Archive for the 'Guest slot' Category


Guest Slot: All publicity is good publicity? Maybe not when Ed Miliband is on TV

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

UK General Elections, we are told have become increasingly presidential. And how each party leader comes across, particularly on Television, is important. Ed Miliband has faced criticism for his style and communication skills – It’s probably fair to comment that he’s not a natural TV performer. But what if it’s slightly worse than that? What if his television appearances have, overall, a slight negative effect on Labour’s vote share in the polls?

We should look at the evidence – What is the effect of Ed Miliband being on Television, overall?

There are 2 parts to this. First, Labour’s vote share in the polls. This is easy to track, and the data is freely available. How do we measure “Ed Miliband Television Time”? This is not obvious, without access to expensive media databases. We can however, use a proxy. It’s clumsy and it’s crude, but it might serve as a guide overall.

Sky News keep their main stories in a searchable archive.

You can search for stories featuring “Miliband” and see how many you get for given day.

Like with this link

We can see how many stories Sky News has archived, searchable by “Miliband”, on a given day.

This generates a fairly “noisy” sample. But if we look at the 3-line summary of each story, we can count the ones that explicitly feature “Miliband” in the summary.

This lets us focus on the stories that feature Ed Miliband prominently, rather then Labour generally. A quick scan of the stories suggests that this might be a useable if crude proxy for “Ed Miliband on Television” – The stories are concentrated at times when Ed Miliband is on the news, either “intentionally” – when he has a big-ticket press conference or announcement – or when he’s naturally part of the story, such as the Falkirk scandal.

It’s only one channel, but Sky News coverage will tend to correlate with coverage from other TV channels. And it’s a written archive, not an actual TV archive, but it will still broadly match TV Coverage. So, we can tabulate Ed Miliband’s high-profile Sky News appearances

Let’s look at the Sun You Gov polling of Labour’s vote share – 4 samples a week.

Every time Ed is reported on Sky News, we’ll give the message a day to sink in, then we’ll look at the You Gov Polling starting in 2 days (You Gov generally poll over 2 days, so we’re looking at the first day of polling, not the publication day).

Our Polls are only available 4 days a week, and many days will show no change in Labour share – So we need to fill in the blanks. We can attribute for every single day, a value “CurrentOrPendingPollChange” – So on any given day, we can say what the next change in the polls will be, when it comes. “Current” if it’s today, pending if it’s the next change.

In the Spreadsheet (click here to view the spreadsheet), we can see the effect on the polling 2 days later.

And of the 80 days that ED was mentioned, the effect on Labours Polling 2 days later was

“Current Or Next Poll Change Positive:” 34

“Current Or Next Poll Change Negative:” 46

So – does this mean anything? It’s not anything like conclusive, but it does add weight to the suggestion that Ed M on television has more often, a negative rather than positive effect on Labour’s share of the vote.

If we accept that (and it’s a big “if”), it must give Labour something to think about with less that a year to the GE.




Guest Slot: Rod Crosby: The bell tolls for Labour and Miliband

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Last week Labour beat the Tories in the local elections by just 1%, according to the Rallings and Thrasher NEV (national equivalent voteshare) calculation. This is the last set of locals before the general election. Is there anything we can divine from this performance?

Yes, it looks like Labour will be soundly defeated next year. The following graph tells the tale (general elections bordered in white).

We see that, going back to 1979, no party with such a minuscule lead has gone on to win. In fact Michael Howard, William Hague and Neil Kinnock all performed better in the local elections than Ed Miliband, but still lost.

The winners, Thatcher, Blair and Cameron, all had leads in excess of 5% in their last local elections as Leader of the Opposition, and had all built consistent and solid leads greater than 15%-20% during the mid-term locals. Miliband’s NEV lead scorecard is pathetic in comparison… -1%, +6%, +4%, +1% …

Taking a more statistically robust regression of the average NEV lead while in Opposition against subsequent General Election performance, Labour are forecast to lose by 8.4% next year, as can be seen in the following graph (the large red blob).

Is this a wild forecast? Hardly. It is broadly in accord with the Lebo and Norpoth PM approval model and Stephen Fisher’s polling model, among others. And as we know, polling ‘crossover’ has come early for Labour, a full year before the election. Barely avoiding third place (in England by a cat’s whisker) in the Euros offers little comfort to Labour. Neither does them underperforming 9 out of 10 of the final polls when it came to real votes cast.

So it seems clear now – the Tories are set to win most votes, probably most seats and have an outside, but not insignificant chance of a majority in 2015.

Rod Crosby


Harry Hayfield: YouGov have had their say, now it is my turn

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Since the start of the year, I have been tracking all the polls that have been published about the Euros and taking sage advice from Mike’s postings about polling companies not prompting for the Greens and taking in account all the discussions about what “An Independence from Europe” may have on UKIP, I have come to the following conclusion. It’s too darn close to call.

European Elections 2014 Forecasts

Based on all the polls, I am having a very hard time separating Labour and UKIP so agree with YouGov that come Sunday night we are in for a humdinger of a night, however I disagree on the number of MEP’s elected

European Elections 2014 Forecasts

I believe that Labour will just have the edge winning 21 MEP’s, the Conservatives will see 20 MEP’s returned and UKIP will have 19 MEP’s elected, but whichever way you look at it the “Party of IN” is going to wish that it was “OUT” with the prospect of not only finishing behind the Greens in terms of share of the vote but also having fewer MEP’s than the Greens.

European Elections 2014 Forecasts

So there we have the forecast both national and by region, in other words a triumph for UKIP (even if they do come second in terms of popular vote), a disaster for the Liberal Democrats and (if these forecasts hold) a bit of a niggle for the mainstream parties and they face an electorate ahead of the general election next year who are liable to say “Push off, you’re all the same!”

Other MEP’s elected: SNP 3 (+1), Greens 3 (+1), Plaid Cymru 1 (n/c), An Independence from Europe 1 (+1)

Harry Hayfield


Guest Slot: Five reasons to bet on Labour winning the Euros this Thursday

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Predicting an election when the three top parties could well end up within three or four points of one and other and in any order of gold, silver and bronze is likely a fool’s errand. But finding value in the betting market before Thursday isn’t.

There’s big reasons for Labour to rightfully worry about UKIP this Thursday (the continued erosion of its blue collar base, UKIP in-roads on Labour-identifying non-voters etc, the immigration issue etc). But there’s also small things that disadvantage UKIP come Thursday and may well make Labour the value bet.

Here’s five of them:

1) ‘The Literal Democrat’ effect: UKIP will lose an unknown number of votes to the decoy not-UKIP party “An Independence from Europe” – a breakaway offshoot of UKIP that will top the ballot paper in all English regions. Combined with the similar styling that will visually indicate ‘UKIP’ to some voters, the advantage of coming first in the alphabetical order of ballots might cost le vrai UKIP as much as a point or two.

2) The Tory revival and Osborne’s budget: the Conservative’s small uptick in the polls and the recapturing of the Tory grey vote from UKIP thanks to Osborne’s pensions reforms may well erode UKIP’s Thursday showing too.

3) Differential turnout: as Mike Smithson has noted, 58% of voters don’t just have Euro elections but locals too. These areas tend to be more urban and Labour than rural and UKIP. What’s more, in London and Manchester and other big cities where Labour councillors actually did well in the 2010 council elections, you have incumbent Labour councillors, well dug-in with strong local machines driving up the Labour vote. Which leads me to…

4) Labour has ground game, UKIP doesn’t: last Saturday alone the Labour Party spoke with 157,000 voters face to face. I’d be surprised if UKIP managed to deliver that many leaflets in a week. In a tight election GOTV makes all the difference.

5) UKIP’s momentum may have broken just in time: whatever the reason (from Romanian remarks or Newark nastiness) the polls have by and large shown a UKIP dip just in time for polling day. For a party that lacks organisation to win, momentum is key. And UKIP’s momentum may have run out just in time for Labour to pip it at the post.

Inevitable caveat time: yes, I know: UKIP were leading in the polls when postal votes were sent out, Labour’s Euros free post went out after UKIP’s, the polls are too close/weird to make too much sense of etc. So of course if UKIP triumph despite these structural disadvantages that will make their success all the richer – and worrying for Labour. But in the meantime, if you want to find value in your last minute betting, here’s where I think it lies.

At the time of writing, the best odds on Labour winning the Euros is 5/2

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts is Deputy General Secretary of the Fabian Society and is the author of ‘Labour’s Next Majority: the 40% strategy

UPDATE – Some more Euro polls out



Do the size of ministers’ majorities matter?

Friday, June 7th, 2013


One of the charms of the Westminster system is that Cabinet ministers still have contact with the electorate through their surgeries and case work. It’s a reality check. In other electoral systems Ministers are not constituency MPs. However the make-up the voters that have the ear of Cabinet and Shadow ministers matters and they’re not always representative.

Earlier this week Patrick O’Flynn at the Express argued how some of the Conservative Party’s current problems related to the fact that hardly any of their Cabinet Ministers weren’t in marginal seats.

In fact only 3 of 24 Conservatives who attend Cabinet have a majority less than 10,000. According to O’Flynn this means that they don’t have the same feel for the concerns of swing voters and end up down electoral cul de sac by spending political time and capital on issues such as ‘gay marriage’ rather than addressing the cost of living. It’s an interesting argument and raises wider questions.

Why would party leaders pick their top team from people who don’t represent the type of seats they need to retain and win? From day one the political advancement game is geared up for those MPs with safe seats. I

f you have to spend every weekend campaigning and being visible in the constituency then that takes you away from raising your profile at think tank events and conferences, speaking at other Constituency Associations or CLPs or having the time to write a pamphlet on this or that, no matter how much you’d be keen to do that.

Tough choices have to be made and most MPs with a small majority will opt for self-preservation over self-advancement.

Reaching the top doesn’t happen overnight but is the product of furious lobbying, schmoozing, self-improvement and hard graft. But what plagues many MP’s doors is the raw electoral risk of losing the seat on your way to the top. The ebb and flow of elections – a 5% swing here, a 3% swing there has wiped out many MP’s promising careers before they’ve begun.

Whereas over half of MPs effectively have a job for life and political longevity is fundamental to success. As your government becomes less popular in office, a minister with a slight majority inevitably becomes a bigger target and potential scalp for opponents.

There are some parallels between from O’Flynn’s analysis of the Tories and with the Labour Party. I can see some of the risks already. As important as the bedroom tax, benefit changes and unemployment are, they’re bigger issues in the poorest areas – those that tend to already return Labour MPs with big majorities.

That’s not to say there isn’t a moral case for Labour raising but that it’s about recognising it’s going to resonate differently. The red team shouldn’t rely on the experiences of their own constituents being enough to drive voters elsewhere back into the party’s bosom. However the parallels aren’t quite the same.

Although Labour Most Shadow Cabinet members have very large majorities – a significant number don’t. Ed Balls has a majority of 1,101. Sadiq Khan 2,524, Ivan Lewis 3,292, Mary Creagh 1,613, Vernon Coaker 1,859 and Owen Smith 2,785. Now if you asked any of them if they’d prefer to add 10,000 to their majority they’d bite your arm off.

If O’Flynn is right then having some Shadow Cabinet members with marginal majorities could be a useful advantage for Labour to have over the Conservatives and keep some of their colleagues in touch with the sort voters that will determine elections.

Henry G Manson


Who would take over as Labour Leader if Ed fell short?

Friday, May 31st, 2013


I expect Labour to win most seats at the next general election and for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister. The bookies make it the most likely event but not a certainty. They price it as a 1/2 shot that Labour will return the most MPs at the next election and 4/6 that Ed Miliband makes it to 10 Downing Street. This is not a universal view by any stretch of the imagination.

So what happens if Labour falls short in 2015 and doesn’t win most seats – the bookies make this a 1 in 3 chance after all. Well in a nutshell, Labour’s leader wouldn’t last long. There’s a big value bet to be had in this eventuality.

The Labour leadership contest that would follow any failure to win the most seats would be too early for some of the young guns elected in 2010. Instead the main battle would likely be between Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper (or Ed Balls again) and possibly Jim Murphy or Caroline Flint from the right of the party.

I’d back Burnham to win either eventuality and would make him even money favourite to be next leader in those circumstances. As a double (Labour not win most seats, Burnham win) you’d be looking at a double around 3/1. Instead the odds of Burnham being next leader are an eyewatering 25/1 with Ladbrokes.

The only question some may ask is ‘would he stand’? I’m almost certain of it. He stood in the last Labour leadership contest and grew week by week into the contest. Since then he has adapted well to the challenges of Opposition and is now arguably Labour’s most effective Shadow Minister.

His supporters on the green benches are growing and growing and his opposition to the Coalition’s Health and Social Care Act is a lesson to his colleagues as to how to hold the government to account and cut through with the public. His support for the Hillsborough Justice for the 96 campaign has allowed people to see a side of Andy Burnham that most politicians struggle to show.

Burnham’s popularity in the party grassroots is high. He’s from an ordinary background and is earthier than Ed Miliband’s. If Ed were to fall short then the party would likely be looking for someone earthier who could connect better with voters. When I speak to members and ask who they’d like to speak at a constituency dinner, Burnham’s name now comes top every time.

Andy would get some trade union support too. Unison would likely be the first in the queue, although in this context I’d expect the leadership context to be a short affair where union backing and resources would be less of a factor.

Yvette Cooper, the current 5/2 frontrunner in the betting, would have a real fight on her hands. She is in a difficult brief and while she is still popular, I feel the pendulum has swung towards Burnham. In Andy’s favour is the fact that health is much more likely to feature as part of Labour’s attack on the Conservatives over the next two years than Home Affairs is.

I largely expect Labour to win a majority and certainly most seats, but if you accept that this is not nailed on, then backing Burnham to be the next Labour leader at anything over 8/1 is one hell of a covering bet.

Henry G Manson


TSE on Making Your Mind Up on who to back at Eurovision.

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Whilst the polls show Brits remain cynical about Eurovision and think it is all about politics, some of us enjoy Eurovision for that reason, for the music and the betting opportunities.

With the elimination of the Former Yugoslavian states of Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia in the semi finals, and Bosnia and Herzegovina withdrawing from the contest, due to financial reasons, there’s a potential for less Balkan bloc voting this time around which could make the final result more open.

There are many opportunities available to bet on the song contest.

The Danish entry, is the overwhelming favourite, and has been for quite some time.

Fortunately there are betting markets for a winner without Denmark or going for an each way bet with Ladbrokes and Paddy Power.

My tips, apart from the Danes, are The Germans, who are represented by Cascada, a band that has enjoyed pop success in the UK, in the past.

I’ve also backed  The Ukrainian, Norwegian and  Irish entries.

I’m quite impressed by the Irish entry, for the last couple of years by sending Jedward, I’ve wondered if the Irish really wanted to win Eurovision. Short of sending Johnny Logan, I can’t see a clearer statement from the Irish that they want to win Eurovision this year.

It wouldn’t be Eurovision, without an entry that looks like something Borat has produced, and the Romanian entry meets that category.

What of the UK’s entry, this year?

I have to confess whilst being a fan of Bonnie Tyler, like Engelbert Humperdinck, I don’t expect her to do well, I suspect some of her 80s material would have done very well in Eurovision.

I have the expectation that she’ll finish 21st or lower, and have availed myself of Paddy Power, who offer evens on such an occurrence (Englerbert finished 25th last year)

Hopefully next year the BBC will allow the viewers to choose the artist/band who represents the UK in Eurovision 2014, and maybe some of the UK’s best artists and bands decide to be shortlisted for the honour, musical giants, such as The Rolling Stones, New Order, Emeli Sandé, The Stone Roses, Depeche Mode, Steps or Radiohead, and we can go back to the halcyon days when the likes of Bucks Fizz won.

For true fans of Eurovision, the main focus of attraction of the evening is not on the artists performing, or the voting, but that the news that Abba’s Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus have teamed up with Swedish DJ and producer Avicii to produce the anthem for this year’s ceremony.

The Eurovision Song Contest starts at 8pm BST and will be on BBC 1 and BBC1 HD.



(Whose interest in and enjoyment of all things Eurovision has disturbed his friends for many years)


Corporeal on Lady Thatcher

Thursday, April 18th, 2013


With the passing of Margaret Thatcher, many obituaries have been written (or at least dusted off and had the dates filled in) alongside as many pieces about her time in power and that word that hangs over every politician, legacy.

What many of them will do at some point is refer to her as “The Grocer’s Daughter” (and this is the title of the first volume of John Campbell’s definitive biography of her, a book I highly recommend and this post is heavily influenced by) and that is rather characteristic of both how she governed, and how she is remembered.

It’s a nickname, obviously, which is a pretty rare status symbol in British politics; if being known by a single name is a sign of being properly known then a nickname is a step beyond even that (and Thatcher has at least a couple that are instantly recognisable). It speaks to one of Thatcher’s great strengths, her understanding of the power of image.

What many of the pieces will also do is drop into a personal recollection of how they experienced Thatcher, and I might as well indulge. I was born near the end of Thatcher’s premiership, so I have no memory of her time in power; I encountered her through second hand accounts, historical works, and news references, through the way people described her and the images they used.

This goes beyond the changes she made to her surface image; hair, clothes and vocal lessons (it’s become almost a rite of passage for prominent Tories to be portrayed with the Thatcher halo) to an identity she portrayed and a narrative she built onto it. It is this that makes her surprisingly hard to pin down, even what we know of her early life is clouded by a layer of public relations polish.

The Grocer’s Daughter was always her background, but it was burnished up and brought into the political arena for the 1975 leadership election and (as she would do more than once) wrong-footed her opponents as she slipped past them to victory, fighting on different ground that her opponents struggled to handle.

During her time in power she used this identity to great effect, she may have been banging the works of Hayek on the table but it was with shopping bags she made her case over inflation. It’s also the narrative of an outsider, ‘Margaret goes to Downing Street and continues to speak past and around the established channels direct to the ordinary people’ (as opposed to say the much more establishment identity as lawyer and wife of a millionaire businessman).

Her conversion to the economic policies that she’d become known for was a late one, sparked as it was by Keith Joseph in the mid-1970s after she’d already been an MP for 15 years, but that reality gave way to the narrative of principles learnt at the shop-counter and from house-wife budgeting leading to economic theory in parliament (never mind that until recently those experiences had pointed her in a very different direction).

If that identity was one she crafted, the second nickname that filled the obituaries was initially meant as an insult, but she adopted The Iron Lady moniker and she ran with it. Whether pictured in a tank or of the many representations of her that called back to the representations of warrior-queens, Boadicea, Elizabeth I, Britannia; she portrayed the matriarchal mother in a breastplate, doling out the tough medicine needed at home, and tougher vengeance on her enemies, but always in charge and ready for battle.

This image of the Iron Lady, armed with her handbag and always ready to take someone on is one that has resonated amongst her supporters and her critics ever since, whether they are praising her for her courage, or castigating her for her harshness. It’s also a further victory of narrative over reality.

To take the unions as an example, few now remember that in the early 1980s she faced a number of strikes where she either compromised or avoided battle. At one point she declared she’d resign rather than raise Civil Service pay more than 7%, some expensive strike filled time later she agreed to a 7.5% rise (a small but significant distance past her line in the sand).

Later on she was actually a restraining hand on some of her cabinet who wanted to go even further, the lesson of her clashes with the unions was not ‘fight them on the beaches’, it was ‘pick your battles’ and that sometimes a tactical retreat is the best option.

Politics is the art of the possible, as an Iron Chancellor once said, and in her career Margaret Thatcher was very aware of that fact, she negotiated, she compromised, and she did in fact u-turn. That she is remembered as unattainably great by her supporters (and created an unreal measuring stick to hit her successors over the head with) and implausibly awful by her opponents is an indication of the strength of her mythology, she is a legend in every sense of the word, devil and saint.

Her demonisation and canonisation are a testament not just to the long shadow she casts over British politics (that all leaders must wrestle with, and some of her successors have found a burden) but also to the strength of the identities and narratives she portrayed both in power and out.

Her legacy is as built as much upon these creations as the reality, so that stripping them away reveals more and more about Thatcher but less and less about Thatcherism. But the ability to exercise such power over the memory of her shows her as the master communicator she undoubtedly was.