Monday, 20 April 2015

Other parties and independents: the battlegrounds in April 2015

In the last few days, I have looked at the betting odds in each constituency from the perspective of Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems, the SNP and UKIP.  But they aren't the only ones fighting the general election and they aren't the only ones who have decent hopes of winning seats.  At present three more parties hold seats in Parliament (currently holding five seats between them) and a fourth is led by someone who did so until 2010.  All four of these parties will be contesting some seats at the next election where the bookies deem that they are in the mix, and a couple of independents have made their presence felt at the bookies.  What are their chances?

Here are the relevant tables of target seats for each of them.

Plaid Cymru:


National Health Action:

We have not yet exhausted the list of parties contesting the election.  Candidates for the Ubuntu Party, the War Veteran's Pro-Tradition Through Family Party, the Wessex Regionalists Party, the Cannabis Is Safer Than Alcohol Party or the World Peace Through Song Party (to name a few) have yet to set the constituency markets alight, and time is running out.

To recap, these tables are compiled on the basis that in aggregate the constituency odds are our best estimate of what's going on, while noting that there may be individual anomalies (otherwise known as betting opportunities).  The constituency odds factor those matters in to the best judgement of bookies and punters. By arranging constituencies by order of odds rather than majority, we can see how many seats gamblers expect the parties to take - or what the odds are that each party will take a given number of seats.

I last looked at the outsider parties in November, and my post can be found here:

There are still only 12 seats where the minor party or independent is rated at 10/1 or shorter: six Plaid Cymru seats and targets, three Green seats and targets, one Respect target (won at a by-election), one National Health Action target and one independent.  

We can look at these 12 seats in some detail.

The Greens

I'd backed a couple of longshots for the Greens, but all but one of these have failed to prosper.  

As I said yesterday, not all longshots can come off. 

The Greens now have three serious prospects: Brighton Pavilion, Bristol West and Norwich South.  Last time round, I observed that in Lord Ashcroft's first opinion poll in Brighton Pavilion, he had not prompted for the Greens.  He rectified this in his subsequent poll in December, resulting in a 1% Labour lead being converted into a 10% Green lead.  The 4/9 on the Greens here looks great value and is well worth topping up.  I'm not expecting Caroline Lucas to be defeated now.

We have had one poll in Norwich South without prompting for the Greens, which resulted in them being second but some way adrift.  I still wonder what difference prompting would make.  5/1 is probably a value loser bet.  I'm on this at 25/1 and don't feel the urge to top up, but it's not a stupid bet.

I've been sceptical about the Greens' chances in Bristol West from the outset.  At one stage you could have backed them at 100/1.  I wish that was one of the longshots that I was on, but it isn't.  They're now in to 4/1 and though there has been no polling in this seat, they're clearly in contention.  The three parties in contention are all progressive, which means that the two left of centre opponents of the Lib Dems are likely to knock each other out.  I'm on the Lib Dems in this seat at 8/13 and I still like this bet at evens.  I'm not topping up further though.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru, unlike any other parties in this list, are sure to retain at least one seat and in all probability at least two.  Their third seat, Arfon, looks like a cliffhanger, while the bookies assess them as having a decent chance of taking Ceredigion, an outside chance of taking Ynys Mon and a faint hope of taking Llanelli. 

This is the most recent Wales-only poll:

Plaid Cymru appear to be polling at least as well in Wales as they did in 2010, but even so there is a relative swing away from Plaid Cymru to Labour, its main rivals in most of its target seats, because Labour has improved more.  Incidentally, no one is talking about any possible UKIP gains in Wales, but they're polling as well in Wales as in the UK as a whole and I'd guess that their appeal in the areas where Plaid Cymru is strong is as weak as their appeal is in Scotland.  If I were looking for an under-the-radar success for UKIP, Wales is one of the areas I'd be looking at.

Plaid Cymru are only competing seriously in a handful of seats, so I don't regard even Wales-wide opinion polls as particularly informative.  We have to dig deeper.

The politics of Arfon and Ynys Mon are very much personality-driven.  I'm not particularly familiar with the personalities, so I'm not betting.  Plaid Cymru have suggested that the rise of UKIP has been helpful to them in Ynys Mon and Llanelli:

This seems quite plausible.  Certainly, the Labour response in that article is not exactly carefully reasoned.

Ceredigion is a fascinating seat.  Mark Williams has very much followed the Lib Dem tradition of building up a personal brand rather than rely on the party to secure him votes.  He has a large majority.  Will it be enough to survive a collapse in national Lib Dem support?  He has probably been helped by his main rival having got bogged down in a slanging match with the no-hoper Labour candidate. This has been very entertaining, but can only benefit the incumbent:

I'm still not betting on this seat, but the 4/7 on the Lib Dems is starting to look very tempting.

Llanelli, on the other hand, does look straightforward to me.  The 1/8 on Labour has to be value, even if UKIP might be drawing support from Labour.  On the other side of the fence, an independent is standing who has a proven record of drawing support away from Plaid Cymru:

I have put something on Labour in this seat.


Respect have only one short-priced chance: Bradford West.  Their three longer shots are also all brought to you by the letter B, but I'm not tempted by any of them (in two of them, Bethnal Green & Bow and Bradford East, they aren't even standing, which makes the odds on them look a little uninviting).
Last time around, I thought that Labour were value at 1/3 in Bradford West.  Out of spite to a gambler, they promptly imploded in an orgy of in-fighting.  Unsurprisingly, Respect are now favourites in this seat.
Out of the chaos, Labour have ended up with a candidate with a backstory that appears inspiring:
But this looks like the dirtiest constituency campaign in 2015:
It seems that the Respect machine is well-oiled, contrary to my previous impression.  Their favourite status is probably justified.

National Health Action

As I noted last time, this is a new party which was founded by Dr Richard Taylor, the former MP for Wyre Forest who had sat as an independent campaigning on health for two parliaments.  It is standing in 12 constituencies but the only seat in which it is considered to have more than an outside chance is Wyre Forest, where Dr Taylor is again standing.  He would need a 2.6% swing to retake the seat.  In 2001 and 2005, the Lib Dems stood aside for Dr Taylor, but there will be a full complement of parties this time around.  We have had one poll from Lord Ashcroft in this constituency, but unsatisfactorily he did not prompt for National Health Action, which must be an error given the history of this seat.
I had previously backed UKIP at 25/1 and NHA at 5/1, and have now closed out by backing the Conservatives for a near-guaranteed profit.  If I were starting from scratch I'd find the 6/1 on NHA very tempting.


As in every general election, there are independents standing up and down the country.  Most will vanish without trace.  But sometimes they challenge hard and sometimes they win.

In East Devon, Claire Wright is apparently putting together a decent show.  She's a local councillor who apparently has a good local support base.  Her national politics, so far as one can discern them from her website and manifesto, are green-tinged:

Notably, no Green is standing against her.

The $64,000 question is whether she has the organisation to back up a constituency-wide campaign and whether the Lib Dems' past strength here can be built upon by a different party.  I anticipate that the 1/6 on the Conservatives is good value.  But this is one bet I'll pass in the absence of more local knowledge.

No comments: