UK Change in Government 90% Probable on July 4, Bookies Say

Posted on: May 23, 2024, 01:53h. 

Last updated on: May 23, 2024, 02:20h.

This July 4, voters in Britain will have the chance to declare their independence from Conservative Party rule as they head to the ballot boxes. And the bookies say the probability of a change in government is very high.

UK general election betting, Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer, Labour, Conservatives
Sir Keir Starmer, left, is very likely to become Britain’s new prime minister in July, according to the bookies and almost everyone else. Current Conservative leader Rishi Sunak (right) called a surprise general election on Wednesday. (Image: Sky News)

Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which has been out of power since Tony Blair’s downfall in 2007, is 2/17 (-850) to win the election by a clear majority, representing an implied probability of 89.5%, according to Oddschecker.

Some pollsters believe the odds are even shorter. Political scientist John Curtis, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told Politico he believed there was a “99% chance of Labour forming the next administration.”

Why Now?

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the “snap” general election unexpectedly on Wednesday, May 22. It’s a curious decision and a huge gamble for the Conservative leader because his party has been trailing in the polls since the start of 2022.

A snap election is one called earlier than expected or when it’s not mandatory. It’s usually used as a tactic by an incumbent administration to exploit the opposition at a time when it is weak, so it’s difficult to see what Sunak is up to here.

The latest poll, by Savanta, puts Labour 20 points ahead with 44% favorability versus the Conservatives at 24%, with the remaining points divided among smaller parties, such as the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and the Scottish Nationalists.

Sunak could have waited till the end of the year and hoped for a miracle change in the political mood. But, calling the election now leaves even less time for a miraculous mood swing. The implication is that he doesn’t see things getting any better.

Grasping at Straws

Wednesday’s news of a drop in interest rates and a slightly sunnier economic outlook may have been the catalyst to call the election.

Sunak may also be hoping that warmer weather and a feel-good Euro 2024 soccer tournament in July, in which the England national team is the favorite, will persuade the electorate that things aren’t really that bad after all. In short, he’s grasping at some pretty wispy straws.

Sunak is 12/1 to remain in power and 30/1 to gain a majority. That’s because there’s an outside chance that he could form a coalition government in the event of a hung parliament (no overall majority), which the bookies have at 13/2.

As prime minister, he would be given the first chance to negotiate with other parties to form a majority coalition. But a coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats would be the far likelier outcome at 16/1 with the bookies.