After just 3 Tory PMs in 37 years we might soon see 3 Tory PMs in just 3 (yes three) years

June 25th, 2017

The Sunday Times report

Philip Hammond is being lined up to replace Theresa May as prime minister as part of an alliance with David Davis to deliver Brexit safely.

Ministers said this weekend that Hammond should be anointed as leader before October’s party conference provided he vows to stand down after two years so that someone else can lead the Conservatives into the next election.

A former cabinet colleague has claimed the chancellor believes he is equipped to do the job. “He told me that if Theresa May could be prime minister, so could he.”

The elevation of Hammond — dubbed “Spreadsheet Phil” — would be greeted with resistance by some Eurosceptics who are suspicious of his interventions demanding a soft Brexit that puts jobs and business before controls on immigration.

But ministers believe that can be surmounted if he appoints Davis, the Brexit secretary, deputy prime minister and makes clear he is a caretaker leader.

 Under one plan gaining traction with Tory MPs, May’s successor would announce that there would be a general election after Brexit in 2019 in which the public could have a say on the final deal.

If I were Philip Hammond, I’d offer to be Prime Minister for two years, then say he’ll trigger a Tory leadership contest in 2019 in which he’d stand rather than be a placeholder Prime Minister that Mrs May is now.

What is clear following Mrs May’s calamitous decision to hold a snap election, which turned into the greatest strategic blunder since the fall of Singapore, which saw her lose David Cameron’s majority is going to cost Mrs May her job, it is now a matter of when she is toppled, not if.

At the time of writing you can get around 7/1 on Hammond as next PM and with some newer bookies you can get 8/1 on him as next Tory leader, and 5/2 on Mrs May not to be PM on the 1st of October with William Hill.



Taking the 3/1 on no Brexit deal being reached before the 1st of April 2019

June 25th, 2017

Paddy Power have some Brexit specials up, most of them look like contributions to the Paddy Power bonus fund, or a long term interest free loan to them. The one that attracted my attention was the 3/1 on there no Brexit deal being reached before the 1st of April 2019.

Whilst Mrs May’s rhetoric of ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ has been consigned to the dustbin of history after June 8th, I still think no deal is likely simply because of the complexity of the deal required, and time is very short, with nearly three months of the two year article 50 timetable frittered away with the needless general election Mrs May called which saw her lose David Cameron’s majority.

The EU have also recently become impatient with things, 

The UK risks a cliff edge “no deal” withdrawal from the EU if it “wastes” more time before beginning its Brexit negotiations, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator has warned.

Michel Barnier, whose department within the European Commission has spent months preparing for Brexit, said: “I can’t negotiate with myself.

“My preoccupation is that time is passing, it is passing quicker than anyone believes because the subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex,” he said in an interview with a select group of European newspapers including Britain’s Financial Times.

All of this makes me thinks the sheer logistics of Brexit and time constraints, coupled with a lack of majority for Mrs May make no deal the most likely outcome, so that’s why I’ll be backing the 3/1.



If you are having GE17 withdrawal symptoms a round-up of every exit poll since 1992

June 24th, 2017

Mike Smithson


If you think that CON will struggle to agree a DUP supply/confidence deal there’s a very interesting bet

June 24th, 2017

How Betfair define “CON minority” opens this up

As far as I can see there is just one GE2016 betting market still open – that on what will be the form of the new government. CON majority was clearly the huge favourite until 10pm on June 8th and since then CON minority has become the tight odds-on favourite.

With bets like this it is vital that punters read the precise terms of the market before investing their cash. These are Betfair’s terms of this particular bet:

“This market will be settled on the formation of the first ministry (government) after the next UK general election. If a government is not formed and second general election is called, then this market will be made void. The Speaker will not be classified as belonging to any particular party, and will therefore not be counted in any individual party’s seat totals.

A party requires 326 Seats in order to gain a majority. A Coalition Government is one which has members from at least two parties attending Cabinet meetings and are said to “have a seat at Cabinet”. A minority Government would see all the Cabinet posts filled by one party, but supply and confidence would be enjoyed by that party by one or more other parties in Parliament in order to pass votes and budgets etc.

My reading of this is that what’s described a CON minority government requires that another party or parties commit to providing BOTH supply AND confidence.

Currently we do not know the state of the CON-DUP discussions and whether this is a goer or not but I’d argue that DUP MPs voting simply for the Queen’s Speech won’t be enough to meet the rules of this £3.5m market. There needs to be the agreement to ongoing support to back budgets.

If that is lacking then, I’d suggest, the non-specific “other” option in the market would be the winner

Now here’s where this could get difficult. There are a lot of punters who have backed a CON minority who could lose out if my interpretation of the rules is correct and there will be an almighty row. Betfair, as an exchange, stands in the middle and might might decide to interpret their own market rules to favour them.

It is possible thar the market is simply voided and we all get our stake money back.

Still I’ve had a few pounds on “other” at longer than 60/1.

Mike Smithson


Events are boxing May in while Corbyn sits pretty

June 24th, 2017

The structural weaknesses of May’s government will leave its impression on the public

Only a fool would try to predict how this parliament will play out after all the extraordinary political upheavals and upsets this decade so far. So here goes.

The central fact in British politics right now is that Jeremy Corbyn is unchallengeable. He will serve through to the next election (and perhaps beyond), unless he chooses to stand aside before it, of his own volition.

He and his supporters are rightly confident in the position, having been castigated by the mainstream before the election as incapable, only to then jump about 15% in the polls during the election campaign and, with 12.9m votes, return the second-highest Labour total in the last 50 years. They will feel completely vindicated in their policies, their methods and their personnel, all of which will continue.

By the same process, those who were criticising Corbyn before the campaign have not only gone quiet or publicly recanted – that was almost inevitable after such a result – but the memory of the 2017 campaign will seriously inhibit future challenges to Corbyn if and when things go wrong again in the future. That inhibition will come partly from MPs, who’ll be telling themselves that ‘it’ll come right again when it matters’, but also from key swing party members in any potential future election, who would likewise now need much more convincing to dump him – and they weren’t easily persuadable in the first place.

But things will go wrong. For all that he was effective hailing populist and expensive policies on campaign stages, when the tiresome business of day-to-day Westminster politics resumes, he’ll still be as bad at it because he’ll still have no interest in it. Indeed, having ‘proven’ the effectiveness of social media and mass rallies, he may have less time for the Westminster Bubble than ever.

So Corbyn is around as long as he wants. Even if Labour finds itself in government – not impossible with by-elections or a DUP strop (the DUP might be nominally deeply hostile to Corbyn but they’re also deeply attracted to cash for Northern Ireland, and they’re ideologically flexible enough to power-share with Sinn Fein) – and Corbyn flounders out of his depth, he will still be revered as only the fifth man in Labour’s history to lead them into government, and two of those five don’t count any more.

Around that fact, everything else revolves. The Tories know, as Labour critics of Corbyn know, that the Labour leader has extraordinary weaknesses as well as formidable strengths. It may be exceptionally rare for a government, once it has started to lose seats from one general election to the next, to start gaining them again but the belief will be that with the right campaign and right leader, it can be done next time.

That ought to mean that May’s days are numbered, however, despite the Tory record of knifing leaders, that won’t necessarily happen. Hers may be something of a zombie government, plodding forward step by step without any guiding plan, but so was John Major’s and that lasted the full five years. Indeed, it did so with no change of leader mainly because there was no alternative who could both unite the party and effectively take the fight to Blair. On the other hand, there were any number of times when it came close to falling. So now. The Queen’s Speech might have been shorn of its more controversial elements but there’s enough left in – most obviously the Brexit bills – to provide scope for rebellion, conflict and defeat. And that’s without the regular set-pieces such as the budget, or events such as fate might decide. But the need to deliver a decent Brexit to keep all the Leave voters on board means that it’ll be difficult to justify taking another two months out to elect a new leader. If the talks collapse or end with a duff deal, that navel-gazing will be blamed.

All of which is likely to give the impression of a government which is not in control of events (not least because given the parliamentary maths and the need to gain agreement with many other countries in a short time, it can’t be in control of events). And the public doesn’t like that; it doesn’t breed confidence.

Can that dynamic be changed? I don’t think so: there are too many constraints inhibiting a major change of course. All of which leads me to a similar conclusion to Alastair yesterday: the 4/1 available on Jeremy Corbyn as next PM (Paddy Power) is generous.

David Herdson


The first local by election since GE17 – the results

June 23rd, 2017

First of all, an explanation of this new method. During the general election campaign I became aware that a lot of people were doing profiles of the wards up for local by-elections and having a look through them all I came to the conclusions that the profiles offered by Andrew Teale were far and away the best, therefore in consultation with Mike, I said that I would list the results of the local by-elections after the results had been published and that Andrew’s profiles would be referenced in those listings (which I believe is the best of both worlds

Andrew Teale’s profiles hosted by Britain Elects.com

Soham North on East Cambridgeshire (Conservative defence)
Result: Conservative 423 (60% -4% on last time), Liberal Democrat 178 (25% +5% on last time), Labour 108 (15% -1% on last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 245 (35%) on a swing of 4.5% from Conservative to Liberal Democrat

Yscir on Powys (No candidate stood in 2017, Independent win in 2012)
Result: Conservative 165 (30%, no candidate in 2012), Independent (Davies) 144 (26%), Plaid Cymru 101 (18%, no candidate in 2012), Green Party 80 (14%, no candidate in 2012), Independent (Evans) 62 (11%), Independent (Davies) 2 (0%).
Conservative GAIN from Independent with a majority of 21 (4%)
Total Independent Vote 2017: 208 (37% -14% on 2012)

Winterbourne on South Gloucestershire (Conservative defence)
Result: Conservative 873 (48% +2% on last time), Labour 615 (34% +19% on last time), Liberal Democrat 333 (18% -4% on last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 258 (14%) on a swing of 8.5% from Conservative to Labour

Yarm on Stockton on Tees (Conservative defence)
Result: Conservative 1,179 (51% +4% on last time), Independent 677 (29%, -4% on last time standing as a local Independent), Labour 394 (17% -3% on last time), Liberal Democrat 73 (3%, no candidate last time)
Conservative HOLD with a majority of 502 (22%) on a swing of 4% from Independent to Conservative

Nether Edge and Sharrow on Sheffield (Labour defence)
Result: Labour 2,641 (45% +7% on last time), Green Party 2,509 (43% +9% on last time), Liberal Democrat 722 (12% -3% on last time)
Labour HOLD with a majority of 132 (2%) on a swing of 1% from Labour to Green Party

Compiled by Harry Hayfield


Alastair Meeks makes his first next general election bet: LAB to win most seats

June 23rd, 2017

The crimson tide is coming in

The Conservatives are in a wretched state. Everything Theresa May has touched recently has turned to ashes. Jeremy Corbyn in his response to the Queen’s Speech stated that the government has no majority, no mandate and no plan. Jeremy Corbyn is right.

Theresa May remains in office for now, a case study in faute de mieux. Everyone, including I suspect Theresa May herself, seems to recognise that the Age of May is concluded. But what comes next?

The Conservatives had a brief moment after the election when they might have worked together for a jointly satisfactory way forward. They chose not to take it. All the possible replacements decided that they were the only conceivable unity candidate. The hardline Leavers and the erstwhile Remainers in their party have each publicly set out their mutually incompatible requirements. It seems that the Conservatives are going to work factionally.

The big beasts are prowling around each other, warily looking for the right time to strike, nervous that by doing so they might be exposing a weak flank. With all of the predators holding each other at bay, the current state of affairs will continue.

For now then, we have reached an island of stability, but where the slightest disturbance in the quantum state could cause the government to decay radioactively with astonishing speed. So the government is reduced to immobility, unwilling to provoke its own collapse but unable to take active steps to shore up its position.

From this state of enervation, the Conservatives can only watch as a newly-invigorated Jeremy Corbyn sinks his teeth into them. This will continue until the Conservatives can regroup, almost certainly under a new leader. Until then, they will remain a confused and leaderless herd.

It is almost certainly the case that Labour’s current euphoria from their unexpectedly strong showing will subside. Jeremy Corbyn has shown no interest since the election in seeking a meaningful reconciliation with his party critics and we can reasonably expect that Labour will have further arguments in the coming years also; there isn’t enough Polyfilla in the world to deal with all the cracks that were on display in the last term.

So both main parties look fractured and flawed in this Parliament. The journalists are going to have plenty of rifts to report on.

How is this likely to pan out in practice? Nothing is certain but when assessing the future we should be working in probabilities. On this occasion, the probabilities look fairly easy to assess. The government faces the most demanding peacetime challenge since the first post-war government and does so against a hard deadline with a divided party, a leader with no authority and with no majority in the House of Commons. Professor Philip Cowley has identified eight factors that help governments get legislation through. He scores the current government at 0/8. The chances of this ending happily for either the country or the Conservative party look slim.

Whatever travails Labour might face, they have the enormous advantage that they will not be in government during this period. Pretty well by default they can expect to take large leads in the polls at times during this Parliament. There is no obvious reason why they should lose them.

It follows that Labour should be a very clear favourite to win the next general election. Yet Ladbrokes rate them no better than an evens shot to get most seats (on present boundaries they now need a uniform swing to them of just 1.63% to achieve this). The 4/6 that William Hill offer looks a much more realistic price, given the challenges the government faces.

With long range bets of this type it’s always worth considering the time value of money – this market might not be settled until 2022. One way of dealing with this is to place your bets on Betfair, so that you can trade out of them at a later date. The prices on Betfair are at present not quite as good as with Ladbrokes (you can back Labour at 1.94 or lay the Conservatives at 2.08 at the time of writing) but this feature, giving the potential for much earlier access to the stake, probably justifies taking the inferior price.

Anyway, however you choose to do it, the bet to me seems marked. I’m on.

Alastair Meeks


It is the trend in TMay’s YouGov “best PM” ratings that should really worry the Tories

June 23rd, 2017

The miniscule lead with YouGov that Corbyn now enjoys as “best PM” is not what should concern her party but the trend which is illustrated in my chart above.

It all peaked in the first polling after she made the brave, and in retrospect disastrous, decision in April to go for a general election three years ahead of schedule. Then she was a walloping 39% ahead.

As can be seen this has moved steadily downwards ever since and now she is behind.

    The election campaign exposed her weaknesses to such an extent that it is hard to see how she can recover.

Her attempt to avoid media scrutiny and the manner she merely repeated platitudes when pressed on key issues didn’t go down well. Not taking part in a leaders’ debate was a mistake as was avoiding programmes like Woman’s Hour.

My view is that TMay was not helped by the manner of her election as CON leader last July. If she had secured the post by going through the Tory members ballot her campaigning skills would have been enhanced and she’d have been better able to cope with the scrutiny of a general election campaign.

Andrea Leadsom pulling out after the race had been reduced to the final two in the MP ballots was bad news for her.

Her now poor leader ratings are going to be used against her even assuming that she gets through next week’s Queen’s Speech vote.

Will she survive? It is becoming less likely.

Mike Smithson