Archive for July, 2012


The Opening Ceremony – what was your rating?

Saturday, July 28th, 2012
How did you rate Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening ceremony


Will the games boost Cameron’s election chances?

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Do governments of host countries get an Olympic boost?

Since ancient times, rulers have used festivals and games as distractions for the masses; an entertained populace is likely to be a content one, or at least a more content one than it would otherwise have been. Does this feed through to a government’s re-election chances? Surprisingly, it seems it might do.

In the 116-year history of the modern Olympic games, only three have been held in wholly non-democratic countries: Berlin 1936, Moscow 1980 and Beijing 2008. That leaves no fewer than 23 Games hosted by democracies of one form or another – a fairly large group to look at.

There are of course all sorts of definitional problems in determining whether a government was re-elected or not. How are minority or coalition governments counted? Do you look at presidencies or parliaments in hybrid systems? Should state or national elections count in federal countries? How democratic does a country have to be to be included? Generally, the rule I’ve gone with is if a national government is substantially of the same party after the election as it was at the time of the Games, it’s been re-elected – but we shouldn’t take any of it too seriously.

    Of the 23 cases, 15 governments were re-elected and eight fell either at or before the next election: a 65% ratio. To know how good that is, we need a baseline, which I’ve taken as all the general elections held in the host countries twenty years either side of the Games, excluding undemocratic periods.

    That gives a general re-election rate for governments at and around the time of each Games as 61%, so only marginally worse.

A much greater disparity opens up in the post-WWII figures (where the data is also more straightforward). Here, no fewer than twelve of the fourteen governments of the host countries were re-elected. The exceptions are Finland, where the government from 1952 had already fallen following a crisis prompted by a proposed austerity programme, and Canada, which briefly ejected Trudeau from office in 1979. Every other government was subsequently re-elected, a success rate of 86%. The contextual general re-election rate is 68% – a substantially lower figure. The gap grows even larger if Mexico 1968 is excluded as not sufficiently democratic.

Does any of this matter? Some of the sample sizes are small and obviously there are other, generally far more significant events going on at the time. That said, the gap in the ratios is quite striking and the ability to put on a successful Games (something Montreal – one of the two exceptions – notably failed to do), can lead to a country feeling good about itself and, at the margins, about its government.

Obviously, the success or otherwise of the London Games will not determine the government’s fate in 2015. They might, however, not be completely meaningless either.

David Herdson


The show goes on….

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Well done Danny Boyle


Will Romney be cheering the Olympics NHS reference?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Nursing Times

According to the Nursing Times there’s a segment in tonight’s opening ceremony that celebrates the “greatness of the NHS”.

I wonder if Mitt Romney will take a bathroom break at that point.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Re-shuffle betting – remember the dead heat rules

Friday, July 27th, 2012
Baroness Warsi 3/1
Jeremy Hunt 5/1
Caroline Spelman 6/1
Cheryl Gillan 8/1
Ken Clarke 10/1
Theresa May 10/1
Lord Strathclyde 12/1
Andrew Lansley 14/1
Vince Cable 16/1
Michael Moore 16/1
William Hague 25/1
Owen Paterson 25/1
Nick Clegg 25/1
Ed Davey 33/1
Andrew Mitchell 33/1
Michael Gove 33/1
George Osborne 33/1
David Cameron 33/1
Iain Duncan Smith 40/1
Danny Alexander 40/1
Justine Greening 50/1
Eric Pickles 50/1
Philip Hammond 66/1

Who’ll be out in Dave’s first big shake-up?

Apart from the US election the big political betting story over the next six weeks will be who’ll be in and who’ll be out in Cameron’s first re-shuffle. There’ve been lots of reports that this’ll happen in thefirst week in September just before the commons returns.

Surprisingly the bookies have been reluctant to provide direct markets. I’d like to be wagering on one or two who I think will be promoted.

What we still do have is the next cabinet exit betting. You need to check the rules for each individual bookmaker but my reading is that Ladbrokes is one of the few to have provided for the consequences of more than one minister leaving the cabinet on a single day. The firm says quite specifically that in that eventuality the “dead heat” rules apply.

This means that if you’ve got, say, a £50 bet at evens that Jeremy Hunt will be out then your bet is split into the number of cabinet ministers leaving. In this case the firm would pay out one fifth of the bet. The rest of your stake would settled as a loser.

In the Hunt case you’d get £10 winnings and £10 stake back but you’d still be £30 out of pocket.

    So the best betting strategy is to steer clear of those at the top of the betting and see if you can find value amongst the longer priced options.

I’ve taken the 16/1 against Michael Moore because the word is that the yellows would like to have a woman amongst their cabinet ministers and Moore seems the most vulnerable.

So if Moore is amongst five ministers to exit on the same day then one fifth of your stake, £10, would be settled at 16/1. Your return would be £160 plus the part of your stake that has been allocated, £10, being returned.

Good luck.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB


Would a new Chancellor help government fortunes?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Henry G Manson looks at Cable and Hague

If the Coalition government was formed strictly in the national interest then David Cameron would surely be at least considering the value of installing Vince Cable in Number 11. Over two years George Osborne has overseen a contraction of the economy when growth of 5% was planned. With a botched budget and a string of u-turns and an unpopular cut in the very top rate of tax, the gloss has well and truly come off. What should worry the Prime Minister about George Osborne’s role as Chancellor of the Exchequer is his inability to change course.

A tongue in cheek piece in the New Statesman unfavourably compared him to a pigeon and concluded the pigeon would have chosen economic courses more time than the Chancellor. Steve Richards in the Independent writes that it’s ‘time for a new plan or a new Chancellor.’ Osborne is so boxed in by his previous statements that the political price for many economic u-turns, regardless of their merit come at too high a political price for him. That’s not healthy for the Government or the country especially when his Plan A does not appear to be working.

Meanwhile Cable’s recent media performances have reminded me that before the general election many Labour figures were more worried about the strength of Vince Cable rather than ‘Cleggmania’. Cable’s TV debate performances were easily regarded as the most impressive of all the ‘candidates’ for Chancellor. He speaks with authority and has real-world industry experience to boot and has called a lot of the big issues right.

    Cable as Chancellor would be a sign of a confident Prime Minister who was most interested in placing the best people in the job, rather than simply appeasing party interests.

I very much doubt that David Cameron is in a political position to swap George Osborne for a Liberal Democrat so loathed by his party’s right wing to deliver an economic Plan B. A Plan A+ could successfully be delivered by William Hague. Hague looks, sounds and feels like the biggest statesman on Conservative front benches right now. His Yorkshire grammar school upbringing provides a different tone to the shrill Eton background of the current inhabitant at No 11 Downing Street. He would likely be more trusted than Ed Balls, a contest which George Osborne is in danger of losing. Where Osborne appears to think short-term tactics, Hague’s appreciation of history could provide a more measured and longer-term view.

By appointing Cable as Chancellor the Prime Minister would ensure the Government has the most economic flexibility in the coming years. Hague however would keep the Conservative Party united and give the Treasury options.

    However keeping Osborne would increasingly appear to me to be the riskiest option of all.

The lack of wiggle room he offers means the Government is walking on an economic tight-rope. Should the UK lose its AAA credit status or the economy continue contracting then it may be more than just the current Chancellor that falls off.

Henry G Manson


The clip: Boris mocking Mitt Romney to 60,000 in Hyde Park

Thursday, July 26th, 2012


What does #RomneyShambles say about Mitt’s view of foreigners?

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Huffington Post

Congratulations to Huff Post, if indeed it was them, for coining the term #RomneyShambles to describe the GOP contender’s critical comments about London 2012. It’s set off a whole series of Tweets and sums up the view on this side of the Atlantic over Mitt’s comments about the London games.

Congratulations as well to David Cameron for his sharp response:-

    “”We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world.

    “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic games in the middle of nowhere.”

Middle of nowhere! Could that be a reference to the Salt Lake City winter games that Romney was in charge of?

Whatever it’s not been the finest start to the presumptive nominee’s overseas trip ahead of his party convention and, of course, November’s election.

What worries me is what this says about his approach to foreign relations generally. He could be installed as president on January 20th 2013.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB