For the Lib Dems, Paddy Power means something entirely different

There were only 103 votes in it back in May, a statistic the voters of Oldham East and Saddleworth may have noticed one or twice on Elwyn Watkins‘ Lib Dem by-election campaign literature.

But, according to bookmakers Paddy Power, the race is over. As The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow acerbically notes on his essential daily live-blog, “I’m normally reluctant to quote bookies, because their press releases are cheap bids for free publicity which normally don’t tell us anything very new” — before breaking his own rule to quote a press release from Paddy Power (also received by the Voice):

“Victory for the Lib Dems in Oldham is now as unlikely as Manchester United finishing at the bottom of this year’s Premier League with Roy Keane in charge!”

Which is an odd statement, really. Paddy Power currently lists the Lib Dems as 7/2 second favourites to win the by-election (behind Labour, but well ahead of the Tories’ 16/1 odds). Yet the bookmaker doesn’t even offer odds on Man U. being relegated (I checked).

So here’s an offer to Paddy Power: I’ll place a bet on the Lib Dems winning the by-election if they’ll match the odds offered by Betfair that Man U. will be relegated, current 949/1.

Sounds fair to me, and I’ve emailed the following offer to Paddy Power:

Will you take a bet of £20 at 949/1 that the Lib Dems will win Oldham? I’m assuming so from your press release, so look forward to confirmation by reply.

Meanwhile, for Lib Dems of a puritan disposition worried by all this talk of gambling, here’s a comforting image of some real Paddy Power.

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  • If paddy power starts offering a price on 2nd place, I’ll bet £100 o nthe Tories. True Story.

  • I believe the Lib Dems are badly led at present, have had the wrong approach to the coalition (the establishment of which I supported) and that the leadership need to be sent a clear message.

    But not here, Labour do not deserve to win here. Surely even protest voters must realise that the activities of the disgraced former MP must be punished…

    I have some faith that the voters will recognise the wronged party but fear that trust at national rather than local level will take centre stage…

  • I wonder what happened as Betfair also issued a press release also decrying the Lib Dems’ chance – for the record their odds are 2-9, 5-1 , and 17-1, which I calculate gives you about 81%, 16% and 5% chance of winning.

    I also wonder whether the Paddy Power quote was not simply a colourful way of saying ‘unlikely’ rather than an accurate assesment of the odds. But it would be more accurate to say their chance of winning are thought to be slightly higher than Chelsea’s are of winning the Premiership.

  • Yes, it was a pretty silly throwaway comment for Paddy Power but wouldn’t it be more useful to discuss the reasons why there is little confidence from the bookies (who usually try to be right!) are discounting the chances so much.

    If the LD cannot win in OES what does it say about their ability to win or hold onto any by-election seats and for the 2011 council elections. Never mind the AV referendum

    There are still posters who are saying the vote is holding up and the party is performing well at council by-elections – if they are right why are the bookies so pessimistic?

  • Nick(not Clegg) 5th Jan '11 - 6:11pm

    I’ve had my doubts about this by-election from the start. Apart from our poor poll ratings, due to the poor performance of our leadership since the election, voters do not seem to like by-elections and tend to punish people who cause them, particularly people who they may regard (whether fairly or not) as “sore losers”: rememeber Winchester 1997?. Add to that the fact that campaigning has straddled the Xmas / New Year period, which is likely to result in a low turn-out, and the fact that polling day is just over a week after the VAT increase, in which we are complicit, and it seems to me that our candidate has a mountain to climb. The only thing going for him is the hope that electors may wish to punish the current Labour candidate for the sins of her predecessor: i suspect that that factor will be insufficient to overcome the others which I have mentioned.

  • You’re right that people generally don’t like voting for a candidate in a by-election who lost in the proper election.

    However this case is different to Winchester as Woolas was found guilty of lying by a court.

    Even if the Lib Dems come bottom, this election will have been worthwhile just to kick a racist out of parliament.

  • Stephen – do you not think you took this all a bit personally?

  • @Mike
    “Even if the Lib Dems come bottom, this election will have been worthwhile just to kick a racist out of parliament.”

    Well said…

  • Liberal Neil 5th Jan '11 - 8:00pm

    @bazzasc – I have no ‘inside knowledge’ about what is going on in Oldham, but I do remember that the bookies had the Lib Dems at 10/1 in Dunfermline even as late as the ballot boxes closing.

  • Bookies simply follow the money, all this means is that more people are placing bets on a Labour win, they’d be over the moon if Labour lost out..

  • Nick(not Clegg) 6th Jan '11 - 8:34am

    I recall the Isle of Eley by-election (circa 1973?). Having spent a Saturday canvassing, I returned home and my wife said “Do you think Freud can win?” I said “I don’t think so” (or words to that effect). She said, “the bookies are offering 33 to 1 against; it’s worth a punt”. I did not place the bet and have never lived it down. That was the occasion when the Liberals won two by-elections (isle of Eley and Ripon) on the same day.

  • Peter Chivall 6th Jan '11 - 12:08pm

    I can add to the ‘Freud and bookies’ mountain of stories; a few days before polling in June 1987 Clement Freud came into his HQ in March town centre and told us all he’d been offered 10/1 against his losing the seat by a local bookmaker. The following Thursday Malcolm Moss was elected Conservative MP for the area.
    Bookies are notoriously inaccurate predictors of election outcomes – as Anthony says; ‘bookies follow the money’ and there will be a lot of well-to-do Labour and Conservative backers in London who would put £50.- against the LibDem candidate as part of their joint enterprise to strangle us.
    Nevertheless, I agree entirely with Steve Way.The Party leadership must distance itself more clearly from the Conservatives wherever the issue is not part of the Coalition agreement.

  • roy's claret army 6th Jan '11 - 12:26pm

    According to the seat by seat betting in GE2010 the Tories would have had an overall majority of 60.

    The bookies odds are designed to maximise their profit and minimise their risk.

  • I don’t think Paddy Power is about anything other than ‘free’ publicity on this one – the amount they will take on the by-election is a fleabite compared to their ordinary betting business. Yea there will be an extent of following the money placed for fixing odds but maybe they are just trying to get the interest back on the loan we’re giving Ireland :)

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