Friday, 31 October 2014
Sunday, 26 October 2014
- Well educated singles living in purpose built flats
- City dwellers owning houses in older neighbourhoods
- Singles and sharers occupying converted Victorian houses
- Young professional families settling in better quality older terraces
- Diverse communities of well-educated singles living in smart, small flats
- Owners in smart purpose built flats in prestige locations, many newly built
- Students and other transient singles in multi-let houses
- Young renters in flats with a cosmopolitan mix"
Thursday, 23 October 2014
Tuesday, 14 October 2014
I've included only those parties listed at 10/1 or lower. Longer shots may come home, of course, but for now I'm focusing on what the markets think is well within the bounds of possibility.
The first thing to note is that there aren't actually that many seats without a strong favourite. In all bar these 75 seats, the betting markets are tolerably clear about what punters see is the likely result. And indeed, 33 of these 75 have a favourite at 4/7 or longer. True toss-ups are few and far between. You can see why critics of First Past The Post think that it means that very few voters' votes matter.
(You could, of course, take the opposite view, that punters are showing too much certainty about the outcome of the election. I tend to this view. In many seats, the impact of UKIP's disruptive rise and the Lib Dems' disruptive fall seems harder to predict than is assumed. There are betting opportunities there as a consequence.)
Where are gamblers least certain of the outcome? Some themes are obvious. Wherever the Lib Dems are in contention, uncertainty follows. 26 of the 57 Lib Dem held seats are on this list - on a pro rata basis, you'd expect to see seven. No one really has all that much of a clue how the Lib Dems are going to do.
Only 34 of the seats are seen as straight Conservative/Labour battles (all of them are Conservative held). Given how many more straight Conservative/Labour battles there are than Lib Dem held seats, this suggests that gamblers feel that they have much more of a handle on such seats.
Wherever UKIP appear, they sow confusion in punters' minds. 14 of the seats where they are listed at 10/1 or less appear on this list.
Unsurprisingly, where three or more parties are in the mix, the seats are less predictable. All eight of the seats with a favourite at evens or longer have three or more parties in serious contention.
What's missing? Only three Labour seats feature. The only seat from the north east is Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lib Dem held, of course). Only five London seats feature. 11 Scottish seats are on the list, but nine of these are Lib Dem held.
How to approach betting on such seats? Cautiously, and the further down the list you go, the more cautious you should be. There's a reason why there's no odds-on favourite in Argyll & Bute: it's as clear as mud. I'm by inclination lazy and I prefer simple betting propositions to complicated ones. This list has a disproportionate number of complicated betting propositions. I'm happy to leave those to others.
It's important to sort between the two different types of uncertainty. There's chaotic uncertainty (wild seats) and then there's the uncertainty you get when you're at the centre of the swing of the pendulum. The Conservative/Labour battlegrounds are the latter, while the three and four way marginal are the former. Different strategies work for each.
In the wild seats, there can be money to be made if you think there's an anomaly that hasn't been properly corrected. With Mike Hancock stepping down in chaotic circumstances in Portsmouth South, it seems unlikely to me that there will be an orderly grooming of a Lib Dem successor candidate to inherit the substantial personal vote that he presumably built up over 30 years' involvement with the seat. The Lib Dems now have a new candidate in place, Gerard Vernon-Jackson, who was mayor of Portsmouth for 10 years and who has been personally close to Mike Hancock - he has made some eyebrow-raising remarks in support of Mike Hancock which will no doubt feature on other parties' electoral literature if he looks to be in contention next year. With the Lib Dems having slumped in the polls nationally, 8/11 seems considerably too short on the Lib Dems without either an incumbent or a succession plan. I'm unclear whether the Conservatives or UKIP will benefit most (my hunch is the Conservatives), but I don't need to choose: by backing both, I can get a better than evens shot that the Lib Dems will lose.
Conversely, UKIP's impact in some seats seems to have resulted in the odds on some favourites having lengthened too far. The Conservatives look a decent bet at 4/6 in both Camborne & Redruth and St Austell & Newquay. UKIP will be concentrating their resources on their best bets in the south east of England and to take a seat will need them to work their ground game especially well, making them longer shots than recent constituency polls might suggest. (As a general point, kippers seem to be enthusiastic gamblers, and since there are relatively few seats where they are in contention, the odds on UKIP often seem shorter than would be justified objectively.) I've made these bets, but I don't feel half as confident about them as I do about some others.
I've banged on about this on several occasions, but the Scottish Lib Dems in general are way too short priced. At their present levels of polling, they will not retain anything like 11 seats. That they are no worse than 4/1 in any of their Scottish seats (and worse than 6/4 in only two) is absurd. At present polling levels in Scotland, they would be delighted to retain half this number. I'm already on their opponents in many of these seats. The longer they go on without a polling revival, the better these bets look.
In those seats with no clear favourite because the pendulum has stopped there, we need to assess whether they have been rated correctly in their relative order. Ealing Central & Acton stands out as a good bet on Labour at 10/11: there's a large Lib Dem vote to squeeze and the excellent local results for Labour in London this year suggest that Labour will outperform here. The 4/6 on the Conservatives in Bristol North West looks very kind, given that second favourites Labour would need to take the seat from third - something that has happened five times in total in mainland Britain in the last three general elections.
But the most valuable aspect of this table is to remind me to be careful. When others aren't confident that they know what's going on, I should not assume that I have any special insight.
Friday, 10 October 2014
That said, the Heywood & Middleton by-election result does suggest a rethink may be necessary. UKIP will need to think about how to harness the anger that they have undoubtedly found in such constituencies.
Decoding the constituency polls
Heywood & Middleton was a very different story. UKIP did far better than either pollster had envisaged and the Conservatives did worse. In fairness, Survation stress in their poll that it's a nowcast not a forecast, and I expect Lord Ashcroft would say the same. Given that Nigel Farage reportedly stayed away from the constituency on the day because he thought that UKIP had no chance of taking the seat, it seems likely that there was a late swing to them that not even UKIP were expecting. Again, Labour's poll share was significantly overestimated. Perhaps it shows the difficulty of constituency polling and the dangers of relying on it too closely.
Of course any opinion poll is just a snapshot of the current position. Even where UKIP are in the lead, they may be overtaken by another party successfully securing tactical votes to keep them out. Or UKIP may, as in Heywood & Middleton, surge.
With all these notes of caution, these polls are still an invaluable resource. And I am drawn to two bets on UKIP off the back of them. If UKIP are 20 points ahead in Boston & Skegness, even with a pollster that discloses the most hopeful results for them, 10/11 on them is a very solid bet (I note that the odds have now shortened to 4/5, but it remains a good bet).
One more note of caution in this particular constituency: the sample in the poll looks odd - on the face of it, barely a quarter of those polled voted for one of the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems or UKIP in 2010. But there's a lot of leeway for peculiarities in a 20 point lead. I'm aware that isam of political betting likes this bet for the same reason, and he drew it to my attention, so I need to give full credit to him.
And 13/8 on UKIP in Thurrock looks like a good bet, given that Lord Ashcroft found that they were in the lead at present. That may or may not be correct now, and they may or may not be overtaken. But 13/8 on what on our best information seems like a front runner will do me.
What's happening on the ground?
Again, this is very hard to know from the outside. The kippers seem chipper, and on those political blogs where they hang out, startling predictions are made of hoped-for gains that seem hard to credit. But then, a 20 point lead for UKIP in Boston & Skegness is also startling.
Friday, 3 October 2014
In terms of vote share, it seems clear that Labour will be down on 2010 and the SNP will be substantially up. There have been two Westminster polls since the referendum result and both show a large Labour to SNP swing.
In 2010, Labour tallied 42% of the vote, the SNP 19.9%, the Lib Dems 18.9% and the Conservatives 16.7%. On the day after the referendum, Survation found Labour at 39%, the SNP at 35%, the Conservatives at 18% and the Lib Dems at 3%. Today, Panelbase found the SNP at 34%, Labour at 32%, the Conservatives at 18% and the Lib Dems at 5% (behind UKIP). The Survation poll represents a 9% swing to the SNP and the Panelbase poll represents a 12% swing to the SNP.
It remains to be seen whether this is a sympathy surge that will subside with time or a lasting level of support for the SNP. There have been nine opinion polls in Scotland canvassing the question of voting preference at a Westminster election in 2014, and the SNP have dropped below 30% with only two polls, both conducted by Opinium in September, so this seems to be a question of house approach rather than reflecting a sudden surge of support. Indeed, the Survation survey shows the SNP at a lower level of support than earlier in the year, when it twice registered 40%. So my starting presumption is that this level of support is pretty solid.