Archive for July, 2004

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Could the university seats be Blair’s undoing?

Saturday, July 31st, 2004

Focus Leaflet - NewcastleNewcastle LibDem leaflet

    Does retaining the university seats hold the key to Tony Blair’s premiership?

Applying the Martin Baxter caculator to the latest poll figures gives Labour 346 seats – 22 more than is required for a majority and the bottom of the current spread markets on the party.

But how safe are the 22? Could disproportionate swings or highly focused targeting take away this number or even more seats leaving Tony Blair without a majority. Could those targets include traditional inner city Labour strongholds which have high university, student and academic, populations that might be vulnerable to the Lib Dems?

    With one in every four Labour voters from 2001 now having abandoned the party Tony Blair’s ability to hang on to power with a workable majority could well depend on seeing off the Lib Dem challenge in the university areas.

A striking feature of the seats where the Lib Dems were second to Labour in 2001 is that many are in university areas – where issues such as the war and the imposition of tuition fees might have a bigger impact on the student and academic voters than in the rest of the country. Although many of the Labour majorities are large there are several factors that could put many of them within Charles Kennedy’s reach.

  • Big inroads at the local elections were made by the Lib Dems in the university cities on June 10 showing a growing activist base and creating a good platform for General Election success – see picture above.
  • Not as many votes need to switch when the target seats are Labour. Unlike Lib Dem Tory targets which usually have large electorates and high turnouts the opposite is the norm with the Labour list making it much easier to focus resources. So although, in percentage terms, the majorities seem insurmountable they can be within reach.
  • Labour has not proved itself to be comfortable fighting off challenges in city strongholds and they’ve found it difficult developing anti-Lib Dem messages to keep supporters loyal.
  • Tactical voting is likely to more pronounced in university seats than elsewhere if the anti-Tory switching of last time is anything to go by. That was against Tory incumbents in 1997 and 2001 – this time it will be against Labour and the small Tory vote will be susecptible to the squeeze message,
  • The Lib Dems came second to Labour in one or more seats in the following University cities:- Aberdeen, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford and Sheffield.

    Given the scale of the threat would Blair be better off holding the election during the university vacation?

    A classic example is Manchester Withington where the university population is well into five and the result last time was:-
    LAB 19,238: LIBD 7715: CON 5,349: OTH 2,747. With Labour polling at more than a quarter less than it got in 2001 and the Lib Dems doing a third to a half again better then on a crude move with the national swing it goes LAB 14,000 to the LIB DEMS 11,000. Add the effects of heavy targetting, to the big squeeze on the Tory vote and then build in an element of Labour disenchantment over university fees and you have a real Lib Dem possibility. This in a seat where the percentage Labour majority was 32.

    Although some of those mega-majorities look beyond reach University seats might react differently than the norm with significant parts of the electorate that are more political and more unified. Many of these voters will not need reminding that one of New Labour’s first acts on coming to power in 1997 was to abolish student grants and to introduce fees.

    Our call remains – SELL LABOUR in the spread markets and BUY LIB DEM.

    Mike Smithson



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    Poll boosts for Lib Dems & Labour in UK and Kerry in US

    Friday, July 30th, 2004

    UPDATE 2pm
    vote

      US ELECTIONS LATEST – Kerry/Edwards open up five point lead

    A poll just published and surveyed during the Boston Convention shows that the Democratic ticket has opened up a 5% lead over Bush/Cheney. The figures from Zogby international are 48-43. Amongst men the gap is just one percent – amongst women it is 9%. Prices have stayed stable with most UK bookmakers staying on 5/6 on both. The Iowa Electronic Exchange – where “political futures” are traded like stocks, has Kerry just ahead.

      YouGov has Labour ahead for first time in 9 months

    The July YouGov poll in the Telegraph, out today, shows its first Labour lead since last October. It also shows a further boost for the Lib Dems, up two percent on a month ago. Others, which includes UKIP is at 11% – down one percent on the month but still 5% higher than it was at the start of the year. The figures are:-

    LAB 34 (+1): CON 33 (-1): LIBD 23 (+2): OTH 11 (-1)

    It’s clear that the Tories are suffering, still, from the UKIP effect and from the unfavourable media coverage of the by-elections two weeks ago. However, as the Telegraph observes, the worst personal ratings for Michael Howard are still better than IDS’s best figures.

    These figures would give Labour an overall majority of 46 according to Martin Baxter’s election calculator and a seat total that is at the bottom end of the current spread prices. We still think that our SELL call is a good one because the Baxter seat figures are based on a uniform national swing and take no account of the regional movements or the Lib Dems doing disproportionately well in target seats.

    In recent months YouGov has been showing a substantially lower Lib Dem figure than the other pollsters and in the Euro elections, when its surveys could be tested against real results, had the party at just 13% against an actual 14.9%.

      Labour’s small upward move contrasts sharply with the big 3% downward dip reported in last weekend’s Populus poll. Given that YouGov is an internet poll where those surveyed have no contact with a human interviewer, could the differing pictures be explained by the thesis that Labour supporters have now become like Tory supporters of old and are reluctant to admit it?

    This, together with the issue of whether polls are biased to Labour, has become a matter of some debate. The head of Populus, Andrew Cooper, posted this comment on Politicalbetting.com this week.

    The Labour bias in the polls no longer applies. The practitioners responsible for that have either changed their methods (MORI, NOP) and/or left the scene (Gallup). Most pollsters now publishing political research draw heavily on the innovations and insights of ICM, the most accurate pollster in 1997 and 2001, but also erring slightly to the Tories on both occasions. Combined with the shift in the direction of the spiral of silence (which ICM and Populus correct for – as best they can – but YouGov and MORI do not), it is more likely, if anything, that the election polls will err in favour of the Tories than in favour of Labour.

    The monthly Populus poll in the Times is usually out in the first week and it will be interesting to contrast that with the firm’s News of the World survey last weekend and today’s YouGov figures.

    Image http://bensguide.gpo.gov/images/ben/ben_voting.jpg



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    The Political Betting People Markets

    Thursday, July 29th, 2004

    blair mandelson Howard

      Will Tony, Peter and Michael hang on to their jobs?

    While the focus has been on by-elections and their implications for the General Election there continues to be lots of activity on the people markets – particularly on those involving Tony Blair.

    Given the confident way he dealt with the Butler report and the by-election aftermath we think that the odds on Blair to be Prime Minister Before End of Next General Election at 8/15 are pretty generous. We can’t see him going whatever his next door neighbour might think. If you consider that he will step down then the price is 11/8.

    Another market – Labour Leader at the General Election - has 2/5 on Blair which is the same bet as the one above but at not so generous a price. The odds on Gordon Brown, meanwhile, are out to 11/4. For a day in May he was below evens and ahead of Tony Blair.

    For those who think that Tony Blair will just go on and on as PM then William Hill have Blair to be Prime Minister Longer Than Mrs Thatcher. You can get 1/2 on the No option and 6/4 on yes. Given that Mrs Thatcher did eleven and a half years and Blair has done just over seven you would be almost better off putting your money in the building society and it would be less risky.

    William Hill have 3/1 on Peter Mandelson Not To Last Full Term As European Commissioner. Looking at the form book this might be a good bet!

    In spite of the recent problems for the Tories Michael Howard is the very strong favourite to be Tory leader at the General Election. Current odds are 1/10. Second favourite is Oliver Letwin at 22/1 and William Hague at 26/1. You can only get 74/1 on IDS – which seems a bit mean.

      TRIVIA QUESTION – Should the Tories have chosen an Oxford graduate representing a constituency with the A1 trunk road running through?
  • You’ve got to go back seven General Elections to find a winning party leader whose Westminster seat did not have the A1 trunk road running through it. Since then it’s been Margaret Thatcher (79, 83 & 87) – Finchley A1; John Major (92) – Huntingdon A1; Tony Blair (97 & 01) – Sedgefield A1. The last non-A1 General Election winner was Harold Wilson in 1974.
  • 14 of the 16 General Elections since the War 14 have been won by leaders who were at Oxford. The other two – Churchill in 1951 and Major in 1992 – did not go to university. The Oxford winners were Atlee (1945 & 1950) ; Eden (1955) ; Macmillan (1959) ; Wilson (1964, 1966, Feb 1974 – Feb, Oct 1974) ; Thatcher (1979, 1983, 1987); and Blair (1997 & 2001). Callaghan and Douglas-Home never won a General Election.
  • If Michael Howard does make it to Number 10 he’ll be the first Cambridge-educated occupant since Baldwin in 1935. Folkestone is on the A20. William Hague’s seat is on the A1 at Richmond in Yorkshire and he went to Oxford.

    WHITE HOUSE BETTING LATESTAlmost all bookmakers now have both Kerry and Bush at 5/6. The best value price is 17/20. The Betting Exchanges have slightly better value but remember you have to pay upto 5% commission on your winnings.



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    Will Labour recover?

    Wednesday, July 28th, 2004

    westminster

      Or is the “Love Affair” over?

    With the latest spread prices showing, not surprisingly, a further move to the Lib Dems at the expense of the Conservatives the big question for those trying to “call” the next General Election is whether and how much Labour can recover from poll ratings that the party has not seen in a generation.

    Is this just the normal dip of a party in power, as argued here by the head of Populus, Andrew Cooper, or have large parts of the electorate simply “fallen out of love with New Labour” as described by the veteran columnist, Alan Watkins in the Independent last Sunday. The latest spreads are:-

    LAB 346-354 (NC): CON 210-218 (-2): LIBD 64-68 (+2)

    Yet again the spread price is based on the 659 seat House of Commons not the 646 one that will be fought over to deal with the Scottish anamoly of having too many seats in proportion to its population. There are many issues involved:-

  • An awkward element to consider is the “bias” in Labour’s favour in the opinion polls that has been experienced in every General Election from 1987 onwards. Is that still there or are we seeing “truer” figures?
  • The Watkins “falling out of love” thesis is reinforced by the news this week of a big decline in party membership to its lowest level since 1933.
  • Factors buoying up Labour are that their declining ratings have not been picked up by the Tories and that in the vast majority of Labour seats the Lib Dems are in third position so, they predict, the third party will pick up many more votes but not many more MPs.
  • The big Tory hope is that things were going relatively well until late May when UKIP started rising what proved to be exaggerated ratings in YouGov polls. Will UKIP continue to eat into Tory support or will it return as we get closer to the General Election when it’s which party should be the next Government that is at issue not an anti-EU protest opportunity?
  • Given the UK’s electoral geography being so much in Labour’s favour it’s a brave punter who bets against the party getting most seats at the General Election. We’d like more interesting bets to be made available – such as will Michael Howard hold off the Lib Dem challenge in is his seat at Folkestone!



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    Betting Boosted by the Boston Bounce

    Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

    kerry edwards

      John Kerry and John Edwards – looking to maximise their appeal

    After Day Two of the Boston Convention the Kerry-Edwards ticket for the Democratic nomination is just nosing ahead ahead of Bush in the betting markets as the expected Boston bounce takes effect. The Betfair betting exchange has, at time of posting, Kerry at 20/21 against 1/1 for Bush. With most UK bookmakers the Kerry price has tightened to 5/6, the same as Bush.

    In the US the Iowa Electronic Exchange - where “political futures” are traded as if they were shares – the current prices are about evens on both the Democratic and the Republican. This chart history is very revealing.

      All of this is to be expected because once the Convention has started people start to look at the nominees in a different way. The question is whether the prices will hold once the Republicans hold their Convention in New York next month – or will the momentum of Boston be long-lasting?

    The pre-Convention polls showed a similar picture to the past month or so with Kerry just ahead in most though Bush showing a lead in one or two.

    For a real taste of how the campaign is going the best place is the blog of Andrew Sullivan - the Sunday Times columnist who is moving from Bush to supporting John Kerry. He’s under constant attack from his former loyalists but the passion and fluidity of his descriptions of the Convention make great and convincing reading.

      For those hesitating on whether or not to bet on Kerry we can only say – read Andrew Sullivan. This is from Tuesday.

    THE REPUBLICAN DEMOCRATS: I’m still somewhat in shock at the first night of the Democratic Convention. I kept thinking I was at a Republican convention. Tightly scripted, elegantly choreographed, seamlessly on the centrist message of war, unity, maturity and judgment. Foreign policy was front and center; faith was showcased; military service was held up as the ideal; prudent leadership was touted in a time of “peril,” in Hillary’s word. I wonder if they can keep this up. But I’m amazed they’ve tried. I’ve been writing for months now that Kerry’s most effective message would be that he’d conduct the war on terror with more allies and more wisdom than Bush. But I never actually believed he’d be canny enough to do exactly that. But he has! If the first night is any indicator, the Democrats have played the smartest, strongest card of the campaign so far. First off, they put 9/11 front and foremost, insisting that this is their catastrophe too, and the center of their concerns as well.

    The message that’s coming over is very clear – the Democrats want to win so badly and they will not let anything stand in their way.

    Interestingly there’s still some doubt, in the betting markets at least, over whether Dick Cheney will stay on the Bush ticket. You can get 10/1 on him not being there.

    For some campaign fun check this out - it takes a long time to load but it’s worth it.

    Picture – http://a.abcnews.com/media/FrontPage/images/kerry_edwards_040203_fp.jpg



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    The pollster’s view of his poll

    Tuesday, July 27th, 2004

    big ben

      Andrew Cooper, head of Populus, posted this comment last night about his latest 30-28-28 poll. We thought it should be given a wider platform.

    Donít look at the micro-movements – concentrate on the big picture. The next election result is not going to be 30-28-28; if the election had happened over the weekend when we polled the result wouldnít have been 30-28-28. People are by and large aware of the context in which theyíre being asked.

    The most telling number in the poll – as in all recent polls – was the sum of Ďothersí. They were 6.7% in 2001. Lately they have been in the range of 12-16%. It is highly unlikely they will be anywhere near that when the issue is the immediate and real one of who people want to govern them (with however many caveats they may have about each of the main parties). The story of politics now is this measure (and that unknowable part of the swelling of the Lib Dem share which is a function of the same thing) of how many people BOTH want to vote against the government of the day AND refuse to let the main opposition party be the object of their protest.

    It is true that the headline numbers of the polls are as bad or worse for Labour than for the Tories but historical context surely puts that in a different context: it has long been the pattern in British politics for governments to fall far behind in mid-term polls (and to reach a stage where they are incapable of defending any seat at all in a by-election) and then to win. The defining feature of our current politics is that the Tory Party isnít seen even as something that people can back even in a mid-term poll – let alone a by-election!

    The most telling Populus poll question (which I hadnít expected to be remotely as revealing when drafting it) shows (from memory – forgive me if this isnít quite right) that roughly three quarters of voters are Ďdisappointed in the Labour government overrallí but that roughly two-thirds nonetheless would rather keep this government than have a Tory one. S That political mood is not one in which the Tories are going to gain many (if any) seats. I bet you know loads of people who bitterly grumble about the government. But I also bet you donít know anyone who has positively switched back to the Tories.

    The story of the Parliament is big swing from Labour to Lib Dem and tiny swing from Labour to Tory. For as long as we need to add in a net swing from Tory to UKIP the bottom line effect is unavoidable. I donít bet on seats but if I did Iíd stay away from Lib Dems (just too unpredictable with multi-swing factors) and look at Labour & Tories. It is said that Philip Gould – who knows at least as much as anyone else about the way people in this country think about politics – has privately briefed the Cabinet that Labour are on course (other things being equal) for another majority of over 100. Everything I see says heís probably right – which must make current odds very appetising for the brave.

    Andrew’s point that ” it has long been the pattern in British politics for governments to fall far behind in mid-term polls (and to reach a stage where they are incapable of defending any seat at all in a by-election) and then to win. is certainly true for the Tories. But there’s no experience of this with Labour. They always fall back before elections.



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    Monday Call – July 26 2004

    Monday, July 26th, 2004

    kennedy poster

      Populus poll means – “Lib Dems four seats off being official opposition: Labour losing majority”

    Apart from a marking down of the Lib Dems the betting markets have hardly reacted to yesterday’s sensational Populus poll in the News of the World which when translated into seats means that Labour would not have an overall majority in the House of Commons and the Lib Dems would be just four seats short of being the official opposition. The figures with changes on the last Populus poll three weeks ago are:-

    LAB 30 (-3): CON 28 (-1): LIBD 28 (+4)

    Putting these figures into Martin Baxter’s election predictor we get the following Westminster seat distribution based on applying the partys’ poll shares on a uniform national swing:-

    LAB 323 seats : CON 147 seats : LIBD 144 seats: OTH 32 seats

  • For Labour this poll is a disaster. Today’s papers have reported it solely in terms of its impact on the Tories. They all seem to be ignoring that by far and away the biggest loser is Labour, with three times the Tory drop, and is Labour’s worst rating for a generation.
  • For the Tories it’s bad – down one percent to its worst rating in two and a half years although the impact on seats would be minimal
  • For the Lib Dems it equals their record poll figure just after Brent East last Septenber and they would be four MPs short of being the official opposition. The question is can this level be sustained or is the poll just a post by-election bounce?
  • But before we get too carried away we need to see other similar trends from other pollsters. The next, is likely on Friday from YouGov – the internet pollster which has in recent months shown the Lib Dems to be on lower levels than the other firms.

    If the Lib Dems can sustain this and go into the election campaign almost level pegging it takes away the big argument that they always find (see picture above) – that a vote for them is a wasted vote and could pick up large number of ex-Labour voters disillusioned over the war and other measures. In that situation anything could be possible.

      For there’s been a seismic change in the Lib Dem poll position in relation to Labour compared with this stage last time. In the final half of 2000 Mori had the party at an average of 38% behind Labour while the figure for ICM was 30%.

    While all the focus has been on the Tories inability to capitalise on the Government’s difficulties support for the Lib Dems has been surging and it does not take much of a shift for whole new scenarios to be created.

    OUR MAIN CALLS

  • General Election – party winning most seats. Just a month ago we advised backing Labour for the General Election at the then price of 2/5. Now the best price is 2/7. We stick with our call but to cover yourself against the “seismic shift” scenario at almost no extra cost then lay the Conservatives on the betting exchange market rather than back Labour directly. The Lib Dems, meanwhile have been marked down form a best of 66/1 yesterday to 50/1 today.
  • Total Lib Dem seats – link. In our Monday Call just four weeks ago we said back the Lib Dems to get 61 seats or more at 12/5 with Bet365. That’s now down to 4/7. This is still good value.
  • Spread Markets – BUY Lib Dems SELL Labour. Six weeks ago we said BUY the Lib Dems when the price was 53-58. It’s now 62-66 and still good value. The Labour sell price of 346 is well above the latest seat prediction. Both the Lib Dems and the Labour price should respond to the Populus Poll.
  • White House Race- BACK Kerry. We made our BACK KERRY call in May when you could still get 11/10 or better. Now you are hard-pressed to find evens. It will tighten this week during the Boston Convention and we stick with our call.


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    Keep on arguing – it keeps the prices up!

    Saturday, July 24th, 2004

    row

      If we all thought the same there’d be no political betting!

    Yesterday’s SELL CALL on Labour at 346 seats in the spread markets has created a good debate and opened up a split between those who think that in spite of their current performance Labour are going to do just fine in the General Election and those who think they’ll have a struggle. Nobody, though, has been bold enough to put the argument that the Tories will end up winners!

      The Labour big majority backers ought to look at Labour’s position now and compare it with where they were before the 2001 General Elections.
  • LAST TIME by-elections – no problem. The 1997-2001 Parliament was the first since Churchill when the governing party did not lose a by-election. In the final year four rock solid seats were held without anybody missing a heartbeat and the party getting shares of 44-52%, the biggest LibD share in a Labour seat was at Tottenham with 19%.
  • THIS TIME by-elections – a disaster. Now you only have to mention the possiblity – like Hartlepool yesterday – and everybody recalls Leicester South with Labour votes DOWN from 22,958 to 8,620: Tories down from 9,715 to 5,796: LDs up from 7,243 up to 10,274. These are the numbers behind the Labour spread price surge . Perverse.
  • LAST TIME – Huge Labour poll leads in final year (excluding the petrol crisis) of upto 26%. Dropped to 9% actual on polling day which none of the pollsters predicted in the previous 12 months.
  • THIS TIME – Labour leads 0-5%. Where’s the evidence that Labour’s will increase by polling day? The facts point the other way with the party always getting a smaller share than almost any of the polls in the final year. What’s different this time? What’s going to happen when the UKIP effect, as in 2001, drops to just a 1.5% share?
  • LAST TIME 10 extra Scottish Labour seats because north of the border they have an average of 55,000 voters per constituency compared with 70,000 elsewhere.
  • THIS TIME the Scottish anamoly is ended. Total Scottish seats down from 72 to 59 and at least 10 of the losses are Labour.
  • Whatever it’s fun to speculate and to discuss. We think that Labour will get a lot less seats than the current spread markets and we rather like the Bet365, link from here, of 2/1 on Labour at 335 or less. That seems great value and with less of the risk than a spread bet.

      Keep on arguing. Keep on backing big Labour seat totals because it creates better betting value.

    Image www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/images/argument.gif