Archive for March, 2011


Labour still looking strong in Wales

Thursday, March 31st, 2011
Welsh Assembly election poll Result 2007 YouGov poll Jan 2011 YouGov Poll 02/03/11 YouGov poll 30/03/11
Constituency vote        
Labour 32% 45% 48% 47%
Conservative 22% 21% 20% 21%
Plaid Cymru 22% 21% 19% 17%
Liberal Democrat 15% 7% 7% 8%
Others 8% 6% 7% 7%
Regional vote        
Labour 30% 41% 45% 45%
Conservative 22% 20% 20% 20%
Plaid Cymru 21% 21% 18% 16%
Liberal Democrat 12% 8% 5% 8%
UKIP 4% 4% 5% 6%
Green 4% 2% 4% 4%
Others 8% 4% 2% 1%

And the Lib Dems could be down only one seat

With just five weeks to go before the Welsh Assembly elections there’s a new YouGov poll out which suggests that Labour is on target to win an overall majority. As the table shows there’s very little movement for the red team over the past four weeks.

The Welsh Lib Dems will take some heart from tonight’s numbers which have them moving up from 5% in the regional vote to 8%. The loser, if that is the right term, is PC which looks set to be down a fair bit on what was achieved in 2007.

One estimate suggests this would work at CON 13(+1): LAB 33 (+ 7), LD 5 (-1): PC 9 (-6) – thus giving Labour an overall majority.

Mike Smithson


Did yesterday show that Ed Balls should be leader?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Will Cameron’s insult help his chances?

Yesterday’s PMQ encounter between David Cameron and Ed Balls has continued to reverberate and I wonder whether it could have a long-term impact.

For Cameron’s comments about Balls being ” the most annoying” is a tag that looks as though it will stick but I don’t think it will harm Balls – rather the reverse in fact. He, yet again, showed himself to be the most robust attacker of the Tories and the coalition and in opposition that’s a pretty good reputation to have.

During Labour’s long leadership campaign I argued on a number of occasions that Balls was the one the party should choose. This is what I wrote in June on the morning after the Newsnight debate:

“.. I’m even more convinced that the only one capable of being an effective leader of the opposition is Ed Balls. He’s sharp, shameless and a fighter. One response last night said it all. The five were asked to say who their favourite former Labour leader was. Balls, who was Brown’s comrade in arms for so long, replied “Tony Blair”.

That must have really hurt his old boss but encapsulates how Balls is dealing with the one serious question mark about him – his linkage to Gordon…”

I’ve no idea when there will be a contest for Labour leader but when it comes Balls should be in with a good shout – yesterday’s attack by Cameron will help him.

Ladbrokes has Balls as the 8/1 third favourite. His wife, Yvette Cooper, is at 3/1.

Mike Smithson


What’s the Scottish Sun going to do for May 5th?

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Will Murdoch’s paper once again say don’t vote SNP?

Almost whenever you talk to someone with a close interest in Scottish politics the above front page from the Scottish Sun on the day of the last election to the Holyrood parliament in 2007 will come up. This was powerful because adapting the SNP logo into a hangman’s noose sent a clear message to voters of what it wanted to happen.

As it turned the result was much tighter than many expected and some would argue that the Scottish Sun helped Labour.

So what’s the paper going to do this time? After abandoning Labour nationally in September 2009 the Sun is hardly going to make an exception for its Scottish edition – but there’s no way, surely, that it’ll back the Scottish Tories?

I know that many SNP supporters are hoping that Rupert Murdoch’s paper might turn its 2007 position on its head and go with the nats. Will it go so far and does it matter? To the former the answer is “possibly” and to the latter the answer is almost certainly yes.

In the past few days I’ve built up a reasonable betting position on the SNP because to my mind the odds are out of line with the chances of success. I’m postponing further investment until the Scottish Sun’s position becomes clear.

Betting prices: Ladbrokes have the SNP at 7/4 with Labour at 2/5. At Bet365 you can get 9/4 against the SNP with Labour at 1/3. One or two other bookies have slightly better SNP odds but they don’t accept my bets.

Mike Smithson


Will Northern Ireland count double in the referendum?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Will we get polling from the high turnout province?

In almost all the discussions on the May 5th referendum nobody seems to be considering that part of the UK that almost always has the highest turnout in elections of all kinds – Northern Ireland.

For on the same day there are the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly where, four years ago, the turnout exceeded 63%.

If that’s repeated it could easily be double the overall average turnout level for England which means that the province looks set to have a disproportionate impact on the overall referendum outcome.

England will be divided into two on referendum day: one part where there are local elections taking place at the same time with a turnout level in the high 30s; the other part, including London, has no simultaneous elections and it’s hard to see levels of participation exceeding 25%.

Now for those trying to predict and/or bet on the result Northern Ireland presents a problem – for the standard polls that we see do not cover the province.

Because the party and political structure is different in the province it is excluded from all the national voting intention polls. These are GB only – that is England, Wales and Scotland. The same has applied so far to the AV polling.

Today I sent a round robin to the major pollsters asking if this polling gap was going to be covered. Their response is that it would be if one of their clients was prepared to fork out and pay the extra costs. What are the chances of that? I wouldn’t be too hopeful.

There’s another element in all of this – what if opinion in Northern Ireland is particularly for one side or the other could it be that it’s extra voting power could change the result?

If that happens I can see a lot of post May 5th rows about the validity of the election.

Mike Smithson


Will YouGov spoil Ed Miliband’s good day?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Did he make the right call over the protests?

As predicted here on PB a week ago Ed Miliband is to marry Justine, his long-term partner and mother of his two children. The announcement was followed by an assured performance at PMQs when he returned to what seems a successful tactic of asking Cameron about a detail that the PM is not able to give.

But there’s some YouGov polling just out that might take the edge off today.

When asked: “…do you think he should do more to support the protests, distance himself more from the protests, or does he get the balance about right?” response was 13% “do more to support”; 42% ” distance himself more”, with 23% saying he gets the ballot right.

Another set of findings that might cause concern was when the sample was asked “From what you have seen of Ed Miliband so far, do you believe he is or is not up to the job of Labour leader?” This produced 27% saying he was “up to the job” with 47% saying he wasn’t. Interestingly 22% of Labour voters were in the latter category.

I think that there’s still a media problem dating back to September when he beat his brother. The narrative is still against him and that is impacting on the polling.

Mike Smithson


Did the first debate further Labour’s Scottish challenge?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Meanwhile the SNP nose ahead in new poll

Last night the fight for control of the Holyrood parliament and who should be Scotland’s First Minister had its first major set piece – a leaders’ debate broadcast by STV. You can see it in full here.

This was the first time I’d really watched Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, in serious action and my impression was that he’s better than many non-Labour Scottish posters have suggested – but that’s not saying much. His challenge is that he’s up against Alex Salmond who has all the benefits of incumbency as well as being one of the sharpest operators on the UK scene.

It was good political entertainment and yet again I found myself impressed by the Scottish Tory leader, Annabel Goldie. She, however, is not a contender although could find herself holding the balance on May 6th.

Gray, who has seen the polls tightening in recent weeks, was clearly pumped up and appeared desperate to get one over on Salmond. In that he failed and at times he came over as being far too aggressive.

The screen-shot above sums it all up: Salmond is addressing the TV audience at home – Gray is addressing Salmond.

My overall impression is that Salmond is going to be very difficult to over-haul and I’m not sure that Gray’s body language and general approach will have done him and his party much good. Still there is a long way to go.

Labour might be helped by the SNP being too clever by half. There’s a new poll from YouGov out which the party issued with comparisons on a previous poll that showed most movement – rather than the last survey from the pollster. This is a practice that infuriates me. They’ve got a good news story – why try to pull a fast one?

Scottish Election polls Date LAB % SNP % CON % LD % GRN %
YouGov/Scotsman 28/03/11 39 40 11 5  
TNS-BMRB/STV 27/03/11 38 37 14 7  
YouGov 18/03/11 41 38 10 6  
ICM 14/03/11 39 35 13 10  
YouGov/Scotsman 28/03/11 39 32 12 5 6
TNS-BMRB/STV 27/03/11 35 35 14 8 5
YouGov 18/03/11 39 32 11 6 5
ICM 14/03/11 37 34 13 9 4

At the Scottish elections in 2007 ICM came out top.

My betting: After seeing the debate I increased my betting against the SNP coming out with most seats. Ladbrokes had them at 9/4 with Bet365 at 11/4. If the SNP do it then May 6th looks set to be a nice pay-day.

Mike Smithson


A Marf exhibition and a PB gathering

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Monday April 18th- the City of London

There’s to be another PB gathering at the Dirty Dicks pub across the road from Liverpool Street Station. It’ll take place on Monday April 18 starting from about 6pm. Like the previous events an area of the pub will be solely for PBers.

On that day as well there’ll be another gathering a couple of hours earlier at the Guildhall gallery not so far away. There, from April 1st there’s a special exhibition of work by Marf – PB’s cartoonist – which includes a large number of drawings that were first published on the site.

On the afternoon of the Dirty Dicks party Marf will be at the gallery from about 4pm.

One of the works is the one above from December 2008 – which is near the top of my Marf favourite list:-

More details will be published nearer the time.

Mike Smithson


What’ll May 5th do to Nick’s and Edward’s careers?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

The Sun

Are the locals set to underpin the Labour leader?

Yesterday morning I was accused of seeking “to manage expectation” when I speculated that Labour could be heading for a gain of 1000 or more seats in the local elections in England on May 5th. The poster, who clearly has close links with the party, said that “the last time he looked Labour was expecting gains of about 200”.

Well if that is the case then Labour has a huge expectation management challenge following the publication in the Sun of a YouGov poll on the May 5th locals in England. The poll was analysed by Professor Colin Rallings, from the University of Plymouth’s Elections Centre who estimated yellow losses at 700 seats with the blues losing 1,000.

This is how the poll came out with comparisons on what happened in these seats in 2007 – CON 34%(-4): LAB 38%(+16): LD 13%(-11), OTH 15%. So a massive boost for red team.

So if the poll and the projection are correct Labour and Edward are heading for a massive result on May 5th which will, surely, put an end to all the leadership speculation.

The great thing for Labour is that they start at such a low point – defending just 17% of the seats being contested. The only problem with today’s numbers is that they might raise expectations so the actual outcome could be seen as a failue.

For Nick Clegg, of course, losses on the scale projected would be damaging – particularly if on the same day the AV referendum produces a NO. On the other hand I can see his team quite welcoming the poll – simply because it will lower expectations even more. If the yellows end up only 500 seats down it could be described as a success.

I am trying to persuade one of the bookmakers to put up a local election seats market – so farl without success.

Mike Smithson