Archive for February, 2016


Two months before the 2011 AV referendum the polls were pointing to a YES victory

Monday, February 29th, 2016

QSaw AV Referendum polls 2011 Google Sheets

NO2AV won by 35.8%

The table shows the published AV referendum polls for February/early March in 2011 about two months before the election in early May. As can be seen  all the online polls had leads for the YES camp. The only phone poll, ICM, had it level-pegging.

Unlike the EU Referendum there was much less interest and awareness and, of course, these  were carried out before the Cameron-approved anti-Clegg attack adds that dominated the final period.

But the message is still there – polling this far out from June 23rd  might not be a good guide to the eventual outcome.

It is repeatedly and correctly observed that the history of referendums in the UK suggests that the status quo is the normal result. But will that be the same here?

Cameron is taking such a front line role that the vote could end up as a referendum on him. Equally it could also be a referendum on any one of Farage, Gove, or Johnson.

Whatever we know from past actions that Cameron can be totally ruthless when he turns his mind to it.

Mike Smithson


Never mind Super Tuesday, get ready for Mega March

Monday, February 29th, 2016


In three weeks’ time, the nominations could be locked up

The preliminaries are all but over with the first phase of the presidential primaries doing the job assigned them: knocking out (most of) the also-rans and narrowing the field to the serious contenders and the hobby-horseists. The game of musical chairs that is Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada left Huckabee, Fiorina, Christie, Bush, Rand Paul, Santorum and O’Malley all standing after the music stopped. Thank you and good night.

Now the serious business begins. So far, only a little over 5% of Republican pledged delegates have been elected and fewer than 4% of Democrat ones.

Tomorrow’s Super Tuesday elections of course are first but what’s been little noted so far is how thick and fast the next rounds come, and how big they are. By 22 March, over half the pledged Democrat delegates will have been elected, and more than two-thirds of the Republicans’.

Next weekend, another four states on each side will go to the polls or caucuses; the following Tuesday, four more do for the GOP and two for the Democrats; within another week, five more states a piece (including those awarding delegates on a winner-take-all basis for the first time); the week after, Arizona and Utah for both parties and Idaho for the Democrats. Add in various lesser territories and districts and it’s a breathless schedule that places the voters centre-stage and gives candidates little time to visit the battlegrounds in person.

What does all that mean in terms of picking the winners? It means that the candidates leading their field now have a tremendous advantage. Success tends to build on success and although Rubio and Cruz finally took a meaningful fight to Trump in the most recent debate, they will remain on the defensive as long as they’re losing. And losing they are: Trump has a greater share of the vote in the national polls than Rubio and Cruz combined.

Normally, I would say don’t pay too much attention to the national polls: it’s the state-specific ones that count. That advice still holds true but right now we can afford to relax it a little in terms of thinking about the nomination. Trump’s lead is so large and the contests are so numerous and densely-scheduled that unless there is a substantial change in the national picture, Trump will be nominee presumptive some time next month.

For the Democrats, Hillary is rightly overwhelming favourite. Her strength in the South should give her a huge Super Tuesday win and after taking three of the four early states, that will place her on the home straight and jogging towards the winning line. Sanders may well fight on but his campaign will look – and will be – far too far behind.

David Herdson


Enter the Politicalbetting Prize Referendum competition

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Predict the LEAVE and turnout percentages to 2 decimal points
Win a £250 free bet at William Hill

Using the bespoke NoJam template you will need to enter the LEAVE and turnout pecentage down to decimal points The prize will go to the person with the smallest overall error.

I am delighted to announce that William Hill has once again agreed to provide a competition prize of a free bet for £250. If the winner does not have an account then he/she will have to open one to receive the prize. This is only open to people over the age of 18.

All the entries can be seen using the widget. As usual I am in my absolute discretion the total arbiter of all matters relating to the competition. Entries close on Thursday at 10pm.

Click on the menu to check what others are doing and the overall summary prediction.

Thanks to Mark Hopkins for creating the competition widget.

Best of luck.

Mike Smithson


The latest betting tips from Alastair Meeks

Sunday, February 28th, 2016


Let’s go outside. Betting strategies in a tinderbox

 Sometimes a lot of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  You can get very bogged down in the minutiae and ignore the big picture.  And right now, there are precisely three important things going on in British politics.

  1. Labour are divided and moving leftwards under their new leader, to the horror of most of their MPs.
  2. The Conservatives are divided with a large chunk of the party wishing to move rightwards as a result of the referendum psychodrama, with the added siren call of UKIP to destabilise that party.
  3. Large parts of the centre ground are largely empty with no sign of any party being able to lay automatic claim to a space where the largest chunk of voters sit. Far from anyone seeking to occupy the space, it is becoming more deserted.

The gravitational pull of the centre has been replaced with centrifugal force.  This reversal of political norms is both highly unusual and very unstable.  With the elastic of both main parties being put under immense pressure, we have a distinct possibility of one or both snapping or twanging into the outer reaches.

What this means is that we may see some pretty weird stuff happening – or at least, pretty weird stuff is less unlikely than usual.  This has betting implications.  As a general rule, lay short priced favourites and look closely at the longshots for value.

Let’s look at two markets in particular:

Next Labour leader

Labour are a very unhappy crew at present.  The right of the party are appalled with their leader and see no conceivable way of replacing him with anyone acceptable to them.  The left of the party are ecstatic to have control of the party, are working to cement that control but fret that Jeremy Corbyn is a taste that many will never acquire.  The left is therefore working to ram through as many policy changes as it can as quickly as possible and to snuff out the ability of MPs to thwart the leader.  Further conflict is inevitable and the ultimate outcome is unknowable – whether victory for the left in a party that remains whole, a part of the party splintering off to the left or more likely the right, or the replacement of Jeremy Corbyn with a new leader acceptable to the entire party.  The new leader could be chosen at a time of enormous crisis for the party and may not be picked with particularly close scrutiny of their merits and as much for who they are not as for who they are.

I see only one short-priced candidate who needs to be kept on-side: Tom Watson, who could perform the role of a unity candidate and who already has a mandate.  While the next leader might come from the current ranks of front-runners – I see the case for Lisa Nandy, for example – the position is so volatile that someone might be catapulted to the front rank who doesn’t yet feature on the betting lists, and the possibility of this is sufficiently high to make the shorter priced candidates just too short.  The fact that Keir Starmer and Stephen Kinnock, both new MPs in 2015, have been talked about in some quarters illustrates this well.  Indeed, Keir Starmer is just 14/1, which is either a ridiculous price or an indication of Labour’s desperate straits.

I have already tipped John McDonnell at 50/1 and Ed Miliband at 200/1 in this market.  Heidi Alexander is 66/1, which is an astonishing price for a Labour politician with responsibility for the Health brief.  I’ve taken some of this.  I’m also laying the favourite Dan Jarvis – he’s just too short-priced.

Most seats

The Conservatives’ coherence is being strained by the EU referendum.  Labour’s coherence is being strained by the left of the party’s determination to secure their permanent control.  It is entirely plausible that we may see a realignment of parties on either the left or the right of British politics, or both.  The dynamics of the Westminster electoral system are a powerful reason for parties to hold together, so that probability should not be overstated.  But with both the right of the Labour party having space to move into and the right of the Conservative party having a ready-made ally to work with should it lose patience, the possibility is appreciably higher than usual (and indeed, the one feeds off against the other).

If Labour splits, we are likely to see any new centre left party get a lot of attention. At a time when the right is also divided and the liberal elements of the media are desperate for an alternative, it is likely that such a party will receive a fair wind.

If the Conservatives split, it is likely that UKIP (or a UKIP-traditional Conservative alliance) will be greatly strengthened and the rump Conservative party correspondingly weakened.  It is far from clear which part would prevail on the right.

Either way, the chances of a new serious contender party emerging are substantial.  I make the chance of at least one breakaway no lower than 1 in 6, given the stresses on both main parties at present and the opportunities available to new parties.  At that point, the odds for most seats would change rapidly.

Given all this, the 1.36 for Conservative Most Seats on Betfair looks like a clear lay to me, given the unusual instability of politics at present.  The Conservatives should obviously be favourites, but they’re far too short. If you can’t stand that, put a sporting amount on “other parties most seats” at 250/1.  Or UKIP most seats at the same price.  Or even the Lib Dems, if you must.  Strange things look more likely to happen than they usually do.  Time to start covering the strange possibilities.

Alastair Meeks


Michael Gove could be set to play the role of Brutus to David Cameron’s Caesar

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Video: The assassination of Julius Caesar and which has served as guide for The Tory Party in the past on deposing leaders. Nota bene, the video contains graphic violence not suitable for minors nor those of a delicate disposition.

The Tory Party has a ruthless tradition of deposing leaders even the electorally successful ones, unlike most parties, the Tory party has a history of stabbing their leaders not in the back, but usually in the front, very publicly. Boris Johnson memorably compared it to “Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing.” It looks like we might be in for a repeat, the front page of The Sunday Times says even if Cameron wins the referendum he will be facing a leadership challenge.

As part of the referendum campaign there will be a few debates that as the tweets below indicate, we could see a head to head between David Cameron and Michael Gove. Whilst nothing has been finalised, I mean with the various Leave groups still intent on acting like the Judean People’s Front versus The People’s Front of Judea, nothing is assured on the debate front, but I expect some form of debates will take place, and like last year’s general election debates, Cameron will ultimately be forced to take part, to avoid accusations that he is frit.

David Cameron is a very polished media performer, but he has had the occasional bad performance in debates, most notably in the first of the 2010 leader debates, which saw Cleggmania come to the fore, and many said this bad performance helped deny the Tories a majority in 2010.

If Cameron does face Gove, Gove will have the advantage that people will expect Cameron to win a debate against him, as the old adage goes, success equals performance minus anticipation. Even if it isn’t a strict head to head debate, Gove could well outshine Cameron and damage Cameron and Remain’s chances, which endangers Cameron’s continued leadership of the Tory Party.

What will make Gove’s criticism of Cameron and his deal so damaging is that they are coming from someone on Cameron’s own side, and someone who Cameron has known for many years, and considers a very close friend. A few weeks ago it was thought Gove would be backing Remain out of loyalty to Cameron. Any attacks for example by Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage could be easily dismissed as opportunism by people after Cameron’s job or from his long standing political opponents who if Cameron could walk on water, would criticise Cameron for not being able to swim. Every criticism from Gove will feel to Cameron like the dagger Brutus wielded into Caesar on the Ides of March.

They say history repeats itself, in 1990, one of Lady Thatcher’s most loyal and long standing supporters, turned on her citing a tragic conflict of loyalty, whilst Gove will not want to trigger Cameron’s departure, his actions may well do. Come the 24th of June, David Cameron might well be uttering Et tu Michael? Like Caesar, a year after a memorable and stunning victory, it could all end very badly for Cameron.




South Carolina goes as expected – an overwhelming victory for Hillary

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

South Carolina Primary Election Results 2016   The New York Times
New York Times

A great platform for “Super Tuesday”

As I write the votes are still being counted in South Carolina but the networks all declared her the overwhelming winner of South Carolina based on the exit polls alone.

She’s certain to pick up the lion’s share of the 59 delegates at stake and goes into Tuesday very much as the presumptive nominee.

Mike Smithson


How opinion on the referendum is going in first week after Cameron’s deal

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Meanwhile I’ve bet at 10/1 that Osbo won’t last the year as Chancellor

Mike Smithson


Only the FBI can stop Hillary now

Friday, February 26th, 2016


But what happens if they do?

It could have been very different. Had Bernie Sanders won the caucuses in Iowa and Nevada, Hillary Clinton’s campaign would now be in disarray. Rather than today’s South Carolina primary being a foretaste of the likely landslide she’ll win on Super Tuesday, it would be seen as a must-win vote simply to remain in the race; Super Tuesday itself would most likely have been a closer contest building off the back of a hat-trick of wins in the first three states, never mind the next two rounds with potential swing contests in Kansas, Nebraska and Michigan.

But he didn’t. By a head in Nevada and a hair’s breadth in Iowa, Clinton prevailed. By this time next week she will in all probability have a large lead in votes, states won and delegates pledged, the momentum will be with her and Sanders’ challenge will be fading.

So, a straight run through to the nomination and the White House beyond? Barring accidents, yes to the former and probably to the latter – particularly given Trump’s increasingly powerful grip on the GOP nomination. Except that an accident may occur, in the shape of the e-mail investigation.

The US law enforcement process is cumbersome and lengthy. Even if the FBI were to announce that it had a prosecutable case today, it’s not impossible that a trial wouldn’t occur until after November. All the same, we need to consider what would happen if they do come to that conclusion – and the key question then is when they do so.

Before considering seven time periods that would generate different outcomes, let’s first remember than Hillary may well choose to fight on anyway. Her ability to do so will vary depending on what evidence becomes public, as well as when (again), but everyone is innocent until proven otherwise and she can say that it is not for an FBI opinion to stop her, or anyone else, running for office. Whether the public agrees is another matter.

But putting that to one side, let’s take a closer look at those timeframes if she is forced to pull out of the race.

1. Before late March

If Hillary withdraws while the March primaries are still ongoing, Sanders becomes the nominee. It’s too late now for any latecomer to file for entry to all but a handful of elections (California is the only sizable state left; its deadline is 26 March), and Sanders would sweep up enough delegates directly from the primaries and caucuses to assure himself of the nomination.

2. Between late-March and mid-April

By late-March, 55% of pledged Democrat delegates will have been elected. By the end of April, three-quarters have. This is the grey zone where Hillary will have locked up enough supporters to prevent Sanders from winning outright but doesn’t have enough to dictate terms. We’re looking at a brokered convention here. Chances are that Sanders will have appeared out of the race prior to Hillary’s withdrawal so isn’t automatically first-reserve. Instead, the party seniors would likely turn to someone seen as a safe pair of hands who already holds very senior office: Joe Biden is by far the most obvious candidate, with the added advantage that he’s already flagged up his availability when he said that he regrets not running. There would still be the delegates to manage and Sanders would still no doubt maintain his bid but I suspect that the party would unite relatively quickly around Biden.

3. Between mid-April and the convention

At this stage, Hillary should have sown up enough delegates to hold an outright majority at the convention. Even if she’s forced to withdraw, she’d still be in a powerful position to recommend an alternative to her supporters (indeed, she’d be in a powerful position to keep running). Again, Biden becomes the natural alternative, given that Sanders will have fewer delegates of his own, but Hillary’s running mate – if selected – would be a possibility as well depending on experience and abilities.

4. Between the convention and the filing deadlines for November

It’d take something quite extraordinary for her to have to withdraw as so late a stage but if she did then there’d need to be an emergency appointment as candidate in her stead, and her running-mate would by this stage be the natural choice unless she’s seen to have really messed up earlier on that score (think Palin or Quayle).

5. Between the filing deadlines and the general election

This would be a horrible scenario and could well produce chaos (and for that reason, one would think the FBI would be very keen to avoid what would appear a direct intervention in the democratic process). But if it did, then her name is already on the ballots and the voters would have to go with that. In some states, the Electoral College members have discretion to choose someone else but in others they’re legally required to vote for the name on the paper. It probably wouldn’t matter: the Republican would almost certainly win anyway.

6. Between the general election and the Electoral College vote

The public have cast their votes by this stage so Hillary is likely to have done much better than if she’d withdrawn prior to the general election. If she’d ‘won’ on November 8 then the Electoral College members might be best all voting for her anyway as the alternative would be a constitutional nightmare, potentially putting Trump or Cruz into the White House after the voters picked Clinton, on the assumption that she would then decline to serve. Obviously, if she loses the public election then it doesn’t matter what her Electors do.

7. Between the Electoral College vote and inauguration

Declining to serve might still be an option – perhaps by refusing inauguration – but the constitution gives little flexibility to Congress to interpret the Electors’ votes and a letter to Biden as President of the Senate requesting votes for her be set aside (for example) would be of doubtful constitutional value. More likely would be the process ending with her becoming president and resigning or being impeached.

Interesting though all this is, we shouldn’t get too carried away. Whatever the evidence, the fact remains that the FBI has not yet acted and to do so now would result in them being accused of political bias unless they have a cast-iron case. The probability remains that we will see a perfectly normal route through to the nominations and elections. Even so, there still remains a small chance that the FBI find something from her past sufficient to start the legal ball rolling. As such, it’s worth keeping some insurance on the relevant cover candidate at the right price. At the moment, I don’t think the 33/1 for Biden as Democrat nominee is value but events can move quickly.

David Herdson