Archive for the ' General Election' Category


On the Betfair exchange LAB’s chances of winning most seats next time drop to a 41% chance

Monday, February 18th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

On what is quite a momentous day in British politics it is quite hard to single out a specific market that has seen change. The one I’ve chosen is the next general election where punters who only last month rated LAB as a 50-50 chance to win most seats now put it at 41%.

A lot depends on reaction to the move and whether the development gets traction in the media. For the individuals concerned these are massive personal decisions but they have made their choices.

For Corbyn’s LAB this isn’t good news and, as David Herdson was pointing out on Twitter, means that with other MP losses this parliament we have seen the equivalent of getting on for half the LAB gains from GE2017 are now wiped out. The smaller LAB is at Westminster the less powerful it is to influence events.

In many way this was always on the cards. In 2016 Corbyn, as I pointed out on the previous thread, only managed to win support of 20% of the parliamentary party in a confidence vote.

Clearly there’ll be lots of speculation about where the group of seven end up. Could we see an enhanced centre party emerging taking in the independents, the LDs and Caroline Lucas? Clearly there will be closer working together.

I also wonder whether Corbyn’s tenure might not be as long as is widely perceived. How will the unions view the weakened party? How will John McDonnell react.

Mike Smithson


TMay’s problem with the Tory polling resurgence is that it takes the edge off threats of PM Corbyn

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

The backdrop to the current super-charged UK political environment as we get close to the March 29th deadline is that in terms of its position in relation to LAB the Tories are doing better than at any time since the 2017 General Election.

The big polling story overnight was the huge YouGov 48k sample survey which allows detailed analysis of every seat and the ability to project gains and losses. It was this model, of course, at the last election that did so well in forecasting that the Conservatives would lose their majority and naming the seats which would switch.

On top of that in recent days we’ve had the Ipsos MORI poll with its terrible leader ratings for Jeremy Corbyn, as well as 7% CON leads reported from Opinium and a standard YouGov poll.

This might not be as good as it sounds for the Prime Minister as she seeks to get a bit of party discipline ahead of the final phase of the commons voting on the EU exit deal.

The repeated message to dissident MPs is “if you’re not careful you will be letting Corbyn become Prime Minister” has less potency. Clearly it is much harder to argue given the latest surveys particularly this YouGov mega poll and a detailed analysis which proved to be so successful 2 years ago.

Of course at a general election things are very different and people are thinking about how their vote in the final days before ballots are cast. At the moment, with no election in prospect, this is much more of a theoretical exercise. That doesn’t take away the way polling impact on perceptions within the Westminster village.

Mike Smithson


A 2019 general election no longer favourite in the year of next GE betting

Thursday, February 7th, 2019 chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Corbyn’s strategy shift seems to being having an impact

One of the most volatile current political betting markets is on the year of the next general election. This is ultra-sensitive , clearly , in a situation like at the moment where the governing party does not have a majority and is totally divided on the big issue of the day.

This was accentuated by the main Labour strategy being to use TMay’s plight and the Article 50 deadline to use its position to go for an early general election rather than, say, a second referendum on Brexit.

The fervour of the Labour approach appears to have waned partly, I’d suggest by the relatively poor poll ratings for the party and its leader. Corbyn & co are clearly ultra keen to avoid being blamed for Brexit.

TMay’s “confidence and supply” partners, the DUP, have been using their position to exert the maximum leverage but my guess is that will be tempered by not taking any action that could risk Corbyn becoming PM. The Labour leader’s positioning during “the Troubles” is still remembered in Northern Ireland.

Betting on a 2019 reached nearly touched a 50% chance following initial reaction to Mrs May’s deal for which she struggles, still, to win the blessing of the Commons.

Having followed these markets closely for decades the general rule is that punters are more likely to overstate the chances on an early general election. This is one where generally the best betting option is to lay.

Mike Smithson


I’m not convinced the Tories are going to let TMay fight a second general election as party leader and PM

Monday, February 4th, 2019

Betfair exchange betting price from

The betting barely moves in spite of the speculation

Sundays are usually my day off and am only now catching up with the speculation over the weekend of an early election. The idea is to find a means of getting away from the Brexit deadlock and a different composition of the House of Commons would help. Clearly the problem is that it’s hard to see anything relating to Brexit commanding a majority of MPs.

Over the weekend the talk has been of a general election being planned for June the 6th which of course is the anniversary of D-Day. The headline looked dramatic in a Sunday paper but how realistic is this?

    To my mind a big issue is TMay herself. After losing the Tory majority in June 2017 the message we were getting from large parts of the Conservative Party was that Theresa May would not be allowed to lead the blues into the next general election.

Indeed this was reinforced by commitments she was forced to make before Christmas when there was a confidence vote on her leadership by the parliamentary CON party.

Managing to move from CON poll leads of 20% plus when the election was called to a vote margin of just 2,5% on the day spoke volumes about her capabilities as a campaigner. This undoubtedly has impacted on her thinking and having burned her fingers once with an early election call she’s going to be even more ultra-cautious about doing the same again.

Against this is the massive pressure of the Article 50 timetable. We are just 53 days away from the planned exit and something has to happen.

I should add that my predictions in the past on TMay calling early general elections have been wrong. I was as taken aback as anybody by her announcement in April 2017.

Mike Smithson


A shock poll from Opinium sees the Tories move to a 7% lead

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Mike Smithson


Now we’ve got some non-YouGov polls showing CON leads the position looks a tad less good for LAB

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

With three new voting intention polls out in the past couple of hours this has been the biggest evening for Westminster surveys June 7th 2017 – the day before the last general election.

One of the positive things for LAB until this evening is that no other pollster than YouGov had shown a CON lead since the first week in November. It became a little bit easier to portray YouGov as an outlier.

The big thing in polling analysis is the general direct of travel rather than one particular poll and it does appear as though the Tory position in relation to LAB has edged up a notch.

Certainly LAB ambivalence on Brexit, the biggest issue for years, had actually worked but I just wonder whether that is changing. This demonstration earlier in the week shows the tensions.

Another thought is that if this parliament does survive until the 2022 then Brexit will be done and dusted and will have much less of a political impact.

Mike Smithson


Even if Labour secures an early election it is hard to see how the party wins It

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Corbyn needs CON converts which isn’t happening

The main objective of Labour, we are told, during this period of extreme uncertainty over Brexit is to secure an early General Election. To do that it will need to win enough backing for a confidence motion that defeats the government that is not rescinded within two weeks.

The MP totals for each party make that very difficult except if some means can be created for the DUP’s 10 MPs to back Labour on the confidence vote.

My guess is that the long-standing antagonism of the DUP towards Corbyn’s approach to Northern Ireland is going to make it very hard for them to join a move that causes an election and a possible Corbyn government.

One interesting theory that was going round over the weekend was that LAB MPs would abstain when Theresa May’s EU deal finally gets put to the Commons thus ensuring that the UK leaves the EU on March 29th. Those developing the theory hope that this would encourage the DUP to back an early election move.

Even assuming we get to the point where the country is going to vote in a 2019 general election there is not a lot to suggest that LAB is in a position to gain enough seats to come out as top party. The party’s gains in 2017 were down to non-voters actually turning out and anti-Brexit tactical voting.

    What we didn’t see then and are unlikely to see now is evidence of many CON voters switching to LAB. However split on Brexit the Tories might be that is not causing blue to red voting moves.

Also there’s be zero sign of any LAB recovery in Scotland and some recent projections have them losing to the SNP almost all of the seats gained at GE2017. There’s another factor that hasn’t been discussed – oldie turnout numbers returning to GE2015 levels which will very much reinforce the CON vote.

So GE2019, if it happens, is not going to be a piece of cake for Labour.

Mike Smithson


Theresa May is more popular through the first thirty months of her tenure than Thatcher and Cameron. An analysis into Prime Ministerial satisfaction ratings

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

In part two of three, Corporeal looks at Prime Ministerial satisfaction ratings

Prime Ministers are, of course, towering figures in public life. Pillars of UK society that are respected and loved in equal measure and enter government with the goodwill of the nation behind them. Then with fairly predictable regularity they slip from the hearts of the public and in some cases end up getting burnt in effigy.

Current Situation:

The most recent result for Theresa May came in mid-December and landed at -22, which is both a large up-tick and a surprisingly good result. It’s a ~10 point jump from where she’d been polling for the three months prior to that, if it turns out to be more than a blip the it slots her into (a distant) third place rankings-wise. If she falls back to the negative thirties she’d still be sitting at a similar level to Thatcher, Major, Brown, and Cameron at similar points of their tenures. Here are some lines and numbers.

Her fall really started in the month before the 2017 election. A month before the election she was +20 (with similar scores in the months before that), a week before she was -7, a month after she was -25 and has been bouncing around that level ever since.

Historical Context:

The traditional British maxim is that all political careers end in failure, and there is a certain brutal familiarity to the ratings trends. Most PMs peak very early on with good ratings based on fewer people providing negative responses. Through their first year these negative responses return with predictable (inevitable?) regularity. The main exception to that is one Margaret Thatcher, who has by far the worst scores for the first six months but made it back into positive figures three times later on (end of the Falklands war in ’82, and around the ’83 and ’87 elections). Blair (essentially all of ’01) is the only other Prime Minister to have a sustained positive period after three years in office. So a resurgence is pretty unlikely, on the brighter side for May, PMs have been this unpopular and continued on for many years.

As with the government ratings, I looked for an election time bump and while there is some sign of it (mean gain of 2.5) only half were ultimately positive and there’s a lot of variation going on. May’s performance in 2017 is by far the worst of any recorded here. For an election held on the 8th June her scores were:

March 14th: +13

April 25th: +19

May 17th: +20

June 1st: -7

Giving an overall rating change of -20, with the next worst being John Major in 1992 with a change of -8.


The ‘high’ line is almost entirely Blair (with a single appearance from James Callaghan), and his early popularity is generally a level above everyone else. Theresa May is actually 5 points above the median score but 5 points below the mean and the main reason is Blair pulling the mean up by about 6-10 points. His later ratings drag him down until he still ends up with negative averages across his entire tenure (as does everyone but Callaghan). He was really really popular until he really really wasn’t.

High response rates almost always result in poor ratings, the only real outlier in this case was Margaret Thatcher who managed multiple positive scores with huge respondent rates (around 90 is a normal settling point, above 95 is unusual) including possibly her definitive score of 50% satisfied, 49% dissatisfied in February of 1982. Everyone knew where they stood on the most divisive PM of recent history.

At the other end of the chart low total response rates are usually driven by low negative responses and point to great net scores (like Blair’s 65% satisfied 5% dissatisfied rating of May 1997). Gordon Brown is our standout here in somehow managing to churn out repeated negative ratings. There were 31 results with 87% or less giving an opinion, 25 positive results, and Brown with 6 negative ones. He was disliked at normal levels, but had the least enthusiasm behind him of any Prime Minister here. At no point were more than 44% satisfied with him (the lowest by far). No flash, but not much to smile about either.


These crazy stats that show Theresa May is more popular through the first thirty months of her tenure than Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron.

Theresa May: Worst election campaigner ever.

(Maybe this needs work, I’d click on them though).


A standard here, Callaghan’s patchy results make him hard to measure against (although he seems to hold up well from what we have, and if his first year was even averagely popular then he’d do even better).

I looked at the ratings movement in years outside elections from February to May and it came out with a mean change of -3.5 which would put the relative over-performance in election year scores at around the same level as with government ratings. But it still feels noisy.

Most total response rates settle into the low 90s after about the first year, my suspicion is that early satisfaction ratings are more important than early net ratings but I haven’t (yet) done the work to see how predictive they are since even I have a limited desire for spreadsheeting.


Theresa May is not popular (all this work for such great insights) but compared to her predecessors she’s rating pretty well. I’m sure this will be of great comfort to her in the times ahead.