Archive for June, 2018


BoJo – the betting favourite with a record of disappointing punters

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

In what became the Conservative Leadership 2016, Boris Johnson was not, as we know, the winning outcome. Indeed he did not put his name forward as a candidate. The highest Betfair Exchange odds were 55% on the day after the Brexit referendum.

In what became the Prime Minister after Cameron market, Johnson didn’t win yet on the Betfair Exchange next PM market on June 24th 2016 his top price rated his chances at 60%.

In the currently-live market Prime Minister after TMay, Boris Johnson has aggregated betting odds of 7%. This compares with his highest odds of 45% recorded on the day after GE2017.

In the currently-live market Conservative leader after May, Boris Johnson has aggregated betting odds of 7%. His highest odds on Betfair were 34% on June 10th 2017 and the lowest 6% on June 6th this year.

This has not always been the case. He was strong odds on favourite in the London Mayoral contests of 2008 and 2012 which of course he won.

Thank to for the data.

Mike Smithson


Trump’s big deal: the Supreme Court

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Wikimedia Commons

November permitting, buying off evangelicals with nominations could change the future of America

Donald Trump regards himself as the great deal-maker. As president, there’s not an awful lot of evidence to support his contention but then he’s never much been one for being overly worried about the evidence. Nearly a year and a half into his term, there’s no wall, nor any realistic prospect of one, his immigration reforms have resulted in concentration camps for children separated from their parents, he’s started trade wars but failed to reach the renegotiated trade deals promised, and Obamacare remains in place. In foreign policy, his most striking intervention – the talks with North Korea’s Kim – has brought that regime out of the cold while getting little but warm words in return. Trump has delivered on tax cuts – but then passing tax cuts for the rich is easy for members of Congress when if you’re not one of them yourself, then your key donors most certainly are.

But there is one area where his administration has been extremely effective: in making appointments to the Federal courts. No president has appointed more federal appellate judges in his first year (12), to which he’s added a further 9 since and has another 13 pending before the Senate.

That’s in eighteen months: Obama only appointed 55 federal appellate judges in eight years. These are, of themselves, highly influential appointments given how few cases progress beyond their courts, and Trump’s nominees have been reliably conservative.

Even so, the Great Prize remains the Supreme Court, which is in many ways the most powerful institution in the United States: it is not accountable to anyone, appointments are for life, and whereas the Supreme Court can overturn or strike down an Act of Congress, Executive Order or lower court decision, nothing short of a constitutional amendment (or later Supreme Court decision), can overturn decisions made the collective apex of the judiciary.*

So far, Trump has only made one Supreme Court nomination, and that courtesy of Senate leader Mitch McConnell who refused to allow the Senate to hear Barack Obama’s nomination for the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia. Scalia, however, was firmly on the conservative wing of the Court, so his replacement by Gorsuch didn’t tip the fine balance between liberals and conservatives (whereas had Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland, been approved, it would have produced a clear liberal majority).

By contrast, Trump does now have his own opportunity to mould the Court more to his liking – or perhaps more realistically, more to the liking of his electoral coalition. Trump himself would probably like to nominate someone who takes a highly activist view of the scope of Executive authority but there was a reason though why so many evangelicals voted for a man with little interest in either the Bible’s words or its teachings: abortion. Trump was once pro-choice but rare is the opinion with him that runs counter to his interests – and the votes of millions are very much his interests. They backed him because he said he would deliver on upholding a pro-life position (and pro-gun and other related stances, but abortion is the most important). And he is delivering: lots of young judges who will last decades, confirmed against regular opposition (and also overwhelmingly white and male). That is his Big Deal.

Which is where the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy comes in. Unlike Scalia, Kennedy is as close to a swing vote as the Court has. Replacing him with someone reliably conservative would secure a narrow but firmer 5-4 conservative majority.

Replacing him, however, is not quite that simple. The Republicans have only a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and one of those 51 is John McCain who is both seriously ill (and hence often absent), and no friend of the Trump administration. Trying to tip the balance of the Court in such circumstances will be difficult, even with a highly qualified nominee.

That produces a tricky tactical decision. The Republicans are only defending nine of the 33 senate seats up for election and following the uptick in Trump’s rating, might reasonably hope to make gains, particularly if they can take attention away from DC. There’s potentially a good reason to delay the vote and use the Supreme Court nomination and abortion as the kind of practical wedge issue Karl Rove used so effectively for George W Bush – though going easy now in the hope of an easier ride later is a strategy that carries risks.

If the Republicans can retain and even strengthen their grip, that opens up their opportunity to change the country. There may well be two other Supreme Court vacancies coming up before long. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 85 years old and while she has been clear in her intention not to step down any time soon, she’s also had periods of ill health in the past. Similarly, Stephen Breyer turns 80 in August and while he too has given no indication of wanting to retire, 80 is the recent average age at which justices have done so (though Justice Stevens retired in 2010 at the age of 90).

The crucial point, however, is that both Ginsberg and Breyer are on the liberal wing of the Court. If Trump and a GOP-controlled Senate can replace them (and Kennedy) with conservatives, not only will it produce a 7-2 conservative majority but if, as with Gorsuch, relatively young justices are appointed, it would likely mean a conservative majority into at least the 2030s and possibly well beyond: it’s not unreasonable to think that Gorsuch will still be on the Court in 2050.

    Such a court would have a huge impact on America’s politics, not just in civil matters such as potentially outlawing abortion but in curtailing the state’s (or, more accurately, Congress and the president’s) reach and overturning legislation such as Obamacare

.These are, perhaps, the stakes being fought for this autumn – far beyond the ins and outs of office, the soul of a nation is at stake.

If there is irony to be found in such a crucial thing, it’s this: for all the talk of Trump’s court appointments being his legacy, the reality is that he is little more than a willing cipher in it. The legacy is not his; it’s that of the evangelicals who from time to time insert and assert their influence into US politics (as with, say, the Prohibition movement). Nonetheless, irrespective of who is the impetus for these appointments, their impact – if the nominations are sustained at the current rate – will be profound.

David Herdson

* Technically, this isn’t quite true. Congress can alter the size of the court, so it could, in a hard stand-off, approve sufficient new justices of a given slant to render the former court outgunned. There’s also the accountability of impeachment, though only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached (in 1804), and he was acquitted. In reality though, neither of these mechanisms is likely to be effective as Franklin Roosevelt found when, at the height of his power in 1937 and with massive Democrat majorities in Congress, he didn’t have the support to expand the Court so as to reverse rulings against New Deal legislation.


Former long-standing favourite to succeed TMay, Moggsy now down in third place in the betting

Friday, June 29th, 2018

More movement on the betting market on who will succeed TMay. For a long period over the past nine months the favourite has been the multi-millionaire who has never been a minister, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The strong pro-Brexiteer who attracted a lot of media attention has been slipping out of favour with punters as can be seen in the chart. He follows fellow old Etonican, “fuck Business” Boris who previously was the long-term favourite.

The one unknown with this market is when there will be a vacancy. There’ve been lots of rumours, particularly as we have got close to the Article 50 deadline, but so far no Tory MPs have been brave enough to try to force the PM out.

Whether that situation survives next week’s cabinet meeting at Chequers is hard to say – but I would not bet that TMay will have an early exit.

Mike Smithson


June 2018 Local By-Election Summary

Friday, June 29th, 2018

June 2018 Monthly Summary
Conservatives 7,657 votes (40.22% -0.91% on last time) winning 8 seats (-2 seats on last time)
Labour 4,716 votes (24.77% +5.10% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 seat on last time)
Liberal Democrats 2,998 votes (15.75% +7.59% on last time) winning 4 seats (+3 seats on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 1,291 votes (6.78% -5.69% on last time) winning 0 seats (-2 seats on last time)
Local Independents 1,089 votes (5.72% +0.98% on last time) winning 1 seat (+1 seat on last time)
Independents 836 votes (4.39% -3.97% on last time) winning 1 seat (-1 seat on last time)
Green Party 410 votes (2.15% -3.17% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Others 42 votes (0.22% +0.07% on last time) winning 0 seats (unchanged on last time)
Conservative lead of 2,941 votes (15.45%) on a swing of 3% from Con to Lab

June 2017 – June 2018
Conservatives 141,644 votes (34.29% +0.76% on last time) winning 108 seats (-24 seats on last time) from 263 candidates (+10 on last time)
Labour 133,343 votes (32.28% +5.70% on last time) winning 92 seats (+9 seats on last time) from 249 candidates (+24 on last time)
Liberal Democrats 66,665 votes (16.14% +6.36% on last time) winning 42 seats (+22 seats on last time) from 213 candidates (+77 on last time)
Green Party 20,867 votes (5.05% -1.99% on last time) winning 4 seats (+4 seats on last time) from 142 candidates (-6 on last time)
Independents 16,278 votes (3.94% -1.75% on last time) winning 11 seats (-4 seats on last time) from at least 64 candidates (at least -10 on last time)
Scottish National Party 14,460 votes (3.50% +1.36% on last time) winning 3 seats (unchanged on last time) from 13 candidates (unchanged on last time)
United Kingdom Independence Party 8,457 votes (2.05% -10.35% on last time) winning 0 seats (-11 seats on last time) from 79 candidates (-72 on last time)
Local Independents 7,218 votes (1.75% -0.02% on last time) winning 5 seats (+3 seats on last time) from 23 candidates (-4 on last time)
Plaid Cymru 626 votes (0.15% +0.05% on last time) winning 1 seat (unchanged on last time) from 2 candidates (+1 on last time)
Other Parties 3,550 votes (0.86% -0.12% on last time) winning 3 seats (+1 seat on last time) from at least 17 candidates (at least -14 on last time)
Conservative lead of 8,301 votes (2.01%) on a swing of 2.47% from Con to Lab

Westminster General Election Forecast
Conservatives 304, Labour 255, SNP 41, Lib Dem 27, NI Parties 18, Plaid 3, Green 1, Speaker 1 (Con short of an overall majority by 22)
Con + DUP = 314 (short of an overall majority by 7 when allowing for Speaker and Sinn Fein)
Lab + Lib Dem + SNP + Plaid + Green = 327 (overall majority of 14 when allowing for Speaker and Sinn Fein)

Harry Hayfield


Labour continues to struggle in Scotland where it used to hold 41 of the 59 seats

Friday, June 29th, 2018

But the low-hanging fruit for Corbyn’s party is still there

There is a new Scottish poll out this morning and the picture remains gloomy for LAB. As can be seen Panelbase still has the party in third place behind, of course, the SNP and the Conservatives.

What makes this particularly disappointing for Labour is that for decades Scotland was the bedrock of the party’a support throughout the UK and its dominance underpinned its parliamentary position. So at both 2005 and 2010 Scottish Labour had 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

It was, as we are all aware, the upheaval in politics north of the border in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum that changed everything. Although the SNP lost the referendum it attracted new support in a very major way in the aftermath. In 2015 it took 56 of the 59 Scottish seat.

That slipped back to 35 seats at GE2017 but the Tories were the main beneficiaries.

    But don’t write Scottish LAB off. Many of the SNP seats are held with very slim majorities and could be vulnerable to the red team with quite minor shifts.

In fact the SNP last time did not get above a 47% vote share in any of its 35 Scottish seats.

One of the reasons why I focus on Scottish polls is that there’s the potential for a lot of seat changes following the trend of the past two general elections. It has become the part of the UK with the most political turbulence.

All this this matters to LAB particularly because it needs to be making inroads in its former Scottish strongholds if it is to have any hope of getting close or exceeding the overall Conservative MP total at the next election.

Mike Smithson


Opposition leaders who like Corbyn lose their first General Election hardly ever make it to Prime Minister

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

The task for Corbyn is to emulate Ted Heath

One of the relatively unusual features of last year’s general election was that the losing main party leader did not quit or was forced out of his job in the aftermath of defeat.

This was in the sharp contrast to:

Ed Miliband (GE2015)
Gordon Brown (GE2010)
Michael Howard (GE2005)
William Hague (GE2001)
John Major (GE1997)
Neil kinnock (GE1992)
Michael Foot (GE1983)
James Callaghan (GE1979)
Edward Heath (GE1974 – Oct).

In fact it has become almost the norm that if you lead your party into a general election defeat then you have to go. Kinnock was the last exception to the rule following the Tory victory at GE1987 and he, of course, went on to lose GE1992

Corbyn was helped last year by the fact he appeared to have done so much better than the opinion polls but LAB still lost the election and was further behind the Tories in terms of seats than Gordon Brown seven years earlier.

The only first time election loser main party leader in modern times who went on to become a prime minister is Edward Heath. He replaced Alec Douglas-Hume in the aftermath of Labour 1964 election victory but had only been in the job about 9 months at the time of the 1966 general election.

Four years later he became the only opposition leader in modern times to secure a working majority from a party that had a working majority.

On Betfair Corbyn is currently rated as having a 13% chance of becoming next PM but is favourite.

Mike Smithson


So, this errr… Target2 thing. What is it, and why is it spiking, and should I care?

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

With the election of the Lega Nord and Five Star Movement in Italy, Target2 imbalances are growing again. The gap between the creditor nations (mostly Germany and the Netherlands) and the debtors (the PIIGS, less Ireland) is now back at levels last seen at the height of the Eurozone crisis.

But wait. What are Target2 balances? Are they the result of Germany’s enormous current account surplus, or is there something else at work?

More importantly, should you care about them, and do they mark the beginning of the end for the Eurozone?

Robert Smithson


NEW PB/Polling Matters: Pollsters. hedge funds, Heathrow and why is Blair so noisy and Cameron so quiet?

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

On this week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast, Keiran Pedley and Leo Barasi look at a recent Bloomberg story investigating links between hedge funds and pollsters on the day of the EU referendum, public opinion on Heathrow and the environment and ask what Blair hopes to achieve with his latest intervention (and why David Cameron seems to be so quiet).

Follow this week’s guests