Bookmaker pays out on Tory victory

Paddy Power will be crossing fingers and hoping that Labour doesn’t “do a Man United”.

I'm just a little bit ashamed to say that I like bookmakers such as Paddy Power, because they go in for detailed political and current affairs bets that have in the past enabled me to bet about the Pope, on Barack Obama becoming president when it looked like Hillary Clinton was certain to gain the Democratic nomination, and on Labour retaining office amid the height of the anti-Brown frenzy.

However, on the latter at least, according to them, I have already lost, because, extraordinarily, Paddy Power has added to the supposed "unstoppable momentum" and already started paying out on a Tory victory.

From the bookie's own press release:

PADDY POWER LIGHT UP WESTMINISTER WITH ELECTION PAYOUT
- Paddy Power Pay Out Cameron and Tory Victory -

The UK general election is over before a vote has been cast according to Paddy Power who are so sure that David Cameron's Conservatives are home and dry that they are paying out on all bets on Cameron to be PM and the Conservatives to win the most seats.

The cheeky bookie launched their early payout in the early hours of Tuesday morning by illuminating one side of the Houses of Parliament with a picture of David Cameron and the words "WE'RE PAYING OUT"

Cameron's strong performance in the final TV debate on Thursday saw a relentless tide of betting support for the Conservatives in the outright market, shortening the odds on the Tories winning most seats at the Election from 1/5 a week ago to just 1/16. Punters will be collecting over £100,000 from the leading bookmaker.

Paddy Power himself said "Dave is heading for Downing Street and punters can come and collect their cash.

"If money talks then what we have seen in the last few days tells us the Conservatives are going to win the Election.

"The only question remaining is whether they secure enough seats for the all-important majority -- and the betting is starting to suggest they can."

Well, I have already been asking what will happen if the many pundits who over the years have declared the Tories the clear winner are wrong. I've asked what would happen to the Tory party itself if it loses. Now, I wonder what will happen if the bookmaker is wrong.

After all, Paddy Power did a similar stunt by paid out early on Arsenal winning the Premier League in 2003, only to see Man United clinch it at the last.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.