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
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.
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.