Monday, September 02, 2019

Be careful what you hope for

When I attended the protest against the suspension of Parliament on Saturday in Newcastle, there were lots of speakers demanding a general election, under the expectation that it would lead to a majority Corbyn/Labour government. While I appreciate that Labour members will dream of a Labour government (though how many dream of a Corbyn led government is another point), the dream itself is not set in any basis of fact. Labour have been performing worse that the Conservatives in elections and opinion polls this year. The latter show that Labour have lost 40%-50% of their 2017 vote. This is hardly the stuff of election victories. Labour need to be careful what they hope for.

Under first past the post, a drop in vote share can still lead to an increase in Parliamentary representation. The issue is, how big is the lead of one party over another? If it is significant, regardless of share of the vote, the lead party wins a big majority. In the current circumstances, the Conservative vote has dropped, losing about a quarter of their vote share from 2017. They are typically polling in the low 30s, an historically low level beating even the dire Conservative performance in 1997. Labour however are in the low 20s. And that simply means that a snap autumn election is more likely to result in a Conservative majority. It is not a certainty. There are huge unknowns: will the Brexit Party stand and,if so, who do they damage the most?; will a Lib Dem recovery cost Labour and the Conservatives seats?; will the Conservatives be wiped out again in Scotland?

There's lots to think about, but there is no clear picture of what's around the corner other than that the Conservatives (the Johnson wing of it) are planning an election this autumn to take advantage of Labour weakness and to get rid of their Remain wing.

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