Archive for the 'Betting' Category


The first forecast for the midterms gives the Democrats a 75% chance of winning back the House

Friday, August 17th, 2018

On Betfair punters make it a 61% punt

In spite of all that is going on in UK politics at the betting markets here continue to make the US midterms in November the most popular betting event. This is not surprising. There’s a high UK interest in US and the White House races can be almost as big in betting terms as UK elections. Also punters tend to be attracted to risking cash when they have a definable end date.

So the latest forecast from the famed 538 website is worth taking notice of even if its main impact is to move the betting.

I should say that I have two big caveats which have so far led me not to bet. Firstly the US economy is currently pretty strong and this is acknowledged in the polls by the voters. That should normally be enough to secure Trumps Republicans a victory.

Secondly the polls are not painting as convincing a picture as 538. Because of gerrymandered congrsssional District boundaries it’s reckoned that the Democrats need a lead of about 8% in the national vote share in order to ensure that they take the house. The current RealClearPolitics average has it at 6.8%.

We do know that in primaries at the moment there is a very high turn out both of Democratic party supporters and Republican ones. Both sides are very engaged and we can expect to see the same on polling day on the first Tuesday in November.

Mike Smithson


Johnson now has clear lead in the betting for next CON leader

Thursday, August 16th, 2018


Numerology. The next Conservative leader

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

Let me let you in on a dirty secret.  An awful lot of lawyers are terrified of maths.  They can make words sit up and beg, but put them in front of a formula and they quiver.  When the rate of VAT rose to 20%, many lawyers were privately delighted because the calculation was so much easier to do.  Nevertheless, I have maths ahead.  You have been warned.

The Conservative party leadership race is conducted under unusual rules.  The Parliamentary party conducts an exhaustive ballot – a game of musical chairs where another seat is taken away each round – until only two candidates are left (the losers hope for party bags later).  The last two candidates then face off in a head to head with an entirely different electorate: the Conservative party membership.

In reality this election process is two different contests.  Since the final arbiters are the Conservative party members, they may or may not view things similarly to the Parliamentary Conservative party.  The Labour party experience in 2015 is instructive, where a candidate who only scrambled to make the cut with the Parliamentary party stormed to victory with the membership.

The consequence of this is that the order in which the last two candidates finish in the penultimate round doesn’t matter all that much.  Getting into the last two is all that matters.  In 2001 Iain Duncan Smith got into the last two by one vote.  He then beat Kenneth Clarke decisively among the members. A candidate doesn’t need to worry about winning the majority of his fellow MPs’ support.  He or she just needs enough Parliamentary support to be able to display his or her charms to the membership.

What this means is that any aspiring party leader wants to get into the last two against an opponent who the membership can be expected to like less.  Most candidates will be focussing on the first half of that sentence: getting into the last two.  The frontrunner might well be focussing on the second half: engineering an opponent who they can expect to beat when the members have their say. 

Let’s put a name on this problem: Boris Johnson.  The external evidence suggests that many of his fellow MPs would rather gargle glass than see him become party leader.  How many MPs need to be in this group to stop him?

The Conservative party has 316 MPs.  A candidate in the last three can guarantee making the final two by getting the support of more than a third of the MPs.  So the support of 106 MPs in the final round would get any candidate into the last two. 

In practice, fewer MPs will probably suffice unless there’s some finessing.  If the leading candidate gets the support of 150 MPs, you will make the last two with the backing of 84 MPs.  If the leading candidate gets the support of 175 MPs, you will make the last two with the backing of just 71 MPs.  Theresa May picked up the support of 200 MPs in the last round in 2016.  An equally dominant candidate would make second place achievable on just 59 MPs.

So it doesn’t matter if there are over 200 Conservative MPs who cordially loathe Boris Johnson (and there might well be).  What matters is how many either like him or see him as the best of a bad bunch if it comes to the last three.  If he gets through that test, he is going to be considered very seriously by the membership.

Can he be stopped?  Imagine for a moment that at the time of the leadership election you are the Home Secretary.  You have managed to present yourself as a fresh start in a difficult role, offering policy observations on a wide range of public topics.  You have managed to straddle the Leave/Remain divide among MPs, making you hope for some very senior endorsements and confident that you can get into the last two.  If it were down to the MPs, you might well consider yourself home and hosed.

But it isn’t.  The members will have their say and there are plenty of indications that the membership are not looking for nuance or straddling Leave/Remain divides.  They might well prefer a St George to slay Remainian dragons or, failing a knight on a white charger, a mop on a publicity-loving journalist.  The majority of Conservative MPs might have definitively decided that Boris Johnson is not fit to be leader of the Conservative party.  But if he makes the last two, they might find him foisted on them.  You need not one but two stop-Boris candidates. 

How could our putative Home Secretary avoid this personal and party disaster?  If he has enough support at his disposal, he might seek to lend some of it to a more beatable opponent.  If there were a leading Leaver who is not telegenic, widely disliked by the public and now deeply distrusted by the more intense members of the Leave community who nevertheless had a fair support base in the parliamentary party, he might feel confident that the membership would prefer him to such a candidate.

How feasible is this strategy?  Lending support to other candidates is an obviously dangerous game.  No candidate will want to risk missing out completely and so any candidate contemplating such a tactic will want to build in a margin for safety.  Also, any such tactic would almost certainly leak.  That would be unlikely to impress a membership if it thought it was being deprived by jiggery-pokery of a choice that it wanted to make.

For myself, I wouldn’t want to risk going below 130 MPs if I were in pole position, and then only if I really feared one possible opponent.  That would mean that the next candidate would need 94 MPs.  In a last three of Sajid Javid, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, my guess is that Boris Johnson number is likely to get closer to 100 MPs’ support than 50 and that he might well make the last two whatever gaming of the system his opponents try to work out between them. 

There is another way.  To be in the last three, a candidate first needs to get through earlier rounds.  If a steadier hardline Leaver can be persuaded to stand (Andrea Leadsom maybe?), Boris Johnson might fall at an earlier hurdle if he had insufficient first preferences.  Better yet, get three or four to stand and the chances of the most dangerous opponent falling out early are much improved.  It’s not enough to be acceptable to a sufficiently large constituency of Conservative MPs, you have to be actively wanted by enough to get through the early stages. 

So those first few rounds of musical chairs play a purpose too.  It might be rather easier and more effective for a frontrunner discreetly to loan support to an unfeared rival at an early stage to get rid of that inconvenient Mr Johnson.  From the viewpoint of the Conservative establishment, there might well be more than one way to skin a cat.

Alastair Meeks


We need to talk about Brandon Lewis

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

The fallout from Boris Johnson’s insults towards women who wear the burqa and niqab might end up putting the kibosh on his leadership ambitions it may also end up being sub-optimal for the prospects of Brandon Lewis.

The Mail on Sunday report 

When Mr Lewis called for the former Foreign Secretary to apologise for the remarks – forcing the Prime Minister to echo his call – he triggered a furious backlash from Mr Johnson’s supporters. 

Their anger intensified when the party launched a probe that could lead to him being forced to undergo ‘diversity training’.

One Boris ally accused Mr Lewis of ‘double standards’ for sanctioning an inquiry into Mr Johnson’s behaviour immediately – but ‘stalling’ on more serious allegations against another Tory MP who is a Remain supporter.

Mr Lewis was said to have ‘parked’ the results of an official party inquiry into bullying claims against the MP – whose identity is known to The Mail on Sunday – even though the probe was months ago.

Tory sources rejected the accusation against Mr Lewis, saying the party board had decided no further action was needed.

Mr Johnson’s friends say he has been bombarded with supportive messages from Tory MPs, and is now surging in the leadership stakes.

By earning the enmity of the Leavers who see the Chairman’s actions of someone trying to nobble a potential leadership rival might be at risk for Brandon Lewis, Mrs May might shuffle him out at the earliest opportunity.

That would be a shame for the Tories. As a Tory activist of many years, since Brandon Lewis became Party Chairman there seems to be a bit more professionalism that has been lacking at CCHQ for many years. It was felt that CCHQ couldn’t organise a farting contest in a baked bean factory, something that nearly cost the Tories a majority in 2015 when the Tory computer system crashed on election day.

But with prominent Leavers still in the cabinet we could see others leaving before Brandon Lewis if Mrs May makes certain compromises on Brexit such as Liam Fox who has warned against extending Article 50.

I’m not prepared to stake much on Brandon Lewis on this market, however I am prepared to stake more on laying Brandon Lewis as Theresa May’s successor, that makes more sense to me, especially after the events of this week.


PS – If Mrs May and Brandon Lewis wish to move the subject on perhaps they should instruct Boris Johnson and other Tories not to deal with Steve Bannon.

There is a precedent for this, when Iain Duncan Smith was leader he ended the Tory Party’s links with the Monday Club given, for example, their views on the assisted repatriation of immigrants. Steve Bannon’s views are much more robust than the Monday Club.

With the criticisms they’ve aimed at Jeremy Corbyn and his interesting associations the Tories would be on sound ground.

If associating with Steve Bannon is a hill that Boris Johnson wishes to die on well that will re-confirm his unsuitability to be Prime Minister or Tory leader.


Betting on will there be a Tory leadership contest in 2018

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

Why I’m betting on no leadership contest in 2018.

Paddy Power’s market on whether there will be a Tory leadership contest in 2018 intrigues me. I’ve confirmed with them the precise terms of this bet. A vote of no confidence being called will not be enough, what needs to happen is for either Mrs May to lose a vote of confidence or resign and the Chairman of the 1922 committee to start accepting nominations for Mrs May’s successor.

After Chequers went pop and we saw DExEU’s midnight runners, David Davis and Steve Baker resigning around midnight, and then Boris Johnson resigning a few hours later it seemed inevitable Mrs May would be ousted this year. But she’s still in place and from that my reading of the situation is that there’s no majority for in the Parliamentary Conservative Party for ousting Mrs May.

If the most recent YouGov poll is a harbinger for the wider polling community then it will be that the Chequers Deal doesn’t mean Corbyn and that will help secure Mrs May for the rest of the year. As Mike observed the other day the prospect of Boris Johnson, the worst Foreign Secretary since Lord Halifax, succeeding Mrs May will likely reduce the chances of a leadership contest in 2018.

The only realistic way I can see a contest this year is if by October/November a no deal cliff edge Brexit is inevitable, that would likely see carnage on the financial markets and the end of Mrs May, if not the government.



The prospect of Johnson as leader should make Theresa’s position a bit more secure

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

How many are going to no confidence her if he’s alternative?

Much has been written about the incredible resilience of Theresa May who has managed to hang on to her job now for well over a year after losing the party it’s majority in the June 2017 general election.

She became a contender in the post referendum Conservative leadership race in July 2016 with her backers arguing that she was the one for the party to get behind in order to stop Johnson.

It was a powerful appeal as we saw with Johnson himself bottling out of the fight on that extraordinary Thursday morning in early July two years ago when he realised his MP support base was nothing like as wide as he thought.

One of the ex-Mayor’s problems has always been his relations with many fellow Conservative MPs. Few appear ready to back him and speak up when required. Also the cack-handed way he dealt with Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom during the last contest caused both to enter the race.

At the moment the one CON MP who seems most ready be interviewed and publicly support him is Nadine Dorries – her of “I’m a celebrity get me out of here” fame. She used to attack Cameron and Osborne for being “posh boys” something she hasn’t raised in relation Johnson in spite of his similar educational background.

The experience of the Conservative leader no confidence procedure is that it has only ever been used once and then there was a degree of unanimity about who should be the successor. That was in 2003 when Iain Duncan Smith was voted out and Michael Howard took over the leadership without there being a members’ ballot.

If when parliament returns 48 CON MPs are bold enough to send letters demanding a confidence vote then you can see ahead of the MP ballot Team Theresa twisting a few arms with the message – “do you really want Boris as PM?” If all MPs voted 155 would have to back a confidence move and Johnson does not have that much support.

The betting has moved away from TMay going this year and if she makes it till 2019 she’s surely going to continue to Brexit and beyond.

Mike Smithson


The Democrats move up sharply in the House majority betting after the GOP won the Ohio special election by a margin of less than 1%

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018


In the US all eyes are on the midterms in November which will the first big electoral test for Trump since he won WH2016 nearly two years ago.

Overnight there was a special election in Ohio in a congressional district won by Trump with a 12% margin two years ago. The Republicans hung on but the margin was less than 1%.

The President had invested an enormous amount in the race and while he’ll be pleased by the victory the margin suggests that GOP control of the House of Representatives in November is in doubt.

This is reflected in the Betfair exchange House majority market shown above. The swing in Ohio was a fair bit greater than that which most national polls are suggesting.

Trump is a great turnout driver for both his party and, alas, his opponents. Losing one arm of the legislature would greatly impede his policy agenda.

All the House seats are up in November whilst only about a third of the Senate seats will have elections.

Mike Smithson


BoJo’ s controversial burka comments don’t seem to have hurt him in the TMay successor betting

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

But they could make it harder getting on the ballot

With TMay herself now joining those attacking BoJo for his Burka comments the big danger he faces is not being able to get enough fellow CON MPs to support him in the first rounds of voting to get on the ballot.

It is precisely this type of comment that raises big question marks over his judgement. It appears to be attention-seeking.

I’ve little doubt that if he got to the final runoff of two that he’d do well with the membership but it is the parliamentary party that he first has to convince.

Like in many things it is his choice of language that might attract the headlines but undermines him with his colleagues.

Mike Smithson