Anybody betting on two general elections this year should first read this analysis by Chris Huhne

January 30th, 2015

Nearly a year ago the former LD cabinet minister, Chris Huhne, wrote an excellent piece in the Guardian on how the Fixed Term Parliament Act would make it difficult for a second general election shortly after an indecisive outcome – as looks highly likely in May.

” The Fixed-term Parliaments Act means that the prime minister can no longer call an election at a time of his choosing. … Elections are held every five years, except when two thirds of the Commons votes for one, or a government loses a vote of confidence and there is no further successful vote within 14 days.

True, a minority-government prime minister could engineer the loss of a vote of no confidence, but they would then run the risk that the main opposition party would establish a new administration and delay the election. Since the prime minister would only attempt to force an election if he thought he would win, the opposition would have every incentive to avoid losing. So that stratagem looks flawed.

The fixed-term act introduces a further difficulty for minority governments, because the timing of an election would now be in the hands of the combined opposition majority. Any loss of a vote of confidence would trigger an election if the government could not scrabble together a majority. A minority government would constantly be at risk of an election being called at a time of the opposition’s choosing.

The opposition strategy would then be clear: let the government flounder. Deny or amend ministerial legislation. Maybe even deprive the government of money. None of this would cause it to fall, because the fixed-term act requires a specific vote of no confidence. When the administration was looking truly shambolic, you force and win a vote of no confidence, calling an election at the point of the governing party’s maximum disadvantage.

What if Ed Miliband and David Cameron begin to dislike the fixed term? What if they were jointly keen to re-establish the prime minister’s prerogative to call general elections? They could, of course, combine to do so. But why would the opposition to a minority government want to hand over control of the timing of the next general election to its principal opponent?

All of which tells me that minority governments will be less popular in future, and that coalitions are more likely to be the response to a hung parliament. And as for hung parliaments, we shall see. If Labour and the Tories are closely competitive, and if Scotland stays part of the union, it will be hard for winner to take all.”

I find it hard to argue with Huhne’s logic.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The mood of Tory optimism shows itself on the betting markets

January 30th, 2015

On the Betfair exchange CON now clear favourites to win most seats

With so any polls this week showing CON and LAB level-pegging or the blues ahead it’s inevitable that this was going to show on the betting markets. The money’s been going on them winning most seats and, as can be seen, there’s now quite a difference with the Labour price.

In betting terms the last time CON was at these level was in the aftermath of Cameron’s EU veto in December 2011. That was not to last as we saw in the mood change following the March 2012 Osborne budgets.

Everything has been helped by the Labour polling collapse in Scotland of which more to come next week from Lord Ashcroft.

The chart also shows the changes on three weeks ago when LAB had a slight margin.

    Clearly punters are betting on the trend not the actual numbers because level-pegging or a couple of points ahead is not sufficient to secure most seats

It is one of the facts of political betting that Tory punters react more to positive news about the party than Labour ones do. Theoretically this makes Labour the value bet but I’m doing nothing till I see the Ashcroft Scottish seats polls.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Henry G Manson’s 33-1 Sadiq for Mayor tip is looking better and better

January 30th, 2015

You can still get 4/1 on him for the nomination

Back in March 2013 Henry G Manson tipped Sadiq Khan to be next London Mayor when the price was 33/1. Henry’s record on Labour matters is usually pretty good and I was amongst many who got on at that price.

Henry’s reasoning was that Khan had, at the time, just been made Labour’s shadow minister or London – a role that would allow him real links with all parts of the party in the capital and a platform to build up his profile.

In last May’s elections Labour’s biggest success was in London and Khan got much of the credit.

Until now Sadiq hasn’t really registered in the regular Evening Standard YouGov London polls but that has now changed with the latest survey. He’s made a big jump as the favoured candidate of London party supporters and now stands just 7% behind Tessa Jowell who probably enjoys greater name recognition. Coverage like that in the latest Standard is going to further Khan’s position.

You can get 4/1 from William Hill on him winning the party nomination and 6/1 as next Mayor. The latter looks particularly tasty.

Once again well done Henry for his advice.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Local By-Election Preview : January 29th 2015

January 29th, 2015

Marshalwick South on St. Albans (Two Conservative defences)
Result of council at last election (2014): Conservatives 29, Liberal Democrats 17, Labour 10, Greens 1, Independent 1 (No Overall Control, Conservatives and Opposition tied)

Result of ward at last election (2012): Conservative 929 (40%), Liberal Democrats 651 (28%), Labour 441 (19%), Green 188 (8%), UKIP 123 (5%)

Result of ward at last election (2014): Conservative 972 (39%), Labour 573 (23%), Liberal Democrats 486 (19%), Green 258 (10%), UKIP 232 (9%)

Candidates duly nominated by party:
Richard CURTHOYS, Steve McKEOWN (Con)
Richard HARRIS, Vivienne WINDLE (Lab)
Jill MILLS, Tim ROBINSON (Green)
Elizabeth NEEDHAM, Mark PEDROZ (Lib Dem)

There have been two by-elections this week (of which one of them was held on a Wednesday) and yes, this is a double vacancy following the decision of two councillors to stand down in the same ward. St. Albans has been a rather indecisive council of late between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. In 2003, the council was hung with the Liberal Democrats having a two seat lead over the Conservatives which turned into a 13 seat lead in 2006 and enabled the Lib Dems to gain overall control of the council.

But just like other Lib Dem controlled or influenced councils the coaltion marked a turning point and in 2011, the Conservatives became the largest party (gaining five seats) but have found it very hard going ever since. The reason? Labour have started to make inroads. Between 2011 and 2014, Labour have made seven gains all from the Liberal Democrats and with St. Albans constituency being one of Ed Milliband’s must win seats two Labour gains here would certainly put him in a good mood, the problem is though UKIP.

Harry Hayfield


Is Lord Ashcroft the reason Nick Clegg is still leading the Lib Dems?

January 29th, 2015

If so, who will be more grateful? The Lib Dems or their opponents?

One of most striking things of this parliament, is the Lib Dems’ unshakeable calm whilst the national opinion polls suggest in May the Lib Dems are headed for an epochal defeat that may end up being a modern Charge of the Light Brigade. We regularly get polling with the Lib Dems in single digits nationwide, and recently, in fifth place behind the Greens, yet there’s no appearance of outward panic.

There’s probably been more talk about Ed’s leadership than there has been of Nick Clegg’s leadership in the last few months. So why haven’t the Lib Dems replaced their leader or even discussed it publicly?

I think the answer is because Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polling which shows the Lib Dems doing better than national polling indicates, a recent batch in Lib Dem/Con marginals showed only a 2% LD to Con swing in these seats. Without this polling I think the Lib Dems would have removed Nick Clegg as it is easier to reassure colleagues worried about losing their seats, that there’s non internal polling showing them holding their seats.

A few years ago, Nick Clegg criticised Lord Ashcroft’s influence on British politics and tax status, but today he might be very thankful for the Good Lord’s intervention, which confirms we live in interesting times, with a Tory MP urging his constituents to back the Greens and the Tories hoping for the SNP to do well. This all tells us this is going to be a fascinating election.

We should also remember today’s political opponents, may soon become tomorrow’s allies.



For those who didn’t see it the Lord Ashcroft interview on SkyNews

January 29th, 2015


Remember 2005 when LAB and CON were level pegging on votes in England but LAB won 92 more seats

January 29th, 2015

There’s little to suggest that such a distortion won’t happen again

The blue team has understandably found great cheer and encouragement in the latest polling from a range of firms. The race is undoubtedly getting closer in terms of votes but it’s seats that matter.

One of the reasons why I’ve been highlighting England is because of what happened in the 529 seats being fought there at GE2005 when the Tories just had the edge on votes but LAB came out with 92 more English seats.

That election was fought on different boundaries, they were revised for 2010, and, of course, there’s a very different electoral environment with the vote being far more fragmented than ever before.

Could the the English seat split in May be so much more favourable to Labour once again?

One of the great drivers has been tactical voting with those opposed to the Tories being much more ready to switch their votes than those opposed to Labour. This has helped the LDs enormously in their CON facing constituencies as well as Labour in the LAB CON marginals. My guess is that we’ll see a repeat of the pattern from previous elections.

This could be offset to an extent by the Tories being able to attract ANTI-LAB from other LD supporters and, of course, those who have switched to UKIP. But I’m less convinced that Tory voters will abandon their traditional reluctance to switch to stop the party most able in their seats to impede LAB.

The other factors that cause the system to appear biased against the blues remain. The boundaries are the same and LAB voters are likely to turnout at lower levels in the party’s traditional heartland.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The build up starts to what will be the biggest polling event so far in 2015

January 28th, 2015

Ever since the first post-IndyRef Scottish polls came out showing a huge move to the SNP the standard assumptions that were being made about the GE15 outome were put on one side.

For although in GB terms the the loss in the LAB vote and increase in the SNP one amounted to less than one percent overall the number of seats involved was enormous.

At GE10 LAB easily held onto its 41 Scottish seats with very comfortable majorities. Only three of them had leads over the SNP of less than 20% and in none of them was the margin less than 10%.

There’ve been projections that the SNP could take more than 50 of the 59 Westminster MPs in Scotland leaving Scottish LAB with a small handful. If that happens then EdM’s party will be struggling to win most seats never mind a Westminster majority.

The big question is whether the polling picture will hold when you get down to the constituency level and how those polled will respond the Lord A’s two stage voting question – the first a standard one and the second asking interviewees to think specifically about their own seats and the candidates who are likely to stand.

    Could we see well known incumbents getting a bonus and could there also be pro-unionist tactical voting? The fact is we don’t know but Lord A is starting to find out.

Whatever I’ve little doubt that our view of the general election overall will be changed by the findings. They are due out next week.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble