Archive for February, 2009


Update on the PB Racehorse Syndicate

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

A note from Peter the Punter

A few weeks back I floated here the idea of a PB racehorse syndicate and I am glad to say that there were enough responses to justify going ahead. The horse in question is currently unnamed but is likely to be called either Political Punter or Tsar Louis (being by Xaar out of Amanda Louise).

It is apparently very forward in its training and is therefore likely to be racing soon, quite possibly at the first meeting of the flat season at Doncaster on 28th March.

If anybody is still interested in signing up, shares are still available. One share has been subdivided to cater for those wishing to subscribe for less than the full £22.99 per week, so if you would like to take an interest for just a few quid a week, let me know and it should be possible to accommodate you. Further details are available on request.

The original article appeared here and the Syndicate Organiser’s website here. .

Whether you take an interest or not, you are certain to hear more of the adventures of Political Punter/Tsar Louis on this Site, especially if it ever gets its head in front. Wish us all luck!

All the best

Peter the Punter (aka Peter Smith and contactable at

February 25th 2009


Has Bobby blown his chances for 2012?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Can Huntsman backers breathe a sign of relief?

The Fox News coverage of Bobby Jindal’s response to Obama’s big speech overnight says it all. The 37 year old Oxford alumnus who had risen sharply to become the Republicans great hope had the national spotlight on him when he came to give his party’s response.

This was a great opportunity for the young man whose parents arrived in the US as immigrants from India shortly before he was born. And judging by the reaction of the pundits Jindal got it wrong and there’s little doubt that his 2012 chances look a lot thinner today than they did last night.

As one critic, quoted by Alex Massie in the Spectator put it: “”He sounds totally artificial. He sounds like a televangelist.”

    And having watched Jindal in action it’s hard to come to any other conclusion. Jindal is not the man to take on Barack Obama in three and a half years time.

Which should all be good news for John Huntsman – the governor of Utah whose efforts have been gathering momentum at quite a pace and who was tipped here when he was at 200/1.

Republican Nominee betting

Next President betting


Our thoughts are with the Camerons

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Sky News

Rightly normal politics are on hold

As most people are no doubt aware David Cameron’s son, Ivan, died in the early hours of the morning at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington.

Gordon Brown has sent his condolences and political activity has been suspended for the day. There will be no PMQs at midday.

I find myself very moved by the news which strikes very hard. To lose a child is a terrible tragedy and who knows what David and Samantha have been going through.

There’s not a lot more you can say.


Does this say that “The End is Nigh”?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

But are the Tories right to back Brown?

On the day the day that Mrs Thatcher returns to Number 10 for the unveiling of a portrait it is perhaps ironic that one part of the public sector that she decreed was a privatisation too far – the Post Office – should be causing so much difficulty for Mr. Brown and his government.

The Guardian reports today that senior cabinet figures, David Miliband, and Alan Johnson have voiced concern and that the main union has had to be assured that no action will be take against the parliamentary private secretaries who have signed a motion against the move.

Although we all use the post office much less, hence the current problems, its very existence has a place deep in the public’s psyche and doing something like this is a big political gamble.

    To add to the Labour embarrassment Ken Clark, has announced that the Tories will be backing the government – so there is a chance that this will only get through with opposition support. This might be a smart thing to do in Westminster terms but how will it play outside?

Wouldn’t going along with the rebels be better? I think that Cameron & Co have got this wrong. A government defeat would have been much worse for Labour and they are now associated with the policy.

Meanwhile a poll of MPs by the Independent that only 28% of Labour backbenchers back the part-privatisation deal.

All this is fag end of government stuff just like what we saw towards the end of the Major years. Large numbers of MPs recognise that within not so long they’ll be looking for work and there becomes less point in following the party line. At least they can go down having fought for something.

The political impact is that this makes the government look weak and split – something that will be underlined by having to rely on Tory support.

Maybe Cameron will seek to add to Brown’s woes by making this his big theme at PMQs this lunchtime?


Could Straw’s move make Iraq an issue again?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

How’s this going to play ahead of the election?

The real danger of Jack Straw’s announcement that he’s using his veto to stop cabinet minutes on the Iraq war decision being made available under the Freedom of Information Act is that it could open up the whole episode as a political issue once again.

Even though it’s nearly six years since it all happened Ministers have managed to fend off calls for an inquiry into the issue, which was so damaging to Labour at the last election. Time, of course, is a great healer and it looked as though it could have been forgotten.

Straw is helped that the Tories, who supported the invasion, have gone along with the veto which should take some of the immediate sting out of the situation. Maybe the Opposition is thinking that they’ll be in power in only a year and a bit and don’t want to establish precedents that could be difficult to live with. Expediency wins every time.

    But it all leaves a sense that something is wrong – after all, it will be said, you don’t try to cover up something unless you have something to hide. No doubt this will be used as a lever to get a proper inquiry into the war – something that ministers would like to put back until after the election.

The cartoon, as ever is by Marf. More of her work can be found at


Is this the first skirmish of the 2012 race?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Can Huntsman impede the Bobby Jindal bandwagon?

Today’s a big day in the 2012 race for the White House with prominent Republicans trying to position themselves as the best person to take on Barack Obama.

Governors have been holding one of their regular meetings and tonight the young bright hope for the party, the Oxford-educated Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, will be making his party’s response to Obama’s address to a joint session of congress. This is a big moment which will give him great national prominence.

Already the 37 year old son of immigrants from India has positioned himself to the right of the party by publicly stating that his state will not accept some parts of Obama’s stimulus package.

This sets him apart from the man who’s emerging as the front-runner from the pragmatic wing of the party, Jon Huntsman – the governor of Utah who has made it clear that his state will accept the federal cash. So it’s more than a clash of personalities but a difference of philosophies.

One person who is notable by her absence from the meeting has been Sarah Palin.

From the videos I’ve watched I’ve been more impressed by Huntsman and think that his centre-ground approach might make him better placed in the fight for the nomination. It will be interesting to see how Jindal performs.

In the Republican Nominee betting you can get both Jindal and Huntsman at 10/1.

In the Next President market you can get 20/1 on Huntsman and 25/1 on Jindal. The former is a lot tighter than the 200/1 that was available three months ago when he was tipped here.


Could a 12% Tory lead still not be enough?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

UK Polling Report

Is the outcome much closer than it appears?

There will be 650 members of the next house of commons and if David Cameron’s Conservatives are going to win a majority then they will need a total of 325 seats or more. And if you input the numbers from today’s Guardian ICM poll into the UKPollingReport you get a projected total of 353 seats – or 28 above the magic number. This gives a comfortable overall majority of 56.

The vast bulk of the seats required are currently in Labour hands south of border where the battles will normally be straight CON-LAB where other parties will probably get squeezed horribly.

    But there are two other main areas of required Tory gains where the outcome might not be so straightforward – in Scotland where the skirmishes will be with the SNP, the LD and Labour; and of course Lib Dem held seats. By my calculations these total 37 – a number that is significantly higher than the current projected majority.

For there’s lots of evidence to suggest that the battle north of the border and in seats currently held by the Lib Dems different considerations other than the overall national uniform swing might apply. Last week we looked at the massive PoliticsHome marginals polling covering a sample of more than 34,000 voters might apply.

There’s also Scotland where the polling suggests that a very different election battle will take place. Yet on the list of Tory “victories” from the UNS projection we see Perth and North Perthshire, Angus and Moray – seats where there’s an SNP incumbent. Are those really going to go? No way.

And just look down the list of 29 Lib Dem seats that are required if Dave is to achieve the current UNS projection. One of these, Oxford West and Abingdon, is where I used to live and is Tory LD target number 22. That simply ain’t going to fall.

Also check out the detail from the PoliticsHome survey where a different questioning approach was used and you see many on the UNS projection staying firmly in Lib Dem hands. That poll, taken when the Tory national poll shares were higher than they are at the moment, pointed to the majority of LD>CON marginals being retained.

    For the Tories to be confident of an overall majority the polling needs to be such that the objective can be achieved without the need to rely on victories in Scotland or unseating LD incumbents.

Betting number of LD seats

Betting number of Scottish Tory seats


Is it Brown that’s the problem not Labour?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

What if this idea starts to take hold?

One of the great weapons that editors can use to influence events is in choosing the questions that go into the opinion polls that they commission. Then, when they have the numbers, they can highlight specific findings which might fit with what the paper wants to achieve.

So what are we to make of the Guardian’s splash this morning – leading on the numbers that are most damaging to Brown’s leadership? Is the paper trying to influence opinion within the party in the hope, maybe, of getting change at the top? It certainly appears that way.

Just consider how the paper’s polling expert, Julian Glover, leads off his front page lead report:“..Gordon Brown’s leadership is dragging Labour’s vote down, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. By a majority of more than two to one, voters say that the party would do better at the next election if it was led by someone else……It finds that only 28% of voters think Brown is the leader most likely to attract support to Labour on polling day. Meanwhile, 63%, think the party would do better with another leader. Even Labour supporters are not convinced. Among people who voted for the party in 2005, 45% pick Brown and 49% another leader.

As a general rule I don’t like non-voting intention questions because they way that they are worded can sometimes influence the response. We have not seen the precise wording but it could be argued that it’s leading respondents to answer in a particular way.

But in the big scheme of things that’s irrelevant. It gives the paper the peg to highlight the Brown issue and you can see these numbers being used by the PM’s opponents within the party if at some stage it’s thought that getting him out might enhance Labour’s chances.

There is, perhaps, only one dangerous period left now for Brown between now and the general election and that’s the June 4th elections. On that day there’s voting for the European Parliament as well as in many places local elections. The latter are, in the main, for council seats last voted upon on the day of the last general election in May 2005 when turnout was boosted by the two ballots taking place at the same time. This, surely, flattered Labour and means that there’s a bigger chance of set-backs this time.

The combination of an appalling performance in the locals combined with a disastrous national vote share in the Euros might just provide the stimulus for a move against Brown – but he’s coped with terrible election results before.