Archive for the 'Betting' Category


Never forget that the vast majority of those who voted for Trump are happy with their President

Monday, January 15th, 2018

And the betting continues to point to his survival

Mike Smithson


Mrs May’s weird plot to make Gavin Williamson her successor is likely to fail

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Mrs May is annoying far too many people in the party & that will cause her and her preferred successor problems in the future

Trying to understand Mrs May’s recent reshuffle has been a challenge, but over the weekend a few people suggested it was all part of a weird plot to make Gavin Williamson Tory leader, Iain Martin says

Theresa May’s reshuffle was rubbish for a reason it seems. In the days that followed this week’s half-hearted reconstruction of the government, MPs, ministers and aides tried to make sense of what the Prime Minister and her closest supporters thought they were doing when they kept changes to a minimum. An astonishing picture is emerging as various factions across the Tory parliamentary party compare notes.

Contrary to expectation, the party’s “young talents” – such as Rory Stewart and Dominic Raab – were deliberately not fast-tracked into the cabinet. Others were sidelined, stalled or given “hospital pass” postings. Why? So that they would not have any cabinet experience this year, deliberately handicapping them if they want to run for the leadership later this year or next.

The Mayite candidate when that contest eventually comes thus has a head start and is already in the cabinet. That is the defence secretary Gavin Williamson so vigorously promoted as the future of a grittier “Nottingham not Notting Hill” Conservatism, by Nick Timothy, May’s former chief of staff. Timothy still has a great influence on May, who has long relied on his political skills.

What is in it for May? A cabinet minister says that if her supporters prevail then she gets to stay a good bit longer than anticipated beyond 2019, supposedly redeeming her  legacy and earning a better place in history. Or if she falls early, via an emergency, Williamson is well-placed and those other youngsters outside the cabinet are left at a disadvantage. That cabinet minister thinks there will be hell to pay as more MPs realise what is going on, but we’ll see.

The Sunday Times has one minister saying ‘Damian Hinds was promoted to the post of education secretary because “he is Gavin Barwell’s best mate”. Barwell is May’s chief of staff.’  Another ‘minister who had been expecting a promotion told friends he had complained to the chief whip and was told: “Sorry, there are other agendas at work here.”’

So we have a lot of annoyed and frustrated Tory MPs and ministers, it appears that Mrs May’s government is more of chumocracy than David Cameron’s government ever was and that will lead to retribution for Mrs May and the likes of Williamson & Hinds. The Sunday Times also speculates these actions might lead to a leadership challenge against Mrs May.

If Mrs May stays for at least another two years we probably will see at least one more reshuffle, probably in the aftermath of the UK leaving the EU in March 2019. If she attempts another reshuffle like this one, she should be facing a leadership contest, you simply cannot annoy your MPs and ministers like this all in the attempt to game the next leadership race.

In the next Tory leadership contest both Gavin Williamson and Damian Hinds could be recipients of a backlash from Tory MPs for Mrs May’s actions. In the next PM/Tory leader markets I’ve been laying Gavin Williamson for quite some time, this week’s events seem to confirm the wisdom of that, his very rapid (over)promotion to Defence Secretary is seen as even more of a mistake by the week.


P.S. – Earlier on this week Michael Gove said the next Tory leadership contest final two could be between Williamson & Hinds, the interesting aspect of this is that both are Remainers. Anyone who sees the next Tory leadership contest exclusively through the prism of Remain vs Leave or think being a Remainer will be a disadvantage are making a mistake. The next Tory leadership contest will be viewed through the prism of who is best placed to win the next general election.


Putin on a show: finding value in March’s Russian election

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

The question is not whether Vlad will win but by how much

Vladimir Putin has now run Russia for longer than anyone since Stalin.* It’s all but certain that he will continue to do so after this March’s presidential election. Ladbrokes are offering odds of 1/50 that he wins a fourth full term, which are nonetheless value: probably the shortest-ever odds tipped as such on this site. Looked at another way, it might only be a 2% return in about two months but that’s a lot more than you’d get in a bank – though there is the capital risk that he might fall under a bus.

That possibility, of some external event intervening to physically prevent Putin from standing, is the most realistic scenario by which someone else wins – but even then, it’s a remote one: he’s not the kind of politician to spend half an hour presenting himself as a target, speaking on the stump. The chance of anyone beating him at the ballot box can be almost entirely discounted: no other party’s candidate has the organisation to challenge United Russia and if they did, the considerable structural advantages the incumbent possesses would be brought to bear.

However, 1/50 shots are hardly exciting. Of more interest is the associated market on Putin’s vote share. Such opinion polls as there’ve been give him gigantic leads. The raw figures routinely give him between 55-70 per cent, though once you exclude Don’t Knows and Won’t Votes, these can rise as high as 90%.

Despite Ladbrokes’ offer of 25/1 for him to win more than 90%, I’m not at all tempted. I don’t trust the polls, not least because I don’t trust the answers that people give in a society which has been long accustomed to surveillance and to the need to give the right answer to authority.

I also don’t think that Putin will want to win by the sort of margins that look like his was a rigged election. He is a realpolitik practitioner par exellence and will be well aware that his power comes not from the size of his majority but from his control of the government machine. All he needs from the people is for them to return him without establishing any credible alternative; beyond that, retaining a veneer of democracy serves a useful purpose both internationally and domestically – a purpose that would be undermined by numbers that weren’t credible.

Putin’s previous winning vote shares were 53.4 (2000), 71.9 (2004), and 63.6 (2012). In between, Medvedev won with 71.2% in 2008. These are probably a better guide. I’d discount the first result, which occurred when the Communist Party remained a genuine force and when the country was still suffering from the Wild East of the Yeltsin years – and before Putin had cracked down on civil freedoms.

On that basis, the 4/1 offered on a 70-80 per cent vote share looks to have most value to me. Russia’s success in Syria, the seizure of the Crimea and more stable domestic situation should produce some genuine popularity – and while that will be far from the determining factor in the election, it will matter in terms of where in the ‘acceptable range’ the result ends up. Having said that, cautious gamblers might want a punt on 60-70 at 5/4 as well, which taken together gives a very wide range at odds of about 4/7, if evenly balanced. Hopefully, that should leave the punter the winner. Either way, Putin will be.

David Herdson

* This is definitional. Putin is close to completing his third full term as president, from 2000-2008 and then again since 2012. He also served for three months before the 2000 election, after Yeltsin’s resignation: a total of almost exactly 14 years so far. However, it’s hard not to regard him as the dominant figure during the Medvedev presidency too, when Putin was Prime Minister; Medvedev having been a trusted lieutenant of Putin since the early 1990s, and who loyally stepped aside in 2012 to allow Putin to resume the senior office. If added in, that takes Putin’s service to a touch over 18 years. Against which, Leonid Brezhnev was without question the Soviet Union’s leader during the 1970s and through to his death in November 1982 but the start of his true leadership is harder to date. It could be argued to be October 1964, when Khrushchev was overthrown (on the same day as the UK general election, coincidentally), which would exceed Putin’s service whichever definition is chosen – though only by weeks if it’s the longer one. However, in reality, the post-Khrushchev regime was a collective and Brezhnev didn’t establish clear pre-eminence over the likes of Kosygin and Podgorny until the late 1960s. On that basis, Putin has already passed him on at least one, and perhaps both, measures of his own leadership.


Alastair Meeks on predicting politics better

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

“How could I have known?” is the cry of palookas at the card tables everywhere.  It’s a cry that’s been heard much in political circles in the last few years.  In short order, David Cameron won an overall majority in 2015, Leave won the EU referendum in June 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election in November 2016 and Theresa May lost her overall majority in June last year.  None of these events had been expected by the pundits.

But far more significantly, none of these events had been expected by the outperformers.  On the day of the 2015 election, David Cameron had prepared and delivered as a practice run a resignation speech.  Nigel Farage effectively conceded defeat on the evening of the referendum.  Michael Wolff in “Fire And Fury” claims that almost the entire Trump campaign thought he’d lost (and most actually wanted to lose).  Almost all of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team thought that Labour would lose seats on the night of the June 2017 election.

This matters.  In physics or engineering, predictions can be made reliably.  In advertising, John Wanamaker, an American department store magnate, joked that half his money was wasted but he didn’t know which half, but even he on his own estimation managed a 50% strike rate.  In a world of politics where even the successful don’t know what they’re doing, how are the rest of us supposed to figure out what’s going on?

The problems with polling

The pollsters have had a wretched period in Britain.  They got 2015 wrong, as many got 2016 wrong as got it right and they differed so much on 2017 that it’s hard to tell whether the couple that got close got there by luck or judgement.

Polling is hard.  It’s hard to get a statistically reliable sample.  The people who are willing to pick up the phone or join an internet panel and then answer a pollster’s questions may be unusual in lots of ways.  It’s hard to get that statistically reliable sample to be truthful (or to make appropriate adjustments).  And, irritatingly, people can change their minds after they have given their responses, meaning that the snapshot is not a prediction.

These are not new problems but they seem to be becoming more intractable.  After the 2015 election, ICM reported that under 7% of phone calls placed resulted in a respondent answering their questions.

I don’t have a better indicator or predictor of public opinion than opinion polls and they obviously have some worth, but they need to be treated with a healthy disrespect.  I wouldn’t pay too much regard to the claimed margins of error.  Past experience has shown that opinion polls are nowhere near as accurate as that.

Tighter races

Adding to the pollsters’ problems, we have seen a series of close contests.  Relatively minor errors assume disproportionate importance.  52:48 is not far from 48:52, but that’s the difference between winning and losing.  The pollsters mostly got 1997 quite wrong but Labour’s margin of victory was such that no one noticed.

Increased volatility?

Voters seem in some recent elections to be less tied to particular voting patterns than previously.  Opinion polls moved massively in the 2017 general election campaign and there is some evidence of late swing in both the 2015 general election and in the US presidential election (though not particularly in the EU referendum vote).  This would be a good thing, since it would suggest that politicians need to earn more votes than previously.  It would also mean that past polling was of less value than ever before.

Set against that, polls in the UK now seem to have settled into a rough equilibrium.  It seems that Brexit and the 2017 general election may have settled the political views of many previously flighty voters for now and they will need something disruptive to make them reconsider.  Or perhaps they’ve just turned off for now and are giving their responses on autopilot until they need to think about the problem again properly.

Given recent past volatility, any sense of inevitability going into an election needs to be abandoned.  Similarly, the concept of a sure thing needs to be abandoned.  The range of possible outcomes of any election should be viewed more broadly than most people have done before.

Beware of false narratives

Correlation is not causation.  We all know that and all of us forget it all the time.  Theresa May reshuffles her Cabinet and, say, the Conservatives fall in the polls.  Does that mean that the one caused the other?  Maybe.  Or maybe petrol price rises alienated drivers.  Or maybe the NHS flu crisis has worried voters.  Or maybe Conservative voters have become unusually reluctant to answer the phone because of a spate of nuisance calls.

We all like to build stories around the facts that we have to hand.  A particular problem is that political pundits are particularly good fabulists and their stories grip their audiences.  Sometimes those stories adequately explain what’s going on.  More often, they don’t but even after dissonant information has come to light we are reluctant to discard our stories.  We need to be quicker to do so.

Picking through the rubble

That doesn’t leave much standing.  It’s important, however, not to confuse two different objectives.  If you’re looking to make predictions, the first thing to realise is that the future is fluid.  The pundit who has emerged from the last few years with most credibility intact is Nate Silver, who rated the chances of a Donald Trump victory far ahead of most other pundits and who cautioned how risky the 2017 general election was for the Conservatives. Nothing is certain.  By all means construct a narrative but be aware that the story is quite likely to be rewritten.

If on the other hand you’re looking for the best bets to place, you have to draw conclusions on skimpy information.  Often it is better to be wrong quickly than right slowly.  So long as you’re right more often than the odds would suggest or get the opportunity to trade out at a profit later on, the failures won’t matter, though they might be embarrassing (I speak from repeated experience on this).  If the electorate is more footloose and polling remains of doubtful accuracy, the value is usually going to be found in the long shots. Equally, if you spot a narrative that looks set to gain currency, selling into that narrative will often be profitable.

Of course, you might well not be right.  But so long as you’re keenly aware that there’s a high chance you’re wrong, you can make the appropriate adjustments later on.  And if all goes wrong, at least you will have a ready answer to the question: “how could I have known?”

Alastair Meeks


The reshuffle has left TMay weaker but has it hastened her departure?

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

There’s still no obvious alternative

The former shadow CON minister and head of ConHome, Paul Goodman, has given his damning verdict on the reshuffle under the heading “The worst-handled reshuffle in recent history – perhaps ever”.

This, of course, follows other PM “set pieces” like her October conference speech and the GE17 campaign that didn’t go according to plan.

He highlights that “for several days, the media was full of stories about why the Prime Minister didn’t rate Justine Greening. If they had been knocked down, the latter might have been willing to stay on.” Undoubtedly TMay has made more enemies and Goodman raises the possibility that Greening and even DGreen might join the Brexit belligerents on the back benches.

So the Conservative’s very tight parliamentary position could get even tighter. If both Green and Greening back, say, a controversial Brexit amendment that reduces the government’s theoretical commons majority by four.

No doubt it adds to the number of CON MPs who are ready at the right moment to write to the Chair of the 1922 Committee asking for a confidence vote.

But Theresa May is still there. She is remarkably resilient and has managed to continue in spite of events that other earlier leaders would have found insurmountable. Losing the Conservative majority in June, her less than successful conference speech in October, and now, of course, this botched attempt to add sparkle to her government.

What saves her is that there is no obvious alternative. The 30% betting favourite following the election defeat last June, Boris Johnson, has now slipped sharply down; David Davis who looked like the best alternative for a long period is now down to just 3% in the betting; and two of the top three that the markets most rate, Rees-Mogg and Ruth Davidson are not even Cabinet ministers. The latter is not even an MP.

Boris is still second favourite but it is very hard to envisage him being able to secure the backing of enough MPs to get himself through to the members’ ballot.

Dominic Raab, who wasn’t given a cabinet position in the reshuffle and remains largely unknown outside the party, is now rated as a 5% chance on Betfair. He’s my long shot bet.

Andrea Leadsom is now down at a 3% chance.

Mrs May, meanwhile, continues to give the impression that she’d like to continue perhaps until tthe next general election. Maybe she will do that in spite of everything.

So I am not betting on her early departure.

Mike Smithson


Suddenly Oprah Winfrey becomes second favourite for next President

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

But does she want it?

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the American presidential election cycle seems to move. Donald Trump has only been in the White House since January last year and now all the talk is of the 2020 contest with a focus on who would be his Democratic opponent should he decide to run again.

Following her widely publicised appearance at The Golden Globes on Sunday night in Los Angeles the talk is all about Oprah Winfrey being the person who could be the Democratic Party flag carrier.

This is how the New York Post is putting it this morning:

“.. In a rhetorically dazzling 14-minute speech that began with Sidney Poitier inspiring her by winning an Oscar in 1963 and ended with her promising that “a new day is on the horizon,” Winfrey delivered exactly the kind of inspirational and aspirational speech Hillary Clinton tried but failed to deliver about 300 times during her deadly bid for the presidency..”

On Betfair in the UK she has now moved to a 12/1 shot which looks ridiculously tight given the timescale and that the fact that she has never held any elected political position. But I have to say that is what everybody said about Donald Trump at this stage ahead of the 2016 contest.

The big question is would she consider running? Certainly there has been a level of ambivalence from her since making her Sunday night speech. This is from CNN:

“…according to two of Winfrey’s close friends who requested anonymity to speak freely, Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president in 2020..”

That’s exactly what “friends” of all contenders who are thinking about running are saying at the stage. My guess is that she will test the waters and look at what is actually involved in running for president. But who knows? It could be that in January in two years time we are chewing over a sensational Oprah performance in the Democratic party’s Iowa caucuses – the first state to make its choice in the presidential race.

Mike Smithson


Betting on the year of Trump’s impeachment

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

The Democrats might not have the votes to convict but politically it might be helpful for them if the GOP vote to clear Trump.

Paddy Power have a market up on the year that Donald Trump is impeached. The Paddy Power terms are very clear, this bet doesn’t require the Senate to vote to convict, just the House of Representatives to vote to successfully impeach

The current polls indicate that the Democrats are on course to take the House later on this year, and I’m struggling to see how they don’t take the House, barring the tensions with North Korea escalating leading to a patriotic Trump surge as Americans back their Commander-in-Chief.

So what happens if the Democrats take back the House formally in January 2019? Given what has already happened I suspect the Democrats in the House will come under a lot of pressure from their own supporters to begin impeachment proceedings, ‘Lock him up’ might even be a campaign slogan.

There might also be an attractive proposition to screw up the primary process and 2020 election cycle by tying GOP Senators to Trump, with 22 of 33 of the Senate seats up for re-election in 2020 being held by GOP Senators. Those Senators if they voted not to convict Trump might face an electoral reckoning shortly thereafter for clearing Trump and he maintains his current dire personal ratings.

Very rarely does an incumbent President face a credible primary challenge. With an ongoing impeachment, I can see a primary challenge from a very credible GOP challenger. That would eliminate one of the great strengths an incumbent President has. Only twice in the last year 85 years has an elected incumbent President lost in a general election.

If Trump is impeached it might not be for things that happened before he became President but things he had done in office. His mental state, as evidenced by yesterday’s tweet storm, coupled with the potential to illegally obstruct Robert Mueller’s investigations you can see how Donald Trump is impeached for things that haven’t happened yet.

That’s why I’ve backed impeachment happening in either 2019 or 2020, the latter is a lot better chance of happening than the 33/1 odds imply.

Hat tip to Tissue Price for alerting me to this market.



If you are betting on the Trump exit markets be careful to check the precise terms of the bet

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

What happens, for instance, if the President dies in office?

Inevitably the publication of the new book on the Trump White House Fire and Fury, by Michael Wolff has led to an enormous amount interest in betting on whether Mr trump Will survive his first term.

This is currently, by a big margin, the busiest current political betting market and I would expect that to continue for some time.

I’d also expect a lot of fluctuations as one new development after another changes perceptions as to whether something will happen or not.

The picture being described by Wolff is so extraordinary and far beyond what anyone, I would suggest, many people had realised. That the man who is almost certainly the most powerful in the entire world should operate in the manner that he does is, surely, something that cannot continue? But it may do and so we are talking about bets on it. Top politicians in difficult situations have a remarkable record of resilience and so far Mr Trump has shown that he can carry on.

The Betfair Exchange, which has a market currently valued at £0.75 million, states explicitly that the death of the President would count with one big exception. Its rules are:-

“When will Donald Trump officially cease to be the President of the United States of America?

This includes, but is not limited to, if Donald Trump leaves office due to death (excluding assassination), incapacity, illness, impeachment or resignation (or anything comparable). ). All [unsettled] bets will be voided if Donald Trump ceases to be President of the United States of America due to an assassination or an assassination attempt.”

Ladbrokes, on the other hand, do not include the possibility of death but state that the specfics cessation of his Presidency. It is defining the bet like this:-

“To Leave Office Via Impeachment Or Resignation”

So if he dies in the declared time frame bets would be losers. For this reason I would argue that the Betfair terms are better if you think that he will go early. There is another contingency included. I’ve used part my Alabama winnings to have a small on him not making it but I’m ready to move in and out should circumstances change.

Mike Smithson