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Friday, 29 June, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Bookies take money on Clarke
Kenneth Clarke after declaring his candidature in the leadership race
Bets on Clarke are rolling in, say bookmakers
Bookmakers have seen bets on Ken Clarke flow in since his entry to the Conservative leadership race.

Sustained interest in the former chancellor has seen his odds slashed by all Britains' bookmakers.

And some industry experts predict Mr Clarke could even overtake early favourite Michael Portillo.

Punters have been rushing to back Ken Clarke at all available odds

David Stevens
Coral Eurobet
The punters now appear to view the leadership election as a three horse race between Mr Clarke, Mr Portillo and shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

As the field of runners widened to five this week, former Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram and David Davis have seen their odds drop off.

Odds tumble

The odds for Mr Clarke have tumbled in the last week - since Tuesday William Hill have cut his odds from 7/1 to 15/8.

And there has been a similar cut at Coral Eurobet - from 4/1 to 6/4.

One customer wagered 3,200 at 5/2 in a Midlands Coral shop on Wednesday and 2,000 bet was struck on Thursday via the internet.

But the 10,000 bet placed at 1/2 with William Hill on Michael Portillo remains the single biggest bet so far on the contest.

Rush of wagers

Coral spokesman David Stevens said: "It seems everyone, including the bookies, regarded Portillo's appointment as Tory leader as a foregone conclusion, until Clarke confirmed he would be standing against him.

"Clearly he has made a good impression on the public in the last few days as punters as have been rushing to back him at all available odds."

Michael Ancram
Portillo: Favourite despite Clarke's challenge

Coral's other odds include: Iain Duncan Smith 10/1, David Davis 10/1 and Michael Ancram 12/1.

Spreading the bets

The spread betting firms too have been swayed by Mr Clarke's entry, which caused a fall of prices on Michael Ancram and David Davis.

That price change is shown at IG Index, the spread company founded by Stuart Wheeler, who gave the Tories 5m in January.

The company is running a market on the percentage each candidate will receive in the final round of voting.

This round is held among ordinary Conservative party members and only the top two candidates chosen by the 166 Tory MPs go through to this stage.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith: Still attracting spread bets
At IG, Michael Portillo has always been the favourite.

His spread opened at 45-50 and was about up as high as 55-60. But it was falling back before Mr Clarke's announcement and now lies at 46-50.

Company spokesman Paul Austin says a turning point was Mr Portillo's "scramble eggs and champagne" manifesto launch.

IG's customers are still buying Mr Clarke at 30-34, while Mr Duncan Smith's spread lies at 13-17.

Three horse race

But company spokesman Paul Austin said money was still being placed on Mr Duncan Smith.

"Our clients see this as a three horse race now - between Portillo, Clarke and Duncan Smith," Mr Austin told BBC News Online.

"To prove that, there is more interest in John Redwood, who hasn't declared himself a candidate, than in David Davis and Michael Ancram."

Other IG prices include: David Davis 1-3, John Redwood 0-2 and Michael Ancram 1-3.

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See also:

19 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Right-wingers enter Tory fray
19 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Big money backs Portillo
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