Archive for July, 2005


Will the Tory race be affected by IDS’s political ping pong?

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

    Ousted leader: “threatening to leave the party”

With the Tories gearing themselves up for an intense autumn when it will be decided whether Michael Howard’s successor should be elected by a ballot of the party membership the man ousted by the parliamentary party in October 2003, Ian Duncan Smith, is reported to be threatening to resign his membership.

According to the Sunday Telegraph this morning IDS has “told colleagues that he will take the extraordinary step if two people he blames particularly for his downfall are allowed to stand as Tories at the next election.”

The report, by the paper’s Political Editor, Patrick Hennessy, says he would leave the party to become an independent if Vanessa Gearson and Mark MacGregor are selected as Tory candidates. The two “played leading roles in the “Betsygate” affair which saw Mr Duncan Smith accused of sanctioning improper payments to his wife. Both fought last May’s election unsuccessfully and are understood to want to stand again next time.”

This latest move might be part of IDS’s campaign to ensure that it is party members and not the party’s MPs that should have the final say in deciding who the next leader should be. It was this system that saw IDS win emphatically in 2001.

Given that the Tory leadership contest is the most active political betting market at the moment the system of choosing could have a huge impact on the final result.

This site, meanwhile, gets a mention in the Atticus column in the Sunday Times today following the discussion on the political impact of baldness.

Mike Smithson

Our featured picture is courtesy of which has a round-up of politicians playing table tennis


Are the Tories heading for a fourth successive defeat?

Saturday, July 30th, 2005


    What happens if the new leader makes no difference?

Although the poll moves away from the Tories have not been as great as after previous General Elections there’ve been few crumbs of comfort in the few surveys that have been carried out.

We have hardly mentioned the post-May 5th polls on the site because this close to the election the question of what respondents might do in four years time is not very relevant. Also the Olympic 2012 decision and the bombings have clearly helped the government. But from Cheadle and the limited data we have the best that can be said is that the Tory ceiling of 33% support is still in place.

Michael Howard’s move to go into an immediate leadership election has not helped as has his desire to change the rules which will ensure an ongoing row for several months. But is there anything that the party can feel positive about?

  • Boundary changes next time might mean an estimated 17 extra seats as the size of constituencies is brought more into with population changes.
  • Tony Blair has said he’ll go before the next election – though the latest Populus Poll has 48% of Labour supporters saying that he should reconsider his decision to stand down and stay on longer
  • A new Tory leader might articulate a vision that resonates with the millions who have stopped supporting the party – though this has not worked with the last three leader changes.
  • The Lib Dems might stick with Charles Kennedy rather than have a leader who has more appeal to Tory waverers. Nationally on May 5th his party made big inroads into the Labour vote but zero progress amongst Tories.
  • There is quite a range of bookies accepting bets on the outcome of the next UK General Election which we have hardly featured. The implied probability the prices represent is 65% for Labour. We can see no reason for betting now because of the need to lock your money up for so long.

    Mike Smithson


    Will Hilary move from FLOTUS to PROTUS*?

    Friday, July 29th, 2005

      Is it going to be Hilary vs Rudolf or Hilary vs John

    Even though George Bush’s second term only began on January 20th would-be seekers after their parties’ nominations are already talking with potential backers and putting visits to New Hampshire into their diaries in preparation for the 2008 race.

    And because Bush cannot stand again there’ll will be fierce fights amongst both the Democrats and the Republicans to get the precious nominations.

      If the UK betting markets have got this right then it’s going to be between the New York senator and no stranger to the White House, Hilary Clinton, and the former Mayor of New York Rudolf Giuliani. She’s currently at 4/1 while he is second favourite at 8/1.

    Other names in the frame for the Democratic nomination are the V-P candidate from last time, John Edwards and Bill Richardson. Behind Giuliani in the betting for the Republican nomination is John McCain who was defeated by Bush in a rough fight in 2000. Last year there was much talk of McCain going on to the Kerry ticket in a bi-partisan approach but the Republican from Arizona kept well away.

    Hilary’s strong position is based on the view, put lucidly by WBP on this site on Tuesday, that she has changed her public profile dramatically in the last few years and is pitching herself to the middle of the American political spectrum. She wisely kept out of the 2004 race and looks very strong, for the nomination at least in 2008.

      Where the Clintons – Bill and Hilary – have always been brilliant is in developing a policy platform which will appeal and which is robust enough to stand the intense scrutiny of an American election campaign.

    At the moment the UK betting markets have the Republicans ahead as the party most like to win the White House in 2008 which does not stand so squarely with the betting that makes Hilary favourite.

    NOTE FLOTUS and PROTUS is the “shorthand” used by White House officials to describe the First Lady of the United States and the President of the United States. It is anybody’s guess what term they would give to Bill Clinton if he returned to Washington as the Spouse of the President – SPROTUS?

    Mike Smithson


    Would Hague have fared better with a wig?

    Thursday, July 28th, 2005

      Can a bald leader beat one with hair?

    If you aspire to the leadership of your party and are a bit thin on top one of the most depressing political facts is that in modern times a party led by a bald man has never beaten a party led by someone with hair in a UK general election.

    The only time the country has had bald man at Number 10 was between 1940 and 1955 when first it was Churchill, then it was Atlee and then it was back to Churchill again. In the General Elections of 1945, 1950, and 1951 it was bald fighting bald.

    Recent examples of bald leaders failing are Neil Kinnock in 1987 and 1992 and, of course, William Hague in 2001. Ian Duncan Smith did not stay in the Tory leadership long enough to fight an election.

    Of course whoever was Tory leader in 2001 was going to find it a struggle but would the party have done better if Hague had not lost his hair or if he had had the foresight to acquire a hair-piece when he was starting to get a bit thin on top? His baldness became another thing that could be attacked and riduculed and Labour felt so confident about the public attitude to bald men in 2001 that they were happy to feature his lack of hair in a poster campaigns.

      Is it any wonder then that ambitious politicians who fear that they might be losing their hair seek a remedy. The Catch-22 is that they might get found out and not only are they seen to be bald but they appear vain as well.

    In this the UK is unlike France which has had a number of bald presidents including Chirac, Germany which had Kohl and Italy with Berlesconi. In the US one of the hot tips for the Republican nomination is John McCain who is thinning on top.

    Since this first came up in one of our discussions a week or so ago a number of PB.C users have emailed me privately to say that X or Y has a hair-piece. Leading figures in all three parties have been mentioned and we have been provided with interesting photographic evidence. I’m still trying to work out what to do with it.

    A SPELL-CHECKER for our discussion forums. The latest version of the Google Toolbar features a spell-checker that works with our discussion feature and allows posting without irritating mistakes. There are versions for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers.

      Politicalbetting particularly welcomes new users to the discussion forums

    Mike Smithson


    Punters lose out again on Blair’s departure

    Wednesday, July 27th, 2005


      Even when he looks down keep following Lucky Tony

    For the fourth time in just two years punters who piled in to bet on Tony Blair’s imminent departure are set to lose money on the political betting markets. In the aftermath of the May 5th General Election the price on him stepping aside during 2005 was just 2/1. On the Betfair exchange one punter bet that he would be out by September at a price less than evens.

    More bookmakers are now taking bets on when Blair will go and the money is going on this happening later rather than sooner. The price against it happening during 2005 is now 25/1 and the favourite period is 2007 – 2008.

      There seems to be a lemming-type mentality amongst a group of gamblers who seem always ready to put money on Blair going at silly prices whenever a new issue emerges.
  • July- September 2003 Almost exactly two years ago, when the headlines were dominated by the aftermath of the David Kelly suicide and the Hutton Inquiry, Betfair launched a series of markets under the generic title “Government Scandal” in which punters assessed whether a list ranging from Andrew Gilligan to Geoff Hoon would still be in their posts on September 30th 2003. For a period the price on Tony Blair being being out tightened to below evens – that is an implied probability of more than 50%. The punters who bet against him lost – Tony Blair survived.
  • January 2004 In the run-up to the publication of the Hutton report at the start of last year Betfair tried to replicate their “Government Scandal” success and punters bet on whether a different list of figures would still be in post the following month. Again, though not for long, the price on Tony Blair tightened to a 50% chance that he would be out. The punters who bet against him lost – Tony Blair survived.
  • May 2004 During one heady rumour-filled weekend Gordon Brown became favourite to lead the Labour Party at the 2005 General Election. For a time the implied probability of Blair going exceeded 50%. Those who bet against him lost – Tony Blair survived.
  • As we said before the Olympic 2012 venue was announced punters should follow lucky Tony and those that did got a nice payday. The problem, however, with backing Blair to stay is that you are locking your cash up for as many years as he remains – which might not be a smart move even if the judgement is right.

    Mike Smithson


    Will David Davis get hit by the favourite’s “curse”?

    Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

      How long will the smiles last?

    One of the rules of Tory leadership contests is that the early favourite never wins. We thought that the Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, was going to buck this trend as the money piled on him during June and early July pushing the implied probability represented by his betting price to nearly 62%.

    This has moved back sharply and is only just above evens – at a 52% chance. We’ve observed before in this race how Davis is a much firmer favourite where the bookmakers set the price and not punters – as happens with a betting exchange. This has been true with Betfair and is happening with Tradesports – the Dublin-based exchange which also has a market. Because the exchange price is based on what real gamblers are prepared to risk it is probably a better guide to how betting opinion is moving than the standard bookie odds.

      What is happening is that individual punters are prepared to accept bets on Davis at prices which are substantially better for the backer than those offered by the bookies. The punter view of Davis is that he’s a 52% chance while the bookmakers won’t take a bet at less than 60%.

    The clear challenger is the young Shadow Education Secretary, David Cameron, where the price has moved up to one that represents a 22% implied probability of success – the highest it has ever been.

    Although we have not had an article for several days on the Tory leadership almost all of our discussion threads seem to go in this direction and there have been a number of developments including Alan Duncan’s warning about the “Tory Taliban” and the launch of the “Cornerstone Group”.

    The Tory blogger and operator of UK Polling Report, Anthony Wells, has produced a detailed analysis under the title “How deep a hole are the Conservatives in?” which sets out lucidly where they stand electorally – and it looks quite bleak.

    So whoever comes out as the eventual winner of this contest has a big challenge getting to Downing Street.

    Mike Smithson


    Is Angela Merkel set to be the next German Chancellor?

    Monday, July 25th, 2005

      Would a Schroeder defeat mean that it’s all change in Europe?

    If the polls and the betting markets have the German election right then Angela Merkel’s grouping of Christian Democrats and its Bavarian-based associate party Christian Social Union are on their way to a victory in the national ballot which is now set to take place on September 18th.

    The “starting gun” was fired on Thursday when the German President, Horst Koehler, announced that he had agreed to Chancellor Schroeder’s request to bring forward the country’s national election by a year. The early election has been on the cards since May when Schroeder’s ruling Social Democrats were badly beaten in state elections in the party’s traditional heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia.

    The latest polls give Merkel’s CDU-CSU grouping 43% with 7% being recorded by the Free Democrats – the likely coalition partner. Shroeder’s SDP is on 26%. The best UK betting price on the CDU-CSU is currently 1/20 – but note that in this market “the winner will be the group that wins the most seats in the Bundestag.” As we get closer to September 18th we expect other markets to emerge.

      A key issue is economic reform and dealing with the country’s soaring unemployment figures currently at 4.7m.

    With Europe going through a period of uncertainty following the no votes in the French and Dutch referenda a change in Berlin could have a huge impact on the future direction of the EU. In some quarters Merkel is seen as being an anti-European and clearly she would not have the same close relationship with Jacques Chircac that has been enjoyed by Schroeder. The move would also come at a time when the UK holds the EU presidency and it will be interesting to watch how UK ministers and Tony Blair deal with a changeover in the country with Europe’s biggest economy.

    Mike Smithson


    Can Karl Rove survive the CIA leak scandal?

    Sunday, July 24th, 2005

      It’s 6/1 against him having to go

    The Dublin-based international betting exchange, Tradesports, has opened a market on whether George Bush’s closest aide and architect of his election victories, Karl Rove, will announce his resignation on or before 30 September 2005. The current price is about 6/1.

    The heart of the issue is whether Rove told a journalist that the wife of a prominent critic of the White House’s Iraq polcy was a covert CIA agent and if he did whether this was illegal.

    The affair began in July 2003 two months after the “ending” of the war in Iraq when the woman’s husband, Joseph Wilson, wrote an article in the New York Times in which he accused the White House of twisting intelligence.

      This all happened at the same time as the David Kelly case exploded in the UK and has a number of similarities – the war, how intelligence was used and alleged secret briefings which revealed the identity of Government employees

    It is alleged that administration officials leaked the name of Wilson’s wife as a way of undermining him. A Time magazine reporter has said that Mr Rove did not disclose the name of Valerie Plame name, but said the wife of a government critic was a covert CIA agent.

    George Bush has a record of being very loyal to those closest to him and although the Democrats are raising the heat we think that Rove will hang on. The price is nice – but not nice enough.

    Mike Smithson