The LAB betting is now strongly back with Burnham but does it mean anything?

August 5th, 2015

Punters are flying blind

There have basically been three sources of data for the Labour leadership contest none of which really mean that much at all. The first has been the polling with all but one of the reported surveys being private ones where we don’t even know the name of the pollster if indeed they were carried out professionally.

The second source has been the list of constituency nominations but again it is hard to know whether you can assume but that these represents the views of those who are entitled to vote in this contest. In many areas the CLPs decisions have been based on the views of just a handful of people.

The third strand, of course, have been the betting markets which have become quite lively and active and seen relatively high levels of liquidity.

On top of this the nature of LAB’s alternative vote electoral system with the new structure for trade union votes and the inclusion members of the public prepared to give the party £3 combine to make the process of measurement and predictions becomes even harder.

We do know that AV has changed the outcome in the last two major LAB elections – Harman’s victory in the 207 deputy race and, of course, EdM in 2010. What will it do in 2015?

The ballot packs go out in the next week. I’ve got an all green (I win whatever happens) position with Betfair which I intend to maintain.

Mike Smithson


Boris slips to third for next leader in latest ConHome survey

August 4th, 2015

Osborne moves to his higher level ever

It’s perhaps hard to credit now but only a few weeks ago on the morning of the budget Boris was still strong betting favourite for next CON leader and Osborne could be had for 5/1 or longer.

How things have changed. Boris has slipped and the money has been going on Osbo. The latest ConHome members’s survey reinforces the change in perception. George is seen as the master of all before him while Boris appears to have been marginalised.

Mike Smithson


The likely reaction from the blue team if they’re facing Opposition Leader Corbyn?

August 4th, 2015


Picture: The first PMQs maybe?

Antifrank looks at how CON might respond to a JC victory

 When the Conservatives had finished celebrating their unexpected overall majority and started gazing across at the potential Labour leadership candidates they no doubt started thinking about the challenges of their next possible Labour opponent.  Newspapers and blogs speculated about which of the leadership candidates the Conservatives most feared, and then newspapers and blogs further speculated whether the Conservatives were laying false trails. This speculation revolved primarily around Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.  Jeremy Corbyn was considered largely as a joke candidate, with more frivolous Tories considering enrolling in order to vote for him as a “vote for the worst” candidate (showing that X Factor has had an impact on the political discourse).

In a few short weeks the race has turned upside down.  The Labour establishment is horrified at Jeremy Corbyn’s transformation into favourite for the leadership election and most Conservative supporters are chortling.  

If Jeremy Corbyn wins

The Conservatives are rightly keeping quiet right now on the basis that one should never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake.  That all changes after the leadership contest is over and any mistakes have been made. What if Jeremy Corbyn wins?  How should the Conservatives take him on?

The prospectus for a Corbyn-led Labour party runs roughly as follows.  If Labour can unite the left and also enlist a new cohort of voters behind them, they have the opportunity to reshape the political debate.  The optimistic version of this thesis sees Labour sweep to power on a Syriza-style mandate in 2020.  The cautious version sees Jeremy Corbyn step down in 2018 to allow a more electable leader to take over for the election campaign on a softer left but still leftwing platform.

The Conservatives should seek to undermine every part of Jeremy Corbyn’s prospectus.  If they can avoid doing so, however, they should not engage in a battle of ideas: by taking on his ideas they would be implicitly treating them with a seriousness that would invite support from others.

The Conservatives have a better strategy available to them, which is to seek to split the left based around Jeremy Corbyn’s political past, immediately challenging Labour establishment figures to disown any connection with a party led by a man who has invited unrepentant terrorists to the House of Commons shortly after they attempted to wipe out the elected government, who believes in homeopathy, who believes that it is the US drive to expand eastwards which lies at the root of the crisis in Ukraine and who describes Hamas as friends.  Rather than compare him with Keir Hardie or Alexis Tsipras, they should compare him with David Icke.

Such a strategy has both short term and long term advantages, few of which have all that much to do with Jeremy Corbyn.  It would immediately put senior Labour politicians of all stripes on the spot, forcing them to decide there and then whether they would work towards party unity or take a stand based on principle.  Some at least would refuse to work with Jeremy Corbyn, making it easy for the Conservatives to portray the Labour party as riven by splits: as, indeed, it would be.  It would undermine the prospect of Corbynmania leading to a wave of new support for a sharp left turn in British politics.

In the longer term, the Conservatives would seek to label any politician who chose the path of party unity as someone who would serve under a man with Jeremy Corbyn’s beliefs, marking them out as unscrupulous, a wild-eyed leftwinger, lacking leadership qualities or all three.  The Conservatives would seek to smother Labour dissidents with their embrace, publicly inviting them to leave the hellhole of Labour leftwing politics to join them.  While such offers would be curtly refused by most if not all, it would foment suspicion within the Labour party.  The prospect of a disunited left would yawn ahead for years to come, even if Jeremy Corbyn was replaced fairly quickly.  His putative successor would inherit a nest of vipers.

Occasionally the idea is floated to go easy on a leader who is perceived to be weak in case he or she is replaced by someone more capable.  That always seems a daft idea to me but if Jeremy Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour party it will be particularly half-baked.  By going hard on Jeremy Corbyn early if he is elected, the Conservatives have the chance to discredit not just the current Labour leader but to salt the ground for his successors.

If Jeremy Corbyn falls short 

The betting markets still make it more likely than not that someone other than Jeremy Corbyn will emerge as Labour leader.  Barring a dramatic collapse in his support, however, he looks likely to secure a sizeable share of the leadership vote come what may.  The new leader will need to decide how to respond to this.

The instinctive reaction of a new leader will be to try to unify the party.  The Conservatives have every interest in securing the opposite.  Accordingly, in these circumstances they will be trying to portray the new Labour leader (whoever he or she is) as being dangerously beholden to the extreme left.  The higher Jeremy Corbyn’s final vote, the easier it will be to send out this message.

While the Conservatives would probably prefer Jeremy Corbyn to win the leadership nomination, one advantage of him finishing a good second would be that they could take as read the loony nature of his politics because the new leader’s team would not want to defend them, for fear of being tarred with the same brush unnecessarily.  Each Conservative attack, however, would prompt the Corbynites to defend their man’s corner, undermining the new Labour leader’s positioning.

If Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t win, the next Labour leader is going to have to think carefully what to do about him.  If he is offered a shadow Cabinet position, the Conservative “reds under the beds” line of attack is going to have much more potency.  If he is not given a meaningful role, the twitterocracy is going to be incandescent.

Liz Kendall has made it clear that she would not touch him with a bargepole but Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper have been more equivocal about whether they would include him in their shadow Cabinets (Andy Burnham in particular has gone back and forth on this).  If they’re serious about winning the next election, on taking up the leadership role they need to say quickly what place they see for Jeremy Corbyn.  The choice is between signalling a left turn and institutionalising a left-right split in the Labour party.  These are both unattractive options and the Conservatives would be ready to pounce either way. 

Playing the man not the ball

From this point Jeremy Corbyn only ceases to form part of the Conservatives’ strategy for attacking Labour if he withdraws or if he drastically underperforms current expectations.  Right now that would be a serious shock.

The strategy I have outlined above is not particularly complicated and it is not particularly pretty but given the existing strains within Labour it would be very likely to be effective.  It also goes with the demographic grain.  Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are keen to enlist new younger voters but it is likely that the largest group of voters in 2020 will be the over 55s.  The youngest of this cohort of voters first voted in 1983, so their political memories will include Labour’s vicious leadership battles with the left in the 1980s.  A repeat should make it easy to corral them into the Conservative pen.

I tried hard to see some positives in all of this from Labour’s viewpoint but on this occasion I couldn’t.  Given how the leadership contest has unfolded, a whole new line of attack has opened up for the Conservatives which should solidify their existing vote and potentially recruit them many more supporters.  I expect them to take that with gusto.



Trump has clear lead three days before the Fox GOP candidates debates featuring 20 hopefuls

August 3rd, 2015

But how much is name recognition rather than real support?

This is a very big week on the road to the major political event of 2016 – the election of the next US president. Barack Obama will have served two terms and is barred from staying any longer. This means that both parties will have tight nomination fights.

The contrast between the Democrats and Republicans at this stage is very sharp. With the former the presence of Hillary Clinton has until now, acted as a huge disincentive for others to throw their hats into the ring. Things have slightly eased off in recent days with the reports that V-P Joe Biden might be considering a run but it’s hard to see a viable Hillary alternative. But things can change.

This is all small beer compared the GOP nominee selection where everything has been thrown apart by  the arrival in the field of property multi-billionaire turned TV star, Donald Trump who always seems to be making the headlines.

The polling has him ahead for the nomination and his presence is over-shadowing everybody else and there are many in that latter category. There’s a suggestion that if Trump doesn’t get his party’s backing then he might try and run alone – a move that would be very tricky for the party.

Some of the declared contenders will get their first big public showing in Thursday’s debates on Fox where there will be two debates. One will be for those currently struggling in the GOP nominee polls and the other for the more established players.

Tonight there’s a 14 person debate in New Hampshire – the first state that will be holding a full-blown primary in the New Year.

Mike Smithson



The Mayor of London – the first big electoral test for LAB’s new leader

August 3rd, 2015


James Burt (TheWhiteRabbit) looks at the contenders


The Labour Candidate

Six Labour candidates made it onto the party’s shortlist: Diane Abbott, Tessa Jowell, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy, Gareth Thomas and Christian Wolmar. One will be chosen by ballot of Labour members and affiliates and announced over the same weekend as the party’s Leader and Deputy Leader – the 12th and 13th of September, so there won’t be an opportunity for one decision to influence the other. Jowell has a considerable lead in the polls over PoliticalBetting favourite Sadiq Khan, boosted by name recognition following the 2012 Olympics.

She has recently been the only one to poll better than Conservative Zac Goldsmith . For this reason whilst she only has a narrow lead in the betting to gain the candidacy (just over evens, compared to Khan’s best price of 13/8) she has opened up a lead in terms of most likely to be next mayor, on Betfair at least  – traditional bookies have them far closer.

Wolmar, Thomas and Abbott are rank outsiders, and the markets don’t believe that Lammy can pull himself up from his moderate polling position in third – neither do I. With the support of several trade unions – and those in the Labour like Margaret Hodge who would prefer an ethnic minority candidate – Khan is in a different position.

The Conservative Candidate

Although the official shortlist has four names – Zac Goldsmith, Andrew Boff, Stephen Greenhalgh and Syed Kamall – all with admirable track records within the Conservatives, Goldsmith remains the runway favourite at anywhere around the 1/10 mark for the nomination. Hustings are due to be held in September for the open primary – with the winner being declared before the end of September (although it isn’t clear whether this will be before or after Labour’s leader is announced), but unless anything significant happens soon, it is all but a foregone conclusion.

Will the national race impact London’s own choice?

With Corbyn surging in the polls to favourite to win the leadership, it is difficult not to believe that his continuing popularity could have some impact on both Labour’s decision about candidate, and their likelihood to win next year.

As regards candidate, true polling for the race is few and far between, and it’s entirely possible that a shift has occurred which hasn’t yet fed through. Certainly, the poor position of natural Corbyn ally Abbott whilst “Progess candidate” and former Blairite Jowell surges ahead seems incongruous with the national picture. Perhaps to some extent therefore the mayoralty lives in a bit of a bubble – but it may yet pop.

As for the mayoralty itself, Labour are well ahead in the betting to replace Johnson (around 1/2), after the latter only just managed to beat veteran Ken Livingstone in 2012. London was also the one area where Labour did reasonably well in this year’s general election.  For those prepared to shop around, backing a combined ticket of Jowell or Khan (or even including Lammy) could return far better – anything up to 9/10.

If Corbyn did take over as leader, then the seven months of his tenure before the election could be enough to establish a surge in the polls – or for the honeymoon well and truly to have ended. Certainly with the consensus being that Corbyn will scare off an important section of the Labour electorate, I believe the Tories are value at anything like their current 2/1 should he win. If however Burnham or Cooper emerges victorious, then Labour must surely be in pole position to take the mayoralty as well, for all the reasons they are ahead at the moment.

Other candidates

No look across the mayoralty would be complete without a look across the other candidates. Whilst winning London might be just too much for Farron’s Lib Dems, the Greens are in no better position, saying they would come close to endorsing Goldsmith, should he stand for the Tories. ()

Similarly George Galloway says he will rejoin Labour under Corbyn () – if they’ll let him – and presumably stand down from the race, as he will if Abbott did somehow win the Labour nomination

It seems likely that their combined effect will be to take some votes away from Labour without making a major impact.

James Burt (TheWhiteRabbit)


Donald Brind says: “Thanks Neil – now we need to hear from Gordon”

August 3rd, 2015


Brown is well-placed to deal with the Corbyn surge

Shortly after Tony Blair was elected Labour leader in 1994 I bumped into my political hero Jack Jones at a book launch. What inspired me about Jones was that he understood that making gains for the working people he cared passionately about could only be done through a combination of industrial organisation and winning political power.

So, what I asked did he make of the new leader? He havered. He hadn’t made his mind up. Then a smile and a declaration: “Gordon Brown is a socialist.”This reminiscence was prompted by a reference to Brown on Newsnight by former Blair speech writer and Times columnist Phil Collins.

I had turned on Newsnight with low expectations. A smart young London MP had been booked to go on with Collins. A producer told her what she planned to say was “too reasonable.” Instead they had booked an old warhorse Diane Abbott.

The programme set out to examine the state of Blairism following the claim by CWU leader Dave Ward that Jeremy Corbyn would be an antidote to the Blairite “virus”. He was contradicted in a surefooted interview by Liz Kendall. What Labour really needs, she said, now is an “antidote to the Tories” .Then during the discussion with Abbott Collins said:“Winning power is crucial. Remember that great Gordon Brown speech in which he listed all the things that the Labour government had done… it was a long list. I don’t think any of that is conceivable under a Corbyn-led Labour party.”

It came as a bit of surprise a to hear a positive reference to Brown from someone seen (perhaps unfairly) as an arch Blairite. Collins,  We have become used to seeing Blair and Brown as rivals, even enemies. My hero Jack Jones’ doubts about Blair and his preference for the “socialist” Brown looks prescient.

In fact, I think he was wrong. The Blair Brown partnership was enormously fruitful for Labour and for the country. The 1997 landslide was a victory for team Labour – brilliantly led,  of course, by Blair – but with Brown chairing the key election strategy committee. They campaigned on a programme that drew on contributions from people who were to become the big beast of the Labour government.

    Now is the time, perhaps, for Brown, who made such a decisive intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign to remind Labour party members of the importance of winning power.

Kieran Pedley is surely right to warn that having an unelectable leader in 2020 makes the prospects of victory in 2025 even more distant.

Brown has the example of his old friend Neil Kinnock who last week was urged by Peter Kellner appeal to intervene to save the party from Jeremy Corbyn. . Now Kinnock has come out in support of Andy Burnham. Labour would become a powerless “discussion group” under Corbyn. The party must not settle for angry opposition. We must focus on victory and choose a leader who can win.”

If all else fails it may be the lure of the allotment that saves Labour from getting an unelectable leader. . Corbyn told the People’s veteran political editor Nigel Nelson that if his leadership bid fails he would be happy to go back to growing his vegetables.

Don Brind is one of PB’s regular contributors


Corbyn price getting weaker – Burnham price hardening on Betfair

August 2nd, 2015

At his peak Corbyn was a 48% chance on Betfair – he’s now edged down to 38%.

Mike Smithson


Next Chancellor after Osborne betting

August 2nd, 2015


The next Chancellor of the Exchequer market that Ladbrokes have is a hard market to assess. There’s two major known unknowns, will David Cameron stand down in this parliament (potentially to maximise George Osborne’s chances of succeeding him) or will the result of the next election be the trigger for the Osborne’s successor?

Sajid Javid is quite rightly the favourite to be the next Chancellor whilst Osborne is favourite to be the next Tory leader, however at 16/1 another Osborne ally Matt Hancock might be value. In the last couple of days he’s been praised by David Cameron for his work. Whilst he doesn’t have the back story of Sajid Javid, he does have the advantage of being Osborne’s former Chief of Staff, Osborne has seen at first hand the advantage of a PM and Chancellor working close together for the greater good, who better to help a PM Osborne achieve than his former Chief of Staff as Chancellor of the Exchequer.

With the strong likelihood of both the next Labour leader and their deputy being men, the new Labour leader might want to make their Shadow Chancellor a woman, given the high profile the role enjoys. We must remember the Tories only have to lose 20 seats for a Rainbow alliance to take power in 2020 and for us to have a Labour Chancellor. So Rachel Reeves and Yvette Cooper at 10/1 and 20/1 might be value, to show Labour don’t have a woman problem, forty years after the Tories first elected a woman leader.

You can access the Ladbrokes market here.