Feeds

Lucky Lib Dem punter could clear £800k on Clegg victory

Political betting has never looked more profitable

Security for virtualized datacentres

If the Lib Dems achieve the unexpected and romp home on May 6, it is not just the political pundits who are likely to be put out – but the bookies too, with one canny punter possibly clearing the best part of a million pounds.

There may even be occasion for The Reg to eat a small portion of humble pie, as our last words on this topic suggested that while the odds on the Lib Dems becoming the largest party in the next parliament were – from an investor point of view – impressive, the chances of this event actually happening were infinitesimal.

If opinion polls give us some insight into what the public say they are going to do at the ballot box, it is the betting books that tell us which way the smart money is flowing. There are times when the latter is as good a predictor of the outcome as anything else.

As the polls begin to show a genuine three-horse race – arguably for the first time since 1923 – the odds on the Lib Dems being the largest party in the next parliament have shifted too. For many years, the odds on this event have been around 200 to 1 or longer. A spokesman for Ladbrokes told us today: "I cannot remember when these odds last dipped below 200 to 1". Odds on their forming the next government have hovered at around 250 to 1.

Not any more. Betfair, which usually offers punters better odds than the traditional bookies, was today offering odds of 20 to 1 on the Lib Dems as largest party. Ladbrokes, rather more stingily, were offering 10 to 1, with odds of 20 to 1 on them forming the next government.

Since last Thursday, two further trends have been offering up fresh hope to Gordon Brown and despair to David Cameron. For as the odds on the Lib Dems have shortened, so the odds on their electoral rivals have been shifting too. For the Tories, the likelihood of them being the largest party have been steadily lengthening, while for Labour the odds of being largest party are now the shortest they have been since autumn 2008.

The reasons for this rapid turnaround are mixed. According to Ladbrokes, there have been a lot of small bets backing the Lib Dems, and a few very large ones. In one Essex shop, a lucky punter managed to place £1,000 at 200 to 1 on the Lib Dems being the largest party. The bet would have been double that, but the shop limit capped it. Another punter managed to place £500 at 250 to 1 on the Lib Dems forming the next government.

It is possible that larger bets have been placed online. That appears to be the case over at Betfair, where a sudden surge of £4,000 taken on the Lib Dems suggests that someone could just be in for a windfall of £800,000 if their forecast comes true.

But how likely is this? If party fortunes were directly reflected by their fate in the polls, a bet on the Lib Dems ought, right now, to be tracking odds of closer to 2 to 1 than the highly profitable 10 or 20 to 1 currently on offer.

The problem for the Lib Dems – and possibly for the UK constitution as a whole, if current polls turn out to be accurate – is that under our current electoral system, parties with wide cross-nation support are penalised, while those with localised support do better than they should. Up to 40 per cent, the Lib Dems need to score around 12 per cent better than Labour before they overtake them in seat numbers.

On recent figures, showing all three parties occupying a narrow electoral strip around the 30 per cent mark, it's quite possible for the party order in terms of votes cast to be Lib Dem, Tory, then Labour – with that order cruelly reversed when it comes to seats.

The smallest party in voting terms could yet end up the largest in parliament.

So no Lib Dem breakthrough this time round? Probably not – unless one further poll is taken into account. YouGov this week asked the question: "How would you vote on May 6 if you thought the Liberal Democrats had a significant chance of winning the election". A massive 49 per cent said they would vote for the Lib Dems.

Such an outcome would dwarf not only the landslide gained by Tony Blair in 1997, but also the last Liberal landslide under Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in 1906.

Likely? No. Worth a flutter? Definitely. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.