The Racing Card

The Bet - Which party will win the general election?

Labour 1-4
Tories 5-2
Hung Parliament 4-1
(Source William Hill)

While I was away following Engerland, I was told that the government had fallen apart and was fairing even worse than the country's football team. Someone told me that Tony Blair was now more unpopular than Philip Neville and that Alastair Campbell had developed the tactical nous of Kevin Keegan.

Word reached me of an opinion poll putting the Tories just 3 percentage points behind Labour. I actually nipped into the Ladbrokes in Charleroi to see if the odds on Labour had changed. They didn't seem bothered about British politics and were even less interested in taking my money when I suggested a bet on precisely when the riot police would use their brand-new water cannon.

Once home, I rang William Hill, which confirmed that the odds had not changed at all. William Hill is still reeling from England beating Germany; it lost a fortune to all the patriotic English who had backed their team to win. In fact, the bookies have not done at all well out of Euro 2000, with all their top three - Holland, France and Italy - getting through to the semi-finals.

Over the past few weeks, there has been virtually no new money punted on the result of the election. Someone did have a punt on a hung parliament but, with such mean odds as 4-1, it was hardly worth it.

The bookies are more likely to take notice of the Tottenham by-election, in which the Tories came third, than a "wishful thinking" poll in the Daily Mail. The Tottenham result itself brought in the biggest political bet for some time: one punter put a grand on David Lammy becoming the first black prime minister.

This article first appeared in the 03 July 2000 issue of the New Statesman, And is there honey by the Tees?