Archive for July, 2011


Will internet users be the least fertile group for Guido?

Sunday, July 31st, 2011


Why this divide on bringing capital punishment back?

As most PBers probably know Guido has launched a campaign for the re-introduction of capital punishment which hasn’t been used as a penalty in the UK since the summer of 1964. I remember it well because at the time I was doing a vacation job at a printers next to Strangeways prison in Manchester and was one of the group waiting outside for the notice of the execution to be posted at the gate just after 8am.

There’s little doubt that this is one issue where polling has shown a big divide between the general public and those who represent them and it’s hard to see any change certainly with the current composition of the house of commons.

The last comprehensive piece of research was by Ipsos-MORI in July 2010 which showed a voter split in support for capital punishment for adult murder of: TORIES 60%: LAB 44%: LDs 41%.

Interestingly, as in the chart, there was quite a difference between those who use the web daily and those who never browse and do not have interet access. My guess is that this is a reflection of socio-economic factors rather than the web itself. It does mean that Guido might have a more challenging time with his internet based campaign.



Dave back with a clear lead in the leader ratings

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Is the hacking effect starting to recede?

The latest YouGov party leadership ratings for News International are out and show the prime minister gaining some ground.

As can be seen Dave is up a net five on last week with Ed down a net two and Clegg unchanged.

Looking back over the past few weeks both Clegg and Miliband are still in much better positions than before the scandal erupted.

Miliband is a net 17 points up while Clegg is a net 9 points to the better. Cameron is a net 2 points worse.

The polll also had just 35% saying they believed that Nick Clegg will still be in his job as party leader in May 2015. The Miliband figure was 47% with 66% for Cameron.

News International’s Sunday Times is making a big deal of the Clegg figures though their report omits that with LD voters the figure is 58% for Clegg compared with 29% saying he wouldn’t be. Amongst Labour voters 66% said they thought Ed would still be there while 90% of Tory voters believed that Cameron would make it to the general election.

A lot for all leaders depends in the short term depends on the reaction at the party conferences.



Punters give Boris a 70pc chance of being re-elected

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

But shouldn’t Labour be capitalising more on their poll position?

The next big scheduled UK election is that for London mayor next May. The main battle, like last time, will be between Ken and Boris with the former attempting to make it three wins out of four.

As the chart of Betfair prices illustrates punter sentiment is strongly with the incumbent.

In 2008 Ken ran Boris reasonably close at a time when his party, Labour, had slumped to almost a low point in the national polls. Next May the national situation could be very different and, as we saw at the 2010 general election, London moved less to the Tories than any other region in England.

My view is that this could be a lot closer than the markets suggest.



Is now the time to bet against Obama?

Saturday, July 30th, 2011


Should he really be such a tight odds-on favourite?

One statistic about US politics that has been bandied about quite a lot recently is that no US president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected with the unemployment rate above 7.2%. The figure for this month is 9.2%. It will take some turnaround for the rate to get back down by November next year, particularly in light of the sluggish growth figures released there this week.

As they say in the adverts, past performance is no guarantee of future outcomes – but it’s often not a bad guide. That being the case, should Obama really be the 4/6 shot he is on Betfair, never mind 4/7 with Ladbrokes which is itself the best odds with a bookie?

Obama won an astonishing number of votes in 2008: nearly eight million more than any other candidate in history. Even so, it was not the landslide some in the media would have the world believe. John McCain – by no means the strongest of Republican candidates – himself polled the third-highest ever number of votes, and Obama won fewer Electoral College votes than Clinton, Bush snr or Reagan did in any of their victories.

The economy is a particular vulnerability with the Hope/Change message that Obama ran on last time. Having raised expectations, hope is in short supply, change has not necessarily been for the better.

He has been reduced quite rapidly to Just Another Politician. That may change once back on the campaign trail – he still gives a good speech – but he can never again be the fresh face of the future.

Perhaps fortunately for him, the election is not (just) a referendum on his first term but a choice between him and his Republican opponent. That field already looks quite thin. Palin looks unlikely to run with Bachmann making strong inroads into Tea Party territory but neither is really a credible candidate. Huntsman and Pawlenty’s campaigns have been at best tepid and show no sign of catching the public imagination. That only really leaves Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry – though the latter has yet to formally declare.

At the time of writing, Perry was best-priced with Ladbrokes at 7/1 (which unusually is longer than Betfair even before commission), while Romney could be backed at 11/2 with both bet365 and Victor Chandler and was slightly longer on Betfair. All these seem good value given the lack of strong contenders in the primaries and the far less clement conditions Obama faces this time around. An alternative strategy would be to lay against Obama, whose price will surely drift at some point. Both Republicans have their weaknesses as potential candidates but then so does Obama.

Of more immediate concern are the Debt Ceiling negotiations. These are complex, multilateral and could have any number of outcomes. One pertinent fact however is that Obama is involved in them while both GOP frontrunners are Washington outsiders. That makes the political cost of failure much more personal to him, even before any economic effects of a shutdown and/or credit downgrade are felt. Likewise, any cuts into his healthcare programme reduces the record of delivery he’ll have to stand on.

Obama’s approval ratings hit a new low of 40% this week including just 34% among independents. The figure may have been adversely affected by the debt ceiling games. Even so, he’s been below 50% for most of the last year, something which doesn’t tally with re-election odds of 4/6 or shorter unless there’s good reason to expect him to turn it around. It’s easy enough to create scenarios as to how he might do that but the reality is that the hard stats are at best mixed.

The race feels much more of a toss-up at the moment with Obama no shorter than evens and probably marginally odds-against.

David Herdson


Is the 50p tax the next Coalition battleground?

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Henry G Manson on a possible Blue-Yellow clash

So far public tensions and skirmishes between the two Coalition parties have centred on social policy such as on the NHS or democratic reform such as AV and the House of Lords. The greatest unity appears has been on the government’s economic agenda despite significant pre-election differences between the parties. That could soon change.

There has been a growing frequency number of nods and winks from the Treasury that George Osborne intends to reduce the 50p tax as part of its attempt to kickstart economic growth. Boris Johnson has been most vocal in opposing the tax and argued loudly London would stand to lose “highly educated, aspirational staff” to other countries should it continue.

There are plenty of arguments on both sides the economic value of the tax. Tax justice campaigner Richard Murphy has suggested it is generating some significant tax receipts. However in many ways the political significance and fallout of this tax for those earning more £150,000 per year could prove just as significant – if not more so.

As Lord Ashcroft has identified through his polling that the Conservative Party is still seen to be on the side of the rich among a good number of ‘Conservative Considerers’ he identified. It is one of the reasons why Cameron did not win a majority at the last election.

How can David Cameron dispel this if it his Government gives a tax-cut to the wealthiest while others see benefits eroded, wages depressed and the cost of everyday living go up? It could stretch the ‘we’re all in this together’ argument well beyond the point of ridicule.

Such a move by the Treasury would of course be something a gift to the Labour Party who are committed to keeping it and could describe it as ‘a tax-cut for bankers’ while highlighting the plight of ‘the squeezed middle’. It is potentially a more interesting opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.

While George Osborne’s Budget included a review of the tax, it is not referred to in the Coalition Agreement. This gives the Lib Dems scope to oppose it. Clegg’s team could well want to demonstrate further differences between the coalition partners. Following on from collaborating over Murdoch and News Corp, this could be another area where his party works with Labour against the Conservatives.

Vince Cable as Business Secretary becomes a key figure to this debate. Politically he has been given a second wind after the withdrawal of News Corp’s BSkyB. How bold will he be in taking the argument further against on Osborne and Johnson? According to the Financial Times he is engaging with a High Pay Commission to help tackle excessive pay. Is he then likely to follow that by supporting cutting the tax bills for the same high paid executives? I can’t see it. Earlier in the year Cable suggested a mansion tax would be the Lib Dem ‘price’ for supporting the abolition of the 50p rate. That’s bound to be a non-starter with the Conservatives. So the review of the very top-rate of tax could be quickly reduced to ‘keep it or scrap it?’

This debate will take place in a highly charged political atmosphere. There must be a sizeable proportion of Liberal Democrat MPs and activists licking their lips to oppose the prospect of opposing a ‘Tory tax cut for the wealthy’ in the run-up to another round of challenging local elections next May. All three party leaders will be seeking to motivate their core supporters at their respective party conferences in two months’ time. I expect the 50p tax to feature somewhere in discussions led by the grassroots in all three conferences.

I think the politics of it all could prove irresistible for the Lib Dems but also detrimental to the Conservative Party as they risk further ‘re-toxification’. In the short-term this could be one economic battle Vince Cable deservedly wins over George Osborne. However it’s perhaps the prospect of the first economic split between the Coalition parties that could have wider implications for the Government if the economy continues to under perform.

HenryG Manson @henrygmanson


Marf on “PB Armistice Night”

Friday, July 29th, 2011

What happens when we are nice to our opponents

PB regulars used to the hurly-burly of many of the site’s threads might have been shocked to read what happened overnight.

After a heated and fractious discussion following the latest hacking story the former Labour MP and contributor here since 2004, Nick Palmer, suggested that we all look at our political opponents and try to write something positive. Extraordinarily people followed the suggestion and peace broke out.

It was as though it was Christmas.

So to mark the occasion we have a Marf cartoon which sort of gets the flavour. She’s providing a print of the drawing to Nick who is a keen cat lover. If anybody else would like a copy I’m sure that Marf will produce one – though you’ll have to pay!

More of Marf’s work can be found at

DON'T FORGET THE NEXT PB PARTY. This takes place at Dirty Dicks, opposite Liverpool Street station in London, from 6.30 pm on Monday August 15th



What do tonight’s developments add to the story?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Obviously developments in the hacking story are making the running in the newsrooms tonight and no doubt it will feature prominently both on the front pages and at the top of TV news bulletin running orders.

What I can’t work out is what this does to the hacking saga apart just reinforcing people’s views. Very little surprises us any more.



What vote lead will LAB/CON need for a majority?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Will we start to get an idea in September?

On September 12th or 13th the boundary commissioners for England will produce their first proposals on how the electoral map should be re-drawn for the 2015 general election. The Scottish proposals are due out in October and the Welsh ones now look set to be published at about the same time.

These will be critical documents and will allow Martin Baxter of Electoral Calculus, Anthony Wells of YouGov UKPollingReport and others to produce their first projections on what different vote shares mean in terms of seats.

Based on current boundaries Strathclyde University’s Prof. John Curtice has suggested that the blues would need a margin of 11.2% for an overall majority. In May 2010 the party came in 7.3% ahead and was twenty seats short.

What almost goes without saying is that the bar for a Conservative majority will drop and that for a Labour one will rise – the question is by how much?

What will make Labour’s task harder than the uniform swing projections is that it will need to win back almost all that was lost last yea- seats that even with the changes will be held in the main by Tory incumbents who entered parliament last year. The experience of recent elections is that first time incumbent MPs in seats that were won at the previous election do a fair bit better than the national and regional swings should suggest.

In 2010 Lib Dem incumbents did far better than when a new candidate was seeking to hold on for the party.

My guess, is that the Tory vote lead requirement will drop to about 8% with the Labour one moving to, perhaps, 4%.

Mike Smithson