A 2019 general election moves up in the betting as the pressure mounts on TMay

May 22nd, 2019

Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

One of the big political betting movements this afternoon has been on the timing of the next general election as can been from the chart. As far as I can see the reasoning is that TMay’s time at Number 10 is moving to a conclusion with much talk of a leadership contest before the summer break.

The only problem is that a new PM and leader would face exactly the same challenges that Mrs. May has struggled with over getting Commons agreement on an exit deal. It might be that her successor would seek to break the parliamentary deadlock by going to the country.

The problem with this is that calling a general election is exactly what the incumbent did in 2017 and ended up with fewer cON MPs and no overall majority. Would a new leader be prepared to gamble his or her new job?

Also would the next CON leader go to the country in the aftermath of Farage’s likely success in tomorrow’s Euros?

Whatever everything is deadlocked and something has to give.

Mike Smithson


The top pollster from the 2014 Euros now has LAB in third place six points behind the LDs

May 22nd, 2019

“Bollocks to Brexit” not harming the LDs

Throughout the Euros campaign one pollster has been producing very different numbers from just about everybody else. That is YouGov which in its survey for the Times this morning finds that the Brexit party is on 37% with the Lib Dems on 19 and labour six points behind that on 13.

Almost all the other firms have LAB maintaining a second place position and lower numbers for TBP. It is highly likely we will see the finals polls today from other firms and these might indicate a level of clustering.

As I pointed out a couple of days ago at the 2014 euros the pollster that got it most right then was YouGov.

Now you cannot assume that just because a firm did well last time that they are likely to be the most accurate this time. ComRes did very well at GE2015 but was one of the worst at GE2017.

Because this is likely to be a low turnout election compared to the referendum or general elections then that adds to the challenge facing those carrying out polling surveys. The critical thing is to ensure that those you can identify as being voters are given greater weight than those who from past experience are less likely to participate.

In his excellent analysis on Monday Sunil showed how turnout at Euro elections has been relatively constant in the 30s region except at 1999 when the closed regiinoal party list came in and it dropped to 24%. Those were the last Euro elections, however, to be held without local elections taking place on the same day.

The problem for both LAB and CON tomorrow is that neither is seen as the lead party for or against Brexit. TBP has well established itself amongst the supporters while the LDs have used their success in the local three weeks ago to reinforce their pitch the be the strongest party for Remain.

We’ll have to wait till Sunday from 2200 BST to find out what’s actually happened.

Mike Smithson


The bets continue to pile on BoJo for next CON leader and PM

May 21st, 2019

Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Although the timing of Theresa May’s departure as prime minister and CON leader has yet to be confirmed there’s little doubt that we are very close to a party leadership election which will be unique. For the first time party members will be deciding on who should be the next Prime Minister.

It should be recalled that previous CON leadership contests which have gone to the membership have been whilst the party has been in opposition.

The current election process involving the membership was brought in during William Hague’s leadership during the 1997-2001 parliament. The first winner under the new process of IDS who not too long afterwards got booted out by his parliamentary colleagues. The next CON leadership election to go to the members was between David Cameron and David Davis in 2005. The former won although the latter had been the long-term favourite.

Mrs May, of course, won the leadership and entered Number 10 without having to trouble the membership. The last two in 2016 were her and Andrea Leadsom but the latter stepped aside a few days afterwards leaving Theresa May with the job as a walk-in.
The biggest challenge for Boris is whether he can get through the first rounds of voting amongst CON MPs, It is they who decide who the two person shortlist should be. The membership polling suggests that the former-Mayor would walk it if he is able to get his name on the members’ ballot.

I’m not convinced that he can because there are widespread doubts about him within the parliamentary party.

Mike Smithson


Food for thought for would-be defectors to the Brexit Party

May 21st, 2019

Mike Greene, the Brexit Party candidate for the Peterborough by-election, reportedly met Nigel Farage for the first time the night before he was unveiled as the new party’s representative. You have to hope that he does better due diligence on the companies he invests in.

For Nigel Farage is not the easiest man to work for.He has a very long-established habit of falling out with those around him. His history of leading UKIP was one of nonstop rows with senior colleagues. The body count rivalled that of Game Of Thrones.

Let’s have a look at what some of them had to say.

Douglas Carswell was a high profile MP defector from the Conservatives who became disillusioned: “Far from having a strategy, we seemed to be driven by whatever came out of Nigel’s mouth.”

Mike Nattrass was a UKIP MEP. After he left, he claimed:

“Ukip is now a totalitarian party. Nigel Farage only wants people in the party who absolutely and totally agree with him. I’m regarded as a troublemaker. The party has done very well. We all do a lot of work but it now has a totalitarian regime because the leader only wants people elected who are his cronies.”

David Campbell-Bannerman was also a UKIP MEP. His view, after defecting to the Conservatives was:

“What is concerning about UKIP is it has become very much a one-man band and a bit of a cult. There is a followership and even the constitution has been changed to favour pro-leader candidates. I don’t think that’s healthy.”

Maria Andreasen was a UKIP MEP (a former chief accountant for the European Commission before that, as it happens). Her view after leaving wasit was Mr Farage’s jealousy of potential competitors inside the “one-man band” party that had prevented candidates from having their records checked.

She said Mr Farage changed the party’s constitution last year “giving him full power on everything, including the establishment of strategy, policies and selection processes for candidates for elections”.

Godfrey Bloom, also a former UKIP MEP and one-time flatmate of Nigel Farage noted that  “even a hint of criticism” would risk getting “your membership card chopped up”.

You might notice something of a theme in these criticisms.

There have been darker suggestions. Nikki Sinclaire was a former UKIP MEP, she claimed that he put a fist in her face. She also helpfully provided some statistical analysis for those doing due diligence:

“Nigel Farage has been an MEP for 15 years; in that time there has been 19 other UKIP MEPs and he has fallen out with 11. In this Parliament in the last five years, the 12 MEPs he brought back to Brussels, he has fallen out with six.”

Nigel Farage has his own views on this. Of Ms Andreasen, he said: “The woman is impossible.” Douglas Carswell was “sniping from the sidelines”. He is no more flattering about his other former disillusioned colleagues.

Nevertheless, anyone thinking of teaming up with Nigel Farage should be aware that the chances of falling out with him are substantial. And given he had a reputation as an autocrat when he was in charge of UKIP, the structure of the Brexit Party should give any would-be ally pause for thought. For it is not a party, but a company controlled by Nigel Farage. He appoints the board. There are no members. Those registered supporters are the fools who are easily parted from their money – they get nothing for it.  

Nigel Farage is leader for life and he can do as he pleases. If you join the Brexit Party and you then fall out with Nigel Farage, you will lose.  

So, those hardline Conservative MPs beguiled by the Brexit Party’s rise in the polls need to do some careful thinking. Do they stick, unhappily, with the Conservative party (which they may well believe is a sinking ship) or do they defect to a new home where they will have no power and no real influence, where they will serve as a trophy rather than a colleague? To defect is to subordinate yourself to Nigel Farage forever. That is the tariff of admission.

The choice is not a particularly easy one, especially if you believe that the Conservative party is now incapable of delivering the Brexit you want. But anyone who defects to the Brexit Party only to discover that they end up as the next of Nigel Farage’s victims deserves no sympathy for their fate: the implications of the choice are there for all to see right now.

Alastair Meeks


There could be hope for CHUK yet because of being top of the ballot

May 21st, 2019

Never ignore the alphabetical bonus of being top

Above is a photograph of my ballot paper in Eastern region for Thursday’s election and looking at it there are some issues that might help or hinder the various parties.

I was with some old election hands in the pub at the weekend and we were discussing how ballot form order and and placing can actually have an impact on the final result. At the locals earlier in the month where I live there was a clear alphabetical benefit for those whose names in the local elections last week caused them to be nearer the top of the ballot.

We have many two-member wards in Bedford with the main parties each putting up 2 candidates. What was striking that in just about all cases the CON/LAB/LD/GRN candidate whose name appeared first secured more votes than the ones that appeared second.

This is a well-known electoral effect and might apply even more so on Thursday with the Euros. One of my drinking colleagues was making the case for CHUK simply because of its placing.

In the Euros we vote for party lists and not individual MEPs so the ballot paper is the list of official party names in alphabetical order.

If Farage’s party name had omitted the “THE” it would have been top.

Mike Smithson


Remember that at the 2014 Euro elections YouGov, by some margin, was the most accurate pollster

May 20th, 2019

2014 Euros polling – Wikipedia

The others overstated UKIP lead by upto 7%

With polls coming thick and fast at the moment the one big trend is that YouGov has been showing markedly better numbers for TBP and the LDs than just about all the others. At times like this it is useful to look at the record and what happened last time.

The table above shows how well YouGov did in 2014 compared with the other firms and overstated Farage’s then party the least.

Clearly that was all five years ago but it is worth highlighting. The key to polling low turnout elections is to ensure that as far as possible your numbers are based on the views of those who have or will actually vote. It is here that YouGov, who first got into online polling nearly 20 years ago, has probably got an edge if only because of the data it has on its polling panel.

But who knows? GE2015 was a shock followed by the Brexit referendum in 2016 and of course GE2017. Might we see something like that when the Euro results start coming out a 1opm on Sunday night?

Mike Smithson


Putting Thursday into context – A look back at previous UK Euro elections

May 20th, 2019

From Sunil Prasannan

Well, just a few months ago, it seemed certain that, with a scheduled 29th March 2019 date for Brexit, the UK was done with EU elections for good. But, it looks like that we are in the EU for at least a few months more, so here we are! On the other hand, we are a political betting site, so what’s wrong with a full-blown nation-wide poll in 2019? The recent Local Elections (given that many cities and council areas didn’t vote in them) were but an appetiser for the coming battle!

Recent EU elections have actually been a poor guide to the winning party’s fortunes at the subsequent general election. In their regally purple heyday, UKIP under their ex-leader Nigel Farage won the largest share of the vote and the most seats at the most recent EU election in 2014, but their vote halved at the GE the following year, winning only one MP. By contrast, the Tories under David Cameron won the previous 2009 EU election, whilst they were in opposition, and then went on to become largest party at the 2010 GE, and the larger party in the ensuing Con-LibDem coalition. And in 2014, the Tories came a poor third, behind UKIP and Labour, but then went on to win an outright majority at GE 2015. However, Labour were the first governing party to come third in a EU election, in 2009, trailing the Tories and UKIP on vote-share, but equalling UKIP on seats.

The EU has only had a directly elected parliament since 1979, the inaugural election occurring just a few weeks after Margaret Thatcher’s Tories triumphed at the GE that year. In the EU election, the Tories won a record 48% of the vote, and then went on to win the 1983 general election, and a similar feat was achieved at the 1984 EU election, albeit on a reduced 39% vote-share, but they still won the 1987 election. Then in 1989, Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party obtained their first EU election victory, whilst in opposition, also on 39% vote-share, but fell below even their own expectations at the 1992 GE, losing to John Major’s Tories. Into the 1990s, with Labour still in opposition, but with Margaret Beckett as an interim leader in the wake of John Smith’s untimely death, they won the 1994 EU election, and then under Tony Blair’s leadership easily trounced Major’s Tories at GE1997.

But Labour to date have never won an EU election whilst in Government (unlike the Tories). In a rare moment of triumph for Major’s successor, William Hague, the Tories won the 1999 EU election, whilst in opposition, but in a near-repeat of 1997, lost heavily at the subsequent 2001 GE. 1999 was also the first year that proportional representation of the d’Hondt persuasion was used on mainland Great Britain. Two leaders on, under Michael Howard, the Tories also won the 2004 EU election, but then went on to lose to Tony Blair for the third GE in a row the following year.

So out of the eight EU elections we’ve had in the UK, the Tories have won five, two of those victories whilst in government, and three times whilst in opposition. Labour have won twice, both times in opposition, with UKIP winning the eighth, the first time ever for a party neither in government, nor the largest opposition party. Other fun facts include the Greens putting on their best show at an EU election in 1989, winning just under 15% of the vote (nearly double their 2014 score, for example), and on all eight occasions the LibDems scoring a lower vote-share than at each subsequent GE. Average UK turnout for Euro elections thus far is 33.8%, but there was a big blip in 1999, when turnout was only 24.0%, a record low for any EU member until 2009, when both Lithuania and Slovakia had lower participation (20.5% and 19.6% respectively).

As for 2019? Well, it seems from recent opinion polling that it’s nailed-on that Farage’s new Brexit Party will enable him to follow on from his victory leading his former party UKIP in 2014. It may well see the LibDems achieve their first ever runner’s up spot, as the electorate become ever more polarised. But it will be interesting to see how the big two (Labour and the Tories) will fare in Thursday’s battle, and all that augurs for future elections, and the future of their respective leaders.


Sunil Prasannan


Labour’s last-ditch bid to stop its Remain backing voters switching to the LDs and the Greens

May 20th, 2019

Maybe the problem’s that its seen a pro-Brexit party

Over the weekend, there has been a flurry of apparently panicky messages coming out of the Labour Party to try to stop the seepage of support to the unequivocally pro-remain parties of the Lib Dems and the Greens. The above Tweet is the latest example.

This is all in response to the latest Euros polling where the yellows and to a certain extent the Green have been advancing and picking up, apparently, a large slab of Labour remainers. One big poll has the LDs in top slot above Labour and the Brexit party in London.

Clearly there’s a big concern in Corbyn’s team about finishing up in third place in the Euro elections with the Lib Dems and, of course, the Brexit party on top. One or two polls are now pointing to this.

There’s little doubt that a key part of the LDs strategy for Thursday’s election has throughout been to portray Labour as a pro-Brexit party which has been an easy point to make. Hardly any material goes out from the yellows without this being highlighted.

The messaging in response from Corbyn’s team is really hard to follow. Trying to frame Thursday’s vote as a battle between Labour and Farage and the hard right is quite a hard one to make to those party supporters who see it as a battle for and against Brexit.

Until now Labour’s ambivalence has worked but the signs are that it might not carry it past Thursday.

It is generally said that the final two or three days before an election are absolutely key. Most voters don’t focus on the intricacies of a battle until almost the last moment and decisions, like tactical voting, are made quite late.

Mike Smithson