Archive for December, 2006


Did anybody bet on Orpington in 1962?

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

    When was the first legal political betting market?

orpington.JPGAs part of my research for my book on politics and betting I am trying to find the event on which there was the first legal betting market.

Betting became a mass market legal activity in October 1961 when high street betting shops were permitted for the first time.

I know that there was very active betting during the 1963 Tory leadership contest after the resignation of Harold Macmillan because that was when I placed my first ever political bet – a loser as it happens. I should have stopped then!

But can anybody recall betting activity on something earlier – and the biggest event in the intervening period was the Orpington by-election when Eric Lubbock secured a 32% swing for the Liberal and took the south east London suburban seat from the Tories with a majority of nearly 8,000.

This gave them a huge boost in the polls and by October 1962 they were the most popular party in the country.

Can anybody recall betting on this by election and, if possible, does anybody remember the odds? This would be a really helpful addition to the book.

I would be very grateful for any help. Either post it in the comments thread below or email me directly.

The 2007 Prediction Competition: This will now published on New Year’s Day.

Problems on Internet Explorer Visitors trying to use the site on IE are having problems viewing and taking part in discussions. This does not seem to be affecting those using Firefox. My son, Robert, is in Australia and I am trying to contact him to see if he can help.

Mike Smithson


Cameron: Tories party of working people

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

observer cameron.JPG

    Is this his “most audacious move yet?”

In what the Observer is describing this morning is David Cameron’s most “audacious bid yet to capture Labour’s political ground” the Tory leader says his is “the true party of ‘working people’ in Britain.”

In his New Year message he says that the Tories will become “the party that represents working people rather than the rich and powerful” and declares that the next twelve months will see “Labour’s dark side” coming to the fore.

    But for how long can the Tory leader go on making such pronouncements without alienating his core vote?

As the end of year chart showing the Tory position in the average of ICM, Populus and YouGov polls shows support for the party has dropped a touch since the heady days of last May. How much of this is down to a lack of enthusiasm amongst those who look to the party to follow a more traditional approach?
PBC polling average - Dec 06 Tories.JPG

Certainly the progress has been solid and has mostly been sustained but it barely puts the Tories in a position where it might win most seats, never mind securing the MPs to form a majority government.

The gamble, clearly, is that traditional Tories have nowhere else to go and they can either like it or lump it. It will be interesting to see how this develops in 2007.

  • The PBC polling average ends the year on CON 37%: LAB 32.3%: LDs 17.3%. On these figures the Baxter seat calculation puts the Tories 13 ahead of Labour while the Wells formula has them 19 seats behind. In the betting the Tories are 0.86/1 to win most seats with Labour on 1.16/1
  • .

    Mike Smithson


    Predicting 2007: The Lib Dems

    Saturday, December 30th, 2006

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      Thankfully for Lembit not many LDs read the Daily Mail

    There is absolutely no doubt about which Lib Dem is going to account for the most column inches during the 2007. For you cannot go round, as the Mail reported, telling complete strangers that they “have the best breasts in Wales” and expect to survive as party shadow spokesman on the Principality.

      The tabloids are on to Lembit now and surely the only question is how long will it be before Ming has to sack him?

    This is just one of the points for the 2007 Prediction Competition that will be published tomorrow – the thread where entries should be posted. The purpose of this is to provide a discussion forum for some of the issues that will be covered.

    Lembit apart, the Lib Dems have had an interesting 2006 – from the depths in late January when poll ratings slipped to 13% to the highs only a few weeks later when they won the Dunfermline by-election from Labour in the seat next door to where Gordon Brown lives.

    Will there be a by-election opportunity for the party in 2007. That we do not know but after Bromley in the summer then anything might be possible and you would not rule them out of winning virtually anywhere.

  • But that depends on something happening to a sitting MP and so far in the 20 months of this parliament we have had five. So if there are by-elections during 2007 will the Lib Dems winning form continue? This is hard to guess but what percentage of 2007 by-elections in GB will the LDs win?
  • The big scheduled elections of 2007 will be in May when all the seats in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments will be up for grabs. What will the net gains/losses be for the party in the elections for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments?
  • On that day as well there will be local council elections in many part of England. What will the Lib Dems net gain/losses be in the local elections of 2007?
  • The party ends 2006 with most of the pollsters showing that its national vote share is on the decline. Will this trend continue or will there be a reversal? What will be the lowest and highest shares that the Lib Dems will record in an ICM poll during 2007?
  • Having got rid of one leader during 2006 and replaced him with Ming Campbell it might be premature to start speculating about his future. But will Ming last the year? For how many weeks during 2007 will Ming remain leader and who will be in the job on Christmas Day 2007?
  • This thread is for discussion only – the questions will be published tomorrow.

    Mike Smithson


    Predicting 2007: Labour

    Saturday, December 30th, 2006

    brown bouncy castle.JPG

      What will be the size of the “Brown Bounce“?

    A key question in our Predicting 2007 competition, to be published tomorrow, will be on the effect of a new Labour leader. What will be the increase in the average of Populus/ICM/YouGov surveys of a new person taking over. Here the change in the PBC Polling Average in the first month is what we are seeking. Also what will Labour’s position be by the same measure two months afterwards?

    Another of the questions will be “who will be Prime Minister on Christmas Day 2007?.” On the face of it this is such a certainty that to encourage those who do not simply write “Brown” there will be a special bonus of quadruple points to those who name someone other than the Chancellor who get it right.

    For perfectly credible answers could be Tony Blair, David Cameron or one of the Labour alternatives such as David Miliband or John Reid.

    On the same there another question will be to give the precise date of Blair’s last day as PM.

    Other questions will be “how many candidates for leader will there be?” and who will get the Deputy role?

    There will also be questions on Labour performance in the May elections. What will be the number of losses/gains in the Scottish and Welsh parliament elections and in the local council elections on the same day.

    We do not know if there will be any Westminster by elections but if there are what will be the average change compared with the General Election in Labour’s vote share?

    The thread listing all the questions and where you should put your predictions will be published on Sunday. This is a normal comments thread.

    Mike Smithson


    Guest Slot – Rod Crosby on the Kalman Filter

    Friday, December 29th, 2006
      Wouldn’t it be nice…..If we could get from here…..

    scatter tories(2).JPG

      …to here?

    kalman tories.jpg

    Well, perhaps we can…. I just DID!! The second graph was created using only the few datapoints from the first graph, and a clever box-of-tricks called the Kalman Filter.

    What on earth is a Kalman Filter?

    Believe it or not, it is a statistical routine that originated in the 1960s in the fields of engineering and signal processing. The Kalman Filter is mathematically proven to be the optimal way of combining noisy data, and is used in many real-word applications – for example, radar and the inertial guidance of rockets. It was a Kalman Filter that took the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon and back.

    In 1999, two Yale politics professors, Donald Green and Alan Gerber, hit upon the idea of using the filter to remove “noise” from opinion polls.

    They have very kindly made their number-cruncher available online for anyone to use – it’s called SampleMiser

    In February 2006, Gallup began including Samplemiser results in its Presidential Approval rating, and in November amateur pollsters claimed success with the technique to precisely forecast the US Senate race.

    Samplemiser does an outstanding job not only in giving the best estimate of true support, but in also identifying with amazing precision those points in time where opinion turns…

    So I thought I’d put it to the test using basic poll-data for the Tories. The really clever thing Samplemiser did was to take 110 irregularly-spaced polls since May 2005, and create 580 new polls – apparently out of thin air – one for every single day. In other words it enables day-to-day tracking of Tory support…

    What tale does the Samplemiser tell?

    Out of a blizzard of dots, on 29th September 2005, Samplemiser identified a reversal and sharp upward trend in Tory fortunes. On that day, the TV news was plastered with images of Walter Wolfgang being manhandled out of the Labour Conference, giving the party appalling publicity as perceived “bullies.”

    By November the Tories were faltering, but a turn in their favour occurred when the media identified David Cameron as favourite to be the next leader. With uncanny accuracy, on the very day Cameron was elected, 6th December 2005 – Samplemiser projected a 1.5% leap in support, and the Tories soon rose like a rocket, putting on 4 percentage points in a month.

    By the first week of 2006 though, there were signs of a levelling-off and slight fall-back at 37%. But the sudden defenestration of Charles Kennedy on 7th January gave Cameron a further boost, with the Tories cresting at 39% on 3rd February. However, this was the same day the leaderless LibDems pulled-off a sensation at Dunfermline, and by the very next day Samplemiser had the Tories falling sharply…

    Cameron’s renewed espousal of Green issues during February appeared to pay dividends, but Samplemiser noted the abrupt end of this recovery on 4th March, with the election of Ming Campbell as LibDem leader. The Tories achieved another brief upward spike on 17th March, after 75 Labour MPs rebelled on the Education Bill.

    On the 18th April 2006, the “Dave the Chameleon” Political Broadcast was aired for the first time. It proved a highly potent message, as the Tories went into free-fall on the 19th, dropping almost 3 points in 3 days, according to Samplemiser….

    If our little timeline had ended there, David Cameron might be just a historical footnote by now. His short honeymoon was certainly over, the LibDems had miraculously revived, and the Tories now stood at below 33% – less than they had achieved at the General Election. Labour had appeared to land a knock-out punch with its scathing party political broadcast, and another bout of Tory in-fighting looked inevitable.

    FATE, unbeknown however, was riding to the Tories’ rescue – in the ungainly, ludicrous form of John Prescott….

    News of the his affair with Tracy Temple broke on 26th April, and by the 28th Samplemiser had the Tories surging by 1.5% – the start of one of the most rapid political sea-changes in recent history. Over the next 5 weeks the Tories would put on nearly 7 percentage points, peaking at just over 39% by the end of May. Further spikes in June and July were recorded, apparently related to the Prescott/Anschutz story, but interestingly the Tories seemed unable to penetrate a glass-ceiling at just over 39%.

    There were fewer polls than usual in July and August. The Levy arrest didn’t register, as it fell inside an unusual poll-free fortnight, but Cameron’s “hug-a-hoodie” speech may have caused a dip in Tory support. The terror alert in mid-August could have actually boosted the Tories, but the apparent breaking of the plot propelled the Conservatives on to the downward path from the 24th August, the day after the suspects appeared in court.

    The next sharp upturn in Conservative support identified by Samplemiser occurred on 7th September, the very day Tony Blair finally announced his forthcoming departure. This boost proved short-lived – less than a week – and the Tories resumed a steady decline.

    On 20th October, Samplemiser recorded another surge in Tory support – in the week that Blunkett’s sensational memoirs were published, and Sir Richard Dannatt made his outspoken criticisms on Iraq. However, on 3rd November it was reported that David Cameron had returned to the “hoodie” theme. His new comments were widely ridiculed as “Love a lout.” With seeming laser-beam accuracy, Samplemiser showed Tory support plummeting, falling by over 2% from 5th November.

    Since then, the Tories have hovered around the 36% mark. We have had a remarkable view of the rollercoaster ride in Tory fortunes that the poll snowstorm conceals, and only time will tell in which direction they head off next.

    But one thing seems clear – to keep firm track of them we need the help of the amazing Samplemiser….

    Rod Crosby has been a Lib Dem activist but says “I have never voted Labour in my life, but if by some chance there was a danger of David Cameron becoming Prime Minister, I would not hesitate to do so.


    Could the Lib Dems really be reduced to six seats?

    Friday, December 29th, 2006

    electoral calculus 291206.JPG

      Putting today’s Communicate Research figures into the Baxter calculator

    The above is from Martin Baxter’s Electoral Calculus site and shows what happens if you put the party shares from this morning’s Communicate Research poll for the Independent into his Commons seat predictor. For the numbers the pollster reports are, compared with last month’s figures CON 36 (+2): LAB 37 (+1): LD 14 (-3).

    The fieldwork for the survey took place in the week before Christmas and ended two days before the YouGov poll that was in the Sunday Times at the weekend and had the Lib Dems down at 15%. That poll, however, had the Tories with a 5% lead.

    We have discussed before how the CR methodology, which is currently “under review”, does not use past vote weighting to ensure a politically balanced sample which would tend to give it bigger Labour shares.

      CR’s survey means that all the pollsters have shown a fall back in Lib Dem support during December which must start to get worrying for the party leadership.

    With most of the pollsters the party is not faring as well as the first surveys taken after David Cameron’s election as Tory leader a year ago when Charles Kennedy was still in charge.

    The Martin Baxter calculation is based on a uniform national swing and does not take into account regional variations or local factors like the strength of a Lib Dem incumbent. Lembit Opik’s Montgomery seat, for instance, comes out as a Tory gain. But the six seat prediction is not good. The other main calculator, from Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report, has a different way of calculating the swing and puts the Lib Dems at 30 seats.

    I’ve long taken the view that as long as Ming remains in good health he would go on to lead his party at the next election. Now I think that unless there’s a reversal in the polling trend then he might just start to come under pressure.

    Mike Smithson


    What about Rudy for the Republican nomination?

    Thursday, December 28th, 2006


      Will his 9/11 families strategy rebound?

    If you look at the betting on who will get the Republican nomination for the 2008 White House race there is only one person in it – the Vietnam veteran and Senator from Arizona, John McCain. His price is now at 1.36/1 and is way ahead of the second favourite, the ex-Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

    Yet if you check the latest polls a different picture emerges – Giuliani has significant leads over McCain.

      So why are punters not following the pollsters and is there value to be had on the man who made his name in the immediate aftermath of 9/11?

    Some of the doubts might be being fuelled by stories like the one above in the New York Post this week. Yes – Rudy’s great period was in those harrowing days after 9/11 when his calm leadership in New York won him plaudits at home and abroad.

    But being seen to exploit the families for his nomination bid has to be handled with extreme care and this story has sent reverberations across the nation. Will this rebound on him?

    Mike Smithson


    Communicate Research boost for Brown

    Thursday, December 28th, 2006

    Indy 281206.JPG

      But why no voting intention figures?

    The December poll from Communicate Research is out this morning in the Independent but the online edition, at least, does not appear to feature voting intention figures. These were clearly asked because breakdowns of how supporters of different parties answered some of the questions are included in the story. Maybe that detail will come tomorrow.

    Andrew Grice, the paper’s political editor, puts the focus on the “who would make the best PM” question where Brown was rated at 39% while Cameron scored 36%. Lib Dems divided by 37-31% on this question while those saying they intended to vote Green went for Cameron by 40-30%.

      But is Grice correct to state in his introduction that that the answer to the “best PM” question means that people “prefer” the Chancellor as their next PM? That question was not asked. Alastair Campbell could rate Manchester United as the “best football team” but still say he prefers Burnley.

    The finding on “best PM” is consistent with other surveys. YouGov last week reported a 28-27 Cameron-Brown split on the issue while ICM had Brown had Brown 5% ahead on the same question at the end of November.

    Clearly this is an area where the Chancellor is seen positively – the challenge for Labour is to convert that into a desire to vote for the party. For the former poll had voters wanting a Cameron-led Tory Government over a Brown-led Labour by a 13 point margin while the latter reported a 9% overall Tory lead.

    The poll also found that two thirds of people think Gordon “grumpy”, against only 18 per cent who think the same of the Tory leader.

    As we discussed in November CR does not use past vote weighting to ensure a politically balnced sample and their methodology is “currently under review”.

    Hopefully we will be able to get the voting intention figures either tomorrow or when CR publishes the detailed data.

    Mike Smithson