This article was first published on Thursday 6th November for betting.betfair.com.
If the first day is any sort of guide, we are set for another extraordinary election campaign, packed with drama and uncertainty. Boris Johnson’s Conservatives may appear – according to the polls – to be storming towards another term and perhaps a majority, but maintaining that position might require somehow managing to avoid any TV interviews for the next five weeks.
Tories suffer multiple media car-crashes
Alun Cairns has already become the first government minister anyone to quit during an election campaign in living memory, after it emerged that he’d endorsed a Tory candidate accused of sabotaging a rape trial. Jacob Rees Mogg’s Grenfell comments, not to mention the Trumpian doubling down of some supporters, pushed Cairns down the news cycle.
For those charged with selling the Tory message on TV, launch day was a painful experience: James Cleverly empty-chaired on Sky News while Nadhim Zahawi was ridiculed after defending Johnson’s rhetoric about Stalinist mass murder under fire from Andrew Neil. Both came out better than James Brokenshire against Emily Maitlis on Newsnight.
We will see whether any of that makes a difference. Are swing voters engaged or moved by TV news shows any more? The jury is out – targeted micro-ads are the key nowadays. These, nevertheless, need a narrative to be effective and no doubt, that remains very much up for grabs. As explained previously, Labour’s ability to change the conversation as they did in 2017 is one of this election’s known unknowns.
More marginals in play than ever before
As for the potential effect on seat totals, the election result and Brexit, the uncertainty cannot be overstated. Our last election in 2017 pointed towards growing volatility but I’ve never known anything like this election. My first as a punter was 2001 when only 29 seats changed hands. At least 200 are in-play this time – maybe more depending if and how the polls change – and 77 constituencies are being defended from a majority of less than 2,000.
More widely, Brexit is transforming voting blocks to historic effect. The fundamentals that have shaped British politics since universal suffrage – regarding region, class, age, wealth – are disintegrating. If we can predict how that pans out in terms of seat totals, there could be vast profits to be made by betting at big odds.
Consider the following, perfectly plausible scenarios. Note, I’m not basing any of these estimates on an all-encompassing model. I doubt a reliable one exists. Rather this is based on studying all the seats on an individual basis.
Scenario one – Big Tory win
Current polls point towards a double-digit Tory victory, winning with close to or more than 40%. In this scenario, they will smash Labour in Brexit-voting marginals. Way down the Tory target list are numerous Labour-held seats that voted Leave and seemed vulnerable heading into 2017 – as many as 80 such gains are plausible.