Archive for June, 2012


Nate Silver’s latest assessment: Obama a 67.8% chance

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Is he really so far ahead?

According to the latest projection by Nate Silver the chances of Obama being re-elected are 68.8%.

Nate, who now writes for the New York Times, has a complex formula based on polling and economic indicators.

This latest projection comes in a great article from someone I rate highly – though I do wonder about rating chances to one decimal point.

I have changed my betting on the race. The mood seems to be swinging to Obama for the moment and I want to ride it.

    One thing’s for sure – this will oscillate like crazy in the next four months

Generally there’s a swing to contenders at the time of the party conventions.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


David Herdson asks: Recession – What recession?

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Why is no-one talking about the double-dip?

The revised growth figures released earlier this week showing the current recession to be deeper than previously thought passed with the sort of muted media comment that’s been was typical of the coverage of the current recession in general – you’d hardly know there is one. The media seems unable or unwilling to use it as a narrative within which to run other economic stories. Even Labour’s efforts to push the line are half-hearted and lack conviction. Why is this turning into the recession that dare not speak its name?

The first answer may be that it’s a victim of the definition of what a recession is. Rather like seasons are better defined by what’s happening in the natural world rather than dates on a calendar, so a recession is better defined by more than just growth numbers.

If the media wanted to run recession as a narrative than it would evidence it with stories about soaring unemployment, homes repossessed, many businesses going to the wall and a ballooning budget deficit – things which just aren’t happening. On those scores, things are no worse and in some cases (unemployment, for example), better than they were six months ago.

It’s also a pretty small-scale recession so far. The two quarters of decline have seen GDP fall by 0.7% – about one-tenth the scale of the 2008-09 recession[2]. It fits more readily into a picture of output being more or less flat and money being tight but with the economy neither improving much nor getting markedly worse.

    For Labour’s part, mentioning the double-dip runs the risk of reminding people who was in government during and before the first, much larger, recession.

Another factor is that the UK recession is clearly part of a much bigger story within Europe. When what is still by a long way Britain’s major trading partner goes through what the Eurozone is going through, it’s inevitably going to have an impact on exports and confidence in general. In as far as there are ongoing stories to report in the downturn, that’s where they’re to be found and as such, it’s the Eurozone crisis which provides the ongoing narrative.

The likelihood is that five bank holidays, the wettest three months for many a year, and the most intense moments of the Eurozone Crisis so far will result in Q2 producing a negative growth figure as well. Will that mean the double-dip will start to become more of a political story? Not unless it feeds through to measures that impact much more directly on people. For the time being, the numbers are only of interest to statisticians and anoraks.

David Herdson


Continuation thread & council by election news

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Yesterday’s by-elections (thanks to Andrea Parma)

Charnwood – Sileby
Con 703 Lab 450 BNP 93 LD 29

Con hold. Around 4% swing Con to Lab (all due to Con being 9 points down) compared to 2011

South Northamptonshire – Grange Park
Con 313 LD 98
Con hold

Blaby- Ravenhurst and Fosse
Lab 1083 Con 501
Lab hold.10% swing Con to Lab compared to 2011

Chelmsford – Patching Hall
LD 842 Con 488 Lab 309 UKIP 263 Green 84
LD hold. 6.5% swing from Con to LD compared to 2011

Essex – Chelmsford North
LD 1614 Con 941 Lab 711 UKIP 435 Green 134
LD hold. Both Con and LD down but Tories are down more compared to 2009. Lab and UKIP 10 points up.

Kensington and Chelsea – Brompton
Con 650 Lab 103 LD 101 UKIP 71
Con hold.
Solid Tory result, on par with 2010 showing (but down compared to 2011 by-election)

Recent Threads


Has Fraser Nelson got it right on U-turns?

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Do Dave & George simply look like push-overs?

There’s a good piece by Speccie editor, Fraser Nelson, in the Telegraph on the corrosive impact that successive U-turns are having on the government.

    “..It sometimes feels as if Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne do not regard themselves as being in power, but instead believe they are trapped – by the opinion polls, by the Liberal Democrats, by the Civil Service, by the bond markets, or by all four. Downing Street insiders feel that the sense of mission is visibly draining from the Government, which explains why it is being pinged around on policy issues as if it were on a pinball machine.

    Each U-turn may be trivial in itself, but there is a cumulative effect. They serve to devalue the word of the Prime Minister and, worse, the credibility of the Chancellor. Mr Osborne may find that his Budgets are now seen as simply the opening of a negotiation.

    It is almost July, and still March’s Budget continues to unravel. This is not a good look. It gives an impression of incoherence, which in the mind of the voter can quickly mutate into incompetence – and then, worst of all, into a sense of indifference. The idea that the government doesn’t care, or isn’t in control, can be fatal..”

That last point is absolutely spot on. I’ve long argued that appearing competent and in control is much more important in shaping opinion than issues. Thus there’s little evidence that they are getting any credit for what should on the face of it been good news – the postponement of the fuel duty increase.

Fraser Nelson, though, misses a another point – the manner in which Dave/George handle things when they decide to switch tack. The perceptions about Osborne’s March budget have been made worse because one apparent change of mind is followed by another and then another.

    Wouldn’t it have been smarter in, say, mid-April to have had one big announcement on all the things that have subsequently had to be changed? Yes that would have been a bad PR day but the negative impact would have been far less than the constant drip drip.

We are now at the end of June, more than three months on from the budget, and there’s little sign that the Tories are recovering. Last night we had two polls, Opinium and the usual YouGov, both showing Labour leads of 11%. The former had CON 31nc/LAB 42nc/LD 8-1/UKIP9+1 while the latter had CON 32/LAB 43/LD 10%/UKIP 7.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


After the Obamacare decision is now time to bet on Romney?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Interesting little discussion on Twitter about the nature of political betting and whether or not it is predictive or not.

My view is that this is not what political betting is about and the more the markets get it wrong the more opportunity there is for profit.

I think that the Romney price for the President has moved too far out and that it will move in again. Hence my bet this afternoon.

At this stage I’m not betting on outcomes but how I think the markets will move.


MORI: SLAB closing the gap on the SNP in Scotland

Thursday, June 28th, 2012


There’s a new Ipsos-MORI poll of voting intentions for the Scottish parliament and these show the same trends that we saw in the Scottish local elections on May 3rd. Scottish Labour moving up with the SNP moving down.

A big loser since the last poll at the start of the year has been the Scottish Lib Dems.

    The shares, in common with MORI’s current practice are based on those certain to vote: SNP 45:LAB 32: CON 12: LD 6.

    Amongst all those expressing a preference the SNP lead is much smaller. The shares are SNP 39:LAB 35: CON 12: LD 8

The leader ratings have the new head of SLAB, Johann Lamont, moving up sharply a net 15% to a net positive of 9%. Salmond, meanwhile sees his net satisfaction drop from +22% to +13%.

With both the NO and YES referendum campaigns now up and running it will be interesting to see how these affect the party and leader figures.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Henry G Manson: Could Dave just be thinking of an early election?

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Why the 5 year law is not the blockage it appears?

This week’s Michael Gove O-level story and David Cameron’s somewhat controversial speech as Conservative leader on welfare stuck out for me as being a bit peculiar. They were spun as what we might see from a future majority Conservative government. But who will remember this in May 2015? There are two plausible political explanations. The most likely is the Prime Minister needed to butter up the troops especially before backing Nick Clegg’s Lords reform plans. However I wouldn’t entirely rule out the alternative – that we might not in fact be 3 years away from a general election.

Fixed Term Parliament legislation passed by the Coalition allows for an election to be called before May 2015 in two events. The first is if there is a majority vote of no confidence passed against the Government and without a subsequent confidence vote passed within a fortnight. This won’t happen.

The second scenario is if there is if a motion for a general election is passed with a two-thirds majority. Two thirds is currently 434 MPs meaning that it could be passed if most of the 559 Labour and the Conservative MPs agreed to an election in autumn 2012.

    Think about it. If David Cameron declared he wanted a general election how on Earth could Labour oppose such a motion? The clamour from Labour MPs would be immense.

    We’ve seen the cost of a Government bottling an election before, but not yet an Opposition. Ed Miliband would have to agree or be fatally wounded.

There are a variety of reasons why the Prime Minister might chance his arm right now and risk an election in the autumn or spring. Here are my three.

Future economic and political advantages removed - With the Coalition Government set to miss its deficit reduction strategy even before a Eurozone meltdown the economic spoils are less certain. The prospect of abolishing the structural deficit by May 2015 has near as damn it been ruled out. It is not difficult to envisage Lords reform collapsing under the weight of a large Conservative rebellion – which in turn can lead to Liberal Democrats blocking boundary changes before 2015. If this occured then a key electoral benefit of waiting for parliament to run its course disappears.

Convergence of leadership ratings – Ed Miliband’s personal poll ratings have improved somewhat in recent months just as has the Prime Minister’s have deteriorated.  The last I read it was about even-Stephen. David Cameron would fancy his chances in a televised leadership debate with Ed Miliband any time soon and would probably regain a lead. The country in 2012 may conclude that Ed is not sufficiently tried and tested. But in 2015 this may not be the case. The Labour leader is slowly but surely growing into the job.

Labour is poorly resourced and still light on policy  – more voluntary redundancies were announced earlier this month to help tackle the party’s longstanding debts. An election in the next six months would leave the party either comprehensively outspent by the Conservatives or reliant on very large donations from unions which would come with a public and private political price. Last month Ed Miliband wisely brought in Jon Cruddas to take over the policy review from Liam Byrne. The joke was Liam had left one of his notes this time saying ‘I’m afraid to tell you there are no policies left’.  I’ve great confidence in Cruddas but the longer he has the better armed Labour will be at the next election.

By 2015 Labour will probably have more money, more policies and at current progress a more assured leader. The Opposition’s advantage will be likely to get stronger. Inevitably David Cameron will have to deal with more bad news in implementing more spending cuts – the bulk of which have not yet been implemented along with tax rises. There will be mishaps, possibly some resignations and potentially more frustrated and overlooked backbenchers. If the economy worsens rather than recovers and boundary changes fall or are delayed then why wait? George Osborne may be able to find some good news and manufacture significant national feel-good factor in the early months of 2015, but does the Prime Minister really want to bet his political life on it?

    An early election is still unlikely, but I’m increasingly thinking it is by no means impossible. And if he were to make his move before 2015 then the PM should consider it sooner rather than later.

Henry G Manson


Wednesday night in the PB NightHawks Cafe

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Home of the web’s best political conversation

Rekax and converse into the night on the day’s political events and, no doubt, this evening’s football.

If you’ve always been a lurker why not join in tonight?

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB