By-elections are notoriously unpredictable, as we’ve seen several times this year already. Polling firms rarely want to spend resources surveying them anymore, which leaves a vast space for parties and other interested actors to fill. Knowing whom to believe, or what information to receive in good faith, is a real challenge for bettors and market makers alike.
When a political party releases an internal poll, or ‘rumours emerge from HQ’, we should assume an ulterior motive. For example last week’s rumour that the Tories were in trouble in the extremely safe seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup. This was probably either (a) a warning against complacency to their voters or (b) expectations management for media consumption.
Now, two pieces of totally contradictory information have emerged ahead of next week’s by-election in North Shropshire. First, there was this internal Lib Dem poll, which seemed to confirm the strong betting signals and the general argument put forward in my earlier analysis of the seat.
A clear signal, then, for Labour supporters to lend their vote to the Lib Dems if they want to defeat the Tories and put Boris Johnson under excrutiating pressure. Surely, this is what the party hierachy wants. But then yesterday, this extremely odd message was briefed to the press.
If even remotely true, the betting signals are miles out. Labour are around 200/1 on Betfair and have been matched at 989/1.
I don’t believe it, especially in light of various reports of Lib Dem posters appearing all over rural areas of the seat. If indeed it is false, this begs the question why they would release it. Do they want to the Tories to win the seat? To keep Johnson in place, because they fear a replacement more?
It smacks of the 2019 general election, when attempts to co-ordinate Labour and Lib Dem tactical votes proved farcical. These latest events have even prompted a leader article in today’s Guardian, calling on a tactical alliance behind the Lib Dems.
All this just makes my job harder! This morning, I have priced up some side markets for betonline.ag, despite being wary that my numbers might prove way out. If anyone has genuine, accurate info, there’s probably an opportunity to take us to the cleaners.
Anyway, here are the lines. For Margin of Conservative Victory, the opening line is 7.5%. This is in keeping with our odds to win the contest – Tories are -225, Lib Dems +165.
For Labour Vote Share, you can bet under or over 11%. (So if those Labour insiders are correct, we expect to see an avalanche of money for Overs – watch the market).
For Reform UK Vote Share, I’ve opened the line at 7.5%. Higher than one might expect, but I would say this is their ideal opportunity, as fears of another lockdown take hold. They’re generally taking around a tenth of the Conservative vote and I expect an extra protest effect here.
Finally, a market on which party finishes third.
LIB DEMS +700
ANY OTHER +20000
As always, if you have any requests for extra markets on this or any political contest, contact me directly on Twitter @paulmotty and we will try to accommodate at BetOnline.