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 You are in: Special Report: 1999: 06/99: Lib Dem leadership  
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EDITIONS
Lib Dem leadership Tuesday, 22 June, 1999, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
The bookies' choice
Nothing to worry about: Charles Kennedy remains favourite
The latest in the series of elections no-one is remotely interested in has kicked off with the young pretenders lining up to replace Paddy Ashdown.

That, at least, is the conventional wisdom in political circles, where it is presumed scarcely anyone will care who the Liberal Democrats choose to lead them into the millennium.

But the bookmakers tell a different story. Even before the contest had officially begun, they had seen a steady stream of punters keen to put money on the outcome.

The motivation, of course, could be the prospect of an easy win, with a clear leader among the crowded pack.

"We've had a lot of bets," says Graham Sharpe of bookmakers William Hill. "Charles Kennedy has been the favourite all the way through."

The party's foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell took the second largest amount of money before he dropped out of the race.

"It's like the Grand National," Sharpe says, "if they don't run you lose your money."

William Hill could be in danger of losing money itself, though. Most other bookies have already stopped taking bets.

Jonathan Rabb of BlueSQ online betting says: "We're not offering any competition spreads or markets because as far as we're concerned Kennedy is a certainty.

"We think it's not even worth offering odds on - if William Hill are giving 2/5 I'd recommend it."

Ladbroke says it had taken bets on the leadership contest, but stopped about two weeks before it officially started because of the overwhelming backing for Charles Kennedy.

"We've seen plenty of money for one candidate," says Andy Clifton. "The books were so lop-sided even if we were offering very short odds we'd still be losing money."

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