The Snap Election

So, it’s happened.  Theresa May has called a snap general election for the 8th of June, and with Labour’s support in Parliament it will happen.  So much for a year without quiet elections, eh?

At the moment it looks as though we’ll see a clear Conservative win, as an average of the recent polls see the Tories picking up votes from Labour and UKIP while the Lib Dems take votes from the Tories and Labour:

Con Lab UKIP LibDem SNP Green Other
44% 25% 10% 11% 5% 4% 1%
+6% -7% -3% +3% 0% 0% 0%

This lead makes calling the election a shrewd move from the Prime Minister, as she aims to strengthen her majority in Parliament and gives herself a stronger mandate in the upcoming Brexit talks – which will now likely begin just weeks after the election takes place.  The last government to call a snap election, Wilson’s Labour government in 1974, managed to gain seats – so the omens would appear good for the Conservative leader.

The Tories are ahead of Labour by between 15 and 20 points in the polls, and will clearly gain another majority government in June.  The question is just by how many seats they’ll cross the threshold, and if they can keep their lead over the 50 days of the campaign  If they maintain their current lead in the polls they’ll comfortably have a majority of almost 100 seats and be able to pass almost any bills they like.  If it’s any less than 50, then those prickly backbenchers might still cause a hassle but won’t interfere with the Government’s landmark bills.  And if the unthinkable happens and their majority remains at around 25, then the next five years will be unbearably long for May’s ministry.

Here’s what the current polls across England, Scotland and Wales would roughly translate to in terms of seats:

Party MPs Change
Conservatives 373 +42
Labour 190 +-41
SNP 54 -2
Lib Dems 9 +1
DUP 8 0
Sinn Fein 4 0
Plaid Cymru 4 +1
SDLP 3 0
UKIP 0 -1
Green 1 0
UUP 2 0
Other 2 +1

The SNP should hold on to most, if not all, of their Westminster seats in Scotland – with the remaining three seats of David Mundell, Alistair Carmichael and Ian Murray all definitely in play too.  A clean sweep of SNP victories would have been unthinkable until it almost happened in 2015, but now it has a very real chance of coming to fruition – and if it does that gives them a huge mandate to call another independence referendum in the coming years.  However, the Tories’ revival in Scotland does make it more unlikely that they’ll have the same “yellow tsunami” on the electoral map.

The Lib Dems will almost certainly pick themselves off the canvas after their bruising 2015 collapse that left them with just 8 seats.  They’ve already bolstered their contingent by winning a by-election, and in Tory seats that voted Remain, or seats where the Lib Dems weren’t far behind Labour, there’s a good chance that the Lib Dems could come back to win.  The above “translation” from votes to seats won’t accurately pick up tactical local voting, with parties voting Lib Dem to keep out the Labour or Conservative candidate that’s best placed to take the seat.  I’d estimate that this could pick up twenty or so seats in the end, but it all depends on whether Tim Farron can make his party visible enough in the next seven weeks or not.

That leaves us with Labour, currently languishing in their worst polling position for thirty years.  This will be a painful election for them, and even if by some miracle they do rally a little and close the gap – there’s very little prospect of them gaining ground on the Tories, let alone be in a position to govern.  At the moment things look particularly grim, heading for their worst share of the vote since 1918 and the lowest number of seats in an election since 1935.

They have introduced a flood of policies in the last few weeks, some of which have been popular, and that does give them a good policy groundwork to base a manifesto on.  However, making sure they seem credible – particularly in terms of leadership and the economy – is crucial, and the duo of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell perform horrifically in poll ratings for these elements.  50% of voters think Theresa May would be the better Prime Minister of the two, and only 14% say Corbyn.

The silver lining about this election for Labour, though, is that defeat should surely mean that Jeremy Corbyn’s reign as leader will be over, and the Party can rebuild for the next election in (presumably) 2022.  This would be three years before the party could conceivably have held power after a 2020 election defeat, and after a tumultuous period after brexit, so it might end up to be a positive for Labour in the long-run.

It’s going to be a long seven weeks of campaigning, with local elections coming up first as well, but at the end we should see another Conservative Government.  There’s little chance as things stand of anything else happening, but in an election that’s come out of the blue, and a world full of political shocks around us, maybe it won’t be so cut and dried in the end.  Stay tuned for more as the weeks go on!

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