Some time in the next 18 months there will be another General Election, probably between May and October 2024.
Lots of people I speak to have an expectation of a change of Government, and already people are telling me that they will be staying up for the results hoping to see Raab, or Johnson lose their seat. There is a widespread desire for change, even among people who don’t agree what kind of change they want .
I think that people might be getting carried away with themselves.
Labour are starting from their worst election defeat since the 1930s, and only won 202 seats in 2019. Given the disaster of 2019 Labour need a swing of 13% to form a Government with a majority of 1. Thats slightly more than Blair got in 1997.
Labour have some impressive poll leads over the last few months, which would indicate that a swing of that size might be possible, but I am doubtful that this means very much so far out from the next GE.
Leadership ratings are often more accurate this far out from an election. As you get closer to an election traditional polling gets better, but not always. Cameron winning a majority in 2015, May losing it in 2017 when she had a massive opinion poll lead, 2019 landslide were all predictable if you looked at relative leadership ratings. There has been a correlation between leader ratings and election results going back to Blair.
Right now Starmer is more popular than Sunak… but…not enough to give Labour a big win. Relative leadership ratings would imply a swing to Labour of 6%, not enough for a majority government. Given that Sunak is in decline and Starmer is on the rise, I think Labour could get a small majority, but nothing like a landslide.
A slim lead for best PM is actually pretty impressive – as the real PM you get to do lots of PM stuff, like give national speeches, and meet foreign dignitaries. Leader of the Opposition less so. But despite that Starmer just isn’t connecting with voters in the way that Blair did, nor does he have as impressive a communications team.
Right now I think Labour will win somewhere between 310 and 330 seats. These extra 100+ seats are a mix: some are Red Wall Labour seats that might swing back; some are Blue Wall seats that have seen demographic change and are now marginals,;others are in Scotland, where the SNP are in sharp decline. The disparate nature of these seats makes campaigning harder – Red Wall voters are socially conservative, former Blue Wall seats are in play because of an influx of social liberals from places like London.
Add to that boundary changes that favour the Tories, and active voter suppression through the use of polling ID and it is an uphill task
The electoral maths does favour Labour in one respect. There are 650 MPs in Parliament, but not 650 votes. The speaker, 2 deputy speakers don’t vote, and Sinn Fein don’t take up their seats – they are likely to win 6 or 7 seats next time round.
This means any party who can whip 321 votes is a majority.
There may be potentially other MPs who would take the Labour Whip – the SDLP in Northern Ireland will win a handful of seats, and Plaid Cymru will win more. Between them there are 7 or more MPs who potentially could take the Labour Whip. This means that Labour would be able to form a Government with as few MPs as 314 or 315.
Below that they would need to rely on the Lib Dems in a coalition. I ruled out an SNP coalition a few weeks ago.
The Tories in the last 13 years have had formal or informal coalitions with the LibDems and the DUP and shit all over both of them – I don’t think there are any parties left who would do a deal to keep them in power.
It will be interesting to see how Labour do in the locals this year – that might give us a better picture, and there is a strong chance of more internal warfare in the Tories pushing them lower
Next week are the local elections, and our first chance to test the electoral appeal of Rishi Sunak.
The Tories are managing expectations forecasting that they will lose 1000 seats. These seats were last contested under Theresa May, and the Tories are starting from a low base. They are also the first elections fought with the new ID card rules, which are likely to prevent lots of younger voters from taking part. The Tories will do badly, but if they can lose less than 1000 seats they will spin it as some kind of victory and Sunak will be safe for now. The newspaper headlines afterwards will be full of the Coronation, so the Government will be spared the usual headlines.
So one final and bleak prediction.
The next GE will be the most compromised in British History, with widespread interference from foreign powers with every interest to blocking change. Countries like Russia have enjoyed unprecedented political influence with the ruling Conservative Party for over a decade. They won’t want to give that up. The Government has failed to act to stop such interference for the obvious reason that they are the beneficiaries.
Dark money, dark ads, manipulative on line content, lies and cheating.
People might go to bed thinking that they have voted in a change of Government, only to see a different result on the morning news.