Archive for June, 2009

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Does the sacked ambassador have a chance in Norwich?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Could Craig cash in on the anti-pol mood?

The news that Craig Murray is to stand in the Norwich North by election could really shake up the race and makes the betting quite interesting. Murray came to public attention in 2003 when he was sacked as Britain’s ambassador to Uzbekistan for taking a stance against torture.

He now says that he’s to run in the July 23rd by election on an anti-sleaze ticket which might just capture the public mood.

Craig is a well known blogger and campaigner on freedom issues and might just have the right proposition for this very strange by election which by its very nature is going to be sleaze-centred.

My guess is that he’ll get a mass of media attention and could possibly do well. Certainly he’s a lot more going for him as an independent than the Esther Rantzens of this world.

I think this move could make it that much harder for the Tories to take the seat which is normal circumstances you would have regarded as a certainty.

When Ladbrokes first listed him as a runner the price was 100/1. I got on at 33/1.

Mike Smithson



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Are shares in Mandelson being over-sold?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Is he anything like as smart as his billing?

Yesterday’s big statement, Brown’s latest re-launch, is the first such major government move since Lord Mandelson was promoted to his unique new position in charge of just about everything.

So how come it got such a terrible press this morning. How come that the work of the “great communicator” failed to add the “Mandelson magic” to the programme? Where was the skilled rhetoric, the thread that would bind it together, or the big idea which would set it apart from previous relaunches?

Quite bluntly if Mandy is so great why didn’t we see something of it yesterday? Am I being unfair in beginning to wonder whether his “great gifts” have been somewhat oversold?

Mandy came to prominence, it will be recalled, during the final years of the Major government when Labour was being presented with one open goal after another. Then it was easy – but that’s a long time ago.

Now the world is a bit more challenging and I just wonder whether Mandy is up to it? It’s one thing to keep a disillusioned cabinet on board, like he did on that dreadful first weekend in June, but coming up with a broad plan and big idea that will resonate with voters and help Labour get out of its hole is another.

I was underwhelmed by his appearances yesterday. He couldn’t seem to hack it when interviewers were on the offensive and came over as petulant in the extreme. Am I missing something?

Note: I’m travelling today and this is a post I prepared earlier.

Mike Smithson



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What if support for the “others” doesn’t decline?

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Who’ll suffer most – Dave, Gord or Nick?

Another poll and another big share for “other parties” which have seen their Westminster polling numbers stay at very high levels even though it’s nearly a month since the June 4th Euro Elections.

All the pundits, including me, were suggesting a rapid decline as the EU election affect wears off and all the focus is on the battle ahead between Labour and the Tories with the LDs having an interest in a segment of seats.

But so far that’s not happening. We are still seeing an aggregate poll share at about 20% which is two and a half times what these parties, with SNP/PC got between them at the 2005 general election.

If this continues then I think we’ve got to be ultra-cautious about the standard seat calculations. These are based on taking a stated level of swing and applying it to what happened in each seat in 2005 – adjusted for the new boundaries.

The impact of higher UKIP/Green/BNP shares in almost all seats will be to reduce the overall shares for the three main parties – but it’s between them that the real battles will be fought. The affect surely will be that the level of swings required for seats to change hands might not be as high.

My back of an envelope calculations suggests that it might be useful to simply add about a tenth to the polling shares for each of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems and work out our seat projections from there.

But this is just the mathematics. What about the overall electoral dynamics? Will more robust UKIP/Green/BNP poll shares as we get closer to the election cause less switching back to the main parties?

As to which parties suffer most this morning’s ComRes poll shows that those saying UKIP split like this when asked to say what they did in 2005 – CON 15%: LAB 16%: LD 16%: OTH 12% with the balancing saying they didn’t vote or they don’t remember. For the Greens the split is CON 7%: LAB 14%: LD 20%: OTH 15% with a very high 45% saying they didn’t vote or they don’t remember.

All told I think this is quite good news for the Tories and possibly bad for Labour and the LDs.

Mike Smithson



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ComRes has Labour just 11 points behind

Monday, June 29th, 2009


CON 36 (-3) LAB 25 (+3) LD 19 (+1)

But the Tories are most trusted when it comes to cuts

There’s a new poll tonight from ComRes for tomorrow’s Indy. The figures are above and although the changes are all within the margin of error they should provide a touch of encouragement for Labour supporters. For they have the party closer than in any poll since Labour’s June 4th elections disaster and if this indeed was the election outcome out then the Tories would barely have a majority.

The great challenge for those trying to bet and predict the next election is the huge variations in seats that relatively small polling shifts produce. The Tories need solid double digit leads to be sure of forming the next government and if other firms start producing figures like these then it could add to the jitters.

ComRes have a new approach to their past vote weighting calculation which regular visitors will know has caused me some concern in the past. I’ll wait to see until I’ve examined how the new process is working in practice before commenting.

In the non-voting findings the Conservatives were found to be trusted by more people than Labour to make the public spending cuts widely expected after the general election. This looks like good news for Cameron who has been making trust in Brown a campaign issue.

Asked which party they trusted most to decide where public spending cuts should be made, 31 per cent said the Tories, 21 per cent Labour and 14 per cent the Liberal Democrats. Some 16 per cent trusted no party, 10 per cent said don’t know and seven per cent named other parties.

UPDATE ComRes weightings

We’ve now got the numbers and the past vote weightings used in this poll were exactly the same as ICM’s. Where ComRes differs from ICM is it’s use of a forced question – “how would you vote if it were a legal requirement” and the fact that it allocates 100% of those saying don’t know in accordance with the party they say they most identify with.

The latter means that quite a number of “votes” are being allocated even though the respondees concerned did not offer a positive choice. Both the measures boost the Labour total more than other parties.

Mike Smithson



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So is Brown’s new programme going to do the trick?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

This afternoon we had the third “draft Queen’s speech – the new addition to the commons scene – the trailing of the Queen’s speech setting out the planned legislative programme. This was first seen two years ago and provides a peg for PMs present and future to set out a broad vision as well as some detailed proposals.

Given the proximity of the general election today might have been a key occasion – a chance to float ideas that could help to turn the tide. I’m not sure that it lived up to its billing.

New poll tonight The latest ComRes poll for the Indy will be published here at 10 pm.

Mike Smithson



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Should MPs have been told about the spending review first?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Is Speaker Bercow going to follow through on his warning?

Last Wednesday in his statement after PMQs Speaker Bercow made it clear that the first place ministers should make announcements was to the house of commons.

Well what’s he going to do about Peter Mandelson’s radio comments this morning that the spending review will be postponed until after the election? Surely this big news on the government’s management of the economy should have come first in a statement to MPs?

What’s a bit tricky here is that the “announcement” came from the minister for everything, Lord Mandelson, who is not even a member of the house of commons.

Is Bercow going to let this one pass or his he going to lay the law down? If he fails to act now on this one then it’s going to be much harder in the future.

This news should have come, anyway, from the chancellor, Alistair Darling as the Standard’s Paul Waugh has pointed out. How long, you wonder, can Darling, who managed to cling onto his job, going to be humiliated in this way?

Maggie Thatcher will tell you that there comes a point when treating your chancellor in such a manner could cause an explosion.

Mike Smithson



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Could PM Johnson deny Cameron his majority?

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Would a change give Labour more hope?

There’s a sentence in John Rentoul’s weekend piece that is worth examining. For in assessing prospect for the election Rentoul notes “I assume that the Labour Party will recover from its current trough of unpopularity, by which I mean that it replaces Brown with Alan Johnson..”

Rentoul, of course, is a Blair biographer and is no fan of Brown Central. He’s also been tipping an Alan Johnson switch-over ahead of the election for longer than almost any other pundit.

But could he be right? Could a new leader who is so different in so many ways than the incumbent make such a difference to Labour’s fortune’s. Would the act of Brown going create a mood of change that would be strong enough to impede the Tory surge?

There has been a little bit of polling that suggests that a Johnson-led Labour might do better but it’s not very convincing. A problem with surveys like this is that Johnson has a lower public profile – which is partly the product of Brown’s desire to make the big announcements – thus blocking publicity opportunities for others.

If Brown is to get his “dignified pre-general election exit” then whoever comes in will have one mighty big asset – he/she will not be Gordon Brown. The new leader would be the big story for weeks and even months.

To my mind this is how Brown got his honeymoon in July – September 2007. He was a totally different figure from Tony Blair and his high profile during that period managed to block out coverage of the Tories. Brown was the story and not Cameron. A lot of non-election campaign polling is determined by the level of news coverage. Couldn’t the same thing happen with PM Johnson who has a “back-story” that the media will love.

I also think that Johnson has a good sense of what will resonate with the public and what will not. Back in February I highlighted the then health secretary’s plan for dealing with Cameron. Accept that the Tory leader is sincere but put the focus on the rest of his party.

A two-three month Johnson new leader honeymoon before the election would be very challenging for the Tories – and remember Labour only needs to get the polling gap back into single figures and we are into hung parliament territory.

As I’ve noted on previous threads I’m not betting for or against Labour at the moment.

Mike Smithson



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What do we make of the Cameron/Osborne joint office reports?

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Could my 33/1 Hammond for Chancellor bet be a winner?

Back in April I suggested backing Philip Hammond for next chancellor at the then attractive odds of 33/1.

My reasoning then, which is even more so now, has been the very high profile that Hammond seems to get when it comes to arguing the Tory case on the economy/tax/public spending etc. For generally when a party spokesman is put up it is Hammond who gets the call and not the person you would expect, the shadow chancellor, George Osborne.

So what are we to make of the fascinating post on ConHome by Tim Montgomerie suggesting that there’s a plan for a joint office in Downing Street for the two should the election go as the polls suggest and Cameron is PM.

This is being interpreted as a plan to put the offices of the Chancellor and PM next to each other? That’s fine but could it be that what’s being planned is that Osborne, who is the key strategist in the Cameron project, has a different role altogether and that Hammond is the chancellor?

One element that could help Hammond’s prospects is his background. The chancellor will be the public face of the inevitable spending squeeze and the state school educated Hammond who had a considerable career in private industry before entering politics might be better positioned to be the public face than Osborne.

Could Osborne be destined for a hugely powerful chief of staff role with a title that we have not seen before?

I’m beginning to think that my 33/1 long-shot could be a tasty winner.

Mike Smithson