Guest slot by HenryG Manson
Brown’s first year has been a real rollercoaster ride and most of us in the Labour Party are feeling rather unsettled and at times wanting to get off. To read the views Westminster commentators you’d be hard pressed to find anyone you thinks Brown can successfully tie his shoe-laces at the moment, never mind lead a dramatic poll recovery. The named leader polling offers grim reading. At the moment David Cameron is winning on pretty much every question from who can you trust on the economy, who has the best policies on crime to who has the best hair parting.
However looking at the betting markets, what is surprising is that Labour are only as short as 5/2 to win the next election. The bookmakers may have factored something to the price for the prospect of a more ‘popular’ replacement (whoever that may be) but most seasoned activists expect Brown to be leading the party into the next election.
The extraordinary fact is that bookies think that if there is a 2 in 7 chance that Labour will win more seats than the Tories at the next election.. Not one in a million but 2 in 7. That’s slightly less likely than Nadal winning Wimbledon this year but twice as likely as Brazil winning the next World Cup.
There are two obvious punting responses to this. The first is that perhaps the Tories should be much shorter than their 2/5. Quite possible, but if punters were beating down the door to get that price it would be shortened very quickly. The alternative is that with two years to go we’d actually be pretty foolish to entirely disregard any prospect of a comeback for Brown and/or some disaster for the Conservatives.
Rather than make the case for backing Labour at 5/2, which I personally think is not great value this side of a by-election, there is a value alternative for punters. William Hills have a market on when will Brown cease to be Prime Minister. A standout price of 50/1 is available for 2013. Working on the assumption that 2010 is by far the most likely election date and noises suggesting that Brown will not seek to serve a full time, 2013 seems an opportune time for him to cash in his chips. 2012 also appeals at the same price for the same reason.
The Telegraph picked up on these noises the other week. My first reaction was ‘you’ll be lucky sunshine’, but it’s as good as indicator as any of what will happen if Labour remains in power.
I can’t yet anticipate many circumstances in which Brown can win. What I do know is that surprises are always around the corner. David Davis left the political establishment flat-footed by deciding to stand against himself in a by-election. In the last few weeks in sport the Turkish football team and Andy Murray have both shown that remarkable comebacks do occasionally happen, often with no indication that they’re conceivable. Gordon Brown as Prime Minister until 2012 or 2013? That’s got to be worth a tenner’s insurance for anyone gambling on the next election.