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Could Gordon go the way of Dean and Davis?

November 30th, 2005

    Is the Chancellor really a 73.5% certainty?

With the long awaited Turner Report on pension due to be published today and the attention focusing again on the Chancellor the PBC index puts his chances of taking over Tony Blair at 73.5%. Our chart shows the the implied probability of him getting the job and is based on best betting prices. The only decision, for the Labour party, it is said, is whether he goes through unopposed or whether there is a contest. For however you view the contest it is hard to see how anybody else could come through.

    Yet for the third time in two years I have become convinced that a heavy odds-on favourite to be his party’s standard-bearer might not make it – and there’s betting value at current price levels.

Two years ago the ex-Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, looked all set to win the Democratic nomination. By the start of December 2003 he was trading at about 0.6/1 and poll after poll reinforced his favourite status. Yet there was something in his character that provoked doubts in me and I started to lay (bet against) heavily. I could not see how his sharp temper and aggressive style would go down well – and indeed it didn’t.

Then, this summer, came David Davis. Although the early polls and the betting pointed to his near certain victory in the Tory leadership race I was not convinced that someone who had such poor public speaking skills could make it. At the time I could not decide who would do it so again I began laying him heavily at the odds-one prices.

Now I feel the same way about Gordon Brown. Sure – the polls rate him higher than Blair but is that simply because he is not Blair? How will he be if ever the electorate assess him on his own. The great thing about a leadership race is that it puts a candidate’s style and personality under the most intense scrutiny and in the Democrat and Tory races it became apparent that the favourites were not right.

    Come Labour leadership election time there might be a realisation that Brown’s hallmark of reeling off lists of bullet points at a rapid rate is not the right way to engage voters.

I was very struck by this comment on the site by Alex a few days ago. “I still think the real issue is the extent to which Gordon Brown could implode. He has always had a bit of potential to get attached to politically disastrous/divisive policies, but freed of the restraining hand of Blair there maybe nobody to let his stubbornness overrule other people’s heads. People have focused on the extent to which strategically there may be little change once Brown replaces Blair but the way policies are sold (tactics) could change massively for the worse. The latest claims over pensions are not a good sign.”

So with some of my anticipated winnings from David Davis’s failure I’m having a punt that Gordon will not be the next Labour leader. You can lay him at 0.36/1 – so a lay of £100 would cost me £36 if he does it and give me the £100 if he does not.

Mike Smithson






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