Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


Some Corbyn backers still not persuaded that GE2019 was the total disaster for their party that it was

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

Many LAB votes on December 12th were in spite of Corbyn not for him

After GE2017 many within the Labour movement chose not to regard the outcome as a defeat but as a victory because the Tory margin was not as large as the polls had predicted. Now, two and a bit months on from GE2019 some supporters of Corbyn are Tweeting to try to show that what was the party’s worst election outcome since 1935 was not as bad s it appears.

Firstly they look for comparison to the GE2015 election defeat when EdM was leader. The disaster then was the post IndyRef surge of the SNP which saw the party taking all but three of the 59 Scottish seats. Miliband’s LAB was reduced from 41 Scottish seats to just a single MP north of the border which was the same as Corbyn’s party in December.

The big difference between GE2015 and GE2019 though was that EdM’s party had net GAINS in England & Wales of 14 seats. This compares with Corbyn’s LAB LOSING 56 English and Welsh seats

Another reason why vote share comparisons are misleading is that non-big two parties did so far worse at GE2015 because of Farage’ UKIP taking 12.9% of the vote. Last December the combined BREXIT/UKIP vote was just 2.1%.

The Corbyn fans like to attribute every single Labour vote as being backing for their man. That is nonsense of course. Many LAB voters on December 12th were like me – using my vote tactically to stop the Tories in the tightest LAB-CON marginal in the country. This was not a vote for Corbyn.

The other fact, as no doubt Jo Swinson would attest, is that increased vote shares are not an indicator of success. Her party saw a massive 57% in creased on its GE2017 GB vote share but a net loss of one seat.

Mike Smithson


Punters rate Bernie as an 84% chance in Nevada but level pegging with Biden in S Carolina

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

These are the latest charts from on the next two Democratic primaries in WH2020. Essentially they show how punters who are risking their cash are rating these two races.

My own view is that both Biden and Sanders are far too old to be rated as candidates for the presidency and that sooner or later a younger centrist will emerge.

At the moment Biden, based on the first two states to decide appears in a stronger position than Biden whose performance to date really gives little support to the notion that he’s trying to sell that he’s the best one to take on Trump.

All eyes are looking ahead to Super Tuesday on March 3rd when states representing nearly 40% of the US population will decide.

Mike Smithson


My 760/1 shot for WH2020 raises $12m in 5 days after her strong New Hampshire Showing

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Apart from Biden’s terrible performance and Elizabeth Warren only getting 9.7% of the vote the big surprise of last week’s New Hampshire primary was Amy Klobuchar’s strong third place which was well ahead of what the polls were showing. Her 19.8% vote share was well ahead of the 11.7% that she had in the RCP polling average of final polls for the state. That is some difference.

I’ve long been watching Klobuchar’s progress closely after putting £8 on her at a walloping 760/1 on Betfair for the presidency last November. At the time I saw this as a good trading bet and did, indeed, lay part of it at a big profit. But based on where we currently are I’m sticking with my position.

The news is that in the few days since New Hampshire Klobuchar has raised $12m+ which is greater than her entire fundraising haul in the final quarter of 2019. She’s now seen as a much more serious contender and I think she might do well in Nevada on Saturday. Fundraising is generally seen as a good metric.

She’s also got a big endorsement this morning from one of the biggest papers in Texas where the primary takes place on March 3rd.

Although she yet to turn 60 she’s two decades younger than Bernie Sanders, Jo Biden and Mike Bloomberg and 20 years older than Mayor Pete. I’m still far from convinced that the party will choose someone in their late 70s.

Be warned. If my bet comes good you’ll never stop hearing about it!

Mike Smithson


The helter-skelter world of WH2020 Democratic nomination betting

Monday, February 17th, 2020

By far the biggest and most active currently political betting market is on who the Democrats will choose as their candidate for the November presidential election. We are currently at a critical stage after having the first two primaries and looking forward to Super Tuesday on March 3rd when more than a dozen states including the two largest, Texas and California, will be making their decisions.

By historical standards the size of the field at this stage is very long indeed and only one of the original main contenders, Kamala Harris, has pulled out. What the chart tries to show is the huge level of volatility that we have seen since the campaign formally got underway with the first TV debates last summer.

The former vice president Joe Biden has had several spells as betting favourite but has slipped sharply of late after very disappointing performances in Iowa and in New Hampshire. What’s worrying for him is that he seems to to do well in the polls but that is not translated into success when the actual voting takes place. My view throughout has been that his position has been down to higher name recognition rather than actual strong preferences.

Early favourite back in the summer was Kamala Harris who who managed to have a very effective first TV debate particularly with her attack on Biden. She then went into a period of decline in the polls and wisely decided to pull out in December.

Then came the rise and rise of a senator Elizabeth Warren who at one stage managed to get over 50% on Betfair. Since then she has gone into a serious decline in the betting accentuated by less than convincing performances in Iowa and in New Hampshire – the only states so far to have made their minds up about the nomination. Bloomberg is very interesting given that he is self-funding his campaign and seems absolutely determined to stop Trump at all costs. He has indicated that his huge campaign team of hundreds of people will be allocated to the winning nominee if it is not him who gets it. A good indication of how well he is perceived to be doing is the level of attacks that currently he gets from Donald Trump.

All those who occupied the favourites lot so far have been in their 70s with Bloomberg, Biden, and Sanders closer to 80 years old. The other main contender, Pete Buttigieg, has yet to reach his forties yet.

The next state up on Saturday is Nevada and and here anything could happen with its caucus. There’s been very little polling and the unions, who were expected to endorse Biden have said that they are keeping out.

Mike Smithson


Who’ll be the Judge? Legitimately elected governments are not excused the obligation to comply with the law

Sunday, February 16th, 2020

On 11 February, following a court ruling, some Jamaican nationals convicted of serious crimes were not put on their scheduled deportation flight because they had not received legal advice about their deportation. This ruling does not mean that this group will be entitled to stay in the UK. Nor does it mean that the government will not be able to proceed with the deportations. What it does mean is that there will be a pause to allow them to obtain legal advice. To judge by the fury of Ministers, one would have thought that the courts had ordered the government to provide these criminals free Xmas holidays in Mustique for the rest of their lives. What possible objection could there be to giving criminals the opportunity to obtain legal advice? Some might, in fact, be British nationals or have some other claim to prevent deportation. If that claim was well-founded under our laws, surely the government would not wish to risk breaking the law?  

Well, that’s what the PM said (“Obviously we don’t want to do anything that’s in contravention of the law”). But the reaction of Grant Shapps rather gave the game away: “We shouldn’t have the courts being used to overturn perfectly legitimate decisions” taken by the government. There speaks a Minister who does not understand the difference between “legitimacy” and “legality”, a misunderstanding seemingly shared by his new Cabinet colleague, the Attorney-General, and other Ministers.

A democratic election fairly held makes the government legitimate. This government, whether one supports it or not, has democratic legitimacy and the right to govern. But that is not the end of the matter, despite what Tory Ministers – with all their talk of the Will of the People and the election result – say. A legitimately elected government is not excused the obligation to comply with the law simply because it has been elected. It is not excused it even if the People (or only those People Ministers listen to) say this is what they want. A legitimately elected government may still act unlawfully. Indeed, it often does: in 2018 the government paid £8.2 million in compensation to people whom it had detained without lawful authority.  

And since it is under such an obligation, there needs to be some method whereby its compliance with the law is tested and remedies granted, if it is found wanting. Without the ability to challenge and obtain a remedy, the obligation to comply with the law is an empty one. Voters cannot be expected to rely simply on the good intentions of Ministers and public servants. 

That is what judicial review seeks to do. It allows those affected by a government decision (or by any body carrying out a public function) to test that the decision has been taken properly and lawfully.  So, for instance:- 

  • Did the public body have the legal power to make the decision (a particular issue with local authorities)?
  • Did it ignore relevant matters? Did it take into account irrelevant matters?
  • Did it give those affected the opportunity to make representations?
  • Did it show unfair bias?
  • Was the decision contrary to relevant laws (the Human Rights Act, for instance, which gives effect to the ECHR, an early example of taking back control from a European Court)? 
  • Was it so irrational that no reasonable body could properly take the decision?

Illegality, procedural unfairness and irrationality. Which legitimate government in a stable democracy would want to be accused of behaving in such a way?  

What the courts cannot do is impose a different decision simply because they disagree. They can make the government pause; they can require it to make the decision properly; they can stop a citizen from suffering a wrong as a result of a misuse of governmental powers. But they cannot make the decision themselves or overturn an Act of Parliament.

All the government needs to do is comply with the law when reaching its decision. This is not an onerous requirement, though it does require some thought and care.  And if – sometimes – it gets it wrong, this does not undermine the government. If anything, it should be seen as an opportunity to learn how to govern better. It can always change the law, after all.

If politics is really about power (who has it, who wants it) then it is little surprise that governments resent losing some power to individuals challenging what they want to do. It is all too easy for governments to forget that they are given power by the people in order to serve them – all of them – not just those who voted for them – not to boss them about. It is all too easy for governments to hate the fact that they too are subject to the law and, therefore, to hate those who rule on it and enforce it. It is all too easy for governments to want to mark their own homework. This government shows every indication of wishing to give in to these adolescent temptations.

Judicial review is, in short, a way of helping to ensure good governance, of levelling up – to a certain extent – the balance of power between the state (in its many guises) and the individual. It gives the individual a little bit of control over what government can do to him or her. It gives the individual certainty that the law will be applied, to all, and applied fairly and properly – an essential requirement if those living or investing in a country are to feel secure and safe from the exercise of arbitrary power. It restrains – a little – the state, which has overwhelming power and can, if unrestrained, cause great harm to individuals. It asks the state to think again. A pause – before some irretrievable action is taken – is generally sensible. Think of it as the governmental equivalent of being told to leave your tough, furiously drafted and oh so strongly felt email unsent while you reflect on it overnight. 

In the government’s desire to attack lawyers and judges and curb judicial review, there is an element of the government tilting at non-existent windmills. Other than revenge for the Miller decision and the prorogation case, what exactly is the mischief which needs curing?

In 2018, 3,597 judicial review claims were lodged. Only 184 cases reached a hearing, the rest refused permission, withdrawn or resolved. Of these 184, the government or public bodies won 50% and lost 40%; the rest are still unresolved. Those 73 lost cases are really bugging Ministers, though. Perhaps they might remember the saying: “De minimis non curat lex.”

Many such cases are in areas such as immigration, asylum, prisons – areas which have had little investment or worse, with complicated laws and, often, low quality decision-making. There is little public sympathy for such claimants. They are viewed as the Devil, unjustly getting benefit of law. 

But let’s take people with learning disabilities, some of whom have been locked up for years in appalling accommodation with poor care and have suffered or died as a result. Should they be denied a remedy because a Jamaican criminal wants to speak to a lawyer? When public services for the unloved are so poor, it is unsurprising that there are so many challenges, the latest by the EHRC on behalf of people unable to speak for themselves. 

Might some bright thinker with a long-term vision (surely there is at least one in government?) wonder that if there was proper investment in such areas, this would raise the quality of decision-making and lessen the need for challenge? Apparently not. The current strategy is – as it has been for years – to under-invest, tolerate the second-rate – or worse – then attack those who try to remedy the problems caused. Now it is also to hobble or shoot the referees.

No legal system is perfect. The right balance between competing rights, between freedom and security, between politics and the law is a difficult topic which needs careful thought and attention. What it does not need is an arrogant approach by ignorant politicians grandstanding and demanding that “I want” (or, more disingenuously, “I know what The People want”) should be the only test of legality, that victory at an election makes further challenge disloyal or illegitimate.  

Sometimes judicial review helps politicians. Take the WASPI women whose extravagant claims for public money were dismissed. Or the MP against whom a political opponent brought a criminal charge of misconduct in public office last year when that MP held no Ministerial office at all. The MP sought a judicial review of the decision to issue a summons. He won – the judges dismissing the summons being scathing about the attempt to misuse the criminal justice system in such a way. Perhaps this MP could explain to the Attorney-General just why judicial review matters. He will certainly get a hearing. He is the Prime Minister, after all.



Bernie back as favourite for the Dem nomination

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

Washington Post article could be hurting Bloomberg

The White House contender who was born three months before Pearl Harbour, Bernie Sanders, is back as the betting favourite for the nomination following a brief period when multi-billionaire, Mike Bloomberg, edged him out.

The other big feature has been the collapse in the betting of ex-VP and failure in Iowa and New Hampshire, Jo Biden. This is despite the fact that in several current national polls the ex-VP is still up there.

One factor that could be behind the tailing off of the Bloomberg prices is an extensive article in today’s Washington Post headed “Mike Bloomberg has for years battled women’s allegations of profane sexist comments”. Clearly the more he looks like getting the nomination then the more this could become an issue.

Bloomberg is staying out of the remaining February state contests in Nevada and South Carolina – the latter where Biden is pining his hopes.

Mike Smithson


Sunak moves to the top Tory in the next PM betting

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

But Starmer is the clear favourite

After today’s reshuffle the main betting movement has been on the next PM betting where the new Chancellor Sunak has replaced Javid as the top Tory.

Javid, who is no longer a cabinet minister is now out to 30 with Gove being the second highest Tory. Interestingly the occupants of the main offices of state, Patel and Raab, are much further behind.

In this market, of course, we should expect the Labour leader to have the tightest odds because there is a clear pathway – a general election. In the last parliament Corbyn was the favourite for most of the time. The Tory possibles require to win a leadership election and who knows how things are going to look when Johnson finally goes.

Mike Smithson


Rishi Sunak – the PB 200/1 tip to be next PM – gets the Chancellor’s job in Boris’s reshuffle

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

At the end of November Philip Thompson had a guest slot here suggesting that the MP who who took over William Hague’s old seat at Richmond in Yorkshire was a good bet to be the next PM.

I was one of many PBers who got on at that price with Ladbrokes and have a clear financial interest in Sunak’s future,

Well the big news from the reshuffle is that Javid was not ready to accept the terms for him to remain as Chancellor and the job has been given to Sunak. This surely puts him in strong position to succeed Boris as PM whenever he steps down. This is what Philip wrote on November 29th 2019:

Currently listed at 200/1 with Ladbrokes is Rishi Sunak. A supporter of Johnson he has repeatedly appeared on the media to argue the government’s line, after the newly elected PM culled the Cabinet and promoted Sunak he argued unequivocally that Johnson was being “decisive”. During the election campaign Sunak has been used frequently on media appearances, appearing on GMB, Sky, BBC etc. Already promoted once by Johnson to Chief Secretary of the Treasury, while not yet in the Cabinet he does attend it. Sunak has been earmarked by Boris to represent the Conservative Party in the 7-way debate and is already tipped to get a full Cabinet portfolio in the future.

Clearly it could be some time before Boris moves on but the bet becomes much more valuable after this morning’s news.

Mike Smithson