UK Politics Betting: Five markets to watch in 2020

The UK Parliament in Westminster
A New Year in Westminster brings fresh battles and betting opportunities

What does 2020 hold for UK politics? Max Liu picks five markets to watch with the leadership of two parties up for grabs, the future of the union in doubt and more to ponder...

"Sturgeon believes the outcome of the general election, and the 2016 in-out referendum in which Scots voted 62% to Remain, gives her an "unarguable mandate" to hold a referendum on independence. It's 9.08/1 to happen this year and Johnson knows he must tread carefully."

Next Labour leader

This one will keep us busy for the next three months at least, with a new Labour leader expected to be in place by March at the earliest. So far, Keir Starmer 1.738/11, Lisa Nandy 12.011/1, Jess Phillips 13.5, Clive Lewis 38.037/1 and Emily Thornberry 95.094/1 have said they're standing for the job. In some ways - competence, charisma and arguably the potential to reunite the party - Starmer has the necessary qualities, but question marks remain about whether he can appeal to Labour's lost Leave-voting heartlands. You'd have to conclude that his odds are very short for this stage of the race, especially as we know that the curse of the favourite has been a factor at the last two Labour leadership contests. In a way, though, that's already happened here, with Rebecca Long-Bailey, who was once the jolly, out to 5.49/2 before she's even declared her candidacy.

Next Liberal Democrat leader

In terms of news coverage, this has gone under the radar so far. That's understandable, as the Liberal Democrats have only 11 MPs and have spent the past half-decade as only the fourth biggest party in the House of Commons. But that doesn't mean the leadership contest lacks betting potential. Previous leader Jo Swinson lasted less than six months and resigned immediately after leading one of the worst election campaigns in living memory. Ed Davey 1.574/7 is the favourite to succeed her and recent Lib Dem leadership contest have been foregone conclusions. Davey, though, carries the taint of coalition and, after three humiliating general elections, the party needs to arrest its slide. In such circumstances surprises can happen so it's feasible Layla Moran 3.814/5, or even new MP Daisy Cooper 8.07/1, can cause an upset here.

Scottish independence

The biggest threats to Boris Johnson arguably lie outside of parliament and the SNP are principal among them. Yes, the SNP have 47 seats at Westminster following an excellent showing at the 2019 general election, but it is their leader and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon who really has the power to give Johnson a headache. A shrewd operator who has been in post since 2014, Sturgeon is even more skilful at exploiting anti-Westminster sentiment than her predecessor.


She believes the outcome of the general election, and the result of the 2016 in-out referendum in which Scots voted 62% to Remain, gives her an "unarguable mandate" to hold a referendum on independence. It's 9.08/1 to happen this year and Johnson knows he must tread carefully.

Mayor of London election

Looking at the betting on the next London Mayoral Election - which takes place 7 May - you'd think Sadiq Khan's first term in City Hall had been an unmitigated triumph. The incumbent, who launched his re-election bid this week, is 1.211/5 to be returned. His nearest challenger is the independent, ex-Tory, Rory Stewart 6.25/1 while the Tory candidate Shaun Bailey is languishing on 22.021/1. But the odds arguably says more about the shortcomings of Khan's opponents than his own popularity. The Mayor is pilloried from all sides for failing to tackle the capital's rising crime rates and, while the Tories' difficulties in London at general elections indicate that Bailey is unlikely to make inroads, it will be interesting to see if Stewart's campaign can build momentum.

Exit Dates - Boris Johnson

It's wishful thinking to be talking about the end of Johnson (typing it does feel good, though) less than a month after he lead the Tories to a comfortable majority. But the last Tory PM to win a general election outright was gone just over a year later, so you never know. Johnson is reportedly planning to bid to bring the 2030 World Cup to England, with football's northern heartlands central to the plan. This is exactly the kind of eye-catching gesture we can expect from Johnson - the type that works for a mayor but perhaps won't pass muster coming from a PM. Johnson starts 2020 facing a foreign policy crisis, with the US on the brink of war with Iran, which is not an area he's exactly excelled in previously, and the question is already trending: #WhereIsBoris? He's 1.241/4 to last until 2024 or later but the election result won't draw a line under the upheavals of the last decade and, where Johnson is concerned, the self-destruct button is always within reach.

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