PB Video Analysis: The Changing Nature of Work

September 25th, 2018

In the old days, careers would be long, mortgages cheap and job titles easy to understand. But the nature of working is changing. Our grandparents would struggle to understand what we do… YouTuber, anyone?

Income inequality has risen. Job security has disappeared. Is this the result of rapacious capitalists? Is it because of globalist politicians and George Soros? Or are there fundamental forces at work: do the people who employ us just know too much about our economic output?

Computers, the Internet and smartphones have combined to allow the value of our economic output to be constantly measured. This brings insecurity and inequality. Politicians have tried to legislate the effect of employers having ever greater knowledge, but to no avail. The veil of ignorance, once discarded, can never be worn again.

In this video, I’m talking about the changing nature of work.

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’


Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, faces a second accuser

September 24th, 2018

By far the biggest political battle in US politics at the moment is the effort by the Republicans to ensure that Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, Brett Kavanaugh, gets approved.

Because of the power of the court and the fact that members are appointed for life this has the potential of having an impact in the US that could last decades. The Democrats are doing everything to try to stall the process while the White House is pushing to get this through as quickly as possible.

Things have been made more complicated by accusations against Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct nearly forty years ago. The person involved is due to appear later in the week and now another woman has come forward.

From what I can see the only betting market on whether Kavanaugh gets approved is from PaddyPower which has it at 5/6 with way.

The Republicans have 51 of the 100 seats in the Senate so the approval requires all to back him. It is being suggested that one or two GOP Senators might not go with the White House.

Mike Smithson


More evidence that Corbyn is not now getting anything like the personal backing from GE2017 LAB voters than he was

September 24th, 2018

PB regulars will know that I am a great fan of leader ratings and believe that they are a better pointer to electoral outcomes than standard voting intention surveys. That was certainly the case at GE1992, GE2015 and GE2017 – all elections where the standard voting polls didn’t do well.

This morning I posted on Twitter the top tweet showing the just 34% of those who had voted Labour on June 8th last year now believe that the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is doing well. This seems a remarkably low figure and one party should be concerned about. I cannot recall EdM ever slipping to that level.

The second Tweet has an analysis of how CON and LAB voters are responding to “who would make the best PM ?” questions. Normally you would expect party voters to go with their man or woman but the trend recorded here is quite striking.

The good news for the Tories is that almost nobody is questioning Corbyn’s survival chances in the way they are with TMay.

Mike Smithson


If the current CON leadership rules had been in place in November 1990 Maggie would probably have survived

September 24th, 2018

November 1990 – Mrs. T leaves Number 10

A CON leader’s position is now much more secure than it was in 1990

One of the things that’s driving me crazy at the moment is the sheer level of of ignorance from parts of the media and even some MPs about how CON leaders can be ousted and the consequencial process for choosing a successor.

So many are familiar with the downfall of Maggie in November 1990 that they are convinced that the same still applies. Well it doesn’t and I’d argue that the arrangements now in place make it much harder to depose a leader and that if the current process had applied in 1990 then the Tories’ most successful general election winner would have survived.

Back in November 1990 Michael Heseltine challenged Mrs Thatcher for the CON leadership by putting himself forward in an election amongst the party’s MPs. She was in France at a summit at the time and Heseltine was seeking to capitalise on the discontent within the party following the resignation of former Chancellor Geoffrey Howe. The rules then required that the incumbent needed to survive the first round by a margin of 15% or more to be safe. This is what happened.

Her winning gap of 14% was just four votes short of the 15% margin and this meant that other contenders could put themselves forward. Eventually she was persuaded by her cabinet colleagues not to participate in the second round. The eventual outcome was that John Major succeeded her.

Compare that with the current process which was brought in by William Hague during the first Blair government. This splits the process up into two distinct phases – the first being a vote of confidence amongst CON MPs and then, if the leader loses, a leadership election in which she/he cannot be a contender.

A big safeguard for the incumbent is that if he/she survives the confidence vote, even by just one vote, then there can be no further challenge for a year an element that adds considerably to the risk of a leadership challenge failing. You can end up with the person you are trying to get out being in a stronger position than before.

    So whereas a winning margin of 52 votes for Mrs Thatcher in 1990 was not enough to save her a confidence vote victory by a single vote for Mrs. May now would be enough for her to keep her job and guarantee it for twelve months. Is it any wonder that in spite all her travails the required 48 MPs demanding a confidence vote has never come forward?

The other factor inhibiting CON MPs from demanding a confidence vote is that they could be triggering a process that could lead to someone they vehemently oppose getting the job.

Mike Smithson


With or without EU, will anybody follow Le Royaume-Uni’s lead?

September 23rd, 2018

This market on which countries will leave the EU by the end of 2025 from Paddy Power on first inspection seems like an excellent way to contribute to the Paddy Power bonus fund.

In terms of disasters for the United Kingdom a no deal Brexit is to picture the Hindenburg meets Chernobyl meets the fall of Singapore meets Solo: A Star Wars Story.

I’m not sure any country will be in a hurry to repeat Brexit, particularly those countries in the Eurozone. If you thought leaving just the Single Market and Customs Union was difficult just imagine leaving the Euro at the same time as well.

For example the 14/1 on France seems like an effective proxy on the Front National winning the 2022 French Presidential election, I’m not keen, ditto the 5/1 on Italy.

The one option I’m tempted to back is Hungary at 20/1. Following the contretemps in recent weeks involving the EU and Hungary it isn’t hard to see the situation escalating, particularly with Russia taking such a close interest in Hungarian affairs  and Hungary seeming intent to ignore all the norms that make a country a vibrant democracy.

With Brexit  delivered Hungary will lose Tory support inside the EU, Orban and Hungary will become even more isolated, but this is a market where I wish Paddy Power offered a no country, after the UK,  shall leave by 2025 option.



Six Impossible Things Before Brexit

September 23rd, 2018

With six months to go, the ultimate denouement of Brexit looks as murky as ever.  That hasn’t stopped plenty of people trying to peer through the vapours.  If you are going to speculate, go right ahead, but it’s probably best not base your speculations on things that are downright wrong.  So let’s take a stroll past some of the more common misconceptions.

1) If Britain proposes something different (whether a recantation or a hardening of stance), the EU won’t necessarily accept it

Perhaps Salzburg will have despatched this particular misconception once and for all.  I doubt it though.  British political junkies of all stripes have for years put forward preferred plans on the basis that the moment they are espoused, they will be achieved.  Leavers seem to have mislaid the easiest deal in human history, yet still keep coming up with new ideas that they assume would glide past the EU side.  The optimism is commendable, if of murky origins. 

The latest variant is that Britain would go for no deal Brexit, and then magically negotiate lots of mini-deals with the EU to keep the show on the road in most practical aspects.  It’s far from clear whether there is time for those mini-deals or whether there is real agreement between the two sides on what the mini-deals should contain.

Remain supporters have been at least as guilty of this misconception as Leave supporters, assuming that they would automatically get a fairer hearing.  The EU has indicated that if Britain were to repent, it would take it back.  I’m far from convinced in practice that it would.  Britain looks set to be a nation divided roughly equally between Leavers and Remainers for some time to come. 

Why would the EU wish to keep on a country that is going through a collective and extended nervous breakdown where it is the subject of controversy?  Looking at the matter dispassionately from the EU perspective, you’d want to have some form of holding pen while Britain sorted itself out.

You probably didn’t notice in all the excitement, but a Scottish case has been referred to the CJEU to determine whether the Article 50 notice can be unilaterally withdrawn (my view is that it cannot).  The decision is going to be intensely political.  It’s hard to imagine the CJEU taking power from the other 27 countries and giving it to Britain in present circumstances.

This, incidentally, is a big problem with any hypothetical referendum.  Are the public going to be given an option that the politicians can’t deliver? (Again?)

2) Theresa May does not have to leave just because the men in grey suits ask her to

This is one of many misconceptions relating to the Conservative leadership process.  Absent actuarial considerations, Theresa May will step down as Conservative leader only if she resigns or if she is replaced by the due party process.  With the debatable exception of Iain Duncan Smith, the men in grey suits haven’t claimed a Conservative leadership scalp in generations. 

Theresa May might be induced to resign if she were persuaded that she had lost the dressing room sufficiently to make a defeat in a vote of confidence inevitable, but she has no track record of being easy to persuade.  If she resigns, it will be because she feels she has nothing more to offer the country.

What of the process?  No doubt we will read many more times of a stalking horse.  There is no such concept in the current version of the Conservative leadership process.  If 15% of the Parliamentary party lodge a letter with the chair of the 1922 committee calling for a vote of no confidence in the leader (that number being currently 48 MPs), a vote is held the next day.  A simple majority in that vote determines the matter.  So until a majority of Conservative MPs conclude that it’s time for a change, there won’t be a change in Conservative leader.

3) The government won’t fall just because its proposals on Brexit are defeated

One misconception, usually emanating from the left, is that if the government is defeated on its Brexit proposals the government will fall.  Following the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, a government falls between general elections only if there is a vote of no confidence (or if the Prime Minister voluntarily resigns).  A vote on the Brexit proposals by itself doesn’t count.  The government would have some hard thinking to do having lost its main policy plank but it wouldn’t automatically fall.

The converse is also true.  The government could get its Brexit proposals through the House of Commons then be defeated in a vote of confidence.  Depending on what the Brexit proposals are, that’s a distinct possibility.  Keep an eye on that.

4) A general election won’t magically just happen because there is chaos

This is a variant of the same misconception.  There’s a process for replacing governments.  Mere chaos doesn’t qualify.  So even if the government has no policy at all on Brexit capable of being defeated in Parliament, the government won’t automatically fall.  There needs to be a vote of confidence to do this.

The consequence of this is that government could effectively cease to function, but the nominal government could remain in office, if not in power, for a considerable period of time indeed.

5) If the government is defeated in a vote of no confidence, the Conservatives won’t be in control of events

If, however, the government loses a vote of no confidence in accordance with the prescribed process under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, politics goes into fast forward.  Just because she’s lost a vote of confidence in Parliament doesn’t mean that Theresa May ceases to be leader of the Conservative party (see 2 above).  But it does mean that she will cease to be Prime Minister and a general election will be called unless a new government is approved by a vote of confidence within 14 days.

Pandora’s box would then be opened.  Would Theresa May be able to keep her leadership of the Conservative party?  This could be decided within 24 hours, see 2 above.  If not, would the Conservatives be able to find a replacement for her in time?  This might very well not be capable of being decided within 14 days, given the many MPs who look in the mirror and see the noble prospect of a First Lord of the Treasury and the time it would take to puncture all of their pretensions. 

If not, could the Conservatives nominate a caretaker who could serve as acting Prime Minister while they chose their new leader and get a vote of confidence passed?  Bear in mind that if a vote of no confidence had been lost, the government must have lost part of its coalition.  It would need to find a way of putting that back together.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn would be insisting on the opportunity to form a government, just as he did in June last year.  He might well seek to put it to the vote.  If the alternative is a general election at a time when the Conservatives are in chaos, might they simply abstain in the short term until they had sorted themselves out?  They might.

In short, if the government loses a vote of no confidence, events become very unpredictable.

6) You won’t hear the end of Brexit on 29 March 2019

You’re probably sick of hearing about Brexit.  You probably want someone to make it go away.  But all that’s being discussed now are the transitional arrangements to apply while the main trade deal is to be negotiated.  The main event hasn’t started yet and won’t start until after 29 March 2019 (assuming some kind of deal gets hatched).  We have years more of these brouhahas and battles to look forward to.  Aren’t we lucky?

Alastair Meeks


New ComRes poll finds LAB catching up with the Tories as the one best described as “The Nasty Party”

September 22nd, 2018

A new ComRes poll commissioned by Jewish News has found the CON lead over the label ‘the nasty party’, memorably coined by TMay at the Party’s 2002 Conference, is now being challenged by Corbyn’s LAB. The poll found that while 34% said they thought the Conservatives are ‘the nasty party’, almost as many – 31% – said the same of LAB.

The poll also found that fully twice as many British voters – 48% – think Labour was a more decent party when Gordon Brown led it than it has become under Corbyn’s leadership (24%).

Voters were asked whether Labour is doing enough to tackle antisemitism within its own ranks. In March 2017, 18% thought the Party was doing enough, while today’s poll has that at just 19% – suggesting that despite Jeremy Corbyn’s claimed determination to root out the problem, the public see no difference over the past 18 months.

When asked whether, as some of his supporters suggest, Jeremy Corbyn is the target of a concerted smear campaign, or whether he is unwilling or unable to act decisively against antisemitism in his Party, voters split by a ratio of 2:1 (45% to 27%) in favour of his being unwilling or unable to stamp out the problem.

Mike Smithson


The biggest US midterms battle: Beto O’Rourke’s Texas effort to unseat Ted Cruz

September 22nd, 2018

The Senate race that could deprive the Republicans of their majority

Of all the elections that are taking place across the US in November the one that’s attracting the most attention is the effort by Beto O’Rourke to take the Texas Senate seat held by Ted Cruz. Overnight there was the first TC debate as featured in the video clip above.

What looked like a certain hold by the Republican is now being rated as a toss-up following an energetic and focused campaign by the Democrat who is raising a huge amount of money. The outcome could be crucial to US politics during the second half of Trump’s tenancy at the White House. Currently 51 of the 100 US Senators are Republicans and Texas could well be the state that determines the outcome.

The polls are now sending out mixed messages and while Cruz still remains the strong odd-on favourite it’s not going to be as simple for him as it first appeared.

Like in all elections the critical factor is going to be turnout and the excellent fundraising figures are a guide to the broad support that the Democratic contender is getting.

Because of the way the Betfair Senate majority market is defined the best bet, I’d argue,is to “lay” (bet that it won’t happen) a Republican hold.

Mike Smithson

Follow @MSmithsonPB