Wednesday, 31 March 2010
First race of the season. I tipped Alonso at 3.25 and Massa at 6.8 for pole. Despite Vettel getting it, I believe the 6.8 was justified. However, the other tip was a case of me being nervous and trying to hedge my bets.
For the race I got Barrichello right for points at 1.95, so obviously that’s a good call (in addition, it seems clear that Sutil, Barrichello and probably Kubica are the best of the rest, outside the top 4 teams). However, the 5.2 for Massa to win was wrong. I’m unsure whether to consider it a justified bet, he finished second, and but for a bad start might have won. The bad start was due in part to a dirt side of the track, so it may have been a bad call. The 18 for Barrichello to get a podium was just moronic. Whilst true it was the first race and we never knew for sure how it’d work, Bahrain is a processional circuit and his car just isn’t quick enough.
I’m going to stick with making a pre-qualifying post for races that take place at Stupid O’Clock, after P2. Probably be tip-less, as a rule.
In the race I tipped (for the win) Alonso at 6.4 and Vettel at 1.8. I missed the first 7 laps but apparently Alonso had a shocker of a start which wrecked his race. This is a second case of trying to hedge bets. I never should’ve backed Vettel at those odds. I think Alonso would have been reasonable in the dry, but given the forecasts it would’ve been better to look at more creative bets, speculative winners or people further back getting a podium. (Indeed, Mr. Tibs and others successfully backed Button at long odds. Congrats to them).
So, there are two clear errors I’ve made twice. Nervousness at backing a bigger outsider leading me to back someone else as well, at shorter odds, and failing to take account of the race conditions (in Bahrain the procession type race, and in Australia the weather).
So, how does this Malaysia look regarding these? The forecast is for rain. How heavy? Best to wait until nearer the time before checking forecasts, I feel. It’s also well worth not just reading the practice times but seeing what the conditions were like when they were achieved. If someone’s shit hot in the wet it doesn’t mean they’ll be the same in the dry. There’s also a difference between torrentially wet and showers, or on and off wetness.
As Jennifer in the comments of the prior post mentioned, last season Malaysia was so wet the race had to be stopped and half points were doled out. This might bode well for Vettel (his car tends to explode in the latter half of races). Other drivers good in the wet are Schumacher, Button (who won there last time out) and Hamilton. Sutil can often punch above his weight in the wet as well.
Sunday, 28 March 2010
I’ve had a shocker of a start to the season, worse even than Michael Schumacher. I’m going to post a mid-week piece analysing why I’ve been doing so badly, to try and correct my mistakes (I’ve had a small measure of bad luck but the lion’s share of my bad tips have just been misjudgements/idiocy on my part). This post will focus on analysing the race and implications for the titles.
Button surprises just about everybody and storms the entire field. He had a minor stroke of luck with Vettel’s car helpfully exploding (yet again), but deserved the win by superb and seemingly effortless tyre management after brilliantly making the right call to switch to softs early on. Special congratulations to Mr. Tibs, whose excellent 22/1 suggestion to back Button I foolishly ignored.
Kubica held off the world and his dog to claim second, another real surprise and proof, were it needed, that he’s a class driver.
Massa, at a circuit he really isn’t at home, prevented the faster and much-fancied (including by me) Alonso from passing him to become the only chap to claim podium spots at both races so far, and stays second in the title race.
Michael Schumacher continues on his mission to underwhelm on his comeback, claiming 10th spot. He struggled to overtake, whereas others had little difficult scything through the field. He needs to improve.
Vettel. Or, to be more exact, whoever is responsible for his car. Once again he was leading, looking good for the win and then his car let him down. Fast is nice, but you need to finish a race to get points.
Webber turns kamikaze on Hamilton, taking the Briton from behind, an event neither man enjoyed. Despite having the fastest car [which worked throughout the race] he manages to turn 2nd into 9th.
Hamilton severely disappointed in two ways. Firstly, whereas Button took responsibility and made the tyre call himself, Hamilton let the team do it, which would be fair enough if he hadn’t then had a hissyfit because he couldn’t pass Alonso. Secondly, Button stayed cool and calm and effortlessly held the tyres, Hamilton lost composure and couldn’t pass the Ferraris. Last season Barrichello had a similar outburst, but that was deeper into the season when he and his team mate were tussling for the title.
We’ve had two sorts of races so far; a complete procession, and a partially rainy lottery. This race was absolutely classic, and hopefully proof that whilst Bahrain was as exciting as an Alistair Darling Budget the dullness was due to the track, not the rules. Still need to see what a competitive and dry track (ie Interlagos without the rain) throws up.
Here are the driver standings:
Alonso – 37
Massa – 33
Button – 31
It’s worth remarking that Vettel, despite being the best driver with the best car has, due to crippling reliability, just 12 points and lies 7th in the title race, with Red Bull tied on 18 points with Renault at 4th. Still happy to be green on Massa at around 10/1.
Things look good for Ferrari in the constructors’ race; their car is reliable and fast, and they’ve got two great drivers.
Next race is Malaysia, in just a week’s time. Last time out it was a complete washout and had to be halted partway through due to a monsoon flooding the track. Before that, as I said, I’ll try and identify precisely why my antennae are wonky and correct them. I loathe getting tips wrong, and two weekends in a row is not good enough. I’ll do my best to improve for Malaysia.
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Red Bull now seem to be top dogs clearly, with a 1-2 on the front row of the grid. Unsurprisingly, Wunderkind Vettel beat Webber. Alonso was 3rd but very close to the Red Bulls, but between the top 3 and the rest of the field there’s a huge margin, with a full half-second separating Alonso’s and Button’s best times.
Almost as interesting as Button thrashing Hamilton is Massa coming a poor 5th, 0.7s behind Alonso. Australia’s not a typical Massa hunting ground, but that’s still a huge margin.
Barrichello and Sutil were both, again, the best of the rest, along with Kubica who came 9th.
I found a video of the Bahrain start (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNzHfOcMKNM) which provides a little bit of information regarding the starting prowess of the Ferraris and Red Bulls. It’s important to remember that both at Bahrain and the present track the odd numbered grid slots are on the clean side, meaning grip is better. Alonso overtook Massa based on a good start, and I think the Ferrari will be quick enough on the clean side to do much the same to Webber.
The weather forecast for the race, according to the BBC, is for heavy rain. If this happens intra-race it’ll make the result something of a lottery. Serious rainfall will see numerous cars sliding off, and those making the right tyre calls getting huge advantages.
I think Alonso is value at 6.4 for the win. He may well overtake Webber at the start, and is one of the few with the skill to hold onto Vettel. There remain questions over the Red Bull’s reliability as well. Alonso’s improved on his qualifying position at the last two races, and in 2007 held onto second when Raikonnen won, so he’s comfortable in Oz.
I also advocate backing Vettel at 1.8. If there’s no reliability issue, I can see him scampering away and just remaining out of Alonso’s clutches. The Red Bull seems to have a more efficient energy, allowing less fuel and thus weight. Plus, they seem to be good at getting their tyres nicely warm.
If you want to stay green either way, you’ll need a slightly higher stake on Vettel than Alonso, obviously.
If there is rain then this could make the result almost random. However, if it’s raining at the start of the race then the grid will get wet tyres to start with and not need to pit, and the frontrunners have the same advantage they would in the dry.
Let’s hope the result is a happier one than Bahrain.
Friday, 26 March 2010
We’re now in Australia, which last year saw a Vettel 50/50 incident (he was second, trying to hold off Kubica and the two came together and spun off). Naturally, the Brawns dominated with a 1-2.
P2 was hit by rain, rather distorting the times. In addition, the Ferraris and Vettel seem to have been running heavily laden with fuel, making reading their raw pace very difficult. However, the McLarens have been consistently fast, with a 1-2 in P2 and Button 3rd in P1.
P2 also saw Webber 3rd, with Vettel in 16th, the meat in a Ferrari sandwich. Suggests the Red Bull may be competitive over one lap whether on fumes or carrying a piano on the back.
Mercedes were 2nd in P1 (Rosberg), but in P2 Schumacher beat the young pretender, coming 4th.
I’ve had a quick look at the past comparisons of practices and qualifying for Australia. In 2009 qualifying had Button, Barrichello, Vettel, Kubica, Rosberg, Massa. Despite taking poll, Button never topped the timesheets and in 2/3 practice sessions lagged behind Barrichello. So, rather unhelpfully, with extra fuel considerations this time, P3 yet to occur and rain meaning P2 was effectively 30 minutes long I’m not sure predicting anything for qualifying would be wise.
I had a quick look at the market, but I’ve got to refrain from recommending anything.
Now, a quick word about the top drivers’ market. It came up post-Bahrain, and is an interesting idea. Vettel and Alonso are considered dead certs (1.04) and I don’t disagree with that (if 1.05 were the lay value I might consider it, given how early the season is, but 1.6 is the lay price and it’s too long). Hamilton and Massa are next up, at 1.6 and 1.4 respectively. I think Hamilton’s too short, and Massa’s about right. I’ll keep my eye on it, but presently no real value, I think.
Vettel’s slipped on the driver’s market to 3.85, and Massa’s lengthened to 10.5. If I weren’t already green on Massa I’d probably put a small sum on him. Hamilton is too short at 7, Massa should be clear third favourite, in my view.
Sorry I can’t post any tips (barring the 10.5 on Massa if you haven’t backed him yet). Be interested to hear what regular readers think of the pre-qualifying piece and if it should remain or not.
Monday, 22 March 2010
London is a more diverse region than pretty well any other and it is very dangerous to extrapolate from one seat even in relation to adjacent seats. The demographics can be very different indeed and I strongly urge you to look at these individually before wagering any money. For example, both Islington South & Finsbury and Bethnal Green & Bow are geographically close and showed very sharp swings away from Labour over the Iraq war in 2005, but the swingers are from very different backgrounds. These seats may both swing in tandem again this time, but it would be very dangerous to assume so without further investigation.
The geography of London’s MPs can be crudely described as a blue hole at the centre, a large red swathe of inner London seats forming almost a complete ring, then an outer ring of blue seats, with the Lib Dems occupying the outer south-west London seats. However, underneath the surface, the picture is more complex. The Lib Dems have cut a swathe through the urban professionals of north London and in east London the 2005 election was a story of minor parties. In west London, the Tories are getting stronger. Labour’s control of inner London is under attack from four different parties in four different areas.
Labour will, so far as possible, be looking to hold the line. The Tories will be looking to make the outer ring thicker blue and make the blue hole at the centre thicker on the west side of London: they will also be seeking to take back some of those south-west London seats from the Lib Dems.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems will be trying to hold those seats and build a yellow hole in north London. Hornsey and Wood Green was a famous win in 2005, and the Lib Dems are notionally second to Labour in the contiguous seats of Islington North, Islington South & Finsbury, Holborn & St Pancras, Brent Central and Hampstead & Kilburn. They will be hoping to take some of these and to cement their position in the rest.
And what of east London? In 2005, Labour lost much of the Muslim vote to Respect, who won Bethnal Green & Bow, came second in West Ham and East Ham and third in Poplar & Limehouse: these four seats are contiguous. Meanwhile, the BNP came third in Barking and polled well in the adjacent seat of Dagenham & Rainham. These parties will be looking to build local strongholds.
I include my now-customary tables showing the seats arranged in order of odds rather than swing, but I have to say that I feel that these are less useful here than in any previous area that I have looked at:
Bunnco wrote an excellent article on pb2 a week ago looking at the size of turnover in a given constituency. In London, that turnover is rapid. Of course, turnover doesn’t matter if the constituents who leave are replaced by constituents who are of broadly similar sympathies, but in London areas change socially with high speed. The Rolling Stones song “Play with fire” from the 1960s refers to a character living in Chelsea, not in Knightsbridge any more, with the now-lost implication that she had gone seriously down in the world. In 1992, I voted in Lewisham East, which until that election was Tory-held. Labour is now 1/10 to hold it. Meanwhile, Tooting will be most associated by older readers with Citizen Smith and has been Labour-held since its formation in 1974. The Tories are, however, 8/13 favourites to take it. (Seat boundaries have changed, but the point is I think still valid).
With these considerations in mind, it is surprising that the bookies rate so few of the London seats as seriously in play. Only 19 of the 73 London seats are quoted at their best price as having any party as being in the range of 1/3 to 3/1. I suggest that this underrates the degree of uncertainty in London caused by demographic change and that accordingly the longer shots are worth some serious consideration (and that shorter priced bet should be treated with unusual care).
As a general comment, the bookies have not yet caught up with Labour's revival in the polls. The value as a default lies on that side of the fence.
In a recent Comres poll (21 February 2010), 57% of Muslims nationally said that they would vote Labour. This suggests that Labour are good value to rebuild their position in east London where the Muslim vote is strong. They are quoted at 11/10 to retain Poplar & Limehouse and I now see this as excellent value: I see this as a 2/5 shot, even with recent demographic changes. The Tories need Respect to eat into the Labour vote if they are to stand a chance of taking this seat and even the unique George Galloway is likely to struggle to do this. You may also like the look of the 3/10 for Labour to retake Bethnal Green & Bow.
Labour are likely to be less successful in keeping hold of those seats where urban professionals are in play. In a city as obsessed by house prices as London is, the Conservatives’ proposed reforms of inheritance tax play well and the Lib Dems’ mansion tax doesn’t. The Conservatives are still seen as the party of the City even by those in the City who are not Conservative. Many City professionals feel like Millwall fans – no one loves us and we don’t care – and there is a hope among many such professionals that if the Conservatives get in, the tax on the higher paid will be lower than it would be under Labour (bear in mind that the City is full of the aspirational who are all hoping to be among the very highest paid, even if they aren’t now). The Conservatives will do well in their targets in west London and as younger urban professionals spread outward, they may post good tallies in some surprising places that are not serious targets for any other party. Those seats where 30-50 year old professionals congregate are likely to be more resistant to Tory charms, since the Major years are still well-remembered by this group.
The outer London seats, particularly in north west, south east and east London, have large numbers of people who are the British equivalent of John Howard’s battlers. Such people are not particularly impressed by David Cameron but they are really unimpressed by Gordon Brown. If they eventually decide to vote Conservative, they may do so in large numbers and there could be some extreme swings. The Conservatives may be worth backing at 6/5 in Ealing North (Stephen Pound’s seat) and 11/8 in Dagenham & Rainham (Jon Cruddas’s seat). If you want a longshot in this type of seat, take a look at the Tories at 4/1 in Erith & Thamesmead. They’d need a 13% swing, but given the Labour party’s selection difficulties in this seat, this one might be worth thinking about. On the same lines, the Tories can be backed at 11/2 in Lewisham West and Penge where they need a 11.3% swing - I actually prefer this bet to the Erith & Thamesmead bet. Conversely, if you think that this group’s disenchantment with David Cameron might lead them to stay with Labour, try 4/1 on Labour in Eltham.
What of the Lib Dem/Tory seats in south-west London? These are not seats on which I want to put much money, because they are so local. If you must bet on these, my own rule is that no one really knows what’s going on with the Lib Dems, so bet against the favourite. So maybe back the Lib Dems in Carshalton & Wallington at 15/8 (or if you’re feeling wild, in the west London seat of Ealing Central & Acton at 6/1) or the Tories in Kingston & Surbiton at 11/4. I’m not rushing to do any of these.
How will the Lib Dems do in their north London targets? I suggest that they will make only limited progress or maybe even go backwards. In Guardian and Independent reading households, Iraq is a much less important topic than five years ago. Polly Toynbee’s nosepegs for Labour will find many takers here among previous Lib Dem defectors. The Lib Dems have struggled to appeal to potential tactical Tory voters and their message seems more geared towards retaining tactical Labour voters in other areas. In the Mayoral elections, the Tories got excellent tallies in inner London (they have, however, completely failed to build on this) and it is entirely possible that the Tories might retake second place from the Lib Dems in the less marginal seats.
With this in mind, I have backed Labour at 6/4 in my home constituency of Islington South & Finsbury (the Lib Dems may well win, but they shouldn’t be as strong favourites as 8/15) and in Holborn & St Pancras. As a long shot, I have backed Labour in Hornsey & Wood Green. If Iraq is now not a vote-shifting issue, Labour should rebound in this seat. Lynne Featherstone is certainly not as safe in her seat as Vince Cable.
Finally, what of Hampstead & Kilburn, a three-way marginal between the main parties? The Lib Dems’ strongly pro-Palestinian message is unlikely to enthuse the Jewish constituents and those for whom the Lib Dems’ Iraq message appealed last time are as already noted more likely to be voting on other issues this time around. Both the Conservatives and, particularly, Labour look like rather better value – back either or both according to taste.
Points are awarded on the following basis:
3pts for each constituency this party wins;
2pts for each constituency this party finishes second;
1pt for each constituency this party finishes third.
0pts for any other result.
Note: The maximum theoretical result = 1950 from 650 constituencies.
However, they also state that no Northern Ireland seats count towards any of these markets, so in practice there are 632 seats in all. That means the total number of points available for all parties is 3792.
At the time of writing, the prices on the headline seats markets are:
The prices on the ‘321’ markets are:
This raises the question: are these sets of prices consistent? In other words, what should the 321 markets be priced at, to be consistent with the headline spreads?
To answer this, we need to estimate which party would be in 2nd and 3rd place in each constituency, if the final result were (as SPIN are currently implying by their midpoints) something like Con 334, Lab 224, LD 57, Nats 15, Others 2.
As a first approximation, I used www.electoralcalculus.co.uk and played around with the vote shares to get close to the above figures. Typing in 40/29/21 gets you pretty close, and you can extract the vote shares in all seats into a spreadsheet, and rank the parties 3/2/1.
I then made some adjustments. Firstly, Electoral Calculus treats 'Others' as a single party, so it erroneously makes them appear to be 3rd place in a number of seats where in reality Others would be split between Greens, UKIP, BNP etc. I therefore went through all the seats where Others were placed in the top three, and checked with the 2005 results to see whether there was a single dominant contender. Where there was not, I downgraded Others to 4th, leaving 8 seats with a minor party in third place: Glasgow NE (Ind Soc), Rotherham, Dagenham & Rainham, Keighley (BNP), Newton Abbot, Torbay, Totnes, Devon East (UKIP). The exact constituencies don't matter, of course - we're interested in the totals, and that seems a reasonable guess.
I also fixed up a few specials: Buckingham (Speaker 1, Others=UKIP 2, Others 3), Wyre Forest (Con=1, Ind=2), and Blaenau Gwent (Lab=1, Ind=2).
Finally I adjusted some of the Scottish and Welsh seats to make the total for SNP/Plaid Cymru up to 15, rather than the 10 outright victories predicted by Electoral Calculus. This makes the figures consistent with SPIN’s SNP and PC spreads.
These adjustments are all fairly small in the overall scheme of things, and don’t make a big difference to the final conclusion. But they do give a result which is internally consistent, which is what matters.
These are the tables for the 632 UK mainland seats (including Buckingham) which I ended up with this method:
Total points: 1507
Total points: 1299
Total points: 855
SNP and PC:
Total points: 104
Speaker and Minor parties (Respect, Greens etc):
Total points: 16
Others (Independents, UKIP, BNP etc):
Total points: 11
Total number of 1st places: 632
Total number of points: 3792
To be consistent with SPIN’s current headline figures, it looks to me as though the 321 market spreads should be around Con 1507, Lab 1299, LD 855. That leaves 131 points for other parties, divided into SNP/PC 104, Others 27. Note that these results are consistent with what happened in 2005, where the SNP, PC and Others got 121 points in all.
Thus the conclusion is that the Con321 market looks substantially underpriced at 1405-1435, and the LibDem market somewhat overpriced. The Lab price looks about right within the spread, perhaps a touch high.
This conclusion – especially the underprice on the Con321 market - looks fairly robust even if the headline spread of Con 332-337 falls significantly.
Monday, 15 March 2010
I have continued my virtual tour of the British Isles by compiling the odds on the seats in the South West:
The South West of England is very important for the Tories. It has no fewer than 25 of their top 200 targets. Their success or failure will be strongly influenced by how they do in these. So it is with wilful perverseness that I propose to start by looking at the Lib Dems and their prospects. Here is a table of the seats in which they are in contention, listed in order of lengthening odds:
All required swings are taken from UK Polling Report’s notional figures. For comparison, I’ve linked to the Rallings & Thrasher figures later.
The first thing to note is the uniformity of this picture. All of the Lib Dem seats in the region without exception are at the top of this chart (Somerton & Frome, while notionally Conservative on UK Polling Report’s figures, is currently occupied by the Lib Dems’ David Heath). You would expect the shortest odds in general to be on seats that the party already holds, but as we shall see with both the Conservatives and Labour, you also tend to get a bit of a mixture. The next thing to note is the large number of seats where the Lib Dem odds are clustered around evens. The shortest priced Lib Dem seat is 1/8, and that is a seat held by a hard-working intelligent well-liked MP with an enormous majority. The Conservatives have seats at 1/500 in this area.
Both of these points support my fundamental contention about the Lib Dems at this election, which is that no one really knows how the Lib Dems are going to perform. Never mind the seats that the Lib Dems hold, there are no fewer than 10 Conservative seats where the Lib Dems are given respectably short odds to take them. At an election where there is expected to be a swing from the Lib Dems to the Conservatives, that is quite surprising. If, however, you accept my contention that no one really knows how the Lib Dems are going to do, these longer shot seats probably represent better value than the shorter-priced Lib Dem held seats.
In fact, I am more interested in betting on the Tories in Lib Dem held seats than vice versa, given that there will be a likely swing to the Tories. These are much easier to judge from the outside (the particular risk for outsiders betting on Tory-held seats is that it is unclear how much headway Lib Dem candidates are making against unimpressive, polarising or expenses-tainted Tories). Let us for present purposes assume that there will indeed be a swing from the Lib Dems to the Conservatives, which is less certain than it was a couple of months ago, but still highly likely. Which seats do the Lib Dems have a good chance of holding out in and which ones might be particularly vulnerable?
I suggest that the critical elements to look at are as follows: the extent to which the Lib Dems can replace voters lost to the Tories by squeezing Labour voters; the extent to which they can keep on the right side in a change election; and the extent to which popular incumbents can outperform swing.
Taking these in reverse order, I’m highly sceptical that incumbency is directly going to help that much (it may help in squeezing Labour voters, but I’ll look at that separately). After all, if the MP is popular, in all cases bar those where the MP was new last time, that’s already built into the majority. So with the caveat that you should allow something for first-time MPs to build on their majority, I’d give this element relatively little weight.
The Lib Dems in the South West have a real problem in a change election, caused by temperament and past positioning. They have quite consciously pitched themselves as the progressive party that you can take home to meet the parents. In much of the South West, Labour has been eclipsed and the Lib Dems have assumed their place as the party of the left. The Lib Dems are going to struggle to keep their coalition together and avoid giving the impression that they would favour Labour over the Tories.
But none of that will matter if the Lib Dems can gain tactical votes from Labour supporters. Can they? Have a look at this table of the seats in the region, this time, for some variety, based on Rallings & Thrasher notionals:
I have highlighted each time one of the main three parties polled under 15% in yellow. Where they polled under 10%, I have highlighted that in red. In all bar three Lib Dem seats (Bristol West, where Labour is second, Camborne & Redruth, where Labour is also second, and Truro & Falmouth), Labour support is already under 15%: indeed, you might even use this as a past measure of Lib Dem efficiency in target seats. I suggest that Labour cannot be squeezed much further in these seats, since tactical voting must already be prevalent.
The likely limits of tactical voting are probably shown by Dorset West. In that seat, Billy Bragg has campaigned very actively from the Labour side to get Labour supporters to vote Lib Dem. He has not yet been successful in ousting Oliver Letwin, but the Labour vote is down to 7.75%. In 1997, Labour polled nearly 18% in this seat. I am very doubtful whether Labour can be got much below 10% in any seat without the most fantastically intense onslaught to get their voters to vote tactically and without exactly the right political background. Interestingly, turnout in this region was relatively high. Several seats had turnouts exceeding 70%. Voters here weren’t that alienated. It also means that no party can draw on that much of a reservoir of untapped support.
You may disagree about how low the Lib Dems can squeeze Labour support. However, I strongly suggest that the Lib Dems are much safer in Truro & Falmouth, where they have 19% Labour support to eat into, than in Devon North, where Nick Harvey has already squeezed it down to 8.89%. The Tories need a bigger swing in Truro & Falmouth too. Yet the Lib Dems are 8/11 in each seat to hold on.
With all that in mind, here are the Tory prospects, listed in order of lengthening odds:
I suggest that Newton Abbot, Taunton Deane and Devon North are all worth a bet on the Tories. There’s not much Labour vote left to squeeze in any of them and the Lib Dem incumbents are more vulnerable as a result of their own past efficiency. The Lib Dems don’t even have favourable recent local election results to bolster their morale. For what it’s worth, I see almost all the value in the Lib Dem / Conservative seats in this region as being on the Conservative side of the fence. I do not rule out Lib Dem losses in this region alone getting into double figures.
If you want to bet on the Lib Dem side of the fence, you might want to consider Torbay, where the Lib Dems have a comparatively healthy 14.45% Labour vote to eat into (turnout was only just over 60% though, so you should consider carefully who was staying at home). You might also invest in the Lib Dems in Wells: there’s a healthy Labour vote to attack and a sitting Conservative MP with some expenses problems. Of course, we have no clear idea yet whether we shall see further tactical winding-up – I doubt it myself and actually expect to see some unwinding – but if it’s going to happen, it can only really happen in seats where there’s an existing Labour vote to shift.
I haven’t mentioned Labour much yet: that’s because they aren’t really in contention much here. They’re at 12/1 or less in only 16 of the 55 seats in this area:
You might fancy putting some money on them in Exeter, where partisan enthusiasm for ousting Ben Bradshaw appears to have run ahead of underlying realities (not least a large Lib Dem vote that the Tories would need to convert and which could well contain many Guardianistas ready to return to the mothership). Otherwise, nothing much stands out to me – a cheeky bet on them to regain Bristol West at 5/1 might pay dividends, especially if you managed to back the Lib Dems at the much longer prices that they were available at last year.
One particular constituency should be highlighted as a must-bet constituency: Bristol North West. You can back the Tories at 1/4, Labour at 15/2 and the Lib Dems at 20/1. If you did that in the right proportions, you’d guarantee yourself a 4% return in a couple of months. Alternatively, you can decide for yourself where the value lies and just bet on that. For myself, it’s hard to see past the Tories here.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
In this quick post I just want to show the results of a little research I’ve done into the electoral roll on a single district council ward in the part of the South Norfolk constituency, where I live. I’ve got hold of the electronic electoral register between 2003 and the present day.
With a little jiggery-pokery on Access I’ve been able to use the unmatched-records query function to work-out exactly how many people move each year in the electoral ward.
The results are going to surprise you, especially when the ward in question is a rural one made-up of six villages which I’d have thought had a stable population. The ward comprises 2105 electors this year.
Parish Number of Electors
VillageA - 383
VillageB - 1058
VillageC - 50
VillageD - 205
VillageE - 138
VillageF - 271
Total - 2105
In the table below, I’m going to show how many brand new electors appear on the roll each December. It’s more than you’d think. 2003 is the base year with the changes to the electoral roll printed for the subsequent years
About 175 electors seem to be changing each year. That's about 8.4% of the electorate.
With the figures to hand I thought it would be useful to see the changes in the roll since the last General Election in 2005.
On the face of it it look like the total number of new electors was 880 or 42% of the total. That’s quite a lot but then I realised that some people, for example in the old-folks-home, have moved-in and-out in the period 2005-2009. I’ll call this a double-churn so these people need to be discounted when considering the nett change from 2005-2010 position so we can accurately assess the effect on the General Election.
So, in a separate analysis I worked out the five-year change from 2005 to 2010 and it turns out that the difference is 655 electors or 31.1% of the total. About a third.
The percentage changes for each village are printed below and they all show a pretty consistent churn rate. It’s not as if one village has a particularly big churn. They’re all pretty much of a muchness. About a third each.
So, in this sleepy rural area just under a third of the electorate has changed since the last General Election in May 2005.
People have moved-away. Others have moved-in. Some have died. Some have divorced. Some have married [name changes are included in my churn figures]. We’ve had some youngsters come onto the roll for the first time. A few have moved within the village from a larger house to a smaller one and vice-versa but the bottom line is that a third of the roll in this countryside ward has churned in five years.
The churn’s got to be bigger in University towns, in areas where there’s been mass immigration and where there’s been large-scale housing development. You know, it might be in these urban areas that there’s been a 50% change in the electorate in five years. I can’t say what the exact figure here would be but I’d call it significant. And it’s another reason not to rely on the UNS. With upto 50% churn, what's a few percent on the UNS between friends anyway?
:puts on tin hat:
Okay, this is an analysis for a single ward, in a single local authority area, which, in turn, makes-up just one part of a Parliamentary Constituency. But these facts don’t lie.
So, look around you. Over the last five years have either you or your two immediate neighbours moved? Has one house out of three changed hands? I thought so. Just think about it when betting on narrow swings on the 2005 result. And when the papers keep going on about UNS, you'll know that as long as democracy relies on one-man-one-vote, it pays to think where those 'men' live.
Bunnco - Your Man On The Spot
I made a few notes during the latter stages of the race, which I think are of importance. The Red Bull uses a Renault engine (mostly because they left it too late last season to switch to a Mercedes) which apparently is more fuel efficient than the Ferrari, giving it a 10kg weight advantage at the start of the race. It can’t be said it’s a certainty, but the start saw Vettel get away very easily which may be due, in part, to the fuel effect.
Sticking with engines, the Cosworth (which Williams use) is faster in a straight line than the Ferrari, if Barrichello’s easy overtaking of Buemi is anything to go by. The McLaren is also super fast in a straight line, but that’s because of the cunning F-vent in the nose.
Interestingly, the cars never got close to qualifying pace and were always, even on fumes, 4-5s or more slower.
As some suspected, the Red Bull had reliability issues (as it did last season). But for that Vettel would’ve won, or at least come second. As it is, he came 4th after a rather lacklustre challenge from Rosberg. The Red Bull’s soft tyres seem to degrade slightly after 10-15 laps or so, and the Ferraris were so hot they had to avoid slipstreams to stay cool. Obviously, Bahrain is a hot place so this may not be an issue elsewhere.
Also, Bahrain is not a circuit that’s too hard on the tyres. At circuits where this is the case, I wonder if we’ll see multiple stops. There wasn’t much overtaking on the track, which the no refuelling rule was intended to encourage. To be frank, the race was rather dull, with large gaps between most cars and little excitement.
So, what did we learn? The McLaren’s tyres didn’t disintegrate after six laps, as I thought they might. I had been tempted to tip laying Hamilton for the podium at 2.9, but in the morning the odds had lengthened so I didn’t. In addition, Hamilton was markedly better than Button in both race and qualifying. We’ll see if this continues at tracks with higher rates of tyre wear.
Red Bull didn’t get much practice in, and didn’t top the timesheets until qualifying. The car also showed very good, consistent race pace, but being fast means sod all if the reliability isn’t there. It’s just one race, and it might be bad luck, but given what happened last season I think this indicates the team is fast but need better reliability.
Ferrari are fast and reliable, but they did have an issue with overheating. Not all circuits are in deserts, but quite a few are in hot spots. Massa had some issue or other with his, but was still comfortably second, and I think the two Ferrari chaps are pretty evenly matched.
Mercedes continue to underwhelm. It is interesting, though, that Rosberg was 0.5s (consistently) faster than Schumacher in practice and qualified better by 2 places, but only finished 1 place ahead of him. Not yet proven whether Rosberg can cut it at the sharp end on race day. Schumacher needs to up his game.
So, how is the Driver’s Title shaping up? Massa’s now at 8.6 for the title, which remains too long, and Alonso is ridiculously short at 2.34. We have a stack of races (it’s 19, or something crazy like that) and we’ve only had one finished. Vettel’s probably a little too short at 4.7, and Hamilton’s interesting at 8. Not sure why he’s shorter than Massa given the McLaren was slower in practice, slower in qualifying and slower in the race. Oh, and both McLarens finished behind both Ferraris.
I didn’t tip anyone for the Constructor’s, regarding it as very hard to call. Ferrari are at 1.76, which seems rightish. Red Bull are at 3.85, which may be a little long, though I’m not going to back them at those odds. McLaren are surprisingly short at 3.55, and Mercedes are 9.6, which looks about right.
So, where to next? Australia, in a fortnight. Quite unfairly, the 3rd practice session finishes at 4am, with qualifying from 6am, so I’ll probably do the pre-qualifying article on Friday rather than Saturday, with the pre-race on Saturday and the analysis on Sunday (which hopefully won’t include Massa coming second whenever I tip him). We’ve seen how the race goes (boringly) with no refuelling, and there’s some data regarding the recent Australian GP results for the race and qualifying so that’ll give me something to get my teeth into in the meantime.
I missed Q3, as I was out, but decided to watch it on the iPlayer to see what tyres the runners and riders qualified on. This season every driver (in the top 10) must start the race on the same quartet of tyres that they qualified on. This introduces a tactical element, as softer tyres are often faster, affording superior grid position, but hard ones are more durable, extending the time a car can run with heavy fuel and thus heavy workload on the tyres before pitting is necessary.
This matters because a car still needs a substantial window to pit and be out ahead of the back markers. If a top 8 driver is behind a Lotus, HRT or Virgin they’ll lose a great deal of time. The Ferraris and Button may be best-placed in this regard throughout the season.
It seems all the top 10, save Sutil, got their laps on soft tyres which will degrade rapidly but be faster initially in the race.
In the last 3 years there has been relatively little movement from the starting lineup to the final positions in the race. It’s not an Interlagos, where there can be tons of overtaking. The first corner is the slowest, and into it will be going 24 cars that are longer and slower than any the race has seen for many years. I would be surprised if there were not several drivers running off the track and even a couple out of the race from corner 1.
As well as Vettel, Massa and Alonso are the best here. I have grave doubts about Hamilton. The McLaren is not as fast as might have been expected and he is known for shredding tyres. There are some concerns regarding the reliability of the Red Bull. The Ferrari is fast and is thought to be reliable.
Barrichello is also interesting. He can manage tyres but as he’s 11th he doesn’t have to start the race on the set he qualified on.
Bear in mind we have no idea just how the fuel loads will work regarding tyre wear, number of pit stops, brake wear, reliability etc. I was tempted to try and sit this one out, so if you’re unsure because of all the rule changes you might prefer to just watch the race rather than risk your money.
After sleeping on it and letting the markets get up to speed, here are my tips:
Massa to win at 5.2. Vettel torments me. He’s the fastest driver, I believe, and has a good car but the Red Bull may well be unreliable in the long run and Massa is very very good at Bahrain. I do believe 4/1 is too long for a second place man who won the race in 2008 and 2007 and outperformed his much favoured team mate in qualifying.
I’ve also decided to have two bets on Barrichello, following what Ted Kravitz said (something I was prompted to recall at http://carons-musings.blogspot.com/2010/03/f1-behold-march-of-pregnant-elephants.html). Barrichello starts 11th, which means he gets to use whatever tyres he likes. The top 9 are all on softs, and Sutil’s on hard, but used, tyres. It really is very difficult to see how this will play out, so the cautious amongst you may prefer to just watch Bahrain and see how tyre degradation and the changing fuel loads affect things.
For those with money to burn or who are feeling more adventurous, I’ve backed Barrichello at 1.95 to get points. For that, he needs just to make just a single place, so if any of the top 10 crash, have tyre wear issues or have a bad start it’ll pay off.
I’ve also put a smaller amount on him to get a podium at 18. This is pretty speculative, but there are a few ways it could work out. A safety car could bunch up the pack, and as he’s on hard tyres I imagine heat would be less of an issue, likewise degradation, and he’s unlikely to have pitted before most others so he won’t be at the back of the queue. Turn 1 may well see a pile up (a lot of long, slow cars in a slow, tight corner) which could collect Barrichello, but he’s a veteran driver and hopefully he’d stay clear whilst others get an early shower. We also don’t know just how advantageous the hard tyre (if they are advantageous) will prove for Barrichello, but having the choice of a new tyre will undoubtedly help him.
Bit of an inauspicious start yesterday. Miffed Massa came second, but I did have an uncertain start to 2009 as well, and that was easier to predict than the start of 2010. Let’s hope there’s a great race, with Massa winning and Barrichello second.
Saturday, 13 March 2010
In P1, the Force India of Sutil surprising topped the timesheets, followed by Alonso. Button and Hamilton were evenly matched, Webber beat Vettel by 0.7, but that must be due to fuel. Massa was a good 4th, Kubica surprised in 3rd (fuel effect, I think). Biggest surprise was Rosberg being 0.5s faster than Schumacher, a feat repeated in P2 and he beat Schumacher in P3 as well. According to BBC commentators, this is because the Merc tends towards understeer, which Rosberg loves and Schumacher hates. If this changes then Schumacher may get the uppet hand.
The Mercs and McLarens topped the timesheets in P2, when most seemed to be trying out heavy fuel loads. Hamilton managed to shred a set of hard tyres in 4 laps. If that happens in the race he’ll be stopping more often than a narcoleptic jogger. Vettel was 5th, Ferrari’s down in 7th and 9th.
Alonso topped P3, then Rosberg, Webber, Schumacher, Vettel, Massa, Button with Hamilton in 12th. However, Hamilton had an issue with one of his wheels which prevented him having a low fuel, soft tyre qualifying simulation run.
Naturally my pre-qualifying posts will focus on the qualifying markets (pole, reaching Q3) but I’ll have an eye on the others as well, just in case something stands out. It’s the first race, variable fuel has made sifting testing and practising for useful data difficult, so I thought I’d check Bahrain’s last three results to see if there are any extra pointers for qualifying.
Last year (of the big boys) Vettel was top (3rd) followed by Button and Hamilton. However, worth remembering Ferrari had a dog of a car that year. In 2008, Massa and Raikonnen were 2nd and 4th, with Hamilton and Kovalainen in 3rd and 5th. And in 2007 it was, from pole, Massa, Hamilton, Raikonnen and Alonso. Disregarding last year, when Ferrari made their brake discs from chocolate and their car was powered by the motor from a 2CV, this has been a pretty good track for Ferrari generally and Massa in particular. Alonso’s clearly regarded as the top driver by most, though I think it’s closer than most suspect.
I found this very difficult to try and call. Raikonnen beat Massa in most of the 2007 practices yet still lost out on pole, but Alonso’s looking very good. So, I decided to back both, Alonso at 3.25 and Massa at 6.8. First tips of the season (for a weekend), so a bit nervous but hopefully it’ll work out.
I was looking at backing Kubica for reaching Q3, but he’s only 1.3 which is far, far too low. I’d want 5 at least.
Anyway, that’s it for now. Qualifying starts at 11am. My pre-race post will be later than usual because I’m off out for lunch, but I imagine I’ll have the pre-race article up by late afternoon or early evening.
Friday, 12 March 2010
I do not propose, therefore, to say much about the intricacies of each seat, but to analyse the swings needed, the markets and to draw some inferences. There seem to be some really good prices in Wales and I'm going to take a lot of talking out of that conclusion.
I have ignored those seats where one party has crushingly short odds and each party where its odds in a seat are very long (except where it is on the list of another party’s target seats). Once again, I’ve listed these seats in ranking of odds, and included the swing. What do the markets seem to be saying? Well, they seem to be confident of quite a few Conservative gains.
The Tories must be hoping to add to their three Welsh seats. By the time that you get to Clwyd South, they will need just under a 10% swing. For that, the best price that you can get is 11/8. I suggest that is not that exciting a prospect.
Interestingly, the market assumption in England that Lib Dem seats will hold out better than Labour seats against the Tories seems not to apply very strongly. The two Lib Dem seats are a little lower on the list than we might expect if they were Labour seats, but only a little. Perhaps these are two unusually weak Lib Dem MPs. Certainly Lembit Opik in Montgomeryshire has a reputation to live down.
Turning to the Lib Dems, every picture tells a story:
First, the Lib Dems don’t have many realistic targets in Wales. Secondly, all such targets are in Labour seats. Thirdly, the markets seem, shall we say, optimistic about Lib Dem chances in their few targets. Are the Lib Dems really going to get an 11% swing in Newport East (a seat where they are only a few hundred ahead of the Conservatives) and a 7% swing in Swansea West? The polling evidence for this possibility is sparse and certainly doesn't justify the short odds on the Lib Dems doing so.
On the other hand, the markets are surprisingly gloomy about the Lib Dems chances of retaining their seats. The best-priced odds in Cardiff Central are frankly insulting to the local MP. Ladbrokes quote the Lib Dems' chances in this seat at 1/33 and that seems far more realistic to me than the odds that all the other bookies quote on this seat. Labour would have to play out of their skins to take this seat. As we shall see, they probably have their hands full elsewhere.
I've already noted how Lembit Opik doesn't feel much love from punters. To be quoted at only 2/5 to avoid an adverse swing of 11.4% is astounding. Has he really blotted his copybook that much? Local knowledge in a seat like this is everything, but these odds look very generous at face value. The best Conservative price is 11/4, so it is possible to back both and make a profit - no one else stands an earthly.
Plaid Cymru are in contention in a surprising number of seats:
Arfon, while notionally Labour, has a sitting Plaid MP. But look at the odds in Llanelli - 6/4 to get a swing of over 10%? You have to put a lot of faith in their ability to convert Welsh Assembly results into Westminster votes for that. I don't.
Historically, Plaid Cymru have flattered to deceive at Westminster elections. There isn't much sign in the polls that they will do amazingly well. I would prefer to be betting against them than for them.
This brings me to what I regard as the bonanza, Labour prices:
Some of these are incomprehensible unless you assume Labour is going to be hammered and that the Welsh Assembly and EU election results are going to be repeated. Even then, some of the prices are barely comprehensible.
Cardiff West, Llanelli, Newport East and Wrexham all look like complete steals at 1/2. Can you see more than one of these falling? I can't. I doubt whether any of them will. Look at the swings required. In Wrexham and Newport East, there are a multiplicity of challengers as well. Swansea West at 10/11 also looks great value, when you consider that the challenger is the Lib Dems, who have been languishing in Wales.
I am more wary where the Conservatives are the challengers to Labour, since they do appear to have made progress in Wales. Even there, many seats have no tradition of voting Conservative. Progress is likely to be slower than in returning English heartlands.
Finally, Ynys Mon is a seat I would like to know much more about. Plaid fancy their chances there, but they fancied their chances there in 2005 and were disappointed. Is the 5/2 on Labour worth having? My spider sense tells me that it might be.
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
During the Norwich North by-election campaign I got to bump into quite a few leading personalities from the various parties but it was a chance conversation with a senior Tory that suggested that Labour's election tactic would be to hold a budget and then immediately call the election without the inconvenience of a Finance Act debate in Parliament, when the budget figures would unravel.
So, back on 1st August when the Norwich dust had settled I started to look at the dates. My mistake was to assume that an election date would be chosen that allowed a budget to take place before the election yet allowing a Finance Act debate to take place afterwards in April having allowed time for the delays for the swearing-in of new MPs. I figured the whole job would be knocked-off by the first week in May.
I concluded that, particularly with the coincidence of Easter, the budget would be delivered on March 10th, one of the earliest practical dates. As it happens of course, the budget date has been announced on March 10th one of the latest practicable dates for delivery on March 24th. So what went wrong?
For ages, it looked like my insight was correct. The PBR was set for 9th December and a budget cannot be held within 3 months of that. So it looked like a 10th March budget was ‘on’. And I’m sure that was part of the plan in Whitehall. A March 10th Budget gave ‘options’. And that’s what politics is all about.
And then in February when it became clear that the first quarter’s economic figures would be severely knocked by the loss of 2 weeks output to the snow and ice and the 1st quarter’s stats being released on St George’s Day, it seemed that hanging-on for May 6th was very risky.
So, when the polls appeared to narrow and the sense of momentum seemed to be swinging towards Labour, on Valentines Day I updated my August analysis in 'Two Stags Lock Horns, Budget or Bust'.
In that article, I made a passing reference to the feud between Chancellor and Prime Minister that seemed to determine the election date. Who would be most dominant? Darling: the man to choose the budget date or Brown: the man to choose the election date. That day, Darling announced in the Telegraph that there would be a budget thus scotching talk of a March 25th poll. He boxed the PM in. With Brown on the rack from Bullygate, Darling was on-top.
The fact that the PM today announced the budget date rather than the Chancellor indicates a role reversal and now neither of them trust each other with the lights out. Sparks ahead for the Budget narrative.
So, with April 8th now out-of-the-window and May 6th nailed-on, not least because of the local elections in the Mets, Parliament must be dissolved by April 12th.
The decision to go to a May poll is high risk for Labour. Although Parliament must be dissolved by April 12th at the latest for May 6th, there’s an Easter recess to be squeezed-in before then, and I can’t see MP’s being called-back for a day just for prorogation, not that they actually have to return to London, nowadays. [Note that the Easter recess dates are still to be set.]
The brutal practicalities of this mean that the Election campaign will start on Thursday 25th March, the day after the budget and immediately before Easter, meaning a long campaign during which the broadcast media will be compelled to give equal weight to all parties. I think this is a really significant thing. It's why I wrote about the rules that strict cover broadcasting during the campaign here.
So, I’m not sure why Labour is risking a free-pass to the other parties for longer than absolutely necessary. You’d have thought that they’d have learned from John Major in 1997, who allowed one of the longest campaigns in history and paid the price accordingly.
Perhaps they think the momentum really is with them but when it comes to elections, Mike’s third rule applies. If you’re defending a lead, keep it short and sweet.
I’ve written before that Labour & LibDem’s are fishing in the same pool. The longer the campaign, the more the exposure the LibDems will get so the better the LibDems will do at the expense of Labour and, all other things being equal, that means that the Conservative lead will increase, even if their share remains constant at 38-40%.
I still think that Labour could have sealed-in some of their recent advances by going early. There’s a saying in politics, ‘Quit whilst you’re ahead’. But now they’re risking it all. The more you’re on the box, the better you do in the polls. And Labour have most to lose from a long campaign.
With equality of media coverage during the campaign, they’re betting the farm on those Q1 figures on St George’s Day being positive. If the figures reflect the shocking start in January, it will derail their ‘don’t risk the recovery’ meme with a fortnight to go. Ouch. And with unease in the currency market, who knows what could happen.
Of course, Labour could maintain the fiction that June 3rd is still on the cards but even I can’t see the generally risk-averse Brown throwing their local councillors to the lions on May 6th, from whom the party will rebuild itself in the event of losing control in the General.
So, whether by his own decision or having been forced to by Darling, going for May 6th Brown is now throwing caution to the wind. But then, Labour’s got nothing to lose. It’s double-or-quits.
But with the benefit of hindsight that tip-off in the Oaklands Hotel in Norwich last July that Labour would have the budget and go straight to the country without the inconvenience of a debate now turns out to have been right all along. I just misinterpreted it datewise. Logic indicated that Brown should go early. But Hey! This is politics. Who says that Logic applies?
But that’s no consolation to those that bet on April 8th. Sorry guys. We can’t win ‘em all. I really thought I'd got it nailed.
Bunnco – Your Man on the Spot
Saturday, 6 March 2010
Firstly, especially for tim: A version of the calculator with the ability to adjust the unwind by region.
Secondly, as promised to Chris A, links to the simple additive UNS spreadsheets for the past few elections:
The electoral constituency results required for the calculators were taken from the data kindly made available by Martin Baxter at his Electoral Calculus site