Tiverton & Honiton By-Election Odds: Lib Dems on the attack once more
With the government having lost two big majorities recently in by-elections to the Liberal Democrats, they would not want to face one in the South West where Ed Davey’s party have traditionally been strong but that is exactly what they’ll be doing this summer and as Neil Monnery writes, the bookies aren’t backing Boris to buck the recent trend…
There is little doubt that just like over the pond in the US, we are starting to see the political map be completely redrawn. Stateside, the Democrats were traditionally the party of the working class but that has adjusted following Donald Trump’s rebranding of the Republican Party. We have seen something similar over here as Labour have built up their strength in metropolitan areas but on the flipside the Conservatives have smashed through the red wall as Boris Johnson has reached into traditional red areas and attracted plenty of support.
This brings us to recent electoral results. The Chesham & Amersham by-election win for the Lib Dems could be relatively easily understood as the leafy suburbs rebelling against a Conservative Party who they feel have left them behind. Arguing that a well-to-do area in the commuter belt has left anyone behind is a strange proposition in itself but as Boris pivots too far right to attract support from Labour, it does leave their moderate flank exposed for the traditional protest party - the Liberal Democrats. So that result can be put to one side to some degree. The North Shropshire by-election however - less so.
When the Lib Dems stunned everyone and pulled off one of the biggest electoral upsets in modern times by taking this seat last December, it showed punters that by-elections are back to where they were in the 90s. They are ripe for a protest vote against an unpopular government. If a party can overturn a deficit of nearly 30,000 votes (the Lib Dems were third in 2019, Labour were second 22,949 behind) then all bets are off as they say.
Now we get to Tiverton & Honiton. A seat on the Devon side of the border with Somerset. They didn’t hold local elections last week but across the county line, we saw the Lib Dems bounce back to take control of Somerset Council, which will become a unitary council a year from now. Importantly with regards to indications for the upcoming by-election, the wards that border the seat went extremely well for Ed Davey’s Party.
The by-election will be called because of the resignation of Neil Parish who was caught watching pornography on his mobile phone in the Chamber of the House of Commons. He first won the seat in 2010 and had seen his majority increase from just over 9,000 to nearly 25,000 in 2019. His party have won the seat every year since its inception in 1997. On paper it is a slam dunk Conservative hold but the bookies have opened with the Lib Dems odds-on favourites to take the seat.
Despite everything written above - this is still mind-boggling. Had you told anyone after Boris Johnson won a good majority in 2019 that his party would not be a very short price shot to hold a seat with a north of 20,000 majority, in a by-election just two-and-a-half years later they wouldn’t understand what had happened in the preceding 30 months.
There is no doubt that the Lib Dems will once more throw the kitchen sink at it. They are spying opportunities and want to keep the momentum going from fantastic local election results. The party by-election machine is well-oiled and they know what they are doing. Within hours of Neil Parish announcing he would resign, the Lib Dems were sending out fundraising emails and Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper was sending out Press Releases.
The early money is clearly on yet another Lib Dem gain but maybe the smart money is on the Tories. The popular Electoral Calculus website predicts that the Tories would win every single ward in the seat and have an 87% chance of winning the seat (with Labour 13% and the Lib Dems at 0%).
I would take those numbers with a pinch of salt as they are based on a General Election day and we know by-elections are a completely different kettle of fish but overturning such a majority is still a tall order. Backing the Tories at this point is the traders move. I have no doubt they will shorten at some point and if they pick the right candidate, victory is still more than possible. Labour are extremely unlikely to be involved in the top-two positions when all is said and done.
BettingOdds.com will keep you up to date with the moves in this market throughout the coming weeks...