Archive for the ' General Election' Category


No-vember election. A betting tip

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Picture: On the pavement in Parliament Square. Credit John Rentoul.

I did warn Boris Johnson that going for an early election would not work. If only he’d listened to my advice, he would not be in the pickle of pleading for an election that the Opposition may or may not deign to give him. It would have suited me better as well, because my betting tip at the end of that column is currently well underwater. It just shows the danger of assuming that politicians are going to plan intelligently.

Anyway, we – that is, Boris Johnson and me – are where we are. Where do we all go next? Events are moving fast.  Boris Johnson, having for weeks feigned that he didn’t want an election, has now thrown aside all pretence and has now labelled Jeremy Corbyn a chlorinated chicken (ironically, a label that British retailers would probably not be allowed to use should Boris Johnson cut a new trade deal with the US) for not agreeing to an immediate election.

So when is the next general election going to be? Betfair has two markets on the subject: a market on the year of the election and a market on the month of the election. This is one of those occasions where a little attention to detail can pay dividends.

There must be at least 25 working days (five weeks) between the dissolution of Parliament and the general election date itself.  There is no maximum period, but in practice seven weeks, as in 2017, is the outer limit in the recent past.

Parliament is due to be prorogued at the latest on 12 September. If it is, any general election called before then would normally fall in that five to seven week band. That translates into a 17-31 October window.  In theory, the Prime Minister could extend the latter date but in practice the Opposition are not going to agree to a general election being called without first being sure that the date is fixed and that no chicanery can take place that would result in a no-deal Brexit. If an election is agreed next week, I’d expect it to fall in that normal window. Hands up who fancies an even longer election campaign than last time?

As it happens, I still don’t expect an early election to be agreed next week. The Opposition have every incentive to leave Boris Johnson trapped in office as the Article 50 period comes to be extended again, like a wasp in a spider’s web. If an election were taking place, he could use that as a campaign message. But once it’s history, it will become a memento of his impotence. He may get pity from many for his plight. Pity, however, is not an emotion that politicians crave or find electorally helpful. But I digress.

Assuming that no election is agreed next week, Parliament reconvenes on 14 October. As always, the first item of the new session will be the Queen’s speech. That is then debated. The debate normally takes six days. The government could, I suppose, dispense with usual formalities and seek an election at once, but having prorogued on the purported basis that they needed time to prepare for the new session, it would look completely ridiculous if it didn’t do the Queen’s speech debate properly – especially as they couldn’t be sure of getting an election anyway.So that seems a fairly safe assumption.

That takes us to the close of 21 October. Let’s assume that a general election is immediately triggered, though it’s not at all clear why there would suddenly be a rush. The minimum five week period (which, bear in mind, in practice could only be obtained by agreement between the parties) takes us to Monday 25 November. If a general election is going to be on the customary Thursday, that gives one Thursday in November when the election can take place, 28 November.So that gives a four day window in October when a November general election might even conceivably be called.

But I am doubtful that agreement would be reached between the parties so easily. Once the danger of no-deal Brexit is passed, a straightforward vote of no confidence would surely look much more attractive to the Labour party, which builds a further 14 day period into the process. In any case, Boris Johnson could not rely on agreement being reached between the parties easily, so he would need to plan a timetable accordingly.

All of this points to a November election date looking distinctly unlikely. If the prorogation goes ahead, any election called before it would in all probability take place in October and any election called after it would in all probability take place in December or later. For an election to take place in November itself, we would need to land on a pin.

The betting markets have not been paying attention to the detail. The “month of general election” market, which is an active market with over £600,000 matched, currently has November last matched at 2.3 (5/4). This price seems quite bonkers to me.

How would I price it? There is perhaps a 1 in 3 chance that next week Parliament will agree to an election (I think that’s probably a bit on the high side).  If it does, I’d say there’s about a 1 in 10 chance that it will agree on a date in November. If it doesn’t, there’s again perhaps a 1 in 3 chance (again, I think that’s probably a bit on the high side) that Parliament will rapidly agree on a general election and about a 1 in 10 chance that it then will agree on a date in November. Even rounding up to allow for curveballs like the terms of prorogation changing or the government abandoning the Queen’s speech, I can’t get this above a cumulative 1 in 12 chance.

So this seems to me like the clearest of lays. I’ve filled my boots.

Alastair Meeks


If this poll turns out to be accurate then there’s no way Corbyn should agree to an October election

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

Tonight’s Financial Times reports that

Some Labour strategists believe the Tories would be damaged by a spike in support for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party if Mr Johnson fails to fulfil his pledge to take the UK out of the EU by October 31, “do or die”.

An ICM poll suggests that support for the Brexit party would double from 9 per cent to 18 per cent if an election takes place after Halloween. The poll, commissioned by Represent Us — which is pushing for a second Brexit referendum — found the Conservatives’ lead over Labour would evaporate in those circumstances.

The ICM poll suggests the Tories would beat Labour by 37 per cent against 30 per cent in an October election, while the two parties would be neck and neck on 28 per cent in a November poll.

As ever I would caution you about the limits of hypothetical polling but this strategy but the reality is that if the Labour leadership is smart they will see this poll and only grant Boris Johnson an election after the 31st of October has come and gone.

Boris Johnson’s needless arbitrary deadline is going cause him problems, something which many of us without Dominic Cummings galaxy sized brain warned was a mistake.

If the anti No Deal bill is going become law then Boris Johnson is either going to have to

i) Ignore the law, which leads to many problems for him including the end of Premiership.

ii) Break his word and probably see the hardline Leavers in the country and inside the Conservative party call Boris Johnson the biggest collaborator since Philippe Pétain. Given all the occasions Boris Johnson has broken his marriage vows, breaking a political vow will be easy. If you think Nigel Farage will go easy on Boris Johnson in this situation I have bridge to sell to you.

iii) Make way for someone who will get an extension to Article 50, probably Jeremy Corbyn. If Boris Johnson allows Corbyn to become many in the Conservative Party will never forgive him. Corbyn actually becoming Prime Minister will reduce the effectiveness of the expected ‘Project Fear’ the Conservatives will run about a potential Corbyn premiership.

From a betting perspective those of us who have laid an October general election are going to feel incredibly smug after reading this FT article and the polling therein. Although one can never feel comfortable about relying on Jeremy Corbyn, a man who seems to go out of his way to step on every available political banana skin.



Unelected PM Boris Johnson maintains his 100% record in Parliament

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Before anti No Dealers get excited there’s the possibility of the unelected House of Lords filibustering the Benn bill which would be sub-optimal for the anti No Dealers. The elephant in the room is that no one can feel truly confident that Jeremy Corbyn might not screw this up somehow.

These are extraordinary times in the politics of this country, so much so that PB didn’t cover Philip Lee’s defection to the Lib Dems yesterday, it probably wasn’t even in the top ten political stories of the day, which is in stark contrast in the last 15 years when defections dominated PB threads for days and weeks.

The future of this country might well be determined by who is less pooh at political strategy in the next few days, Boris Johnson & Dominic Cummings or Jeremy Corbyn & Seumas Milne?




The Cummings & Johnson strategy could well be dubbed as the charge of the light in the head brigade

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Sacrificing some of your MPs is what Sir Humphrey would call a ‘courageous’ move.

For a while it has been clear that the strategy (sic) of Boris Johnson and his team is to effectively sacrifice Tory MPs in Scotland and to the Lib Dems in Remain areas of Britain and aim for the prize of winning more seats in Labour held seats in Leave areas, last night’s YouGov Scotland polls shows the first part of that strategy is working.

I think approach is mistaken because I think Labour voters are intensely tribal and will struggle to be won over by the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. If you think I’m wrong ask yourself did you think the Tories would make substantial gains in Labour Leave seats at GE2017?

Like Ed Miliband’s attempt to eat a bacon sandwich this image might be similarly iconic and memetastic.

I think we’ll also see the return of the tactical anti-Tory voting because quite frankly the nasty party is back, for example some want to weaponise the culture war, and engage in what is modern day gay bashing and weaponise things like trans rights.  It took the the Tories nearly a quarter of a century to move on from the vile section 28 which tells how bad this could play out.

One of the ways this strategy might also prove to be sub-optimal is those MPs who are likely to lose their seats with this approach might end up rebelling against the whip if they think they are going to be doomed, they may even vote against an early election.

After yesterday’s performances in the House of Commons it isn’t very hard to see Jeremy Corbyn outperforming Boris Johnson during a general election campaign which leads to Labour increasing its share of the vote. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would feel confident that the polls will not change (either way) during a general election campaign.

Back in 2017 if it wasn’t for the the dozen Tory gains in Scotland we would have likely seen Prime Minister Corbyn, perhaps Scotland only delayed the inevitable.


PS – Probably the most astonishing findings from the YouGov Scotland poll is given all we’ve seen happen since 2016 Scots would still vote to remain part of the Union, albeit very narrowly, I was expecting a decent Independence lead. This fits in the theory that after seeing the difficulty of unpicking the UK’s forty-six year union with the EU, Scots think unpicking the three hundred year old Union will be even more fraught and will avoid that.


Like the French strategy with the Maginot Line the Cummings & Johnson Brexit strategy might turn out to have a minor flaw

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019



Brexit, the proroguing of parliament and the legal battle ahead

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Me – I’m off on holiday on Friday leaving PB in the capable hands of TSE

Mike Smithson


The betting markets respond to Johnson’s Charles the First Move

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

A no deal brexit seen as more likely

UK seen as more likely to leave by Oct 31st

My view is that this is Downing Street’s response to the agreement yesterday between all the opposition parties on the best way of stopping no deal. Number 10 can see the challenges ahead so why not use what power it has to curtail parliamentary time?

The question is now how will opposition parties and Speaker Bercow react to what is clearly a wheeze from the PM. My guess is that they will try to find some way of trying to stop the normal three week party conference break.

It might be that the only way is to go for a vote of no confidence in a form that would trigger a new general election. Only a simple majority is required and the only way to stop it would be for another vote within two weeks.

  • Charts as ever from

    Mike Smithson

  • h1

    Before we can make judgements about the outcome of an early general election we need new Scotland only polling

    Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

    The last one was in June

    There’s been a lot of GB voting intention polling since Mr Johnson became the new Tory leader and Prime Minister but none of it has been Scotland specific. One thing we do know is that is can be highly misleading keying the latest GB poll shares into Baxter and getting anything that is relevant to Scotland.

    North of the border, as we all know, is the part of the UK which has seen the most turbulence in recent general elections. In 2010 Scots LAB won 41 of the 59 seats only to lose all but one of them in the SNP landslide 5 years later.

    Then 2017 the Tories made something of a recovery and picked up 12 gains to add to the single seat making them the second party in Scotland .

    What is hugely interesting for election watchers is that the largest majority that the SNP secured in any of its 36 Scottish seats at the last election was 47%. A large proportion of what they hold is vulnerable something that applies to almost all the parties there.

    As the Wikipedia panel above shows the Tories were in something of a mess in the most recent surveys. The numbers suggest that Ruth Davidson’s party could be on the point of losing all but one of the hard won gains from 2 years ago. But is that really going to happen?

    So much has happened politically since the last Scottish poll and we have no real sense yet of how the new PM is going down for of the border. Will having Johnson in charge help or hinder the blue team?

    Hopefully we should be seeing some new Scotland polling in September. There is tendency for these to come out just before the SNP conference.

    Mike Smithson