Archive for the 'CON Leadership' Category


The extraordinary comment on Russia by the DefSec and the man who TMay is said to want to succeed her

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Has Gavin Williamson (AKA “Private Pike”) blown it?

I’ve been in London all day and have only just viewed the above for myself – the comment from the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson that Russia should just “go away and shut up”. Apparently this wasn’t just a spur of the moment comment but one that he had drafted before.

It hardly seems the sort of language you would expect a minister in a senior position to make in the current situation and just gives ammunition to those CON MPs who are opposed to him.

His appointment to the job last November was highly controversial because he had no previous ministerial experience. His main claim to fame was his management of TMay’s leadership campaign in 2016.

He’s currently rated at about 25/1 to succeed Mrs. May. My guess is that will ease further out.

Mike Smithson


Moggy moves to his highest betting level yet for next CON leader following negative reaction to BoJo’s Brexit speech

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

You can get better odds on JRM as next PM

I’ve not bet on Moggy for next CON leader because I still don’t think that he’d get to the final membership ballot round of a leadership contest. As the chart show he’s now soared on the Betfair exchange.

The other big question mark is whether there will be an early contest and that is far from clear especially given current CON poll ratings and TMay’s huge resilience. She is still regarded by many within the party as the safest pair of hands.

There’ve also been some suggestions that Rees-Mogg’s Catholicism could be an issue in a leadership contest

If you want to bet on JRM then you can get better odds on him for next PM.

Mike Smithson


On the day of BoJo’s big Brexit speech the TMay successor betting edges further to an Etonian, but not the Foreign Secretary

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Moggy is still dazzling the markets

I had a thought before the Foreign Secretary’s big Brexit speech that there might be a case for putting a small amount on him on Betfair’s next Conservative leader market. Generally betting can respond to news coverage and clearly Mr Johnson is going to get a lot of that today.

Only problem, looking at the chart, is that what betting movement there has been has not gone to Mr Johnson but to Mr Rees-Mogg so I’ve probably saved myself a bob or two.

I still think that Moggy might struggle under the current Conservative leadership rules to make the final two which goes to the membership. He needs the support of enough fellow CON MPs to get to that stage and I thought that David Herdson’s analysis at the weekend had this right.

Of course, as we always say, Mrs May is still there and seeking to struggle on with her target being the next general election which is not due until 2022.

I’ve just got a feeling that there’ll always be a reason why the time will never be ripe for the party to get involved in what’s likely to be a divisive contest and she could survive.

Mike Smithson


None of the Above takes 44% lead in new CON leadership poll

Monday, February 12th, 2018

With a new week opening and Mrs Msy still there at number 10 there is a new poll out in the Independent on who voters think should be her successor.

The outcome is far from decisive for although Johnson has a lead he is 44% behind the number saying none of the above.

This really reflects the situation we have known since July the 9th after Theresa May failed to retain the Conservative majority in the general election. Her situation was then in real doubt but she has carried on because there is no clear alternative.

In many ways this is not surprising because the nature of her leadership since winning in July 2016 has been that it has all been about her. No other names within the party have been able to develop a significant profile for themselves excluding, perhaps, Jacob Rees Mogg who is not a minister.

She has also been careful with her cabinet not to promote others who perhaps could develop into bigger figures within the party if they were given the chance to evolve in a manner that gave them a lot of public exposure.

There is, however, little comfort for Mrs May elsewhere in the poll. More than half (51%) say they are dissatisfied with her leadership, with only 33% happy with her performance. Corbyn had 44% dissatisfied to 34% satisfied.

So the ongoing Tory leadership narrative trudges on.

Mike Smithson


If not May, then who?

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

Assessing the runners and riders of the next Tory leadership contest

Correctly identifying the next Conservative leader is a notoriously tricky task. While the golden rule is to lay the favourite – something which can accumulate good profits over a prolonged period – it’s still quite a cautious strategy. The more ambitious, but much more difficult, one is to try to back the winner.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible and now that the latest bout of speculation over a potential Vote of No Confidence in Theresa May’s leadership has subsided, it’s as good a time as any to try to do so. Before going there, however, two points: one on the timescale and one on the process.

The betting is that May will go this year (evens), with 2019 by far the next most favoured (9/4 – both Ladbrokes). I think that’s a little too weighted to this year. As I wrote last month, any change this year will be hugely disruptive to Brexit; the earliest clean change that can be made is in the summer of 2019. However, as we know, a VoNC could be triggered at any time by the threshold-reaching letter being sent – and it could be sent over just about anything at just about any time. A serious stumble or just a sense that ‘this can’t go on’ could precipitate an election much earlier.

Either way, the crucial point as far as the betting market is this: the election is overwhelmingly likely to be in the next 18 months. That means that there’s going to be little opportunity for people to rise through the ranks. Anyone currently outside the cabinet who fancies their chance will very probably have to fight from where they are now.

Who ends up winning is also very much influenced by the dynamics of the MPs’ votes, which itself is a factor of the overall field (something even harder, if not impossible, to predict). In particular, the nature of the penultimate round – when three candidates remain – will be crucial. A candidate with a sizable lead will look a clear favourite and will be treated as such by the media and, to an extent, politicians. To give an example, the 2005 election might have looked very different had Clarke beaten Fox for third place in the first vote. In that case, instead of the actual second round scores of

Cameron 90
Davis 57
Fox 51

The scores might have been

Davis 92
Cameron 62
Clarke 44

In that case, the momentum that Cameron had built up to that stage would have come clattering to a halt and Davis would have appeared the clear leader going into the members’ vote.

So this time. The contest, whether it comes before or after March 2019, will be dominated by Brexit, with the core Brexiteers reverting to their referendum rhetoric on one side and the ex-Remain pragmatists looking beyond the need to deliver Brexit to the need to not crash the economy while doing so. Here, ironically, if one wing is the stronger but not substantially so, that ‘divided vote dynamic’ could work against them – a final MPs’ round line-up of, say, Gove, Hunt and Boris could see Hunt hoover up enough transfers from the ex-Remain wing to finish comfortably first. By contrast, a line-up of Rees-Mogg, Rudd and Williamson would likely see the backbencher top the poll.

What then of the possible candidates?

To my mind, Rees-Mogg’s odds are absurdly short; a consequence of people wrong reading the Labour election across to the Tories’. For all the caricatures, the Tory membership is relatively pragmatic. Certainly it has an ideological edge (why else would people join) but it also elected Cameron ahead of David Davis in 2005, and – according to polling – would have backed May ahead of both Boris and Leadsom in 2016. There is no equivalent of the three-pound Corbynite. Similarly, those reading across from Rees-Mogg’s huge support in his bid for the Treasury Select Committee chairmanship, or his election to lead the European Research Group, to support for a full leadership bid are making a mistake. The roles and skills required are very different and MPs – whose jobs are on the line if they mess up a leadership contest – will recognise that. In addition, both his policy stance beyond Brexit and his life away from politics are likely to be limit his chances. It’s far from obvious that he would even stand but if he does, I’d expect him to be knocked out relatively early.

Of the other Brexiteers, Gove and Boris again remain best-placed to run. The shine has come off Boris a little since the referendum – government is hard work and he’s not a natural administrator – but come an election campaign, his star is likely to shine a little more brightly. In truth, it is Boris, not Rees-Mogg, who is closer to being the Tory Corbyn (albeit that Boris’s politics are more flexible). 8/1 (Ladbrokes) is about right.

And if Boris is the heart of Tory Brexit then Gove is the head. Hugely unpopular at Education – though effective in what he wanted to do – some would have that he’s reinvented himself at Justice and then Environment but in truth politicians are rarely easy to neatly pigeonhole as ‘right’ or ‘left’ and Gove is one such. After Theresa May’s problems with Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, Gove would likely be required by MPs to sign in blood that he wouldn’t invite Dominic Cummings into Number Ten before being assured of their support. There are plenty of reasons as to why Gove shouldn’t be elected but much the same can be said of the rest of the field (which is why May is where she is); however, no-one else is likely to go into the contest with such comprehensive policies and ideas across the board. The 12/1 Betway are offering is good value.

After those three, two ex-Remainers sit at 16/1. Amber Rudd has been relatively anonymous at the Home Office (though having an ex-Home Secretary as PM was always likely to make that the case), but she did reasonably enough in the general election. Her more vocal support for Remain in 2016 will probably be enough though to ensure her unelectability. By contrast, Jeremy Hunt remained quiet during the referendum and has since, like May, transitioned to backing the Will of the People. Tory leadership elections are often as much about who people are not as who they are and with so many big characters potentially in the race, it’s entirely possible that Hunt could literally come through the middle. The NHS’s capacity problems shouldn’t be a limiting factor: he will have no difficulty blaming the Treasury. His odds should be shorter.

Of those with odds in the 20s, Leadsom (22), and Davis and Davidson (25) should be written off. Leadsom showed her unsuitability last time; Davis is preoccupied with Brexit detail and in any case, his time, such as it was, as a future leader has now passed; while Davidson, not being an MP, isn’t eligible and is highly unlikely to become so.

The other two in that range – Dominic Raab and Gavin Williamson – shouldn’t be written off but I don’t think their odds offer value. The election is likely to come too early for the former, whereas the latter is being just a little too obvious in his actions, which is never well appreciated by colleagues.

Is there any value with the candidates at 33/1 or longer? That is, after all, where any number of future winners have come from, even at this relatively short timeframe. At the risk of looking foolish, I don’t think so. The fact is that the person who would traditionally have been the long-odds outsider is in fact currently favourite. It’s entirely possible that JRM’s prominence could wane rapidly following some badly-judged remark and, were that to happen, some other backbencher could become the new Voice of Pure Brexit. Identifying who that might be though is very much a game of chance – and with likely odds on request of no more than 125/1, not a very attractive one.

For someone to come from so far out, they have to light up the campaign with something new – hard enough in opposition, never mind government. Prior to May, every person for well over a century who became PM mid-term, outside of wartime had served immediately before as Chancellor, Foreign Secretary or the effective deputy PM. Even counting May, and others who didn’t become PM but could plausibly have done, the circle is traditionally confined to the senior roles in cabinet, for two good interrelated reasons. Firstly, that’s where the most effective politicians (however defined) are usually found: PMs are obliged to give big beasts big jobs; and secondly, those who choose the leaders require evidence of the candidates’ suitability, which is again most easily found in the big jobs. (Not that this evidence is fool-proof but it’s the best anyone has to go on). We discard this lengthy precedent at our peril.

The conclusion from all that? As things stand – and quite probably, as they will stand when the election comes, Gove, Hunt and Boris have the best chance of making the final three. If so, Hunt will have a structural advantage in the final MPs’ round but would be then up against someone with more ideas or more charisma in the run-off, which will be close. If were forced to make a prediction at this stage though, I’d have to say that ideas will win out.

David Herdson


What LAB has not factored in is that TMay’s successor will get a huge polling boost and won’t surely be as bad

Friday, February 9th, 2018

A new CON leader will be a very different proposition for Corbyn

The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush has an excellent piece linked to above on how the red team is viewing their little polling hiccup. It is staggeringly complacent with some in the party, apparently, believing that because some, though by no means all of the polls got GE17 wrong then the same could be happening again.

Certainly LAB was helped last year by the very long, seven week, election campaign which meant that the period under which the broadcasting balance rules prevailed was far longer than usual. That won’t happen in 2022. Even if the election is earlier the campaign period will be far far shorter.

    But there is one factor that nobody has mentioned and which could play a very big part. We must assume that the Tories will not going into the next election with Mrs May as the flag carrier. There will be a new leader and that leader’s great strength initially will be that he/she is not the failed Mrs May

Previous experience tells us that when prime minister’s are replaced midterm then their successor gets a big polling boost. It happened in 1990 and early 1991 when John Major took over from Mrs Thatcher who had seen a Tory polling collapse. He had one great thing on his side which stayed with him until GE1992 – he was not Maggie.

Another example is June 2007 when Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair. The first few months of his leadership were dominated by a dramatic recovery by Labour in the polls and leader ratings with Cameron looking as though he was a loser It seemed a breath of fresh air that the Prime Minister was no longer Blair and Brown was judged in a very different way. That ended, of course, with the election that never was in the October.

We also saw the same turnaround in the polls for the Tories when Mrs May took over in July 2016. For nearly a year she could do no wrong with her honeymoon polling boost continuing really up to General Election day and the exit poll coming out.

Prime ministers starting in these circumstances are judged against the person they are replacing which, given what we know about TMay, should be an easy challenge.

That, of course, might not last all the way until the general election but it could. Who knows how Brown would have done if he had not let early election speculation get out of hand in 2007?

Mike Smithson


Those from elite schools continue to dominate the betting to succeed state-educated Theresa

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

It is perhaps worth remembering that for a 40 year period, until David Cameron was elected, the Tories made a point of choosing as leaders those who were from more humble backgrounds. So general election winners Heath, Thatcher, and Major all went to state schools – the latter not even going to university.

How things look so differently now as we contemplate who will succeed TMay who went to what is now a comprehensive near Oxford.

Rees-Mogg and Johnson, first and second favourites in the betting, are old Etonians. Next one down, Amber Rudd was at Cheltenham Ladies College.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has a weird entry in his Wikipedia listing on his prep school.

“Living in Somerset he regularly commuted to his family’s second home in Smith Square, London where he also attended independent boys’ school Westminster Under School.”

So the Rees-Moggs were not ready to put their son into the Somerset schools.

Going down the betting Hunt was at Charterhouse before going to Magdalen Oxford.

Does this all matter? Well it certainly makes it harder for them to paint Remainers as being the “elite”. There is nothing more elite than going to Eton.

Mike Smithson


Moggy ousts Jezza as next PM betting favourite

Monday, February 5th, 2018

The father of 6 who has never changed a nappy now a 16% chance – Corbyn 14%

Over the weekend there has been a big change on the next prime minister betting market on Betfair. The long-standing favourite since the general election, Mr Corbyn, has now slipped to second place behind Jacob Rees-Mogg who is attracting a lot of betting support at the moment for both the CON leadership and the next occupant of Number 10.

Rees-Mogg has been the favourite for some time for next CON leader but it ha been quite amazing that Corbyn has retained his top betting slot for so long. It has been blindingly obvious that it is very difficult for Corbyn to be next prime minister before the next general election. There simply aren’t the MP numbers there on the Labour side and the Fixed Term Parliament Acts makes an early election much harder to achieve

The rise of Moggy, who has never even been a minister, and the talk of an imminent challenge to Mrs May has changed betting sentiment.

There is no doubt that he has the big momentum at the moment and he would surely prosper well with the elderly male oriented CON membership if he could garner the votes of enough CON MPs to make the final two.

At the moment there is no contest and Mrs May remains in place.

Mike Smithson