Betting on when Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary will end

July 24th, 2016

BJ Special

Boris still wants to be PM, so he’ll try and make a success of his current role.

Ladbrokes have a market up on when Boris Johnson’s tenure as Foreign Secretary will end.

Like many I suspect Boris thought his ambition to be Prime Minister was over after Michael Gove’s transformation into Frank Underwood, but Gove is now looking more like Frank Spencer than Frank Underwood whilst Boris is now Foreign Secretary.

Whilst I know there has been some incredulity from other countries about the appointment, and the previous indiscretions of Boris, but the sexploits of the former Mayor of London in this era won’t be much of an issue, and Robert Boothby, an Old Etonian Tory politician from another era, would find the shenanigans of Boris all very tame.

No party, nor any side in a referendum has ever received more votes than the 17 million Leave received last month, and a lot of credit should go to Boris Johnson for that and he survived the white heat of the scrutiny of that campaign, he should be able to survive the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that come with occupying one of the great of offices of state. He knuckled down whilst he was Mayor of London, so he does have for form for trying to be a serious politician as a stepping stone to becoming Prime Minister.

I would like to back the 2020 or later option but I can think of other 6/4 bets that will pay out well before 2020, so this is a no bet for me but others may well disagree with my assessment.



How Theresa May could turn out to be the Labour party’s very unlikely saviour

July 24th, 2016

Video: A clip from John McDonnell’s appearance on The Andrew Marr Show this morning

Joff Wild on how Theresa May could simultaneously increase the Tory majority and save the Labour Party from Corbyn

John McDonnell’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show this morning was among the most extraordinary television interventions that a senior politician has made in recent years. During the course of the interview, McDonnell explained how the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did not understand the party’s policy proposals on pharmaceutical research and taxation incentives; and issued an unprecedented to-the-camera appeal for Labour unity, just a couple of weeks after telling leadership candidate Owen Smith and others that he did not care if the party split, and calling Labour MPs “fucking useless” at a Corbyn rally in Kentish Town.

McDonnell also gave what could turn out to be several hostages to fortune in his account of what happened when Karie Murphy – a senior Corbyn aide and the woman until now best known for her part in the Falkirk selection controversy – accessed Seema Malhotra’s Parliamentary office without permission; something that Malhotra has written a formal complaint to the Speaker’s office about. McDonnell made a series of specific claims about what occurred that will undoubtedly be disputed by Malhotra and her team. If these claims turn out to be incorrect, then the trip that close Len McCluskey ally and friend Murphy made down the corridor from the leader’s office may turn into Labour’s very own mini-Watergate.

But perhaps the most important section of the interview came right at the end. Thus was when Marr asked McDonnell whether he and Corbyn would resign if they led Labour to defeat at the next general election. Yes, McDonnell said, they would. As far as I know this is the first time that either he or Corbyn has said such a thing in public. That makes it extremely significant.

Should Corbyn beat Owen Smith’s challenge to him in September, as is widely expected, the next step in the hard left’s takeover of Labour is likely to be to seek the mandatory reselection of MPs. That, it is thought, will give Corbyn supporters among Labour’s membership the chance to get rid of those who have not shown sufficient loyalty to the leader and to replace them with candidates who can be expected to toe the line.

However, Labour’s constitution has many moving parts, making it difficult to change existing rules. First, proposals have to be submitted to the NEC, which then decides whether they should be put in front of conference. If the NEC agrees, then only a year later will conference get a vote. Thus, if the NEC agrees this year that reselection should be put to conference, at the earliest MPs are looking at possible deselection in 2018. However, as recent events have shown, it is highly unlikely that Corbyn has the votes on the current NEC to get this through. That may changes after the NEC elections have taken place, but would mean a conference vote only in two years’ time and reselections in 2019.

All this, though, is probably academic. By 2018, the new Parliamentary boundaries are likely to be in place, meaning a different set of MP selection rules will apply. These will be decided by Labour’s chief whip Rosie Winterton, who does not sit on the hard left wing of the party.

Thus, should Theresa May call a general election sometime between now and 2018, it is highly likely that the Labour MPs  currently in place will be the ones fighting it for the party. If, as the polls suggest, the Tories win handsomely some of those MPs may lose their seats. However, assuming that McDonnell is not being economical with the truth (and, of course, that cannot be ruled out) both he and Corbyn will step down from their roles. That will leave the PLP to decide who should slug it out for the leadership. Given that it is certain that no-one is going to lend a hard left candidate his or her vote ever again, that means it will be very difficult for such a candidate to be put in front of the membership, which – in any case –  will also be contemplating in the starkest way possible the electoral reality of putting its faith in Jeremy Corbyn.

So, consider this: Theresa May has a wafer thin Tory majority and the first signs of possible dissent on the party’s right are now beginning to emerge. May knows that if she goes to the country sooner rather than later, she will beat a Corbyn-led Labour party comfortably and substantially increase her majority. This would make her awkward squad much less of a problem and give her a whole lot more room for manoeuvre. Normally, this scenario would terrify Labour MPs, but if May does pull the trigger early it may actually prove to be their party’s salvation: Corbyn and McDonnell would be gone and the PLP would get to decide the candidates to replace them. A return to sanity and the long process of rebuilding Labour as a potential party of government could begin.

Theresa May has it in her hands not only to win a major general election victory for the Conservative party, but also to restore Labour to being a party whose primary aim is to achieve power through Parliament. That would be quite a legacy.

Joff Wild



Wiping out the Lib Dems might have been Cameron’s greatest strategic mistake as Prime Minister

July 24th, 2016

Cable Loss

Picture: The apotheosis of the Tory targeting of the Lib Dems at the last general election.

Why Cameron might still be PM if the coalition had continued after May 2015.

When David Cameron reflects on his earlier than anticipated departure as Prime Minister I wonder if in hindsight he’ll regret his and Sir Lynton’s Crosby targeting of the Lib Dem held seats at the last general election. At the time the 27 Tory gains from the Lib Dems was hailed for its brilliance and stealthiness, whilst the architects of the plan were lauded to the point one of them was awarded a knighthood.

But much like Hannibal defeating the Romans in the early part of The Second Punic War, Cameron may have won some battles but ultimately lost the war (to stop the Tories banging on about Europe.)

So imagine the EU referendum had taken place under another Con/Lib Dem coalition

With Nick Clegg’s greater experience of European Union affairs, Cameron might have obtained a much better renegotiation deal than he achieved. One of Cameron’s great misjudgements in the EU referendum was to spin the he deal obtained as a great deal instead of the reality of it being a middling to tepid deal at best.

If the referendum had happened under another Tory/Lib Dem coalition I get the feeling the Lib Dems would have insisted the franchise for the referendum was much more broader. You could have seen them insisting European Union citizens resident in the United Kingdom and sixteen & seventeen year olds having the vote, I think the former alone would have been more than enough to overturn Leave’s 1.3 million majority.

The Lib Dems might have also stopped some Tory errors  such as tax credit changes, academisation of every state school, and the junior doctors’ contracts that caused David Cameron’s government so much trouble since May 2015. Whilst in coalition, much to the chagrin of the their coalition partners, the Tories appropriated as their own some of the Liberal Democrat policies such as the substantial increase in the  personal allowance as a Tory policy. 

Had Cameron and his government not taken so many unpopular positions since May 2015, far fewer people would have taken the opportunity to use the referendum to give Cameron and his government a kicking.

Instead people wouldn’t be speaking about David Cameron as a latter day Lord North nor would David Cameron’s final ratings with Ipsos Mori sunk to an all time low for him. 

With a majority of only 12, Theresa May is another Tory leader who might find out that the Tory party is composed solely of “shits, bloody shits, and fucking shits” with the knowledge that the last three Tory Prime Ministers have been destroyed/had their Premierships ended by EU matters, coupled with the hunch that those Lib Dem voters who switched to the Tories at the last general election in those 27 seats won’t find Theresa May as electorally appealing as David Cameron, especially in light of her more authoritarian tendencies. All of this might present an opportunity for the Lib Dems to recover at the next general election.

If Labour does come to its senses and replaces Corbyn soon, by 2020 it might well be that David Cameron will be the only Tory to have won a general election, and a majority in the last twenty eight years, something his critics within the Tory party might wish to reflect on.



If Corbyn’s future was decided by those who voted for the party at GE2015 his prospects would look grim

July 23rd, 2016

Members may take different view but to LAB general election voters he’s a dead man walking

Corbyn’s battle to hang onto his job, as we all know, will be decided by party members and others who’ve managed to become part of the “selectorate” for this crucial election.

What member polling there’s been suggests that he’s doing OK and has a clear lead over the contender, Owen Smith. The YouGov survey took place before Angela Eagle withdrew from the race and before 180k people signed up to vote on the £25 scheme.

It is also true to say that Owen Smith, an MP since only 2010, is relatively unknown and has a very low level of recognition amongst the general public and to a less extent those who will vote. That will change over the next seven or eight weeks but looking at the numbers we have Smith appears to have a big challenge on his hand. Corbyn loyalists are great enthusiasts and are desperately keen for their guy to continue.

But Corbyn’s backing is from the selectorate which is not representative of those who cote fore the party.

The pie chart shows the breakdown of 2015 LAB voters when asked if they were “satisfied or dissatisfied with way Corbyn is doing as LAB leader?”. That fewer than two in five of those who supported EdM’s party were ready to give him a positive rating speaks volumes. These are not the own party ratings of a man who is going to win a general election.

I’ve now come to the view that at 17/18% Smith is the value bet.

Mike Smithson


Labour, heading towards the cliff

July 23rd, 2016


The Leadership Election is their last chance to save themselves

‘Exceptional things don’t happen as often as commentators think’ is nearly always a good betting rule of thumb but there are two riders to that assertion. Firstly, ‘not as often’ doesn’t mean ‘never’, and secondly, when they do happen, they can cluster.

In fact, 2016 hasn’t been quite as extraordinary as some might believe, though only because 2015 was. Brexit might be a defining moment in both the UK’s and the EU’s history but Leave had fluctuated either side of 50% for years; the Democrats in the end chose a solidly safe candidate and if the Republicans didn’t, they did pick the man who’d led in the polls since the middle of last year. The resignation of a PM is always unusual but Cameron’s departure was a natural consequence of a Brexit vote, and his replacement was the safe pair of hands that was always likely if the MPs could keep matters among themselves.

But 2016 isn’t over yet and there’s plenty of scope for something truly exceptional. Indeed, it’s already happening and is the hardening of two factions within Labour into two camps so hostile that it’s difficult to see how they can coexist. In the last week, Jeremy Corbyn has effectively threatened MPs opposed to him with deselection while they have launched a formal challenge to his leadership. Some have gone further. Three made direct attacks on Corbyn’s incompetence or conduct, while another publicly contemplated leaving the Party altogether if he’s re-elected.

This is more than a contest for office; to safeguard their own future, the winning faction will have little choice but to destroy their opponents as an effective force because the party cannot function while the civil war goes on. That no-confidence vote cannot be unheld.

Older Labour members will no doubt feel a sinking sensation of déjà vu about all this. The battles against the Militant Tendency in the 1980s were long, bitter and acrimonious. Rather like the Bourbons, it seems that Labour is at once capable of learning nothing and forgetting nothing. They might do well to recall the Bourbons’ fate.

If Corbyn wins where does that leave Labour moderates? They will then have played every card they have and will be facing opponents who will be both angry and euphoric; a heady and dangerous mix. Only three options would be possible: to recant and submit to the new order, to shut up and hope it all eventually blows itself out, or to leave one way or another.

Few will opt for the first choice which would be humiliating and patently false. More might try to sit on the fence and take the second but how sustainable can that be when Momentum types will be watching and waiting to expose ‘disloyalty’ – of which they’ll already have evidence.

    Which leaves only the third option: to quit. For all the talk of no splits, it’s almost impossible to see how that can be achieved if Corbyn wins.

For that matter, it’ll be quite difficult to avoid if Smith wins although in that unlikely situation, he would at least be watching or chasing the infiltrators back out, together with those who invited them in if he has any sense.

But more likely is a renewed Corbyn mandate and from there, the natural dynamics would play out. The Labour bus is careering towards the cliff, driven by someone who’s unqualified and egged on by a raucous bunch intoxicated by unexpected power. It’s true that jumping or inviting being pushed by standing up to the power in the party is likely to be painful but if the last chance is missed – and this leadership election is the last chance – then the alternative would be so much worse.

Doesn’t that bring us back to the point about forgetting nothing and learning nothing? Hasn’t Labour been here before and didn’t it end badly? Yes, they were and it did. But that time the unions and the leadership were on the side wanting to drag the party back from the abyss. This time, they and the membership are keenly accelerating towards it in the optimistic belief that they’re immune from the laws of gravity. But ‘gravity’ is no doubt just a Blairite theory.

David Herdson


The nastiness in the LAB leadership race is getting worse and now UNITE boss McCluskey is blaming MI5!

July 22nd, 2016

The response from ex-LAB Home Secretary Jacqui Smith


It’s being reported that Virginia Senator, Tim Kaine. will be named latest today as Clinton’s running mate

July 22nd, 2016

A message is due to go out from the Clinton campaign later today with her choice of VP nominee. All the reports suggest that she’s chosen Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.

There had been much speculation that she might have gone for Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, who has become one of Donald Trump’s most vocal and vehement critics. The problem there was that the Democratic party is desperate to win back control of the senate and her being elected as VP would have created a vacancy. Under normal procedures this would have been filled by the choice of the state Governor who is currently a Republican.

Senator Kaine does not have that problem because the Governorship of Virginia is currently in Democratic party hands.

Kaine is 58 and if he is chosen and Clinton wins then he must be a good bet to be her successor in the White House. Yesterday Bill Clinton indicated that Kaine had his backing.

Mike Smithson


Maybe LAB leadership contests should become an annual event

July 22nd, 2016