The betting money’s going on the Commons approving the deal

March 18th, 2019

Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

Up from a 16% chance to a 32% one in five days

At the start of another dramatic week on Brexit in the Commons there has been more news of CON MPs saying they are ready to back the deal just 10 days away from the Article 50 deadline.

What we don’t know is whether there will be enough of them in order to push the total beyond that which is required for Mrs May to get a majority. She’s failed before but this time with the deadline hovering before everybody it might just be that this goes through. At least that is what the betting markets are starting think as seen in the chart of the Betfair Exchange above.

It has been fundamental to Theresa May’s strategy throughout that when faced with the prospective of No Deal and possibly the loss of Brexit altogether her party would get together behind backing what she has been trying to get agreement for for months.

Will it work? Will some LAB or other party MPs either abstain or shift over to her side? The Indy’s John Rentoul, who has been keeping a close eye on the actual numbers, was suggesting yesterday that the only way this could go through if was if a number of Labour MPs moved to back it.

The view is that this will only happen if the chances of it succeeding look pretty good. There’s no point in being a LAB rebel and “voting with the Tories” quotes if it ends in failure.

Meanwhile there is this:

Mike Smithson


The Leaver case for a second referendum

March 18th, 2019

A guest slot by Dots

Once upon a time a grand and determined queen wanted to build a bold new home on the hilltop. Everyday her men would work hard to build the palace only to find on following day their work undone in piles of rubble. The queen was advised to seek help of a local boy born to a virgin mother. The boy advised why the palace could not be built, in a pool beneath the hill two dragons were entwined in combat. He told the queen to dig looking for the lake and the dragons, only once their conflict is resolved can the palace stand and the lands be at peace.

Here in present day is an argument giving UK the best opportunity to come together and move on results from a second referendum endorsing a form of brexit. I will now explain this argument from the point of view of voting leave and wishing to see the 2016 result respected.

A few hours after 2016 result Cameron was in EU asking for a form of leave as close as possible to his deal, still today in the minds of some who could torpedo MV3 this week, Common Market 2.0 was that leave on the ballot paper. Norwegians walk around in their form of vassalage boasting they are not in EU, some claim this also is the leave Britain voted for. Others say Canada+ is leave voters wanted, and others say its May’s deal voters endorsed.

The option was leave, the campaign didn’t paint a picture of leaving with no deal nor May’s controversial deal anymore than it defined Common Market 2.0, Canada FTA+ or Norwegian vassalage. Some of these leave outcomes are contradictory and completely different end points.

Now let’s be honest, if polls showed leave with 20 point lead if there was second referendum, would many be very hostile to a new public vote on the deal, because it’s is so clearly undemocratic and brexit betrayal, actually be in favour?

This is how I answer the question. It does not surprise me brexiteers are hostile to second referendum. They have convinced themselves that the perfect storm that won them 2016 would not be repeated. They would lose brexit. But if they are correct or not in that certainty of defeat, (side stepping if they should be allowed to reshape Britain if they are convinced they couldn’t win again tomorrow) their opinion doesn’t matter in terms of democratic steps that can tie up this conflict between direct and representative democracy.

Giving people a vague open ended option and no say in how political lords and masters interpret and impose it, is recipe for impasse and unhappy outcome rather than strong democracy. It’s actually easy for leavers to advocate a 2nd referendum on the basis that the 2016 vote told politicians to go off and make a good plan for it. A second vote is endorsing or rejecting that plan/stitch up MPs come up with, because if you genuinely support direct democracy over representative, this sequencing completes good model of direct democracy. It’s identical to democracy government insists underpins industrial relations.

The reality of the impasse today is Leavers arguing the best democratic outcome is let the executive or representative interpret and decide the 2016 leave vote. I argue let the people have a say in how MPs ultimately interpret 2016 result, I argue this not to bury brexit, but to save brexit from becoming a bad deal or vassalage. I argue it as our best opportunity to unearth and separate those warring dragons and restore peace to these lands.



Betting on a Peterborough by election in 2019

March 17th, 2019

A 16% return in just over a month?

This market by Ladbrokes is not on the result of any potential by election but whether there will be one in 2019. The recall petition in Peterborough opens on Tuesday and ends on the 1st of May 2019 meaning this bet will pay out in a little over six weeks.

I think the nature of the conviction and claiming a salary whilst in prison would enrage voters in all circumstances. Coupled with the polarised nature of the country over Brexit now matter how she votes (or abstains) on Brexit she’ll annoy voters which might see a few more signatures collected.

The dynamics of North Antrim clearly don’t apply here where the first ever recall process occurred but insufficient signatures were received to trigger a by election. With both parties urging the convicted criminal Fiona Onasanya to stand down as an MP so I think the threshold of 6,967 signatures to trigger a by election will be reached.

If you want to understand how the recall process works click this link.




Labour’s path to victory. The seats that could put Labour in power

March 17th, 2019

Link to the map above

Imagine, if you will, Jeremy Corbyn beaming and waving from the steps of 10 Downing Street, installed in power after a general election victory. On most current polls this looks unlikely: Labour are well adrift, perhaps as much as 10 points behind the Conservatives. Politics, however, is particularly volatile at present and Labour managed to turn around a much bigger deficit than that in 2017. Such fantasies or nightmares cannot be dismissed as fanciful just yet.

If Labour are going to win the next election, how are they going to do it? For a start, they’ll need substantially all of the 262 seats that they won at the last election, including those taken by those who have since left the party, but on top of that they’ll need gains. Above is an interactive map of Labour’s 100 most attainable targets, representing every seat that could be taken on a 7% swing. That’s a big swing, but Labour would need to take nearly two thirds of these to get an overall majority of one.  

I have categorised these by Brexicity. Where Leave or Remain won with more than 60% of the vote, I’ve labelled them strongly in that category. More close-fought seats are labelled Moderately Leave or Remain (as appropriate).

The first thing to note is just how many of these are in Scotland: 28. Even if Labour would settle for being the largest party, eight of the 30 most attainable targets are in Scotland too. That’s wholly disproportionate – fewer than one in ten seats in Parliament are Scottish.

Labour can win without Scotland but it would make their job a heck of a lot harder.  They would need nearly a 7% swing to get a bare majority. This would mean them taking seats like Southport, Worthing East & Shoreham and Cities of London & Westminster, seats that they have never taken before.

Labour’s dismal polling in Scotland should be a huge concern to them. If turning things around in Scotland isn’t in their top three priorities right now, they are making a big mistake.

What about the question of Brexit? Superficially, it’s more or less a wash.  47 seats leaned Remain and 53 leaned to Leave. But once you take out Scotland and London, just 11 out of 62 target seats voted to Remain in the EU. If you wondered why Labour haven’t seemed more enthusiastic about courting Remain voters, there’s your answer.

(This may nevertheless be a strategic error. Labour’s voters are disproportionately drawn from the ranks of Remainers even in heavily Leave-voting seats and will form a majority of their voter base in almost every seat they hold. A high priority should be keeping these voters happy. Manifestly many of them currently are not.)

Those 62 target seats outside London and Scotland are in the main very different from Labour’s traditional metropolitan strongholds. Labour have been focussing on the concerns of towns and this is why. Gloucester, Colchester, Carlisle, Mansfield and Telford are very different places but all have the similar concerns of third division places in a world that to many seems as if it is increasingly being run for the benefit exclusively of those in the top tier.

Labour is looking to move the conversation on from Brexit. That may be an impossible task but it is its best chance of further progress.

Alastair Meeks


As Farage’s “mass” march heads South the ex-UKIP leader has branding problems if there are Euro elections

March 16th, 2019

Do voters know that he’s quit UKIP?

Given the Commons votes over the past week then there must be a chance that the UK will participate in the European Parliament elections at the end of May.

Farage is now with his new Brexit party which would what would appear on the closed list ballot papers if elections are held. The problem here is that while UKIP enjoys a high level of awareness Farage’s new party has yet to establish itself. Most voters, I’d guess, still think Farage is with UKIP.

So assuming that there are UK Euro elections then we could expect both UKIP and the Brexit party to be on the regional list ballot papers. As PBers no doubt know, in these election you vote for the party and not the individual and Farage’s name would only be on ballot paper in his own region.

This has the potential to split the pro-Brexit vote and make it mighty hard for Farage to achieve anything like the the success of 2014 when his then party, UKIP, came top.

At this stage this is hypothetical but all the main parties are working on plans just in case Euro elections take place.

Mike Smithson


Key fact: Biden leads the Dem 2020 polling despite not yet running

March 16th, 2019


This is more than name recognition: he’s very viable candidate

One reason above all others convinced me in October 2015 that Donald Trump should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate: his performance in the opinion polls. It was easy to write him off as an amateur with a penchant for controversy and self-publicity; someone who would be overtaken by both his own absurdity and by professional politicians come the actual voting in the primaries. Easy but wrong, and the signs were there.

Trump had headed the polls for about three months by that stage: more than long enough to be tested in the spotlight. Lesser candidates who rose to brief prominence faded in the glare: Trump didn’t.

We’re not at anything like the same stage in the 2020 campaign yet but we are far enough in that we should now be taking the polls seriously. Candidates are declaring and campaigns are organizing. We’re past the shadow-boxing and into the real thing.

And yet for all the focus on those declared candidates, the most obvious stat from the polls is that one at the top: Joe Biden leads them. All of them. In the more than two dozen nationwide Democrat primary polls published this year, Biden has headed every single one in which he’s been named. Furthermore, since Sanders declared his candidacy four weeks ago, none but the Vermont senator and the former Vice President have scored more than 11% (Sanders has ranged 14-27; Biden, 24-39).

This is despite the fact that Biden isn’t yet a declared candidate and hasn’t even formed an exploratory committee, whereas the likes of Klobuchar, Warren, Harris and Sanders all have. To me, that says that there’s both a lot of goodwill towards Biden among Democrat voters, and that those same voters are sceptical of other candidates, which is an extremely healthy position for him to be in. Put another way, this is more than name-recognition now.

There are of course reasons for us to exercise caution. Most obviously, he isn’t yet a candidate and might not become one. However, at the very least he is seriously weighing another tilt at the Oval Office, dropping strong hints in recent appearances and signing the sort of people he’d need for a campaign. Biden’s age might be an issue – he’d be the oldest-ever US president on his first day in office – though age didn’t harm Sanders in 2016, nor is it obviously adversely affecting either man this time round. Likewise, while Biden does have a reputation as gaffe-prone – a legacy of previous failed presidential bids – I wonder whether that’s now outdated: he served for eight years with distinction and without embarrassment as Vice President.

There’s a lot of time between now and the Iowa caucus in February next year; plenty enough for one or more to capture the public imagination and emerge from the extremely large field. However, front-runners can and often do win the nominations. The current betting has near four-way co-favourites, with Sanders, Harris, Biden and O’Rourke all available at either 9/2 or 5/1, which makes little sense to me given the strength of Biden’s polling. Sure, he should have a discount because of the possibility that he might not run but it’s a diminishing risk.

I think Biden is getting ready to announce that he’ll run, and that based on his polling and record, will make an extremely strong contender for the nomination and indeed the presidency. 5/1 is definitely value.

David Herdson


With the top 2 in Newport West looking pretty certain the interesting bets are the LAB share and which party comes third

March 15th, 2019

But we can’t let a by-election go by without a punt

One of the features of this Parliament has been the relative absence of by-elections. In the 21 months since the general election they have been just two and now a third one is due to take place on April 4th in Newport West to fill the vacancy created by the death of Paul Flynn.

The seat has been in LAB hands for some time and at the last election Flynn took it with 52.3% of the vote with the Tories on 39.3%. It’s hard to see this order changing with LAB retaining top spot.

In the Ladbrokes LAB vote share market listed above the 40 to 50% segment is the 5/4 the favourite which seems about right.

Third place is much more interesting particularly as we are talking about the contenders perhaps only getting hundreds of votes rather than thousands. At the general election in June 2017 UKIP came in third place with 1,100 votes followed closely behind by Plaid Cymru with 1,077.

Given that the turnout is likely to be much lower than the 65.5% of last time then the 3rd place could easily be down to 500-600 votes only a short distance ahead of the fourth and other places.

On the face fit the party that looks most interesting to me is Abolish the Welsh Assembly which only has to appeal to a very small proportion of voters to make it into that 3rd place shot. That’s my small bet at 5/1.

I don’t have any outside information on this so this is not a serious flutter.

Mike Smithson


From Marf a special cartoon for Gold Cup day

March 15th, 2019

Great to see Marf once again on the site. The odds were all accurate when Marf did the cartoon.

Mike Smithson