Farage looks set to lose his BBC Election Question Time slot following BP’s candidate withdrawal move

November 13th, 2019

It is being reported in the Times and other papers that Farage could lose some of his key TV debate slots following his move to pull BP candidates in Tory seats.

Although Farage is not standing in the election and is not an MP he was allocated the same number of TV debate slots as Jo Swinson including the Question Time special when it was planned that he, Swinson, Corbyn and Johnson would be the line-up.

Farage had “earned” his slots as a result of his party’s performance in the Euro elections in May but that looks as though it is being reviewed because there will now only be BP candidates in non-CON held seats. Clearly moving from a leader who could theoretically win the election and become PM to one where that is no longer possible changes his status.

It could also impact on the number of party election broadcasts that BP is allocated.

One of the reasons why the main head to head events on both ITV and the BBC are restricted to just Corbyn and Johnson is that including Swinson would have made it harder not to have Farage as well. This is now being tested in the courts by the LDs

Meanwhile YouGov has changed its methodology so that the only option put to poll respondents will be those parties that are standing in their seats. This gives a boost to the Tories in the pollster’s latest survey for the Times.

Mike Smithson


What might mess up Tory strategy – Brexit is a much much bigger deal for CON voters than LAB ones

November 12th, 2019

Lord Ashcroft polls

Why Brexit is much less of an issue for the red team

We have covered this before on PB but it is worth looking again given the proximity of the third general election in four and a half years.

On the day of GE2017 the CON peer and pollster, Lord Ashcroft, sought to try to establish why people had voted the way they had and carried out a large sample survey.

A key question was asking those sampled what was the main factor in determining their votes. The outcomes for the main parties are featured in the chart above.

As can be seen 48% of Conservative voters named Brexit as the prime influencer whereas just 8% of Labour once said the same. That is a huge difference.

From this, I’d suggest, it is possible to deduce that Brexit is much less an issue amongst those who voted for Corbyn’s party than those who backed Theresa May’s. We don’t know whether we would get the same gap 30 months on but my guess is that this continues to be an issue that concerns the blue team much more than voters of the red one.

On top of that of the 8% LAB voters saying Brexit was the key factor then quite a lot were like me, tactical voters.

One thing that we have heard repeatedly since that election is that about two-thirds of Labour MPs represent constituencies that voted Leave in the referendum a year before. The significance of this is put into context by this polling.

If LAB voters, as it appears, are much less inclined to say that this is the issue that affected their vote then the challenges facing remain LAB MPs in seats which voted Leave are that much less.

Mike Smithson


The Brexit divide within LAB’s GE2017 supporter base

November 12th, 2019

LAB seeing significant seepage amongst its GE2107 leavers

But holding up better amongst remainers though the LDs a worry

What’s going to be key is being seen as the main option for tactical votes in key battlegrounds where the Tories are on the offensive, A problem is that a party that’s seen to be hemorrhaging support would find it harder to present itself as the tactical vote choice.

My view is that so much depends on the final week because the one thing that will certainly trigger Brexit will be a CON outright majority. Johnson’s statement that he’d like the UK to be out of the EU by Christmas almost certainly means that it is Brexit that will dominate voters’ minds in the closing stages.

Note that the polling I’m using here is Deltapoll which has not given the don’t knows for these cross-breaks.

Mike Smithson


The outstanding question from yesterday: How will CON GE2017 Remainers react to the deal with Farage?

November 12th, 2019

The Farage gamble could come at a price

One group of voters who seems to have been by-passed by current events are the 31% of GE2017 CON voters who backed Remain in the referendum. All the focus has been on leavers.

The chart above is based on the latest Deltapoll shows their current voting intentions and as can be seen more than two third of them were still backing the party of Johnson. But that fieldwork took place before yesterday’s dramatic move.

How are they going to perceive the deal with Farage and all that says about the approach of the leadership? On the one hand their party looks set to fare better on December 12th but could for some being seen to work with Farage be a step too far?

This will be a polling cross-break that we’ll study closely in the next few weeks.

Many of the CON remainers are in the strong remain voting seats which are on the LD target list and, no doubt, they are going to be reminded strongly over the next four weeks about the Farage link.

Most of the constituencies are in Greater London or just beyond. These are the Richmonds, Wokinghams and even the Foreign Secretary’s seat in Esher. They are places where Farage’s parties have struggled in the past and where, pre-coalition, LAB was a distant third. They voted Remain by margins which suggest that perhaps half the Tory voters in these constituencies went this way.

How GE2017 CON Remainers respond could be the key to the final result. There are almost the same number of CON remainers as LAB Leavers.

Mike Smithson


After an eventful day a CON overall majority now a 60% chance on Betfair

November 11th, 2019

But is it a bigger deal as is being made out?

Today’s move by Farage sounds like a very important development but are we over stating it? Much of the coverage seems to be based on the widespread assumption that all the BP party vote will automatically go to the Tories.

This is of course nonsense because a quite large slice of BP support comes from former LAB voters who would never go near the Tories.

So the effect of Farage pulling candidate out in Conservative seats could boost Labour as well.

BP is not a political organisation which can be compared to other parties. It has no members and Farage is leader as long as he wants. It has inherited the UKIP characteristic of being very poor in first past the post elections with a tendency to be overstated in the polls

At GE2017 Farage’s then party chalked up 1.9% of the overall GB vote which was much smaller than most pollsters had recorded.

I feel sorry for many of the BP candidates who put themselves forward in good faith and now have been ditched.

  • Chart of Betfair exchange prices from betdata.io
  • Mike Smithson


    A Brexit Carol – how last time is shaping views of GE2019

    November 11th, 2019

    There is a ghost which is stalking this election in the media coverage, and it is the spirit of 2017. Everywhere one looks right leaning journalists are fretting and not quite believing the polls. The spirit of Election 2017 and a good ghost for Labour it is too – “Oh Jeremy Corbyn !”.

    Everywhere one looks the written media is observing this election as a closish horse race “You can’t rely on labour leavers to not revert to type” twitter journalists type. “I’ve found Brexit party switchers in Workington and they are ALL from the Conservatives” rings Goodall. 2017, a haunted spirit of an election for the Conservatives hangs heavy in everyone’s mind where Corbyn seemingly did the impossible and reduced May’s seats.

    I think this phantom haunts me too as this piece- which is based on an attempt to see objective truth and clarity through the murky and muddied polling light has me instinctively disbelieving my own conclusions. But yet it is there – now onto what those Will o the wisp polls, the best light to guide us but occasionally lead us into a murky betting grave are saying:

    The simple polling evidence points to a Tory % of somewhere between 35 and 41% whilst Labour is between 25 and 30%. Regional polling suggests the Tories are losing votes in the south whilst gaining or at least holding steady in the north and midlands. Based on where the marginals lie that’s a deal you’d take at CCHQ. Candidates who have made any sort of questionable utterance on Twitter are being dealt with ruthlessly before media stories can gain traction – Anthony Calvert and Nick Conrad have been politically dealt with quickly and efficiently. They’ll certainly ship some seats in Scotland to a well revived SNP – but Sturgeon comes with her own unhelpful demands from Labour’s perspective…

    The Lib Dems are seemingly doing well with individual southern constituency surveys in the south, but beware these do not have the greatest predictive powers – I note the Lib Dem candidate and John Redwood were both named in a Wokingham one commissioned which showed Redwood narrowly hanging on.

    Now I’m not saying the Lib Dems aren’t doing well in the home stockbroker belt, they are – but the swings needed for them to capture these seats on a significant scale aren’t being borne out by the polling right now. The swings needed to take out Raab in Esher and Walton and Guildford are to put it mildly ‘large’ – far beyond Con Gain Bolsover in the East midlands as an example … It will be a good night for them just not as good as Jo’s forays into Kensington early on in the campaign might suggest.

    The Labour vote, I think is where the narrative isn’t quite matching up to anecdata. It is plummeting not just in the Midlands and the north, but also interestingly central London. They appear to have become a remain party to leavers and a leave party to remainers. This is the opposite of and the biggest change to 2017 where they pulled the trick of appearing to be a leave party to leavers and a remain party to remainers.

    Who will they swing to though ? The remainers look to have a ready home in the Lib Dems but the Labour leavers, well perhaps they will simply sit this one out. It’s hard to find an unenthused staying at home Labour voter as a journalist, and easy to find a vocal Con -> Brexit switcher. Add to this the anti-semitism rows, splits and ex Labour MPs urging a vote for Johnson and in short this looks like it could be a very bad night for Labour indeed. They are not dealing with questionable candidates anything like as well as the Tories, Sultana is still running in Coventry South last time I checked – a marked contrast to Broadland and Wakefield for the Tories.

    The ghost of 2017 haunts everyone,  but with under a month to go till the election and a lifetime of not changing his spots behind him a macabre poltergeist of election future likely awaits Corbyn’s Labour.



    The spreads move even more sharply to the Tories

    November 11th, 2019


    The mood on the spread betting markets this morning has been sharply to the Tories with both LAB and the LDs seeing their projected seats numbers drop markedly.

    This follows a weekend of good polling news for Johnson with LAB and the LDs seeing disappointing drops in their poll shares. The picture is all of Johnson heading for a comfortable working majority.

    On Friday evening, as I reported here, I made my first big spread bet of the elections – a SELL of LAB seats at 210. As can be seen the sell level is now down below 200 and I could cash out of my position at a nice profit.

    The LDs have no doubt been hit by the drop of 3% in the latest BMG poll and are in the mid teens.

    What has happened is that Johnson seems to have stopped the flow of GE2017 CON remainers to the LDS. The majority are are sticking with their choice last time.

    Of course everything, even more so in LD targets is down to what happens in individual seats and how the campaigning is going.

    Mike Smithson


    Betting on the Scottish battlegrounds

    November 11th, 2019

    Goodness knows I try not to offend. Among the more controversial posts that I have ever put up, however, was one that concerned the SNP’s results at the last election. I noted that the SNP had lost more seats than the Conservatives and that they came within a whisker of losing many more. Their strategic position for the next election looked terrible.

    This did not go down well with the nationalist fraternity. Yet here we are in 2019, facing that next election. How do things look for the SNP now?

    This gets a bit data-heavy, so forgive me for giving you a couple of external links. Here is a link to a table of the Scottish seats organised from an SNP perspective, from safest seat to most challenging target (I’ve included all the best odds at the time of writing as well – be aware that Coral also have seat prices taken from Ladbrokes and Betfair Sportsbook have Paddy Power’s prices).

    As you can see, from Paisley & Renfrewshire North onwards, there is an abundance of marginals. 15 SNP seats would fall to an adverse swing of 2%. Six seats could be taken with a favourable swing of 2%. For a party that got swings of 30% and more in 2015, these margins are the vibration of a grass stem on the edge of a volcano.

    From an SNP perspective, however, recent polls have been broadly encouraging. They are polling ahead of their vote share in the 2017 election – though it should be noted that they underperformed their pre-election polling then. One hopes that the pollsters have made appropriate corrections this time around. Better still, both the Conservatives and Labour have fallen back since then, with the Lib Dems making something of a revival. The Lib Dems pose little threat this time for the SNP, seriously challenging in only one seat (Fife North East). This turn of events suits the SNP well. 

    None of this alters the strategic position. In a world of four party politics, Gore Vidal’s dictum applies: it is not enough to succeed, others must fail. The big risk for the SNP is that there is greatly increased tactical voting this time round from unionists. The big opportunity for them is that with the unionists having fallen out over Brexit and over Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, tactical voting may in fact wane.

    Let’s turn to the betting. Here are the Scottish seats ranked by odds on the SNP winning them (I’ve stripped out parties with a best price of more than 20/1 to make the table more usable). You will immediately see that the order differs markedly from the order by swing. Labour are seen as ripe for the taking while the Lib Dems are seen as the tough nuts to crack.  

    The effects are really quite extreme. The SNP are 1/8 to take Rutherglen & Hamilton East, a Labour seat and Labour are third favourites in East Lothian, a seat they hold.  Meanwhile the Lib Dems are 4/6 to take Fife North East, presumably because they are seen as very transfer-friendly for other unionist parties.

    Enough chit chat. What are the betting opportunities? Well, the first thing to note is that the SNP are best priced at 5/6 (the bookies’ evens) in 47 out of 59 seats. That suggests that if you are going to play the under/over markets, you’re probably better going under – you can get 5/6 with William Hill, with the line set at 49.5.  This looks like a clear bet to me.

    Next, the prices seem to be based on the assumption that unionists will not get their act together with tactical voting. This seems very questionable to me, given that the number one topic for most Scots remains independence (whether for or against). The 4/6 with Paddy Power on the Lib Dems in Fife North East looks marked to me, but the point applies still more strongly in seats where the incumbent is not from the SNP.  Many of these are first term incumbents and can hope for a bounce: so the 7/2 with Paddy Power on Labour in East Lothian and even the 4/1 on Labour in Glasgow North East look reasonable bets. The 11/4 with Paddy Power on the Conservatives in Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock looks generous, given that the SNP need a 3% swing to take the seat.

    Nor are SNP-held seats immune. They are surely far too short in Perth & North Perthshire at 1/6, given they took the seat by just 21 votes. The Conservatives must be worth a punt at 3/1. While it is one of the longest standing SNP seats, that does not mean all that much in the maelstrom of Scottish politics: three of the six seats that the SNP held in the 2010-15 Parliament have already fallen to the Conservatives. There are similar examples.

    I would, however, steer clear of those SNP-held seats like Edinburgh North & Leith and Lanark & Hamilton East where both Labour and the Conservatives fancy their chances. In all probability they will both knock each other out, particularly at a time when their vote share looks to have declined. At 2/9 in both of these seats, the SNP are not going to get you rich, so I wouldn’t bother on that side of the fence either.

    Bear in mind: it’s not so much that I expect the SNP to underperform – I don’t particularly – but that their ultimate seat count is at least as dependent on how their opponents work together or against each other as on their own performance. That right now seems murky, so the value will tend to be found against the short-priced bets. Trying to keep hold of what is going on is like trying to keep hold of a greased pig. Of course, when you’re trying to keep hold of a greased pig, the chances of ending up in a mess are high, so these are markets where it’s always wise to have an eye to safety. Proceed with care.

    Alastair Meeks