The Ken v Boris battle looks done and dusted and for many candidates success will be judged on finishing third and that is a market where Lib Dem Brian Paddick and independent Siobhan Benita look worthy of a lay
Things go from bad to worse for the Conservative Party. In the wake of further damaging revelations about the government's cosy relationship with Rupert Murdoch and subsequent calls for Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to quit, the Tories' Yougov poll rating has slipped below 30% for the first time in seven years. With only a few days left before the London Mayoral election, Boris Johnson's team could be forgiven worrying that this emerging anti-Tory narrative might damage their chances.
So far, Boris has remained immune to the various crises affecting his former Bullingdon Club pal David Cameron, although there was a scare in one of last week's polls. Once Yougov had re-allocated second preferences, their poll recorded Ken Livingstone trailing by only 2% - a margin that could be vulnerable if Labour supporters turn out in higher numbers. That prompted Johnson's odds to drift out to 1.32, but since a later Comres survey reported his lead at a year-high of 8%, the Tory candidate has shortened to just 1.2, his lowest mark yet.
Given Boris and Ken's well-publicised history and a campaign that feels like it has lasted an eternity, it's unlikely that any specific London issues are going to sway public opinion at this late stage. Rather if Ken is to turn this around, it will be thanks to either a national effect or his team's ability to motivate Labour voters and maximise turnout. On that score, however, his campaign was dealt a further blow yesterday when Labour peer Lord Sugar repeated his attacks on Ken in the Murdoch-owned Sunday Sun.
Without some dramatic polling news, the main market is unlikely to move much until the results start coming in on Friday morning. Happily though, Betfair
have created a series of alternative markets around the fascinating sub-contest between all the minor candidates. Punters can bet on which minor candidate will earn the highest vote percentage - excluding either the big-two or big-three (in case clarity is required, Lib Dem Brian Paddick is the third favourite!). Another interesting betting option concerns the exact percentage share earned by each candidate - Boris' figure, for example, is under or over 44%.
These markets are relatively new and lack liquidity so far, making it hard to recommend a specific bet. However I will offer three bits of advice.
First, Paddick could well be vulnerable and end up lower than third. That isn't a reflection on his fairly competent campaign, but of his party's dire standing across the land. Even those past Lib Dem supporters who don't feel let down by their coalition antics will be tempted to conclude that theirs is a wasted vote.
In contrast to the Lib Dems, the other minor parties at least appear to stand for certain values and principles. Whereas protest votes have traditionally gone to the Lib Dems, those voters that want to send a message to the political class are far likelier to go Green, UKIP, BNP or for the independent Siobhan Benita - depending on their own politics and concerns. We've seen UKIP and Respect massively under-estimated in recent by-elections and a similar shock could await the Lib Dems on Friday morning. For my money, UKIP are the likeliest threat to Paddick, but I'd be happy to just lay him at short odds-on.
Finally, don't buy into the Siobhan Benita hype. Punters who backed her down to just 30.0 for the Mayoralty have had the worst bet of all time. She has absolutely no chance of winning and will do well to make the top-four. She may look and sound the part, and have some support within the London media and even some anti-Ken Labourites, but she is completely unknown beyond the Westminster Village.
Lay both Brian Paddick & Siobhan Benita for Highest 1st Preference Vote Percentage without Con + Lab