My 270/1 shot for the White House indicates that he might run

July 21st, 2018

Watch out for John Hickenlooper – Governor of Colorado

Back in early April I reported that I’d backed Governor John Hickenlooper for the presidency at odds of 270/1 on Betfair.

One of the things about super long-shots is that you generally don’t know when you place your bet whether your man/woman will actually make a bid. So today’s strong indication that he is considering putting his hat into the ring is a big step forward.

I’d first noticed Hickenlooper a couple of years ago when he was being tipped as Hillary Clinton’s running mate and I liked what I saw. He appears to be everything that the Trump isn’t lucid, self-deprecating, intelligent and someone who comes over well. He’s also appears to have a strong sense of public service and has a good record in Colorado and Denver where he used to be mayor.

At this stage he’ll be assessing whether a bid is feasible – will he get the backing of key figures in the party and donors? My guess is that the most important thing the party will be looking for is someone who appears as though he/she could be competitive against Trump.

Today’s comments are exactly what you would expect from a potential runner at this stage. Even though WH2020 is more than two year away the battle will start in only about nine months.

Mike Smithson


A week is a long time in politics

July 20th, 2018

Corporeal wonders just what we’ve done to deserve our current political situation.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Then after that, and if we are being punished for some serious crimes committed in a previous life, it descends into whatever this is.

I’ve been trying to crowbar an article around a Groundhog day analogy, since every week recently has seemed so depressingly familiar. Theresa May has established herself (for lack of a worse word) as a career substitute teacher ruling with a cotton fist. The monkey house she ‘presides’ over remains in full swing while the collection of stereotypes stuffed into a ventriloquist dummy that is known as Jacob Rees-Mogg pokes his head out to further blur the line between reality and performance art.

Then this last week happened, and is still happening. Boris Johnson’s fittingly self-publicised departure has done nothing to shake the sense of watching Jeffrey Archer’s adaptation of a P.G. Wodehouse novel.

As a short recap. Donald Trump departed at the end of his eventful trip (even if he wasn’t always sure about what country he was in) having declared Britain as being in turmoil, a remark that depressingly doubled as being plausibly a line written for him by Putin and the most truthful moment of his presidency.

Thankfully he later moved back onto more familiar ground by declaring he didn’t say something there was published audio of him saying before accusing someone else of spreading fake news. The parting revelation of his suggestion to sue the EU triggered both a flurry of googling from Brexiteers and a horrifyingly comforting vision of how things could in fact be more embarrassing for the UK.

On Monday the Prime Minister announced a new and improved plan for Brexit. This prompted some well-practised EU eye-rolling, multiple cabinet resignations (Boris’ letter was slightly delayed by the photographer needing to get the lighting right for his thoughtful stare into nothingness), and a demonstration of her power by accepting all four of the ERG amendments.

Her triumphant transition from captain to figurehead has been accompanied by the backbench Brexiteers flexing muscle enough to show that while they didn’t have the power to steer the ship their ability to sink it was very effective (but not productive). Theresa May showed her steel and negotiating skills to gain the key agreement that they could have everything they wanted as long as they didn’t celebrate too loudly.

Tuesday evening this led to a dramatic showdown when a couple of hours before the crucial votes came up when Labour (or their leadership of shy Brexiteers) decided that they were tired of their firm and principled tactic of opposition by inaction and decided to see if voting against something was more effective than abstaining. Suddenly the game was on and the whips were dusting off their calculators and oiling up their thumbscrews for a good old-fashioned contest that was going to be a razor thin vote.

The Lib Dems were so shocked by the sudden possibility of being relevant again fell back on what they knew best by screwing up, apologising, and taking a lot of blame without having much general influence. Their two previous leaders (and probably next one) all failed to vote. Vince Cable couldn’t be reached in time for him to return from a confidential political meeting (it’s unconfirmed as to if the confidentiality was to protect the other party from admitting to still meeting with the Lib Dems).

Tim Farron somehow managed to provide parliamentary sketch writers, the sharp-tongued twitterati, and lovers of tortured metaphors with more fuel by giving a speech on faith in politics and “what happens when my truth is not yours” that placed him too far away from Parliament to be effective. (If anyone in attendance can confirm whether he addressed the official belief that Theresa May commands a majority in the Commons it would be appreciated).

Jo Swinson’s absence was discovered to be due to something between conspiracy and cock up. She was paired with the Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis who, in a very unfortunate mistake, managed to remember to abstain in the unimportant vote but completely forgot when it came to the crucial votes. Thankfully it was all cleared up as an innocent mistake, albeit one that the Chief Whip Julian Smith ordered five Tory MPs to make.

Still that series of innocent mistakes in the desperate times of keeping a government afloat is so far no reason for him to resign (and I’m sure the applications to replace him in such a desirable job would come flooding in). Theresa May reportedly still had confidence in him and didn’t need to speak to him when the story broke, presumably to avoid him accidentally telling her that what she’d told the Commons was utterly false (but not really misleading since no-one believed her anyway).

And so the May ministry staggered on

Labour followed up this tentative foray into fighting people outside the party by hastily retreating into the comfortable and familiar territory of internal warfare,. They flirted with the idea of adopting the internationally standard IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, then decided no-one would mind if they just tweaked a few parts of it. When this lead to Margaret Hodge calling Jeremy Corbyn an anti-semite and a racist it was a real sense of things returning to business as usual.

So Theresa May headed to Northern Ireland to spend some time enjoying a sense of unity and togetherness with the DUP (cheap at a paltry billion pounds) and so far her tactic of awkwardly clasping her hands together has kept her trouble at bay (it is less noticeable than the wide legged power stance we wrongly thought  was gone forever). There is at least still time for her to return to take part in the hilarious Benny Hill chase around the Houses of Parliament (presumably featuring John Bercow, Dennis Skinner, and a waved mace) that feels somehow inevitable.

Is it time to mourn for the bastardarchy of years gone by. The blandly teflon technocrats versed in all the dark arts and despicable practices of power. They may not have had much resembling integrity but at least they were good at it. Valence politics didn’t breed great principled divides (whereas now our two major parties are divided between an impossibly vague deal or a vaguely impossible one) but gave you the sense that in some ominously lit bunker a secret cabal at least knew what was going on.

And if you have to get a divorce (for some reason you can’t really remember but you’re not going back on it now) don’t you at least wish you had a really good snake for a lawyer. Or at least one you could trust to hold a briefcase the right way up.

Still there’s always next week to look forward to.


Corporeal is a long standing contributor to PB


The places where people would most like to live mostly voted Remain

July 20th, 2018

Away from Brexit for moment with some polling on what are seen as Britain’s desirable locations to live.

With Channel 4 going through a process of choosing a location outside London for a new creative hub YouGov have been carrying out the polling which no doubt will prove controversial.

On my Twitter feed it was observed that most of the top choices all voted remain at the referendum. You have to go down to 9th place, Nottingham to find a Leave location and even there the referendum was a very close thing.

Essentially what this assertion is showing is that demographic groups most likely to back Remain tend to favour what are perceived as the “nicest” locations.

I think this is a bit unfair on Hull which I very much like as a city and Peterborough which has a lovely cathedral and no longer has Stewart Jackson as its MP.

Mike Smithson


At GE2017 six times as many CON voters said Brexit was the deciding issue than LAB ones

July 20th, 2018

Lord Ashcroft GE2017 on the day poll

Why LAB should worry less about supporters who backed leave

On general election day last year the Conservative peer, Lord Ashcroft, carried out a huge 14,000 sample poll to find out amongst other things why people had voted as they did and to tryto understand better what had happened. The survey was similar to US exit polls where much more than voting data is collected. The BBC/Sky/ITV UK exit poll is solely about predicting seats numbers and the election outcome.

One question to respondents was askingthem to state what was the main reason they had voted as they did. A summary of the key CON and LAB voter responses is in the graphic above.

    As can be seen the most striking feature is the huge gap between Conservative voters’ views of the importance of Brexit and those of Labour voters

A total of 48% of those who had voted CON said Brexit compared with just 8% of LAB ones. We also cannot assume that the 8% were pro-Brexiteers. LAB picked up 30% of the GE2015 LD vote the vast majority of whom were opposed to Brexit

    Perhaps it was the fact that Brexit was much less of a priority for LAB supporters that the majority of party’s gains from the Tories were in constituencies that had voted Leave a year beforehand at the referendum.

The poll asked people had voted and this was very close to the actual general election result which underlines the robustness of the findings.

Mike Smithson


Republican voters remain solidly behind Trump in the first post-Helsinki polls

July 19th, 2018

Those polled responded along strong partisan lines

Anybody expecting that President Trump’s widely criticised approach at the Helsinki summit with Putin would hurt him amongst his base is going to be disappointed. The first polls are now out and they show the same picture – very solid support from Republican Party voters for the Presidents handling of Russian leader, Putin

Axios/SurveyMonkey has 79% of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling. This compares with 91% of Democrats and 62% of independents who disagreed. The overall splits was 58% disapprove to 40% approve.

A CBS News survey found 68% of Republicans saying Trump did a good job in Helsinki, with 83% of Democrats and 53% of independents said he did a bad job.

No doubt we’ll see a lot of other surveys in the next day or two and I’d be surprised if there is much deviation from this picture.

The big question will be how it impacts on the midterm elections at the start of November.

Mike Smithson


Away from the Commons pairing row the betting gets tighter on whether Brexit will happen on time

July 19th, 2018


I’ve been glued to the Tour de France coverage this afternoon and haven’t really been following the pairing row.

The chart shows the changing views in the “Will UK leave the EU by March 29 2019” betting and shows it getting tighter. Clearly the politics are so much harder to read.

One other development that hasn’t been much reported on is the growing movement within Momentum to call for a new Brexit vote as reported here in this FT video

If LAB’s position shifts then that could make things even harder for the Government.

Mike Smithson


BoJo moves to joint next CON leader favourite with Moggsy following his resignation speech

July 19th, 2018


With so much up in the air in British politics at the moment there’s been a lot of movement in the next CON leader betting. It is beginning to look as though Theresa May will survive until the autumn at least and maybe beyond and the question is who will actually replace her?

Yesterday, of course, the ex Foreign Secretary secured a lot of coverage for his resignation address to MPs. Although it was nothing like the dramatic event that some were predicting, it got him media attention and reminded us that he is still a force to be reckoned with and he is strongly on the hard Brexit side of the party.

He’s also going to be returning to his Daily Telegraph column something which gives him a platform that can be influential within the Conservative Party.

Whatever it is still extremely difficult to work out who will make it once Theresa May goes whether she’s pushed or does it voluntarily.

My view remains that there is not going to be immediate contest simply because there is such a division within the Tories on who would be the successor and nobody wants to risk a contest unless they are confident that their man or woman would make it.

Mike Smithson


NEW PB / Polling Matters podcast: The week the polls turned, Boris makes a speech and why Theresa May is a modern day Mr Burns

July 18th, 2018

This week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast is split into two parts.

In part one, Keiran Pedley is joined by James Crouch of Opinium to discuss polling that shows Labour taking the lead as the Tory vote share falls. Keiran and James discuss why this is and whether the Tories could fall further still and what voters think of the concept of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.

In part two, Keiran is joined by Asa Bennet of the Telegraph to discuss what’s been happening in Westminster this week, including Boris Johnson’s resignation speech today. Asa looks ahead to a critical Tory party conference season and gives his perspective on who might replace Theresa May in the future.

Finally, Keiran sums up what we’ve learned and explains why Boris Johnson reminds him of David Miliband and why Theresa May reminds him of Mr Burns from The Simpsons. A stretch? You’ll have to listen to find out why…

Follow this week’s guests: