Archive for the 'Coalition' Category


A big day for Sunak – now as big a threat to Starmer as he is to Johnson

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Rishi who was 250/1 when tipped on PB as next PM eight months ago

Today the big political news will be the summer statement by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, which is being dubbed “the Coronacvirus Mini Budget”. This comes after an extraordinary nine months when has emerged from relative obscurity to be one of the biggest players in UK politics. He’s betting favourite to be Johnson’s successor and second favourite, behind Starmer, for next PM.

It is hard to realise that back in November during the election campaign you could have got 250/1 at Ladbrokes on him becoming Johnson’s successor at Number 10. That bet was highlighted here in a guest slot on November 29th 2019 from longstanding PBer Philip Thompson.

The piece was largely triggered by Johnson’s decision to nominate Sunak to be the Tory party representative on the GE2019 seven way TV debate. The published odds at the the time from the bookie were 200/1 but several of those who bet found they were offered the Ladbrokes odds boost and got 250/1. I have £20 on him at that level.

On Monday in a article Stephen Bush in the Times observed:

Starmer’s inner circle know they have “a Rishi problem”. The party’s loud focus on the need for the government to protect and create jobs is partly because of the dire economic picture but also because they know that they have to find a way of discrediting and destroying the Tory party’s Plan B before it can be activated. They also want to associate Sunak, who is popular with practically everybody in the country, with Johnson, who is a polarising figure. Thankfully for Labour, they have a powerful ally in that fight: Johnson himself. He doesn’t worry about being dislodged from Downing Street by his next-door neighbour and No 10 doesn’t spend any of its time working out how to diminish its chancellor. But, as with so many party leaders before him, Johnson’s interests are best served by associating himself with the most popular member of his party, and that’s Sunak.

That popularity for Sunak is seen in poll after poll. The latest ratings from YouGov had the Chancellor with a net rating of plus 38% when asked the “good job/bad job” question. That is miles ahead of both Johnson and Starmer.

Mike Smithson


Passing the buck Boris style

Monday, July 6th, 2020

 The PM is at the centre of a new storm tonight after he was reported to have put part of the blame for care home 20k+ pandemic deaths onto the care home themselves. According to the Guardian report linked to in the Tweet above

Speaking during a visit to Goole in Yorkshire, Johnson said the pandemic had shown the need to “make sure we look after people better who are in social care”. He went on: “We discovered too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have but we’re learning lessons the whole time. Most important is to fund them properly … but we will also be looking at ways to make sure the care sector long term is properly organised and supported.”

Johnson’s off-the-cuff approach has caused him problems before but this could be much more serious because of the sheer scale of the tragedy.

Given that widespread view is that the death toll was much higher because of the government’s delay in taking action he has to be very careful saying anything that could appear to be him trying to shift the blame.

Meanwhile Sunak waits in the wings.

Mike Smithson


Tonight’s Keiran Pedley Ipsos-MORI podcast: Assessing the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

This week Kieran Pedley is joined by former Deputy Chief of Staff to David Cameron, Baroness Kate Fall and by Asa Bennett, Brexit Editor at the Daily Telegraph.

Interspersed with insights from Ipsos MORI polling, they look at the state the Conservative Party finds itself in now; how it might differ from the party led by David Cameron; and the challenge posed to the future of the Conservatives in government by the election of Keir Starmer as leader of the Labour Party.

Listen to the episode below:


The Strange Rebirth of Liberal Unionism

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

What is Liberal Unionism? Is the current CON Government, actually a Liberal Unionist one? 

Wikipedia has a history of the Liberal Unionist Party:. The most well-known Liberal Unionist arguably was Joseph Chamberlain, father of Neville, and for 19 days leader of the Opposition in 1906 after Balfour lost his seat in Manchester as part of the disastrous Conservative election defeat.

Conservatives have called themselves Unionist for a long period and indeed it was the official name until the 1970s but conservative Unionism (which backed the status quo) and liberal unionism (which saw the need to improve the Union by reform and intervention) are not the same.

Unionists came from outside the Conservative Party and one such was Winston Spencer Churchill, perhaps the greatest of all Liberal Unionists. He left the Liberals over policy toward India. Churchill was the epitome of the Imperialist – he would have formed a King’s Party to support Edward VIII but the Abdication stopped that. Indeed, so far was Churchill from being a Conservative the Party tried to de-select him as an MP and candidate.

Yet there are two words making up Liberal Unionism and while the emphasis may be on the second, the first is no less important or significant when considering the current Government. Joseph Chamberlain was a Birmingham MP as indeed were many of those who broke from the Liberals in the 1880s and 1890s. 

Joseph Chamberlain was a Radical in the 1880s, he authored The Radical Programme in 1885 and was described as a modern day “Jack Cade” by Stafford Northcote. He fiercely opposed the traditional landowning Conservatives and supported the Third Reform Bill which aimed to give rural labourers the vote.

Another figure at the time who, while never joining the Liberal Unionists, was supportive of their Imperial policies and who championed democracy within the Conservative Party was Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father.

Winston Churchill was a Liberal Unionist through his love of Empire which was basically the Union in his day but Liberal Unionism wasn’t just the last vestige of the die-hard Imperialist but also a radical movement which prioritised reform at home especially in the lot of the working class.

For Boris Johnson, an admirer and biographer of Churchill. I’ve argued that for all he may call himself a Conservative, his policies are more akin to that of the Liberal Unionist.

There is a crucial difference (or seems to be) between the contemporary incarnation of Liberal Unionism and its early 20th Century predecessor. Joseph Chamberlain supported tariff reform and wanted taxes on imports. His opposition to the prevailing policy of free trade and no tariffs caused his resignation from the Cabinet in 1903.

Chamberlain did support a form of free trade within the Empire and especially between the primarily Anglo-Saxon components – he was a proponent of CANZUK more than a hundred years before some of the current Brexiteers. While the talk remains of Free Trade Agreements and the like with the EU, the main free trade agreements seem likely to be with the former Dominions. 

The modern Conservative Party stands foursquare behind the Union but recognises that Union has to evolve to the demands of the 21st Century – it has come to support a degree of devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

Yet the biggest change with the coming of Boris Johnson has been the resurgence of the Liberal aspect of Liberal Unionism. As I hear notions of “levelling up”, I hear a distant echo of Joseph Chamberlain’s Radical programme which perhaps resonated in the industrial West Midlands then as it does in the North and Midlands today.

The December 2019 election win wasn’t just a win for the policy of Brexit but also a victory for a programme aimed at radical reform especially for areas of England which have felt themselves neglected by Westminster and a London-centric political elite.

I make no apology for calling the current Government Liberal Unionist for I believe that is the heart of Johnson’s vision, not a diluted form of one nation conservatism but a radical programme for change rooted in the Liberal Unionist past. The respect for and desire to rebuild relations with former Dominions is one aspect of that Liberal Unionist agenda but the domestic agenda is no different.

Perhaps the greatest Radical of them all is one Dominic Cummings – it may be the Liberal Unionist and the Radical will seek to transform Britain in a way not seen since the Thatcher second term more than thirty years ago.


Former Liberal Democrat member and long-suffering contributor to PB


The first of the front pages not good for Boris

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020


In betting terms the Moran-Davey battle in the LD race looks close but there’s little to base things on

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

In the aftermath of Jo Swinson defeat in her constituency at the December 2019 general election the Lib Dems decided to postpone the process for selecting her replacement until after the planned 2020 May local elections.

Well coronavirus put paid to that plan and then the party decided that the leadership election should take place a year on in the spring of 2021. That proved to be very controversial within the membership and a revised timetable was agreed with nominations closing on July 9 in just over a week’s time and the voting taking place between 30 July and 26 August.

The general election left the party with just 11 MPs even though its national vote share was up markedly. Of those who were elected the male-female split is 4-7 making it the first national party to have women in the majority in its parliamentary party.

So far just two MPs have put themselves forward for the election and this looks set to be a battle between Ed Davey who lost to Jo Swinson last time and the Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran.

A YouGov poll of members in January had Davey with a big lead but in recent months it has been Moran who for the most part has been favourite in the betting. Her bid is being run by someone who has posted frequently in the past on PB and has a strong reputation within the party for his campaigning expertise. At GE2015 Layla got 28.9% of the vote in Oxford W and Abingdon. Last December she retained the seat on a hugely increased majority with a 53.9% vote share.

My guess is that the leadership election will be very close and that the betting broadly reflects the chances of the candidates winning.

Mike Smithson


Someone is trying to persuade me that Trump is ill and might not stand in November

Monday, June 29th, 2020

But I can’t believe that PB has a world exclusive

Yesterday I received an email from someone I have never been in contact with before or have any familiarity with which suggested that something might be happening in American politics less than 5 months before the presidential election. This is what it said:

I’m passing on to you what a colleague has learnt from a source in the military. The story about Trump visiting the Sterling golf course yesterday, illustrated with a photo of an armoured vehicle met by about five protestors, and with an old photo of him playing golf, was false. The convoy sent to the golf club was a decoy and Trump was not riding in any of its vehicles. He was taken instead to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, aka “Bethesda”, where he still is. His illness is also why his trip to NJ was cancelled. This is why the Betfair price on Pence as Republican nominee has moved how it has. You may have already heard this info. (If you have, perhaps it’s you that’s moving the market!) If so, please forgive this email. But to judge by what I’m hearing the circle is being kept exceptionally tight.

If this has any modicum of truth to it then it has huge betting implications and also would be a massive story round the world. Given how much I personally hate Trump’and fear his re-election I have to be on my guard against believing things because I want them to be true.

Of course Trump is getting old, he is 74, and apparently takes little exercise and from what we are told does not have what many would describe as a healthy diet

I still think irrespective of this, that there is a question mark over both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. So I have had a bet at about 10 to 1 laying Biden Trump being the nominee choice for the election.

Mike Smithson


Harris retains her strong favourite position in the Democratic VP betting with Susan Rice now second favourite

Thursday, June 25th, 2020 -Betfair

I have a very long history of always losing money on the vice presidential choices in American election campaigns. This is not something that is decided by primaries or elections of some form but is the personal choice of the presumptive nominee in this case Joe Biden.

I’ve moved around so much in the betting on this that I have now cashed out on Betfair making a small profit whatever happens. I have another bet on Susan Rice at Ladbrokes because I think the she might just be the one that Biden decides on.

Oxford-educated Rice was a key player in the Obama White House serving as national Security advisor and then as the Ambassador to the United Nations. She holds no elected position but given that Biden has committed himself to choosing a woman and the pressure at the moment to have someone who is non-white then she seems to fit the bill.

We could have some time to wait because normally the presumptive nominee makes his/her choice shortly before the convention which because of the pandemic has been put back to mid-August.

My reading of Biden who would be 78 on inauguration day if he won will go for someone who he is familiar with and of course they worked alongside each other for 8 years during the Obama administration.

Mike Smithson