Tonight’s the big one in WH2016 and the betting could be turned on its head

September 26th, 2016

In previous White House Races the first debate has been seen as a sort of official start to hostilities. This is said to be the point when voters start to get engaged. This time that is much less so because public interest in the fight to succeed Obama has been far higher than anything we’ve seen before.

The fight for the GOP nomination saw the biggest TV debate audiences ever and records are expected to be broken overnight.

The reason is, of course, the ultimate marmite contender, the real estate magnate turned TV star and now GOP nominee, Donald Trump. He’s a totally divisive figure who is up against an opponent who arouses equal hostility or backing. Never before have the two contenders had such negative personal poll ratings.

As the CNN report at the top shows it is going to be very hard for TV viewers to avoid the debate because it is being carried on so many networks and no doubt Tuesday will be dominated by reporting, analysis and reaction.

For WH2016 punters there’s a good chance that things could look markedly different tomorrow. There’ll be the initial polling reaction on who won and this will be followed by new national and state voting polls over the next few days.

In past elections it is not who is deemed to have came out of the debate best that mattered but how they looked and what their responses said about them. In 2008 when McCain faced Obama a big and damaging story was that the Republican had not even looked at his opponent for the entire debate.

I am long on Trump after betting on him on July 25th on Betfair when his price was not as tight as it is today. I can’t decide whether to take my profits now or risk things changing post debate.

For UK viewers both Sky and BBC news will be showing this live.

Mike Smithson


Joff Wild says the key to a Labour moderate fightback is understanding the Corbyn tribes

September 25th, 2016


Just because you know something bad is going to happen does not make it less painful when it does. Since the day that the Labour leadership contest was announced I had been pretty sure that Jeremy Corbyn would win again. I knew with absolute certainty that it would be so one Sunday in late August when I went – nervous, but excited – to an Owen Smith phone bank in the upstairs room of a pub around the corner from my house in Leamington, only to find that no-one else had turned up. So, yesterday was no surprise; but it still hurt like hell.

For Labour moderates like me, the question now becomes what happens next. Some have already made their decision – Twitter is full of pictures of torn up membership cards and the hashtag #LeavingLabour. But while I understand such sentiments, I am not ready for that yet.

I may be hopelessly naïve, but I still think there is a chance to pull the party back from the precipice. I hold onto the fact that among long-standing members – the ones that go to all the meetings and vote in all the internal elections – Owen Smith was a clear winner, as he was among those in the 18-24 age bracket. I tell myself that with 194,000 paid members, the Anti-Corbyn Labour Party is now the second biggest political party in the UK. This excellent blog by Nora Mulready pretty much sums up where I am – now is not the time to give up.

I think there are a few practical reasons for hope. Most significant in the short and medium term is that Corbyn and the hard left do not have control of the NEC. Without that it is very difficult to change the party’s rules on issues such as reselecting MPs and how to nominate leadership candidates, or to get rid of Labour staffers like general secretary Iain McNichol. If, as expected, this week’s conference votes to give specific representation to the Scottish and Welsh front benches then the non-Corbyn bloc on the NEC looks like being in a majority for the foreseeable future (and if that does happen, the oft-criticised Kezia Dugdale deserves the lasting thanks of every single person who wants an electable Labour party).

Corbyn’s big NEC problem is that it is divided into different blocs: MPs, the shadow cabinet, the unions, constituency Labour parties, councillors and others all have guaranteed places. The NEC is not elected on one member one vote – the method Corbyn would dearly love to introduce – and that is highly unlikely to change. The unions, for one, would not stand for it.

Then there is Corbyn himself. Yesterday morning, the newly-elected leader was preaching unity, by the evening it was clear he wanted to overturn the NEC vote on Welsh and Scottish representation, while continuing to stall on shadow cabinet elections. Today on the Andrew Marr show he again refused to rule out mandatory reselection of MPs, while being far from furious about the boundary review. These are not the acts of someone looking to bring the party together.

It is also clear that whatever does finally happen with the shadow cabinet, Corbyn is not capable of leading it effectively. Too many on-the-record stories from too many ex-shadow cabinet members (mostly women) speak of the same thing: someone who lives in a bunker, is not collegiate, does not consult and does not abide by majority decisions. That will not change. Neither will Corbyn’s lack of interest in issues that matter greatly to most Labour members, such as Brexit and the new constituency boundaries.

What the leadership campaign exposed was someone who is inflexible in his views, uninterested in engaging with anyone who does not agree with him and who is more concerned with building a social movement than winning power. Those who voted for Corbyn saw this as much as those who did not; which brings me to the Corbyn tribes.

It is common currency to view those who voted to re-elect Corbyn as one bloc of like-minded people. I have been as guilty as anyone; but it is wrong and it is lazy to see things in that way. Instead, Corbyn got backing from different kinds of Labour supporter and it is only when moderates understand this, and absorb it, that they will have a chance. There are, in fact, at least five types of person who voted for Corbyn:

  • The Trots – these are the entryists, the people from the SWP, the Socialist party and other far left fringe groups who see Corbyn as their way into the mainstream. Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Momentum leadership are probably closest to this group than any other, which is what makes it so significant and dangerous – but it is small. The vast majority of Labour members, new or old, are not Trotskyists.
  • The implacable lefties – not Trots, democratic socialists who see the Blair/Brown years largely as a betrayal of what they think Labour should stand for and who feel that they have their Labour party back with Jeremy Corbyn. They see Corbyn’s weaknesses and they are worried by them, but when push comes to shove they will always support him. To do otherwise would be to risk returning Labour to the “Blairites”; and that would be worse than the Tories winning the next general election. This is the Owen Jones camp.
  • The lefties – they do not subscribe to the idea that the 1997-2010 government was to all intents and purposes a Tory one. Instead, they believe that Blair and Brown did some good things; but could and should have achieved much more. They regard Corbyn as a means of ensuring that Labour becomes more left-wing in outlook and less managerial. They also understand Corbyn has many flaws, but for now (key phrase) are prepared to overlook them because they do not see a more electable alternative. I’d say PB’s Nick Palmer belongs to this camp.
  • The angry – there is a fair bit of overlap here between these folk and the lefties. They are furious that the PLP precipitated “a coup” just at a time when, they believe, Labour could have had the Tories on the ropes. Whatever they think about Corbyn, there was no way on earth they were going to allow the PLP to ride roughshod over the mandate that members had given him in 2015.
  • The anti-Smiths – for me, the leadership election was about whether Labour is primarily a party that seeks to gain power through Parliament or is, instead, a social movement. That’s why I voted for Owen Smith, even though he is to the left of me and clearly was not a great candidate. Others, though, saw the contest in terms of who had the best policies for beating the Tories. Some of those are not lefties or angry, but just did not rate Smith as a candidate – so they voted for Corbyn.

The above is crude and if I had more words to play with I would go into more detail and probably break things down further, but you get the picture: the 314,000 votes Corbyn got were not all from the same kind of people. There is no way on God’s earth that the first two categories are redeemable; the following three are: they want a Labour government above all else and will do whatever they can to secure one.

My contention is that over the coming years Corbyn’s words and deeds will alienate more and more of his supporters: this is a man who cannot unite, cannot lead, cannot collaborate and cannot engage with non-believers. Labour will continue to languish in the polls under Corbyn and will continue to do badly in real elections; his personal ratings are unlikely to improve all that much. This will all be happening as the government – mediocre and unloved – continues to flounder over Brexit and panders to the Tory right over issues such as grammar schools. That will concentrate a lot of Labour minds – especially in the unions. But it will not be enough.

Moderates cannot just wait for Corbyn to fail. They also have to reach out, to think through what it is that they want and to develop policy platforms that can win broad support. Corbyn is in place because Labour moderates failed to make their case, because they were too timid, because they took the Labour membership for granted. Managerialism really isn’t the answer; policy and projection are. So, now is not the time to be planning the next leadership contest. Instead, we need to be working to develop a coherent, left of centre vision that reflects the realities of Brexit Britain. It is only when we have done this and stopped seeing the Labour membership as our enemies that we will deserve to succeed.

Joff Wild



The betting market that reflects the mess Labour finds itself in

September 25th, 2016


2031 onwards is the favourite for when Labour will next form a majority government.

Sometimes a betting market beautifully captures the political zeitgeist, and this market from William Hill eloquently expresses Labour’s current predicament with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, it’s not so much Labour are up a certain creek without a paddle, Labour are up that creek sans a canoe too.

If I were forced to choose, I’d go for the 2031 onwards option, but I’m loathe to place bets for time periods longer than five years, 15 years is way outside my comfort zone, so it’s no bet for me, but the anticipated damage to Labour of Corbyn’s leadership will last long after he ceases to be leader.

Even if Labour ditches Corbyn before the next general election and replaces him with someone more centrist and electorally appealing, the Tory attacks lines will adapt to say you cannot risk letting in a Labour government, as Labour are only a heartbeat away from a ‘hard left’ takeover. This is all before we consider the proposed boundary changes which are set to be sub-optimal for Labour.

Of course betting markets can be wrong, and Labour could form a minority government long before 2031. I’m sure if a similar market had existed in mid April 1992, I’m fairly certain Labour winning a majority in or before 1997 would have been very long odds.



Just 16% tell ComRes that LAB-led JC likely to win GE compared with 65% saying TMay-led CON will

September 24th, 2016

Round-up of findings from latest ComRes online poll for Indy/S Mirror




The chart from the highly accurate YouGov poll that shows how totally split LAB is

September 24th, 2016

It was the newcomers into the party wot did it


Well done to Corbyn on his victory and to YouGov for getting another leadership election spot on

September 24th, 2016



Now lets see if his party’s fortunes can improve


Anticipating Corbyn’s second mandate

September 24th, 2016


History repeats itself: the first time as farce, the second as – who knows?

Albert Einstein said that time travel into the past is impossible. He was, however, only talking physically. Politics does not necessarily obey the same laws; a fact he recognised when he turned down the presidency of Israel due people needing to be treated differently from ‘objective matters’.

Later today Labour will attempt to prove that those universal physical laws don’t apply by trying to turn the clock back to May or earlier. Resignation letters will be unwritten, votes of no confidence unheld and the leadership election wished away. One big family will come together in a sense of unity and attempt to put their past divisions behind them. It won’t work.

It won’t work for three reasons. Firstly, while MPs, shadow cabinet ministers and even Corbyn for the time being might like to conveniently forget the internal war for control of Labour, the other parties and the media will not. Any former shadow cabinet minister who unresigns is certain to have their resignation letters quoted back at them. While a few might get away with the line that they erred in believing that Corbyn’s position was untenable (which was indeed an error, if an understandable one), most made specific and personal criticisms of the leader. They will have a hard job of explaining why those criticisms no longer apply.

Secondly, and relatedly, Corbyn has gone out of his way to emphasise that those criticisms will still apply. In a BBC interview this week, when asked what would be different under his leadership mark two, he said: “sadly for everyone I’ll be the same Jeremy Corbyn.” And so he will: his is not a career marked by tacking to enable consensus.

    All the reasons why his first year failed so badly will be revisited in the second. It is a triumph of hope over experience to think otherwise.

And thirdly, the battle for control of Labour goes on. That battle is currently in something of a stalemate, as I wrote elsewhere. Corbyn’s allies control the leadership (but cannot pass it on), and have majorities in the membership and among affiliated unions, particularly Unite. His opponents hold a majority in the PLP sufficient to block a far-left candidate. The NEC remains finely balanced.

For the moment, the mainstream can adopt a drawbridge strategy: the Corbynites aren’t yet strong enough to purge the central staff (and Iain McNicol in particular) or reform the rules to their liking, and the centrists/pragmatists can believe that they will prevail if only they can endure the left’s storm until it blows itself out. Unlike in the 1980s, it is they who have the tenacity and the left which has the numbers. But both sides will be watching for opportunities to tip the balance their way.

Another Einstein observation was that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. But for lack of options, it’s anyone’s guess as to why Labour would want to repeat their last year but it seems close to inevitable that they will, all the same.

David Herdson


Punters continue to make Clinton a 60%+ chance even though the polling remains very tight

September 23rd, 2016

Just three days to go before the first WH2016 debate

This is, of course, all about the outcomes in the key swing states but the national surveys gives us a good overview of the election that takes place in just 46 days time.

The betting remains remarkably static and Hillary’s 9/11 incident seems to have worked its way out of the system.

Trump is dominant amongst white working class men while Clinton has the edge with women, non-white and those who went to college. The demographic splits have a BREXIT look about them.

Its a cliche to say it’ll all be about turnout which is what happened in the UK on June 23rd. The segments with a history of low participation voted in greater numbers than many forecast.

My betting remains on Trump because I think there is more potential for his price to tighten. Whether I stick with that I don’t know.

Mike Smithson