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.
Felipe Araujo
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Manchester's Muslim community under siege: "We are part of the fabric of this nation"

As the investigation into last week's bombing continues, familiar media narratives about Islam conflict with the city's support for its Muslim population.

“You guys only come when something like this happens,” said one of the worshippers at Manchester's Victoria Park Mosque, visibly annoyed at the unusual commotion. Four days after the attack that killed 22 people, this congregation, along with many others around the city, is under a microscope.

During Friday prayers, some of the world’s media came looking for answers. On the eve of Ramadan, the dark shadow of terrorism looms large over most mosques in Manchester and beyond.

“People who do this kind of thing are no Muslims,” one man tells me.

It’s a routine that has become all too familiar to mosque goers in the immediate aftermath of a major terror attack. In spite of reassurances from authorities and the government, Muslims in this city of 600,000 feel under siege. 

“The media likes to portray us as an add-on, an addition to society,” Imam Irfan Christi tells me. “I would like to remind people that in World War I and World War II Muslims fought for this nation. We are part of the fabric of this great nation that we are.”

On Wednesday, soon after it was revealed the perpetrator of last Monday’s attack, Salman Ramadan Abedi, worshipped at the Manchester Islamic Centre in the affluent area of Didsbury, the centre was under police guard, with very few people allowed in. Outside, with the media was impatiently waiting, a young man was giving interviews to whoever was interested.

“Tell me, what is the difference between a British plane dropping bombs on a school in Syria and a young man going into a concert and blowing himself up,” he asked rhetorically. “Do you support terrorists, then?” one female reporter retorted. 

When mosque officials finally came out, they read from a written statement. No questions were allowed. 

“Some media reports have reported that the bomber worked at the Manchester Islamic Centre. This is not true,” said the director of the centre’s trustees, Mohammad el-Khayat. “We express concern that a very small section of the media are manufacturing stories.”

Annoyed by the lack of information and under pressure from pushy editors, eager for a sexy headline, the desperation on the reporters’ faces was visible. They wanted something, from anyone, who had  even if a flimsy connection to the local Muslim community or the mosque. 

Two of them turned to me. With curly hair and black skin, in their heads I was the perfect fit for what a Muslim was supposed to look like.

"Excuse me, mate, are you from the mosque, can I ask you a couple of questions,” they asked. “What about?,” I said. "Well, you are a Muslim, right?" I laughed. The reporter walked away.

At the Victoria Park Mosque on Friday, Imam Christi dedicated a large portion of his sermon condemning last Monday’s tragedy. But he was also forced to once again defend his religion and its followers, saying Islam is about peace and that nowhere in the Koran it says Muslims should pursue jihad.

“The Koran has come to cure people. It has come to guide people. It has come to give harmony in society,” he said. “And yet that same Koran is being described as blood thirsty? Yet that same Koran is being abused to justify terror and violence. Who de we take our Islam from?”

In spite of opening its doors to the world’s media, mosques in Britain’s major cities know they can do very little to change a narrative they believe discriminates against Muslims. They seem to feel that the very presence of reporters in these places every time a terror attack happens reveals an agenda.

Despite this, on the streets of Manchester it has proved difficult to find anyone who had a bad thing to say about Islam and the city’s Muslim community. Messages of unity were visible all over town. One taxi driver, a white working-class British man, warned me to not believe anything I read in the media.

“Half of my friends are British Muslims,” he said even before asked. “ These people that say Islam is about terrorism have no idea what they are talking about.”

Felipe Araujo is a freelance journalist based in London. He writes about race, culture and sports. He covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics on the ground for the New Statesman. He tweets @felipethejourno.

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