Archive for the 'Betting' Category


Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for May

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Poor Mrs May, will she even make it as one year as Prime Minister? Meanwhile in Lib Dem news



Picking the nation’s leader. Why the Conservatives are running out of options

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

We’ve been here before. For the second time in less than a year, the Conservatives are on the brink of replacing a leader between elections while in power. Yet right now they are in such a tizz, they aren’t considering some of the critical considerations that such a responsibility entails.

If the Conservatives replace Theresa May, they are not just choosing a new leader for themselves but the nation’s Prime Minister. They will find it unusually difficult to justify replacing Theresa May and remaining in office without a further election. The recent election was fought by them almost exclusively on her merits, to the point that the party’s name was almost invisible on much of the campaign’s literature. Two weeks have not yet passed since the general election and if the nation were to have an entirely different proposition imposed on it for the next five years, voters might reasonably conclude that the government lacked any mandate.

That probably won’t bite in the short term. If we can believe anything in the polls any more, it is that the public have definitively lost faith in Theresa May for now. Any replacement will be accepted as the lesser of two evils. But he or she is going to need to be capable of being presented as a continuity candidate (without the identified leadership flaws) for that.

The Conservatives cannot put forward someone without the credentials to fulfil that role, especially with the Brexit negotiations imminent. If they were to choose anyone with inadequate experience would definitely be placing party or ideology before country.

They would also be breaking a long-established practice when replacing Prime Ministers between elections. As I noted last summer, every internal replacement of an incumbent Prime Minister since the Second World War until that point had been either a former Foreign Secretary or a former Chancellor of the Exchequer or both. James Callaghan managed the full set, having previously been Home Secretary as well. The last Prime Minister to replace the incumbent – other than through an election – who had not previously held one of those roles was Balfour, and he was the last man to hold the title of First Lord of the Treasury without being Prime Minister, during his uncle’s ministry. Theresa May had been a very experienced Home Secretary and so she met the experience threshold as well.

Of the names being seriously floated to replace Theresa May, only Philip Hammond really has sufficient experience to be presented as oven-ready. At a push, you might make the case for Boris Johnson or Amber Rudd, though 11 months’ experience in a great office of state where neither has exactly sparkled isn’t exactly compelling. David Davis looks to be the wrong side of the line to me – even if you treat his role in Brexit negotiations as equivalent to a great office of state, the role hasn’t really got going yet.

Some of the names being wishfully floated are ludicrous. Not only is Ruth Davidson entirely lacking in ministerial experience, she isn’t even an MP. The silliest suggestion so far (in a crowded field) was Isabel Oakeshott floating Graham Brady’s name – not only does he not have a jot of ministerial experience, he would struggle to be recognised outside his own front room. But he’s “sound” on Brexit, so that’s alright.

The Conservatives have been in power continuously for seven years, but when it comes to ministers experienced at the highest level, their cupboard is bare. It seems to me that the Conservatives have three options consistent with their responsibilities to the nation: they can struggle on with Theresa May; they can replace her with Philip Hammond; or they can go into voluntary opposition and pick someone else. Anything else would be an insult to democracy.

Alastair Meeks


The first leader out betting. (Also known as how much the world has changed in the last ten days)

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Corbyn is set to see off his second Tory Prime Minster in just his first two years as Labour leader.

Paddy Power have a market up on who will resign first, Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn, judging by the reports in today’s papers that 1/12 looks like value, though I’m not backing it, given the other side of the bet is 6/1.

In an extraordinarily well sourced piece, Tim Shipman of The Sunday Times writes that after Mrs May’s response to the tragic events at Grenfall Towers (and in stark contrast to the response of Her Majesty The Queen)

[Tory] MPs warned there had been a collective collapse of trust in May’s leadership, and a cabinet minister told friends he was “worried about her state of mind”. Another minister close to May said: “She had better stop feeling sorry for herself, pull up her socks and start to lead — and if she can’t do that she should go. Shape up or ship out.”

Tory sources said there was a mood to “do an IDS” on May, meaning to force a vote of no confidence to oust her, as happened to Iain Duncan Smith in 2003; 48 MPs would need to demand a vote.

One senior backbencher said he was under pressure to join in: “I’ve got serious members in my constituency texting me saying: ‘You’ve got to get rid of her quickly because every time she appears she’s making the party more toxic’.”

Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, issued a coded call for May to change or go. She said the public wanted “a leader and a party that will carry us through this most turbulent of periods but care about the little man at the same time . . . We have to change, and if we don’t we deserve to die.”

A former minister added: “She’s going to have to go sooner rather than later. The critical moment is June 28 and 29 when there are votes on the Queen’s speech. If it looks like they will be lost, you have to strike.”

The Sunday Times and other papers also note some Leavers in the Tory party are also planning on toppling Mrs May if she doesn’t deliver a hard Brexit, though it probably bodes well for her that these Leavers don’t know the rules about how to topple a Tory leader, as they seem to be unaware the Tory leadership rules were changed in the late 1990s and a stalking horse challenge is no longer an option.

But back to the betting front, ten days ago, a similar market would have likely seen the odds in reverse, which shows a few weeks or ten days is a long time in Parliament. For those who think the outcome of the next election is already set in stone, this should be a salutary warning. There’s roughly 250 weeks until the next general election, the political pendulum can swing in any direction very quickly.



The pressure ratchets up on beleaguered Theresa

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

Devastating from ex-CON MP Matthew Paris

Today’s Times

If she can survive this she can survive anything

As a general rule the best bet when all the clamour is for someone to quit is to gamble that they’ll stay in post.

Never underestimate the resilience of those who’ve climbed to be the top of the greasy poll of politics. They wouldn’t be there if their first thought was to quit when the going gets tough.

We saw this last weekend when TMay resolutely stayed in post on spite of being the sole architect of the disastrous Tory outcome at the general election. To go into an election three years early when she already had a majority was an incredible misjudgement.

We all know what happened. She went to the 1922 Committee and told them that she was the one who’d got the party into this situation and would be the one to get them out.

Extraordinarily Tory MPs believed her and showed their acclamation in the usual fashion.

Then along came the London tower block disaster and her response raised the questions about her that some had highlighted it in the campaign.

Is she going to survive and remain at Number 10? It is getting hard seeing her do it.

Mike Smithson


Now the speculation is that these could be TMay’s final days as PM

Friday, June 16th, 2017

This is a frenzied and volatile period in Britain politics and inevitably questions are being raised about TMay’s future. Next week sees the start of the BREXIT negotiations with the EU and, of course, TMay’s first big parliamentary test – the Queen’s Speech when her government’s legislative programme is announced by the monarch and later voted on by MPs.

Alongside all of this we now have tragic fire at Grenfell Tower and a wave of criticism of TMay for her reaction to it. This magnified what many are saying is a big problem – the fact that she appears so ill at ease when meeting and talking with ordinary people.

One of the striking things about the Tory party is how ruthless it can be in disposing of failing leaders. I wonder whether we are about to see a repetition of October 2003 when IDS lost a confidence motion vote amongst MPs and, almost seamlessly, Michael Howard being the only candidate in the leadership election that followed.

If a similar thing was to happen my guess is that either Phillip Hammond or David Davis would be seen as the safe pair of hands.

Whatever things need to happen fast given what’s on the agenda for next week.

Mike Smithson


Playing it long. When will this Parliament end?

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

A look at when the next election might take place

Clearly we haven’t had enough elections recently.  In the last three years we’ve been treated to the Scottish independence referendum, the May 2015 general election, the EU referendum and the June 2017 general election.  I’d have thought that would be enough for even the most assiduous voter, but YouGov have found that by 43:38 the public want to have another general election.  You have to applaud their civic-mindedness.  Either that, or they fancy another betting opportunity.

Everyone seems to be agreed that even if Theresa May cobbles together a deal with the DUP, the whole thing will be highly unstable and liable to come crashing down at any minute.  The only question that most people are considering is whether the government will collapse immediately or later this autumn or whether it will stagger on into next year.  Memories of the mid-1990s are strong.  Others recall that the February 1974 election resulted in a repeat within 8 months.

As is so often the case, everyone is probably wrong.  The centripetal forces holding the incoming government together are stronger than are generally understood.  How so?  Well, there are five relevant considerations:

1) Unlike February 1974 which resulted in an extremely well-hung Parliament, the Conservatives have very nearly got an overall majority.  For now they seem to have secured the support of the DUP.  As the numbers currently stack up, however, they only need to secure the abstention of any one of the DUP, the SNP and the Lib Dems.  If the DUP start playing silly buggers, the Conservatives have options.

2) Following on from this, in order for there to be an early election, there needs to be a majority in the House of Commons that is willing to vote as necessary to produce one.  Given recent experience, the Conservatives are going to be very wary indeed of seeking an early election even if they rack up astonishing leads in the opinion polls.  More likely, if they are the party of government they can expect to fall behind Labour in the polls (they may already have done so) and to stay behind for long periods of this Parliament given their very challenging task of negotiating Brexit.  Turkeys don’t normally vote for Christmas.  The SNP also seem to be staring down the barrel of a gun.  Unless their poll ratings recover markedly, they look set to lose many more seats at the next election simply because those voters who wish to defend the union now have a clear route map which party to back in most constituencies.  So there looks likely to be an enduring majority opposed to an early election, with or without the DUP.

3) Conservative discipline is likely to hold far better than in the mid-1990s.  This is less out of respect for the Conservative leadership and more out of genuine loathing of the Labour leadership and belief that they must be shut out of government.  Brexit compromises will be internally rationalised on the basis that Brexit is happening, albeit in imperfect form.

4) Defections, uncommon in any event, are unlikely.  The political distance between the parties is the greatest that it has been since the early 1980s.

5) By-elections are much rarer than in the past.  In the 2015-17 Parliament, there were just ten.  Only three of these followed the death of an MP and all three were Labour MPs.  In the 2010-15 Parliament, there were 21 by-elections and six of these followed the death of an MP and again all six were Labour MPs.  With fewer Conservative MPs continuing in harness into their 70s than in the past, we should not expect many enforced by-elections.  We can expect the Conservative hierarchy to take great pains to avoid optional by-elections if they possibly can.  Even if the government were to lose every by-election that it defended, we might see an attrition rate for them of just 1 or 2 MPs a year.  That could easily see the Conservatives to the end of the term.

So I expect to see the new Parliament be much more enduring than is commonly thought.  I am not alone in this belief.  Baron Nicholas Macpherson, who was Permanent Secretary to the Treasury until last year, has tweeted that he expects this Parliament to go the distance.  Betfair has two different markets (“Will there be a second election this year?” and “Year of next UK Election”?) and you can lay 2017 at less than 3/1 on either of these markets.  If – as now seems to be the case – the Conservatives can reach a workable deal with the DUP, these odds are way out of kilter with reality.   I’m on.

Alastair Meeks


The 2017 general election: The most profitable general election ever for the bookies

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Matthew Shaddick (Shadsy) of Ladbrokes on how the bookies did at the 2017 general election.

I can only speak confidently for Ladbrokes (and Corals!) but the 2017 general election was almost certainly the most profitable in history for UK bookies. After the bloodbath of a Tory majority in 2015, we managed to win most of that back with the result on Thursday.

Essentially, a hung parliament with the Tories remaining as the largest party and in government was our optimal result. If I were being greedy, I would have preferred to move a few seats out of the Labour column and into the Lib Dem totals, but otherwise it worked out as well as we could have hoped.

Any result with Labour as the largest party or one which ended up with Corbyn as PM was likely to be a disaster for the bookies, as a huge gamble from the betting shop/recreational punters of the world had swamped the “shrewder” money on various forms of Tory majority betting. Getting a hung parliament was a bit like a big football match ending in a draw – almost always a good result for us guys.

Still, there were some big winners – Labour getting over 40% of the GB vote was a 50/1 shot at the start of the campaign. Likewise, a few shrewdies managed to get 50/1 about Labour unseating Clegg in Sheffield Hallam. In fact, constituency betting as a whole was a very expensive exercise for us. It’s something we more or less expect to lose money on, but it was just impossible to keep up with the relentless shortening of Labour odds across the board.

Shout out to Betfair/Paddy Power who managed to get a full list of seat betting out very quickly and seemed to have a pretty up-to-date set of prices throughout. I’d be surprised if it stopped them losing quite a bit of cash on those though. At Ladbrokes, we simply didn’t have the time to price up and maintain all 650 seats which, in retrospect, probably saved us a lot of money; not having odds for the likes of Canterbury, Ipswich and some of the unlikely looking Labour gains in Scotland was almost certainly a good thing from our point of view.

Elsewhere, some prominent odds-makers seemed to have some horrendously out-of date constituency odds up most of the time and I can only assume they will have lost a large chunk of any no overall majority winnings on the seat markets. If we have another general election anytime soon, I expect we’ll all be staring very carefully at the incredibly successful YouGov model. Well done to those guys, hope they made a few quid!

Matthew Shaddick (Shadsy) is Head of Political Odds at Ladbrokes


Ideas, events and people. What the Conservatives need to do next

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Theresa May is under enormous pressure following her failure to win an overall majority.  Straw-laden pitchforks are being doused with petrol, the pearl-handled revolver is being polished.  She cannot continue, it is being said. She’s lost all her authority, anonymous briefings growl.  The question that exercises many is whether she should go at once or later.  Different names are being touted as her replacement (one suspects by the would-be replacements).

The Conservatives are repeating their mistakes from the election campaign.  They spent the entire campaign based on personality politics, presenting Theresa May as Prime Ministerial and attacking Jeremy Corbyn for his past unsavoury connections, with only terrorist attacks intruding to draw them up to the level of discussing events.  Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn spent the campaign discussing his ideas.

The Conservatives need to pause.  Right now, the personal isn’t the important political.  They need to think.   Let’s look at the ideas that they should be thinking about.

First, obviously, the Conservatives no longer have an overall majority.  That means that the nature of government is going to change radically.  A week ago, the Conservatives had hoped for an overall majority where the wishes of all bar a few in the inner circle could be disregarded.  Not only has that hope been dashed, policy discussions are no longer solely an internal Conservative party affair.

Secondly, the Conservatives are stuck in government.  No one else can conceivably govern on the current numbers.  So the Conservatives have to decide whether they are going to work together or work to undermine each other.  I would recommend Option A in any case but if some Conservatives are inclined to plot, they should consider how willing they are to see Jeremy Corbyn in power, which would be the inevitable consequence of internecine strife.  My sense is that the loathing for Jeremy Corbyn is unfeigned.   So they should cooperate.

Thirdly, they need to accept that means that no one is going to get things all or even mostly their own way on any subject, least of all Brexit.  Open-door immigration is out of the question.  But so are some of the weirder hard Brexit obsessions.

What this points to is a Prime Minister who is effectively able to manage all of the Conservative factions and to reach out to those outside the party to form alliances as necessary.  Their personal authority is less important than their ability to manage shifting groups and to sell compromises to them.

Right now there are a lot of Conservatives who are very angry with Theresa May.  I don’t blame them.  But who have they got available who would be better at that task?  The obvious name, David Cameron, has retired.  Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are deeply and rightly distrusted by many.  For that matter, so is George Osborne.  Amber Rudd, maybe, but she has the misfortune of a tiny majority which would probably be too distracting in an election campaign.  David Davis is much-touted but is temperamentally a lone wolf and what is required is a leader of a pack.  Philip Hammond is a better possibility, though the distrust that some on the right feel towards him from his Chancellorship is not an asset.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the right person for the job might well be the person who currently occupies it.  Ten days ago I speculated that if the election resulted in a hung Parliament: “The Conservatives might very well find themselves stuck with a leader levitating at the top of the party without any means of support.” Rather than take out their anger on Theresa May, Conservatives should consider what the job of Prime Minister will require in the next few years.  I’m not sure that any replacement is likely to be an improvement.  

Alastair Meeks