At one stage in my career I used to advise Betfair on the precise market rules for its political markets. These are critically important because an exchange like Betfair stands in between those who are laying bets and those who are backing and needs to have something to fall back on should there be a disagreement. So anytime you want to make a political bet it is important for your own protection to check the market rules.
The currently heavy traded date of TMay’s exit Betfair market defines it in these simple terms “When will Theresa May officially cease to be leader of the Conservative Party?”
So if she lost a confidence vote tomorrow my reading is that she would remain in post until such time as the process of selecting a new leader had been completed and there was a winner.
There is a relatively recent precedent – IDS in October/November 2003. He lost the confidence vote of CON MPs on October 29th 2003 but remained leader until November 6th when Michael Howard won the leadership unopposed. The differences between now and 15 years ago is that the CON leader is PM and it is highly likely that there will be a contest.
The first part of a contest, MPs voting to draw up the final shortlist of 2 to go to the membership could be truncated by having a number of MP ballots on the same day. The membership postal ballot would be much more difficult given that we are fast heading to Christmas.
Given the uncertainties of the post at this time of year it is hard to see how the packs could be produced mailed and party members given time to fill in their ballots and return them within the time that is available this side of the holiday.
It might be recalled that in 2007 Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne who fought it out for the Lib Dem leadership with a deadline for the return of ballot in mid December. There were reports that a sack of returned packs had been held up in the mail and even though they arrived while the count was taking place they did not get there before the deadline and were ignored. That caused a lot of controversy particularly because Clegg’s winning margin was so small.
I would suggest that it would be extremely difficult for a Conservative leadership election ballot to be completed before the Christmas and they probably would leave it over to the New Year.
This is important for those betting in the TMay exit date market. If my reading is right those betting on her surviving until at least the New Year could well be winners already.