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

January 22nd, 2020


LAB leadership betting: Nandy edges up closer to RLB but Starmer remains the firm favourite

January 22nd, 2020
Chart of Betfair market from Betda.io

Stamer’s big worry must be the length of the campaign

We have not looked at the LAB leadership betting since Jess Phillips dropped out and as can be seen from the latest chart the man movement has been for Lisa Nandy . This follows her latest union nomination moving her to within a whisper of getting onto the members ballot that goes out in March.

The remaining question is whether Emily Thornberry will make it onto the ballot. She is one of the better-known figures within the party as the polling has shown and performed well when she used to stand in for Corbyn at PMQs. prime Minister’s Questions. To get on the ballot she needs 33 CLPs to nominate her and that might be a tad easier given the other three all seem pretty secure .

On the face of it the prize looks set to go to Starmer and the main worry for his campaign , surely, is that there is a such long time to go before the ballots go out in March and even longer before the election closes in early April. The problem with so much time is that it does allow the possibility of of something emerging that could undermine him. Being the front runner means that those who are opposed to are going to to do what they can to try to impede his progress.

The latest such move comes from the chairman of the party, Ian Lavery, who is saying that the time has come for for a female leader and he has urged Starmer to stand aside .

Once we get to the postal ballot stage the series of TV debates and hustings could have a big influence on the campaign and provide a platform for one of the three others to trying to shine and make a case for themselves.

Mike Smithson


Is PaddyPower right not to pay out now on these “2020 or later” bets?

January 22nd, 2020

Quite often punters contact me about disputes they are having with bookies and this is a case where I think the bookie, PaddyPower is wrong. The bets the punter made were:

  • When will Donald Trump cease to be POTUS? ‘2020 or later’
  • When will the next IndyRef take place (in Scotland)? 2020 or later’.
  • When will alien existence be proven? ‘2020 or later’.

In all 3 cases he expected PaddyPower to pay out after New Year’s Day. It is now 2020 and the events set out in the bets have not happened. After giving PP more than a fortnight he queried via Live Chat and was told that they won’t settle because the bet says ‘2020 or later’ and the event hasn’t happened at all yet so the bet hasn’t won.

I totally agree with his contention that this is unfair and the bet may never settle with this interpretation, and basically that in context the bet clearly implied it was ‘Not before 2020’. He’s now escalated this to the Escalation Team at PaddyPower, the step before IBAS – the external arbitration scheme.

I’ve long since stopped betting with PaddyPower after an argument over how a bet should be settled. It appears that too often the firm is putting up betting markets with the intention of generating media coverage rather than betting.

I’ll report back if I get news of any development here.

Mike Smithson


New LAB member polling has them rating Corbyn as their most favourable ever

January 21st, 2020

A reminder to LAB members about why so many GE2017 voters defected last month

Mike Smithson


Johnson’s opening gift to Starmer – scrapping HS2?

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

January 21st, 2020


Political cross-dressing

January 20th, 2020

One of the oddest political developments is how certain concerns are seen as the exclusive property of one side or other of the Left/Right political divide, almost regardless of the nature of the issue or the reality of a party’s record.

Green issues, for instance. The general assumption is that being concerned about these puts you on the left side of the axis. Take this quote. 

“…..consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.”

Who might the author be?(*) George Monbiot? David Attenborough? Caroline Lucas, perhaps? It is certainly a sentiment with which they would agree. The belief that the selfishness or indifference of existing (and past) generations has damaged (perhaps ruined) the next generation’s prospects and the planet is one widely felt amongst many in the Green movement. It is summed up in the description of our “contemporary lifestyle” (a consumer capitalist lifestyle naturally) as “unsustainable”. Implicit in it is the belief that only state action can put matters right.  

Both assumptions have a great deal of truth in them but need a rather more critical eye than they generally get. Some of the worst environmental damage has occurred in countries where the collective was considered far more important than the  individual, where a consumer lifestyle was an unattainable dream. The Soviet Union – in its determination to industrialise and exploit its natural resources – was a perfect example. Its consequences affect Russia and surrounding countries to this day: some of the worst air pollution in the world, contamination of the earth and groundwater in Dzerzhinsk, a former chemical weapons production centre, Lake Karachay now radioactive, having being used as a dump for nuclear waste, rivers so full of chemical pollutants that they cannot freeze even in sub-zero temperatures, the loss of 90% of Lake Aral etc. Resources may have been owned and managed by the state for the People (in theory) but the interests of actual people in having clean water, clean air and not being poisoned by harmful substances dumped where they lived were, in reality, ignored. All this has incalculable, long-lasting and harmful consequences for the natural environment, current inhabitants and the unborn. Nor is there much chance of this changing, despite Communism’s disappearance. Putin thinks climate change a Western theory invented to hold back Russia’s development.

No economic model has a monopoly on selfishness and unsustainability, it seems. But too often some in the Green movement give the impression that only Western capitalism is at fault, that punishment, blame and attacking the bad guys are almost more important than finding workable solutions to put matters right. The real criticism of groups like Extinction Rebellion is that their irritatingly stupid attempts to disrupt public transport, their desire to make people feel strongly about the issue (“Emotionality is the only way you can get people to do something” as one of their co-founders has said) risk provoking an equally emotional and opposite reaction in response. If being green is seen as a desire to impose a sort of ascetic hairshirt mortification on people, rather than a genuine attempt to find workable solutions, it will likely repel those whose support is needed if effective measures are to succeed.

Still, the similarity between Putin’s views and Trump’s determination to ignore scientific evidence about climate change and environmental harm, to view it as a conspiracy against American economic interests, is striking. It is one shared by a number of right-wing / conservative governments who seem to view green issues as a pretext for an attack on capitalism, growth and individual liberty, an excuse for state control over both economy and people. Hence the description of Greens as “watermelons”: ostensibly green but really reds under the bed (or your car) itching to ban your holiday flight.

If so, this is perhaps in part because conservatives have not as seriously engaged in the debate as they should (Mrs Thatcher’s 1990 UN speech notwithstanding) some preferring ad hominem attacks on the messengers demanding action or pointing out the undoubted hypocrisies of the “Do as I say not as I do” brigade.  Time has been spent contesting the science rather than on R&D. Or they have presented the argument as one between those wanting economic growth to help the poor and those rich enough not to worry grandly telling others what to do. It is a false – if superficially attractive – choice. An unsustainable economic model or lifestyle risks short-term growth followed by bust, which rarely benefits the poor. (Cynics might wonder at the remarkably convenient focus on the poor by those wanting no change to a system which suits them very well indeed.) 

On one reading, it is very unconservative to think that only economic growth, regardless of the consequences, matters, that only financial inheritances count. Edmund Burke described society as “a contract between the dead, the living and those yet to be born”. This beautifully encapsulates why we should want to preserve the best of the past, both man-made and natural, why we should consider ourselves temporary guardians of our world holding it in trust for the future, why we have an obligation to sustain it so that it can be passed on in good order, why we should not be so arrogant as to think we can use it as we want or so selfish as to ignore the considerations of future generations. Our politics should reflect the “democracy of the living world” (to misquote G.K. Chesterton) and not just the people currently in it.  

Conservation – of buildings, natural habitats, plant and animal species, ways of life, traditions and activities rooted in a love and understanding of place and our dependence on nature, developing sustainable – rather than wasteful – ways of living  – should not be seen as “Green crap” to be discarded when it all becomes too politically difficult or inconvenient. Being green is not just about saving polar bears or stopping fires and floods in faraway countries. It is about, for instance: housing developments at home being intelligently designed and built with sustainable community and transport infrastructure; people living in well built energy efficient homes; sustainable farming using natural processes producing high quality food (rather than Monbiot’s latest idiotic idea to put the Googles of this world in control of providing us with artificial food); discouraging waste – and not just bad stuff like plastics but material which could be used (why, for instance, don’t we value and use the magnificent wool from Herdwick sheep here rather than importing pashminas from thousands of miles away or using foam insulation?) and much else besides. Being green involves changes in attitude (less waste, repair not throwing away), individual daily actions and collective action by individual states, acting on their own and with others. It involves making some difficult political and economic choices – taxing air travel, for instance.

The dangers of appearing to be a (possibly reluctant) latecomer to an issue which now appears to be higher up the public’s agenda than before is that you are fighting on ground which has been defined by others. The issue is seen as a cause. Intensity of belief matters more than coming up with practical solutions. Criticisms may be viewed as arising from a lack of commitment rather than from evidence-based objections. You risk having no alternative practical solutions to put forward. Your conversion to such policies may be seen as a gimmick (“Vote Blue, Go Green”), inconsistent or as good intentions to be abandoned at the slightest political pressure. (How confident can anyone be that, if the price of an FTA with the US is to reduce UK environmental standards, that price would not be paid.) 

It need not be like this. The sustainability and fairness of our economic model, what growth means, whether it is possible to develop without despoiling, how to come up with practical action on climate change and the environment – not merely talk – are key political issues and ones on which the intelligent (small “c”) conservative voice should be heard.

(*) Pope Francis.



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

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