Archive for the 'CON Leadership' Category


A 200/1 Tip for Next Prime Minister

Friday, November 29th, 2019

The man who took over Hague’s Richmond (Yorks) seat at GE2015

One ever present Political Betting market is that of who will be the next Prime Minister. This will be greatly influenced by the outcome of the General Election, but probably not settled by this election. This is a market that could take many years before it is settled, which provides opportunities for trading bets.

The polls currently indicate a healthy Conservative Majority. If that occurs you can rule out instantly Jeremy Corbyn. If the Conservatives get a healthy majority then I believe this results in three likely scenarios. In no particular order:

1: Labour elects a new leader, Johnson serves a full term but loses the following election. This could be made more likely by Brexit being a failure if you are expecting that. Look for Labour candidates who are both likely to be elected and who you think could win an election. Starmer is currently the most likely candidate on the markets from this category.

2: Johnson runs into problems early in the next term and has to be replaced rapidly by a Tory elder statesman. Familiar names like Hunt, Gove and Javid come to mind.>

3: Johnson serves for a long time and the ‘next generation’ of Conservative MPs come forward, with one of these in the future replacing Johnson. A number of former ‘big hitters’ will no longer be in the Commons next time so it could be time for a new face to come forward.

It is in the third category that I suspect value lies. Whether as a potential winner, or as a trading bet. The market has a tendency to overestimate long established names, even David Miliband is still on the Betfair list. If the Conservatives do indeed win a healthy majority then we will quickly move on from the last generation of MPs that have stepped down and there are some potential future big hitters in that list.

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.

At 39 there is potential for Sunak to be a big name for many years to come – in which case I do not think the 200/1 odds will remain for long. Either as a trading bet or to actually win, at 200/1 could this be our Next Prime Minister?

Philip Thompson

Philip Thompson is a longstanding PBer


A confidence vote to get rid of PM Johnson could happen next week

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

The Betfair 69% on it taking place this year looks a decent bet

A leading SNP MP, Stewart Hosie, has told the BBC that there could be a confidence vote in Johnson as early as next week.

If this happens, given the current Commons numbers, Johnson would almost certainly lose and then, under the FTPA, there would a fortnight under which an alternative government could be formed and if not a general election would be triggered.

From what I can see the thinking is that getting the PM out now is seen critical to avoid a no deal Brexit on October 31st. A new government made up of all the opposition parties groupings including the Tories MPs axed by Johnson would then take over the reins of government to take the country past the October 31st Article 50 deadline.

The main problem is then who would become PM. While other parties might be happy with Corbyn Jo Swinson has been very clear that the LAB leader would not be acceptable and the LDs need to be on board. Alternatives such as Ken Clarke and Margaret Beckett have been suggested.

An interesting name that has been raised is the outgoing Speaker, John Bercow, who was originally elected as an MP for the Tory party.

My guess is that Corbyn might be prepared for another figure which is why my money is on Beckett.

A big issue overall is that although the referendum was for Leave the margin was so tight that a 1.9% Leave to Remain swing would have produced a different outcome. The Brexiteers got 51.9% of the vote but want 100% of the spoils. That could be their undoing.

You can get 69% on Betfair that there will be a second VONC in 2019 which looks like a good bet.

Meanwhile it is Tory conference time in Manchester.

Mike Smithson


Tommyknockers. The death of the old Conservative party

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Stephen King has produced some dross. One of his worst is a book called Tommyknockers, the premise of which is that an alien spacecraft is found buried in the woods in Maine, and it then starts a creeping possession of the minds and bodies of the local townsfolk, until finally they mutate into the form of the aliens who flew in it. Stephen King himself has stated that he regards this as an awful book.

Nevertheless, it provides a good metaphor for what we have seen happen to the Conservative party in the last few years. Since the EU referendum was unearthed, it has undergone a slow transformation from a placidly liberal party of law and order and sound government into an angry and wild English nationalist mob.

Wednesday was the day when the Conservative party spat out the last of its liberal teeth. Fresh from its defeat in the Supreme Court, where the government had been found to have made an illegal attempt to suspend Parliamentary democracy, the party of law and order might have been expected to have been whipped and cowed.  

Not a bit of it. The government decided that the Supreme Court had got the law wrong and only its current inability to place itself above it meant that it would grudgingly comply with it. No apologies, no contrition for unconstitutionally suspending democracy. The Attorney General, so far from humiliated that his advice had been shredded, decided to boom out his opinion that this Parliament is dead.  

The Prime Minister refused to apologise and took the opportunity to rail over and over against what he termed the “Surrender Act”. In the face of outrage from opposition MPs, who queued up to ask him to moderate his language given the death threats they were receiving from those who adopted the Prime Minister’s words, he doubled down, describing as “humbug” a reference to Jo Cox and arguing that the best way to honour her was to get Brexit done.  

For a man who once professed a desire to unite the country, he’s doing a terrible job. His hero, Winston Churchill, once said that if Hitler invaded Hell he would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons. Boris Johnson was not prepared to go even that far to help woo the support of potentially biddable Labour MPs.

Most importantly, however, was the lack of queasiness on the Conservative benches. No Cabinet ministers resigned and no MPs have called for the Prime Minister’s resignation, despite his personal involvement in the greatest affront to democracy in living memory and its crushing rejection by the Supreme Court. Just a small handful of Conservative MPs who still hold the whip have expressed any qualms about Boris Johnson’s language, and none has done so in anything other than the weakest terms. The takeover of the Conservative party is pretty much complete.

(Amazingly, this takes place against the backdrop of a scandal that all by itself would have the potential to bring down a Prime Minister. When he was Mayor of London, Boris Johnson apparently steered funds and access to the start-up business of a young woman to whom he was very close at the time. Lord Sandwich supposedly said to John Wilkes: ‘You will either die of a pox or on the gallows’. Wilkes retorted: ‘That depends, my Lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your principles’. Boris Johnson seems to be attempting a unique double.)

Where next? There is no way back. The Conservatives have had a clean break divorce from prudence. In two short months, Boris Johnson has burned the party’s bridges. It will be a long time before we next see a Conservative leader who smoothly seeks to persuade the country that he or she will offer stable and strong government.

Instead, the Conservatives have cast their lot with populism. With Labour firmly campaigning as outsider insurgents as well, an opportunity is going begging for any party that wishes to campaign as the party of quiet competence and measured governance. The Lib Dems look very well-placed to pick that up, if they so choose.

The interesting question is whether they should actively seek this vote out.  There’s definitely a section of the public that votes for good government. However, the recent past has shown (and the Lib Dems’s own resurgence indicates) that having a tubthumping platform is a good vote-getter.

The Lib Dems, more than any other party, now stand at a crossroads. They have a big decision to make about their approach to the dissident Conservatives, who come from this spat-out strand of the Conservative party.  Do they seek to co-opt them or do they seek to leave them to be eclipsed? It would be a big message if, for example, David Gauke, Justine Greening or Dominic Grieve were to join them — but that message would be heard by left of centre voters as well as right of centre voters and may repel some voters as well as attract others.

It’s a big call and not an easy one. For what it’s worth, I think they should look to broaden their tent and actively reach out to those Conservatives who the current Conservative party not only rejects but regards as hate figures. In the coming years, having steadiness as a USP may be very valuable indeed.

Alastair Meeks


Changing the Prime Minister might be the only way

Monday, September 9th, 2019

One thing the existing House of Commons can agree on (it can’t on anything else) is that it doesn’t want No Deal. It’s now voted several times to this effect and, in fact, it’s as determined to prevent No Deal as the Government is to deliver Brexit by 31st October at all costs. It has been trying to do everything it can to stop it: delaying a General Election, challenging the proroguing of Parliament, and, now, passing the Hillary Benn Bill into law.

Equally, the present Government is equally clear it will test this law to the extremes – everything short of breaking the law. There have even been suggestions of invoking the Civil Contingencies Act over the weekend. It might also yet find allies within the EU on scuppering yet another delay, including President Macron. The House of Commons therefore has no reason to trust the present administration that it will honour their wishes.

However, two things remain true: this current Government doesn’t have a majority (or anything close) for its policy and, whilst Parliament will be prorogued on Thursday, it will come back on 14th October. The Queen will then make her speech and – usually – there will be six days of debate assigned to each policy area within it followed by a vote in the Commons on whether to accept it. The European Council meeting takes place right in the middle of this: on 17th and 18th October.

If by this date there is no deal agreed or no extension secured to Brexit (either by obfuscation by the Government or through European Council exasperation or a mixture of both) then the House of Commons is staring into the abyss. They will be out of options, except one: to strip control from the Executive, and form an alternative administration. That administration will be left with two choices: to either pass whatever is on the table from the EU, at that stage, or to revoke A50.

Whether this occurs through some procedural chicanery facilitated by the Speaker during the Queen’s Speech debates (which I don’t rule out) or shortly after will be interesting to see but matters will come to a head during the week commencing Monday 21st October, which will be Parliament’s last chance and a matter of days away from the Article 50 termination date.

There has been lots of focus recently on the FTPA and that a Vote of No Confidence leads to an early general election after fourteen days if no alternative government is formed that the House of Commons subsequently resolves it has confidence in. However, it can happen much faster than that. In this scenario, I expect it would happen inside 24 hours.

It’s my view that the House of Commons would baulk at an outright Revoke, and will be painfully aware of the consequences of doing so, but would want the next ‘least bad’ option. Something that can kicks and mitigates the impact. Parliament would want to ensure the European Parliament had several days to ratify at their end (indeed it’s currently not planning to sit from 28th to 31st October) and, if needs be, prepare any additional emergency legislation in the UK to convert it into law.

There would also be many MPs who’d either baulk at voting for Jeremy Corbyn as PM (why take the risk of his disorganisation and equivocation at this late stage?) or by having “voted for Brexit” on their records, so the majority required to pass the Withdrawal Agreement in my view would drop. I’d expect abstentions from the Liberals Democrats and SNP at the very least. But we’d need someone who could both do the job and carry 280 to 290 MPs in the Commons with.

I think a Conservative (or ex-Conservative) would be an obvious choice. The opposition would love to split the party further, make it own Brexit (at an Executive level) and it’s clear that with the personal animosity many possess toward Boris Johnson, this may influence their choices too. There are also several Conservatives currently on the backbenches who might be sufficiently altruistic to sacrifice themselves in the national interest where they sense the game might be up anyway.

Ken Clarke is flavour of the month but my view is that Jeremy Hunt represents a good choice. If he could command a temporary Government of National Unity to pass the WA there’d be no better way to mitigate Brexit, spite Boris and damage the Conservatives all in one. Hunt would take it in my view because he’ll be very nervous about his Surrey South West seat post No Deal and would relish being the saviour – few people give up the chance to become Prime Minister and lead.

He is currently available at 66/1 with Ladbrokes and William Hill, where I might have him down more at 15/1 or even 12/1. I’m on.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale is a long standing PBer and tweets as CasinoRoyalePB


A Tory is value as Next PM

Saturday, September 7th, 2019

Boris is unlikely to be a 10-year PM but he might well win a GE

This has not been Boris Johnson’s finest week. A series of humiliating defeats in Westminster, an underwhelming PMQs, harangued on the campaign trail, caught out using policemen for partisan ends and left to dangle in Number 10 without either an electoral escape or a means of leaving the EU by the foolishly promised 31 October.

Of course, there may be some great grand plan cooked up by Dominic Cummings’ strategic genius behind these no-doubt tactical defeats. The Tory Party is more united in Westminster, by virtue of having forced out one way or another almost two dozen rebel MPs, albeit that the cost is a government further from a majority than any since 1924.

But for all the problems, the Tories retain a comfortable lead in the polls (7% with Hanbury yesterday, 10% with YouGov on Wednesday, for example): probably enough to secure a majority provided that there isn’t significant tactical voting between Labour and the Remain parties.

I doubt there will be significant tactical voting – or if so, only one way. This occurs where two or more parties are perceived to be close enough that supporters of the third are more motivated to keep the ‘other side’ to tolerate actively letting their second-preferred option in. However, do Labour and the Lib Dems share such a close commonality? I don’t think they do, either in the Brexit stance or on other matters. Granted, the distance to the Tories is even greater but Labour isn’t a Remain party – it’s policy is still to negotiate its own Brexit deal – and on economic matters, the gap is similarly large.

Now, it might well be that Boris Johnson’s abilities as a campaigner are overrated. Yes, he won London in 2012 (against Ken Livingstone but also very much against the national polls, never mind the London trend), and he played a huge part in winning the EU referendum. But are those skills still there? It’s a different business being prime minister when you have a record to defend and detail to master. That he hid away during the Tory leadership campaign was telling. I wonder if he’d try it in a general election, as May did?

But let’s assume he can pull through and secure a second term. He is, after all, up against Jeremy Corbyn and a deeply divided Labour Party on both Brexit and domestic policy. Corbyn had a stormer of an election in 2017 but he was given space and also a campaign that very much played to his strengths. If a 2019 election was all about Brexit, Corbyn might well struggle.

What of Farage and the Brexit Party? Certainly, if Johnson fails to achieve Brexit by Halloween, Farage will attempt to berate the Tories for a broken promise but will that work? Johnson’s defence – “parliament blocked me: I have cleared out the rebels now give me the mandate” could be effective, particularly if combined with a tactical appeal not to split the Leave vote.

None of this is at all guaranteed but it should be taken as a plausible starting point. What then?

If Johnson does win a Tory majority, that might well stick through to 2024 – but would he? The evidence from the last week, combined with the challenges that a No Deal Brexit would bring, have to suggest that whatever the result of the election, Johnson won’t be in Number 10 for the long term.

Which raises an interesting question because the shortest-priced Tories to be next PM, now that Ken Clarke (14/1) is no longer a Tory MP, are Sajid Javid, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove (all 33/1). This is far too long a price for any ‘governing party’ favourite – even co-favourites; all the more so when that party is clear in the polls.

Of the three, Rees-Mogg is once again the least value. His performance this week was once again that of a man out of touch with both Westminster and the wider world. He is more likely to be the first Johnson cabinet resignation than the next leader. On the other hand, both Javid (who could have been the first resignation), and Gove are surely value.

Beyond those two, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel are 50/1 and 66/1 respectively. Had the Tories the Labour election system, both would be very good value given the changing Tory membership, however the MPs still get to pick the final two in any contest. Given the challenges the Home Office is likely to face post-Brexit, and Patel’s not-entirely-empirical approach, I don’t think there’s much value for her even at those prices. Raab, by contrast, may be.

In reality, there is so much uncertainty about when the next Tory leadership election will be, and who the candidates will be, that it’s very much a shot in the dark. There is a fair chance that then next leader isn’t even quoted by bookies. On the other hand, it could be soon. Boris could lose the election or if he wins, may not survive long. If so, the likely successor is someone from the current top table.

David Herdson


Why I’ve resigned from the Conservative Party

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019


From longstanding PBer Richard Nabavi

After five decades of support for the Conservatives, I have now resigned as a party member. Naturally this hasn’t been an easy decision; it has been a pleasure working with my MP Nus Ghani, and before her Charles Hendry, and helping in a small way in various constituencies to achieve six years of sound Conservative-led government under David Cameron, even if the past two years have been increasingly difficult. I shall miss the opportunities to take part and to meet with senior figures in the party, which I’ve always found very interesting.

However, with the election as leader of someone who is, to put it charitably, deeply unserious, and with the descent of the party into what can only be described as a political death-cult untroubled by political and economic reality, obsessed with the arbitrary and unrealistic date of October 31st, and deliberately refusing to listen to multiple well-informed warnings about the dangers of crashing out of the EU in total chaos, I cannot remain as a member any longer.

The party is no longer recognisable as the pragmatic, business-friendly, economically-sound, reality-based party of government which I have supported for decades. It will justifiably get the electoral blame for the consequences of the disastrous course it has chosen, and will probably never be forgiven by younger voters.

The election of Boris Johnson as leader is irresponsible and unworthy in itself: many of those who voted for him are fully aware that he is unfit to be PM. But, worse than that, it is a symptom of a much deeper malaise in the party, one that goes to the very heart of what the Conservative Party should be about. It is a choice of denial as well as of desperation, showing that party members have lost interest in dealing with the world as it is, not as it they would like it to be.

If the Conservative Party no longer wishes to be a serious party of government, living in the real world and striving to act in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, what is the point of it?

I hope that, at some time in the future, the party will come back to its senses, as it did in 2005, and allow some future leader to drag it back into the reality of the 21st century. Unfortunately, it looks as though I will have a very long wait.

Richard Nabavi


Follow the formbook when betting on Boris’s successor and choose an old Etonian

Saturday, July 20th, 2019


Five of the past 7 male Tory PMs were educated there

Within minutes of Boris being declared leader on Tuesday morning expect new betting markets on who will succeed him as CON leader, who’ll be his successor and how long will survive at Number 10.

When considering a factor to remember is that the form book shows us that Tories liked to be led by someone who was educated at Eton.

Going back to 1955 of the seven men who have become Conservative prime ministers five have been old Etonians.

That’s some record. Of these we had Etonians’ Sir Anthony Eden, Harold Macmillan, Sir Alec Alec Douglas Home, then some time later David Cameron and of course Boris Johnson. The only other male Tory Prime Ministers in the intervening period were Edward Heath and John Major both of them were educated at state schools.

William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith did not, of course, ever make it to Number 10. Even if their parents could have afforded it Margaret Thatcher and TMay would have been barred by their gender from getting into Eton.

So in choosing someone to bet on for a possible Boris successor this might be the moment for Rory Stewart who is an old Etonian and certainly has very different qualities than Johnson. He established himself as the surprise of the MP part of last month’s voting getting much further than was predicted.

I’ll be looking out for the early odds and if good enough my money will go on Rory.

Mike Smithson


Boris vacillated on Darroch because he’s weak, not because of Trump

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

His verbal grandiosity is a mask for a lack of self-confidence

Boris Johnson has always had a facility for a briefly memorable turn of phrase. Whether referring to table tennis as, archaically, ‘whiff-whaff’ or describing Brexit talks extending into further rounds beyond October 31 as the ‘hamster wheel of doom’, Johnson’s words have the capacity to amuse and distract. For a politician, that’s a useful skill up to a point.

The problem is that the phrases, like Johnson himself, tend towards daftness and absurdity. They are memorable at the time because while they might pithily sum something up, they also reduce its seriousness. How can a No Deal Brexit really be all that bad if it’s like a hamster? That lack of seriousness is also why the words are ephemeral: the genuinely great quotes of history are anchored to, and enhance, real endeavour – whether that already achieved or that being exhorted.

Johnson has of course played the clown for decades and rarely has it done him harm. Certainly, there’ve been failures – sackings, failed marriages and so on (if he becomes PM, he’ll have been divorced as many times as all previous 54 prime ministers combined once his present marriage is dissolved) – but always he’s bounced back. It’s hard to fall too far if no-one takes you too seriously to begin with, including yourself.

However, here’s an unanswered question: why doesn’t Boris appear to take himself very seriously? Is it all a tactic to slide to the top, under the radar or is there more to it than that? After all, he’s an intellectually capable man. He could have, had he wanted to, pursued a much more conventional route to the top. Granted, it wouldn’t have been as colourful but nor might it have suffered the pratfalls.

The simple answer though is that it would have been too much hard work. Theresa May’s predecessor had something of a reputation of an essay-crisis prime minister but it’s nothing compared to the reputation for disorganisation and lack of respect for expectations and norms of behaviour that her likely successor has amassed over the years; one which goes back to his school days. Far easier to not bother and then claim exemption with a smile, a bon mot and puppy eyes.

Those behaviours might be the result of laziness but they could well be – and I think are – the consequence of something else too. I don’t think that Boris trusts himself (and indeed, why should he?). I don’t think that he has confidence in his judgement and that’s why he tends not to make judgements – or at least, when he does, he does so on whims and without any great forethought.

All of which suggests a different answer to the question as to why he didn’t back up Sir Kim Darroch, after the latter suffered a tirade of abuse from Donald Trump (unlike Jeremy Hunt, who was clear and robust on the matter).

The conspiracy theorists have it that Boris is in Trump’s pocket and failed to back Darroch because he was doing the president’s bidding, presumably in the hope of some trade deal. This misreads the situation, to my mind. If Johnson had wanted to appeal to Trump’s vanity on the issue, he would have called directly for Darroch to be replaced; he didn’t. It would have been easy enough to make the case: ultimately Darroch himself did so. But Boris vacillated and avoided addressing the issue at all. Rather than take a stand on either side, he failed to take a decision or offer a lead. This rather implies that the problem with Johnson here is not that he’s in Trump’s pocket but simply that he’s weak: incapable of assessing the situation, forming a policy and clearly stating it. Make of that what you will as regards any attempt by him to negotiate with the EU.

Quite how Johnson’s inadequacy for the premiership will play out in practice is another matter. For all the talk of proroguing parliament in order to facilitate No Deal, I don’t think he has the spine needed to carry through such a radical action (which, in any case, I expect that parliament would frustrate via a Vote of No Confidence were it to be tried). Perhaps his natural laziness might prove a blessing in disguise, if surrounded by a talented cabinet who could be left to get on with their jobs – a sizable ‘if’. That at least would be a welcome improvement from the hyper-control of the May ministry.

More likely though is that on the crucial issue of the day, the government’s policy will be marked by drift, high-level verbiage without detail, unsubstantiated optimism and an inability to reconcile conflicting promises made without having understood the consequences at the time. Which is to say, it will ultimately be marked – like him – by failure.

David Herdson