Not another one. Oh for God’s sake, honestly I can’t stand this. There’s too much politics going on at the moment.

May 20th, 2018

Today’s Sunday Times report

Conservative MPs are preparing for another snap general election as they fear the Brexit deadlock will become insurmountable for the prime minister.

Some have spoken to their local party associations asking to be readopted as prospective parliamentary candidates in readiness for an autumn election.

The back-bench MPs acted after meeting Theresa May last week for a private Brexit briefing as she tried to stop a row over Britain’s future customs relationship with the European Union tearing the party apart.

But far from being reassured by meeting the prime minister, they left Downing Street convinced that another election could be around the corner.

One Tory Brexiteer said he could not see how the government could “square the circle” and come up with a solution on Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU that would appease both sides of the warring party.

“It’s becoming clear there’s no compromise that will keep remainers such as Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve happy as well as the likes of myself and Jacob Rees-Mogg,” the MP said.

“The numbers are against us and if we face repeated defeats when the withdrawal bill returns to the Commons, the only alternative will be to kick over the table and trigger a vote of no confidence in the prime minister, which will likely lead to another general election.

“After speaking with like-minded colleagues, I have raised this with my association chairman and asked them to get on with readopting me as the candidate in my seat in anticipation that we could go to the polls as early as the autumn. I am even preparing my first leaflet drop for the summer.”

Labour MPs are also discussing the prospect of an October poll. A Labour Party insider said: “I heard two separate reports from MPs who said they had heard Conservative MPs planning for an early election.”

This chimes in with my own long standing views that a 2018 election wouldn’t surprise me as Mrs May would struggle to reconcile her party as she and the party discover that Brexit isn’t as easy as some Brexiteers promised.

As a Tory and a patriot sadly I think far too many Tories are playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun, even if they don’t know it. The Sunday Times report ‘At least a dozen hardline Brexiteers think leaving the EU with no deal would be better, according to reports. They are expected to renew calls for the appointment of a “no deal” cabinet minister to show that Britain is prepared to walk away from the negotiations.’

Although I was struck by John Rentoul’s observation this morning that as Mrs May moves us to the softest of soft Brexits ‘The prime minister is boiling the Brexiteer frogs: the water is getting hotter and none of them has jumped out of the pan.’ Perhaps some of the Leavers have decided pragmatism is the only way when it comes to Brexit rather than risking Corbyn as Prime Minister.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice that the polling of the Tories and Mrs May has improved since Mrs May has started talking about delivering a softer Brexit.

Several bookies are offering 6/1 on a 2018 election and Betfair’s latest price is a 7.6, this is a market I’m not going play any further at these prices.

As the headline of this piece is channelling Brenda from Bristol, I suspect the Tories will take a hit if they force another election on the country, so that’s why it probably won’t happen.



A 100/1 tip to be Theresa May’s successor

May 20th, 2018

My twin strategies when it comes to betting on Theresa May’s successor is to lay the favourite(s) and back long odds (cabinet) ministers who appear to have potential. The latter has proven a very successful approach with the likes of Jeremy Hunt and Sajid Javid who were tipped and backed at odds of 100/1 and 60/1.

So the latest addition to the latter list is Matt Hancock, who is currently 100/1 with Ladbrokes to succeed Mrs May. He’s proving to be a very competent minister, as exemplified by the decision this week to limit the stakes of FOBTs to £2.

He’s also certain to receive a good press because of his opposition to Leveson 2 which could have bankrupted newspapers with numerous vexatious complaints from people with politically driven agendas.

The other advantage that Hancock has is he is close to the Cameroon wing of the party who still have a substantial number in Parliament. Before becoming an MP Hancock served as George Osborne’s Chief of Staff so he knows how to work the party and its MPs.

The Cameroon wing of the party are also looking for a standard bearer since David Cameron stood down and Hancock’s views are very much in line with the only man to have won the Tories a majority in the last 26 years and counting.

Like Hunt and Javid, Hancock has all the potential to be a great trading bet, if the Tories are looking to jump a generation Hancock also fits that bill as he is yet to turn 40. A half competent cabinet minister with youth on their side really shouldn’t be a 100/1 chance to succeed Mrs May.


PS – Another Matt Hancock tip is the 20/1 Ladbrokes are offering on him to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer.


Corbyn’s Opinium net approval ratings trail both Cable and May by 10 points

May 19th, 2018

The May Opinium poll for the Observer is just out including what is the only leader approval ratings series from any UK pollster.

The latest numbers are in the chart and TMay’s -8% is exactly the same as last month. Corbyn has improved a point to -18% whiule Cable sees his number move from -18% to -8%.

Opinium’s best PM ratings follow the trend of other pollsters with 36% saying they would prefer TMay as PM, against 23% for Corbyn. Mrs. May’s lead is up 1.

The voting numbers are CON 43 (+3) LAB 39 (-1) LD 6 (-1) UKIP 4 (-1)

Mike Smithson


The Conservatives must again make the case for private enterprise, profit, choice and competition

May 19th, 2018

1929 Conservative poster

The risk is an unwitting drift into a new left-of-centre consensus

Some revolutions are begun by small steps; others are revealed by them. Of itself, Chris Grayling’s announcement this week that the government was bringing the East Coast Mainline back into public ownership, was nothing unusual. It is, after all, the third time in the 20 years of the privatised era that the East Coast franchise has failed. Furthermore, for the government, the return to state-run operations is a purely pragmatic consequence of there not being another operator ready to take over, and of not wanting to hand an extension to a company which has already failed to deliver. So far, so logical.

What’s not a natural consequence of the Virgin-Stagecoach failure is the decision to change the delivery model from franchising to a partnership. That represents not just a substantial change in transport policy but a retreat from the principle that a competitive private sector – where such a market is possible – is the best means of assuring service delivery. Once a partnership is in place, it is likely to be there for the long run, without the need to worry about retendering for the franchise.

I have to say, I’m sceptical about such a model. Public-private partnerships don’t have a happy history. At least with franchising, the companies take on both the risk and the potential rewards. Too often with things like PFI contracts, the state ends up with a very poor deal.

That, however, is not the point politically. What was perhaps most significant was how quietly the change was made; how little defence there was of the previous system – and, consequently, how easily the whole system could be transformed. After all, once you have an organisation running the infrastructure as well as the trains, you’re well on the way to breaking up the system within which even quasi-competition can take place. Labour – with its commitment to return the railways (and, indeed, a good deal else) to full public ownership and operation – must be laughing.

And this is where the quiet revolution is occurring. The era of retreating state control has been over for at least a decade: the financial crisis not only brought some banks directly into partial or full state ownership but also undermined faith in the entire capitalist system. Ever since, advocates of a well-regulated market economy have been on the defensive. In Britain, that took a little time to work through: Labour was initially still wary of advocating what might be seen as post-war socialism, despite its instincts. Not now. Corbyn and McDonnell have never been shy of state ownership and are no doubt exultant at both the government’s change of tack and the polling on the issue.

An article in the New Statesman this week quoted a Populus poll from last year which showed that more than three-quarters of the public backed state ownership of water, electricity, gas and railways. That’s no doubt partially a consequence of some obvious problems in each of those markets.

Water, for one, doesn’t even really have a market and the argument for a private monopoly as against a public one is marginal and relies on the profit motive driving medium-term efficiency, and on private companies not being as subject to political whims as a state-run would be. Both arguments are contestable.

However, even if you can make a case that regulation can provide either a direct or indirect market for each of the services, the problem goes deeper and is that of a growing scepticism of profit as the legitimate return of successful enterprise – again, perhaps driven by a sense of injustice against cases where directors have paid themselves large sums out of businesses that have then gone bust – Carillion providing a prime recent example. Those cases might be high-profile but they’re not representative.

What all this amounts to is an assault, not even by stealth, on the post-1979 (and in particular, post-1987) economic settlement; one which the Conservatives are not meeting. Unless they do so, they will lose the philosophical argument by default. It shouldn’t be difficult but perhaps that consensus’ ascendency has lulled the party’s leadership into a sense of complacency. Or perhaps they just don’t particularly do philosophical argument, even when in government and doing so is setting the foundations for the policies being implemented.

Unless they do, though, they’ll find public support weak and susceptible to the sort of collapse seen at the last general election, when Corbyn’s simple solutions and slogans sound sufficiently attractive to win voters.

To prevent that, ministers need to make a sustained effort to explain why markets – when regulated effectively, a key caveat – tend to produce more choice and innovation, and better service. Those who remember the nationalised industries may well remember the kind of customer service that went with them. But fewer and fewer do remember those days, thirty years and more ago now. The Conservatives cannot assume that the public buy into their preferred model (to the extent that it still is), nor that they adequately understand all the steps that link from the policy to the customer outcome. They have four years to turn that round.

David Herdson


Local By-Election Review : May 17th 2018

May 18th, 2018

Skerton West on Lancaster (Lab defence)
Result: Lab 587 (58% +21% on last time), Con 279 (27% +1% on last time), Lib Dem 95 (9%, Green 59 (6% -3% on last time) (No UKIP candidate this time -20%, No Ind candidate this time -7%)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 308 (31%) on a swing of 10% from Con to Lab

University and Scotsforth Rural on Lancaster (Lab and Green defence)
Result: Emboldened denotes elected
Labour 518, 423 (48% +13% on last time)
Green Party 235, 264 (24% -8% on last time)
Conservatives 184, 184 (17% -7% on last time)
Liberal Democrats 114, 120 (11% +3% on last time)
One Labour HOLD and One Labour GAIN from Green on a swing of 10.5% from Green to Labour

Leiston on Suffolk Coastal (Con defence)
Result: Con 612 (42% +13% on last time), Lab 336 (23% +1% on last time), Ind 293 (20% -10% on last time), Lib Dem 213 (15% +6% on last time) (No Green candidate this time -10%)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 276 (19%) on a swing of 6% from Con to Lab (11.5% from Ind to Con)

Harry Hayfield


Bercow needs to take inspiration from Arsene Wenger’s exit from Arsenal

May 18th, 2018

Ladbrokes make it 6/4 that he’ll be be out this year

It hasn’t been the best of periods for Commons Speaker, John Bercow, who now finds himself embroiled in a row of what he might or might not have said about Andrea Leadsom. This follows the bullying allegations that have been aired a lot recently.

The big issue for prospective punters is whether he’s reached a point where his position is untenable and I don’t think we are there yet. Because of the power the Speaker over Commons it is almost inevitable that the government of the day cannot be counted always to support him. The question is whether there’s a consensus across the House.

Potential punters should read this from New Statesman Patrick McGuire.

“Any sense of government involvement in the campaign to oust Bercow – and that is how MPs such as Bradshaw will likely view this morning’s intervention – will only shore up his support. The waters continue to rise around the Speaker, but it will take more for the dam to break.”

I think that tha is fair and he is reported, also, to have indicated to friends that he plans to step aside next year – something which will deter some of those pressing for immediate action.

In many ways his position is akin to that of Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger over the past season or so. The majority of fans appeared to want him out but didn’t want to press it. Arsene announced his departure before he was pushed and was given a hero’s farewell.

Mike Smithson


The London election polling test finds that LAB was overstated by 4 points in the final polls

May 18th, 2018

What does this say about current national polling?

It is not often we get a real election against which we can compare final polls and this month’s London elections provided one such opportunity.

The LAB/CON/LD shares in the final polls from YouGov and Survation are shown in the chart and compared with the overall result.

As can be seen both pollsters had LAB at 51% which compared the 47% that actually happened. Survation got the Tories spot on while YouGov understated the party by 2 points.

Both pollsters understated the LDs – YouGov by 2 points and Survation by a point.

London Borough councillors are elected by block voting. This means that voters could cast as many votes as there were seats in their wards. In most cases this meant three. The vote totals in the chart totals reflect the total number of votes cast for that party in London on May 3rd.

It will be recalled that Survation did best at GE2017 last June.

Mike Smithson


Punters now make it a 32% chance that TMay will be out this year

May 17th, 2018

With all the machinations that are going on within the cabinet over the divisions on Brexit it is perhaps no wonder that here has been renewed interest on betting that she’ll be out this year.

The Betdata.io chart above shows the movement over the past month with next year, presumably post-Brexit, continuing to be the favourite.

Certainly Mrs. May has a huge challenge dealing with the increasing number of Brexit issues and this hasn’t been helped by Corbyn’s new approach to PMQs, coming with a tight script that he keeps to, which have exposed some of her weaknesses.

    But I remain to be convinced. She’ll stay simply because there isn’t an obvious successor who has broad support and that situation doesn’t exist at the moment.

She’s also helped by the Tories doing better than expected in this month’s local elections and the slight decline in the Labour polling position.

Her problem is the memory within the party of how she performed last June when her gamble failed and her lack campaigning skills were very much exposed.

Mike Smithson