Archive for December, 2011


What are YOUR predictions for 2012?

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Will incumbents hold on in London/Washington/Paris?

It’s a big year coming up opening with the Iowa caucus on Tuesday to be followed by a White House race primary programme lasting nearly six months – which I think is the longest ever.

On this side of the Atlantic there’s the French Presidential election in April/May where Sarkorzy will be fighting for a second term. We haven’t covered that yet – I’ve been waiting for Betfair to open up a market – but it could be a tight one.

Also we’ve got the next instalment of Boris & Ken in May where it’s hard to see the incumbent losing.

In Russia Putin will be attempting to return to the presidency amidst a huge furore following this month’s elections.

All of this set against a very difficult global financial crisis.

As it’s New Year’s Eve use this thread to record YOUR predictions.

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonOGH


How PBers got 2011 right and wrong

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Were your 2011 picks crystal clear or “through a glass darkly?”

Congratulations to Oliver who finished 29 points ahead of Jim Lowe with Dan Tor in third place in PB’s annual prediction competition – the full table with all players is available here, as well as an Excel spreadsheet showing the detailed breakdown of results.

These were the questions from a year ago.

The first section looked at key posts as at Christmas 2011, and the first three questions were very well answered – a 99% success rate for Cameron as PM, 96% for Clegg as DPM, and 94% for Ed Miliband as Labour leader. The main stumbling blocks were Scotland and the GOP frontrunner, with only 21% of players correctly predicting Alex Salmond to be First Minister, while not a single player had current GOP poll leader Newt Gingrich (average of last three polls on RCP), although 46% of players were close with the safe choice of Romney.

The second part covered the AV referendum, the UK interest rate, and the Irish election. A lot of players stumbled on the referendum, with the average prediction of 45% Yes being 13 points away from the actual result. The “how many days will Bank Rate stay at 0.5%?” tripped up a lot of people. In the event, it remained at 0.5% all year, but only 22% of players scored full points here for a correct answer of 365 days. Finally, the scale of the Fianna Fáil rout in the Irish election was greatly underestimated – FF emerged with just 20 seats against an average prediction of 40.

Seat predictions for the May elections were next, covering Scotland, Wales, and the English locals. The SNP’s outstanding result, with a seat gain of 23, was miles away from the average prediction of -4, while Plaid, coming in at -4, were much closer to the average prediction of no change. Finally, the Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem seat movements in the locals of +86, +857, and -748 were all some way off from the average predictions of -306, +540, and -259, with the “big two” outperforming PB’ers predictions, while the Lib Dems were considerably worse.

As ever, the final section looked at the year’s opinion polls, with the Guardian’s ICM series being used once more. Predictions covered the highs and lows for the main parties, plus the large and small Labour leads. In contrast to 2010, the 2011 polls were much more static, with the Conservatives moving between 35 and 37, Labour 36-39, and the Lib Dems again having the biggest range, between 12 and 18. Players collected 50 points if they were spot on, losing 10 points for each percentage point out, down to zero. With an average of 30 points collected, best predicted (as in 2010) was the Labour low of 36%, in contrast to the Labour high of 39 which was the worst predicted with an average of just 5.5 points. Next best predictions were for Labour’s smallest poll lead (Con lead 1), and the Conservative low (35), while Labour’s biggest lead (4) and the LD low (12) were the next worst predicted.

Many thanks to everyone who took part, and we hope to be opening the 2012 PB Competition tomorrow.

Can I take this opportunity to thank Our Genial Host for continuing to run an outstanding website, and also thanks to the other members of the editorial team in the shape of David Herdson and HenryG, to Marf for the cartoons – and of course to Robert for all the IT work behind the scenes.

    Finally, if you would like to take part, the 2012 season is now underway at The Election Game – the Leaders & Finance game is here and the New Hampshire game will be out shortly. The games are free to enter, entries close 7pm GMT Monday 9th Jan, and the Game can also be followed here on Twitter (@electiongame).

I’d like to wish all of PB’s punters, posters, and lurkers all the very best for 2012, which promises to be a big year for political and economic events, both at home and abroad.

Double Carpet


Q Your predictions for 2012: Women cabinet ministers

Friday, December 30th, 2011
Which of these 5 women will still be in the cabinet at the end of 2012? (Tick all that apply)
Baroness Warsi
Theresa May
Justine Greening
Cheryl Gillan
Caroline Spelman free polls 


Henry G Manson peers into his crystal ball

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Will 2012 bring tests for all three party leaders?

First up in January David Cameron needs to make a judgement call on a tricky little situation involving Aidan Burley MP. The Conservatives are currently investigating the situation that resulted in the MP for Cannock Chase being present at a Nazi-themed stag party in a French Restaurant, praising the Third Reich and allegedly hiring the costume.

To make things worse Burley, now shorn of his PPS role and of future Ministerial opportunity, is also being investigated by the French Police alongside his chums since they may well have contravened an anti-Nazi law in place since the Second World War.

Reports show that the French police have already spoken to potential witnesses. With the prospect of a Tory MP being hauled over the Channel to face questioning by the French will Cameron cut his losses and chance a by-election? Apparently the Labour Party is on standby for a by-election but Cameron will surely do everything he can to avoid this.

Just as well we’re on such good terms with the French. With a French Presidential election around the corner there is a good chance the issue could get very political. A jail term technically isn’t out of the question though surely would be excessive. Who knows where this could lead.

I wonder if David Cameron will draw from his decisive action over expenses and cut Burley loose now to avoid risking a prolonged and embarrassing affair? It could be a gripping contest if he goes for it.

By mid-February we’re likely to get a sense of how retailers have faired over the Christmas period and January sales. My sense is that while turnover will be up the profit margins will be down. I couldn’t help but notice how many shops were discounting in the run up to Christmas and this could lead to a poor January. My nephew who looks at these things for a living is adamant there will be some big names going under with large job figures alongside that. .

The loss of well-known retailers could have a reasonably large political impact depending on how Labour respond. With the economy expected to have shrunk during in this current quarter there will again be another opportunity for Ed Balls to highlight his plan for a VAT cut. Look out for some new ideas and packaging from Labour on their Plan B. There’s been a lot of soul-searching over Labour’s inability to make inroads in the polls on the economy with every Tom, Dick and Harry giving their tuppence-worth. If the two Eds can’t land some heavy blows in February then they really should pack up and go home.

March is a key month under the Coalition. No not for the Budget, but for the annual Lib Dem Spring conference. Last year’s wrung some notable concessions from the Conservatives over health reform. What will this year’s bring? Opposing the raising cap on private patient income that can be earned by hospitals to 49% has to be up there as a possible contender. A real political stinkbomb. Perfectly timed ahead of local elections, this is still a democratic conference and has every potential to tweak the nose of Cameron or Clegg. Nick Clegg should expect a wishlist to go to Downing Street over. Watch out for whatever Evan Harris is up to. Any concessions will be followed by indignation from Tory backbenchers and some newspapers. One of these days it could get out of hand.

Check out Henry’s crystal ball in the coming days for a lively April-June 2012.

HenryG Manson @henrygmanson


Q Your predictions for 2012: LDs in cabinet on 31/12/12

Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Which of these Lib Dems will still be in the cabinet at the end of 2012? (Tick all that apply)
Chris Huhne
Vince Cable
Danny Alexander
Nick Clegg
Michael Moore


Suddenly the momentum is with Santorum

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Is he now in with a shout in Iowa?

With just five campaigning days to go before Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses there’s been huge movement in a CNN/Time poll in the state. These are the shares with changes on the last similar poll three weeks ago:

Romney 25% (+5)
Paul 2% (+3)
Santorum 16% (+11)
Gingrich 14% (-19)
Perry 11% (+2)
Bachmann 9% (+2)
Huntsman 1% (-3)

The survey came out only a few hours after US political analyst, Nate Silver, suggested that we could see a late surge if conservative and evangelical voters moved behind one contender:-

“There are extremely strong incentives for supporters of Mrs. Bachmann, Mr. Santorum and Mr. Perry to behave tactically, throwing their weight behind whichever one appears to have the best chance of finishing in the top two. What that means is that if any of these candidates appear to have any momentum at all during the final week of the campaign, their support could grow quite quickly as other voters jump on the bandwagon.

This is also a case in which the polling may actually influence voter behavior. In particular, if one of these candidates does well in the highly influential Des Moines Register poll that should be published on New Year’s Eve or thereabouts, that candidate might be a pretty good bet to overperform polling as voters use that as a cue on caucus night to determine which one is most viable…”

That Des Moines Register poll is due to be published at 7pm local time on New Year’s eve.

For punters the Santorum surge provides great profit opportunities. We’ve seen it so often in the GOP race – a candidate suddenly moves into the ABM (Anybody but Mitt) slot and betting prices tighten sharply. The art, which worked brilliantly for me with the last ABM contender, Gingrich, is to get on at a long price and get out at a big profit when it has shortened.

Within minutes of the CNN/Time poll coming out last night I got Santorum at 40/1 with Betfair to win Iowa and 50/1 to win the nomination.

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonOGH


Now the voting for the PB Poster of the Year

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

After experimenting with approval voting for the first two sections of this years election a different approach is being taken for the main ballot. Rather than putting a tick beside the contender of your choice you are asked to rate each of them by clicking on the stars.

This is known as range voting – see here.

Note that if you do not rate a candidate then that person’s score will be the average from voters who did make a rating.

So if you want to mark somebody down choose one or two stars.

The short-list was drawn up by Peter the Punter, Sunil and myself. We have tried to ensure a level of political balance in the names chosen so that posters from across the spectrum are included.

Note that on the detailed results screen there is a comment box. That will not be seen by anybody else but me. For the main discussion use the standard Disquus system.

UPDATE Initially the closing date for the poll was written as “Thursday December 28th”. That’s now been amended to “Thursday December 29th..” My mistake. I blame the Xmas spirit.

Mike Smithson @MikeSmithsonOGH


As the US primary season kicks off ..A punters’ guide

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

How best to avoid the traps and win the prizes?

The US presidential election is one of the best in which serious money can be made because of the large number of candidates who might eventually triumph, because it’s not usually clear until relatively late in the day who the final two will be, because the fact that there are only two candidates late on mean bets can be easily laid off without needing exchanges (though Betfair does tend to be unusually liquid for its politics markets), and because there’s a whole range of subsidiary markets to go at.

These would be my tips for the US presidential markets. They are not exclusive and not infallible but have served me well so far:

1. Ignore the UK media

The British media seem to find it very difficult to get inside the collective head of the American electorate (or more accurately, electorates – see below), and have a tendency to reflect British rather than American attitudes towards the candidates. The electronic media correspondents can also be embarrassingly naïve and uninformed, for example, they will probably concentrate exclusively on the narrow race for the White House and ignore the congressional and state contests and votes, and their interplay. There is a good chance you already know more about the US election than the main media correspondents.

Instead, read (or watch / listen to) the local media, particularly that of the relevant states. As these are all in English, there’s not the usual excuse for foreign elections, and they should give you a much better feel for what’s going on.

2. Treat the polls with scepticism

UK pollsters have found it hard enough to model British general elections over the last twenty years, where there’s a broadly stable electorate, map and party system. The American primaries change very substantially each four years: local candidates (or the lack thereof), money spend, the closeness of the race or of the other party’s race, rules on eligibility to vote and other factors all make it even harder to model likely turnout and vote share.

3. The primaries are not an election

One potentially big difference this year as against 2008 is that there are no meaningful primaries for the Democrat’s presidential nomination, meaning that the great majority of independents who can and do vote will do so in the GOP primaries (there are still other primaries for congressional or gubernatorial elections and the like, but these attract much lower turnouts).

4. Brokered conventions do not happen.

A staple of political fiction in literature, film and TV is the brokered convention following a deadlocked set of primaries. They are also anticipated more than they should be by the media (see above). The reason for both is that there would be incredible drama were one to happen. In reality, the nature of the primary season is that one candidate or another almost always gains enough momentum for the other candidates to withdraw.

US elections are expensive and donors will not commit to hopeless causes, especially once there appears to be a candidate-elect. The only possibility of a brokered election is if something drastic happens to the nominee-elect once he has already amassed a large number of delegates. However, if there is a scandal or health concern to come out, it is far more likely to do so in the year before Super Tuesday than the few months after it. Even in that unlikely event, the overwhelming probability is that the replacement would come from the front of the defeated pack.

David Herdson