This was a good week for Jeremy Corbyn, says Max Liu, as the Labour leader saw off silly accusations from his Tory opponents and came up with a Brexit policy that will delight Remainers...
"Brexit is a balancing act for Labour but their new position on the Customs Union should increase their chances of winning the next election and we might start to see them open up a poll lead fairly soon. Their current price of [2.02] is appealing."
This week, Theresa May's cabinet gathered for what were hailed as Brexit "crunch talks". The government away day at Chequers was supposed to be where the leading voices in the Tory party hammered out a unified position on Brexit. In the end, though, it was Labour who seized the initiative and who now look united, as they prepare to announce their support Britain for staying in the European Customs Union after Brexit.
This could have been a tricky week for Jeremy Corbyn. It began with Conservative MP Ben Bradley making ludicrous claims about him passing British secrets to a spy from communist Czechoslovakia. The claims were blown up by the increasingly desperate Tory press. Corbyn acted decisively, though, denying the claims outright and threatening legal action. It was an example of how to deal head-on with fake news and, on Saturday, Bradley issued an unreserved apology:
But Labour's new policy on the customs union is what matters. It indicates that the Brexit debate inside Labour is being won by the Remainers. It doesn't make Corbyn look week. Instead, it shows that he is listening to his party and it makes life much more difficult for May. If Labour and Tory Remainers, like Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke, unite in Parliament, it will blow a hole in May's negotiating position with the EU. That could precipitate the end for May's government. You can get [7.6] on May leaving office between in the period April to June 2018.
Labour continues Brexit balancing act
Labour's new position will complicate Brexit negotiations for the PM, so bettors are right to make it [1.68] that the UK will still be in the EU beyond the March 29 2019 deadline. It also increases the likelihood of a general election this year [5.2], although 2019 [3.85] is the current favourite. In terms of their electoral prospects, backing membership of the Customs Union should help shore up Labour support among Remainers who have been increasingly disgruntled about the party's position on Brexit in recent months.
But will this cost Labour support among Leavers? After all, Labour did well at last year's general election in constituencies which voted to Leave. Brexit has always been a balancing act for Labour but, all things considered, their new position on the Customs Union should increase their chances of winning the next election and we might start to see them open up a poll lead fairly soon. Their current price of [2.02] is appealing.
All eyes on Italy
Italy has had more than 60 governments since the Second World War, so the country is known for its political instability. As Italians prepare to vote in a general election next Sunday (March 4), it's impossible to know what the country's next government will look like. Italy has now entered a period of "publishing blackout", which means no more polls, but the most recent indicated a hung parliament. The means Italy could be governed by a coalition or be set for further elections.
Betting on the Italian election reflects the uncertainty. The Five Star Movement, lead by Luigi Di Maio, could be the most popular party, but they will struggle for coalition partners. The centre-right party Forza Italia, which is lead by former PM Silvio Berlusconi, could look to build a coalition with parties further to the right, including Lega Nord and Fratelli d'Italia, all of whom want Italy to leave the European Union.
However, Berlusconi, who is [19.0] to be Italy's next PM, is not so sure that Italy should go it alone (he's a friend of Tony Blair, after all) and says he's backing the moderate Antonio Tajani, the current President of the European Parliament, for the role. That would be a relief to EU leaders in Brussels. Tajani is [3.3] favourite to be Italy's next PM. With Italian politics unpredictable at the best of times, though, nobody is taking anything for granted.