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Andrea Calo 23rd Dec 2008 - 16:50

Bet on a quiet year for Gordon Brown

2009 will be a make-or-break year for UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown – with William Hill making it odds-on that the next General Election will be held in 2010. How “Prudence” handles the economy will shape the betting on whether Brown gets another term in charge of the country.

If a week is a long time in politics then a year is a lifetime – and Gordon Brown was given the political equivalent of CPR in 2008 when the public gave a thumbs-up to what it saw as his bold action in the face of impending financial disaster.

Brown’s Labour Party went from being rank outsiders in the General Election betting to clawing their way to odds of 13/8 – hardly an outright resurrection compared to the 4/9 about the Conservative Party, but with David Cameron unable to land a punch as Brown and chancellor Alistair Darling announced one set of rescue measures after another, the Scot looked more capable by the day.

General election odds-on for 2010
And with Darling announcing a £20 billion pre-budget package of tax cuts, the odds on a general election being held in 2009 were slashed, with William Hill cutting to 7/4 the price on the nation being called to the polls between January and June 2009. With unemployment rising though, and big names like Woolworths and MFI going to the wall, Hills still make 2010 its favourite time for the ultimate public vote – it’s 4/6 an election is held in 2010 or later.

Consequently the bookmaker is offering odds of 9/4 against that Brown leaves the PM’s office in 2009. It’s a 1/6 shot that he leads his party into the next election – whenever it is – and Harriet Harman is the favourite to replace him as Labour leader.

Brown out?
The Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for Women and Equality is quoted at odds of 3/1 to replace Brown, while the Blairite David Miliband – long a thorn in Brown’s side – is 4/1 second favourite.

Miliband has held off any further challenges to Brown’s authority for the time being – and while the opinion polls improve, that situation shouldn’t change.

But with the Tories still favourites to win the next election – and 2/5 to win by a landslide – Miliband might fancy rocking the boat sooner rather than later as Brown tries to navigate a rocky course through recession and possibly even depression and out the other side. There may be some value in backing his brother Ed, who has avoided the acrimony that David gets from Brown supporters and could be a good bet at 12/1.

Whether from his party or from the public, Brown will have challenges to face in 2009. He remains a master politician, though, and realises that when all else is fraught with danger, doing nothing is a viable option. He’s done well in 2008, and will be hoping 2009 is a quieter year for him – and one he can end in a better position than he was in twelve months ago.

After 15 years of him masterminding Labour Party strategy, you wouldn’t want to bet against him.


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