Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spreading Your Bets on the Election

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spreading Your Bets on the Election

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER OBORNE

TO result of the 2001 general election does not matter a jot. The conclusion has been foreordained. The bookies make New Labour an unbackable 33-1 on to win, while the Tories hardly represent good value at 10-1 against.

But in fact much hangs on the outcome. A good performance by William Hague could knock Labour off course, produce a sizeable gain in Tory seats, and his job is safe for another four years. But if Tony Blair obtains the massive 200-plus landslide implicit the polls, he will have a liberty perhaps never granted to any Prime Minister for more than a century, to shape Britain as he wished.

It is a striking commentary on New Labour's skilful economic management that the City is entirely relaxed about such a prospect.

Amazing though it is even to write such a thing, the only result that would really give the markets the jitters is the prospect of a Tory victory and Chancellor Michael Portillo.

That is a testament to the amazing turnaround secured by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and New Labour. They represent continuity: the Tories represent change and uncertainty.

In the meantime there is enormous interest to be had by City punters eager to bet not on the result, but on the scale of the victory.

All the major City spread betting firms are offering markets on the number of seats secured by the major political parties.

Punters can dabble in these treacherous waters by buying and selling at the prices offered.

Thus Cantor Index (can-torindex.com) makes New Labour seats at 393-399, Tories at miserable 191-197 and the Liberal Democrats at 35-38.

The system works like this: A hopeful Tory supporter, confident that William Hague will have a strong campaign, buys Tory seats at a tenner at 197. If Campbell: an inside

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own eyes and blindly backed John Major's doomed Conservatives. …

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