Is there anybody brave enough to risk hard earned cash on what the next government will be?

December 12th, 2014

See how Betfair punters are confused

I’ve gone on any other.


The media narrative turns against the purples as the prospect of getting more MPs grows

December 12th, 2014

Whatever happens over Hamilton it will be wrong

The former Conservative MP for Tatton who lost out to Martin Bell in 1997 has been much in the news of late as he has tried to be selected for a winnable seat for UKIP at GE15. The latest development, according to a report on the FT’s front page, is that spread-betting multi-millionaire and second biggest donor to the party, Stuart Wheeler, has threatened to turn the tap off if Hamilton doesn’t get selected.

In the past week Hamilton’s efforts to be the Boston & Skegness candidate and now Basildon are said, according to reports, to have been thwarted by what are being described as “dirty tricks”.

A senior party member told the FT: “This is all to do with Nigel’s ego. He thinks he may not win in Thanet South [the seat for which he has been selected], so he is determined to bring Neil down. He cannot bear the thought Neil might be an MP but not Nigel.

This is the first general election, of course, where UKIP has a serious prospect of picking up some MPs and inevitably there’s a huge amount of media interest particularly when someone as well-known as Neil Hamilton is in the frame.

These latest developments come in a month when things have been tougher in the media for the party and its leader and it could be like this right up to May 7th.

The Hamilton case is difficult to resolve. Facing a crucial election UKIP desperately needs the resources that Stuart Wheeler is able to bring but it cannot be seen to be giving in to a major donor.

Mr. Wheeler used to be a big donor to the Conservatives. Maybe he could return.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Local By-Election Preview : December 11th 2014

December 11th, 2014

South Kintyre on Argyll and Bute (SNP defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 15, Scottish National Party 13, Conservatives 4, Liberal Democrats 4 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,133 (46%)
Scottish National Party 203, 415 (25%)
Independents 63, 138, 167 (15%)
Liberal Democrats 351 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: John ARMOUR (SNP), Charlotte HANBURY (Con), Michael KELLY (Lab), Joyce OXBORROW (Lib Dem)

A lot has changed in Argyll and Bute since the council was granted unitary status in 1995. Back then the constituency that the council covered was a Liberal Democrat / Conservative marginal with the SNP not that far behind and whilst today it is still a fairly marginal Liberal Democrat / Conservative battleground at Westminster at Holyrood it’s an SNP heartland and the council has changed a bit as well, in 1995 the Independents ruled the roost with 22 out of the 33 seats won by them but the introduction of STV back in 2007, like other heartlands, soon put a stop to that and it is only three months since Argyll said NO to Scottish independence so will the SNP be able to hold on or will this seat go the way of Oban South in May when Labour gained the seat on a swing of 28%

Gatehouse (Lib Dem defence) and Southcourt (Lab Defence) on Aylesbury Vale
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 38, Liberal Democrats 17, Labour 2, UKIP 2 (Conservative majority of 17)
Result of ward at last election (2011) : Emboldened denotes elected

Liberal Democrats 622, 580
Conservatives 342, 288
Labour 279
United Kingdom Independence Party 256, 233
Candidates duly nominated: Graham CADLE (UKIP), Anders CHRISTENSEN (Lib Dem), George ENTECOTT (Ind), Mary HUNT (Green), Samantha NORTH (Con), Lucio TANGI (Lab)

Liberal Democrats 539, 412
Labour 442, 399
Conservatives 307, 234
United Kingdom Independence Party 211, 180
Candidates duly nominated: Brian ADAMS (UKIP), Peter AGORO (Lib Dem), Mark BATEMAN (Lab), Andrew KULIG (Green), Sarah SPROAT (Con)

The rolling greenery that makes up the Vale of Aylesbury should be a perfect reflection of solid Conservatism, but in 2003 the Conservatives were in a much weaker spot winning control of the council by just 1 seat (Con 30, Lib Dem 25, Ind 4) but as the Liberal Democrats started to weaken in 2007 the Conservatives leapt at the chance and made seven gains (four from the Lib Dems and three from the Independents) and when the Lib Dems fell back again in 2011 everyone assumed it would the Conservatives who would reap the benefit, so you can imagine the suprise when in fact the Conservatives only made one net gain. The real beneficaries were Labour who made their first appearance in the council chamber for at least eight years and UKIP who appeared having never won a seat before and with UKIP on a tear since 2013 who knows what could happen in this part of the world.

Toton and Chilwell Meadows on Broxtowe (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 18, Labour 17, Liberal Democrats 9 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 5)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,529, 1,491, 1,413
Labour 926, 925, 837
Liberal Democrats 377, 334, 304
United Kingdom Independence Party 305
Candidates duly nominated: Mia Rona KEE (Con), David PATRICK (Lab), Darryl PAXFORD (UKIP)

Nick Palmer (who was of course the MP for Broxtowe between 1997 and 2010) and who even based on the less optimistic of the polls published in recent months must be fairly confident of winning back his seat in May, has been no doubt pounding the streets of this ward over the past few weeks and with good reason. Broxtowe council has never really been able to make up it’s mind. Back in 2003, Labour had 15 seats, the Conservatives 14 and the Liberal Democrats 13 seats with a couple of Independents for good measure, by 2007, as Labour lost their shine, they lost seven seats and my word, did the gains go all over the place. Conservatives up 3, Liberal Democrats up 3 and even the BNP made a gain but the council still remained hung and although in 2011 Labour managed to recover their position by winning back all the seats they lost in 2007 and two extra, the Conservatives managed to be on top, but if Labour do gain this ward then they will be in the lead and ahead of next year’s general and local elections Labour would be doing badly indeed if they did not manage to gain the constituency and council.

Trelech on Carmarthenshire (Ind Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Plaid Cymru 28, Labour 23, Independents 22, Llanelli First 1 (No Overall Control, Plaid short by 10)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Independent 471 (51%), Plaid Cymru 321 (35%), Liberal Democrat 133 (14%)
Candidates duly nominated: Jean LEWIS (Plaid), Hugh PHILLIPS (Ind), Selwyn RUNNETT (Lib Dem)

If you think that Broxtowe is hard to get a majority on, try Carmarthenshire on for size! Created in 1995 out of Carmarthen, Dinefwr and Llanelli councils, the first elections had Labour on 46% of the vote, with the Independents on 26% and Plaid Cymru on 13% and so you would assume that Labour would be within a whisker of forming a majority and whilst it is true that they had 38 seats out of the 81 up for election (just 3 short) their aim was thwrted by a combination of Independent (29), Plaid (7) and Others (3) who managed to muster 39 councillors and deny Labour control. Better luck in 1999 eh? Well, Labour only lost 4% of the vote (which considering the disasters it had elsewhere wasn’t too bad) however Plaid increased by 6% and those pesky Independents also rose to 25%. Net result: Labour 28, Independents 26, Plaid 13, another deadlocked council with the Independents and Plaid still on a combined 39. And so it carried on, 2004, Plaid polled the most votes (33%) to Labour’s 31% but the Independents won 32 seats and decided that they should have a go at running the council this time around. 2008 saw Plaid increase to 39% to Labour’s 23% but still those Independents still had 31 seats and effectively ran the show. So you might think that with Plaid winning the most votes for the third time in 2012 (38%) the Independents would finally give way. Au contraire! With 22 seats on the council they still have a say but these days of Independent dominance in Carmarthenshire may be on the way out as not only is the council under threat of being forced into Dyfed (Mark II) by Leighton Andrews, but Independents are a dying breed in Wales as demonstrated by Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys and so it is a strong change that in the next set of locals the Independents may not be able to wield anything like the power they once used to.

Kingsway on Halton (Lab Defence, unopposed in 2011)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 51, Liberal Democrats 3, Conservatives 2 (Labour majority of 46)
Result of ward at last election (2007): Labour 663 (64%), Conservative 201 (19%), Green 171 (17%)
Candidates duly nominated: Brad BRADSHAW (UKIP), Duncan HARPER (Con), Paul MEARA (Lib Dem), Andrea WALL (Lab)

Whereas Broxtowe and Carmarthenshire have been impossible to create a majority on, in Halton the opposite is true, no one can stop Labour getting a majority. Since 2003, the Labour majority has been climbing and climbing. In 2003, Labour had a majority of 14, which dipped a little to 10 in 2007, but since 2010 the majority has exploded. Labour had a majority of 18 in 2010, then 32 in 2011, 44 in 2012 and now 46 in 2014 making Halton a virtual one party state, prime territory for UKIP to cause some damage.

Stamford North on Lincolnshire (Ind Defence)
Result of council at last election (2013): Conservatives 36, UKIP 16, Labour 12, Lincolnshire Independents 8, Liberal Democrats 3, Independents 2 (No Overall Control, Conservatives short by 3)
Result of ward at last election (2013): Independent 775 (47%), Conservative 517 (32%), Labour 343 (21%)
Candidates duly nominated: Mark ASHBERRY (Lab), Harrish BISNAUTHSING (Lib Dem), Robert FOULKES (UKIP), Matthew LEE (Con), Max SAWYER (Lincolnshire Independents)

When you say Lincolnshire to people, at least two things immediately spring to mind. First is the fact that the county is as flat as a pancake and secondly, the tale of a person who is determined to get one over on the local gamekeepers.

“Success to ev’ry gentleman that lives in Lincolnshire, Success to every poacher that wants to sell a hare, Bad luck to ev’ry gamekeeper that will not sell his deer, Oh, ’tis my delight on a shiny night in the season of the year!”

And in Lincolnshire, there is not one party trying to get one over on the mainstream parties but two! The first is of course UKIP who in 2013 won 16 seats on the council (forcing it into No Overall Control) but the second are the Lincolnshire Independents (who also managed a bit of a barnstormer) polling 10% and winning 8 seats so with the Independent group not nominating a replacement for Cllr. Hicks we have ourselves a right royal rumble. Do those voters who elected Cllr. Hicks with a majority of 258 (16%) over the Conservatives switch to UKIP (as has been seen with other Independent defences across the country that UKIP have gained) or do they swing behind the Lincolnshire Independents (and allow them to increase their tally as they have done on North Kesteven council where they gained two seats back in June).

Elgin City North on Moray (Lab Defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 10, Scottish National Party 10, Conservatives 3, Labour 3 (No Overall Control, Ind and SNP short by 4)
Result of ward at last election (2012): Emboldened denotes elected
Scottish National Party 596, 515 (43%)
Labour 766 (30%)
Conservatives 448 (18%)
Independents 241 (9%)
Candidates duly nominated: Sandy COOPER (Ind), Morvern FORREST (Green), Craig GRAHAM (Lab), Alex GRIFFITHS (Con), Kirsty Ella REID (SNP), Ramsey URQUHART (UKIP)

Welcome to the slightly bizarre world of STV. A ward where (under the rules of FPTP) the SNP won, but thanks to STV it’s Labour who are defending the seat. Yes, STV can produce that and when you look at the votes cast in Moray you can get the impression of the SNP wondering what the reaction would be if they scrapped STV for local elections in Scotland.

In 2012, the SNP polled 10,124 votes in Moray (just under half the votes) whereas the Independents polled 7,386 votes (about a quarter) and yet both parties ended up with 10 seats each (just under half), the Conservatives polled 4,501 votes and Labour polled 2,351 votes and also ended up with three seats (despite you might think under pure PR the SNP having more seats than the Independents and the Conservatives having more seats than Labour).

So if the SNP did want to get rid of STV in local elections, what could they replace it with. D’Hondt PR perhaps, pure PR (1% votes = 1% seats) or might they even consider the idea of going on a national vote (SNP 32% of the seats, Labour 31% of the seats, Conservatives 13%, Independents 11%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Greens 2%)

Bransgore and Burley on New Forest (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 54, Liberal Democrats 6 (Conservative majority of 48)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,789, 1,539
Liberal Democrats 536
Labour 386
Candidates duly nominated: Brian CURWAIN (Lab), Richard FRAMPTON (Con), Roz MILLS (UKIP)

The New Forest in Hampshire is a typical Conservative bastion and yet it might suprise you to know that in 2003 it wasn’t. Of the 60 councillors elected, 32 were Conservative, 27 were Liberal Democrat and there was an Independent as well giving the Conservatives a majority of just 4. Oh, how things have changed eh?

But as we have seen on so many occasions, this is an area that is ripe for UKIP but with more and more focus on UKIP will they be able to strike in the heart of Conservative terrority or will those opposed to UKIP come out to vote for the person most likely to beat UKIP.

Washington East on Sunderland (Lab defence)
Result of council at last election (2014): Labour 63, Conservatives 8, Independents 4 (Labour majority of 51)
Result of ward at last election (2014): Labour 1,254 (41%), UKIP 792 (26%), Conservative 767 (25%), Liberal Democrats 145 (5%), Trade Unionist and Socialist 75 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: Alistair BAXTER (UKIP), Hilary JOHNSON (Con), Tony MURPHY (Green), Stephen O’BRIEN (Lib Dem), Tony TAYLOR (Lab)

Say what you will about Sunderland being a one party state (63 Labour councillors out of 75) but you have to admire them from an electoral sense. Every election since 1992 Sunderland South has been the first seat to declare and at the next election, Sunderland will be trying for a feat that I cannot imagine as ever been accomplished before, the treble treble. In 2005, the first seats to be declared were Sunderland South, Sunderland North and Houghton and Washington East.

In 2010, it was Houghton and Sunderland South, Washington and Sunderland West followed by Sunderland Central. Given their speed I would be very suprised indeed if anyone managed to come within five minutes of Sunderland doing it again with all three seats declared before any other result comes in. So in that regard, Sunderland, if this result doesn’t come in by 10.30pm this evening I will be shocked.

Cox Green on Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (Con defence)
Result of council at last election (2011): Conservatives 51, Independents 5, Liberal Democrats 1 (Conservative majority of 45)
Result of ward at last election (2011): Emboldened denotes elected
Conservatives 1,489, 1,419, 1,270
Liberal Democrats 914, 863, 847
Labour 269, 247, 225
British National Party 142
Candidates duly nominated: Lance CARTER (UKIP), Robert HORNER (Lab), Gareth JONES (Lib Dem), Ross McWILLIAMS (Con)

It really is a demonstration of how the Lib Dems have crashed and burned in some parts of the country that Windsor and Maidenhead Royal (a council with a Liberal Democrat majority of 11 in 2003) is now a virtual one party state for the Conservatives and the reason for this crashing and burning? The 2005 general election. In 1997, the constituency of Windsor and Maidenhead was split into it’s two component parts both of which were solid Conservative wins (even with the Labour landslide), however in 2001 the Liberal Democrats made a very big play for Maidenhead and notched up a very impressive 8% swing from Con to Lib Dem and turned it into a marginal which their election win in 2003 seemed to suggest that the Conservatives were in trouble. That’s when the Lib Dems made their mistake.

They announced that they were going to “decapitate” the Conservative front bench. Oliver Letwin (Dorset West), David Davies (Haltemprice), Tim Collins (Westmorland), Theresa May (Maidenhead) and even Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe) were all going to go by the wayside at that election and the Liberal Democrats would become the new opposition. That was a bad move as the Conservative moved all their troops into those constituencies and created a buffer as a result they all held their seats with pro Conservative swings (bar Westmorland and Lonsdale) and in Maidenhead there was a 3% swing back to the Conservatives which was reflected in 2007 when the Conservatives gained control of the council and beat the Liberal Democrats into a cocked hat, a process that was accelerated on in 2011 and very nearly produced Lib Dem wipe-out on a council they had controlled just 4 years previously.

Harry Hayfield


SportingIndex cuts the UKIP spread again in effort to entice elusive purple buyers

December 11th, 2014

Meanwhile the CON spread gets even closer to LAB

I’m just on the train back from London after having a fascinating chat with the guy who runs the political spread markets at Sporting Index. This is the form of betting that I like the most because it is all about numbers and the more you are right the more money you make. Unfortunately the converse is also the case!

Lots of interesting new markets are on the way and he’d be delighted to hear from PBers of any idea that they might have. I suggested LD deposit losses and his first question was how you’d go about working out an opening price.

On the main Commons seats spread featured above he said that the most striking feature was the almost total lack of UKIP buyers – hence today’s drop by one seat. He compared that with the Cleggasm surge ahead of GE2010 which fortunately for SPIN saw a rush to buy the LDs at a peak of more than 100 seats.

The essence of spread betting is that you buy or sell and your profits/losses are determined by the difference. Thus if you bought CON at today’s 285 level and they get 310 you’ll make 25 times your stage level. You can get out of a bet at almost any time and if you’ve made a profit you can pocket the difference.

But be warned. Spread betting can be very risky as I found to my cost on election day 2001.The messages were coming through that turnout was very much down and I interpreted that as being good for the Tories. This became my biggest ever betting loss.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


How the whole political scene is changing – CON+LAB heading for record low

December 11th, 2014

It’s hard to work out the long term consequences

The overriding theme of this week’s British Election Study conference was that things are changing quite dramatically and we really don’t know where this will end.

Thus the certainty that existed about what will happen in Scotland in May has fallen apart in the past few weeks putting into serious doubt Labour prospects nationwide. 30+ losses from its Scottish bastion are going to be hard to offset elsewhere.

In England particularly UKIP has become a dominant presence and nobody now talks of it all frittering out in the run-up to next May. The big question is what this all means in seats and the prospects for the big two parties in the traditional LAB-CON battlegrounds.

    One thing I’m certain about is that we can no longer think in terms of a uniform national swing covering England, Wales and Scotland. We have to get more specific which is why I’m very keen on seeing the pollsters produce England only VI data.

Lord Ashcroft is already doing this in his weekly phone poll and I’m hopeful that some of the other firms will follow suit. A couple of those I spoke to at Tuesday’s BES launch seemed quite receptive to the idea.

What is interesting in all of this is how the “system itself” is now being described as “not fit for purpose” though what can be done about this is hard to say.

Three and a half years ago we had a referendum on the voting system when the main argument for retaining first past the post was that it would help prevent further coalitions. How dated that looks now.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Marf on the UKIP Basildon selection

December 10th, 2014

hamiltonupnext (2)

  • If you would like to purchase one of Marf’s prints or originals, please contact her here.

  • h1

    Latest polling from Thanet South has Farage trailing the Tories by 5% – yet in the betting he’s a 62% chance

    December 10th, 2014

    A case methinks of hearts over heads

    As a general rule political betting prices and polling tend to run in parallel particularly in the constituencies.

    So when earlier this month Lord Ashcroft published his latest round there was a rush of activity when apparently obvious bargain appeared. One such one was Nigel Farage’s Thanet South where following the numbers being available the UKIP price of 2/5 eased to 5/6. An earlier Ashcroft poll had had Farage with a 3% lead. The latest put the Tories 5% ahead.

    Yet in the past fortnight we’ve the the UKIP price getting a bit tighter and is now 8/13 making the seat just about the only one in the country where betting and the polling are showing a very different picture.

      My expectation is that the Tories will mount a tough campaign against Farage with a message that what the area, with all its economic problems, least needs is a part-time MP.

      No doubt the blues could make constant references to Farage’s voting and attendance record in Brussels. Maybe even there’ll be references to his Euro-expenses.

    But Farage is party leader and will surely get a boost from that. He’ll be the one on the TV every night and also, if they are held, appearing in at least one of the debates.

    In spite of the polling I’d still rate his chances quite highly.

    I’m on the Tories here at 11/4 in a bet I got on just after the Ashcroft poll came out.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


    “The next CON leader will not be a white man” – Tory insider

    December 10th, 2014

    Theresa May up 4% in ConHome party members’ next leader survey

    The comment in the heading for this post was made to me at a recent social event by someone I regard as a leading Tory insider. It certainly has a ring of truth about it given that the two contenders currently being talked about are Theresa May and Sajid Javid, the culture Secretary.

    This conversation took place before the latest ConHome findings from its regular party member surveys. Theresa May, as can be seen, is on the up and cabinet newcomer, Javid, is rated highly.

    In national polling an area where the Tories and David Cameron are almost always rated poorly is when voters are asked about which party/leader will be “best for people like us“.

    If the party has to leave government after May 7th then expect a lot of soul-searching over what went wrong and why, against someone perceived as being weak, Ed Miliband, they failed. It is in that context that May or Javid will stand a good chance.

    Remember that the glory days for the party, the late seventies an eighties, the leader was a woman from a modest background.

    Of course if David Cameron is still PM then there will be no immediate contest in prospect and Theresa May’s time will surely have passed. She is 58 years old.

    Mike Smithson

    2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble