With less than two weeks to go until the Westminster election, it is time to start looking at what the bookies can tell us. Because, regardless of what they might want the outcome to be, it would be a rare punter who would place a bet for political reasons rather than the hope to win a few pounds.
Paddy Power, as usual, is offering odds on the result in each of the 18 constituencies.
His punters see the outcome as largely a victory for the status quo.
The DUP – according to the punters – will retain 8 of its 9 seats. In the ninth, South Antrim, the DUP are level-pegged with UCUNF (both are on 5/6 against). The SDLP are favourites to retain all three of their seats (including South Belfast), and Sinn Féin are favourites to retain 4 of their 5. The fifth, of course, is Fermanagh and South Tyrone where Rodney Connor, the unionist unity candidate, is marginally favourite to win. Sylvia Hermon is the bookies favourite in North Down.
So in 16 seats the punters expect no change. Only South Antrim and FST are exceptions. The odds may change slightly in the run-up to the election, and this blog will keep an eye on them to see if the ordinary (wo)man in the street changes his or her mind.
Some anomalies are visible in the odds – for example, despite the boosting by her supporters, the punter sees Naomi Long (Alliance) as having no real chance in East Belfast – at 40/1 against she has longer odds even than the TUV candidate. In North Belfast, embarrassingly, Alliance has longer odds even than the joke candidate Martin McAuley, and in FST it has longer odds than the independent John Stevenson. Gerry Adams in West Belfast has the shortest odds the Western World has probably ever seen in a contested election – 1/750.