UK Politics Odds: Hancock resigns but Tories backed to win by-election

  • Max Liu
  • 4:00 min read
Matt Hancock walking into Downing Street
Matt Hancock resigned as health secretary on Saturday

Get the latest UK politics odds, including the Batley and Spen by-election following Matt Hancock's resignation as health secretary says Max Liu...

"The Liberal Democrats 6.411/2 are now second in the Batley and Spen market on the Exchange while Labour, who have held the seat since 1997, are out to 7.06/1."

It turns out that government ministers do resign. Matt Hancock is gone, following video footage of him breaking his own social distancing rules to kiss an aide, and Sajid Javid is the new health secretary.

Boris Johnson said on Friday, after news of the Hancock video broke, that he considered the matter closed and refused to sack his health secretary.

Hancock looked set to follow Priti Patel, Robert Jenrick and others in weathering the kind of political storm that would have previously lead to a government minister's exit.

But Hancock, whose demise has been widely tipped at several moments over the last 18 months, took matters into his own hands and decided to quit.

I said in February last year, when Javid quit Boris Johnson's government as chancellor, that Javid would be back and that we shouldn't write him off as a future Tory leader. Prior to his short spell as chancellor he was Home Secretary in Theresa May's government.

As he starts his new role in the department, Javid is 15.014/1 to be the next Conservative leader in a market where Rishi Sunak 3.613/5 remains the clear favourite.

Bad fortnight for government but bettors still back Tories

More broadly in betting terms, the furore of the last few days has done little to dent bettors' faith in the Conservatives.

They are even odds to win a majority at the next general election and 1.232/9 to win the Batley and Spen by-election on Thursday (1 July).

And yet this has been a bad fortnight for the government, arguably their worst for 12 months, and it could have long term implications for their electoral prospects.

Boris Johnson mask outside Downing St.jpg

Last year, Johnson's chief adviser Dominic Cummings' trip to Barnard Castle during the first lockdown, and Johnson's refusal to sack him, prompted a nosedive in the polls for the government. They reversed that towards the end of 2020 and it will be interesting to see if this time Hancock's resignation means the damage is limited.

There's a lot to the Hancock incident that remains unclear: how and why, for example, does a government minister have a camera in his office that he doesn't know about? Who put it there and who leaked the footage to The Sun?

One thing is certain: following the Conservatives' defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election and the resignation of Hancock this week, Johnson's vaccine bounce is over.

Lib Dems overtake Labour in Batley and Spen betting

One thing the government has going for it is the dire state of the opposition party. That shows no sign of changing soon and bettors have taken note ahead of next week's by-election.

The Liberal Democrats 6.411/2 are now second in the Batley and Spen market on the Exchange while Labour, who have held the seat since 1997, are out to 7.06/1.

Meanwhile, the Workers Party of Great Britain, for whom George Galloway is standing are 14.5 and look set to take votes from Labour.

Labour currently hold the seat by a majority of 3,525.

The Conservatives took Hartlepool from Labour at a by-election in May and losing Batley and Spen on Thursday would increase the pressure on Keir Starmer.

Labour MPs tend to be slow to try to oust their leaders - unless the leader is Jeremy Corbyn - and the only Labour leader of the modern era who failed to fight a general election was John Smith who died in office in 1994.

But the market on Starmer's exit dates indicates the uncertainty: he is 2.68/5 to last until 2024, when the next general election is odds-on to take place, but 2.982/1 to leave next year. You can get 3.185/40 on Starmer going in 2021.

This weekend Labour MP Dawn Butler denied that defeat in Batley and Spen would prompt a leadership challenge from the left of the party.

Keir-starmer-claps-1280.jpg

Andy Burnham is the current favourite to be next Labour leader and, as much as he insists he's happy in his elected role as Mayor of Greater Manchester, there have been signs recently that the former-Labour leadership candidate is eyeing a third bid for the job (he previously stood for the leadership in 2010 and 2015).

Burnham's support for Starmer has not been unequivocal and the spectacle of the Mayor of Manchester picking a fight with Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon this week was interpreted in some quarters as an attempt by Burnham to signal his unionist credentials to Labour supporters.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner 5.39/2 comes next in the betting with Sadiq Khan 8.07/1. I'm watching Lisa Nandy 11.010/1.

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