Archive for January, 2009


Is Sarah getting ready for 2012?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

What chance has she of becoming President?

With Obama having being in office for only eight days Sarah Palin has made a move that is being seen as the first step to a run for the presidency in 2012. It might seem a long way off but campaigns planing has to start early and Palin appears to want to ensure that her party is aware of her ambition.

Her move has been to create a formal Political Action Committee which can attract donations to provide the platform for a base broader than governing Alaska.

In the betting you can get 27/1 on her doing it with Betfair though the best bookie price is 16/1.

    Clearly she starts with a very high profile and an appeal to the core Republican party base. But she’s going to need more than that to get the nomination.

Her gaffes in the autumn and the lack of support from John McCain might make it a bit of an uphill struggle.

We shall see.


What’s Deborah saying about the “do nothing” jibe?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Are Labour’s focus groups giving it the thumbs up?

We are barely fourteen months away from a formal election campaign having to start and one would assume that every single message that the main parties are trying to get over has been tested extensively in focus groups and other polling.

What’s at stake is so important that anything that could influence voters in the key marginals has, surely, to be tested and tested to ensure that the parties are getting over the message that resonates best.

So what are we to make of Brown’s continued use of the “Do Nothing Tories” jibe even though the voting intention polls are all showing big moves away from the Labour?

At PMQs today Brown must have used the term at least a dozen times and you can only assume that this was deliberate.

Party leaders, surely, at such a critical time don’t take these decisions lightly.

So what is Deborah Mattinson, Labour’s polling advisor and someone who has the ear of Gordon, saying about the strategy? Is she finding that this line of attack continues to resonate and this is why it is continuing?

Maybe the decision has been made to make this portrayal of their main opponent the key theme at least for the time being? Maybe Brown is being advised that the more this is said the more it is likely to get through.

Clearly I have not any of the research but my sense is that Brown and many of his ministers have got this wrong. There might even be an argument for saying that they don’t mention the Tories at all and concentrate on what they are trying to do instead.

The most effective ministers at the moment seem to be Alistair Darling and Alan Johnson – neither of whom go into the auto-rhetoric.

General election betting.


Why’s Labour being out-spun on “Erminegate”?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Should Dave have been allowed openings like this?

Michael Settle of the Glasgow-based Herald sets out the scene and the dangers for Brown of Erminegate in the story that’s currently the lead on Google News UK Search.

“.IT is the most toxic word in the political lexicon and is threatening to make a comeback – sleaze.

The alarm in No 10 over “Erminegate” – denied allegations that four Labour peers were ready to accept money in return for amending government legislation – shows Gordon Brown is well aware of the damage the scandal could cause and infect his already ailing administration.

The controversy over “cash for questions” and reports of money changing hands in brown paper envelopes tainted the Major government in its dying days and helped herald in a Labour government..”

So why, therefore, is it the opposition leader, David Cameron who is getting the biggest headlines on the story this morning – and no doubt will try to put Brown on the spot on the issue at PMQs?

What’s the reason that it is not the Prime Minister who is taking the lead on a matter that has the potential to be hugely damaging to his party?

What’s happened to the famous Labour spin operation that was so publicly boosted last October with the return to front-line politics of Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell? Are these old-stagers losing their touch – or is it that they only do “attack” but are found wanting when it comes to “defence”?

Surely the Cameron solution of changing the rules so errant peers can be expelled was blindingly obvious and how much better it would have been if Number 10 had been seen to be making the running?

The Guardian columnist George Monibot made this prediction yesterday: “..The sleaze scandals, as they did during the dying days of the last Conservative government, will now emerge thick and fast, as disillusioned officials risk their liberty by leaking documents that should have been freely available, and journalists, scenting blood, close in. Labour will be driven from office with the same howls of execration that saw off the Tories in 1997. But this time there will be no bonfires, no bunting, no dancing in the streets: just the tired shuffling sound of a million more voters turning away from politics”

General election betting.


Will Obama be the one that saves Brown?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

How important is being the first leader to see him?

By all accounts Brown Central is placing a lot on the relationship between their man and President Obama. The news that the race to have first phone conversation with between a European leader and Obama was won by Brown was highlighted over the weekend.

Next comes the question of which of the big three – Sarkozy, Merkel or Brown – gets the first meeting. There have been reports that Brown might be seeing the new President at the White House at the end of the month.

Meanwhile Sarkozy has been active. He’s had his first phone conversation and it went on for twice as long as the one with Brown. In it he’s said to have suggested that France could help with the Guantánamo Bay prisoners which seems quite a smart ploy.

Sarkozy also has a massive issue where Obama could be particularly helpful – the return of France to Nato. This clearly is in the US interest and being seen with the new President would go some way to dealing with Sarkozy’s domestic problems on the issue.

    The real danger for Brown in all of this is that the media could portray what happens as being unseemly. Number 10 has to play this with great care or else it could end up as a negative.

The last thing that Brown wants is for his desire to be associated with Obama to come out something like the Dawn Butler letter that we discussed last week.


Can punters trust the seat predictors and the polls?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Surely the methodologies are untested with a Tory surge?

Ladbrokes has got further into general election mode today with the launch of its seat markets – the first of which, for the Tories is featured above. We’ll be doing later threads on Labour and the Lib Dems.

Successful betting here, I suggest, requires an understanding of the polls and familiarity with the various seat projectors which convert projected vote shares into the number of seats actually won.

But how challenging is it predicting the election outcome with the precision required given that we are moving into uncharted waters.

For you have to go back nearly a third of a century, to 1979, for the last occasion when the Tories beat Labour to gain power. We’ve no modern experience to fall back on to judge the accuracy of the polling or the seat calculators in situations where the Tories might win.

How robust will modern polling techniques such as past vote weighting be in this environment? Could, also, the seat projectors be grossly understating or overstating the position? My instinct says the former – but who knows?

In 1997 the polls over-stated Labour national vote but the seat calculators did not take into account the huge amount of tactical voting and Labour’s overall better performance in the marginals.

There’s another issue for punters as well – we could be sixteen months away from the big vote and a lot could happen in the meantime. The only reason to bet now is if you think that prices on your chosen option are going to tighten.

Helping PB: If you are planning on opening a Ladbrokes account then please use this link. The firm pays the site commissions on new account which go towards our running costs.


“Your morning papers Prime Minister….”

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Which of these headlines is the most damaging?

What a dreadful set of front pages for Gordon Brown to digest this morning. Not only is there the follow-up to the “cash for laws” allegations but there’s more awful polling news and and in the background the drip by drip news of jobs going up and down the country and in every sector.

The release by the Times of the tape recording of the “interview” with one of the “cash for laws” just added to what had been a less than optimal start to the week. The real worry now is whether the Sunday Times has further material up its sleeve for next weekend.

The ICM poll we discussed overnight and reflects the challenge Labour has in maintaining public confidence as it tries to deal with the economic crisis as well as, perhaps more worryingly, a general desire for change.

On top of that it’s the economy and the ongoing bad news about jobs. Brown’s problems here are historical, he’s been right at the centre of economic policy for twelve years, and the tired feeling of his over-used crisis rhetoric. The attacks on the Tories are simply not working any more.

    I am amazed that Mandelson has not found a new approach for his boss. Brown needs to be using fresh words and phrases and a different idea – something that inspires public confidence in the government’s handling of events.

This, surely, was the point of Mandelson’s return from Brussels last October. Meanwhile we are one day closer to the general election. Time is running out. I’m yet to be convinced that Cameron has it in the bag but that’s where the money is going.

General election betting.


ICM Tory share jumps 6 to 44

Monday, January 26th, 2009

LABOUR 32% (-1)
LIB DEMS 16% (-3)

But the LDs see a drop to 16%

The long-awaited Guardian ICM poll for January is just out and has the Tories up six points to 44%. The move is in line with all the other surveys that we have seen in the past three weeks and is further evidence that Brown Bounce II has come to a dead stop.

Labour will be pleased that their drop was just one point but the real losers are the Lib Dems who see a three point decline to 16%.

    This is very serious for Nick Clegg’s party because ICM is generally the pollster that produces the best figures for them. Could it, I wonder, have anything to do with the return of the pro-EU anti-Iraq war, Ken Clarke, to the Tory front bench?

One of their great strengths, Vince Cable, could be eclipsed by the former Chancellor who will start to get featured a lot in the media.

As I always say the Lib Dems can generally ignore the other pollsters but this must be worrying. The last time they were down at 16% from ICM was in August.

The confirmation from the fifth pollster that covers UK opinion that the Tories are back in the mid-40s will further reinforce the view that not only is Cameron heading for victory at the election but we might be talking about a landslide.

I’m not convinced of that and Labour will be delighted that it’s Clegg’s party that has taken almost all of the hit and not them.

The 44% share is exactly the same as that which Tony Blair’s Labour got in the landslide win in 1997.


Will Gordon be the one that’s out first ?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Is it time to re-visit the Hill’s market?

It’s almost hard to credit the total change that we’ve seen in UK politics in the past few weeks but less than a month ago many PBers, including me got bets on at 7/4 on the market from William Hill Politics that Brown would be the first of the main party leaders to be out.

Then the favourite was Nick Clegg with David Cameron the long-shot. Now prices have shifted a fair bit and this afternoon it is Gordon who is the 4/5 favourite with Clegg at 7/4 and Cameron having moved out to 4/1.

Such is the power of the opinion polls on the career prospects of political leaders. The question is whether, even at this latest price, Brown is still a good bet?

Given the total collapse of Brown Bounce II and the ongoing recession then it’s hard to argue that Brown should not be the favourite. Cameron looks even more secure and Clegg’s position is hardly precarious. So Brown it has to be.

What is hard is trying to work out what would bring this about. We saw last summer how Labour’s rules make it very difficult for a challenge. We even had the spate of resignations in the aftermath of Glasgow East but that had no impact.

    My own theory is that the man Gordon should watch is Peter Mandelson – his great political friend until that fateful day in May 1994 when he chose to back Blair for the leadership instead.

Mandelson’s overwhelmingly loyalty is to the movement itself and if he starts to think that Labour’s chance are being impeded under the current leadership then he, surely, will be the one to act.

Of course the most likely event that will precipitate a leadership change is a general election defeat – and that is looking increasingly likely.