Should We Bet on the Mandelson Dim Supper Forecasts?

This article first appeared at on 13th December 2022

Lord Peter Mandelson is one of the most Marmite figures in modern British politics. Either revered as a strategic genius and architect of the most successful Labour Party ever. Or despised as a machiavellion master of the dark arts. No matter. We should all be able to agree his analysis is worth a hearing.

Mandelson and some close friends have a Christmas dinner tradition, in which they debate and make political predictions for the year(s) ahead. It is known as the Peter Mandelson Dim Sum Supper and you can read about in detail from one of the attendees here, Independent journalist John Rentoul. Naturally, betting is available on all the main areas of topics.

What the future holds for politics – the Dim Sum forecast. My Sunday article @IndyVoices — John Rentoul (@JohnRentoul) December 10, 2022

Next UK General Election in October 2024

First, an obvious conclusion. At odds of [1.16], the betting estimates an 86% likelihood that the next election will be held in 2024 or later.

Given the incredible drama of 2022, in which the Conservative Party tore itself apart and held two leadership elections, that may seem high. But with the party trailing by double-digit margins in the polls, anything earlier would seem like a suicide mission.

One important implication involves the exact date, as it could affect when Rishi Sunak leaves office. The panel chose October 2024, rather than January 2025 (the last possible date).

In our Sunak Exit Date market, 2024 is slight favourite at 2.38, compared to 2.66 about 2025 or later.

Sunak to win a reduced Tory majority

Although the panel was split, this prediction is a real outlier. A Conservative Majority is rated merely 12% likely according to the latest odds of [8.6]. A few on the panel diverged completely and went for a Labour majority – currently trading just above even money at [2.06].

Here, I’m at complete odds with the entire panel and rate No Overall Majority a cracking bet (or trade) at [2.58]. I concur with the general thesis that Labour’s vote is not distributed efficiently. That they will pile up votes in cities, make only limited gains in Scotland, and struggle to make the vast gains in suburban or rural ‘Middle England’ that are required for a majority.

However, I’m very confident that enough gains will be made – also from the Lib Dems via an unofficial tactical alliance – to deny the Tories a majority and force a change of government.

Another market highly relevant to this is Prime Minister after Rishi Sunak. Keir Starmer is trading very short now at odds of [1.43] (70%). So if you agree with the panel and believe Sunak’s Tories will turn things around, lay those short odds and keep other dramatic outcomes onside – such as a change of leader beforehand in either party.

Badenoch and Rayner for next party leaders

That question of a sudden, unexpected change of party leaders was also addressed. As one would expect, multiple names were mentioned but the two headline selections from the dinner were Kemi Badenoch for the Tories and Angela Rayner for Labour.

Badenoch is currently second favourite, behind Boris Johnson, at [7.4] for Next Conservative Leader. Rayner is third-best for Labour at [9.6], behind Andy Burnham and Rachel Reeves.

As they were discussing an emergency replacement in the short-term, it is worth noting that Burnham’s status as favourite is very much based on the long-term. It is very hard to envisage him being parachuted into parliament before the next election. I agree this emergency route would represent Rayner’s best chance, but prefer several others over the longer term.

Regarding Badenoch, I’m not convinced. I don’t expect Sunak to be removed but if he were, then either a return for Johnson or a ‘safe pair of hands’ such as James Cleverly would be my pick. The latter is a [16.5] chance.

Trump to withdraw before the primaries

Compared to most commentary, this is another outlier but I am in total agreement. My 2024 book is heavily against Trump and I think weakening odds of [7.0] overestimate his chance. As argued repeatedly on these pages, I believe the former President is finished and will drown in legal catastrophe during 2023.

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