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Solving the puzzle of the 66/1 bet against Labour

April 27th, 2009

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Did Lord West actually place a SELL Labour spread bet?

There were two initial mysteries over the Sunday Times report that one of Gordon Brown’s ministers had bet against the party in mid-2007 – just about the time that the next PM entered Downing Street. Who was it and how on earth could he get such massive odds on Labour not winning?

For the quoted price of 66/1 that the papers said that the man, now named as Lord West the Navy Minister, was simply so far off what we’ve seen on the general election markets that my first thought was that this was a porkie.

Just look at the panel above showing the prices from Betfair on the day Brown arrived at Number 10 and it’s hard to see how anybody could have got on a bet at anything like 66/1. In fact the longest it’s got on for no overall majority has been 5/1.

But the only betting that squares with the story is what has happened to the spreads since Mr. Brown assumed office. On that day at the end of June 2007 the Labour spread was 282 – 286. Today it is at 220 – 225 seats – so there has been a decline of about sixty seats.

So I reckon that Lord West placed a spread bet – and although his party might be heading for defeat at least he has the comfort of a pile of cash to come. For with this form of betting profits and losses are calculated by taking the difference between the level when the bet was entered into and what it finishes up as.

So anybody who sold Labour for £100 a seat on the day Brown became PM is now sitting on a profit of nearly £6,000. The great thing with the spreads, of course, is that you can realise your winnings at any time – provided you have got it right! This is the main reason why my biggest area of betting activity is the spreads.

UPDATE 1145: I’ve just caught up with this story: “..arriving today for a conference in London, West said: “I have never placed a bet on Labour losing the election.” He added: “I have never placed a bet at all while a minister ever on a political issue.”

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