Archive for April, 2009


Is it worth a bet that The People has this right?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

The People

Will Ed swap jobs with Jacqui in June?

I’ve just caught up with the above is story from The People which on reading sounds highly plausible.

Ed Balls is hugely ambitious and as, so it is said, Brown’s choice as successor we should expect Number 10 to do everything to help. And what could help Balls most in his positioning for the leadership than to be holding or have held one of the three main offices of state?

I’d always assumed that he’d be put into the Chancellor slot in any post EU election re-shuffle but the People’s Nigel Nelson has a very strong point. Any change at the treasury could be tricky just at the moment.

Ladbrokes have just put up their “Home Sec on December 31st market up and the Balls price was initially 5/1. Alas Shadsy reduced in to 3/1 after I put a three figure bet on. It still just about sounds like a value bet.


Has the People’s Party spiked the People’s Game?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009


How will the Budget be viewed by football fans?

So, Alistair Darling did go for Clear Red Water after all, as some of us predicted he might last week. The new 50% top rate of tax has been one of the main headline-grabbers of the budget, alongside the record-breaking predictions for borrowing.

Much of the criticism of the new top band has focussed on the notion that it will make it harder for firms to attract or retain top talent as overseas alternatives become more attractive. While the number of people who will be substantially affected by the new rate is quite small, they do tend to be concentrated in particular sectors, entertainment and finance being the two most prominent, containing as they do a relatively high proportion of very high earners.

One sector in which England can legitimately claim to lead the world is in football, from where five of the last eight European Champions League finalists, and nine of the last twelve semi-finalists have come. Clubs at that level do compete in a highly competitive international market for their employees. Cross-border transfers are routine and the skills readily transferable.

The top players plying their trade in Britain are extremely well remunerated and as such, unless the increase in the top rate can be avoided by clever accounting techniques, will face an effective cut of about 16% in their wages when the tax increase comes in. That will make the Premiership a rather less attractive option for footballers unless wages rise still further, turning the terms of trade a little towards their foreign rivals. Celtic and Rangers – the only two Scottish clubs which really compete in the same financial league – will be equally affected (though presumably not Raith Rovers).

How will all this be seen by fans? Fans tend not to be shy about apportioning blame when they feel there is blame to be apportioned (which can be frequently and not always rationally). If clubs do start to find it harder to get in top players, the question is really who will take the blame.

Football finance is complex, especially with many foreign owners involved. It may be that owners and/or managers get the rap for not being persuasive enough or not ‘investing’ sufficiently – or there might develop a common belief that it was the government. That’s if there is a noticeable effect.

I’ve not seen any figures for the demographics of football fans but my guess would be that fans are predominantly male, generally younger than average and probably biased towards lower socioeconomic groups. If so, that contains good news and bad news for Labour. On the one hand, they’re less likely to be voters; on the other, if they do vote, they’re more likely to be Labour. Whether their vote could be swayed or not by the government ‘sabotaging’ (in their minds) their chances of European glory is questionable – but then how often do electoral decisions come down to a single factor anyway?

There is another player in the football industry who’ll be taking a good deal of interest in the relative international quality of the English Premiership: Rupert Murdoch. The football-fan base was one of the key components in Sky‘s growth and is still no small part of their market. Again, while the decision to renew or not to the additional channels depends on many things (including the general economic situation), the attractiveness of the product is vitally important. ITV Digital got stuck with second-class sport and paid the price. News International is of course in a very strong position to make its feelings felt – either directly on a subject or more broadly, by attacking or supporting one side in the contest.

I’ll readily admit that this isn’t a heavyweight piece of analysis. There are all sorts of speculations and assumptions contained within it. What I hope it is is something of an example of what might be an unintended consequence of the budget and one reason to be just a bit sceptical about polls showing support for individual policies. Things often sound fine in principle but look different when there are real examples attached.

In other news, The Sunday Times report that an unnamed government minister placed a 66/1 bet on Labour forming a coalition with the Lib Dems after the next election back in mid-2007. The equivalent bet today would return just 3/1. Perhaps the most interesting part of the story is that the minister’s gone public with it.

 David Herdson



YouGov shows almost no change since Friday

Saturday, April 25th, 2009


CON 45(nc) LAB 27(nc) LD 17(-1)

At least for Gord it is not getting any worse

News is now coming through of the new YouGov poll which is showing almost exactly the same party shares as in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. The only difference being a oine point decline for the Lib Dems. The poll has been commissioned by the Sunday People.

Interestingly like in the earlier YouGov poll there’s broad support for the specific budget measures. The problem is that Labour has not been able to convert that into something that changes the polling position.

Maybe we’ve reached a point where there’s little that Labour can do. Voters want change. That certainly seems to be the picture that is developing.

Hopefully there will be a ComRes poll on Monday night.


Could this cost Labour dear next time?

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Or might it be the means to re-igniting the party after a defeat?

For psephologists, one of the most interesting policies expounded by the Conservative party is that they will introduce individual voter registration to ‘restore the integrity of the ballot‘. It is considered a severe loop-hole that households are the registering unit at present, and that this leaves the system open to vote fraud – a problem that can be compounded by postal voting.

No-one can be certain of the effect of individual registration. It has been suggested that recent migrants, those with less-than-fluent English, and lower socio-economic classes could be the most difficult to convert into individually registered voters. This, apparently, could cost Labour in demographics that it is strongest. I will leave the detailed and quantifiable assessment of this claim to Mike Smithson – their analysis would be better-informed that I could be – but there seems a plausible truth that the groups most likely to convert wholesale to the new method are the affluent, educated, middle-classes.

The integrity of elections being paramount, I don’t actually disagree with the policy itself, but there is (of course) a partisan political angle. If a Conservative-minded activist was ready to rejoice at depressing the Labour vote, a Labour-minded partisan might also see huge advantage for his party in this proposal.

We still don’t have a full-grasp on the US model of campaigning – in spite of canvassing activity, the US parties had a much, much higher proportion of activists working the streets than we will ever see at our next election. There are a number of reasons for this, but one of them is (I suspect) the cri-de-guerre of voter registration.

Getting people to campaign for a party, with its policy platform and recent history, can be difficult – a shy activist might agree, but doubts and foibles might mean that their tepid support prevents them from becoming a door-knocking activist. The argument I would make is that giving moderately-engaged potential activists the task of voter registration would be a huge boon for Labour if this policy was enacted.

Getting people registered to vote is axiomatically good if you’re a democrat. Making sure that all who are entitled to register are on the electoral roll is a fundamentally ‘good thing’. Even the supporter who doesn’t feel comfortable defending recent policy decisions can be sent with a rosette, doing the door-to-door registrations with an easy heart – the inherent moral rightness of their activity, juxtaposed with a rosette, converts the wavering supporter into a street co-ordinator. Combine with that idea that Labour would tell a story about the Conservatives ‘disenfranchising the dispossessed’, and you have the sort of battle-cry that could inject real vigour into an otherwise demoralised party (should it lose the next General Election).

Mike has spoken before of the attitude he found in the Labour Party – “the Labour Party is a moral crusade, or it is nothing’ – the feeling of innate moral superiority to the Conservatives, a view that would be re-enforced if given this opportunity. My feeling is that, whatever short-term loss of votes Labour might suffer, that the energisation of the activist base with a new moral mission would be hugely beneficial in helping resurrect them from the depths of defeat.

I don’t think the policy is necessarily being imposed for partisan reasons, though it will be painted that way, and I think it could be a very important move to make elections beyond reproach. However, if one considers the partisan and electoral implications, I think the benefit to Labour in the medium-term could outweigh any loss of votes in the short-term.


Note from Robert: I will be updating the software this site runs on this evening, and there will be a brief period when comment posting is suspended

(Photo public domain from


Talkin’ ’bout my generation

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

How many U30s will make it into the Commons next time?

I’ve been following the selection process for a Labour candidate in the safe seat of Erith & Thamesmead with some interest for the last couple of weeks. For those unfamiliar, there are eight candidates (all female) competing, and the battle-lines have been drawn between the union-supported candidate (Rachel Maskell) who has the backing of Charlie Whelan, and Georgia Gould, the daughter of Lord Gould (Phillip) who was the pollster for Tony Blair. The latter has been brought to national attention for enjoying the backing of the likes of Alistair Campbell and Tessa Jowell.

I must confess to being caught in something of a bind about this process, designed to choose a successor MP (in all likelihood) to the retiring incumbant, Ian John Austin. Whether or not the accusation has merit, there is no doubt that Miss Gould has been damaged by suggestions of nepotism that would have been distinctly diminished had she been somewhat older and more experienced in anything but having studied at Oxford. That said, the focus has been not only on her parentage and connections within the New Labour machine, but upon her age, and in spite of my revulsion at even the appearance of nepotism, I find myself strangely sympathetic to her plight.

I accept and appreciate the arguments against ‘young’ candidates – by which I mean those aged between 18 and 30 years of age. Whilst tipping my hat to the extraordinary achievement of William Pitt the Younger, I do not believe that (generally-speaking) someone within that age bracket is qualified for front-bench office let alone on the government benches, and can accept that to have a significant minority of the House of Commons lacking the wisdom (that is magically bestowed at the age of thirty) might be inadvisable.

That said, I dislike and reject the tenor of the arguments that are raised any time a candidate under the age of thirty is nominated – arguments familiar to anyone who frequents activist websites such as ConservativeHome, where candidates young and old are announced. There is an established chorus of objectionists who will decry the lack of ‘life experience’ and ‘maturity of judgement’ of the under-30s, and who will claim that such candidates ‘have never done anything with their lives’ and should ‘come back in ten years, when they’ve learnt something’. I’m not impressed and I’m not convinced.

With the caveats that I think it would be a mistake to have all but the most brilliant of U30s on the front bench, and that I would be concerned if they comprised more than (say) 20% of the House of Commons, I am of the opinion that there is a dire need for both fresh blood and some genuine representation of a generation of adults who see the world very differently from the generations of their fathers and grandfathers.

Those aged, like myself, between 18 and 30 years of age are in the full maturity of their faculties and are adjudged by the State to be capable of all adult decisions – from marriage to mortgages to military service on the front line. My generation has been the long-suffering party to student top-up fees, impossible house prices, poor employment prospects, massive mandated debt, and will inherit all the mistakes of generations deemed to be our betters in matters of governmental wisdom.

The under 30s (being largely single without children) work the longest hours of any comparable demographic outside of the US, pay the highest levels of irredeemable taxation, and draw the least benefit from money spent by government on healthcare and FT education. My generation has had a fairly poor deal from government for as long as I can remember, and something sticks in the throat about being told that we should not be allowed to stand for winnable seats on account of date of birth, in spite of the law allowing representation from the age of 18.

I do not claim that Parliament would be dramatically improved by the introduction of newer, younger blood – however, I like to think that some cogniscence of what it means to belong to a portion of the adult population that is so chronically under-represented in Parliament (there are only 3 MPs, to the best of my knowledge, under 30 years of age) might have led to some degree of restraint in the measures that have been taken to make my generation more indebted and with more challenging prospects than those faced by generations previous.

Parliament would not collapse were there to be 15-20% of MPs under the age of thirty – indeed, it might provide some perspective for those MPs who have no understanding of what it means to grow up in the last 20 years. MPs, by-and-large did not grow up with the internet, or access to credit facilities, or the burden of being expected to work nearly full-time through their degrees. To understand the pressures on a huge swathe of the adult voting population requires people who have shared in that experience – a peculiarity of experience almost totally lacking in the Commons at present. I can understand some reticence towards younger candidates (though it is not as though the life experience garnered by their elders has served my generation particularly well), but I dislike the antipathy that surrounds such candidates for having the temerity to be young.

I suspect there are many complex arguments as to why some Labour members of Erith & Thamesmead might not want 22-year-old Georgia Gould to inherit that seat as their MP, but of all the strikes against her, I don’t believe that her age should the most significant detraction.

I’ve recently been in touch with representatives of all the major parties, seeking data and contact details for candidates under the age of 30 who are contesting ‘winnable’ seats. This is partly to showcase the talent of a political generation who have yet to emerge, but also to kick-start the parlour-game of ‘pick the potential future PM’ – it is often said that the next-Prime-Minister-but-one might not yet even be an MP, so this could be the chance for our insightful regulars to match Mike Smithson in selecting a winner at odds of greater than 50-1. I’ll hopefully be running such a piece in the next week or so (a promise to add to that of an article on three-way marginals).

As always, the views of the community are more than welcome. Happy Saturday.

Morus (aged 25-and-a-half)

(Photo from article by Kevin List at


Is Hammond being lined up as Tory chancellor?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Would he be a better face for the coming spending cuts?

This afternoon I reinvested a small part of my budget winnings with two bets on the post of chancellor. The wagers are linked and both offer, I believe, good value for money.

My first was to take the 9/2 from William Hill Politics that Alastair Darling will be replaced as chancellor during 2009. These seem great odds and, effectively, also give you coverage should there, indeed, be a 2009 general election. Whatever the outcome of that it’s hard to see Darling still in his job.

The second bet has been at a tasty 33/1 that the Tory treasury number 2, Philip Hammond, will be the next chancellor. Surely that’s going to be George Osborne I can see you thinking. Yep – possibly but just think for a minute of the role for the chancellor in the likely incoming Tory government.

For the Tories will inherit the need for public expenditure cuts on a scale that has not been seen for decades. The chancellor will be the public face of the inevitable squeeze and the state school educated Hammond who had a considerable career in private industry before entering politics might be better positioned than Osborne

Have you noticed how in the past few days it’s been Hammond who has been presenting the Tory case on many of the key TV programmes. I thought he did really well on Question Time last night. He has a nice manner and comes over as someone who is reasonable and caring in a way that Osborne does not. His age, he’s 52, gives him the maturity that eludes the 37 year old George.

Cameron will, I’m sure, find a key role for Osborne but chancellor might not be the best position for him in the current climate.

So the Darling bet more than covers the Hammond bet in the event of Brown replacing him this year. Hammond becomes my choice for the Tories.

The Ladbrokes 33/1 is not going to last long.


Could this be Labour’s best hope?

Friday, April 24th, 2009


Will party ratings move in line with economic optimism?

This is the latest Economic Optimism Index from MORI which, as can be seen, has very much turned round and this month reached just -2%. This is the best since Mr Brown become prime minister and perhaps from the Labour perspective is the best indicator that they might just be in with a shout.

The index is taken by subtracting the negative number from the positive one and the results since 2004 are plotted on the chart.

There was a theory some months ago that the trends on this chart would be mirrored during the following weeks in the opinion polls. Thus the peak of negative numbers last year coincided with Labour worst ratings in decades. If that still holds good then Brown Central might see a bit of a bounce.

But will it? It is hard to predict anything other than gloom for Labour in the current climate and it could be that a sea change of opinion has taken place.

So the theory might be amended so that in the absence of other negatives then an increase in economic optimism is good for the government while a decline is bad for the government in all circumstances. We shall see.


Remember the sea-change suggested by YouGov last year?

Friday, April 24th, 2009

UKPollingReport 2008 polls

Could we see the same during this election year?

Remember the last post-Budget YouGov poll in March 2008? It was so out of line with other surveys at the time that the term “rogue” was used to describe 23 times on the PB thread that night.

The immediate conclusion of one of the site’s regular statistician contributors was “.…YouGov has to be treated as a rogue for the moment.. I suspect the true position is still something like 39:33:18″

Yet within a month all the pollsters were showing the same thing. A sea-change had taken place in opinion that lasted right until the banking crisis in September 2008.

So could YouGov’s first post 2009 budget survey have found a similar shift in opinion? Are Tory leads in the high teens with Labour in the 20s going to be the norm? Are we saying now that there’s no chance at all of Brown saving the election?

The answer is as I always say is that we don’t know. But Labour has been in the 20s in four out of five of the post-Smeargate polls. Although we need more surveys from pollsters doing it in a different way the signs don’t look good for Brown Central. The overnight YouGov figures of C45-L27-LD18 are even worse for Number 10 than last year and, of course, the available time between the poll date and the election is down to barely a year.

Remember – the trip to Washington and being the first EU leader to meet President Obama was supposed to have been be the game-changer for Gordon; then all hopes were placed on the G20 meeting and finally we have had the budget.

I find it hard to see how Labour can come back. Maybe Tony Blair (on whom I have a 250/1 bet to be next Labour leader) is the only answer.

The betting reaction to YouGov has been sharp. On the Sporting Index Spread Markets the Tories have moved up to their highest ever level.

I’m going to stay in my Labour sell position at 228 seats.