The bookmakers have made Respect’s Lee Jasper joint second favourite to win the Croydon North by-election, along with Andy Stranack, the Conservative candidate, underlining the view that the battle for votes is wide open behind hot favourite Steve Reed.
Reed, the Labour candidate, is rated at 1/50 – that’s stake £50 to win £1 – to successfully defend the 16,000 majority inherited from the late Malcolm Wicks MP in the by-election being staged on November 29.
Labour’s line throughout their campaign has been that it is “a two-horse race”, between them and the Conservatives. It is as if they daren’t even mention Jasper’s candidature on behalf of George Galloway.
But as far as bookmakers Ladbrokes is concerned, Croydon North is a one-horse race, with Respect and the Tories rated as no better than 25/1 chances – that is, win £25 for each £1 staked if either were to land a shock win later this month.
Croydon North could be grim for the government coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, with Marisha Ray only rated at 100/1 to win, behind UKIP and the Greens. That’s firmly in lost deposit territory for a party which 30 years ago landed a famous by-election victory in what was then Croydon North-West.
“As has been the case with the by-elections so far Labour are a shoo-in,” said Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes. It is not the sort of message that Steve Reed’s campaign managers will want to hear. After last week’s police commissioner elections and parliamentary by-elections, it could well be that the biggest threat to Reed becoming an MP is voter apathy and a very low turn-out on election day.
Donohue admits that his firm is, quite literally, hedging its bets. “Respect have been known to spring a surprise in the past and we’re not taking as big a chance with them as the other minority parties,” he said.
For the committed political punter, there possibly is one bet where there is some chance of profit: Ladbrokes is offering 5/6 on John Cartwright, who is rated as no stronger than a 500/1 chance to win the by-election for the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, managing to poll less than 100 votes.
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