Punters continue to rate Trump as having a near 50% chance of winning a second term

July 15th, 2019

Betdata.io chart of Betfair exchange

The polls, though, have the top 4 Democrats beating him

We’ve not looked at the main WH2020 market for some time – who’ll win the next hear’s White House race and as the chart shows what movement there’s been on the Betfair exchange has been towards the controversial incumbent.

At the moment, of course, the Democrats are maybe a year away from deciding who their nominee shall be and it is only when that becomes clear that we will get a greater take.

New NBC/WSJ polling has the following match ups:

Biden 51, Trump 42
Warren 48, Trump 43
Sanders 50, Trump 43
Harris 45, Trump 44

The interesting thing in the polling is the continued rise of Senator Elizabeth Warren who raised nearly $20m in the past quarter. It feels that there’s real momentum with her campaign.

In two weeks we’ll see the next TV debate where Biden has got to do substantially better than last time when he really did look his age.

I remain convinced that the 76 and 77 old Biden and Sanders won’t get the nomination and that their current polling positions are based on higher name recognition. Sanders has been hurt most by the rise of Warren.

In all of this the Democrats desperately want to stop a second Trump term and who is seen best able to achieve that will likely get the nomination.

Mike Smithson


What does the UK’s next PM have to say about Trump’s latest racist Tweets?

July 15th, 2019

No doubt he’ll be pressed at his first PMQs

One of the current big political issues in Washington at the moment is a series of Trump Tweets yesterday attacking elected female Democratic members of Congress for their criticism of him particularly over the regime he’s imposed on immigrants in border camps.

The Tweets above are part of his response and are probably the most overtly racist public comments that he’s made. The fact that his focus is on elected prominent female members of the House of Representatives has made the matter more explosive. They have the same democratic legitimacy as he does.

If Boris, as the Times is reporting, is planning an early visit to the US  capital then he’s likely to be pressed both before he goes and while he’s there on these comments as well as similar attacks of Sadiq Khan, his successor as Mayor of London. Where does Boris stand and will he raise it if he gets a meeting.

Clearly if Brexit goes ahead as planned, and that’s still very dependent on the parliamentary numbers, then the UK will need a trading relationship with the US and will be very much the supplicant.

Mike Smithson


This unique feel good moment has the potential to change our politics. The questions are will it and how

July 15th, 2019

Probably the most significant decision by a media organisation in decades was that by Sky to allow yesterday’s Lords final of the cricket World Cup to be broadcast on free to air television. This meant that many more people were sitting gripped to their TVs as Stokes faced that “Super over” that clinched it. This made it a truly national England and Wales event.

In Scotland things will be looked at very differently but that’s another story and and likely next LD leader, the Scottish Jo Swinson, will have to be careful with her words on this.

I’m old enough to remember the Football World Cup victory at Wembley in July 1966. Even many of those who weren’t even alive at the time can recite Kenneth Wolstenhome’s final commentary line as extra time came to an end “They think its all over – it is now”. In many ways yesterday was even more dramatic.

Already some politicians have tried to seize the extraordinary victory to make political capital. Moggsy put out a Tweet saying “We don’t need Europe to win” something which he is already under fire for. Coming as it does at a time of incredible political change we can expect a lot more of this.  There is a danger in the Rees-Mogg approach because it looks too exploitative – just the sort of thing you would expect a Brexit obsessed politician to do. The Guardian reported:

Rees-Mogg’s fellow Conservative MP Ed Vaizey said that his colleague was guilty of “slightly misjudging the mood”, before adding that “while you’re on, the English captain is Irish”. Alastair Campbell suggested that “perhaps instead of making a silly Brextremist point, offer congratulations to the Irish captain, the NZ-born man of the match, and the Barbadian bowler who got it over the line”.

It was good that Theresa May was there at Lords to enjoy something in the final ten days of her troubled Premiership. At least her presence was genuine. She is a long-standing cricket fan. This wasn’t like Cameron’s shallow claims to be a West Ham or was it an Aston Villa supporter.

Whatever as we move to a new, uncertain and potentially dangerous political era there is something to feel good about.

Mike Smithson


What is there to say after a sporting day like this one?

July 14th, 2019

I’d focused on the tennis and have just watched the final hour of the cricket on C4+1.

Totally amazing.

Mike Smithson


The next Home Secretary betting

July 14th, 2019

Within a fortnight we should have a new Home Secretary.

When Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister it is widely expected that his Chancellor will be Sajid Javid which creates a vacancy at the Home Office. So who will succeed Javid?

I’m also working on assumption that Jeremy Hunt will remain Foreign Secretary under Boris Johnson, he views any other cabinet job, other than Chancellor of the Exchequer as a demotion so he’d retire to the backbenches.

Boris Johnson will not want more members of the Gaukeward squad on the backbenches to join the likes of Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Rory Stewart, David Lidington, Greg Clark, and of course, primus inter pares, Theresa May who I suspect are implacably intent on delivering on Vote Leave’s campaign pledge of not leaving without a deal. When you have a notional majority of three thanks to the DUP Prime Minister Johnson cannot annoy anyone further.

I’m tempted by the 20/1 on Tracy Crouch. I think Boris Johnson would like to fight back against the nasty party meme and who better than the woman who resigned over the government’s initial vacillation on reducing the stake for fixed odds betting terminals.  It would send a great message for those who would like the Tory party to focus on non Brexit related topics.

As sports minister, and in other roles, she’s always been a good media performer which would help the government sell its policies to the country. As someone who read law she’d be eminently qualified to take on the challenging role of Home Secretary. It would also reassure the Boris sceptic wing of the party that he had appointed a self confessed ‘compassionate, One-Nation Conservative’ to such a senior role. Having eventually backed Boris Johnson in the leadership contest should her get a decent role in government.

I’m fond of this market after tipping Sajid Javid at 33/1 to succeed Amber Rudd just hours before he became Home Secretary but this I’m not quite as confident so will be betting at lower stakes than I did in April 2018. It is entirely possible Javid remains Home Secretary but I do expect Boris Johnson to make comprehensive changes to the cabinet upon his election, this will not be like the relatively minor changes when John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher.



Sounding the alarm. Britain’s democracy is under direct threat

July 14th, 2019

In two weeks’ time, Britain will have a Prime Minister whose commitment to democracy is contingent. Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing Parliament in order to secure a no deal Brexit by 31 October 2019.

Let us call proroguing Parliament by its proper name: suspending democracy. The United Kingdom operates with an executive that is supervised by the legislature. If the executive suspends the legislature (which is what proroguing is), it is suspending the democratic control of itself.

The government would not be able to pass legislation – but governments do a lot of things other than legislate. The Government does not need Parliament to be sitting to pass some delegated legislation. It can exercise its administrative and prerogative powers. It would be doing so without oversight from the MPs elected to perform that role. It prevents MPs from directing the government to change course or from bringing it down.

For that reason, proroguing Parliament is normally only done for a short period. Parliament has not been prorogued for longer than three weeks for 40 years. Parliament’s oversight is not impaired. It has been a largely ceremonial process for transitioning between Parliamentary sessions for at least 150 years.

The most notable political use of this effect was in 1948, when the government used its power to prorogue Parliament not to suspend Parliament’s oversight of it but to fast-forward through Parliamentary sessions in order to override the House of Lords’ veto power under the Parliament Act 1911. Far from frustrating the democratic process, the government of the time was looking to augment the elected House’s power through the use of prorogation.

So what is being mooted by the hardcore Leavers – the use of prorogation to frustrate democratic supervision – is unprecedented in Britain’s modern democratic history. They moot it in order to impose an irrevocable decision (no deal Brexit) on a House of Commons that shows every sign of wanting to prevent that.

Leavers claim to want to prorogue in order to implement the democratic vote to leave the EU. There are a few problems with that claim. First, there is no magic about the date of 31 October 2019. If Leavers have been unable to come up with a plan that persuades a majority of the House of Commons by that date, it is not for them to impose their will.

Secondly, the vote to leave the EU was not a vote to leave the EU without a deal. Vote Leave, as noted above, campaigned on the basis that “we will negotiate the terms of a new deal before we start any legal process to leave”.

And thirdly, democracy did not stop on 23 June 2016. The current MPs were elected a year later. They have their own mandate to represent their constituents. The government and Leave supporters have no right to trample on Britain’s representative democracy.

So it boils down to this: hardline Leavers are willing to take a hammer to Britain’s democratic protections to secure a policy that they want. This is no longer about Remain or Leave, but about whether you have any respect for the democratic process that operates in Britain.

Unfortunately, polls show that the great majority of Conservative party members do not. 67% were recorded in a recent YouGov poll as believing that it would be acceptable to prorogue Parliament in order to prevent Parliament voting against no deal.  The anti-democratic impulse has reached the mainstream.

Now it might very well be in practice that the Prime Minister could not prorogue Parliament in this way even if he wanted to. The decision is for the monarch, not the Prime Minister, and she would be entitled to, and in such a controversial case presumably would, take counsel from other members of the Privy Council first. Few Privy Council members are likely to be supportive of a Prime Minister’s wish to game the system in this way. A decision to prorogue would certainly be judicially reviewed (Sir John Major announced this week that he would do so). The courts might well intervene. So as a plan, it is not even particularly likely to succeed.

But even if Parliamentary democracy could be suspended in this way, proroguing would not just be a crime, it would be an error. Imagine that no deal Brexit was achieved against the will of Parliament by breaking democratic norms. Britain would be a pariah state. The government would almost certainly be immediately toppled and a general election would ensue with government ministers (fresh in their roles, remember, so unfamiliar with their remits) having to alternate between campaigning and dealing with the inevitable snarl-ups that would have come from such a disorderly exit. 

Polling consistently shows that the public already on balance thinks that Brexit was a mistake and if Britain has been forced into the most extreme version of it by anti-democratic means, the Conservatives would be lucky if they were merely electorally eviscerated. It might also prove to be the swiftest route to Britain rejoining the EU.

It would also represent the most awful precedent. Governments of all stripes could then use it as a cue to take time out whenever Parliament was proving too exacting. Why go to the trouble of passing laws if you can achieve most of what you want by executive fiat most of the time? Jeremy Corbyn also does not have a great affinity with his fellow MPs. Do Conservatives really want to establish a precedent for him to be allowed to act without Parliamentary scrutiny or control should it all get too tough for him?

Alastair Meeks

PS – Interesting fact, if the Queen dies then if Parliament has been prorogued it must immediately be reconvened.  


The idea that Johnson is an electoral asset is not supported by his record

July 13th, 2019

Winning the Mayoralty when the Tories were 20%+ ahead was no big deal

Much of the case for Johnson is based on the fact that he won the London Mayoralty for the Tories in 2008. The capital is seen as strong Labour territory therefore, the argument goes, he’s the man to lead the party when there’s the threat of Labour advancing.

The only problem with that 2008 Mayoral result is that for the Tories generally it was the party’s best overall local election performance since 1983 the year Mrs Thatcher won her landslide victory in the general election.

Th BBC’s projected national vote share for the 2008 locals had the Tories on 40% with Labour a whopping 18% behind on 22%. A YouGov poll in the week of that election had CON on 49% with Brown’s LAB on 23% – the second biggest Tory led over LAB in three decades. It is against that backcloth that Johnson won the mayoralty. The tide had turned against LAB. So winning in Labour London then was nothing like as significant as his supporters claim. The Tories were doing very well

Sure he retained the Mayoralty in 2012 when things were less bright for the Tories but he had all the advantages of the incumbent. He was also facing Ken Livingstone again who by then was a more diminished figure.

At the last general election Boris saw a CON to LAB swing in his Uxbridge constituency that was larger not just than the national average but what happened in London. If Johnson has some special election appeal then it did not show at the last general election.

What’s not appreciated is that the biggest threat to the Tories at the next election might not be the Brexit party, which has never won Westminster seat but a rejuvenated LD party working closely with the Greens. That there is just one anti-Brexit candidate in the upcoming Brecon by-election could be the basis of a model for what might be applied elsewhere.

Mike Smithson


Boris vacillated on Darroch because he’s weak, not because of Trump

July 13th, 2019

His verbal grandiosity is a mask for a lack of self-confidence

Boris Johnson has always had a facility for a briefly memorable turn of phrase. Whether referring to table tennis as, archaically, ‘whiff-whaff’ or describing Brexit talks extending into further rounds beyond October 31 as the ‘hamster wheel of doom’, Johnson’s words have the capacity to amuse and distract. For a politician, that’s a useful skill up to a point.

The problem is that the phrases, like Johnson himself, tend towards daftness and absurdity. They are memorable at the time because while they might pithily sum something up, they also reduce its seriousness. How can a No Deal Brexit really be all that bad if it’s like a hamster? That lack of seriousness is also why the words are ephemeral: the genuinely great quotes of history are anchored to, and enhance, real endeavour – whether that already achieved or that being exhorted.

Johnson has of course played the clown for decades and rarely has it done him harm. Certainly, there’ve been failures – sackings, failed marriages and so on (if he becomes PM, he’ll have been divorced as many times as all previous 54 prime ministers combined once his present marriage is dissolved) – but always he’s bounced back. It’s hard to fall too far if no-one takes you too seriously to begin with, including yourself.

However, here’s an unanswered question: why doesn’t Boris appear to take himself very seriously? Is it all a tactic to slide to the top, under the radar or is there more to it than that? After all, he’s an intellectually capable man. He could have, had he wanted to, pursued a much more conventional route to the top. Granted, it wouldn’t have been as colourful but nor might it have suffered the pratfalls.

The simple answer though is that it would have been too much hard work. Theresa May’s predecessor had something of a reputation of an essay-crisis prime minister but it’s nothing compared to the reputation for disorganisation and lack of respect for expectations and norms of behaviour that her likely successor has amassed over the years; one which goes back to his school days. Far easier to not bother and then claim exemption with a smile, a bon mot and puppy eyes.

Those behaviours might be the result of laziness but they could well be – and I think are – the consequence of something else too. I don’t think that Boris trusts himself (and indeed, why should he?). I don’t think that he has confidence in his judgement and that’s why he tends not to make judgements – or at least, when he does, he does so on whims and without any great forethought.

All of which suggests a different answer to the question as to why he didn’t back up Sir Kim Darroch, after the latter suffered a tirade of abuse from Donald Trump (unlike Jeremy Hunt, who was clear and robust on the matter).

The conspiracy theorists have it that Boris is in Trump’s pocket and failed to back Darroch because he was doing the president’s bidding, presumably in the hope of some trade deal. This misreads the situation, to my mind. If Johnson had wanted to appeal to Trump’s vanity on the issue, he would have called directly for Darroch to be replaced; he didn’t. It would have been easy enough to make the case: ultimately Darroch himself did so. But Boris vacillated and avoided addressing the issue at all. Rather than take a stand on either side, he failed to take a decision or offer a lead. This rather implies that the problem with Johnson here is not that he’s in Trump’s pocket but simply that he’s weak: incapable of assessing the situation, forming a policy and clearly stating it. Make of that what you will as regards any attempt by him to negotiate with the EU.

Quite how Johnson’s inadequacy for the premiership will play out in practice is another matter. For all the talk of proroguing parliament in order to facilitate No Deal, I don’t think he has the spine needed to carry through such a radical action (which, in any case, I expect that parliament would frustrate via a Vote of No Confidence were it to be tried). Perhaps his natural laziness might prove a blessing in disguise, if surrounded by a talented cabinet who could be left to get on with their jobs – a sizable ‘if’. That at least would be a welcome improvement from the hyper-control of the May ministry.

More likely though is that on the crucial issue of the day, the government’s policy will be marked by drift, high-level verbiage without detail, unsubstantiated optimism and an inability to reconcile conflicting promises made without having understood the consequences at the time. Which is to say, it will ultimately be marked – like him – by failure.

David Herdson