Archive for the 'George Osborne' Category


William Hill say nobody’s bet on Osbo since the Google tax row broke out

Saturday, January 30th, 2016


We don’t know how many bets on Osborne that they’d normally expect in the same period so it’s quite hard to assess the William Hill statement.

In any case you don’t get many punters this far out from an outcome (it could be 2019/2020) ready to lock up their cash on a favourite with tighter odds than 2/1.

The point remains however: the Google deal hurts the Chancellor because so little money appears to be forthcoming. Cameron’s attempt to throw this back on the pre-GE2010 LAB government is getting a bit tired. There is a real sense of frustration out there about the tax activities of companies like Google.

The other thing in relation to Osborne’s leadership chances is that there’s a long record in the Tory party of the long term front runner not getting the crown.

I’ve got an all green Betfair book on the Tory leadership after laying Osborne when he was nearly evens and closing the bets when the price moved out.

Mike Smithson


Tissue Price on Osborne’s leadership ambitions and his EURef problem

Monday, January 11th, 2016


The Chancellor is 13/8 favourite to be Next Conservative Leader.

He is 15/8 favourite to be Next Prime Minister. And on Betfair, you can get nearly 2/1 and 5/2 about the two propositions.

But the folk wisdom on backing the next Tory leader is that the favourite never wins. That the winner is more about who he isn’t, than who he is. You have to go all the way back to Eden to find a clear case of the long-term favourite succeeding, and that’s despite several changes to the method of election since then.

Yet isn’t Anthony Eden the most appropriate comparison? He had been Churchill’s most trusted lieutenant ever since 1940, when Winston appointed him Secretary of State for War, and he then served as Deputy Prime Minister in Churchill’s first Conservative government.

Moreover, this next Tory leader will, in all probability, be the first since MacMillan to inherit the job as favourite to win the next General Election. Unsurprisingly most leaders don’t step down when it looks like they’re going to win! Accordingly there is, unusually, a strong case for continuity – which Osborne undoubtedly represents.

In fact, the most apt (and indeed obvious) comparison is probably from the other side: Gordon Brown. Eden & Brown are not a very propitious pair of parallels, but we’re only worried about picking the winner here!

Turning to the mechanics of the election, it seems pretty clear that Osborne already has the MP nominations in the bag. He might even have enough nominations to (in theory) “choose his own opponent” – someone who controls over two-thirds of the votes can do so. Even a financial apocalypse on the scale envisaged by Damian McBride might not be enough to stop him, as it’s arguably even easier to make the case for continuity in an uncertain world.

So that 15/8 looks pretty massive to me, as a certain runner in a two-horse race. Except, of course for…

The Referendum

George favours Remain. A clear majority of the Cabinet will favour Remain. Probably the majority of the MPs will favour Remain. Tory voters currently lean Leave by about 55-45: manageable. But Tory members will break more decisively for Leave. ConservativeHome’s 71-24 survey finding (NB not a poll) is probably at the extreme end, but I would not be surprised to see at least a two-thirds majority in favour of Brexit.

So how can George win amongst this electorate? Firstly, by remembering that not all members care about Brexit above and beyond everything else. Secondly, by campaigning very respectfully for Remain, and letting others campaign against Leave. And thirdly, and most intriguingly, by maintaining unity through having a foot in both camps.

A Cabinet Minister – via James Kirkup of the Telegraph – explains:

“Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, has no fear of Brexit. It would be no surprise if he emerged as a Leave campaigner.But he’s also a strong supporter of Mr Osborne, even a protégé, some say. So what if the master very privately gave his apprentice permission and even encouragement to cross the line and put himself at the head of the Leave campaign. Mr Osborne, sometimes described as an octopus with tentacles in every nook and cranny of politics, would pull off the remarkable feat of having a presence in both campaigns in the referendum.

The Osborne-Javid ticket would thus become a symbol of Tory reunification and harmony after the referendum, able to speak for both Remain and Leave supporters…” 

This certainly has the ring of plausibility. The Business Secretary has already slapped down “Stronger In” for attempting to suggest that he was in favour of Remain:

Of course, the referendum might actually be won by Leave – but even then I would not see this as fatal for Osborne’s chances: this would probably have been seen coming via polling and he would accordingly have campaigned cautiously. The case for unity would still be strong; what would be critical would be his proposed approach to exit negotiations.

All-in-all, I would suggest Osborne remains value, and I would recommend backing him for Next PM (better value than next Tory leader) at anything over 6/4 – Betfair is your first point of call. For full disclosure, I am also long on Javid, May, Hunt, Paterson, Halfon and Brady.

Tissue Price



It’s not inconceivable that in a year’s time there’ll be a new CON leader and Prime Minister

Monday, January 11th, 2016


A referendum BREXIT vote would surely be the end of Cameron

There’s is a widespread view that if the EU referendum goes against Cameron then his position will no longer be tenable. If that happens then we could only be months away from the first Conservative leadership contest since 2005 in which the party would not just be choosing a new leader but the next prime minister.

With the plan apparently for the referendum this year and the tightness of the online referendum polls if not the phone ones then there must be a chance that the country will vote for BREXIT during 2016. On Betfair this is currently rated as a 32.7% chance.

Assuming that Cameron goes into the campaign with a package that he’s recommending then his position will look very precarious if the country votes for LEAVE. Alex Salmond, after all, stood down as SNP leader immediately after the IndyRef defeat in September 2014 and Cameron would surely do the same.

In this context it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves how CON leadership contests operate. Essentially the decision is made in a postal ballot of party members from a short list of two that is determined by the Parliamentary party. The latter holds a series of ballots a process that in the past has thrown up big surprises.

Back after the party’s 2001 general election defeat the hot favourite was Michael Portillo who by a whisker missed the final cut. The two that went to the membership were Iain Duncan Smith and Ken Clarke with the former securing an easy victory.

Given that this is how it works it is surprising how little polling interest there’s been. The only tests of the opinion of party members are the monthly surveys carried out by ConservativeHome the latest of which is featured above.

In the following post to be published this afternoon Tissue Price looks at the betting and gives his thoughts.

Mike Smithson


Tim Montgomerie’s right: Current government policy decisions are driven by need not to be unpopular on EURef day

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Everything for the next few months is about the EU vote

One of the great problems with referenda is that by the time we get to polling day the issue might have moved on from the issue on the ballot paper to a vote of confidence in the incumbent government. Arguably the AV vote in 2011 became about Nick Clegg.

This has always been a big danger for the REMAIN campaign and is an explanation of why Cameron has been so keen to get it over quickly. I also think that there’s a lot in Tim Montgomerie’s argument. What we are seeing is a government in almost pre-election mode wanting to remain popular.

Will it work? The latest polling suggests that the battle could be tight.

Mike Smithson


Star War images: Jedi Jezza and Stormtrooper Osbo

Thursday, December 31st, 2015


The Donald Brind column – from a Labour perspective

An old joke was given fresh legs just before Christmas when George Osborne set out to sprinkle some stardust on his image with an appearance at the premiere of Star Wars.

Q. Why did 4,000 people boo George Osborne? A. Because that’s how many the cinema holds.

In the original version it was the 80,000 capacity of the Olympic stadium that limited the opprobrium heaped on the Chancellor during the 2012 Paralympic games. From Osborne’s point of view this counts as progress – not everyone, it seems, booed him this time round.

But the joke won’t go away. Osborne’s image as a Star Wars villain is well established on the Left.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn, who has been likened to a Star Wars Jedi by one of his Shadow cabinet, was doing a bit of image building in a share-my-passion encounter with Olympic hero Bradley Wiggins who was guest editing the Today Programme.  I share this passion – one of my regular bike rides takes me through Bushy Park along the route that Sir Bradley rode in 2012 on his way to gold in the Olympic time trial.

Olympian hero chatting to cycling Labour leader sounded like a great listen. In the event, it was a bit underwhelming. Unlike sport, politics ‘wasn’t about winning’ said Corbyn. In sport “the reality is you are in it to win. Politics is different. I am not that competitive a person in that sense. I am much more a community co-operative kind of person.”

He didn’t expect to be Labour leader but was doing his best. Could he become Prime Minister? asked Wiggins Mr Corbyn said: “Yes we could. The opportunity is then to actually seriously unlock the potential in young people particularly. To do something about balancing our society, improve housing. Be a force for human rights.”
I found it terribly flat and uninspiring. I want a Labour leader with passion and desperation to be in power.

So maybe I should be happy at the thought that Corbyn will assert his authority and show his steel with a “revenge reshuffle” of his front bench team. It would certainly be at odds with his nice guy image, according to one of the potential casualties Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher.

In the New Statesman Dugher likens his leader to a Star Wars Jedi. He says “the idea that Jeremy Corbyn is a person motivated by ‘revenge’ is something that I don’t recognise for a single second”, adding: “Revenge is not very Jedi. It’s also not very new politics.”

He said reshuffle talk tended to drown out Labour attacks on the government or the positive things Labour would do differently in government.

There’s a bigger danger for Corbyn in my view. The reshuffle is aimed at bolstering his authority. It is more likely to make him look weaker – and therefore less effective as Leader of the Opposition.

Donald Brind


While latest polling might not be good for Corbyn it also raises questions over Osborne

Monday, December 21st, 2015


The problem Osborne’s got is the party’s electoral system that was devised by William Hague during his 1997-2001 period as leader.

Basically there is an exhaustive ballot of MPs to choose two of their number whose names will go forward to the membership in a secret postal ballot. Given that so many of the blue team at Westminster owe their positions to Osborne it is highly likely that he’ll make the final cut. The issue is whether the membership will back him. Polling numbers like the ones from Opinium over the weekend raise questions.

Of course there is a distinction between CON voters as a whole and the party membership that will decide but Osborne always faces what hit the odds-on front-runner, David Davis, is September 2005. He’d been the long-standing favourite and received most public endorsements from MPs yet suddenly the party went potty over a relatively new face, David Cameron. The rest is history.

On Betfair Osborne retains his favourite status with punters rating him as a 38% chance. I’m not sure that it’ll be him or Boris. Like in previous CON contests someone quite surprising could emerge.

Mike Smithson


Guido’s tweet could be right: George Osborne is a Tory version of Ed Miliband

Monday, December 14th, 2015

Like Ed his awkwardness is not going to go away

Shortly after Ed Miliband was elected LAB leader in September 2010 some bright spark set up a website devoted to pictures of the opposition leader looking awkward.

In its way this hit the nail on the head and was the forerunner of the famous Ed bacon sandwich picture that featured so much during GE2015.

Guido has been making the point that George Osborne is, in many ways, very similar. He can appear awkward in many public situations and, like with EdM, this could hamper him if he was leader in a general election.

He’s still favourite across the board to replace Cameron. I got out on the afternoon of his autumn statement.

Mike Smithson


Donald Brind wonders whether Osborne’s luck will hold?

Friday, December 11th, 2015


The Friday column From a Labour perspective

“We have an economic plan that is delivering for Britain”. When George Osborne uttered his familiar mantra in the Commons on Wednesday it sounded as though he was clinging to a piece of wreckage after his encounter with Angela Eagle.

The duo were standing in for their bosses as first secretary of state and his shadow, rather than in their day jobs as Chancellor and shadow Business Secretary. Questioned about the Cumbria flood the Osborne claimed “bbecause we have a strong and resilient economy, we are increasing the money we spend on our flood defences.”

Eagle pointed out that the Chancellor had cut flood defence spending by £115 million this year and investment in flood defence would only protect 1 in 8 of those households at risk. Osborne’s assertion about a “strong and resilient economy” went unchallenged. Prime Minister’s Questions isn’t the forum for broad economic arguments.

But had Eagle wanted to contest Osborne’s claim she would have some powerful ammunition from an interview on the Today Programme with John Longworth of the British Chambers of Commerce. The BCC had downgraded it growth forecast and Longworth was worried by the unbalanced economy with manufacturing weakening.
It’s driven by debt it’s driven by assets and property, sending in money from overseas to fund property that we already own, is not actually a great idea in the long run and it’s driven by consumer spending. What we really need is rebalancing whilst the sun shines.”

Five years ago the Chancellor had talked of a “March of the Markers” with the economy being rebalanced towards manufacturing, exports and the regions.
“None of those things have actually transpired in practice yet,” said Longworth. “We have record low interest rates, we have record low oil prices all of which favour economic growth. Manufacturing still accounts for half of our exports, you can’t run a current account balance as it is at the moment forever. Because it’s not without consequences, you have to sell assets to do that, which means we’re asset selling the nation. Stripping off the family silver.”

Longworth comments chime with the Labour charge that Osborne is failing on the economic fundamentals. They point to the productivity gap of around 20% between Britain and her industrial rivals and a failure to get major infrastructure projects started.

Labour argue that balancing the economy is the key to balancing the budget. Tackling the deficit through cuts means certain pain but no guarantee of gain. Remember Osborne set himself a target of eliminating the deficit by 2015. It is still around £70billion.

One sign of the unbalanced economy is the trade figures. According to the Office for National Statistics Britain was in the red in October by over £4 billion — the result of a 1.6% fall in exports of goods and services and a rise in imports of 5.6%. The figures are “wearyingly familiar,” says the Guardian’s Larry Elliott.

“A widening trade deficit and a frothy housing market are signs that trouble is brewing.”

Osborne has failed to fix the fundamentals of the economy and his much vaunted recovery, with the extra jobs and rising living standards, looks distinctly fragile.

That leaves two big questions. Will Osborne’s luck hold? If it doesn’t, and the Tories reputation for managing the economy crashes and burns as it did in 1992, will Labour be in a position to capitalise on the opportunity? Most Labour MPs think they’d be better able to do that with a different leader. Which is why there was such warm praise for Angela Eagle on Wednesday.

Donald Brind