Will Boris Johnson be the last prime minister of a united kingdom? This is what the odds tell us

It's not just the campaign for Scottish independence that will gather pace after this Tory landslide. The price on a united Ireland during the next parliament is only 6/1

James Moore
Friday 13 December 2019 07:12 GMT
Nicola Sturgeon will call for independence referendum in 'matter of weeks'

Will Boris Johnson be the United Kingdom's last prime minister? There have already been predications that a break up of this country will be part of his unlovely legacy. Electorally, the loss of Scotland could be seen as quite favourable to a Conservative Party that has morphed into an English Nationalist Party. That said, I don’t imagine it would be a legacy someone with Johnson’s keen sense of history would want – and then there’s his monumental ego to consider.

Johnson's landslide victory would appear to give him the power to do what he wants; to became an "elected dictator", as my colleague Sean O’Grady described it.So he could, in theory, kick a second Scottish independence referendum into to touch for the full length of the next parliament.

Yet there are also political realities to deal with. One is that Scotland has made a starkly different choice to the one England has made, and the blood of the supporters of Scottish independence is up as a result. The polls have shifted: more and more people who backed remaining in the union last time are looking at Johnson and starting to change their minds. The campaign may be a slow burn, but it will be underway this morning and it will have momentum behind it.

So to the betting, which says that the odds are against it for now.

As far as Scotland is concerned, a referendum in the next parliament is a 5/1 shot, representing an implied probability of 16.7 per cent. That I think is a more than fair price. I might be inclined to have a small wager on it even though a payout might be a few years in coming.

The odds are longer as regards the other constituents of the union – but not much longer in Northern Ireland, which is the next most likely place to hold a referendum. To “Get Brexit Done” Johnson threw the Tory Party’s erstwhile allies in the Democratic Unionist Party under one of his Routemaster buses. There will once more be a border on the island of Ireland.

The prime minister's dismal Brexit deal could hurt the northern part of Ireland more than any other region of the now dis-United Kingdom. Its farmers are already spitting tacks, for obvious reasons. And it’s far from just the farmers. The Paddy Power price on a united Ireland during the next parliament is 6/1, only slightly less (14.3 per cent) than a second Scottish independence vote happening. Of course, that would mean the Republic getting stuck with the DUP’s Arlene Foster; I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to be wishing her on anyone.

Elsewhere we’re well into long shot territory. Despite Plaid Cymru’s rumblings, the prospect of an independence referendum in Wales is long, long shot at 66/1, and with good reason.

For fun, I also obtained a price on a London independence referendum: it's 250/1. Before you scoff at the very idea, London – a strongly Remain city – is rather out of step with the rest of the country. The capital might have had Johnson in as mayor twice but, since then, it’s rather fallen out of love with the former boss of City Hall. There is a nascent London independence movement, and even a party backing it.

Realistically, neither outcome is worth even a small interest over the next five years. But the next 10? Look back at the political situation a decade ago when compared to where we are now and the phrase “stranger things have happened” comes to mind. What about in 15 years?

That of course assumes London isn’t under water by then. I jest, of course – but given the way the climate crisis has been handled by this current crop of politicians, the odds on that could be uncomfortably high too.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in