Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


Nine days before Iowa and the top 5 contenders are within 12 points of each other

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Chart from

A week on Monday we have the very first event in the 2020 White House Race. This is of course the caucases in the midwest state of Iowa which has a reputation of pulling off some surprises and having a big impact on the nomination races overall.

This involves voters doing much much more than turning out at a polling station to cast a vote. At 1600+ events starting at 7:30 in the evening local time Democratic voters attend a meeting in their precinct. Initially there is a headcount of backers each of the contenders and only those that are able to get 15% at each meeting stay in. For those supporters of candidates getting below 15% at their meeting they have to to choose another candidate. This is all within the meeting itself and experience tells us that having a good local organisers at each event is part of the recipe for success.

The chart above from Fivethirty-eight shows weighted average of the recent state polls taking into account each pollsters’ record and approach.

Next weekend we should get the final polls with the one by Anne Seltzer for the Des Moines Register having the strongest reputation for getting this right. I’ll be waiting for that before making my final bets.

Mike Smithson


Global Heating: great crises are difficult and complex. Activists need to recognise that

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

David Attenborough, like the Queen, is immortal and infallible and therefore the closest thing we have to a living god. Unfortunately, gods have little interest in the practical business of politics (or at least, only among themselves), which is where the problem lies with Attenborough’s call for action on global heating.

While it has become popular recently to refer to the problem as the Climate Crisis, this is a poor choice of wording. Presumably the previous preferred terms – ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ – are now less favoured because the one sounds like quite a welcome development while the other is far too vague. ‘Crisis’, by contrast, strikes a note of urgency.

That urgency, however, isn’t really shared among the public. It wasn’t a prominent issue in the recent general election, where the party committed to the most cautious policy on decarbonisation won a clear majority (albeit that hitting net-zero in 30 years is still committing to revolutionary change in transport and infrastructure). In the most recent Mori Issues Index, 18% mentioned the environment, pollution and climate change as one of the most important issues with only 5% putting it top.

What’s true of Britain is even more true of the rest of the world. Attenborough made the wildly naïve and misguided statement that China needed to announce it would curb carbon output and the rest of the world would fall into line and that one could hope it would happen. One can’t and it won’t.

In reality, China is committed to massive increases in carbon emissions. It plans to build 216 new airports by 2035, by which point it would have greater air traffic that the US. It produces more steel every two years than Britain has produced in its history. It burns as much coal as the rest of the world combined and is planning on opening so many new coal-fired power stations that even if every coal-fired plant in the EU was decommissioned, these new Chinese ones alone would more than offset the closed European ones.

But that’s only half of the naivety. Even if China was to plan to commit to start to cut its carbon output, it’s fanciful to believe that the US administration (for example) would feel any compunction to follow suit.

Besides, there’s an uncomfortable undertone to the preachings of old white men (or the almost religious denunciations coming from rich white teenagers). “What right”, representatives of developing countries might ask, “have white people to enjoy a high standard of living, based on already-high levels of energy consumption, not to mention all the damage done during their own industrialisation during the last 200 years, including the occupation and often misuse of the rest of the world, if the right to develop is to be denied to black, brown and yellow people?”

(These racial terms are of course not generally considered polite these days. In this context however, I think they rather highlight the hypocrisy and double-standards).

And it’s a good question. China might be on the ‘bad boys’ list now, with 29% of global CO2 emissions – much more than its 18.4% population share – but the USA, with only 4.2% of the world’s population puts out 16% of its CO2: a greater ratio still. By contrast, India, almost as populous as China, emits only a quarter as much carbon dioxide. (Interestingly, the UK is only a little above its ‘fair share’, with around 1% on both scores).

In any case, analysis is only scratching the surface of the problem. Even if there’s consensus that the world must ‘do something’ (which was about as specific as Attenborough got), and even if there were agreement on what the objective should be, there still comes the politically tricky aspect of getting there.

It’s in that policy detail that the devil lies. If it were easy, it would have happened already. No-one willingly puts the future of the planet and civilization at risk. Equally though, economies and societies are complex and delicate things and change can only be achieved if it isn’t so disruptive as to produce a political backlash against both the policies and the people implementing them large enough to displace both – and that goes for dictatorships as much as democracies.

Steve Mnuchin might have been unusually stupid in his language towards Greta Thunberg – his “study economics” comment not only sneered at, patronised and dismissed the entire environmental movement but also demonstrated a lack of understanding of the economics of externalities (one might also note that a Treasury Secretary running a $1trn/yr deficit during full employment having claimed his administration’s tax cuts would pay for themselves is not well-placed to tell others to study economics) – but beneath the media and technical ineptness is a valid point: decarbonisation comes with short- and medium-term costs and the faster the change, the greater the costs. Which someone must pay. Thunberg might complain about her childhood having been stolen (it wasn’t, though her old age might be), but radical change risks ‘stealing’ the lives of many millions of others: at best through unemployment or bankruptcies; at worst due to early deaths.

(That final point touches on the elephant in the room, namely that one major reason for the huge increase in emissions is the huge increase in population. One of John Rentoul’s top 10 zombie facts is the claim that the world’s population could fit on the Isle of Wight. That might have been true in 1950 but at the same, cosy, six-people-per-square-metre density, you’d now need an island the size of the Isle of Skye – there are three times as many people on the planet today as 70 years ago).

The business of politics is in managing differences but in order to be able to do so there first has to be some consensus of the terms of the discussion. As yet, on Global Heating, we’re not even close to being there, either on a global or a national level. Governments can, and should, keep educating the public and acting where there’s scope to do so but the reality is that large-scale carbon reduction is likely to mean making food, petrol, flights and heating more expensive (or rationed). This is why, to Attenborough’s apparent incomprehension, governments “refuse to take steps that we know have to be taken”.

Is there hope? Maybe. But it will not follow the more extreme policies (or targets, which imply policies) that Global Heating activists want, and that must mean that adaptation is a part of the solution as well as behaviour change. But unless there is realism on both sides – about what is politically possible as well as about the nature of the crisis – then the likelihood is future governments will have to impose dramatic controls after the event. But as in wartime, at least at that point the public would understand and accept the necessity.

David Herdson


Davey slips to his lowest level yet in the LD leadership betting

Friday, January 24th, 2020

He’s heading towards evens

Over the last two to three weeks there has been a fair amount of movement in the Lib Dem leadership betting with money starting to go on the Oxford West & Abingdon MP Layla Moran and with the acting leader, Ed Davey edging out.

The current 1.85 on Davey, a 54% chance, is the weakest price yet since the the vacancy became clear. At the same time money has been going on Moran and she has been at about a 38% chance.

This market has been open since Jo Swinson was elected in July and in the immediate aftermath of that election Layla was briefly the favourite.

What we do know now is that the election will not take place until after the local elections in May and the intention is to have the new leader in place in July. This might help some of the lesser known figures who have ambitions of the top job.

There have been suggestions that there could be five nominations out of the MP pool of 11, seven of whom are women. The others are Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine and Daisy Cooper on whom I have a 60/1 bet.

Mike Smithson


In spite of Trump’s impeachment problems punters give the Republicans a 54% chance of retaining the White House

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020 chart of Betfair market

What is absolutely certain the top political betting event of 2020 will be November’s US presidential election. Currently the incumbent. Mr Trump, is going through his impeachment trial at the US Senate while presidential hopefuls are going into the final phases of their campaign in the first state to vote on the Democratic nomination – Iowa with its caucuses on February 3rd.

Until now PB has yet do a post on the the final election result in November. As can be seen by the chart the mood on the gambling markets is that the Republicans are going to hold on. The chances are that Trump will come out of the impeachment process still as the incumbent president. Quite simply the mathematics of the makeup of these Senate are such that it is hard to see any other outcome then him being allowed to continue.

One interesting feature of the current hearings is the leading contenders were are also members of the US Senate find themselves completely involved with that and need to remain in Washington for the the hearings. This means that Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar are not able to be pressing the flesh in Iowa and in New Hampshire which are the first states to decide.

Whether this has an impact on the outcome we shall see but notably Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg or not affected by this.

I’m not sure that Betfair punters have got this market right. Sure Trump has the enthusiastic support of his base but he needs much more than that in order to ensure a second term . The evidence is that the independent voters are not as enamoured with Trump as his supporters might hope. A lot depends on who succeeds in winning the Democratic nomination.

I am far from convinced that the Democrats would be wise to choose a contender who is older than Trump who will be 74 when the election takes place . They need a newer younger face.

Mike Smithson


It’s all over – nothing can now stop the UK leaving the EU at the end of the month

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020


Johnson’s opening gift to Starmer – scrapping HS2?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

Being portrayed as anti-north so soon after the election might not be smart

The biggest mistake that was made over HS2 was to call it just that. It sounds like a vanity project which is exactly what it isn’t. The new line would free up chronic under-capacity on the existing West Coast Main Line including for all the local and commuter services. If this had been billed as “West Coast Mainline upgrade” it wouldn’t have attracted anything like the opposition.

So a decision to scrap it has much wider implications than just being able to travel between London and Birmingham a few minutes  faster. For it was in the north and the midlands where the Tory campaign picked up the vast bulk of its seat gains. These helped it absorb the losses in Scotland and enable it to have a stonking majority.

To scrap it so soon within only a few weeks of the election victory has huge political dangers for the Tories in the parts of England where they prospered most and which Labour ‘s new leader would dearly want to win back.

The party has got so used to facing the feeble opposition that Corbyn’s LAB represented that it has failed to comprehend how the political world will change with a new leader. Whoever wins the current contest is going to be very different and more politically astute. What a great issue scrapping HS2 would be to Starmer

All Johnson’s promises on helping the north would pale into insignificance.

Mike Smithson


LAB leadership latest

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020


Two weeks into LAB’s leadership election and Starmer’s looking good

Monday, January 20th, 2020

It seems to have been going on for an eternity but it was just a fortnight ago that Labour’s NEC formally launched the election to choose a successor to Corbyn to lead the party following its fourth successive General Election defeat. The first round involved getting the backing of MPs while the second is about winning the support of constituency parties and affiliated bodies like trade unions.

If a contender wants to go down the affiliate route it requires the backing of bodies that consist of at least 5% of affiliate members including at least two trade unions. The constituency route to the postal ballot involves getting 33 constituency Labour parties to nominate them.

If the early constituency party numbers are indicative then it looks as though Starmer and Long-Bailey will dominate. On the affiliate pathway Starmer has already secured the 5% threshold but he does require one more to nominate him.

Based on what we’ve seen so far Long-Bailey and Starmer look set for the final ballot with perhaps Nandy making it as well. Thornberry and Phillips need some backing soon in order to remain relevant.

There have been three selectorate polls so far two from YouGov, with Starmer ahead and the other one from Survation with RLB in the lead. Looking at the details of the lower preferences in the latest two polls it’s clear that Long-Bailey is going to struggle in the final ballot unless she can make it with a majority on the first count.

It is hard to argue with the Betfair punters who currently make Starmer a 70% chance. That might change but there been little signs so far.

Mike Smithson