Punters defy polls to predict Labour crash

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Labour's majority will be cut by half this week: that is the view of the punters.

Bookies are reporting record interest in betting on the 2005 election, despite Labour being almost a dead cert to return to power. Thousands are being wagered on a Labour victory, but betting opinion suggests Labour will have a far smaller majority than the polls suggest. The Liberal Democrats are also likely to win more seats than voters have suggested to the polls.

Ladbrokes and William Hill, the country's two biggest bookmakers, expect £10m to be wagered on the 2005 general election, double the amount staked in 2001. Graham Sharpe, of William Hill, said: "We have seen a lot of interest in betting on the election and have taken some large bets on a Labour win, one of £100,000, one of £20,000 and one of £15,000."

Betting patterns are seen as a more accurate indicator of how voters will act than traditional polls.

Richard Glynn, chief executive of the spread betting company, Sporting Index, said: "Our betting markets are formed by considered views backed by money - not sentiment."

Punters are betting that Labour's majority will be as low as 60 seats. Few punters are backing a majority of more than 80 seats.