Archive for February, 2009


Lib Dems drop to 18% in new ICM poll

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

CON 42(+2) LAB 30(+2) LD 18(-4)

…and Labour is back in the 30s again – just!

Well after the excitement of the last ICM and ComRes polls that had the Lib Dems at 22% the latest survey from ICM for the Guardian has the party at 18 points – with both Labour and the Tories showing a 2 point increase on the last survey from the firm a week an a half ago.

So the gap between the main parties is the same and the Tories will be happy to be there well into the 40s and Labour will feel quite satisfied being back in the 30s.

Nick Clegg’s party with be very disappointed by these findings because they come from the pollster that traditionally has the them on the highest levels – and it should be said has a good record for accuracy with the third party this far out from an assumed general election in May 2010.

A feature unique to ICM is the wording of their voting intention question: “The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and other parties would fight a new election in your area. If there were a general election tomorrow which party do you think you would vote for?”. Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report believes that the “in your area” element makes a difference because “…We know that people give very different answers if they are asked to say specifically how they would vote in their own constituency – people suddenly start taking into account tactical voting or what they think of their MP, and this normally increases Lib Dem support.”

My broad view is that the Lib Dems are going to be squeezed horribly in the LAB-CON battlegrounds. The big question is how they will do in the seats they are defending or in the Labour seats which they hope to take.

So where does this leave Brown Central? The answer is still under enormous pressure but maybe not enough for there to be a change of leaders.

I’m never one for over-emphasising non-voting questions but a majority of more than two to one, those is the survey say Labour would do better at the next election if it was led by someone else.

As regulars will know I have been arguing for years that Brown does not have the qualities required to win an election. This is all glaringly obvious yet the party gave him his coronation two years ago. More fool them.


Will ICM have any good news for Gord?

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

..and congratulations to Roger on his Oscar performance

Once again the long-standing PB contributor, Roger, produced a near perfect set of predictions on the Oscar winners and those who followed his tips made themselves a bit of money. This followed a similar record in 2008. This is getting to become a habit.

The challenge this year was that there was so little value in the betting.

But as is always said a winning odds-on bet is worth a whole lot more than a loser at a long price.

Meanwhile the results of the latest poll in the longest series in the UK media, the ICM February survey, for the Guardian, should be out tonight. The last poll from the firm on the Sunday before last had C40-L28-LD22 – the smallest Tory total of any poll so far during 2009. How’s that going to look?

There will also be a lot of interest in the Lib Dem figure. Will they still be in the low 20s We shall see. Unless the paper decided to hold it over for a day we should get the news by 8.30 pm.

Political betting markets.

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

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    Is Rentoul’s polling commentry mis-leading?

    Monday, February 23rd, 2009

    Could over-stating Labour be a thing of the past?

    John Rentoul in his latest column for the IoS makes some observations about the polls which I believe are out of date and could give a misleading view of what will happen at the next election.

    He writes: “…Of course, the quirks of the system mean that the Conservative share of the vote has to be eight percentage points larger than Labour’s to win a Commons majority. But I suspect that the opinion polls still overstate Labour’s support. In the last four election campaigns, Labour has been overestimated by an average of five points. If that is still true, the Tories need be only three points ahead in the opinion polls to win. At the moment the average Tory lead is 15 points..”

    Looking at what happened in 1992, 1997, 2001 and 2005 and drawing the conclusions he does ignores the polling revolution that we have seen which I believe will go a long way to dealing with the problem of Labour over-stating.

    In 1992 when John Major was returned after securing a vote margin of 7% was not the industry’s finest hour. In fact the common term to describe it was as a “debacle”. Although there was the odd survey suggesting that the Tories might be ahead the overall picture was terrible.

    But none of the pollsters operating then are still in business carrying out surveys in the same way. ICM became the pioneer with past vote weighting and “won” the 1997 polling race by quite a margin.

    The following election, 2001, saw ICM coming out top again and there was a first survey by YouGov which had its own mechanism for dealing with Labour over-statement.

    In the 2001- 2005 period the Times switched from MORI to the fledgling Populus and Gallup was replaced at the Telegraph with YouGov. MORI continued but changed to reporting its headline figures in terms of those certain to vote only. NOP used past vote weighting, got the final numbers precisely right, and was rewarded by being sacked by the Independent.

    ComRes, now polling for both the Indy and the Indy on Sunday, switched to past vote weighting in March 2007 though it does it in a way that’s different from ICM and Populus. The other big change since the last election was the abandonment by MORI of face to face polling and the introduction of public sector worker weighting.

    So all five pollsters that carry out monthly surveys now have special measures to deal with the issue and my guess is that they’ll all do pretty well next time. Certainly the idea of an average overstatement of 5%, as suggested by Rentoul, is going to be wrong.

    Political betting markets.

    General Sports betting.


    Can Bibi get the government he wants?

    Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

    When the music stops, will it be Likud and the Right?

    So, President Peres has asked Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form a government (he is now a formateur in Dutch / Belgian parlance), despite the fact that Likud finished second at the election – he has 42 days to do so. The immediate post-election posturing and positioning is over, Lieberman has returned from his holiday in Belarus and recommended Bibi for PM, and the real business of government formation can begin, now that the election results are official and the President has consulted the parties.

      As things stand, Netanyahu wants a “unity government” that would include both Kadima and Labor. However, Labor look set to head into opposition, and Livni has indicated that she won’t serve under Netanyahu – although this being Israel, no may not always mean no, at least as far as forming governments is concerned. So Bibi is in the rather ironic position of being able to comfortably form a government, just not the government that he really wants. Netanyahu and Livni should be meeting today – but will it change anything?

    Despite the bad blood between Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu during the campaign (the Shas spiritual leader compared YB leader Lieberman to Satan, and Shas said YB were unsound on pork), Netanyahu should be able to form a government with Likud, YB, Shas, United Torah Judaism, the National Union, and Jewish Home, for a total of 65 Knesset seats. Note that he could (just) afford to drop one of National Union or Jewish Home to reach the 61 needed, but there’s the prospect of an unwieldy 5 or even 6-party coalition (only beaten by Italy under Prodi 2006-8 with nine parties?). So not only would Likud-Kadima-YB or Likud-Kadima-Labor look better from an international perspective, but there are also far fewer parties to deal with and work out who gets which ministerial portfolios (although Shas normally seem to get Social Affairs).

    In Europe, Italian opposition leader Walter Veltroni resigned as leader of the PD (Partito Democratico) after a heavy defeat in a regional election in Sardinia – can the party hold together after his departure and present a united centre-left front against Berlusconi? For the first time in decades, Italian politics was fairly simple at the 2008 election with two big parties, so any unravelling of this wouldn’t be especially welcome.

    Next Sunday sees state elections in Austria in Carinthia and Salzburg. Carinthia sees a tight race between the post-Haider BZÖ and the SPÖ, while in Salzburg, Landeshauptfrau Gabi Burgstaller ought to be able to guide the SPÖ past the ÖVP, given that her approval ratings recently were a massive 77% – and is she still a possible for Austria’s first female Chancellor?

    Finally, the government in Latvia has gone the way of its Icelandic counterpart and become the second administration to collapse due to the economic downturn. Expect plenty more political turmoil around the world as the economic turmoil continues to unfold. Here in the UK, BNP electoral success, Swanley notwithstanding, has so far been miniscule compared to European parties of the Right in Austria, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands (Wilders’ party has been up to second in the polls) – but will they reap a rich harvest as discontent grows at home with “politics as usual”?

    International polls from Angus Reid

    Double Carpet


    “The next Labour leader is destined to be a loser…”

    Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

    Sunday Telegraph

    “…This is Slumdog Labour Leader”

    There’s an excellent piece by Matthew D’Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph today in which he looks at the nascent contest to succeed Brown and argues that it is “ferocious, precisely because the outcome matters so little”. After rolling off the stream of recent leadership pretenders, he goes on:

    “….This, I confidently predict, is only the beginning. Many more names will be suggested in this “potential leader speed dating”, some even more ridiculous than those already in the frame. The dying days of a regime are a happy time for political nonentities. It’s a game that anyone can play. Anyone can have a go. This is Slumdog Labour Leader…”

    He compares the current speculation to the 1997 Conservative leadership contest, when “no hat was too humble to be thrown into the ring”:

    “..For the first time in more than a decade, Labour is actively and energetically preparing for opposition. When a party reaches this point in the political cycle, it starts to please itself, rather than the electorate… Fatalism combines toxically with self-indulgence. It is terrible to lose power. But it is fun to be able to say what you like… Labour senses the vast expanse of powerlessness stretching ahead of it, years of irrelevance and introspection….”

    I’m in broad agreement with the piece, although with one caveat. Crystal ball-gazing can be a mug’s game, but it remains my gut feel, and has been for a while, that Cameron will win at least two terms, and that whoever succeeds Brown as Labour leader (assuming it’s after the GE) won’t ever get to “kiss hands” with the monarch, whether it be Harman, Johnson, or whoever – they’ll be in the William Hague role and their job will be to try and eat into the Tory lead in 2014/5 and move the party forward (as Hague, at least in seats, failed to do).

    However, these aren’t normal times by any stretch. Where there’s economic turmoil, political turmoil follows (Iceland, Greece, Latvia, Ireland? etc), and I don’t see this downturn being over quickly. So might it be that a newly-elected Cameron government actually loses support rather rapidly and the new Labour leader has a chance to win back power straightaway? It may be a bit of a longshot – but perhaps less of one than in calmer economic waters.

    Elsewhere, Andrew Rawnsley asks if the Tories know what they would do with power: “David Cameron will reap the whirlwind if the Conservatives are not properly prepared to take over government… By the end of Blair’s first term, it was his greatest regret that he had expended so much energy on securing power that he had devoted far too little thought to what he wanted to do with it. Keen student that he is of New Labour, Cameron risks repeating the same mistake.” John Rentoul ploughs a similar furrow in the Independent.

    Also in the papers:

    Double Carpet

    Oscars Betting – help PB by using this link


    Has Gord won the Euro-Obama race?

    Saturday, February 21st, 2009

    BBC News online

    Has Gord slipped in ahead of Angela and Nicholas?

    One of the speciality betting markets that was opened on January 20th – the day of Obama’s inauguration- was which of Europe’s Big 3 leaders would be first to get a face to face meeting.

    Brown was favourite and if tonight’s announcement is anything to go by then Brown backers look set to win.

    But could there be something from Sarkozy or Merkel in the background that hasn’t been announced yet?

    We don’t know. My money was on Sarkozy who was the 3/1 outsider. I’m hoping that he can sneak something in first.

    No doubt Brown Central will play this for all its worth but they’ve got to get the tone right in case it all look unseemly.


    Morus’ Saturday Tangent

    Saturday, February 21st, 2009

    Is Brown relying on Wales losing?

    I’m not going to lie to you – this might be one of my more tangential threads, and it’s not as though directness of purpose has characterised my Saturday morning slots for some time now. Let me take you on a mental journey, into the musing mind of a pair of Catholic Welshmen, pondering rugby, religion and politics over a pint of bitter.

    One couldn’t help but notice that our Prime Minister this week went to visit His Holiness the Pope in Rome. As contributory evidence that glamourous, much-loved globe-trotting leaders must be followed by dour, academics with a penchant for PR disasters, the two were photographed shaking hands. Guido ran his usual Friday afternoon caption competition, and unkindly implied that Brown’s bad luck (according to the ‘Jonah’ meme) might cause concern in some quarters of the Curia. His Holiness seemed pleased to welcome the PM, however, even allowing him to pen a front-page article for the Vatican newspaper. Then the news (or rather the rumours) broke that Brown would invite the Pope to the UK. There has been only one Papal visit to Britain (in 1982) since the Reformation. It would be a remarkable event, and as with all such visits (the G20 this coming April, and President Obama’s potential appearance) would likely be interpreted as a tacit endorsement for the incumbent PM.

    So are there electoral ramifications if this rumour is true? I’m not convinced, but some of my friends suspect so. I’ve written before about Labour’s problem with a perceived hostility towards Catholics, and securing (let alone organising) a Papal visit might be a good way of reaching out to that drifting demographic. After some drinks, this gradually became the master plan for Brown to avoid being toppled before the election – that with such a state visit planned, removing him would jeopardise the trip, and risk a snub to a key Labour demographic etc etc. Over time, the fortunes of these two embattled leaders seemed to us to be almost as one.

      Then the realisation that this might be bad for the PM after all. There is a well-known phrase in Cardiff that “when Wales win a Grand Slam, the Pope dies”. The corollary is that “they were so good in 1978 that they won the Grand Slam and *two* Popes died”. Now such nonsense might be considered not worthy of the statistical denizens of, so I must refer one and all to a recent article published in the British Medical Journal (the real one) on the statistical correlation of Welsh rugby victories and Papal deaths. Without wishing to overstate the case, there appears to be a greater likelihood than normal of a Papal death if Wales finish their 6 Nations season unbeaten. I must strongly recommend this article, and the related articles cited beneath.

    So with the magnificent team from the Land of My Fathers marching towards their third Grand Slam in four five years, one might feel justified in being somewhat nervous about the likelihood of a Papal visit going ahead. If called, then cancelled, one could perhaps infer that the chances of Brown going before the election are greater. Therefore, if Wales continue to win, I might start looking at the market on when the PM steps down. After all, what else is there to really go on, other than gossip?



    This is worth checking out

    Friday, February 20th, 2009

    University of Sheffield

    177 years of election history with one mouse click

    Click on the map to start the animation.

    HatTip: Snowflake5 on Labourhome