The latest odds moves, tips and analysis on Betfair’s politics markets

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French polling signals are both strong and consistent

We’re just a fortnight away from the French Presidential Election. If either polls or Betfair markets are to be believed, it is one of the most predictable elections in the Western world of recent years.

Emmanuel Macron remains a red-hot 1.081/12 favourite – that implies a 93% chance of winning a second term. Meanwhile in the race for second, Marine Le Pen appears to be pulling away. The leader of Le Front Nationale is down to just 1.152/13 to land a top-two finish – an 87% chance.

As polling day nears, it seems French voters are increasingly making tactical moves, switching from their first choice. There are two parallel battles. On the far-right, Le Pen is now polling at twice Eric Zemmour’s level.

On the left, Jean-Luc Melonchon is increasingly dominant. He’s averaging around 13.5%, compared to 4% for Communist Fabien Roussel and 2% for the Socialist’s Anne Hidalgo. This battle, between Le Pen and Melonchon for second, looks the only lingering doubt about the final result. Both would likely be trounced by Macron in the second, head-to-head round.

What happens from here? Rather than a dramatic transformation, I reckon its likelier that those two continue to grow at the expense of their struggling rivals. Le Pen is moving forward and should be able to pick up more transfers from Zemmour now his star has waned.

The most exciting betting markets on the election at this stage are Macron First Round Vote Share and Le Pen First Round Vote Share. In the latter, I’ve taken 2.56/4 about Le Pen scoring between 20-24.99% and am confident it will land.

Bet here:

French Presidential Election Winner

To Finish in the Final 2

Macron First Round Vote Share

Le Pen First Round Vote Share

No bounce for Chancellor as economic plans draw heavy fire

A constant peril for political analysts is over-reacting too quickly to Budgets, Spring Statements and the like. Almost every such set-piece occasion over the past 12 years attracted positive headlines, because that was precisely what the spin intended. They often unravel within days, once journalists have pored over the details.

It should be a major concern, therefore, that yesterday’s Spring Statement has already failed on that front. Rishi Sunak has come under fire in numerous interviews this morning and even the Tory press are piling in.

The verdict on Betfair markets was negative too. The front-runner for Next Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister After Boris Johnson> has drifted on both markets, to 4.216/5 and 5.39/2.

We’ve had a snap poll too, from Opinium. The results invite mixed interpretations – for example by 44% to 19%, respondents approve of the Spring Statement but equally, by 65% to 22%, they say the government should be doing more. However it clearly illustrates a rapid deterioration in support for the Tories’ economic record. Johnson and Sunak have even conceded the lead to Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves.

We are clearly entering new territory. A Tory government that doesn’t lead on the economy (or crime and immigration, for that matter) is a government in serious trouble. Labour have now led in 90 consecutive national opinion polls. And this is before most voters really feel the pinch from energy prices, tax rises and other inflation.

I certainly wonder whether the ‘Dishy Rishi’ brand has already peaked. His introduction to the British public involved giving away free money via the furlough scheme and ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. His reputation has been slowly declining ever since that unsustainably good start and now, he must be the face behind deeply unpopular decisions.

Chancellor is never the ideal role from which to launch a bid for Prime Minister, precisely because you have to own such difficult decisions, and it is always difficult to be the front-runner in party contests.

Nevertheless, Sunak remains favourite for now. So do the Conservatives at 1.645/8 to win Most Seats at the next election. Personally, I’m a layer of both at the current odds, in expectation of the market moving my way in the weeks and months ahead.

Bet here:

Prime Minister After Boris Johnson

Next Conservative Party Leader

Will Rishi Sunak Become Next Conservative Party Leader?

Most Seats at Next General Election

Are Sunak’s odds peaking?

Entering a critical week for his career, Rishi Sunak is available at higher odds on Betfair than for almost all of his two-year stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer. At today’s respective odds of 4.03/1 and 5.24/1, his implied chances of becoming Next Conservative Leader and Next Prime Minister are down to just 25% and 19%.

To be fair, that still makes him clear favourite for both but those percentages were well in excess of 40% just a few weeks ago. The improved prospect of Boris Johnson surviving in post, plus worsening economic forecasts, are damaging Sunak’s chance of succession.

His personal approval ratings have fallen across the board but most importantly, with the people who will determine the next leadership contest. In the latest Cabinet League Table at Conservative Home, Sunak’s net approval among party members fell to +38.8%, down to 11th place. By comparison, Liz Truss retains a strong +58.3% approval while league leader Ben Wallace has a whopping 82.8%.

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No doubt, the imminent tax rises explain Sunak’s relative decline. This is anathema to most Tory members and Team Sunak have been trying to distance themselves and pin the blame on Johnson’s agenda. We’ll see how that works out. It is hard to profit from such nuance.

There will be some headline giveaways tomorrow. Almost certainly a fuel tax cut. Whilst that will be controversial and any lack of focus on alleviating fuel poverty among non-drivers heavily criticised, it may prove a winning strategy.

Sunak’s reputation stems from delivering the furlough scheme. Likewise, ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was popular, despite being highly questionable. He needs to retain the ‘Mr Free Money‘ brand to avoid, or soften, the hit from a cost-of-living crisis.

I also think we might see a new dividing line open regarding the Tory leader contest. Sunak is unlikely to massively increase defence spending in the current fiscal climate. Truss made a big speech about the need for it, and a revised approach to defence, over the weekend. I’m sure fellow candidate Tom Tugendhat will echo it and perhaps others if they run. Wallace, for example.

In the shorter term, though, I wonder if Sunak’s odds are now peaking. Were Johnson to be removed – and I still believe a terrible set of local elections could finish him – Sunak’s odds would collapse. He will start as favourite, rightly or not.

Recall the trend before Johnson became leader. Three months before Theresa May resigned, he was trading above 5.04/1, even up to double figures on occasion. But once the contest was announced, Johnson became an even money favourite within hours.

Bet here:

Prime Minister After Boris Johnson

Next Conservative Party Leader

Will Rishi Sunak Become Next Conservative Party Leader?

Signals very favorable for opposition ahead of national poll

Following on from the previous post, we just had a significant signal regarding the imminent Australian Federal Election. Yesterday saw an election for the House of Assembly in South Australia. Previously the opposition, Labor will now form a majority after receiving a massive 7.3% swing in their favour. They started 22-19 behind the Liberals in seats, and now lead by 28-13.

Of course one should always be wary of assuming trends in local elections will be repeated at national level. Scott Morrison will likely put up a tougher fight and the national campaign will enjoy the in-built advantage of a Murdoch-dominated media. Whilst there is a consensus that Peter Malinauskas ran a great campaign here for Labor, many pundits question their leader Anthony Albanese’s lack of charisma.

Nevertheless this does appear very worrying for Scott Morrison’s government and appear to vindicate the trends that has seen the betting flip. Labor’s odds have shortened very slightly, from 1.444/9 to 1.422/5. I strongly expect they will get much shorter over the weeks ahead.

Labor surging ahead for May’s Australian election

The official date is yet to be announced but the next Australian Federal Election is just two months away. The build-up has already produced an exciting betting heat.

Earlier in the cycle, the incumbent Liberal/National Coalition were matched at just 1.271/4 to be re-elected, but this market has completely flipped over recent months. Labor are currently trading at 1.444/9 to win, and have been matched down to 1.374/11.

Those odds make perfect sense if we trust the polls. In the most recent survey, they lead by a massive 12% margin and their average lead in the last seven polls was above 9%. The Coalition hasn’t led for over a year.

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Normally such a consistent lead would produce much shorter odds. See the one-sided betting in France, for example. However scepticism is entirely understandable, given what happened last time. In 2019, Labor also led for months and went in to polling day with an average lead around 3%. As it turned out, they lost by 3%.

It was a disaster for the polling firms and reminscent of various recent misreads in the UK and USA. The polling industry drew similar conclusions to the 2015 UK General Election (in which polls similarly underestimated the Conservatives). Their methodology was criticised, including ‘herding‘, creating an illusion of consistency.

If that solely explains the misread, I’d be inclined to assume the pollsters will have corrected their methodology and might even ultimately misread in the other direction. However another view is that the problem is more structural – ‘shy right-wing voters‘.

It has long been argued that Conservative voters are less likely to respond to polls for various reasons. The theory does not consistently stand up, but it appeared to do so in the 2020 US Election. Joe Biden’s lead was consistently overstated and Donald Trump winning 75 million votes came as a massive surprise.

There are certainly parallels to be drawn between the dynamics of Australian, US and UK politics. The party, demographic, cultural and ideological divisions are very similar. We share the English language, which is critical to framing such divisions. Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has outsized influence.

All these reasons make me instinctively sceptical about the size of Labor’s lead but equally, 1.444/9 is a huge price about a party leading by double-digits, two months out. I wrote almost identical words before that 2020 election too. The favourite won but Biden’s odds didn’t shorten up dramatically and much bigger became available in-running on election night.

Johnson and Macron both surging on Betfair markets

At odds of 3.185/40, Boris Johnson is rated less likely to leave office during 2022 than at any stage so far this year. Scroll down this blog (which started mid-January) and see just what a remarkable, rapid turnaround that represents.

Partygate may not yet be fully resolved but the scandal seems from more trivial times. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a fortnight of humanitarian catastrophe unfolding on our screens, has focused minds on one issue. And regarding Ukraine, Johnson’s leadership has gone down well enough to restore some credibility with voters.

The same correlation between polls and betting markets can be found in France, where Emmanuel Macron continues to attract a wall of cash, at ever shorter odds. He’s now a mere 1.081/12 or 92% likely to win a second term. Prior to Christmas, he was trading around 1.758/11.

The Ukraine crisis has not only allowed Macron to take centre-stage, squeezing out his rivals, but seriously wounded several pro-Russia opponents. Marine Le Pen’s Le Front Nationale have been funded by Russian banks and her rival on the far-right, Eric Zemmour, has been openly supportive of Putin’s Russia for years. Belated attempts to walk those ties back is hurting both.

Meanwhile on the far-left, Jean-Luc Melenchon’s historic support for the USSR and apologism for Russia makes it harder than ever for him to unite the Left, among whose various candidates he remains likely to do best.

In the States, Joe Biden’s approval ratings have jumped 2% – the best forward move of his presidency – since his State of the Union address centred on Ukraine.

In contrast here, though, Biden’s odds of winning a second term have actually drifted to 6.611/2. That is by far the biggest odds any first term president has been for re-election since Betfair’s inception in 2001.

Of course it is early days. Incumbents are always liable to receive a ‘rally around the flag’ boost during wars. Likewise, this offers a rare chance to appear centre-stage in front of your electorate, and take uncontroversial, popular stances. There’s a parallel with Covid and the polling effects during the first lockdown.

However the months and years ahead for all will be extremely hard. Fuel prices are hitting all-time highs across the world and similar hardship is expected regarding food. Russia’s war and energy politics may give leaders some cover but, if right now is a good time to be in power, next year will be perilous.

French election looks a race for second

Whereas other political betting markets have moved back and forth during a dramatic start to 2022, France has been one-way traffic and the trend continues. Emmanuel Macron is now trading at just 1.091/11 to win a second term as French president. Those odds have collapsed over the past three months, from around 1.758/11 following the Republican primary.

There are two explanations. First, Macron’s polls have improved, extending a big lead, in recent weeks. His high-profile diplomacy over Ukraine may well lay behind it. He’s averaging over 29% for his last nine polls – a double-digit advantage over the next best, which is repeated in the second round head-to-head run-off.

Second, the winner of that Republican primary is fading fast. Valerie Pecresse traded down to 3.1511/5 – implying a 32% chance of becoming President – during December but is out to 60.059/1 (2%) this morning. It is widely assumed that she or another Republican was best-placed to beat Macron in that run-off.

As it turns out, Pecresse is now polling worse for that run-off than the woman who Macron thrashed in 2017. This race, to be his opponent, is now the most exciting betting option.

Marine Le Pen appears to be winning her battle against Eric Zemmour to be the leading far- right candidate. Le Pen is now at least 5% ahead of her rivals for second place in recent polls, with Zemmour and veteran leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon vying for third.

As this Bloomberg piece explains, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is playing a key role in the election. All the main candidates besides Macron have either openly cheered Putin, taken Russian money at some stage, or supported his positions. At this stage, the association seems to be hurting Zemmour and Melenchon most.

Bet here:

French Presidential Election Winner

To Finish in the Final 2

Macron First Round Vote Share

Le Pen First Round Vote Share

Has the Ukraine war saved Johnson?

Apologies for the cliche but it cannot be stressed enough how quickly fortunes can change in politics, driven by real world events. A week really is a long time and a month is an eternity.

After three months of constant speculation about Boris Johnson’s imminent departure, the betting has turned back in his favour. In our market on the year he leaves office, 2024 or later has returned to favouritism. At odds of 2.26/5, that outcome is rated around 45% likely. That compares to just 9% back in January.

A 2022 exit has drifted right out to 2.829/5 – roughly where it began the year, up from a low of just 1.271/4 (78%).

The logic is obvious. That Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has taken ‘Partygate’ out of the headlines and now seems relatively trivial. The war gives Johnson a chance to reshape the narrative. His bombastic style and rhetoric is liable to exploit the public mood. Wars generally result in voters ‘rallying around the flag‘.

There is something to be said for that. Incumbents in the West appear to be receiving a boost in the polls – both Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron’s numbers are up.

However that can’t be said on a meaningful scale about Johnson. Yes, his approval ratings have risen slightly but only from rock-bottom. The Tories continue to trail Labour. And the Birmingham Erdington result didn’t bode any better. Check this from Mori’s Ben Walker. Those numbers would definitely produce a Labour-led coalition – probably boasting a big Commons majority.

Plus it is also far too early in the crisis to make definitive conclusions about their effect on domestic politics. A light has finally been shone on the Conservative Party’s reliance on donations from Russian oligarchs. Yesterday’s Sunday Times read like a collation of exposes and tweets from Carole Cadwalladr – who has been reporting these links, and Kremlin interference in Brexit – for five years, at great personal cost.

Keir Starmer is demanding a parliamentary inquiry out regarding the accusations that Johnson personally over-ruled warnings from intelligence and security services to appoint Lord Lebedev of Siberia and the Hamptons to the House of Lords. Note too how various media figures have judged which direction the wind is blowing and taken sudden interest in Russian donations about which they were silent for years. This story has legs.

As for ‘Partygate’, we are yet to see the Sue Gray report or what fines or cautions are issued by the Metropolitan Police. The story will spike again, at least temporarily, and is sure to be a humiliating experience for Johnson.

Finally the biggest difficulty in terms of retaining the support of his party, will be the local elections in May. If the Tories take a mid-term beating, Johnson will be the scapegoat. Just as the betting has swung sharply back in his favour, so it could turn against him after those results.

Bet here:

Boris Johnson Exit Date (Year)

Boris Johnson Exit Date (3-monthly)

Boris Johnson Special (Conference)

Vote of No Confidence in March 2022

To Resign Before Mar 1st

Prime Minister After Boris Johnson

Next Conservative Party Leader

Labour overwhelming favourite for tomorrow’s by-election

Amid all the dramatic events dominating our news, the Birmingham Erdington by-election barely represents a footnote. This take place tomorrow, as a result of the death of Jack Dromey MP.

There is very little doubt about who will win. Labour are trading at the minimum odds of 1.011/100 and are rated equivalent to 99% to retain the seat. The Conservatives were last matched at 50.049/1.

However if you’re looking for a more competitive betting heat, we are now offering three further options about the Labour and Conservative vote shares, plus overall turnout. I’ll be back with a comprehensive preview later today.

Bet here:

Birmingham Erdington – Winner
Birmingham Erdington – Labour Vote Share
Birmingham Erdington – Conservative Vote Share
Birmingham Erdington – Turnout

Biden needs the speech of his life

Tonight is a very big occasion in US politics, as Joe Biden gives his first ‘State of the Union’ speech to Congress since becoming President. The timing, as Russian troops bombard Ukraine, is critical. However whereas once a focus on foreign policy would have united America, that is a pipe dream in today’s ultra-polarised environment.

More than ever, he needs to make an impressive address that cuts through to the national conversation, following a really grim run in the polls. The most recent, from the respected Quinnipiac University, records his approval rating down at a dire 37%. According to the more comprehensive average at fivethirtyeight.com, he’s on 40.7%.

This is no kind of position from which to win re-election and, unless something changes rapidly, the Democrats will lose Congress at November’s mid-terms – they trail the Republicans in the ‘generic ballot‘ now by 2.4%, compared to frequent double-digit leads during the Trump presidency.

No doubt, Biden has a story to tell tonight. He’s rapidly formed an international coalition of democracies to crack down on Putin and his oligarchs. That Germany have abandoned Nordstream2 and reversed decades of foreign policy, is a testament to him. On jobs growth and various redistributive policies, he’s made good progress during 13 months in office.

However that message clearly isn’t cutting through. Inflation is at its highest for decades and many key parts of the Biden agenda have stalled in Congress. He won by building an extraordinary, one-off coalition to remove Trump and pleasing all parts of that coalition is proving impossible. That will only become harder if losing Congress in November.

If the mid-terms look one-sided – the Republicans are 1.171/6 to regain the House of Representatives – then the betting for 2024 is more uncertain, and wide-open than ever.

At odds of 6.411/2, Biden is the biggest odds I can ever recall about an incumbent. He’s a 3.711/4 chance to merely win the Democrat Nomination. Bettors increasingly believe he won’t run again and, unless those polls improve somewhat, I’m inclined to agree. Who replaces him on the ticket, given that Kamala Harris is even less popular, remains an open question.

However in his favour is the fact that Donald Trump remains favourite to be the Republican Nominee. A generic Republican, without tons of toxic baggage, likely to stay on message with his own country rather than cheerlead Vladimir Putin, who isn’t under threat of multiple indictments, would surely be a very short odds favourite to beat Biden.

Personally I doubt Biden would run against a Ron DeSantis or a Nikki Haley, but he’d be loathe to run away from a rematch with Trump and would have a decent chance.

Bet here:

2024 US Election – Will Trump Run?
2024 US Election – Election Winner
2024 US Election – Republican Nominee
2024 US Election – Democrat Nominee
2022 House of Representatives Election

Bettors regaining faith in Johnson’s survival

What a difference a month can make in politics! At the end of January, all the talk was around whether Boris Johnson could survive as PM until the summer. A 2022 exit was rated 78% likely at odds of 1.271/4. It is now less than 50%, with 2.26/5 available on our exchange.

How to explain it? Has Partygate run out of steam? Is Johnson reviving his reputation by employing his trademark Churchillian rhetoric over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Are the Tories on the comeback trail after a grim period?

On Partygate, of course to some extent it could not dominate the news cycle forever but we aren’t at the end of the process yet. When the Gray Report is fully published and the Met issue any fines or cautions, the story will return to centre-stage.

It is reported that ‘key allies’ of the PM think he’s out of the woods. Perhaps they already know the plan to suppress any findings. However these may be the same key allies whose process-management has left their boss exposed on several occasions. I wouldn’t overestimate their ability to control the story any better than they did over the Owen Paterson scandal. (Johnson’s team has since been depleted).

But whilst the war in Ukraine rages, a story like Partygate does seem trivial. It is safe to assume nothing will happen imminently. But if the Tories lose badly at May’s local elections, knives will come out. Other pressing domestic issues, such as inflation, particularly energy prices and tax rises, are bound to take their toll on Tory popularity.

So far, there is scant evidence of improvement in the polls, whether choice of party or PM. If Labour retain a 4-5% lead and Keir Starmer continues to dominate in preferred PM polls, Tory backbenchers and donors are bound to act.

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Trump receives boost as criminal case flounders

Update on an important story from last week. Previously I reported how the latest news coming out of New York’s parallel civil and criminal investigations were hurting Donald Trump badly on Betfair markets. Now a further, frankly shocking, development has resulted in money pouring back on to the former President to win in 2024.

Two lead prosecutors have resigned from the criminal investigation. This is widely assumed to be in protest at new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s reluctance to proceed with the case, and indict senior figures within the Trump Organisation.

Criminal charges against the family business and its Chief Financial Officer were brought last summer. A grand jury had been assembled and heard evidence regarding persistent false reporting of accounts. Mazars, the firm’s long-term accountants, have retracted a decade’s worth of statements. It now seems that grand jury will expire in April and is unlikely to be renewed.

Whilst obviously the whole case is shrouded in confidentiality, the clear signal is that the Trumps are off any criminal hook. The civil case, led by NY Attorney General Tish James appears to be proceeding, aggressively. That may cause considerable embarrassment and financial liability, but is unlikely to result in a criminal indictment.

If so, one of Trump’s legal hurdles and distractions (I’d argue the biggest) is fading and that must aid his chances of being the Republican Nominee in 2024. He’s duly been backed down to 2.546/4 for that target and 4.77/2 to win the presidency.

In addition to those targets, Betfair are now offering a new binary market on whether Trump will officially declare a ‘Statement of Candidacy’ prior to 9th January, 2024.

My strong advice to anyone who fancies Trump for 2024 is to back ‘Yes’ in that market now. I expect him to declare – not least because doing so will earn him fortunes in donations – even if only to withdraw later. My view is this bet will win with the best part of a year, maybe more, to spare, leaving plenty of time to reinvest the returns on the nominee or presidency market.

Does this alter my assessment that Trump will, sooner or later, be finished in politics? No doubt, this news is a massive boost for him and leaves the sinister impression that he is untouchable by the law. That said, there are still dozens of further legal problems to deal with and the Jan 6th investigations do not bode well for him.

Note too that Trump has been praising Putin this week, while his allies continue to push Kremlin talking points, in favour of Russia and against Ukraine. Does that strike you as a realistic position for a presidential candidate?

Bet here

2024 US Election – Will Trump Run?
2024 US Election – Election Winner
2024 US Election – Republican Nominee
2024 US Election – Democrat Nominee

Has Sunak missed his chance?

Just a few weeks ago, as Partygate threatened to force an imminent resignation from Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak was regarded a red-hot favourite to succeed him. The Chancellor was trading around 2.3611/8 in both our Next Conservative Leader and Prime Minister after Boris Johnson markets.

Confidence in his chance has waned significantly since that high point. Johnson isn’t out of the woods by any means, with both the Gray Report and Metropolitan Police action looming, but the betting doesn’t point to anything imminent. He’s barely odds-on to go this year, at 1.9210/11. It is very possible that the Ukraine crisis escalates and makes removing a Prime Minister risky, even reckless.

The longer it takes to remove Johnson, the worse it is for Sunak. His popular reputation – more so than other Tory MPs – stems from the furlough scheme and perhaps ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. A rare case of an ultra-engaged, worried electorate being given free money, announced live on TV by a previously little-known politician.

That early bounce was always likely to deflate over time, as other spending decisions came to define this Chancellor. Those swing voters are now concerned about energy prices, tax rises, the end of free Covid testing, the lack of decent sick pay. On all these, Sunak’s positions are likelier to lose, rather than gain, supporters.

So it is proving. Check out the latest ratings for ‘Best Prime Minister’. The same Redfield and Wilton poll had Labour up by 6% on 39%, with the Tories on 33%.

In other words, Sunak’s ‘USP’ barely applies anymore. Had the vacancy appeared earlier, he would have been able to credibly claim that he was Tory MPs’ best chance of retaining their seats. A candidate who can reach parts of the electorate that his rivals can’t. Now he will be merely one of the pack, assuming of course he runs.

The betting has moved quite sharply against Sunak. He’s out to 3.8514/5 this morning for Next PM – a fall in implied probability from 42% to 26% – and in our binary ‘Will Rishi Sunak Be The Next Conservative Leader’ option, he’s a 3.55 chance.

Note with the latter, that outcome covers Johnson leading into the next election, losing it, and Sunak winning the subsequent contest to be opposition leader. So a superior option for any bettors minded to back Sunak now his odds have drifted.

Bet here:

Will Rishi Sunak Be the Next Conservative Party Leader

Prime Minister After Boris Johnson

Next Conservative Party Leader

Mammoth Macron gambles continues apace

Betfair markets are sending an overwhelming signal regarding April’s French Presidential Election, with Emmanuel Macron now rated 81% likely to win a second term at odds of 1.232/9.

His odds have been in freefall for weeks and represent by far the strongest favourite we’ve seen at this stage of a French election on Betfair. Note too, all those previous favourites went on to win.

The reason behind this surge is an expectation that Macron will comfortably defeat a second round opponent. He has a clear, consistent double-digit lead against either far-right opponent (Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour) and even an 8% lead over the Republican, Valerie Pecresse. The latter has been friendless on our markets, trading at 19.018/1 compared to 3.1511/5 earlier this year.

I would reiterate, though, that there is a long time and a deep campaign to go. Pecresse could define herself during the campaign and return to contention. It is also possible that the Left begin to coalesce around one candidate.

If we include Green leader Yanick Jadot, the combined tally of seven left candidates is 26%. Currently Jean-Luc Melenchon is best placed on around 11% compared to 5% for Jadot and Fabien Roussel. Second place in the last four polls required at most 17%. Melenchon is a 16.015/1 chance to make the top-two, Jadot is 200.0199/1. Roussel has been matched at 1000.0.

Ben Wallace rising fast in Tory leadership stakes

We have a new contender in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as Conservative Party Leader and probably Prime Minister. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has been matched down to 20.019/1 from a previous high of 230.0229/1 and, at odds of 24.023/1 is rated seventh likeliest on our markets. When I analysed the top-ten last month, Wallace didn’t even qualify.

The explanation is similar to how Liz Truss surged to second favouritism. The Tory members’ site www.conservativehome.com run a monthly survey regarding satisfaction of the performance of serving Cabinet ministers. Truss led their ‘Cabinet League Table’ for a year but has just been relegated to second by Wallace, who scores a whopping 79.7% approval rating.

A big endorsement that may very well encourage Wallace to run, whenever the vacancy arises, although it is important to note that this isn’t a ‘leadership survey’. The dynamics favour ministers who are in the news, taking positions that chime with the base. For Truss, that meant signing trade deals after Brexit. For Wallace, that means taking a tough line with Russia over Ukraine and being seen to manage the crisis with competence.

My understanding is that Wallace is an arch-loyalist to Boris Johnson. That should serve him well in the months ahead as the PM’s crisis continues and likely intensifies. More media exposure and perhaps a promotion await.

Tory leadership races are famous for producing dark horses and winners who were barely considered at the beginning of the race. David Cameron, was the 14/1 outsider of four before dominating their 2005 contest, for example. Various names will be thrown up in the weeks and months ahead. Could Wallace be the one?

Trump weakening in betting as Jan 6th probe heats up

Donald Trump is all over the news again – well, even more so than usual. Last night his son tweeted a screenshot of the former President trailing his comeback via his new social media app, Truth Social, which is expected to be launched on Monday. Meanwhile, complications around his comeback bid are gathering steam.

Today President Biden has ruled that the White House visitor logs must be turned over to the House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the Jan 6th insurrection. Yesterday the committee also subpoeanaed six individuals connected to the Trump campaign, in relation to the plan to submit fake electoral college certificates, with a view towards overturning the 2020 election result.

This very real legal threat compounds Trump’s problems. He is already facing 19 legal challenges and news recently broke that his long-term accountants Mazars have cut ties with the Trump Organisation and retracted a decade’s worth of financial statements. This likely relates to the ongoing cases brought in the state of New York.

Furthermore, there are signs of rare opposition in GOP ranks. Mike Pence finally found the stomach to defend his actions on Jan 6th, and disavow Trump’s electoral college fix. Mitch McConnell has gone off message and former President George W Bush is reportedly pouring his own money behind non-Trump aligned candidates.

As these developments play out, Betfair markets are losing confidence in a second Trump term. Whilst still favourite for 2024 at 5.04/1, he’s drifted from a low of 4.1. That implies a 20% likelihood, down from 25%.

He’s also out to 2.77/4 to win the Republican Nomination – a price which I’m sure many will see as a bargain. Nobody has yet disproved the idea that Trump now owns the party, and the nomination is his for the taking. Nevertheless, there is money around for alternatives.

Pence is down to 13.5 for the nomination, 22.021/1 for the presidency. Mike Pompeo to 29.028/1 and 48.047/1 for those respective targets. Clear second-best for now though is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – a 5.39/2 chance to win his party’s nomination and down to 8.27/1 for the presidency.

Johnson under further fire after Starmer abused by mob

Boris Johnson is being widely criticised after Labour leader Keir Starmer was surrounded and abused by a mob of protesters, requiring police intervention to protect his team’s safety. They were screaming at him about Jimmy Saville, days after the PM falsely implied Starmer had gone soft on the paedophile when he was Director of Public Prosecutions.

Several Tory MPs have called for Johnson to apologise and retract the remarks he made in the Commons. Last Thursday, his chief policy advisor and long-time ally Munira Mirza quit Downing Street over the issue. Although some allies are coming to his rescue, legitimising the comments by saying Starmer was responsible for the department, if not the specific case, it is generating another terrible news cycle for the PM.

Betfair markets regarding his departure, however, are unmoved. He’s come into 1.758/11 from 2.01/1 to survive until July since the Mirza resignation and is a 1.574/7 chance to leave office this year (earlier matched at 1.271/4).

It strikes me that there is a consensus building. That Tory MPs won’t act until after the local elections in May or the Metropolitan Police report into Partygate is released, at the earliest. Nor that Johnson will resign.

It is increasingly hard to argue with that. The critics are not new names. They have either publicly sent letters demanding a vote of no confidence or have already criticised Johnson in recent weeks over this issue and Partygate.

It seems that the majority fall into two camps. Those who, understandably, think there is no gain for the party in acting now and thus damaging a successor in those elections. Or another group who think this and other crises can be ridden out. That ‘doubling down’ will negate the issue and the public will lose interest, move on.

All of this is very reminiscent of Donald Trump’s tenure as US President. More scandals every week than we’d seen in decades. Constant speculation that he would be ousted by Republicans or impeached. That the line had been crossed. It never happened. The line just moved. Trump’s supporters became more emboldened, radicalised and to a large extent, have taken over the party.

There is definitely a danger that a similar future awaits the Conservative Party. Smear campaigns and radicalised supporters seem to be an unavoidable feature of politics in the social media age. However I will repeat the arguments made in this piece from last month about Johnson’s future. There are fundamental differences with Trump and his hold over the GOP base. I still think Johnson will be gone by the summer.

Bet here:

Boris Johnson Exit Date (Year)

Boris Johnson Exit Date (3-monthly)

Boris Johnson Special (Conference)

To Resign Before Jan 31st

Vote of No Confidence in February 2022

To Resign Before Feb 28th

Prime Minister After Boris Johnson

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Macron odds hit a new low

While the signals from Betfair politics markets firmly signal a change of leadership in the UK, they are ever more confident about the status quo in France. Emmanuel Macron’s odds of winning a second term have been shortening steadily for days and at the time of writing are at their peak level to date.

Odds of 1.321/3 represent a 76% chance – very high considering the election campaign is yet to really crank up, and Macron’s first round expectations haven’t improved in recent polls. Nine surveys during February have the French President scoring between 24 and 25.5%.

The reason behind the confidence is simply that the French electorate appear to be reverting to type, and failing to coalesce around tactical options. The two far-right candidates, Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, are similarly more or less static at around 20% and 13% respectively. Thus preventing either from gathering momentum.

French polls.png

Were Macron to face either in the second round (a head-to-head run-off) he would be trading below 1.11/10, in expectation of double-digit victory. However the betting would likely be closer were mainstream Conservative Valerie Pecresse the opponent. She too appears to be flatlining around 16% and trails Macron in the head-to-head polls by around 8%.

As for the Left, well they are split multiple ways as well, with five candidates taking out 27% between them in the latest Harris survey but nobody faring better than 9%. Jean-Luc Melenchon is currently top among them, with the Green candidate Yanick Jadot next on 6%.

I expect some of these supposedly trends will change once we near polling day (April 10th) and the TV debates start. Voters from each of those factions will start to wise up regarding their best chance of victory. Right now though, that looks likely to produce a Macron v Le Pen final and that must be good news for the incumbent, who won their 2017 dual by a vast 66-34 margin.

Munira Mirza deals another blow to Johnson

We are still a long way short of the 54 Tory MPs required to force a Vote of No Confidence in Boris Johnson but he’s suffered another big setback this afternoon, which may prove to be a straw in the wind.

Munira Mirza – Head of Policy at No.10 and a key part of the team – has resigned over Johnson’s slur against Keir Starmer regarding the failure to prosecute Jimmy Saville. Johnson had earlier issued a half-apology but it obviously wasn’t enough. The Spectator (arguably the chosen publication of the coup-plotters, has published her resignation letter).

Whilst the Savile incident, with all it says about Johnson’s lack of interest in the truth and preparedness to sink to ever lower, Trumpian depths – will be reported as her motive, I reckon we should read between the lines and see it in the same light as the obviously co-ordinated leaks regarding Partygate.

For Mirza is hardly somebody associated with the high moral ground of politics. She and husband Dougie Smith are widely credited with the ‘War on Woke‘ – a creed of political strategy that has involved countless stories that stretch credulity and arguably dragged British politics into the gutter long before Johnson delivered his ill-fated smear in Parliament on Monday.

The spotlight is now likely to shift to Smith and whether his role in No.10 is sustainable. One wonders just how many are left in the Johnson bunker, apart from MPs who are obviously dependent on his survival to stay in the Cabinet, such as Nadine Dorries.

Betfair markets have moved back towards an imminent exit since the news broke earlier this afternoon. Surviving until July is out to 1.758/11 and leaving office in 2022 has been matched down to 1.51/2 again.

Theresa May becomes Johnson’s chief tormentor

An extraordinary, dramatic parliamentary session is underway. The conclusions of Sue Gray’s report into Partygate have been published. Despite being severely restricted from commenting on cases under police investigation, the report is damning and raises various further questions. Any idea that this would kill the story is for the birds.

Boris Johnson has addressed Parliament, said “I get it and will fix it” referring to suggested changes to the operation around Downing Street, but it hasn’t done anything to silence his critics.

One after another, MPs are lining up to attack him. Keir Starmer delivered a thorough denunciation of the PM’s character. In response, Johnson angrily accused the Labour leader of being a ‘former Director of Public Prosecutions who prosecuted journalists but not Jimmy Saville’. In one sentence, diminishing the phone hacking scandal, dragging politics into the gutter, and giving Labour a chance to hit back regarding Saville – who was a close friend of Margaret Thatcher.

However their exchange was overshadowed. Particularly by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, who said the PM had either not read his own Covid rules, didn’t understand them or believe they applied to him. Former Tory minister Andrew Mitchell said he removed his support for the PM – raising the tantalising prospect that 54 names could come forward to force a Vote of No Confidence.

One after another, opposition MPs lined up to accuse Johnson of misleading the House. SNP leader Ian Blackford was kicked out by the Speaker for failing to withdraw accusations the PM had ‘lied’. Obviously he knew the arcane parliamentary rules would force the Speaker’s hand. A former SNP leader, Alex Salmond, famously did the same. Other opponents dodged them by accusing Johnson of ‘inadvertently misleading the house’.

As things stand though, Betfair markets remain largely unmoved. Johnson had drifted to 1.635/8 to leave office in 2022 and that price is holding for now. He’s 1.728/11 to stay in charge until July and 2.3211/8 to survive until the Conservative Party conference.

Tugendhat declares intention to run for Conservative leader

There may not be a vacancy yet but we now know one of the contenders for PM, if Boris Johnson is ousted. Tom Tugendhat told Times Radio this morning that he will ‘go for it’. He’s been matched down to 11.521/2 in our Prime Minister after Boris Johnson market and is currently trading at 13.012/1.

So who is Tom Tugendhat and can he win? Well, he currently occupies a significant role in Parliament, as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He’s a former veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and was widely praised for his articulate, passionate speeches in their aftermath.

He’s long been on many a list as potential leaders but there are major drawbacks. He has never held a senior Cabinet role. Historically, new Prime Ministers either held one or came from opposition. In a sense, he is doing that, as nobody regards him as part of the Johnson faction. Tugendhat voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, thus placing himself on the wrong side of the Tory membership, who will ultimately determine any contest.

Nevertheless, he is a significant figure who will surely perform well in hustings and TV debates. He is an outspoken, expert voice on the most topical subjects – particularly the threat of war in Ukraine.

He’s also one of relatively few Tories who has spoken out regarding the flood of dark money into London and British politics from Kremlin actors and other kleptocrats. Yesterday’s Times reported that the Biden administration are in despair over this and the British government’s failure to crack down, thus rendering any sanctions on Putin to be irrelevant.

Do I think Tugendhat will win? No, for the above reasons. However we are at a critical moment in history, where these issues of dark money and which direction British foreign and defence policy faces, must be resolved one way or the other. It could be the making of him.


Gray report delayed following Met intervention

The markets moved against an imminent exit for Boris Johnson as the PartyGate saga took yet another twist today, when Sue Gray’s report was delayed. Perhaps indefinitely. Despite previously implying they had no objection, the Metropolitan Police are demanding ‘minimal reference‘ to events they are investigating.

Apparently this is not the only issue as the government and civil service wrangle over what to publish. It is now anyone’s guess when and what will emerge from these investigations, or what the political fallout will be.

Johnson is back into odds-on, at 1.674/6, to survive until July and is a 5.14/1 chance to go before the end of February. He is, however, odds-on at 1.758/11 to leave office before the Conservative Party Conference on October 2nd.

This timetable makes plenty of sense. It is obvious that Johnson and his allies will try and ride this out and hope the public become bored by the story. They are following the ‘double-down’ strategy most associated with Donald Trump. However in his case, it didn’t work. He lost the presidency and Congress. There is no suggestion the public will forget, or forgive Johnson, or be won round with anything smacking of a cover-up.

The Tories are staring at a heavy beating at May’s local elections and any by-elections that emerge. Even his enemies within the Tory party would likely prefer Johnson take the hit for that before striking. In a few months, he’ll probably be hit hard on multiple fronts – the police report, Sue Gray report, local elections, tax rises, living standards. The perfect time to remove him via a vote of no confidence, followed by a summer leadership contest. Start the rebrand at the conference.

Foreign Office e-mails compound pressure on PM

Westminster awaits the publication of Sue Gray’s report into ‘Partygate’. According to the BBC, it is essentially completed and expected to be sent to Boris Johnson today. In another heated clash at Prime Ministers Questions, opposition leaders demanded the report be published in full and that Johnson resign.

In response, Johnson once again labelled Keir Starmer ‘Captain Hindsight’ and stressed that his government was focused on ‘bringing the West together’ over the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. No doubt the strategy is to imply ‘Partygate’ is a trivial distraction from the serious business of government. A resignation did not sound imminent.

However yet again, events seem to be moving faster than Johnson can respond. Within minutes of PMQs, Sky News reported new bombshell e-mails, leaked from the Foreign Office, regarding a different topic. They refer to the evacuation of Afghanistan, and the prioritising of rescuing animals ahead of people. If true, it would reveal another lie from the Prime Minister. At present, Downing Street are denying it.

Note Starmer’s emphasis on the ministerial code. When pressed at PMQs, Johnson agreed with the code that ministers should resign if they are revealed to have lied to parliament. That is bound to be thrown back at him within hours.

It doesn’t look good and, evidently, those trying to remove the Prime Minister are pursuing a relentless, co-ordinated strategy. We can only guess what is coming next. Photos? Taped footage? Every day feels like it could be his last.

Nevertheless, as it stands, Johnson and his supporters seem determined to fight. The drama goes on and on. Ultimately they may be onto something. Were war to actually kick off in Ukraine, it would be that much harder to remove a sitting PM, regardless of what he’s shown to have done. The time to remove him may be running out.

The betting signals remain clear that he is on borrowed time. At 2.265/4 to survive until July, he’s rated likelier than not to go before then. The Apr-Jun band has crept ahead of the Jan-Mar band, perhaps implying that the time for MPs to strike would be after the local elections. If you think he’ll resign before the end of January, odds of 6.411/2 are available.

Met Police to investigate Downing Street parties

Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner Cressida Dick has confirmed they will investigate several parties during the Covid-19 lockdown. Consequently, Sue Gray’s report will not be published until its conclusion.

Tory MPs and Betfair markets are reacting as I write. Many of the former had committed to waiting for the Sue Gray report, but this means the controversy will drag on for months and could cause their party untold damage. Equally those sympathetic to Johnson may spy an opportunity to move on from the issue. The longer the wait, the less damage?

Johnson remains odds-on to leave office before July 2022, but the money has switched from the Jan-Mar to Apr-Jun band. The latter has hit as low as 2.56/4 and is currently at 2.915/8. Johnson remains 1.331/3 to leave office during 2022 and 1.384/11 before the party conference. A January resignation, however, is out to 8.07/1 and he’s 6.05/1 to face a Vote of No Confidence this month.

My immediate instinct is that Johnson will now use this to cling to office. He probably believes he can ride out the storm and use his celebrity appeal to make a stunning comeback later down the track. Regarding that, my instinct is that he’s delusional and that stretching this out will worsen the disaster at the May local elections, and make it harder for the Tory party to recover.

Right now, we need to watch particular Tory MPs. Will there be further defections to Labour? Cabinet resignations? Were one of the big names to quit, that could prove a decisive blow and perhaps embellish that person’s leadership credentials. Could a so-called ‘stalking horse‘ launch a challenge?

Here’s couple of names that strike me as plausible stalking horses. Tobias Ellwood and Johnny Mercer. Both are ex-soldiers and highly critical of Johnson, in public. Such a move would serve their profiles very well. They are currently available at 90.089/1 and 260.0259/1 to succeed Johnson as Prime Minister.

Next Conservative Party Leader

Johnson back to odds-on to go before June

Last week we saw the odds about Boris Johnson leaving office before March hit even money, but they drifted back out after Tory MPs failed to force a vote of no confidence (as predicted by many Westminster voices).

Do bear that experience in mind when playing this market, but equally it is impossible to miss the signals coming from those supposedly ‘in the know‘. The Telegraph – the Conservative-supporting paper whom Johnson reportedly refers to as his ‘real boss’ – report an MP source saying they will be surprised if he lasts the week.

They report ‘damning evidence‘ from police stationed in Downing Street, who have now been interviewed by Sue Gray. Here’s their full front page.

Furthermore, Sky News report that Dominic Cummings is set to be interviewed today. We know already from his tweets and blogs that the former No.10 advisor’s evidence will be damning.

Considering this news has been out overnight, I’m surprised the Johnson Exit Date odds haven’t shortened further. He’s now a shade of odds-on to go before June, 1.374/11 in 2022 and 3.55/2 before the end of March. I guess bettors are wary of getting burnt at short odds as they were last week but, especially given yesterday’s revelations regarding blackmailing MPs and Islamaphobia, it really does feel like the end is nigh for Johnson.

We’ve opened two more markets – on either a vote of no confidence or resignation before January 31st. My preference remains for the latter. I’m sceptical MPs would trigger a VONC were they uncertain of winning, because losing would mean Johnson is safe for another year.

Tory crisis is fast expanding

The betting about Boris Johnson’s exit date hasn’t moved much so far this weekend but, if the news is to be believed, the saga may well reach a conclusion in the days ahead. There was already talk of Sue Gray’s report into ‘Partygate’ being worse than No.10 had feared. Now even more serious, damaging issues are rising to the fore.

The Sunday Times has led the way in exposing Tory wrongdoing – from corrupt Covid contracts to the PM’s failings during the pandemic. Their Chief Political Editor Tim Shipman is probably the leading journalist of the past decade when it comes to reporting the Conservative government. He is close to the action. Today’s copy is astonishing. It isn’t obvious where to start.

William Wragg MP, the chair of the Public Administration Committee, rocked Westminster last week with accusations of blackmail and intimidation from government whips. Now following Christian Wakeford’s defection to Labour, the Bury South MP accuses former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson of threatening to cancel a new, local school if he voted against the government on free school meals.

Note, blackmail accusations have surrounded Williamson for years. They spiked during the last Tory leadership contest, when he was Boris Johnson’s campaign manager. It has been widely reported that he will be offered a peerage, in order to buy his silence.

Furthermore, yesterday’s Mirror had the bullying accusations leading directly to the PM. As Sky’s election analyst Will Jennings notes, this is more damaging than ‘Partygate’.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the Sunday Times now report former Minister Nusrat Ghani accusing the government of sacking her because she is a Muslim.

Again, this isn’t a wholly new problem. Claims of institutionalised Islamaphobia have plagued the party for years. During the 2019 leadership contest, all the candidates supported Sajid Javid’s calls for an inquiry. However as Stephen Bush reported last year in the New Statesman, the inquiry was too limited and failed to address the issue.

None of these controversies are going away and all end up at Boris Johnson’s door. Javid will likely be a candidate in the next leadership contest. The party is now facing multiple crises. If Johnson stays, I expect there will be more defections and, before long, Cabinet resignations.

Shipman reports a beleaguered Prime Minister, who knows his particular brand of political magic is fading. I simply can’t see Johnson surviving more than a few weeks and the longer he stays, the worse the damage for the party. I still believe a resignation is likelier than a Vote of No Confidence and have no intention of laying any of my 2022, pre-July or pre-2024 positions back.

Johnson survives…for now

The so-called ‘Pork Pie Plot‘ didn’t materialise and any vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson is on hold. When Tory grandee David Davis weighed in, telling the PM in the Commons “In the name of God, go”, the move looked imminent and various Westminster pundits reported that there were 54 names prepared to send letters to the backbench 1922 Committee and trigger a contest.

However he were are, another day into the Johnson premiership. It now seems MPs are waiting for Sue Gray’s report. Some Cabinet ministers are giving lukewarm interviews. Betfair markets have moved in Johnson’s favour, whilst still offering grim signals.

From a low of 1.271/4, a 2022 exit has drifted to 1.51/2. Those odds still imply a 67% likelihood. An exit before March was matched at 2.01/1 yesterday but is now out to 5.04/1 – a mere 20% chance. Johnson is odds-on at 1.645/8 (61%) to survive past June. However he’s the same odds to go before the Conservative Party Conference, scheduled for October 2nd.

My instinct is that a critical mass Tory MPs stared into the abyss, on a day that inflation hit a 30-year high, and concluded that taking charge now could be disastrous for any new leader. They would like, ideally, to let Johnson take the hit for probably disastrous local election results in May, then act over the summer and let the new leader begin a rebrand at the conference.

That makes logical sense but, as we’ve seen, events can make a mockery of such political plans. Will Gray’s report leave Johnson’s position untenable? Will more scandalous revelations emerge? More widely, will delaying now entrench hostility towards the Conservative party, thus undermining the later rebrand?

Bet here:

Boris Johnson Exit Date (Year)

Boris Johnson Exit Date (3-monthly)

Boris Johnson Special (Conference)

Boris Johnson Special (Before end Jan)

Tory MP defects to Labour as Starmer grills Johnson at PMQs

Boris Johnson’s problems continued ahead of PMQs on Wednesday when the MP Christian Wakeford defected from the Conservatives to Labour.

The MP for Bury South, who was elected in 2019, said in his letter to Johnson that the PM and his party had “shown themselves incapable of offering the leadership and government this country deserves“.

Labour leader Keir Starmer welcomed Wakeford to his party’s benches at PMQs before tearing into Johnson and reiterating his calls for the PM to resign.

Later, the veteran Tory MP and Brexiteer David Davis called for Johnson to resign, saying: “In the name of God, go!”

Johnson insisted he would wait for the findings of Sue Gray’s much-anticipated investigation into parties in Downing Street.


Markets hint Boris Johnson’s reign is almost done

The odds about Boris Johnson leaving office imminently have hit new lows. 2022 has been backed as low as 1.271/4 in our yearly Exit Date market, and January-March 2022 at 2.01/1 in the tri-monthly option. Judging by the emerging headlines, today promises to be highly dramatic.

There are widespread rumours that the numbers are there to force a Vote of No Confidence in the PM – 54 Tory MPs would need to write letters to the backbench 1922 Committee. It is also notable that a Cabinet Minister, James Heappey, was prepared to tour the TV studios this morning acknowledging that his constituents no longer trust Johnson.

Prime Ministers Questions at noon is essential viewing. It was reported last night that letters will be sent into the committee following the set-piece parliamentary showdown. Frankly Johnson needs the performance of his life and there may be nothing he can do now to stop power melting away.

One word of caution regarding the betting. Whilst I’m extremely confident about bets on a 2022 exit, backing January-March carries significant risk. I am sceptical that a Vote of No Confidence will actually take place. The knowledge that defeat is certain could well trigger Johnson’s resignation. If so, it will take several weeks to find a replacement, via a leadership contest.

Of course he could just resign and walk, but past precedent suggests Johnson would stay in post throughout that period. Moreover if the position is handed to a deputy – presumably Dominic Raab – that could prejudice the leadership contest.

How realistic is Berlusconi’s comeback bid?

Political bettors have a fascinating and frankly unique market to pore over in the coming weeks. Italy are about to elect a new President but, beware, this process is nothing like the conventional elections we usually follow.

Rather than the ‘will of the people’, the choice will be determined by around 1,000 parliamentarians and regional representatives. They vote via a secret ballot and potentially multiple rounds of voting. To win, the candidate must win the support of two-thirds of electors. The process could be immediate, or drawn-out – in 1971, it took 23 rounds of voting.

The position is not overtly political – it is rather to represent national unity and uphold the constitution and head the armed forces – but in recent times, presidents have used political powers, such as vetoing a Eurosceptic finance minister. The term lasts seven years.

Incumbent Sergio Mattarella is retiring, although in theory he could end up staying. Electors can nominate literally anyone and there is a potential scenario where he could be talked around – presumably due to nobody else reaching the two-thirds threshold.

Two names will particularly stand out to those of us outside Italy. Current Prime Minister Mario Draghi is favourite, last matched at 1.855/6, and former multiple-term PM Silvio Berlusconi is trading around 11.010/1.

Draghi is formerly President of the European Central Bank and his technocratic administration has been critical to gaining funds, to implement an EU programme of reforms. Italian politics is notoriously divided and it may well be that no conventional party leader would be able to do so.

It has been reported that Draghi would prefer the Presidency, rather than have to run for election and jeopardise the reform programme with political infighting. Thus he would very much be the choice of the markets. There is much concern about instability and, on those grounds, he is the logical, strong favourite.

However there are a great deal of unknowns involved in this market. The biggest pool of electors is the Five Star Movement – a sort of leftish, populist party – and they have advocated a female president. Marta Cartabia has been mentioned.

Plus, following a referendum last year, the total numbers of MPs is due to be cut from 630 to 400. So there will be some horse trading around that as parliamentarians keep their jobs.

Now add Berlusconi into the mix. The biggest figure in Italian politics this century, now aged 85, wants the role. Is this just an ego trip or does he have the connections and skills to manage this process from behind the scenes?

My strong instinct is the former, and my only bet on the market so far has been to lay him at 12.011/1. Surely he would be too divisive and unacceptable to the Left. The President needs to be a stable, steady hand to unite the country and oversee the reforms. That isn’t Berlusconi by anyone’s definition.

Draghi does perfectly fit the bill and this may be a shoe-in. However backing him at odds-on does require a leap of faith in this a secretive process.

Bet here on the Italian Presidency:


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.

Bet here:

Boris Johnson Exit Date (Year)

Boris Johnson Exit Date (3-monthly)

Boris Johnson Special (Conference)

Boris Johnson Special (Before end Jan 16th)


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.

Bet here:

Boris Johnson Exit Date (Year)

Boris Johnson Exit Date (3-monthly)

Boris Johnson Special (Conference)


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.