Archive for the ' General Election' Category


On this day exactly two years ago it was Peak Theresa May (and Nick Timothy)

Friday, April 19th, 2019

On the betting markets it was a 92% chance that the Tories would win a majority. It got even tighter than that – on the weekend after Tory performance in that year’s local elections the betting chance of the CON majority hit 97%.

Then there was:

The launch of the Tory manifesto (written by Mr. Timothy and not even approved by the cabinet) on May 18th 2017…

Mrs. May’s refusal to take part in a TV debate with Corbyn.

The Dimbleby QuestionTime Special when a nurse whose pay had stood still for eight years was told by the PM “There is no magic money tree”

The exit poll.

Mike Smithson


Plunging opinion polls are not the Conservatives’ biggest problem

Wednesday, April 17th, 2019

Alice was introduced to the concept of an unbirthday party at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. By close analogy, let me introduce you to the concept of an unBrexit day. We have had rather more of these than might have been expected at the beginning of the year, with two, on 29 March and 12 April, being especially memorable events. We look set to have many more unBrexit days in the coming months and there is no guarantee that the current longstop date of 31 October will not be pushed back further.

This surfeit of unBrexit days has driven Leavers, like the hatter, mad. This has not been to the benefit of the government. The Conservatives’ poll ratings have taken a ski jump in recent weeks.  They don’t look to have landed yet and when they do it looks likely to be in an ungainly heap.

This would not matter particularly in the normal scheme of things. Governments are prone to suffer from mid-term unpopularity. So long as the government can turn things around in time for the next election, current opinion polls would be of little interest.

The Conservatives have a much bigger problem, which it is that it is difficult to see how they could turn this around. Far from the polls masking underlying strengths, if anything they have only just caught up with underlying weaknesses.

The Conservatives fought the last election in large part on delivering Brexit. Their voter base then saw itself as being on a promise. However, that promise has turned out to be easier to make than deliver, with different groups in the Conservative party having a radically different view of what that promise entailed – and in any case they did not command a Parliamentary majority even collectively.  

The Conservative party has now split into at least five component parts: Remain resisters, Remain reconstructors, government loyalists, moveable Leavers and purist Leavers. Theresa May failed, despite repeated attempts, to get them to work together.

All of them are now furious with at least two of the other groups (and in some cases all four).  Some MPs have already left the party and some at each end of the spectrum are more or less openly considering their options. All party discipline has broken down.

So the Conservatives simultaneously face a huge failure on a policy that was central to their manifesto (with the potential to be student fees on steroids) and a collapse of their internal coalition. The two are locked in a negative feedback loop: attempting to deliver Brexit undermines the internal coalition and the collapsed coalition makes delivering Brexit so much harder.

How could they solve this problem? They could try to put Brexit in the rear view mirror. That would almost certainly lead to further breakages within the Conservative party in the short term. If the end resolution were not too damaging, however, they could hope that time would heal wounds.

There are only a few problems with that idea. There is presently no approach to Brexit that commands a majority in the House of Commons.  One cannot simply be magicked up. Neither the Remain resisters nor the purist Leavers look ready to back down in relation to Theresa May’s deal (and nor does the DUP).  

Theresa May has to date done her best to stop a majority forming around a different option. She had good reason to (though it betrayed an inability to count). Any different option is going to cause still greater dissent in the Conservative party.  

Many moveable Leavers moved with the greatest reluctance. A deal based around a permanent customs union, in accordance with Labour’s policy position, or with a fresh referendum attached, in accordance with Labour members’ wishes, is going to make them incandescent.  

Ditto any of the softer versions of Brexit contemplated in the indicative votes. Perhaps the damage would be worth it for the prize of securing Brexit. That damage would, however, almost certainly include the shearing-off of a chunk of MPs, quite possibly to join Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

That also assumes that such a change of tack would work.  Labour have no incentive now to help Theresa May – the opposite. From their viewpoint the government’s inability to deliver its promise to its voters is an immensely valuable gift. Why on earth would they give it away again? Given that, my strong expectation is that some insurmountable stumbling block will be found to a cross-party deal. Labour are going to want to leave the Conservatives impaled on their own policy.

Theresa May could try to work with Parliamentarians rather than with the Labour front bench. There are two problems with this idea. First, Theresa May’s past wilful obstructiveness will have left them with no trust at all in her. She is going to have to work extra-hard to put together a deal with them. Secondly, and more importantly, their preferred deal is going to be still closer to a Remain outcome than anything the Labour leadership outwardly aspires to.

Assuming the Conservatives can conjure a Brexit outcome that does not smash their party to smithereens, the Conservatives then need to pray that it will get public acquiescence. That looks doubtful. At least a quarter of the population yearns for Fortress Britannia. At least a third of the population would sign up for the Euro. The country is getting steadily more polarised. It is likely to be getting steadily less inclined to compromise.

Those former Conservative voters who care most about Brexit are currently decamping to UKIP and the Brexit party. They are going to need a good reason to return. On the Mohs scale of Brexit, they’re looking for a minimum hardness of quartz and are not going to settle for talcum powder or gypsum. Does anyone think they’re going to get what they want?

If they did, the Conservatives would be blamed by the unconvinced for every single piece of disruption caused by Brexit. That would be one hell of a gamble to take. Fortunately for the Conservatives, they don’t have the numbers in Parliament to take it.

MPs, however, are focussing most on who succeeds Theresa May. That is the least of their problems right now. Since the new leader would face all the same problems (and would no doubt be penned in by campaign commitments), a successful resolution to their problems would look just as unlikely as under Theresa May.

From all this we can deduce two things. First, since any resolution of Brexit would fracture the Conservatives still further, any leader of the Conservatives is probably going to decide to keep pushing the moment of truth back. And secondly, the Conservatives look set to languish in the polls for quite some time.

All of which explains why I’m continuing to bet against the Conservatives winning most seats. What is their route back with their disaffected former voters? Right now, I don’t see one.

Alastair Meeks


LAB might have leads of upto 9% in the polls but punters still make it neck and neck for the next general election

Monday, April 15th, 2019

On Betfair both CON & LAB are 47% chances to win most seats

This does not happen very often but we are in a phase where the betting markets are out of line with the polls when it comes to the next general election.

As the heading suggests CON & LAB running neck and neck when it comes to most seats. The polling, as we know, has been dire for the blue team in the last week or so and the last two polls have leads of 7% and 9%.

There’s a view, obviously, that this Parliament could still run its full course and that will mean another three years and two months before a general election. There’s also the issue that LAB might have these margins in the GB as a whole but in Scotland it is still struggling badly in a part of the UK where it used to have 41 of the 59 seats. I still don’t believe that Labour can return to power without change in its Scottish fortunes.

Much of the Tory trouble at the moment is due to the ongoing splits in the party over the EU and has little to do with LAB which continues to have a leader who has a dire personal ratings. True this weekend saw Opinium has TMay with net her worst net approval numbers, minus 34%, ever but Corbyn is on -33%. Hardly much hope there.

We are also just 16 days away from this year’s local elections in England where the Tories are defending 4k seats most of which were last fought on general election day in 2015 when Cameron’s Tories far exceeded expectations. Losing several hundred councillors is going to have an impact.

The final thing about the next general election is that TMay is not likely to be leading her party and the blue team might have a less electorally toxic leader.

Mike Smithson


On the 2nd anniversary of TMay calling GE2017 fewer are predicting an early election now

Sunday, April 14th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

The betting chances of GE2019 drop 20% in just 14 days

It was exactly two years ago that we were told that the PM would be making a statement in Downing Street. All sort of rumours were triggered and it was only when the lectern was moved into the street that people started guessing that she was about to go to the country.

The giveaway was that the PM’s crest was not on the lectern meaning that this was a party political matter not a Government one. We all know what happened over the following seven weeks and how TMay’s hope of increasing her majority to help get the Brexit legislation through ended up with the Tories losing seats and having to do a deal with the DUP.

Almost ever since PB was established 15 years ago one of the liveliest markets has been on the timing of the next general election with a tendency for punters with an interest in politics to grossly overestimate an imminent move. From a betting perspective the wise route has, 2017 apart, been to bet that an early election won’t happen.

Over the last fortnight on this market we have seen a dramatic change. Just two weeks ago a 2019 General Election was rated on the Betfair Exchange at a 54% chance and has now it is drifted sharply and currently stands at a 34% one.

Two major reasons, I would suggest, for the change. Firstly there has been the dramatic collapse in the Conservative polling position and no PM is going to seek to go to the country when they are trailing by so much. Mrs May went in 2017 when the polls had her 20% head. Heaven knows what would happen if she did it now.

The polls also creates a great feeling of self-preservation amongst members of the governing party who could see their jobs and salaries disappear if there was a election and public opinion was very much of it as it is today.

The second reason is obviously the developments on Brexit, as a result of last week’s events. There’s now breathing space and far less urgency with the MPs, perhaps, not having to make any real decisions until the end of October.

What has made an early general election even harder is the depletion of numbers in the Labour ranks which has seen a significant drop off in the size of the parliamentary party. This combined with the requirement to get all the other opposition parties to join together to support a move include makes it less likely.

Mike Smithson


If there is an early general election punters have no clear view on the winner

Thursday, April 11th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

On Betfair CON and LAB level pegging

For those looking to the betting markets to give a pointer to how a new General Election will go then I’m sorry but the current position is that Labour and the Conservatives are rated at exactly the same level to win most seats.

If this is correct, then the deadlock will continue and the political stalemate that has been British politics for many years appears to be ongoing.

The impact of the great brexit saga has been to erode the party system as we’ve seen with the defections and the gradual shrinking both main parties. We can only hope that this is all going to look a bit clearer after the local elections on May 2nd and the Euro elections on May 23rd.

Mike Smithson


Why punters have got it right making a 2019 general election a 45% chance

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

Following the latest developments in the Commons it is clear that the house as currently constituted is going to be troublesome for the prime minister whoever he or she is for as long as we don’t have a general election.

Theresa May’s decision in April two years ago to go early to the country has proved to be something of a disaster and if indeed she had achieved what she was hoping to do then the parliamentary arithmetic would have been much less tight. So there was nothing wrong with her strategy calling the election it was just her delivery and campaign methodology.

The big challenge facing Conservatives  is that there are few indications that a new election would produce an an outright majority for the party. The gap between the reds and blues is too tight and too close for comfort.

But it maybe, just maybe, that this seems the only alternative for the party. It might also be that there’s a new Conservative leader pretty soon who wants to assert his or her authority by winning a mandate of their own.

That Theresa May lost seats after calling an election when  the Tories were 20% up in the polls is going to continue to jinx whoever leads the party.

Looking at the voting intention polling  on the outcome of a hypothetical election within the next two to three  months it’s hard to see either LAB or the Conservatives winning a majority and the chances are that it would be as tight as it currently is at the moment.

Another factor is whether an early election would consolidate as a political force TIG or Change UK – which both main parties would hate to do. Heidi Allen and her team would love the opportunity to test their electoral potency against the current political backcloth. The first task will be holding their own seats and that, I’d suggest,  is going to be harder to do the longer it is since their break from the Tory and LAB parties.

The current betting on a 2019 General Election is that its a 45% chance. That seems about right.

Mike Smithson






Where we are now summed up in two betting Tweets

Friday, March 29th, 2019

And on Betfair

Mike Smithson


What four years of Govey as EdSec did to the teaching vote

Monday, March 25th, 2019

But was this more down to Dominic Cummings?

With Theresa May’s long term prospects in the job not looking very good there’s a lot of focus in the betting markets on who will succeed her as Conservative leader and Prime Minister. Currently the joint favourites are the ex-Mayor and former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson and the current environment secretary, Michael Gove.

It is the electoral potency of the latter that this post is about particularly the way he ran Education from 2010 to 2014.

The data from the above two polls in was first published on PB in July 2014 shortly before the reshuffle that cost Michael Gove his job as Education Secretary in Cameron’s cabinet

The polling was by YouGov and although commissioned by the NUT covered all teachers and not just those who were members.

As can be seen there was a whopping decline in the Tory share and a huge increase in those of EdM’s Labour.  This was much more than the margin of error.

In many ways the contrast between the two sets of data does not come as a shock because it was fairly well known and widely publicised that Michael Gove had alienated the teachers during his period in charge at the Department for Education. It was widely reported that staff in his office use the term the “blob” to describe those working within education.

Perhaps the relationship between the party and teachers wasn’t helped by the fact one of his senior AIDS was Dominic Cummings who was later to make his name running the leave campaign. A very aggressive individual who was determined to make an impact.

It has been widely reported that Gove got the boot in the 2014 reshuffle on the advice of Lynton Crosby who was influenced the PB post. Maybe

Ir is noticeable that Gove’s period at Justice and Environment have struck very different tone.

Mike Smithson