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UK election watch: UK election campaigns see a messy start

  • Published at 11:35 pm November 7th, 2019
A pro-Brexit supporter dressed as Gandalf holds a placard in Westminster, London, Britain October 31, 2019 Reuters

The Tories have more to lose from gaffes taking up bandwidth

The United Kingdom’s general election timetable is now officially underway with voting set to take place in five weeks on December 12.

Informally, the campaign has been bubbling ever since Boris Johnson succeeded Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister in July.

Opinion polls suggest his party is well ahead, or at least that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is far behind. 

This is Johnson’s election to lose.

Driven by belief in his own popularity and a strategic view that anti-Brexit voters can be more easily split, Johnson has bet his lifetime’s achievement on a rightward stance and populist battle cry to simply “Get Brexit Done.”

But it remains a gamble, especially if other issues come to the fore over Brexit. Calling an early “people versus parliament” election is a risk. 

Labour does seem tied to an unpopular leader, but it also does not seem able to fall much lower. The Tories have more to lose from gaffes taking up bandwidth.

Johnson has also unnecessarily made matters more difficult for himself by exacerbating already deep schisms over Europe in his own party and driving out a string of Tory grandees.

Last time round, a collapse in support for the Liberal Democrats helped both the Conservatives and Labour.

It is fair to assume the combined top two-party share of the vote which hit 82% in 2017 will fallback somewhat with even the slightest Liberal Democrats revival. With Nigel Farage currently threatening to run Brexit party candidates across the nation, the cumulative impact on results becomes even more complex to predict.

Five questions to track in the month ahead.

How much of a disaster is the departure of Labour’s deputy leader?

•    A lot for a first day. Maybe not as much it sounds in the long run. Though effective at getting his views across, Tom Watson is probably not the most nationally popular alternative Labour leaderto Corbyn among voters.

Has any governing party ever had a worse Day 1 than the Tories?

•    No. One Cabinet minister resigning over endorsing a colleague who sabotaged a rape trial is a misfortune too many. After Farage (seemingly) entering the fray and Leader of the House Rees Mogg making insensitive comments about Grenfell, Boris Johnson’s less than convincing US style pep rally in Birmingham made this a day to write off. 

Will the SNP secure a second independence referendum?

•    Quite possibly. And in historical terms, Scotland ever leaving the UK would be bigger than Brexit.

Who is winning?

•    Conservatives have too big a lead to discount, despite what happened to Theresa May. 

•    If Tory lead falls below 9% or Labour’s rating rises above 33%, it all comes down to how votes are distributed. Squeaky bum time at No 10. 

•    Review predictions after TV debate on November 19

Who will win?

Andrew Marr, veteran BBC pundit advises that if anyone says they know, “Cock an eyebrow, smile politely, and turn your back.”

Worth heeding.