I was one of the lucky ones and managed to get £20 on the LDs at Ladbrokes Stoke Central market when the odds were 50/1. That’s now moved in sharply to 7/1 which I think is still reasonable value.
Labour must be favourite though this could be very challenging. The party is less effective on the ground since JC and his team arrived. The massive increase in members does not appear to have added to the party’s ability to fight elections. Some specifics on Stoke:
TURNOUT: At GE2015 fewer than half the electors in Stoke Central turned out to vote which was the lowest in the entire country. Based on this my reckoning is that the by-election turnout will be in the region of 28%-33% which means that the most effective campaigns can have real advantages. This will be about foot-soldiers on the ground..
BREXIT VOTE. Although Stoke went strongly for LEAVE we cannot assume that those voting in the by-election will split with the same proportions. The lower the by-election turnout, I’d suggest, the greater the proportion of REMAINERS voting in the by-election.
LOCATION Unlike Copeland Stoke is extremely well served by rail and road. It is just off the M6 and A50, only 84 minutes from Euston and 34 minutes from Manchester Piccadilly. This means that all parties will be able to flood activists into the area for the critical 4-5 weeks of the campaign.
Given UKIP’s second place last time Nuttall’s party should be in a position to do well eating into both the CON and LAB support bases. The question is how far the LAB vote will be cut down from the 39% at GE2015. My guess is that there’ll be a real fight between CON and UKIP to establish them as the best choice for leavers.
GE2005 and GE2010 saw the LDs in second place though, like elsewhere, they got smashed at GE2015 following the coalition years. If they scent victory they’ll flood the area and there’ll almost daily deliveries of different leaflets and campaign newspapers. This has the effect of diluting the impact of other campaign’s material.