Archive for the 'About the site' Category


Marf on the murder of Boris Nemtsov and details of the pre-GE15 PB gathering

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

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Date for your Diary March 17th at 7pm

The next PB get-together will take place on Tuesday March 17th from 7pm at the Shooting Star in Middlesex Street. As the map below shows this is just round the corner from our normal venue, Dirty Dicks. We are hoping that this will be less crowded and noisy than the pre-Christmas bash. Thanks to Fat Steve for finding the new venue.

There are also plans for overnight May 7/8 – details soon.

shooting star


PB gathering – Ilkley, Yorkshire: Monday July 7th 2014 starting 6.30pm

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Wharfedale Brewery   The Flying Duck Brew Pub   Church Stret Ilkley (1)
The Flying Duck Ilkley

As has been mentioned several times on the site the next PB get-together will be at the Flying Duck pub in the heart of Ilkley in Yorkshire. It’s in the town centre not far from the station. At that time of the evening on a Monday night it should be reasonably quiet.

At the moment I have no idea who many might be attending – it could be half a dozen or several times that.

The plan is to run it like the Dirty Dicks events in London. We’ll find a corner to meet and see how the evening goes.

I’ve not been to the pub but will be in Ilkley from the Friday beforehand and will check it out.

If those planning to attend could drop me an email with a mobile number on I’ll have some means of contact if there are any late changes. It will also help to have an idea how many will be there.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


PB Euro election competition winner

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Congratulations to Wulfrun_Phil to winning the competition, thanks to everyone who took part, and a big thank you to Mark Hopkins to setting up the website for the entries.

Just a note, on the above picture, I’ve hidden the individual differences for each party column (so not to make the above picture unreadable) the total diff column is the sum of these individual columns.

A link to the spreadsheet with everyone’s entries and rankings is available here.



Remember: Next PB gathering: Friday May 2nd starting at 6.30pm

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Usual location: Dirty Dicks pub opposite Liverpool Street station

Thanks again to Fat Steve for making the arrangements.

h1 Ten years old today and still going strong

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

MS Mug shot

Thank you for your continued support

It was on March 23rd 2004 that PB began – ten years ago today and I thought that this should be something that we should mark and celebrate.

It began simply because I like talking about and making forecasts on electoral outcomes and I wanted a platform where I can could engage with like minded people. My son, Robert, was the catalyst and he’s played a huge part over the past decade handling the technical site from small beginnings. He suggested that I set up a blog and so we did. The domain name was bought for $20 one Sunday evening. Robert’s partner, Lucille, did the early designs.

    At the time there was no plan or any expectation that it would develop. There was also no business model – we hadn’t given any thought to how this would be funded because there was no expectation that it would take off and that we’d incur significant operational costs

The year of 2004 was, of course, a US election year and all the focus at the time was on who the Democratic party would choose to take on George Bush who, with Tony Blair, a year before had launched the invasion of Iraq. In the UK the big forthcoming elections were the London mayoral contest where Ken Livingstone was seeking to be re-elected not as in 2000 as an independent but as the flag carrier for Labour.

There were also the Euro elections where a couple of months later Ukip made its first big mark.

At the time the notion of political blogging was something of a rarity. Then the main media sites had not really embraced this new communication tool and sites like ConservativeHome or Guido did not exist.

Anthony Wells, then working in Michael Howard’s office at the House of Commons, had his own blog but had yet to launch UKPollingReport or even to join YouGov where he is now a senior executive.

At the time online polling was a novelty. YouGov was the new kid on the block and was producing figures which were totally out of line from the other main pollsters and this was one of the preoccupations of the early threads. YouGov were showing constant leads while the other firms had LAB and CON broadly level.

    Within a few weeks the site began to build an audience. There was clearly an appetite for looking at politics from the perspective of the political gambler. Since then it has expanded and continues with its niche role.

For the first three years PB was a part time activity that I did while I was still in full-time employment. Then at the end of 2007 I took early retirement to work full-time.

From quite an early stage we have had gatherings of PBers and it’s been great to meet and build up friendships with regulars.

Our biggest challenge has been dealing with the mass of comments that PB attracts from both a technical and editorial standpoint. The Vanilla system, which has now been going a year, has proved to be robust if quite costly. On moderation a little volunteer team has built up to and I’m pleased we have still managed to make this a bipartisan site.

Keeping PB going 365 days a year would not have been possible without the guest editors – Book Value, Double Carpet (Paul Maggs), Morus (Greg Callus) and TSE – who have managed the site in my absence and allowed me to take holidays. In fact one of the big jokes amongst the team is that whenever I have a break there’s a cabinet resignation or other similar moves.

    I’d like to thank, as well, all those who have made donations from time to time to keep PB going.

It has been pleasing to provide a platform for some excellent writers. Sean Fear was the first to be followed by Henry G Manson, Greg Callus, Paul Maggs, David Herdson and others. It has also been great having Marf’s cartoons.

Quite a few of the 2004 class of PBers are still with us – Sean Fear, Innocent Abroad, Nick Palmer, JackW (whoever he is) to name but a few.

So what about the future? I’ve had in the past a couple of offers to buy the site but this would have meant me working for someone which I didn’t relish. I’m 68 in May and want to enjoy my retirement while my health remains okay and am taking more holidays. But I find it hard to contemplate a total break from PB.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Labour’s Falkirk problems seem to be going over many voters` heads

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Today’s YouGov poll sees no change for either the Dave or Ed in the weekly well/badly ratings which many wrongly describe as approval ratings.

On the specific issue of Ed Miliband’s handling of Falkirk 19‰ say he is doing well while 36% say badly. The biggest grouping, are, however, the don’t knows at 45%.

Given the coverage this is receiving this strikes me as a high proportion. The answer perhaps lies in the findings featured above – are people following the story where the chart speaks for itself.

Given the huge effort by CON MPs, and ministers and Mr. Cameron to get mileage out of the issue there’s clearly some way to go.

This looks like a classic Westminster village versus the rest situation. What seems important there is not resonating much elsewhere.

At recent PMQs Dave has made quite a number of ferocious attacks on Ed over the issue and this polling suggests that it is not getting through. Interestingly the segment of voters with the least interest are the ones that will probably matter most – the 2010 LDs.

Mike Smithson


Marf on what we are not allowed to talk about and news of 2 PB gatherings

Friday, November 1st, 2013

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A reminder: Next Dirty Dicks do, November 20th 6.30 pm

Thanks once again to Fat Steve for making the arrangements. The next PB gathering will be at the Dirty Dicks pub just across the road from Liverpool Street Station in London from 1830 on Wednesday November 20th. These have become very much a tradition and a good time is generally had by all.

There’s an area at the back of the pub on the first floor that is semi-reserved for us. Please try to make it if you can,

  • Note SeanT has generously offered to make a contribution to the evening – so get there early to get a free drink.
  • A PB event in Ilkley, Yorkshire: July 8 2014

    David Herdson and I plan to host a PB event in Yorkshire in July next year and initial soundings suggest that it would be popular

    I’m going to be on holiday in the county for the Tour de France which has two Yorkshire stages on July 5th and 6th.

    We haven’t decided on a venue yet but we’ll most likely gather at one of the town’s excellent pubs.

    Ilkely is easily accessible by car and train.

    Mike Smithson

    For the latest polling and political betting news


    Sean Fear – a great loss for the Tories and a great catch for UKIP

    Sunday, September 1st, 2013

    One thing that Sean isn’t is a “fruit-cake”

    On one of the Syrian threads last week long-standing PB regular, Sean Fear, announced that he’d switched from the Tories to UKIP.

    Sean’s relationship with the site is a long one. Back in 2004 he became just about the first regular Tory poster here at a time when the threads were totally dominated dominated by Labour supporters.

    He built up a great reputation for his courtesy, his detailed knowledge of elections and his first hand experience of campaigning going back to his student days. Sean knows what’s involved in winning elections and he’s good at it.

    All of this was was reflected in his comments and in the regular guest spot “Sean Fear on Friday” that appeared on PB for several years.

    He’s also been a councillor and was on the CON list for the Greater London Assembly.

      Facing an election when the ground war could be critical in the marginals the Tories can ill afford to lose someone with Sean’s great commitment and expertise.

    That people of his calibre are switching highlights the challenge facing Cameron as he seeks to remain at Number 10. He’s a big catch for UKIP

    Over the past few years Sean has become a personal friend as well as my solicitor. We have talked politics a lot and this move does not surprise me.

    I don’t know whether Sean harbours parliamentary ambitions but he’d make a good MP.

    Mike Smithson

    For the latest polling and political betting news