Archive for the 'Tories' Category


Damian Green resigns

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

Mike Smithson


Your regular reminder that laying the favourite in the next Tory leader market is usually very profitable

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Ignoring the polls and laying the favourite for the next Tory leader has been consistently a profitable route for nearly half a century.

The picture above is from ConHome’s regular polling on the next Tory leader from October 2015, Osborne would lead for five months in a row, yet he failed to become David Cameron’s successor.

Now people might argue Osborne’s prominent role in the Remain campaign put the kibosh on him succeeding David Cameron but he’s not the first favourite to fail to become Tory leader. David Davis, Michael Portillo, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, and Willie Whitelaw, all of those were usurped by someone who a few months was considered a rank outsider, such as John Major, IDS, William Hague, Margaret Thatcher, and David Cameron. David Davis in particular will remember that in June 2005 he was the odds on favourite at 1/2 to be Michael Howard’s successor.

Back in November 2015 I wrote that winning the Tory leadership is often more about who you aren’t rather than who you are, and it isn’t hard to see a stop Boris or JRM candidate winning by default.

My assumption is that the next Tory leadership contest won’t be until 2019, so it might be wise to look at the current leadership polling and betting markets and assume whoever leads and is the favourite won’t be Theresa May’s successor. Just look at the odds on the next Tory leader in October 1974, a little over three months later the 50/1 outsider won.



Damian Green’s computer is none of our business

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

This has unhealthy echoes of the Plebgate affair

Why would former policemen leak details of an investigation that didn’t result in a prosecution (never mind a conviction), which took place nine years ago and where the details were incidental to the alleged act being investigated?

The answer to that is, of course, entirely speculative. It is also to a large degree irrelevant. If there was evidence of criminal wrongdoing, they should have acted at the time. If there wasn’t, they should have left it there. It is not the police’s job to enforce workplace discipline; still less is it their job to intervene in the political sphere. It’s impossible to dismiss the suspicion that there’s an element of settling an old grudge against Green both for the extent to which Bob Quick was criticised for his handling of the raid and arrest, and for Green’s victory in having his personal details subsequently removed from police files. If so, it would be wholly unacceptable for a current or former copper to use confidential information gained in his or her public duty in a private vendetta.

Indeed, I’d have thought there was a strong case to be made that these leaks breach the Data Protection Act, in that they seem to drive a coach and horses through the data protection principles.

That being the case, the public doesn’t have a right to know what is or isn’t on Green’s computer (or that of any other MP), unless what’s there is breaking the law. Yes, in other walks of life, to download porn would be a sackable offence but MPs aren’t in a normal job. For a start, they’re effectively self-employed and so there isn’t anyone to sack them bar the electorate. Nor are they paid as such for their time in their office – an MP receives the same whether he or she works 15 hours a day or does nothing for five years. How they spend their time is their business until the point where it’s for them to justify their work to the voters.

What worries me about this is the echo of Plebgate. That’s not to say that Quick or ex-PC Neil Lewis are lying – though we only have their word against Green’s, and clearly someone is – but it is to say that once again, a senior minister is under heavy political pressure because of comments that policemen (or ex-policemen) have made, which shouldn’t have been made. The political fact is that rogue elements within the police force (or formerly of it) are seeking to determine who can sit in the cabinet. Even if the numbers are tiny, twice still looks like a trend.

Green should not be sacked for something that might or might not have happened nine years ago. In fact, I’d suggest he’d be well within his rights to deny it even if it were true, simply because the story should not be in the public domain and any other response would give it credence. Whether it would be politically wise to do so is another matter.

Leaking, and the judicious use of leaks by oppositions and backbench MPs, has a long and at times noble history. It also has a murky side, into which category these allegations undoubtedly fall. They should be treated as the irrelevance they are.

David Herdson


The last 48 hours makes me content to keep on laying David Davis as next PM/Tory leader

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

‘He’s useless. He’s absolutely useless. He’s as useless as a marzipan dildo.’

Whenever I think of David Davis I’m reminded of the marzipan quote by Malcolm Tucker from The Thick Of It, which is why I’ve been laying David Davis as next PM/Tory Leader markets for quite some time and the above tweets seem to reinforce those views.

Of course it maybe a case on confirmation bias on my part but then we have Jacob Rees-Mogg saying “(There is a) growing concern that Her Majesty’s government seems in these negotiations to be dancing to the tune of the European Commission.”

Today’s Times reports that

The British proposal is understood to commit the government to work towards “avoiding regulatory divergence” in Ireland after Brexit even if the rest of the UK moves away from European rules. This would involve the government devolving a package of powers to Northern Ireland to enable customs convergence with the Irish Republic on areas such as agriculture and energy…

…The outlines of a “standstill” transition arrangement, effectively prolonging British EU membership, are ready to be tabled after the expected sign-off on the principles of a withdrawal deal at the December summit. EU sources said that the transition deal could be agreed in January before negotiations begin on a future trading relationship.’

Ensuring Northern Ireland has a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK doesn’t seem the sort of thing the Conservative and Unionist Party of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should be promulgating, and I’m sure effectively prolonging the UK’s membership of the EU will not enamour David Davis to Leavers.

Much like Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary is confirming all the worst fears about Prime Minister Boris Johnson, David Davis’ tenure as Brexit Secretary is confirming all the worst fears about a Prime Minister David Davis, incompetent and the Minister for Winging It (Badly), bet accordingly with those two.


PS – It was also a bad 48 hours for Gavin Williamson, who as Chief Whip was the genius behind the government boycotting opposition day debate votes that has led to these problems for the government.  Quite frankly his ‘cleverness’ is the epitome of a Pyrrhic victory with could see David Davis held in contempt of Parliament. He seems another definite lay on the next PM/Tory leader markets.


My 100/1 tip for next PM is setting his sights on Number 10

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

The Sunday Times report

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt has sounded out colleagues and party donors about a run for the Tory leadership when Theresa May stands down.

Senior Eurosceptics say Hunt is lining himself up as an alternative to Boris Johnson as the main Brexiteer candidate for prime minister after publicly switching his support from “remain” since the general election.

The foreign secretary’s gaffes have contributed to a view that a heavy hitter who supports Brexit will be needed to take on either Amber Rudd, the home secretary, or Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, when May steps down — which is expected towards the end of 2019.

One of May’s aides said Downing Street became suspicious of Hunt’s ambitions earlier this month when “briefings started appearing that he would make a splendiferous chancellor”.

The health secretary Jeremy Hunt has sounded out colleagues and party donors about a run for the Tory leadership when Theresa May stands down.

Senior Eurosceptics say Hunt is lining himself up as an alternative to Boris Johnson as the main Brexiteer candidate for prime minister after publicly switching his support from “remain” since the general election….

….One of May’s aides said Downing Street became suspicious of Hunt’s ambitions earlier this month when “briefings started appearing that he would make a splendiferous chancellor”.

But Eurosceptic power brokers say Hunt’s ambitions extend to No 10 as well as No 11.

Back in July it was clear Jeremy Hunt was on manoeuvres and I tipped taking the 100/1 on Hunt to be Mrs May’s successor. He’s got a lot of good things going for him. He’s proved to be a very competent Secretary of State in probably the most tricky cabinet job, despite the opprobrium regularly heaped on him. He’s also a very successful businessman, and crucially he’s switched from backing Remain to Leave since the referendum.

Switching from Remain to Leave will assuage concerns of Leavers, plus won’t taint him as being one of  Putin’s puppets. He’d also gain the support of  the Cameroon wing of  the party, as he’d espouse the social and domestic policies of David Cameron, who is after all the only Tory to win a majority in the last 25 years.

At the time of writing, William Hill and Paddy Power were offering 66/1 on Jeremy Hunt to be next PM, my advice is to take those odds, even purely as trading bet it should be profitable. Jeremy Hunt wants to be PM, it has been clear for months, and he’d do a damn sight better than Theresa May.



When will there be the next Cabinet resignation? William Hill’s new market

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Theresa’s Balliol boys look the most vulnerable

These are indeed turbulent times at Westminster with two Cabinet exits in the space of a week. Now Hill’s have opened a market on not WHO will be the next to go but WHEN. These are the options and odds:

When Will Next Cabinet Minister Resign (Full Cabinet Members only)
2/1 November
5/2 December
8/1 January
10/1 February
12/1 March
6/4 April or later

Clearly there are two who have featured prominently in the media for different reasons – Damian Green and Boris Johnson. Both were at the same Oxford college, Balliol, though not at the same time.

The former strongly denies the allegations that have been made against him which are currently being investigated. The latter, of course, has been the subject of much criticism because of his comments about the British woman being held in jail in Iran.

My guess is that TMay doesn’t want either of them to quit. A Boris departure could stimulate a leadership challenge while Damian Green is very much the key member of her cabinet team and has been a close friend since they were both at Oxford.

It could, of course, be Theresa herself who is the next to go.

These are very difficult to forecast as is the timing.

Mike Smithson


Back to the 1990s? Maybe

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Friday might have been the day the Tories became ungovernable again

Remakes are rarely as good as the originals. For all the attempts to update the story, they’re generally hamstrung by the essential unoriginality of it. Not that that stops the recycling: the public might not take them to their hearts but they’ll pay their money all the same.

We might seem to be living through a remake now. A Tory prime minister with no majority, reliant on the goodwill of Unionists while Northern Ireland’s politics goes into a freeze; a government divided into intermittently warring factions, each angling to position for the inevitable leadership election whenever it should come; Europe dominating and dividing the Conservatives’ attention; a succession of rather tawdry sex scandals circling the government. For those of a certain age it all feels a bit Back to the Nineties. All we need now are curtains haircuts, Britpop and Jim Davidson. Or perhaps not.

Actually, despite those close parallels, there are big differences too. Firstly, and most obviously, while the Tories are led by a decent but weak leader, Labour is not led by a young, charismatic leader aiming squarely at Tory marginals. Blair, in the mid-90s, made a deliberate play to attract Conservative voters; he made Labour safe again to middle England.

Corbyn, by contrast, while also radiating a certain sort of charisma, is following precisely the opposite path. The disenchanted left that Blair took for granted forms Corbyn’s highly motivated core vote. The centre, bitterly fought over twenty years ago, lies abandoned.

This has had a curious effect. Far from leaving a vacuum for the other parties to fill, third parties haven’t been weaker for decades. That’s no doubt because to many voters, one side represents such a threat that the only option is to back the other, despite severe misgivings – and rarely can misgivings have been more severe than this week.

Also, this is Expenses rather than Back to Basics: Labour and the Lib Dems are implicated too. The scandals in the 1990s hit the government overwhelmingly hard. Partly, that’s because governments always attract more attention because the stakes are higher there; there’s real rather than shadow office to be gained and lost. But mainly it was the nature of the scandals themselves. Today, by contrast, Labour is also suspending MPs and activists, with some very serious allegations in and amongst. The Lib Dems too have new questions to answer about their handling of Lord Rennard.

The sexual impropriety is, however, only half the story.

    The true development today, politically, is the revelation of just how bitter the Fallon-Leadsom spat was. When cabinet ministers go public on getting each other sacked, even if by proxy or off the record, the government rapidly becomes dysfunctional.

This may, perhaps, be a one-off – though the fact that Leadsom is still there will make other ministers extremely wary of how they deal with her. On the other hand, it might have marked the decisive shift from party discipline to personal or factional self-protection. If so, the Tories will lose, and will deserve to lose, the next election.

David Herdson


Mrs May has missed an opportunity and it could be costly

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Cyclefree reflects on a dramatic week

It was Abba Eban who said of the Palestinians that “they never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” However true this may or may not be of the Palestinians, it is certainly true of Mrs May. One Cabinet resignation does not have to lead to a full-scale reshuffle, of course, particularly if the PM cannot be certain how many of the possible candidates have been guilty of knee touching, knee tremblers or any other variety of sexual activity. But however fearful she may have been of instigating a reshuffle, when presented with the opportunity for one, why the craven timidity? Well, we can all guess why: fear for her job, a loss of confidence ever since her ill-fated General Election gamble, an unwillingness to trust outside a small circle and, probably most important of all, a failure to grasp two important lessons from the election.

They are these: good policies are not enough and who delivers the message is at least as important as what the message is. The Tory manifesto was not an example of good policies. Far from it. But there has been a tendency within the party and some of its supporters to think that merely replacing the ones which were rejected in June with some shiny new ones, a bit more nicely wrapped, will be enough. Letting Granny keep her house, tweaking student loans here, building some more houses there should do it” seems to be the hope. But it won’t. Few amongst the young or those on the right side of 40 are even willing to give the Tories a hearing.

They just don’t come into consideration at all. Asking those in their 20’s and 30’s to consider voting for a Tory party with people like Davis, Hammond, Fox, May, etc in charge is like asking them to watch a film on a video recorder. Corbyn may look old but he seems fresh. His is a voice that has not been heard for a while. He talks about stuff that matters to people and he seems to have some answers. It is irrelevant – for now – that in reality his political outlook is essentially nostalgic and that his remedies may not work. He has the electorate’s attention.

The Tories are largely talking to themselves. 40% in the polls looks good but how lasting or loyal is it in reality? How much of their vote is a not-Corbyn vote? Or a “Get Brexit done and then goodbye” vote? About the only Tory politician who has cut through is Rees-Mogg and for all his courtly politeness and Ultramontaine Catholicism, appealing to fans of Brideshead Revisited is hardly a winning electoral formula. For Tories to be given a chance to be listened to, people need to look up and notice and see and hear someone different, someone new, younger, someone they have not heard before, talking to them with a different voice, even looking different.

A reshuffle was an opportunity to bring on younger promising Tories, those closer in age and outlook and background to the parts of the electorate they need to reach, those speaking in accents that are not pure Home Counties, those with constituencies far from London, those with experience of the wider world or outside the usual Oxbridge/London/SPAD route, those with some understanding of what it is to worry about unexpected bills. It was an opportunity to start resetting the Tories image, much as Cameron’s election in 2005 from nowhere started to make people look at the Tories again. It was an opportunity to shift a generation and to get that new generation thinking about what a Conservatism for the 2020’s and beyond needs to be if it is to survive.

In seeking to rely only on those she could trust, Mrs May forgot that giving others opportunity and advancement and hope for preferment would both make her own and, more importantly, her party’s position more secure. Those who look for promotion are now reduced to hoping that others’ long-forgotten fumblings will create some more vacancies. Never was the personal more political.