Archive for January, 2009

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How long before the Brown show runs out of puff?

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Is 5/2 on a 2009 exit good value?

One bet we have not featured recently is the price on Gordon ceasing to be PM for whatever reason before the end of 2009.

William Hill Politics had this down to 5/2 during the day though their UK politics markets are usually only open during office hours.

What are the chances?

The more I look at him the more I’m coming to the view that it will be his health that will be the deciding factor. Heaven knows what his blood pressure is?

The 5/2 seems quite a good bet.



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Now is the winter of our discontent?

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

…who shall be the ‘glorious sun of York’?

The phrase ‘the Winter of Discontent’ is perhaps now better known to describe the political demise of the Callaghan government and subsequent victory of Margeret Thatcher in 1979 than the misquoted opening line of Shakespeare’s Richard III whence it came.

It captured, and still does, a deep misery – the feeling of a spiralling towards catastrophe that media pundits are trying to re-ignite in the face of a global depression, wildcat strikes and what is beginning to seem like a weekly dosage of impropriety and corruption in Parliament. They are not wrong to do so – there is an odd mood in the country at the moment, and little stands between a general disgruntlement (tolerable in any civilised democracy) and a more unwieldy feeling of dispair.

The scenes of wildcat strikes at refineries across the UK has reminded many of the industrial strife that marked the demise of the last Labour government, but the anger at the intrusion of foreigners reminded me more of the Evil May Day riots as transcribed in that lesser-known Shakespeare play (apparently) Sir Thomas More. There is, justified or not, the beginnings of a concern that belief in our democratic government is coming under strain at a time when politics itself is once again hampered by its own sleaze. Several have commented here that a combination of the scandals over expenses (especially Derek Conway’s fine this week) and Erminegate, in conjunction with the BJFBW theme of the strikes presents the perfect storm for the anti-politics of the BNP to see a surge in support.

I was struck today with an uncomfortable thought. As my taxi tore past the Houses of Parliament this afternoon, I realised that it seemed only a few weeks ago that the first mutterings about a Government of National Unity seemed so fanciful. Reflecting on the scale of the economic crisis and the recent gossip about possible coalitions suddenly made this unorthodox situation seem a more likely possibility than at any time in my memory.

Noting today’s date, January 31st 2009 marks the 303rd 403rd anniversary of the execution of Guy Fawkes, and I could not help but remember that he was, in the most literal sense, a son of York. I began to wonder about the prophetic power of Shakespeare’s opening line that now confronts us “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York” – the line obviously refers to the infamous Richard III, but my mind turned from ‘the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions’ to other ‘sons of York’ who might best be placed to see us through this particular storm.

Ii occurred to me that, if forming a national government, there would be two sons of York whom I would enlist without question: Vince Cable and David Davis. I recognise that both have their detractors – the extent to which Cable really was prescient about the economic downturn, or the ‘soundness’ of Davis’ decision-making. I accept both sets of qualms, but they miss the point. Whether justifiably or not, both David Davis and Vince Cable are genuinely reassuring to the public. They exude confidence and integrity when speaking on their chosen subjects (economics and civil liberties respectively) and they retain the rare distinction of being considered somewhat independent – or at least not reliant on their parties for their appeal.

I pondered that perhaps the scariest crisis facing British politics this week is not the economic collapse, or the spectre of the BNP, or jobs going to foreigners – it is the recognition that Government is rapidly losing the confidence of the British people, and yet that confidence is not falling by right to the Opposition. There was, I sensed, a loss of faith in the system itself. Beyond our analysis of the horse race, and the implications for the political parties of coalition government, there is a serious solution that could perhaps be tendered: that the politicians who do still enjoy widespread and cross-partisan support should be permitted to take the reigns of power.

And so, I asked myself, with Cable at the Exchequer and Davis ensconsed in the Home Office, where might I find a third son of York to take the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and ensure the making of summer from these darkest days? And as the vision of Frank Dobson handling our negotiations with Iran grew ever more lurid, I realised that perhaps the prophetic power of Shakespeare’s opening line might just be overstated.

Morus



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Will the weekend see “Erminegate – The Sequel”?

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Are we being prepared for more revelations?

Ever since the Sunday Times came out with its “££££ for laws” revelations last Sunday the paper has been acting as thought it had other material in the pipeline.

First, it will be recalled, there was the sound recording of the conversation with one of the peers – that was released on Monday. Now, this afternoon, we have a video that was secretly shot of a second peer which is up on the SkyNews web-site. It’s well worth looking at.

    Both have been dramatic and take the story forward. So what can we expect this weekend? You don’t usually create this sort of build-up unless there is something more.

It will be recalled that other scandals revealed by the paper went on over several editions – not just one – so it would be surprising if the same does not happen here.

Whatever it’s going to add to the jumpiness in Downing Street at a time when they must be on edge anyway.

  • PB’s cartoonist, Marf, will be back next week.



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    Will Gord’s 2007 “BJ4BW” rhetoric come to haunt him?

    Friday, January 30th, 2009

    Brown 24.9.07: “ create British jobs for British workers”

    Cast your mind back to September 24th 2007. The first Brown Bounce was at its peak. The polls being taken that week were to show double digit leads for Labour. The talk was all about an October or November general election and Gordon Brown rose to make his first speech to a Labour conference as party leader.

    And what were his plans? What was his vision? Well one extract made all the running on the bulletins and in the papers. “..As we set out on the next stage of our journey, this is our vision…drawing on the talents of all to create British jobs for British workers.”

    Daniel Finkelstein in the Times was the first to raise the issue of this being a BNP slogan. In his speech the following week David Cameron noted that Brown’s desire was not possible – EU prevented it.

    Fast forward to today and news of the protests against foreign workers.



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    How much of a relief to Gord is this latest YouGov?

    Friday, January 30th, 2009


    CONSERVATIVES 43% (-2)
    LABOUR 32% (nc)
    LIB DEMS 16% (+2)

    Was this predicted by the betting markets?

    The January YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph is out and shows a small reduction in the Tory share and a small increase for the Lib Dem on compared with the last survey from the pollster the Sunday before last. The change is well within the margin of error so we can’t read too much into it.

    But do they never learn? This is being reported by the main news agencies with comparisons on the last YouGov poll that the Telegraph commissioned in mid-December while Brown Bounce II was still driving the narrative. Our comparisons above are with the Sunday Times January poll the weekend before last. Grrrrrrrrrrrr

    The poll itself hardly gets a mention in the Telegraph which must have spent a fair bit of money on it. Perhaps it wasn’t sensational enough? That’s a pity because the paper’s series with YouGov has been going on for some time and there are some regular other questions where it is interesting to track the responses. These include the one referred to on the previous thread - the forced choice asking whether people would prefer a Cameron government to a Brown one.

    We’ll have to wait until the full data is published before we get those numbers.

    Yesterday we reported that the PB’s “The Money Says Index” had also fallen back just a touch – maybe punters were sensing the public mood.

    Whatever this latest poll reinforces the broad picture that we’ve seen from all the pollsters in the past three weeks – their numbers are all pointing to a Cameron government with a substantial majority.

    Later today we should see the Ipsos-MORI Economic Optimism Index which is proving itself to be a reasonable polling prediction.



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    How daft an idea is this?

    Thursday, January 29th, 2009

    Would this destroy the Lib Dems forever

    Reproduced about is the start of a big article in the latest News Statesman by Sunder Katwala, General Secretary of the Fabian Society, in which he argues for a pre-election LD-LAB pact which would involve Nick Clegg becoming Deputy Prime Minister.

    He argues: “..By the time Barack Obama leaves these shores in April, Gordon Brown should invite Nick Clegg to be deputy prime minister with Vince Cable as chancellor. The coalition would govern for a year – announcing the date of the next election, and legislating for fixed-election dates, too. This year it would focus on the response to the recession, while agreeing on core progressive priorities for the next four-year parliament in both party manifestos.

    It sounds impossible. After Tony Blair left Paddy Ashdown at the altar a decade ago, what sounds like a return to the Lib-Lab pact of the Seventies will hardly rekindle the romance. But what if Gordon Brown made the Lib Dems an offer they cannot refuse?”

    The big mistake that Katwala makes is in his misunderstanding of the Lib Dem voting base. Yes, perhaps a majority of Lib Dem voters next time would prefer a Brown victory to a Cameron one – but not by a very big margin.

    Each month the Daily Telegraph YouGov surveys asks: “If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative government led by David Cameron or a Labour government led by Gordon Brown?” In December the Lib Dem voters split Brown 45% to Cameron 34%. Back in June when things were going even more badly for Labour than they are at the moment the Lib Dem split was Cameron 51% to to Brown 31%.

    The December 2008 poll was, of course, taken during Brown Bounce II. My guess is that the latest YouGov poll, due tomorrow or Saturday would see figures closer to the June levels.

    I reckon that the Lib Dem parliamentary party would split on similar proportions.

    Like many on the left Katwala simply fails to understand what the Lib Dems are about. If this happened, which I don’t think is likely, I, for one, would leave the party that I have been a member of since its foundation and throw everything at campaigning against what I would see as a betrayal. There are others like me.

    This surely is a non-starter. It would be electoral suicide for the Lib Dems to do anything that supported the Brown government.



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    The spread move to the Tories goes into reverse

    Thursday, January 29th, 2009

    Are punters starting to get cold feet?

    As PB’s latest “The Money Says” Index – CON MAJ 54 (-2) – shows there’s been a slight move back against the Tories on the spread-betting markets where punters trade the number of seats the parties will get at the general election as though they were stocks and shares.

    The slip back of just two seats in the projected Tory majority is not that great but it has taken place since the ComRes and ICM surveys meant that all the firms surveying UK political opinion now have double digit leads for Cameron’s party.

      What’s interesting is that a Tory buy level of 356 seats seems to be the ceiling. This is where it got to last September when one poll had Labour 28% behind and the level beyond which the market did not move this time.

    Much of the activity is be “traders” – gamblers who are not betting on the overall outcome to the election but are looking to short-term profits by guessing which way the levels will go. That’s certainly my approach to spread betting and I closed down my Labour sell position this morning.

    Sporting Index Spread Markets



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    Has the IMF taken away Labour’s lifeline?

    Thursday, January 29th, 2009

    What does this do to Gord’s core argument?

    A story that features big across many of the papers today is the IMF assessment that the slump’s impact will be worse worse in the coming year in Britain than in the US, Japan, Spain, Italy, France, Canada and Germany.

    As the Sun’s George Pascoe Watkins writes the warning is a “big blow” to Gordon Brown who has consistently claimed Britain is in a stronger position to handle a recession than other nations.

    The Times puts it like this - “the stark figures are a severe blow to Gordon Brown, who has continually insisted that Britain is better placed than most countries to weather the downturn.”

      Over the years Brown has developed a rhetoric which is built around international comparisons which have proved hard to challenge. Now the IMF has come up with figures that can substantiate the simple slogan - “IMF says its worse here”. What a gift to the opposition parties who, no doubt, will use it repeatedly to attack and attack.

    This isn’t about complex economics but the massive political battle ahead. For as we move into the final five quarters before the election everything can become potent and the Tories and the Lib Dems desperately need simple sound-bites to undermine what used to be Brown’s proud boast – his successful management of the economy over the past twelve years.

    I’m still not convinced that Brown will lead Labour into the election. Add on the IMF report to Labour’s polling collapse and you have even more worried MPs from marginal constituencies trying to bolster each other the cups in the House of Commons tea-rooms.

      If Labour does lose power, as is looking increasingly likely, then a lot of the blame will be put on Brown’s obsession with always wanting to boast. It is far better, surely, to be given credit for something than to try to take it.

    In the betting punters have continued to pile onto the Tories.