Archive for January, 2005


Will the pig poster cost Jewish votes?

Friday, January 28th, 2005

    Why did nobody realise that this was offensive?

Labour’s poster featuring Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin as the faces of flying pigs was surely not designed to make political capital out of the Jewish backgrounds of the Opposition Leader and Shadow Chancellor.

But how come that Alan Milburn or somebody else in Labour’s campaign team did not know that it is distasteful for a Jewish person to be associated with a pig? And given the fuss why have Labour PR people sought to justify the ad rather than apologise which would at least have prevented much of the ongoing damage.

    The affair looks crass and careless and could help galvanise parts of the Jewish communities against Labour.

After a week in which liberal (small l) opinion has has been appalled by the Tory immigration plan along comes Labour and acts in a manner that could be seen as anti-semitic. This is just dumb.

When Michael Howard became Tory leader the pride in the Jewish press that a Jewish person could become Prime Minister was tinged with a worry that it could produce an anti-semitic reaction.

Will the poster cost votes? Probably. How many? That’s hard to say but with Labour still trapped in the mid-high 30s in the polls needlessly offending any section of the population is not a smart move. It could just tip the balance in seats like Finchley and Golders Green where Labour is defending a 3,700 majority.

Mike Smithson


How the punters beat the pollsters

Friday, January 28th, 2005

    Are betting markets a good guide to changing opinion?

A remarkable aspect of today’s YouGov move to the Tories was that the change was forecast more than forty-hours beforehand on the betting markets even while the survey for the Daily Telegraph was still taking place.

On Tuesday Michael Howard’s party was at it’s lowest point for years on the spread-betting markets with the range being predicted by those ready to back up their opinions with cash at 183-190 seats. The following day we reported that the price had gone up two and suggested that the Tories might have bottomed and then, perhaps, was the time to buy.

Since then the YouGov poll has come out and the Tories are showing a six seat gain in four days. The latest IG Index spreads are Lab 355 – 362: Con 189 – 196: Lib 70 – 74

    It is important to note that what prompted the move mid-week was not a new poll or a comment on Politicalbetting – but punters taking stock of the situation and putting money on.

It will be interesting to see if today’s poll trend is picked up by the Communcate Research survey due to the published in the Independent on Sunday and the February Populus survey which will probably be in the Times a week on Tuesday.

    For our General Election Coverage we are hoping to feature a live feed of betting prices so that users will be able to get the latest information on how things are moving.

As we get closer to the day the amount of money being bet will increase dramatically and prices could be changing many times a day. The live information could become a vital information source and it will be interesting to see if the gamblers beat the pollsters and the pundits.

Mike Smithson


Tories up 3% in a week

Friday, January 28th, 2005

    UKIP’s decline and immigration give Howard a boost

Punters who have been backing the Tories on the spread-betting markets in the past few days have been vindicated by the latest YouGov poll in the Telegraph has the party 3% up on last Sunday. The figures are: LAB 35% (+1): CON 34 (+3): LD 22 (-3): OTH 9 (-1)

Interestingly the change has come from the Lib Dems and not Labour which has gone up.

    It might be that part of the Lib Dem totals in recent weeks have included a segment of voters who are just opposed to Tony Blair and will move to the party that seems most likely to defeat him. That looks dangerous for Labour.

This is the first survey since the Tories unveiled their plans on immigration. The total for others is less than 10% which is down from the 13% it rose to when UKIP came on the scene at the Euro Elections. A year ago “others” was at 6-7%. We don’t have a breakdown from the latest survey but it’s clear that the UKIP split with Robert Kilroy-Silk has had a huge impact on the public’s perception of that party as an electoral force.

    When tested in real elections YouGov’s record is by far the most accurate pollster only over-stating Labour and understating the Tories by one or two points. Given this Michael Howard’s party is at worst level-pegging and is probably slightly ahead of Labour.

In spite of this Howard still has a mountain to climb for the Tories to win most seats or even win an overall majority. Britain’s electoral geography is so much in Labour’s favour that on a uniform national swing Tony Blair could hold onto power even if Labour is 2-3% less than the Tories in the popular vote. Although Lib Dem targeting and tactical vote rewind could see Labour with disproportionate losses above the national swing the party stays in a very strong position.

Our call this week to buy the Tories at 192 seats looks good. It is hard to see the party getting less than 200 seats and it could do a lot better.

The Tory price has risen again on IG Index This morning’s spreads are:- LAB 355-362 (-1): CON 188-195 (+2): LDs 71-75 which means that the Tory spread is uo five seats in three days. We think that there is still value in the price. Just putting the YouGov shares into the Martin Baxter’s universal national swing calculator gives a total of 207 seats.

Mike Smithson


Tory spread recovery continues

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

For the second day running the spread-betting price on the number of MPs that punters think the party will get at the coming election has moved upwards.

After yesterday’s two seat rise IG Index have added a further seat at the expense of Labour. Today’s spreads are:- LAB 356-363 (-1): CON 186-193 (+1): LDs 71-75.

We do not know whether this is as a result of more money going on or just a precautionary step by the firm in advance of the January YouGov survey that’s expected tomorrow in the Daily Telegraph. Quite often the firm emails us if there has been exceptional betting activity.

    If the Tories are going to stage a recovery then conditions are right for this to be reflected in the coming YouGov poll.

The UKIP threat has clearly declined following the Kilroy-Silk departure and the party’s immigration policies might have made a dent in the Labour YouGov lead that’s been there since August.

A possible black cloud for Michael Howard would be if any move from Labour went to the Lib Dems instead – as happened in the weekend’s survey.

One thing’s for certain – tomorrow’s YouGov figures will be nothing like as positive for the Tories as the same survey exactly a year ago when the party was on 40%.

If there is no progress in tomorrow’s poll then we would expect the Tory price to slip back.

Mike Smithson


Is May 5th a certainty?

Thursday, January 27th, 2005

    Is this snap election talk just that – talk?

With the betting exchange, Betfair, opening a new market on whether or not the General Election will be on the widely forcast date of May 5 there’s renewed specualation this morning that a snap election might be in the offiing.

This has been fuelled by Alastair Campbell making a quiet return to full-time return to politics. According to a report in the Scotsman Mr Campbell’s daily attendance at Labour’s new campaign HQ in London, along with increasing input from another architect of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, suggests Mr Blair has reconstructed his “dream team” earlier than most observers were expecting. The heightened preparations for the election are fuelling the hopes of some Labour MPs that the Mr Blair will go to the country before the 5 May date many have pencilled in for the poll.

We should get a clear pointer in a matter of days rather than weeks. In an astute article in the Independent in December Michael Brown argued that the timing of the budget could be very significant – and we should know the date of that quite soon.

This was from the piece: Budgets are usually held in the second or third week of March. This would not be possible if Parliament had already been dissolved. But if there is a budget on 2 March (notice of this would be given some weeks ahead), be on your guard for an announcement, immediately afterwards, of an election on 31 March. Remember that, in 1992, John Major dissolved Parliament 48 hours after an early March budget. I do not expect this to happen. However, if it does, you read it here first.

On the main Betfair “Election Date” market the price on it being held between April and June is 1/12. But the new market is specifically on whether or not it will be on May 5th. As of the time of writing just £40 had been matched and there are no interesting prices either side.

THANK YOU to those taking part in the discussions for lowering the temperature of the debates. This is going to be much more challenging as we get closer to the date, May 5th or not, and let’s try to keep this as a site where people of all allegiances are involved.

From a personal perspective I am currently changing jobs and have arranged my leaving and start dates so that I will be able to devote myself full-time to Politicalbetting during the election campaign – provided it is on May 5th! As well as more comprehensive articles this will allow me to moderate actively in a way that I do not have the time to do at the moment – but it is far better if we are self-policing.

Mike Smithson


Has the Tory price bottomed out?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

    Howard’s immigration plans please the punters

After weeks of steady decline on the spread markets the Tory price has staged a small recovery as punters seek to get in at what they see as bargain prices.

IG Index this evening marked Michael Howard’s party up two seats as punters took stock of the policy line-up on immigration and Labour’s two point drop in the Guardian ICM poll. There’s also a realisation that a Labour buy bet on 364 seat – a majority of 81 – is much riskier with the party only being nine points ahead of the Lib Dems, as seen in the weekend’s YouGov poll.

    We think that a Tory buy bet at 192 seats is good value. If you want to bet on the Tories now might be the time to do it.

A number of potential Tory buyers who’ve been in contact with me have been waiting for the price to bottom out and I expect further moves in Michael Howard’s direction – particularly on Friday if the January Yougov poll in the Daily Telegraph, the first survey to be taken after the Tory immigration plan, is similar to the one at the weekend or shows a further move away from Labour.

This will be reinforced by a big change that’s likely in Martin Baxter’s uniform national swing prediction which has not yet factored in the latest ICM poll and is still using the December YouGov poll which had Labour higher and the Lib Dems on 21%. We expect this to get near or even go below a predicted 100 seat Labour majority for the first time in months.

Sentiment could change a bit in the other direction on Sunday with the Communicate Research survey due in the Independent on Sunday but the markets tend to take less notice of this pollster than YouGov or ICM.

Latest IG Index spread prices: LAB 357-364 (-1): CON 185-192 (+2): LDs 71-75. There will be 646 seats in the next House of Commons so to win a majority a party needs to get 323 seats or more.

To bet you “buy” at the high figure in the spread and you win the level of your unit stake multiplied by the number of seats in excess of the price you bought. Thus if Labour got 380 seats and you bought with a stake of £20 at 364 you would win 16 times £20 = £320. Your losses are calculated in the same way if Labour ended up with less than 364 seats.

Mike Smithson


What do we think of Andy Cooke’s analysis?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

    Will polling inaccuaracy and tactical voting cause an upset?

One of our regular contributors, Andy Cooke, produced the following well-worked out analysis of the coming election and posted it in our comments section. We think it should be given greater prominence.

The volatility of this upcoming election is largely down to two major factors:

  • Opinion Poll accuracy (or lack) – will they be closer than in 01?
  • Tactical Voting – will it unwind, and if so, how far?
  • On the first, the widespread belief is that the opinion polls err in Labour’s favour. The “failure of the polls” in 92 did lead to major investigations by the polling companies and changes of strategy by many. Nevertheless, in 97 and 01, they still overestimated the Labour lead. Have they got it right this time?

    In 97, the polling booths produced 103 Tory voters, 94 Labour voters and 112 Lib Dems for every 100 of each that the pollsters found (from the Martin Baxter historical poll of polls at the time)

    In 01, there were 108 Tories, 91 Labour and 107 Lib Dems for every 100 of each that the poll of polls predicted. (In 92, the figures were 116 Tories, 90 Labour and only 92 Lib Dems per hundred of each predicted).

    On Baxter’s current poll-of-polls, we have Con 32.07, Lab 36.97, LD 21.04. If that is as accurate as in 97, it would reflect a “polling booth” value of Con 33.03, Lab 34.75, LD 23.56. If it is as accurate as the 01 polls, it would be a “true” value of Con 34.64, Lab 33.64, LD 22.51.

    The latter figures give a wafer-thin Labour majority of 8 (with no TV unwind): Con 231, Lab 327, LD 57. So we have (without Tactical Voting addressed) a range of Labour majority of 8 to 116 (the “8″ assuming accuracy equivalent to the 2001 polls, “116″ assuming the poll-of-polls to be spot on).

    How about Tactical Voting?
    The accumulated Tactical Voting squeeze, from the 92, 97 and 01 elections, equates to a total of +3.6 Lab to Lib and +10.2 Lib to Lab (that is, to get the current status quo on the 2001 vote shares from a hypothetical baseline of no tactical voting, you’d need to input +3.6 and +10.2 into the relevant boxes).

    This means that if anti-Tory Tactical Voting were to disappear completely (which is unfeasibly unlikely – voter inertia should lead some to continue), the values for these boxes would be -3.6 and -10.2 respectively. Putting these in should give the absolute limits of Tactical Voting unwind.

    For the “97-class accuracy” projected vote shares of Con 33.03, Lab 34.75, LD 23.56, it gives Con 285, Lab 277, LD 54 [Highly non-intuitive – the Con seat share is higher than Labour on less of the vote! Then again, with vote shares between the top two parties this low, it all depends on which seats are lost where]

    For the “01-class accuracy” projected vote shares of Con 34.64, Lab 33.64, LD 22.51, it gives Con 315, Lab 248, LD 52. Please note that a full tactical Vote unwind in one fell swoop such as this is really unlikely – I’m trying to show the limits of the possible.

    So, on the poll-of-polls as of 9th January, we can have Con at 180-315 seats, Lab at 248-381 seats an LDs at 52-58 seats. This is a range from Labour Majority of 116, to Conservatives minority of 9 seats. Now that’s volatile. Also note that the polls could be inaccurate the other way – the pollsters might have overcorrected. In which case, that same poll-of-polls could reflect a Labour majority of 130+

    As a PS, I put in “Mean” values – projecting vote share using derived accuracy midway between the 97-class and 01-class accuracy polls, with TV unwind at 50% (-1.8 and -5.1). This gives a hung Parliament: Con 262, Lab 295 and LD 58.

    My main observation is that Andy is basing his polling accuracy figures on Martin Baxter’s “poll of polls” from previus elections. Since then we have seen the development of YouGov which, with its large sample, represents about a quarter of Martin’s figures and probably counter-balances some of the pro-Labour bias that Andy cites.

    Mike Smithson


    Is Crosby’s “Tories can’t win” line part of the plan?

    Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

      What’s the “master of the dark political arts” up to?

    Why are the pundits and politicians taking at face value the stories that the Tories’ Australian campaign guru, Lytton Crosby (above) has allegedly told Michael Howard that the Tories cannot win?

    Given that the 48-year-old who was brought to the UK by the Tory leader last autumn has been described as a “master of the dark political arts” and “the Australian Karl Rove,” surely the wise course is to treat everything that is said about him with a huge pinch of salt.

      Could it be that Crosby, who streered the Australian Prime Minister John Howard to four successive victories, has worked out that the best strategy for the Tories is not to be seen as a potential election winner?

    Crosby, it should be recalled, was the strategist behind the remarkable campaign in 1996 when the Australian Liberal party pulled off a surprise victory in the General Election there by all but conceding that the party had no chance of beating the Government of the then Labour Prime Minister, Paul Keating.

    Instead the Crosby campaign urged the voters to “send Keating a message”. The voters did, Keating was defeated, and John Howard became Prime Minister.

    Is it possible that Crosby has discovered that there is so much residual hostility to the Tories that he has to squash the very idea that the party could return to power? Take away that threat and voters will probe Labour and Blair more bringing the “trust issue” to the top of the agenda.

    Might we be hearing from the Tories in April that the electors should “send a message to Tony Blair”. Does this sound too devious? Yes. But that by all accounts is how Crosby operates.

    Latest IG Index spread prices: LAB 358-365: CON 183-190: LDs 71-75

    Latest Spreadfair prices: LAB 358-359: CON 186-190: LDs 72.4-73.5.

    The moves on both markets have been from Labour to the Lib Dems.

    Mike Smithson