Has Jackie Ashley become a political betting convert?

Has Jackie Ashley become a political betting convert?

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    But what do we think of her tips on the deputy race?

Over the weekend a site regular brought to my attention Jackie Ashley’s column in the Guardian last Friday when she attempted to look at the Labour deputy race from the punters’ point of view.

We were told that Hilary Benn was the bookies favourite; John Cruddas had at one stage been at 150/1 but the price had tightened sharply while Harriet Harman was, in Jackie’s own words “worth a punt”.

    The idea that one half of the Guardian’s formidable female political partnership (the other being Polly Toynbee) should be happy to look at politics in this way might come as a shock to those who read Ashley’s column on the subject last year.

For in January 2006 she launched a fierce attack on the site and the whole idea of looking at politics by watching how punters who are prepared to back up their opinions with cash are viewing political outcomes.

Her piece had a heavy whiff of resentment that oiks who were not time-served lobby correspondents should have the temerity to write about politics at all.

Writing about me and two bookmakers she noted “..It is possible that you may not have heard of these gents. You can scan all the papers you like and you won’t find them writing earnest columns from the Westminster lobby. However doggedly you channel-hop, you won’t find them standing under umbrellas on Downing Street. For they don’t work for the Telegraph or the Observer, or the BBC or Sky. They work for Ladbrokes, William Hill and politicalbetting.com. But their influence is the latest ingredient in the perpetual, accelerating loop of commentary that politicians struggle to break.”

On the impact of this she was concerned that looking at how a contest was going by examining the betting markets could help or stall momentum of, say, leadership candidates and that this was not right. Read the piece for the full flavour.

Certainly, on the latter point, there was something about what she wrote and, indeed, we have observed here on the site strange betting movements which might be put down to attempts to put traction into or detract from someone’s campaign.

But what are we to make of her new approach – using betting odds to illustrate her story? I’m delighted and wasn’t there a book published a few weeks back that she ought to buy?

Mike Smithson

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