Archive for September, 2004


Hartlepool Price watch – where’s the money going?

Saturday, September 25th, 2004


    Labour nervousness – not much Lib Dem confidence

There’s currently almost no support for Labour at the heavy odds-on prices on the Betfair exchange and prices are easing. At the same time there’s been a slight hardening in the Lib Dem price. The LDs are now at about 100/30 down from between 9/2 and 4/1.

Labour has moved out from 1/5 to about 1/4. What’s very telling is that currently there’s nobody offering to bet on Labour at anything less than 2/5.

Our reading is that after Saturday’s campaigning there’s a mood of nervousness in the Labour camp but that is not matched by a big change in confidence levels amongst LD backers.

This has all resulted in very little betting and not much liquidity in the market. Over the past couple of days Labour had been pushed to 1/6 when backers were obviously feeling more bullish.



Can Chris Rennard turn the battle of the blog in Hartlepool?

Saturday, September 25th, 2004


    Labour – speaking up for drunks and irresponsible pet owners

With the campaign going into its final weekend Labour remain very firm favourites to hold onto the seat vacated by Peter Mandelson. If you want to bet on Labour then the best price is 2/5 from PaddyPower. For the Lib Dems the fluctuating Betfair betting exchange price seems to offer the best value.

    The betting odds are in spite of Labour following precisely the same type of campaign that saw a 28% collapse in Birmingham Hodge Hill and brought them to within a few hundred votes of losing the seat.

The aim has been to find a chink in the LD candidate and focus everything on that. In Birmingham it was the candidate’s job in the mobile phone industry – in Hartlepool it’s some unwise comments made on her campaign blog.

In it she described canvassing in one part of Hartlepool where everybody was “drunk, flanked by an angry dog or undressed.” They’ve even gone to the extent of arranging a poster van featuring the remark to be driven round the streets , they’ve started a “pride in Harlepool petition” and have organised a photo-call.

This is a high risk stategy especially in view of what happened in Hodge Hill. It appeals to activists but does it appeal to voters who might wonder why issues like the NHS, eduaction, law and order and Iraq are not being high-lighted? The Birmingham outcome indicates that electors don’t like this approach.

Lord Chris Rennard, above, who is masterminding the LD campaign has built up a formidable reputation by finding the issues that resonate with electors in by-elections. Watch for the way he might turn this round on Labour – could he develop this line?

    While the LDs have been trying to ensure the future of the local hospital all Labour wants to do is defend excessive drinking and irresponsible pet ownership.

Whether Labour have got it right we will know in the early hours of next Friday morning. Will it fire up stay-at-home Labour supporters to turn-out? We think it’s going to re-bound because it looks so trivial and focuses attention on the LDs.

    Although we stick with our Labour call do not underestimate Chris Rennard. The 4/1 Betfair price looks tempting for someone who fancies a punt at reasonable odds.

A good guide to the outcome will be the way people are betting. If the hundreds of Lib Dem activists who will be flooding into the town this weekend from all over the UK get a sniff that a victory is possible then the price will come right down. This was a good guide at Brent East, Leicester South and Birmingham Hodge Hill and we expect it to be the same in Hartlepool. You can see an interesting chart on price movements by clicking on the party names in the betting exchange screen.

Whatever Hartlepool will be an internet first – a by-election where a blog becomes centre stage. For good coverage of the by-election check out the excellent Guacamoleville site.


Labour’s present to Michael Howard

Friday, September 24th, 2004

lab logo

    The tactical vote unwind – Labour style

With the Lib Dems stating that “replacing the Tory party as the opposition” is their current objective a remarkable piece of Labour campaigning has been reported by a correspondent on the site.

Villan sent us this message: “I live in a Tory-held Con/LibDem marginal. I was interested to get a Labour leaflet through the door the other day urging the “estimated 20-40% of Labour supporters who voted tactically for the LibDems in 2001″ (sic) not to do so again.

(paraphrased) “The LibDems can’t win here. They say they are the only ones who can beat the Tories here but in actual fact they never do, so vote for who you really want”.

If this is more than just a single constituency initiative then it reveals extraordinary thinking by the Labour hierarchy.

    For it implies that Tony Blair’s party would much prefer the Conservatives to hold onto seats than to allow the Lib Dems to get a foot-hold.

But the boot could be on the other foot. If the LDs who switched in their hundreds of thousands in 1997 and 2001 to help Labour defeat Tories took the same advice about “voting for who you really want” then Labour’s in serious trouble. But there is certainly an air of panic apparent in the Labour camp.

The Indpendent has a report about Labour private polling painting that shows that about 7 per cent of the electorate who were natural Labour supporters will not bother to vote at the next general election because they feel neglected by Mr Blair. They are angry that foreign affairs have dominated his second term as Prime Minister.
Many of these key voters switched to Labour in 1997 and are middle-class people who did not oppose the Iraq war. Labour sources say they are a much bigger group than the professional AB1 voters who opposed the Iraq conflict and are now likely to support anti-war parties such as the Liberal Democrats.

The dynamics of real three party politics and the aftermath of the Iraq War are making the coming election very hard to call. The spread betting markets are back in business. Our calls are still SELL LABOUR – BUY LIB DEM. The prices are:-
LAB 340-348: CON 212-220: LIBD 67-71


Will Michael out talk Charles and Tony?

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004


    Who’s going to make the longest conference speech?

Another new political betting market – the fourth in two days – on which speech by the leaders of the three main parties is going to last the longest. The prices are Michael Howard 5/4: Tony Blair 6/4: Charles Kennedy 2/1. Unlike the latest William Hill bets this market, from PaddyPower, is online.

Acording to the BBC Kennedy’s speech today lasted for an hour so that’s the one to beat. The question is whether Blair or Howard will last longer.

This is a crazy market which is hard to call and a lot depends on how long the orchestrated bouts of “spontanenous” applause by loyal activists located at the front of the hall go on for.

    Given that Blair is probably in most trouble with his party and that the Labour organisation leads by a mile when it comes to stage management our money would be on the Prime Minister.

But Michael Howard, at his first conference as leader, could go on for longer but he does tend to be more economical with words and we think that Tony Blair will beat him.

Whatever all the speeches will feel as though they’ve gone on for far too long.

SportingIndex have resumed their spread market on Commons seats at the General Election and they still have not recognised that there will be a smaller Parliament next time. The latest prices are:-
LAB 340-348: CON 212-220: LIBD 67-71
Taking the mid-points this assumes that the three main parties will take 629 seats in the next House of Commons leaving just 17 seats for all the Northern Ireland parties, the SNP and PC , UKIP and any independent. By our reckoning they are 8-9 seats over.

The IG price mid-points assume that the three main parties will take 624 seats. Their prices are:-
LAB 340-348: CON 2o8-216: LIBD 66-70: UKIP 1.2-2

As we explained on Tuesday boundary changes in Scotland will see 13 less MPs from north of the border after the election. It’s estimated that Labour will lose 10 seats.


Kennedy PM? Now same odds as the Queen abdicating

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

Yet another new Lib Dem market from William Hill. Somebody there is having a busy week! They are now offering the same odds on Charles Kennedy ever becoming Prime Minister as they are for the Queen to abdicate – 33/1.

We do not generally like open-ended markets like this because the bookmakers gets hold of your money and can sit on it for a very long time. However 33/1 seems good value. If the Lib Dems do well at the next election Kennedy’s leadership would probably be secure and they would be in with a reasonable chance for the election after next. But things could happen earlier. If the next election produces, as is becoming more likely, an inconclusive result then anything can happen.

As for the Queen abdicating the 33/1 seems a good price as well. What about linking the bets and get £1,156 for a £1 stake on the Kennedy-Queen double?


The Lib Dems are not worth 7/1 to come second

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

lib dem victory

    Don’t be carried away by the conference euphoria

In an attempt to cash in on the euphoria of the Lib Dems Bournemouth conference William Hill today launched two new General election markets for the party netiher of which is online yet. They are quoting them at odds of 7/1 to record a higher percentage of votes polled than the Conservatives and at 10/1 to get more seats than the Tories.

    These prices are NOT GOOD VALUE even though we’ve been saying repeatedly that anything could happen with voters deserting Labour and the Tories failing to capitalise.

The bets are also restrictive to the order being 1. LAB, 2. LIBD, 3. CON. What happens, as we saw in the June 10 locals, if Labour came in third? Under the terms of both bets you lose.

The forthcoming demise of the Tories, predicted by Lord Razzell at the LDs’ Bournmouth conference, seems to be based on entirely the received wisdom in the Westminster village – not on actual facts. For although the Lib Dems have been eating into Labour core heartlands they’ve been finding it much tougher this year to win over Tory votes.

    In the excitement following the July by-elections the Lib Dem’s relative failure to squeeze the Tory vote was hardly commented upon. Their proposition as the party most likely to get Labour out was strong yet very few Tories shifted.

The decline in both seats the Tories was just over two per cent and the Lib Dem success was almost totally down to votes swinging from Labour which had falls of 25-28%. This experience does not bode well for the party in Hartlepool where Labour remain firm favourites.

    To try to base a case that the Lib Dems will replace the Tories on this year’s election performances is nonsense. Labour’s the party the voters’ have deserted most.

LAB DOWN 25% & 27% in July By-elections. CON DOWN 2.5% & 2.4%.

LAB THIRD in June 10 local Elections. CON 38%: LIBD 29%: LAB 26%.

LAB’s WORST PERFORMANCE by a governing party in a national election in Euro Elections. CON 26.7: LAB 22.6: UKIP 16.1: LIBD 14.9: GRN 6.3.

LAB LOSING 29% of all the seats it’s defended in 2004 Council by-elections. CON total up 17% – the LDs 7%.

If you want to be on the Lib Dem coming second the Betfair “Second Place” market is better. The odds are longer and there are not the same restrictions.


Have you been betting to the bookmakers’ tune?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004


    Upheaval for Labour punters in Commons seat markets

Big changes are going on in the Commons seat spread markets to take account of the reduction in the number of Scottish seats at the next election. Two markets have been suspended and another has seen big changes to take account of the new House of Commons which will have 13 fewer MPs.

  • The Bet365 seat market is not now available
  • The Sporting Index spread market has been suspended – we assume because of this.
  • There’s been a big changes today at IG Index.
  • This follows our warning last April when we advised punters that the spread betting bookmakers and those operating other seat markets seemed to have got their sums wrong over the number of seats that will actually be fought at the General Election. The Government made it clear as long ago as July 2003 that these changes were going ahead.

      Since then some punters will have been working on the old numbers, which give Labour 10 extra seats, others on the new

    They were ignoring the reduction in Westminster seats from 659 to 646 in a Boundary Commission review to bring the size of Scottish constituencies into line with those in the rest of the country. This is a long overdue reform that could have a big impact on the final result.

    It’s estimated that of the 13 seats that are going Labour will lose ten and the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Tories one seat each. So its only punters who bet for and against Labour who are really affected. All our advice on Politicalbetting has been based on the new reduced numbers – indeed we have regarded this as a profit opportuity.

    Yet for more than six months this seemed to pass the spread bookmakers by in spite of constant warnings by Politicalbetting. They now seem to have woken up to the change.

    Yesterday the IG prices assumed that the three main parties would get 628 seats between them – that’s down to 624. These are the price changes. LAB 340-348 (-2): CON 208-216 (-1): LIBD 66-70 (-1): UKIP 1.2-2

    Thus four seats have disappeared and they will need to round down a bit more to ensure that they are in line with the seats that are actually going to be fought at the election. We’ll have to see how Sporting Index handle it when their market re-opens.

      Will the new prices reflect the Scottish changes – will Labour drop by ten?

    The correction probably won’t move fully in line with the seat reductions but the main beneficiaries from this will be punters who took our advice to bet on Labour getting 335 seats or less or those selling Labour when the spread price was 346-354 – the highest level it has been in the six months. The losers will be those who bought at 354 thinking that the market was operating on the old basis.

    Image –


    What’s the electoral impact of the hunting ban?

    Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

    hunt protests

      Which party will benefit most from the anti-hunting move?

    Whatever you might think of him you have to concede that Tony Blair is an extraordinary political strategist and he would not be pushing the hunting ban within a year of the General Election if he didn’t think it would help Labour at the ballot box.

    The veteran Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, put his finger on it when he told MPs earlier in the year – “there is not a subject under the sun that is better suited to the Labour Party, for raising its morale in the constituencies, than a ban on fox hunting”.

      For Labour the move is honouring a manifesto pledge. If it had not tried to bring in the ban it would have led to more disillusionment amongst the activists.

    No doubt the PM has worked out that the votes Labour might lose are in rural areas where there are not many vulnerable seats. Going ahead with the hunting ban means more Labour votes and probably retaining more seats.

    For the Tories this could be dangerous. They don’t want to be seen supporting law-breakers and violence yet at the same time there’s a section of the community looking to the party for help and support. One political effect is that more people might stick with the Tories because this is a key point on the domestic agenda rather than slipping away to UKIP.

    For the Lib Dems the political impact very much depends on local conditions with candidates and defending MPs taking very different views.

      The danger for Labour is that it can all look so trivial. With so many issues facing the country why are they investing so much time and political capital in something that can be presented as a form of class war-fare?

    The references to “the miners’ strike” , used by some on the Labour side, could be dangerous. Tony Blair won in 97 and 01 because be made it safe for the middle-classes to vote Labour. This could undermine that positioning at a time when support has collapsed because of the war.

    A PERSONAL NOTE. Nearly twenty years ago I was Director of PR and campaigns for the RSPCA and launched the Society’s first campaign in 160 years on the issue following its controversial change of policy to oppose hunting. This involvement came to haunt me seven years later when I was standing for the Lib Dems in a Bedfordshire seat at the 1992 General Election. After this being featured in a local paper we lost a whole delivery network in a difficult to ogranise rural part of the seat because members who had for years been the heart of our organisation there could not stomach working a candidate who opposed hunting. We never recovered. This is an issue on which those who care do so very deeply.

    LATEST BETTING NEWS. William Hill are back with their Hartlepool market. Their prices are:- LAB 2/5: LIBD 7/4: CON 16/1: UKIP 25/1. But if you want to bet on the Tories the current betting exchange prices is 109/1.

    Sporting Index have suspended their spread betting book on the General Election seat market. We do not know why.

    Mike Smithson