UK Politics: Starmer cements confident start but bettors know Labour has long way to go

  • Max Liu
  • 3:30 min read
Labour leader Keir Starmer
Starmer's first conference speech was well-received

It's been a good week for Keir Starmer, with a confident conference speech and positive polling, but are bettors buying Labour's resurgence? Max Liu discusses the latest UK politics betting...

"At this point, no overall majority 2.3411/8 – the current favourite outcome – is surely the best election outcome Labour can hope for."

Labour are 2.166/5 on the Exchange to win the next general election after Keir Starmer delivered his first conference speech as leader. Starmer's week got even better on Saturday when Labour overtook the Conservatives in a poll for the first time since Boris Johnson became prime minister.

Opinium put Labour three points ahead of the Tories this weekend - a remarkable situation for a party that was said to have a mountain to climb if it was ever to win back power following December's election defeat.

Six months ago, the same firm gave the Conservatives a 26 point lead, but the government's handling of the pandemic has meant they've haemorrhaged support, with Boris Johnson's personal approval rating also crashing.

The poll, which follows one from YouGov last weekend that put the parties level for the first time this year, compounds the sense that Starmer is making Labour electable. His speech to his party's virtual conference was his clearest attempt yet to put distance between himself and his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

Bettors are right, however, to remain cautious about their chances next time Britain goes to the polls. In some of the areas where Labour needs to regain support, their local polling is less encouraging than the national picture. At this point, no overall majority 2.3411/8 - the current favourite outcome - is surely the best election outcome the party can hope for.

All of that said, Starmer has made a more confident start than either Corbyn in 2015 or Ed Miliband in 2010. Starmer already leads Johnson on approval ratings whereas Corbyn always struggled for credibility and Miliband trailed David Cameron even when Labour were ahead in the polls.

The media, on both left and right, is giving Starmer an easier ride than it gave either of his predecessors. Some of his more excitable supporters in the press compared his conference speech to Neil Kinnock's in 1983 and even Tony Blair's famous clause four moment from 1994. For now, comparison to Kinnock rather than Blair is the more pertinent.

Sunak the saviour?

The Tories' poor polling will add to their MPs' concerns about Johnson's leadership. He has brought people into the party, and promoted those already within it to cabinet, on the basis of loyalty rather than ability, but their loyalty to him will evaporate if they think he's going to lead them to defeat.

Earlier this week, the Exchange odds on Johnson leaving office this year shortened from around 25.024/1 to under 8.07/1. The current price is 9.08/1, although he is 3.052/1 to go next year and that's the one I'm watching.

Rishi Sunak 956.jpg

Polling from Ipsos Mori showed chancellor Rishi Sunak, the current favourite to succeed Johnson as Tory leader, remains popular with the public. An overwhelming number said they trusted his judgement ahead of Johnson's and 59% said they were satisfied with the chancellor's performance.

The polling was, however, conducted before Sunak's latest announcement of the Job Support Scheme on Thursday and it remains to be seen how public perceptions of the chancellor will shift amid predicted widespread unemployment. The next general election is 1.434/9 to be in 2024 and, while that leaves the Tories time to turn around their polling fortunes, plenty of reputations will rise and fall before then. At 3.55, I wouldn't buy shares in Sunak.

SNP overtake Lib Dems but is Welsh indyref the one to watch?

The Liberal Democrats have abandoned their opposition to Brexit and will concentrate on the issues that really matter to people. That was the message from new leader Ed Davey at his party's virtual conference this weekend.

So far, they have enjoyed no polling bounce since Davey took charge a month ago. This week, Opinium put the SNP (6%) a point ahead of the Lib Dems in Britain-wide polling - a remarkable state of affairs when the former only stands candidates north of the border.

The SNP are expected to win a record number of SMPs at next year's Scottish elections - an outcome that, Nicola Sturgeon would argue, will strengthen the case for another referendum on independence. Johnson, however, has ruled out granting a referendum and no referendum before 2025 is 1.794/5 on the Exchange.

But what about a referendum elsewhere in Britain? This week, Plaid Cymru set out a roadmap for Welsh independence and called for an "exploratory referendum" on the matter. On Sportsbook, Wales is 4/1 in the "next region to hold independence referendum without Scotland" market.

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