As readers here will know I do not normally bet myself, so this post is brought to you purely in the spirit of letting you know how the various parties might be doing in the current election campaign. In particular, what are the odds on Stella Creasy or Farid Ahmed being elected?
My gut feeling and some soundings with people who have been out on the doorsteps suggest that Ms Creasy is still the front runner, but Farid Ahmed should not be ruled out. His recent leaflet (well, one of them - I have had four different forms of written communication from the LibDems delivered to me in the past couple of days) says boldly that he thinks he can win. Well, he would have to say that, wouldn't he?
The bookies though, think this is a possibility too. William Hill says his chances are 8/1 against - the same odds which I was poking fun at Clyde Loakes over recently, but Paddy Power has quoted 5/1. Both firms have the Tories as rank outsiders at 100/1 against, which is pretty generous in my view, given the almost complete lack of effort Andy Hemsted has put into his campaign.
Could these odds improve? Something tells me they might, given the creditable showing that Nick Clegg made in the Leadership debate, which has various opinion polls reducing the spread between the three parties to around 5%. The Daily Mail is even said to be putting the LibDems in the joint-lead nationally, though I suspect that is for reasons connected with wanting to light a right-wing fire under Dave Cameron. Against Mr Ahmed, are the effects of the split in the LibDems locally, which could hinder his chances slightly. People do not like voting for divided parties. His use of paid delivery systems for much of his literature could overcome or at least minimise the effects of the disaffection of many of the LibDem's activists, though, so he may still be able to get his upbeat message across to people who don't read the local paper or blogs like this one.
William Hill are still offering online odds of Stella Creasy winning at 1/20 this evening, though interestingly, Paddy Power is offering a slightly more attractive 1/15. Whether and how this should be adjusted in the light of Ms Creasy's late start campaigning, her lack of funds and haphazard approach, including a failure to attend the first of the local hustings, let alone the Nick Clegg effect and the massive amounts of publicity which Farid Ahmed is pouring through the letterboxes, I will leave to the experts. I do expect though that when the odds were originally set, the bookmakers probably presumed that some of the anti-Labour vote might go to Dave Camerons' candidate, who would try to work at least to try to save his deposit. Such an effort has not materialised so far. Nor has there been any great showing by UKIP, who joined Mr Hemsted, the Tory, and Ms Creasy, in failing to engage with the electorate at the recent hustings.
The other imponderables are that Labour has a credible challenger on the left in the shape of Nancy Taaffe, and has adopted a stategy of trying to identify and galvanise its support for Ms Creasy using online rather than purely doorstep means. How effective these electioneering techniques will be for her, I have no firm idea yet. I do know that where Plan B is concerned she has a shortage of real local support herself, in terms of volunteers pounding streets. She has had to resort to bussing in a load of inexperienced canvassers from outside the constituency to brave the non-existent hoardes of fascists they fantasize might are lurking in the neighbourhood to make up for this.
There are commentators who consider that the effectiveness of online campaigning was always exagerrated, which would have made her high levels of reliance upon this 'talking to the echo-chamber' strategy in the past few months somewhat risky for Ms Creasy. Of course, as the inheritor of a significant majority from Neil Gerrard, she may well think she can afford to take the risk that she was making such a mistake and still go on to win the seat. She may also figure that the contempt most people have for the Brown government and for politicians generally since the expenses scandal will not rub off on her too much. Who knows?