Final thoughts on British election

In just under 24 hours, the clock will strike 10 on Big Ben and the media will reveal the first exit polls on how the country voted.  At this point I have made the following predictions, but I think anything from a hung parliament with Tories being largest party to a landslide majority is within the realm of possibility, but the most likely outcome is a comfortable Tory majority, while Labour having a somewhat weaker opposition but not a complete drubbing.  Below I will explain why I think this will happen and reasons why both a Tory landslide and Hung parliament are possible and then finally my personal feelings.  I am not a British citizen nor do I reside there thus ineligible to vote, but I do travel there twice a year and have at various times held stocks of companies traded on the London Stock Exchange, thus will be impacted.  Not encouraging anyone to vote a certain way as it is not my country so not my job to tell others, just saying what my preferred outcome would be.

Seats (Great Britain only, haven’t followed Northern Ireland closely enough)

Tories   343 seats

Labour  226 seats

SNP        43 seats

Lib Dems 14 seats

PC              4 seats

Greens     1 seat

Speaker 1 seat

By popular vote also for Great Britain only

Tories 43%

Labour 34%

LibDems 12%

SNP 3%

Brexit 3%

Greens 2%

Reasons why I think this

British pollsters unlike Canadian don’t have a great track record, but still what I show above sounds reasonable.  Boris Johnson may be clownish and seen as a buffoon by a lot of the metropolitan elites, but that is what makes him endearing in much of the Midlands and North allowing him to connect with people in ways neither May or Cameron could.  Also unlike May, Johnson voted leave thus was able to drain most of the Brexit party’s support since if you want Brexit, only way to get it is to have a Tory majority. While he still has a negative approval rating, it is not as bad as either Swinson or Corbyn.  For Corbyn, a combination of a hard left platform that many think is impossible and his mishandling of the anti-Semitism as well as indecisiveness on Brexit means he has the worst approval rating of any opposition leader.  Indeed about a 1/3 planning to vote Labour are doing so in spite of him and many on the understanding he has no chance at winning, but they want to stop the Tories from getting a majority.  Jo Swinson has missed a golden opportunity to re-establish the Liberal Democrats as platform too focused on Brexit and even many remainers don’t like the idea of unilaterally overturning the will of the people by cancelling article 50.  With the centre wide open, there was an opportunity to appeal to moderates in both Labour and Tories, but Liberal Democrats missed that badly.  For Labour, much of their traditional support in North and Midlands voted heavily for leave and thus the idea of another referendum or a watered down version of Brexit is a turn off.  Also in a larger way, we are seeing similar shifts to what we’ve seen elsewhere.  Many posh urban areas are turning away from parties on the right thus why Tories will despite overall gains lose a few such seats in London area.  By contrast many smaller blue collar communities who used to vote left don’t connect to your university educated social justice warrior types so unlike in past, cultural connections not economics plays a bigger role in voting patterns.  In many ways we are seeing a shift in the UK in voting patterns not too unlike Canada and US saw about 15 years ago.  In Canada and US, wage has very little impact on voting pattern and it appears with UK this will be the first election ever where voting patterns were consistent across income.  While the main fault line in Canada was region, in US it was education; it appears in UK that age is the main fault line.  That means many older traditional Labour voters have ditched the party and getting Brexit done and dumping Jeremy Corbyn won’t necessarily bring them back.  Party may not win the senior vote, but must do a lot better.  Likewise Tories should be worried about long term trends as the fastest growing areas and fastest growing groups are all groups that lean heavily Labour.  So while it may not harm them this time around, if they cannot find ways to connect better with millennials and urban voters, it could make winning in a decade or so a lot more difficult.

Why Tories may get a landslide

Tories have an average around a 9 point lead and if distributed right or if they slightly outperform polls, it is quite possible they could see a landslide on the scale similar to Margaret Thatcher in 1983.  Indeed in terms of popular vote, this may be their best showing since 1970 and if they really beat polls, may even be best since 1959, although might also vote wise do slightly worse than 2017 too.  Below are points which I could see them overperforming.

  • Many Brexit party supporters fearing a Labour government and Brexit won’t get done at last minute tactically vote for the Tories
  • If Brexit is the ballot question, there are a whole whack of seats that voted Labour in 2017, but over 60% leave.  By contrast I can count on my two hands the number of Tory seats that voted over 60% remain and in the case of Scotland desire to stop another Scottish referendum may override this which voting Tory would achieve.
  • In a lot of London heavy remain areas, its unclear which party is best to defeat Tories so constituencies like Kensington, Putney, Battersea, Wimbledon, and Cities of London and Westminster might go Tory due to the remain vote splitting between Labour and Liberal Democrats
  • In 2017, Tory vote was more efficient (opposite of ours) as they did not crack the 70% mark in a single constituency while Labour got over 70% in 37 constituencies so more wasted votes and if this happens again popular vote may mask seat efficiency.
  • Many Tory remainers went over to the Liberal Democrats but with a late swing in polls towards Labour, the fear of a Corbyn government may push them back into the Tory fold.  Many don’t want Brexit, but fear a Corbyn government even more.

Why a hung parliament is possible

Labour is definitely going to lose some of their traditional seats in the North, the question is how many.  It could be as high as 40 which means a solid Tory majority, but if as low as 10 and they can offset it with a few gains in the South or likewise Tories lose some seats in Scotland to Scottish National Party and to Liberal Democrats in London area, this could create another hung parliament.  So below are the reasons it could happen

  • Labour with the help of Momentum has a superior ground game
  • In many Northern leave seats, there is a visceral hatred of the Tories so Labour leave voters may be willing to go Brexit party, but won’t go over to Tories thus splitting the leave vote thus minimizing losses there
  • Strong levels of tactical voting thus masking the swings in constituencies as Liberal Democrats are only in low teens due to strong support in key constituencies but in most are in low single digits.
  • Labour vote is more efficient this time.  In 2010, Tories had a much bigger lead than 2017 and Labour had a much lower popular vote yet received similar number of seats.  The reason for this is they weren’t running up the margins in strongholds like Liverpool, central Manchester, central Birmingham, or East London.  Labour can drop 20 points in these areas thus push vote total down and still not lose any seats.  Likewise in 2010 in much of the rural south, Labour was in teens or single digits but in 2017 generally got over 25% in most of those constituencies.  If they fall back to under 15% there, it will also push vote total down but those are seats they were never going to win anyways.

If a hung parliament possible outcomes

If as expected, Tories win at least 325 seats, then they have a majority and Brexit gets done and barring massive defections or by-election losses, govern for the next five years.  Since Sinn Fein refuses to take their seats, winning 322 seats would give them a working majority thus not officially a majority but same result in terms of results.  Only problem is a few defections and by-election losses might cost them that so not likely to last full five years, but enough time to get Brexit done.  314-321 seats means they have to rely on DUP (maybe as low as 312 depending on how they do).  DUP doesn’t trust Johnson and will be reluctant to support him, but they loathe Jeremy Corbyn so push comes to shove, Johnson remains PM but probably has to go back to Brussels and ask for another extension and rework the deal.  If Liberal Democrats hold the balance of power, probably means a Labour government, but only long enough to have a second referendum and then after that another election.  If Labour + SNP + Plaid Cymru + Greens get over 322 seats, then it means prime-minister Jeremy Corbyn and his radical left wing agenda.  Thankfully the odds of that happening are very low.

My Preference

I prefer a decent but not massive Tory majority.  For all Boris Johnson’s flaws, his agenda is generally mainstream and moderate and nothing too radical.  Yes he is a buffoon, but at the end of the day a buffoon who gets things done is preferable to someone who seems competent but has dangerous policies.  That being said I don’t want the majority to be too big as at least that will make the party think twice about doing anything too stupid and on Brexit will avoid driving the country over the cliff of a hard Brexit.  With most the people who will die in the next 5 years likely being Tory voters and most new voters in 2024 likely going Labour; even everyone voting the same as 2019 would cost them so with that in mind they will not want to upset too many people.  For Labour, I hope they do worse than polls say.  A healthy democracy needs a credible opposition, but that cannot happen as long as Jeremy Corbyn and his band of radical leftists control the party.  A strong loss much like 1983 would pressure the party to purge the more radical elements and to move back towards the centre-left.  By contrast if they win around 250 seats say, its likely the next leader will be another leftist like Corbyn and that is bad for Britain as weak opposition will embolden the Tories to do more risky things and likewise also risk in 2024 people will be so tired of Tories they do elect an economically dangerous party.  Many may claim Corbyn’s policies are mainstream elsewhere and when looking at each one in isolation that has some merit, but when taken together; there is no mainstream party that has run on agenda that radical in last quarter of a century in an advanced liberal democracy.  Some like Podemos in Spain have, but none that have gotten anywhere close to power.  The costs of everything in the platform will cause deficit to balloon or require raising taxes more and when it comes to taxing the rich and corporations, put it too high and they leave.  The top marginal rate at 50% is excessive, but most of Canada, California, New York city, and a number of Western European countries (although not all or even most) are at or slightly above that so at that level won’t kill investment.  However that won’t come close to covering his spending promises and watching him, I have every reason to believe taxes will go a lot higher on the rich.  Likewise many of the areas he wants to re-nationalize may be state owned in other countries including even here in Canada, but that is more an argument why privatization was a mistake, not a reason to re-nationalize them.  The cost of re-nationalizing is massive and it will scare away investment while the benefits will be small so this is just another example of an ideologically driven policy.

7 thoughts on “Final thoughts on British election

  1. If the Lib Dems hold the balance of power, that would be the ultimate deadlock. I can’t see SNP, Plaid and the Greens holding the demand for a more moderate Labour leader – they would want Corbyn or Corbyn on steroids. Likewise, their views on Brexit are a non-starter for the Conservatives.

    IMO, the results by the number of Tory seats:

    < 300 – Likely would be the nightmare scenario of Corbyn on steroids in a SNP coalition or agreement. Highly, highly unlikely though. Chance of happening: 2% or less

    300 to 311 – The deadlock scenario. Lib Dems hold balance of power but they can't really go anywhere barring significant compromise (i.e. a second referendum or a new Labour leader). Chance of happening: 10%

    312 to 321 – Requires the DUP. Likely requires going back to the pre-Johnson Brexit views, which would be toxic for the Brexit base. Chance of happening: 20%

    322 to 335 – Probably can get Brexit done, but with serious compromises as there will likely be defections. Chance of happening: 30%

    336 to 355 or so – Mandate to get Brexit done, but not enough for a hard Brexit. Chance of happening: 20%

    356 to 400 or so – Mandate to get Brexit done, likely a hard Brexit. May be able to keep radicals in check though. Chance of happening: 15%

    401 or more – Not only would a hard Brexit be guarantee, the harder right-wing elements (i.e. the former UKIP and BNP supporters) as well as social conservatives would likely find a voice. Would be similar to a (very unlikely) very large Conservative majority in Canada. Very unlikely though. Chance of happening: 3%

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    1. Looks like based on exit polls and early declarations it will be near the high end. I am glad Labour got walloped, hopefully that sends a strong message that hard left policies don’t sell.

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      1. A comparison in Canada would be a government led by, say, Sid Ryan or Linda McQuaig? They might win a few seats in central Toronto (in a year which the Conservatives are irrelevant due to the high number of promiscuous progressives there) but would get destroyed elsewhere.

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        1. Exactly and same with Niki Ashton. Usually are progressive parties have done a bit better although I think Canada being more urbanized than most and more educated on the elitist-populist axis leans quite heavily to the elitist side compared to most. UK is as urbanized of Canada, but a lot live in smaller cities like the size of Barrie or Kelowna which voted Tory. I think if it was a Johnson vs. Trudeau, Trudeau would win in Canada, but in UK Johnson would win. UK is not as conservative as US, but more so than Canada which due to new axis may very well emerge as the most left wing country in developed world. In past due to a weaker class system, this would not be possible, but with new axis it is.

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          1. The seat distributions would be very different though. Boris Johnson would likely do better than most in Quebec as someone like him would be more in favour of Bill 21, while at the same time otherwise avoiding social conservatism. At the same time, he would have done even worse – and significantly so – than Scheer in the GTA most likely (a very anti-nationalist region), although that wouldn’t have affected the seat count much. Also, would that agenda have done better or worse in western Canada? Not having social conservatives might have been a negative, but strong nationalism is a positive there.

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  2. If the same situation and parties existed in Canada, I would think the Lib Dems would have done quite well in the 905 area and some spots around Vancouver though. It was similar places (suburban London) where they did quite well even though they were annihilated elsewhere. Places where neither Corbyn’s radical economic agenda nor Johnson’s nationalist agenda would have played out well. Urban core Ontario would have gone Labour, as would have Montreal and the immediate suburbs in hard federalist country. Atlantic Canada would be hard to say.

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    1. Boris is a charlatan and opportunists so would have run a different campaign if here. As London mayor he was quite internationalists and actually despite favouring leaving the EU, his immigration proposal is actually similar to what we have now, a points system.

      In GTA, Tories have a floor of 30% in Ontario so at 33% there were pretty close to that already and how well he would have done there would have depended on how strong Liberal Democrats were. London Commuter Belt still went Tory despite voting heavily remain as Corbyn way too extreme.

      Atlantic Canada probably Liberal Democrats, but Johnson’s bit investments in deprived areas might have been popular there. For Labour you are right, only urban cores like Montreal, downtown Toronto, East Vancouver and a few university towns like Kingston and Guelph would have voted for them or some government ones like Victoria but that is about it.

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