The elections are getting closer; the various news outlets are lapping up the polls and generally getting more frenzied.
But: what everyone should understand is that a foregone conclusion doesn’t do the polling companies — who make their living from uncertain outcomes — any favours. It’s not much use for newspapers either, which like to build up events to a dramatic climax. That sells papers.
You know the outcome is really predictable when they start running “polls of polls,” the point where the media starts to eat itself.
We noticed that in the last few big ballots (Scottish referendum, American elections) the bookies got it more or less right, while the media and its need for speed hyped an increasingly fictitious neck and neck race up to the end.
It’s obvious when you think about it: bookies have their own money to lose. They need to be accurate enough to make a profit. They need to be clear and level-headed.
Polling companies, on the other hand, generate more business by describing a fluid and ever-changing world.
So for the elections on 7th May, we’ve been keeping a closer eye on William Hill, posting the results each week on social media.
As you might expect, the most likely outcome is another coalition.
The odds of us getting no overall majority is 1/10, after being 1/8 a couple of weeks ago.
If you don’t understand odds: this means William Hill thinks there’s a 90% chance of this happening.
As for the Conservatives getting an overall majority: the odds are 15/2 after being 6/1 last week (but 15/2 the week before).
This means William Hill is giving them an 11% chance of winning outright.
On the other hand, a Labour majority is now 28/1, slipping from 22/1 last week and 20/1 the week before. In percentage terms, this is just a 3% chance of them winning a majority.
The odds for getting the most seats stay with the Tories: the Tories getting the most seats is at 1/3, while for Labour it’s 9/4 and UKIP 200/1. The Lib Dems are still 1000/1.
This means William Hill thinks there’s a 75% chance the Tories will have the most seats but only a 30% chance that Labour will.
As for UKIP and the threat it poses — it’s clear the bookies regard it as a minor party. UKIP, however, is clearly gambling that the two seats it wins will prove crucial.
A UKIP majority is at 200/1 and the bookies’ predictions for UKIP seats is:
● having no seats – 6/1, after being 8/1 (ie more likely than it was a couple of weeks ago);
● one seat now 11/4 after being 10/3 and 7/2;
● two seats 7/2 after being 4/1 and 9/2 (ie getting more likely);
● three seats 9/2 after being 5/1 earlier (slightly more likely than it was but less likely than two seats or less);
● four seats 6/1;
● five seats 12/1;
● six seats now down to 20/1, drifting from 16/1 and 12/;
● nine seats 33/1, drifting from 25/1 and 20/1.
In percentage terms, this means William Hill thinks UKIP has a 14% chance of winning no seats, 26% chance of winning one seat, a 22% chance of two seats, and is 18% likely to win three seats, the percentages falling away after that.
UKIP currently has two seats, both popular constituency MPs who went for by-elections.
The odds of a Lib Dem majority have tumbled in the last week, but only from 1000/1 to 500/1, so we reckon the biggest question is who will win more seats, the SNP or the Lib Dems?
There’s terrible news for the Lib Dems here: the odds for it being SNP are 1/20, a tie is 16/1 and it being the Lib Dems is only at 8/1.
This means that William Hill thinks there’s a 95% chance that the SNP will have more seats in the next Parliament, while the Lib Dems only have a 10% of being bigger than the SNP.
The Liberal Democrats currently have 56 seats in Parliament and the SNP six, while Scotland sends 40 Labour MPs to Parliament.
This seems to mean that William Hill is predicting the total collapse of the Labour Party in Scotland and a partial or total collapse of the Lib Dem vote in England — the SNP seems on course to win most of those Labour seats, giving it (say) 40 Scottish seats in Parliament, leaving the Lib Dems needing to lose only a dozen or so seats to be smaller than the SNP in Parliament.
Interesting! Obviously, if Hill’s are even close to being accurate, these results would probably spell the end of David, Ed, Nick and possibly Nigel, if he’s personally not elected. Nicola, on the other hand, will be queen. Even more interesting!
Unfortunately, William Hill’s second most likely scenario — after no overall majority — is a second General Election this year.
The odds for that are 3/1.
We might be going through it all again…