A House fond of the odd flutter

THE LATE Ian Mikardo would never have given Charles Kennedy 50-1 odds on the Liberal Democrats winning two seats in last week's European elections.

The party's tally was always likely to be between one and five and the shrewd, veteran Labour MP rarely lost money.

For years, Mr Mikardo, who died a year ago, was the unofficial bookie of the House of Commons, combining hard-left politics with an entrepreneurial talent that would have been envied on any racetrack in Britain.

Political betting by politicians has been around for a long time. Despite the Liberal Democrats' roots in the Nonconformist movement which frowned on such things, the party and its Liberal predecessor have always had their share of gamblers. But the gambling has usually been conducted rather more discreetly than Mr Kennedy's pounds 50 wager last week on a poor result for the Liberal Democrats, which won him pounds 2,500 at William Hill's.

Mr Mikardo ran a book on almost anything - the Derby, elections to Labour's national executive or Tory leadership contests. He did well out of Tory loyalists when Margaret Thatcher defeated Edward Heath. He was so often right that political journalists used his odds to forecast what would happen. He once offered odds of 5,000-1 against Kenneth Clarke becoming Tory leader, which from Mr Mikardo's point of view might have looked safe but would be suicidally high now.

Mr Kennedy, 34, was saying nothing yesterday but it is understood that he will give his winnings to the party. Ironically, this could help to fund an election petition aimed at increasing the Liberal Democrats' European representation to three. Yesterday, the party announced legal moves to challenge the result in Devon and East Plymouth, which the Conservatives held by 700 votes while a fringe candidate standing as a Literal Democrat polled 10,203.

If the seat changes hands, it should not affect Mr Kennedy's winnings.

Traditionally, the House of Commons has always attracted those who like a flutter and those who advise others. Robin Cook, Labour's spokesman on trade and industry, writes a racing tips column for a Scottish newspaper.

He recently advised his readers: 'Having an occasional flutter on a race is fun if you write off your stake as the price of your entry into sharing the thrill of a truly- run race. Treat it as an investment in future income and you are on the road to heartbreak.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future