Team Biden now says he won’t be announcing his VP choice until just before the convention

August 3rd, 2020

The screengrab from CBS news above includes just about all the women who have been been linked with being Joe Biden’s running mate for the November 3rd presidential election.

There had been hints from Biden team that an announcement could have been made this last weekend but now we hear that we have got to wait. My guess is that it will be deferred until the couple of days before the Democratic convention is due to start on August 18th.

The reason is quite simple: just as soon as the choice is announced then the Republicans will start with releasing the opposition research on things in the chosen person’s history that could possibly be embarrassing now. They want to move the narrative on from Trump’s handling of the pandemic which is costing him dear. Thus we got a taste this weekend with the reports about the current emerging figure in the race, Karen Bass, and what she said when she was much younger about Fidel Castro and the Cuban issue. She’s third favourite.

If it is the former US American ambassador to the United Nations and national Security adviser under Obama, Susan Rice, then expect to hear her attacked over controversial comments about the Benghazi raid and the fact that her son is an active campaigner for Donald Trump.

No doubt the record of odds-on favourite Kamala Harris in her previous job as Attorney General of California has been looked at with a fine tooth comb and issues will be brought up.

This is all just politics but my understanding from the US media at the moment is that Biden is aware of the challenge and will seek to minimise the timing for such a development by not saying who it will be until maybe a couple of days before the convention starts. Then the media focus will be on the formal party nomination.

In the betting I’m all green on Betfair so for the first time since PB was founded in 2004 I will end up a winner on the VP choice. My sense is that Harris is over-priced and that Bass and Rice are worth punts if you can get decent odds. It could be someone other than the three I’ve mentioned.

Mike Smithson


Some succour for Trump: Exactly four years ago today Betfair punters rated Hillary Clinton’s chances a lot higher than they do Joe Biden’s today

August 2nd, 2020

The chart atop this thread is from exactly four years ago showing that Betfair punters were effectively saying Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the 2016 election were 72%, as we can see in the chart below Biden’s chances are around 62%.

I’ve written in the past the terrible predictive abilities of the betting markets when it comes to politics, perhaps we might see that again, after all on election night Hillary Clinton’s chances went north of 90%. Perhaps the value might be in backing Trump, he may also be relying on electoral chicanery.



Some Trump (sore) loser bets

August 2nd, 2020

StarSports have some markets up on what Trump might do about the 2020 election.

I’m not touching the 8/1 on the 2020 election not to take place given the constitutional and legal impediments make it close to impossible to delay the election, even if Trump had a pliable House and Senate. The likes of Mitch McConnell have made it clear they won’t back a delay to the election.

The 3/1 on Trump losing the election and refusing to leave office is clearly defined as ‘Refuse defined as being publicly announced by Trump and not attending the inauguration in Jan 2021.’ I think I’ll stick to laying Trump over on Betfair, at slightly lower odds of just under 2/1.

If you’re tempted to back the 10/1 on Trump pulling out of the 2020 campaign I think you’re better off backing Mike Pence over on Betfair to be the winner of the 2020 election or the GOP nominee at 220/1 and 30/1 respectively.



Emergency Server Upgrade

August 2nd, 2020

Hi all,

We unfortunately need to do an emergency server migration, and so there will be some downtime

Thanks, Robert


Opinium’s Tory lead down from 26% at the start of Starmer’s LAB leadership to 3% tonight

August 1st, 2020

This is the closest for LAB in any poll since GE2019

In the first poll by Opinium after Starmer became LAB leader the Tories were on 55% and LAB on 29%. Tonight’s weekly poll from the firm for the Observer has CON 41: LAB 38: LD 6%.

That is a remarkable change in less than four months and will be seen as a real vindication of Starmer’s approach to the job since he became leader on April 4th.

Of course in April it was in the early days of lockdown and there was a general public mood to back the government. That has faded sharply and tonight’s figures in a general election would almost certainly lead to a hung parliament.

Of course as well there isn’t an imminent general election and anything can happen between now and May 2024 which is the latest it can be held.

Opinium was the most accurate pollster at GE2019 and is the only firm to do regular approval ratings. This post will be updated when the leader ratings are published.

Mike Smithson


Schools reopening has to be at the heart of the Covid plan. Everything else is ad hoc tinkering

August 1st, 2020

As ever, there’s a lack of strategic thinking to the government’s response

Lockdown began in the UK on 24 March because the governments mandated it but not really because they chose to. There were many reasons propelling politicians to that decisions, from the mounting numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths to the examples being set abroad. What’s easily forgotten though is the extent to which the lockdown was in no small part a legal regulation of something that was already happening organically.

In truth, it was the advice to isolate if anyone from their household had Covid symptoms, combined with the number of cases (and, no doubt, additional suspected false-positives), that was bringing the country to a halt.

At the heart of that process was education. Schools need a certain number of teachers and other staff in them to be safe. Without that number, they can’t operate – or at best can only operate for a restricted number, although the logistics of doing that are difficult. As soon as some schools in an area began closing, that created a snowball effect as parents (including teachers at schools that were still open) found themselves unable to go to work as they had no childcare alternatives.

For over three months, many of those parents have tried to juggle home-working with childcare and many have succeeded to a degree but it’s very far from a sustainable, never mind an ideal situation. In truth, the return of anything close to a normally-functioning economy must have as a pre-requisite a functioning educations system.

There are, of course, other essential reasons why the schools need to re-open, not least their primary purpose of educating the nation’s children, which they’ve not been able to do to anything like their usual standard due to remote operation – a legacy that will probably literally last a lifetime. If the schools cannot fully re-open, the life-chances of this generation will be blighted still further.

Similarly, being confined to a small household is a danger for some children in vulnerable circumstances. Lockdown, furloughing and redundancies bring stress and mental health issues which, for some, will come on top of pre-existing conditions. A return to normality will, for them, not just be a matter of education and social interaction but of safety.

However, as the initial lockdown period proved, society and the economy are also integrated with the education system to such a degree that its return ought to be at the heart of the return-from-crisis plan. Which begs the question why it isn’t.

If anything marks the return from lockdown it’s just how unconnected any plan has been. The individual measures generally make sense on their own – reducing restrictions on social interactions, reopening outdoor venues first, and so on – but there seems to be no appreciation of any interactions between these decisions. To the extent that there’s been prioritisation, it’s been based on local practicalities, not national priorities. That has to change.

As Prof Whitty said this week, England has probably reached the limit of how far restrictions can be eased cumulatively, consistent with keeping a lid on new Covid-19 cases. Given the rise in cases over the last fortnight or so, you’d have to think that the limit might have been exceeded. And what’s true in England is true in Scotland too. While Nicola Sturgeon likes to pat her administration on its back, the truth is that cases are rising there too, and the death total is still worse than just about everywhere else in Europe. Having marginally better outcomes and considerably better communication skills than London is nothing much to write home about.

If that is the case though, there ought to be a discussion about priorities and necessities. So far, the government has been remarkably adept at responding to whoever is currently shouting the loudest, while – as mentioned – attempting to incrementally unroll the restrictions. That’s not sustainable.

Therefore, it should make sense to begin with those things which have to be done – essential services (which includes education) – and to then move out as far into wider society and the economy as is consistent with not letting the pandemic run out of control. That will mean some shops, businesses and entire industries not operating or, at the least, operating very differently to normal. But is there an alternative? I don’t see one.

In an ideal world, the government would already have been putting plans in place to enable schools to be up and fully running again in September, which unlike some plans speculated upon, cannot involve mass isolations off the back of single cases, otherwise we end up back where we were in March – but does include enough staffing capacity to cope with staff illnesses and isolation. It will not be simple.

But case numbers overall are low enough to at least give it a try. Unlike the US, where Trump is attempting to force schools back because of the same economic imperative but where case numbers are still at or near their peak, Britain has a chance. Maybe that means keeping clubs, theatres and sports venues closed. Maybe it means reshutting restaurants, or restricting numbers within them (which might amount to the same thing in practice). But if so, it’s a price that should have to be paid.

David Herdson


Disastrous favourability ratings for Johnson in Scotland but a glimmer of hope for Starmer

July 31st, 2020

Regular PBers will know that at this stage before a general election I take much more notice of leadership ratings than voting intention polls. With the former those sampled are asked for simply an opinion whereas with voting questions they are asked to predict what they might or might not do in 3/4 years time when they could not even turn out. When tested in real elections such as 1992 and 2015 the leader ratings have got the outcome right while the voting polls have been wrong.

This evening sees the first Scottish favourability ratings from YouGov since Keir Starmer was elected Labour leader in April. That he should be, even by a single point, be in net favourable territory is probably a good sign because if Labour is to recover at all then it has to make progress in winning back some of the Scottish seats that it has lost since 2010. Then it had 41 Scottish Labour MPs – that figure is now down to one.

Scotland has also played a big part in Conservative fortunes taking 13 seats at 2017 general election out of the 59 total north of the border – a figure that dropped to just six at GE2019 under Johnson.

So the fact that the national Conservative leader has a net rating here minus 51 should be a matter of real concern and suggests that he might be in some trouble in trying to hold the 6 next time.

Mike Smithson


WH2020: We need a market on who will President on January 21st – the day after inauguration

July 31st, 2020

Could Trump get away with sitting tight and refusing to budge?

Following his Tweet yesterday suggesting that the Presidential election on November 3rd should be postponed there has been a huge amount of speculation about what Trump will do if if he doesn’t win re-election which based on current polling looks very unlikely.

This is from Susan Glasser in the New Yorker:

So, sorry, we cannot just ignore it when the President threatens to cancel an election. This is the kind of statement that should haunt your dreams. It is wannabe-dictator talk. It is dangerous even if it is not attached to any actions. And those who think that some actions will not follow have not been paying attention. My alarm stems from having covered Russia when Putin was dismantling the fragile, flawed democratic institutions that the country had established after the fall of the Soviet Union. It stems from reading history. It stems from having watched the past four years in America, where, day by day, the unthinkable has happened and been justified, rationalized, and explained away.

There are real concerns that Trump will refuse to accept the result and sit tight. What he does have which could put them in a very powerful position is controlling the levers of power right up to 9 am on January 20th which is the inauguration day. Until that moment he remains Commander-in-Chief.

We are already seeing some of the lengths that he is going to at the moment sending federal troops to various cities to underpin his position. The questions are would he dare to force himself on the nation for another 4-year term and what can be done to stop him?

What is interesting is how his moves are creating new political movements the most striking one of which is the Wall of Moms which was set up in Portland as a line of defence against rampaging federal forces.

An interesting bet in this context would who will be president on January 21st the day after the inauguration. So far I’ve not seen this put up by any bookie but my guess is that the odds on that happening would be better than those on Trump winning the election itself and that is very scary.

Mike Smithson