No Overall Majority now an even hotter favourite for GE15

October 26th, 2014

It really is hard to argue against

The coming general election really is quite extraordinary. I can’t recall a time ever when all the main political parties and their leaders have been viewed with such low esteem and the polls are very tight.

Although theoretically LAB will enjoy an enormous benefit from the way the electoral system works you’ve got to be quite brave to back them for a majority particularly given EdM’s continual poor personal ratings.

The Tories suffer from the fact that they are seen as a party “not for people like us” – a perception reinforced by the backgrounds of those in Cameron’s close circle. There’s not a lot they can do about that – they are what they are.

And as for the LDs there’s really nothing more you can add to the tale of woe since the tuition fees fiasco four years ago. They are facing a beating the only issue is how well traditional strong incumbency works for them.

    My view is that with the main parties looking so weak then the personalities and records of individual candidates will matter more than ever before thus adding to the overall uncertainty.

Then of course there is UKIP – the party that is flourishing on the anti politician mood and looks set to make a breakthrough the scale of which is hard to quantify.

I’ve got an all green position with Betfair which I’m not tempted to change.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


LAB heavyweight Jim Murphy becomes the 2-5 favourite to be next Scottish LAB leader

October 26th, 2014

There are 41 Scottish LAB seats at stake

The key fact to remember when discussing the impact of Scotland on UK politics is that there are 59 seats north of the border of which LAB hold 41. So anything that could weaken the party in the eyes of Scottish voters could have a big impact on GE15. Any LAB losses in Scotland would have to be made up from extra LAB gains in England and Wales if EdM’s hope of securing a majority is to be fulfilled.

Jim Murphy, who at one stage was both defence and Scottish secretaries in the last LAB government, played a key part in the IndyRef campaign with his 100 towns in 100 days tours putting the case for NO. He faced some nasty confrontations with YES campaigners and came out of the referendum with his reputation enhanced.

For some time he’s been one my long-shots bets, at 33/1, for EdM’s successor and would easily be a match for the SNP’s new flag carrier, Nicola Sturgeon. He’s articulate, tough, and like Sturgeon is from Glasgow.

    A lot has been written in recent weeks about the SNP threat to LAB. The big problem Sturgeon’s party has is there there are few seats where at GE10 her party was in striking distance.

The following chart shows every single Scots LAB seat ranked in majority order with those where the SNP is in second place highlighted. The numbers speak for themselves. Labour Scottish heartlands look like tough nuts to crack.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The battle does seem to be getting tighter: Both tonight’s online panel polls have CON & LAB on 33% each

October 25th, 2014

But the big political news..


Labour could be in trouble in the South Yorkshire PCC by-election

October 25th, 2014

A bet on UKIP at 11/8 might be good move

Over the past few days I’ve had a couple of reports about UKIP in Thursday’s South Yorkshire PCC by-election. This is, of course, traditional solid LAB territory where the party wins Westminster seats on low turnouts easily without any real effort. Things could be different on Thursday.

The police authority areas covers Rotherham which has been the subject of massive attention is recent months. Turnout in these elections, as we’ve seen, is pitifully low and might present UKIP with a huge opportunity on Thursday. The momentum is certainly with the party.

I’ve had a punt at 11/8 with Hills.


Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The Westminster Big Three: zen-like serenity or zombies in action?

October 25th, 2014

How come poor CON/LAB/LD polls are being accepted so readily?

Time was when you could be reasonably sure that a party struggling in the polls would lead inevitably to speculation about its leader’s position.  The media would talk about it, backbench MPs would talk about it and cabinet or shadow cabinet members would let their friends talk about it.  What is remarkable about the last few years is that despite unprecedented combined unpopularity of both leaders and parties, there has been so little such talk never mind action.

Of course, the fact that all three main Westminster parties are so unpopular simultaneously may have something to do with that: it’s easy to console yourself that you stand a decent chance of recovery when your opponents are doing badly too.

Even so, this is very far from a zero-sum game.  All three parties face an existential threat.  UKIP has the potential to replace either the Tories or Labour (but not both) after the next election as the main party in their part of the spectrum if the cards fall well for it.  Neither has a right to exist, never mind to success, and both parties’ former core vote is disillusioned.  At the moment, Farage’s party’s mid- to upper-teens score would probably see them pick up only a handful of seats but were that to be upped to the mid-twenties that would do real damage.

The prospect of such a step-change in UKIP’s polling is far from inconceivable: they have polled up there on occasion, by-election victories between now and April would reinforce their current momentum and the debates – if they happen – provide a further opportunity to advance.

Strangely, a half-reasonable performance may be worse in the long run than a bad one as it’s far harder to fight off the threat while in government.  Clacton has already demonstrated the risks to the Conservatives and Rochester may reinforce that message.  Should Labour regain government, the danger may be even worse, polling as it is in the low thirties with the support of a great many 2010 Lib Dem defectors.  A majority Ed Miliband-led government could easily leak that support straight back on one wing while being assailed by UKIP on the other.  Gordon Brown’s Labour government bottomed out at 18% in the polls; an Ed Miliband one could go further still – and that might drop it to fourth place by vote share.

For the Lib Dems the threat is greater still and more immediate: their party has lost more than two-thirds of their 2010 vote, a level meaning it’s dicing with oblivion.  True, local strongholds appear firm for now but results from the constituency polls sit uneasily with the national ones: my guess is that it’s the national ones and we’ll see Lib Dem support edge up as May approaches and people think more about their local situation.  But it may not and didn’t in Scotland in 2011, where the Yellows lost all but two of their constituency seats (and Orkney & Shetland is just one seat for Westminster).

    With threats to their existence such as the parties have not faced in many decades, if ever, what’s remarkable is how calm the leaderships and parliamentary parties are. 

There is grumbling about Miliband but no serious threat this side of the election.  Cameron has suffered two defections – one reinforced by a by-election defeat – but despite their reputation for deposing leaders, Tory backbenchers have remained unusually quiet on the subject.  Even quieter have been Lib Dems, who are polling worst of all and perhaps have most opportunity for change (their leader has the worst ratings, plausible alternatives are available and one of the causes of their woes – being in government – could be resolved by a well-timed withdrawal).

Will one or more of the parties brake out of their zen-like calm – or zombie-like sleepwalking if you prefer – before the election?  I doubt it.  It’s almost too late now to change strategy or leader and will be by the New Year.  These things need pressure to build and that rarely happens quickly.  It also needs anger, focus and division, and such factors simply aren’t present in sufficient quantity, particularly when there’s the belief that the other side(s) might hand you victory by default.  It is somewhat ironic that the biggest upheaval in the political system since at least the early 1980s has produced so little reaction.  But then maybe that’s the point: the changes are so far outside their experience, they can’t reach for a stock response and like rabbits in Farage’s headlights, produce none.

David herdson


Best tip on PB in the past year: UKIP at 40-1 to win Cambourne and Redruth

October 24th, 2014

betsPP (1)

To whoever suggested this my thanks

I’ve just been reviewing my current open political bets and one, which I’d completely forgotten about, was UKIP to win Cambourne & Redruth at an amazing 40/1. It was placed with PaddyPower a week before Christmas.

My recall is that this came out of a discussion one evening and I think Peter the Punter was involved. If I’ve named the wrong person then my apologies.

Five months after that bet an Ashcroft poll of the seat had CON 29%, UKIP 26%, LAB 24%, LD 14%. Currently UKIP are second favourites at 7/2.

Given what’s happening and the possible consequences of a Tory defeat in Rochester then UKIP in seats like this become great value bets.

Mike Smithson

Ranked in top 33 most influential over 50s on Twitter


Gains for LAB, CON and SNP in this week’s council by-elections

October 24th, 2014

Oban North and Lorn on Argyll and Bute (Ind Defence)
Result: Scottish National Party 1,090 (41% +16%), Independent 629 (24% +1%), Labour 530 (20% -2%), Conservative 415 (16% -2%)
SNP lead of 461 (17%) on the first count on a swing of 8% from Independent to SNP, SNP GAIN from Independent on the fourth count

Rogate on Chichester (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 342 (71% -20%), UKIP 138 (29%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 204 (42%) on a swing of 25% from Conservative to UKIP

Burnopfield and Dipton (Derwentside Independents Defence) and Evenwood (Lab Defence) on Durham
Burnopfield and Dipton
Result: Labour 656 (45% +7%), Derwentside Independent 655 (45% +10%), Conservative 86 (6%), Green 63 (4%)
Labour GAIN from Derwentside Independent with a majority of 1 (0%) on a swing of 1.5% from Labour to Derwentside Independent (True Swing: 17% from Independent to Labour)

Result: Labour 546 (38% -14%), Conservatives 396 (28% -3%), UKIP 309 (22% +5%), Independent 108 (8%), Green 72 (5%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 150 (10%) on a swing of 6% from Labour to Conservative

Newnham and Westbury on Forest of Dean (Ind Defence)
Result: Independent 321 (39%), Conservatives 216 (26%), UKIP 102 (12%), Labour 100 (12%), Greens 70 (8%), Liberal Democrats 25 (3%)
Independent HOLD with a majority of 105 (13%)

Mitcheldean on Gloucestershire (Ind Defence)
Result: Conservatives 959 (38% +14%), UKIP 550 (22% +3%), Independent 455 (18% -18%), Labour 278 (11% +1%), Liberal Democrats 150 (6% unchanged), Greens 106 (4% unchanged)
Conservative GAIN from Independent with a majority of 409 (16%) on a swing of 6% from UKIP to Conservative

Haywards Heath, Lucastes on Mid Sussex (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 524 (56%), UKIP 203 (22%), Liberal Democrat 112 (12%), Labour 90 (10%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority 321 (34%)

Folkestone, Harvey West on Shepway (Con Defence)
Result: Conservatives 385 (39%), UKIP 293 (29%), Liberal Democrats 262 (26%), Labour 57 (6%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 92 (10%)

The main headline has to be four UKIP MISSES including two in prime UKIP areas

Harry Hayfield


The great CON Rochester primary mystery – how the reported turnout of 4,000 became 5,688

October 24th, 2014

Why aren’t we getting the full numbers like in Totnes in 2009?

The first news that all was not well with the CON Rochester primary was this report, now not on the Spectator site, from the usually well informed Isabel Hardman.

An hour or so later were told that “Kelly Tolhurst wins Tories’ postal primary Rochester & Strood with 50.44% to Anna Firth’s 49.56%. 5,688 ballots returned.”

That was an odd way to present the figures. Why not , as in the 2009 primaries, give the full numbers with the total of spoilt papers? The fact that we are not getting this detail raises my suspicions.

    Could it be that Hardman’s original 4,000 figure was the correct number of valid votes and that it was decided to present the outcome as being a little bit better for the party by talking of the number of ballots returned with the actual candidate totals presented as percentages.

If the turnout is based on number of valid votes then 4,000 would make it about 5.3% not the 7.5% that talking about ballots returned suggests.

Given the controversy surrounding the whole election and the primary itself it would not be surprising if Rochester voters hostile to the Tories spoilt their ballots before popping them in the return paid envelopes and posting them.

It would have been far better for the party to have come clean about the actual numbers last night rather than allow these questions to be raised.

Mike Smithson

2004-2014: The view from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble