Archive for the 'About the site' Category


The Conservative Party is pursuing profoundly un-conservative policies. So I’ve left it.

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Ideology with no concern for consequences or convention is the business of revolutionaries

I have today resigned my membership of the Conservative Party after 24 years. While that’s a moment of some sadness for me, it’s of trivial importance on any wider scale. What isn’t trivially important is the set of changes which the Party’s undergone in the last few years and especially the last few weeks because these will have an immense impact on the country, one way or another, and are changes that no true conservative party would be advocating.

Foremost is inevitably Brexit. Unlike some who’ve left the Party recently, I am not opposed to Britain leaving the EU. I did vote Remain in 2016 and don’t regret that decision but the country chose Leave and that decision should be respected.

What is not necessary is the obsession with either the arbitrary deadline of 31 October, or the clear desire among many in the Party to leave with no deal. The latter would be deeply damaging to the economy and community cohesion, while the former makes it an all but certain outcome as there wouldn’t time to deliver anything else, even if the conditions for re-opening talks weren’t designed as if to be rejected.

In truth, Brexit has become for the Conservatives what nationalisation is for the Corbynite Labour Party: an end in itself, to be achieved irrespective of cost and with any practical benefits as an incidental bonus. It is a revolutionary ideology unworthy of the Conservative Party, not least because it fails to consider the likely counter-productive political and social consequences of delivering Brexit in such harsh manner.

Over the last 20 years, the effective policy of the Party has gone from keeping open the option to join the Euro (1997/2001 manifestoes), through to leaving the EU without a deal. This is the measure of the shift in policy and the reason why it is now unattractive to many natural supporters of a pragmatic political party interested in pro-business policies and cautious about unnecessary radical change.

The source of this new-found enthusiasm for these grossly disruptive policies is not hard to pinpoint. While I accept that Boris Johnson himself is by instinct a fairly liberal Conservative – though these instincts are far too easily overridden by his ambition and cynical embrace of populism – he has surrounded himself both in cabinet and in his Number 10 staff by people drawn disproportionately from the right of the Party, presumably because of their willingness to endorse his Brexit policy. This not only reduces the quality and capacity of the government – how many, including Johnson himself, have previously failed in ministerial office? – but sends a clear signal that the Conservatives are not the broad church they have traditionally aspired to be.

In particular, the appointment of Dominic Cummings is an indication that good, stable government is not valued: he will inevitably cause conflict and chaos and destroy much more than he can create. His appointment is what a PM with a 150-majority who wants to fight a civil war would do, not one who needs every vote. Cummings might argue that it is better to undertake a revolution than to undergo one. I would argue it’s better not to have a revolution at all: they invariably end up eating their sponsors, as well as many others.

The suggestion yesterday that the PM could simply sit out the two weeks after losing a Vote of No Confidence, and bed-block in this manner to trigger a general election and so deliver Brexit by default – even if another government could be formed from within the existing House – is grotesque. It’s one of the most striking examples yet of how little this government values the conventions of politics that keep debate within sensible bounds and ensures wide buy-in to the legitimacy of the system. We ignore these conventions at our peril: once broken, they no longer protect anyone.

The third main reason I cannot actively support this government is its irresponsible attitude to fiscal prudence. The Cameron governments did great work in healing the economic damage caused by the excesses of Gordon Brown, in eliminating the real-terms budget deficit while preventing recession and in overseeing considerable growth in employment. These achievements are now likely to be undone by the uncontrolled promises made for additional spending or new tax cuts. There are certainly many valid candidates for increased spending but those decisions have to be taken sustainably (which again argues for a controlled Brexit).

Politically, these commitments completely undermine the Party’s arguments and actions of the last decade and are not only irresponsible in themselves but will inevitably give cover to Labour to make their own unfunded promises. Labour will no doubt also take the opportunity to claim (wrongly) that the reversal of policy also proves their assertion that the austerity programme was the result of an ideological desire to cut rather than a pragmatic need to sort the nation’s finances out. The largesse is both unconservative and un-Conservative.

The changes in the Conservative Party’s policies and attitudes have left me politically homeless. Labour under Corbyn remains a serious threat to the country, while I cannot support the Lib Dems when they reject the referendum result. I know I am not alone in my dilemma and there are others on the centre-right who feel much the same. Where our votes will go in the end, I can’t say: I suppose it will depend to a large extent on whether any party bothers to court us.

David Herdson

Conservative Party member (1995-2019)
Councillor, Bradford MDC (1999-2003)
Chairman, Shipley Conservative Association (2011-13)
Chairman, Wakefield District Conservative Association (2016-18)


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

Wednesday, 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



The Saturday evening open thread

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

Video – The highlights of the greatest comeback since Lazarus

Tonight’s Champions League final and Mike’s holiday means PB isn’t going to edited in the usual way this weekend, so it’ll feature open threads like this and threads written well in advance.

So if any major does happen this weekend, I’m not ignoring I’ll eventually cover it.

If we get any polls this weekend it’ll be interesting to see if they match the pattern of YouGov with the Lib Dems first, if they do, I’m sure Nigel Farage will continue to cry like a baby and moan about Fake Polling by the same pollsters who overstated the Brexit party in the Euros last week are trying to do his party down.

No wonder Farage and Trump get on so well, they love to whip up fake grievances, they are two cheeks of the same arse, to paraphrase another Brexit party supporter.


PS – For my fellow Liverpool fans, were we to lose tonight to Tottenham Hotspur look on the bright side, Piers Morgan, will have a worse night than us. I’m sure the lifelong Arsenal fan will really enjoy Tottenham winning the European Cup/Champions League before his beloved Arsenal. 


For Politicalbetting’s 15th anniversary today – a special cartoon from Marf

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Exactly 15 years ago today PB was launched

Today PB celebrates it’s 15th birthday,  making it, I’d suggest, just about the longest surviving major political blog in the UK.

We were up and operational before Guido, Conservative Home, Labour list and many of the other major political sites that we are familiar with today. I cannot recall a site that existed before we did that is still active.

When PB was launched on March 23rd 2004 Tony Blair still had another General Election to win, Michael Howard was leader of the Conservative Party and Charles Kennedy the Lib Dem leader. UKIP was starting to make rumbles but not that great.

It was just about a year after the Iraq War which continued to dominate US politics. In the US George W Bush was seeking to win a second term and the Democrats were trying to choose a candidate they hoped would be able to unseat him.

In the UK the big betting election was the 2004 London mayoral race when Ken Livingstone, this time as a Labour candidate and not an independent as in 2000, was seeking to retain the job. I had taken the view, wrongly as it turned out, that Ken would struggle harder to attract crossover votes from other parties as a Labour candidate rather than as an independent as in first election 4 years earlier.

A few weeks before the site was launched the odds-on favourite for the WH2004 Democratic nomination, was the former governor of Vermont Howard Dean. At the time my day job was taking me to Vermont every few months and had got to know the head of a college there who knew Dean and who shared my passion for electoral analysis. He told me in unequivocal terms that Howard Dean would “blow himself up” at some point and would never make it. Given that Dean was odds-on favourite this was a good and potentially profitable insight.

At the time Betfair had a forum section where people could discuss specific markets and I took a bold stand and announced that a good bet was that Dean would not win the nomination. When he did indeed “blow himself up” after failing to win the Iowa caucuses my reputation soared within that small community.

A prominent Democratic contender was John Kerry while at the same time someone called Kerry was doing very well in one of the TV talent shows on which there was betting. Followers of the latter on the Betfair forums would burst into our discussions and make it extremely difficult. It was repeated interjections on the night of one of the primaries that that made me decide that what we needed was our own space away from Betfair. My son, Robert, suggested I registered the site name Politicalbetting.Com. He has continued to handle the not inconsiderable task of managing the technical side ever since.

We launched on March 23rd 2004 with a site logos that had been designed by my daughter in law Lucille. Early promotion was on the Betfair forums and within a very short time we started to build an audience. Right from the start we got good response and lively discussions were sparked off. I think that we hit a chord because we were looking and speculating about political outcomes with the added dimension that we would back our views up with cash.

Amongst the early participants who are still with us today were Sean Fear, David Herdson and Nick Palmer then MP for Broxtowe.

At the end of 2007 I took early retirement and since then my “job” has been PB. The site has been greatly helped by a TSE, my deputy, and a team of really excellent contributors who are providing political commentary and insights not seen in the MSM. Thanks to all of them.

Thanks also to all of you who visit often several time a day and take part in the discussion forums. You make the site what it is today.

  • Thanks to Marf, who first produced a cartoon for the site in 2008, for creating the above especially for this day.

    Mike Smithson

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    Christmas Day on PB wouldn’t be Christmas without the StJohn Christmas Crossword (est 2007)

    Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

    Renewing a great tradition

    One of the great traditions on PB has been the StJohn Christmas Crossword. The has been published on most Christmas days on the site since 2007. Its creator, StJohn, is one of quite a group of PBers who have been coming here almost since the site’s foundation in 2004. This is his 2018 offering. Enjoy.

    Across clues

    1 Restructuring of Israeli trio in government (11)

    7 Half the Chancellor’s responsibility is growth (3)

    9 Become less temporal, say, as a leaver (5,4)

    10 Politician with a female’s point of view (5)

    11 Kind of TV broadcaster to send back (7)

    12 English newspaper breaking stories of sinister people (7)

    13 Labour’s leader is a right one! (5)

    15 Liberal in speech and far-reaching (9)

    17 Wife left Prime Minister for a Duke (9)

    19 Majestic drink from the East (5)

    20 Lewis Hamilton ultimately hooked up with a film star (7)

    22 Revolutionary broadcaster pursues wrong turn (7)

    24 Former Foreign Secretary’s an excellent runner (5)

    25 Screen close up of an unclear Brexit? (9)

    27 It’s sticky when report into President has no case (3)

    28 Political strategist upset Bevan in Number Ten’s reshuffle (5,6)

    Down Clues

    1 Party animal (3)

    2 How Aitken’s accommodation once was costly? (5)

    3 Perhaps Transport Minister might lead this? (7)

    4 The French voters rioting over old President (9)

    5 One possible Brexit outcome is the best (5)

    6 A means to stir up opposition supporter (4,3)

    7 Leaving about ten, it’s chilly outside (9)

    8 Politician generating headlines effortlessly on vacation (5,6)

    11 Member of “The Shadows” trained to be a bandit? (5,6)

    14 Spinning image right about former Prime Minister (5,4)

    16 Narrow line assumed by Rees-Mogg (9)

    18 Out of habit people are mad about God (7)

    19 Right honourable David Davies heads a constituency (7)

    21 Lord Leon Brittan’s first exchange (5)

    23 Society, by abandoning Labour leader, shows contempt (5)

    26 Cook and Brown (3)


    Off to Westminster to give evidence before the House of Lords Committee that’s looking at political polling

    Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

    This morning alongside Matthew Shaddick (Shadsy) of Ladbrokes I’ll be giving evidence before the Lords Committee that’s investigating political polling particularly in view of what happened at GE17.

    Our part of the session is due to start at 1145.

    We’ve been told that the hearing will be shown live on

    I’m a blogger and a Tweeter and have never done anything quite like this before. To say I’m a bag of nerves is an understatement. I found myself waking in the middle of the night downloading onto my phone all the data I could possibly have to refer to.

    It will be good sitting alongside Matthew whom I’ve known for a long time. We last did a PR event together a year ago in Brussels for MEPs but that was all informal and certainly wasn’t being recorded.

    If I get asked whether I think betting odds are a better guide to political outcomes then polls I’ll give my standard response. People bet on politics to try to make a bit of money not to provide an alternative prediction model. In any case the betting on GE2017 prior to 10pm on June 8th was as accurate as the final polls.

    Mike Smithson


    The Sky Bet decision that points to problems for sites like PB

    Sunday, October 15th, 2017

    If others shut down affiliate programme then main revenue streams could be hit

    Affiliates are third-party companies who work on commission for gambling retailers by directing traffic (customers) to their sites. In the last few years the use of affiliate companies has vastly increased due to the tighter regulation and rising cost of traditional advertising. A 2015 study by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) estimates that over £16.5bn worth of sales were the result of this performance based marketing.

    In the online world the use of affiliate marketing is also fairly commonplace. The online casino/gambling market is highly competitive with many retailers to choose from. Affiliates are employed to increase exposure and to gain new customers. For example: if customer X wants to play online blackjack how will they choose where to play? Perhaps they might ask their Facebook friends, or click on the first link they find. Maybe just like with their holidays on Tripadvisor they will read a review. Casino reviews offer customer all the information they need about popular casino games, bonuses offered and features of any given online casino on their site. Once they are happy with their chosen online casino they will go and play online blackjack. As the review site generated that sale, they will receive payment from the online casino. This is affiliate marketing in action.

    Of course customer care could be cited as a cause of concern. Speaking on the service they provide top online casino review site say “We continually carry out extensive research with each of the online casinos we promote and are 100% and regularly update our casino reviews to ensure they are up to date in terms of bonuses, wagering amounts and terms & conditions.

    So what caused Sky Bet to abandon their affiliates?

    Late last year the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launched an investigation into affiliate practices. The investigation was prompted after the (ICO) received complaints about gambling related spam text messages. Following the investigation chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission stated that gambling retailers would be held wholly accountable for their affiliates actions. On abandoning their affiliate programme, a Sky Bet spokesperson has said “Sky Betting & Gaming has decided to close its UK affiliate programme. This difficult decision has been taken to give us more control of our marketing outputs and standards to ensure we can continue to meet the changing regulatory requirements in our sector.”

    Sky Bet are hoping to cease all UK affiliate activities this month.  

    Post affiliate Sky Bet will be left in a market full of advertising restrictions. Many of these restrictions can be found in the (LLCP) license conditions and a code of practice laid out by the UKGC . While their affiliate activities have been halted some of the advertising avenues left are sponsorships, video advertisements and social media activities. All of which are heavily regulated and are mostly likely under the microscope. However not all of Sky Bet’s gaming brands will be affected by the decision most notably Oddschecker (Odds comparison site).

    For the affiliate companies involved with Sky Bet it will also be an unsettling time. Not only will they be saying goodbye to a lucrative revenue stream but they will also be closely monitored. Following Sky Bet’s announcement many other UK bookmakers have outlined their intentions in regards to affiliates. While no other bookmaker has stopped affiliate marketing it is certainly a watch this space situation.

    Affiliate Manager


    Remembering Mark Senior – poster on PB 2004-2017

    Monday, September 25th, 2017

    Last week, a couple of days before the end of my holiday, we had the sad news that one of PB’s leading posters almost since the site started, Mark Senior, has died.

    Over nearly a decade and a half he became a key part of the site’s unique commenting community and although I never met him I am sure that others feel like I do that we know him from our interactions over such a long period.

    I’ve not been able to find a picture of Mark but we do know that he was an assiduous follower of local elections, polling and a was regular contributor to this and other sites. His knowledge and memory in these area was quite extraordinary and he would never shy away from fights. He was also a very strong supporter of the Lib Dems as those who have followed discussions of PB will have been very much aware and why I have illustrated this with an appropriate picture.

    If anyone knows more about Mark or has a picture it would be great to hear from them.

    In 2005 Mark won one of the first PB competitions predicting a by-election outcome and two years later was elected LD poster of the year.

    This was his last post here on August 17th 2017:

    I am able to ascertain that his last visit to PB was on September 1st.

    Our thoughts are with his family at this time.

    Mike Smithson