Archive for the 'Betting' Category


Going long. Why a 2019 election is a lot less likely than gamblers seem to think

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Let us embark on a voyage of discovery and fantasy. Imagine, if you will, that you are Jeremy Corbyn. You are to retreat to your allotment for the day to clear your mind of the ephemeral nonsense of Westminster and to plan strategically. As you cycle past a couple of your favourite manhole covers, you start to turn your mind to the burning question: on what basis do you want to conduct the next election?

We need to conduct this thought process properly. This may be hard for those who are not fully signed-up Corbynites, because Jeremy Corbyn’s priorities are unlikely to match their own. For starters, Brexit appears not to register particularly highly either way in them.  

We can assume that he has confidence in his own campaigning abilities after the 2017 general election and as a result he is unlikely to be too downcast about current polls. Once the biased media are under strict election rules, he will, he will believe, be able to move the conversation onto subjects that suit him and he will be able to get his message unmediated to a receptive public.

He has in the past shown an apparent keenness for an early election, though it is unclear whether that is for public consumption and whether he would still be as keen if he were to be installed as Prime Minister once the current placeholder government has collapsed. Let’s take him at his word for now.

At present it looks pretty likely that the government is going to fail to reach a deal with the EU and is going to have to agree to any extension that the EU offers it. While it would be hard to blame the EU if it were to cut its losses and not offer a further extension, the EU will probably inwardly sigh and offer another six months or so.  

The Benn Act will require the Prime Minister to submit to Parliament’s will on the subject. It is an unclear whether Boris Johnson will stick around to surrender to Parliamentary sovereignty or stomp off to let someone else do the dirty deed. For now, Jeremy Corbyn can reasonably work on the basis that Boris Johnson is not going to throw the keys of the Batmobile at him. If he’s going to be got out of Downing Street, Labour is probably going to have to do some of the heavy lifting.

Jeremy Corbyn may want an early election but he will want it on terms that suit him. Boris Johnson will be damaged goods if 1 November comes and goes with Brexit not having happened, and he seems determined to try to force a snap election to capitalise on the public anger that he has whipped up against those groups that do not fully subscribe to a no-deal Brexit. Ideally, the Conservatives would want an election in as short a period as possible.

Fortunately for Jeremy Corbyn, he does not need to indulge the master strategists of Downing Street. What is in Boris Johnson’s interests are unlikely to be in his own. Jeremy Corbyn will want as much time as possible to draw discussion onto other subjects and to use the election period that he believes works in his favour.

Let’s map this onto dates. Parliament has now been prorogued until 14 October. When it returns, the Queen’s speech will be given and then debated: this will take the remainder of that week. On 17 October, the EU holds its summit at which any revised withdrawal deal will be agreed (it almost certainly won’t). Parliament is to sit on Saturday 19 October but this seems too soon for Britain to have requested an extension to the Article 50 period, for the EU to have offered a period and for the Prime Minister, directed as necessary by the House of Commons to have accepted one, so no vote to bring Parliament to an end will pass then. MPs will want to see that the extension has been implemented before risking that.

In practice, those three conditions will take a few days to be fulfilled and there will no doubt be some squawking and screeching en route. Let’s allow a week for the three necessary actions, though Boris Johnson might well take it right to the wire if he can. On 25 October, the anniversary of Agincourt, Boris Johnson might throw down the gauntlet (Express headline: “God For England, Boris And St George!”). Boris Johnson may well try the gambit of proposing an early election and dare the opposition to oppose, which would mean that an election could be held just 25 working days (five weeks) later. That, if passed, would allow for an election on Thursday 5 December, assuming the convention of holding an election on a Thursday is kept.

If Jeremy Corbyn is wise, he will leave the gauntlet on the ground. It can simply be sidestepped by Jeremy Corbyn by demanding Boris Johnson resign to get out of the way and directing his MPs to abstain, just as he did in September: a direct vote for an early election requires a two-thirds majority of MPs actively voting for it, so an abstention counts as a vote against. 

By proposing a vote of no confidence instead, he can add at least two extra weeks to set out his positive agenda: there is a 14 day period during which a new government can seek to command the confidence of the Commons before a general election is automatically called. Even if the vote of no confidence is called and passed the next working day, that means that the earliest Thursday that an election would be held would be 19 December. It has to be very questionable whether Boris Johnson would want to hold an election so close to Christmas even if he has the option to do so.

With only minor procrastination, Jeremy Corbyn can ensure an even longer election period. If he dithers until Guy Fawkes Day before bringing a vote of no confidence, the earliest date for an election would be Friday 27 December.  In practice, it is unthinkable that the Prime Minister would choose that date, not least because a lot of Conservative voters might be out of the country on holiday. The following week would also be out of bounds, so the earliest practical date is Thursday 9 January (again, assuming the normal convention of holding an election on a Thursday is adhered to). He might even push it back another week. All this gives more time for Labour to move the conversation on from Brexit and onto more friendly terrain.

This all has obvious betting implications.  First, a November election looks unlikely. Even if Jeremy Corbyn plays ball with Boris Johnson’s plans – and it is not clear why he would – the timing looks wrong.  Even at the current price of Betfair of 9.2 or thereabouts, it still looks too short.

Secondly, a December election does not look especially likely. It needs both main parties to cooperate or for Boris Johnson to be desperate enough to risk the public’s wrath at the idea of a Christmas election. It doesn’t really look like the odds-on shot that the Betfair market makes it just now.

All of which means that there is also a lot of value on the “year of general election” market in laying 2019 at its current price of 1.56. You can see how a 2019 election could happen. But you really wouldn’t say that it is more likely than not. Bet accordingly.

Alastair Meeks


On the betting markets it’s now a 74% chance that a general election will happen BEFORE a UK exit from the EU

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

There are too many examples in political betting when favourites have not won to make the assertion that betting can be predictive. What historical trends do show, as in the above chart, is how those ready to risk their cash on the Betfair exchange are seeing things at a given moment.

As is reflected above over the past six months there have been periods when the money has been going on a UK exit happening first and when a general election is seen as more likely to take place.

At the moment the 74% favourite is that we’ll see an election first. That seems to take the view that there will be no crashing out of the EU without a deal at the end of the month.

The real challenge at the moment is that the executive cannot command a majority in parliament and there is always the possibility that the majority of MPs in the Commons will take control. Perhaps the only way of resolving this is through a general election something that Corbyn and not Johnson are now able to determine.


Mike Smithson



With 23 days to go punters make it a 21% chance that the UK will leave the EU this month

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

And another ex-CON MP joins the LDs

This is all getting very tight. A new working day starts and there are just 23 to go before the article 50 deadline comes into being with the UK either leaving the EU or a further extension is agreed to.

The above chart shows that the betting money on Betfair going on the UK not actually leaving on the due date. This is the busiest current UK political betting market and I expect to see a lot more activity in the days ahead.

An extension, of course, is something that the UK cannot insist on unilaterally. This will have to be agreed by the EU27 at their big meeting next week.

On the domestic front the fiercely anti-brexit Lib Dems see another prominent former Tory MP join their ranks. Heidi Allen, who sits for South Cambridgeshire, has been a key player in orchestrating the “Unite to Remain” effort and I assume some sort of deal has been done between her and Jo Swinson about whether she can stand in the seat at the coming general election.

This means that the Lib Dems are up to 19 MPs compared with the 11 they were on when Jo Swinson became leader only two-and-a-half months ago. I wonder whether she might be joined in the coming days by some of the other ex-CON MPds who were booted out of the parliamentary party on the orders of Cummings/Johnson.

I’m asking the bookies to put up a market on what the size of the parliamentary LD party will be on Halloween.

Mike Smithson


Free Money & Stupid Odds

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Looking at the Betfair WH2020 markets

Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. Remember her? Failed Presidential candidate last time around, not standing this time. Would lose, badly, if she had stood.

What is the right price for a non-candidate three months from the first Primaries of the 2020 election campaign? 500-1? I guess you could make a case for 250-1 in the event that, say, it was a contested convention, and all the other potential Democratic candidates had just been arrested for shoplifting Make America Great Again merchandise. But otherwise?

Hillary Clinton is currently third favourite for the Democratic nomination on Betfair at 14.5.

She is one tenth of the price of Amy Kloubachar, who is – you know – actually running and in the debates, and in one poll last month was just a point behind Bernie Sanders in Iowa. Now is Amy likely to win? Nope. But there is actually a credible path to the Nomination for her. (You know: Biden stumbles due to Ukraine, moderate woman with good support in Iowa does OK in the debates, and then comes second in Iowa. Suddenly she’s duking it out with Warren in the Primaries.)

But Hillary, Hillary, Hillary. In just four months she’ll have zero delegates, and there will be a clear front runner. There’s no way she’ll be 14.5 then – more like 250. (As in, you don’t need to lock up your money for a year, only four months.) Fill your boots.

There are other ridiculous prices. See President Trump is currently 1.25 to be the next Republican nominee. (Bet £1… win 25p if he’s the nominee.) Sounds about right to me (perhaps a tiny bit generous)… The price implies there’s a one-in-four chance that the current impeachment hearings come to something or he has some kind of health issue.

But then there’s the Vice President: Mike Pence. Now, no-one is going to claim he’s the most incredible performer on the campaign trail. But in the event that President Trump decides impeachment is not looking good, or Trump gets floored by a heart attack, then who’s stepping in? That would be Vice President Pence. If Trump steps down, it’s not going to be in the context of a traditional contested Primary season, it’s going to be in a chaotic handover to the Vice President, and the RNC is going to be directly choosing the next nominee. Which will be – yes – Mike Pence.

So, let’s assume that there a 25% chance of Trump not being the nominee. The only reasonable circumstance where Pence does not take over is if he’s as implicated in Ukraine as Trump is. So, let’s be generous. Let’s say that in the event of Trump stepping down then it’s only a 50% chance that Pence is the candidate. That means he should be about 9 for the nomination and say 20 for the Presidency.

His odds are currently 17 and 60. The second of these two (which includes any situation where Trump steps down between nomination and inauguration) is an absolute bargain: fill your boots.

Robert Smithson


My 500/1 tip might just turn out be a winner

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

This morning’s Sunday Times is reporting

John Bercow has been proposed for the role of Britain’s caretaker prime minister, as opposition parties plot to sidestep Jeremy Corbyn and form a “government of national unity” composed entirely of prominent backbenchers.

The Commons Speaker has emerged as the new favourite in the race to take over from Boris Johnson if opposition parties succeed in ousting the prime minister with a vote of no confidence.

Bercow would lead a “cabinet of all the talents” made up of backbenchers and MPs leaving parliament at the next election, under plans floated by opposition parties last week.

The idea has been proposed as a way to avoid a clash with the Labour leader, who has insisted that only he can lead a caretaker government despite not having the support of other opposition parties.

One source familiar with the idea said: “If none of the opposition party leaders are given roles in the cabinet, then it should allay Corbyn’s fears that his authority will drain away if he does not become caretaker prime minister.”

The proposal is for the cabinet to be made up entirely of “clean skins” — MPs unrestricted by party loyalty — who can work together in the “national interest” rather than “narrow partisan interests”, according to another source.

“MPs who are standing down will also be able to rise above their own self-interest because they will not be seeking re-election, meaning they will be able to put the country before their own parties,” the source added.

Some of those MPs expected to be called on to serve include Ken Clarke and Sir Oliver Letwin.

Sir Vince Cable has told friends he would be prepared to join such a cabinet amid speculation that he is eyeing up the job of chancellor.

This story is great news for anyone who followed my tip in August where I thought Bercow might well be the successor to Boris Johnson.

Bercow is currently 33/1 with Ladbrokes to succeed Boris Johnson, whether that’s value is up to to the reader, I’m probably leaning against. However with Boris Johnson prepared to break all sorts of conventions to remain PM and deliver a No Deal Brexit on Halloween, including further embarrassing Her Majesty by daring her to sack him.

I never expected to read sentences like ‘One senior figure said: “Unless the police turn up at the doors of 10 Downing Street with a warrant for the prime minister’s arrest, [Boris Johnson] won’t be leaving.”’

Those opposed to Project Fear becoming Project Reality might have to take similar extraordinary steps, Speaker Bercow becoming Prime Minister might just be one of those steps.



Will Dominic Cummings still be senior adviser to Boris Johnson on New Year’s Day?

Sunday, October 6th, 2019

Will the PM have more Cummings or goings?

This market by Paddy Power on Boris Johnson’s adviser Dominic Cummings should attract a lot of attention given the prominence of Mr Cummings and his publicity shy nature that can only be rivalled by Paddy Power.

It is understandable why No is favourite in this market, during the summer it was reported that

Mr Cummings also suggested that he may leave his role after Britain exits the European Union on October 31. He postponed an operation that required general anaesthetic after being asked by Mr Johnson to work at No 10. He is due to have the operation in November. “Who knows if I will be back,” he said.

I suspect Dominic Cummings would like to add a (landslide) general election victory to his résumé to go alongside his role in winning the 2016 referendum. With the Benn Act being enacted I think that will see Cummings remain Boris Johnson’s senior adviser until Brexit actually happens. So that makes me think the value lies with Yes.

The main risk to this bet is the wording and if Boris Johnson brings in someone else with the title of say ‘principal adviser’ whilst keeping Cummings in his current role. Arguing semantics is always fun.



In the year of general election betting punters continue to make 2019 odds on favourite but not the near certainty that it was

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Chart by

We are now in October and we know that the law lays down that there has to be 25 working days between an election being called and polling day so if one is to take place this year the options are running out.

This month sees, of course, the Article 50 deadline and the court case in Scotland that seeks to ensure that a letter seeking an extension under the Benn act is actually sent if Johnson is not minded to do it himself.

We’ve also got the “no ifs no buts” assertions by the PM that the UK is going to leave by Halloween. Current strategy appears to be to ensure that it is not Johnson who gets the blame if the deadline is not reached.

We have also got the key EU meeting coming up when its response to the Johnson/Cummings “deal” will be known.

On the election timing Johnson has the big problem that he doesn’t have the MP numbers to put it through on his own and will have to rely on LAB which has made clear that avoiding no deal at the end of the month is the key priority.

There’s also the possibility that at any time Corbyn could table a no confidence motion in the prescribed form laid down by the FTPA and as things stand at the moment this would carry on the required simple majority. Then there would be 14 days for a new government to be formed which had the confidence of the house or, failing that, a general election.

Meanwhile John Rentoul in the Indy is speculating on what agovernment of national unity might look like.

My betting position continues to be that there will be no 2019 general election.

Mike Smithson


Punters rate Johnson’s chances of taking the UK out of the EU by the end of the month at 26%

Friday, October 4th, 2019

But read the detailed betting rules

The big Brexit betting market as seen above in the chart is whether Johnson will achieve his objective of an October 31st exit as per the Article 50 deadline.

Like in all political bets it is important to read Betfair’s  detailed rules of the market which in this case are:

For the purposes of this market leaving the EU is defined as the date when the treaties of the EU cease to apply to the UK. Examples of when this might occur include, but are not limited, to: the date specified in a withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU; the end of the negotiating period as set out by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (or any extension to this time period); or the date of the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act. If more than one of these events were to occur, this market will be settled on the first of these events to occur. In the case of Article 50 being extended past 31/10/19, via a unanimous vote by all EU Member States, we will settle this market based on the extended date. This market will settle when the UK leaves the EU even if parts of the UK (e.g. Scotland, Northern Ireland) leave the UK or receive special status within the EU.”

So if the Benn act became operative and the PM’s letter was sent and accepted then NO would be the winner. The critical element is whether “treaties of the EU cease to apply to the UK”.

A lot depends on the European Council and we’ll get a clearer idea after that meeting and the PM’s response.

My reading, and I stand to be corrected,  is that if an exit is agreed and a transitional period is put in place then the Treaties of the EU would still apply and NO should still win.

This is the current busiest UK political betting market and we can expect a lot of movement in the coming days.

Mike Smithson