UK Politics Odds: Bettors back Johnson to survive Cummings' attacks

  • Max Liu
  • 3:00 min read
Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson outside Downing Street
Cummings said Johnson was unfit to be PM

The latest UK politics odds indicate that bettors think Dominic Cummings' accusations will do little damage to the popularity of Boris Johnson's government says Max Liu...

"The Batley and Spen by-election will take place on 1 July and the odds indicate that this one will be interesting. The Tories are 1.558/15 to win, a price shaped by the sense that, after their victory in Hartlepool this month, they can win anywhere."

Bettors think Boris Johnson will lead the Conservative Party to victory in the next general election despite Dominic Cummings' claims that his former boss is unfit to be prime minister.

At the end of a week in which Cummings, who was until six months ago Johnson's most senior adviser, made a serious of extremely serious accusations against the prime minister at a Commons committee, Johnson is 1.9520/21 on the Exchange to leave office no sooner than 2024.

The Conservatives are 1.9720/21 to win a majority at the next general election. That's a slight drift from last week's price but hardly evidence that Cummings' claims were a bombshell for the government.

The next general election is 1.528/15 to take place in 2024 - when it's scheduled - but with the Tories riding high in the polls, Johnson could be tempted to go to the country sooner and the 3.45 on 2023 is appealing.

Early signs Cummings failed to hurt Johnson

Depending on who you talk to Cummings' epic evidence session at the committee on Wednesday was gripping political theatre or a new low for British public life.

Looking at those odds, though, bettors were underwhelmed. It's as if the Exchange markets are collectively asking: "Is that it?"

Certainly the lack of movement in the betting in the last few days indicates that bettors think Cummings' attempts to hurt Johnson will fail to cut through with the public.

There could be more to come from Cummings, who said during his seven hour appearance, that he was holding back some details until the public inquiry into the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Matt Hancock 956.jpg

He accused Health Secretary Matt Hancock of being a serial liar who should have been sacked. There are renewed calls for Hanock to go but the PM is slow to fire loyal members of his government, especially amid pressure from the media and public. Nobody knows this better than Cummings who Johnson refused to dismiss a year ago, after details emerged of Cummings' infamous trip to Durham during the first lockdown.

That was the catalyst for the government's plummeting popularity in the second half of 2020 until they started to enjoy their vaccine bounce later on. The irony then is that Cummings may have done more damage to the government from within than from without.

And yet Cummings' bid for revenge against Johnson is far from over and his claims could still have implications for UK politics. His agenda was to hurt the PM and the Health Secretary but he praised Rishi Sunak and said very little about Michael Gove - the two front runners to succeed Johnson.

Sunak is 3.45 to be next Conservative leader while Gove is 8.415/2. Jeremy Hunt, who is co-chair of the committee and questioned Cummings on Wednesday, is the nearest challenger from outside the cabinet at 11.010/1.

What Cummings said about the government's incompetence was so extraordinary that not even Labour leader Keir Starmer can resist to trying to exploit it. He warned this weekend that, if Covid-19 restrictions cannot be lifted in full on 21 June, it will be down to Johnson's chaotic leadership.

At 2.1411/10 Starmer is a longer price than Johnson to still be leader of his party in 2024.

There was, however, some encouragement for Starmer this weekend when the latest Opinium poll showed Labour closing the gap on the Tories immediately after Cummings appearance at the committee:

Batley and Spen by-election set for 1 July

There will be a couple of by-elections over the next month or so, first in Amersham and Chesham, Buckinghamshire - a safe Tory seat since the 1970s but one where most people voted Remain in 2016 - then in Batley and Spen, Yorkshire, a Leave constituency which has been Labour since 1997.

It was confirmed this week that the latter will take place on 1 July and the odds indicate that this one will be interesting. The Tories are 1.558/15 to win, a price shaped by the sense that, after their victory in Hartlepool this month, they can win anywhere.

Before Labour took the seat in '97, however, it was a Tory seat for 14 years so this isn't another Hartlepool.

Labour are 2.767/4 and, if those odds are correct and the Tories prevail, it will be another blow to Starmer's leadership and prompt speculation that Labour would do better with current favourite Andy Burnham 4.67/2 at the helm.

Labour have selected Kim Leadbeater, sister of the late Jo Cox, who represented the seat before her murder by a right-wing extremist, as their candidate. Leadbetter is defending a slim Labour majority but they shouldn't be written off.

Former-Celebrity Big Brother contestant George Galloway will provide the by-election sideshow after he announced he was standing in a bid to undermine Starmer's leadership.

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