At the end of a tumultuous year, some early thoughts for 2018 and beyond
Date of the Next UK election: 2022, 5/2 SkyBet
In one sense, this is a great bet. Yes, there’s a lot that could happen over the next four and a bit years but the FTPA makes it hard for an early election to be forced unless the government wants to, and after the experience of this last year, why would it? If this last week has taught us anything, it’s that the divisions within the Conservatives are being exaggerated (unlike the vituperation against the handful of occasional rebels from outside). Assuming that there is a Brexit deal done, chances are that there’ll be a near 100% Tory vote for it: see the Article 50 vote for details. Similarly, the DUP are very likely to back the deal, not least because they’ll have significant input into the government’s position. With fewer by-elections these days, I’d put the chances of the parliament running its course at over 50%. Of course, the downside is that four years is a long time to wait for a relatively short-odds bet.
Next Conservative Leader: lay everyone short of 20/1
As with all ‘next leader’ markets, the biggest variable is when the election will be. There is a reasonable chance that it’ll be next year – Theresa May continues to live too much in the bunker – but the PM has also proven flexible enough that enough critics are likely to be bought off in a crisis to prevent a challenge. The May elections could prove troublesome for the Tories in London but Corbyn places a ceiling on the Labour vote and with no resurgence for the Lib Dems or any other party, the Tories are likely to sit comfortably in at least the mid- to high-thirties, which will cushion any losses outside the capital. They won’t be a trigger. Nor is it going to be easy for the Tories to justify spending up to two months navel-gazing during the Brexit negotiations. For all those reasons, I expect the handover to happen after Match 2019. One window is in the summer of that year, another is as late as 2021. Obviously, ‘events’ may intervene but the chances of them doing so are being overrated.
So who to succeed? The top six in the betting markets at the moment are Jabob Rees-Mogg (13/2), Boris Johnson (9/1), David Davis (11/1), Amber Rudd (12/1), Andrea Leadsom (14/1) and Ruth Davidson (16/1). I don’t like any of those odds. For all that outsiders have done well in elections recently – Corbyn and Trump most obviously but also in a different way, Macron in France – we should remember that the Conservative membership backed Cameron over Davis twelve years ago and was probably set to back May over Leadsom. Yes, there is an ideological fringe but the first quality demanded is not purity, it’s proven ability. On that basis, I’d rule out JRM, Boris and Leadsom. Davis has never been much of a team player, Rudd is a possibility but holds a very marginal seat, and Davidson doesn’t hold any seat in Westminster at all. If the election is in 2019, never mind 2021, the field is likely to look quite different. Lay the lot. Within the cabinet, I’d be looking to someone like Jeremy Hunt (33/1) but there’s a good chance the next Con leader isn’t even in the cabinet yet.
Next Cabinet minister to leave: take your pick top-side of 20/1
The golden rule here is lay the favourite – currently Damian Green at a ridiculous 1/3). Yes, Green is in a spot of bother and could be out before Christmas but from the leaks we’ve heard, there may not be a slam-dunk case against him and we know that May will be reluctant to lose one of her closest political allies. Frankly, this market’s something of a lottery: while some resignations are predictable as possibilities at least, many are not. On that basis, I would simply look to those above 20/1, not for any good political reason but because of the unpredictability of the market.