The Pendle constituency in May’s general election is too close to call according to latest odds from leading bookmakers.
The latest Ladbrokes figures show it is set to be a close fight between current Conservative MP Andrew Stephenson, who has odds of 5/6, and Labour candidate County Coun. Azhar Ali, who is quoted at evens.
Punters are also being offered odds of 25/1 for UKIP, whose candidate will be decided on Wednesday, and 100/1 for Lib Dem candidate and current Mayor of Pendle Coun. Graham Roach.
For Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, while the odds are promising, they have not made him complacent.
And although UKIP are the bookies’ third favourite to take the seat on May 7th, the party’s Burnley and Pendle Branch remain positive they can defy the odds.
Mr Stephenson, who won the seat at the 2010 General Election, beating Labour’s Gordon Prentice by 3,585 votes, said: “It is nice to be the bookies’ favourite, but the odds show that this will be a very closely fought election between Labours Azhar Ali and myself.
“I will be fighting a positive campaign on my record of working hard for residents across Pendle and hope I will be able to continue that work for a second term.”
UKIP Burnley and Pendle Branch Chairman Tom Commis said: “It’s a brave man who takes on the bookies, but if Ladbrokes are basing their odds on national opinion polls they may be in for an expensive suprise in May.
“UKIP have a history of beating the polls when it counts, just look the Heywood and Middleton by-election where we came within a few hundred votes of taking
the ‘safe’ Labour seat.
“If Ladbrokes are still offering these odds when local UKIP members select our candidate I’ll certainly take a punt.” And County Coun. Ali said: “I realise that I cannot compete with the free leaflets and advertising taken out by the local Tory MP over the last six years funded by big business, but I will endeavour to talk to as many people as I can and let the people of Pendle decide, rather than the bookies, on the outcome of the election.”
The predictions were mirrored in a Lord Ashcroft poll published at the end of last year.
When 1,000 voters – 542 women and 458 men – were asked the question “If there was a General Election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”, just before Christmas, Labour had a narrow lead over the Conservatives of 2% (Labour 36%, Conservative 34%, UKIP 19%, Lib Dem 7%).
However, when asked the question again, adding “And thinking specifically about your own parliamentary constituency at the next General Election and the candidates that are likely to stand for election…” the result was reversed with a 3% lead for sitting Conservative MP Mr Stephenson over his Labour opponent
Coun. Ali (Conservative 36%, Labour 33%, UKIP 17%, Lib Dem 11%).
Coun. Roach declined to comment on the latest odds.