Political betting: 85% chance Boris Johnson is next UK prime minister

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Boris Johnson and Theresa May. Photo: Thierry Charlier/Pool Photo via AP

Boris Johnson has an 85% chance of winning the Tory leadership race and becoming the next UK prime minister, according to a bookmaker.

Online betting firm Smarkets says former London mayor Johnson is almost certain to make it to the last two in the race to lead the Conservative party.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt is tipped by Smarkets to join Johnson in the final shortlist of the two frontrunners chosen by MPs, who then face a ballot of party members.

Hunt’s chances of getting to the final two were reported at 58% after the candidates fought it out in the ‘Our Next Prime Minister’ debate on TV on Tuesday night.

Voting gets underway today in another round among Conservative MPs, after staunch Brexiteer Dominic Raab was eliminated from the race yesterday.

Smarkets said punters had already gambled more than £2m on the race to lead the UK at a critical moment as it prepares to leave the EU.

Smarkets: probability of next prime minister

READ MORE: The big hole in Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans

The growing prospect of a Johnson premiership has unnerved financial markets and many businesses in recent weeks, sending the pound to near five-month lows amid fears he would embrace a no-deal Brexit.

Sarbjit Bakhshi, Smarkets head of political markets, said: “The leadership of the Conservative party has arguably never been as important as it is now.

“The next Tory leader is likely to be chosen on their ability to fight off the populist threats of Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn in a general election (35% this year on our market), rather than govern in the traditional sense.”

Smarkets also says Britain is most likely to leave the EU between September and Decemer this year, though the odds (38%) are only marginally higher than the odds for a post-2021 departure (35%).

The firm says there is a 72% chance Britain won’t leave on the exact scheduled date of 72%.

READ MORE: Pound inches higher as Johnson ‘plans two-year Brexit transition’