Archive for October, 2006


Technical problems

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Hi all, we seem to bre having a few problems with the database server today (you may see mySQL error messages). I’m working to get this all fixed as soon as possible, and hopefully the site will mostly be running as normal.




Is it time for Gordon to be biting his nails?

Friday, October 27th, 2006

gordon biting nails.jpg

    Does more polling bad news make him less certain for leader?

The final poll of this survey rich week has seen another poor performance for Labour, more terrible figures for the Lib Dems. and the Tories consolidating a significant lead. The shares in YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph with comparisons on the last poll a month ago are CON 39% (+3): LAB 32% (-4): LD 16 (nc).

The YouGov figures reinforce the polls on Tuesday and Wednesday from Communicate Research and ICM which means that all the latest polls are reporting a very similar level of Tory support – 38%, 39% and 39%. Where the three pollsters differ is on the Labour-Lib Dem split. CR put the Ming’s party at 14%, YouGov has it at 16% while ICM reported a 22% rating.

A key question in YouGov was “If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative Government led by David Cameron or a Labour Government led by Gordon Brown?”. The split was CON 46% – Lab 33% which is by far the biggest margin that such a forced question has seen. This is how opinion has changed when this point has been put:-

FEB 2006 CON 37: LAB 43 (LAB +6)
JUN 2006 CON 44: LAB 38 (CON +6)
AUG 2006 CON 43: LAB 36 (CON +7)
OCT 2006 CON 46: LAB 33 (CON +13)

So the position for Gordon is getting progressively worse just at a time when he needs to be convincing his party that things will be better under his leadership.

This is, of course, a forced and a false question because voters have a much wider choice and there is no mention of the Lib Dems. As Anthony Wells notes in UK Polling Report it will be interesting to see from the detailed data how Lib Dem supporters split on this issue because it might be a good pointer to tactical voting.

    The worry for Brown must be of poll deficits on this scale leading to a panic and the succession not being quite the foregone conclusion that it appeared.

One factor that I have raised here before is that Brown might blow up during what must be an extraordinarily difficult period for him. His performance at Treasury questions yesterday can only be described as bad-tempered and it’s just possible that his desire for the job that he has craved after for so long might lead him to do something that could have serious ramifications.

Labour MPs in marginal constituencies are going to feel a bit uncomfortable this morning. The saving grace for Brown is the lack of a viable alternative.

  • In the betting the Brown price has eased to 0.39/1 and I have started laying (betting against) him.
  • Mike Smithson


    Is this what happened to Labour’s tax attack dog?

    Thursday, October 26th, 2006

      Why couldn’t the Brownites cash in on the Tory tax plan cock-up?

    On Sunday when I was planning the week ahead on the site I was convinced that the following days might see the moment when the Cameron band-wagon would drive to a halt.

    For judging by the weekend press reports Gordon Brown’s team had been absolutely cock a hoot over the way they had derailed last week’s Tory tax commission announcement and had got David Cameron and George Osborne onto the back foot even before the official publication.

    For as a result of somebody posting the report a day early on the Conservative web-site the Brownites were able to do what they are brilliant at – framing the argument between the parties as between “Labour’s investment” and “Tory cuts“. This is the line that’s worked well for them at previous General Elections and it appeared that the detail in the Tory Tax commission report provided 176 pages of red meat for the Chancellor’s attack dogs to get their teeth into.

      Labour’s Tory tax/spending cuts rhetoric might still have legs – but there has been no sign in the polls since then that it is resonating with the public. In fact it is has been the other way round.

    We have still got YouGov to come in this week of extraordinary polls and it could come out with anything. But even the most optimistic Brownite will not be predicting a repeat of September’s level-pegging position for the party when it was the Tories and Labour on 36% with the Lib Dems down at 16%.

    The whole change in the mood about Iraq and the possibility that the UK might be withdrawing with the mission not accomplished is going to dominate the domestic agenda. Gordon Brown must be hoping that he can do a Harold Macmillan – the Tory leader who took over after the Suez debacle fifty years ago and went on to victory in 1959.

  • Betting news. The overnight Gordon Brown price has been 0.39/1 – just above the tightest position that it has been at for months. Labour’s appalling polls seem to have reinforced the sentiment about Gordon.
  • US News. There’s a big feature in the Times this morning about Barack Obama – now 20/1 to become next President. A couple of people have asked me to post the link of the video of his speech to the 2004 Democratic convention that I referred to in the comments thread on Monday. If you have fifteen minutes it is well worth looking at.
  • Mike Smithson


    Sorry for our problems today

    Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

    Sorry for our problems today
    As a result of problems with we have had serious outages for most of the day. What normally happens is that the politicalbetting url takes you to which in turn points you to our server in Cambridge. For large parts of the day that has not been happening.

    I’ve been like a heroin addict desperately in need of a fix especially after such a surprising poll.

    The good news is that we are back. Thanks for your patience.

    Mike Smithson


    Before “adjustment” Labour’s ICM deficit was 14%

    Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

      How a device to deal with shy Tories gives Brown’s party a 4% boost

    If it’s any consolation today’s ICM poll in the Guardian could have been much much worse for Blair-Brown but for the pollster’s final adjustment that was introduced after the 1992 General Election to deal with the phenomenon of “shy Tories”.

    For instead of the CON 39%: LAB 29%: LD 22% headline figures that have been reported the shares were CON 41% – LAB 27%. For what ICM do is to use the responses to the “how did you vote last time” question to apportion part of the group in the survey who said they would be voting but refused or said they did not know when asked to name the party.

    In recent months this has only changed the headline figure by 1-2% but with today’s poll it had a much greater impact. As Julian Glover writes in the Guardian “For years, it was Tories who could be counted on to mumble “no thanks” when the pollsters came calling but still turn out on election day. Now Labour voters may be the ones inclined to keep their politics to themselves…Labour will have its fingers crossed that its supporters are still out there, somewhere, even if these days they don’t like to admit it.”

    With three polls on consecutive days showing very different pictures it appears as though the pollsters are all over the place.

    In fact most of the differences between this week’s polls can be explained by timing and different methodological approaches.

    The Mori poll on Monday was a week old so the field-work took place before the Tory tax announcement. Also, as we have said many times before, the pollster does not use past vote weighting.

    The field-work for the Communication Research poll yesterday took place, like today’s ICM survey, from October 20-22nd. CR, like Mori does not use past vote weighting but has a very fierce “squeeze” question to try to get a response from those who say they will vote but won’t name a party. They are asked how they would vote if it was a legal requirement to do so. I think that the very high CR “others” figure is partly explained by this question.

    Both ICM and CR include the names of the three main parties in their question with the SNP and PC being included for Scottish and Welsh respondents. This usually helps the Lib Dems but CR had them at 14% with ICM recording a 22% figure. My guess is that when we see the final data a part of this discrepancy will be put down to ICM past vote weighting approach.

    The next poll should be YouGov for the Telegraph which is expected to be out on Friday. Who knows what the Internet pollster will bring?

    Betting News. There’s been a big move to Gordon Brown in the Labour Leadership markets overnight. He’s tightened from 0.42/1 to 0.38/1 – so a winning £100 bet would produce £4 less this morning than yesterday.

    Mike Smithson


    Massive boost for Cameron from ICM

    Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

      The Guardian’s pollster shows the party has a 10% lead

    The vote shares in this month’s ICM poll for the Guardian are just out and show a big move away from Labour with the party down below 30%. The actual vote shares are with changes on the last survey from the pollster taken just after the Tory party conference CON 39 (+1): LAB 29 (-3): LD 22 (+2).

    The movements are in line with yesterday’s Communicate Research survey and compare markedly with Mori which on Monday reported a 2% Labour lead.

    It is important to note that the Mori fieldwork took place a week earlier than the ICM and CR surveys where the Tories clearly benefited from the big media exposure at the end of last week for their plans on taxation.

      This survey is one in the eye for those pundits, like Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer and John Rentoul in the Indy on Sunday, who had argued that David Cameron and George Osborne had committed an enormous blunder with their tax announcement.

    This also reinforces my strong view that what boosts the Tories in the polls is media coverage, particularly featuring Cameron. The Labour and Brown strategy must be to do nothing which gives the Tory leader any prominence. The coverage of last week’s announcement went on for a day longer because Labour launched a pre-emptive strike against it.

    Mike Smithson


    Is this the ticket that secures the unions for Gordon?

    Tuesday, October 24th, 2006


      Is a deal being struck so Brown’s backing Cruddas?

    In all the discussion on Labour’s leadership elections far too little attention has been paid to what’s driving the third element in the party’s electoral structure – the trade unions. For after years of being half-ignored by Downing Street the union bosses appear determined to put their thumb-prints on the Labour succession if only, at the very least, to assert their key role in the Labour movement.

      Given that the outcome of the ballot of union members will represent precisely one third of the electoral college that will decide the two top posts then the news that seven leading union general secretaries have come out for Jon Cruddas has to be taken very seriously.

    For although it’s the individual members who vote their leaders will have a huge influence particularly with the election of the Deputy. I would not be surprised if Cruddas, who was at 125/1 at the start of the month, picks up more than two-thirds of the union votes. With that as a basis he would not have to secure much more support in the membership or MP sections of the ballots to be elected.

    There’s another element – the trade unions need to be seen to having an influence on the leadership election. Brown, although not universally popular with the union hierarchies is seen as a foregone conclusion for leader so the focus has become the deputy.

      I do not know whether this has happened or will happen but will the price of union support for the Chancellor be his backing of their man for deputy?

    I’m always wary when people talk about the predictive nature of betting markets. But something has been driving the deputy leadership market where Cruddas has tightened from 125/1 to 8/1 in a month. Is there knowledge about that some sort of arrangement has been reached with Gordon and the unions?

    The final element that makes me think Cruddas is a great bet is his USP. He is not pressing to be deputy prime minister or to hold some other high office in the Brown government. Rather he sees the role of the deputy as being the voice of the Labour movement in the higher echelons of power.

    After all the movement has gone through with Tony Blair the Cruddas proposal strikes a real chord with a lot of people. Ladbrokes have him at 8/1. Take it.

    Mike Smithson


    Communicate Research puts Labour 6% behind

    Tuesday, October 24th, 2006


      The Independent’s pollster has the Lib Dems on just 14%

    Gloom for Labour and the Lib Dems and a boost for the Tories is the message from this morning’s poll in the Independent from Communicate Research – which has not had a published a national voting intention survey since last year’s General Election. The headline figures – CON 38%: LAB 32%: LD 14% – show a very high proportion of respondents going for other parties.

    Just under 1,000 people were interviewed from October 20 – 22 – so the fieldwork finished on Sunday and is almost a week newer than the Mori survey that was reported yesterday.

    I was a big critic of CR when it was last polling for the Independent of Sunday in the run-up to the run-up to the 2005 General Election. It does not employ past vote weighting – the process in which pollsters like ICM and Populus seek to ensure they have balanced samples by weighting their results in line with what respondents said they did last time taking into account a level of misremembering.

    From the limited information on the firm’s website it does not appear to have used this approach in this latest poll. This is quite remarkable given the findings. For the main impact of past vote weighting is usually to reduce the level of Labour support because telephone surveys, for whatever reason, invariably find many more people who voted Labour last time than actually did.

    The firm’s polls in the months leading up to May 5 2005 generally showed bigger Labour leads than ICM or YouGov. Its final survey before the election was completed eight days ahead of the ballot and really cannot be compared with those pollsters who were doing surveys in the final week. It came out with Labour at 39, the Tories on 31% and the Lib Dems with what proved to be an accurate 23%.

      Today’s numbers, if supported by ICM and others, support a pet theory of mine that Tory support is closely linked to the amount of media coverage they and their leader get whether good or bad.

    Last week the Tories had their tax plan announcement which featured quite largely, although not always positively, just before the survey started. They got an extra day of coverage thanks to the Brownite pre-emptive onslaught. In the run-up to the Mori poll the news was dominated by Iraq and the Tories and David Cameron were hardly getting a mention anywhere.

    Alas, we cannot compare the CR figures with the October ICM poll for the Guardian – the first part of which is featured today. The paper focuses on the Iraq questions and is holding over the voting intention data until, hopefully, tomorrow.

    After today’s terrible 14% finding the Lib Dems must be hoping for something better from ICM which generally reports bigger shares for the party, probably because it lists the names of the main parties when it asks the voting intention question.

    Mike Smithson