BoJo’s assertions on leaving by October 31st fail to convince Brexit date punters

July 18th, 2019

Betdata.io chart of Betfair Exchange

On Betfair a 2019 exit is just a 39% chance

We’ve seen in the latest defeat for the government in proroguing parliaments that the parliamentary situation is going to make it very tough for Johnson. There simply aren’t the MP numbers there and now rebellious remain ministers are acting in unison in the same manner as the ERG hardliners.

The latest news that at least three cabinet ministers are ready to resign also adds to the air of crisis as the new man takes over.

I just wonder whether some of the hard-line commitments Johnson has made during the leadership contest will be quietly forgotten as he faces the harsh choice before him. It won’t be the first time that a politician has said one thing during an election and acted differently when elected.

I wished I’d bet against the 2019 exit a month or so ago when the odds were better.

Mike Smithson



Blow for BoJo as CON MPs and ministers rebel on a measure that impedes his ability to prorogue parliament

July 18th, 2019

So the incoming PM’s wings are clipped before he starts

Mike Smithson


2020 now edging toward the favourite slot in Next General Election year betting

July 18th, 2019

Betdata.io chart of Betfair Exchange

With Boris due to become Prime Minister in just 6 days time there’ve been sharp changes on the Betfair year of the next general election market. As can be seen from the chart 2019 is slipping downwards and the money is now going towards 2020.

A lot of this, I would suggest, is down to a growing realisation that the Fixed-Term Parliament Act makes it quite hard for the new leader to call an election if that is indeed what he wants to do.

If he wants to initiate it in the Commons then he would require two-thirds of the entire 650 MPs to back it as happened in April 2017 when Theresa May sought to go to the country early. In the current context, I would suggest, that this would be a lot harder. In 2017 only the SNP MPs were the main group to vote against an early general election. My guess is that there would not be sufficient number of MPs of all persuasions ready vote for an early election making two-thirds rule quite hard to surmount.

The ever present position of Farage’s Brexit party in the polls represents a real threat to the livelihoods of many CON and LAB MPs.  Add, as well, a form of LD-GRN cooperation to create single anti-Brexit candidates in strongly Remain seats and the uncertainty increases. Labour’s equivocation exposes it on either side of the argument.

The other way a general election can come about if the government loses a vote of no confidence which is not rescinded  within a fortnight. The question here is whether the numbers are there. Are there enough CON MPs who would join a move to oust their own government and if there were would all LAB MPs get behind a move that could let Corbyn into Number 10? My guess is no.

Mike Smithson



Why many pollsters overstated LAB so much at the May Euros and what could be happening with current VI polls

July 17th, 2019


GE2017 LAB voters forgetting what they did could be causing distortion

After the 1992 polling debacle when John Major’s Tories won an overall majority even though all but one of the pollsters had LAB ahead a big effort was launched by ICM to find out what had gone wrong and we’ve all heard about “shy Tories” less willing to take part in polls.

The firm’s Nick Sparrow in conjunction with Prof John Curtice came up with what is known as past vote weighting to ensure samples were balanced. Basically respondents were asked how they voted last time and their responses were adjusted so that the sample broadly reflected the previous election.

It worked well and for GE1997 and GE2001  ICM became top pollster. At GE2005 another pollster, NOP, used the same approach and got the result spot on.

By GE2010 most pollsters had adopted mechanisms on the past vote model to ensure balanced samples. The only problem is that you cannot rely on those sampled to remember how they voted.  According to an excellent analysis by Anthony Wells of YouGov is what is happening at the moment with many of those who voted for Corbyn’s LAB at GE17.  He writes:

“How to deal with false recall used to be one of the big methodological debates within British polling. Ipsos MORI still don’t use past vote weighting at all because of their concerns over false recall. In more recent years, recalled vote seemed to be closer to reality, and it has become less of an issue. But with the recent major shifts in party support it may once again become a major concern.

At YouGov we have the advantage of a huge, well-established panel, meaning we have many thousands of people from whom we collected past vote data in 2017, before their memory had chance to play tricks on them. Many other companies do not, and must rely on asking people to recall now how they voted in 2017.

This difference may well explain some of the present variation in Labour support between different companies (I suspect it may not be coincidence that the two companies who avoided significantly overstating Labour support in the recent European elections were Ipsos MORI, who don’t use past vote weighting, and YouGov, who are able to use data collected back in 2017 for past vote weighting).

To illustrate Wells did a test with the same data from the sample but processed differently. One using what those on its panel said they did at GE17 and another on how they now recall their vote. As can be seen there’s a marked impact on the LAB share.

The reason for the variation is that the smaller number of those recalling now that they voted LAB at GE17 means that the responses of those who said they did have to be weighted up in order to fit a past vote weighting model.

Mike Smithson




Biden drops to second place in California while his lead’s down to just 4 in New Hampshire

July 17th, 2019

Another American White House race is starting to dominate political betting which is a  reminder of just how how long PB has been going.  WH2020 contest will be the fifth such race that PB has covered and, indeed, it was the battle for the Democratic nomination in 2004 that first prompted me to create the site.

Even though the first states to decide on Democratic and GOP nomination won’t be for nearly six months the debates have started and the incumbent’s latest racist comments have just made the Democrats more determined to make the right choice.

While 76 old Joe Biden has been enjoying leads of up to 15% in the national Democratic nomination polling he’s facing a much tighter contest, if the latest surveys are to be believed, in the first round of states where primaries will be held.

A new Quinnipiac University poll of the biggest state of all with the most delegates at stake, California, has  Harris on 23% ahead of Biden on 21% with Bernie Sanders  and Elizabeth Warren  at 18% and 16% respectively.

Overnight there have been two New New Hampshire polls one of them which has Biden the 4% ahead and the other 5%. In each poll in second place is the Massachusetts senator, Elizabeth Warren.

What is striking  is the gap between the early state polling and the national polls where former vice president continues to enjoy double-digit Leeds almost across the board.

These are the details of the latest polls from the New Hampshire,

Biden 24, Warren 19, Sanders 19, Harris 9, Buttigieg 10, Yang 1, O’Rourke 2, Booker 2, Klobuchar 0, Williamson 1, Gillibrand 1, Gabbard 1, Delaney 1

St. Anselm
Biden 21, Warren 17, Sanders 10, Harris 18, Buttigieg 12, Yang 5, O’Rourke 0, Booker 1, Klobuchar 3, Williamson 2, Gillibrand 1, Gabbard 1, Delaney 1

On Betfair Harris on 30% and Warren 20% are both ahead of Biden.

Mike Smithson



64 LAB peers pay for Guardian ad to tell Corbyn that he fails the test of leadership

July 17th, 2019

Time to bet on him not surviving 2019?

The wording of the ad above is powerful and will get a lot of attention but the question is how will it impact on the future of the Labour leader who won the job convincingly in the 2015 leadership election and retained it a year later.

The wording is quite smart because it does not accuse him of being antisemitic but questions whether his approach to the crisis that has engulfed the party for 4 years is down to his failure as leader.

It comes at a time when there is a real possibility of an early general election and, of course, we’re now in the run up to the Party Conference season. My guess is the peers are trying to exert the maximum pressure on him to step aside and make way for someone else.

One of the things about members of The House of Lords is that there is no way that the party machine can touch them. They are there for life or until such time as they decide themselves not to be active members of the upper house.

This must put Corbyn’s future into serious doubt as he did appear to be the most secure of all the party leaders because of the view that he continues to have widespread backing amongst the party membership.

In recent months Corbyn’s leadership ratings have dropped substantially and in the latest Ipsos Mori polling 75% of those sampled said they were dissatisfied with his leadership. This is the highest negative ever recorded of any opposition leader and suggests that he is a an electoral liability. Even most LAB voters in the polling say they they are dissatisfied.

On Betfair it is a 29% chance that Corbyn will leave the leadership this year. That might be worth a punt. Currently Rebecca Long-Bailey is the favourite to succeed him.

Mike Smithson


The catch. Why Boris Johnson probably won’t be going for an early general election

July 16th, 2019

Bet against an early general election. Boris Johnson has ruled it out. As he is Britain’s presumed Prime Minister, we can take him at his word. And here’s why.

Let’s look at the counter-argument first. You will not lack for Leavers arguing that Boris Johnson should force an election as soon as possible. Parliament, they argue, is blocking Brexit. So Boris Johnson should call an election to obtain a mandate for leaving, deal or no deal, by 31 October 2019. The opposition could not sensibly oppose one. By this means, Nigel Farage would be put back in his crypt and with the opposition divided, the Conservatives could sweep to power.

You can see the appeal of the idea. There’s only one problem. It doesn’t work.

There are two ways in which a general election can be called under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011. First, two thirds of the House of Commons can vote for one. Or secondly, if the government loses a vote of no confidence and 14 day elapses without a new government having a vote of confidence passed in it, a general election is automatically held.

Let’s look at the direct vote first. To get to two thirds, Boris Johnson needs to get Jeremy Corbyn on board (there is no route to a two thirds majority that does not have both Labour and the Conservatives voting for the proposition).  On the face of it, that shouldn’t be too difficult: Jeremy Corbyn has been calling for an election and after the 2017 campaign no doubt fancies his chances of recreating Corbynmania.  

But Jeremy Corbyn has no reason to play on Boris Johnson’s terms, not when he can hamstring his opponent. Boris Johnson has tied his credibility to securing Brexit by 31 October 2019. This is not a deadline that Labour recognise and nor do they need to agree to it now. The clock is ticking and Labour can reasonably argue that they do not want a general election to eat into the very limited negotiating time.

In short, they can properly insist, before agreeing to an early election, on the government negotiating an extension of the Article 50 deadline to, say, 31 December 2019 so that when they come to power they have sufficient time to reach their own terms with the EU.

This is not just reasonable as a matter of principle, it’s also superb politics.  For if the Article 50 deadline is extended beyond 31 October 2019, that part of the Conservative party that has Boris Johnson on probation will decamp en masse to the Brexit party. The new Prime Minister’s credibility on his central policy would be destroyed. As Leader of the Opposition, that makes for an appealing backdrop to a general election.

Of course, once you’ve announced that you want a general election, if your opponent agrees to the principle but sets a preliminary condition that is not obviously absurd, you’re a bit stuck. So Boris Johnson would be taking a huge risk that he would be walking into a fiasco.

Whenever a politician puts a sign on his back saying “kick me”, his opponents will queue up to oblige. Seeking to call an election on your flagship policy while giving your opponents the opportunity to destroy it would risk getting the Johnson posterior booted so hard that he would clear the crossbar at Twickenham. There’s the chance that Labour might take a different approach, but would you draw up your strategy on the basis that your opponents will be as accommodating as possible?

This problem also potentially applies to arranging an election by a vote of no confidence, but there is a further problem with a vote of no confidence that should also concern Boris Johnson. In the 14 day countdown, someone else may be able to put together a majority. Given that the whole basis of seeking an election is that the government does not reliably control the House of Commons, that is quite conceivable.  

So a general election brought about by intentional acts before 31 October 2019 looks unlikely. While an election could be called immediately after that date, no one is going to thank the Government for a Christmas general election.  All this means that betting against a general election in 2019 at the current odds on Betfair of 2.36 (11/8) looks like a smart move. I’m on.

Alastair Meeks


Just 8 days after he enters Number 10 PM Johnson will face his first CON by-election defence

July 16th, 2019

A loss in his first week would be a big blow

In the week after Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister he will face his first by-election defence in the Welsh constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire. Looking through the records this appears to be unprecedented. There hasn’t in modern times been a by-election scheduled to take place so soon after a new PM takes office and, inevitably it is going to be seen as something of a verdict on him.

This will also be the first Westminster by-election for the new LD leader and both contenders, Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, have campaigned there.

A CON loss would add enormously to the party’s difficulties at Westminster because the opposition parties would see their total increase by one with the government ones reduce by one thus.

Postal votes are due to be going out towards by end of the week and electors will be able to start voting. As can be seen in the panel above this was held comfortably by the Tories two years ago in the general election. The party has the same candidate, even though he was been convicted of expenses fraud. He certainly is well-known in the constituency.

The recall petition that triggered the vacancy was signed by more than 19% of the electorate and the assumption must be that they will participate in the election vote but not vote for Davies. On a 50% turnout that would equate to 38% of the vote.

The main opposition comes from the LDs which desperately wants to win back a seat first gained by the old Liberal Party in 1985 and held until GE2015. They are throwing everything at the fight with the by-election campaign itself being simply an extension of the party’s active recall petition effort.

The Tories are also trying to fend off Farage’s Brexit party which came very close to winning Peterborough from LAB last month. Team Farage needs a good performance here to maintain momentum ideally coming ahead of the Tories.

The seat itself is the largest in terms of land area in England and Wales which adds to the logistical challenge of the fight.

In the betting the LDs are 1/6 favourites.

Mike Smithson