The New Yorker
This general election is likely to be the most consequential since 1979 when Margaret Thatcher swept to power. The fate of Brexit hangs on the outcome.
If the Tories win a majority Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be able to pass the withdrawal treaty and the United Kingdom will legally leave the European Union (EU). Should the result be a hung parliament, Brexit itself will be in doubt and the possibility of a Labour government looks very likely.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street would be a transformational moment in British, and indeed, global politics. A man firmly on the radical left of politics would be in the driving seat of one of the major great powers.
So, what are my thoughts, with a huge caveat that there are 4 weeks to go, on the election so far.
Looking at the polls, which give a reasonable indication of where we are, the Tories have maintained a national lead of over 11% so far. This could change, given that the manifestos and debates haven’t occurred yet, but so far there seems to be a consistent pattern of the consolidation of both the Labour and Tory vote vis v vs the smaller parties (Brexit Party, Greens and the Lib Dems).
The national polling hides distinct regional variations, and to a certain extent you should view this election as a series of regional contests.
One of the most reliable means of working out who the eventual winner is in terms of leader’s metrics.
The New Statesman recently noted that the only meaningful change since the campaign started was that Boris Johnson had become less unpopular whilst Corbyn’s dire personal ratings remained the same. That is good news for the Tories since it implies that their lead over Labour is more solid then many jittery commentators think.
The British political class are still shaken by the May 2017 general election when Labour surged in the polls once campaigning started. The risk is that commentators have the 2017 model in their head when they should be thinking of different scenarios.
The 2017 scenario is that Labour and Corbyn’s polling will surge during the coming weeks and ruin any prospect of a Tory majority. That remains a possibility although there is limited sign of it to date.
An alternative scenario is 2015, where the Tories were very nervous amid a consensus that Britain was heading towards a hung parliament. In the end the Tories won a slim majority to the shock of pollsters and commentators alike.
A few have posited a 1987 scenario, where, again, the national polling suggested that the Tories would win a large majority which, in the end, they did.
I have already posted why I think the Scottish Conservatives could do better than expected north of Hadrian’s Wall in this election. For those who wish to read about the asymmetrical betting opportunities click here.
Here are my mini-predictions on the shock results that are likely to happen on the 12th December:
- The Scottish Conservatives will increase their seat tally as marginal SNP seats turn blue on the back of wider Unionist tactical voting.
- The Liberal Democrats will do better than expected in ultra-Remain central London with Richmond, Kensington and potentially even allegedly “safe” seats like Labour held Islington falling to the Liberals.
There is also a risk that Boris Johnson might lose his seat on the night which would cause a political earthquake if it occurred.
In terms of the wider political landscape, I expect that the Tories will make patchy gains in Wales, Yorkshire and the north of England. However, a mix of Labour tribalism, the Brexit Party and the failure of Boris to fully “seal the deal” with the electorate will ensure that there won’t be a transformational realignment from Labour to the Tories.
The south may prove a bruising night for the Tories, in particular uber-Remain, middle class enclaves which, whilst traditionally Tory, will fall to the Liberal Democrats. In other seats, a combination of factors, including the Brexit Party withdrawing, the fear of a hard-left Labour government and local Tory support should save local Tory candidates from a swing to the Liberals.
So, overall, my tentative conclusion – which I may update as the campaign evolves – is that the Tories are on course to win approximately 347 seats. This will give them circa 20 seat majority in the House of Commons.