Once again political gamblers have been overstating the chances of an early general election

September 17th, 2019

Chart via the betdata.io

The favourite month has gone from September to October to November to December and now 2020

For decades or as long as I have been political betting one of the characteristics of political gamblers is that they overstate the chances of an early General Election being called. Somehow it is always easier to make the case in your own head that one is going to happen soon than that it probably won’t.

So over the past few weeks like other PBers I have been laying, betting against the current favourite month in 2019 and hopefully will make a nice profit.

A key factor to remember now is that under a statute that was enacted in 2013 the minimum campaign period for a general electio was laid as down 25 working days. Clearly from the betting quite a lot of punters are not fully aware of the implications of this.

On top of that it is useful to have at the back of your mind the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act for how an election is called as a result of a vote of no confidence in the government. Once that has been decided there is a period of 14 days for it shall come into operation.

When the act first came into being and certainly for the years that followed the general view has been that this made no difference to the prime minister’s ability to call an election. Even though two-thirds of all MPs have to vote for one the view has always been, until this month, that the opposition leader would have to fall in line.

That, of course, is what Corbyn didn’t do two weeks ago and it is arguable that he is the one who will determine the election date rather than Mr Johnson.

Mike Smithson



Halloween’s going to be a massive moment in British politics and it is hard to predict what’ll happen

September 17th, 2019

When I went on my holiday two and a half weeks ago TSE and others made a big deal about this being an occasion when big political stories seem to break. Well that the events of the last two and a half weeks have more than proved that theory.

Well I’m now heading back overland from Andalusia after my holiday in the Osborne (no relation) sherry town of El Puerto de Santa María and will be back in the UK on Wednesday.

However you look at it the final day of October is going to be an extraordinary day in British politics. Even if the EU issue has been resolved by then, which I doubt, this will still mark the end of the, at times, controversial Speakersrship of ex-CON MP John Bercow.

Chances are, though, that the EU exit won’t have been resolved and there could be a mighty battle going on whether Johnson, if he’s still PM then, has sent the letter to the EU asking for an extension of the Article 50 process as he is required to do by law.

It might be, of course, that Johnson has been able to agree a revised version of TMay’s deal with the EU and that that has been approved by the House of Commons. It is the latter which I find hard to envisage. The anti-Brexiteers have got their tails up, there is increasing talk of not just another referendum but revoking Article 50. If that happens those that blocked TMay in the spring are going to feel a bit sick.

It might be as well, that Johnson has decided to defy the law that was passed earlier in the month and not sent the letter. In which case we can expect a mighty legal battle going on with the prospect of him being injuncted and then maybe even going to prison.

All this is without today’s hyped ruling by the Supreme Court on the legality of the prorogation.

So many things are possible and in the current environment nothing should be ruled out.

Mike Smithson



On the eve of the big court case some of the main brexit betting markets

September 16th, 2019

Charts of Betfair exchange prices from Betdata.io.

Mike Smithson


Swinson’s great LD gamble – making cancelling Brexit party policy

September 16th, 2019

Inevitably this new policy agreed to at the party conference in Bournemouth today is going to be attacked for being anti-democratic. The big question is how will it impact electoraly assuming there’s an early general election?

Even the only Green MP, Caroline Lucas, who you would have thought to be an ally, has Tweeted her concerns about it.

The criticism is based on the premise that the result on June 23rd 2016 was in fact democratic and there are reasons for questioning that. In any case the referendum itself was only advisory.

Really this is all about branding and the Lib Dems have prospered in the last few months by being unambiguously the party of Remain.

My guess is that this will have been researched at some length and the decision has been taken to take the risk and go with it. The fact that we are nearly three and a half years on from the referendum and ministers are still trying to work out how this will happen reinforces the point about having a simple straightforward position.

Assuming that we do indeed leave on October 31st then this policy platform is a good basis for campaigning to rejoin.

This policy platform will also make any LAB position on Brexit appear equivocal. It also gets Swinson and the party noticed.

Mike Smithson



Warren maintains her strong betting favorite position for the Democratic nomination

September 16th, 2019

But Biden continues to top the polls

With all the focus on the United Kingdom’s political crisis PB’s not covered the 2020 American presidential race for some time. At this stage, of course, this is all about who the Democratic party will choose to take on Donald Trump in November next year.

This, as we all know, is a long process and the fight is on at the moment to establish who the front runners will be when voting actually starts in February.

Although the first state to decide, Iowa, doesn’t make its decision until February 3rd the main contenders are slugging it out to boost their chances in the early primary states.

The latest event, before the weekend, was the third major Democrat TV debate. This time the number of candidates involved was restricted to 10 which meant it was held on a single night enabling the frontunner, Joe Biden and his main opponent, and Elizabeth Warren, to face each other on live TV for the first time in the campaign.

The debate lasted for three hours and it was clear, near the end, that the extended time involved was taking its toll particularly on the ex-VP and current leader in the polling, soon to be 77, Joe Biden. This clip in which Biden talks “record players” is being much repeated by those who question whether Biden is simply too old to cope with the demands of a prolonged campaign.

Even before he formally entered the race Biden headed the polls on likely Democratic contenders and this has been maintained. But the gap has been narrowing and in the latest YouGov US poll he’s running level with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Biden’s poll position is not reflected in the betting. His chance of winning the nomination is now at 22% on Betfair against 37% for Warren. Behind them are Bernie Sanders, Senator Kamala Harris and the 37 year old Pete Buttigieg.

I have now cashed out of all my bets, taking some profits, on the nomination and I’m waiting for the Iowa caucuses which will be the first really big pointer about what’s going to happen when real voters have to make a choice. I’ve got a feeling that Biden will struggle there and Warren and Pete Buttigieg might do well.

Mike Smithson



The Bad Boys Of Brexit. A review

September 15th, 2019

The “Bad Boys Of Brexit” relates the adventures of Nigel Farage, Aaron Banks and Andy Wigmore and the Leave.eu campaign from July 2015 to the referendum and beyond, with a later addendum taking the story up to the May election announcement . It’s told in diary format as written by Aaron Banks, one of the leaders of Leave.eu. The blurb tells us that “every Remainer should steel themselves to read it, because the mindset that it captures…is driving change on both sides of the Atlantic.” (Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian).

Well, whatevs. The blurb works if you live in the Westminster bubble, and I assume many such read it and made many serious pronouncements on WHAT IT ALL MEANS. Well, OK, if you must, but that misses the point, which is: the book is a hoot. It’s thoroughly enjoyable and deliberately so, and not for post-modern sarcastic reasons. Let me explain.

Firstly, you have to note that although it’s nominally written by Banks, it’s actually ghostwritten by Isabel Oakeshott (with help from Banks and Andy Wigmore, the third wheel of the Banks/Farage/Wigmore triad) and she reconstructed the events from texts, emails, notes and half-remembered events. The genre is constructed reality, that grey area where real people speak words that are plausibly their own and accurately represent what they said but are ordered and set to make the narrative flow and form a story. The best example of this genre is “Top Gear” and as Clarkson once said, it takes hours to write the script for an unscripted show. This book flows really well.

Secondly, everybody is as rich as Croesus. Seriously. Banks isn’t an Arthur Daley car salesman from Bristol, he owns a diamond mine in Africa and flies there and back insouciantly throughout the book. Millionaires walk on and off like bit parts: there is Stuart Wheeler, there is Jim Mellon, here are the Masons, there is a politician, well hello my Lord Ashcroft OHMIGODITSTHEDONALD. It’s “Stella Street” for the rich and infamous and I want Oakeshott to write Banks’s biography.

Thirdly, Oakeshott’s Banks has a waspish tongue and it’s hysterical. He disparages everybody who is not Leave.eu: Dominic Cummings, Matthew Elliot, all come in for forthright comment and his barbs at Douglas Carswell are cheerfully libellous. In real life it would be unpleasant but his Oakeshott avatar is poised *just* enough to turn him into a cheeky chappie and speaker of inconvenient truths, a witty gadfly not a creep.

Fourthly, and this is where the book really takes flight, it gradually begins to dawn that this is an episode of “Top Gear”. It’s the Brexit Special, where our three chums wander thru an event, messing up, having a laugh, and curiously winning. They are proper buccaneering semicrims on the Empire model, gliding thru casino and boardrooms, the “Persuaders” telepodded with Clarkson/May/Hammond, Roger Moore urbanity and Tony Curtis tough.

All the battles are cheerfully lost and nothing ever seems to work – Banks tries to organize a concert and a song and flops hugely, his staff are full-stretched trying to keep things going – but the war is won. Lesser books would ram the leave message home here, but Oakeshott is skilful and the persuasion slips down smoothly: people write in with small donations, volunteers volunteer, a great task is underway and the people are marching.

The extended book ends when May announces the election, and Banks cheerfully berates the reader for looking for the deliberately-omitted index. When you consider what happens next, ending it here is probably for the best. Farage should have retired to the House Of Lords and accepted the thanks due the most successful politician of his generation, not the CPAC groupie he turned into; Banks’s unpleasant side became more apparent; and so on as reality overwhelmed the polite narrative.

But never mind the facts, print the legend. The chums are best remembered in one of the book’s more memorable moments when, after winning the Referendum and having drink taken, Farage and Banks skinny dip in Bournemouth (Farage insists pants-on), cocking around on a provincial British shorefront. Brexit Madlads forever…

The “Bad Boys Of Brexit” reviewed here was the paperback version, ISBN: 9781785902055, published by Biteback  in print and available new at £9.99 or free from your local library. Support your local library godsdammit… 🙂


Viewcode is a statistician who works in the private sector


Before you bet on the next Lib Dem leader market just remember the next leader might be in another party right now

September 15th, 2019

All things considered I think I’ll give this market a swerve until things settle down, I maybe waiting a long time.

One of the things that is little discussed is just how much the Lib Dems are changing, the current influx theoretically will stretch the the party given that they are attracting both Labour and Tory defectors. How will the Lib Dem membership respond? We’ve seen the big two fracture after seeing an influx of new people, albeit this influx of new people is in Parliament.



Will the last One Nation Conservative left in the Tory Party please turn off the lights

September 14th, 2019