UK Politics: Another tough week looms for Owen Smith

Owen Smith his struggling to get his leadership campaign off the ground
Owen Smith is struggling to get his leadership campaign off the ground

Jeremy Corbyn sees off a legal challenge, Brexit looks a long way off and Scots could still vote to stay in the Union. Max Liu reports on the latest developments in UK politics...

"I think the odds on Corbyn's re-election are too short but I also think it's odd that, after all their agitating for a leadership contest, Corbyn's opponents couldn't come up with a stronger candidate than Smith."

This week, I went to Greece where, as well as getting bitten by mosquitoes and eating a lot of salad, I discussed Brexit. The previous month in France, immediately after the referendum, nobody was interested, but Greeks were keen to talk. A gnarly old fisherman told me: "England has always been our friend but now you have left us with Germany!"

He was bitter about the drubbing his country received at the hands of the EU elite - Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schauble chief among them - last summer, as Greece's Syriza government was forced to accept a punishing austerity package only a week after Greeks voted to reject a lighter one.

In spite of his Germanophobia, the fisherman was worth listening to. He argued that you have to stay in Europe to reform it, that opting out it is to turn your back on your continental friends and leave the EU to become more undemocratic and weighted towards the interests of its richest members. This is interesting because in simple, real world terms it exposes the left-wing case for Brexit (Lexit) which Jeremy Corbyn's critics claim he privately supports.

All I could say in response was that it will probably be a long time before Britain leaves the EU. I suspect there's little political will to make it happen and bettors don't see Brexit happening any time soon either. You can get 10/111.92 on Article 50 being triggered after July 2017.


Smith's struggles continue after Corbyn wins court battle


Anti-establishment Corbyn might be but this week a high court judge came to the Labour leader's aid. The judge rejected a case brought by Labour donor Michael Foster who argued that Corbyn should be prevented from standing for the leadership without the support of 51 MPs.

This comes two weeks after the party's NEC ruled that Corbyn could stand without the MPs' nominations. The odds subsequently shortened on the Labour leader being re-elected in September, with Corbyn now an unbackable 1/101.1 to win and his opponent, Owen Smith, drifting to 17/29.4.

I think the odds on Corbyn's re-election are too short but I also think it's odd that, after all their agitating for a leadership contest, Corbyn's opponents couldn't come up with a stronger candidate than Smith.

Smith struggled this week. His list of 20 policies received less coverage than his ill-judged remarks about "smashing" Theresa May. However, Smith's policies, which include banning zero hours contracts and re-instating the 50p top rate of income tax, indicate that Corbyn has shifted the terms of debate within Labour to the left.

Corbyn, meanwhile, says Labour are ready for a snap general election. At 8/19.2, bettors think an election in 2016 is unlikely - May has repeatedly ruled it out - but, regardless, they disagree with Corbyn and make a Conservative majority the favourite result at 10/111.93.


Scots could reject independence even after Brexit


The UK will fall apart if it leaves the EU - that was one of the messages from the Remain camp in the run up to the June referendum. Scots overwhelmingly favour staying in the EU, as they demonstrated by voting remain by 62% to 38%. This has lead Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to talk up the possibility of another referendum.

However, Sturgeon and her SNP colleagues will alarmed by a new poll which indicates Scots could reject independence by six percent. In 2014, Scots voted to stay in the UK by 55% to 45% and, on the basis of this week's poll, opinion hasn't shifted dramatically since the UK voted for Brexit.

Sturgeon has said that the SNP cannot afford to lose another referendum so she might have to wait before calling another. At present, no Scottish independence referendum before 2019 is trading at 30/1001.3.

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