Political betting

Today is the tenth anniversary of politicalbetting.com, one of the best websites for analysis of British and international politics. One of the reasons it makes such essential reading for anyone interested in politics is that its focus on betting means that it much more concerned with trying to analyse what is actually going to happen, rather than simply advocating one political viewpoint or another. It’s well worth a look even if you have no interest in betting at all.

I don’t (these days) do much betting on political events myself, though I do have a couple of small wagers outstanding about Cambridge politics. In a slightly disturbing pattern of betting against prominent Conservatives, I have staked the dizzying total of £35 on bets with Nick Hillman, the 2010 Conservative parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, and Nick Clarke, the former Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire County Council.

My bet with Nick Hillman is about whether Julian Huppert will stand again for the Cambridge seat in the next General Election, which barring any unexpected developments will be on 7 May 2015. Some time ago, Nick expressed the view that, like David Howarth before him, Julian would decide not to re-stand, opting instead for a quieter life in academia. I thought this was very unlikely, so much so that I offered Nick odds of 5-1 (my £25 against his £5) which he accepted. I think that all the signs so far are that my money is safe, so long as Julian looks both ways when he’s crossing the road.

Update (5 April 2015): Nick has now admitted defeat on this bet, and has generously offered to increase it to a £25 payment to charity, which we’ve agreed should be split between the two charities being supported by Cambridge mayor Gerri Bird during her year in office. Thanks very much, Nick!

My bet with Nick Clarke is about the outcome of the General Election vote in Cambridge. I’ve bet him £10 (at evens) that the Conservatives won’t finish in first or second place. I think they’re almost certain to come third, but I’ll be happy to take his money if they do even worse. I don’t think this bet is quite as much of a nailed-on certainty as the first one, but I do still think it’s a very likely winner. Here are the vote shares of the main parties in Cambridge over the last eight General Elections (data here):


As you can see, the Conservative vote in Cambridge has been in a steady decline over the last three decades, before picking up in 2010 when Nick Hillman snatched second place. Labour has also been on a downward trend since their triumphant victory in 1997, though it’s reasonable to expect that their vote will pick up next time. It’s harder to predict what will happen to the Lib Dem vote; nationally they are of course well down in the polls since 2010, but in Cambridge a lot will depend on the local campaigns on the streets, and on people’s perceptions of how good a job Julian Huppert has done as MP. However, despite the fact that the Conservatives came second last time, I think it’s very difficult to see them doing so next time, let alone winning. No party in government has increased its vote share in Cambridge in any of the last eight general elections; Cambridge Conservative activists have managed to win only one of a possible 60 council seats since 2010; and Cambridge just isn’t going to be a Conservative national target at the next General Election. Of course, if I’m wrong I shall hand over my tenner to Nick with good grace, but I think it’s much more likely that I’ll be taking his money. I shall have to find a suitably radical climate change campaign group to donate it to.


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3 Responses to Political betting

  1. Hi Phil, I like the way you go to the candidate to see if they will accept your bets. Do you normally get such a positive response? Other than with friends I do all my betting with bookies but betting with people involved in the event sounds a whole lot more fun. You could no doubt get a bit of extra value that way to.

  2. Pingback: The General Election campaign in Cambridge | Phil Rodgers

  3. Pingback: My prediction for the Cambridge General Election result | Phil Rodgers

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