Archive for March, 2018


Lord Chancellor David Gauke becomes 3/1 favourite for next Cabinet minister out after the High Court blocks the release of the black cab rapist

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Will TMay force him out or not?

The big political betting development this afternoon have been a rush of money going on Lord Chancellor, David Gauke for next cabinet exit following a decision earlier by the High Court to block the release of the black cab rapist, John Worboys.

The court ruled in favour of two of his victims to overturn a decision to release the black cab rapist. It decided that the Parole Board should make a “fresh determination” of the case – a move that’s caused the resignation of Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick.

According to the Telegraph:-

“..One Tory MP said that Mr Gauke should consider his position. The MP said: “He f—– up, he could not have f—– up more.

“He showed no leadership at all, he allowed himself to be rolled by officials. He is fighting for his future, he has to take responsibility and consider his position. He was weak and pathetic. It’s all very well to sack Nick Hardwick, but he himself has to take responsibility.

Friends of Mr Gauke insisted that he will not resign over the case. Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Gauke said it was clear that there was “widespread concern” about the Parole Board’s decision and that he shared the concerns and welcomed the judgment.”

My guess is that Gauke’s future is now in the hands of the prime minister who will not want to be pushed at this stage but might have to be if the furore continues. She’s had enough Cabinet ministers quitting over the last 6 months after they had got into difficulty in one way or another.

If the story dies down quickly then my guess is that the Lord Chancellor will be safe at least until the next formal cabinet reshuffle.

I’m very reticent to bet myself on this market because I have always ended up losing. It’s very easy to conclude that someone is doomed only to see them hang on. Mrs May herself is a great example of this.

Mike Smithson


This March looks like being the first month since GE2017 when there were more CON lead polls than LAB ones

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Has the GE17 effect finally petered out?

The above chart based on the Wikipedia table of published voting intention polls is a different way of looking at trends in political opinion.

What is shown here is the percentage of polls that had a Labour leads each month and the percentage of published polls that had the Conservatives ahead.

The surveys included are the GB ones and do not include the regional polls such as the Scotland/Wales/London specific ones.

The chart says it all. In the immediate aftermath of the General Election LAB moved up to seeing 100% of all polls recording it being in the lead in July. Since then it edged down a bit and this March we’ve seen a turn around and the Conservatives have had more polling leads than Labour.

We have also seen this month Theresa May’s net approval rating move ahead of Corbyn’s for the first time since the general election. This is another indicator, perhaps, of the way things could be changing

What we haven’t had yet have been any surveys taken after this week’s antisemitism row so we can’t really determine how Corbyn and Labour have been affected by that.

It is worth recalling that Labour now sees the electoral system working against it and it needs to be ahead by 1-2% to ensure most seats. The situation is worse under the proposed new boundaries.

Mike Smithson


Suddenly TMay’s survival chances look a lot stronger

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

There’s a Betfair market that hasn’t attracted much attention or liquidity on which of May/Corbyn/Cable/Sturgeon will be the first leader out. I think it would have been better to confine it to the PM and LOTO.

What’s been striking is how over the past fortnight Mrs. May, who looked a basket case earlier in the month rated as an 80% chance of being first out, is now at 50%. Meanwhile Corbyn, who was at 2% has now edged up to 18%.

    While Corbyn has had all the problems with his less than convincing responses to the anti-antisemitism charges Mrs. May appears to have found a new sense of purpose following Salisbury.

Quite simply she is looking stronger while Corbyn looks vulnerable. The only caveat here is that the thousands of Corbyn cultists within Labour are going to ensure that their man will remain.

TMay, on the other hand, could be out in a very short period if 48 CON MPs write letters demanding a confidence vote.

The fact is that the PM survived, against all expectations, in the job when things were going terribly and has now entered a more confidence phase. In the current context even if 48 CON letters were sent you could see her surviving the MP ballot.

Meanwhile Corbyn’s relationship with his MPs is almost as bad as it has ever been.

My view is that May is now a greater asset to her party than Corbyn.

Mike Smithson


Introducing the Universal Ballot Database – A map which lets you zoom in and get ward level election results

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Election anoraks can spend hours with this

On PB we always like to hear about innovative means of getting election and other data. Well let me alert you to Lawrence Ware’s grandly titled Universal Ballot Database which enables the user to zoom in, see the mapping of every individual ward n England and Wales and the results.

What it does is link the comprehensive Rallings and Thrasher election data base with Google maps.

It does use an enormous amount of computing resource and although it work on my phone with 6GB of Ram it is not ideal. Much better on a modern laptop.

Have fun and get your own data fast.

Mike Smithson


A message to political leaders – Remember, you are mortal.

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Curiously, the reasons why some political leaders fall from office is linked to what was once their strengths rather than their weaknesses. Callaghan’s closeness to the unions was seen as one reason why he (rather than the confrontational Heath or strident Castle) would be better able to reach a workable accommodation with them, to the country’s benefit. Having undermined the “In Place of Strife” proposals it was poetic justice that it was the unions’ behaviour which destroyed his (and Labour’s) USP, forever associating the Callaghan premiership with the Winter of Discontent. Similarly, Thatcher – a politician priding herself on speaking up for ordinary taxpayers – was brought down her hubristic refusal to understand the outrage and sense of unfairness which the poll tax (an attempt to protect her beloved ratepayers) engendered.

And so to two apparently very different politicians: Blair and Corbyn. Blair’s USP was that he seemed like a trustworthy “one of us” ordinary guy, able to understand the desire for a nice house, better car, foreign holidays, unthreatening to those with assets and comfortable with the modern globalising world. Out with beards, scruffy dressing, Conference motions and old-fashioned socialism. In with branding, pledge cards, multi-culturalism and investment in public services. In the words of Rupert Everett, we could now enjoy “all-day drinking in our burkas”. Blair may not have been Labour born and bred (no Welsh mining valleys for him to reference in his rhetorical flourishes) and was perhaps more admired than loved but he was a winner.

And yet, even then, there were signs that he was rather more evasive, more slippery, less trustworthy than the image so carefully created and nurtured. When questions were raised about whether Labour policies had been changed to suit one of the party’s funders, he told us that people thought he was a pretty straight sort of guy. And then he confirmed to us that he was indeed such a guy.

He was satisfied he was honest so no reason for any of us to question the truth of what he told us. And, indeed, no-one did and anyone who tried was simply not listened to. But in that indomitable self-belief lay the hubris which eventually brought him down.

Even more worryingly, the cult of Blair – the belief that he was a winner, that there was no alternative – and that any questioning of his policies and motives was unacceptable – meant that when, finally, Blair’s beliefs finally met reality (in the Iraq war, the revelations of how the intelligence dossier had come about, the unquestioning support of the US, the apparently casual approach to the war’s legality) the betrayal and loss of trust was (and is still being) felt all the more keenly.

Corbyn’s view of Labour and personal style are diametrically opposed to Blair’s vision. His USP is socialism, old-fashioned campaigning and a principled – and very British – concern for the underdog and oppressed. It is this last which, his supporters say, explains his unfortunate tendency to be so often found in the company of or supporting those with some very unpleasant Fascistic, even Nazi-like, views, situations from which he requires the sort of careful extraction usually reserved for unexploded WW2 bombs found decades later.

In truth, Corbyn’s sympathy for the oppressed is a very qualified one. His sympathies are engaged most actively when people are oppressed by those he dislikes most. And those he dislikes most are Western imperialists and colonialists. A cynic might say that it is really the oppressor which matters to him not the victim. (The former can do nothing right; the latter nothing wrong.)

Like most politicians, he believes in dialogue with even the most unpleasant of opponents (Putin, Assad) and with anyone in order to achieve peace (hence his meetings with Hamas, a designated terrorist organisation) but curiously this privilege is not extended to those he disagrees with (“criminal” Israeli politicians, in his words, for instance). There was little sympathy for the Yazidis or Syrian or Iraqi Christians or those children poisoned by Assad or those oppressed by the Taliban. Nor in earlier years for Northern Irish Protestants killed by the IRA or Jews killed by Palestinian terrorists nor for Bosnian or Kosovan Muslims oppressed by Serbs and (eventually) rescued by Western imperialists. Still, the country has had enough of foreign interventions and Corbyn’s refusal to agree that the UK must always intervene and follow the US’s lead is popular and may also on occasion be right, however mixed or morally dubious his motives may be.

Like Blair in his prime, Corbyn’s followers will brook no dissent, no criticism, no scepticism, no forensic scrutiny. Corbyn is a good man and therefore there must always be an explanation which exculpates him, even if it makes him look like a simpleton who cannot see or read or understand what is in front of him.

The alternatives – that he may not be quite as good as he – or his supporters – think, that he can be as evasive and untruthful as most politicians or that even good men do bad things are not to be borne. The latest row about Labour anti-semitism is fundamentally seen as a PR issue, to be cured by statements rather than actions, let alone a smidgen of self-criticism or changed behaviour.

Does this matter? Probably not, electorally at least. As Mr Weinstein might ruefully observe, moral compasses are not needed by the powerful or those on a winning streak. And they can be seen as an unhelpful irrelevance to those keen for a change of government.

Corbyn dominates his party; he has been more electorally successful than many imagined; he may well end up PM. Who needs criticism, especially from those who are not true believers?

But the risk is that one day – like the Blair his party no longer cares for – his self-belief, his Nelsonian blind eye to any faults in those he campaigns for or alongside, his flexible principles, his faithful supporters’ aggressive silencing or cowing of critics, his Chamberlain-like belief in the value of dialogue even with those acting in bad faith may come face to face with reality and prove his and the Labour party’s undoing. And, possibly, the country’s.



So far the questions over the Leave campaign funding haven’t impacted on the betting

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Punters think there’s a 57% chance that UK will leave EU a year on Thursday

The big Brexit development over the weekend have been the revelations about the Leave campaign funding and whether the law was followed. Those pushing this forward are clearly hoping that this could impede the Brexit process and de-legitimise the Referendum outcome.

So far punters are not impressed and the Betfair exchange currently rates the chances of UK leaving the EU on March 29th of next year at a 57% chance.

As the chart above shows it is only in recent weeks that the market has moved from odds-on Brexit not happening a year on and Brexit actually happening.

My initial instinct was to think that the weekend coverage would undermine confidence that all would go to plan. So far it hasn’t but maybe it could as other developments take place.

The experience is that when this market books it does so fast.

Mike Smithson


New Ipsos-MORI polling finds voters have become more positive about immigration since Referendum

Monday, March 26th, 2018

But most want numbers reduced

Mike Smithson


The danger for Corbyn is that his vulnerability on antisemitism will haunt him as long as he stays

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Extraordinarily given everything else that’s happening that this is the main political news

Uptil now during Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party it has really been quite amazing that his less than robust views on antisemitism has never been a big problem for him.

That’s changed this weekend following the revelation of his response on Facebook in 2012 to the mural on the wall of a building in East London.

Under the heading “Corbyn’s ‘regret’ over an antisemitic mural doesn’t go remotely far enough” Matthew D’Ancona in the Guardian examines the LAB leader’s views and observes:

“The real question is otherwise: why does Corbyn – admirably proactive in tackling other forms of prejudice – seem to squirm and dither when confronted with allegations of antisemitism? As Richard Gold, a party member active in the anti-racist Engage campaign, put it in his submission to Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into Labour antisemitism: “[It is] as though being unpleasant to Jews … should be excused or minimised, treated merely as rudeness or bad manners, rather than racist behaviour…

…Antisemitism is on the rise all over the world. According to the Community Security Trust, a record number of antisemitic incidents were reported in the UK last year. Why does this bother Corbyn as little as it seems to? Does he believe in universal rights and equality of worth, or not? The fact that the Labour leader appears to regard allegations of antisemitism as an irritant rather than a fundamental issue says nothing good about him. In this respect, at least, the writing is upon the wall.

Unless Corbyn can appear to change in a convincing manner fast this has the potential to dog him as long he survives in the job. Whenever ever any issue related to antisemitism comes up his response will be closely monitored and highlighted.

No doubt his ultra loyal supporters will blame the media to try to deflect attention from the man himself which is where it should lie.

PaddyPower are offering 1/6 that TMay of the main party leaders will be first to go with Corbyn at 3/1. If that was priced a little bit longer it would be a good bet.

Betfair makes it 9/2 that he’ll be out during 2018.

Mike Smithson