Archive for the ' General Election' Category


Why the bar that the Tories will have to surmount at the next election has just got higher

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

All the talk is of elections. This time we might actually see one. In a narrative that has strong echoes of 2017, the talk is all of the Conservatives holding large leads in the polls, remaking their coalition and sweeping all gloriously before them with a victory that will transform the electoral map.

Well, perhaps. It was Marx who first suggested that when history repeats itself, the first time is tragedy and the second is farce. Whether or not you see Theresa May as a tragic figure, Boris Johnson would not be out of place on a theatre stage up the road from Downing Street in Whitehall where the protagonist’s trousers are falling from his waist at a moment’s notice. And his current buoyant polling position may well flatter to deceive. It seems to be largely built on dislike of Jeremy Corbyn rather than on any great enthusiasm for the Prime Minister or his project.  

Beneath the voting intention figures, the polling holds warnings for the Conservatives. The Prime Minister is not a popular figure. His government is by broad consensus perceived to be handling the Brexit negotiations badly (75% of respondents in the latest YouGov). In the latest YouGov, just 18% of the general population thought that his deal was good (30% think it is bad). These are not the figures of a party or a leader who can be sure of the public’s backing. It could easily all go very wrong very quickly.

And the Conservatives have, largely unnoticed, made the task of forming the next government considerably harder for themselves in the last week. If they were to win an overall majority, they would have nothing to worry about. This remains an odds-against shot on Betfair, however.

What if they fall short? Then they have rather a big problem. Who might they form a coalition with? Never mind that, who might they seek confidence and supply from? When Theresa May mislaid her majority in 2017, Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens were all non-starters as potential allies. There was only one party in Parliament that she could even start talking with: the DUP.

After the last week, one has become none. Boris Johnson can never, never, never, never expect any help ever again from the DUP. Come to that, nor can any of his successors for the foreseeable future. The DUP have memories that make elephants look absent-minded. They are not known for their sweet and forgiving nature. If ever an enemy was implacable, the DUP is that enemy.

Of course, the next Parliament might not look like this Parliament. It might have a cohort of MPs from the Brexit party, who the Conservatives might hope would make more congenial coalition partners. Current polling gives no reason to suggest that the Brexit party in a 2019 election would do any better than UKIP did in 2015. If they do, it will be because Nigel Farage has managed to make himself relevant to the Brexit debate. This is unlikely to be to the advantage of the Conservatives, who have in recent weeks pushed him to the margins. The votes he would scoop up would mostly be from them.

That doesn’t mean that all of the Conservatives’ opponents would unite under a single leader, especially if the Labour leader is Jeremy Corbyn. It does, however, mean, that without a vote being cast the bar for them remaining in government has risen from something like 305 MPs to something like 315 MPs.

They can still do it, of course.  The Conservatives have at least got their story straight. They are aided by the divisions among their opponents. It has, however, got just that bit harder.

Alastair Meeks


Some in the Shadow Cabinet want an early election but Corbyn, surely, will want to wait

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

Chart of Betfair market from

According to this Guardian Tweet there was discussion at the Shadow cabinet this morning over the timing of the general election with one or two pressing for an early contest.

As has been observed many times we are in a unique situation over this. Sure Johnson wants one as soon as possible because his government is in a minority and he’ll struggle to get anything through. Unfortunately for him the timing is no longer in the gift of the incumbent PM.

A big moment in the past few weeks was when Johnson moved a for an election under the terms of the FPTA and Corbyn didn’t respond.  The assumption uptil that point was that opposition leaders would always take the chance of an election if offered.  This led to a media frenzy calling him chicken but that was to no avail. Corbyn will move the necessary VONC at a time that he wants it not Johnson.

For the PM to call an election he needs the backing of two thirds of all MPs. For Corbyn he just requires a simple majority.

I think it pretty clear that the betting markets are right about this year on which the odds have moved out. But what about next year?

In many ways it is good for Labour to watch Johnson struggle losing Commons vote after Commons vote .

My guess is that Labour would want the election to be less about Brexit and more about the issues that most benefit them – the NHS, public service and so on.  A good time to call it might be in February after a winter when the NHS has been struggling to cope.

Clearly the LAB leadership will be watching the polls and the party needs to recover somewhat before making a move.

Mike Smithson


The loss of DUP support means Johnson needs to make 10 more gains from LAB to stay at Number 10

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

The most significant, though, hardly surprising development during Saturday’s special Brexit debate was that the DUP with its ten MPs has totally switched to opposing the government. It is hard to see how that can be changed certainly by the current PM.

This was not a mistake that TMay would have made.

The sense of betrayal coming from hardline unionist communities in Northern Ireland heightens the fact that Johnson’s readiness to ignore and ditch the key element of unionism about its status being exactly the same as the rest of the UK is going to take a long time to heal.

You can now see Arlene’s party being ready to countenance all sorts of possible ways of using her Westminster strength which would have been unthinkable before Johnson reached his agreement in Dublin with the Irish PM

One thing that struck me were the expressions of surprise from Brexit supporting politicians and the media about the DUP being ready to compromise the effort to leave the EU. Their lack of understanding of Irish politics over two centuries was extraordinary.

In general election terms the “loss” of the DUP’s 10 MPs has to be added to the likely Tory losses to the SNP as well as to the LDs in strong remain areas. Finding at least 40-50 current LAB-held seats to take is going to be challenging.

A big problem in all of this is that Tory voters rate Brexit as a much more important issue to them than LAB or DUP ones.

Mike Smithson


Just a little bit of history repeating?

Sunday, October 20th, 2019

Why I’m not betting on a Tory landslide at the next election.

In recent weeks it seems we get regular polling, like the tweet atop this article, on leadership ratings and preferred Prime Minister that shows a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party are going to experience a comprehensive electoral defeat at the next general election.

Yet my mind goes back to early 2017 when Jeremy Corbyn trailed Theresa May by even larger margins as we see in the chart below, taken from a thread I wrote back in February 2017 where I said the leadership figures ‘tend[ed] to presage an absolute shellacking for a Corbyn led Labour party at a general election, to use a popular culture reference, at the next general election a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party is set to play the role of Anastasia Steele to the electorate’s Christian Grey.’ My prediction turned out be spectacularly wrong.

Boris Johnson doesn’t lead Corbyn as much Theresa May did, in fact he trails with those who voted Remain in 2016 whereas Theresa May comfortably led with that demographic back in early 2017.

Other pollsters have found that Boris Johnson and the government has become unpopular in days and weeks when it took years for other Prime Ministers and government to achieve such poor ratings. So Boris Johnson starts from a much lower position than Theresa May before you factor in Boris Johnson starts with far fewer Tory MPs than Mrs May did when she lost David Cameron’s majority.

So if Corbyn can repeat his performance from the last election then Boris Johnson can see the Tories being forced from office, with Boris Johnson betraying the DUP and his previous assurances about a border in the Irish Sea then he is unlikely to have any friends in a future hung Parliament.

It is possible for Boris Johnson to lose his leads if events happen, from the economy, and or Brexit, going sub-optimal. He could also perform badly during the campaign, after all he dodged many debates during the Tory leadership election, something he might repeat during a general election campaign.

There’s also the potential for scandal around Boris Johnson that could engulf him during an election campaign. It isn’t difficult to imagine how the Jennifer Arcuri story dominates said campaign. Given how awfully the police handled the VIP paedophile case a case involving the sitting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom being investigated by the police might turn out bad for Boris Johnson even if he’s innocent.

One of the most expensive sentences in the English language is ‘Next time it will be different’ and that is something that is influencing my betting outlook on the next general election because Corbyn likes campaigning in a way no other current party leader seems to enjoy. A former political strategist pointed out to me whilst Corbyn might be unpopular his policies, such as rail nationalisation and higher taxes for the wealthy, are not. So that’s why I’m not writing off Labour at the next election.

There’s a danger that I’m fighting the last war but if you’re not sure then wisest cause of action is not to bet which is what I will do for the time being. The election could take place later on this year or in 2022 only makes predicting the outcome even more difficult.



As the Brexit negotiations reach a critical point the latest YouGov trackers has “Brexit wrong” with 5% lead

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

The voting intentions in the same YouGov poll.

A GE constituency poll

Mike Smithson


New Scotland only poll has the Tories losing most of the gains made at GE2017 and support for independence at 50%

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Scottish Westminster voting intentions with changes from GE2017 in Scotland
SNP 39% +2.1
CON 21% -7.6
LAB 20% -7.1
LD 13% +6.2
GRN 2% +1.8

Bad news for both Boris and Jezza but positive news for Jo

At the past two general elections the part of the UK where there has seen the most seat churn has been in Scotland with its 59 seats and the signs are that this will continue next time. The country has its own electoral ecosystem and applying GB projections can be distorting. Just a few shifts in Scotland can see many gains and losses.

This is why Scotland-only polls which are relatively rare are such a big political event.

The projected seat changes are in the Sunday Times panel featured in the Tweet above and as can be seen LAB nearly gets wiped out north of the border. To put this in context Gordon Brown’s LAB at GE2010 won 41 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats. This poll would have it down to just one.

The Scottish Tories under Ruth Davidson came out of GE2017 with 12 gains making 13 Scottish seats overall at the last general election thus helping ameliorate the disastrous performance of TMay’s party in England and Wales. This latest poll sees the SNP taking eight of those seats back.

The Lib Dems, who now have a Scottish leader, hold up well in the poll and SNP hopes of taking Swinson’s Dunbartonshire East seat are not supported by these latest numbers which show an SNP to LD swing of 2%.

The other key findings today are support for Scottish independence reaching 50% when don’t knows are taken out and the preference for an independent Scotland to stay in the EU.

Mike Smithson


2020 or later now betting favourite for when the next general election will be held

Friday, October 11th, 2019

On a big political day the money on Betfair, according to the has been going on the next general election taking place next year or later. This option has just edged December from the favourite slot.

I’ve never been convinced of December because staging such a vote when the day’s are shortest and voters attentions are focused on the holiday never looked like a possibility.

Meanwhile Corbyn has announced that he’ll step down as LAB leader if his party loses the coming election. Whether this will help or hinder the party is hard to say. He has the distinction of receiving the worst ratings ever for an opposition leader and all the past experience is that leader numbers are the best guide to electoral outcomes.

Also in the betting a no deal Brexit this year has dropped to a 12% chance.

Mike Smithson


The betting markets still make December favourite for the general election but the gap has narrowed

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

After the Alastair Meeks post earlier today here is the latest chart of movements on the “Month of the General Election” market.

As can been seen December is still favourite but it has narrowed.

Mike Smithson