Where is Labour value? Look to the individual constituency markets.
The Conservatives are currently a best-priced 1/33 to win most seats at the forthcoming General Election, and are projected to win by seat numbers well into three figures. If there is any value in the overall seats market, some would argue it is at the 1/33 rather than the best-priced 25/1 about Labour. It’s not the sort of price I would personally touch, though, nor recommend.
So where can we find value? I suggest the individual constituency betting markets, where mispricing is more likely to occur than anywhere else. In turning to these, I will focus today on my idea of value Labour bets. These are not seats that I necessarily consider likely Labour wins but where the price is longer, in my opinion, than the true probability of a Labour victory.
To do this, I’ve been through the entire list of seats where a Labour candidate is standing, and have reduced it to a longlist of eight constituencies and have whittled that down to a shortlist of five.
The three seats that just missed out on the final cut are Stalybridge and Hyde, Ellesmere Port and Neston, and Worsley and Eccles South. These are currently best-priced at 6/5, 11/10 and Evens respectively. In each case, I consider the price reasonable, albeit marginal, value.
The shortlisted five are each available at longer prices, and the attractiveness of the price is the reason for the selection, rather than any inherent confidence that the seat is destined to go Labour.
In alphabetical order, these seats are Brighton Kemptown, Burnley, Bury South, Gedling and Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Brighton Kemptown is the longest priced of these, available at 11/2. The reason for the long price is instantly clear when we note that the sitting MP, Simon Kirby, is a Conservative. In a wave year for the Conservatives, it would indeed seem at first glance that the Labour Party is facing a tough uphill climb in trying to gain this seat. Even so, the majority at the last election was less than 700 votes, with the Greens picking up 3,187 votes. This time the Greens are not standing, and the sitting Conservative, a strong Remain supporter in the referendum, is no darling of the UKIP voters. At the 2015 election, the UKIP vote was 4,446. The Remain vote at the referendum was 56.4%. If there is a successful tactical voting campaign anywhere in the country, this might be one of the places it most benefits the Labour candidate. I think Brighton Kemptown will probably stay in Tory hands, but at 11/2, there may be a touch of value in siding with the Labour candidate.
Burnley is an interesting three-way contest, in which Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all have, according to the betting odds, live chances. The Lib Dems are the current favourites to win this, at a best-priced 6/5, with Labour on offer at 7/4 and the Conservatives on 7/2. Gordon Birtwhistle won this for the Lib Dems in 2010, but lost it to Labour’s Julie Cooper in 2015 by over 3,000 votes. UKIP performed relatively strongly in 2015, picking up 6,864 votes, pushing the Conservatives into fourth place. Burnley also recorded a high Leave vote in the referendum (64.7%). This is a key target seat for the Liberal Democrats, but for me the value bet at 7/4 is Labour.
Bury South is currently held by Labour’s Ivan Lewis, who won a majority of almost 5,000 votes over the Conservative candidate in 2015. The UKIP performance wasn’t particularly strong in 2015 (6,299 votes), and the Leave vote (54.5%) nothing special. The Liberal Democrats and Greens fared poorly here last time out. With a relatively limited UKIP vote to squeeze, and a majority approaching 5,000 to close, as well as an incumbency advantage, the 5/2 on offer about Labour successfully defending the seat looks better value to me than the 2/5 Conservatives.
Gedling is the constituency of Labour’s Vernon Coaker. In 2010, his majority was 1,859. In 2015, it was 2,986, with UKIP surging from 1,459 votes to 6,930. If the UKIP votes seeps in significant numbers to the Conservatives, along with a Tory tide across the country, Coaker could easily be swept away. Having said that, he is a very strong campaigner, with a loyal following, and the County Council results in the constituency were encouraging for Labour. At 5/2, Coaker may offer a touch of value.
Finally, Oldham East and Saddleworth. In 2010, Labour won this by just 103 votes over the Liberal Democrats in an election mired in legal controversy, in which the result was annulled. In the subsequent by-election, Labour’s new candidate, Debbie Abrahams, was elected with a majority of 3,558 over the Liberal Democrat. In 2015, this was extended to a majority of 6,002 over the Conservatives. UKIP scored 8,557 votes, and the Liberal Democrats 5,718. To win this, the Conservatives need to ride a Tory national wave and squeeze the UKIP vote, without too many Liberal Democrats switching to Labour tactically. There is historic bad blood between Labour and the Lib Dems here, however, and it could do for Debbie Abrahams this time. Still, the current 6/4 looks a tiny touch of value.
I wouldn’t advise backing all these Labour candidates, not least because in a Tory sweep they could all go down heavily. But selective backing of one or two for value might make sense at current prices.
I personally like backing candidates at long of 5/1, such as my advised bet on Emmanuel Macron to win the French presidency at 6/1 in early January. On that basis, the 11/2 on offer about Labour to gain Brighton Kemptown could be the bet. That means a Labour gain from the Conservatives, though. Unlikely, but I like the price. Bury South at 5/2 also looks tempting, but again Labour is facing strong opposition from the Conservatives. A more diversified portfolio might include the 7/4 about Labour seeing off the Liberal Democrat challenge in Burnley.