The odds: Political punters go Clegg crazy

by Joe Fraser

It’s beginning to look like everyone underestimated the Liberal Democrats, who are now 10/1 to win 100 seats or more at the General Election. It certainly seems in retrospect that David Cameron and Gordon Brown underestimated Nick Clegg.

Both men frequently tried to claim that Mr Clegg’s position was a reflection of their own. The spectre of a hung parliament left them keen to make a point of having the Lib Dem leader on their side: gang up and leave the third man isolated.

Following his TV triumph, Clegg has sparked “the biggest betting frenzy on the Liberals since Lloyd George was Prime Minister” according to William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

As the incumbent and the favourite slugged it out, the outsider played his hand well. Perhaps it was necessary as the man with the lowest profile but Clegg resorted at times to an address that simply said, “I’m Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats.” He took full advantage of making a good impression with what is essentially a first impression for a lot of voters.

Hills have had to slash the Lib Dem odds from 300/1 to just 25/1 (the shortest price they have ever been) to win with an overall majority, and from 100/1 to 14/1 (also a historic low) to be the largest Single Party.

Mr Sharpe added: “The response to his performance in the debate has sparked the biggest gamble we’ve ever seen on the Lib Dems and their odds are now the shortest anyone in the business can ever remember

“Two out of every three political bets we have taken since the first debate have been for either Clegg or the Lib Dems. If bets won elections Mr Clegg would be well on his way to becoming Prime Minister.”

Concerns expressed on these pages that the TV debate will dumb down democracy may seem to some to be prescient. If policy battles force only incremental change in the polls but a 90-minute TV appearance can be so explosively influential then some may fear the effect of appearances. Time will tell whether it was Mr Clegg’s fluency and sincerity or the meat of his policy proposals that resulted in his rapid rise in the polls.

An astonishing ITV/Comres poll puts the Conservatives on 36% Lib Dems on 35% and Labour on 24%, and punters have been backing Labour to finish as only the third largest party at 10/1.

Consequently, the odds on a hung parliament continue to slide as the Lib Dem surge impinges on either of the other party’s prospects of winning outright.

Clegg is now 1/2 favourite to win the second TV debate with Hills who now make him 1/6 to emerge as the overall winner of the series.

Latest Paddy Power election odds:

General election winner

1/8 Conservatives
5/1 Labour
40/1 Lib Dems

To win overall majority

8/11 Conservatives
14/1 Labour
6/5 Hung parliament

To form a coalition with Lib Dems

9/2 Conservatives
3/1 Labour
4/9 Neither

To be the new Prime Minister

1/7 Cameron
9/2 Brown
33/1 Clegg

For the latest political betting odds and election betting head over to Paddy Power.