When looking ahead to the big political betting stories of 2017, I discussed the likelihood of a series of by-elections being triggered by Labour MPs, aimed at destabilising Jeremy Corbyn, or at least having that effect. After a second of his fiercest critics quit this morning, we already have two to look forward to.
In the wake of Jamie Reed’s resignation before Christmas, one-time leadership hopeful Tristram Hunt has followed suit. Like Reed, Hunt has a legitimate excuse, in the form of a lucrative job offer. Running the V&A or a highly paid position in the nuclear industry is clearly regarded a better career move than sitting on Labour’s backbenches. Let alone fighting what could be a bloodbath at the next general election on a ticket he doesn’t believe in.
The Labour leader already faces a perilous test in Copeland, for which Betfair punters still rate the Tories favourites to win at [1.71]. Defeat in Cumbria would be a devastating blow but the excuses are at least ready to go. The significance of the nuclear industry, overwhelmingly white and ageing population, make this a uniquely bad seat for Corbyn. Losing Stoke-on-trent would be on another level – a new low in Labour history.
Historically, this is one of Labour’s safest seats. Even in the last two diabolical general election results, Hunt won by more than 5,000. Yet in a signal of just how little confidence gamblers have in Corbyn’s Labour, they were matched just shy of even money early, before settling around [1.75].