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Politics Live: Day of drama ahead as Johnson's premiership hangs by a thread

Get all the very latest on Betfair’s politics markets including Boris Johnson Exit Date and more with our rolling news blog produced by Paul Krishnamurty…

Get all the latest from Paul here…bookmark this page as it will be regularly updated


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“.

? The Labour Party (@UKLabour) January 19, 2022

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.

BREAKING: Almost a dozen ‘Red Wall’ MPs submit no confidence lettershttps://t.co/kNkdE97iRn pic.twitter.com/TQbscxvrSL

? The Telegraph (@Telegraph) January 19, 2022

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.

? Good Morning Britain (@GMB) January 19, 2022

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.

Bet here:

Boris Johnson Exit Date (Year)

Boris Johnson Exit Date (3-monthly)

Boris Johnson Special (Conference)

Boris Johnson Special (Before end Jan)

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.

EXCLUSIVE

Number 10 held two boozy parties the night before the Queen mourned Prince Philip alone.

Staff drank and at points danced until the early hours of the night of April 16.

Hours later, the Queen went to a socially-distanced funeral for Philip. https://t.co/sWrFcOrplE

— Tony Diver (@Tony_Diver) January 13, 2022

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).

More parties. More pressure?

Tonight’s revelations have seen you move our market:

Boris Johnson was 1.02 at 6pm to still be PM on Mon AM

He’s now 1.1. Will the drift continue?

— Betfair Exchange (@BetfairExchange) January 13, 2022

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.

— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) January 12, 2022

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.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries says the members of the public she has heard from have “nothing but support” for Boris Johnson, after he apologised for attending a party in Downing Street while the country was in lockdown in 2020.

Latest politics news: https://t.co/rPQcL9Jd2Y pic.twitter.com/AgRkhUFOTf

— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 13, 2022

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.

Regarding yesterday’s revelations, the Prime Minister…

Should resign: 66%

Should not resign: 24%

via @SavantaComRes, 11 Jan

— Britain Elects (@BritainElects) January 11, 2022

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.

Westminster voting intention:

LAB: 38% (+1)

CON: 28% (-5)

LDEM: 13% (+3)

GRN: 7% (+1)

REFUK: 4% (-1)

via @YouGov

— Britain Elects (@BritainElects) January 12, 2022

— Britain Elects (@BritainElects) January 13, 2022

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.

“Is [the PM] going to do the decent thing and resign?”

Labour leader Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson is a “pathetic spectacle of a man who ran out of road”

The PM says “I have apologised” for attending No 10 party, “I thought it was a work event”#PMQs https://t.co/cXM9HUgeXn pic.twitter.com/Z3x8cXNGIi

— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 12, 2022

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.

EXCL: Email obtained by @itvnews proves over 100 staff were invited to drinks party in No 10 garden at height of lockdown to “make the most of the lovely weather”.

We’re told PM and his wife attended, with staff invited to “bring your own booze!”https://t.co/rg34EIkdz2 pic.twitter.com/UORlSwwHJX

— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) January 10, 2022

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.

This was two days before the Cummings Barnard Castle thing broke. Think of all the people who have sat stonewalling through that story and every other lockdown busting story since, while knowing at the back of their minds that they themselves had brought their own bottle to this. https://t.co/yVdYz3OJxz

— Hugo Rifkind (@hugorifkind) January 10, 2022

The Downing Street party on May 20 2020 continued overnight and the following day, @BorisJohnson popped outside to sing “if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” https://t.co/4sV8fhDiXz

— Dr Phil Hammond (@drphilhammond) January 10, 2022

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.

— Sky News (@SkyNews) January 9, 2022

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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