Archive for June, 2008

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Is Sarah the only one who can tell him?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

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    Q4 2008 now becomes the favourite date?

The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh runs through all the options on who will be able to tell Gordon and ends up by quoting a friend – “It has to be Sarah,” said a friend. “Nobody in this Cabinet has the balls to do it.”

The general consensus, though, is that is has to be soon.

In the departure date betting Oct–Dec 2008 has now become the 1.7/1 favourite. Second favourite is July – September 2008.

Mike Smithson



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Can it really go on like this for two years?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

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    What is going to bring Brown’s position to a head?

Yet again it is Gordon Brown’s future that continues to dominate UK politics. In her Monday Guardian column the former Brown enthusiast, Jackie Ashley, makes a powerful call on leading ministers and others within the Labour party to take some action to “end the drift”.

Either they should come out and support the Prime Minister or they must act to get rid of him and this, she argues, has to be resolved by the September conference season.

“Talking to ministers over the past few weeks, I have been struck by how fatalistic they have become. They do not seem, in the main, to be rebellious, angry or even despairing. Despair is too energetic a word. They seem clinically depressed, tired and flat. There has been talk of a posse of 15 junior ministers going to Brown to tell him the game is up but the consensus is that it won’t happen – in effect because they cannot be bothered. There is no plot. There is no plan. Some tell me they’ve started trying to avoid going out to social gatherings because of the ear-bashing they get, and find that when they go to official functions, it is their Tory opposite number who is sitting next to the most interesting and important people. It’s as if they were already in opposition: in power but also history.”

I can see that last line being picked up by Cameron for the next PMQs.

We’ve discussed all this at length and it is still hard to see how this can be brought to a head. I think Ashley is right – senior Labour figures have got to jump one way or the other – enthusiastically support Gordon or make a move for change.

Is it going to happen? Maybe it will be Labour’s precarious financial position that finally brings it to a head? Maybe a major donor could come forward to offer emergency funding but only on the condition that the current uncertainty is resolved? Maybe Miliband will see that the only way he can get the top job is by being the assassin now?

At every stage over Gordon the Labour party has surprised me. A year ago I could not fathom how 313 members of the parliamentary party could ignore the overwhelming polling evidence that Brown would be an electoral disaster. Now I cannot understand how their thirst for power has apparently dried up.

Next Labour leader betting.

Mike Smithson



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The Sunday night continuation thread…

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

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Please continue the discussion here.



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When did you become a Brown doubter?

Sunday, June 29th, 2008


    Is it just recently or have you thought so all along?

It’s becoming very difficult to find anybody any more who still says positive things about Gordon Brown’s electability. One after another in recent months former great supporters of the ex-Chancellor have come to the same conclusion about the man they cheered into Downing Street at the end of June last year.

But when did you start to realise that he did not have it? When did you conclude that Labour would be heading for a disaster under his leadership?

The Brown-loyalists, in public at least, still argue that all is due to the economic down-turn and that if Labour can convince the public that it’s world events and it’s not Labour’s fault then it will all be OK.

That is clutching at straws – the reality is that they cannot distance themselves from the man for even if the economy was still going strong I think Gordon would still be in trouble.

I am very struck by Alan Watkins in the Independent on Sunday this morning. He writes: “Towards the middle of his Chancellorship, as I was listening to a Budget performance, the thought occurred to me: This man is unable to make a speech. He rushes his sentences. He gabbles his words. His pronunciation is grotesque: nothing to do with being Scottish, for most speakers from the Celtic nations have a natural declamatory gift, but perfectly ordinary words come out mangled..More than this (so I thought at the time), Mr Brown cannot be bothered to learn. He lacks any courtesy to his audience. He is content to plough on, and we are lucky to be allowed to listen to his words at all.”

To me, as those who have been visiting the site for long will have read, Gordon has always been an appalling communicator. But it’s Watkins’s“..can’t be bothered to learn. He lacks any courtesy to his audience..” that really strikes home.

Poor communicators, like Maggie Thatcher, can work hard at their style and improve. Gordon simply doesn’t see this as being important. The result is a man simply unable to be a coherent leader in the modern age.

The only issues now are when and how he departs.

Mike Smithson



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Do parties have to be more honest with activists?

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

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    How much goodwill is squandered when you over-egg the pudding?

A week before the Henley by election I reproduced the above mass email sent to Lub Dem activists because I believed it was behind sharp moves in the betting prices and that all that text highlighted in red suggested that the party had some game-changing information that was about to be revealed.

Well what came out the following day did not match the billing and I think that this raises issue for all parties about their relationship with their activists.

I was very struck by the following anonymous posting that was highlighted on the thread yesterday afternoon.

“Despite the wailling and gnashing of teeth on here about slogans, leaflets, personalities and whatever else, I would have thought it blindingly obvious that we weren’t going to win either Henley or Crewe. Perhaps we won the campaign – I am not sure the average voter cares one jot about that.

All I can see is that, by not being honest with ourselves, we are frittering away precious money and man hours, not to mention media and activist goodwill.

I’d prefer us to start spending the serious money currently being thrown on hopeless by-election campaigns in reinforcing and defending our current crop of seats that are under considerable threat from the Tories…..

If we don’t re-focus, I believe we risk overstretch – with the result that we will lose a large batch of Lib Dem / Tory marginals and still fail to capitalise on Labour weaknesses where we are in a close second.

This is the ‘meltdown’ scenario that I fear we are sleep-walking into by pretending the political backdrop has not substantially changed in the last year.

I, for one, am totally fed up with being told – by email, text and through the post – that we can win everywhere there just happens to be an election and all we need is a final push, another leaflet, more people etc etc, when it should be clear we simply can’t…

At the heart of the challenge facing Nick Clegg’s party is that large parts do not appear to have to come to terms with the changed political environment. The lesson from Henley is that the weak party for the foreseeable future is Labour – and that traditional easy pickings from the Tories no longer exist.

Mike Smithson



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Obama’s campaign chief outlines his strategy

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

I found this video by David Plouffe impressive – upbeat yet realisitic about the challenges ahead. It’s also a good guide for those who are betting either way on this race.

  • Latest “Next President” betting.
  • Latest “Winning Party” betting.
  • Mike Smithson



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    Is this the most crucial picture of the campaign?

    Saturday, June 28th, 2008

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      Will disaffected Hillary supporters now back Barack?

    By far the biggest question mark that’s been hanging over the Democratic party’s chances in November’s election has been the extent to which fiercely loyal Hillary supporters will switch their support to the presumed nominee. Poll and after poll has shown that a significant proportion of Clinton backers, particularly women in the older age groups, have found it difficult to accept the outcome and have said they would give their votes to John McCain.

    Hillary’s campaign has been a battle for her gender that has had a profound impact on many women, especially those in the baby boomer generations. To large numbers Obama has thwarted something that is so important to them and getting them on board could make all the difference in November.

    At the carefully choreographed rally in the appropriately named Unity in New Hampshire Hillary declared: “To anyone who voted for me and is now considering not voting or voting for Sen. McCain, I strongly urge you to reconsider …to create an unstoppable force for change we can believe in…“I know that he’ll work for you. he’ll fight for you, and he’ll stand up for you every single day in the White House.”

    As has been widely observed Obama and Clinton were colour coordinated – his tie matching her blue pant suit – and given the importance of the event and pictures like the one above this was no accident.

    But there is still work to be done. Politico reports the spirit of unity wasn’t uniform throughout the crowd. “Two women held “Hillary for President” signs above their heads during the speeches. One of them, who stuffed bits of napkins into her ears while Obama spoke, intermittently yelled out her disapproval: “We want Hillary!”

    My White House betting, as I reported the other day, is mostly on the number of electoral college seats the contenders will secure. The magic figure is 270 and I have bought at just over 290 on the spread markets.

    I hope that I am not putting my heart before my head!

    Mike Smithson



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    ComRes report record Tory lead

    Friday, June 27th, 2008

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      The Brown anniversary surveys come thick and fast

    After a by-election and two new national opinion polls to digest there’s another new survey tonight – by ComRes for tomorrow’s Independent. This was carried out on Wednesday and Thursday so is the most up-to-date of the polls.

    The shares are with changes on the last ComRes poll a fortnight ago are: CON 46% (+2): LAB 25% (-1): LD 18% (+1).

    Both the Tory share, 46%, and the 21% margin over Labour are the highest ever for a survey from ComRes.

    A key element in the detail and one of the reasons why the poll is so good for Cameron’s party is that 74 per cent of Tory supporters say they are “absolutely certain” to vote. This compares with 58 per cent of the Labour supporters and 50 per cent of the LDs. As Andrew Hawkins of ComRes points out: “The Tories are ahead of Labour amongst every age and social group and in every region except Scotland.”

    Given the problems that “nannygate” and David Davis have created for their party it is extraordinary that these don’t seem to have impeded the Tory progress.

    Mike Smithson