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1 December 2016

Is it time to start treating politics like a surreal sport?

Eleanor Margolis wonders if she would feel comfortable placing a bet on the outcome of the French election.  

By Eleanor Margolis

Online, Skybet lists sports alphabetically. Somehow, like a sofa in a flowerbed, politics has been dumped between netball and pool. In the probable words of an utterly tedious Twitter conspiracy theorist, “Well it might as well be a sport”. Which is exactly why – in the sludge of 2016 political weirdness —  I’m wondering whether I should start to treat it as such. Man.

My uncle, just like everyone else’s, has told me a couple of things about betting. Number one: if you’re betting on a dog, look out for the one who shits right before the race. Number two: the bookies don’t know politics. Bet on politics.

So, just before the US election, I placed my first ever political bet. A fiver on… Clinton winning 53% or more of the popular vote. Those were the days. A few of my more prescient friends put consolation bets on Trump. So far up on my high horse I could see Kent, I outright refused to profit, potentially, from the US being plunged into a neo-fascist sinkhole. That’s not a sport, right? That’s people’s actual lives. How could anyone be so cold and objective?

In retrospect — an especially inconvenient thing when it comes to betting — this is like when I go to Nottingham Forest matches and bet on my team (this is my little tradition because I am your dad), even when I know they’re going to lose because they’re not very good at football. I bet with my heart, not with my head. Which, it turns out, is expensive. So my question is, politics-wise, can I actually afford not to bet on Marine Le Pen winning next year’s French election?

When I asked my girlfriend — a real life French person — if it would be too sad and nihilistic for me to bet on Le Pen, she shrugged Frenchly before telling me about the vastly unpopular Jacques Chirac’s landslide victory against Le Pen Senior in the 2002 election. The French, she tells me, know a thing or two about what happens when you let the far-right win. Apparently they’re not keen on it. As it stands, Ladbrokes’ odds on a Le Pen win are 5/2, lagging slightly behind eyebrow-haver François Fillon’s 4/7. Which feels, to me, remarkably Trump v Clinton, a week before the US election. And also means I’d have to put far more than I’m probably willing to – with or without morals — on Le Pen, to make things interesting. My dad claims he was certain of a Trump victory right back when the tangerine despot’s odds were 100/1. 

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But I still haven’t decided whether to put a few quid on Le Pen’s scarily banal 5/2. This isn’t, I continue to figure, some footballers versus some other footballers. What would I even do with my Le Pen blood money, were she to win? I’d like a blender. But how important is it to me that my kitchen appliances don’t have albeit tenuous links to the resurgence of the European far-right? A little bit important, I think. Plus, I’d have to refer to the blender as the Le Pender. Which would be hilarious for a grand total of nobody.

Perhaps I should just bet on whichever French politician shits before the race.