Labour Need a ‘Miracle’ to Win General Election, But Bookies Aren’t Always the Best Judges

Blue and Red Question MarksWith some bookmakers switching to a volume of bets model for their political odds, rather than weight of money, their prices are generally a decent marker of market sentiment.

And of course we can always take a look at the Betfair Exchange, where we can see volumes of money that have been traded about a particular selection.

It’s a handy way for football and horse racing punters to get a feel for how a game or race is shaping up, and when considering political markets like the upcoming UK general election it is invaluable insight.

And the markets confirm what most polls and pundits are predicting: a heavy Conservative victory, with a majority to boot.

That’s been confirmed by Betfair’s spokeswoman Katie Baylis, who said that Labour need a ‘miracle’ to overturn sentiment with the public set to go to the polls on Thursday.

The Tories are at their shortest price for two years to secure a majority, with those 1/4 odds indicating an implied probability of some 80% likelihood.

In the meantime, no overall majority for either party has lengthened to 4/1, while a Labour majority is looking increasingly improbable at 50/1.

According to the polls, the bookies’ confidence is matched by the intentions of the voting public, with the Conservatives holding a 10% lead at the time of writing.

So there is a clear march of blue that will see Boris Johnson retain his lodgings at 10 Downing Street, however the history books dictate that perhaps the bookmakers aren’t always the best arbiters of how political votes are going to pan out….

Five Times the Bookies Got It Oh So Wrong

Ballot Box

The period of 2015-17 was a particularly poor time for the bookies in their ‘predictions’ of political betting around the world.

2015

The year 2015 was notable for two different reasons in UK politics: the vote for Labour’s new leader, and the subsequent general election. And the bookies got them both hopelessly wrong.

The first was that election, in which ‘no overall majority’ was the odds-on choice of the sportsbooks. In the end, the Tories won and by a huge margin too, giving punters who backed them a very handsome 12/1 winner.

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader during that doomed election, quit to trigger a leadership contest. Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper were the shortest priced favourites, with Jeremy Corbyn – who only just secured enough nominations to stand – a hapless 100/1 outsider.

We all know what happened there….

2016

Then 2016 came around: a huge political year with the EU referendum and the US presidential vote.

Again, the bookies were well off the pace. Remain was a 1/4 favourite, with Leave a 3/1 chance, and it was the latter that ultimately triumphed by the slimmest of margins.

Over in America, Donald Trump’s candidacy was considered to be nothing more than a freak show in the race to the White House, with odds of 9/2 in a two-horse race indicative of that. Indeed, Paddy Power had already paid out on his opponent, Hilary Clinton, by the time that Trump swept into power on a titanic night for world politics.

2017

Had the bookies learnt their lesson? Not a bit of it, as their 1/9 price on the Conservatives winning a majority in the 2017 election made to look as lame a duck as Theresa May’s prime ministerial career, with the Tories losing their majority.

Could lightning strike for a sixth time at the UK general election of 2019?