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Tory MP declarations of leadership contest support should be treated with a huge pinch of salt

May 25th, 2019


Betdata.io chart of movement on the Betfair exchange

In 2005 DDavis had more public MPs supporters than actual voters

Just a day after Theresa May’s announcement that she is stepping down as CON leader and prime minister and even though it is a bank holiday weekend the fight for the succession has begun.

The first stage is the MP ballots to decide which two names will actually go to the membership in the postal election. Ahead of these we get the headcounts of CON MPs ready to declare publicly who they will be supporting and here Raab is currently leading Johnson by having one more public MP backer.

From past experience treat these numbers with great skepticism. Back in the 2005 contest David Davis had at the first stage 66 CON MPs publically backing him yet when the first round of the secret ballot took place just 62 had actually given him their votes. MPs fibbing – How can that be?

It is very easy for MPs with eyes to their future career to declare their public support for the contender they think is going to win even though privately they might be backing somebody else.

As can be seen from the chart Johnson is still the strong betting favourite but the market has moved away from him a touch.

It should be noted as well in party leadership contests that there can be efforts to manipulate the betting to suggest that one contender has more support than might be the case.

Mike Smithson