Betfair punters make it about an evens chance that TMay will be out next year – I’m not tempted

September 18th, 2018

A no confidence move is highly risky for any plotters

One of the great jobs of returning from a longish holiday is reviewing how things have changed while you’ve been away and the biggest move over the past three weeks is how the Chequers Brexit plan is gathering support. Maybe the Mail was following rather than leading. TMay’s big gamble might just succeed.

What is this going to do to her future career prospects?

It is being widely said within the Conservative Party that after Brexit, March 29th next year, Mrs. May will go and there will be a leadership election. I’m not convinced. She’s mentioned a couple of times that her plan is to stay on and what is the party going to do if the woman who has by then delivered Brexit wants to stay put?

Are we really going to see an attempt to oust her if she makes it clear that she won’t go of her own accord?

To get rid of Mrs May 15% of MPs have to write to the chairman of the 1922 committee demanding a confidence vote. The key number is not the 15% of MPs but whether the desire to oust her is backed by 50% plus one of the Parliamentary party – 158. The downside for ousters is that if there is a confidence vote that she survives, even by just a single vote, Mrs May would be safe in the job for a further year. So those wanting her out could actually be giving her greater job security.

These latest rules were created when William Hague was leader in the first Blair government are totally different from that which is existed in Mrs Thatcher’s time something that many commentators don’t seem to appreciate.

The overwhelming factor in the event of a confidence vote will be who would be the successor and here the party is totally split.

    If ousting May is perceived to increase the chances of Johnson becoming leader that will surely inhibit many CON MPs from voting for TMay to go in a confidence ballot.

The former mayor who uses terms like suicide vests to describe Mrs May’s Brexit approach has far less support amongst his parliamentary colleagues than might be appreciated.

I wonder as well if TMay might be helped by the “time never being ripe” for a leadership contest. If she went soon after March 29th that would conflict with the May locals. It was the “this is not the right time” element in the 2008-2010 period which helped Gordon Brown to struggle on. There was always a reason why a leadership election shouldn’t happen and eventually we got to the election itself.

The need for 158 CON MPs to back it and the consequences of a failed move make the no confidence option unattractive. It is no wonder that it hasn’t happened so far.

I’ve already lost money betting on this market (I was on a 2017 exit) that I’m not going to risk any more.

Mike Smithson


Labour’s Oldies’ headache: Turnout levels reverting to GE2015 levels

September 17th, 2018

And will young voter enthusiasm be retained?

Unlike Alastair Meeks on the previous thread I am far less certain that Labour, certainly under Corbyn, have a good chance of winning most seats, let alone getting a majority at the next election.

The boundaries, the lack of any discernable progress in Scotland and the ongoing blowback from Corbyn’s cack-handed handling of the antisemitism issue are going to make it hard.

This thread is about another potential challenge – the changes in turnout levels between the last two election shown in the above chart. These were, of course, the reason why many pollsters got GE2017 wrong. Quite simply their turnout modelling was linked back to GE2015. As can be seen there was a huge increase in levels in the younger age groups which was combined with reduced turnout rates in the older ones.

This has been put down to a keenness at the time for younger voters to respond Labour, its manifesto and leader. There was also the Conservatives manifesto with, of course, Nick Timothy’s dementia tax. It was that move three weeks before polling that saw the huge turn around in the Tory standing, partly driven by lower oldie turnout that led to its failure to hold onto its majority.

But that is all history. A big question for the next election is whether turnout levels are set in strone or could we see a reversal back to GE2015? If older turnout levels return this is not good news for LAB. More oldies casting their votes means bigger CON shares.

At the younger end of the voting spectrum we cannot assume that Labour and Corbyn will retain the attractiveness of last time and retain the turnout levels that we saw in June last year. Certainly the latest polling suggests an easing off.

    The weekend’s Opinium poll for the Observer had just 38% of 18-34 year olds approving of Corbyn compared with 33% saying they disapproved. This compares with just 15% of oldies(65+) approving of Corbyn with a whopping 70% disapproving.

It is the same pattern with recent leader ratings from other pollsters.

Mike Smithson


Ruthless People. The Conservatives lose a leadership contender

September 17th, 2018

I have an announcement to make. Sadly I do not foresee circumstances in which I shall be standing to be leader of the Conservative party. This is no doubt a great loss to them, despite my having no ministerial experience, not being an MP or even being a member of the Conservative party. But they will have to struggle on without me.

The bemusement you are, I expect, feeling was not matched when Ruth Davidson similarly ruled herself out. Perhaps it was because she is a member of the Conservative party. After all, she has the other two disqualifiers, just like me. There are 316 MPs more immediately eligible, of whom at least half will have had more governmental experience. Why should her disavowal attract so much attention?

This can be explained partly, of course, by the basis on which she did so. As has been widely acknowledged, she has been incredibly open about her past struggles with mental health, an openness that will help change attitudes to a set of serious problems that are far too little discussed. She may have helped to save lives with her words. Few politicians achieve as much.

Still, the question can’t be dismissed: why is this major news? The answer is simple, and worrying for the Conservative party: they have a serious lack of talent. A charismatic outsider with a winning track record looks much better than most of the alternatives. Theresa May only remains in office because the alternatives look dire. Unsurprisingly, Conservatives are looking to see whether the grass is greener.

Ruth Davidson’s hypothetical candidacy is symptomatic of that bigger problem. Jacob Rees-Mogg, an MP who has not yet climbed as far as unpaid bag-carrier in government, has been among the favourites for next Prime Minister. He too has disavowed leadership ambitions, so far without harming his betting odds very much.

Others have seen the gap in the market. Last week George Freeman, an MP who had previously served in unblemished obscurity, helpfully announced that if called upon he would stand. The nation no doubt is grateful for his sense of duty.

When Theresa May goes, whether sooner or later, she will in all probability be replaced by a candidate with substantial experience at the highest rank, however lacklustre they might otherwise be. The paucity of quality of the field, however, suggests that the Conservatives will be likely to make heavy weather against Labour.

What of Ms Davidson? Having announced that she does not want to be Prime Minister she has benefited from a wave of sympathy from a public that finds a great renunciation a compelling story. It does raise a further awkward question, however: if she is not up to being Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, why does she think she is up to being Scotland’s First Minister? She had better have a clear answer.

Alastair Meeks


Et tu, John? Is another JC set to get stabbed in the back by a close ally?

September 17th, 2018

The truly great, such as Caesar & Thatcher, are removed from power by their allies stabbing them in the back, is Corbyn about to join that club?

The Sunday Times reports

While those who are aware of the discussions say there is no imminent threat to Corbyn, they claim it is the first time that senior party figures have begun to question whether he is the right person to lead Labour into the next general election.

A source said: “John McDonnell is a pragmatist and is hell-bent on getting Labour back into power. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of that. While he is not actively agitating against the Labour leader, there are people around him who are starting to raise questions about the future of the leadership and whether some of the shine is beginning to fall off Corbyn.”

Another source added: “While it is unclear whether McDonnell wants the leadership for himself, some within the party are convinced he is on manoeuvres and has been remoulding himself as the voice of reason.”

Corbyn provoked further fury within the party last week when he said he would not protect colleagues facing the threat of deselection by hard-left activists.

However, McDonnell is said to have privately told colleagues that he is not in favour of the mandatory reselection process, in comments which have been interpreted by some as part of his charm offensive to win over Labour MPs.

A Labour MP said: “Even moderate Labour MPs are coming around to McDonnell. I have heard Labour MPs say recently that they think McDonnell would be preferable to Corbyn.”

All of this chimes with what I have been saying for a while, Labour’s obsession with Israel and Palestine seems a political waste of time when all that energy could, and should, be focussed on attacking the government on any number of matters.

How much have you heard Labour banging on about the problems with Universal Credit or the train system in recent months? Those are but two areas where the government is vulnerable. The leadership and members seem more obsessed with the Middle East than Middle England, focussing on the latter helps wins general elections in this country, not the former.

I suspect John McDonnell is one of the few Labour MPs Corbyn will willingly stand down for, particularly as McDonnell doesn’t bring as much baggage on Middle Eastern matters as Corbyn.

Political authority is a lot like virginity, once it is gone then it is difficult to get back, if McDonnell’s close allies are questioning his leadership then we are closer to the end of his leadership than the beginning of it. It will be very hard for the Corbyn cult to dismiss John McDonnell as a Blairite agitator.

At the time of writing you could get between 14/1 to 20/1 on John McDonnell being Corbyn’s successor.



With just over six months to go until Brexit day YouGov looks where the public stands

September 16th, 2018

Some good news for Theresa May?

Anthony Wells writes

There is an overwhelming perception that the Brexit negotiations are not turning out well. In our most recent tracker 73% of the public thought the negations were going badly, including majorities of both Remainers and Leavers, and both Tory and Labour supporters. Only 22% of people now think that it is likely that a deal will be struck in time for Britain to leave the EU in March 2019.

A majority (55%) think that the EU has had the upper hand in negotiations, around a quarter (24%) think there has been give-and-take on both sides and just 2% think the UK seems to have the advantage. Only 8% of people expect the government to get the sort of Brexit they have said they want – while approaching three in ten (28%) expect them to end up agreeing a deal for a softer Brexit than they want, and around the same proportion (27%) expect no deal at all.

However, these deeply negative judgements are not placed wholly at Theresa May’s door. Four in ten (42%) respondents think that any other leader would have done just as badly as May, compared to just over a quarter (27%) who believe someone else could have done better.

Neither is the perceived poor progress of negotiations necessarily seen as a reason to replace May. Just over one in five (22%) people now think an alternative leader would get a better Brexit deal, while over half (54%) think that a different leader would not be able to do any better in the time available.

My take from this poll is that if Mrs May gets a sub-optimal deal or no deal she personally won’t take a hit, low expectations may help her in the long term.

For those wishing for the UK to Remain in the UK that Bregret lead isn’t large enough to demand let alone win another referendum. I suspect the Bregret lead will increase a lot in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit. Britons will need to experience the reality of a Hard Brexit if there’s to be any chance of overturning Brexit.



Betting on Labour’s GB wide share of the vote at the next general election

September 16th, 2018

Ladbrokes have a market up on Labour’s GB wide share of the vote at the next election and this is a market I’m going to avoid for the time being for the following known unknowns

  1. I’m not sure when the next general election is, I can see the next general election happening anywhere from this autumn to May 2022. You can see how the Brexit negotiations and votes therein can lead to an early election.
  2. I’m fairly certain the Tories will have a new leader in place for the election, who this will be I’m less sure about who this will be.
  3. There’s a not so insignificant chance that Jeremy Corbyn is not the Labour leader at the next election. (FYI – If Corbyn quits it will be entirely his own choice).
  4. If there are mass defections from Labour to create a new party/SDP 2.
  5. Brexit and a no deal Brexit in particular having the potential to do the Tory party’s reputation what the Winter of Discontent did to the Labour party for so long.
  6. Assuming the Tory party cannot run an election campaign as badly as they did last time. Then you remember that Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are considered potential successors and then you can envisage the Tories running a worse campaign than 2017.

So when you consider all of those variables you can understand my reluctance to bet on this market. Perhaps you can persuade me which option to back but I suspect this is one of those markets where the profitable choice is not to bet.

If I was forced to choose I’d take the 33/1 on Labour polling sub 20%, that seems a good proxy bet if there was a split in Labour which saw the emergence of a new party.



If you think Beto O’Rourke is going to win Texas in November then these might make for good bets

September 15th, 2018

The Dems winning Texas in a Presidential election changes the electoral maths.

In recent times Texas has been a safe banker for the GOP but demographics are trending back to the Dems, so what might help tip the balance is if the Dems choose a native son or daughter to be their nominee.

If you think Beto O’Rourke is going to win his Senate battle this autumn then looking at him being a future Presidential nominee seems logical. Tying up my money for 22 years isn’t very appealing but 66/1 and 100/1 for six and ten years might be worth a punt with William Hill. If you think he might do it in 2020 he’s 27s to win the Presidency in 2020 and 16s to be the Democratic Party nominee on Betfair.

If Hillary Clinton had won Texas in 2016 she’d have won the Presidency, that’s how important Texas is.


PS – William Hill also offer 33/1 on a party other than the Tories, Labour, Liberals (sic), UKIP, or Greens to win the most seats at the next UK general election. So if a new party is formed the only way I can see this bet winning is if we get a results across the country reminiscent of Inverness, Nairn, and Lochaber in 1992.


There will be no second referendum whether Labour backs it or not

September 15th, 2018

Indeed, Labour best hope is to push for one – but to fail

Brexit is not unlike Hurricane Florence. A huge amount of energy is being expended, mostly to destructive effect, dumping a load of output which is flooding out a great deal else, while not going anywhere fast.

And just as Florence attracts storm-chasers, Brexit attracts any number of other eccentrics, on all sides, either to participate in the main thing or to chase rainbows. One such rainbow is the fabled second referendum (I reject the phrase ‘People’s Vote’, which is nothing more than a euphemism for a referendum and we’ve already had one of those; it’s particularly dangerously misleading in the singular). Almost since Remain lost the first vote, some Referendum Deniers have been agitating for a second shot but with Labour possibly about to back that call, we should think carefully about what such a change in policy would mean, both in terms of likely success and on how it’d affect politics more generally.

On the question of success, the answer is that it’s very low. Ladbrokes are quoting 9/4 on another referendum before the end of 2019. I think that’s far too short: the odds should be about 8/1. Why? Because it’s extremely difficult for an opposition to force a government to do something it really doesn’t want to do.

A referendum can only happen if the government wants one. Each needs its own legislation to compel councils to run the polling stations, postal votes and so on. Perhaps in theory the government could run it centrally by post but such a ballot would suffer credibility issues, could be subject to boycotts, and the result lack legitimacy if the outcome was close, as seems likely for any Leave/Remain option. So voting would have to be done the normal way, which means an Act of Parliament – and that only happens if the government drafts and introduces the Bill, and makes time for it.

Before we get a Bill though, there needs to be some consensus on what the question to be put is (or questions are). Is it a re-run of Leave/Remain, is it Deal / No Deal (assuming there is a deal), or is it a three-way choice. If the full options of Remain / Deal / No Deal are on offer, is the vote by AV or are there two questions (and if the latter, what question is put first)? Without that consensus, any campaign would suffer from too much infighting and too many divisions to effectively apply pressure to the government.

Also, there would need to be some thought as to what happens after the vote. So far, the discussion has barely progressed beyond “Brexit is awful, we must have a second vote to get us out of it”, which does at least give an answer to the “what question” question – though not one to interest a government currently negotiating Brexit – but pays no attention to the practicalities of what happens next (admittedly, not a failing unique to them but that’s not an excuse).

However, first of all, that legislation. Let’s suppose that by November we have both a deal in place, legislation ready to go before parliament, and a government forced into introducing it – all of which are bold assumptions. The first referendum Bill took over six months to go through parliament in 2015. Even if a new Bill could be rammed through in just one month – a process which would undoubtedly leave malcontent in its wake and set up allegations of unfairness, a rigged playing field and bias – the time available for campaigns to organise and register, and then for the vote to be held would be mightily tight to the March 29 deadline. In reality, we’re well past the point where it could happen before Brexit Day.

But suppose it could, because that’s the basis on which the rainbow is being chased. Were it to ratify the deal the government came back from Brussels with, no great problem. The other two possibilities, unfortunately, are a problem. And going by the polling on the Chequers Plan, the outcome would be one of the other two options.

The elephant in the room that advocates of a second vote are ignoring is the chance that not only does Leave win again but it does so on a mandate of No Deal. While the polling has trended towards Remain over the last two years, it’s been slow and having bagged their win, Leavers have been less prominent in making the generic case to leave and keener to debate the details.

Four weeks of “which part of Out didn’t you get?” could swing the polls around (note that in a second referendum, the Conservatives would undoubtedly by on the Leave side, something which would add about £7m to that campaign’s spending limit). Certainly, when the three options were put in opinion polls, No Deal was far more popular than something based on Chequers. And as Mark Carney pointed out this week, such an outcome would be considerably sub-optimal.

On the other hand, there’s the chance of Remain winning. Mainly, presumably, on a basis of nothing better being on offer. It’s notable how despite the opportunities of the last three years and more, keen Remainers are still instinctively drawn to some form of Project Fear rather than promoting the benefits of working together in a Single Market with common rules, consumer protection, mutual recognition of standards (and driving licences) and so on: the opportunities that membership brings, in other words. A win on such terms would be grudging and would do nothing to end the debate.

And of course, we don’t even know if Britain can revoke A50. An extension is possible – though even there, not necessarily an indefinite one – but an outright revocation, even with the agreement of all 27 other members is still something that the CJEU would need to agree. Further, current UK law probably doesn’t give the government the power to revoke A50: the EU (Notification of Withdrawal) Act only gave the PM the power to invoke the Article, not to withdraw it. Though presumably the legislation enabling the referendum could tidy that up.

The legalities are one thing: the politics another. Brexit has already been damaging to political discourse in the country, normalising extreme language and sharpening divisions (though it is both consequence and contributor there, and nor is it the only factor). Another referendum, whatever the outcome, would re-open all those divisions and pour acid into them. If one of the three options was excluded, one side would unquestionably call foul and claim, with justification, that they’d been denied their voice; on the other hand, if all three are there, Remain or No Deal would almost certainly win, probably not by very much. Either way, there’d be millions of mightily angry people and if it went for No Deal, there’d also be an economic crisis into the bargain. Either way, there’d probably be a new Prime Minister (though no new general election – the Tories and DUP would still hold a majority).

All of which begs the question as to why Labour are keen to go down that road.

The answer is that they’re not. I don’t think that many advocates share this analysis of how badly things would turn out. Labour would, of course, have their own divisions, as last time, but as they’d be nothing compared with the Tories. Perhaps that’s a price seen as worth paying. Of course, the foreknowledge of how torn apart the Tories would be is one reason, beyond the near-certainty of losing her agreement with the EU, that Theresa May will do everything possible to avoid another public vote.

But in truth, as mentioned earlier, there isn’t time without an extension to A50 to run a referendum, nor is there any easy parliamentary means for the opposition parties to force one on the government. It’s all very well Labour coming out in favour but while they sit on the opposition benches, they can’t do anything about it other than shout.

And just shouting is really what would suit Labour best in this case; appearing to be on the side of Remainers will win support – providing they never need to make good on it before the Brexit process is over.

David Herdson