Archive for September, 2005


The Betting Markets move further to Davis?

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

Tory leadership betting: RED Davis, BLACK Clarke, BLUE Cameron, GREEN Fox

    But what if the rule changes are rejected?

With the Labour Conference, the Scottish by-elections and the announcement on Tuesday of whether the Howard changes to the Tory leadership rules have gone through it’s the biggest week in British politics since the General Election in May.

For the Tory leadership our latest chart shows further a improvements in the implied probability of David Davis winning based on the latest best betting prices.

It certainly looks as though the momentum is with the Shadow Home Secretary and the view of the other contenders, as the Observer reports this morning, is that Davis will benefit most if Tuesday’s decision on how the leader is chosen puts the final say in the hands of MPs. This is a complete reversal of the view at the start of this contest when it was thought that Davis would fare better if it went out to the membership at large.

    We had thought that the move to Davis in the past few days was based on leaks about how the rule change ballot was going. However the amount of money that’s been required to shift his price has been very small – just £8,000, for instance, in a week has been traded on him on Betfair.

The big factor will be what happens in Blackpool next week. What will be mood of the party as one candidate after another set out their stalls to delegates? Opinion polls could also be crucial in shaping views particularly if there are more surveys showing Clarke convincingly ahead in both the country and amongst Tories.

Blackpool also gives a chance to the other contenders – Liam Fox, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and David Cameron – to put some traction into their campaigns. They must be hoping to make a speech that resonates with the party because this could possibly make a difference.

Davis’s big challenge is that he is still relatively unknown amongst the general public and the last time the party chose someone like that they ended up with Ian Duncan Smith.

Davis’s strong point is the support he has managed to garner amongst the party’s MPs – though whether they will do in private what they say in public is a different matter. This could be crucial if the rules remain unchanged because then the parliamentary party ballot to select which two contenders go on to the final ballot of members. Anti-Clarke factions could work to block him out of this even if the polls continue to show that he is the first choice amongst the membership.

It is hard to call against Davis but he still has a lot of work to do.

Tory leadership betting prices

  • Conventional bookmakers best price: Davis 8/15: Clarke 9/4: Cameron 13/2: Fox 16/1: Rifkind 25/1
  • Betfair betting exchange: Davis 0.47/1: Clark 4/1: Cameron 12.5/1: Fox 14.5/1: Rifkind 47/1
  • BinaryBet spread market. Davis 59-66: Clarke 19-25: Cameron 6-10 Fox 5-8: Rifkind 1-3
  • Mike Smithson


    Where football betting meets political betting

    Saturday, September 24th, 2005
      Is AC Milan’s George Weah the right man to become Liberia’s next President?

    Of the 22 candidates standing for President in the tiny West African country’s presidential election, few have anything like the name recognition of Liberia’s soccer legend and FIFA 1996 player of the year, George Weah. The former AC Milan striker won the nomination of his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) more than a month ago and is campaigning evergetically.

    In the UK the Spreadfair spread-betting exchange has now opened a market on whether Weah will do it and the money seems to getting behind the former soccer star. In the spread, listed in Spreadfair’s “specials section” not politics, the price is 17-18 with 25 points on him winning and 10 points on him coming second

    Weah, who was voted Africa’s player of the year and Africa’s player of all times, was also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

    The election has been set for October 11th and if Weah withdraws or the date is set back by more than a fortnight all bets will be void.

      But be warned – Weah’s campaign is controversial and he is having trouble convincing other Liberian footballers. Jonathan Sogbie, one of the members of Weah’s Liberian side, has followed another star, James Debbah, in attacking Weah’s plan.

    Sogbie held a news conference to declare that Weah was “incapable” of governing his country. Weah is also being attacked for not having the level of education required for the top job – he dropped out of secondary school.

    Mike Smithson


    Could Blair make an announcement in a matter of days?

    Friday, September 23rd, 2005
      Was the decision taken while on holiday?

    The big unanswered question over-hanging British politics is when will Blair step down? When will he make his big announcement? When will the baton be passed on to Gordon Brown?

    We have long taken the view that this will happen later rather than sooner and that he would serve most of his third term. Now we are not so sure and next week’s Labour conference, which Tony Blair is surely not looking forward to, might be the time for the news to be broken.

      Rather than days of bitching and arguments with the party that has never really taken to him why not have a week of accolades by making an announcement about his departure time-table just as delegates are arriving in Brighton?

    Adrian Hamilton in the Independent has been watching the Prime Minister closely and has noticed that things seem to be different about him since his return from holiday.

    He notes ..But it’s the tone that has changed. And tone, as we have all come to learn in Tony’s case, is all. He proclaims debt relief and increased aid, he lectures on tougher measures to meet the new world of terror, he declares his ambition radically to reform public services. But none of it is said with much conviction, or at least with a sense of much concern about the result. His now-famous comment about the BBC to Rupert Murdoch seems par for the course. A careful politician wouldn’t have said it, knowing that it would be repeated in public. But, while he is mildly irritated that it has caused a small fuss, I don’t believe that Blair minds very much. It proves his American loyalties and the direction of his future. It’s not that he seems wearied of power or worn down by the strains it brings. Just the opposite. He appears positively refreshed by his unusually long holiday. It’s just that you feel that if it all ended tomorrow he wouldn’t mind too much, that out there in Barbados he reached some form of conclusion or contract with himself

    Timing, of course, is everything and Tony Blair is a master of doing things at precisely the right moment to make maximum impact. It will be recalled that just a year ago, a couple of hours before the polls closed in the Hartlepool by-election at the end of the Labour conference, Blair made a big announcement. Then he gave news about going into hospital and that he would be stepping aside during his third term. If by any chance Labour had lost the by-election the media would have been on this news not on the result.

    I have no idea what Tony Blair will do but Hamilton’s piece has set me thinking. There are several betting markets:-

  • When will Blair go.
  • Will he go before Howard
  • Spread markets from BetHiLo and Spreadfair on the length of the third term.
  • Mike Smithson


    Will Charles have calmed the doubters?

    Thursday, September 22nd, 2005

      How will tonight’s by-elections go?

    In the immediate aftermath of last year’s Lib Dem conference the party’s poll ratings soared to the dizzy heights of 29% – a point ahead of the Tories and just 3 points behind Labour. The share was never to get anywhere near that again and on May 5th 22.7% of the electorate cast their votes for Charles Kennedy’s party.

    The dashed expectations were surely one of the causes of the widespread view in Blackpool this week that in spite of the seat gains off Labour they could have done better. Charles’s 2004 rhetoric that they would replace the Tories as the official opposition looked a bit sick.

      Given the less than postive nature of the media coverage this week we doubt whether they’ll get anywhere near to the September 2004 ratings in the new round of polls which comes out in the next few days.

    But there’s another test of political trends that we can follow – the local council by-elections that take place almost every Thursday throughout the year. In response to special requests we are experimenting with a regular Thursday evening piece that, hopefully, will be a good introduction to a discussion on the results as they come out.

    Tonight there are three local contests with significant Lib Dem interest.

  • The Seaton seat in East Devon where the party is defending;
  • The Sidmouth Town for the same council where the Tories are defending
  • The Eton Wick ward in Windsor & Maidenhead where Labour, interestingly, are defending.
  • Will there be any clues about the Lib Dem leadership from these results? The polls close at 9pm.

    Mike Smithson


    Now the Tories talk of a coalition with the Lib Dems

    Thursday, September 22nd, 2005
      Will Maude’s frank comments boost Kennedy and rebound on the Tories?

    With Charles Kennedy due to make his crucial leader’s speech at Blackpool today the chairman of the Tory party, Francis Maude, has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting that his party could form a coalition with the Lib Dems if the next General Election produced an indecisive result.

    In an interview in the Independent this morning Maude is quoted as saying “…You look round the country and you see a number of councils where Conservatives are in alliance with Lib Dems, Birmingham, for example. There’s no great drama about that…There’s no reason why that ( a coalition) should be out of the question If you end up with a hung parliament, there is either a minority government, which is unwieldy, or a coalition. You deal with what the electorate gives you.”

    Maude is the first senior Tory to contemplate publicly such a notion and follows the pamphlet produced by the Lib Dem’s Vince Cable earlier in the month in which he also wrote of the possibility.

      The problem for the Tories in raising this is that it looks as though they’ve conceded outright victory in the next election already – and no doubt the Indy’s interview will be stored by Labour strategists for use on a future occasion.

    You can also see Tony Blair developing a rhetoric that seeks to tar the Tories with all the contradictions that it sees in Lib Dem policy.

    For Charles Kennedy, still struggling after the criticisms of his leadership during the week, today’s piece is a gift and gives him the chance to get his biggest conference applause. Whatever the electoral arithmetic it is hard seeing Kennedy going into such a deal. He is also not strong on the detail and tough negotiating skills that are key for a leader in a coalition environment.

    With talk increasingly of a coalition it is likely that we will see betting markets on the model of the current German ones on the make up of the next UK Government.

    Mike Smithson


    How’s the week going for Charles, Gordon and David?

    Wednesday, September 21st, 2005
    Has the gloss gone off Gordon?
    One of the odder poll results during this first week of the party conference season is that Labour could drop support if Gordon Brown, as expected, becomes leader.

    An ICM survey had top-line figures of LAB 40: CON 31: LD 21. But when asked how they would vote if Labour was led by Brown and the Tories by Clarke the vote shares change to LAB 38: CON 30: LD 25. So both Labour and the Tories go down and the Lib Dems go up.

    This must be the first major survey for a long time where the proposition of the Chancellor as leader has harmed his party not helped it. As Anthony Wells points out in his excellent commentry a YouGov poll before the General Election in May suggested that the Labour lead would be increased from 4% to 13% if Brown was in the top job.

    The survey took place last week when because of the fuel price rises and protests the Chancellor was in the media a lot more than he has been since the General Election.

    It’s decision day for Charles
    There will be a level of nervousness around the Lib Dem leader at their Blackpool conference today as delegates vote on the rule change that would make it hard for MPs to challenge Charles Kennedy. Instead of a challenger having to get just a proposer and a seconder delegates will be asked to impose a minimum support level of 10% of the party’s MPs.

    With the conference having inflicted defeats on the leadership over the EU and the Post Office it will be interesting to see whether they do the same over this move, particularly as much of the talk has been over the style of the Kennedy leadership.

    The David Davis price moves in and then out
    So far the week has seen a lot movement in the best price available on David Davis. At one stage yesterday it got to 0.46/1 on the Betfair betting exchange. It then slipped back it its current 0.58/1.

    Trading levels have been relatively modest with only about £4,000 worth of bets being matched in 24 hours. It seems that most punters are waiting until next week’s vote on how the leadership election should take place before risking their cash.

    Mike Smithson


    Is the council tax delay the start of the 2009 campaign?

    Tuesday, September 20th, 2005
      The Great Conjurer takes another issue away from the Tories

    When Tony Blair finally does step down as leader the one thing his party will surely miss is his extraordinary ability to foresee and to deal with issues that leave them vulnerable to Tory attacks.

    Right from the Clause 4 abolition in the mid-90s to agreeing last year to the EU constitutional referendum one sensitive issue after another has been closed down by smart changes in Labour policy.

      Tony Blair has been amazingly perceptive and far-seeing about what could hurt him and Labour amongst the key groups of voters who moved from the Tories in 1997 and have not gone back.

    Today’s announcement about the postponement of the 2007 council tax revaluation in England is a classic Blair move. With the huge increase in property prices it was expected that many of the 22 million homes involved would have been put into higher bands and this tax, which has always been difficult to defend, could have developed into a serious problem.

    A council tax revaluation was allowed to take place in Wales last year resulting in nearly a third of all homes going up at least one band – but the Principality remains almost a Tory-free zone so it did not really matter.

    From an administrative point of view the delay is a complete nightmare. For many more years the rate at which the tax is paid will be determined by the estimated value of what a property would have cost in 1991. So even with the millions of new houses that have been built since then officials have to go through the process of estimating a notional 1991 price.

      But hey – who cares about the problems? The revaluation would have come into effect in the run-up to the next General Election and the last thing Labour wants is an issue that could be avoided

    Whoever becomes Tory leader, and the markets have been moving further to David Davis, will have to deal with the consequences of the “Great Conjurer”. The 1/2 that you can get on Labour winning again next time starts to look pretty tempting, even this far out.

    Mike Smithson


    Markets open on the Berlin standoff

    Monday, September 19th, 2005

      The bookie favourite is Anegla Merkel heading a grand coalition

    While Germany awaits confirmation of which parties will form their next government, Paddy Power have introduced two markets on what will happen next in Berlin. It has made a grand coalition the favourite with a price of just 1/2 that the CDU/CSU & SPD parties will rule together. The second favourite coalition grouping, at 2/1/ is an alliance between SPD, Green & FDP.

    On who the next Chancellor will be the bookmaker has Angela Merkel at 1/3 with Gerhard Schroeder at 2/1. For anybody else to get it the price is 14/1.

    As soon as we are able to link to these markets from the site we will do so.

    Mike Smithson