Ten days out from one of the most intriguing by-elections in recent memory, we take a look at the latest betting prices for the ballot in Mid Bedfordshire a week on Thursday with Betfred…

Mid Bedfordshire By-Election Odds:

*All prices correct as of 10AM, Monday 9 October, 2023.

This one has been wild folks. The joint-favourites when the market opened were the Lib Dems and the Conservatives, both available at 10/11. Pretty quickly it was Sir Ed Davey’s party who got the momentum and came in all the way to 4/11 at one point. Now they have drifted out to the third choice in the market with previously unfancied Labour now odds-on to take the seat vacated by Nadine Dorries. What happened?

Well not much actually happened in the seat itself to dictate the change in the betting. It was the fact Labour showed that could overturn a huge Conservative majority in Selby & Ainsty that saw the market shift, as punters and pundits alike opened their eyes to the possibility that maybe Sir Keir Starmer’s party could actually beat the Tories straight up in rock solid true blue country.

That result gave Labour more interest and impetus to actually give this campaign far more attention than they were initially planning to. The only problem with that is the Lib Dems were already on the ground and had been for a while, giving them a clear head-start. That valuable extra time can be seen in the only piece of actual publicly available data heading into by-election day, constituency polls.

There have been two constituency polls in the run up to this by-election and we can extrapolate a couple of things clearly from them. Firstly, it is going to be a tight race and secondly, the party with actual forward momentum are the Liberal Democrats, which does not go hand-in-hand with what we’ve seen from the betting markets.

It is the so called ‘Yellow Peril’ that have gone from 12% in the last General Election to 15% and then 22% in two polls. Labour got 21% the last time the constituency went to vote and they’ve only managed to move to 28% and then 29%. Considering the national picture, that isn’t half as big of a step-forward as you’d expect for a party thinking they are ready to win a seat that has only ever returned Conservative MPs.

That fact alone is partly why this seat is just so fascinating. Plenty of political pundits have assumed that at some point, the Anti-Tory vote will coalesce around one of Labour or the Lib Dems. As the campaign has gone on, that has seemingly been expected to be the former rather than the latter, yet that tone has come from people outside the constituency.

When you speak to people on the ground (and yes, activists from all parties will say the canvassing is going great, that is par for the course) but the feeling seems to be that Labour think they are on the right path, the Tories know their vote will collapse but are still hopeful, whilst the Lib Dems are still working it extremely hard.

On the face of it that may seem like it is Labour who deservedly get the favourites spot but as anyone who has followed Liberal Democrat by-election campaigning, when the party are still going all out ten days out from polling day, they are quietly confident of getting the win. There has been no withdrawal of funds or a realisation that it is slipping away. Clearly the by-election specialists are still thinking the game is very much on.

Another (albeit very unscientific) approach is to see what social media is saying. A quick search on the platform formally known as Twitter for Mid Bedfordshire by-election terminology shows that probably 50-60% of posts from activists in the constituency are actually Lib Dems.

Labour are next up with a fair few Tories still out there hoping for a split in the vote, allowing them to slip right through the middle. That might mean nothing at all but seeing so many supporters for Emma Holland-Lindsay still turning out in their droves from across the country is noteworthy.

Anyone who has been an avid by-election watcher knows that there are still plenty of minds to be made up in the coming days. In this situation, it is pretty clear that there is significant anger about how the former MP acted and her decision to quit.

If the vote was simply ‘Conservative or Other’ then Rishi Sunak would not be welcoming a new MP to the House of Commons from here. With both Labour and the Lib Dems looking to secure the majority of the votes from those who would vote for ‘Other’ in that scenario, this one isn’t a done deal yet.

The last time I wrote on this market, I felt the best value in the market was with the Conservatives as the two other contenders took lumps out of one another to allow the party to sneak through to win in the low 30’s. I still think that this is a very possible outcome but should any of the three win, that wouldn’t be a shock either.

From an implied odds perspective, the current prices give Labour a 52% chance of winning, the Tories 35% and the Lib Dems 23%. That shows it is still very much a three-horse race as it were but betting against the Lib Dem by-election campaign has not been a fruitful tactic in recent years and considering it is still clearly at full throttle, they really cannot be ruled out.

All to play for and this market will see plenty of movement over the course of the next ten days I’m sure.

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