TORY LEADERSHIP ELECTION: The City speculates on votes being held back

THE ODDS
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The Independent Online
All eyes are on the number of abstentions as spread-betting City gamblers consider John Redwood dead in the water but don't rate John Major's survival as good either. More tellingly, William Hill reports no bets have been placed on Major at the nearest betting shop to the House of Commons.

The spread bet market maker City Index reduced its spread from 10 to 6 votes as the deadline for first-round candidates expired. The narrower the margin, the more opportunity to make money.

IG Index said Redwood sold throughout yesterday while City Index reported some Redwood buys and a spate of John Major sales.

At City, Paul Barnet moved John Major to 178-184 and John Redwood to 74-80. The abstention book stands at 66-72 on a minimum of pounds 3 and a maximum of pounds 50 a vote.

IG gamblers have more faith in Major although he has slipped as more abstentions were factored in. Redwood's chances evaporated. Peter Hetherington offers Major at 183-193 and Redwood at 69-79.

The contest has moved City's election book with Conservatives on 253- 261 seats, Labour at 341-349 and Liberal Democrats unchanged at 28-30.

Virtually no one is betting on the declared runners at William Hill. Major stays at yesterday's price of 11/10 against as most of the cash is placed on the "doubtful starters", with Michael Portillo down from 7/1 to 4/1. Michael Heseltine has attracted a series of three-figure bets and is cut from 5/2 to 2/1. Gillian Shephard and Kenneth Clarke continue to poll support. John Redwood's odds to lead the party into the next election have lengthened from 6/1 to 7/1.

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