Election 2015: Who would gamble on the East Midlands marginals?

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image captionCould the Conservatives' hopes for a return to power be blown away in the East Midlands?

It's being called the most unpredictable election yet, with voters in the East Midlands said to be among the most likely to turn to smaller, less mainstream parties. Despite this uncertainty, some people are still willing to bet serious cash on the outcome. Do they know something we don't?

"Follow the money," says Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, from the Nottingham Business School.

He is an expert in, among other things, gambling and politics, and sees the East Midlands as a two horse race between the Conservatives and Labour.

"People don't put lots of money on a candidate if they don't think they are going to win," he says.

"The people who know the most, bet the most. The people who can process the information the best, bet the most. If you follow that money, eventually it normally leads you to the victorious candidate."

He confidently predicts the Conservatives will take no seats from Labour in the region and will lose four.

And he believes the high profile seat of Loughborough, previously held by education minister Nicky Morgan, will be very close but remain in Tory hands.

His certainty only falters in Lincolnshire, where he says the Boston and Skegness constituency will be decided "by a coin toss".

"Heads it will be UKIP, tails it will be Conservative - I don't know which way that coin will fall."

But his confidence is not shared by everybody. Senior politicians, including top Tory Theresa May and Labour's Harriet Harman, have already been dropping in on the region, hoping to raise the profile of their parties at a time when so much doubt surrounds the mood of the electorate.

Most marginal seats

  • Ashfield - Labour's Gloria De Piero won just 192 more votes than her Lib Dem rival
  • Sherwood - Conservative Mark Spencer is defending a 214 majority
  • Broxtowe - Conservative minister Anna Soubry enjoys a 389 Conservative majority
  • Amber Valley - Nigel Mills will be defending a 536 Conservative majority
  • Chesterfield - Labour's Toby Perkins is defending a 549 majority over the Liberal Democrats
  • Erewash - Conservative Jessica Lee is not defending her 2,501 majority
  • Loughborough - Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has a 3,744 majority
  • High Peak - Heather Wheeler is defending a 7,128 Conservative majority

Who will win? A John Hess blog.

Dr Caitlin Milazzo, assistant politics lecturer at the University of Nottingham, says voters in "economically vulnerable" areas are more likely to turn to new and less mainstream parties, making eventual outcomes difficult to predict.

In times of hardship, Liberal Democrats tended to be the main beneficiaries. But polls suggest this year will be different, she says, with people looking elsewhere.

"There are a lot of marginal seats in the East Midlands. Normally we would look to the past to see how the parties did but that doesn't really help this year.

image copyrightAP/PA
image captionTheresa May and Harriet Harman have both visited the East Midlands on the campaign trail

"Look at a place like Ashfield. The Lib Dems would have been quite hopeful to defeat Labour but that now seems unlikely. It depends where those voters go to. Gloria De Piero could widen her majority, but could UKIP get in?"

That idea that UKIP is muscling in on Labour territory is gaining ground - the party is no longer just poaching angry Tories.

An additional difficulty is that, for the most part, polling is done on a national level.

On the day Parliament was dissolved Labour and the Conservatives were neck-and-neck with UKIP in third, Lib Dems fourth and the Greens in fifth.

But that doesn't tell you who's going to win individual seats. As voters on a local level begin to abandon the traditional parties, it's difficult trying to work out where they'll go, says Dr Milazzo.

"Part of it is the exodus from the main parties but part of it is exodus from the Lib Dems. It's predicting that which is difficult.

"A lot comes down to who is going to lose more."

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