By-elections tend to be grossly over interpreted. Boris Johnson is more likely than people think to shrug this off and govern until the next election, and even to turn it around and win that election (stunning mid-term defeats didn’t really do much to May, Cameron, or Blair). But it was still a big kick in the teeth for him, and one I thought was unlikely.
Still, whether North Shropshire means Johnson will be gone by the summer or not it is another signal that 2019 was probably their high point and next election will see them lose some seats. There are a few ways to bet on this. You could bet on Labour Most Seats (7/4 available, probably not value) or Keir Starmer next PM (6/1 widely available, probably value).
What you really want to do, however, is bet on some Tory marginals. Sadly seat-by-seat odds aren’t available yet. Well, mostly…
Ladbrokes will let you bet on the fate of Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton. It’s in ‘General Election Specials’ under the ‘Next UK General Election’ bit of the website. It’s 11/10 that he isn’t elected at the next election, and that’s a good deal.
Unlike North Shropshire, Esher and Walton truly is the Blue Wall. Lots of graduates, lots of Tory Remainers, it was heavily targeted by Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems back in 2019 and despite a disappointing national result they achieved a swing of almost 20% and came within 3,000 votes (or 5%) of winning. On the proposed new boundaries it is even more marginal, nominally being a Lib Dem gain already.
It’s bound to be a top target next time, and if the Tories are losing supporters at anything near what even the national polls suggest it will be an uphill struggle for them to hold it. Odds against seems like a great bet.
There are a few flies in the ointment, such as:
- Raab could simply move to an easier seat, and the bet would lose. I doubt he will though, Cabinet Ministers very rarely do and he’s been in the seat since 2010;
- The Tories could turn it around nationally. But even if they do, this is a Top 10 Lib Dem target so would still be at risk;
- The Lib Dems could just collapse (again) during the General Election campaign and fall short. As above, they’d still be in with a shout in this sort of seat though;
- The Lib Dems might be underperforming in the Blue Wall, as some polls suggest. The tactical position is so clear in the seat (one of just five where Labour lost their deposit in 2019) that you’d really expect anti-Tory voters to coalesce behind them here.
There is also one possible auto-win condition: What if Raab just leaves politics? It’s not very likely, but if he doesn’t stand then it doesn’t matter if the Tories hold the seat or not.
All in all, Esher and Walton is more likely to go yellow than blue at the next election, even with a fair bit of uncertainty this far out from election day. At odds against, it’s a solid (but long term) value bet.
Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. He has bets on Raab not being elected to any seat at the next election at 5/4 and 11/10. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts