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Politicalbetting.com: Ten years old today and still going strong

March 23rd, 2014

MS Mug shot

Thank you for your continued support

It was on March 23rd 2004 that PB began – ten years ago today and I thought that this should be something that we should mark and celebrate.

It began simply because I like talking about and making forecasts on electoral outcomes and I wanted a platform where I can could engage with like minded people. My son, Robert, was the catalyst and he’s played a huge part over the past decade handling the technical site from small beginnings. He suggested that I set up a blog and so we did. The domain name was bought for $20 one Sunday evening. Robert’s partner, Lucille, did the early designs.

    At the time there was no plan or any expectation that it would develop. There was also no business model – we hadn’t given any thought to how this would be funded because there was no expectation that it would take off and that we’d incur significant operational costs

The year of 2004 was, of course, a US election year and all the focus at the time was on who the Democratic party would choose to take on George Bush who, with Tony Blair, a year before had launched the invasion of Iraq. In the UK the big forthcoming elections were the London mayoral contest where Ken Livingstone was seeking to be re-elected not as in 2000 as an independent but as the flag carrier for Labour.

There were also the Euro elections where a couple of months later Ukip made its first big mark.

At the time the notion of political blogging was something of a rarity. Then the main media sites had not really embraced this new communication tool and sites like ConservativeHome or Guido did not exist.

Anthony Wells, then working in Michael Howard’s office at the House of Commons, had his own blog but had yet to launch UKPollingReport or even to join YouGov where he is now a senior executive.

At the time online polling was a novelty. YouGov was the new kid on the block and was producing figures which were totally out of line from the other main pollsters and this was one of the preoccupations of the early threads. YouGov were showing constant leads while the other firms had LAB and CON broadly level.

    Within a few weeks the site began to build an audience. There was clearly an appetite for looking at politics from the perspective of the political gambler. Since then it has expanded and continues with its niche role.

For the first three years PB was a part time activity that I did while I was still in full-time employment. Then at the end of 2007 I took early retirement to work full-time.

From quite an early stage we have had gatherings of PBers and it’s been great to meet and build up friendships with regulars.

Our biggest challenge has been dealing with the mass of comments that PB attracts from both a technical and editorial standpoint. The Vanilla system, which has now been going a year, has proved to be robust if quite costly. On moderation a little volunteer team has built up to and I’m pleased we have still managed to make this a bipartisan site.

Keeping PB going 365 days a year would not have been possible without the guest editors – Book Value, Double Carpet (Paul Maggs), Morus (Greg Callus) and TSE – who have managed the site in my absence and allowed me to take holidays. In fact one of the big jokes amongst the team is that whenever I have a break there’s a cabinet resignation or other similar moves.

    I’d like to thank, as well, all those who have made donations from time to time to keep PB going.

It has been pleasing to provide a platform for some excellent writers. Sean Fear was the first to be followed by Henry G Manson, Greg Callus, Paul Maggs, David Herdson and others. It has also been great having Marf’s cartoons.

Quite a few of the 2004 class of PBers are still with us – Sean Fear, Innocent Abroad, Nick Palmer, JackW (whoever he is) to name but a few.

So what about the future? I’ve had in the past a couple of offers to buy the site but this would have meant me working for someone which I didn’t relish. I’m 68 in May and want to enjoy my retirement while my health remains okay and am taking more holidays. But I find it hard to contemplate a total break from PB.

Mike Smithson

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