Archive for January, 2007


By request our “What did you do daddy” poster

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

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    What will Dave and Gordon tell their children about their war roles?

Earlier in the week when were were discussing the electoral impact of Iraq a couple of people emailed asking that I publish again the photo-composition that was produced for the site a few months ago.

Well here it is and it does raise question for both men that are probably not going to go away. Both were supporters of the invasion although Gordon was clearly in a much better position to influence the final decision.

    What would have happened if he had resigned at that point – like Robin Cook?

This is not an easy one either for Cameron. We shall see but while the death toll mounts by the day it will stay on the domestic agenda.

Mike Smithson


Does Ming owes his position to the man jailed yesterday?

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

    Did illegal eavesdropping change the course of the Lib Dem election?

Just on a year ago this week Simon Hughes was riding high in his bid to become leader of the Liberal Democrats. Mark Oaten had pulled out of the race a few days earlier and the sentiment had moved sharply away from Ming Campbell following his lacklustre performances at Prime Minister’s Questions.

In the betting Hughes overtook Ming and became the odds on favourite.

An ICM poll in the Guardian of Lib Dem supporters had rated Hughes, then party president, as the candidate best-placed to restore the party’s fortunes. In a panel survey 62%, had picked Hughes, against 18% for Sir Menzies and 20% for Mr Huhne.

These were pretty convincing figures from a reputable pollster and punters started piling money on.

But then, as we all know, it all went wrong for him. Tabloid revelations about his private life emerged and after that it was going to be an uphill battle. To his credit Hughes stayed in the race and did better than most people had predicted.

Yesterday in the Royal phone taps case involving the News of the World Royal Correspondent a second man was also jailed – Glenn Mulcaire, 36, of Sutton, Surrey. The court heard that amongst four other people that had been targeted by Mulcaire was Simon Hughes.

Although all the focus was on the Royal aspects it is believed that Mulcaire was the person who tapped Simon Hughes‘ phone messages, leading to his high-profile “outing”.

If this had not happened would Hughes have done it? Who knows? But we can say that in the aftermath of that ICM poll political gamblers believed he would and he was the odds-on favourite until the stories appeared.

Mike Smithson


Sean Fear’s Friday slot

Friday, January 26th, 2007

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    Are Labour Planning to Get Rid of the County and District Councils?

In my last year as a borough councillor, in 2003/4, there was much speculation that Labour would seek to get rid of the County and District councils, and replace them with single-tier Unitary Authorities.

Some of the powers of County and District councils would be transferred to the new Unitary authorities. Others would be transferred upwards to elected regional assemblies. Although this never materialised, I now understand that this idea is being given serious consideration again in government circles, perhaps as one of the new initiatives that Gordon Brown will announce when he becomes Prime Minister.

    The advantages of such a scheme from Labour’s point of view are obvious. Currently, there are 6,100 Conservative County and District councillors, 2,500 for Labour, and 2,700 for the Liberal Democrats. Almost certainly, the number of Labour district councillors will be reduced still further in May.

Obviously, the abolition of County and District councils, and their replacement by Unitary Authorities, would have the effect of sharply reducing the number of Conservative councillors. It would also reduce the number of Labour councillors, but Labour has far fewer councillors to lose.

Many constituency associations are dependent on local councillors to keep going, and cutting councillor numbers will reduce the number of local activists. Such a move might also put Conservative councillors at loggerheads with one another, as they sought selection for a much smaller number of seats, and argued over the boundaries of the proposed new authorities.

    New Labour has consistently shown it will try out all sorts of constitutional innovations, in order to strengthen its own position relative to that of its opponents, and this would be an obvious move to make.

Last night’s results were generally good for the Conservatives, and poor for Labour.

Cumbria CC – Brampton and Gilsland:
Con. 717, Lab.363, BNP 88. Con. hold.
Isle of Anglesey CC – Llanfihangel Esceifiog: Independent 449, Plaid Cymru 273, Lab 56. Independent gain from Plaid Cymru. How on Earth is this seat pronounced?
New Forest DC – Barton: Con. 990, Lib Dem 426, Ind 277, Lab 48. Con. hold.
Nottinghamshire CC – Hucknall: Con. 1597, Lab 1554, Lib Dem 1007, UKIP 413, Green 350. Con. gain from Lab. This was a particularly good Conservative performance, in the light of quite a strong vote for UKIP.
West Oxfordshire DC – Witney Central: Con. 417, Lib Dem 207, Lab 87, Green 68. Con. hold. Labour won this seat as recently as 2002, and is a further sign of their difficulties in the South of England.

Sean Fear is a London Tory activist


Why is John Reid still second favourite?

Friday, January 26th, 2007

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    Can a Home Secretary ever make it to the top job?

The above, reproduced from the Sun web-site, gives a good flavour of how John Reid is being treated this morning following a whole raft of new problems on his patch. His cabinet position, surely, is not for ambitious high flyers and it is hard to see how he can progress from here.

But why is he still second favourite almost right across the board to take the to job. This does not add up. If, for whatever reason, Gordon does not make it then it is not going to be Reid.

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Mike Smithson


Will today’s Mail story put more pressure on Blair?

Friday, January 26th, 2007

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    Could the investigation go on until the spring?

The main news in the Mail this morning is that that “detectives are now increasingly confident that the ten-month investigation will end in a criminal court case – either over claims that peerages were traded for political donations, or an attempt to conceal evidence.”

But what could also dominate the political environment is a suggestion in the paper “that a final report on the case is now unlikely to be submitted to the CPS until early spring. It remains possible that Mr Blair could have stepped down as PM by the time prosecutors have reached a decision.”

Quite what this means for the Blair exit date betting is hard to call. The period April- June is still the favourite.

Mike Smithson


Has the big clunking fist got into a mess over “Britishness”?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007


    Will there be a West Lothian Question over whether it’s taught in schools

The latest move in Gordon Brown’s “Britishness” initiative is that it should be compulsory for schools to teach “core British values alongside cultural diversity”. The problem is that this will only apply in England and as the BBC’s Daily Politics programme reported this morning – it will not apply in Scotland.

    For while the Education Secretary, Alan Johnson, can lay down policy for schools in England, as he did today, his writ does not run north of the border. He has no say over Scotland’s schools and the only way that “Britishness” can be taught there is if a separate decision is made in Edinburgh.

According to Andrew Neil on the programme this is not likely to happen. So, potentially, we have the faintly ridiculous situation of pupil being forced to study this in one part of the Kingdom but not in another.

You have to question whether Gordon has got the whole concept of Britishness right? It’s one that does not ring true and as a recent survey showed the English are increasingly likely to think of themselves as that and not British. The way the policy is developing looks as though it’s something being foisted on the English to deal with the Chancellor’s concern over his own cultural heritage.

Meanwhile the Gordon Brown price on the Labour Leadership betting market weakened to 0.21/1. It has moved out from 0.17/1 in just a fortnight.

I am not suggesting that anybody should bet against the Chancellor but his handling of the issue has raised doubts in my mind.

Mike Smithson


Is Iraq going to swing many votes next time?

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

    Will the Lib Dems go on getting an “anti-war” bonus?

After yesterday’s first full debate in the Commons in Government time on Iraq since the war ended in 2003 the question needs to be asked – how big an issue will this be at the next General Election?

Will the presumably Brown-led Labour administration be able to cut itself off from the massive negatives that the war created for the party in 2005?

    Could the issue for post-Blair Labour have nothing like the electoral potency that we saw last time when it appeared to produce a 5.5% switch to the Liberal Democrats? Will, indeed, Gordon be able to win back many of those who deserted Labour because of the war?

There’s not much help from the polls. For the impact on voters of Iraq and its aftermath has hardly been examined in recent months. According to the helpful table on UK Polling Report the last time an Iraq question was asked was by ICM for the Guardian as far back as July.

Tony Blair had a smart strategy to deal with yesterday’s debate – he made sure that he wasn’t there. This move brings biting criticism in some papers this morning with the Independent describing it as “weak and cowardly”. For Labour this might not matter much any more – Blair is yesterday’s man, but he was supported by Brown.

For the Tories, too, Iraq is an issue they would like to move on from. They supported Tony Blair in those crucial Commons votes ahead of the 2003 invasion and any attempt to criticise now has to be handled with the utmost care in order to avoid the charge of opportunism. The David Cameron strategy seems to be to keep his head down.

    An element that could keep Iraq alive in the UK is next year’s American Presidential election. Unlike here Iraq continues to dominate the political environment and the only leading contender on either side who was consistently against is Barack Obama. If he gets the Democratic nomination then Iraq will become a major differentiator between the candidates.

For the Lib Dems in the UK the party’s opposition to Iraq and the role played powerfully over the past four years by Ming Campbell will continue to be a big plus.

The ability of Gordon to win back many of those Labour voters who switched to the Lib Dems last time might be what determines the overall outcome. This is a hard one to call.

Mike Smithson


How the votes churn when you name the leaders

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

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For polling anoraks one of the great joys of each new survey is being able to look at the detailed data. Quite often you can pick up trends and other findings that have not been included in the newspaper reports.

As a good example the table is a snapshot from the detailed data of the January poll for the Guardian which has just been published by ICM. It shows the cross-voting and changes when the named leader question was put. This, it will be recalled asks “If at the next election the Conservatives are led by David Cameron, Gordon Brown leads Labour and Ming Campbell leads the Liberal Democrats, how would you vote?”

So 96% of those who said they were voting Tory on the main voting intention question replied that they were staying with the party; whereas 83% of Labour supporters said their vote would be unchanged with Gordon Brown and the Lib Dems retained just 71% with Ming Campbell.

The Lib Dems pick up 5% of the Labour vote but see 12% of their support switch when the leaders names are included. The Tories, meanwhile pick up 9% of the Lib Dems supporters and 3% of the Labour ones.

These numbers are, of course small, but the movements are broadly in line with what has happened whenever ICM has asked this question over the past year.

Mike Smithson