In this remarkable era for political betting, the word ‘certainty’ should be used with extreme caution. Nevertheless, it is hard to construct an argument for how taking Betway’s 1/6 about Labour winning the Newport West By-election won’t yield a swift 16% profit.
Scheduled for April 4th, the by-election was called after the death of longstanding MP Paul Flynn. Labour start with a substantial majority of 5,658 over the Conservatives and won 52.3% of the vote at the 2017 general election.
Ruth Jones - Labour Candidate - 1/6 to win at Betway
Since going from government to opposition in 2010, Labour have proved predictably effective at defending safe, or relatively safe, seats. Of 22 defences, 21 were won with Copeland the sole exception at a particularly low point for the party.
Their combination of a mass membership and union links offer a big organisational advantage for getting the vote out - always a critical determinant of mid-term races with low turnout.
The Labour candidate appears perfect for such a defence. Ruth Jones is Newport born and bred, with a long career in the local NHS. She was President of the Welsh Trades Union Congress.
Obviously, taking such prohibitive odds will only appeal to a few but Ladbrokes are offering some more competitive options - on Labour’s vote share and who will finish third.
In the former, they make 40-50% marginal favourite over 50-60% at 5/4 and 7/4 respectively. I agree. It will be very hard for Labour to repeat their excellent 2017 result for several reasons.
The 2017 election produced an unexpected return to two-party politics. Both Conservative and Labour made historic advances in vote share, squeezing the smaller parties. The reasons for that, and likelihood of it persisting, are complex and debatable.
Both main parties are effectively a coalition of factions that sometimes vehemently disagree - as Brexit illustrates. Likewise, voters hold more diverse and niche views than ever and were previously split many ways. The era between 2010 and 2017 saw the rise and fall of both Lib Dems and UKIP, plus the sudden domination of Scotland by the SNP.
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I believe voters wised up after those experiences to the nature of the first-past-the-post electoral system. People voted tactically on an unprecedented scale - understanding that particular general election amounted to a binary choice.
By-elections have never been seen in those terms and have always been the perfect vehicle for a mid-term protest. It would be a miracle were Labour and Conservatives to achieve 92% again.
By the time this by-election takes place, the official Brexit date will have lapsed by six days now the EU have agreed to extend Article 50. Newport West voted 54-46 to leave in 2016 - around the median result across the country.
One must expect these voters are as alienated and despairing of the chaotic parliamentary process as anyone. The big parties are bound to suffer.
Neil Hamilton - UKIP Candidate - 150/1 to win at Betfair
As always, there is a wide array of options for that protest. Abolish the Welsh Assembly - 5/1 to finish third - should be able to attract voters across the spectrum. There are new Remainer and far-right parties - Renew and For Britain.
At even money UKIP - represented by former Tory Neil Hamilton - are rated the most significant threat to the big two. They collapsed from 15.2% to 2.5% between 2015 and 2017, in keeping with the nationwide trend that saw the Tories sweep the Brexiter vote.
National polls have recently indicated some improvement, if well short of their glory days. There is bound to be a backlash from Brexiters, frustrated by the delay, and UKIP are the obvious beneficiary. Challenging the Tories for second is a huge ask on paper but I can envisage a head of steam growing around this method of protest.
In the current climate, the Tories will struggle to motivate their voters for what would be an outside target even in good times. Everything about the history of this seat strongly suggests they’ll finish second but odd things happen on low turnouts. I’m having a small punt at 50/1 on the Conservatives to finish third with Ladbrokes.
So far as Labour are concerned, their fence-sitting on Brexit could similarly shed votes. They’ll probably lose some for the same anti-parliamentary establishment reasons and this is the perfect opportunity for Remainers to vote for ‘purer’ options - Lib Dems, Greens or Plaid Cymru.
I expect they will get somewhere in that 40-50% band and land the 5/4 bet at Ladbrokes, but am not dismissive of 4/1 about 30-40%. For an exact prediction, try 42%.
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