Archive for September, 2005


Meet the man who claims he toppled Blunkett

Friday, September 30th, 2005
    Is David Davis really the man gamblers should thank?

One of the great bets at the end of last year was the 7/2 you could get against David Blunkett not surviving until the end of December in all the furore over the Kimberely Quinn paternity case. Blunkett was of course Home Secretary and David Davis was his Tory shadow.

Until yesterday’s formal launch of the David Davis campaign for the Tory leadership not everybody, we guess, fully realised the part that Davis played in Blunkett’s departure. For in a BBC potted history of the paternity affair the Shadow home Secretary’s name appears just once and that was a reference to a call he made sixteen days before the departure.

    But according to the short biography on his campaign website one of Davis’s achievements, we are told, was that it was he who “prompted” Blunkett’s resignation.

This follows the the Newsnight feature on Wednesday which questioned the extent of his role in coming to the aid of a gay teenager while he was at school – something that he has spoken about. That can be explained because it was all a long time ago and people have different memories.

The Blunkett claim is different because he is talking about something that happened amidst a huge amount of publicity just ten months ago and is within people’s recall. You have to be careful about taking the credit for things that people know about.

Tory leadership betting prices

  • Conventional bookmakers best price: Davis 8/15: Clarke 11/4: Cameron 10/1: Fox 12/1: Rifkind 33/1
  • Betfair betting exchange: Davis 0.6/1: Clark 2.85/1: Cameron 8.8/1: Fox 11.5/1: Rifkind 84/1
  • BinaryBet spread market. Davis 56-63: Clarke 23-29: Cameron 5-9 Fox 5-9: Rifkind 1-3
  • Mike Smithson


    Will Walter’s eviction depress Labour’s by-election turnout?

    Thursday, September 29th, 2005
      How will tonight’s elections go?

    As well as the PR disaster at the Labour conference itself the forceful eviction of 82 year-old Walter Wolfgang came on the eve of the two by-elections where the party is defending pretty safe majorities in Scotland.

    Forcing the escapee from Nazi Germany from the conference hall and the constant repetition of the incident over the past 36 hours on television cannot have helped the Labour effort to get its vote out today in Livingston for Robin Cook’s old Westminster seat and Glasgow Cathcart where the ex-MSP is now in jail.

    When Labour officials chose September 29th for the votes they must have thought that they would be helped by all the attendant publicity. Well there’s been coverage alright but not quite of the sort that enthuses activists.

    We’ll know in a few hours just how the voting has gone but almost certainly some votes will have been lost because of what happened in Brighton.

    Also overnight we should get the results of this week’s Thursday council by-elections. We have not got an exhaustive list but those we know about are at:-

  • Bournemouth UA, Kinson North
  • Derwentside DC, Stanley Hall Party Defending Seat: Lab.
  • East Sussex CC, Pevensey & Westham Party Defending Seat: Con.
  • Maghull TC, East Ward Party Defending Seat: Con
  • Rother DC, Bexhill St Stephens Party Defending Seat: Con.
  • Salford City Council, Barton Party Defending Seat: Lab.
  • Wealden DC, Pevensey & Westham Party Defending Seat: Con.
  • Winchester City Council, Olivers Battery & Badger Farm Party Defending Seat: LD.

  • Mike Smithson


    Why my money’s on Ken

    Thursday, September 29th, 2005
      How PB.C’s Tories swayed my betting

    In the immediate aftermath of the French refendum in May rejecting the EU constitution I put a big spread bet on Ken Clarke for the Tory leadership because it appeared that the issue that distanced him from the bulk of his party had been kicked into touch. No UK referendum meant that he was not going to be put on the spot in the run-up to a similar UK vote.

    From my non-Tory standpoint it was obvious that Ken was the man who would resonate most with voters. True – he carries a lot of baggage but he has a remarkable ability to shake it off.

    Like Tony Blair Ken Clarke has the vital Teflon quality that means that things like his tobacco links don’t stick.

    Within a week I closed down my position at a big profit after being influenced by the intense hostility that the former Chancellor aroused from many of the Tory participants in PB.C’s discussion forums. In June he hardly had any supporters.

    Today I’m back into Ken in a big way – at a much reduced price. I’ve done it for the same reasons – the opinions lucidly expressed by Tory contributors here – many of whom are now supporting Ken because they argue that he is the only potential leader who has a chance, even if still a bit remote, of denting Labour’s majority at the next General Election.

    Now the election process is under way there’ll be intense media scrutiny of the contenders and it is here that Clarke scores. Just compare the way he approaches interviews with David Davis. Yesterday I was invited to appear on Radio 4’s World at One and just before my interview they had David Davis on. I was flabbergasted by how the Shadow Home Secretary failed to project himself and clearly the producers were frustrated because they only ran him for about half a minute.

    By all accounts Davis did a great job when he was chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee and as Shadow Home Secretary he can count at least one ministerial scalp to his credit. But a leader needs to have a presence and charisma and he needs to be good with the media.

    The big danger of my betting position is that Clarke will not make the final two for the membership ballot. That’s a risk but I’m now convinced that if he does get to that stage then there’s more than an even chance that membership will elect him.

    Tory leadership betting prices

  • Conventional bookmakers best price: Davis 8/15: Clarke 9/4: Cameron 10/1: Fox 12/1: Rifkind 33/1
  • Betfair betting exchange: Davis 0.59/1: Clark 3.1/1: Cameron 13.5/1: Fox 10.5/1: Rifkind 69/1
  • BinaryBet spread market. Davis 56-63: Clarke 23-29: Cameron 5-9 Fox 5-9: Rifkind 1-3
  • Mike Smithson


    The uncertainty continues for Davis and Brown

    Wednesday, September 28th, 2005

      Does yesterday make the Gordon-David show a touch less likely?

    After the events of this week the one almost sure thing that you can predict about the next General Election is that Oxford University’s stranglehold on UK politics will be broken.

    For the first time since Stanley Baldwin in 1935 an election looks set to be won by someone who was educated at a University other than Oxford. The only exceptions in the past 70 years, Churchill and Major, were not graduates.

    Although Gordon Brown looks very good to take over at Number 10 the Edinburgh graduate must be concerned by Tony Blair’s message that he is going on for most of his third time. If a week is a long time in politics then three years looks set to be an eternity and many things can happen that could blow the Brown succession off course.

    For the Warwick alumnus, David Davis, yesterday’s decision to leave the final decision on the Tory leadership with the grassroots could make his task that much harder. Not only does it add to the time-scale but dealing with an electorate of 300,000 Tory members is much more challenging than getting support from 197 fellow MPs. The polls show a sharp turnround in the view of the Tory membership since the contest started in May.

    Now next week’s Blackpool conference and the beauty parade will give the membership and the media the chance to look long and hard at the credentials of each of the contenders – a context that might just hinder the Shadow Home Secretary.

    Davis’s backstop could be the support he enjoys amongst MPs. They could vote that the short-list of two to go to the membership ballot should not include Ken Clarke (Cambridge) . But if Clarke has a good conference and the polls continue to go his way then surely his Westminster colleagues will be less likely to stop his name going forward to the final vote.

      The relative lack of support in the media might cost Davis dear. He should have been like Tony Blair and been out courting editors for years – but if he has been doing this it is not yet showing through.

    The Independent says that yesterday was “a boost for Davis” while the Telegraph has it as a “boost for Clarke”.

  • In the Labour betting Brown has tightened but money is getting behind Alan Milburn as a possible contender.
  • In the Tory betting the conventional bookmakers have eased the Clarke price although he has tightened on Betfair. There is not that much activity as punters wait for Blackpool.
  • Mike Smithson


    Sorry the site was down

    Tuesday, September 27th, 2005
      The heaviest traffic since the General Election hits our servers

    A big apology to all PB.C’s users for the problems getting through to the site from mid-afternoon today. In the immediate aftermath of Tony Blair’s speech and the Tory vote on the leadership rules trafffic soared dramatically on normal weekday levels and the servers could not cope.

    Today saw the site at its busiest since May 5th as an estimated 20,000 of you tried to access the discussion forums all in a very short time. The situation was not helped by the fact that my son Robert, who manages the technical side, was on a plane to Mexico.

    Mike Smithson


    The ball’s back in Blair’s court

    Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

      Labour’s ping-pong continues as the PM’s aides say Brown is being “presumptuous”

    On what will surely be the biggest day in British politics since the General Election Tony Blair is making his big conference speech in Brighton and the Tories will announce the result of their ballot on how Michael Howard’s replacement will be chosen.

    In the immediate aftermath of Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday all seemed clear – the Chancellor was giving the Prime Minster the accolades and was using Blairite terminology to make the planned change-over at Number 10 as smooth as possible. But within a few hours the Blair-Brown relationship appeared to revert to normal – that is bad.

    According to several papers this morning the Prime Minister’s camp began briefing against Brown and the word that was being used was “presumptuous”. According to Michael White in the Guardian “Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were again at odds last night over the timing of the “orderly transition” with the PM”s aides saying that in his speech today Blair will say “he has no intention of handing over the reins in the next 18 months, as the Brown camp wants.”

    Peter Riddell in the Times notes “…just as the hard-core Brownites still fear that they will be double-crossed by Mr Blair who will want to stay on for longer to secure his “legacy”, so the zealous Blairites are watching out for any attempt by the Brownites to push out their man prematurely. Anyway, expect a reminder in today’s speech from Mr Blair that he is still very much in charge and has plenty which he still wants to achieve.”

    All this has made Labour leadership punters nervous and the Brown price has eased a touch. As to when Tony Blair will go the after January 1 2008 option remains the strong favourite.

    In the immediate aftermath of Brown’s speech William Hill put out a press release quoting odds of 14/1 against the Chancellor being Prime Minister at the start of next year’s Labour conference. Although Blair looks like staying much longer than that the price is quite tempting.

    Tory Leadership
    The events in Brighton will over-shadow the announcement of the result of the ballot on the Tory leadership rule changes. The general view is that if the Howard changes go through then David Davis’s prospects will be increased. He has many more MPs on his side and the parliamentary party will be the final arbiters. If it is left with the members then if the polls are correct Ken Clarke has a better chance – provided he comes in the top two in the MPs ballot.

    Tory leadership betting has remained very light as punters wait for today’s news.

    Mike Smithson


    New Labour RENEWED – the winning formula for the 4th term?

    Monday, September 26th, 2005


      Huge moves in Brown’s price as markets react to the Chancellor’s speech

    Based on best betting prices the implied probability of Gordon Brown being next Labour leader touched more than 80% this morning as punters took stock of the Chancellor’s conference speech and news of his forthcoming Middle East trip.

    Brown’s unveiling of “New Labour renewed” will set the backcloth to the expected transition from Tony Blair and has clearly been designed to allow the Prime Minister to step aside in the most positive manner. With his successor talking the same language but with his personal slant the two men have developed a powerful formula.

    Can the new-style New Labour under Brown deliver to the party the electoral success that is has come to get used to under Tony Blair?

    Whatever your political allegiance it is hard not to be impressed by the skill of this morning and to wonder if the Tories, under whoever they choose as their next leader, have any chance at all in 2009.

    Mike Smithson


    What are the chances of upsets in the Scottish by-elections?

    Monday, September 26th, 2005


      Will the Iraq situation affect voting in Robin Cook’s old seat?

    After seeing themselves safely home by holding the Hartlepool by-election in the same week as the Labour conference a year ago party officials have adopted the same tactic for the Livingston Westminster by-election and the one at Glasgow Cathcart for the Scottish Parliament.

    During conference weeks parties get much more broadcast coverage than usual and Labour officials clearly felt that this was extra insurance just in case there was the possibility of a shock.

    In Robin Cook’s old seat at Livingston Labour are fielding the former MP’s agent, Jim Devine and his main challenge looks set to come from the SNP’s Blackburn-born Angela Constance, above, who secured 21.6% of the vote on May 5th – a massive 30% behind Cook. Even allowing for a personal vote and the difficulty Labour might have in getting its supporters out it is very hard to see anything other than a Labour hold with a much reduced majority.

    The generally down-beat nature of the media coverage of last week’s Lib Dem conference won’t have helped the party who were in a reasonable third place last time.

    Because the outcome has seemed a foregone conclusion there has been no online betting market and almost no coverage in the national media. It is hard to know what has been going on.

      The main political impact could be the way a bad result for Labour will be interpreted. Given that this is Robin Cook’s old seat and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq it will be seen as further evidence of the political price Labour is paying for going to war.

    The SNP’s campaign has possibly been hurt by Labour’s decision to hold the Cathcart by-election for the Edinburgh Parliament on the same day. This is the seat made vacant after the incumbent MSP, Mike Watson, was sent to prison last week after pleading guilty to a criminal charge of wilful fire-raising at a hotel.

    If anybody has information about the campaigns then please let us know?

    Mike Smithson