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Tuesday, 19 June, 2001, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Big money backs Portillo
Tory leadership contender Michael Portillo
Portillo remains the bookies' favourite to win
Bookmakers have trimmed the odds on Michael Portillo becoming the next Tory leader after one anonymous punter bet 10,000 on him.

His odds dropped from 1-2 to 4-9 favourite with William Hill, after the bet at a branch in Eltham, south-east London.

Company spokesman Graham Sharpe said staff did not recognise the male gambler, whose bet was the largest by far taken by the chain on the leadership contest.

Second favourite Iain Duncan Smith - currently offered by William Hill at 11-4 - is also generating some interest, with one punter staking 2,000 on him to win.

We are welcoming bets on [Iain Duncan Smith] because his chances of winning still appear slim

Simon Clare
Coral Eurobet
Referring to the mystery man behind the 10,000 bet, Mr Sharpe said: "He was casually dressed, in his early 30s and entirely unknown to the staff in the branch.

"This is by some distance the biggest bet yet struck on the Tory leadership race and the man will make a profit of 5,000 if he is successful."

Other odds include Kenneth Clarke at 5-1, David Davis at 10-1, Michael Ancram at 25-1 and John Redwood and Liam Fox, both at 33-1.

Since Mr Duncan Smith declared that he would stand, his odds with Coral Eurobet have fallen from 5-1 to 7-2.

Coral also considers Mr Portillo to be the favourite, at 2-7, while Mr Clarke is given a 5-1 chance and Mr Davis is an outsider at 16-1.

Coral Eurobet spokesman Simon Clare said: "Iain Duncan Smith is undoubtedly the main danger to Michael Portillo but we are welcoming bets on him because his chances of winning still appear slim."

'Fantastic' interest

Spread betting firm IG Index, founded by Stuart Wheeler, who gave 5m to the Tories in January, reports "fantastic" interest in the leadership election.

Tory leadership contender Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith: 'Big mover' on spread bet market
The company is making a market on the percentage each candidate will receive in the final round of voting. This ballot is held among ordinary Conservative party members and only the top two candidates, as chosen by the 166 Tory MPs, go through to this stage.

Michael Portillo has always been the favourite. His spread opened at 45-50 and was bought up as high as 55-60 before falling back to 48-53 on Tuesday.

Iain Duncan Smith has been the big mover in the market. After opening at 10-15, he was supported up to a Tuesday high of 24-29.

David Davis, who also formally launched his challenge on Tuesday, has been increased from an opening 1-3 to 3-6 as a result.

Though yet to declare his intentions, Ken Clarke is third favourite. He opened at 15-20 and was bought up to 17-22 before slipping back to 13-18. However, while News Online was interviewing the market-maker at IG Index, a client bought Mr Clarke at 50 a point, shifting his spread back up to 15-20.

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19 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Right-wingers enter Tory fray
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