Archive for May, 2008


What happens if Labour goes broke?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008


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Mike Smithson


Is this where Hillary’s dream finally dies?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008


How will the RBC vote on Michigan and Florida?

On Saturday, May 31st 2008, the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel (pictured), the largest hotel in Washington D.C., will play host to the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC). This is the body that will, in the first instance at least, vote on whether to uphold the penalties it meted out to Michigan and Florida – stripping them of all delegates (Pledged and Super-) at the Convention as punishment for bringing their contests forward to before Super Tuesday, in direct contravention of a DNC edict. Whilst delegates were excluded under the penalty, by a quirk of fate (or perhaps an oversight) Michigan and Florida retain their full representation on all three DNC Standing Committees – RBC, Credentials, and Platform.

The RBC can vote to uphold the penalty in full (seat no delegates), reduce the penalty (seat some delegates, in a manner and proportion to be decided), or remove the penalty (seat the delegations as they currently stand, in full). If they choose to lift the penalty altogether, I am not sure if Obama’s campaign will openly call for any delegates to be barred – it would alienate voters in key swing states to be too open about his desire that the current penalty be upheld. Also, the Credentials Committee would be unlikely, in my view, to uphold an RBC penalty that the RBC had voted to rescind. It would be like the Court of Appeals finding for the prosecutor after the Crown Prosecution Service had decided to drop the case. Obviously, if the RBC decide to enforce the penalty in full or in part, Hillary will be almost mathematically unable to win, and so would either have to concede or try her luck with the Credentials Committee and then the Convention Floor.

Once the RBC has ruled on Michigan and Florida, the Credentials Committee, which is meeting in July, will decide whether to add the states to the Temporary Roll, that can vote at the Convention in the first instance (i.e. on whether to accept all delegates) – if added to the Temporary Roll, although no-one can vote on their own challenge, Florida would be able to vote on the challenge to Michigan and vice versa, giving a much better chance of success than one might expect. The Convention Floor then decides whether to confirm those states to the Permanent Roll, which votes on who to nominate for President and Vice-President respectively.

The Credentials Committee is a massive 186 members, (35 of whom are appointed by Howard Dean, the rest apportioned by state), and as I have said can prevent Michigan and Florida from even appearing on the Temporary Roll. If so, they would stand no chance of voting on the nominees. However, to kill off their chances completely, the Credentials Committee would have to vote by 80% to 20% in favour of exclusion. If more than 20% of the Committee signs a ‘minority report’ (and this is significantly lower than the estimated percentage of Clintonistas on the Committee), then alternate plans have to be published as part of the Committee’s recommendation to the Convention. The full Convention Floor would then vote on whether to add Michigan and Florida to the Temporary Roll.

You might think that, given Obama has a majority without Michigan and Florida, that the Convention would reject the minority report outright, but I suspect there are Obama supporters who will not want to necessarily exclude these States – Superdelegates who might one day want to run for national office (and would need FL and MI), delegates not wishing to offend Senators and Congressmen from those states whose votes they need for pet projects, or just a difference of opinion with the RBC on this matter – there are any number of reasons why Obama might not be able to guarantee that his delegates (especially his Superdelegates) vote against lifting the penalty. I think there is a reasonable chance (though not odds on by any means) that if the Convention Floor gets to vote on seating the two delegations, that they will be seated.

If Michigan and Florida are added to the Temporary Roll in the proportions based on the elections earlier this year, I believe they will also be added to the Permanent Roll on that basis as well. If that were to transpire, and it is a massive ‘if’, Hillary Clinton has a significant chance of claiming the nomination, albeit in the ugliest of Convention Floor fights. I would even venture to suggest that her odds could be as tight as 5/2 if Michigan and Florida are both added as they currently stand, given that Clinton supporters have apparently taken some of Michigan’s ‘Uncommitted’ delegate places, as well the pledged delegate spots.

I believe the difficulty for Hillary is getting the issue as far as the Credentials Committee, where a minority report could help her onto the Temporary Roll and onwards. If the RBC rules against seating delegates based on the prohibited contests, then I believe a flood of Superdelegates, including the Party Elders such as Gore, Pelosi and Dean, will decide to step in, safe in the knowledge that they are merely upholding the DNC rulings as voted for in the RBC.

The Clinton campaign needs to either guarantee itself a majority (51%) of those present and voting in the RBC, or to prevent the meeting from making a decision. Quoracy for the RBC stands at 40% of the 30-person Committee, so 12 attendees would allow for a vote, but not all present are compelled to vote. As of the end of April, ‘Demconwatch’ counted the RBC as consisting of 13 Clintonistas, 8 Obamamaniacs, 7 Uncommitted members and the 2 neutral Co-chairs, so it is more likely that Clinton would win than ensure the meeting was inquorate, by encouraging abstentions rather than votes against (“Do you really want to be the person who deprived the Party of a vote at the Convention?”). Two votes more, from the seven uncommitted members, would see the delegates seated in full.

So, if the RBC votes to seat the MI and FL delegates as they stand, or a quorate majority cannot agree upon a decision, Saturday will count as a very good day for Hillary Clinton. If the RBC refuses to seat them at all, she can appeal, but will more likely be stopped by political momentum as Superdelegates flood to Obama on June 4th. If a deal is struck on any sort of comprimise that re-weights the delegations or only seats them in part, then her very last, most outlandish chance will be gone.

All of this is (of course) conjecture, and none of it likely. I fully expect the RBC to refuse to seat the two states in full, and for Clinton to have conceded within hours of losing South Dakota and Montana, but if the RBC fails to enforce its penalty to the full on Saturday, I will be forensically re-reading the byzantine rules of Democratic Party politics many times over so as to re-evaluate the odds on a potential Convention Floor fight the like of which has not been seen since 1980.

The complete Regulations of the RBC can be found here.

A full list of members, and their endorsements as of April 28th, can be found (thanks to the DemConWatch blog) here.



Is Alan Johnson Labour’s best hope?

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

Alan Johnson

Johnson favoured over Miliband by PoliticsHome panel

Andrew Rawnsley, at PoliticsHome, has announced the results of one of their Phi100 surveys on the leadership of the Labour Party. He writes:

“Labour would have a better chance of winning the next election under a different leader. That’s the strong view of the PHI100, Britain’s most authoritative survey of inside and expert political opinion.

Asked which Labour politician would maximise the party’s chances of holding on to power, less than one six of the politically balanced panel selected Gordon Brown.

The most popular alternative Prime Minister is Alan Johnson. Despite his disavowals of interest in the job, nearly a third of the panel (thirty two per cent) reckon the Health Secretary, a former union leader thought to have an assured touch on the media, would be Labour’s best bet as leader.”

Johnson still has strong links to the unions (he was General Secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union in the 1990s – I believe the only union leader to support Blair over Clause IV), and has held four Cabinet posts, including his current posting at the DoH.

Having come so close to winning the Deputy Leadership, might Alan Johnson be the one to re-unite Labour if the PM really were to go?

UPDATE: At precisely the moment that I published this continuation thread, PoliticsHome announced the results of a second Phi100 survey which has over 90% of their panel saying they think the Tories will be the largest party after the next General Election, and 51% stating they think Cameron will enjoy an overall majority.


Coming up on PB:

“Is this where Hillary’s dream finally dies?” at 7pm


A delayed victory for polling transparency

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

    The BPC rules that Ken’s congestion charge poll must be released

cc-charge-sign-rh.JPGJust before I went on holiday the British Polling Council made a ruling on the case against Ipsos-MORI for failing to provide the full data on an opinion poll carried out for Transport for London on the congestion charge.

This was highlighted here in February and was the first time that the council has had to hold a formal process over a alleged failure to follow its disclosure provisions. These broadly state that within two working days of a poll being published then the pollsters have to make available the full details – normally on their websites.

The Council have now ruled: “.. This Committee concluded that the findings of the survey did fall under BPC rules following release by the Mayor of London, and that Ipsos MORI did not act in conformity to these rules when it did not make available full details of the survey when it was requested to do so. This conclusion was accepted in full by the Management Committee of the British Polling Council..Ipsos MORI has accepted the findings of the British Polling Council and has apologised for not making the information available when requested. As Ipsos MORI has now made available computer tables from its survey, the full meeting of the BPC decided to take no further action against the company.”

The problem with this ruling, of course, is that the data was kept under wraps for a considerable period of time during a highly sensitive political period. If Ken did not want us to see it during the mayoral election campaign then he succeeded.

The British Polling Council’s transparency rules are an important safeguard for all with an interest in the political process. It helps stops the politicisation and possible distortion of data but there needs to be some faster way of dealing with these matters during election campaigns.

Looking at the poll findings and you just wonder why Livingstone would not let MORI issue the data in line with the normal disclosure process in the first place. There was nothing particularly contentious in it. It simply does not make sense and all the refusal did was to set up a lot of hares running that there were things in the poll that he did not want us to see.

Mike Smithson – on holiday in Spain


Do Endorsements Matter?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008


Which, if any, endorsements made a difference for the Democrats?

One of the major features of explaining the primary victories of either candidate in any given state or territory, alongside demographics or previous voting history, has been the litany of endorsements that are collected along the way. However, when we compare the geographical and chronological spread of these endorsements, we see that they frequently appear to be entirely independent of their chosen candidate’s success in that state. I wanted to take a brief look at the endorsements in the Democratic race that have proved to be genuinely useful, those that proved to be significantly underwhelming, and those that could yet have a key role to play.

Where a candidate was already expected to win a state, it is difficult to discern the impact of a high-profile supporter. For this reason, I haven’t made any discussion of powerful allies like Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) or Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) – I feel confident that Obama and Clinton would have won their home states even without this support, without wishing to deny its importance in other ways.

The following heroes and villains of ‘Endorsement Top Trumps’ are included based on the extent to which they helped their chosen candidate exceed expectations, or the extent to which they failed to deliver a state that should have been within their candidate’s grasp. It could be that endorsements follow popular support, rather than lead it, but the timing of an early endorsement still seems to carry some weight. I have factored in the key turning points in the Democratic race, but not made mention of the endorsements that may have had a national effect that is simply too large and complex to measure (though Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton would probably share that prize).

I think Hillary Clinton owes a debt to Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, as there were moments in which she could well have lost the state – Obama beat her in fundraising in California prior to Super Tuesday, and loss of this state to him could have proved the fateful blow give the string of primaries that followed. Feinstein’s support in California came early, and its help allowed her the narrative of ‘Big State winner’, which was all she had to cling to after Super Tuesday. Governors Ted Strickland and Ed Rendell deserves similar credit for suring up support in Ohio and Pennsylvania respectively, though in the latter case the Mayors of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia were also key endorsements. Indeed, perhaps the two most important endorsements of Hillary’s whole campaign were Mayors: Martin Chavez in Albuquerque (NM) is a key supporter, and for want of his support (at that time, Gov. Bill Richardson chose to maintain official silence) Clinton would most likely have lost this, her most narrow win. The top prize however goes to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, whose endorsement of Clinton was perhaps the key factor in her taking Massachusetts.

Underperformers for Clinton are eclipsed by the singular failure of former Governor Tom Vilsack to deliver the Iowa caucus. That failure, in light of her weakness in the state (Bill Clinton had never campaigned competitively there, so she lacked a grass-roots organisation to match Edwards or Obama), gave Obama the chance to launch his campaign, and he has gone from strength to strength ever since. That vote probably cost Vilsack a shot at the Vice-Presidency.

Obama has won key support across the nation from major political figures, but the endorsement-heroes are less obvious than for Clinton. The support of Gov. Tim Kaine in Virginia cannot be overstated, coming as it did only two days before that state’s contest, and preserving his clean sweep for the month following Super Tuesday. The other key endorsements for me were again Mayors – Frank Cownie from Des Moines, Iowa, and from Austin, Texas, the aptly named Will Wynn. Both of these proved to be important sources of Democratic voters in caucus contests for Obama that ultimately gave him two of the biggest successes of the campaign thus far: Iowa and Texas (the latter being decided by the caucus, with the primary having gone to Clinton).

The important thing to remember about Mayors is that, especially for caucus states, the GOTV (Get Out The Vote) strategy is essential – this is retail politics, conducted at a highly-localised level. In that sense, local politicians with a familiar name are perhaps better placed to support their candidate on election day than the distant call of a US Senator from Washington DC appearing on television.

Not all of Obama’s endorsements have come off, of course. Massachusetts should have been a winnable state for him – highly liberal, educated, and somewhere that he and his wife had spent several years networking whilst at Harvard. With more universities per capita than any other city on earth, Boston should have been reasonably fertile territory, especially with the support of the Commonwealth’s African-American Governor Duval Patrick, and both US Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. Whilst their endorsements have helped in other ways (demographically, Kennedy is still important to many Catholic and Hispanic voters, and Kerry handed over the DNC’s Masterlist of Donors from 2004, which may explain Obama’s significant fundraising advantage nationally), it must have been disappointing to fail to win this Democratic stronghold. Senator Bob Casey’s endorsement was similarly insufficient to deliver the Keystone State.

Institutional endorsements have garnered attention as well, with Clinton supported by Emily’s List and Obama securing an official endorsement from ‘’ (and the general support of the top Democratic blog ‘Daily Kos’ and his readership). Newspapers such as the New York Times and Concord Monitor helped Clinton survive early scares, though the Des Moines Register’s endorsement of her was unusually inefficacious. Obama was most helped in print by the Baltimore Sun (success in the North East had eluded him for much of the campaign) and Houston Chronicle, but the LA Times and Boston Globe failed to swing sufficient voters to his cause in their respective markets.

Looking forward in time, in the unlikely event of Clinton’s candidacy remaining viable until Denver, then she will have, above all others, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana to thank. Losing that primary would have clearly doomed her, coming on the same day as a crushing defeat in North Carolina, which was probably independent of the support of former Senator John Edwards. The remaining endorsements that both candidates would love to secure include Senators Joe Biden (DE) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA), DNC Chair Howard Dean (VT), and of course, former Vice-President Al Gore (TN). These will come after voters in the party have already made up their minds, but these endorsements would help secure the most powerful constituency of all – the Superdelegates. Once these mover-and-shakers line up in public behind a candidate, the contest will be officially over.



Tuesday continuation thread

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

big ben collage.jpg

Please continue today’s discussions here.

As HenryG suggested in an excellent post this morning – is autumn the real deadline for Gordon now? – and if it is, will matters improve sufficiently by then that he will be able to keep his job?

Meanwhile, Guido is quoting a campaign source that Hillary’s speechwriters are
preparing a concession speech…

Guest articles welcome

As I’m sure you all know, Mike is on holiday in Spain, although he should still be able to make regular contributions to the site, and myself and Morus will be helping to keep an eye on things back here in the UK.

Guest articles are thus extremely welcome on any topic in UK, US, or international politics, and also articles on finance or economics with a political angle.

Please send any articles to

Double Carpet


If you think Gordon can survive, a 2010 GE looks nailed on

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008


    Is the 42 days vote the next crunch time for Brown?

So, it hasn’t been Milburn, or Clarke, or Miliband. The post-Crewe bank holiday weekend has passed without any major figure stepping out to publically take on the PM, and the febrile atmosphere has subsided slightly as ministers have rallied round their embattled, if not quite fatally wounded, leader – but as a new week begins, a new issue raises its head, this time over road tax and fuel duties.

How much more of this can Gordon take? As the experiences of his three predecessors show, once the mutterings and rumours are underway, it is only a matter of time until a leadership challenge or being forced to step down – the question is how much time.

    If you believe that Gordon can weather the storm for the next two years, then 2010 looks an absolute dead cert for the next election date – “we can [recover] in two years. We will use all of that time”, according to a Labour figure quoted in the Guardian on the two-year “fightback”. 2010 is available at 1.7 on Betfair – and even if there is a new leader, they too may prefer to “go long” in the hope that this will give time for the economy to improve.

Like a tiring horse trying desperately to finish the Grand National, every forthcoming hurdle will be scrutinised closely by the pundits to see if Gordon can clear it in one piece or whether he will finally come crashing to the ground. The PLP meets next week, and then the possibility of Ruth Kelly resigning from Cabinet on the third reading of the fertilisation and embryology bill in mid-June has also been mentioned.

The next major test for Gordon looks likely to be the Commons vote on whether to extend detention without charge to 42 days for terror suspects. Up to 40 Labour MPs may vote against – and if they do and the government loses, might this finally bring matters to a head for Brown? After that, there’s a possible Cabinet reshuffle to consider in late July, and then conference in September.

How much more of this can the Prime Minister, his party, and the country put up with? Will it be two more years of sleepwalking to disaster or will something finally give? The government is in power for two more years – can it yet emulate the Tories in 1995-7, who despite their deep unpopularity and virtually no Commons majority, still managed to push through a major policy in the shape of rail privatisation in the government’s dying days? What do Labour plan to do with what might be their last period in power for a decade or more?

Paul Maggs “Double Carpet”


Does Dustin’s exit make a “No” vote more likely?

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Wikipedia Commons

    Ireland votes on the Lisbon Treaty in 17 days’ time

The annual Eurovision extravanganza has just ended, and although Terry Wogan may be calling it a day due to the increasingly “political” nature of the voting, this provides plenty of trading opportunities for punters.

Another possible political aspect of Eurovision that has been mooted is that of the Irish entry Dustin the Turkey, who enjoyed the accolade of being the event’s first non-human entry, but only made it as far as the semi-final of the competition. Might the failure of the popular TV puppet slightly dampen enthusiasm for Europe as the Lisbon Treaty referendum approaches?

A poll this weekend by Red C for the Sunday Business Post shows Yes 41, No 33, with a substantial (but falling) 26% undecided – Yes is up three and No up five since the previous poll. It’s thought that turnout on polling day will be crucial if the government wants to secure the passing of the treaty.

The polls have also confirmed a bounce for Fianna Fáil since “Biffo” took over from Bertie – with FF now enjoying a large 16-point lead over Fine Gael following the leadership change from Ahern to Cowen. Will Cowen’s honeymoon be longer-lasting than Brown’s? He may be helped by the fact that Irish parliaments are much more likely to run the full five years, and thus avoid having to consider a snap election.

On the markets, Paddy Power offer Yes at 2-7 and No at 9-4. There is also a Betfair market, but volumes are thin and prices are currently not as good as the PP quotes. My gut feel is that it will be a narrow win for the Yes camp with about 53% of the vote – what do the Irish experts on PB think?

Paul Maggs “Double Carpet”