Punters make it a 58% chance that Britain WON’T leave the EU by March 29 2019

March 7th, 2018

This market could get very busy – time to study the rules

One thing about being a betting exchange like Betfair is that it has to stand in the middle between those who want to place bets and those who want to lay them. This means that in complex markets, which most political ones are, the rules have to be watertight to ensure that there are no arguments and disputes later.

I had a period when I was advising Betfair on its political markets and was involved in a lot of drawing up the actual terms on how bets would be settled.

One that came after my timing is the one above in the chart. What actually do we mean by leaving the EU? This is how the firm defines it:

“For the purposes of this market leaving the EU is defined as the date when the treaties of the EU cease to apply to the UK. Examples of when this might occur include, but are not limited, to: the date specified in a withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU; the end of the two year negotiating period (29/03/2019) as set out by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (or any extension to this time period); or the date of the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act. If more than one of these events were to occur, this market will be settled on the first of these events to occur. In the case of the two year time period in Article 50 being extended, via a unanimous vote by all EU Member States, we will settle this market on the extended date. This market will settle when the UK leaves the EU even if parts of the UK (e.g. Scotland, Northern Ireland) leave the UK or receive special status within the EU.”

My reading is that if it all goes to TMay’s plan and Britain leaves the EU on March 29 next year under the article 50 timetable then the Yes side wins.

But there is lot of amount of water to flow under the bridge in the ensuing months.

Mike Smithson


For all TMay’s travails she continues to have a clear lead over Corbyn as “best PM”

March 6th, 2018

JC’s heady days of last June are becoming a distant memory

Back in June, after Corbyn’s LAB got 4 seats closer to the Tory MP total than Gordon Brown’s party seven years earlier, there was a massive euphoria around the Labour leader. He could do no wrong and was reported to have said he expected to be PM by last Christmas. That, of course, didn’t happen and he then revised that to Christmas 2018.

Then, in its first poll immediately after the election, Corbyn went into the lead over TMay as best Best PM. A week and a half later the pollster had them level pegging on this measure a result that was to be repeated in the first YouGov after TMay’s less than successful party conference speech.

Apart from that the pollster has mostly had clear leads for Mrs May although the proportion of don’t knows is very high and one occasion in December “No one of the above” was the preferred choice.

Sure LAB has had minute leads in the majority of voting intention surveys but the party has not got even close to what EdM’s LAB was doing in the polls in the 2010-2015 parliament.

Given this and Labour continuing to trail badly on the economy the conventional thinking is that that is not an election winning position.

Yet TMay continues to be the leader thought to be in most trouble. Corbyn continues to benefit within the movement from GE2017 not being the total disaster that some were predicting. Memories, though, can fade with time.

Mike Smithson


Democrats take small lead in Special Pennsylvania Congressional election in district won by Trump at WH2016 by 20%

March 6th, 2018

A bellwether for the November midterms

What’s getting a lot of coverage in the US media at the moment is a big battle going on in the outskirts of Pittsburgh in a Special Congressional election caused by the resignation of the Republican incumbent over a sex scandal. It is said that millions of dollars has been spent and the Democrats are hoping they can take the district in an area that was natural Trump territory at WH2016. His margin was 20%

What are termed “Special Elections” in the US are the equivalent of UK by-elections with ones for the House or Senate in Washington the most important of all. Before Christmas, it will be be recalled, the Democrats took a senate seat in the rock solid Republican stronghold of Alabama.

What makes this important is that it could be a good pointer to what will happen in November when all the Congressional seats are up for election. The big hope of the Democrats is that the House will fall to them.

The ABC report above gives a good sense of the politics and why this is so important. Voting takes place a week today.

If Trump’s man can’t hold on in what is natural Trump country then that could be worrying for the GOP. This is the latest poll.

I’ve not seen any betting markets yet but this could go either way.

Mike Smithson


Moggy still leads Jez in the “PM after TMay” betting

March 5th, 2018

Data/chart via Betdata.io

Mike Smithson


New Ashcroft poll of London suggests TMay’s Tories should expect a hammering in May

March 5th, 2018

There’s a new 3,060 sample London poll from Lord Ashcroft in the Evening Standard which points to the blue team facing a struggle in the capital to hold onto to all the council that it runs
Three are highlighted, Wandsworth, Barnet and Westminster, as being ones which could fall. The Tories could also struggle in SW London where it is defending Kingston and Richmond from the LDs.

As ever there are lots of well-presented tables in the report and I have highlighted the above one.

Lord Ashcroft’s broad observation is this:

“We found the national political picture looking pretty grim to Londoners, including many of those who voted Conservative in last year’s general election. Just a quarter – including only six in ten of those who voted Tory last June, and only just over half of Conservatives who voted to remain in the EU – said they approved of the government’s record to date…”

In the ratings section of the poll London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, comes out best as can be seen in the table.

From the blue perspective this is setting expectations pretty low which means that even marginal performances on the day that runs better than the overall narrative will be presented as great victories.

The big problem for the Tories in London, of course, is the CON flagship policy of Brexit.

Mike Smithson


If there is a second referendum Remain should demand that all voters show photo ID

March 5th, 2018

Financial Times

Last time those without passports were most likely to vote leave

At this stage last year the Tories were riding high. The party had just taken Copeland from LAB and all the polls had the Tories in the 40s with LAB in the 20s.

In spite of her quite narrow CON majority Mrs. May was assuring the country that there would be no General Election until 2020 as laid down in the Fixed Term Parliament Act. That did not stop her in April calling what proved to be a disastrous election for the Tories on June 8th losing Cameron’s hard won majority of two years earlier

So the PMs statements that there will be no second referendum have to be treated as not watertight. You can see the circumstances under which this was the best option for the Tories If the Brexit process created something that was going to require some form of mandate then a referendum would be better than a general election that could risk Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

    And if there was a new vote on Europe a smart move from those wishing to stay within the EU would be too demand that all voters be required to show photo ID in order to cast their ballots.

The reason is shown in one of the charts above from the FT analysis of the referendum that was published shortly after the vote in June 2016. As can be seen one of the greatest indicators of a Leave voter was them not having passports.

The data suggests that 3.5m people, or 7.5% of electorate do not have any form of visual ID. Other figures from the Electoral Commission show 11m (24% of the electorate) do not have a passport or photographic driving license.

We also know that there is a sharp cut back in the numbers of the 70+ group who do not renew their driving licences as they are required to do once they reach their 70th birthday.

So I’d argue that the groups least likely to back the EU are the ones who are likely to be more troubled by photo ID requirements for voting – something that the government is testing in five areas in the May local elections.

Mike Smithson


Interesting news for those of us betting on the year of Trump’s exit date

March 4th, 2018

My expectation for a while has been health or assassins permitting Donald Trump’s tenure as President will end on January 20th 2025, and have been betting accordingly but the tweet above is intriguing.

I think Trump’s desire to repeal the 22nd Amendment won’t happen simply because of the high bar to repeal it. It will need two thirds of The House of Representatives & The Senate to vote for it THEN 75% of states have to ratify it. I’ll file that in the ‘unlikely to happen’ folder, especially when someone as divisive as Trump is proposing it.

I suspect this is Trump’s way of trolling his opponents. I assume it amuses Trump and that’s why he hinted at repealing the 22nd Amendment, he’s the clickbait President.

I’ll never understand the mentality of trolling and winding up your opponents, I have better ways of amusing myself, I wish the President of America could be more like me.



Jeremy Corbyn is an unconventional politician, the normal rules of politics and polling don’t apply to him

March 4th, 2018

Some underestimate just how good a campaigner Jeremy Corbyn is and crucially he likes campaigning.

There’s been quite a lot of comment about Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour not polling well enough against the Tories to ensure he becomes Prime Minister after the next general election. But my hypothesis is that the only time we should judge Corbyn is during a general election campaign.

I’ve got this feeling those people are once again underestimating Corbyn because he’s not a conventional politician, he’s someone who enjoys campaigning in the good old fashioned pavement pounding, mass rally way as well mastering social media. Whatever the election and voting system Corbyn does better than expected, he won easily in 2015 despite the Labour party using the alternative vote system which is geared to stop candidates like him winning.

Now there’s a strong argument that there’s no way the Tories can run the next general campaign as poorly as they did in 2017, but if Corbyn wasn’t any good he wouldn’t have overseen an increase in Labour’s share of the vote and seats. It wasn’t solely down to a poor campaign by Mrs May.

Mrs May is crap at campaigning, but even when she is replaced there’s no one who appears to be a stand out campaigner out of her likely replacements. Boris Johnson can argue he fits the bill, having twice won Labour London and the EU referendum, but I think the latter role makes him to divisive to be a net positive during a general election campaign. It isn’t inconceivable that Boris loses his seat at the next election which could damage his ability to campaign effectively during the next election campaign.

There’s only three Tories who I think could match Corbyn on the campaigning front, sadly for the Tory party the time of David Cameron and Sir John Major has come and gone, whilst Ruth Davidson isn’t even an MP.

There’s an arrogance and stupidity from a lot of Tories when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn, as evidenced by the tweets below, the current vice chair for Youth of the Tory Party and the favourite to succeed Theresa May have had to apologise for their incorrect attacks on Mr Corbyn.

So inept was Mr Bradley’s attack that his tweet apologising to Mr Corbyn has become the most retweeted tweet of 2018, even outdoing any of Donald Trump’s tweets of 2018.

This level of ineptness makes it much more difficult to score effective hits on Corbyn in the future. The last general election campaign also coincided when the broadcast media had a legal obligation to be impartial, that undoubtedly helped Corbyn. Hyperbolic press stories such as the Czech spy stuff we’ve seen in recent weeks won’t dominate the airwaves during a general election campaign.

In two of the last three general elections the pollsters have generally underestimated Labour, something that isn’t discussed nearly enough. Recently Keiran Pedley did a twitter thread on the potential of the voting intention polls be underestimating Labour, so Labour’s position is a lot more rosier than people realise if that systemic error is repeated.

If you’re not already mentally prepared for the possibility Jeremy Corbyn you should be, if around 950 voters had voted differently last June or Ruth Davidson hadn’t overseen a Tory revival in Scotland then Jeremy Corbyn would be Prime Minister today. That is some achievement considering Labour were 25% behind the Tories the weekend after Mrs May called the election.

Five weeks before the 2017 general election Labour lost nearly a net 500 councillors, yet that didn’t stop Labour making net gains on June 8th, Jeremy Corbyn knows how to perform during a general election campaign when the pressure is on.

In August 2016 I wrote that no one has become rich by underestimating Mr Corbyn, eighteen months on nothing is making me doubt the veracity of that observation


Hat-tip to AndyJS for the 950 voters figure.