General Election Betting: December election could mark demise of Remainer resistance

The Liberal Democrats
The Lib Dems are set for a good election

With the General Election date saga apparently over, Paul Krishnamurty says Remainers have blown their best chance of stopping Brexit...

"Unless Remainers can form an unprecedented tactical coalition, they will be lambs to the slaughter. Labour will lose dozens of marginal seats to the Tories, which were only won by uniting the non-Tory/Remainer vote."

The speculation is all but over - there will be a general election in December. The exact date will be confirmed this afternoon. A market that has seen various different months and years trade at odds-on throughout this chaotic Brexit process is finally all but settled.

Having failed yesterday, Boris Johnson will try again today to get the one line bill through parliament to secure an election. Unlike the two-thirds of MPs required yesterday, this vote requires merely a majority. The news, just out, that Labour will vote for it seals the deal.

Tories odds-on for a majority

Boris Johnson will be jubilant. The Prime Minister is on the verge of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. A Conservative Majority - matched earlier in this Parliament at 7/18.0 - has crashed to odds-on at 10/111.93.

Throughout this dramatic Brexit process, I've been trying to understand and explain it as a game of chess. Each party, each faction has a set of interests and objectives that explained their incremental parliamentary moves.

One fairly consistent theme involved the strategic ineptitude of Remainers - in keeping with a longer-term ineptitude of Britain's liberal-left. It lies behind their loss of the referendum - arriving 30 years late to the argument - and indeed why the last century has been a Conservative one.

That negative analysis, to be fair, has cooled in recent months. The parliamentary moves to block no deal Brexit involved an impressive marshalling of cross-party sentiment. However that work may well be undone now - because it proved impossible to unite all those factions behind delaying the election.

Sequencing to deny Brexit has been broken

An early election is certainly good for the Tories, bad for Labour and potentially very good for the Lib Dems. It at least pauses the chess game, which Remainers were well-positioned to win, and might completely turn over the board. Let me explain.

As it stands, the Withdrawal Agreement has passed its first stage. Now the bill is due to be scrutinised and can be amended. As Anna Soubry said in Parliament yesterday, there is a majority for that confirmatory referendum under the right circumstances. It is all about sequencing. Scrutinise the deal. Amend to include a Customs Union and therefore split the Tories. Then attach the referendum.

It is highly questionable that we ever reach that stage now. It requires the election producing another hung parliament. That is possible - as explained a few weeks ago, opinion and party affiliation is incredibly volatile and regionally based. However, the polls show Johnson achieving his core aim - to squeeze the Brexit Party and unite the Brexiter vote.

Unless Remainers can form an unprecedented tactical coalition, they will be lambs to the slaughter. Labour will lose dozens of marginal seats to the Tories, which were only won by uniting the non-Tory/Remainer vote. There is no indication of a repeat - Labour's poll share has sunk to its core.

Lib Dems set to thrive under Swinson

I am far more positive about Lib Dem prospects. It absolutely suited the Lib Dem interest to strike now, while Labour are at their lowest ebb, and that probably explains their critical backing for this early election.

They have been thriving under the banner of 'Stop Brexit' and can take votes off both the Tories and Labour. There are around 90 Tory-held seats that voted Remain. I expect Jo Swinson - a woman up against two deeply divisive male leaders - will have a great campaign.

LD and SNP gains key to denying Tory majority

That potential leaves a big question mark over that Tory majority. So, too, does the expected loss of seats to the SNP in Scotland. Labour may start in a dire position but we must remember their remarkable 2017 surge, once the election campaign started. There is a scenario where that tactical Remain alliance materialises, just as there is a possibility that Johnson's Brexit deal unravels under the extra campaign scrutiny.

Certainly, much can change over the next six weeks and there are bound to be countless new positions to take in Betfair's wide variety of election markets. However, I find it hard to see anything other than the two following outcomes: either a Tory majority or a hung parliament in which they are the largest party, and the Lib Dems significantly increase their representation.

That lies behind my sole recent, outstanding bet on the election. It may seem over the next six weeks that the Conservatives and Lib Dems are mortal enemies. That their respective extreme Brexit positions are incompatible.

We've been here before, in 2010. After that election, the parliamentary maths left only one realistic coalition. If the Tories do fall short of a majority, once again they will have to turn to the Lib Dems. At that stage, Swinson can demand a confirmatory referendum and thus remove the principle obstacle to restoring that coalition. The 16/117.0 on a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition still represents a good value bet.

Follow Paul on Twitter and check out his website, Political Gambler.

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