Thursday, October 22, 2020

A good - if obvious - tip for the US presidential election

As I've mentioned before, I have a winning track record on political betting, albeit based on a very small number of bets over the years...

* A few months before the 2010 general election, I was bullied (all right, badgered) into a supposed mug's bet by a certain "international thriller writer" on Stormfront Lite.  He was convinced the Conservatives would win an overall majority, I begged to differ.  I won.  (He then sent me his latest novel in lieu of my winnings.)

* A couple of years before the 2014 indyref, I was bullied (all right, badgered) by another Stormfront Lite poster into another three "unwinnable" bets - a) that Yes would win, b) that Yes would not lose by more than a 15% margin, and c) that 16 and 17 year olds (or "children" as someone sneered) would have the right to vote.  I won two of the three, and made a net profit.

* At some point prior to the 2015 general election, I made a final private bet with a Stormfront Lite poster (Antifrank, no less), although there wasn't any bullying involved this time.  He thought Labour would gain more seats from the Scottish Lib Dems than the SNP would, and I took the opposite view.  I won.

* On the day of the 2016 EU referendum, although I still thought Remain were the most likely winners, I placed a bet on Leave because it seemed to me the odds were ludicrously out of kilter with opinion polls that were still very tight.  In retrospect people's reasons for being so certain of a Remain victory were extremely circular - one group of people was convinced because another group of people was convinced.  There were always dark murmerings about private polls, but the reality is those would have been showing much the same as the public polls.

* Six months later at the US presidential election, I toyed with a bet on Donald Trump on a similar basis to my Leave bet.  In the end I held off until well after the polls closed, but remarkably, even after it started to become clear that things were going Trump's way, Hillary Clinton remained the clear favourite and it was possible to get extremely good value odds on Trump.  I've noticed that when surprise election results occur, there often seems to be a 'lag' effect on the betting markets.  It's as if punters can't quite accept what they're seeing with their own eyes.  The same thing happened in the EU referendum, and also when Bernie Sanders won Michigan.  

* On the day of the run-off for the 2017 French presidential election, I spotted an opportunity for a value bet on Macron securing between 65% and 70% of the vote.  The provisional exit poll figures suggested he could go very close to 65%, yet the odds on that outcome remained very steep.  As soon as the official exit poll predicted he'd be slightly above 65%, I cashed out and took a partial profit straight away to be on the safe side (although obviously with hindsight I wish I hadn't).

* In this year's Polish presidential election, I placed a bet against Andrzej Duda, who was mysteriously the strong odds-on favourite in spite of being more or less level in the polls.  I lost, but I'm still convinced it made perfect sense as a value bet.

So, armed with that track record, let me point out something that should be blindingly obvious - there is overwhelming evidence that Joe Biden is heading for a convincing victory next month, and yet the odds on the betting exchanges imply that Trump still has a roughly 1 in 3 chance of winning.  It just doesn't add up.  I'm not saying that a bet on Biden is 'free money', there's still an element of risk, but for Trump to win something pretty improbable would have to happen - either there would have to be a systemic polling error of a magnitude much greater than was seen in 2016, or a random event would have to occur to totally change the trajectory of the campaign, and it would have to be a dramatic enough event to overcome the substantial lead Biden presumably already has as a result of early votes that cannot now be changed.

The bottom line - if you don't mind your money being tied up for a couple of weeks, a bet on Biden (or perhaps a lay bet against Trump for extra security) is just about the most clear-cut value bet you'll ever see.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

An SNP Plan B is essential for neutralising the Tories' leaked tactics for thwarting an indyref


I normally agree with Michael Gray about most things, but I can see a rather huge logical problem with his reaction to the Tory war gaming on how to thwart an independence referendum.  The leaked tactics are not really about changing minds on independence - they're about subverting the democratic process even while support for independence is high. So if the SNP and the wider Yes movement define 'success' as strong opinion poll support for independence, in the absence of concrete progress towards an indyref or towards independence itself, we'd be playing straight into Westminster's hands.

One suggestion is that Westminster will not give a definitive 'No' to a Section 30 order in the aftermath of an SNP majority victory next year, but will instead imply that it's merely a 'No' in the short-term - essentially a rehash of Theresa May's "now is not the time" wheeze.  If the SNP leadership remain boxed in by their insistence that the Section 30 process is the only valid route to a referendum, it's not hard to see how they could be successfully strung along for years without a great deal of effort.  A vague (false) sense that a concession might be around the corner would be enough.

There's also an indication that Westminster could put together its own unilateral package on 'further devolution' (a complete joke given that the existing devolution settlement is in the middle of being gutted by the Internal Market Bill), hold a Yes/No referendum on it, and thus bypass the independence question altogether.  That could potentially be quite an effective tactic unless the SNP stand ready to force a consultative indyref at around the same time.  How else would they react to Westminster's referendum?  Urge a boycott?  Ask people to vote for new powers that are better than nothing, but spend the campaign complaining that they don't go far enough?  Neither of those options would be particularly fruitful, and afterwards Westminster would just say that the new settlement within the UK is Scotland's "settled will".

Incidentally, even the merest possibility of another Vow-style promise of more devolution should be a warning to us of the importance of making abundantly clear to people that devolved powers are being taken away right now.  The BBC are failing in their duty to keep the public informed, and the recent Progress Scotland poll confirmed that there is still considerable ignorance out there.  So it really is up to us - we can't let Westminster get away with a false narrative that the history of devolution has been a one-way process of powers being steadily granted to Holyrood.

The only part of the war gaming that looks pretty naive and hopeless is the idea that the EU can somehow be "co-opted" into saying that there is no road back to membership for an independent Scotland.  Quite how Britain is supposed to have gained sufficient goodwill with the EU during Brexit negotiations is something of a mystery.

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Steve Baker calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England in response to four bishops criticising the Internal Market Bill in a letter to the Financial Times is quite possibly the funniest thing I've read all year.

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Your suggestions for poll questions, please

First of all, thank you to everyone who has donated to the crowdfunder so far.  I was particularly grateful to Paul Kavanagh for spontaneously helping to promote it, literally just a couple of days before he was taken ill.  It was great to see him in such good form in his telephone interview with The National the other day, and I know that all our thoughts and good wishes continue to be with him as he recovers.

After just over a week, £5208 has been raised of the £6000 target.  As always happens, the rate of donations has slowed as time has gone on, so there's no guarantee we'll make the target, but with a bit of luck it should now be possible to commission another opinion poll of some description.  I'm still mulling over the timing - it'll be at some point between now and mid-December.  But now is certainly not too early to be thinking about possible questions, so if you have any brilliant suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.

On a completely unrelated subject, someone raised concerns the other day about the supposedly unappealing range of candidates for President of Scotland we'd be faced with if we became independent and then abolished the monarchy.  So I'd also like to ask for your nominations for President, and then maybe I'll run a strictly unscientific internet poll about that.  I'm looking for serious nominations, mainly - I'll be interested to see if we can demonstrate that we can produce Presidents that are just as good as Ireland has managed of late.  (And remember that even if we retain the monarchy, we'd probably still need a Governor-General, which amounts to the same thing apart from the lack of democratic accountability.)

Even Jim Bergerac isn't safe from the Westminster power grab...