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Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Betting update #3 - Lib Dem gains and losses

The betting market for individual target constituencies is firming up, with more constituencies declaring one way or the other and fewer at evens. Where are the punters currently predicting gains or losses?

As reported
last Friday, this betting portal on the Political Betting website enables you to compare odds for each of the individual constituencies where a betting market has opened up. (If you do bet online, please go through the links on the Political Betting site – doing so earns a commission that helps pay for the running of that very useful site).

As we get closer to polling day, people with inside knowledge are starting to bet and this is affecting the odds. However, a word of caution. When an individual betting market first opens, liquidity is low and only one or two bets of, say, a tenner each can affect the odds. Some shrewd gamblers exploit this situation by first placing a small bet against their favourite to lengthen the odds of their favourite, then placing a second and larger bet on their favourite while they can get better odds. This technique may explain some of the fluctuations seen over the past week.

I should also repeat some other health warnings. First, this posting is a snapshot based on current odds (which in many cases are very narrow), and the betting market is by its nature in a state of flux. Things may have changed by the time you read this. Second, still relatively little money has been placed in most of these markets, so you should take the current odds with a large pinch of salt. Prices should, however, firm up the closer we get to polling day, when the odds are likely to become a more reliable guide than the opinion polls. Third, there isn't yet a betting market for all the marginal and target constituencies (still no market yet for Aberdeen South, Dunbartonshire East, Totnes or Wells), though new markets may open later in the campaign. Conversely, a market has opened in Simon Hughes's Southwark seat, which defies explanation.

Despite all these caveats, these betting markets are fascinating because the election will be won and lost in the marginal seats. The overall percentage figures in the national opinion polls have changed relatively little during the campaign and don't really tell us a great deal about how many seats will actually change hands, or which ones.

So, here's how the Liberal Democrats will fare according to the punters. Constituencies where there has been a change since last Friday in the predicted outcome are marked with an asterisk (*). Constituencies where a new betting market has opened since Friday are marked with a cross (+).

Vulnerable (and not so vulnerable) Lib Dem-held seats:

Brecon and Radnor - Lib Dem hold
Brent East - Lib Dem hold
Cheadle - Lib Dem hold
Colchester – Lib Dem hold
Eastleigh - Lib Dem hold
* Guildford - Lib Dem hold
Hereford - Lib Dem hold
* Leicester South - Labour gain from Lib Dem
Ludlow – Lib Dem hold
Mid Dorset and North Poole – Lib Dem hold
Newbury – Lib Dem hold
* North Norfolk - Lib Dem hold
Richmond Park - Lib Dem hold
Romsey – Lib Dem hold
Somerton and Frome – Lib Dem hold
+ Southwark North and Bermondsey - Lib Dem hold (no contest!)
+ Teignbridge - Lib Dem hold
Torridge and West Devon - Lib Dem hold
* Weston-super-Mare - Lib Dem hold
+ Yeovil - Lib Dem hold
Lib Dem target seats:

Birmingham Yardley - Lib Dem gain from Labour
* Bristol West - Labour hold
* Cambridge - Lib Dem gain from Labour
Cardiff Central - Lib Dem gain from Labour
* Colne Valley – neck and neck between Lib Dem and Labour
Eastbourne – Lib Dem gain from Tory
Edinburgh South – Labour hold
Falmouth and Cambourne – Labour hold (Lib Dems not quoted)
Folkestone and Hythe – Tory hold
Haltemprice and Howden - Tory hold
* Harborough - Lib Dem gain from Tory
Hornsey and Wood Green – Labour hold
Inverness, etc. - Lib Dem gain from Labour [on new boundaries]
Isle of Wight - Tory hold
+ Islington North - Labour hold
+ Islington South - Labour hold (Lib Dems not quoted!!!)
Maidenhead - Tory hold
New Forest East – Tory hold
North Dorset - Tory hold
* Oldham East and Saddleworth - Labour hold
Orpington - Lib Dem gain from Tory
* South West Surrey - Tory hold
Taunton - neck and neck between Lib Dems and Tories
* West Dorset - Tory hold
Westbury - neck and neck between Lib Dems and Tories
Westmoreland and Lonsdale - Tory hold
Wiltshire North – Tory hold
The odds have moved in the Lib Dems' favour in Guildford, North Norfolk, Weston-super-Mare, Cambridge, Colne Valley and Harborough. But the odds have moved against the Lib Dems in Leicester South, Bristol West, Oldham East, South-West Surrey and West Dorset. Bizarrely, the Lib Dems are not quoted in Islington South, which I assume is a clerical error.

The Lib Dems are predicted to lose no seats apart from Leicester South (a by-election gain). However, the number of predicted gains has also gone down, suggesting fewer seats will change hands.

So, what are the scores on the doors?

Overall, if this were the situation on polling day, and assuming there are no other constituencies in which the Lib Dems gain or lose seats, the party would be looking at losing none of the seats it won in 2001, gaining between three and five seats from the Tories, and gaining between five and six seats from Labour (counting the two by-election wins, Brent East and Leicester South, as potential gains rather than holds or losses).

On a baseline of 51 seats won in 2001 (adjusted down from the 52 seats actually won in 2001 because of the Scottish boundary changes, and ignoring the two subsequent by-election gains), the punters are predicting a net change in Lib Dem seats of between +8 and +11, which would give the party between 59 and 62 seats. This tallies with the current betting and spread betting prices on the total number of seats.

Before you start gambling, however, read this
detailed analysis by Anthony Wells (and the ensuing comments) regarding the opinion polls conducted in marginal seats. Remember, the marginal seats are where the parties are putting in most of their effort and money, so local swings are unlikely to replicate the national swing.

Update: The Liberal Democrats are now quoted in the Islington South market. The odds currently favour a Labour hold. Markets have now opened in Bournemouth East and Wells (both forecast as Tory holds).

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