The Corner


Britain’s Election: Red Swan Approaching?

(Paul Hackett/Reuters)

The latest polling for tomorrow’s U.K. election makes uncomfortable reading.

The Spectator:

. . . YouGov forecasts that the Conservatives would win 339 seats with Labour on 231, the Lib Dems on 15 and the SNP on 41. The previous MRP poll had Labour losing 44 seats to the Conservatives – this has now been reduced to 29…

What will give the Conservatives pause for thought, however, is that although the MRP projects a majority – its range of possible outcomes stretch from 367 Tory seats to just 311, short of a majority. Based on the data, YouGov’s director of political research Anthony Wells said: ‘based on the model we cannot rule out a hung parliament.’

And this polling (I imagine) was taken before the incident described by Madeleine Kearns yesterday:

In a cringeworthy exchange with an ITV reporter, an exhausted-looking Johnson refused to look at a picture of a four-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia. Holding up his phone, with the photo of the boy, the reporter claimed that the child had been forced to sleep on a pile of coats at an NHS hospital. As the reporter continued asking him to look at the photo, Johnson took the reporter’s phone and temporarily put it in his own pocket while continuing to hammer home his scripted message about the NHS.

Even if we discount (as we should) some or most of the debunking that followed it, the story is a little more nuanced than was widely reported, as are its non-political implications, but its political consequences might be devastating. As Madeleine points out, the NHS (Britain’s National Health Service) weighs disproportionately heavily in British elections. And, however unfairly, it weighs in ways that rarely benefit the Tories.

Whatever the Conservatives might have hoped, to believe that this election ‘would’ just be about Brexit was naïve. One of the consequences of this naïveté has been a failure to focus enough on what Labour’s Britain would be like. Spoiler: Venezuela. Such an approach should also have incorporated a sustained — and far fiercer — attack on the highly disreputable pasts of both Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, his infinitely more accomplished, and infinitely more dangerous, lieutenant, not to speak of the anti-Semitism ingrained in a Labour Party that bears very little resemblance to what it once was.

Then there’s this:

The Guardian:

Is the “youthquake” of 2017 about to be upstaged? After just a glimpse at the voter registration figures for the upcoming election, it looks as if the next quake might chart even higher on the Richter scale. More than 3 million people registered to vote between the election being called and the deadline – 875,000 more than the same period in 2017 – and two-thirds of them were under 35.

The under-35s skew extraordinarily heavily towards Labour.

Tory hopes essentially rest on the party’s ability to win over Leave-voting blue-collar voters in such numbers that they will compensate for tactical voting in the affluent south by Conservative Remainers still hoping to stop Brexit by securing a ‘hung’ parliament.

While I think that the Tories will see a substantial increase in their vote among working class Leavers, I am unconvinced that such voters will switch sides in enough numbers for enough Labour seats to change hands.

As for any ‘hung’ parliament, it would effectively be dominated by Labour, which would now have political momentum behind it. Contrary what is now being claimed, a resurgent Labour could not be safely contained within the ‘progressive’ coalition of Remainer dreams. After another election within, inevitably, nine months or so, and, aided by the Scottish Nationalists, Labour would be calling the shots, and Britain’s road to ruin would be clear.

The best hope for the Tories now is that this latest poll may persuade Conservative Remainers and even a few Liberal Democrats that, however much they detest Brexit, “lending” 10 Downing Street to Corbyn (or a surrogate) is much more of a dangerous gamble.

At the end of October, I wrote this:

My predictions are, of course, famously flawed, but it looks to me as if the Tories are finally going to pay the price for an approach to Brexit characterized by wishful thinking, arrogance and an unwillingness to dive into the details that Brexit was always going to demand. And if I’m right about the consequences of this bungling (I hope I am not), the result will be a defeat for the Conservatives and their replacement by a “progressive” coalition that includes the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party and, of course, a Labour party that has swung far, far to the left.

For various reasons, I am mildly more optimistic than I was six weeks ago, but not by enough to give any grounds for comfort. Thursday evening will be . . . interesting.


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