Archive for May, 2006


YouGov data shows Tories with a 15% lead amongst women

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

cameron women.jpg

    A pollling quirk or are women really flocking to Dave?

The full dataset from May’s YouGov poll in the Telegraph shows a gender divide in voting intention on a scale that is almost unprecedented.

  • The 1,009 men in the sample split CON 33: LAB 35: LD 15: OTH 15Labour 2% ahead
  • The 1,093 women who were polled split CON 43: LAB 28: LD 16: OTH 13 Conservatives 15% ahead
  • Putting these shares into the Baxter calculator Labour would have a 72 seat majority if the electorate was compised only of men while the Tories would have a 154 seat majority if it was all female.

    Normally you need to be wary about taking subsets from polls because inevitably the smaller the sample the greater the margin of error. In this case, however, the sample size for each sex is larger than for most ICM polls. However while the overall sample was adjusted to make it politically representative, using YouGov’s “political identifier”, this is not applied to sub-sets like gender.

    What makes this interesting is that a similar picture has appeared in other recent polls – though not on anything like the scale of the latest YouGov numbers. The significance of a move by women to the Tories is huge for it was the move of the female vote to Labour in 1997 that played a key part in Tony Blair’s victory.

    In the Observer at the weekend Mary Riddle noted “If women alone had voted in 2005, Labour would have won by 90 seats instead of 66. In a men-only ballot, Blair’s majority would have been down to around 20 seats. Should the female vote melt away next time, then Gordon Brown, as leader, would face catastrophe.

    This change seems to have been fairly recent. In a poll for the Sunday Times taken just after the leadership election in December the male and female CON-LAB figures were almost the same. By February, after Cameron’s initial honeymoon was starting to wear off, the pollster had the Tories with a 3% lead amongst women but 6% behind amongst males. In March the Tories had a 4% female lead balanced by a 4% shortfall amongst men.

    Going back through recent ICM polls there is now a small pro-Tory margin amongst women voters but nothing on the scale of that seen in this latest YouGov survey.

      Whether this is a quirk in one poll or a serious trend we need to see more evidence. As I have observed here before the YouGov methodology tends to pick up trends earlier and then magnify them more than the other pollsters.

    If a switch in female voting intention has changed it is simply a return to normal. Right up until the time Tony Blair and NuLab came on the scene women tended to be much more Tory than men.

    Mike Smithson


    What about a woman to follow Ming?

    Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

    lib dem women.jpg

      Could one of these be Britain’s 2nd woman party leader?

    With the speculation about Ming’s future as Lib Dem leader it’s inevitable that people should be thinking about who could succeed him. So far the main focus has been on Nick Clegg (8/11), who did not do his chances any good the other day after being over-heard discussing Ming’s failings in a mobile phone call.

    As well as Clegg in the betting are David Laws (4/1), Ed Davey (5/1) who in January all made the questionable decisions to stand aside and not oppose Ming. Chris Huhne, who did run, is also at 5/1.

      But what about the women? Could one of the new crop of female MPs who’ve come to the Commons in the past three years after beating Labour have the bottle, Margaret Thatcher-style, to take on the men?

    First one there – from right to left- is Sarah Teather – who came onto the national stage following her by-election spectacular in Brent East in September 2003. That she beat Labour then and went on to hold the seat at the General Election was no mean achievement. When she arrived she was the youngest MP and being just four feet ten inches tall she shares the honour, along with Hazel Blears, of the being shortest member of the House.

    Teather showed she was prepared to take risks when she played a key part in Kennedy’s departure being the co-author of the letter threatening to resign her front bench position if the former leader carried on. Her betting price is 14/1.

    In the centre picture is Lynne Featherstone who pulled off the second most sensational result a year ago in Hornsey and Wood Green when she over-turned a Labour majority of 10,614 by a margin 2,395 votes.

    Lynne showed she was not going to be cowed by the party hierarchy when she played a key part in Chris Huhne’s campaign. But for this she would probably have been given a more prominent role in the party by Ming. In her 50s she’s the oldest of the three and was shortlisted in the “Rising Stars” category of this year’s Channel 4 political awards.

    On the right is Julia Goldsworthy (14/1) who took Falmouth and Camborne and shadows the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. She’s starting to impress a lot of people but being only 27 years old is really far too young.

    A great advantage all three have got is that they will be facing Labour opposition in their constituencies next time – a task that should be easier than those defending against the Tories.

    Of the three Featherstone seems to have the most immediate potential, is more mature, and you could imagine her having the presence, sharpness and humour to cope with PMQs. She would certainly put a spark back into her party.

    Mike Smithson


    Who wins if Prescott goes?

    Monday, May 29th, 2006


      Could a contest now be a proxy vote on both Brown and Blair?

    The two big current issues in UK politics – Blair’s departure date and whether Brown will succeed him – could be brought to a head if the Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott steps aside and there is a contest.

    After a weekend of rising specualtion both Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have come to Prescott’s defence because it appears to be in the interest of both to avoid a contest that could reinforce divisions within the party.

      For Blair a Deputy Leadership battle could be seen as a party referendum on when he should go while for Brown it could bring a contender to the fore who could challenge him when the leadership election finally comes.

    Both camps are said to be concerned that a contest would see the party turning in on itself just at a time when the Tories have got the initiative.

    The problem they’ve both got is that coverage like yesterday’s pictures in the Mail of Prescott playing croquet on the lawns of his grace and favour country house, Dorneywood is very damaging. Why is Labour letting somebody continue with his big salary and massive perks when his job has all but been taken away?

    But as we saw on the site on Saturday with the contribution by a Labour MP who wants to keep his identity secret there is growing pressure and speculation about who would run.

    Such a contest would get massive coverage with all the candidates being asked in almost every interview whether they want Blair to step down early and if they would be backing Brown. Inevitably anti or pro Blair and Brown tags would be attached to each of the contestants and the eventual result would be interpreted in these terms.

    As yet there is no betting market on the Deputy Leadership or on how long Prescott can survive. These will surely come. Meanwhile Brown retains his 0.36/1 price for next Labour leader while in the Blair departure date betting you can still get 3.1/1 on Tony lasting another 19 months.

    Mike Smithson


    Harry Hayfield’s May 2006 local election summary

    Sunday, May 28th, 2006

    caneron cheers thin strip.JPG

      “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Witney tonight!”

    Phew! Everyone calmed down now after the local elections at the start of the month? That’s a relief because boy has this month been a real rollercoaster for all concerned (and to think it all started with a set of local elections that were quite frankly unpredictable). When the dust had settled and the councils all declared it was clear that was just one winner and that was David Cameron’s Conservatives.

    Local Elections 2006: National Projected Vote Share / Change on 2002 / Seats Won / Change on 2002
    Conservatives 39% (+5% on 2002) winning 1,830 seats (+317 on 2002)
    Labour 26% (-7% on 2002) winning 1,442 seats (-320 on 2002)
    Liberal Democrats 25% (Unchanged on 2002) winning 907 seats (+1 on 2002)
    Others 10% (+2% on 2002) winning 133 seats (-2 on 2002)

    And so naturally after that bonanza you think that the Conservatives could do no wrong in local by-elections? And you’d be right! Defending 13 seats, they ended up with 18! And yet they did have a couple of hiccups along the way. They gained Eynsham on Oxfordshire County Council from the Lib Dems and Pakefield on Suffolk County Council from Lab as well as several Labour wards on Wyre and North Kevesten, but managed to lose two on Epsom and Scarborough councils to the Ratepayers and Greens respectively. But on a three cornered tally of 45%, I don’t think that Mr. Cameron will be too worried.

    And neither can the Lib Dems either, a 28% three cornered tally isn’t that bad and compared well with recent months and managed to gain a couple of wards from Independents on West Lindsey and Caradon.

    The real losers in both the locals and the local by-elections were Labour. Managing to poll just a paultry 16% in the three cornered tally wasn’t enough, they also went on to lose 3 seats to the Conservatives! All of which will not make happy reading for Mr. Blair when he comes back from Washington. But you know what he’ll say: “These are local by-elections, not a general election”. Which brings us nicely to the national projected share and an admission

    In my recent postings, I’ve been using the numbers published by the BBC on their local election programme of 2004 that suggested when a general election and local election are held on the same day, the Lib Dems do 8% better in a local election, whilst Labour do 4% worse, and the Conservatives and Others do 2% worse. I have since discovered that these numbers are in fact WRONG! I have found the correct figures and so will adjust the three cornered tallies by these new adjustments which are:

    Tories: 45% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll 3% worse in a general election = 42% (+9% on Election 2005)
    LDs 28% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll 6% worse in a general election = 22% (-1% on Election 2005)
    LAB 16% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll 9% better in a general election = 25% (-11% on Election 2005)
    Others 11% in local by-elections May 2006, who poll unchanged in a general election = 11% (+3% on Election 2005)

    Thus gives us a forecast House of Commons of:CON 377 (+179): LAB 176 (-180 ): LD 62 (n/c): OTH 31 (+1 ). CON majority 108

    So to quote that famous line from BBC Rugby, “They’ll be dancing in the streets of Witney tonight!

    Harry Hayfield is a Lib Dem activist in Wales.


    Does demonising the Tories work any more?

    Sunday, May 28th, 2006

    labour demon 3.JPG

      The week when Labour stopped being General Election favourite

    A hugely significant betting moment during the week when, almost certainly for the first time since 1992, the Tories became favourite to win the following General Election. The Betfair “Labour winning most sears” price is 1.02/1 compared with 0.98/1 for the Toires.

    What’s interesting is that this change has taken such a long time coming. Throughout the past few months of cash for peerages, Tessa Jowell, and the foreign prisoners affair punters have stayed with Labour even though the polls were not encouraging.

    Even that Populus 8% Tory lead three weeks with its associated 10% margin if Gordon Brown was leader did not push Labour behind the Tories in the most seats’ markets. The final straw during the week the influential ICM poll in the Guardian and the May YouGov survey in the Telegraph.

      What I think’s happening is that the Labour strategy for the past decade and a half of demonising the Tories no longer resonates. Blair-Brown’s central campaign rhetoric brilliantly executed over three General Elections won’t carry over to a fourth.

    What can Labour say to get the voters to like them again when just “not being the Tories” is no longer enough?

    The main hope for the party is that the departure of Blair will allow Labour to reinvigorate itself and create a different “offer” to put to the country. The problem is that after fifteen years of of saying “we are the only way to stop the Tories” there appears to have been precious little thinking on what replaces that. The recent “Dave the “Chameleon” campaign showed that they have yet to come up with new ideas.

      A possible Tory weakness for Labour to exploit might be that David Cameron will continue to be sloppy with his public outbursts

    The Tory leader is supposed to be a PR expert and should know that you don’t start making public statements without checking out all the angles and facts. Thus the onslaught against the retail group BHS on sexy children’s clothing looked ridiculous when it was revealed that the company had stopped selling the range three years earlier.

    Tory and Labour strategists should listen to the first ten minutes of the latest edition of Radio 4’s “The Now Show” describing how a web-site the Tory leader recommended was found to be packed with porn. It makes amusing listening – but there’s a serious point. An opposition leader should not have allowed that to happen and he’s diminishing himself. One day, when Labour are not in self-destruct mode, this could be highly damaging.

    We are possibly four years away from the next General Election, a lot can happen between now and then, and a “John Major” type Labour leadership could allow a departure from the past. It’s going to be a big challenge.

    Mike Smithson

    labour demon 4.JPG


    PBC Guest slot: Introducing “Red Sky” – a “shy” Labour MP

    Saturday, May 27th, 2006

    red sky.jpg

      Who’ll succeed John Prescott as Deputy Leader?

    You’ve heard of shy Tory voters. Well, I’m a shy Labour MP who’s been reading the site for a while. While Nick Palmer and to some extent Stewart Jackson seem willing to post under their own names with reckless abandon, most MPs are reticent about accumulating a trail of comments that can be dug up years later.

    And I don’t have the time for the running battles that most of you seem to enjoy, so I shan’t often post. But here are a few thoughts that may be of interest to you punters.

    The first question is whether there will be a contest. John P doesn’t need to stand down as Deputy Leader, and if he chooses not to, there’s unlikely to be a challenge before the next General Election.

      Most people reckon he’ll go when Tony goes, which I reckon is likely to be in 2007. Still, if you get the chance to bet on John still being there in 2009 and get odds of 4-1, it’s worth a punt.

    Assuming he does call it a day, who are we likely to see standing? Alan Johnson has let it be known that he will, and he’s probably the closest we’ll see to an officially-blessed candidate. Tony rates him very highly, and Gordon is OK with him too.

    Harriet Harman will stand if there is no other strong female candidate, which seems quite likely. At one stage Tessa Jowell was seen as a likely candidate, but now probably not. Hazel Blears is an outside possibility, and would be a competitor with Alan for official blessing. There is a significant number of women MPs who will instinctively rally to any strong woman candidate, and who see a ‘balanced ticket’ in gender terms as very important.

    What if members want someone who is a bit less on-message than all of these? The Campaign Group is not optimistic about getting the necessary 44 signatures, but it’s probable that Peter Hain will throw his hat in the ring. He is known as somewhat greener and somewhat lefter than most Cabinet Ministers without getting into head-banging territory, and his Northern Ireland role gives him scope to show it, on issues as diverse as grammar schools and nuclear reactors.

    Other possibilities include Jack Straw, who is seen as more dovish than most on foreign policy, John Denham, who would be popular with members who were actively opposed to Iraq, and Hilary Benn, who has the dual advantage of a hugely popular job and the family name. However, it’s not clear that any of these are interested, and Benn and Denham are both known to have declined offers of new Ministerial jobs that would have broadened their range of contacts.

    Labour elects its leaders through an electoral college, with the PLP, unions and individual members each ‘weighted’ as a third. How would the above fare?

    Johnson is likely to get a large chunk of the PLP. He has few enemies, and people see him as a safe pair of hands at a time when solid competence is needed more than anything else. Tories foam at the mouth about his compromise with the public sector unions, but Labour MPs see it as a sensible deal. Harman would get a respectable vote, especially women MPs but also those who remember her civil liberties background and admire her intellect. Blears would take a chunk of the women’s vote and a chunk of the Blair loyalists too. Hain would get most of the left, many of the Welsh MPs, and the quite significant green vote.

    What about the unions? Johnson is the obvious choice as a former union leader, but it ain’t as simple as that. Harman’s husband’s TGWU connections give her a useful “in”, and Hain would appeal to leaders like Derek Simpson who want to see new policies as well as new faces.

    The wider membership is very hard to call. Many of the most critical members have left, so a hard-core rebel would have limited support, but members too would like to see policy renewal, and Johnson’s establishment blessing isn’t necessarily an advantage with the wider membership.

    So at this stage it’s pretty open. There is a limit to how many people can get 44 signatures, since the more senior MPs aren’t going to be endorsing anyone publicly. We’ll probably see a field of three or four. Johnson will start as favourite, but if you get decent odds on Harman or Hain they are worth backing, as they are likely to harden up.

    How much does this matter to the political scene? More than you’d think, because Gordon is unlikely to be opposed at all, so this is how Labour’s members are going to show which way they want the party to go. Watch this space!

    Red Sky is a Labour MP

    Note from Mike Smithson: As yet, as far as I can see, there are no betting markets on the next Deputy Labour leader. PB.C welcomes guest contributors like Red Sky’s who have something interesting to say and who do not, for whatever reason, want their identities revealed. The only condition is that I need to know who is behind pieces that are published here.


    Sean Fear’s local election commentary

    Friday, May 26th, 2006


    My initial reaction to the local election results was that while they were bad for Labour, they weren’t terrible. Having thought more about this, I think the results were indeed terrible for Labour.

    Labour now has almost as few councillors (in percentage terms) as it had in 1978, and far fewer than it had in the 1980s. Labour’s local government base has eroded far more rapidly than that of the Conservatives in the 1980s. In 1979, the Conservatives held 48% of council seats in Great Britain. After nine years, that share had fallen to 39%. Labour, by contrast, held 46% of council seats in 1997; that share has now fallen to 28%

    Almost certainly, Labour will suffer further losses of seats in the next two rounds of local elections, possibly taking its share of seats down to the same level, 20%, as the Conservatives in 1997.

    Things are equally grim in terms of vote share, which was projected at 26%. Although that was no worse than in 2004, it is the worst score that any governing party has ever recorded, one year into a Parliament. By contrast, the hugely unpopular Conservatives still managed to take 31% of the vote in May 1993. In all likelihood, Labour’s vote share will fall below 25% in the next two rounds of local elections, worse than John Major’s government ever achieved.

      This matters, because political parties are so dependent on local councillors to keep themselves before the electorate, now that the days of mass membership are over. If Labour are not seen to be active in a particular area, and if people get out of the habit of voting Labour in that area, then its support at Parliamentary level is likely to decline sharply as well.

    The Conservatives discovered this to their cost in the mid 1990s. If, as is likely, the general popularity of the Labour Party recovers as the next election approaches, the party may still underperform in many constituencies if it has withered away at local level.

    Last night’s by-elections continue the bad news for Labour:-
    Caradon DC – Saltash Pill: Lib Dem 474, Ind 334, C 280. Lib Dem gain from Ind.
    North Kesteven DC – Branston and Mere: C 570, Ind 440, Lab 150.
    Con gain from Lab.
    Tynedale DC – Wylam: Lib Dem 364, C 247, Lab 206. Lib Dem hold.

    Sean Fear
    is a Tory activist in London


    Lib Dems at lowest YouGov level since February

    Friday, May 26th, 2006
      Could new poll put further pressure on Ming?

    ming pressure thin.jpgThe May YouGov poll in the Telegraph has the following shares with comparisons on the last survey by the pollster two weeks ago CON 38 (+1): LAB 32 (+1): LD 16 (-1).

    So all the main pollsters with the regular monthly newspapers slots – YouGov, Populus and ICM – put Cameron’s Conservatives on the same level of support – 38% – and this is starting to look fairly robust.

    But a 38% share is not enough to win a Commons majority and Cameron’s party still has a lot of work to do. The Baxter calculation on these shares leaves the Tories 12 seats short

    The figures will be very disappointing for the Lib Dem because all the main pollsters have recorded declines during the month which might reflect the constant stream of stories questioning Ming Campbell’s leadership and performance at Prime Minister’s Questions.

    They will take comfort, however, from the fact that only five weeks before their Dunfermline by-election spectacular YouGov had them at 13%. Whether the upcoming Bromley by-election will have the same impact is harder call – because it’s the Tories not Labour who are defending.

    Lib Dem campaigners will have hardly been encouraged by Ming’s comments earlier in the week deprecating “any effort to begin electioneering under any circumstances in any by-election until the writ has been moved by the party with responsibility for doing so.” Get real. Politics is a hard tough world and the Lib Dems of old would have starting mapping the campaign within hours of the Eric Forth news.

    Campbell’s personal ratings have plummeted with only 8% saying they would like him as Prime Minister. Charles Kennedy was recording 18% to the same question before the May 2005 General Election.

    Predicting the next General Election remains a big challenge because we don’t know whether Gordon Brown will succeed Tony Blair or whether the Lib Dems led by someone like David Laws (my favourite) or Nick Clegg could take away votes from the Tories.

    Mike Smithson