Guest Slot: What were the long price winners?

Guest Slot: What were the long price winners?

Seat Winner Price
Belfast East ALL by 1,533 14/1
Hampstead and Kilburn LAB by 42 13/2
Edinburgh South LAB by 316 5/1
Montgomeryshire CON by 1184 5/1
Birmingham Edgbaston LAB by 1274 4/1
Edinburgh South LAB by 316 5/1
Eltham LAB by 1663 7/2
Luton South LAB by 5650 7/2
Chesterfield LAB by 549 10/3
Halifax LAB by 1472 3/1
Derby North LAB by 613 3/1
Westminster North LAB by 2126 3/1
Harrogate & Knaresborough CON by 1039 3/1
Wirral South LAB by 331 11/4
Ynys Mon LAB by 2461 5/2
Bolton West LAB by 92 5/2
Cambourne & Redruth CON by 66 5/2
Truro & Falmouth CON by 435 5/2

Stephen Brierley (Frequent Lurker) investigates

First of all, two confessions. One, I’m a Maths teacher. And two, despite lurking often here, I don’t gamble.

Of course, nothing attracts a gambler like a big win so I’ve been looking through the 2010 General Election results to see whether there any big wins were possible this time round. Specifically: were there any shocks in individual constituencies seismic enough to net any of us really handsome profits, had we spotted them?

Statistically, long shots ought to come in from time to time. The 2009 Grand National was won by the 100/1 shot Mon Mome, for instance. If every constituency had exactly one 499/1-priced candidate at the General Election, then assuming their odds implied their probability of winning was 0.2% (which I appreciate it doesn’t because bookies’ margins and market forces also help determine prices), there is a 73% chance that at least one of the 499/1-priced candidates would win somewhere in the country.

So where were the best bets in 2010?

Bolton West, a constituency I know well, proved to be a cliff-hanger. Few expected Labour to hold on in Ruth Kelly’s old seat. They managed to, by just 92 votes but it wasn’t a 499/1 shot: far from it. Labour were ‘only’ 5/2 with Ladbrokes to retain the seat.

According to Shadsy, our long-standing friend who sets the odds for Ladbrokes, the longest-odds winner in 2010 was Naomi Long who won Belfast East for the Alliance, famously unseating the DUP’s leader Peter Robinson in the process. Some prescient punters managed to back her at 100/1, although the official starting price was 14/1.

In second place was Glenda Jackson, who won Hampstead and Kilburn by just 42 votes – a 13/2 winner. (The 31.2% of votes achieved by Edward Fordham for the Lib Dems there was the highest vote-share by a candidate finishing third in this election at least).

But there weren’t any really long-odds winners this time round – not in the 499/1 category, at least. According to Shadsy, it wasn’t possible to back any seat winner in Great Britain at more than 10/1 with Ladbrokes at any stage (although the Lib Dems were available at 10/1 in Ashfield, Geoff Hoon’s old seat, initially and only fell 192 votes short in the end) – which is perhaps testimony as to how well Shadsy does his homework!

Going back, who were the longest-odds winners in previous elections? I would reckon John Leech in Manchester Withington would have scooped the prize in 2005 (although this is a guess as data from back then is rather thin – Ladbrokes only had about 75 markets for individual seats). 2001 wouldn’t have had many long-odds winners, given only 27 seats changed hands. 1997 would have been more of a bonanza given the number of seemingly safe Tory seats that fell: what were Christine Butler’s odds for Labour in Castle Point? or Eileen Gordon’s in Romford? or our own Nick Palmer overturning a majority of nearly 10,000…?

Of course, looking over past results won’t net us big money now. What about next time round? The next General Election is (probably) some way off, and the politics of a Coalition Government will throw up all sorts of complications – I guess it’s even possible there may be some seats where the Tories don’t stand to give the Lib Dems a clear run at Labour, or where the Lib Dems don’t stand to give the Tories a clear run. After all, there were similar such pacts in the 1950s in places like Bolton and Huddersfield… I suspect there will be some rich pickings somewhere. But as for where? Don’t ask me; I don’t gamble.

Stephen Brierley

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