Archive for September, 2004


What Hartlepool result does Michael Howard want?

Thursday, September 30th, 2004


    Tory tactical voters hold the key

The more we think about this the more we believe that it will be the Tories who’ll decide how this by election will go. The thinking that they will follow their allegiance is based on the July 15 contests when they kept within 2-3% of their General Election peformance.

But two things are different: the Conservatives have put a lot less into the Hartlepool campaign and Labour’s campaign strategy to make the LD candidate the issue has made the party the undisputed challengers.

    If you want to give Blair a bloody nose Labour campaign manager, Fraser Kemp, has told you how.

We guess that the 20% who were Tory at the General Election are more likely to turn out today and that they might react to the highly personalised nature of the campaign.

So what result does Michael Howard want? Our guess is that he’ll see that a Labour humiliation even with a terrible Tory vote is best for his party.

The betting exchange Labour price looks ovevalued at 1/4.


Hartlepool betting to continue until the declaration

Thursday, September 30th, 2004


    Follow the money to get early clues on which party has won?

The Betfair betting exchange market on Hartlepool will continue throughout the day right upto the point in the early hours of tomorrow morning when the result is declared. If it’s like Brent East, Leicester South and Hodge Hill, the betting exchange market should be a good guide to what’s happening.

As the day wears on the officials will start to get an idea of, first, what the turn-out is likely to be and then whether they are getting their votes out compared with the other parties. This information will spill out and punters will bet on it and prices will move. If there is real solid information then the market will jump with a certainty that is easy to spot.

From 7am. Polls open and as electors go through each station their numbers are taken by tellers and these are biked or phoned back to the HQs where they are keyed into a computer. These form the basis of regular reports so the campaign managers can see where there are weak and strong wards and how their supporters are turning out compared with everybody else. At 7am, too, all unmatched bets on Betfair are cancelled and the screen will look odd until punters come in.

From 9am. The “knock-up” begins. Lists for the hundreds of party activists start to be generated so they knock on doors to get the non-voters to the polling stations.

By 6pm. the party managers start to form pretty clear ideas about how its going and at that stage in previous by-elections clear patterns emerged. If, say, the Lib Dems do stand a chance then there will be clear moved on the market.

10 pm Polls Close. The ballot boxes are taken under police escort to the count. Betting should continue. Party workers do a rough check as they observe the ballot boxes being opened and the counting clerks unfold the papers and put them into batches. All this information will be fed back back and even firmer views of the result become apparent which will be seen in the betting.

By Midnight. Those in the hall will have a firm idea of the result simply by counting the bundles of votes for each party. This will feed out and there’ll be a rush to bet. Prices might be down to 1/10 or 1/20.

It is worth noting that the markets are not infallible. At Leicester South and Hodge Hill the LDs on the night before were odds-on favourites in both seats. At Leicester South they were 2/5 and in Hodge Hill 9/10.

Hartlepool has been totally dominated by that 33% Labour N0P poll lead and not many have been bold enough to bet against such numbers.


Hartlepool – it’s going to rain tomorrow

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

The weather forecast for Hartlepool tomorrow is for rain although it should clear by the evening. Quite what effect, if any, this will have on turnout or voting we do not know although the received wisdom is that it does not help Labour.

A bigger effect on turnout, compared with the July contests, might be that it goes dark earlier in late September. Sunset in Hartlepool tomorrow is at 6.42 pm and it’s always harder for the parties to get voters out in the dark than on a light summer evening.

The betting meanwhile has moved slightly away from the Lib Dems overnight but there has been very little activity. It’s 1/4 on Labour and 11/4 Lib Dem with William Hill and 1/3 and 3/1 on the Betfair betting exchange.

The big question will be what happens to the Tory vote. Will there be a tactical switch to the LDs to get Labour out; will Michael Howard’s party lose votes to UKIP instead of the LDs which will help Labour; or will it stay relatively intact?

    In the last three by-elections the Lib Dems have found it hard to squeeze the Tory share which has seen drop of only 2-2.5%. If that’s the pattern in Hartlepool it will be good news for Tony Blair.

Another factor will be the impact of Tony Blair’s speech in Brighton yesterday. Whatever there is still a lot to play for. Our view remains – we think that Labour will just do it but we think that the chances of the Lib Dems taking the seat are better than the current odds so its worth a bet.



Where are Labour’s envelope stuffers?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004


    Is there betting value on the Lib Dems?

As the Hartepool campaign goes into its final day the big question for political gamblers is whether there is any value in the prices available on the Lib Dems or is the by-election the certainty that the current Labour odds seem to indicate?

    All betting is about value. Are the chances of something happening better than the odds available – if they are then you have a value bet.

Prices have moved away from Labour during the day and to the Lib Dems. This was because the 1/6 Labour price that William quoted when it re-opened Hartlepool was not sustainable and prices had to be adjusted. This has been reflected in the Betfair betting exchange.

Both William Hill and Betfair have 11/4 against the Lib Dems and 1/4 and 1/3 on Labour respectively.

We think that Labour will probably just do it but that there’s enough of a chance for the Lib Dems to pull off a victory to make the 11/4 a value bet. The 1/3 on Labour is over-priced even though it has moved out and should be avoided until it’s at about 1/2.

    What’s convinced us that there is value in the Lib Dem price is the remarkable revelation in the Guardian that Labour have had to pay people to stuff envelopes.

This might sound trivial but if they can’t find activists to do this most humdrum of jobs how are they going to get people out to the polling stations? Of course there’s been a huge amount of paper going out but getting envelope stuffing volunteers should be an easy task. Finding canvassers to knock on doors or make unsolicitated phone calls is much harder.

That poll two weeks ago putting Labour 33% ahead continues to affect the betting and the word emanating from LD party officials is that they predict that they are very close but they fear a “near miss”. There’s a huge mountain for the Lib Dems to climb.

But the lack of envelope stuffers and the soft betting price makes us look at the Labour campaign in a different light. The LDs are worth the 11/4. BACK.


Could Hartlepool mark the end for Tony Blair?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004


    Is the Prime Minister’s job on the line on Thursday?

With just two days to go before voters in Hartlepool go to the polls a leading Guardian commentator has suggested that a victory for the Lib Dems could mark the end for Tony Blair.

As part of extensive by-election coverage in the paper today Martin Kettle speculates:-

It has been a long time since a party leader’s future hung on the future of a byelection. But it is true of Blair and Hartlepool on Thursday. If the Liberal Democrat Jody Dunn manages to suck up the anti-Labour vote to defeat Labour’s Iain Wright, then Blair’s grip on power would be rocked. Blair has sometimes said that he would not hang around if he thought he was a liability to his party’s electoral chances. Defeat for Labour on Thursday would leave him staring that conclusion in the face.

The more intriguing scenario, though, concerns the aftermath of a Labour victory. If Wright is elected to replace Peter Mandelson, then Labour will judge that the electoral sea-wall has held against the high tide of disaffection with the Blair government. A Wright victory will lead Labour to conclude that Blair is safe to lead the party into the general election.

It all depends on the scale of the Labour victory. Mandelson had a 38-point lead when he retained the seat in 2001. If Wright sees off the challengers with a win of that kind, then Blair is entitled to conclude that the worst is over. But if the lead is down to single figures, Labour MPs all around the country will be looking down the barrel of a gun. And that could start a process that even Gordon Brown’s hard-wired caution may be unable to resist.

Whether such speculation will help or hinder the Labour campaign we shall have to wait and see. It will certainly motivate the Lib Dems and enable them to move on from their candidate’s unwise comments on her blog.

    It’s also likely to demoralise those Labour activists who would love to see the Prime Minister move on – could their efforts be keeping Tony Blair at Number 10?

William Hill, meanwhile have introduced a new market on “Blair standing down before the next General Election takes place”. The price of 14/1 seems generous and is certainly worth a punt although it is not yet available online. Let’s hope that it is not one of those William Hill markets that seem designed to attract media coverage – not bets. It is much better value than laying Blair at about 7/2 to be Labour leader at the General Election on the betting exchange market.

On the Hartlepool election itself William Hill’s re-entry into the market with Labour at 1/6 and the Lib Dems at 7/2 has caused the betting exchange prices to move sharply. We’ve always said that if the Lib Dems start to sniff victory then the prices will fall rapidly. It will be interesting to see if there are many takers at 7/2.

A good feature of the Betfair betting exchange market is that you can monitor how much money is going on and at what price. The message from the market at the moment is that there’s little support for Labour at the 1/4 that’s available there but that Lib Dem backers are not coming in either.

    From the way the betting markets are operating we conclude that neither the Lib Dem or Labour activists are very confident.

As well as the Martin Kettle commentry the Guardian has an extensive feature on the by-election campaign that is well worth reading, though, irritatingly, you can only access part one of it online.

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Hartlepool betting moves back to Labour

Monday, September 27th, 2004

There’s been a big move back to Labour in the Hartlepool markets with William Hill coming back in at a price of 1/6. The Lib Dems are at 7/2.

The Betfair betting exchange has responded in the same fashion although the current Labour price is slightly better value at about 1/4. It’s a fairly light market with just £1,600 being matched between 9am and 6pm. It could be that just one or two punters are forcing the price down and there’s little doubt that William Hill’s 1/6 on Labour has had an impact.

The General Election spread markets, meanwhile, have responded to yesterday’s opinion poll reversals for Labour – one of which had them in third place.

LAB 337-345 (-3): CON 212-220 (+2): LIBD 68-72 (+1)

IG Index have marked Labour down even lower and the sell price is just 9 seats above the party losing its overall majority. It’s spreads are:-

LAB 333-341: CON 212-220: LIBD 68-72

From the mid-points it seems that IG are operating on a smaller new House of Commons than SportingIndex. If you want to sell Labour go with SportingIndex – if you want to buy go with IG.

We suggest waiting until after the Hartlepool result.


Which US pollster is best for you?

Sunday, September 26th, 2004


    Is the Bush-Cheney ticket a certainty?

Since the Republican Convention in New York at the end of August the betting markets have followed the polls and Bush is a red hot favourite. It’s hard to call anything other than Bush.

But it’s worth looking back at what happened last time to check which pollsters were most accurate. These were the final polls.

  • CNN/Gallup tracking poll: Bush over Gore 47-45.
  • Wall St. Journal: Bush over Gore 47-44.
  • ABC/Washington Post: Bush over Gore 48-45.
  • Tarrance: Bush over Gore 46-41.
  • Christian Science Monitor: Bush over Gore 48-46.
  • CBS: Gore over Bush by 1
  • Zogby: Gore 47-Bush 46
  • The final result was Gore 500,000 votes ahead. But after the pro-longed legal battle Bush won Florida, came top in the “electoral college” and took the White House. Only Zogby and CBS got the vote shares right.

    A useful tool is this site which has an excellent interactive map showing the latest polls in each state and a running total. What is interesting is that you can select your pollster and, beating in mind Zogby’s success last time, the picture for the Democratic ticket does not look as bad as some are painting it.

    It’s a brave punter, though, who goes with Kerry even at the current odds but it might start to move and it does look less certain for the President if you just follow the Zogby national and state polls.

    If you think that this election is over there’s now a market on who will by the Republican candidate in 2008. This is a long time to lock up your money, many things could happen in the meantime, and the prices don’t look very generous.


    Labour poll decline hits Hartlepool markets

    Sunday, September 26th, 2004


      Populus – Labour in third place nationally

    A series of bad national opinion surveys for Labour in the Sunday papers have transformed the betting for Thursday’s by-election in Hartlepool to elect a replacement for Peter Mandelson who has quit Westminster to become a Euro Commissioner.

    Yesterday morning we were suggesting that the 4/1 then available on the Lib Dems on the betting exchanges was “tempting”. As of the time of posting that price has tightened to 8/5. So yesterday a winning bet would have produced a return of £200 – now that’s down to £80. The Labour price, meanwhile, has gone from about 1/5 to 2/5. NOTE: On the exchanges we quote the last price that has been matched – not the prices that are being offered.

      Two of of this morning’s polls have the Tories in the lead and one of them has Labour in third place for the first time in twenty years.

    CON 32%: LIBD 29%: LAB 28% Populus – News of the World
    CON 33%: LAB 32%: LIBD 25% Mori – Observer

    A third poll by a pollster new to us, Communicate Research, is in the Indy on Sunday. Interviewing took place the day before and the day of Kennedy’s speech and so was earlier than the other two. The shares were:-

    CON 30%, LAB 32%, LD 27%

    The Lib Dems usually enjoy a poll boost after their conference and in the September YouGov and ICM polls a few days ago, before Bournemouth could have its full impact, Labour was on 36% in each with the Tories on 34% and 32% and the Lib Dems at 21% and 22%.

      UK politics at the moment is characterised by the Tories remaining static and a block of 6-7% that’s very volatile and oscillates between the LDs and Labour. This group will decide the election.

    An indication of the scale of the challenge facing the opposition parties is that if the country voted according to the Populus Poll Labour would be third in terms of vote share but, according to the swing calculators, top on seats. site produces the following breakdown:-

    LAB 276: CON 259: LIB 80 seats

    But beware claculations like this or the one in today’s Observer. They assume a uniform national swing and could be upset by an unwind of some of the tactical voting that helped Tony Blair to his landlsides in 1997 and 2001. Shrewd gamblers who understand this are going ot make a lot of money at the General Election.

    The General Election markets on which party gets most seats remain unchanged with Labour 1/4 favourite. We expect this to be eased in the coming days.

    We also expect moves against Labour on the spread betting markets where the current prices are:-

    LAB 342-350 seats: CON 212-220: LIBD 67-71

    We have been saying for months that Labour is over-priced and the Lib Dems under-priced.