Archive for February, 2010


Will Cameron’s speech prove to be a turning-point?

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Daily Telegraph

Will it settle Tory nerves after the narrowing polls?

With the opinion polls narrowing significantly in recent days, David Cameron gave what will be his final address to a Conservative conference ahead of the general election, telling his audience that:

“It is an election that we have to win because our country is in a complete mess and it is our patriotic duty to turn it around and give this country a better future… I think everyone in this country knows that another five years of Gordon Brown would be a disaster for our country.”

Will this go down as one of Cameron’s key speeches, on a par with the Conferences of 2005 or 2007? We’ll probably get a better idea in time, but early reaction has been generally favourable:

John Rentoul in the Independent: “…we should not underestimate him… The television debates during the election campaign are going to be even more important than everyone thought.”

Ed West in the Telegraph: “It wasn’t quite Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial, but it was good, and we are still looking at the next British prime minister.”

James Forsyth at the Spectator (Cameron’s Speech Delivers) “To be sure, the speech was not as good as the 2007 conference one. But it did the job which was to frame the election as a choice between Cameron and five more years of Gordon Brown.”

Janet Daley described the speech as “…very good indeed – compelling, coherent and engagingly delivered…” but asks whether Cameron can hold his nerve, while James Delingpole, no fan of the Conservative leader, believes that the speech has “just won Cameron the election“.

The speech has had good coverage on the BBC and we await reaction from commentators in other leading media outlets. If the Conservatives do indeed hold on for an election win, will this speech come to be seen as the turning point where the party began the fightback, and put a difficult couple of months behind them?

Double Carpet

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Remember this after Brown’s first few weeks?

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Does the Guardian make a habit of this?

Thanks to ChristinaD on the previous thread for reminding us that the Guardian has form for eulogising over a Prime Minister a few weeks after entering Number 10.

Today’s Martin Kettle column on David Cameron follows in the tradition set by the above piece from August 2007 shortly after Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.

“Has any Prime Minister had a more difficult first month?” the headline read inviting the obvious response – “Yes – Churchill in May 1940″.

Whatever trials and tribulations Mr. Brown had to deal with three years ago they were nothing on the scale of the fall of France and the Dunkirk evacuation.

It didn’t take too long for the Guardian to become a Brown-sceptic and my guess is that the same will apply to Cameron.

  • Note – I’m still on holiday
  • Mike Smithson


    Tim’s leadership betting tip – Darling at 20/1

    Sunday, February 28th, 2010

    In a world where politicians continually try and rebrand themselves and define their image in the public’s mind, and pay agencies a lot of money to attempt it on their behalf, last week we saw one of the most successful rebrandings for years. It is commonly presumed that the public saw Alistair Darling as a bit dull, inoffensive, but useful, like magnolia paint or carrier bags. Well, that was on Monday.

    By Wednesday his “forces of hell” quote had changed all that. At the conclusion of a lengthy piece on PM (about 32 minutes in) Simon Hoggart concluded that Darling as Labour leader “might be worth a flutter”.

    And on Friday Michael Crick wrote this:

    “Might Mr Darling be positioning himself to take over from Gordon Brown in the event of an election defeat? Not as a long term Labour leader, but in a caretaker role while the party sorts itself out, and waits for a young, strong, long-term prospect to emerge.

    Mr Darling’s reputation has certainly been enhanced during his three years as chancellor, and now, with just three words, he’s managed to distance himself very effectively from the more unpleasant aspects of the Brown regime.

    Unlikely? Yes. But I can tell you that the idea of Mr Darling as caretaker is certainly being contemplated by some of his friends.

    Whether caretaker status or not (and that would depend on the outcome of the election) Darling’s ability, as Simon Hoggart says in the Radio 4 piece “to keep the temperature down” would be highly useful after a defeat or in a hung parliament. In addition, with one statement Darling has managed to distance himself both from the unpleasant aspects of Brown’s tenure at Number 10, and the culture of spinning assumed (wrongly) to have begun under Blair’s regime.

    In the case of a heavy defeat then I doubt Labour would want replicate the mistaken, hasty, elevation of a Hague figure, while in the case of a hung parliament, a consensual, experienced figure such as Darling seems to me to fit the bill. For added piquancy, it is not beyond the bounds of imagination that Darling believes briefings against him may have been linked to a potential rival in any leadership race. He said to the BBC that he stood by his “forces of hell” quote – “Of course I do, all of it, not just part of it, all of it”. That’s fighting talk in anyones language.

    So on the betting front, before this week I’d rated Darling as an 8/1 shot for the leadership, after this week I’d make that 6/1. As the narrowing poll lead and Scottish polling in particular show the chances of him losing his seat in Edinburgh SW receding, I think that the 25/1 available is very attractive.


    Does Labour always win the final week?

    Sunday, February 28th, 2010

    Did Brown’s party recover 30+ seats?

    In its post mortem of the 1992 election Labour identified a key weakness which it sought to address in all the following four elections – the critical importance of the final week.

    For its only then that many voters start to focus on what they’ll do and when a focused get out the vote message can be most effective.

    For the 1997 election the party created a special final week team. Whether they did the same this time I don’t know but like in 1997, 2001 and 2005 their final effort seemed to be highly effective.

    For 2010 they put the emphasis on the Tory threat to child credits and used the above Ross Kemp video as both a PEB and a DVD that was distributed to 0.25m key households.

    If there were final week themes from the Tories and Lib Dems it was hard to identify them. Maybe this saved Labour from total disaster?

    Mike Smithson


    Why did the Sunday Times switch the numbers?

    Sunday, February 28th, 2010

    ? ? ? ?

    How did the lead drop from 6% to 2% between editions?

    The massive confusion over what the poll numbers actually were that we saw on the thread overnight is now becoming clear. For after the NOTW reported the 2% gap there were several posts saying the Sunday Times had it at 6%.

    But the Sunday Times poll findings changed between editions as those who have been watching BBC1 have been told. In the earlier ones it was at 6% – the later ones had it at 2%.

    Why? All this does is provide material for the conspiracy theorists especially as the fieldwork ended on Friday and the finalised figures must have been around for most of Saturday.

    I don’t know how YouGov work but I assume that it’s like Angus Reid. When the final figures are ratified by the pollster they are then sent to the client. Period. End of story.

    I have emailed Peter Kellner.

    Mike Smithson


    Is the daily survey driving other pollsters away?

    Sunday, February 28th, 2010

    Is it healthy that one firm should be so dominant?

    Consider this:-

    The last voting intention survey from a firm other than YouGov was from ComRes and completed its fieldwork on June 27th – nearly two and a half weeks ago.

    There have been thirteen national YouGov polls since then
    – all but one of for News International which has an exclusivity arrangement with the firm for national papers.

    The Daily Telegraph has not had a regular pollster since February – when the News International exclusivity agreement came into force. Until then the paper had a long record of being a big backer of polling and it was the national paper that first commissioned YouGov nearly eight years ago.

    There has not been a published national voting poll from Populus since the general election. This is the pollster for the Times which, like the Telegraph, has been a big backer of political polling. It is owned by News International.

    We all know that the national press is going through a tough time and circulations for all papers are down. They have all been hit by the recession which has affected advertising revenue.

    Thankfully the Guardian continues with its relationship with ICM while the Sunday Telegraph has funded two post election voting intention polls from the firm.

    Ipsos-MORI has done one survey for Reuters while the Indy and Indy on Sunday polling series with ComRes continues.

    So we are reaching a situation where there are six or seven YouGov polls for every one non-YouGov poll.

    Online surveys from pre-selected panels are much quicker to organise and much less expensive than standard telephone polls – unfortunately they didn’t do anything like as well at the general election.

    Five of the top six places in the 2010 polling accuracy table were occupied by phone pollsters. Five of the bottom six place went to online firms. YouGov came eighth overall and was behind two online firms.

    Mike Smithson


    Daily poll has lead down to just 2 points

    Sunday, February 28th, 2010

    CON 37% (39)
    LAB 35% (33)
    LD 17%(16)

    Gordon could still get his five more years

    According to the News of the World the latest daily poll from YouGov has the above figures which would probably mean that Labour would end up with most seats.

    This has now been confirmed by the Sunday Times itself – story here.

    This is a fantastic poll for Labour who, almost unbelievably, are now only per percent down on what they were at the 2005 general election when they got 36%.

    I very much share the view of Anthony Wells at UKPR who writes –” All I can say is what I always say when a poll shows sharp movement – until we see some more polls that support or contradict the further narrowing of the polls – be wary.”

    The pollster has gone through massive system changes in recent weeks to prepare for this daily polling and I wonder whether some of the dramatic change might have something to do with that.

    One factor, highlighted here by Flockers on Friday, is that the views of people with Labour ID’s are having to be scaled up by quite a degree in order to meet the “quota” for each poll. This is something that they have not had to do in the past to the same extent and you just wonder why that is happening now.

    A real issue at the moment is that YouGov is almost the only game in town. The only polling we have seen that’s taken the temperature since last Monday has been the online firm.

    The firm’s Peter Kellner will be taking part in a Q&A on PB on Tuesday afternoon.

    Betting: Betfair most seats market has 6/1 still available – that might be worth a trading punt. With Ladbrokes it is 11/2.

    Mike Smithson


    So what will tonight bring?

    Saturday, February 27th, 2010


    Will the lead continue to tighten?

    It’s Saturday night and that should bring two things – the latest polls and the second instalment of the Andrew Rawnsley book in the Observer.

    One thing that hits you when you look at the table above is that only the YouGov daily poll has tested opinion since bullygate and the Darling “forces of hell” statement. All the other surveys that have been published this week have been quite old.

    I’ve no idea what to expect tonight apart from the latest YouGov daily poll in the Sunday Times.

    Watch this space.

    Mike Smithson