UK General Election: How Will The Conservatives Do?

UK General Election: How Will The Conservatives Do?

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There are numerous ways to get involved in political betting in an election, covering just about every angle of each party’s performance. But what is the best way to bet on a party you expect to go well?

Take the example of the front-runners in the polls. There’s little point backing the Conservatives to win the most seats now their best price is a mere 1/16 with political betting sites. There is still some question about them winning an Overall Majority, but even that is only 4/9 at best with Coral.

Tories Predicted To Win Working Majority

If you prefer to bet at odds-against, or merely something close to even money, then a more ambitious prediction of their total number of seats or vote share is required. For example some bookies are offering 5/6 about them getting 342 or more (326 is the required number to get that majority), along with a ‘bands’ option.

By my reckoning, the bookies have these lines spot on - my band prediction is 340-349 at 6.0 on the Betfair Exchange. However there is a much better way of backing a big Tory win than the 342 target, which is far from certain. In short, it involves backing them to win specific constituencies expected to feature among that big total.

Constituency betting (the bookies are offering odds on all 650) is the market where deep expertise on politics can really pay off. For the Tories to win 342 seats, they will require a net gain of 24 seats on the 2017 election. Given they are likely to lose a few to the Lib Dems and SNP, the target will require at least 35 gains off Labour.

Demographics Offer A Good clue

To identify where they might come, we need to look further than simply the 2017 numbers. National swing has decreased in relevance over the past decade or so. It differs markedly by region and the drivers of that swing are increasingly demographics, social trends or issues affecting a particular area.

The Tories are thriving among the over-60s, white voters, homeowners. The greater share of those groups within a constituency improves their chance. These cohorts were the backbone of the Brexit vote and are paramount in Tory targeting.

Any path to a Tory majority, let alone 342, involves taking Labour-held Brexit seats. In a few such targets - Dudley North, Newcastle Under-Lyme, Peniston and Stocksbridge - the odds are too prohibitive to recommend (I’d take 1.5 about any of them in a heartbeat).

Constituency Betting Preferred To Overall Targets

Higher odds can be found a little further down the list, about targets which 342 would be unimaginable without. Compared to 5/6 about them getting 342, taking 8/11 and 5-6 about this trio makes better sense. There is a strong chance the Tories do take these targets, but fall short of 342 due to failures elsewhere.

Regional form is an important clue. Whereas Labour are very strong in the North-West, the picture changes moving East. Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and Durham all voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and have been trending blue ever since, whether at local or national level.

A recent poll showed a 10% swing from Lab-Con in ‘Northern towns’, which appears to fit other polling trends.

A trio of odds-on banker gains

Wakefield (8/11 with Ladbrokes), Darlington (5/6 with Bet365) and Scunthorpe (8/11 with William Hill) all fit the bill perfectly. The swing required to flip these seats ranges from 2.5% to 4%. Easily within range on current trends, with enough of a cushion to factor in a mini-comeback or any incumbency boost for the sitting Labour MP.

All were surprise holds for Labour in 2017, as incumbents rode the wave of Corbyn’s national surge and fared better among ex-UKIP voters than expected. The presence of the Brexit Party in these races could be ruinous, as they offer an alternative for Labour Leavers who cannot bring themselves to break the habit of a lifetime by voting Tory.

If the Tories don’t win all three, there’s a good chance they don’t even win a majority. If they are to go beyond 340, expect a few big upsets from much further down their target list.

Could Labour's Indian voters desert them?

One issue that caught my eye is Labour's growing problem with Indian voters. A Yougov poll showed support falling markedly, albeit from high levels. It was also reported that the Indian government has launched a social media campaign against Labour in response to it criticising their Kashmir policy.

Two outside bets on seats with large Indian populations appeal. Ilford North was a Tory seat until 2015 and Labour will also lose votes from the Jewish segment of this population. As I understand Wes Streeting is a popular MP, but he could be vulnerable in a landslide scenario. 3/1 with Paddy Power is an interesting bet here on a Tory win in Ilford North.

The Tories are 6/1 with William Hill for Harrow West, presumably based on the numbers and the fact it voted for Remain 54-46. They start an impossible looking 26% down, but that deficit could shrivel anyway given how Labour are shedding votes to the Lib Dems in the capital. The Tory vote here is solid - 42% in 2015 and even 36% at worst in 2017 - before any swing among the Indian community.

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