Could Dave seal the first Tory working majority since 1987?
One market sadly missing at the moment that on which punters can predict how many seats a party will win at the next election. Before 2010, odds could be had both on the exchanges and with bookies, and punters could also buy and sell seats on the now defunct Spreadfair.
Thatâ€™s a shame because thereâ€™s a great deal of uncertainty about what might happen in 2015 – or perhaps earlier – and where there is uncertainty there is opportunity.
There is considerable doubt about whether at least two of the current three main party leaders will last the course of this parliament, there is doubt about the future course of the domestic and international economy, there is doubt about the parliamentary boundaries for the next election and even of how many seats there will be. That should lead to a wide range of possible outcomes and hence, longish odds if the seat ranges offered are not too broad.
The value, as always, is in backing the bets where the odds offered exceed the true likelihood. Thatâ€™s why odds of 16/1 or more for a 100+ Tory majority should be attractive. That outcome sounds unlikely – and indeed it is – but itâ€™s probably rather less unlikely than it appears at first glance.
For one thing, the Conservatives are not all that far off it now anyway. If the boundary review goes through as currently proposed, or something like it, then the Tories will only need about fifty gains to rack up a three-figure majority.
Thatâ€™s only about half the number of gains made at the 2010 election. Of course, each successive gain gets harder but there were several â€˜should havesâ€™ that were missed last time round (though thatâ€™s true of all parties), and the boundary review should lessen the effect of incumbency, helping whoever is ahead in the polls.
For another, parties often make gains the first time they go to the country after taking office. It happened in 1955 (and again in 1959) for the Conservatives, in 1966 for Labour who repeated the trick in the second 1974 election (though seven months was hardly a true parliament), and in 1983. Blair didn’t quite lead Labour to an even bigger win in 2001 but Labour still won a landslide. More recently, the SNP have done it in Scotland.
Obviously, each case is different and this time the fact that two parties are in government makes it especially so, but an underlying factor for all of these is that five years is long enough to establish competence (or not), but not long enough for an electorate to get bored of a government or – perhaps – for an opposition to refresh itself.
Thereâ€™d also need to be a substantial improvement in the Toriesâ€™ polling to get anywhere near a landslide. At the moment, the polls would have Labour with most seats. At the moment, however, is mid-term and the election is not for more than three years. How they move between now and then will depend on both delivery in office and the relative ratings of the two front benches and in particular the two leaders, something many may not really focus on until far nearer the day.
Another big question hangs over the Lib Dems. If the Tories could take back many of the seats they lost to the yellow team in and since 1997, that could add several dozen to a majority in a good year. The national polls suggest thatâ€™s quite possible on a UNS, though shifting entrenched Lib Dems on the ground is often a more difficult job. Even so, retaining Labour tactical support will be a tough ask for Clegg or his successor.
None of this is to say that a Tory landslide is likely. Itâ€™s not – which is why Iâ€™d be looking for at least 16/1. The fact that it will be close to thirty years by 2015 since the Conservatives last won a majority that lasted a full parliament tells its own story. But then it was more than thirty years since Labour had done it going into 1997. At the least, a market to bet on would be nice.