Archive for May, 2004


Monday Call – May 31 2004

Sunday, May 30th, 2004


    Soaring UKIP poll ratings affect several markets

UK political betting has been dominated by the UK Independence Party following a YouGov poll showing that that it could beat the Lib Dems for third place in the Euro Elections. In other surveys UKIP has taken 4-5% out of the Tory share of the vote in the main General Election polls as well one on the race for the London Mayor. This affects the General Election, Party Leaders and the London Mayoral Markets.

The big political question is whether the UKIP effect will be long-lasting or will it fade out as happened after the last Euro Election when UKIP’s Jeffrey Titford (pictured above) became an MEP?

1999 Euro Election – UKIP vote share 6.65%
2001 General Election – UKIP vote share 1.5%

If UKIP maintains the polling levels of this week then it could have big implications for Michael Howard’s Tory revival. One factor helping UKIP in next week’s Euro election is the timing of the election with 14m people having postal ballots. For them the election is over once they’ve mailed the ballot envelope – and 90% will, if previous voting experiments are anything to go by, have done this within the next one or two days. So if this is the high point of UKIP support then it will get maximum benefit from it.

Party Leaders Charles Kennedy is the politician most at risk. If , as the polls predict, UKIP beat the Lib Dems into 4th place in the Euro Election then it could spell his demise? His strong point is that the Lid Dems did so badly in 1999 that there is almost bound to be an improvement. The UKIP poll might be a flash in the pan and there could be a recovery. The best option is to wait until the final opinion polls next week. If UKIP is still ahead then a leadership bet against Kennedy would be worth making.

Labour Leader at General Election. John Prescot’s recent comments are making this very confusing but we are not convinced that Tony Blair will be going so DON’T BET in the Betfair and William Hill market. If you think that Blair will not be there, as last week, William Hill’s price is much better.

Mayor of London – person or party. Last week’s poll showing that Livingstone was 14% ahead was almost solely due to UKIP eating into the Norris vote. If, as in 2000, Norris receives the lion’s share of the UKIP 2nd preferences then it will not upset his chances too much. Interestingly the same poll showed the Tories 6% ahead in the London Aseembly election that is held at the same time. We’ve always said that this is the key figure because all the evidence is that Tory voters will go with the party for the Mayor and won’t switch to Labour.

Treat with great caution the pollsters report that 57% of Londoners are saying they are “certain or very likely” to vote. Last time the polls were also predicting turnouts at well over 50% – on the day it was only 34%. Most of those who did not vote were declared Livingstone supporters. Will the same happen this time? This is a punt but we think that at the current price Norris remains good value. BACK.

White House Race 2004. Again the tightness of the race is not being reflected in the UK prices. The latest round of polls either have Bush and Kerry level pegging or Kerry just ahead. Kerry at 2.1 or more is really good value. This will surely move downwards. BACK KERRY.

Date of General Election. A new market this week and one which confuses many people outside the UK. Surely, they say, you KNOW when the next election will be. Well we don’t – it all upto the Prime Minister who, admittedly, has to get “permission” from the Queen. The hot favourite is April – June 2005 though at 1.4 this does not offer good value. A change of leadership, events in Iraq, or a whole whose of things could impact on this. We’ll watch this market carefully to see if value situations develop.

Party winning most seats at UK General Election. The UKIP poll rise at the expense of the Tories has seen prices slip a little back. Our CALL is to wait until after the June 10 elections. Provided the post-June 10 opinion polls are showing Tories leads of 6% or less then backing Labour should be a good value bet. The Tory success in the 1999 Euro Elections had no impact on subsequent opinion polls or the 2001 General Election.

Spread Betting on Commons seats. The Spread Betting price has eased to:-

LAB 322-332 seats
CON 248-258 seats
LIB 52-57

The magic number of seats to for a Commons majority is 324 – so in spite of everything punters are not confident about Labour’s chances. Wait until after June 10 before betting. There is no value here at the moment. DON’T BET.

  • NOTE: Due to the fact that GSM mobile phones do not seem to work in Vermont there will only be a limited service on this week
  • NOTE: When we make a call we are stating that we believe that the chances of something happening are better than the odds that are available. All prices quoted are as at time of posting. We endeavour to ensure that material is accurate when posted. However can accept no respnsiblity for the information on the site or opinions expressed. Users make bets entirely at their own risk.


    Does postal voting have a more secure future than Kennedy or Blair?

    Saturday, May 29th, 2004

    sealed post box
    The Chief Executive and campaign guru of the Lib Dems, Lord Chris Rennard, has done a brilliant job attacking the postal voting experiment and not just over printing problems, the prospect of sealed letter boxes because of industrial action and fraud. He has rightly pointed out the constitutional implications of the Government ignoring the Electoral Commission’s ruling on the scale of the experiment.

    But will Lord Rennard’s first action after the Euro Election not be on the postal voting debacle but to have a quiet word with Charles Kennedy about his future?

      Could it be that all 3 of the men who led the main parties just nine months ago might be out of their jobs by the General Election?

    Already IDS is gone and there is little doubt that the pressure is on Kennedy and Blair.

    The less than helpful comments in recent days by John Prescot are putting the focus on Blair – if the Prime Minister is secure then his usually forthright deputy should be saying so clearly and not raising more doubts with every utterance.

    If the poll prediction that the Lib Dems might come in 4th place behind UKIP turns out to be correct then the “dump Kennedy” calls within the Lib Dems could be impossible to stop. He is already blamed by many in the party fo not taking the huge opportunity available to the party during the hapless Tory leadership of IDS.

      Only being able to come 4th in the post-Iraq war climate would confirm everything his party detractors have been saying.

    We have been saying for months that we have not been convinced that either Blair or Kennedy will go but that at least one of them might. Our ongoing call has been to LAY Kennedy and Blair in the Party Leaders -market.

    We now believe that as well there is good value in backing the NONE option – meaning that both Kennedy and Blair will be gone. The prices, at 10 or more are still good value.

    Picture BBC


    What about our London call now?

    Thursday, May 27th, 2004

    But the Tories are 6% ahead for the London Assembly .
    The latest poll putting Ken Livingstone 14% ahead might seem fatal to our London call that the election is very close but we have had nothing this time about turnout or 2nd preferences. We have not had, either, the deep probing about the affect of Ken being Labour candidate discussed here yesterday.

      Ken Livingstone might have been able to obliterate all reference to the fact that he is Labour candidate on his campalgn materials but when Londoners vote on June 10 they will see the Labour logo printed next to his name on the ballot paper.

    We have been saying for months that with Livingstone as Labour candidate the one in 3 Londoners who will turnout will cast their mayoral vote along party lines. This is the heart of our call. At this stage last time only half of declared Tory supporters said they would vote for Norris – on the day 5 out of 6 did. We expect a near full house on June 10.

      The latest YouGov figures for the London assembly show the Tories well ahead and provide real encouragement to Norris backers.If CON supporters vote the party ticket for Mayor then he is in by a clear margin.

    The figures are-

    CON 34%
    LAB 28%
    LDEM 16%
    GRN 9%,
    UKIP 5%

    Following a similar survey in 2000 on party split Labour got 7% less and CON 6% more in the actual election We expect that the differential turnout in outer London will see the CON figure rise by 3-4% at the expense of LAB. The Green 2nd prefs will go to Ken and UKIP to Norris. Last time Norris got most LD 2nd prefs.

    Four years ago ICM, the pollster that describes itself as “Britain’s most accurate” reported that among those certain or very likely to vote, Livingstone had 53%, Norris 17 and Frank Dobson and Susan Kramer each had 12%. Three days later Livingstone got 39% to Norris’s 27.1%.

      If you are backing Livingstone remember that people tell pollsters that they suppport him but do not vote.Those that support Norris do.

    We think that YouGov will be closer than ICM was but that the party split and turnout are critical.

    A fascinating election to bet on and Norris is still great value. London election.


    YouGov versus ICM — Will June 10 provide the answer?

    Wednesday, May 26th, 2004


    The May ICM poll showing Labour 4% ahead has further reinforced the gap with YouGov which, like Populus, has the Tories 4% ahead.Which pollster should gamblers believe?

    This week’s YouGov poll showing that UKIP is heading to beat the Lib Dems for third place in next month’s Euro Election – an outcome that would surely mean the end for Charles Kennedy – should enable us to test the pollster.For if on June 10 YouGov can get both the low turnout Euro and the London Mayoral Elections correct then the doubts about internet polling will be ended once and for for all.

    The harsh reality for all opinion polls is that on election days real people put real ballot papers into real ballot boxes and a real result is announced. On those days all the theories and all the differing approaches to the methodology are put to the harshest examination of all. General Election and other bets are decided.

    Unfortunately onlyYouGov has carried out specific June 10 polls. So we will we will have to wait for a real test against actual numbers the new Populus strategy of compensating for “Shy Labour supporters”, and the ICM approach to dealing with those who are not “absolutely certain to vote” .

    But what will be on the line will be the YouGov approach of polling solely on the internet amongst a group of people who have registered with the company and who get paid for their opinions.

      What concerns many is that to be part of a YouGov survey you first have to register with the company and you have to have access to the internet – factors that could skew the sample.

    YouGov supporters retort that the sample surveyed in conventional telephone polls is restricted to people with a land-line who happen to be in when the interviewer calls – both factors that could distort the sample. With YouGov you fill in the questionnaire in your own time without there being any personal interaction with an interviewer.

    The person being surveyed does not have to provide basic personal data because that has already been stored on YouGov’s files. Thus the “interview” takes place at a time of the person’s choosing and is focussed solely on the issues being examined.

    A feature of a YouGov survey is that questions can be asked in a number of different ways.

    The real test is in the results. At the last General Election the most accurate opinion polls were those of YouGov and ICM – which are still 8% apart.

    A factor that might help YouGov’s is that those questioned can be less consistent in their answers to a computer than to a live interviewer where people might feel constrained by what they have said before.

    Thus a little probing can produce a more revealing result. This was from a London Mayoral Election poll just before Christmas when Ken Livingstone’s return to Labour was being discussed. Note the way the anti-Livingstone element increases with each question.

    Q1 “How would you vote with Ken as an Independent?”
    37 Livingstone, 19 Norris, 12 Hughes, 4 Gavron (Lab) 3 Others
    ANTI-Ken Livingstone component – 38%

    Q2 “How would you vote with Ken as official Labour candidate?”
    33 Livingstone, 20 Norris, 15 Hughes, 5 Others
    ANTI-Ken Livingstone component – 40%

    Q3 “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for
    Mr Livingstone if he stood as Labour’s official candidate?”

    9 More 19 Less likely, 26 FOR anyway, 35 AGAINST anyway
    ANTI-Ken Livingstone component – 54

    These findings have played a major part in our call on the London election. Hopefully YouGov will be commissioned for a final week’s poll. If they get this one right then their credibility will be enormously enhanced.’


    Could reverse tactical voting open the door for Michael Howard?.

    Tuesday, May 25th, 2004


      Need the Tories be so gloomy about the Westmister seat distribution?

    A number of Tory supporters are seeking to raise their General Election hopes by suggesting that the Westminster seat distribution that seems so skewed to Labour might not be as bad for them as it appear. There’s been a particular focus that this factor could be partially off-set by the anti-Tory tactical voting of 1997 and 2001 “unwinding”. Could this happen and what would be the effect?

    A major study after the 1997 election put the number of Conservative seats that were lost as a result of tactical voting by Lib Dems switching to Labour at 25-35. Almost all of these seats were retained in 2001 and the evidence is that there was an average tactical dimension amongst Lib Dem supporters amounting to about 3% of all those who voted.

    The question that political gamblers are interested in is what happens if at least part of this tactical element “unwinds” at the next Election. What if the Lib Dems who were ready to vote Labour to keep the Tories out decide that in the post-Iraq environment that they will return to their party fold. What happens if showing disapproval for the war becomes more important in many of their eyes than switching to Labour to maximise the anti-Conservative vote.

      In this case all the General Election projections based soley on a “Universal National Swing” might be wrong. Maybe the Tories are in a better state than seat projections based on the latest polls are showing. Maybe the moves in the betting markets to the Tories have been right. Maybe Michael Howard could after all be the Prime Minister after Tony Blair/Gordon Brown?

    There were two types of tactical voting at the last two General Elections: –

    Labour supporters switching to Lib Dem. Our view that these tactical votes will largely stay intact. In campaigning terms the Lib Dems are brilliant at targeting. Where there are sitting Lib Dem MPs Labour supporters are going to take little convincing that switching is the best way of opposing the Tories. It might be that if the General Election looks like a close race then more Labour voters will move over. The Lib Dems will be a natural home for the Labour people opposed to the war.

    Lib Dems switching to Labour. The Lib Dem supporters who switched to Labour in 1997 and 2001 are a different matter and clearly a proportion will return to the Lib Dems given the decline in popularity of Tony Blair’s government.

    To try to assess the electoral affect Anthony Wells has amended his General Election predictor programme to factor in this element. But he does not discriminate between Lib-Lab and Lab-Lib tactical switches. We think that he should and our estimate is that the Conservatives will be 10-15 seats better off at Labour’s expense.

    This does make some difference to General Election seat predictions but, it should be emphasised, the overall seat structure is still very much tilted in Labour’s favour. Taking the May Populus poll findings this is how the Westminster seats split on a uniform swing and taking into account some tactical voting unwinding in Labour seats wons with Lib Dem support.

    Populus Poll: CON 36%, LAB 32%, LIB 22%
    Based on Uniform National Swing these vote shares convert to this new House of Commons
    CON 245 seats; LAB 305 seats; LIB 65 seats
    Factoring in a 14 seat Labour loss due to tactical voting this becomes
    CON 259 seats; LAB 291 seats; LIB 65 seats

    Thus Labour are still 32 seats ahead even though they are 4% behind in the popular vote. Thus the unwinding affect is going to help Michal Howard but its affect can be over-stated. It might make the overall result less “unfair” than it might otherwise have been.

    In future seat projections on we will factor in this element with Labour seats only.


    Monday Call – May 24 2004

    Sunday, May 23rd, 2004


      Our big call on Steve Norris is three-quarters of the way there

    Mayor of London – person or party. It’s dead easy to call a 1/8 favourite – it’s much harder to call at odds of 11 or more which is what we’ve been doing for months. We said back Norris when he was 21% behind in the polls and prices were in double digits. Now YouGov’s latest London poll shows that Livingstone’s lead has collapsed to a mere 5% amongst those “certain to vote”. So it’s going to be down to second preferences where Ken cannot rely on Frank Dobson voters as he did four years ago. Most Lib Dem 2nd preferences then went to Norris. What will the next poll show and how will the prices move? In a normal election market with a 5% gap that’s narrowing sharply you would expect prices of 1.5 for the leader and 2.5 for the challenger. BACK Norris while you can still get good value

    White House Race 2004. The tightness of the race is not being reflected in the UK prices. As we have said this is becoming a referendum on Bush whose popularity goes up and down in line with the level of bad news from Iraq. But what will be the cumulative affect of all this? Kerry really does have a good chance and at 2.1 or more is really good value. This will surely move downwards. BACK KERRY.

    Party winning most seats at UK General Election. Wait until after the Euro and Local Elections on June 10 when the Labour prices will be better. Provided the post-June 10 opinion polls are showing Tories leads of 6% or less then backing Labour should be a good value bet. The Tory success in the 1999 Euro Elections had no impact on subsequent opinion polls or the 2001 General Election.

    Spread Betting on Commons seats. The Spread Betting bookmakers make their money in the spead – the difference between the BUY price if you want to back a party and the SELL price if you think it’s going to be lower. If the spreads are about right then there is very little value. That’s our view of the current markets. DON’T BET.

    Labour Leader at General Election. Gordon Brown has been moving back up the market but we are not convinced that Tony Blair will be going so DON’T BET in the Betfair and William Hill market. If you think that Blair will not be there, as last week, William Hill’s price is much better. A less risky bet is laying Blair/Kennedy in the Party Leaders market. With this you win if either or both leaders go. It’s gone quiet on the Kennedy front but this could change post-June 10 if the Euro results are not as good as hoped for. The Lib Dems succeed through brilliantly targeting – something that’s not possible with the massive Euro regions.

    UK Euro Constitution Referendum. Wait until we know the date and what the deal contains. The odds are not very encouraging on either side. DON’T BET.

  • Due to holdiays there will only be a limited service on this week
  • NOTE: When we make a call we are stating that we believe that the chances of something happening are better than the odds that are available. All prices quoted are as at time of posting. We endeavour to ensure that material is accurate when posted. However can accept no respnsiblity for the information on the site or opinions expressed. Users make bets entirely at their own risk.

    Picture –


    Where will Charles Kennedy stand after the Euro Election?

    Saturday, May 22nd, 2004

    With all the attention on Tony Blair there has been very little recently on Charles Kennedy’s position as leader of the Lib Dems. The party has been totally focussed on the June 10 European and elections and the general view is that they are going to do well. But are they? The locals should be good but will the Euro vote prove to be the disappointment that it was five years ago?

    A problem is that the Lib Dems always find it hard to meet expectations in the Euro Elections. In June 1999 the party was going through a good period and the ICM poll just before the Euro vote had them at 19%. Yet in the Euro Elections the party polled just 12.1%. Even with a PR voting system they picked up just 10 MEPs – far below what many had predicted.

      Where would Charles Kennedy stand if his party’s share of the Euro vote is substantially below the current 20-22% opinion poll ratings? Could this be the pressure point on his leadership? Will the doubts that emerged a couple of months ago re-surface?

    Kennedy’s problem is that in the aftermath of the Iraq war there are huge expectations on him and the Lib Dems. June 10 has to be a resounding success and if it isn’t it will provide vital ammunition for those Lib Dems who believe the party would do better if he stoody aside.

    This time the overall number of UK MEPs is being reduced because of the enlargement of the European Union and all the parties will be doing well if they can hold onto what they already have. But as Andrew Grice writes in the Indpendent today the Lib Dems are expected to increase their contingent of MEPs by 2 or 3. So the expectations are very high. Can Kennedy deliver?

    For Lib Dem campaigners the huge regional constituencies for the European Parliament are a nightmare. In Westminster and local elections the party is brilliant at focusing resources on target seats that it believes that it can win. In the other seats there are Lib Dem candidates but they are fighting what is known in the party as “paper campaigns”. They are there almost in name only.

    But how can you target a whole region? This is very difficult. In addition the Lib Dem campaigin is hampered by the party’s positive approach to the EU that does not always resonate with the public mood. The decision to hold the 2004 local elections on the same day as the Euro vote should be very helpful because many more voters will be brought to the polls by local council campaigns.

    The only betting market on the Lib Dem leadership is the “Party Leaders” on a betting exchange.


    Avoid being tempted by Michael Howard

    Friday, May 21st, 2004

    At the end of a difficult period for Tony Blair it’s tempting to bet on the Tories to win most seats at the General Election. The prices look good value and Labour is expected to take a real drubbing in the “Super Thursday” local, London and Euro Elections on June 10.

    The mood is being reinforced by the way Michael Howard has been able to pursue the Government on Iraq. As Robin Cook writes in the Independent today “Howard may not be able to airbrush out of the record Tory support for invading Iraq in the first place, but he is determined to make as much capital as he can out of the monumental blunders of the subsequent occupation.”

    The main betting activity in recent days has been on the Conservatives to win most seats at the General Election. On the betting exchanges, the most sensitive market, the price has now dropped to 3.6 – a move that was predicted in our Monday Call on April 19 when the price was at 4.3. Such a drop in such a short period is significant and reflects a real change of sentiment on the markets. But there are two dangers.

    Firstly Labour could recover – perhaps prompted by a new leader. The rumour since John Prescott’s famous “Admiralty Arch” dinner last November is that Blair will stand down in July after 10 years as Labour leader – a scenario that punters have been betting on. This would allow a leadership process finishing off with Gordon Brown taking over at the Labour conference in the autumn. The recent YouGov poll had Labour and the Tories level pegging on 39% each if such a change happened.

    Secondly the Westminster seat distribution makes it difficult for the Tories. Even to get equal with Labour on seats Howard needs to be 6-7% ahead. For a majority at the General Election the Conservatives need a lead of 10%.

      Although the polls have been moving some way against Labour in the last few weeks we are nowhere near the area where the prospect of Labour not winning on seats becomes a possibility. Theoretically Labour can maintain an overall majority in the House of Commons on 32% of the vote.

    But this calculation is based on the concept of the Uniform National Swing. The Conservatives might win more seats because of differential swings in different areas. There is also the affect of tactical voting which gave Labour many more seats than the general swing in both 1997 and 2001. What happens if this unwinds? We intend to look at in more detail in the next few days though its impact is not as great as some Tory supporters might hope.

      As a strategy we still suggest waiting until after the June 10 local and Euro elections because we can see the Conservative price fall even further and the Labour one to rise. The key thing post-June 10 will be the opinion polls. Unless these start to show Conservative leads in excess of 6% then backing Labour will be a value bet.

    There is a danger that people might over-react to the Euro and Local elections. Following William Hague’s successful Euro Campaign in 1999 in which the Conservatives came out on top the opinion polls hardly changed. These are the ICM Labour-Conservative leads from that period –

    May 1999 – Lab lead 23%
    June 1999 – Labour lead 17%
    June 1999 – Euro Election – Tory lead 7.6%
    July 1999 – Labour lead 17%
    August 1999 – Labour lead 18%

    UPDATE – WHITE HOUSE 2004. Six US polls this week have Kerry and Bush within one point of each other. The Iowa market has the two almost at the same level. The race has never been as close and it’s Kerry who is moving forward.

    Picture –