Is there some “funny trading” taking place?
With ballot packs in the Lib Dem leadership race due to go out early next week it’s likely that a significant proportion of the 65,000 members entitled to vote will have made their decisions and popped their envelopes back in the post by next weekend.
So Thursday’s Huhne-Clegg debate in the special edition of Question Time came at a critical moment and might be highly influential – and the general view from Lib Dem blogs, the thread on this site, media commentators, and a range of party activists and head office officials that I have spoken with was that Huhne “won on points”.
In particular, what is being observed by many, the much-lauded “superior communication skills” that Nick Clegg is supposed to possess were not apparent in the broadcast.
I’ve been particularly influenced by two or three strong Ming-supporters from 2006 who have now switched to Huhne. I should add that the one strong Simon Hughes supporter I know from last year is now going for Clegg – surprising given that he is perceived as the more right wing of the two. Maybe she should ready Polly Toynbee.
This all brings us to the betting which is somewhat out of line with responses to Thursday night. Clegg has hardly moved from the 0.36/1 price on Betfair while Huhne is out at 2.8/1.
One of the characteristics of the prices on Betfair is that for a longish period there has been what is often termed a “collar and a cap” on the Clegg odds. There’s usually a pile of money in the region of 0.34/1 making it very difficult for the price to tighten beyond that – and there’s usually been a fair bit waiting to be laid at 0.37/1 or thereabouts making it hard for the betting to ease outwards.
Given what appeared to happen in the last race when the Huhne price seemed to be too tight for long periods you have to question whether something similar might be going on now.
Could a wealthy Clegg backer be trying to keep his man the odds-on favourite? An alternative view is that the Huhne campaign, very aware of what was being said in 2006, is keeping the Clegg price tight now with the intention of moving it out when the time is ripe.
With no opinion polls of Lib Dem members having taken place we have no real idea how this is going – thus the betting prices can take on the role of a key indicator.
Compared with my normal betting this has not been a big market for me – but I remain of the view that the final result will be much tighter than the current odds suggest.