The latest Independence Referendum polls have been fairly steady. In terms of the betting markets, not much has changed either, but I think we are definitely seeing an increase in money for YES. A customer in one of our shops in Edinburgh had £2,500 at 9/2 today and we’ve seen plenty of smaller bets over the weekend as well. NO backers have been harder to find recently.

Is this the Commonwealth Games effect? I think it might well be. We haven’t had any polls with fieldwork since the games started yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a modest uptick in the YES numbers in forthcoming surveys.

Normally, I don’t think you’d expect the effect of such an event to be very big, or long lived. On the other hand, if it were followed by a debate win for Salmond v Darling on August 5th, perhaps we could start to see some real movement. It would certainly be interesting if one of the pollsters produced a lead for independence – I could imagine there being a huge betting move towards YES. After all, as John Curtice reports, 56% of YES supporters already believe they are going to win, even though current polling wouldn’t give them much cause for that optimism.

Although a NO vote would be more profitable outcome for Ladbrokes at the moment, we’re hoping that the polls get a bit closer, as that is bound to stimulate turnover. This has already been a huge betting heat, and could break all sorts of records if the result is in doubt going into the final weeks. Personally, I’ve had a little bit of money on YES today, as I think there is a lot of scope for the odds to shorten in the next week or two.

We’ve identified 17 seats in the South East of England with a significant risk (above 25% by our definition) of switching at the 2015 general election. These estimates are based on Ladbrokes’ latest odds on every constituency which you can find here. The “lose chance” is our current estimate of the probability of the incumbent party being unseated. (TCTC = too close to call)

SeatWinner 2010Maj% 2010PredictionLose chance
HoveConservative3.8LAB GAIN75.69%
Hastings & RyeConservative4LAB GAIN72.23%
Brighton KemptownConservative3.1LAB GAIN69.92%
Thanet SouthConservative16.6UKIP GAIN67.15%
Brighton PavilionGreen2.4TCTC52.64%
EastbourneLib-Dem6.6TCTC52.21%
Portsmouth NorthConservative16.5CON LOSS50.44%
Portsmouth SouthLib-Dem12.6LD HOLD47.99%
EastleighLib-Dem7.2LD HOLD44.11%
DoverConservative10.5CON HOLD41.96%
Milton Keynes SouthConservative9.4CON HOLD35.50%
Southampton ItchenLabour0.4LAB HOLD31.98%
Oxford West & AbingdonConservative0.3CON HOLD27.02%
CrawleyConservative12.5CON HOLD26.71%
Folkestone & HytheConservative19.2CON HOLD26.69%
Reading WestConservative12.6CON HOLD26.37%
LewesLib-Dem15.3LD HOLD24.82%

So, several very close and hard to predict seats here. Brighton and Hove will be a crucial battleground for Labour and we now forecast them to take Hove and Brighton Kemptown, with Brighton Pavilion being on a knife edge; currently we have Labour and the Greens as 10/11 joint favourites. This was the biggest betting contest of the 2010 election, and it’s sure to be near the top again in 2015.

Hastings & Rye is the only other seat we forecast as a Labour gain. They are quite close to being favourites in Portsmouth North, but although there is over a 50% chance the Tories will lose this, they are still just about the most likely winning party; UKIP could confound the situation here.

The Liberal Democrats most vulnerable seat is Eastbourne, where they are joint 10/11 favourites with the Tories. Eastleigh and Portsmouth South are still just about in their hold column. Norman Baker looks a bit more secure in Lewes. Maidstone & The Weald doesn’t quite make it on to our list, but we’ve taken quite a bit of money on the Lib Dems to gain this from the Tories. Local election results have been very good and this seat has the potential to be one of the biggest surprises in the country. Oxford West & Abingdon is another plausible Lib Dem gain.

UKIP are now favourites to win Thanet South, but this could be a very tight three way marginal. If Farage chooses to stand here, they could get shorter still. The betting also gives them a very good chance in at least five other seats in the region:

UKIP’s top targets in the South East

  • 6/4 Thanet South
  • 3/1 Folkestone
  • 4/1 Portsmouth South
  • 4/1 Thanet North
  • 5/1 Basingstoke
  • 6/1 Dover

 

Prof Stephen Fisher has produced his latest weekly estimates of the next general election outcome.

Let’s compare those with the probabilities implied by Ladbrokes’ latest general election betting odds.

Most Seats

Overall Majority

 

Pretty close really, which I find re-assuring. When Fisher produced his initial estimates a few months back, they were a long way out from the betting markets and implied a much higher probability of a Tory seat lead and majority. I assume that the fact that the Tories have not really improved their poll standings in the intervening period has caused most of this convergence. The Fisher model assumes it is most likely that the Conservative vote share will improve as we approach an election, as do the betting markets (but not by as much).

Still, if you wanted to have a bet based on the political science, there is a little bit of value.

  • No overall majority at 11/10 with Ladbrokes; the model suggests that should be fractionally shorter.
  • 3/1 for a Tory majority would also make sense. FisherBet would have that at more like 11/4.
  • Conservative most seats is 11/10 with Ladbrokes but around 10/11 with Fisher.

Based on Ladbrokes’ odds in each individual constituency, we’re projecting that five seats in Scotland will change hands at the next general election. Amazingly, not a single seat switched in 2010 (ignoring a couple of seats regained after by-elections). Here are the constituencies most at risk this time. The “lose chance” is the probability, based on our odds, of the incumbent party being defeated :

SeatWinner 2010Maj % Prediction Lose Chance
Argyll & Bute LD7.6 SNP GAIN 77.64%
Gordon LD13.8 SNP GAIN 64.42%
Dunbartonshire East LD4.5 LAB GAIN 63.18%
Edinburgh West LD8.2 LAB GAIN 60.58%
Inverness LD18.6 LD LOSS 56.85%
Aberdeenshire W & K LD8.2 LD HOLD 48.78%
Berwickshire, Rox & Sel LD11.6 LD HOLD 46.04%
Caithness, Suth & ER LD16.8 LD HOLD 36.62%
Ochil & Perthshire South LAB10.3 LAB HOLD 36.07%
Falkirk LAB15.4 LAB HOLD 35.51%
Dumfriesshire, C & T CONS9.1 CON HOLD 35.10%
Fife North East LD22.6 LD HOLD 33.19%
Dundee East SNP4.5 SNP HOLD 27.03%
Ross, Skye and Lochaber LD37.5 LD HOLD 12.61%
Orkney and Shetland LD51.3 LD HOLD 6.44%

Danny Alexander is given a 57% chance of losing his Inverness seat, but we aren’t forecasting a gain for any party, because the SNP and Labour are both in with a reasonable chance of winning it.  So, that still remains in the LD column in our overall totals below as he is still just about favourite, although odds-against.

We have the SNP as gaining two seats from the Liberal Democrats, but both are very hard to call, especially Argyll & Bute where they actually came fourth last time. This is probably the most difficult seat in Britain to forecast, with all four parties in with a shout. Their best chance of any gains from Labour come in Ochil & Perthshire South and Falkirk – you can back them at 7/4 in each of those two seats.

The Tories are forecast to remain with just one Scottish MP, although they have a couple of very plausible targets in Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk at 11/10, and Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine at 6/4.

Here are the projected new seat totals for Scotland, (with changes from 2010):

  • Lab 43 (+2)
  • SNP 8 (+2)
  • LD 7  (-4)
  • Cons 1 (nc)

Clearly, the big unknown is how the result of the Independence Referendum will affect voter behavior. If there is a YES vote, then these MPs will presumably be out of a job within two years of the election.

 

William Hague’s impending departure from the Commons has opened up a vacancy in one of the Tories’ safest constituencies in the country. So, we’ve opened up a market on who will be their candidate for the next general election.

The Daily Mail have speculated that Selina Scott could be in the frame. If Boris is to return to Westminster in 2015, he won’t find a safer seat, although being an MP for the Yorkshire Dales and Mayor of London simultaneously is going to be a hard sell. Wendy Morton and Robin Scott appear to be the most plausible candidates from the local party machine. If anyone has any other suggestions for likely candidates, feel free to post them here.

Constituency profile courtesy of UK Polling Report.

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