If anyone still needs a measure to illustrate the unpredictability of politics in 2018, check out the Next Conservative and Labour Leader markets. Neither has what could be described as a hot favourite and only three candidates are trading at single figure odds.
Little wonder perhaps, in light of recent upsets and grassroots uprisings, but this is markedly different from the historical norm. Usually there is an heir apparent and in the Tories’ case, that early favourite has gone onto lose every single time. That dynamic may have already played out, as Boris Johnson traded well below 3.0 on election night but has since drifted to the current 8.4 and beyond.
In seeking to reverse that decline with his much-hyped Brexit speech, the Foreign Secretary effectively kick-started the leadership contest. Senior Cabinet colleagues will also get to lay out their post-Brexit vision in the coming days and shape debate within the party. While nobody can confidently predict the date of Theresa May’s departure, positioning to succeed her is very much underway.
While this is unarguably the most open Tory contest in memory, with at least a dozen names worthy of meaningful consideration, remember that they rarely turn out to be so competitive. Most names being touted turn out to have no leadership ambitions, at least for now, and jump behind a contender.
When the official contest comes around, there will be probably be roughly a handful involved. In the last four Tory contests dating back to 1997, either four or five candidates were on the first ballot paper. Ditto Labour’s two leadership contests in the past 30 years.
As in all of those, the task for bettors is to build a value position from which to cash out for profit later by identify the runners – all of whom will almost certainly trade much shorter at time of race. That strategy certainly worked with May – recommended twice at double-figure odds to succeed David Cameron when George Osborne was all the rage.