Archive for the 'Betting' Category


Being realistic on the prospects for Lib Dem gains

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Alastair Meeks takes a hard look

The Lib Dems’ emblem is the liberty bird.  In 2015, it was put on the critically endangered list, found only in eight locations where volunteers toiled night and day to protect it from poachers.  Pundits, including me, gloomily pondered whether extinction was on the cards.

It’s a compelling case study how climate change is not necessarily bad for everyone.  In the wake of Brexit, the Lib Dems have found a new purpose as the party of ultra-Remain.  It has gained vote share in every Parliamentary by-election held since the referendum that it has contested.  Following the announcement of a snap general election, former MPs who had previously retired from politics, like Vince Cable and Stephen Lloyd, have deretired in an attempt to win back their seats.  Hopes are high of substantial gains.

The bookies have by and large bought this story.  The current midpoints of their seat counts range between 26.5 and 29.5 (with prices at 5/6 on offer over or under the set midpoints).  Given that the Lib Dems currently only hold 9 seats, this implies a major bounceback.  Is this right?

Bluntly, I don’t think it is.  You can look at this lots of different ways and none of them stack up.

Let’s look at this first by swing.  Here are the Lib Dems’ top 100 targets organised by swing.  They pick up 18 seats if they get a 6% swing to themselves in these seats.  But at present the Lib Dems are suffering an adverse national swing to the Conservatives of 2% or so if the polls are to be believed, and 11 of those 18 seats are Conservative-held.   There are going to need to be some major special factors to buck the national swing to that extent (I’ll come back to Brexit, don’t worry) – or other gains from other parties.  But there simply aren’t that many targets within reach on a uniform swing from other parties.  The Lib Dems would need a 7.5% swing to them from the SNP to pick up six seats and an 8% swing to them from Labour to pick up six seats.  In the absence of any national swing in Scotland from the SNP to the Lib Dems, they’re going to need some serious unionist tactical voting.

What special factors might there be?  Two are usually mentioned in relation to the Lib Dems.  First, their indefatigable local campaigning, effectively treating each constituency as a by-election.  And secondly, Brexit.

Let’s deal with Brexit first.  The line of argument goes that 48% of the public voted for Remain.  No one else is going into bat for the Remainers, so the Lib Dem ratings can soar from the 8% that they tallied in 2015.  There’s only one problem with this line of argument: not that many people seem to be ready to vote just on Brexit.  In ICM’s poll conducted immediately in the wake of the election announcement, just 17% said that it was a second referendum by proxy, with 67% treating it as a normal general election.  Of course, a substantial number of that 17% will be wishing to underscore the need to Leave, and they will not assist the Lib Dems one little bit.

Roughly 95 constituencies voted Remain by more than 60%.  But very few are the Conservative/Lib Dem marginals and semi-marginals that the Lib Dems would need to build up a head of steam in if they are to start making substantial gains.

As for the Lib Dems’ indefatigable local campaigning, clearly that has got better in the last year – both local and Parliamentary by-elections show that.  But the main two parties have got wise to the Lib Dems’ approach and are using it themselves.  At the 2015 election, the Conservatives took a very localist approach in their campaigning and reaped the rewards.  Their new MPs will have been building up incumbency ever since.  They will not be pushovers.

Is it possible that the Lib Dems might catch the zeitgeist and we might see Farronmania at some point? Possible, but unlikely.  25 seats looks very stretching indeed – the Lib Dems should be very happy if they get to 20 seats.  So I recommend that you do as I do, and take the “under” side of the bet on the Lib Dem seats wherever you can find it.  To me it looks like a very good bet indeed.

Alastair Meeks


Momentum’s cunning plan to change the narrative about LAB’s chances

Thursday, April 20th, 2017


The French Presidential polls edge back a touch to Macron who is now odds-on in the betting once again

Thursday, April 20th, 2017


Tuesday’s shock announcement by Mrs May that there is to be an early UK General Election has rather overshadowed events in France where the country’s presidential election takes place on Sunday.

In political betting terms this overshadows the British General Election period with over the past week £1.4m being matched on Betfair alone.

Sunday sees the first round and if none of the candidates secures 50% of the votes cast, which is highly likely, then there will be a second election two weeks later. That will just be runoff of the top two.

Macron backers must be assured that his polling numbers have edged up as we have got closer to the big day. Le Pen is staying fairly constant which is 3 of 4 points below her high point.

With the top 4 running so close together it is hard to predict the final two with a degree of certainty.

Mike Smithson


No one knows anything. What to do if/when Mrs May wins today’s vote

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

In 2011, Ruth Ellen Brosseau was a bartender in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.  Some of her regulars were political activists for the New Democratic Party and when the federal election was looming, they twisted her arm to stand as a paper candidate in a no-hoper constituency in a heavily French-speaking area of Quebec.  She didn’t campaign (just as well, since her French wasn’t very good), she didn’t even visit the constituency.  During the election campaign she went on holiday in Vegas.

2011 was a breakthrough election for the New Democratic Party in Canada.  They supplanted the Liberals as the main opposition, taking 103 seats when they had previously held only 36.  Among those 103 MPs was a very surprised Ms Brosseau.

The 2017 general election in Britain also looks likely to be a mould-breaker.  The Conservatives currently look set to make sweeping gains. If so, uniform national swing (UNS) is going to be of limited value.  It works well when considering smallish movements in the polls.  The bigger the swings, the more unevenly distributed those swings will be.  In 2015, the swing from Labour to the SNP in Scotland was 23.9%, but the swing to the SNP reached 39.3% in Glasgow North East (and only 10.9% in Edinburgh South, which Labour held onto).

Even smaller swings are usually unevenly distributed. In 2015, Labour obtained a 0.4% swing from the Conservatives, but this concealed substantial variations – the Conservatives obtained a 3.9% swing towards themselves in Vale of Clwyd, while Labour benefited from a 6.4% swing in Ilford North.

As at 18 April, when Theresa May announced the election, three different polls found that the Conservatives had a 21% lead over Labour, representing a 7.5% swing from Labour to the Conservatives (though separately Opinium found only a 9% lead).  If that projected 7.5% swing to the Conservatives is replicated at the general election, we might easily see some seats with no swing to the Conservatives and others with a 15% swing.

Overlaying that, the EU referendum has upended previous loyalties.  The Prime Minister is seeking a mandate to deliver Brexit and the Lib Dems are seeking votes from opposing it.  Labour is seeking a policy on it.  It is likely that this will make the effects in different constituencies lumpier than usual, as some voters switch allegiances in order to back the party they judge will best deliver their preferred referendum outcome.

So the election will be wild.  The most obvious consequence is that no one will really be clear which seats are in play and which seats are foregone conclusions.  With the sort of leads that the Conservatives are enjoying, they will be looking to take seats in which their party membership is not strong and where they will not have the intensively-gathered information that they have accumulated in the seats vital for gaining power.

Meanwhile Labour need to decide where to try to construct a firewall.  A 7.5% adverse swing sees Labour lose 67 seats to the Conservatives.  Labour could not sensibly seek to defend all of these (and would be daft to try on current polling).  They will need to focus their efforts.

But they will also need to keep an eye on seats that fall to a greater than 7.5% swing.  135 Labour seats are vulnerable to a 15% swing to the Conservatives (some of these are vulnerable to other parties on smaller swings as well) and, as I note above, if some seats have a less than average swing, others will see a greater than average swing.

I haven’t begun to talk about the Conservative-held seats that Labour should be taking aim at.  Right now, those don’t look like a priority.

The risk in these circumstances is always that the defensive party is too optimistic.  It does Labour no good to keep the adverse swing down to 6% if the Conservatives only need a 3% swing to take a seat.  Meanwhile, if a seat that is safe up to an 8% swing gets a 10% swing, that’s two seats lost where one might have been saved.  But it is very hard to tell a sitting MP that he or she is not going to be supported. 

The Lib Dems were nearly wiped out in 2015 because they were too optimistic in such circumstances, despite being pretty disciplined about these calculations.  This stuff is hard, emotionally but also strategically. 

So Labour have some excruciating decisions to make about prioritising.  With a membership of hundreds of thousands, they have the troops to mount a campaign but they need to deploy them effectively.  This is going to take detached judgement, ruthlessness, discipline, focus and unity.  These are not qualities that Labour are currently noted for.  I expect Labour will either be far too optimistic or, perhaps more likely, that it will never get as far as drawing up a defensive strategy and leaving every constituency for itself.

My expectation, therefore, is that Labour will probably do significantly worse than uniform national swing suggests, as they fail to keep the seats that they are actively defending and see greater than average swings in some seats that they haven’t actively defended that could have been saved.  As to which seats those are, I don’t know either.  No one knows anything.

Alastair Meeks


If Macron makes it to the final two then surely he’s the next President of France

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

Latest Macron-Le Pen polling

Latest Macron-Fillon polling

Latest Macron-Melenchon polling

The above tables from the excellent Wikipedia round up of French polls tell a consistent story – whoever of those closest on the first round ends up fighting Macron then the young independent looks set to be the winner.

Melenchon is the only one of the serious contenders who consistently gets into the 40s in hypothetical match-ups against Macron. Fillon fares worst with Le Pen in the middle.

    The big question is whether Macron’s performance in the first round on Sunday can match his polling.

Because he does not come from one of the traditional parties he cannot rely on a well-honed party machine to get the vote out – something that could be crucial.

Last time the turnout levels were very similar in both rounds.

Macron is still the favourite but he’s no longer the 65%+ chance that he was a month ago.

Mike Smithson


Fillon moves to second favourite in the French race after new poll has him within a point of Le Pen

Monday, April 17th, 2017

The battle for France is a four horse race


If you fancy a 16% return in just over eight months, this might be the bet for you

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

William Hill have a market up on whether John Bercow will be Speaker until 2018. Ordinarily I’m not in favour of backing 1/6 shots, but given that the much hyped attempt by Tory MP James Dudderidge to topple Speaker Bercow turned out to be a bit Spursy* as only five MPs sign motion of no confidence in John Bercow.

From that I can conclude there’s no appetite, let alone a majority, in The Commons to topple John Bercow, so I’d expect him to stand down at a time of his own choosing probably either in 2019 or 2020 to coincide with the general election. With base rates at 0.25%, a 16% return in little over 8 months looks great.


*In 2016, The Oxford University Press has announced that the word ‘Spursy’ will be included in the ever popular Oxford English Dictionary from this year.

The term, which means to constantly fail living up to expectations, was invented by Tottenham Hotspur fans who had grown tired of watching their team unceasingly collapse at the first sign of pressure, and will now officially enter the English lexicon with the latest release of the English language’s lexicon of record.


The latest French Presidential betting has Marine Le Pen with an 87% chance of making it to the final two

Friday, April 14th, 2017

But who will join her?

With the French presidential election moving into the final two weeks I thought it might be useful to look at the betting by concentrating on who will make it to the final two. That runoff election takes places a fortnight later on the Sunday after British locals.

There are lively betting markets on the first round of the election and I have taken the latest chances based on the Betfair Exchange for my chart above. These are expressed as a percentage.

Le Pen who has seen a decline in her opinion poll ratings over the past month is still a very strong favourite to make it to the run off. Whether she can win that is very much another matter and the polls suggests she cannot.

The battle between the other three is very very tight and things are very much within the polling margins of error with barely 4 or 5 percentage points cover all four in the race

My concern on Macron is that he does not have the established party organisation behind him and that might be crucial in terms of getting out the vote.

Fillon, who many regarded as damaged goods following the revelations about payments to his wife, has continued to poll strongly and is still up there. Given that only 3 months ago he was the strong favourite to win the presidency we cannot discount him yet. Then, of course, there has been the remarkable move of the far left contender, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who has seen a transformation of his position following strong TV debate performances.

Mike Smithson