Archive for the 'Betting Call' Category


If there’s a high turnout of Jewish voters in this key ward then LAB’s main London hope could be thwarted

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Sean Fear rates a Barnet CON hold a 50-50 chance

I’ve just had a bet at 23/10 with Ladbrokes that the Conservatives will hold on to Barnet in the local elections on May 3rd. My reason is an assessment by long standing PB contributor, Sean Fear, that this is a 50-50 chance and in such cases the betting option that’s longer than evens is the value bet.

Sean has long experience of London elections and I for one take notice of it.

This is Sean’s reasoning:

The crucial Barnet wards are:-

Brunswick Park. This went Labour 42.6%, Conservative 41.2% Green 11.2%, Lib Dem 4.9% in 2014. Labour won 2 seats to 1 Conservative. It’s on the edge of East Barnet and Southgate. It’s only 5% Jewish, Labour are doing increasingly well in Chipping Barnet, and I think they’ll win the third seat.

Hale. Conservative 43.1%, Labour 40%, Green 10.9%, Lib Dem 6%. 2 Conservative to 1 Labour. This is basically, the parts of Edgware and Mill Hill that don’t fall into Edgware and Mill Hill wards. Although it’s mixed, it’s mostly prosperous. It’s 19% Jewish, and comes into Hendon constituency where the Conservatives have done very well since 2014. I think the Conservatives will win the third seat.

Assuming these two wards are as I predict, this puts the Conservatives and Labour on 30 seats each.

Childs Hill. Conservative 32.1%, Labour 29.8%, Lib Dem 27.5%, Green 10.5%. 2 Conservative to 1 Lib Dem (Cllr. Jack Cohen polled far better than the other two Lib Dems). This lies between Golders Green and Hampstead. It was safe Lib Dem for years, but the Conservatives unexpectedly gained 2 seats in 2014. It’s 17% Jewish, and could produce any result. I think the result of the borough election hinges on Childs Hill. If the Conservatives retain 2 seats, they’ll have 32 out of 63. But, each of the parties could win all three, or it could be split in any direction.

Unfortunately Ladbrokes have now tightened the price to 2/1.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks and his predictions for 2018

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

I broke my habit of recent years last year and didn’t make any predictions for the coming year (I had no time at the end of last year).  That was fortunate because I would have got almost everything wrong.  However, it is a good discipline to make these predictions if only so that I can identify what I thought was going on and think about why I was wrong (or right) later on.  That way I might actually get better.

So what is going on at the end of 2017?  Britain is at the start of a five year fixed term Parliament.  However, the government is a minority Conservative government, with supply and confidence from the DUP.  This does not make for a stable outlook.  The DUP has no great love of the Conservative party, being ideologically much closer to UKIP and only its unbridled hatred of Labour gives the Conservatives any measure of security.  The government has already been defeated in several Parliamentary votes on a variety of topics, as will occur whenever the DUP decide that they don’t need to take the heat for difficult decisions or whenever a sufficient number of Conservative backbenchers decide that they are going to splinter from the party line to take.

The economy has been lacklustre all year: when the rest of the world is seeing healthy growth, Britain’s economy is anaemic, having slipped from first to last place in the G7 since the referendum result.  That said, it has continued to grow – slowly – and employment statistics continue to sparkle even as wages and productivity continue to disappoint.  Economists seem to be predicting that Britain will remain in a holding pattern pending Brexit.  Some straws in the wind suggest that Britain’s economy might surprise a little on the upside in 2018 but we’re unlikely to see anything amazing.

Britain is in the throes of extended negotiations over the terms of Brexit with the EU.  2018 will be dominated politically by these in the same way that the second half of 2017 was.  While the preliminary agreement in December was hailed as a great triumph, it is only base camp.  The sherpas have got some hard climbing ahead of them and their masters haven’t been up to much so far.

In the circumstances, you would expect an opposition that had unexpectedly gained seats at the general election to be resurgent, poised to take over at a moment’s notice when the government collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions.  But while Jeremy Corbyn now has complete command of the Labour party, Labour is making no further headway in the polls.  Labour has successfully straddled the divide between Labour Leave supporters and militant Remainers and the price of doing so is to have to remain in Opposition while Brexit remains unfinished business.

What of the Lib Dems?  What indeed?  They gained a few seats in June and no vote share.  Vince Cable has made no impression since becoming leader in the wake of the general election.  They continue to await a new role.

The SNP meanwhile had a nasty shock in June, losing seats to both Labour and the Conservatives in a unionist pincer movement.  The risk of this being extended at a future election is obvious to all.  The SNP need a strategy for dealing with this, and fast.

Anyway, time for some predictions.

  1. There will be a Brexit deal, substantially on the EU’s terms

The real news from the December preliminary agreement was that both the UK and the EU want to do a deal.  The deal that was done was largely on the EU’s terms.

The EU had insisted on a first stage to deal with three points.  It wanted the money sorted and it got the money sorted, being promised a sum that was twice as much as the FT had estimated would be needed in October 2016.  It wanted citizens’ rights sorted and they have been sorted.  It wanted a commitment to the special circumstances of Northern Ireland being addressed and it got one, with as much fudge as Theresa May needed.

Theresa May is using tactics without strategy.  Politically, that serves her quite well, even if it isn’t good for the country.  Despite caving in on more or less everything, the media coverage of her initial deal was excellent and her opponents on all sides were discomfited.  Aside from a few rumblings from those Leavers whose preferred version of Brexit would be tectonic, she carried all before her at home.

We can expect to see the same trick repeated.  Since the government has no strategy and no deal is worse than a bad deal, a bad deal will be done, substantially on the EU’s terms.  This time the risk of hardliners opposing the deal will be much greater.  There seems, however, to be a majority in the House of Commons for a bad deal.  So I expect that a bad deal will be done and Theresa May will again look like a winner.

Much of the year will be taken up with alarums, excursions and brouhahas on the Brexit negotiations.  We should ignore them all.  We won’t.

  1. The party leaders will stay the same

This is a distinctly risky prediction.  For starters, all three of Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and Vince Cable might voluntarily stand down in the next twelve months.  Theresa May might consider that after a Brexit deal is done she is functus officio.  Jeremy Corbyn is of an age where he might consider that he could hand over to someone younger and spend more time with his manhole covers.  Vince Cable is still older and many Lib Dems think he is just keeping the seat warm for Jo Swinson in any case.

In practice, I don’t expect any of them to step down voluntarily next year (2019 is a different matter).  The Brexit deal will need to be steered through Parliament and I expect that would take Theresa May into 2019.  The revolution is incomplete in Labour without an heir apparent.  If Jeremy Corbyn is to stand down, he needs to anoint a chosen one first.  Vince Cable shouldn’t have taken the job if he only intended to serve for a year.

There is no shortage of pretenders to Theresa May’s crown.  However, the ones that want loyalty lack sufficient Parliamentary support (or there would already have been a challenge).  Perhaps the Brexit deal will offer a pretext and a candidate for MPs to rally around.  The expectation must, however, be that there will not.

  1. There will be more Cabinet departures

This is not particularly a Brexit prediction, though it is easy to see how Brexit could induce a resignation on principle.  Theresa May has already lost three Cabinet ministers in quick succession and seems unable to command or offer the same loyalty that David Cameron managed.  Further departures should therefore be expected.  If she is willing to throw her most senior minister, a longstanding friend, under a bus, no one is safe.

  1. Labour and the Conservatives will remain roughly neck and neck in the polls

Since the general election, the polls have not moved much.  Labour may have inched ahead while the various Brexit trackers suggest that the public might be edging towards doubting the wisdom of the decision to Leave.  But this is all very much at the edges.

Both main parties have uneasy coalitions.   The Conservatives are a combination of believers in Brexit and those who regard the prospect of a Corbyn-led Labour government with horror.  Labour are a coalition of evangelical acolytes of Jeremy Corbyn, old school social democrats and devastated Remain supporters looking for a place from which to oppose the Conservatives effectively.  These coalitions look as if they will stay coalescent for as long as Jeremy Corbyn leads Labour.  The success or otherwise of completing a Brexit deal looks unlikely to have a major impact on polling.

I’m also not expecting to see too much change in the polling on the referendum decision.  If a deal is concluded, as I now expect, and the economy does OK in 2018, Leave might well start to pull ahead a bit – maybe as far as 55:45.  But the only concessions that the government has made to Remain supporters have been extracted by the EU.  If the government wants to start converting Remain supporters in numbers it is going to need to show that it can include their values in its vision of Brexit.  Since it isn’t even trying, we can expect a hardcore group of Remainers for the indefinite future.  Christmas 2018 is likely to have just as many family arguments about Brexit as Christmas 2017 and Christmas 2016.  Happy New Year!

Alastair Meeks


By-election round up

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017


Latest YouGov poll suggests Remain might experience a caTAFFstrophe in Wales

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016


Taking the 2/1 on Wales voting to Leave seems like the value option

This morning there was an EU Referendum poll of Wales by YouGov, they found

The two sides of the debate over the UK’s future in the EU are “dead level” in Wales,  political expert Roger Scully has said.

Remain and Leave are both on 41%, with 18% don’t know or won’t vote, according to the latest YouGov survey for ITV Wales and Cardiff University.

YouGov polls on the issue since 2013 have shown very close results.

Professor Roger Scully said the race was tight as many Labour and Plaid Cymru voters did not agree with the pro-EU views of their party leaders.

Ladbrokes have Wales voting for Leave at 2/1, I’m going to have a small nibble on the 2/1, because if it is neck and neck, that’s where the value is in my opinion. My only caveats are that YouGov overstated UKIP by 3% and 3.5% in their final Welsh Assembly poll, whilst generally getting most other things right, I’m also expecting some swingback to Remain the closer we get to June 23rd, but given the issues with the Port Talbot steelworks, you can see why Wales might vote to Leave the EU.



How old men being available on Friday nights to do online polls might be skewing results

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016


Very early responders to poll invites might not be representative

After YouGov’s methodology changes last week ICM have announced their own measures as we approach the big day.

This is the firm’s Martin Boon he explains it on the pollster’s website:

“..Interviews tend to build up quickly on each Friday night, probably because certain types of people are more readily available and willing to participate. Indeed, there is a remarkable consistency across our online polls, with big Leave leads being built up in each hour from 4pm to 9pm on a Friday, partially mitigated by big Remain In leads every hour thereafter until the survey closes, ostensibly by Monday morning for data delivery to clients.

We believe it likely that the weight of interviews generated before 9pm on a Friday has the effect of consolidating a Leave lead as a result of the survey process itself – demographic quota cells fill up and ‘close’ once the target number has been hit. If a specific cell, such as 65+ men, is filled early with people disproportionately likely to support Leave, no additional 65+ men will subsequently be allowed on the survey. As a result, interviews with 65+ men are unlikely to be politically or attitudinally representative of all such 65+ men even though in demographic terms they are identical. But they are not, and their presence possibly introduces a small skew into in favour of Leave (or UKIP, depending on the question looked at).”

As a result the pollster is to stagger the release of invites to take part in its political polls and also to introduce a new weighting.

“..However, it is unlikely that process change outlined above will solve the problem other than partially. Respondents more inclined to Brexit may be equally fast to respond to their invite at other times during the weekend, thus still affecting the data but less overtly. As a consequence we are overlaying a new weighting scheme to reflect the profile of response by quickness to participate.

We will not publish full technical details of this weighting scheme, for fear of conditioning its power. However, we will be applying a “time of response weight” to reflect disparity in response between early responders and late responders. The net effect of this weight, so far, has been to reduce the Leave share by up to 2-points, with a corresponding increase in the Remain share by up to 2-points. It is entirely possible that the strength and direction of this weighting effect will change, if the pattern of response changes on any individual survey.”

The latest poll sees IN and OUT level pegging following a 4% OUT lead in last week’s poll.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks looking ahead to the GE2020

Sunday, April 10th, 2016


The Tories are evens to get an overall majority in 2020. Why? asks Alastair Meeks

We’ve been here before.  We languish under a Conservative government with a tiny majority, distracted by a frenzied and incomprehensible internal argument being conducted in raised voices over the EU (a subject about which the public largely do not care), staggering from wholly avoidable crisis to wholly avoidable crisis.  The public rightly see the Conservative party as horribly divided.  Disquiet is growing about their basic competence.

The last time we were here, in the mid-1990s, the Conservatives found themselves pulverised at the next general election.  It took them a decade even to become competitive again.

Yet the markets are clearly expecting something radically different this time.  The Conservatives are evens to get an overall majority next time, with no overall majority available at 7/4 on Betfair and 6/4 elsewhere.  Why?

Lots of different reasons why the Conservatives are bombproof next time round have been floated but they fall into three broad categories.  Let’s look at each in turn.

The state of Labour

Whenever any discussion takes place about why the Conservatives, despite all their troubles, look set to cruise through the next election, sooner or later the subject of Labour’s own chaos comes up.  Jeremy Corbyn has not exactly yet achieved universal acclaim as a natural leader and a large part of his Parliamentary party is in more or less open mutiny against him (or, as the leader’s own camp would put it, “core group negative” or “hostile”).  Many Conservatives believe that they could put any of their MPs blindfolded against him and still romp to victory.

That is far too complacent.  Conservatives seem to have forgotten that last year they won only 37% of the vote against an opposition leader who did not impress the public.  They achieved that unexceptional tally with a popular and charismatic leader and a broadly united party campaigning on a disciplined (if uninspiring) prospectus.  At the next election, they will have a new leader of what may well be a divided and indisciplined party.  In 2020, the Labour party may look in worse shape than in 2015, but so will the Conservatives.  It is far from clear that the deterioration on the red side will look worse than that on the blue side.

Moreover, it overlooks the following points.

  1. Jeremy Corbyn may be replaced. Right now that doesn’t look too likely but you never know.  Almost any other Labour MP will impress as leader by comparison.  If the Conservatives look tired, feckless, divided and crazy, that new leader would probably get a remarkably good honeymoon.
  2. Labour aren’t the only moving part. It is quite possible that the referendum will give a shot in the arm to UKIP, who will be looking to hoover up Leave supporters who feel uncatered to by the major parties.  Even if UKIP don’t break the mould, there is no particular reason to assume that the Conservatives would be less affected by this than Labour.
  3. It’s entirely possible that the fallout from the Labour civil war or the Conservative referendum feuds may result in one or both parties fracturing in some way. The consequences of such a fracturing are hard to predict.

In short, if the Conservatives can’t get their act together, their divisions, their lack of direction and their lack of competence are likely to hurt them in the ballot box.

The referendum will be over on 23 June

Yes, the referendum will be over on 23 June.  It seems unlikely, however, that the arguments within the Conservative party will end on that date.  If Remain wins – by whatever margin – a substantial part of the Conservative Leavers are going to remain incandescent with their leaders over their conduct in the campaign.  Rightly or wrongly, they are going to be convinced that they were cheated and will be planning how best to sabotage government policy on the EU.  The government has a majority of just 12.  The number of irreconcilable MPs far exceeds 6 (the number is probably closer to 60).  If Remain wins, we can expect a guerrilla campaign by the Conservative right throughout this Parliament.  The divisions will not heal.

If Leave wins, the government then needs to decide what comes next.  The first “next” will almost certainly be the resignation and replacement of David Cameron and George Osborne, whose authority would have evaporated.  That would be the easy bit.  The next “next” would be to establish what to do about the exit negotiations.  Since the Leave side has not put together a prospectus, mutually contradictory reasons have been given for voting for Leave.  A choice would need to be made between prioritising freedom of trade and prioritising restricting freedom of movement.  That choice will split the Conservatives afresh between economic Thatcherites and social Conservatives.  That split could be more agonising than the existing one.  The Conservatives have split twice before over free trade.  Could they make it a hat trick?

Either way, the Conservatives are going to carry on quarrelling for the foreseeable future.  Worse than that, the public are going to carry on noticing.

Boundary changes

Many Conservatives gleefully note that the Boundary Commission is due to draw up new boundaries for a smaller 600 seat Parliament, believing that this is likely to favour them substantially, particularly given that it will be based on the new electoral register (which is thought to have fewer registered voters in previously Labour areas).  So it might, if it happens.  But the government needs to get the relevant legislation through Parliament.  It has a wafer thin majority in the House of Commons and is a minority in the House of Lords.  If Conservative backbenchers of a right wing Leave persuasion feel that the boundary changes might be used for internal party control purposes, they might sabotage the legislation.  The House of Lords is likely to reject the legislation so the House of Commons will need two bites at the cherry.  There has to be a substantial chance this legislation fails.


Conservative divisions aren’t going away.  As a result, they are likely to remain directionless and ministers will be distracted from their day jobs, increasing the chances of further mistakes and adding to the appearance of incompetence.  With a wafer thin majority that may well not be bolstered by boundary changes, the Conservatives look nothing like an even money bet for an overall majority.  Lay them, or better still take the 6/4 on no overall majority (Labour might get an overall majority but if that comes into play there will be time to rebalance your book later).  Those odds should be at least the other way around.

Alastair Meeks


Tissue Price on Osborne’s leadership ambitions and his EURef problem

Monday, January 11th, 2016


The Chancellor is 13/8 favourite to be Next Conservative Leader.

He is 15/8 favourite to be Next Prime Minister. And on Betfair, you can get nearly 2/1 and 5/2 about the two propositions.

But the folk wisdom on backing the next Tory leader is that the favourite never wins. That the winner is more about who he isn’t, than who he is. You have to go all the way back to Eden to find a clear case of the long-term favourite succeeding, and that’s despite several changes to the method of election since then.

Yet isn’t Anthony Eden the most appropriate comparison? He had been Churchill’s most trusted lieutenant ever since 1940, when Winston appointed him Secretary of State for War, and he then served as Deputy Prime Minister in Churchill’s first Conservative government.

Moreover, this next Tory leader will, in all probability, be the first since MacMillan to inherit the job as favourite to win the next General Election. Unsurprisingly most leaders don’t step down when it looks like they’re going to win! Accordingly there is, unusually, a strong case for continuity – which Osborne undoubtedly represents.

In fact, the most apt (and indeed obvious) comparison is probably from the other side: Gordon Brown. Eden & Brown are not a very propitious pair of parallels, but we’re only worried about picking the winner here!

Turning to the mechanics of the election, it seems pretty clear that Osborne already has the MP nominations in the bag. He might even have enough nominations to (in theory) “choose his own opponent” – someone who controls over two-thirds of the votes can do so. Even a financial apocalypse on the scale envisaged by Damian McBride might not be enough to stop him, as it’s arguably even easier to make the case for continuity in an uncertain world.

So that 15/8 looks pretty massive to me, as a certain runner in a two-horse race. Except, of course for…

The Referendum

George favours Remain. A clear majority of the Cabinet will favour Remain. Probably the majority of the MPs will favour Remain. Tory voters currently lean Leave by about 55-45: manageable. But Tory members will break more decisively for Leave. ConservativeHome’s 71-24 survey finding (NB not a poll) is probably at the extreme end, but I would not be surprised to see at least a two-thirds majority in favour of Brexit.

So how can George win amongst this electorate? Firstly, by remembering that not all members care about Brexit above and beyond everything else. Secondly, by campaigning very respectfully for Remain, and letting others campaign against Leave. And thirdly, and most intriguingly, by maintaining unity through having a foot in both camps.

A Cabinet Minister – via James Kirkup of the Telegraph – explains:

“Sajid Javid, the Business Secretary, has no fear of Brexit. It would be no surprise if he emerged as a Leave campaigner.But he’s also a strong supporter of Mr Osborne, even a protégé, some say. So what if the master very privately gave his apprentice permission and even encouragement to cross the line and put himself at the head of the Leave campaign. Mr Osborne, sometimes described as an octopus with tentacles in every nook and cranny of politics, would pull off the remarkable feat of having a presence in both campaigns in the referendum.

The Osborne-Javid ticket would thus become a symbol of Tory reunification and harmony after the referendum, able to speak for both Remain and Leave supporters…” 

This certainly has the ring of plausibility. The Business Secretary has already slapped down “Stronger In” for attempting to suggest that he was in favour of Remain:

Of course, the referendum might actually be won by Leave – but even then I would not see this as fatal for Osborne’s chances: this would probably have been seen coming via polling and he would accordingly have campaigned cautiously. The case for unity would still be strong; what would be critical would be his proposed approach to exit negotiations.

All-in-all, I would suggest Osborne remains value, and I would recommend backing him for Next PM (better value than next Tory leader) at anything over 6/4 – Betfair is your first point of call. For full disclosure, I am also long on Javid, May, Hunt, Paterson, Halfon and Brady.

Tissue Price



Next Labour Leader: Let’s do the Time Warp Again

Friday, October 2nd, 2015


Tissue Price on Mr. Corbyn’s successor

Amongst the favourites in the betting for next Labour leader are non-runner Dan Jarvis (8/1), non-finisher Chuka Umunna (9/1), and non-MP David Miliband (a stand out 20/1 with Stan James, otherwise 10/1). All are broadly on the right of the party, though admittedly Jarvis is something of a blank canvas.

And yet the next leader will either be arranged by the PLP, in the Michael Howard manner, or they’ll be elected by broadly the same membership that just gave Corbyn a landslide. So something doesn’t add up here.

I won’t re-hash the arguments for a coup again here. Keiran tipped Alan Johnson as a potential unifier and, in the comments on that piece, others suggested Harriet Harman or Hilary Benn. There’s also Tom Watson (8/1 2nd favourite) to consider in this role: the lobby took his conference speech as evidence that he might be interested in any vacancy…

Absent a coup, when and why will Corbyn step down? He might make it through to 2020 and lose, though it is odds-on (4/7) that he gets replaced before then. I think the most likely scenario for his departure would probably be based on mediocre election results, coupled with poor personal polling.

Obviously plenty of Labour MPs will be calling for his head in such circumstances but I think the role of the trade unions will be what is really critical here. If Unite withdrew their support then it would be hard to see how Corbyn could rely solely on the membership for his authority – especially when much of that membership was recruited by the trade unions as part of his campaign.

He might even decide to go himself: though he is very serious about changing the Labour Party he does not appear to be in this for personal self-aggrandisement. If he were persuaded that a younger, more presentable candidate of the left would have a better chance of winning in 2020 he might resign and endorse them in the subsequent contest.

And, given that it’s unlikely a Corbyn-controlled NEC will change the election process, the candidate of the left ought to be favourite in that contest. But such a candidate would still need to get 15% of the MPs to nominate them, which might rule out the likes of John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, at least if the contest is before the General Election.

So, who might the “candidate of the left” be? If you think they’ll be a genuine Corbynite then Clive Lewis (33/1) has attracted the most early buzz; if you think that the unions might execute the Time Warp manoeuvre* and go for someone slightly more centrist then Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Lisa Nandy (14/1) looks the best choice – though it remains to be seen whether the time will be ever be right for a woman to lead Labour.

Both look far better value than Umunna and Miliband, and both will still be live betting tickets if Corbyn makes it to 2020 or beyond.

* A jump to the left, then a step to the right

Tissue Price