Politics Live: Johnson as short as 1/2 to go this year after further party revelations

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"He's now trading around 1.51/2 to go this year and 1.574/7 before the Conservative Party Conference. January-March has now shortened to just 3.55/2 and if you're looking for an even more immediate option, 15.014/1 is available about before midnight on 16th January!"

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No respite for Johnson as revelations continue

Boris Johnson offers no indication of resigning and his closest allies have been taking to the airwaves to defend him. However the bad news is piling up. Now even his former employer and newspaper he's been accused of calling his 'real boss' is exposing wrongdoing during lockdown. The Telegraph report today on a party at No.10 on the night before Prince Philip's funeral.

The betting has moved slightly further against him since my last update. He's now trading around 1.51/2 to go this year and 1.574/7 before the Conservative Party Conference. January-March has now shortened to just 3.55/2 and if you're looking for an even more immediate option, 15.014/1 is available about before midnight on 16th January! (Note for the last option, he merely needs to announce his intention to resign, rather than formally cease to be Conservative Party leader or Prime Minister).

Meanwhile, blue on blue civil war is threatening to break out. Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross called for him to resign on Wednesday, only to be dismissed by Jacob Rees-Mogg as a 'lightweight' on Newsnight.

Priti Patel has been going into bat for the PM too and Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has even argued that her constituents are fully supportive.

Her claims aren't supported by opinion polls. Survation's poll, taken on Tuesday before PMQs, recorded two-thirds of voters saying Johnson should resign.

Perhaps more significant are the two polls showing the Conservatives trailing Labour by 10 and 11%. Outliers amid a crisis, for sure, but a straw in the wind as to what damage this scandal is doing to the party.

It is no surprise that those three figures are prepared to defend Johnson, as it is unlikely that any of them would have a Cabinet career under a different leader. Mogg and Dorries were promoted by him - the former was a key player in bringing down Theresa May, while the latter is famously one of Johnson's most loyal supporters. Patel was sacked twice previously and he defended her vigorously when her job came under threat over bullying a civil servant.

Rather than the bunker, the bigger question is where mainstream Tory MPs, powerful donors and usually supportive media stand. My view is that these polls will scare them into action. Within days, perhaps weeks, pressure will be brought to bear behind the scenes. I think this is far likelier than an official challenge and vote of no confidence. The latter route is far too risky as, were Johnson to win a VONC, he'd be safe for another year and the party stuck in turmoil.

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Starmer plunges the knife at PMQs

It has been open season on the Prime Minister for 36 hours - even from the Tory press and backbench Tory MPs. Prime Minister's Questions gave Boris Johnson his chance to address the nation regarding illegal parties in Downing Street during lockdown, and the opposition a chance to nail him to the floor. The verdict from Betfair markets is not promising for Johnson.

He is now a 1.664/6 chance to leave office during 2022 and a mere 3.7511/4 to go before the end of March. He's odds-on at 1.84/5 to be gone before the Conservative Party Conference in October.

This was also a big moment for Keir Starmer. History is littered with examples of opposition leaders flunking opportunities to finish Prime Ministers amid scandals. I've rarely been convinced by Starmer's performances but he got the tone absolutely right today.

Drawing on his wealth of prosecutorial skills, Starmer avoided the mistakes often made by politicians, such as banging on for too long in order to build a deeper political analysis. There was no monologue - just short, sharp attacks that are bound to resonate with the average voter.

Johnson opened with an attempt to appear contrite. A half-apology that stuck to the unconvincing line that he thought it was a 'work event'. Starmer's response damned his 'ridiculous denials', labelling him a 'man without shame' for whom 'the party's over'. The last two could double up as tabloid headlines.

The Labour leader referred to the PM's supposed outrage when learning of Allegra Stratton's comments about the December party, which led to her resignation. Perhaps most effectively, Starmer said 'the public would think he was lying through his teeth'. Thus staying just within parliament's arcane rules that forbid parliamentarians directly accusing their opponents of lying.

Starmer and SNP leader Ian Blackwood also raised the question that Tory MPs are doubtless discussing. Will his party kick him out or will he resign, as they demand? The longer the party wait for Sue Gray's report on the parties scandal, the more it damages them.

In my view, Johnson is toast and will resign within a matter of days or perhaps weeks, rather than months. If forced to pick a date, I'd say he'll resign before the end of March, but will stay on during a Tory leadership contest. Thus the band to focus on in our tri-monthly Boris Johnson Exit Date market is Apr-Jun at 5.59/2.

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Another day, another party

Just as Betfair markets were beginning to regain confidence in Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister is mired in another crisis. Actually, its the same crisis from December that evidently hasn't gone away.

Rather, 'Partygate' has escalated after ITV News revealed an e-mail confirming that a party - attended by Johnson and his wife, Carrie - took place in the garden of 10 Downing Street, on May 20th, 2020. That was in the middle of the first lockdown, less than an hour after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden ordered the public to meet no more than one person outside their household.

Predictably, social media was scathing with condemnation from across the spectrum. There's a real sense of genuine crisis of confidence in anything the government or Prime Minister says.

The immediate effect on Betfair was a surge of cash on Johnson to leave office in 2022. Last night he was matched at around 1.84/5 to go in 2022 - markedly shorter than the 3.02/1 odds around which 2022 had been trading. However, as in December, there has been pushback this morning and those odds are back out to 2.1411/10 at the time of writing. Evidently, many believe the PM retains his 'Teflon' qualities.

Here's the current range of odds. If you think a resignation, or sacking by Tory MPs, is imminent, 9.28/1 is available about an exit prior to March 31st. April-June is a 6.411/2 chance, with anything after June 2022 rated 75% likely at 1.341/3. Still not much belief he'll fall on his sword any time soon, then.

Any time in 2022 is a 2.1411/10 chance. 2023 is at 6.25/1 while anything after that is out to 2.68/5. Regarding our 'Boris Johnson Special' market, the PM is odds-on at 1.784/5 to still be in post for the Conservative Party Conference, which is currently scheduled for 2nd October.

My view? I have been backing 2022 and a pre-2024 exit for a year now and keep pressing up. I think Johnson has become a drag on Tory support and, if MPs took time to realise that, recent events should make it clear.

I think the pushback in the market is due to three factors. First, precedent and process. PMs with big majorities are rarely removed. Second, a wrong-headed belief that the Tory base still love him. There is ample evidence to the contrary in members' polls including the latest from Sunday.

Finally, I suspect there is an element of delusion among Tory supporters and commentators. That somehow Johnson will be able to 'reset' the narrative with a policy launch or big speech. Those days are long gone in my view.

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UK - Party Leaders: UK - Party Leaders (Exit Dates - Boris Johnson)

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