Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sorting out the truth from the spin and ending our affair with Chris Huhne;

Chris Huhne has run an excellent campaign - going from little known new MP "Whuhne" to being a true contender for the leadership. Huhne is benefiting from Greens, those looking for someone new, those afraid to back "left wing" Hughes and those that felt strongly for Charles Kennedy and Ming's apparent role in his downfall.

We've reached a crucial point for all concerned in the campaign. Ballot papers are now with members and some will already have been completed and are back at Lib Dem HQ. Has Huhne doneenough to pip Menzies Campbell? We say he has not, and the events of the last 2 days speak volumes.

On Monday, Huhne, keen to show his campaign has momentum made a lot of noise about a poll conducted by Populous for Channel 4's "More4 News". The gist of which was that their poll of 50 Lib Dem candidates at the last election showed that Chris had 17 backers for leader 22 for Menzies and Simon Hughes with 7. Huhne was quick to say that this was evidence the contest was "close run" between himself and Ming.

Consider this for a minute. These candidates were all fairly young. If they had been sucessful they would have been part of the same intake as Huhne (who himself was only 600 votes short ofnot making it). Ming is a generation apart - a member of the party since the 1950's. That Ming scored so well among this group is notable. Further these wannabe candidates know that by the time they might be finally elected, Ming would be on his way out. Why would they pledge allegiance to Ming when Huhne would clearly be far more likely to be in an position of power.

Huhne's strong presentation of this poll being evidence of a "close run"battle is clearly spin...

..and yesterday, we saw clear evidence of what we think is desperation on the part of Team Huhne.

The YouGov Poll Leak That Wasn't

There are 2 YouGov polls floating around on the Lib Dem leadership. Poll A conducted privately by a key Lib Dem donor and another, Poll B for a newspaper. We believe that Team Ming has access to at least Poll A and possibly poll B. We also believe that as of yesterday Team Huhne did not have access to either.

Team Huhne clearly would like access to the information and may have details by now. What they did have however were their own private soundings. Private soundings are useful but usually are biased toward the allegiance of team calling.

It is these soundings which we believe were the basis of yesterday's "YouGov leak".- YouGov have now denied publically there has been any leak of information for any poll they have produced.

"Leaked" "YouGov" poll" - reported on and Guido Fawke's Blog, also reported in the Scotsman;

Campbell 40%, Huhne 34%, Hughes 24%".

Why would we suspect this "leak" came from Team Huhne?

1) Guido Fawkes's Blog said he "suspects (the source) is not a million miles away from Camp Huhne"
2) Huhne's team would be the most likely to benefit from such a piece of "information".

3) Chris Huhne's own website very quickly wrote a news story (now removed!) linking directly to the Guido Fawkes blog suggesting it was further evidence of a close contest between himself and Ming.

What significance do these results have - if accurate - as soundings from Team Huhne?

Without factoring in the bias mentioned above (which would bump Huhne's figure) It shows that Huhne, as this campaign draws to a close, is behind by a good margin. The provider of the leaked info was asked by Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting what their data was on 2nd preference votes from Hughes voters. Mike was told that it was slightly skewed toward Huhne but not enough to narrow the gap much (you can read this for yourself on his site, non of this is non-public info).

Ming, The Parliamentary Party's Choice.

Andrew George, MP for St Ives and the Isles of Scilly, added his name to the long list of parliamentarians backing Ming yesterday. This brings the total number of Liberal Democrat MPs backing Sir Menzies' campaign to 31 - half the parliamentary party and far more than Mr Huhne and party president Simon Hughes combined.

This is crucial for Ming. Lib Dem members in 31 constituencies know that their MP is backing Ming. Are they likely to reject Ming as both their first AND crucial second preferences?

The bulk of the parliamentary party are clearly behind Menzies Campbell. What would happen to the party if the electorate vote Huhne who has made enemies of a number of front benchers simply by standing? Surely after Kennedy and Oaten's resignations this is not time to be turning the party on its head...

We are now reversing and taking profits on our previous trade - (Lay Ming, Back Huhne, Lay Hughes) and are now backing Ming at these levels (Hughes is not definitely out in our view and so we do not wish to extend the "short" position on Simon).

Best, Special Bets.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

"Simon Hughes Has More Publicly Delared Supporters Than Any Other Candidate"

Simon Hughes, or at least his campaign website likes to trumpet that "Simon has more publicly declared supporters than any other candidate". Certainly, Hughes supporters love to repeat this statistic but what does this claim really mean?

There is good reason for Hughes being in the "lead" for declarations of support - he actively courts declared supporters on his site more than the other candidates. Hughes is an effective gatherer of declarations. This is not by any means a measure of his actual support among Lib Dem members...

Observe; The initial item one sees is a box in the middle of the screen asking for support. Being a declared supporter is a “pre-ticked” option.

Further, at; one can register for handy news updates on Simon's campaign - but you must be a declared supporter first - another incentive to remember to sign up.

Compare this to The "support" section is a sidebar link and a Ming supporter can sign up for news without having to declare for Campbell. As for Chris Huhne over at you'll see a similar un-pushy approach.

When I mentioned this over at Mike Smithson's excellent, one of the wags in the comments section "Andrea" decided to test how filtered the "process" was. Italian super sleuth Andrea quickly announced that he was able to register a few different aliases in support of the Hughes campaign. The form on the front page asks only for an email address. There is no checking of membership ID numbers or similar before names appear on the site. This is not unique among the candidates but it renders the oft-mentioned "Simon has more publicly declared supporters than any other candidate" statistic entirely meaningless...

Hughes A No-Show At Maidstone Hustings;

In other Hughes campaign news, Hughes was billed to appear at the Maidstone hustings on Saturday morning, but was a "no-show" blaming transport problems returning from his Friday night in the party city of Liverpool - "Air Opik" presumably was grounded...

Huhne tries to pin Ming down on 2nd term...

Chris Huhne has been on the old minger's case this weekend, demanding to know exactly how long Ming is intending to stand for. Special Bets have been tipping Ming to win this leadership battle for some time however this weekend we've been laying Ming, backing Huhne and laying Hughes on Betfair. Huhne (unlike Hughes) is increasingly looking like a true contender and we see the gap between Ming and Huhne's odds narrowing.
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