Markets confidently point to a Tory gain
Since writing this preview back at the start of the month, all the market signals from Betfair have been positive for the Conservatives. Their odds have fallen from a peak of 1.75/7 to 1.171/6 ahead of tomorrow’s by-election.
There was also a substantial gamble, from 400.0399/1 to 10.09/1, for George Galloway’s Workers Party, although they are weak in the betting now, trading around 50.049/1.
Galloway games hurt Labour
Nothing has materialised to question my initial prediction of a Tory gain. Galloway has predictably stirred things up, weaponising the Israel/Palestine and Kashmir conflicts against the Labour leadership. Anti-LGBT activists have targeted Labour’s Kim Leadbeater. The campaign has, frankly, been an awful spectacle.
Meanwhile the Tories surely cannot contain their glee. These intra-communal and even ideological battles divide Labour, or more pertinently the large segments of the constituency that are least likely to vote Conservative. Unlike many other Red Wall marginals, this is one where the Tories were always fairly strong, overperforming during their opposition years.
We’ve seen, for several years, a partisan divide akin to the USA become entrenched. Opinion among Brexit voters barely shifted and, whilst the Tories failed for a long time to convert them, Boris Johnson has done it. In December 2019, and on May 6th, especially in Hartlepool, they transferred en masse and I expect them to do so again.
The exception was Chesham and Amersham, where lifelong Tory voters revolted but there were specific local issues in play. Critically too, Labour weren’t the alternative. Voting Lib Dem was a risk-free protest, whether over house-building or HS2 or another desire to kick the government mid-term. I don’t believe such dynamics will be anything like as relevant in Batley and Spen, and see no reason to think the expected Tory vote won’t materialise.
Conservative Vote Share
Betfair have markets on the vote shares of the three main contenders, split into bands of 5%. The only poll we’ve seen had the Tories on 47%, six points up. I will be very surprised if they get less than 45% and the ceiling is probably around 55%. They won 36.7% of the 2019 vote, there is a further 15% of disappeared Brexiter parties vote to squeeze, and the absence of Tracy Brabin from the Labour ticket may add some more.
Of the two bands covering that range, 45-49.99% is preferred at 3.55/2 but I also recommend a saver on the higher, 50-54.99% band at 3.8514/5.
Labour and Workers Party Vote Shares
In contrast, I’ve got Labour’s absolute ceiling at 45% but the floor is much lower without Brabin, and with Galloway eating into their 42.7% share from 2019. I’d expect almost every vote the latter gets will be from that pool of 45%. He’s around even money to win between 5-9.99%, which seems right.
However that is a real doomsday scenario, More likely is they lose around a fifth, falling somewhere in the mid-thirties. If forced to pick, the higher 35.0-39.99% band is preferred. That is available at around 2.3811/8.
There’s also a market up for turnout, although very little liquidity yet. My prediction here is the 45-49.99% band, but this isn’t confident. I wouldn’t back that band at less than 5.04/1.
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