Archive for January, 2006


Is Labour set to hang on in Gordon’s back yard?

Thursday, January 26th, 2006
    Will fellow Fife-MP, Ming, get a Dunfermline headache?

In what must be one of the quickest by-elections ever to be called the voters of Dunfermline and West Fife will got to the polls on February 9 – just 34 days after the death of their sitting Labour MP Rachel Squire.

Clearly Labour has gone for a snap election with the aim of stopping any band-wagon effect from the Lib Dems or the SNP.

At the General Election there was a comfortable Labour win with the Lib Dems in second place. The votes split LAB 47.4: LD 20.1: SNP 18.9: CON 10.3.

There’s an added interest because the next door constituency is Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, the seat of Gordon Brown – now sharply down to 0.45/1 for the Labour leadership.

It is also near to North East Fife, the constituency of Ming Campbell, currently 0.75/1 favourite for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

At Livingston, just across the Firth of Forth, Labour held on last year in the by-election caused by Robin Cook’s death but saw a 10.2% swing to the SNP. The interesting thing about the coming by-election is that the Lib Dems are in second place – albeit a long way behind.

    In better times for the Lib Dems you might have fancied a flutter on them overhauling Labour. But this looks like a Labour hold on a low turnout with a much reduced majority over, possibly, the SNP.

For there is little doubt that publicity hammerings, like the one the Lib Dems are currently going through, can undermine the morale of activists – and in a by-election they are crucial. Whether local-man Ming can do something is a moot point. A poor showing for the party on his door-step might just impact on his leadership chances.

In the by-election betting the best prices are Labour 1/5: Lib Dems 5.6/1 and the SNP at 6/1. Cameron’s Conservatives are 50/1 with the bookies but the party does not even get a Betfair listing. If you want to bet on them then take the 210/1 “any other party” option.

Lib Dem leadership. There’s been a sharp move away from Simon Hughes in the betting overnight following a story in today’s Sun about him having gay relationships. The main beneficiary seems to be Chris Huhne.

Mike Smithson


ICM boost for Simon Hughes

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006


    Party President now back as firm second favourite

An unusual online poll in the Guardian this morning should make good reading for the Lib Dem party president, Simon Hughes, in his bid to become leader.

The pollster, which usually carries out phone surveys, used the internet to interview 90 Tory voters, 90 Labour, 90 Lib Dems and 23 who supported other parties to ask about their views of the three leadership challengers. The group split Hughes 51: Campbell 29: Huhne 20 in saying who would be best to restore party fortunes.

Amongst the section of those surveyed who were Lib Dems the split was Hughes 62: Campbell 18: Huhne 20.

The Guardian says that a similar survey was carried out by the pollster during the Tory leadership contest which showed strong support for David Cameron.

    This clearly is a big boost for Simon Hughes who has seen his position flagging in recent days following the Mark Oaten resignation.

Some points to note are:-

  • The choice of respondents for the survey was based on whether they supported the party – not whether they were party members.
  • The sample was very small. It will be recalled that Populus had Davis winning by 50-37 in a slightly bigger group of Tory supporters in November
  • Given the normal lack of media attention for the party there is a fairly low level of recognition amongst ordinary voters of leading party MPs.
    • What punters desperately need is a poll of party members and we have not had one of those since before Charles Kennedy’s resignation.

    Clearly the strong contrast in the respondents’ view of Hughes and Campbell could make this survey very influential and as we said on Monday – do not rule Simon out yet. For latest betting click here

    My betting: I have now laid most of my Chris Huhne bet and have put some of my profits on Simon Hughes. This race is very difficult to call but I have strong positions on all three candidates.

    Mike Smithson


    ICM puts the Lib Dems at 19%

    Tuesday, January 24th, 2006


    The latest survey from ICM, has the following shares in its monthly survey for the Guardian CON 37%(-2): LAB 36%(+1) LD 19%(-1). The comparisons are with the ICM News of the World Survey nine days ago.

    Surveying took place from Friday to Sunday so only about a third of those interviewed would have been aware of the rent boy allegations against the former leadership candidate, Mark Oaten.


    Meanwhile in the Lib Dem leadership betting the money has been going on Ming Campbell who has now tightened to 0.65/1. Simon Hughes is now just ahead of Chris Huhne.

    Mike Smithson


    Will Galloway be voted out?

    Monday, January 23rd, 2006


      Respect MP at 0.22/1 for the next Big Brother eviction

    In what looks like his first electoral test since taking Bethnal Green and Bow from Labour’s Oona King at the General Election George Galloway could be voted out of the Big Brother house on Wednesday.

    We do not normally cover “Big Brother” on PB.C and do not claim any expertise on the programme – but the role of Respect’s only MP puts this into the political arena and there’s little doubt that there will be political consequences following his appearance in the programme.

      The latest developments in the show make him the odds-on favourite in the betting to be booted out next. Betfair have him at 0.22/1.

    Galloway went into the “Big Brother House”, apparently, in the expectation that he could attack the Tony Blair for hours on end and have a large young audience. As it has turned out the producers have managed to blank out much of his political commentary and what has been seen is the MP doing humiliating tasks.

    I cannot help but sense that Galloway’s likely eviction is not going to be the end of the story for the MPs. Does he realise yet, for instance, that much of what he has said has been blanked out?

    Watch this space.

    Mike Smithson


    Punters desert Simon

    Monday, January 23rd, 2006

      Last week’s odds on favourite now third in the betting

    Just a week ago the Lib Dem President, Simon Hughes was riding high in the betting and was odds on to become the next leader. Now all has changed as a result, apparently, of nothing that he said or did. It is just that the sentiment has moved away from him.

    Two things seem to have happened: the acting leader, Ming Campbell put up a reasonable performance at Prime Minister’s Questions and there has been Mark Oaten – who first pulled out of the this and then, yesterday, was the subject of “rent boy” allegations in the News of the World.

    What seems to be a big factor behind the current move away from Hughes is that fact that he is unmarried. The 64 year old Ming Campbell increasingly looks like a safer choice.

    Latest best prices are:- Campbell 0.73/1: Huhne 3.1/1: Hughes 4.9/1.

    The way this race has gone up and down anything could happen – so don’t rule Hughes out yet. If something happened that reinforced worries about Ming’s age or health then he could appear attractive again.

    Mike Smithson


    Some pictures from the PBC party

    Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

    Sorry for the delay but here are some pictures from last weekend’s PBC party. If people could identify who is who in the comments I will fill in the gaps.

    Picture one– Iain Dale, David Davis’s chief of staff and owner of Politicos with, behind the beer glass, Guido.

    Picture two

    Picture three ? left and David Kendrick right

    Picture four – ??, Valerie and Tom Thumb

    Picture five Anthony Wells with Guido still trying to protect his identity!!

    Picture six ??, Paul Maggs and Peter Cuthbertson

    Mike Smithson


    Not a good Sunday for the Lib Dems

    Sunday, January 22nd, 2006

      Could Huhne be the beneficiary?

    With the revelations in the News of the World about Mark Oaten and a rent boy and the admission by the party leader in the House of Lords, Lord McNally about his drinking problem it is not a good Sunday for the party.

    Given the circumstances of Charles Kennedy’s departure only fifteen days ago the question has to be asked about the damage this is doing.

    For all of this so quickly could make the party appear a bit of joke and this could undermine the efforts of activists ahead of the May local elections. For more than Labour and the Tories the Lib Dems look to hard work by supporters to get their vote out.

    Any diminution of efforts ahead of May 4th could be seen in the results. In a way the leadership election could be very useful as a way of drawing a line under what has gone on.

      That there could be revelations of this type about somebody who only four days ago was a candidate for the leadership is damaging amd one wonder why Oaten allowed his name to go forward knowing that this might emerge.

    It is hard to assess the impact of the news on the leadership vote. My instinct is that it will undermine Simon Hughes and help Chris Huhne.

    Canadian Election Game Paul Maggs has devised an excellent game on the Canadian General Election – for details email here.

    Mike Smithson


    Could my 200-1 long-shot come in?

    Saturday, January 21st, 2006
      The PB.C comment that could make me richer

    At 7.39 am on January 11th Alex posted this short comment on the site. It read simply “Apparently Huhne has 5 certain backers among MPs. Why is he still 200-1?”

    For gamblers like me there is something very seductive about a long-shot and within a few seconds of reading Alex’s comment I had taken the £20 bet at 200/1 that was available on the Betfair betting exchange as well as £22 at 150/1.

    For those not familiar with betting exchanges Betfair is not a bookmaker laying bets itself. Rather it brings together people who went to back, like me on this occasion, and those who want to be like a bookmaker and lay bets. The layer is in effect betting against the proposition. So the maximum I could get on was that which other punters were prepared to lay.

    In the ten days since then Chris Huhne’s challenge has gathered pace and now, with just three contenders left in the race, the Betfair price is at 6.2/1.

    Maybe this is wishful thinking brought on by the prospect of being several thousand pounds richer but I am starting to think that he might have a realistic chance. Huhne seems to offer a freshness and an originality of thought not shared by Hughes and Campbell and this is very appealing.

      There is little doubt that Campbell’s problems are his age, questions about his health, and the “Ming the Merciless” tag that he has acquired for his part in the downfall of Charles Kennedy.

    Hughes, meanwhile, has a strong and committed following but he probably does not have the support to take him over the 50% mark in the first count. At that stage the second choice votes of those going for the third in the ballot will be redistributed. If Ming is the one who drops out my guess is that Huhne would pick up the lion’s share his first preferences.

    If Hughes is in third place then Huhne is well set as well to get the second preferences. So if Huhne can avoid last place in the first round then his chances of taking it are high.

    In the absence of a new Lib Dem members’ poll this is all guess work – but I think even Huhne’s current price tag is good value.

    UPDATE: New Mori Poll:
    The January survey in today’s Sun has the following party shares with comparisons on the pollster’s December poll:- CON 39 (-1): LAB 39 (+8): LD 15 (-6).

    Unlike the other pollsters carrying out monthly surveys Mori does not weight by past vote recall and so is much more vulnerable to sample error. As we point out repeatedly phone polls usually have a hit ratio 6-1 calls to successful interviews.

    The pollster is thus reliant on those that it manages to reach using randomised unsolicited phone calls being representative. The heavy weight of data over many years shows that such respondents tend to be more Labour-inclined than the population as a whole.

    Mike Smithson