Sajid Javid moves to second favourite to succeed Theresa May

May 25th, 2018

From a 3.7% chance to 9%+ in just 25 days

Following a glowing write-up by Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph this morning there’s been a lot of been a fair bit of betting interest in the Home Secretary for next Conservative leader.

This is from the Nelson piece in which he looks at how Javid is handling his new job:

“His first change – rhetorical style – is relatively easy. The bigger test will be if he can win the battle that his predecessor kept losing: creating a more sensible immigration regime with more Tier 2 visas for highly-skilled workers. Ms Rudd wanted to let in a lot more doctors, engineers and computer programmers. Mrs May wanted no deviation from the overall target – and she won. This, of course, is the inflexibility that led to the Windrush debacle. If Mr Javid can replace this with a more liberal system – which can easily be introduced after Brexit – he’ll have won the gratitude of his party.

He isn’t disliked, which counts for a lot at a time when Tory leadership elections are won by whoever has the fewest enemies. When he ran for the leadership two years ago, the junior partner on a joint ticket with the now-forgotten Stephen Crabb, they presented themselves as the “nice guy” duo. That was the biggest boast either could make, having not achieved much or made clear what they stood for. As Home Secretary, Mr Javid is making it clearer now: he’s a reformer, someone who wants to change the tone of the party and is impatient for radical change. Someone who’s sure of himself and his form of conservatism… “

The favourite continues to be Jacob Rees-Mogg although he has seen a decline in recent weeks. My long-standing view has been that Rees-Mogg would find it hard to secure the support of 150 or more Conservative MPs required to get him onto the party members’ ballot. This is, of course, restricted to the top two elected by MPs.

Can Javid do it? Don’t know and in recent times baldies have not prospered in the role. Just think Hague and IDS.

Everything, of course, depends on timing of the next leadership contest. Is Theresa May really going to step down after brexit next March or is she going to be pushed beforehand? She could have caused make it right through to the end of the Parliament. Amazingly she’s been incredible survivor so far

Mike Smithson


Think of this weekend on PB as being like the Thameslink changes

May 25th, 2018

Thanks to Liverpool getting through to the Champion’s league final and the ongoing series of strikes on SNCF – the French railway system we have a problem this weekend running PB.

TSE is off to Kiev to support his beloved Liverpool while I am having to bring my holiday forward by two days so our train trip down to Andalusia won’t be disrupted by the strikes. The result is there is no one “on duty” over the weekend.

So we have lined up a number of guest slots as well as posts prepared in advance. But if something current happens, like TMay having a re-think on something while on her holiday break, it probably won’t be covered. Any betting prices quoted are those that applied today.

TSE, hopefully reinvigorated by the outcome of the match should be back after the holiday weekend.

Mike Smithson


Unless LAB can win back Scotland then there’s little chance of Corbyn becoming PM

May 25th, 2018

The latest Scotland only polls have LAB down in third place

The biggest impact on the Labour-Conservative seat balance in the past decade was the virtual wipeout of LAB north of the border at GE2015.

Five years earlier at GE2010 when Labour lost power there were, extraordinarily, no seat changes at all north of the border with what was then Gordon Brown’s party retaining all 41 seats that it held on an overall increased Scottish vote share. The SNP had just 6 seats with the LDs 11 and the Tories just 1.

Then came the 2014 IndyRef which although Yes lost it totally changed the political environment leading to at the following general election SLAB losing all but one of the 41. The LDs lost 10 of their 11 and the Tories remained with just one Scottish MP.

It is not often remembered that Ed Miliband’s LAB actually made progress in England gaining 15 more seats. It was the Scottish wipe out that overshadowed everything and the SNP found itself with 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats displacing the LDs as the third party at Westminster.

    Move on to GE2017 which proved to be something of a setback for Sturgeon’s party losing 21 seats and holding onto 35. But, alas, it was Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Tories who were the main beneficiary not Scottish LAB

To put this into context in England Corbyn’s party made just 21 net gains which wasn’t much better than what EdM had done two years earlier.

If Corbyn’s LAB is to return to government then much of the current seat deficit it has nationally with the Tories will need be made up from battles with the SNP and current Scotland only polling doesn’t look good.

The most recent Panelbase survey had LAB on 25% in Scotland trailing the Scottish Tories and way behind the SNP.

Mike Smithson


It is time we thought about another PB gathering

May 24th, 2018

I have been reminded that it is now more than a year a year since we had a PB gathering. In recent years these have taken place in pubs in central London where Fat Steve has arranged for a specific area to be allocated to us.

He has done a sterling job making the arrangements but alas he is now working overseas.

Has anybody got any ideas for a future event and is there someone who is based in London who could help with the arrangements. I am sure Steve will offer advice and help from afar.

The last time we got together the Tories had a majority and Corbyn was heading for a disaster at GE2017.

Mike Smithson


Pro-Brexit anti-Lords poll splashed by the Mail comes under fire for “loaded” questions

May 24th, 2018

Leo Barasi of the PB/Polling Matters podcast sets out his reasons

Leo Barasi, a regular with Keiran Pedley on the PB/Polling Matters Podcasts is no stranger to PBers and his is always worth listening to.

He’s posted on his “Noise of the Crowd” blog observations about the ComRes poll that featured in yesterday’s Daily Mail. He writes:

The fundamental problem is that the questions were nearly all one-sided agree/disagree questions, with each one loaded against the Lords and Remainers. A couple of examples:

It would be wrong for the House of Lords to try and thwart Brexit [“thwart”!]”

“It is wrong that the House of Lords has already voted against the government on Brexit 14 times”

“There are currently 780 members of the Lords compared to 650 MPs in the Commons. This is too many”

If you really want to measure public opinion you ask a question that presents both sides of an argument equally, then allow respondents to choose which they are closer to. Or if you really have to ask agree/disagree questions, the collection of the questions should be balanced so you’re not pushing a particular argument and you can compare the skewed questions against each other.

A good guide of a fair poll is that you shouldn’t be able to guess the view of the organisation commissioning the poll from the questions. This clearly fails that.

The poll was done for a new pro-Brexit campaign called “We, the People”.

I have invited ComRes to respond.

Mike Smithson


November’s US midterms are looking a lot tighter than a month or so ago

May 24th, 2018

The polling average narrows

The Betfair betting exchange get tighter


For the past year or so many people have been predicting that the US midterms, the elections that take place exactly 2 years after a presidential election, would not be very good for Mr Trump.

In particular the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by the Republicans, looked set to flip and that would frustrate enormously legislative objectives of the presidency.

The Senate comma though, is a different matter. About a third of the 100 members are up for election and the ones that will be contested this year looks pretty promising for the Republicans with a few chances for the Democrats. This is despite the fact that the current split in the Senate is 51 to 49 to the Republicans.

The generic congressional polling question, featured in the top chart above, shows how the gap has been narrowing and because of the way that congressional boundaries are worked out then the Republicans could still hold on even if they are a few percentage points behind on the overall national vote. This is called, as we all know, gerrymandering and happens because congressional District boundaries are determined at a state level where the Republicans have been doing pretty well in recent years and control most state legislatures.

So it is entirely possible that on the first Tuesday in November that Mr Trump see that he can finish off his first term with his party still in control of both houses. That would be something of an achievement.

I’m expecting that in the the coming months the betting on this to be quite extensive and certainly will be the biggest political betting markets of 2018.

Mike Smithson


Unofficial monster raving loonies. Decoding the Brexit customs union row

May 23rd, 2018

For a moment, let us contemplate the lower reaches of British politics and consider parties other than the big two.  Some of those political parties, like the DUP and the Women’s Equality Party, are best known for particular policies.  Some, like the Greens and the BNP, are best known for their values.

The Official Monster Raving Loony Party is best known for neither, being famous chiefly for in a minor way improving the gaiety of the nation.  Yet it has had notable policy successes in the past, being the first to advocate lowering the voting age to 18, the idea of passports for pets and all-day pub opening.  The two main parties will pilfer ideas from absolutely anyone.

The Loonies are fighting the Lewisham East by-election and have published their manicfesto online here.  At least three of their policy offerings could be rebadged by nominally saner parties: the idea of playgrounds for all ages; the idea of saving money by only painting yellow lines where you can park; and the idea that “All political and electoral leaflets will be printed on soft paper so that it may be recycled in the appropriate manner”.  They sound suspiciously sensible to me.  Less appealing to this voter, they are apparently advocates of compulsory voting.  The OMRLP are outriders for many of the bossier MPs on this subject.

The Loony ethos has permeated right to the top of government.  At present the Cabinet is riven by a split between those who advocate an agreement with the EU based on a customs partnership (which appears to be at present technically impossible and in any case has already been ruled out of hand by the EU as a basis for negotiation) and those who advocate an agreement with the EU based on “MaxFac” (which also appears to be at present technically impossible and has also already been ruled out of hand by the EU as a basis for negotiation). 

Now you might well regard the government as mediocre, filled with lazy ideologues, overpromoted lightweights and blinkered administrators.  I do.  But they are not obviously insane.  So what is going on? 

I have identified four possibilities.  First, despite the public statements made by EU negotiators, British politicians believe with no additional evidence that the EU will in practice be more flexible than indicated. 

Secondly, despite the public statements made by EU negotiators, British politicians have been given private indications that the EU will in practice be more flexible than indicated. 

Thirdly, British politicians do not believe that the EU will be more flexible and are having the argument as a proxy for a different argument. 

Fourthly, British politicians do not believe that the EU will be more flexible and are having the argument to buy (or sell) time. 

These possibilities are not mutually exclusive and different Conservative politicians may be operating on the basis of different rationales.  I don’t believe that anyone thinks the EU is ultimately going to buy either of these solutions.  But it certainly seems that some of the more extreme Leaver politicians are indeed anxious that Brexit is to be watered down too far for their red-toothed tastes and treating this battle as part of that broader fight.  They will be aware of the risk of a disruptive Brexit and regard that as a risk worth running in order to secure the degree of separation from the EU that they desire.  So they are baring their teeth on this.

Theresa May, on the other hand, will be calculating very differently.  Her pattern of behaviour since becoming Prime Minister has been consistent: to defer decisions until they make themselves.  So, for example, as late as September 2017, prominent Leavers were huffing and puffing about a Brexit bill of £40 billion.  Yet £40 billion is pretty much what was agreed in December 2017, when Leavers reluctantly accepted that was needed to get a deal struck.

In practice to date on the Brexit negotiations, that has meant caving in to the EU in time at each point, as that example demonstrates.  That means that Leavers are getting frustrated with the lack of macho confrontation.

On the question of customs, she is again running a slow bicycle race.  She does not want to be seen to be advocating a continued customs union, which is hugely unpopular with the hardliners.  Yet she needs to find a solution that enables Britain to act consistently with its Good Friday Agreement obligations, which requires far more integration on customs than many Leavers at present are countenancing.  So she is penelopising, seemingly working industriously to progress options that she secretly unravels later, looking to buy time until the ultimate decision is reluctantly accepted by all (or almost all).

But she cannot do this indefinitely.  If a deal is to be struck with the EU, it will need to be struck fairly soon – the clock is ticking down to 29 March 2019.  The crunch point is coming, which is no doubt why the government has announced that the Brexit Bills are coming back to Parliament again now.

What, assuming that a deal is reached, will the ultimate decision look like?  I suspect Theresa May is less concerned by that question than by getting there without leaving her government broken-backed.  (Seen in that light, we should not be surprised by reports that the Cabinet has never been briefed on the costs of MaxFac – the detail of the policy is irrelevant, so long as the possibility of the policy keeps the government from falling apart in the short term.)  But those of us less concerned about the future of the government than about the future of the country need to think about that question.

First, it probably won’t be called a customs union.  Theresa May has said that Britain will be leaving the customs union and so whatever the ultimate arrangement is, she won’t want it to be called that.  Secondly, it will need to be immediately workable.  That means that it is going to need to look quite like a customs union.

The government’s soft-line opponents seem confident that they can defeat it over the customs union question in the House of Commons.  If they are right to be confident, the government will know that too.  This begs the interesting question of whether Theresa May is consciously setting herself up for a Laevinic defeat.  (For those that are unfamiliar with this idea, it is the opposite of a Pyrrhic victory – a defeat that brings a reward greater than triumph would have secured.)  For if she is defeated on the floor of the House of Commons over the question of a customs union, she can seek to continue on that basis, respecting the will of Parliament over her own wishes, allying herself with the disgruntled hardline losers as she implements their strategic quietus.

There’s madness in this method, it seems.  The Loonies have taken over the asylum indeed.

Alastair Meeks


By-election punters should check the form before risking their cash

May 23rd, 2018

There have only been five Westminster by-elections which have been contested by the main parties since the Brexit referendum and the average party changes are shown in the chart above.

As can be seen there have been much bigger movements in constituencies which voted Remain than those which voted Leave. In the former, both in CON held seats seats, the LDs did particularly well picking up one gain with the Tory vote sharply down.

What we haven’t had is a by-election in a LAB seat which voted Remain as is the case in Lewisham East so we are into new territory.

What is important is that Westminster by-elections can develop dynamics which are very different from the overall political picture and comparisons with local results or what happened at the previous general election are not necessarily relevant.

I don’t buy Pulpstar’s analysis of Lewisham because the scale of the LD operation is likely to be at Witney and Richmond levels and will be far greater than that of the Tories.

Mike Smithson