Old and Sad Labour's to Lose

Guido thinks that Labour should hold onto the Oldham and Saddleworth seat on January 13. The election will come days after the 20% VAT hike comes into effect. If Ed Miliband can’t win an election after a regressive tax hike is implemented without any mandate from the voters, he should quit politics. Really.

Tories voting tactically for the LibDem candidate could sway it, but that ain’t likely to happen. Punters on Smarkets give Labour an 80% chance of holding the seat, with the LibDems a 16% chance and the Tories a 4% chance respectively.

In the absence of a poll telling us otherwise that seems about right…

Is Nigel Evans Worth a Flutter?

Speaker Bercow is probably one of the few people in politics with more enemies than Guido. He has proved those former Tory colleagues who warned against him right in their minds by slapping down the PM at PMQs on bizarre grounds, having a stand up row with the Tory chief-whip and being widely perceived as partial by the government benches. His slightly dotty Labour-supporting missus, whilst adding to the gaiety of life with her demented twittering, does the Speaker no favours, the Tory press despises the couple. Rumour has it that at the last Labour Party conference the Mail’s Andy Pierce, much the worse for wear, insulted Sally Bercow with such misogynistic vitriol that she was reduced to tears and his own colleagues had to remove him from the bar. Suffice to say the Bercows get a terrible press.

Guido thinks in many ways Bercow is better than his predecessor, but he has clearly lost the confidence of a signifcant section of the House. Nigel Evans coming out is widely seen as a precursor to a putsch which has the acquiesence of the government benches if not their official imprimatur.

That being the case the new bet on the Speaker being ousted looks good value…

Why Did the Telegraph Hide "War on Murdoch" Story?

Good journalism is about revealing the truth about those in power. Robert Peston’s scoop is that the Telegraph kept back the bigger story, that Vince Cable the minister with a quasi-judicial role in deciding if News Corporation can increase its holding in Sky, had told the Telegraph’s undercover journalists that

“I have declared war on Mr Murdoch and I think we are going to win”.

The Telegraph is of course locked in a corporate battle with Murdoch’s newspapers, its chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, is publicly lobbying Vince Cable to block the takeover.

Somebody with a conscience at the Telegraph has risked their career to get the truth out, they can hold their heads high. The editor and the management of the paper should be ashamed of themselves for covering up and cheating their readers of the truth. Their venal self interest is a disgrace to journalism…

UPDATE : Lot of action on the next cabinet exit and David Laws to return bets on Smarkets.

Reshuffle Rumour Round-Up

Ken Clarke faced a second weekend being briefed against in the Sundays. Guido can only presume the talk of reshuffle and booting Ken out is coming from an increasingly infuriated Coulson who doesn’t like to see Ministers being hounded by The Sun for being soft on crime. Very new politics.

Philip Hammond isn’t having a good time either. While admittedly snow is out of his control, after all the fuss the Tories made in opposition when divine intervention ruined a government media grid, you would have at thought at least some sort of contingency plan would have been thought up. The betting markets moved when the PMOS had to defend him this morning.

While it would be very hard for Dave to fire Ken Clarke, there’s bound to be a shot across his bow. Rumour is that his junior ministers, Crispin Blunt and Jonathan Djanogly and Lord McNally face the chop, with David Laws being lined up to come and shake up the department. A hang ’em and flog ’em Tory backbencher is also expected to be deployed to dilute “soft” Ken. Still no word on when Laws will receive his expected slap on the wrist from the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, but bad news for those who put their money on a return before Christmas

How Many LibDems Will Say No to Pi-Nick-io?

Tonight’s tuition fee vote is the first real test of the LibDem’s willingness to be lashed to the mast as the coalition government sails the course of deficit reduction. The stupid pledge made during the election and the student centred Cleggmania have made them the focus of the backlash.

A ConservativeHome poll last week had Nick Clegg more popular with conservative supporters than LibDem voters. Now in government the days of being all things to all people are behind them. Solemn promises have been discarded, Sarah Teather looks on the brink of tears, Vince Cable squirms, Simon Hughes is loving the limelight. On Newsnight last night he was being a vote-tease.

Hughes pompously told us he is minded to abstain, but he might vote no – what a look-at-me wuss he is – clearly demonstrating he doesn’t know his own mind. At least Tim Farron and others are clear about voting against. The betting has punters expecting 10 to 20 LibDems to vote no.

UPDATE:

Oh how your words can come back to haunt you…

He Should Cocoa, Mitchell is Bookies Favourite to Go

Andrew Mitchell is not having a good time at the moment, Dispatches turned him over for having a few quid in a tax haven (who doesn’t?) and the Sunday Times has caught him intervening on behalf of Cocoa-finger, the commodity hedge fund trader Anthony Ward. Nothing wrong with backing British firms. Except when they make donations to your political office.  He has now been referred to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and is the bookies favourite to be for the chop from the Cabinet. Oops…

Will the Spending Review Spark a Resignation?

This Wednesday sees the Spending Review, when we discover where unfunded over-spending will stop. We are told that some ministers still have not agreed a budget. Vince Cable at Business, Michael Gove at Education, Theresa May at the Home Office, Ken Clarke at Justice and IDS at Work and Pensions – though he is said to be close to doing a deal with the Treasury.

It is barely conceivable that Gove would resign – he is a core member of the Cameron project and education is where the government intends to have made a reforming impact before the 2015 election. So no matter what he’ll still be in office on Thursday. Theresa May has the professional politician’s ability to accept and argue her brief no matter what – she is not one for political heroism – so expect her to remain facing Balls across the dispatch box for now. IDS has reportedly got most of what he wanted, he has a habit of threatening to resign more often than Mrs Fawkes threatens divorce. Unless Osborne double-crosses him at the last moment, IDS will stay put.

That leaves Ken Clarke at Justice, the bookies give him a 5% chance of being the next to resign, he could make a glorious end of career stand. He would go without much acclaim, the Treasury has run a successful briefing operation against him and Crispin Blunt, painting the liberal Justice team as soft on criminals and wanting more money for better meals for prisoners. Guido thinks it only worth a flutter if you like 20/1 long shots…

Vince Cable, is once again the bookies favourite to resign next – replacing Liam Fox who has successfully played his defence budget cards. In truth this is Vince’s last chance to exit the government with honour. As it is he permanently looks like he has swallowed a bee, if he wants to save his “progressive” reputation this is the rubicon, after he accepts the policies that derive from the terms of the Spending Review he can’t later turn back. A big decision, he is a vain old man, he’ll probably never have another chance to be in government. Is he really that principled?

Guido thinks there is a good chance that a LibDem lower down the juniour ministerial ranks will seek to make a name for themselves and lay down a marker for the future.  Smarkets have a bet on any government minister, at any level, resigning on Wednesday. Currently punters give it a 15% (11/2) probability. That looks worth a few quid…

It Ain't Over till the Electoral Reform Society Sings


Guido has basically got his betting book flat on the Labour leadership, after backing David originally, flipping around onto Ed last Friday and adding to his position substantially during the week. Guido took the book to basically neutral last night, after selling Ed at ridiculously high prices going into the result.

Why? Because it is just too close to call with confidence.

Unless the Electoral Reform Society has leaked – something Guido doubts – the Thursday night flip happened because punters put money on Ed, it snowballed taking him beyond evens and making him favourite. There was no new poll or information on Thursday, the price moved simply and only because there were more buyers than sellers.

At the time of writing the specialist political bookies Smarkets* have Ed with an 80% probability of winning, it should be nearer 50/50 based on the polling and closeness of the count. Guido is tempted, on a valuation basis, to sell Ed at that price…

*As far as Guido can see they are the only bookies still making prices.

+ + + Ed Miliband Now Bookies Favourite + + +

David Miliband Preparing for Defeat

This morning the Guardian is reporting that Jim Murphy, one of David Miliband’s two campaign managers, attended a meeting with members of the Ed Milband camp to map out how they would handle Saturday’s leadership result in the event of Red Ed winning. The Telegraph saysThe overture is being seen as a signal that the elder Mr Miliband, long regarded as the front-runner in the race to succeed Gordon Brown, is bracing himself for defeat.”

Bookmakers overnight saw a big move onto Ed Miliband, some suspect that any deep pocketed operation to manipulate betting markets on behalf of David Miliband to keep his odds low has come to an end now that voting has closed. The odds are now more accurately reflecting the closeness seen by the pollsters. Mike Smithson over at PoliticalBetting.com is calling it for Ed and predicts that the brothers will soon be at evens or Ed will go favourite before the result is known on Saturday…

Counting Begins

The campaigning is over, the counting has begun. For political punters like Guido there is a fascinating divergence between the punters and the pollsters, YouGov is calling it narrowly for Red Ed, the punters reckon it will be David Miliband. Why?

Guido has heard various theories:

  • YouGov got the weighting wrong for the union affiliates – being peddled by some Mili-D supporters.
  • YouGov / LeftFootForward have analysed the distribution of second preferences incorrectly – something Guido has questioned.
  • Someone is deliberately manipulating the betting markets on behalf of Mili-D to influence the MP/MEPs’ votes – they want to back a winner for careerist reasons – they can be influenced by the publicly available odds.

We’ll find out in two days…

Paddy Power and William Hill are no longer taking bets fearing something might leak. The latest prices from Political Smarkets* are:

David

Ed

Next Labour Leader :

64%

34%

MP/MEPs’ Favourite :

89%

35%

Member’s Favourite :

67%

36%

Union affiliate’s Favourite :

11%

93%

In the humiliation stakes punters still reckon that despite Guido’s never-ending support, Ed Balls is still the favourite to to be eliminated in the first round. Guido thinks he might not come last and is a seller at 41%.

*These are implied probabilities, when they add up to over 100% it is called the “over-round”, the bigger the over-round the less efficient the market is, for an explanation see here.

Nervousness in David Miliband's Camp

After reading endless tips from Mike Smithson on PoliticalBetting.com to back Ed Miliband, Guido switched his bets on Friday. David Miliband’s implied probability of victory had already dropped from 75% to 65% by the time Guido shifted his money from one brother to the other. He is at the time of writing given a 59% chance of winning the leadership (40% for Ed Miliband). Given it is too close to call that could narrow to 50% / 50% soon. Both camps are of course claiming their internal polling numbers point to victory.

In the humiliation stakes punters reckon that despite Guido’s never-ending support, Ed Balls is still the favourite to to be eliminated in the first round. His odds on avoiding humiliation have improved, dropping from a 62% certainty down to a still not good 41%, with Diane Abbott on 35% and Burnham given 30% a chance of going out first. If you are reading this Sally Bercow, and still think Balls is going to win the leadership, a £5 bet will win you £1000.

Pollsters Backing Ed V Punters Backing David

Someone is going to get a shock based on these Sunday Times/YouGov polling results. With two weeks to go until the results are known and voting already taking place it is, all are agreed, going to be close. Punters are predicting a win for David Miliband whilst pollsters YouGov are predicting a narrow win for Ed Miliband.  Admittedly the punters could change their positions on this news, but as things stand currently they are ignoring the pollster overall.


Guido is sticking with his money on David Miliband to beat his brother Ed because he disagrees with the YouGov / LeftFootForward analysis of how the second preference votes will break. It will be close undoubtedly and there does seem to have been a shift in the union affiliates section of the electoral college and Guido has taken money off David to win that section (Ed is now 60% favourite to win the union members vote). David Miliband is still overall favourite to win the leadership, the MEP/MPs votes and the members votes. Guido can only think that the switch in union affiliates to Ed is a result of Union bosses’ endorsements sent out with ballot papers.

UPDATE : Ed Balls remains favourite to be eliminated in the first round. Oh dear…

Coulson Cleared

Well not quite, but Channel 4 News have certainly put The Guardian in a tricky spot. The paper’s strategy is to drip out one former Screws hack every day to keep the story alive, but it seems that they are grasping at straws already:

“Paul McMullan told the Guardian newspaper this morning that David Cameron’s communications chief “would certainly be well aware that the practice was pretty widespread,” but Channel 4 News has learnt from the former features executive that he left the paper in 2001, two years before Mr Coulson became its chief.”

Investigatory journalism at its finest…

UPDATE : Latest betting prices from Political Smarkets – Will Andy Coulson leave? Yes 43% / No 70%.

No Vacancy on Downing Street

Officially there is no vacancy. Officially Andy Coulson has the full support of the PM and the government machine. Officially he isn’t going anywhere. Unofficially last night was quite the flurry of activity.

He may not be going anywhere just yet, but the longer the BBC, Guardian and the Labour Party keep screaming, the more they wound Coulson as he becomes the story. The damage  is not just jeopardising his current job, but any future high earners he could move on to. So the feelers are going out and seem to centre on three key names…

There may not be an official vacancy, but that isn’t stopping Boris’s spinner and former BBC man Guto Harri putting his ear to the ground. he had been rumoured to be in talks with Welsh language channel S4C about their vacant CEO position, Guido hears that Welsh speaking Harri told them that if Coulson’s job became available he wouldn’t be in the running for the channel no one watches. Though some are worried where that would leave Boris with a re-election battle looming.

Another BBC man, James Lansdale, is also said to have given a nod of the head. This Old Etonian would slip easily into the Cameron circle and is greatly respected by his colleagues. Not that there is a vacancy of course.

Another name in the fray is, as ever, Ben Brogan. His Cameroon contacts are exemplary and second to none. Interestingly Mandrake, in Brogan’s own paper, was keen to keep him out of the runners and riders suggesting instead that Buckingham Palace’s Simon Walker is in the offing rather than their Deputy Editor. They also suggest George Pascoe-Watson, who is by all accounts happy with his new well-rewarded gig at Portland. Guido’s money is still on Coulson.

Aussie Election Neck and Neck

Labor PM Julia Gillard is refusing to concede defeat tonight, she is trying to woo Independents and “fight to form a government”. “The people have spoken” she told supporters earlier, quoting Bill Clinton, she said, “it was going to take some time to work out what they’ve said”.

UK bookmakers had Labor as hot favourites, Guido just now got a few quid on the Coalition opposition winning at 35%. Well worth a punt…

UPDATE 21.30 : Coalition now given a 75% of removing Julia Gillard, it’ll all come down to how the independents go.

UKIP Leadership Race

The race has begun to succeed Lord Pearson as leader of UKIP. He has amused political observers with his candid honesty. Not a strategy for success in politics.

Nigel Farage is favourite, though one wonders if he is really up for it given his health. He hasn’t said he will run for sure, yet punters still make him the runaway favourite. The rest of the likely runners include Christopher Monckton, the leading global warming sceptic and former adviser to Maggie. David Campbell Bannerman is a policy guy, former Tory SpAd and latterly a spinner before getting elected as an MEP.

Gerard Batten is another MEP and former London mayoral candidate, Spanish Marta Andreasen is the EU auditor turned UKIP MEP.

Guido has put a few quid on Monckton on the grounds that the outsider has fewer internal UKIP enemies and UKIPpers do like exotic characters…

To AV or not AV? |This is the Question:

“Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the ‘alternative vote’ system instead of the current ‘first past the post’ system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?”

Bit wordy, and the legislation may yet be blocked by Labour and Tory backbenchers and the Nats.

Currently punters give AV a 64% chance of passing…

Punters versus Wonks

It is fair to say that London Labour’s activists and wonkish elite are by and large behind Ed Miliband, unless they are ideological Blairites (like the Progress crowd) or careerist greasy pole climbers like most MPs, in which case they are behind David Miliband. The headbanging Tory hating activists go for Balls and lefties back Abbott with Burnham picking up a Northern token vote.

Supporters of Ed Miliband are adamant, despite polls showing David has more than twice as much support among Labour supporters, that he will win on second preferences.  Will Straw at LeftFootForward has even built a predictive model that forecasts Ed scraping through. Yet punters persist in making David Miliband the runaway favourite. Are the punters or the wonks right?

Guido accepts that Ed will probably win the union’s endorsements, though the Fabian’s Sunda Katawala argues that doesn’t necessarily mean he will win the votes of union members. Punters agree with Will and give Ed a 60% chance of winning the union votes.

Guido and punters make David the 80% favourite to win the MP/MEPs vote.  Will forecasts it will be closer than that but accepts that David will win this part of the electoral college.

It is over the membership vote that Will’s model and punters differ dramatically. Based on a non-representative, self-selecting poll of LabourList’s readers (DM 34.9% EM 30.8%), he predicts that the second preferences from the more left-wing candidates will switch to Ed and he will thus beat his older brother. The argument being that since Ed is positioned to the left of David, second preferences won’t tack right to the most centrist candidate. This is delusional.

Not all the voters will see the candidates in such finely calibrated positions on the centre-to-left spectrum, much of the electorate will vote on character and personality. Apart from Diane Abbott the policy positions of the candidates are in reality very closely bunched and Ed Balls’ new found tactical leftism is transparently risible.  Experience shows that second preferences tend to break in correlation with first preferences. The correlation isn’t perfect, but nor is it so weak as to be insignificant. Yet Labour sympathisers in the media and even more objective pundits like Toby Young believe Ed will come through.

So if it will be decided by the membership vote, is the LabourList poll accurate? It is unlikely that a self-selecting web poll will be. YouGov actually put Balls ahead of Ed Miliband but behind David with Labour voters (and another private poll by Survation put Diane Abbot within 5% of Ed among union members).  With the polling confusion Guido puts little reliance on the sampling and absent of clear polling evidence Guido opts to “follow the money”. David Miliband has raised more money than all the rest and he has the weight of  punter’s money backing him. It will be close, but Guido suspects Ed will lose to his big brother.

Osborne Ties Up the Bookies

Given the last thirteen budgets have been dominated by cheap tactics and false flags, it was  no surprise George Osborne had a trick up his sleeve. Well closer to his collar actually:

The cunning coin-keeper chose a tie of bluey/green today which caused a bit of headache for Ladbrokes who were offering bets on both blue and green and had to pay up for both.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner:

“We have no plans to write off existing student debt.”

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