Archive for July, 2009


Is this the start of PM4PM?

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Could my 200/1 bet be a winner after all?

A week and a half ago, while I was still on holiday, I picked up on a story that the government is planning to change the law so that life peers can relinquish their position and so be eligible to stand for parliament. Was this, I pondered, a sign that Peter Mandelson – the former Labour press chief who was booted out of Tony Blair’s cabinet twice – might be in the running?

Last night in a TV interview he was questioned about the possibility and significantly did not rule it out. It’s at the end of this extract.

Certainly in terms of talent and sheer political ability he towers above just about everybody else within the Labour party. Mandy is a class act.

So what we we to make of the Mirror’s story, just out of a call by a senior figure within the party for MPs to “oust Gordon Brown and replace him with the Business Secretary.”

Quoted in the story by James Lyons is Dr Peter Slowe, chair of the Labour Finance and Industry Group, who says: ” “Mandelson is the only one with clout, intellect and charisma in the Labour ranks who could realistically take on the Tories and win at a general election..He is a very good communicator, the best since Tony Blair in the past 10 years. The party has great potential, great ideas and what it needs now is great communication.”

Another Mandelson development today might be seen as hinting that something could be in the offing. He’s suggested that Brown might take part in the televised debate during the election campaign.

This seems remarkable because everything that we know about Brown suggests that he would fight to avoid such a confrontation. Was Mandy making the suggestion in the knowledge that Brown would not be around to do it? It could be.

UPDATE: Gary Gibbon on the Channel 4 blog is quoting a former Cabinet Minister saying “exceptionally unlikely” that Gordon Brown will lead the Labour Party into the next election.

Ladbrokes have Mandy at 16/1 to be Labour leader while the William Hill price is 12/1. The weekend before last I got 50/1 with Ladbrokes and 33/1 with Hills. I’ve also got a 200/1 bet that he’ll be PM at the end of the year.

  • PM4PM – “Peter Mandelson for Prime Minister”
  • Mike Smithson


    Is UKIP continuing to get a free ride?

    Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

    How much of their June 4th publicity is still in place?

    Unlike most of of the other parties a key part of UKIP’s communications strategy at both the June 4th elections and ahead of last week in Norwich has been the heavy reliance on paid-for billboard advertising.

    The party did not join the massive leaflet extravaganza in the by-election but invested a lot in creating a presence on the streets through posters and innovative placings such as on telephone kiosks and on the sides of buses as in the picture above. Judging by their results at all levels in the past eight weeks, including council by elections, the strategy is working well.

    And there’s an added bonus that only struck me when I was waiting for a bus yesterday – a large amount of their EU election publicity is still in place – hence the picture I was able to take.

    For I would guess that one product of the recession is that there’s been a massive cut-back in advertising budgets which means that posters go unchanged until another advertiser comes forward. So the EU election effect is made to be longer-lasting and it isn’t costing UKIP a penny.

    In today’s ComRes poll for the Independent support for UKIP is at a healthy 5% taking more, incidentally, from 2005 Labour voters than from Tory ones.

    Could the bus posters still be in place at the general election and if so could they be helping to keep the UKIP numbers high? Maybe.

    Mike Smithson


    Tories open up 18 point gap with ComRes

    Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

    CON 42 (+4) LAB 24 (+1) LD 18 (-4)

    But was it more than just the “Norwich Effect”?

    This clearly is a very good poll for the Tories who are back in the 40s after five consecutive surveys from the pollster that had them below the magical 40 number including one where they had slumped to just 30%.

    The field-work started on Friday and went through to Sunday when the party, and particularly Cameron, was getting a lot of favourable coverage in the media following the capture of Norwich North.

    The evidence from past by elections is that polls taken in the immediate aftermath tend to give a boost to the party’s that’s done best.

    Whatever – the opening of the gap to 18 points with Labour still in the low 20s – will add further to the gloom at Brown Central which had pinned its hopes on a strong Tory cuts message.

    Andrew Hawkins, CEO of ComRes, believes that the Tory strategy of stressing the need for spending cuts in the face of the economic crisis is what is chiming with the public.

    The party that will be most disappointed are the Lib Dems who see a sharp reverse on the numbers in the last ComRes poll just ten days ago. So we are getting a mixed picture with Clegg’s party at the moment. The latest YouGov survey had them their highest level for nearly a year.

    As regulars will know I have written on a number of occasions about the ComRes weighting system. There have been changes in the past month and these have answered my concerns.

    The next poll should be YouGov for the Telegraph at the weekend.

    Mike Smithson


    Will the Craig Murray rules be applied to Esther?

    Tuesday, July 28th, 2009


    Or will the BBC give her “special treatment”?

    During the Norwich North campaign one of the most disgraceful acts by the media was the way that the BBC decided that Craig Murray – the former British ambassador sacked for speaking out against torture – was not a serious candidate.

    This was despite the fact that he’d held into his deposit standing against Jack Straw at the general election and that he’s built up a campaigning operation on human rights issues.

    Alas this was to no avail for when the BBC covered the campaign he was relegated to the “also standing” category which meant that he was hardly featured.

    So how are BBC bosses going to deal with the Craig Murray precedents when dealing with Rantzen’s candidature in Luton South? For some of the correspondence with corporation bosses that he got during the campaign might make it hard not to push Rantzen the into “also standing” slot.

    Having spent a large part of my early career working for the BBC I’ve no doubt that they will find a way – but what they did to Murray stinks.

    Perhaps the best illustration of how they got it wrong distinguishing between who they regarded as serious and who was not came in the BBC East debate between the NN candidates. Not only was Murray excluded but so was UKIP. – who eventually came in fourth. The Greens, the media favourite, were squeezed into fifth place.

    Ladbrokes have Esther Rantzen at 4/1 for Luton South.

    Mike Smithson

    On PB Channel 2 now: Antifrank on “Labour polling: in ICM we trust?”


    Who’s got the biggest Afghan problem – Dave or Gord?

    Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

    What’s an incoming Tory government going to do?

    Two of what used to be called the broadsheet papers are once again making Afghanistan and the problems for the government their main lead.

    The Independent focuses on the findings of the first part of its monthly ComRes poll which has 52% wanting troops out straight away with 43% against. By 58% to 31% those sampled believed that the Taliban cannot be defeated militarily and by 60% to 35% of those polled did not want more troops and resources should be dispatched to the war zone

    These are tough figures and in a leader the paper argues that we should not be afraid to talk to the Taliban.

    The Times makes its lead comments by Brigadier Tim Radford, commander of Task Force Helmand, that the existing troops could not be expected to mount further significant operations without reinforcements.

    Meanwhile James Forsyth at the Spectaor CoffeeHouse blog says that the Tory leadership is really worried that former Tory leadership front-runner, David Davis, might intervene on the subject. Forsyth reports: “Davis has mused to friends that the best option might be to get out completely”.

    Davis’s own military background (he was in the Territorial Army’s 21 SAS Regiment) could make anything that he said carry more weight – something that would be a gift to Labour in the run-up to the election. Brown could taunt Cameron over the issue and move the debate on from helicopters and the equipment British troops are provided with.

    For such a prominent figure as Davis to be saying such things would lead to the charge of troops on active service being undermined.

    Cameron has never really articulated the Tory approach other than the general positioning as the party that sees itself as being more likely to support the armed forces. Is that the right way given all the other pressures?

  • Ladbrokes have now got their own Twitter feed on their political markets.
  • Mike Smithson


    Quantifying the Labour collapse

    Monday, July 27th, 2009


    How 732 who identified with the party became 435

    The above panel is from the latest YouGov poll that was in The People yesterday and shows the dramatic differences between those who told the pollster in 2005 which party they identified with and who they now say they will vote for.

    So in the sample there were 732 “Labour identifiers” from May 2005. By late July 2009 that number has become 435 – or just 59%.

    At the same time the Tories and Lib Dems seem big movement in their direction.

    There’s nothing special about this particular YouGov poll – the numbers have been broadly in the same range in recent weeks – but I highlight them to show the sheer scale of Labour’s challenge. Two out of five people who four years ago were happy to say they identified with the party have now gone elsewhere.

    Mike Smithson

    On PB Channel 2 – “Was Michael Howard right?” by Richard Nabavi


    Opening up PB Channel 2

    Monday, July 27th, 2009

    Providing a more structured platform for guest slots

    Yesterday’s article reflecting on Norwich North from Bunnco and today’s advice on F1 Drivers’ betting from Morris Dancer mark the first stage of a plan to open up PB’s second site to regular contributors who want to publish more considered contributions than standard posts on threads.

    The mechanics involving providing log-ins for regular posters who would then write their articles and publish them without me or anybody else on the PB team being involved. Clearly posts should be written in line with the broad ethos of PB and as well as politics it would be great if there were pieces on other betting related issues.

    In order to alert regulars on the main site to what’s available there will be daily trails highlighting new articles and features.

    Initially I’m expecting about 20 people to have log-ins and the ability to publish though I would expect this number to increase over time as we see how it goes.

    It would be great if there were two or three contributions a day and if you would like to be considered for the first batch email me here.

    Mike Smithson


    The weekend poll that we missed

    Monday, July 27th, 2009

    CON 40 (-2) LAB 25 (nc) LD 20 (+2)

    “Others” continue to take a big slice

    There was a weekend poll after all – in the People which now seems to be doing a monthly survey with YouGov. I did look a couple of times at the paper’s website overnight on Sat/Sun but nothing seemed to be on it.

    The numbers have not changed that much although the Tories might be a tad disappointed to be down a couple of points with the Lib Dems going up by the same amount. As Anthony Wells as UK Polling Report points out this is the highest LD share from the pollster for nearly a year. Generally YouGov gives smaller numbers for Clegg’s party than the other firms.

    Support for the other parties – UKIP/GREEN/BNP continues at the same highish level – clearly the MP expenses saga and the Euro elections are still impacting on the national picture.

    The big trend, Labour continuing in the mid-20s, remains and unless the party can edge up to the 30s then a big general election defeat is in prospect.

    Mike Smithson