Could low turnout turn Henley into another Bromley?

Could low turnout turn Henley into another Bromley?

    Is my 20/1 bet on the Lib Dems good value?

henley-river-rh.JPGWith all the focus on David Davis not much attention is being given to Henley a week on Thursday where the Tories are hoping to hold Boris Johnson’s old seat by a reasonable margin.

The betting has reflected the general view that the Tories are a near certainty. The best you can get from a traditional bookie is 1/25. They are offering just 7/1 on the Lib Dems which is hardly value.

This lunchtime, however, I’ve laid the Tories at 0.05/1 on Betfair for £1000 giving me the equivalent of 20/1 on the Lib Dems. So I am risking £40 to win a grand. The cost-return ratio seems pretty good and reflects the impression that I am getting that Nick Clegg’s party might just be in with a shout. They are certainly going to be much closer in terms of vote shares then the Conservatives are going to find comfortable.

The message I’m getting is that the Lib Dem campaign, led by the party’s by-election guru and CEO, Lord Chris Rennard, feel that real progress is being made and that there’s talk of “another Bromley“.

Certainly the party is throwing everything at the campaign and over the weekend Nick Clegg was accompanied on by two former leaders – Paddy Ashdown and Ming Campbell.

The well-proven technique in contests of this kind is to find an apparent defect in the opposing candidate and then to go at it hell to leather. In Bromley it was the “Three jobs Bob” jibe at the Tory candidate that began to resonate. In Henley the Lib Dems think they have found a weakness in the Tory candidate and are exploiting it to the full.

Clegg’s candidate also has a chink in his armour – he comes from Plymouth and the efforts to make him sound local have proved to be quite controversial.

By-elections ain’t pretty and sometimes the campaigns are not for the squeamish but it’s vital for all sides to use everything that’s available if that might give them an advantage.

At the end of the day Henley will be about turnout. The bigger it is the better the chance of the Tories holding it by a comfortable margin. But it’s going to be hard getting people to turn out simply because it does look so much of a certainty.

I think my bet is a good one.

Mike Smithson

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