Saturday, 18 April 2015

The SNP battleground in April 2015

So far I've looked in turn at Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.   And now it's time for my look at the constituency betting markets as they currently stand from the SNP's perspective.  But as in October, my original plans have had to be slightly modified.  I had planned yesterday to show all the parties as they stood as at 13 April 2015, to have a nice neat record of fully interlocking constituency odds tables.  But the prices in Scotland have changed so much in the last two days (thanks, Lord Ashcroft) that to base a post on the prices then in place would be pointless and misleading.  So I've had to wait for the prices to settle a little then update the table to take account of these, and this has been reworked several times today.  Still, I can for the first time confirm the truth of Camus' observation that Sisyphus was happy.  The prices used in this post are correct as of today's date.

Anyway, here is the table of all the Scottish seats, ranked in descending order of implied probability of the SNP taking them, as determined by the best odds available at the bookies:

To recap for first timers, this table is 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.

These prices are still in a state of ferment.  It is quite likely that the best prices in many of these seats will be dramatically out of date in a few hours (the bookies have had their prices pushed all over the place in the last two days).  But I had to draw the line somewhere.

It is worth comparing with the position on 13 April so that you can see just how quickly things have changed:

What has caused this turmoil?  This:

Out of the blue, Lord Ashcroft released another batch of Scottish constituency polling.  It showed the SNP doing extremely well everywhere (other than the very special case of Berwickshire Roxburgh & Selkirk) and apparently even better than it had been doing in January and February when Lord Ashcroft last looked at the Scottish constituencies.

As a result, the bookies appear to have concluded that it is game over.  The SNP are now 5/6 (the bookies' evens) or better in 50 seats, favourites in a further four seats and joint favourites in a further two seats.  The SNP are priced at 1/2 or shorter in 43 seats.  

Are the bookies right?  Essentially I think that they are.  I expect that there was an element of book-balancing in the face of money backing the SNP and there are arbs all over the place.  There may be a late swing, and as a matter of caution you might want to knock a few points off the SNP's constituency polling which is relatively untested and bearing in mind that the pollsters overstated the Yes vote in the referendum by about 3% in the end.  But there is nothing in these polls to suggest that the SNP's appeal is waning and with only three weeks to go, time is running out for Labour to pull it back.

This leaves me with the emotional problem of whether to start hedging my bets.  I've done a little of this to cover my stakes in East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh North & Leith at what I considered favourable odds, but I've decided not to in general.  I only gamble what I can afford to lose, so I don't need to insure the losses.  Indeed, most of my bets in the last two days have been on the SNP - this latest batch of constituency polling is seriously good news for the SNP.

Are there any bargains?  On the SNP side, all the 1/2 bets look good to me (Ayr Carrick & Cumnock, West Dunbartonshire, Paisley & Renfrewshire North and Paisley & Renfrewshire South), as does the evens in East Renfrewshire - 9% is a healthy lead in a constituency poll and nothing in the detail suggested that tactical voting was going to save Jim Murphy. The 11/10 in Rutherglen & Hamilton West looks good - the swing of 22.4% required would be comfortably exceeded by the average swings in the constituency polling in nearby seats.

On the Labour side, I'd want local knowledge before backing them anywhere.  I suspect that the scope for tactical voting would be greater in the Edinburgh area, but the swings that the SNP requires there are smaller too.  So until I get more information, I'm not really betting on Labour anywhere.

These latest polls are grim for the Lib Dems.  So I'm not making any more bets on them either.

Next up, UKIP.

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