Archive for the 'Corbyn' Category


As the Brexit “deal” reaches another critical week the public are still totally split

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

What is Corbyn’s LAB going to do?

With things apparently coming to the head with the EU withdrawal negotiations the above shows the latest YouGov tracker on how voters think broken down into what they did at the referendum and their current voting intention.

This is the first time for months that this has been published on PB partly because the numbers almost never change or only very by very small amounts.

As can be seen the main figure continues to show a small lead for those saying that brexit was wrong but the margin is not that great.

Looking at the detailed split there is a little bit of a gap between those who voted remain and those who chose Leave on June 23rd 2016. More of the former are certain of their decision two years ago than the latter but there has been no really big swing.

We’ve tended to focus on the Tories but as Robert Shrimsley in the FT argues today “Corbyn is facing his own Brexit moment of reckoning”. He notes:

Labour now holds the key to what happens. Pro-Europeans will not forget if Mr Corbyn fails them.Without clear and rapid Labour backing for one such path, Mrs May will continue to frame the choice: her deal or the void. So the question for Mr Corbyn is one that separates an opposition from a government-in-waiting. Does he want a better outcome for Britain or does he just seek to benefit from the chaos?”

YouGov continues to find that by a big margin LAB voters overwhelmingly think Brexit is wrong which is not how Corbyn is said to think. Continuing to sidestep the issue could prove to be highly dangerous.

Mike Smithson


Alastair Meeks reviews the next Labour leader betting

Sunday, November 4th, 2018


Whenever I want something sensational to read, I look at my Betfair account.  It’s not always sensationally good, but there’s always something to consider.  The markets I usually end up checking out are the long term ones: next Prime Minister, next Conservative leader and next Labour leader in particular.  These three markets have much in common and indeed overlap heavily: the next Prime Minister is likely to be one of Jeremy Corbyn, the next Conservative leader and the next Labour leader. 

One thing that they have in common is that they pay out rarely. I’m 50. In my lifetime, there have been nine changes of Prime Minister, seven changes of Conservative leader and eight changes of Labour leader. So, each of these markets pays out on average only every six or so years. Nor is it the case that the rate of change has increased much recently. In the last 25 years there have been four changes of Prime Minister, five changes of Conservative leader and four changes of Labour leader, a pay-out on average for each market every five to six years or so. 

You would never appreciate that from the political commentary, which thrives on a diet of stories about vulnerable leaders. I am pleased to say that leads a lot of political bettors astray. The temptation to back possible contenders who have had good weeks is hard to resist. The contenders you need to back are those whose good weeks coincide with the change of leadership. There is no particular reason to assume that these will be the same people unless you think a leadership contest is imminent. It usually isn’t.

I like a happy story, so I’m going to illustrate this with a market that has worked out really well for me, the next Labour leader market. Almost before Jeremy Corbyn was chosen as Labour leader, there was speculation about his position. And so a succession of possible replacements were mooted, backed into short prices, only to fall out of favour again. Often the prices were driven by sentiment rather than any rational consideration. With the party membership firmly dominated by the Corbynites it was far from clear how any of the much-touted right-wingers were ever going to get the job.

So in three years I have at various times laid Dan Jarvis, Hilary Benn, David Miliband, Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, Owen Smith, Keir Starmer and Clive Lewis at prices in single digits. The shortest priced of this octet is Keir Starmer who was last traded at 13.5. Three (Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith) were last traded at a three digit price. Angela Eagle was last matched at 920.

My point is not to boast about good bets (I am sure that many others did similarly and the strategy is neither particularly clever nor particularly original) but to point out that some apparently serious contenders can fall by the wayside with remarkable speed. There’s a reason why laying favourites is so often advised. It applies with especial force in long term markets such as these where early position is little or no guide to the eventual result of the race. Leadership markets are more like the keirin than the Tour de France.

Why are people put off doing this? There’s concern about tying up money over time. That is a valid concern but it can be overdone. If you lay a candidate at 8 with a stake of £700, you risk tying up that £700 for a return of just £100 for many years – and you might still lose your money. Might you not be better just putting the money in the bank? 

All that can happen. In practice, however, this week’s poster boy often becomes next month’s Norma Desmond and that £700 can usually be recouped for a fraction of £100 long before the race is run. Or, alternatively, you can lay the latest poster boy – you won’t be tying up any more money. If over time you get to lay eight candidates at 8 for £700 you will be up £100 if any of those eight win – and up £800 if anyone else does. And you can withdraw that original £700 back to your bank without further delay.

This is not a particularly dynamic strategy.  It requires a shift of mindset, however.  First, it requires you to move away from the idea that a leadership election is probably imminent.  History has shown that it probably isn’t. 

Next, you need to move away from the idea that you can spot the winner or even that you can spot the likely contenders – at any given point you should proceed in the absence of compelling evidence on the basis that a leadership election is years away.  If that’s right, the contenders are not just unknown but unknowable.  This is especially true of a party out of power.  In the last 25 years we have seen Iain Duncan Smith, David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn become leader of the opposition.  In each case they would not have been remotely considered plausible successors when their predecessor became leader. 

This is easier said than done. I blush to see some of my own past comments about possible Labour leadership candidates. No, I’m not going to link to them.  Take my word for it, it is all too easy to be overconfident that you can see ahead into the middle distance.

Next, you need to keep a clear head. Momentum (or Moggmentum) is of no use at all at the wrong time.  David Miliband, George Osborne and Boris Johnson have all at different times been seen as inevitable successors.  Standing against the crowd takes a certain strength of character: there will always be apparently good reasons why those candidates will be seen as so well-placed. Laying them when their star is shining brightly takes nerve.

Finally, you need to stay clearheaded if markets move in your direction. It is all too tempting to take notional profits before the rats get at them. But you are at least as likely to be doing the wrong thing. If you close a bet you are giving up on upside as well as protecting yourself against downside. Consider doing nothing in such circumstances. It is often the best action.

Oh, and the corollary that favourites in these markets are too short is that there are some longshots that are too long. If you back a few well-chosen candidates well into three figures you can reasonably hope that one or two of them will shorten sharply in the coming years. I have bet at very long odds on Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ed Miliband and Kate Osamor, among others. Some now look very silly. But Rebecca Long-Bailey is now the fourth favourite. The amount that I have taken by laying off my bets on her since she shortened has paid for all the rest put together and much more besides (and she would still be among my best winners).

This market has not stopped. On general principles there is much to be said for laying Emily Thornberry at 7 or so: she looks a very credible possibility right now but experience has shown that such contenders can be expected to fade. 

I believe that some figures on the Labour right, having been far too short for a long time, are now too long.  The Labour membership are looking for inspiring leadership rather than necessarily being unthinking hard leftists. A Labour right winger who could construct a positive message rather than snipe at the current leadership could easily win. Stella Creasy for example, will never win over Momentum supporters but she has the character, achievements and determination to win over the uncommitted. Rachel Reeves also cannot be discounted.

But it you want some real long shots, there are quite a few members of the shadow Cabinet that can be backed today in high three figures.  Some – Tony Lloyd, Valerie Vaz, Shami Chakrabati, Christina Rees, are available at 1000.  They are likely to have the time to prove themselves. Some will no doubt return to obscurity. But there has to be the possibility that one of them will catch the public’s attention.  Lesley Laird, who I backed at 1000 and is now at 520 is one who I am keeping an eye on in particular. Try covering a few of them. I have.

Alastair Meeks


In October 2017 LAB had an average poll lead of 2.4% – this October Corbyn’s party is 3% behind

Monday, October 29th, 2018

The polls turned in March which coincided with Corbyn’s response to Salisbury and antisemitism becoming a big issue

October 2018 voting intention polls

October 2017  voting intention polls

Survation’s chart shows the timing of the switch


The Survation chart shows the LAB-CON splits in its Westminster voting intention polling since GE2017 when, of course, the firm was the most accurate pollster. Since then it has generally been recording the best figures for Labour and at times, like at the general election, has been out of line with other pollsters.

As can be seen things were going positively for Labour until late March when its share moved down from the 43%-45% range and has been broadly lower ever since.

There’s a great danger in looking at what was taking place at the time of the downturn and reading too much into it. Correlation is not causation.

However there were two big developments during the latter part of March – his initial response to the Salisbury chemical attack and the row about his positive comments on Facebook about a mural which was said to be antisemitic.

It was the latter that triggered the demonstration outside parliament by members of the Jewish community and their supporters as well, over the month, a series of stories about what the leader had done in the past.

We do know that in the London elections on May 4th the Labour aggregate vote was 43.9% which was way down on the 54.6% of GE2017 and all the polling for May 2018 elections.

My view is that the Salisbury response and the ongoing antisemitism row caused damage to Corbyn and his party from which it has yet to recover.

Mike Smithson


LAB would struggle to win a snap election with 50% of GE2017 LAB voters not rating Corbyn as “best PM”

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

His 50% LAB voter rating compares with 80% of GE2017 Tories for May

While all the focus this week has been on TMay’s chances of survival the PM and her party can take comfort in the latest “Best PM” ratings from YouGov in which those polled are given just two options – her and Corbyn.

In recent weeks TMay has been regaining her position and is now up from a low of 31% overall naming her to 38%. Corbyn is 14% behind on 24%.

What is striking when you look at the past vote splits is the breakdown that appears in the chart above. As can be seen GE17 CON voters are in broad terms still rating the PM highly on this measure. Corbyn’s position is that just half of LAB’s 2017 vote is now ready to rate him as best PM.

Clearly those who have voted for a party in the past must be regarded as almost bankers for the next election. This polling, which is very similar to other pollsters asking the “Best PM” question should be of concern to the red team.

There are two segments of the general election LAB vote which Corbyn appears to be having problems with – those who want to remain within the EU and those alienated by perceptions of antisemitism.

His view on Brexit is very much alien to the 70% or so of LAB voters who believe the vote to leave was wrong. On antisemitism we saw in the May locals how the party performed very badly in areas with large Jewish populations.

All this compares with the proportion of general election Tory voters backing Mrs May which is very much out of line with the noise coming from the hardline Brexiteers.

This does not bode well for Labour in a general election.

Mike Smithson



Corbyn’s gift to the Tories and Mrs May – his boycott of the House of Lords

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

The balance in the Upper House has silently trended towards the blues

Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t like the House of Lords and as with many things he doesn’t like, he’s gone out of his way to avoid engaging with it. When he was first running for the Labour leadership, he promised that he wouldn’t nominate any new Labour peers. That was understandable for someone who has long opposed the nature of the undemocratic upper House, and for someone who’s always believed in the power of the boycott.

Three years on, he’s not quite kept to that promise. Three new Labour peers have been created since the beginning of 2016 (this is a better starting point than September 2015, when Corbyn was actually elected, as the post-2015GE peers were still being created through the autumn). A fourth, Martha Osamor – race equality campaigner, mother of Shadow cabinet member Kate Osamor, and defender of various Labour members accused of antisemitism – has been nominated but hasn’t yet received her title.

Boycotts, however, have a habit of being self-defeating (especially when only partially carried out, where they lose their moral weight too). Against the three new Labour peers to have entered the House since the beginning of 2016, seven have retired, two lost their place for non-attendance, and sixteen have died: a total loss of 25 Labour members leaving the party down by a net 22, or more than 10% of its strength.

By contrast, while the Conservatives have lost about the same number, 24 new Tory peers have been created on Theresa May’s watch (some of these may be Cameron’s resignation honours; I’ve not checked that closely – the effect and numbers are more important that who proposed them). Add in another one from 2016 before Cameron resigned, plus two other hereditaries elected in by-elections, and the Tories’ numbers in the Lords are up by a net 3 over the same period.

That slight increase also has to be set against a shrinking House elsewhere. Not a single new Lib Dem peer has been created since the beginning of 2016, leaving the Yellows down a net 7 in that time (though we should note that eleven Lib Dem peers were sent up to the Lords in October 2015). Crossbench numbers are also down with a net change of -20 (14 in and some 34 leaving, over half of them making use of the new retirement facility).

    What all this means is that Corbyn has chosen to put the government in a better position in the Lords by about 15-20 seats than it would have had, had he pressed for and made use of something much closer to a pro rata entitlement.

    Add in the changes elsewhere and the government is probably 30 seats or so better off against the other parties in net terms than it was nearly three years ago.

Of course, the Lords isn’t the Commons. Even after those changes, the Tories still have nothing like a majority, with fewer than a third of the members: 249 out of 791. All the same, if Corbyn continues his near-boycott and if the Lib Dems’ numbers continue to decline in the light of their last two election results (they currently have 17% of party-affiliated peers: more than double their vote shares in 2015 or 2017), then it won’t be long before the Conservatives do have more than half the members who take a whip. At the moment, against the Tories’ 249, there are exactly 300 from other parties (including four from the DUP), plus 215 cross-benchers or unaffiliated.

In terms of critical votes, the Lords isn’t that important. It cannot make or break governments. It cannot veto Budgets. It cannot reverse Brexit. What it can do, however, is substantially alter legislation against a government’s will – and do so in a way that can often be difficult to reverse. By refusing to taint himself with the brush of ermine (except when convenient), Corbyn will undoubtedly hand the government victories in the Lords it wouldn’t have otherwise had.

I wonder though whether he or his advisors are playing a longer game. We know that Corbyn and those around him want an early election, which is possible but unlikely. If it’s later – particularly, if it’s in 2022 – then the attrition of retirement and the great Returning Officer in the sky will likely deplete Labour’s numbers much further. Were they to then win, they’d find themselves heavily outnumbered in a hostile upper House. Never mind that it was their own (in)actions that led to that, it’d still provide a pretext to flood it with True Believers, or to reform it into an elected body (though that’s something that’s always a lot more attractive in opposition than in government), or to abolish it outright.

Before then though, the Tory PMs will find life a little easier up the corridor than they’ve a right to expect. Given the many challenges of the coming months and years, that might only be a slim silver lining – but in an otherwise dull lead sky, any sparkle will be welcomed.

David Herdson


It looks as though TMay won’t be the only main party leader facing a Brexit rebellion. Corbyn’s has one as well

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

The Indy report names some LAB MPs:

“Labour MPs told The Independent that at least 15 could rebel against Mr Corbyn and back the government, which could be enough to tip the balance in the Commons in favour of the deal.

Hammond claims Brexit deal would deliver ‘economic bonus’
One prepared to go public, Gareth Snell, MP for Stoke Central, said: “If the deal is some sort of customs union, protection of the unity of the union and looking at a future trade deal, it would be very hard to justify why we’re not supporting that.”

Ruth Smeeth, another Stoke MP, said: “If the option is voting for the deal or voting for something that would mean no deal – well, I’m not prepared to vote for no-deal.”

Don Valley MP Caroline Flint said: “I believe if there is a reasonable deal that stops us crashing out with no deal, we shouldn’t rule it out..”

Mike Smithson


The real weakness of the threats of PM Corbyn is that many LAB MPs don’t like the idea either

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

With TMay seemingly in a total mess trying to maintain support for her Brexit plans while now being opposed by the Brextremists and the DUP lots of speculative scenarios are being played out.

James Forsyth in an interesting Speccie post linked to above raises one one scenario with the risk of PM Corbyn being just about the final argument that Mrs May might have.

I think John Rentoul’s response hits the nail on the head. There are a number of LAB MPs there who are totally opposed to Corbyn entering Number 10. It is hard to quantify this but they see him at close hand and are aghast at what has happened to their party. What about many of the Jewish LAB MPs for starters

We are in an incredible situation with every day passing meaning we are getting close to March 29th 2019.

    It is very hard to see how this plays out but then it was almost impossible to envisage on June 9th 2017 that Mrs. May would be able to carry on in the job as she has done.

It was also hard to see how the Brexit bill would get through parliament unscathed given the opposition particularly in the upper house. But Mrs. May survived that.

My guess is that the biggest threat she can make to the CON hardliners is having a second referendum. Would Moggsy & co dare to put at risk the whole project of leaving the EU if it came to the crunch?

Mike Smithson


Given current polls the Tories shouldn’t be spooked by Corbyn but they are

Friday, October 5th, 2018

The shockwaves of June 8th 2017 continue

The Speccies Isabel Hardman has an excellent piece under the heading “Why the Tories feel so spooked by Jeremy Corbyn”. She argues that some of the messages from the LAB leader have the potential to resonate. She goes on:

I understand that the reason Labour has decided to talk so much about the way capitalism has left certain voters behind is that recent polling carried out by the party found it had strong resonance with groups of voters who feel pessimistic about the future of the country…”

Maybe this is a reflection of how LAB’s manifesto at GE2017 appeared to be so successful in bringing in new voters and driving turnout. The question surely is whether Corbyn’s LAB is able to do the same again on a more successful scale that will enable it to make the gains to get closer to Tory seat totals.

The signs from current polling is that the opposition party is struggling to hold onto to its GE2017 support and is not opening up new groups of voters. Labour is also floundering in Scotland where it was once so dominant. It is also very hard to see which new groups of voters the red team will be able to attract because at the moment they are shedding votes from last time

    The only problem here is that after GE2017 Tory trust in the polls remains badly shaken and that is going to linger right until the next election. So the Tories are going to be extra guarded and not really believe anything until the exit poll at the next election comes out.

But there is a possible benefit – Labour complacency. So many Corbynistas appear to believe that because there was such turnaround in 2017 then the same will happen again. The party exceeded expectations, many of them believe, because the broadcasting rules last meant that Labour was presented more fairly and they can look to that once again.

Maybe it will but maybe it won’t. We know a lot more about Corbyn now and his ratings have nose-dived.

My long-term betting prediction is that the spread betting markets next time will overstate Labour’s eventual seat total.

Mike Smithson