Archive for March, 2019


24 hours after TMay’s exit plan announcement and Michael Gove the clear betting favourite to be next PM

Thursday, March 28th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

We are going to see a lot of this chart in the next few weeks – how punters on the Betfair exchange are seeing the Tory succession.

I choose Betfair because this is an exchange market where punters, not bookmakers, are setting the odds and you do get more movement.

At the moment it is the Environment Secretary Michael Gove who is making the running ahead of ex-Mayor, Johnson.

Interesting that the top choices in the betting are all male. Things are likely to change when a CON leadership election is actually called and it might be that someone who is not rated at the moment comes into the frame.

There are two relevant markets – the next Tory leader and the next PM.It might of course be that there’s a general election between now and when this contest takes place in which case Mr. Corbyn could conceivably succeed in the latter one.

Mike Smithson


It’s time we moved back to MPs choosing the party leader instead not members

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Having a leader who is not the choice of MPs will inevitably lead to problems

Consider where British politics is quite likely to be in a few months time – LAB still being led by Corbyn who is opposed by most of his MPs and Johnson being the CON leader in spite of his relative lack of parliamentary support

Both would be in their jobs because of their appeal to party members and neither command the support of their parliamentary parties. Given the main role of a leader is to head the party in the Commons then it should be those who work alongside MPs that should have the final say.

One of the difficulties that Ed Miliband had during his five years at the top was that he wasn’t the choice of his fellow MPs. In the ballot in 2010 he was nearly 9% short of his brother David amongst the parliamentary party.

Corbyn’s position is much worse because as we saw in 2016 a vote of confidence in him amongst the parliamentary Labour Party he secured just 20% of the vote.

Going back within the Tory Party would Iain Duncan Smith have been elected leader in 2001 if it had been left to his parliamentary colleagues. I suggest not. What happened during a critical time in British history, the Iraq war, the party and the country as a whole would have been better served by the Conservatives if the leader had been more able to hold the government properly to account.

The big difference between the Conservatives and labour is that there is a simple process within the former for an elected leader by the membership to be ousted. That’s what happened to IDs in October 2003.

This fad of letting the membership decide is a very modern. Labour introduced it in the early 1990s with John Smith being the first leader to be elected partly by members. The first Tory leadership contest to involve the membership was in 2001.

There was a thread on Twitter a few weeks back which I’ve been pondering about ever that suggested that one of the big problems in British politics is that the main parties select their leaders by leaving the final decision to the memberships.

This diminishes the role of the individual MP. Sure party members should be able to choose their candidates in their constituencies for general elections but that suggests that being involved in the final choice of a main party leader is not a good.

Why should  members, most of whom just pay their subs, be the ones to choose?


Mike Smithson


The picture of TMay that says it all on most of the front pages this morning

Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Will she stay if Brexit doesn’t happen?

It is not often that the papers are all at one over what is the big news of the day. Interestingly as well they mostly use the same picture of Theresa May to illustrate their stories and this, my guess, will go down as a match to the shots of Maggie Thatcher in the car as she was leaving Downing Street for the last time in November 1990.

The problem with her withdrawal plan is that it is conditional on the first stage of Brexit going to plan and that is far from clear. We don’t know whether she will get a vote through on her deal and the signs are that this might not happen.

The question then becomes what happens to Mrs May? Is she going to struggle on or will she have to be forced out in some manner? Is the deadlock over Brexit going to be a semi-permanent fixture of a politics while a battered leader struggles on?

For those PBers who are punters there are also betting issues and I will be down a bit if a deal is not accepted by MPs the end of tomorrow. So be it.

What Theresa May’s announcement yesterday has set off, of course, is the next CON leadership election because it will no longer be a requirement of apparent loyalists to deny any interest in the job.

The interesting betting move last night was towards the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, someone whom I tipped here in January when he was 65/1.  It’s been notable that Hancock has played a big part in explaining to the media and doing some  key interviews on behalf of the government. Hancock, of course, is a George Osborne protégé and I wonder whether the London Evening Standard will be a great big backer if it comes to a contest.

All to play for.

Mike Smithson


The danger for TMay is that in wooing ERG hardliners she might be alienating LAB soft brexiteers and CON remainers

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

This gets more complex by the hour

Robert Peston makes a very strong point in his Tweets above about the difficulty TMay has in appealing to very different constituencies to get her deal over the line.

Signs are that ministers are hoping to bring the deal to a vote at a special sitting on Friday when it is hoped a way can be found of getting round the Speaker’s ruling about repeatedly putting the deal to MPs.

There’s a problem for many ERGers as well given the way they’ve described the deal in the past. This is going to be thrown at them and I just wonder whether it could impede Johnson’s leadership bid.

The battles go on.


Mike Smithson



The attention now turns to TMay’s attendance at the 1922 committee

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

The speculation is that she’ll set out an exit timetable.

This is from the Speccies, James Forsyth:-

Speculation is rife that she will use the meeting to announce a timetable for her departure, though there’s no official line from Number 10 on this.

I understand that Tory switchers are being told that Theresa May will go if the withdrawal agreement bill gets royal assent, which would have to be by May 22nd. This would, obviously, require meaningful vote 3 to pass – though … John Bercow is not keen on the vote happening at all.

Rhe meeting starts at 5pm.

Mike Smithson



With a CON leadership contest perhaps imminent new Ipsos-MORI poll has good and bad news for Johnson

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Above is a chart just issued by Ipsos Mori on its latest polling on which of a number of leading politicians appear “Prime Ministerial”. Theresa May, clearly, gets a home advantage because she is the incumbent but Corbyn will not be happy with his numbers which are the worst of all in those who were polled.

Johnson has the most positive rating  of all the prospective CON leaders 24% but also has the biggest negative number  of  64%. This is a serious problem for the Tory Party If by any chance they choose the former Mayor and former Foreign Secretary.

The worst numbers in net terms are those of Michael Gove the environment secretary. So the top two in the betting for next CON leader get the worst ratings.

Mike Smithson




Johnson edges back to favourite on the day that TMay’s future could be decided

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

On the face of it a lot could be decided today that will give us a clearer view of Britain’s and Theresa May’s political Futures. The two are clearly interlinked.

With even some of her most hostile opponents within the parliamentary party now supporting her deal the prime minister is facing her backbenchers this afternoon when it’s widely expected that she’ll be pressed strongly to give an indication of her exit date.

It has been her ambivalence over this since she lost the party its majority at the June 2017 General Election that has caused a lot of tensions. While the Tories have been happy to let her take on the battle of dealing with Europe there’s virtually nobody in  the party comfortable with her leading the Tories at the next general election. Memories of her GE2017 performance are still strong. She’s somebody who loses the party seats not gains them.

In December she was pressed to give a commitment before the confidence vote in her that she would go before the general election but that’s not enough. The party wants a date and if she gives a specific undertaking this afternoon that might help secure some of the extra support she requires to get her EU deal finally through.

How that fits in with today’s Commons events where MPs will be taking part in an indicative ballot on which of the various scenarios they’ll support is hard to say. One of the options that’s not there is Theresa May’s deal.

For the prime minister’s plan to succeed it probably requires none of the alternatives that are being voted on to actually secure majority support and that might be easier should she commit to her MPs  a firm and early exit date.

Meanwhile in the next CON leader betting the chart shows that Johnson is now back as favourite slightly edging in Michael Gove. I’m not too sure either of them will end up with the top job and the fact the favourite is only a 19% shot suggests that there is great uncertainty.

In another Betfair market it is an 88% chance that TMay will go this year.

Mike Smithson


The first thing Trump’s likely to do when Jo Biden finally declares is to dub the former VP “copycat”

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

The man who copied almost word for word a Neil Kinnock ad

A new US  poll has Joe Biden beating Trump by 7% in a WH2020 match-up which puts him in the best position of all the Democrats who are seeking the nomination. In the RCP polling average he’s 5.8% ahead of his closest rival  even though he has yet to formally declare. In the betting he’s favourite although the top 4 are all within three points.

Of course Biden, who got a lucky late career break when in 2008 Obama asked him to be his running mate,  served for eight years as VP. He’s well known.

I’ve long been a Biden sceptic because of his age, 77, his gaffe-prone reputation, and what happened 31 years ago when he first made an unsuccessful bid for the White House.

What should concern those ready to risk their cash on a Biden bet is that which features in the 1988 YouTube clip which highlights the reason why he had to quit his first presidential bid. The allegations of plagiarism went well beyond just using almost word for word  the famous Neil Kinnock pitch from the 1987 general election. There were suggestions, well documented at the time, that he had plagiarised other people’s work while he was at university. He was also accused of plagiarising JFK amongst others.

Compared with the dirt on Trump this is of course peanuts but Biden, unlike the president, has to appeal to a very different group – Democrat primary voters whose prime concern will be to select someone who can beat the current incumbent.

The plagiarism charge is going to be thrown at him and being the front runner means it is much more likely to be examined in detail. No doubt Mr Trump will create one of his deadly nicknames based on this for the former vice president.

The age thing is not yet a factor but is likely to be so as we start the Democratic primary debate program in June. This will be highlighted by being surrounded by several younger contenders in their late 30s.  Is Biden going to have the stamina for an 18-month fight the presidency let alone the stamina for actually doing the job if successful?

From the start I have ruled out Biden and Sanders in my betting on the age grounds alone.

Mike Smithson