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Will you be profiting from the great turnout gamble?

May 25th, 2009

eu-elections-turnouts-1999-2004

Is this the nearest thing to a certainty that you’ll get?

In political betting I am always wary of the term certainty but sometimes an opportunity arises when I’m convinced that what I’m betting on will come about.

The last time I had this feeling was nearly a year ago when Ladbrokes had a market up on whether Labour would lose its deposit in the Henley by election. To me it seemed a certainty that Labour would get less than 5% and every day I bet the maximum that Ladbrokes would allow me – irrespective of the price.

Now I think another opportunity is there waiting. This is on the William Hill market on what the turnout will be across the UK in next week’s Euro election.

All the thinking about the prices in this market seems to have been driven by the 38.5% that was achieved nationally when the elections were last held five years ago. But just look at the chart on the left and check the turnout in 1999. when it was down to a low of just 24%.

The reason for the decline in 1999 was mostly down to the fact that this was the first time PR had operated and voters had to choose between party lists in a few massive regions. The personal link between a candidate and the voter was broken and lack of elector interest was the outcome.

But it was not be like this five years later. Tony Blair was desperate for Labour not to get a hammering in the run-up to the last general election so he put in two measures to get the turnout up and, hopefully from his standpoint, maximise the Labour vote.

The timing of that years local elections (which include all the big English conurbations and the London mayoral race) was switched to the Euro-election day. On top of that Blair fought with the Electoral Commission and managed to ensure that all-postal voting took place in four of the bigger English regions.

The impact was massive as the charts show. Overall national turnout was up from 24% to an incredible 38.5% – the biggest changes being in the regions where there was all-postal voting.

Fast forward to 2009 and the Blair special turnout enhancers aren’t there. There’s no all-postal voting and only a small minority of voters, mainly those in the English shire counties, will have local elections as well.

Which brings me to the betting. On William Hill political markets you can get 6/4 that it will be less than 30% while the price on 30-34.99% is 9/4. Bearing in mind what’s happened in the past I cannot see how it can be above 34.99%. I’m betting on both options with most of my money weighted to the below 30%.

Mike Smithson






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