UK Politics faces an end of year climax, as this Thursday the constituency of North Shropshire hosts its by-election, to replace former scandal-ridden MP Owen Paterson.
As the constituency heads to the polls, Smarkets has branded the Tory stronghold as ‘too close to call’ – as the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats are neck-and-neck at 50% and 49% respectively, to win the crucial by-election.
The loss of North Shropshire would signify the lowest point of PM Boris Johnson’s premiership, as Party divisions appear on the PM’s handling of scandals and the latest COVID-19 Omnicom variant.
Smarkets Political Analyst, Patrick Flynn, said: “It’s almost unheard of for a by-election to be this unpredictable so close to polling day. The Lib Dems seemed to be pulling away but the Tories are once again in their rearview mirror with the final lap approaching.”
Smelling blood in the water, the Lib Dems have targeted North Shropshire hard, hoping that candidate Helen Morgan can flip the constituency that has been blue for all but two elections since 1832.
Tracking the market, Smarkets has seen the ‘race narrow’ since Monday – with the Conservatives climbing back from a 34% chance to hold on to the seat, and the Lib Dems falling from a 65% high.
Yet again a split of the opposition vote between Labour and Lib Dems may well help Conservatives keep North Shropshire. Priced at 1% to win the seat, this week Labour sent deputy Leader Angela Rayner to campaign for votes.
“Though governing parties don’t usually fare all that well in by-elections, a historically very large swing would be required to take the Lib Dems over the edge tomorrow. The fact the Tories are even in contention to lose this seat shows the level of trouble the government finds itself in at the moment.” Flynn added.
Beyond North Shropshire, it’s now more likely than not (51%) that PM Johnson will leave his position in the next 12 months. Rishi Sunak remains the favourite (a 28% chance) to be the next Tory leader.
“On top of rebellions in the Commons over coronavirus legislation and questions about lockdown-breaking parties in Number 10 last year” – Flynn concluded.
“A Conservative loss tomorrow will undoubtedly fuel further speculation about the PM’s future – he is now rated more likely than not to leave his post by the end of 2022 on Smarkets, with a surge in users backing an early exit for Johnson over the past week.”