Sunday, 19 April 2015

The UKIP battleground in April 2015

It's time to look at the constituency betting markets as they currently stand from UKIP's perspective. So as at 13 April 2015, here's the table of all the seats where UKIP's chances are ranked by the bookies as 16/1 or better, ranked in ascending order of implied probability:

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.  

This is how things stood at the beginning of November 2014.

At that time, UKIP were soaring.  Since then, their prices have plateaued or even waned.  UKIP are favourites now in just three seats (down from five in November) and priced at under 2/1 in just seven seats, (down from nine in November).  UKIP were priced at under 10/1 in 42 constituencies in November, and that has now reduced to just 34 constituencies.  Some of this is explicable by prices in general becoming more competitive, but not all of it by a long way.  Whether or not UKIP have peaked in the polls, they have peaked at the bookies.  I shall consider later whether that is a correct reaction.

The decline in UKIP's fortunes has been exclusively as against the Conservatives.  In November, UKIP were priced at under 10/1 in 13 non-Conservative constituencies, exactly the same number as today.  UKIP have actually shortened their price in the one Labour constituency, Great Grimsby, priced at under 2/1 over this period.

UKIP do seem to have slightly come off their very highest points in the national polls and even the most ardent kipper would have to concede that they are not advancing further.  Some of the previous prices had been predicated on the possibility of UKIP continuing to improve.  That has not happened and their election campaign has not caught light.  The dreams of the most excitable kippers look set to be crushed.

That means in turn that UKIP look most unlikely to take anything more than a handful of seats.  Recent constituency polling seems to confirm that (click to enlarge):

UKIP will be particularly disappointed in the polling in Dover, a seat where they had entertained outside hopes but where they seem to be coming a distant third.  They might well have hoped to be polling better in Cleethorpes and Dudley South too.

This means that UKIP's chances for the election are probably all gathered in those few seats where they are short-priced and the rest can probably now be forgotten about.  There is still the chance of an odd shock under the radar somewhere, but if it happens, it will be an odd shock not part of a clutch of victories.

As someone with a collection of UKIP longshot bets, this is disappointing, but I can hardly be simultaneously thrilled with the strong hope of success of longshot bets on the SNP and glum about UKIP longshots looking likely to be heading for the ashtray.  That is in the nature of longshot bets: they don't all come off.

I have called UKIP wrong at every point, discounting them before they surged, then thinking the surge would continue when in fact Rochester & Strood marked the end of that period of progress.  So I hesitate to give any advice at all, and you should discount my thoughts heavily given my track record.  But here goes.

Where UKIP are still short enough to affect the price of the others in the market without having a real chance of success themselves, there may be opportunities worth backing elsewhere.  So I am looking at those seats where UKIP are priced between 4/1 and 10/1 with that in mind.  I've backed the Conservatives in Folkestone & Hythe at 1/4 and Wyre Forest at 8/15 (closing out a three-way bet for a guaranteed profit).  I backed the Lib Dems in Eastleigh at 4/7 the other day, as I mentioned when I looked at the Lib Dem seat markets.  And I've backed Labour in Walsall North at 1/3 and in Newcastle-under-Lyme at 2/7 (as I mentioned when I looked at the Labour seat markets).

What of those seats where UKIP remain in with a shout?  My view of those is that they are seriously murky and that no one really understands how they are going to play out.  I am therefore proceeding with extreme caution in this final phase.  The 1/9 on UKIP in Clacton is a decent 1/9 shot though, as 1/9 shots go.

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