Archive for the 'About the site' Category


Announcing PB’s General Election night event + today’s Populus poll

Friday, April 17th, 2015

Finborough Arms   Google Maps

2200-0600 May 7th 2015 – Finborough Arms Kensington

This is from Jeff Bell who used to post as Stonch.

Kensington and Chelsea have now granted me and all night licence for the Finborough on May 7th so I can go ahead with an election all-nighter.

The event will be ticket only from 10pm when polls close (the pub will be open to the public that day from 5pm however). The cost is £15 and that includes tea and coffee, mineral water and some snacks. The bar with extensive range of real ale, craft beer and all the rest will be open all night. The large HD screen is visible from every spot in the bar. We will show BBC coverage.

I’ll be looking to close up at 6am when of course public transport will be operating. For tickets people should email me at Numbers will be limited of course but I don’t expect to have a problem with capacity.”

The address is 118 Finborough Road, Kensington, London SW10 9ED. Thanks to Jeff, Fat Steve and others who have played a part in setting this up. Jeff tells me that there are two good Wifi connections (a primary and a back-up) and all the mobile networks have coverage in the pub. 4G seems to be good across the board.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Some pics from last night’s gathering

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Fat Steve and MikeK
Fat Steve & MikeK

Sunil and Stodge
Sunil & Stodge

Richard N and Antifrank
Richard Nabavi & Antifrank

Maybe because it was mid-week in a new venue but last night’s PB London Gathering didn’t attract the numbers that we have got used to. Still about 20 made the trip to a congenial pub close to Liverpool Street station for what turned out to be a really good evening.

Clearly the the budget and the general election were very much in mind and, as you’d expect, everyone had strong views about what was likely to happen.

Above are three of the pics of regular commenters that I took with my phone.

Thanks again to Fat Steve for organising the event.

Mike Smithson


Marf for Wednesday and a reminder for next week

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015


Reminder: PB gathering 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


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

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

camerondemandstransparency (1)

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