Archive for June, 2006

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Sean Fear’s local by-election review

Friday, June 30th, 2006
    Nobody can win in West Yorkshire


West Yorkshire is unusual in having evolved a multi-party system in local elections. This is unusual under first past the post elections, as there is pressure on the voters to choose between two alternatives, in order to provide one party with an overall majority.

Four out of five Metropolitan borough councils, Leeds, Bradford, Kirklees and Calderdale, are now under No Overall Control. What’s more, there is little prospect of that changing in future elections. In addition to the three main parties, both the Greens, and the British National Party, with ten and eight councillors respectively, have substantial support in this part of the Country, and can expect to win additional seats in future elections. Making an overall majority even harder to obtain is the fact that Independent candidates also poll well here, holding sixteen council seats in these five boroughs. Local politicians, who are used to winning power outright, or losing it, must now get used to working in coalitions with parties with whom they may have little in common.

It is likely that West Yorkshire, with its support for parties outside of the mainstream, and its coalitions, represents a growing trend in this country. It was striking that last night, Independent candidates were able to defeat the Labour machine in the Blaenau Gwent by-elections. At the same time, in Bromley and Chislehurst, minor party candidates won sixteen per cent of the vote, and one of them, Nigel Farage of UKIP, even beat the Labour candidate into fourth place.

Last night’s local by-elections produced nothing like the degree of excitement generated by the Parliamentary by-elections. However, there was a strong swing to the Liberal Democrats in Canterbury, and quite strong performances by the British National Party in four seats they were contesting for the first time.

Canterbury CC – Sturry South: C 474, Lib Dem 318, Lab 89, Ind 24. Con Hold.

East Staffordshire BC – Shobnall: Lab 581, C 441, BNP 291, Lib Dem 102. Labour hold.

Epsom and Ewell BC – Ruxley: Residents 313, C 292, Lab 152, Lib Dem 66, UKIP 42. Residents’ Hold.

Lincoln CC – Moorland: C 640, Lab 569, BNP 254, Lib Dem 96, Ukip 46. Con Hold.

Tameside MBC – Denton South: Lab 900, C 346, BNP 316, Lib Dem 115, Green 47. Lab Hold.

Tameside MBC – Stalybridge North: Lab 773, C 427, BNP 283, Green 137, Lib Dem 75. Lab hold.

Wealden District – Uckfield DC: Lib Dem 381, C 211, Green 60. Lib Dem hold.


Sean Fear, a Tory activist, writes a regular column on local elections.



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Guest slot: RodCrosby’s by-election trend analysis

Friday, June 30th, 2006

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    History shows the challenge facing the Tories

RodCrosby has done an analysis of by-elections swings, and the Swing-Back to governments’since the War.

Using the Butler swing between Labour and Conservative, the Swing-Back is defined as the difference between the average swing to the Opposition in by-elections and the swing to the Opposition at the subsequent General Election.

So, for example the average Butler swing from Labour to the Tories in by-elections 2001-2005 was 7.9%. The swing the Tories obtained in the General Election was 3.1%. Thus the Swing-Back to Labour in 2005 was 4.8%. For John Major’s last term the equivalent figures were 13.6% and 10.2% – a Swing-Back of 3.4% to the Tories.

The remarkable feature of this graph is that the Swing-Back to government has been highly consistent since at least 1974, irrespective of party in power, government term, parliament length, number of by-elections, turnout, and the relative strength of the Liberals in either by-elections or General Elections.

    It has ranged between 3% and 5% with a very stable average of almost exactly 4%. It thus has all the appearance of an “Iron Law.”

So, if we subtract 4% from the average by-election swing to the Tories by the end of this parliament, we might have an excellent prediction of the General Election swing to within plus or minus 1%.

In other words, it would seem that for the Tories to be on course for an overall majority – requiring a swing of about 7% at the next General Election – their by-election average swing would need to be of the order of 10%-12%, to allow for the historical expected 4% Swing-Back to Labour.

After Bromley (to be fair to the Tories we should ignore Blaenau), the average by-election swing currently stands at 3.9% – low by any standards.

The Swing-back rule implies that if Tony Blair went to the country tomorrow, we would expect – so far as the Labour and Tories are concerned – a near-exact re-run of 2005, within the range of a 1% swing either way. Depending on the boundaries and the operation of the electoral system, Labour would seem quite confident of a 4th term with the Tories not even competitive.

We are now into the second year of this parliament, and of course things may yet improve for the Tories.

    But, assuming this parliament runs to a full term, the Tories really need to be recording swings sometime, someplace in the range of 15-20%+ to bring their average up to a level where they seriously threaten Labour for power.

Failing which, despite all the understandable hype and interest in the current Tory leader, historical precedent unswervingly suggests that he will barely dent the Labour majority in 2009…..

RodCrosby is a regular contributor to PB.C discussions



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PB.C: “the 82,376th most visited site in the entire world”

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Somebody has just emailed me to say that according to Alexa.com Politicalbetting is today the “….82,376th most visited site in the entire world“.

I have no idea how this is calculated but apparently nine people in every million web users world-wide have been here today….and I thought it was just Andrea!

Thanks to everybody for their support.

Mike Smithson



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…and YouGov brings more good news for the Lib Dems

Friday, June 30th, 2006

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    New poll shows Ming’s party continuing to recover

The second YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph in a week has the following shares with comparisons on the poll published on Monday – CON 39 (nc): LAB 33 (+1): LD 18 (+1).

It really is rather odd that the paper feels it necessary to commission two polls from the same pollster in less than a week and then to publish it on the morning of the by-election news. What’s the Telegraph up to?

Comparing this survey with the YouGov poll in May the Lib Dems are two points ahead reflecting a positive response, perhaps, to the more positive policy announcements that we have seen in recent weeks.

What’s been surprising is how much coverage the party has been getting for it’s annoucements on issues such tax links with green issues and the opposition to nuclear power. Normally the Lib Dems find it very hard getting noticed on policy matters. My understanding is that the Ming Campbell leadership has instituted big changes in this area of the party and the results are beginning to show.

After his Bromley bruising overnight there’s some encouragement for David Cameron in the poll. To the “Who would make the best Prime Minister” question he polled 30% to Blair’s 28%. According to the Telegraph Cameron is the first of five successive Tory leaders to achieve a higher rating than Labour on this point. Ming Campbell’s figure of 6% compares with the 18% that Charles Kennedy was recording at the General Election.

    So the Lib Dems seem to prosper in spite of what people are telling pollsters about their leader.

YouGov provides little comfort this morning for the Chancellor reinforcing what we have seen in other surveys from a range of pollsters that Labour will fare worse at the General Election under Brown.

A total of 16% in the sample said that Labour led by Brown would make them more likely to vote Labour against 22% who said it would them less likely. The respondents divided by 24-23 over whether Brown would do better than Blair.

As I have repeatedly said here Brown needs some better polling numbers on him personally before he can be absolutely certain of taking the leadership. In my judgement Labour will not elect some who is seen to be a loser.

  • I’m off on holiday. Just to note that I am going to France to watch the cycling for the next week and a bit and Philip Grant (Book Value) will be acting again as guest editor. He can be contacted here. Once again I am most grateful to Philip for standing in and giving me a break.
  • Mike Smithson



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    Great for Ming – Terrible for Tony and Dave

    Friday, June 30th, 2006

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      But will Blaenau and Bromley be dismissed as just by-elections?

    By the tests set in my article just as the polls were closing the overnight by-elections brought terrible news for both Brown/Blair’s Labour and David Cameron’s Tories. They also showed that the Lib Dems are able to pack a huge punch in a Westminster by-election whichever party is defending.

      The straight politics make Labour’s results marginally, but only marginally, worse than the Tory performance in Bromley.

    For Brown-Blair’s party threw everything into winning back what was its biggest stronghold in Wales and had the benefit of two by-elections at the same time which meant it could spend massively. It will be interesting to see the expenses figure but the party campaign budget could have gone up to £200,000.

    Failing to win back Peter Laws’s Welsh Assembly seat has big implications for who has control in Cardiff.

    There’s no excuse for the Tory performance in Bromley. The only consolation on the evening is that they held on against a huge Lib Dem challenge but to see the majority reduced to a few hundred should light up panic signs throughout the party.

    Everything about the Tory campaign was pathetic. All the polls showed that their biggest asset is David Cameron yet the local Tory party made only passing reference to their leader in the campaign literature. This followed the selection mess-up and you had a recipe for disaster which is indeed what happened.

      In the Guardian a couple of days ago Ed Vaizey, one of Cameron’s inner circle, complained about Lib Dem tactics. What did he expect – Mary Poppins?

    Campaigns like this are a dirty, bruising, business. The Lib Dem strategy of finding a defect in their opponent and then repeat it time and time and time again is well known. That is how you achieve success. To deal with campaigns like this you cannot leave the fight in the hands of a local party. Maybe one of the consequences of Bromley will be a change in Tory rules?

    So what about the Lib Dems? A great performance but the party has an enormous amount to live up to when it comes to by-elections and the danger is that Bromley will be dismissed by the Tory-Labour big party duopoly as just Ming’s party doing what they are expected to do.

    And the betting?
    – well, as I suggested, betting against Labour in Blaenau proved profitable and it’s clear why Tories did not rush to take the apparently free money on Bromley.

    And the pollsters? Less than two weeks ago NOP had Labour as clear winners for the Westminster seat at Blaenau. Polls have not got a good record at by-elections and this reinforced it. The poll also carried on that wonderful UK polling tradition of over-estimating Labour.

    New YouGov poll. I’ve just noticed that there’s a new survey in the Telegraph which I’ll cover later in the day.


    Mike Smithson



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    Who’ll win the by-election spinning war?

    Thursday, June 29th, 2006

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      Which party’s done best in “expectation management”?

    So the polls are about to close, the counts will soon be starting and most normal people will be off to bed without any thought about the events during the day in Gwent and South East London.

    Now the big question is how the electoral health of the parties will look after the spinners have done their “explaining” and the radio and TV news teams have decided how to present what’s happened. This is my summary.

    Bad news for Labour will be failing to win back the Westminster seat in Blaneau Gwent. After huge effort and probably outspending their opponents many times over Labour desperately need a result.

    Bad news for the Tories will be anything less than an emphatic victory in Bromley. A margin of 10% over whoever is in second place is needed at the minimum.

    Bad news for the Lib Dems will be if the Tories are more than ten points ahead. They are the by-election Kings and there’s an expectation of exceptional performances. With significant a Labour vote there for the squeezing they should be biting at the Tories’ heels.

    Bad news for Labour will be being reduced to a single figure vote share in Bromley. After all they were in second place only fourteen months ago. It will be even worse for Blair’s party if they are reduced to fourth place.

    Bad news for UKIP will be not making a significant indent into the main three parties. They’ve had the Heffer-effect and one of their best known and most effective campaigners as candidate. UKIP needs a good result.

    Bad news for me will be if the Lib Dems win in Bromley because I’ve got no money on.

    Mike Smithson



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    Bromley – now the money goes on the Tories

    Thursday, June 29th, 2006

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      It’s now down to 0.06/1 that Bob Neil will do it for the Conservatives

    After a long period when the only question about the Bromley betting was why punters were not rushing to pick up what was apparently free money on the Tories things have started to happen. The chart show the implied probability based on best betting prices on the Betfair betting exchange.

    At 3.55pm the prices were CON 0.06/1: LD 11/1.

    Mike Smithson



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    Will PB.C’s competition entrants get the by-elections right?

    Thursday, June 29th, 2006
      “Labour by 1% in BG but heading for 4th place in Bromley”

    Following the close of the PB.C by-election competition, the contest for the Westminster seat at Blaenau Gwent looks to be neck-and-neck.

    By averaging out all the entries received we are able to state what the overall view of all those who took part is and it will be interesting to see if their collective wisdom is accurate. These are the figures.

  • Blaenau Gwent – Westminster: LAB 42.7: IND 41.6: LD 5.9: PC 5.13: CON 4.3
  • Blaenau Gwent – Cardiff: LAB 37.9: IND 47.6: LD 5.4: PC 4.9: CON 3.8
  • Bromley & Chislehurst: CON 51.2: LD 26.9: UKIP 10.4: LAB 8.9
  • So in the closest contest, to replace the late Peter Laws at Westminster, Labour are predicted to receive 42.7% of the vote, with independent candidate Dai Davies just behind on 41.6%. 45 entries predicted a Labour win while 36 plumped for Davies.

    In the Welsh Assembly by-election his widow, Trish Law, is predicted to win fairly comfortably, and leads Labour by 47.6% to 37.9% on the average scores, and only five entries predicted Labour to win. In both the Blaenau Gwent elections, the other parties are well down into single figures.

    Meanwhile in Bromley & Chislehurst, the Conservatives are predicted to romp home with an average prediction of 51.2%, well ahead of the Lib Dems on 26.9% – all but one entry fore-casted a win for the Conservatives.

    If the PB.C predictions are right, then Labour are in for an embarassing night being forced into fourth place.

    The betting markets on all three election have proved to be a flop attracting very little interest. The two biggest interests – the size of the Tory share in Bromley and whether Labour will be pushed into fourth place have not been part of any betting market.

    There’s been very little serious intent behind the betting on the Lib Dems and very few takers on the Tories where the 0.13/1 appears like free money.


    Mike Smithson & Paul Maggs (“Double Carpet”)