Archive for the 'General' Category


Volkswagen – the Lance Armstrong of the global auto-mobile industry

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

BBC News

The scale of the VW scandal is quite breathtaking

Although at the moment this is not directly a political story there are likely to be huge political implications. These will be on top of the financial disturbance to the markets that has started to happen. The dramatic drop in the VW share price already is going to filter through to many areas.

One thing that comes to mind immediately is how come there are apparently much tighter clean air standards in the United States compared within the EU. Is the automobile industry in the EU a more powerful lobby and able to influence the authorities more?

What is going to be done with the 11 million vehicles that are said to have the software? Presumably they are going to be recalled. Given what we know it is possible that the cars will end up being more fuel hungry and perhaps perform less well than before. After all that seem to have been the point for VW and why the deception was necessary.

Will owners of the cars be ready to submit their vehicles to the recall if they think that it could perform worse when they get it back?

The idea of trying to circumvent a test so that it only applies in specific circumstances reminds me very much of Lance Armstrong and what has been prevalent in the world of professional cycling for many years.

One thing’s for sure: the big move to diesel private cars that we’ve seen in the last decade is likely to come to a standstill.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s big news is Blatter and where the story goes from here

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015


Searching for a parallel to 2015

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Westminster twlight

Parallels from the past can never be as neat as those proposing them might like to hope. For starters, any modern comparison for 2015 could never do justice to the SNP’s triumph, and what happens in Scotland over the next five years could dramatically change the Parliamentary arithmetic in 2020. Regardless, let’s see what we can come up with, focussing on the two main parties.

1992 is a very tempting parallel, and probably the one that offers Labour the most hope. The failure of polling (check!) led Labour to think that victory was within its grasp, yet doubts about their leader combined with an economy on the mend ended up delivering the Tories a thin majority. Within five years a New Labour dawn had broken. But to focus on the Tories’ narrow win as a comparator is to miss the significantly worse scale of Labour’s defeat.

So perhaps 1983 is better? A third party (for UKIP, read the Alliance) took chunks out of both major parties’ vote but the net beneficiary was the Conservatives. Once again, an unelectably left-wing leader meant the middle classes deserted Labour. If this is the right parallel then there are another 3 parliaments of Opposition to look forward to. 1979 is even a contender – a return to Conservative majority government forced the underlying left-right tensions within Labour out into the open with disastrous electoral effects. Neither parallel can be written off but the Tories’ position today is nowhere near as strong as it was then.

Less apocalyptically, there’s 1955. After a term of steady-as-she-goes government the Tories improved their position by 23 seats, though in that case it was enough to convert a slim majority into a comfortable one. Happily for the Tories they were able to survive a foreign policy adventure and a change of leader – both of which are definitely on the cards today – to do even better next time.

But all of these examples have assumed that the best parallel must be a Conservative victory. Yet a reverse of 2001 seems the neatest comparison – a first-term opposition retreating to its own comfort zone after years in government, willing the electorate to come to them rather than putting in the hard yards required to persuade them to return. The pro-Tory swing in their own marginal defences this year echoes that achieved by first-time Blairite incumbents 14 years ago.

Choosing 2001 also allows me to tentatively present these leadership parallels:

Thatcher : Blair
Major : Brown
Hague : Miliband
Duncan Smith : Burnham
Howard : Cooper or Balls
Cameron : Jarvis or Kendall

History is not destiny, and all the more so when it’s another party’s history interpreted with plenty of licence, but it might give those intending to install Andy Burnham as Labour leader some reason to pause for thought. “Ed Miliband with a Scouse accent,” according to one unnamed MP – well what was IDS but Hague with posher pronunciation?

If Burnham does win the leadership and subsequently turns into something akin to The Quiet Man mk II, then Labour will have to rethink their policy on regicide. As Nick Bent, defeated Labour candidate in marginal Warrington South, puts it:

Some in our party think that getting rid of a failing leader is a Tory thing to do, and typical of the ‘nasty party’. This sort of irrational hippy nonsense has no place in the Labour party – if we are serious about the values we represent, if we care about the people we represent and we if really think Britain is better off with a Labour government, then we have a moral duty to be a serious contender for victory at every general election. And that requires a winner as a leader.

There’s been much discussion regarding the possibility of establishing a 3 year “break clause” for Labour’s new leader – i.e. requiring them to submit themselves for revalidation in 2018. I think that this would be a mistake as it would inevitably weaken the new leader from the off and take the focus off the policy work required. But the very fact that it has been suggested indicates that many in Labour are worried that they’re about to elect the wrong person, again.

Tissue Price


The general election now the UK’s number one story

Friday, April 10th, 2015

I do like this weekly Tweet from Populus which can put a lot of things into context. Too often those deeply immersed in politics tend to overstate importance of what seem to them to be major developments to the outside world. This brings it down to earth.

At the moment the reference to the election is non-specific – but will we start to see specific issues on the Populus table?

The problem with non-doms is that virtually nobody understands what is being talked about apart from the idea that a group of people are, it is alleged, not paying enough tax.

Good to see the debates in the list.

Next week we have the manifestos and soon the postal voting packs will arrive on electors’ doormats.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


At this stage in 2010 bullish punters pushed the betting to a CON majority of 36 completely in defiance of the polling

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Are CON punters being grossly optimistic yet again?

Last night John Rentoul asked me what had happened in the betting at this stage of the 2010 campaign and I dug up the above – an index that I created and reported regularly on here based on the spread betting and Betfair line prices.

At this stage in the last campaign the Tories had begun to falter in the polls and the established firms had them with leads of 5-7% which pointed to them winning most seats but some way back from an overall majority. This was indeed what happened.

    Yet the polling did not arrest the what turned out to be the grossly over-confident blue mood on the betting markets as the above PB Index shows. The money was piling on an overall majority in spite of the ample polling evidence that this wasn’t going to happen.

I think that that is repeating itself now. The betting is strongly suggesting that the Tories will win most seats even though the polls are showing small but consistent LAB leads

Apart from the Ashcroft weekly poll, which hasn’t had Miliband’s party ahead this year, there’s a pretty consistent pattern from the others. Even with LAB’s Scottish problems they’ve got at least a 50-50 chance of beating the Tories on seats.

It appears that the mood is driven by a rock solid conviction that when voters are presented with the possibility of Ed Miliband becoming PM they will shy away.

Maybe they will but there’s nothing in the polling to support that at the moment. I was struck by yesterday’s ComRes finding that just 12% said that the key factor in voting choice is which party leader will make best PM.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Betfair punters rate Tory chances of an overall majority as being higher than a LAB but think that Labour will win more seats

Sunday, January 11th, 2015

But LAB to win most seats still marginal favourite

The big conclusion is that it’s going to be very tight


Extraordinary and moving pictures from Paris

Sunday, January 11th, 2015


Forget PMQ reactions – the big story this afternoon is the killing in Paris

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015