Archive for April, 2007


How should we judge the performance of Team Cameron?

Monday, April 30th, 2007

    What will be the Tory vote share on Thursday?

There’s no doubt that all the parties will be spinning like mad in the next couple of days to talk up the prospects of their opponents and to dampen down expectations about themselves. We have this silly game every year so that whatever the outcome all the parties can claim that they have done better than expected. Yawn…Yawn.

But what performances should we be expecting and what, in particular, will be a good result for the Tories.
The numbers I will be looking for on Thursday night and Friday will be the national party vote share projection from the BBC based on the outcomes in up to 1,000 key wards.

Last year this gave:-CON 40%: LD 27%: LAB 26%: OTH 7%. If the polls are right and there has been an increase in the Tory position since then then I would expect a share something in excess of 40%. A share below 40% would be bad news and show that the momentum has not been carried forward.

In the Scottish Parliament election and that for the Welsh Assembly I would expect bigger Tory shares than current projections. Polls in those parts of the UK have traditionally overstated Labour and the nationalist parties and understated the Tories.

What national share of the vote will the Tories get in Thursday’s local elections (BBC estimate)?

Mike Smithson


Betting strategies for a big political week

Monday, April 30th, 2007

    How prices change in the final few days

One of the features covered in my book “The Political Punter” is what happens to betting markets in the final few days before an election when the small body of knowledgeable political gamblers is joined by many in the wider betting community.

They tend to follow favourites resulting in the prices of the most fancied options getting tighter and others moving out. So according to the book “If the person or party you want to back is a strong election favourite the early you get your money on the better. If you want to bet on anything other than a strong favourite wait until after the polling booths have opened to get a better price”.

This applies very strongly this week and these are my approaches to some of the key markets.

  • Scottish Elections. It’s hard to see the SNP not finishing in top slot in terms of seats after Thursday. You can currently get 0.26/1 which won’t last long. Get your money as soon as possible if you think Alex Salmond is going to do it.
  • Welsh Assembly Elections. The assumption for months is that Labour is a certainty to come top on seats and this is reflected in the very tight price of 0.05/1. So a £100 bet would produce just a £5 profit. That’s fine if you are absolutely sure about Labour. I’m not because I have strong doubts about the three Welsh polls that there have been have been. I’m convinced that Labour is being grossly over-stated though I’m not sure that this will be enough to deny them first place. I’ll be holding my fire until Thursday morning and might try a small lay (bet against) if the price goes to 0.03/1.
  • Labour leadership. This morning’s report in the Telegraph ruling out a possible John Reid challenge has sent the Brown price to 0.11/1. There might just be a possibility that in the aftermath of a bloody night for Labour on Thursday that the price might ease. If that happens then it could be worth a punt on the Chancellor at a slightly better price. The great thing about this bet now is that you won’t have to wait long to cash in.
  • Locally in Bedford where I live we are in the final three days of a bruising battle for the Borough’s elected mayor. Last time a multi-millionaire retired local newspaper owner won it on an independent ticket with the Lib Dems in second place. Unlike Thursday that election took place on its own without council seat elections at the same time and had a very low turnout. Things could be different on Thursday when the ability of the incumbent to hold on will require a lot of voters to switch from their normal allegiance.

    The Tories appear to have been using their national direct marketing operation and the Lib Dems have produced the best election literature that I have ever seen. I’ll be trying to find a local bookie to offer me a good price against the incumbent winning again. As with all bets everything depends on the price and whether your assessment of the probability of something happening are better than the odds being offered.

    Mike Smithson


    How much can we trust the Scottish polls?

    Sunday, April 29th, 2007

    scottish polls.JPG

      Have the “funny surveys” been over-stating Labour?

    The table has been adapted from Wikipedia and shows the incredible variation in the polling surveys of the regional or list vote ahead of next Thursday’s crucial election for the Scottish Parliament.

    On the one hand there have been the surveys by those pollsters which are listed as members of the British Polling Council which are required as part of their membership to follow strict transparency rules. Within two working days of a poll being published the BPC code requires basic detail to be made public so it is possible to analyse how the headline figures were arrived at.

    From the above table YouGov, ICM, Populus, and TNS System Three are BPC members and have been carrying out political opinion polling for some time. Just compare their findings for Labour with those from the non-listed firms – MRUK and Scottish Opinion.

    During April the BPC members have found Labour shares within a solid 25-27% band. Three of the surveys from the non-listed firms have found shares of 38%, 37%, and 34%. These numbers stretch credulity when you consider that in the Regional list in 2003 Labour chalked up 29.3% of the vote.

      A lot has happened over the past four years to Labour and the idea that the party might be securing more than a quarter more votes this time is a total and utter nonsense.

    A couple of weeks ago I proposed a wager of £1,000 here to MRUK and the Herald that the predicted Labour shares would be proved wrong. Surprise surprise this has not been taken up.

  • Once this election is over I plan to press the Press Complaints Commission to clampdown on papers describing as opinion polls surveys where the BPC transparency rules do not operate.
  • Mike Smithson


    How will Labour do on Thursday?

    Sunday, April 29th, 2007

      How well can the PBC community predict the elections?
    How many Labour members will be elected to the Scottish Parliament? (50 in 2003)
    51-129 seats
    46-50 seats
    41-45 seats
    36-40 seats
    31-35 seats
    0-30 seats
    How many Labour members will be elected to the Welsh Assembly? (30 in 2003)
    31-60 seats
    27-30 seats
    24-26 seats
    21-23 seats
    0-20 seats
    What will be the net change in Labour’s total of local council seats as a result of Thursday elections?
    One or more net gains
    0-150 net losses
    151-300 net losses
    301-450 net losses
    451-600 net losses
    601-750 net losses
    More than 751 net losses

    William Hill has betting markets up on the party seat totals for the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. Betfair makes the SNP 0.31/1 favourite to pick up most seats in Scotland with Labour on 2.35/1. In Wales Labour are the 1/20 favourite to win most Assembly seats. The Tories are now second favourites on 15/2.

    Mike Smithson


    Is the gap too wide for Sego?

    Saturday, April 28th, 2007

    french polls 2804.JPG

      Should Sarky backers worry about polling creep?

    Taking the polls as a whole it’s clear that there has been a slight erosion in Nicholas Sarkozy’s lead since his triumph in the first round of voting last Sunday. This has been reflected in the betting in the UK.

    In the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s voting Ségolène Royal moved out to about 3.7/1. That’s been edging back gently and is now at 3.1/1.

    If the daily poll from Ipsos – the pollster that runs the Mori organisation in the UK – moves to 52% or 51% to Sarkozy then the final few days could create a lot of jitters in both camps.

    A complicated story is developing over a planned presidential TV debate which has now been cancelled. The event was being seen as something that could benefit Royal but now Sarkozy is being accused of sabotaging it.

    This is dangerous territory both candidates and who wins the spin war could benefit.

    How do you rate the chances of a Sarkozy victory?
    81% – 100% likely
    66% – 80% likely
    51% – 65% likely
    0% – 50% likely

    Mike Smithson


    Who’ll stand aside – Meacher or McDonnell?

    Friday, April 27th, 2007


    The main development in the Labour leadership this morning is the above story about a possible deal between the rival left-wing candidates, Michael Meacher and John McDonnell that only one of them would stand in the coming contest.

    For punters the question is which. For whoever it is then the chances are that that person will get the nominations and be in a position to challenge. Almost certainly the agreed candidate would see a tightening of their price and that means there might be a profit opportunity.

    Currently Meacher is at 199/1 and McDonnell is at 249/1. This is hard to read but McDonnell has been in the race for much longer and, unlike Meacher, did oppose the Iraq war.

    No doubt we will know soon.

    What do you think?

    Would McDonnell and Meacher working together be able to rustle up 44 nominations to challenge Gordon?
  free polls

    Mike Smithson


    YouGov polls: Thread 1 “the decline of Brown”

    Friday, April 27th, 2007

    telegraph brown poll.jpg

      Labour’s wannabee leader continues to trail the Bullingdon boy

    Two threads this morning both from new YouGov polls in the Daily Telegraph. The first coverered in the previous story shows a sensational rise in support for the Greens ahead of next week’s election for the Edinburgh parliament.

    The second, which is the papers main lead, is from the main April survey by YouGov. The focus is on Gordon’s position in relation to Cameron in the forced choice question of whether, if people had to choose, they would go for a Brown led Labour government or a Cameron-led Tory one. The graphic above reproduced from the paper shows the results.

    This is, of course, a phoney question because it ignores the Lib Dems and other possibilities. But the fact that YouGov have been asking it in this form for so long gives us a real chance to observe trends – which don’t look good for Gordon and Labour.

    The main general election voting intention has some good news for Blair’s party – a significant cut in the Tory lead. The headline figures are with changes on the last survey by the pollster – CON 37% (-2): LAB 32% (+1): LD 18% (+2): OTH 14% (+1).

    Although their numbers are different – the trend of a decline in Tory support and an increase in the Lib Dem position – are the same as that found by ICM on Wednesday.

      What’s extraordinary is that even with the Tory lead being slashed back the Brown-Cameron position continues to get worse for the chancellor. Still we have to assume that Labour MPs know what they are doing.

    In the Labour leadership betting Gordon is now at 0.11/1. In the general election “most seats” betting the Tory price continues to tighten.

    Mike Smithson


    YouGov polls: Thread 2 “the rise of the Greens”

    Friday, April 27th, 2007

    scottish greens.JPG

      YouGov finds 9% support for the party in the Scotland elections

    An extraordinary poll next Thursday’s Scottish elections by YouGov for the Daily Telegraph shows a big surge for the Greens suggesting that they might provide the biggest sensation in next Thursday’s election – and maybe not just north of the border.

  • In the list vote where people express a preference for a party for the “top-up” seats YouGov found with changes on last week: SNP 31% (-4): LAB 27% (-1): CON 13% (nc): LD 11% (-2): GRN 9% (+5): OTH 10%(+3).
  • In the constituency vote where the Greens are not standing the shares are: SNP 39% (+2): LAB 30% (nc): CON 13% (-1): LD 15% (nc): OTH 4% (nc)
  • Given YouGov’s record in Scottish elections (they were by far the most accurate pollster last time) today’s figures add further weight to the evidence that the SNP is going to end up as top party in the Scottish parliament next week.

    The “funny” polls that have been appearing from firms that are not listed as members of the British Polling Council and don’t following the industry standard transparency rules should be ignored.

    So what are we to make of the big surge for the Greens? An explanation might be that there’s been a change in YouGov’s approach to the smaller parties. The following is from Peter Kellner – the boss of the firm:-

    He says that in previous Scottish polls “..those people who responded ‘some other party’ were then taken to a list of smaller parties, such as the Greens and Solidarity, and asked which they would vote for.In this week’s poll, we presented the full list of parties together – starting with the four larger parties, and then the four significant smaller parties: Greens, Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity, Senior Citizens Unity Party..It may well be that the apparent rise since last week in support for the Greens is largely the result of this change in our methods. If so, it is consistent with past polling experience: that if respondents are reminded of the names of smaller parties when they are asked how they will vote, support for those parties is generally higher than if they are not named.”

    This sounds spot on and I very much welcome the change in YouGov’s approach.

    The big support for the Greens begs the question of whether there maybe similar increases in party support in Wales and in some English local elections next week. My guess is that there will.

    In the Scottish election betting the 0.44/1 of the SNP to win most seats looks even more tempting this morning. Take almost everything you can.

    Mike Smithson