Archive for August, 2011

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Does anyone want to follow Iain Gray as the SLAB leader – anyone?

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Henry G Manson on Labour’s challenge in Scotland

The bookmakers were quick to develop a market for the successor to Labour’s Iain Gray after he announced his resignation in May. Months on, Gray is still in place, there is no timetable for the contest and currently no eligible candidates declared.

Earlier this summer I tipped Ken McIntosh and went reasonably big on him on the grounds he was the party’s best remaining communication. It now seems in there’s a chance that both he / and fellow market leader Jackie Ballie could both rule themselves out.

This week we have seen right-winger and former-minister Tom Harris MP put himself forward. for the position. Harris is currently ineligible to stand but could pending the party’s review of the rules. Fair play to him. His strength at the moment is that he is the only one to show any real intent and desire to win – though even he admits he is his own 3rd choice. Will he be allowed a coronation even if the rules permitted? No chance. The unions would want to have their say though any preference for an agreed candidate is far from clear.

In the Scotsman John McTernanm sums up the problem – no-one appears to have a clue how to beat the SNP’s biggest asset:

“If you want to win, you need first to confront why you lost – and then be willing to do whatever is necessary to get back into the game. So, let’s name Scottish Labour’s problem – it’s Alex Salmond.”

I think the problem goes even deeper. Scotland’s machine politics was fine when the party was dominant in councils and in constituencies. With PR in local government and a devolved parliament it has meant exposed the Labour Party in Scotland to new challenges to surmount and it has struggled to adapt. Look at the products of this political system – Neither Iain Gray or Wendy Alexander can be described as ‘charismatic’. Yet they appear favourable in hindsight when compared to most of those left.

Johann Lamont, the current Deputy Leader is a typical insider and continuity figure but its precisely the qualities that could help her get a leadership campaign off the ground that reduce her chances of becoming First Minister. The only candidate who I thought could have troubled Salmond was lively centre-left winger Cathy Jamieson who lost the election last time and is now an MP.

The harsh lesson for Scottish Labour is there is no golden rule that says given enough time any political party has a right to recover. Just look at the Conservative Party who have failed to identify a leader to win their first outright election majority since 1992.

In fact the more you lose the narrower the pool of talent to draw from, the more dispirited your members, donors and supporters become. Labour’s MSPs seem to recognise there is no winner within their ranks. The party North of the Border is listless and leaderless. It needs a radical solution. The rules can be changed quickly, but the culture change required will need to be deeper and longer lasting. That is why the best thing Ed Miliband could do right now is bold but actually a low-risk move. Back primaries in Scotland and force future MSPs to possess an appeal that goes beyond the narrow channels of Scottish Labour. For political punters however, this is now a market to avoid.

HenryG Manson @henrygmanson



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Remember when ICM and YouGov last went head to head?

Friday, August 26th, 2011

The big polling news of the week has been the difference view between the online pollster, YouGov, and the phone firm ICM on what voters are now thinking. The former has had Labour with leads of 5% or more all week – the latter, for the second month running, had the Conservatives with a one point lead.

A big difference between the two has been with the Lib Dem share. For YouGov has this at 9% while ICM had it nearly double at 17%. You can’t explain that by margin or error.

The only time we can test pollsters is when their final surveys before an election are tested against real results and the most recent national example was in May for the AV referendum.

The chart above shows how near the final surveys from the four pollster got to what actually happened. As can be seen YouGov undershot NO’s winning margin by 15.8%. ICM over-shot by just 0.2%.

In terms of sample size the YouGov final poll, details here, questioned 5.725. The ICM sample was just 1,035.

For years, as PB regulars will know, I’ve said that ICM is the “gold standard” irrespective of whether I have liked their findings or not. The May 5th 2011 test reinforced that view.

@MikeSmithsonPB



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Tonight in the PB Night Hawks Cafe…

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Welcome to the third of PB’s experimental over night open threads under the banner of Marf’s wonderful cartoon.

The idea is to have a less formal discussion into the early hours that everybody feels able to be part of. We can talk about anything.

Last night there was a discussion on one of the things that really infuriates me – the high prices that you are often charged by swanky hotels simply to use WiFi.

Have you got similar beefs. Just post it in the informal thread below.

Have a good night.

  • Prints of Marf’s Night Hawks cartoon will be available soon to buy.

    @MikeSmithsonPB



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    Is Perry really as certain as this?

    Thursday, August 25th, 2011

    Can the Texas Governor be beaten for the nomination?

    The latest round of polling on the GOP race for the nomination has looked good for Rick Perry – the outspoken governor of Texas.

    Latest Gallup GOP poll

    Rick Perry 25%
    Mitt Romney 14%
    Sarah Palin 11%
    Ron Paul 11%
    Rudy Giuliani 9%
    Michele Bachmann 7%
    Herman Cain 4%
    Newt Gingrich 3%
    Rick Santorum 3%
    Jon Huntsman 1%
    Other 1%
    No preference 12%

    All the candidates bar one in the poll have formally declared – the one who hasn’t is Rudy Giuliani who has said he’ll wait until after the tenth anniversary of 9/11 which takes place in three weeks. He’ll be encouraged that he is maintaining reasonable ratings.

    The big loser in the poll is Michelle Bachmann who is seeing her support evaporate.

    Mitt Romney is now firmly in second place and a lot for him depends on the first proper primary (Iowa is a caucus state) in New Hampshire. This should be a breeze because it adjoins Massachusetts where Mitt built his political reputation as governor.

    There is still a long long way to go and I’m far from convinced that Perry is the man.

    @MikeSmithsonPB



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    The Lib Dems up 4pc in MORI post-riots poll

    Thursday, August 25th, 2011

    And there’s little change in the leader ratings

    The Ipsos-MORI political monitor for August is just out from Reuters and shows little change on July with the exception of Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems. The party sees its share move up 4 to 15% – a change that is in line with the ICM figures earlier in the week that had the yellows on 17%.

    The MORI 15% is the highest share from the pollster since last September.

    These figures from the top pollsters at the 2010 general election contrast sharply with YouGov which had the party on 9% in its latest daily poll overnight.

    ICM and MORI poll by phone and do not use the controversial newspaper weightings that YouGov employs.

    We have not got the detailed data yet but the Reuters report says that the standing of the party leaders among voters was also little changed.

    On the riots aftermath MORI found that 58% of those surveyed for this month’s poll agreed British society was “broken” — a slight fall from the 63 percent who agreed with the question when the question was last asked it in 2008.

    The reports also notes that: “Economic optimism continues to fall. Only a fifth (19 percent) believe the economic condition of the country will improve in the next 12 months, and half (52 percent) think it will get worse. Pessimism about the short-term future of the economy has been increasing month-on-month since May”.

    Hopefully the full data will be out this morning.

    @MikeSmithsonPB



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    Join us in the PB Night Hawks cafe

    Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

    Last night’s little experiment with the PB Night Hawks cafe seemed to work well and the intention is that this should continue except when there’s a big story breaking.

    This is an open thread without a central them.

    Can I particularly welcome those who’ve never posted on here before. Please join the discussion if you feel inclined.

    Have a good evening.

    @MikeSmithsonPB



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    Is this Labour’s big nightmare?

    Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

    null

    What if leader ratings are more predictive than VI?

    I’ve recounted here before how last March I gambled half my entire month’s pension on my strong belief that leader ratings are a better guide to election outcomes than voting intention numbers.

    Above is the polling that convinced me. Labour were comfortably ahead of the SNP in the voting intention (VI) polling and with the way seats are distributed look set for a substantial lead on seats in the Holyrood elections six weeks later. That was the way the betting markets saw it as well and Labour were very tight odds-on favourites.

    My reading was that for large parts of Scotland’s electorate this was about electing a First Minster and those FM numbers looked absolutely terrible for Scottish Labour. Grey was even rated below the Scottish Tory leader. To my mind an SNP victory on seats was a near certainty and, of course, I won my bets.

    But isn’t Miliband’s position the same as Grey’s was in Scotland in March – doing reasonably well on voting intention but unable to make a breakthrough in the leader ratings?

    The situation, of course, is not precisely the same. Miliband isn’t seen as poorly as Grey was and Cameron is a long way behind where Salmond was but the red rating numbers are lagging behind.

    When people vote there are three interconnecting elements: they are choosing someone to represent them at Westminster/Holyrood; they want to influence who should be PM/FM and there’s the tribal element – going with their traditional allegiance.

    The latter is becoming less important as we saw in Scotland. The challenge for Miliband is that being “Labour” might not be enough. He has to look like a credible PM.

    @MikeSmithsonPB



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    The Coulson severance story: Day 3

    Wednesday, August 24th, 2011


    Telegraph

    Does it raise questions about the party “due dilligence”?

    The story over the severance package to Andy Coulson and the fact that neither Dave nor the Conserative party appears to have questioned the ex-NOTW editor about it continues to get a fair bit of coverage this morning.

    As Christopher Hope in the Telegraph reports what happened raises question about “due diligence” carried out by the party – a situation that hasn’t been helped by comments by two former News International editors, Andrew Neil formerly of the Sunday Times and David Yelland ex-editor of the Sun, that they received nothing after leaving the company.

    Jason Groves in the Mail focuses on whether the payments were a breach of election law while the former Blair media advisor, Lance Price, is critical of Cameron in the Indy .

    He writes: “Party leaders, far less prime ministers, do not need to know the ins and outs of every detail before they make a decision. They couldn’t function if they did. What they do need is an instinctive grasp of the big questions that must be asked and answered before they give their judgement. In the case of Andy Coulson it was pretty obvious. “Is there anything in your past or present relationship with News International that could embarrass either me or my party?”

    If Coulson had answered that one with an unambiguous “yes” he would have saved everybody, including himself, a lot of trouble.”

    Two of the ten “must read” articles on PoliticsHome this morning relate to the Coulson severance and I am not so sure that the many PBers on the thread yesterday morning who concluded that the story “didn’t have legs” were correct.

    @MikeSmithsonPB