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This is the most serious indictment yet
It has been another tumultuous, unprecedented 24 hours in US politics. As had been expected, Donald Trump has been indicted on a third round of charges by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith. The charges all relate to January 6th and what the state says was a deliberate conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
The charges could barely be more serious - conspiracy to defraud the USA, conspiracy to obstruct, and actual obstruction of, an official proceeding (the certification of the electoral college), and conspiracy against rights (the attempt to deny votes cast at the general election).
One might have assumed such bombshell charges - laid out in great detail by the FBI, as ever - would spook the market. That, I am sure, would have been the case in years gone past. This time, however, as after the classified documents indictment, the numbers on Betfair are basically unmoved.
Indictments have been factored in by bettors and it is hard to argue with their assessment. Trump has shortened to 1.43 to win the Republican Nomination, for which he leads by over 30%. For the general, he's at 3.4, behind Joe Biden at 2.86.
It is worth noting that Trump's best fundraising days came following previous indictments. That money is being poured into his legal fees and may ultimately mean a shortfall in campaign expenditure.
In theory that may hurt down the line but I'm not sure normal rules apply in this case. Anybody with a pulse knows Trump is running again and everybody has a strong opinion. Nevertheless, 2024 is shaping up to be a year of Trump on trial.
Thus, whilst there is a temptation to lay Trump amid what appear to be utterly ruinous legal problems, I reckon his odds will shorten. Only yesterday a NYT/Siena poll put him and Biden tied for the general election. Given the distribution of votes in the USA, that would mean Trump winning. See this from the revered founder of Sabato Crystal Ball.
All that said, I do think the Jan 6th indictments are on a different level. The Stormy Daniels case appears too politically motivated. Apparently his voters don't care enough, or haven't understood yet that the classified documents case involves esponiage and the sale of nuclear secrets. That is also my anecdotal experience when discussing the matter with non-politicos.
But with Jan 6th, a day that Americans will never forget has been raised to the fore once again. The denial of voting rights, the attempted breaking of democracy, cuts deep into the national psyche. At the time, Trump's ratings plummeted and his average approval rating remains lower now, than at the end of his presidency.
Whilst I am not a Trump layer at the moment, because I expect his odds to shorten somewhat, I couldn't be a backer. The same reasons he lost the presidency, House and Senate, and that his endorsed candidates underperformed in last year's mid-terms, are more salient than ever. Independent, persuadable voters consistently reject his brand of fascist politics.
Assuming Biden is the Democrat Nominee, I'd make him clear favourite in the general. Remember, US elections are always determined by a few key states in the electoral college. These numbers are promising for the incumbent. 2.86 looks way too big and I suspect driven by an unrealistic expectation of a serious Democrat challenger emerging.
2024 Election Winner
2024 Democrat Nominee
2024 Republican Nominee
Lib Dems surge in Mid-Bedfordshire betting
So far as the headlines from Super Thursday are concerned - each major party won a seat, Tories upset the odds in Uxbridge - an inconclusive picture emerged, lacking clear signals about the next election. That might explain why the Betfair odds about a Labour Majority have drifted.
At odds of 1.55, that outcome is higher than it was last week and it actually traded around 1.62 on Friday morning. Earlier in this blog, following the local elections, I argued they were massively overpriced around 1.86 and that a big majority is coming. Nothing happened to alter that view.
Let us start, therefore, with the fly in the ointment. Uxbridge and South Ruislip - for which I successfully tipped the Tories to land an upset at 8/1. That one result seems to have spooked Labour and the Westminster commentariat. But as I argued in that piece, look at the specifics of that constituency. It is not representative of the country.
Analysts talk of Labour needing a 12% swing nationally to gain a majority. The average swing from Labour's two gains was 15%, although one would expect a higher swing in a by-election. So on that basis, yes, taking odds around 65% about a majority would sound risky.
However this is way too simplistic. The wide differential between the swing in Uxbridge & South Ruislip and Selby & Ainsty shows us that 'national' swing is just a number and not something we should be basing calculations upon. The situation is very different between areas, regions, socio-economic groups.
Let's exclude local factors (of which there were many in Uxbridge), and focus simply on demographics. The demographics of the rural Yorkshire constituency are very different from the West London seat. There are many more seats like Selby & Ainsty, and they are all held by the Conservatives.
The correct narrative, therefore, is that the Tories lost two out of three safe seats, and came within a whisker of losing them all. Not that each party won a seat, so honours are even.
All assessments of required swings stem from 2019 - a very dubious baseline due to the unique conditions, with Brexit on the ballot and both parties being led by 'Marmite' figures.
From that starting position, Labour are way behind among older, whiter voters, Leave supporters, non-university educated voters. Among the reverse groups, they are already doing very well. Corbyn made big strides in London.
Thus, if Labour are indeed to win power and score 12% higher than last time, they will need to win many more of the first group. They are doing so in large numbers, whilst lacking anything like the growth potential among the latter group.
Selby & Ainsty is an extraordinary result. Their biggest turnaround ever in a by-election. It mirrors their remarkable performance in York Outer at May's council elections.
This is the story and, as argued in my preview of that seat, it should absolutely terrify the Tories. This was 225th on Labour's target list. To win most seats and surely form the government, they'll need to gain around 50 from that list, or 100 for a majority.
In terms of forthcoming by-elections, these results also indicate disaster for the governing party. There are no London seats, or suburbs where ULEZ is hugely controversial, or where there is a large Indian population, on the radar. Instead there is probably the bellwether-ish Tamworth and definitely Mid Bedfordshire.
For the latter, the Lib Dems have shortened markedly since Thursday. They're into 1.54 from around even money, in the wake of their total drubbing of the Tories in Somerton and Frome.
This is logical given how dominant they have been in seats where the 'tactical alliance' has identified the Lib Dems as the alternative to the Tories. That may yet prove so in Mid Bedfordshire but be wary. That tactical assessment is nowhere near so clear as a Somerset seat that they held previously for 18 years.
My expectation for Mid Bedfordshire is that the Tories will indeed lose, to whoever emerges as the alternative. However Labour might well fancy their own chances and, as discussed in an earlier blog entry, the Independent candidate Gareth Mackay is very interesting.
If Mackay does run a strong campaign, he'll be fighting for that same batch of anti-Tory/government protest votes as the Lib Dems. I don't regard it beyond the realms of possibility that it is Mackay who ultimately emerges.
Most Seats at Next General Election
Mid Bedfordshire By-Election
Could a new challenger emerge?
Primary season is now upon us, with the first TV debate just a month away and Friday sees the first opportunity to compare the GOP candidates. The Blaze Media are hosting a Presidential Forum, to be livestreamed on YouTube at 10am ET.
Tucker Carlson will chair one-to-one interviews with six Republican candidates - Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Vivek Ramaswamy, Tim Scott, Nikki Haley and Asa Hutchinson - with one glaring absentee. The runaway favourite.
Donald Trump turned down the invitation and he's also boycotting the first official debate, to be aired on Fox News on August 23rd. Given his poll lead of around 40%, this is no surprise. Why give potential rivals a chance to take shots, or outshine him?
Consequently, one of three outcomes seem inevitable. One, these events sink into irrelevance, and Trump walks the primary. Two, criminal proceedings take him out of the race. Three, a rival seizes the opportunity and makes enough of a mark to make the race competitive.
Friday feels like a critical day in the career of Ron DeSantis. As reported earlier, his campaign is draining confidence and now, so I hear, volunteers. Donors will be next unless he makes a big impact very soon. If not, he may merely be remembered as a comically over-rated early favourite.
The negativity around DeSantis has fed through to Betfair markets. From being matched down to 2.86 earlier, implying a 35% chance, he's now rated merely 8% likely to win the election at odds of 13.0. For the nomination, odds of 7.0 imply a 14% chance, down from a peak of 54%.
His demise leaves a gap in the market. It is well short of a majority, but there remains a substantial segment of GOP voters who want somebody other than Trump. Donors, such as the Koch network and others defending the party establishment whom Trump now deems the enemy, will ultimately coalesce around one or two candidates. Likewise Fox News.
Of the six interviewees, the two with the chance to grow are Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy. Particularly the latter. Why? Because Pence, Christie and to some extent Haley are very well-known to this audience already. If only polling around 3% now, I doubt there is much room for gain. Ramaswamy on the other hand, is an entrepreneur without political baggage.
The GOP loves an outsider. Remember their last primary in 2016, won by businessman Trump. The only rivals that ever troubled him in the polls were neurosurgeon Ben Carson and the most 'outsiderish' politician Ted Cruz. Tech executive Carly Fiorina enjoyed a short moment in the sun with good debate performances.
Moreover, considering his lack of political profile, Ramaswamy has made an impact in polling, around 7-8%. That's higher than all bar Trump and DeSantis. Positioning himself as 'anti-woke', he's in line with the new essential orthodoxy to appeal to this GOP electorate. Perhaps, as a new face, he's getting a fairer hearing.
Betfair markets have noticed. Ramaswamy remains an outsider, but is trading below 100.0 for Election Winner and 40.0 for the Republican Nomination. Were he to move into second place ahead of a declining or withdrawn DeSantis, those odds would fall sharply.
Finally, you'll note the interviewer is in the betting himself. This will be Tucker Carlson's first mainstream media outing since leaving Fox News, following a few propaganda videos on Twitter and appearing on fellow Kremlin-apologist Russell Brand's show.
Will he try and upstage, or humiliate candidates? Will he go soft, or favour one in particular? Although he has made no suggestion whatsoever that he plans to enter politics, I'll be watching Carlson's performance closely. He remains a big player in the GOP media ecosystem.
Tories likely to lose five by-elections
Parliament's Standards Committee issued its report into former Chief Whip Christopher Pincher and groping allegations yesterday. It found Pincher's behaviour to be 'especially grave' and an 'abuse of power' and recommended an eight-week suspension.
Therefore, we will very likely see yet another by-election and another potential humiliation for Rishi Sunak. The Tories hold a near 20,000 majority in Tamworth, but this is a seat which Labour used to hold. On the basis of recent polls, they will probably start favourite to gain it.
Those polling signals could barely be worse. A new survey for the Selby and Ainsty by-election, scheduled for July 20th, reports Labour 12% ahead. As reported in previous posts, our market has been signalling a Labour win for weeks and their odds are now down to just 1.23, implying an 81% chance of victory.
There is little reason to distrust this given what is happening in national polls. This morning Yougov report a 25% Labour lead, with the Tories down on just 22%. If repeated in a general election, these numbers project the party would be reduced to fewer than 50 MPs.
This is precisely the existential crisis that we've been discussing for months. Whether one pins any of the blame on Sunak or not, he is presiding over the party's worst days. Nevertheless, there remains little hint in the betting that the party will dump him before the election. He's rated 50% likely to survive until 2025 or later.
A Labour Majority remains around 66% likely at odds of 1.511/2. Those odds should be shorter, and are being held up by the grossly over-rated chance of a Conservative majority. At 10.09/1, that outcome is rated 10% likely. I reckon the chance is less than 5% and extremely hard to envisage.
Trump firming up across markets
The Democratic Nominee betting is getting more interesting by the day. Conventional wisdom assumes that, as an incumbent President, endorsed by all his heavyweight rivals, Joe Biden is a shoo-in. Betfair traders are not so sure.
A few posts back, I reported the gamble on Gavin Newsom. The California Governor continues to shorten in the betting, trading at 14.0 to be the Election Winner and 8.0 for the nomination. Also, Robert F Kennedy Jr has hit a new low today, at 14.0 for the presidency.
These are two very different candidates. I cannot stress enough what terrible value Kennedy represents. His views are totally at odds with the Democratic mainstream, on vaccines and the Ukraine war, for instance. I recommend this thread from the excellent #vatniksoup series.
I firmly believe RFK is another spoiler candidate, in the mould of pro-Russian, failed Democrat presidential candidate turned Fox News pundit Tulsi Gabbard, who could now very plausibly become Donald Trump's running mate. RFK is expected to fail but could potentially damage the Democrats in the general election. That's the plan.
Regardless of that theory, Kennedy polls terribly, trailing Biden by around 50 points. Moreover, he only scored 5% in this hypothetical poll excluding Biden, down 1% from a month earlier.
I suspect the reason Kennedy's odds are holding up is reluctance on the part of layers to tie money up at short odds-on for over a year. That may also partly explain Biden drifting to 1.47 for the nomination.
Newsom is a very different case. In the event that Biden were to withdraw, he would certainly be among the front-runners to step in. I would note, however, that the trio polling above him are available to back at 48.0, 230.0 and 800.0 respectively.
Whilst Biden's approval ratings and poll numbers should indeed concern Democrats, I still reckon he's overpriced at 1.47 for the nomination. Not least because he will fancy his chances of beating Trump again, who looks surer by the day to be the Republican Nominee.
If some DNC plot to remove Biden were to happen, it won't be before the primaries. Come the end of the year, unforeseen health scare not withstanding, I'm confident he will be a lot shorter than 1.47 and not be facing a serious challenge.
Trump has been backed into 3.7 and 1.52 for the two targets. For a change, I think he represents good value at those odds.
As ever, backing Trump involves a constant worry that a life of crime will bring his political career to a sudden, dramatic end. However I don't expect that to happen soon, given the remarkable loyalty of the GOP base and the faltering bid of his main opponent.
Ron DeSantis is in trouble. Politico report some very negative comments from a spokesperson for his super PAC, that he is a clear underdog and trailing badly. He's drifted badly in the last few days, amid accusations of homophobia and criminal referrals regarding a political stunt when relocating migrants to Democratic states.
According to Betfair markets, DeSantis has a mere 10% chance of winning the presidency and 17% for the nomination. Note that on the US site PredictIt, he has now been overtaken by Newsom.
Regarding the GOP race, I must reiterate a couple of huge-priced alternatives. The anti-Trump faction may need to dump DeSantis. If so, expect encouragement and talk of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp - who has taken on Trump previously and won - entering the race. He's 300.0 for the presidency, 140.0 for the nomination.
Also, given the ongoing vast and worsening legal peril facing Trump, his backers may end up needing an alternative. If so, Tucker Carlson's respective odds will crash from 420.0 and 120.0.
There is more than a year until the conventions. Much can and will change. As any US election veteran will confirm, extreme and bizarre gambles are commonplace.
Who is best-placed to beat the Tories?
We have a rare constituency poll for the by-election expected to take place when Nadine Dorries resigns from Parliament. It is predictably terrible for the Conservatives but raises many questions about the race. The Opinium poll was commissioned by Labour, who came out marginally ahead.
As it stands, the Lib Dems remain clear odds-on favourites to win at around 1.7. I expect those odds will drift as this poll news cuts through.
The assumption was that - as before recent by-election successes in Chesham and Amersham, North Shropshire and Tiverton and Honiton - the anti-Tory, mid-term protest vote would coalesce around the Lib Dems. But in this case, tactical voting may prove problematic.
The fact Labour even commissioned this poll suggests they are taking the race seriously and are not yet willing to step back, allowing the Lib Dems to dominate the campaign. Second, note the 19% tally for Independent candidate Gareth Mackay.
Mackay is chairman of Central Bedfordshire Council, as leader of a group of local Independents who have usurped the Conservatives. He promises to be a 'proper constituency MP who lives here, is in touch with residents, works on your problems and is dedicated to Mid Bedfordshire.'
Evidently Mackay has made an impact locally, because 19% is an extraordinary tally for a race which hasn't even been confirmed yet. I think we should take this bid very seriously. In these times of mass dissatisfaction and alienation from politics, local independents have a better chance than ever.
Granted they rarely get elected to parliament, but there are some precedents. Dr Richard Taylor won two terms representing Kidderminster Health Concern - a similar group of local independents.
Most famously, former BBC journalist Martin Bell won Tatton on an anti-corruption ticket in Tatton at the 1997 election. He also performed very respectably in Brentwood in 2001.
The parallels with Bell are obvious, whose bid caught the public imagination as the Tories were at rock bottom, engulfed by various sleaze scandals. The sitting MP, Neil Hamilton, being the most prominent.
Although Nadine Dorries isn't running, she has become emblematic of the Tory scandals regarding her friend Boris Johnson, and is one of the MPs criticised by the Privileges Committee for trying to undermine their work, and intimidating fellow MPs.
Dorries is endlessly hungry for publicity, and will surely use this by-election to promote her TV show and book. Moreover, by delaying her resignation, this will be a standalone by-election with blanket media coverage, whereas the other three Tory defences are scheduled for 20th July.
I am not surprised at all to see the Tories on such a low share and do not expect them to retain the seat. With Reform already on 10%, it seems the right-wing vote will inevitably split. The key question is who will be their main opponent.
Neither the Labour or Lib Dem share are impressive, given the circumstances. A strong campaign from Mackay could easily overturn that 9% deficit. As always in by-elections, turnout will be critical, and this group of independents have already shown they can get their supporters out for the council elections.
This morning, I've taken the enormous odds of 158.0 about the Independent. Win or lose, these odds are way too big. Everything about this race points to a classic by-election, with much unpredictability. It is far more interesting and open than the other four looming races.
Historic swings aren't deterring bettors
We now have exchange markets up for all five of the by-elections expected to take place before the end of the year. We don't have dates yet for Mid-Bedfordshire or Rutherglen and Hamilton West, but the betting for these favours the Lib Dems at 1.6 and Labour at 1.05 respectively.
Neither Somerton and Frome, where the Lib Dems are 1.08 chances to regain a seat they held prior to 2015, or Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where Labour were dominant until that same 2015 general election, look close. Nor does Boris Johnson's former seat, Uxbridge and Ruislip. Labour are a mere 1.06 to win this.
Therefore as it stands, the two exciting contest are Selby and Ainsty (scheduled for July 20th) and Mid-Bedfordshire. Depending if and when Nadine Dorries completes her promised resignation from Parliament, that will most likely take place in October.
That the Tories are clear outsiders for these usually safe seats vividly illustrates their terrible national polling position and lack of appeal to bettors for even the easiest targets.
In Selby and Ainsty, Labour will require an extraordinary 18% swing since 2019. That is roughly what they are achieving in national polls.
As a guide, when they last took a seat off the Tories, Labour achieved a 12.8% swing in last summer's Wakefield by-election. Plus that was a seat where they had a deep history, always regarded as marginal nowadays. It ranks 38th on their target list, so would be essential to winning the most seats.
By comparison, Rutherglen and Hamilton West is 54th, Uxbridge and South Ruislip 94th. They should be winnable for a Labour Party set for government. In contrast, Selby and Ainsty is 225th. It shouldn't even be on their radar, or in realistic calculations.
Hence, when the by-election was announced, my initial thought was the Tories should be favourites, perhaps around 1.7. In fact, Labour are now 1.6 and have been matched at much shorter (1.2). Can we trust it?
Having seen their candidate Keir Mather's promo and the enthusiasm of MPs campaigning for him, I suspect the market is correct. Mather is young, local, has big career potential and probably the ability to win over the lifelong Tory voters that he will need in spades.
The party are taking this seat very seriously, because they know victory will send a powerful message that they are headed for government. It is all very reminscent of the 1990s and New Labour.
The Lib Dems will need an even bigger swing of 24% to gain Mid-Bedfordshire. However I wouldn't overstate the difficulty for a couple of reasons.
First, the Lib Dems are in a very different place to the last three elections. They're resumed their historic role as by-election specialists, pulling off three massive turnarounds in this parliament.
They managed a 25% swing to gain Chesham and Amersham, 34% in North Shropshire and 30% in Tiverton and Honiton. The Tories are in a much worse place now than before any of those.
Second, there is the specific character involved and the scandal of Boris Johnson's resignation honours list. It must be extremely doubtful that Nadine Dorries supports the Tory candidate, and may even plausibly use her local profile to help a rival split the right-wing vote.
The supposed risk here is that the non-Tory vote splits, because Labour start in second place. Usually though, it becomes obvious throughout the campaign whom the main opposition are. There were similar dynamics in North Shropshire but ultimately, that couldn't save the Tories. 1.6 looks a decent bet for my money.
Tory crisis deeper than ever, could worsen
Several recent posts have discussed the existential crisis facing the Conservative Party. After a week of farce, division, humiliation, dire opinion polls and a worsening economic crisis, their position looks weaker than ever. The news has not gone unnoticed on Betfair markets.
Labour are trading now at their shortest odds yet across the board. They have been matched at odds down to 1.17, implying an 85% likelihood, to win the Most Seats at the next general election. A Labour Majority is trading at 1.56 (64%), while Keir Starmer is 1.2 (83%) to be Prime Minister after Rishi Sunak.
These polls are frankly horrific. Even before this sudden dip, we were discussing MRP projections of enormous, even historic Labour majorities. In this position, we are looking at the parliamentary party being decimated, perhaps below 100 MPs if tactical voting takes off.
With probably more than a year until the election, I suspect bettors will be reluctant to pile in at such short odds and drive Labour down much further. My instinct in these situations is to think counter-intuitively and envisage a path to the market swinging back. The problem is I can't envisage the chain of events.
One must assume this sharp dip from a poor position owes much to the humiliating soap opera around Boris Johnson's exit from Parliament and the scandal of his honours list. Not an issue that will appear high on voters' lists of priorities at the general election, but a definitive, memorable saga which has destroyed trust in the Tories.
It is too late to repair the brand in time for the next election, and there is nothing good coming down the track. The cost of living crisis trumps all other issues, and is highly unlike to improve. 5% interest rates would be bad news for any government, but catastrophic for the Tories, because so much of their support comes from homeowners.
It is constantly tempting to compare the Tory crisis to 1997, when they crashed to a worst ever defeat against Tony Blair's New Labour, but the economy is a critical difference. The Tory brand was poisoned by Black Wednesday, interest rate shocks and a housing market crash, but that was five years earlier. By 1997, the economy had recovered and was doing well.
In 2024, there will be no such convincing recovery narrative to push and the brand poisoning a lot fresher in the memory.
The looming by-elections and circus around them look set to add to the crisis. Our markets project they will lose all four seats.
Labour have moved very slightly ahead for Selby & Ainsty this morning at 1.95 (51%), and are rated near-certain to gain Uxbridge and South Ruislip at 1.06 (94%). The Lib Dems remain favourites for Mid-Bedfordshire at 1.61, and are sure to be much shorter when trading opens for Somerton and Frome.
Next General Election - Most Seats
Next General Election - Overall Majority
Shadow war with DeSantis helps both
Joe Biden and Donald Trump remain odds-on favourites to be the Democrat and Republican Nominees in 2024, at 1.4 and 1.55 respectively.
Anyone with experience of trading US elections will understand how early we are in the marathon process, and how much can change. The problem for bettors looking for a 'value' alternative to the favourites has been identifying one.
Biden in particular seems overpriced at 1.4, given that he seems unlikely to face a primary challenge from a heavyweight opponent. Robert F Kennedy Jr. has no chance - mark that.
However without him even explicit hinting at a primary challenge, Gavin Newsom is storming up Betfair's market. He's now 25.0 for the presidency and 13.0 for the nomination - more than halving in recent weeks.
The principle explanation, I believe, was his interview on Sean Hannity Tonight, on Fox News. For a liberal, going into that lion's den, knowing even the tiniest of slip would be weaponised, was brave and risky. It was the latest and clearest demonstration that the California Governor is seeking to build a national profile.
He emerged with great credit, and was praised across liberal media. Inevitably, comparisons were drawn with Joe Biden, whom Newsom praised to the hilt. Whilst definitely a top candidate for 2028, a conversation about 2024 is building.
Newsom has previously sparred with Ron DeSantis, drawing comparisons between his state and Florida. Now DeSantis is calling on Newsom to stop 'pussyfooting around and challenge Biden'.
This stuff is gold to media searching for 2024 discussion points other than the Trump/Biden rematch and whether democracy will survive. The chances of a DeSantis/Newsom race in 2024 is slim, but the pair offer a preview for how the parties would square up, and may well do in 2028.
Biden has a 41% approval rating and is far from certain to beat Trump again, let alone the much younger DeSantis. His age and health are constant talking points. Harsh, maybe, but reality. Some liberal voices are bound to flirt with the idea of replacing him.
I think for that reason alone, the market will continue to respect Newsom even after primary voting has begun without him on the ballot. If Biden were replaced, it would be via a late, emergency process. The very unpopular Kamala Harris would be very well placed. Hillary Clinton's name would arise yet again.
My personal view is that Newsom would comfortably outperform any of that trio. By building a profile now, he's earned a place in that conversation. Whereas the likes of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer are not there yet.
There are parallels with Biden in 2015/16. Then VP, he was regarded as the only Democrat who could beat Clinton. Many urged him to run, a PAC was formed, ads were made. He traded down to around 4/1 for the presidency, before choosing not to run. Recent history would have been extremely different!
By-election delay would hurt Sunak
The Privileges Committee report is out and 'damning' doesn't begin to cover it. Their denunciation of Boris Johnson - for deliberately misleading the House, misleading the Committee and being complicit in a campaign of abuse against MPs investigating him. The recommendation of a 90-day ban shocked pretty much everyone. No wonder Johnson resigned first!
That campaign of abuse is ongoing, with Johnson supporters going after Tory committee member Bernard Jenkin, for allegedly attending a party during lockdown. As for Nadine Dorries, she sounds ever more like a Trump Republican, targeting and purging internal enemies and pushing deep state conspiracies.
A more plausible explanation for Dorries' delaying her resignation is twofold. First, to delay her by-election until September, enabling an extra crack at destabilising the Sunak government, heading into the party conference. Second, she has a book coming out in the autumn based on "The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson."
Neither of them are going to disappear from political media, but both are finished in electoral politics. The idea of Johnson returning as Tory leader is absurd, and as for starting a new political party, that sounds far too much like hard work.
Johnson will earn fortunes speaking around the world. He will still offer great clickbait for the media. But he'll never return to Parliament.
In that world of serious politics at least, he is disgraced. Coming in the week that the pioneer of right-wing populism Silvio Berlusconi died, and the ultimate master of the art Donald Trump was indicted for charges including espionage, the timing feels historic.
Meanwhile, the Tory civil war will rumble on. The probable by-election delay is terrible news for Sunak.
Were all three held on the same day, damage may have been minimal. If the market is right, the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems would win one each. An inconclusive, easily forgotten narrative. Now the Tories could even get good results against Labour, only for that to be overshadowed by an autumn disaster in Mid-Bedfordshire.
The Lib Dems are currently rated 67% likely to win Mid-Beds at 1.5 - to which I concur. I think this will become a media circus and the Tory share shredded and divided among protest options. The Lib Dems will get plenty, in addition to monopolising the anti-Tory vote. Will Dorries endorse the Tory candidate, or an opponent?
Labour remain very strong favourites for Uxbridge and South Ruislip at 1.08. That rightly reflects the national swing, likelihood of differential turnout and potential for Johnson supporters to abandon the Tories. However their expected vote share may not reach expectations. The Tories do well at council level here and with a good candidate/campaign, could yet be competitive.
Selby and Ainsty is the closest in betting terms, with the Tories ahead at 1.75. Understandable, given the history and demographics of the seat. It would be an historic and outstanding gain for Labour, if not impossible in the current climate.
All three of these by-elections carry a lot of unpredictability, with the potential to prove memorable betting heats. We political bettors are being spoilt and, thanks to Dorries it seems, gaining another exciting election night!
Tories could well lose all three by-elections
Several recent blogs have focused on what seems ever more like an existential crisis for the Conservative Party. It is stating the obvious to say that events over the past 48 hours have heightened that prospect.
The Tories must now face three by-elections, following the resignations of Boris Johnson, Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams. Whilst it remains perfectly realistic that they hold on to two out of three, one must wonder how effectively they can campaign under the circumstances, and to what extent the national focus on their civil war will worsen hostilities.
In Johnson's former seat, Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the numbers and betting very strongly favour Labour. They were last matched at odds of 1.081/12, implying a 92% chance of success.
They require a 7.5% swing from 2019, roughly half of what they are achieving in national polls. Plus, one would assume Johnson boosted the Tory share with a personal vote, as the party leader, PM and former Mayor of London.
Lord Ashcroft did produce a poll for this constituency, which quite shockingly projected Johnson would easily hold it in a by-election. Perhaps that personal vote was in play, but I'm inclined to ignore it, because it is so far outside all other signals.
Losing that London commuter-belt seat would not be catastrophic for Rishi Sunak, and could be passed off as the predictable consequence of Johnson's multiple scandals. Losing Mid Bedfordshire and/or Selby and Ainsty, however, would be truly appalling results.
In the former, vacated by Dorries, the Tories are defending a 38% advantage over Labour - who aren't even regarded as the main challenger. Despite requiring an enormous 24% swing to come from third place, the Lib Dems are trading at just 1.384/11 (72%) to win the seat.
In anything approaching normal circumstances, this would feel a step too far. Mid Beds is also made more difficult because the non-Tory vote is currently split.
However if we recall the Tiverton by-election of 2022, the Lib Dems gained that Tory stronghold on a 30% swing. And in December 2021, they gained North Shropshire on a 34% swing. Their national poll position is now worse than before both of those defeats, (particularly North Shropshire).
In Selby and Ainsty, Labour will require an 18% swing to gain a seat that is predominantly rural and far from fertile territory. This for me is the least likely gain of the three. It is simply harder for Labour to pick up mid-term protest votes from lifelong Tory voters. That said, they scored a stunning upset in the local elections in York Outer and there is clearly a revolt against the Tories in many rural areas.
The biggest problem for Rishi Sunak is that all three races (and one cannot rule out further resignations and contests), will have a huge national profile. By resigning in this manner, leaving the door open to a return to politics, deliberately heightening divisions among conservatives, Johnson has ensured a media circus.
It is guaranteed that Sunak's enemies - from the 'NationalConservatism' faction, to ReformUK, to whatever plan Johnson allies have in mind - will relish plunging the knife over the coming weeks and months. Dorries will want to promote her forthcoming book, about the 'political assassination' of her hero, and build her media career now a peerage hasn't materialised.
These by-elections also present a golden opportunity for the nascent 'Anti-Tory Tactical Vote' campaign - discussed in two blogs previously - to get its message out. Mid Bedfordshire, with that doubt over who is the biggest challenger to the Tories, provides an ideal test for the decisions they will need to make next year. No doubt, Carol Vorderman will be touring TV studios to explain and make the case.
We are less than 18 months away from a general election and an already deeply unpopular governing party is fighting among themselves, in full public view.
The news cycle is constantly terrible for them. Corruption or cronyism scandals are never-ending. It could not look worse, and their rivals must be sporting permanent grins. The Conservatives - the most successful, ruthlessly effective political party in Europe - are committing suicide.
There hasn't been any major market reaction to Friday's resignations in the longer-term markets. Labour remain around 81% likely to win Most Seats and 57% to win an Overall Majority. In both cases, I reckon they should be higher.
Right now, it is hard to see even a glimmer of good news for Sunak. In theory, it helps to lose Johnson and Dorries. To move on, begin to be taken seriously as a government again, and to distance himself from these marmite figures.
But Sunak's problem is that, however damaged or ridiculous Johnson looks, he will always be newsworthy. Clickbait for the right-wing press. Every random theory about his next move, or word he utters, will be a headline. And among much of the Tory membership who didn't elect Sunak, Johnson will always be a hero.
Yet there's no sign, or I think realistic prospect, of Sunak being challenged for the leadership soon. He remains odds-on to leave in 2025 or later, according to our market. So that means a bitterly divided right-wing, fighting over what seems no more than 35% of the vote, and an historic defeat which the party may never recover from.
Republicans rally around former President
Yesterday was one of, if not the, remarkable and consequential days of politics. There is much to be discussed regarding the UK and Boris Johnson, but first news on even more dramatic developments in the USA.
As had been widely reported, Donald Trump was indicted on seven counts in the classified documents. The indictment was later unsealed and the charges are truly shocking. Before buying into any short headline takes, I recommend reading the details.
There is no question that these are prisonable offences. Some will say treasonous. By capturing Trump on tape, it appears the FBI have him bang to rights. Yet one Republican rival after another came out to attack the prosecution.
The betting signals were unsurprisingly negative for Trump, but perhaps not as bad as the legal peril might imply. He drifted on Betfair to odds of 1.75 for the Republican Nomination and 4.5 for Election Winner - that's equivalent to 57% and 22% probabilities.
The 57% figure reflects a belief that no plausible rival will dare stand up to Trump. No doubt the pressure internally against doing so will remain very strong. Several prominent voices declared these so-called 'political prosecutions' would unite the party around Trump, and this somewhat chilling message from a far-Right influencer and activist indicates why.
Nevertheless, I must stress the importance of thinking ahead here and trying to read the future trajectory of this election. Yes, today Trump looks immovable at the top of the GOP primary. However it is very early days. We haven't even had a TV debate yet. These primary voters have not had time to process what this will mean for 2024.
During previous indictments, impeachments and even mere investigations, polls showed a majority of Americans wanting him either removed from office or imprisoned. I'm very confident that will be the case after these indictments are understood, and the numbers will be firm. Trump may be adored on one side, but he is despised by a bigger number on the other.
Given the nature of the US legal process, this won't be resolved quickly. The process will coincide with the 2024 election. His alleged crimes will be a daily talking point, as will his relationship with foreign countries hostile to the USA, as will (wildly optimistic) calls for him to accept the legitimacy of the previous (and next) election result.
In short, just about the worst narrative a political party could take into a general election - and one in which they should otherwise hold at least a 50/50 chance. 2024 may well see chaos like never before. The GOP risk walking off a cliff.
Betting-wise, my thoughts are twofold. First, that Joe Biden represents cracking value at 2.68. I do not see him being seriously challenged for the Democrat nomination. If he faces Trump, I reckon he'll be no more than 1.664/6 in the general election. Against an alternative such as DeSantis, I'd make Biden the outsider, but still short of 2.68.
On the GOP side, we should be looking for outsider alternatives. We have to consider the possibility of these charges finishing Trump, or at least producing such speculation. In that scenario, DeSantis becomes a strong favourite but there is plenty of scope for an outsider to come forward.
Here, I think we should think outside the box, to people who aren't yet in the race but might be attracted to a race without Trump. I've mentioned Tucker Carlson several times in recent years and wrote the above thread a fortnight ago.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is another whom I've been building positions on at odds around 300.0. One further bet I have taken is 700.0 about Ted Cruz for the nomination. An unlikely winner, but somebody who is young enough and definitely ambitious enough to run again.
New MRP projects record Labour seats haul
We've seen further moves in Betfair's markets for the Next UK General Election today, presumably in response to a new MRP survey on the new constituencies. A Labour Majority is now available to back at 1.73, implying a 58% chance of success.
The headline take is quite shocking. Commissioned by pro-EU pressure group Best for Britain, using the polling firm Focaldata, it concludes that if an election were held tomorrow, the result would represent by far the best or worst ever results for both parties.
There are, however, numerous caveats and the pollster has presented various different scenarios. That headline figure is based on shares including 12% of 'Don't Knows'. For one alternative scenario, these DKs are redistributed based on their education level. This skews towards the Tories and brings down Labour's tally to 370.
This number is a lot more realistic and the takeaway is great news for Keir Starmer. It isn't by any means certain that these undecided voters will skew Tory to that extent, given the underlying conditions and context of the next election. These figures are well down on their current polling, so allow room for some slippage.
Yet even in this fairly negative scenario, they end up with a comfortable majority, bigger than the Tories currently hold. It would represent Labour's best performances since 2001.
Another scenario calculated by the pollster involves what they call a 'Regressive Alliance'. Here, Reform UK would stand down in marginal seats to help the Tories, as the Brexit Party did in 2019. Their numbers assume 100% transfer from RF to CON. A gigantic and improbable assumption!
A third scenario involves both redistributing the undecideds as above, and Reform UK standing aside. This presents the worst outcome for Labour, in which they win 316 seats and fall ten short of an overall majority. They would however still be the largest party by far and sure to form the next government.
I find the idea of Reform UK standing aside somewhat unlikely, as discussed previously in this blog. 2019 was a unique event, with Brexit on the line. Now, Nigel Farage and Richard Tice are trying to build an alternative far-Right party, with the expressed aim of the destroying the Tories. There is no gain for them in standing aside and evidently no love lost between them and the Sunak regime.
Another point of note involves the Lib Dems, who are surely understated here. They will throw all their limited resources into something like 30-60 target seats. Almost all will be Tory-held. Labour can't fight hard everywhere either and are highly likely to quietly take a back seat in these constituencies. Thus the Lib Dems will outperform low expectations.
Furthermore, the impact of tactical voting is the elephant in the room. Best for Britain have commissioned this result for a political purpose, rather then merely psephological. They want a bank of data to inform their campaign to build an anti-Tory tactical voting coalition.
They have investigated and published worst-case scenarios for the 'progressive alliance', to both ward against complacency and to help campaign. This will prove immensely useful for parties to use when targeting seats, and for voters to work out their choice in each constituency.
Betting-wise, I can only reiterate recent posts. The Tories are facing a genuine existential crisis. I would estimate a Labour majority above 70%, as opposed to the 57% implied by today's odds. 9.4 about a Conservative Majority strikes me as a terrible price, perhaps three times higher than it should be.
Next General Election - Most Seats
Next General Election - Overall Majority
Debt ceiling deal represents a clear win
There has been a lot of news to digest in US politics in recent days, which I don't think the markets have really reacted to yet.
First and foremost, a deal between Joe Biden and Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling has been passed in the House of Representatives, despite opposition from outlier factions in both parties. It passed by 314-117, and will now head to the Senate, where it is sure to pass.
On the substance of the deal, I recommend this excellent analysis in today's FT.
However, as always, the wider question involves the political game. Here, I believe Biden has played an absolute blinder. When McCarthy won the Speakership, it was widely assumed that the extreme-Right 'Freedom Caucus' faction who witheld their support in order to gain concessions, would now control him.
Instead, McCarthy has faced them down. One might say that was brave and do him credit, but far likelier is they will cause ever more trouble. The split between pragmatic Republicans and what are perhaps best described as 'Trumpists' is wider than ever, and their majority remains wafer-thin.
The extreme characters who railed against the deal - Lauren Boebert, for example - will remain centre-stage until the next election, and relish the opportunity for more publicity and fundraising opportunities. This is exactly what Democrat strategists would like, in order to present them as the face of the GOP.
A second important breaking story is the news that Special Prosecutor Jack Smith has audio tapes of Donald Trump admitting that he retained a classified document.
It would seem a federal indictment, perhaps for espionage is coming. We will see whether that affects the devotion of his supporters and alters the Republican Nominee betting but, make no mistake, espionage is in another league to any of the other legal threats the former President is facing.
Note too the above story affecting another GOP candidate. I would definitely regard Vivek Ramaswamy as one of the 'Trumpists' and noted his immediate, staunch defence after Trump was indicted in Manhattan.
I suspect these developments and stories may be connected. McCarthy may have conceded because he understands the need to distance himself, because some of those repeatedly angling against raising the debt ceiling are co-ordinating with enemies of the USA and the US/dollar-led international order. The dynamics behind the story of the century, which I've been writing about on these pages for eight years, may finally be becoming clearer and yielding fruit.
Simply on the betting front, one must think it helps Biden. This morning, he is trading at 2.64 for the Presidency and 1.36 for the Democrat Nomination. Given that Trump is odds-on to be the Republican Nominee, the implication is that Biden would be favourite if the rematch occurs, but outsider against Ron DeSantis.
I agree with that analysis, but the best value lies in the nomination market, and opposing his closest rival in that betting. Robert F Kennedy Jr, is one of the worst political bets in history at 19.5 for the presidency.
An anti-vaxxer whose messaging is strangely in tandem with the Kremlin, RFK is not a serious candidate. He's an attempt to interfere with the Democrat contest and peel away support for Biden in the general election. The standard Putin playbook and a tactic pioneered by Trump ally and mentor Roger Stone.
To understand it better, I recommend this film - Get Me Roger Stone.
Reform pose existential threat to Conservatism
Three weeks ago, following a truly appalling set of local election results for the Conservatives, I argued on these pages that the odds about a Labour Majority at the next general election understated their chance. The odds have come in slightly to 1.78 but I would still say not enough.
Why? Well first, the Tories remain locked around the 28-30% mark in polls. Whereas the unofficial 'anti-Tory alliance' of Labour, Lib Dems and the Greens remain in the 58-62% range. I am convinced that, unless the dynamics fundamentally change over the next year, hundreds of Tory MPs will be swept away in a tactical voting tsunami.
One such volatile dynamic involves the character who managed to blow up and transform UK politics over the past decade, despite never being elected to Westminster. Nigel Farage is making strong signals that he will return to frontline politics.
Whether that involves running for Parliament, (which would almost certainly result in humiliating defeat), or using his platform on GB News and on social media to influence the narrative, is open to question.
I suspect the latter. However it is clear from the recent 'National Conservatism' conference and from the actions of Farage's political network, that they are gunning for Rishi Sunak.
The above tweeters are Reform Party leader Richard Tice and his partner, the controversial journalist Isabel Oakeshott. They have been joined at the political hip to Farage for years, via UKIP, Brexit and the Brexit Party. Farage is the honorary president of Reform.
Another prominent member is Alex Phillips, formerly of the Brexit Party and, allegedly, scandal-hit data firm Cambridge Analytica. Like Farage, she is a GB News presenter.
People will doubtless debate what precisely their political creed should be labelled, but is crystal clear they are going to attack the Tories from the far-Right, using immigration, race and the Net Zero agenda to do whatever they can to destabilise Sunak. As for the Brexit experiment that Farage admits has failed, they cry betrayal.
The past decade illustrated how Farage could change politics without winning elections. By appealing to enough right-wing and/or Eurosceptic, anti-immigration activists and voters to destabilise the main parties. Principally the Tories, but UKIP also served as a gateway drug for socially conservative and Eurosceptic Labour voters who voted in large numbers for Boris Johnson.
So what effect could this network have this time around? One particularly terrifying aspect for Sunak of those awful local election results was that they occured despite Reform not putting up any candidates. They are consistently polling around 5-6% nationally and have become the home for right-wing voters angry with the government. An alternative to those bigger progressive parties.
Reform's failure to impact by-elections makes me instinctively doubt their share would hold up at a general election. UKIP cannot be replicated as Britain's membership of the EU was a unique, fundamental debate and from the moment we joined.
Brexit voters were not all right wing, or obsessed with immigration, as Farage's latest analysis implies. His tactics will further split those voters. UKIP's ceiling was around 28%. I would estimate Reform's to be around 10% and even that is optimistic.
Nevertheless, if they score even 5% at a general election, it could destroy the Conservative Party. These voters will almost all come from the Tories' 2019 share, when Boris Johnson united the Right on an unprecedented scale.
Thus, their stickiness to Reform limits how much advance Sunak can make on 30%. To retain power, he'll probably need 40%. But slip below 30% and we may well be in huge Labour landslide territory if substantial tactical voting does transpire.
As a vague guide, John Major scored 30.7% at the 1997 election and the party lost more than half their seats, being reduced to 165. Fall to say 25%, and we could be talking below 100.
Moreover, Sunak daren't pick too public a fight with Farage and Reform, lest it further damages their legitimacy with activists and core supporters. Attempts to pivot towards the centre ground will fail, and likely firm up the 'progressive alliance'.
One more thing, barely discussed or understood yet. The UK general election will run more or less parallel with the US presidential election in 2024. That will be a divisive culture war like none we have ever seen before in Western democracy, especially if Donald Trump is the Republican candidate. A battle for the soul, even survival, of democracy.
Farage has campaigned for Trump previously. Their networks are as one, just as the 'National Conservative' movement in the UK is as one with CPAC in the USA. More than ever, voters in both countries will be forced to 'pick a side'.
I believe this is potentially catastrophic for the Tories. When Betfair commissioned a poll of UK voters at the last US election, we found only 20% supported Trump over Biden. This was before the election denial and Jan 6th coup attempt.
Our electorates are not quite the same and any right-wing politician or commentator in the UK will struggle to distance themselves from Trumpism, even if they wish to try. The Tories should be terrified and Labour unable to control their glee.
But is Trump bombproof among GOP voters?
A key early question regarding the 2024 US Election is set to be answered, with Ron DeSantis widely reported to be confirming his bid for the presidency this week. Doubts had lingered over whether he would be prepared to go to war with Donald Trump, rather than wait until 2028.
Earlier in the cycle, the Florida Governor was backed down to as low as 2.8615/8 to be the Election Winner and odds-on 1.845/6 to be the Republican Nominee. A far cry from today's respective odds of 7.06/1 and 4.03/1 - well behind Trump.
The logical explanation is that, since declaring himself and turning his guns on DeSantis, Trump has opened up a vast gap in the polls. In the last week, we've seen nationwide surveys from Yougov and Harris record leads in excess of 30%.
On that basis, a match-up that once had potential to produce a betting classic seems over already. Even I have started to come round to the idea that Trump truly owns the GOP lock, stock and barrel. That he will finish anyone who dares cross him, and thus internal opposition will remain timid, and ultimately come around.
However my long experience of US elections urges caution, as does the unique context of this one. Eighteen months before the election, polls mean virtually nothing. So much can change.
Polling a state governor before he has built a national profile, and truly crossed swords with rivals, does not provide a definitive picture of their electability. DeSantis will correctly point to his extraordinary success in Florida, compared to Trump's repeated loss of elections since 2016.
Furthermore, Trump's mountain of legal trouble remains a mortal threat. In the Georgia investigation into his attempt to overturn the 2020 election - an open and shut case in my view - at least eight of the 'fake electors' have cut immunity deals with the prosecution. This usually spells disaster for the defendant. Charges are expected to be brought in August.
There is also the ongoing investigation by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith into Trump's retention of classified documents and, critically, his obstruction in returning them. Trump has taken to late night rants against Smith on his TruthSocial page - just as he did frequently against Robert Mueller during the Russia investigation.
Note despite the smears and propaganda, Mueller brought hundreds of indictments and won them all. Special Prosecutors have tremendous power and usually get results. The failure of Trump appointee John Durham to achieve successful prosecutions demonstrated how weak the defence was.
As I understand, the Smith investigation is developing fast. If Trump is charged with obstruction on this front, and again the available evidence suggests he will, that spells huge trouble. The indictment he received from Manhattan over payments to Stormy Daniels are small fry compared to this and Georgia.
Now, it may be that such is the devotion among Trump's supporters, even the gravest of indictments won't damage and may even strengthen him. The truest words he ever spoke were in 2016, when claiming he could shoot somebody in Fifth Avenue and not lose any support. As the years have gone by, it has become harder to doubt that, or that any GOP challenge is doomed.
Nevertheless, whilst Trumpism and its effect on America are unprecedented, so are these indictments for a former president and nominee favourite. You take odds-on at your peril. I am not ruling DeSantis out yet, and there is certainly a scenario where he inherits favouritism after Trump is forced out.
What happens next? Well usually a presidential announcement yields a market spike. Even Nikki Haley's odds halved in the short-term, despite barely featuring polls. I am surprised DeSantis hasn't shortened up a bit and reckon he will do by the weekend.
The next Tory leadership race has begun
With Labour consistently ahead in the polls by a huge margin, and in the wake of a set of local elections that indicated a nationwide tactical voting movement set upon removing the Tories from office, there is a constant temptation to refer to the 1990s.
1997 was the last time a Tory government lost power, again following a sustained Labour poll lead and tactical co-ordination between their voters and the Lib Dems. Normally, I am very wary of drawing too deep a comparison because these times are different in so many ways. But then we get a week like this.
The National Conservatism Conference has unveiled what I've been predicting for years. That right-wing politics in the West and particularly English-speaking world is inevitably moving away from conservatism towards fascism.
The conference, its speakers, sponsors, ideology are part of a movement spanning from Putin's Russia to his European partner Viktor Orban in Hungary to Donald Trump. This was the British version of CPAC, which has long tipped beyond radicalism into out and out extremism.
However leaving aside my personal distaste, this movement should terrify Rishi Sunak, or any 'One-Nation Conservatives' still lingering in their ranks. It also bodes extremely ill for the next election.
It is quite clear these characters have no interest in going 'on message' during 2024. They are perfectly happy to criticise their own government. When record immigration numbers are announced, they will relish the opportunity. Ditto any attempt Sunak makes to forge a better relationship with the EU.
Furthermore, I strongly believe that (at least at this moment in British political history), there is little or no electoral appetite for NatCon or a government further to the right of one I would define as our most right-wing ever. Five or ten years down the line, perhaps. But not now.
Thus, the effect of this will firm up the party's toxic brand, and highlight their internal divisions. If they don't realise yet that they are heading for disaster at the next election, they soon will. Which will hasten the next dynamic - positioning to replace Sunak as leader.
This is where the 1990s come in. John Major's government was hamstrung in particular by rebels regarding the Maastrict Treaty with the EU. In 1995, he was challenged for the leadership by John Redwood. Nobody expected Redwood to win but the challenge laid down a marker. He would run again for the leadership in 1997 following Labour's landslide defeat.
Various Tories are limbering up, doing all they can to signal their intentions to far-right audiences. Notably Suella Braverman, Priti Patel and Jacob Rees Mogg. Perhaps too Danny Kruger and Lee Anderson. Only one could realistically run and hope to win. The race to be their standard-bearer is now on.
Despite their travails, I sense no appetite among Tory MPs to ditch Sunak. The pragmatic ones, at least, recognise he is not personally to blame and that yet another leadership contest would look utterly mad to the electorate.
Nevertheless, in the period between now and the next election, I can certainly see one of the aforementioned culture warriors making a challenge. It would raise their profile and define them to the electorate which will soon be choosing a leader of the opposition. In the case of Mogg, the publicity may help him save his seat. He now even has a TV show.
Therefore, while it is less than eight months since the last contest, and ten since the penultimate one, the betting market we should be looking hard at is Next Conservative Leader. The horse race has begun. I will write more on this in the coming days.
Rishi Sunak Exit Date
Next Conservative Leader
But how to price the risk of a rigged election?
Voting is now underway in Turkey's Presidential Election. In the past 24 hours, the chance of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's stranglehold on power coming to an end are rising rapidly, if the Betfair odds are a guide. At the time of writing, his opponent Kemal Kılıcdaroglu winning have risen to 75%, as implied by odds of 1.33.
Is that a good or a bad price? Well, as alluded to in the previous post, that rather depends on how much faith one places in the process, or the survival of democracy in Turkey.
Discussing the matter on Twitter, one of our readers has come up with a brilliant concept. The 'Autocrat Risk' implies that the market already prices in an insurance premium of the result being overturned. Jason is an excellent analyst, whom I strongly recommend following. As seen below, he's on the challenger.
This is certainly a factor in these dark times, when democracy is under threat everywhere. I'm particularly reminded of the 2020 US Election, and the extraordinarily persistent gamble on Donald Trump to win, after he'd lost.
At the time, many people asked me what was going on. Surely, backing Biden represented 'free money'. Whilst I always thought Biden would indeed be sworn in, my answer was that the market was pricing in the potential for a successful coup d'etat. Typically that prompted cries of 'conspiracy theorist!' before the events of January 6th confirmed that a violent coup was precisely Trump's intention.
The open question, therefore, is how do we price such unconventional outcomes? In the USA example, we were dealing with one of the most sophisticated, mature democracies on Earth. A system with genuine separation of powers, where the executive is frequently held to account. Ultimately, Trump failed because he never got the military or D.C. police onside.
But in another example, Belarus, the democratic will of the people was brutally crushed in 2020 by forces loyal to dictator Alexander Lukashenko. Mass protests have since been put down, even if it involved the police battering pensioners, knowing it would be filmed. International outrage made not a jot of difference.
Likewise, I find it hard to envisage a scenario where Vladimir Putin was removed from office via democratic means. These systems are rigged from top to bottom.
We may be about to learn where Turkey lies on that scale. Certainly, the country has a long democratic tradition. But the extent to which Erdogan has rigged the system over the past two decades is unknown. The country is also deeply divided around culture and geography. I'm urging caution to short odds-on backers.
Can we trust the polls or process?
Tomorrow sees an election of profound regional and even global significance, as Recep Tayyip Erdogan bids for re-election in the Turkish Presidential Election.
As President since 2014 and previously Prime Minister from 2003, Erdogan has transformed Turkey from its historic status as a secular democracy, based on the European tradition.
Outside the country, few regard that transformation as positive. An ally of Vladimir Putin, he is labelled one of the original 'populists'. A socially conservative Islamist who has steadily rigged the system and weaponised culture wars.
Now he faces a very broad coalition - the Nation Alliance is led by Kemal Kılıcdaroglu.
In the wake of the catastrophic earthquake, the government being widely condemned for its response and even partial responsibility, plus ever-worsening living standards, the betting projects an upset. This morning Kılıcdaroglu is rated 66% likely to become president based on the implied Betfair odds.
The first round of voting is tomorrow. If no candidate reaches 50%, there will be a second round a fortnight later.
If we could be assured a free and fair election process, there is an obvious logic to Erdogan losing. Even before the earthquake, the currency was a disaster. The value of the lira has collapsed. Then the earthquake revealed the scandalous lack of building regulation in Turkey. In normal circumstances, this should be a terrible time for an incumbent.
Polls already showed the challenger marginally ahead, and that lead has increased since minor candidate Muharrem Ince withdrew this week.
However it would be somewhat wishful thinking to assume this will be a free and fair process. Erdogan is only able to run again because of a constitutional reform referendum which was widely accused of being rigged in his favour. The state controls almost all of the media.
This election campaign has been typically marred by online propaganda, culture wars and vicious smear campaigns. Straight out of the Putin textbook although some might say Erdogan wrote the textbook. As always, Russia denies it has been interfering.
Erdogan is throwing everything at keeping power, including announcing a 45% (!) pay increase to public sector employees this week. A move which appears to smack of desperation.
One argument that could be employed in favour of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu winning is that, in such a system, opinion polls may well understate the opposition. Because people might fear admitting their anti-government views. Perhaps the Turkish people are ready for change and about to demand it.
With obviously very limited knowledge of what is happening on the ground, I'm inclined to think there is indeed a groundswell for change. Whether I would bet odds-on about such an outcome is quite another matter.
Ask this. Were this Putin, Lukashenko, the Iranian theocracy or other parts of their global (fascist, in my view) alliance under threat of losing power, their control over the system and purse strings, would a genuine result be declared and power transferred peacefully?
I very much doubt it and suspect the coming days and weeks will see Turkey making the news for all the wrong reasons, again. Before choosing which way to bet, if at all, all this must be factored in.
Labour Majority looks ever likelier
More than two-thirds of council results are yet to be announced but it is quite clear from the trends that these local elections are indeed disastrous for the Conservative Party, and perhaps their leader too.
As predicted in my preview, the 'par' line of 749.5 Conservative losses is set to be passed with ease. 'Overs' is now rated a 98% chance in our market. They have already lost 200 seats and it seems they will ultimately lose close to 1000, perhaps more.
When all the results are in, I'll examine the areas but among the headline Labour gains, Medway in Kent really stands out. Several marginals in Kent that haven't been competitive since the last Labour government are now very much in play.
The 'Projected National Share' (PNS) - the best indicator of the overall picture - looks likely to produce a double-digit Labour advantage, in keeping with their vast opinion poll lead.
There has been reaction across various Betfair markets regarding the Next General Election, and I think those trends will gather steam in the days ahead. Most Seats doesn't even look competitive, while a Labour Majority feels like it will go a lot shorter than the current 1.84. My estimate is that will be trading no higher than 1.66 within a few days.
Two further points for now. First, I think the worst is yet to come for the Tories, once more Home Counties or 'Blue Wall' areas declare. There are widespread reports of vast Lib Dem gains across these areas. That will bring dozens more constituencies into play. The dynamics are very similar to the 1997 general election, when an informal Lab-Lib tactical coalition reduced the Tories to their worst ever seat tally.
Second, there is a real danger that Rishi Sunak's leadership could be destabilised. Whilst I regard blaming Sunak as very harsh, and most MPs will probably share that view, desperation could set in.
We can be sure that Boris Johnson, allies such as the Conservative Democratic Organisation and their propaganda organs, will be plunging the knife on the man they blame for their hero's demise. Johnson is a 26.0 chance to be leader at the next election. It isn't completely beyond the realms of possibility that the party turns to their only proven winner out of desperation.
Tory mini-comeback could be in peril
This is a huge week in UK politics - the biggest so far in 2023 - as hundreds of councils in England go to the polls. Theoretically, it could be the last big electoral test before the next general election.
It comes at a critical moment in the careers of Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer. Whilst both polls and betting markets firmly point to a Labour victory at that next general election, the Tory position has improved since Sunak replaced Liz Truss.
For instance, Labour plunged to a low of 1.21 to win Most Seats, implying an 83% chance of victory. That is now a 78% chance at 1.29. More notably, the chances of a Labour Majority have fallen from a 67% peak under Truss to today's 50%.
Their nationwide poll lead remains substantial and apparently solid, but it has shrunk. Note the latest Nowcast from the New Statesman predicts a sizeable majority for Labour.
Those numbers, plus some achievements such as his deal with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol, has given Sunak at least some sense of momentum, and hope that they can do what so many Tory governments have in the past - turn around a mid-term poll deficit.
Moreover, questions are beginning to be asked about Keir Starmer. Labour have - correctly in my view - saved announcing policies for the later part of this parliament. That carries cost, allowing Starmer's enemies to paint him as an opportunist with no principles. They did announce some substantial policies ahead of these elections so we can analyse on Friday whether they have cut through or made an impact.
As always with local elections, to interpret the results we must recall the baseline for these particular councils. When they last were up for election in 2019, the Tories were in crisis during the final days of Theresa May's leadership. The Brexit Party had just been formed, but didn't field candidates in these elections. Independent candidates did historically well. So the context was very different to today.
Labour were slightly ahead in the polls, but the results implied a dead-heat with the Conservatives on vote share. I base this on the 'Projected National Share' published by the BBC and Sky. This is not an exact science and in 2019, they produced different estimates. Both, however, concluded Labour and the Tories were tied.
Come Friday, these are the numbers we should be analysing, rather than simply the total losses and gains. Our two betting markets, however, focus on the total losses or gains for the two main parties.
Labour are naturally expected to have a good night, given their far superior position compared to 2019. The market here is under/over 550 gains. Starmer has said 400 would be a good result.
This is a classic case of expectations management. Four hundred would not be an impressive haul. Likewise Tory chairman Greg Hands has talked of 1000 losses, which would be a disaster for the party. Our line is 750.
Both markets have only just gone live so expect liquidity to develop from here. I'll be back later this week with more detail and predictions.
How Many Seats Will Labour Gain?
How Many Seats Will Conservatives Lose?
Market can't separate Democrats and Republicans
Alongside widespread reporting that he will announce his bid for a second term as US President tomorrow, Joe Biden is firming up on Betfair markets. However the odds imply the Democrat candidacy is not a done deal yet, and the general market reaction is relatively muted.
Biden has come into 2.727/4 from 3.02/1 for Election Winner in recent days, and to 1.241/4 from 1.341/3 for the Democrat Nomination. In percentage terms, those reflective numbers reflect rises from 33% to 37%, and 75% to 80%.
They also imply Biden would be above even money in the general election, but that clearly depends upon which Republican he faces. Donald Trump is a 1.558/15 chance for his party's nomination, yet just 3.814/5 to win the election. According to our Winning Party market, both are rated 2.0421/20 chances.
Meanwhile a new NBC News poll showed 51% of Democrats think their leader should not run. So does this open up a route for an alternative? So far the only challengers are Robert F Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson. Both are far outside the Democrat mainstream and unlikely to seriously threaten Biden.
One cannot understate just how unprecedented the 2024 election is. Never in the era of political betting has a defeated former president been favourite to be on the ballot. Nor can I ever recall an incumbent running despite a majority of his own party's supporters not wanting them to.
Laying behind those points, of course, is that both sides believe they can beat the other. So long as a Trump v Biden rematch remains on the cards, polls between them will be tight and it may be hard for others to get into this.
Rivals may well choose a 'wait and see' approach. If Biden is looking set for defeat, younger Democrats could jump in later on without risking appearing disloyal. Likewise, plenty of Republicans would love to run in an open primary but fear taking on Trump, and are waiting to see how his indictment and other legal threats pan out.
Conservative media in bind over Trump lies
In the same week they buried Logan Roy, the media oligarch upon whom that fictional Succession character is allegedly based has suffered the biggest setback of his controversial career.
Fox News has settled its libel defence against Dominion Voting Systems out of court, at an eyewatering cost of $787.5M. It means that Rupert Murdoch and his star talk show hosts won't have to take the stand and face further humiliation, but the implications will still be far-reaching.
The details revealed during the discovery process reveal the terrible position that Fox has got itself into. Murdoch and his attack dogs never believed Donald Trump's claims about the election being rigged. Yet they repeated and enhanced them, in fear of shedding millions of viewers to right-wing alternatives such as Newsmax or OANN.
The Murdoch machine spent decades mastering the unaccountable half-truth or smear. It paved the way for those ever more extreme networks. For Trump to import post-truth politics, or what I call 'info-terrorism', from Russia. Turns out that, despite the US constitutional commitment to free speech, blatant lying does carry a cost.
It is clear that Trump is not going to stop repeating the election lies - he may very well truly believe them - and that the GOP primary, and the general election assuming he is the nominee, will see a further descent into far-right propaganda and lying with impunity. Clearly there is a market for that.
What does Fox do? Repeating the lies evidently carries vast financial, as well as reputational, risk. Already, their news output has very little credibility. Fox are still facing a further lawsuit from Smartmatic and Newsmax have their own legal problems in this regard. But any attempt to distance themselves from Trump will fracture their audience. I don't see any elegant solutions.
More widely, I don't think the Republican Party or 'Conservative movement' have really thought through the next election campaign.
Their primary will be very divisive, but assume Trump wins it (our market implies a 61% likelihood). When it comes to the general, every news day will be dominated by (a) debunking lies (b) pressing Trump to commit to accepting the election result (c) condemning, distancing himself from fascist groups and the Jan 6th convicts.
Once upon a time, I would have thought there were enough brains, enough political savvy, within GOP ranks to consider all this and formulate a workable response. Now I simply don't think they are capable of doing so. This is the same party that couldn't even elect a Speaker without damaging the brand.
Fox News have definitely been trying to distance themselves from the former President and will presumably back Ron DeSantis, but they remain reliant on Trump supporters for revenue. It is almost impossible to envisage a scenario where Fox picks up many new, non-conservative viewers. I wonder whether this is the beginning of the end for the Murdoch empire and with it, their outsized influence on politics in the West.
The obvious conclusion to draw from this mess is that it benefits the Democrats. Despite a decent set of mid-term results, and despite Trump being engulfed by legal woes, they remain the outsiders to be Winning Party in 2024,at odds of 2.111/10.
Despite looking highly likely to be the Democratic Nominee, Biden remains a 3.02/1 chance for the presidency, implying he'd be the outsider in the general. I think both markets seriously under-rate Biden. The Democrats must be partying like there's no tomorrow at their bitter rival's descent into madness and, perhaps, unelectability.
TV companies bidding to show trial
If you thought a criminal indictment would immediately disqualify Donald Trump's chances of being re-elected, think again. The signals from Betfair markets imply the reverse.
When the news of his indictment by Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg emerged on Thursday night, Trump's odds did drift slightly and his chief rival for the Republican Nomination, Ron DeSantis, moved slightly forward. However after markets have digested the news for a few days, Trump's odds are shorter than they were to begin.
At the current odds of 3.9 and 1.784/5, Trump is rated 26% to win the 2024 Election and 56% for his party's nomination. DeSantis is rated 19% and 28% likely to land those targets.
The next stage is Trump's arraignment on Tuesday at 2.15pm ET. Various media networks are appealing to the courts to cover the trial live, given the unique and extraordinary public interest. They are also appealing for the details of what is reported to be thirty-odd criminal charges be unsealed. One must assume that both will be granted.
So, what do I make of the impact on 2024? I can certainly understand why the initial market reaction is pro-Trump. Without detail, the charges do smack of political motivation. The Stormy Daniels affair is old news. I doubt many people will switch their view of Trump as a result of it now. Instead, this news rallied Republicans around him, including rivals such as DeSantis.
However this is merely in response to the initial headline. We do not know what is in those thirty charges, which apparently related to business fraud, and what else they may lead to.
We know that in the same state of New York, Trump's businesses have already been found guilty of criminal tax fraud. Relatively little sunlight has been poured on that, and his relationship with scandal-hit Deutsche Bank. This legal process may do so, and result in further leads and more charges being developed.
Regardless of New York, Trump could very well face much more serious charges in Fulton County, Georgia, regarding his very public attempts to overturn the result of the 2020 election. A grand jury has been pouring over the case there, too, and most legal experts believe charges are inevitable.
There is also the ongoing matter of Trump's removal of classified documents from the White House and resistance to returning them. It is this latter point that make his problems worse than Joe Biden or Mike Pence, who also were found to have classified documents, but who instantly co-operated with authorities. We will see what develops but, again, legal experts say Special Prosecutor Jack Smith is closing in.
Therefore, Trump's legal problems are likely only starting and will accumulate. It is highly unlikely that authorities would make these indictments unless they believed the case to be very strong. Remember regarding the Stormy Daniels case, Michael Cohen was already imprisoned. Both could well give evidence in court. This will be a huge media event and it isn't easy to see Trump coming out looking good.
Whether this moves GOP primary voters against him, or encourages GOP politicians to grow a pair, is another matter. Whilst I've been very cold on Trump's chances, I am coming around to the idea that he will dominate the primaries because nobody dare take him on. The oddest reaction came from the man he destroyed in 2016, and whose family are very anti-Trump and Trumpism.
If that is so, and Trump cruises to the nomination, that simply has to be great news for Joe Biden. I am very confident that a clear majority of Americans will become even more firmly against Trump than they are already, as this process develops. Considering he's already building a campaign team and seems certain to run again, 3.052/1 is a cracking price about the incumbent.
2024 Election Winner
2024 Republican Nominee
Biden v Trump re-run rated higher than ever
Joe Biden's position at the head of our 2024 US Election Winner market is firming up, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. The current president is trading at his lowest level yet, with odds of 3.1511/5 equating to a 32% probability. However, once factoring in his odds to win his party's nomination, Biden is rated less than 50% likely to win the general election.
Equally however, our odds imply the favourite to win the Republican Nomination would also be a 45% chance in the general election. Donald Trump has shortened to 1.834/5 for the nomination, whilst being 4.1 for the presidency. What's going on?
The explanation is of course that neither nomination is sewn up, despite the likelihood of a repeat of the 2020 candidates. If we calculate the double for the two nominations, Biden v Trump is now rated 38% likely. This would mean the first 'repeat election' since 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson for the second time.
I don't think we should understate the significance of this dynamic. Political betting did not exist (at least in any legal form) back in 1956. Therefore we have never before had to weigh the betting impact on a party's primary including a former (and defeated) president.
This surely has a critical effect on early polling. Ask a Republican primary voter, who surely knows Trump is running again, and the former president will be at a huge advantage. So long as that respondent is well disposed towards him, I would assume their natural instinct would be to say 'Trump'. I discussed this matter with my co-hosts recently on Get Out The Bet.
That dynamic will not apply to any other candidate on the GOP side. Ron DeSantis may have a big profile, but he is still merely a state governor. Plenty of primary voters will not have given the Florida Governor serious consideration yet. Moreover, nobody has actually seen what a Trump v DeSantis head-to-head looks like yet.
We are beginning to get an idea, and the early betting signals are negative for DeSantis. From trading at 3.02/1 for the presidency only a few months ago, he's out to 5.24/1 and is a 3.185/40 chance for the nomination. Incidentally, that implies he'd be clear favourite against Biden if that is ultimately the head-to-head choice.
The first rally of Trump's campaign saw him restore the playbook that won him the 2016 nomination. Simply, ridicule the opposition.
Personally, I can't see such tactics being anywhere near so effective second time around. Even the nicknames are poor. 'Ron DeSanctus' or 'DeSanctimonius' are weak in comparison to 'Low Energy Jeb', 'Lyin Ted' or 'Little Marco'. 'Sleepy Joe' didn't work against Biden in 2020 and, in any case, DeSantis isn't those flawed former GOP rivals.
Nevertheless, it may cause some damage to DeSantis, who has yet to officially announce his bid. There is every sign that he will, but leaving the field to Trump carries risk.
DeSantis also has a positioning problem. Probably the biggest divide in the Republican Party right now is Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Trump and his closest acolytes predictably echo Kremlin propaganda and attack Biden's support for the Ukrainians. Yet most GOP Senators support Biden on this matter.
When DeSantis went on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show (another part of the Kremlin propaganda machine) to criticise that support for Ukraine, there was significant pushback from the 'mainstream' wing. Nikki Haley seized the opportunity to push her clear, anti-Russia position across multiple media.
Haley's poor polling does not suggest she can really get into this race, but the war between the big-two could yet leave room for another candidate. Especially if Trump damages DeSantis during this early period, and is then damaged by his own indictment(s). Later this week, I'll look at some very big-priced alternatives on the GOP side.
Sunak would benefit from clean break
On Wednesday afternoon, for an estimated four hours, the Westminster political/media ecosystem will be almost entirely focused on one matter. Boris Johnson's appearance before the Privileges Committee, to defend himself against the charge of lying to Parliament over 'Partygate'.
To his ever resilient band of cheerleaders in the right-wing media, it will mark the beginning of Johnson's political comeback. Vindication after his reputation was sullied by a witch-hunt. They have not given up on him returning as PM before the next election, and are sharpening knives ahead of a probably grim set of local elections for Rishi Sunak.
The same can't be said regarding the betting signals. Johnson has drifted out to 21.020/1 to be Conservative Leader at the Next Election in recent weeks, from around 10.09/1 prior to Sunak announcing the new Brexit deal regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He's also weakened in our Next Conservative Leader market, falling to around a 13% implied chance. Nevertheless, the fact that a former, disgraced leader is rated a double-digit chance to return at some stage suggests this drama is far from finished.
It is being reported that Johnson will claim he didn't realise the events he attended were against lockdown rules, and provide evidence showing he was advised there was no problem. I'm sure his supporters will jump behind that but find it very hard to believe it will win over enemies. Let alone the viewing public, who will vividly recall being instructed to obey the rules by Johnson himself, repeatedly.
Obviously at this stage, nobody can be sure how the committee will rule and what will happen next. If he is found guilty, the committee can recommend sanctions, including a 10-day suspension - which would trigger a recall petition and almost certainly a by-election in Johnson's Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency. MPs would then vote on whether to enforce those sanctions.
There is a theory that the Tory MPs on the committee will find a way of sparing Johnson in the interests of party unity. If not clearing him, then recommending a shorter suspension.
I don't buy this. The committee's interim report provided new photographic evidence and their intent seems pretty clear. Plus, if it was planning a stitch-up, would Team Johnson be attacking them as biased and declaring the whole process a witch-hunt? Surely not.
Select committees are generally pretty independent. Their investigations often criticise or find against the government of the day. Parliamentarians from all sides recognise the importance - especially before such a vast audience - of demonstrating that rules matter. Without them, the system breaks down.
Furthermore, it is in Rishi Sunak's interests to bury Johnson as deep as possible. There is no love lost between their two warring factions and if Johnson survives, there's a decent chance that civil war will breakout and even another leadership challenge.
Plus, whatever Johnson and his allies believe, the whole subject is catastrophic for their party. The Tories remain way behind in the polls but Sunak appears to be making progress.
They need the public to consign Partygate and Johnson's countless scandals to the dustbin of history. This week's theatre is an enormous, damaging distraction which merely serves to remind many voters why they abandoned the Tories last year.
Sunak has wisely promised a free vote on any sanctions, should the committee recommend them. I'm confident there are enough Tory MPs determined to finish Johnson, to vote alongside the opposition parties and force that recall petition.
This week may well be the final act, because I'm sceptical Johnson would actually stand in that by-election, facing highly probable defeat and humiliation. If he does, the story drags on and that by-election will take centre stage. Politics aside, this is surely something political bettors can unite around?
Former President odds-on for nomination
24 hours after Donald Trump posted an all-capitalised tirade against the Manhattan District Attorney's office, whom he claims is planning to arrest him on Tuesday, the betting reaction has been surprisingly muted.
Trump has drifted in our Election Winner market - from 4.1 to 4.77/2, implying his chance declined from 24% to 21% - but that follows a sustained forward move over the course of several weeks. In early February, his chance was estimated at 13%.
Furthermore, Trump remains odds-on to be the Republican Nominee at 1.9720/21 (51%). The odds about his chief rival Ron DeSantis moved very slightly forward, to 34% from 33%. Evidently, bettors don't think this criminal indictment will damage his support among Republican primary voters.
I can see that logic. Of all the legal threats facing Trump, this is probably the weakest. The (assumed) charges relate to his hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and will be headed by a charge of falsifying financial documents.
It is also not going to happen on Tuesday, assuming it does at all. That timing is too quick, given the grand jury in Manhattan is still taking evidence, and will hear from a surprise late witness tomorrow. Trump's attorney said the Tuesday idea had come from speculation, rather than from authorities.
This isn't dramatic news. The scandal made headlines during his presidency, resulting in the imprisonment of his lawyer Michael Cohen. None of that noticeably damaged Trump. By resurfacing, the story may well prompt others to buy into Trump's narrative that this is a politically motivated witch-hunt. It may even temper reaction to more serious future charges from Georgia or Special Prosecutor Jack Smith.
What I think does damage him is the scarcely veiled threat to repeat the Jan 6th insurrection, by calling for protests. I don't think those advising him and planning the 2024 campaign have thought ahead, to how the narrative will move over the next 18 months.
Aided by Speaker Kevin McCarthy giving all the Jan 6th footage to Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, Trump intends to rewrite history. To downplay Jan 6th and deny any responsibility. That will be an extraordinary feat, which will become much harder if more violent protests occur in the meantime.
From the moment Trump engages with mainstream media (rather than just his echo chamber), he will be constantly asked to commit to accepting the result. An invitation he spawned at the last two elections. Likewise, to dismiss the violent fascist groups who have been charged, but who still comprise an essential part of Trump's base.
Parts of the GOP establishment understand this and will jump instead behind De Santis or another candidate. Which side of the fence primary voters fall upon remains an unknown, though.
The most recent national survey had Trump ahead by 11%, with DeSantis on 40%. I'd take that as hugely positive for the latter, given the stage of the race. Any former president, with universal name recognition, should be miles ahead right now. I still think Trump is poor value in both markets and well worth laying at current odds.
Voting begun today in the SNP leadership contest, coinciding with a significant move on Betfair markets. In the early hours of this morning, Humza Yousaf remained favourite, but only marginally so at odds of 1.814/5 - implying a 55% chance of victory. This afternoon, those implied odds rose to 83%, before settling around 75%.
Its not entirely clear what has driven the move. A new poll emerged today which did little to quell the uncertainty surrounding the contest. The Scotsman commissioned a poll of the public (not party members) on a range of issues. In each area, between 40 and 50% were undecided.
Deeper in those poll numbers, it emerges that Yousaf fares better among 2019 SNP voters than Kate Forbes or Ash Regan, but generally worse among the entire electorate. This isn't surprising. He's been a higher profile, and arguably more partisan, SNP figure for longer.
I doubt that poll has particularly impacted the odds. Rather, I suspect it is down to two (again unsurprising) key endorsements, from Stephen Flynn and John Swinney.
As the above tweet illustrates, Yousaf has overwhelming support amongst the party's most prominent representatives in Holyrood and Westminster. He can also count upon the support of the leaders of Glasgow and Dundee City Councils. Nicola Sturgeon has so far avoided endorsing anyone but, within the party at least, I suspect it is widely assumed that she favours her close ally Yousaf.
Indeed, Joanna Cherry MP (a Regan supporter) has accused the party machine of working to elect Yousaf. He hit back, labelling it a 'conspiracy theory' but those endorsements show a pretty obvious trend.
All of this is bound to spill into tonight's Sky News debate. In the previous debate, Yousaf's principal rival Kate Forbes excoriated his record in government. She meanwhile has come under constant fire for her social views against gay marriage and having children outside marriage.
No doubt, the SNP are internally divided to a very serious extent. Yousaf almost finds himself as the unity candidate, as probably the only one with the potential to maintain the party's broad coalition of voters. Forbes appeals more to supporters of other parties, but it isn't at all obvious that would translate into gaining voters. Her social views would surely be disastrous amongt younger, liberal SNP voters.
I've backed Yousaf at average odds of 1.8910/11 and haven't yet cashed out. However I don't regard this is a certainty. It is likely that second preferences from Regan will transfer mostly to Forbes, meaning Yousaf will need to get very close to 50% in the first round. Tonight's debate could prove critical. It starts at 7pm.
Next SNP Leader