Why was Huhne favourite for so long last time?
In my book, The Political Punter I relate in some detail some of the betting market moves during the 2006 Lib Dem leadership contest.
It will be recalled that the big surprise was how the money was going on Chris Huhne, who was then relatively unknown and at the time had then been an MP for less than a year. For several weeks he was the odds-on favourite.
One clue comes from the night of the BBC1 Question Time debate between the leadership contenders. The above chart shows how punters on the Betfair market changed their view of the two front runners while and immediately after the Lib Dem Question Time debate was taking place. The numbers are the implied probability of success based on the betting prices.
What is starting is how the Huhne price eased out while the programme was being screened so that at the end he was level-pegging with Ming. Then the price tightened sharply in the minutes after the programme.
For a number of lucky punters this contest proved to be a bonanza. I got on Huhne at 200/1 and then 150/1 and was able to make a certain profit by laying large parts of the bet at evens and even tighter as we got nearer the the announcement of the result.
I don’t think that Huhne himself had any involvement but it could have been that a supporter with deep pockets might have been tempted to sustain the price. For there is one thing that the media loves in contests like this – that is labelling a candidate the “bookies’ favourite”.
Note: I am still in Seattle on business and will be returning to the UK tomorrow. Thanks to Paul Maggs for doing such a great job. I’ll be back to normal on Thursday.