UK General Election Betting: How Will The Liberal Democrats Do?

UK General Election Betting: How Will The Liberal Democrats Do?

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If I could take back one recent prediction, it regards Jo Swinson and the Lib Dems. When this campaign started, I thought they would benefit from extra exposure, particularly for their Revoke stance on Brexit - divisive for sure, but clearer than Labour’s muddled offering. 20-25% seemed realistic.

As it transpires, the Lib Dem in the last three polls ranged from 11-15%. In London - prime Remainer territory - just 15%. Swinson has failed to cut through or gain advantage from her contrast with two deeply divisive male rivals for PM. With hindsight, the writing was on the wall once she was excluded from the first leaders' debate, and their odds continue to drift in the Political Betting.

Seat Totals Are Significantly Reduced

Naturally their projected seat totals have more than halved. Ladbrokes now offer 10/11 about either under or over 18.5, and odds of 4/5 about 10-19 on their banded total seats market.

Could this be an over-reaction and perhaps misreading of the true picture? The Lib Dem share may simply be falling because Remainers are wising up to Labour being a better tactical choice in their constituency. They are doing much better in the small number of constituency polls on seats they are targeting.

Local Strength Is Usually Their Key To Defying National Swing

This has always been the Lib Dem way. They haven’t the resources for a truly national campaign and always get squeezed for airtime during general elections. Yet they have always been adept at local level in their strong areas and pulling off upsets in by-elections.

Better, therefore, to focus on the specific races. Remember their starting position in each was achieved on a dismal 8% vote share. They are liable to rise even without any enhanced Brexit effect.

They start with 12 seats, four of which look vulnerable - North Norfolk, Totnes, Carshalton and Wallington, Westmoreland and Lonsdale. In the last three, they are represented by the longstanding MP with a local following. I reckon they’ll keep at least two.

Sheffield Hallam Is A Banker Gain From Labour

So our new total is 10 ahead of any gains. I’m giving them a maximum of 27, many of which are very optimistic. Of four targets against Labour, Sheffield Hallam looks a banker at odds of 1/3 with the best political betting sites, as it has ever since Labour’s Jared O’Mara imploded upon taking the seat in 2017.

The university seats of Cambridge and Leeds North West are plausible if not especially appealing bets at 2/1 with most betting sites. Bermondsey and Old Southwark (3/1 with Paddy Power) is probably beyond them.

Two Tory gains require no more than a rise in accordance with national swing. They start 45 votes behind in Richmond and 312 in St Ives. The latter is tougher as a Leave seat but Andrew George has a vast personal vote to call upon. I’m giving them both - taking our tally to 13.

Cheadle the best bet among their top targets

Next, four top-range targets - Cheltenham, Cheadle, St Albans and Winchester. None are certainties but all heavily pro-Remain and areas of Lib Dem strength. The best odds available about any of them is Evens with Unibet about Winchester. Of those Cheadle may offer best value at 5/6. This is an increasingly Remain area, with a sizeable Labour vote to squeeze, in pursuit of a 4% swing.

The next batch includes the neighbouring seat of Hazel Grove, plus Wells and Lewes. All seats that were Lib Dem until 2015 and where a two-runner race is guaranteed. I’d be slightly against them in all three but expect very close races.

At this stage of the calculation, 17 doesn’t feel overly optimistic. To beat the unders/overs line requires just two more, from 15 identified Tory targets. This is where the market may be liable to mistakes.

The Lib Dems are targeting seats that have never been in range, due to the geographic divide over Brexit. Their Revoke stance is ruinous in Cornwall, but plays much better with liberal, Remainer Tories, located especially around London and the Home Counties.


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Improved targeting brings Remainer targets into sight

Moreover, this small party has a more sophisticated data operation than ever before, built over years alongside the Peoples Vote and Best for Britain campaigns. They showed up well in numerous constituency polls for outlier targets, even before the usual strength of their local campaigning could come into play. I put that down to better targeting.

They start outsiders in the following seven seats but all are realistic targets. Cities of London and Westminster, Kensington, Esher and Walton, Finchley and Golders Green, Sutton and Cheam, Guildford and Wimbledon.

Best among them is Esher and Walton (7/4 with 888Sport). There seems to be a very strong local move to unseat Dominic Raab according to various reports and a weekend poll had the Lib Dems within 5%, with plenty of Labour voters left to squeeze.

Wimbledon is a 71% Remain constituency and was the subject of an early gamble for the Lib Dems. Chuka Umunna is rated likelier in Cities of London and Westminster than the 10/3 on offer with Paddy Power suggests. With all these London targets, however, the resilience of Labour’s vote is a problem.

Less likely targets, worth mentioning nevertheless, are Brecon and Radnor, Harrogate and Knaresborough, Cambs South, Cambs South-East, Romsey, Witney, Hitchen and Harpenden.

As with the previous batch, I’m loathe to predict any as Lib Dem gains because they clearly start outsider. However elections usually produce surprises of this nature, where a smaller party makes dramatic, yet quiet headway in a seat where nobody is looking.

It may well be that we see big Lib Dem advance in dozens of seats, but falling short. However it is worth betting that they break through in enough of these places to beat the seat total targets. I like 20-29 seats with Unibet at 2/1. They won’t fall far short and the upper end is a huge ask.

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