Archive for May, 2005

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IG Index to sponsor Politicalbetting party

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005


The Politcalbetting party is going ahead in London on Saturday June 25th and Bookvalue – also known as Philip, is handling the organisation.

We are being helped by a generous contribution from IG Index which should cover some of the core costs. The plan is to book a room in London, possibly Westminster. There will be some cost to participants.

Please could those interested in going send an email to book_value@hotmail.co.uk as soon as possible.

Thanks to Philip and thanks to IG Index for making this possible.

Mike Smithson



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Could the 8,226 on the postal vote list be the key to Cheadle?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

    Will party workers be less reluctant to “help” postal voters get their ballots in?

In an article in the Times just three weeks before polling day Cheadle was singled out as the prime example of a marginal constituency where there had been a big increase in postal votes over 2001. It noted on April 15th that In Cheadle, Manchester, where the Liberal Democrats have a majority of 33, the number of applications stands at 8,226, nearly five times the 1,695 cast in 2001.

At the time we speculated whether “this was partly the product of the “hidden” campaign that has been taking place over the past six months – the huge direct marketing effort in the marginal seats.” In this select voters were bombarded by mail and phone calls by centralised Labour and Conservative operations and the “sell” was confirmed by a postal vote application being returned to the parties’ national processing centres.

The Lib Dems did not have a national centre but had built up their postal vote numbers by work at a local level.

    The problem for party organisers was that to convert those on the postal lists into real votes requires the final prong of the marketing operation – a visit or some contact to the postal voter’s home to make sure they have voted and to offer assistance if they haven’t.

For the process of voting by post is quite cumbersome. You have to mark the ballot paper and then put it in one envelope. Then you have to fill in a form and get your signature witnessed by someone who has to provide their address and finally you have to put all the bits together and ensure that it is put in the mail.

For many on the postal list the problem of finding a witness could the critical. It is here where a normal follow-up by the party machine could be very helpful. In the post-Birmingham atmosphere of the May 5 General Election, however, there was a reluctance amongst all the party machines to get to involved in this process. The result was a low level of turnout amongst those on the list in seats throughout the country. The proportion for Cheadle has not been made available but we guess that the seat would have followed normal patterns.

    In the rarefied atmosphere of a Conservative – Lib Dem by-election battle we would not expect the same fastidiousness by party workers. Those with postal votes are much more likely to be followed up and help, where asked for, will be provided.

Those 8,226 voters are almost certainly still on the postal list and the party machines know who they are. Whether and how they vote could determine whether the Lib Dems retain the seat.

Mike Smithson



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Would choosing Clarke be the Tories’ “clause 4″ moment?

Monday, May 30th, 2005

Can the Tories to expunge their Euro nightmares?

Perhaps nothing demonstrated more that the Tories were not interested in returning to power was in 2001 when the party’s grass roots membership chose IDS in spite of the fact that his opponent, Ken Clarke, had the support of more Tory MPs.

    For those who worked closely with Clarke at Westminster knew that whatever his views on Europe he had the capability to deal with Blair in a way that the hapless IDS simply did not.

It was a sign of Clarke’s resolute character that he was not going to adapt his line on the EU simply because it would have been more convenient in terms of securing the nomination.

What would the shape of British politics be like today if Clarke had won? How would Tony Blair have coped with the old bruiser across the dispatch box, especially as he did not fall in line with the policy on Iraq? Would there have been a different General Election outcome?

Who knows? But Clarke has made it clear that he wants another go and his steadfast pro-Europe views might not be the disadvantage they once were following Sunday’s French referendum. A lot depends on whether the Michael Howard voting changes are accepted by the party but, surely, the rank and file membership have got to get rid of their Euro-fixation one day.

    Choosing Ken Clarke as leader could have the same symbolic importance of a departure from the past as Labour’s abolition of Clause 4.

There are some who obviously think Clarke can do it and his price has been tightening right from 9 pm on Sunday when the first news of the French NON emerged. He’s now moved up to third favourite on the Betfair betting exchange though there is still great value to be had at BinaryBet where you can still get 15/1. This compares with about 10/1 elsewhere.

David Davis is still the red-hot favourite but could this be Ken Clarke’s moment?

Mike Smithson



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The Great Conjurer does it again

Monday, May 30th, 2005

    After the French NON will Blair now serve a full third term?

In April last year Tony Blair came under huge criticism for agreeing to a UK referendum on the EU constitution. Many commentators saw the sort-term gain of taking the wind out of Conservatives’ sails ahead of the Euro election campaign but Tony Blair would still have to deliver on the commitment. A prevalent view was that he had made a huge mistake but now the whole treaty issue looks as though it has been kicked into touch.

    The French vote means, surely, that the Prime Minister has had all the political benefit of agreeing to a referendum without actually having to hold it – for us he is the Great Conjurer

Just two weeks ago the spread-betting market on how long Tony Blair’s third term will last offered a range of 80-89 weeks starting from the second week of May 2005. Today the same market from Spreadfair has 94-102 weeks which takes us until April 2007.

All the thinking had been that Tony Blair’s intention would be to fight the UK EU Constitution referendum campaign and then step aside for Gordon Brown shortly afterwards. Next year was by far and away the favourite for his departure year.

The Gordon Brown camp had been hoping that a suitable moment for the Prime Minister to leave would be after leading a successful referendum campaign. Now that the EU Constitutional treaty looks dead it is hard to see what political event could trigger Tony Blair’s departure.

He has said that he wants to serve a full third term – maybe we ought to believe him? William Hill’s When will Blair go will surely see revised prices this morning. The current odds on the year of his departure are:-

2005 – 2/1: 2006 5/4: 2007 5/1: 2008 11/2: 2009 12/1: after January 1 2010 20/1

As a general rule we do not like these long-term markets where you hand over money to the bookmaker for years but if unchanged those 2008/9 look quite attractive.

Mike Smithson



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UK Spread-betters put their money on NON by 9%

Sunday, May 29th, 2005

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    The Balance of Money prediction on the French Referendum: NON 54.5 % OUI 45.5%

Because French law bans opinion polls on election day and the day before gamblers are having to rely on the surveys that were published on Friday. And even though two of these showed a weakening in the NON position the mood of UK gamblers is to put their money on the treaty being rejected by quite a big margin.

IG Index has the current YES spread at 45-47%. The Spreadfair market which is on the NO percentage has 53.6-55.5%.

    This once again underlines one of our betting market theories – that as we get closer to the resolution of a political market the pool of political punters gets diluted by general gamblers who push up the spread on the favourite. This happened in a big way at the General Election where those who were buying Labour seats on May 4th and 5th lost a lot of money.

With the poll margin getting closer on Friday we think that today’s result will be much closer than the spread-markets are predicting and there’s a good chance of a profit betting against the NO percentage.

Mike Smithson



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Which French pollster do you believe?

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

    Is there money to be made on the gap narrowing?

Two of the three final polls on the French EU Constitution referendum have shown a slight move back to the YES camp although NO is still firmly ahead. These are the surveys:

TNS-Sofres: Oui 49%, Non 51%
CSA: Oui 48%, Non 52%
Ifop: Oui 44%, Non 56%

Although the overall message is that the treaty is going to be rejected there just might be value in a BUY YES bet in IG Index where the current YES spread is 45-47%. The Spreadfair market which is on the NO percentage has 52.3-54% – so the IG spread is much more towards the NO position than Spreadfair.

The IG buy level is less than the YES percentage in two of the three so if they are right then you could make money if it is higher than 47%.

I do not have any real expertise on French polling but it does seem that the result could be closer than some recent polls have suggested. A smallish buy bet at 47% is worth a gamble which is what I have done.

Mike Smithson



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YouGov: UK opposition to EU Constitution growing

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

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    Will Blair stay longer if France votes NO?

With the people of France voting tomorrow in their crucial referendum on the EU Constitution a YouGov poll UK opinion in today’s Daily Telegraph has NO 46%: YES 21%: when asked whether they “approve” the new Constitution.

When the pollster last asked the question in January opinion was split by 45-25% so the margin has increased by five points since then. There is a sharp difference between supporters of the different parties.

  • Labour supporters are in favour by 33-30%
  • Conservatives would vote for rejection by 76-11%.
  • Lib Dems are, surprisingly opposed by 34-30%
  • But there is support from supporters of all parties for the UK to hold a EU Constitution referendum whatever happens in France tomorrow. YouGov found 42-37% in favour of this going ahead anyway.

      But would Tony Blair go forward with a referendum if it looked as though he would be defeated? And if there’s no UK referendum how does that affect his resignation time-table?

    Until now the official position of the Government is that the UK referendum will go ahead whatever other countries decide. Whether this will hold in the face of a resounding French rejection is a moot point. It will be recalled that Tony Blair’s agreement in April last year to have a British EU Constitution referendum was highly controversial but played a major part in undermining the Conservatives in the run-up to last June’s Euro elections. By agreeing to the vote Tony Blair took away the main Conservative platform in what was the final national election before the General Election. There’s little doubt that this helped deflect some Conservative support to UKIP.

    There’s also been considerable speculation that a succssful UK referendum campaign would provide the opportunity for Tony Blair to stand down because he could go out on a high. But with the polls as they are and the French looking as though they will reject then this could have a big impact on his personal time-table. Is he going to have a referendum which would be seen as him being defeated?

    As well as the French referendum betting market this also affects the Blair resignation timing betting.

    Mike Smithson



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    From next week..

    Friday, May 27th, 2005

    In March I took the opportunity of a job move from the University of Oxford to the University of York to take nearly three months off so I could work almost full time on Politicalbetting.com during the General Election.

    That period is now coming to an end as I start in my new role next week. This means that the site will revert to what it was before – something that I do in my spare time. I won’t normally be in a position to monitor the discussions or betting markets during the day-time. An area that users might find frustrating is the spam-trap and it could be that legitimate comments get held up for several hour. My apologies.

    Before the General Election I had feared that the all-party nature of the site’s forums might not have stood the tensions of the run-up to polling day. It is quite a tribute to those who have participated that I only had to intervene on about half a dozen occasions and Politicalbetting.com remained a place for civilised discussion on betting and political outcomes.

    Mike Smithson