Scottish dimension. Why not come out and say that the paramount objective was energy and the need to open up new areas? A reference to Russia’s aggressive energy strategy would underline the point.

What’s becoming clear is that the truth will out – why not get in with their explanation first?

Mike Smithson



h1

Has Gord won the Afghan visit battle?

Sunday, August 30th, 2009


Mail

But will he lose the post-visit PR war?

There’s an interesting angle on Brown’s surprise trip to Afghanistan in the Mail on Sunday this morning which has all the potential to blow up into a big incident.

According to the paper the Tory leader was forced to call off a trip to the country after discovering that the PM had beaten him to it.

The report goes on: “The Tory leader scrapped his own visit – which has been in his diary since July – to avoid an unseemly cat-and-mouse game and wasting overstretched military resources. Unbeknown to the Tories, Mr Cameron’s plans were highlighted in No10’s weekly ‘grid’ – a confidential Whitehall spin doctors’ guide to key political events designed to help Labour win the propaganda war…”

With the general election only months away at the very most every action of the two leaders will be subject to the most intense scrutiny. Why for instance had Cameron planned to go?

Brown’s problem here is that he’s got form over visits of this kind as we saw with his surprise trip to Iraq on the day of Cameron’s conference speech in October 2007. This means that the most negative interpretations are placed on his actions however honourable in intent they might have been.

I’ve got a feeling that this will develop.

Mike Smithson



h1

What’s this going to do to the Megrahi debate?

Saturday, August 29th, 2009


Sunday Times

Was it a “murky” deal for oil after all?

The main lead in the Sunday Times tomorrow looks set to take the Megrahi release debate into new territory for the paper says it has leaked ministerial letters suggesting this was all about an oil deal with Libya.

This is how the story starts: “The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.”

If this is as the story reports then it could be explosive for both the Scottish and British governments.

Polling news: The August MORI is out in the Observer and has with changes on last time COM 43 (+3): LANB 26 (+1): LD 17 (-31) – so in line with almost every poll in August with changes in line with the margin or error.

Mike Smithson



h1

Is this going to win Brown back any votes?

Saturday, August 29th, 2009


BBC online

Won’t his trip just highlight the problems?

The big political story this afternoon is the surprise trip by Gordon Brown to Afghanistan and the suggestions that the scale of the British deployment might have to be increased.

Fine – but what’s the political point at a time when the opinion polls have shown increasing scepticism amongst voters to the whole undertaking?

Such a visit over such a distance is a massive undertaking and there really has to be a purpose beyond the obviously political desire to grab some headlines.

It will be recalled that just under two years ago Brown’s surprise trip to Iraq at the time of the Tory party conference was one of the factors that started the spectacular collapse by Labour that has continued.

The danger is that Brown’s travel might start to be seen as a substitute for policy. After all he has been there often enough.

  • This evening I’m taking part in a panel discussion with Anthony Wells and Ian Dale on the internet’s impact on politics which is being held at a conference of political dons in Glasgow. At least one poll is expected – I’ll cover that when I get back.
  • Mike Smithson