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MP expenses scandal has cut general election odds

THERE is nothing like a good political scandal to get the blood flowing. Watching Question Time last week was a bit like watching Doctor Who when you were a child &ndash; best done from behind the sofa and through the fingers. Never has there been so much fury against politicians. The atmosphere is even worse than it was in 1997, when all those Tories canoodling with their secretaries were just laughable. This time the dying days of the government are accompanied by real anger.<br /><br />For those who enjoy a flutter, it means that the next general election is all but over. With polls showing Labour at its lowest level ever, anger over Gordon Brown&rsquo;s handling of the expenses affair and a cautious approval of the way that David Cameron has dealt with the scandal, Extrabet have odds of 1/8 that Cameron will be walking through the door of Number 10 when the country goes to the polls, miles ahead of Labour on 9/2.<br /><br /><strong>PREDICTING THE TREND<br /></strong>Spread betters, though, might still have some chance of finding a decent bet. The main market is for the number of seats that each of the parties will win in the next parliament. The key to making money is predicting the trend. Obviously the direction seems pretty clear, but just how bad can things get for the government?<br /><br />As an example of how quickly things alter, take the changes since the budget. Then, the spread on the Tories was 346-351 seats and Labour 227-232. Perhaps surprisingly, the spreads now are (with Extrabet) 353-358 for the Tories, 214-219 for Labour and 51-54 for the Lib Dems. Sporting Index have spreads of 355-360 for the Tories, 212-217 for Labour and 51-54 for the Lib Dems.<br /><br />Perhaps the most astonishing thing about that is just how little the numbers have changed, even after a disastrous week for Brown et al. The question really has to be, just how much worse can it get?<br /><br />If the public&rsquo;s disdain is aimed equally at all parties, then the effect might just be a low turnout, which would perhaps not have a big effect on the number of seats that each party wins.<br /><br />On the other hand, if there is a large move to the fringe parties then that could mean that all the major parties lose votes. Things might be a little clearer after the European elections on 4 June.<br /><br />To be fair, the anger over expenses might well fade away, leaving the issues which the politicians insist are the &ldquo;real&rdquo; ones to take over again. Sadly for Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, that means the economy. Darling made a massive prediction when he said in the budget that we will see a recovery in Q3. If that fails to emerge (as well it might) then the numbers could start to look even bleaker for Labour. If any more scandals emerge, then the numbers that are being offered today might look optimistic.<br /><br />In the meantime, those who think that the expenses issue has legs, might be interested in Sporting Index&rsquo;s spread of MP resignations: it currently stands at 9-10.

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