Saturday, June 29, 2013

When is a bet not a bet?

Just a very quick postscript to what I wrote on Thursday. Last year I entered into two private bets on the outcome of the independence referendum with a (characteristically delightful) PB Tory calling himself John O'Hersham (not his real name). The first was a £100 bet that Yes would win, and the second was a £50 bet that the No vote would not exceed a 12.5% lead over the Yes vote. Intriguingly, John's sole reaction to my seemingly permanent banning from PB was to anxiously check whether I still regarded those bets as valid - my firm impression is that as a southern Tory he's been lured by the prevailing London media narrative into the delusion that the bets represent free money for him. Frankly, although I wouldn't presume to call the outcome of the referendum itself this far out, my own judgement is that as far as the second bet is concerned the odds lie firmly in my favour.

I was perfectly happy to let him wallow in misplaced complacency for another year and a quarter, but what did trouble me slightly was that in his sunny optimism over the two aforementioned bets, he appeared to have overlooked a third bet we entered into at the same time, which as it happens I have just won - on whether 16 and 17 year olds would have the right to vote in the referendum (or whether "children would be voting", as one of his fellow travellers sneeringly put it). I asked him if he was now prepared to settle that bet. In all honesty I can't say I was entirely surprised that he tried to brazen his way out of it, but the approach he took in doing so was truly breathtaking-

"I am well aware of that without any need of a reminder from you. All our bets will be settled together when the referendum actually takes place."

This was my response -

"Oh really? Who decided that?

It appears that what you are in need of a reminder of is the meaning of the term 'good faith'. There was no agreement between us whatsoever that you had the right to defer settling a lost bet for FIFTEEN MONTHS at your own convenience.

I cannot legally force you to honour this bet, but I expect you to. If you haven't done so within a reasonable timescale (let's say a few weeks) I will be drawing the obvious conclusion about your good faith."

I have also now sent him the following email -

"Hello John,

Just in case you never become aware of this, I have responded to the extraordinary comment you left on my blog this morning.

I do not necessarily expect you to pay up today or tomorrow, but for the avoidance of doubt I do not consider a fifteen or sixteen month delay in settling the bet (or anything even remotely close to that) to be acceptable.

I'll look forward to hearing from you about your preferred method of payment.



They say there's honour amongst thieves. But is there honour amongst PB Tories? We'll find out.

* * *

Staying on the subject of votes at 16, this was the verdict of the Electoral Reform Society's Katie Ghose in the Guardian -

"Next year's referendum will be the first test of what happens when young people are given the opportunity to put citizenship education into practice while it is still fresh in their memory. We should not be surprised if this cohort goes on to show higher levels of civic engagement in the future. The danger is that their contemporaries around Britain, and indeed subsequent generations of Scottish young people, fail to match them."

In respect of the latter point, I can only assume Katie must be praying for a Yes vote, because I cannot see any credible chance that future generations of young people will be denied the vote in an independent Scotland, whereas the overwhelming likelihood is that they will continue to be denied the vote if we remain part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, it's very hard to understand why anyone who is serious about constitutional and electoral reform (paging the Liberal Democrats) would vote anything but Yes. With independence, you get : votes at 16, an entirely elected national parliament with members voted for by proportional representation, a written constitution, and a cast-iron commitment to membership of the European Union. With the UK, you get : no votes at 16, a semi-unelected national parliament with its elected members voted for by first-past-the-post, no written constitution, and a severe risk of an involuntary departure from the European Union.

* * *

UPDATE : Fair play to John O'Hersham - he's had a change of heart and has now said he is prepared to settle the bet.


  1. You couldnae make it up. I wouldn't let him get away with that if I were you, James.

  2. Cordon Blah : I'm doing my level best not to, but as noted above, a private bet isn't legally enforceable. All I can do is appeal to the man's honour.

  3. If he doesn't pay up on this bet, how can you trust him to pay up if you win one or both of the other two? At the moment he probably thinks he can just deduct this from his "winnings" next year. But if it goes the other way you won't get a penny out of him.

  4. Anon : Yes, that concern has crossed my mind. But let's give the man a chance. As I said, I'm prepared to wait a few weeks if needs be. But not fifteen months.

  5. Charge interest on the wiinings - at Wonga rates.

  6. Fair play to John O'Hersham - he's had a change of heart and has now said he is prepared to settle the bet.

  7. The power of exposure clearly works wonders James. ;)

    Sadly, something seems to be upsetting the PB tories even more than usual today.

    What could it be?

  8. There's a massive generation gap in Scotland as well that independence might start to address

  9. James I was disapointed you can no longer post on PB.

    The site certainly will miss your battles against the right leaning traditionalists.
    Best wishes for the yes vote in the referendum next year.

    If you win don`t forget your Northern English friends.

  10. Thanks very much, Yorkcity. Make sure to keep the flag flying for the left at PB!

  11. From reading an article on Wings Over Scotland, some High Street betting firms are not taking bets for a Yes vote that exceeds £250.