Is Johnson really going to stick it out as PM till the next general election?

July 10th, 2020

Ladbrokes make it 3/2 that he’ll be gone by then

In his column in the Times this morning about the rise of Rishi Sunak Times writer Iain Martin makes the following astute observation about Boris’s career plans:

At the heart of whispered Conservative calculations is the great unspoken truth of Tory affairs right now: it will be surprising if Mr Johnson fights the next election. The prime minister does not look like a man up for another five to ten years in No 10 when he could make lots of money delivering funny speeches. To put it politely, he doesn’t live for doing his ministerial boxes. This whole PM business isn’t really his thing.

This articulates my thoughts exactly as I watched Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday. He looked very uncomfortable as though he’d be happier just about anywhere in the world apart from being quizzed by Starmer in a chamber where just 50 MPs had been allowed in because of the pandemic restrictions.

Clearly the PM was hit hard by the virus and his whole personality has not returned to what it was like before he was rushed to hospital in early April. This being accountable thing doesn’t fit well with his whole approach.

Looking round the betting Ladbrokes have at 3/2 that Johnson won’t lead the Tories at the next election. These are some of the other options:


Boris is not helped by there being a ready-made replacement, Rishi, waiting in the wings and it could be that his exit from Number 10 is not voluntary.

It is hard to predict the timing of the departure which is why I like the 3/2 that Johnson will not be the leader at the general election.

Mike Smithson


With nominations closing today the LD leadership betting has settled down with Davey now clear favourite

July 9th, 2020

The latest chart of the Betdata.io LD leadership market shows that Davey is now the clear favourite on 57% with Moran trailing on 41%.

We are shortly to go into the next phases in the race with online hustings taking place before the ballot packs go out. The result won’t be known until the last week in August.

In non-lockdown LD elections the hustings have played a big part and my guess is that the online sessions should attract good even bigger overall audiences. Moran has been helped by the decision of Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse, to pull out of the race and declare her support for Oxford W & Abingdon MP.

What is clear is that Davey and Moran position themselves very differently with the latter taking a much more left wing approach.

I find it hard to read.

Mike Smithson


New YouGov polling finds Brits more ready consider traveling overseas than foreigners ready to come to the UK

July 9th, 2020
For full tables click YouGov

Given the current Covid19 figures for the UK then it is hardly surprising that Brits are more inclined to consider travelling to other countries than those who live there want to come here.

The biggest gap is with France which in normal times is the UK favourite travel destination. As can be seen 21% of Brits would consider going to France compared with just 5% of French people ready to consider coming in the other direction.

Essentially the pandemic league table of infection totals and deaths in different countries is having a huge impact and Britain’s numbers need to fall substantially before this is going to change.

Whether Mr. Sunak’s measures yesterday will tempt foreigners I very much doubt. Fear of catching the virus for the vulnerable age groups dominates everything.

Mike Smithson


How the papers are treating Sunak’s pandemic budget

July 9th, 2020

Sunak’s leadership hopes rest on his massive financial gamble coming off

Inevitably there is a split between what we used to call the tabloids which focus on the meal deal while the Guardian the Telegraph and the Financial Times highlight the big overall worries for the economy.

There are two big areas for concern summed up by the Guardian’s focus on possible job losses and the FT’s emphasis on the huge amount of borrowing that will be required. The Times notes that the pandemic support plan now exceeds the annual spend by the UK government on the NHS which really put this into perspective.

Another huge Sunak gamble is with his plans to boost the hospitality sector. Getting people back to work is clearly a key objective but what happens if this acts as the catalyst for more people to be affected by the virus? One thing is for sure Covid19 has not gone away and incentivising people to get into situations where they could be affected might not with hindsight prove to be smart.

On the betting market Sunak remains as second favourite to be next PM with punters rating his as a 17% chance.

Mike Smithson


House effect. The Polish presidential election

July 8th, 2020

Not Europe again?  I’m afraid so.  Fortunately, this time it’s for an election: the Polish presidential election.  The health of Poland’s democracy has been in question for some time, with the government going down the Hungarian route of controlling the media, packing the courts and using chicanery to exploit the advantages of government to the hilt.

The Polish public have the opportunity, should they so choose, to change this on Sunday.  The second round of the presidential election takes place and it looks like a nail-biter.  The president is chosen by an absolute majority of votes cast, with a second round between the front two contenders if there is no winner on the first round.  

There have been 14 polls since the first round took place two weeks ago.  Eight show the incumbent, Andrzej Duda, winning. Six show the challenger, Rafal Trzaskowski, winning.  Only three show a gap of more than 1% either way (two for Duda, one for Trzaskowski).  

You’d think the betting markets would show this to be close to a coin-toss based on that.  Not a bit of it.  As at the time of writing, Duda was last matched on Betfair at 1.58 (4/7) and Trzaskowski at 2.72 (7/4).  You can understand a slight lean in Duda’s favour, given the polling, but that much?  As you can see from the tweets above, shadsy has his doubts.

I basically agree with shadsy that this market is skewed and for the reason he gives, but perhaps it’s not quite as pure as he suggests.  Let me explain.

He’s absolutely right to note that populist right wing candidates are regularly too short-priced.  We saw it in France.  We saw it in the Netherlands.  We saw it in Sweden.  While the radical right has undoubtedly been rising across Europe, bettors have consistently been overestimating their chances.  This house effect has been a most profitable feature for those who have been paying attention.

Given the polls, this looks to be at least part of what we are seeing here.  Is it all of it?  Perhaps not.

What makes Poland different from France, the Netherlands, Sweden and so on is that the populist right are already in power.  They have shown no attachment to democratic norms.  It is no longer treated as a full democracy in Freedom House’s ratings.  Would they try to rig the vote?

It’s thinkable.  It was said in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe was leader that the opposition had to win three times in any election: they had to win the vote, they had to win the count and they had to win the declaration.  Poland is not yet at Zimbabwean levels of democracy but if you bet on Rafal Trzaskowski, you’re betting among other things that the government will not cross democratic norms if he wins.

You should keep an eye on this for the US election too.  The Republicans have been shamelessly using tools of voter suppression to increase their chances in November.  Moreover, Donald Trump might not go quietly if he looks like losing and he has credible options to cause chaos if the race is tight.  If you think that truth and justice will automatically prevail in the USA, you’re a sap – the Republicans were able to strongarm their way to victory in both 1876 and 2000 despite losing the popular vote on each occasion and having a very debatable claim to the electoral college on each occasion too.  Donald Trump looks at least as ruthless as Rutherford Hayes and George W Bush.

So, yes, I am on Rafal Trzaskowski at 2.72 and I do tip it.  But I’m always wary about betting against the house when you’re not sure just how reputable it is.  This is a respectable bet but not sensational value. You have to put a price on the possibility that the dice might be loaded.

Alastair Meeks


A big day for Sunak – now as big a threat to Starmer as he is to Johnson

July 8th, 2020

Rishi who was 250/1 when tipped on PB as next PM eight months ago

Today the big political news will be the summer statement by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, which is being dubbed “the Coronacvirus Mini Budget”. This comes after an extraordinary nine months when has emerged from relative obscurity to be one of the biggest players in UK politics. He’s betting favourite to be Johnson’s successor and second favourite, behind Starmer, for next PM.

It is hard to realise that back in November during the election campaign you could have got 250/1 at Ladbrokes on him becoming Johnson’s successor at Number 10. That bet was highlighted here in a guest slot on November 29th 2019 from longstanding PBer Philip Thompson.

The piece was largely triggered by Johnson’s decision to nominate Sunak to be the Tory party representative on the GE2019 seven way TV debate. The published odds at the the time from the bookie were 200/1 but several of those who bet found they were offered the Ladbrokes odds boost and got 250/1. I have £20 on him at that level.

On Monday in a article Stephen Bush in the Times observed:

Starmer’s inner circle know they have “a Rishi problem”. The party’s loud focus on the need for the government to protect and create jobs is partly because of the dire economic picture but also because they know that they have to find a way of discrediting and destroying the Tory party’s Plan B before it can be activated. They also want to associate Sunak, who is popular with practically everybody in the country, with Johnson, who is a polarising figure. Thankfully for Labour, they have a powerful ally in that fight: Johnson himself. He doesn’t worry about being dislodged from Downing Street by his next-door neighbour and No 10 doesn’t spend any of its time working out how to diminish its chancellor. But, as with so many party leaders before him, Johnson’s interests are best served by associating himself with the most popular member of his party, and that’s Sunak.

That popularity for Sunak is seen in poll after poll. The latest ratings from YouGov had the Chancellor with a net rating of plus 38% when asked the “good job/bad job” question. That is miles ahead of both Johnson and Starmer.

Mike Smithson


WH2020 A powerful new ad from Republicans against Trump

July 7th, 2020

One of the most intriguing aspects about the White House Race has been the powerful advertisements being produced and funded by Republicans who are opposed to Donald Trump.

What makes the above so effective is that the soundtrack consists of things said on the record by ex-President Ronald Reagan who was, of course, a Republican

We have featured here before promotions from the Lincoln Project and this latest ad above is not from them but from an organisation simply called Republicans against Trump.

The question is starting to be asked of a whether Trump will actually let his name go forward for a second term. The polls are very much against him both the presidential voting intention surveys and the approval ratings. The ads actually seem designed to undermine the President causing him possibly to think even more deeply about whether he should run in November.

I’ve had a little punt on him not being the nominee.

Mike Smithson


Across all pollsters the Tories are retaining a clear lead

July 7th, 2020

One of the oddest features of current next general election polling is how little there is of it at the moment. The main pollsters of yesteryear, ICM and Populus are not heard of much in this context and even YouGov has only been issuing new polls every few weeks. The last published survey from them finalised its fieldwork on June 12th – which is getting on for a month ago.

Survation, top pollster at GE2017, is producing a survey about once a month while we also have the newcomer, Redfield & Wilton Strategies which so far has not been tested at a general election.

The one that we see the most of is the top pollster from GE2019, Opinium, with its weekly surveys for the Observer and is showing a 4% CON lead. The tightest since the start of June has been the 3% CON lead with Deltapoll.

Although Starmer has been doing very well in comparison with Johnson in the leader ratings he must surely be hoping for a LAB lead soon. I find it odd that the latest Opinium approval ratings had Johnson a net 27% behind Starmer while the voting numbers still had CON 4% ahead. I cannot recall a similar divergence in the past.

Mike Smithson