Switchers are required to form a majority government and the Tories need a lot fewer than Labour

by John Wall

“May you live in interesting times” is supposedly a Chinese curse and is certainly appropriate – even without the inadvertent pun!

When Theresa May called a general election few expected a hung parliament. She’s not expected to lead the Conservatives into another election and it’s really only a question of how and when she’s replaced.

Ironically she achieved the same vote share as Margaret Thatcher in 1987 but squeezing the minor parties meant that Labour were only about 3% behind, as Paul Goodman notes,

“Such is the outcome when opposition to the Conservatives coalesces around a single party. It didn’t in 1987, and Margaret Thatcher won a majority of 102. It did this year.”

Even without an agreement with the DUP the Conservatives could probably survive. Sinn Fein (7 seats) stay away and the total of Labour (262), SNP (35), LD (12), PC (4) and Green (1) is 314. There is an independent from Northern Ireland which might take this up to 315 – still three less than the Conservatives. The DUP’s hatred of Corbyn means that they would probably think very carefully before bringing down the Conservatives.

It’s not that simple, party discipline becomes paramount, there is continual uncertainty regarding votes and a need to stay within earshot of the division bell – much better to be able to count on another ten votes. By-elections are an occupational hazard and the Conservatives will be hoping that there are no deaths or resignations from their ranks.

So, where do we go from here?

It looks like UKIP is now a dead duck. Since the referendum their vote has collapsed and they’ve lost representation at all levels, they could be wiped out by the early 2020s.

One surprise from the general election was how poorly the LDs did, although they gained seats they lost votes and share. Since the referendum they’ve done well in by-elections but would appear to still have a way to go.

I’ve always seen them as a party of protest, political prostitutes, opportunists who are against anything unpopular and for anything popular. Their 48% strategy seems to have failed as a chunk of the Remainers have accepted the result and want to move on.

They’re generally seen as being on the left – although it’s a bit like trying to nail jelly to the wall! It would appear that the reduction in their vote helped Labour and should they get their act together it’s likely that this would be largely at Labour’s expense. Much depends upon whether we are now in an era of two party politics – as recently as 2010 there were 62 LD MPs.

Within the Conservatives I expect little, if any, appetite for another election soon. Having gone from predictions (assuming we believe the opinion polls!) of a Blair type landslide to end up with a hung parliament – albeit largely self-inflicted – and seen friends and colleagues unexpectedly get P45s they’re scared. It’s only seven years since they were in opposition – a miserable place to be – and the memory of 1997-2010 is strong.

There are, of course, divisions and a certain amount will depend upon how they manage this. Despite increasing the vote and getting a thirty year high share Theresa May failed by the criteria she, herself, set. 1990 provides a precedent when an unpopular Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was replaced and the subsequent election won. The boundary changes previously stopped by the LDs are expected to be favourable to the Conservatives although I don’t know if the prediction has been updated since the election.

Labour exceeded expectations although I’ve previously argued that I think Corbyn has about reached his limit. He took votes from the minor parties and got the young out to vote Labour, but if disillusionment sets in and the minor parties aren’t permanently squeezed 2017 could be a high water mark.

Like the Conservatives there are divisions within Labour. I’m unsure whether the opposition to Corbyn within the PLP was because they thought he couldn’t win an election – he didn’t! – or because they didn’t like him and what he stood for, or both?

There are many things that differentiate the various parts of the political spectrum but an important aspect is the public sector/private sector balance. Within the Conservatives views range from laissez faire free marketeers (very small state) to the more interventionist (small state) who are probably not too far away from “moderate”, Blairite, right-wing, centrist (pick your description!) Labour types (larger state). Corbyn is a very large state type.

Then there is what he believes in. Most can look back and reflect on how they’ve changed their position over time, but Corbyn spent decades supporting groups like the IRA, opposing anti-terror legislation, etc, etc. He may have put an arm round a Grenfell Tower survivor but, as far as I’m aware, never showed any compassion for victims of the IRA, etc.

I’m a long way away politically from Corbyn but have memories of leaders back to Wilson and Heath and don’t see anything particularly “authentic” or “dignified”. To me, and I don’t think I’m alone, he’s a nasty piece of work who seems to have a more or less permanent scowl, and comes across as angry and somewhat cold.

It’s said that the British labour movement owes more to Methodism than Marxism and Attlee, for example, was a dedicated anti-communist.

Corbyn, however, seems to follow Benn’s philosophy of no enemies on the left as can be seen by those he associates with, supports and appoints.

Surely it must be of concern that the shadow Home Secretary and Chancellor contribute to the Morning Star, which is also defended by Corbyn?

There has been a certain amount of hypocritical faux outrage from the left regarding the Conservatives seeking agreement with the DUP – a party that Tim Farron might feel comfortable in! – but this is nothing compared to the fuss they’d make if senior Conservatives contributed to a BNP or EDL publication.

His shadow Chancellor has also praised riots and, in calling for a million protesters to remove May, looks – despite later calls for this to be peaceful – to be supportive of mob rule.

The assorted “fellow travellers” are, or were, not in the Labour Party because they disagreed with its policies, objectives and/or methods – such as democracy! People can, and do, move around the political spectrum – Denis Healey was once in the Communist Party – but it must be concluded that many want to make Labour into something different. It will be interesting to see how policy on defence and nuclear – energy as well as Trident – develops as these have significant union support because of the highly skilled and well paid jobs. Whatever happens in those areas, Corbyn’s long-standing positions are well known.

I’m outlining these because of the electoral mathematics. They aren’t absolute but a 6-7% lead will usually result in a majority, get up to 8-9% and you start looking like the Cheshire Cat, anything less is Mayhem!

For either of the main parties to get a majority they need to take votes off the other.

Assume the Conservatives have 43% and Labour 40%, 1.5% from Labour puts the Conservatives on 44.5% and Labour on 38.5% – a 6% lead. In the other direction 4.5% from the Conservatives puts Labour on 44.5% and the Conservatives on 38.5% – again a 6% lead.

This is twice as efficient as attracting non-voters, except in areas, such as university towns, where there are large numbers who can be won over by a specific policy.

The difficulty is in making this work, it’s easy to talk about parking tanks on lawns – but whose do you churn up on the way there? Blair attracted social liberals but internationalist policies such as open door immigration alienated working class social conservatives who largely supported May.

Both parties are in difficult places – but for different reasons.

Labour would like another election in the near future as in the medium to long term the divisions will probably reopen and they could lose support to resurgent minor parties and disillusionment. What is certain is that next time they won’t be up against such an inept Conservative campaign and “big guns” will be trained on the Labour manifesto.

An election whilst Brexit negotiations are ongoing could be a poisoned chalice as the process would have to stop and should Labour then be in government they’d probably want to change things – a white paper? Would they also want to revisit what had already been agreed? Should they be short of a majority they, like May, could need minority party support, some of whom might seek to derail or even stop Brexit – which could resurrect UKIP. This could easily produce a disastrous mess – and the finger would only point one way.

There is also the matter of attracting significant numbers of Conservative voters and I don’t believe Corbyn can manage that.

The Conservatives are not totally in control of their own destiny although, as I’ve stated earlier, I believe the DUP would think twice about anything that could put Corbyn into No. 10.

They also need to broaden their appeal to the young, but it’s difficult to compete with tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money. Unless you believe in Labour’s tax raising proposals this would probably require transferring funding from the old – and we saw the problems that can cause!

An interesting historical “what if” is could Gordon Brown have survived if he’d called, and won, an election in 2007 and then had to face an election in 2012 rather than 2010?

The benefit to the Conservatives of not having an election until 2022 would be to give a couple of years after Brexit if the outcome isn’t good.

I can’t see why anybody would currently want May’s job. Brexit is going to be complicated and possibly divisive for the Conservatives. A poor outcome means that the incumbent will be blamed, and if that’s May she was on the way out anyway. If the outcome is good/reasonable she lost her authority/credibility in 2017 and unless she manages a Lazarus act was always going to be replaced.

Eden and Brown waited years to succeed Churchill and Blair – both were then sunk by “events” but Brexit has a known and finite timetable. Boris is familiar with history and his promise not to run for the leadership before March 2019 looks shrewd.

Assuming there isn’t an early election – and that’s a very big if! – I believe that the Conservatives are best placed because of the shock of the election result. Potential successors to May will already be developing policies to pitch for the job.

Labour is a different matter as they did better than many expected and complacency could well set in.

Predictions, particularly about the future, are difficult and there are a lot of unknown unknowns but one thing is certain – we’re in for interesting times.

John Wall is a former member of the Conservatives

Tags: , , , ,

18 Responses to “Switchers are required to form a majority government and the Tories need a lot fewer than Labour”

  1. Ed says:

    Are you sure this man is a former member of the Conservative Party? This is a flimsy right wing scissors and paste conglomeration, designed to present the idea that actually the tories will win the next GE whether it comes sooner or later. Innuendo, suggestion, distortion, sloganeering are martialled in a jumbled, desperate waste bin of right wing wish fulfillment. Reality is that momentum (pun not intended, I’m not a member) is only going one way. This is almost as fatuous as Atul’s Labour’s nuclear winter. Comes off it Mr Wall, you’re putting another pink elephant on the conservative door step.It’s getting a bit crowded there.

  2. John P Reid says:

    Excellent article, intrigued about the being a former member of the Tories,
    And the demographics changing wint help

    Look at both skilled ac2 workers,moving out of inner London to the M25 and white light, from middle London to Essex

    Clacton, Chimgford,and Thurrock and basildon, three seats labour needs to win, will all have white flight move to them who vote Tory,so that’ll be the majority going up

    Then the younger skilled,maybe BAME C2 voter who moves to outerlondon, Bromley, Rimford this’ll mean the Tory majority will go done from 15,000 to 10,000

    But wint affect their majorities,then there’s, harrow or Dagenham in west and east London
    Labour got back the middle class ex Ukip vote in Wes Streetings Ilford north, but Garett Thomas and Jon cruddass’s majorities went down, from 5,900 to 4,000′ all it ties is si,e more Ukip votes going Tory,for them to grab those seats

    It’s the opposite of the 2000’s elections where labour could get 1 or 2 million more votes than the Tories win landslides,but the Tories could got 2million more votes than labour in 2010 and not get a overall majority

  3. Alf says:

    Tory-lite nonsense from start to finish. People who write stuff like this should be kicked out of the party.

  4. Tafia says:

    It looks like UKIP is now a dead duck.

    I’d go more along the lines of in hibernation/dormant.

    If there is any back-tracking or delaying over BREXIT and/or leaving the Single Market in entirety then they will be back with a bang. Not only will they pull their original voter base back (which was quite large remember), but they will also pick up disillusioned Leaver Tories and disillusioned Leaver Labour voters.

    And it’s BREXIT where I think Labour will start to pull itself apart. Somehow in this election, despite the manifesto stating otherwise, they have picked up a large young vote who seem to think that Labour will somehow thwart BREXIT – or at the very least somehow keep Freedom of Movement. On the other side, they managed to convince older voters that had previously deserted them to UKIP that BREXIT was safe with them and we will leave the Single Market. One side or the other is going to be bitterly disappointed and either bugger off to the Lib Dems or bugger off back to UKIP.

    And God help both Labour and the Tories if we don’t leave the EU no later than March 2019, deal or not. (and I suspect it will be sooner and with no deal as the EU is being pedantic and obstructive and sooner or later I think we’ll just walk away).

    Oh, and don’t forget, Corbyn only did marginally better than Brown in 2010 seat-wise and there is no way that Labour could govern the UK without including the DUP – they would lose the vote on the Queens Speech and their first Finance Bill. The Tories on the other hand will not be dumping May anytime soon – quite the opposite, they’ll do everything in their power to stop her stepping down for one simple reason – Grenfall. Her likely succesors are involved in that to a greater or lesser degree and won’t want to be Leader until after it has been investigated, closed and no longer an issue.

  5. John says:

    This article comes over as very partisan and low on objectivity. The crass remarks about Corbyn’s character confirmed that.

  6. Anne says:

    While I agree with parts of your article I don’t support your conclusions.
    Teresa May seems to be going from one disaster to another and is very much on the defensive in her interviews – people have lost confidence in her. Yes you are correct in that perspective leaders are emerging but there is very little talent within the Conservative party. George Osborn is having a field day.
    You are right that the Labour Party can’t stand still and yes it has to broaden it’s appeal and membership to win the next election – I believe that JC should include some of the moderates into his cabinet- such as Chuka, Ed M, Lisa N and even Yvette – these are good MPs – it will broaden the appeal of the Labour Party.

  7. David Walker says:

    You are wrong about UKIP. Both of the major parties did well in this election, in terms of numbers that voted for them, but that’s because there were millions of UKIP votes to be swept up. It is to Corbyn’s credit that the Tories failed to get anywhere near as many as they had hoped for and that he trousered so many of them for himself.

    But like most cheap votes, these are only on loan. If Brexit gets diluted, then UKIP will be back – perhaps not for very long but the party is basically single-issue and you can’t really judge them as you would say the Tories or Labour.

    It’s far too early to write-off UKIP.

  8. Josh says:

    I think people are giving far too much attention to ukip. Without Farage there’s no ukip and Farage is not hankering to go back again. Remember in his own words “low grade people”.

    The political landscape has changed a lot since ukip sweeping over 3 million votes and they couldn’t even win in staunch leave areas. The political debate has shifted to austerity and ukip offer nothing except policies pandering to the far-right.

  9. steve says:

    What a fantastic piece of political analysis. Thanks, John. You may be an ex-Tory but the Labour movement clearly owes you a debt of gratitude for your very perceptive contribution here.

    Why, oh why don’t more LP members, including MPs adopt the same line of razor-sharp reasoning and attain the same conclusion: Corbyn “is a nasty piece of work”.

    Surely, now is the time to invite sitting Tory MPs to contribute to this blog. We would benefit from their insights. Indeed, all who oppose Corbyn should unite in the struggle against both Corbyn and the misguided electorate who back Corbyn in ever-increasing numbers.

    It won’t be easy, particularly as Theresa May is finished. So how about uniting under a leader who would easily win support from Tories and anti-Corbyn Labour MPs: Jim Murphy.

    Jim has a great deal of experience when it comes to flushing-out and exposing an irresponsible and misguided electorate. He’s done it in Scotland where, thanks to Jim’s tactical ingenuity, by voting SNP the electorate in considerable numbers, exposed themselves as a discredited disgrace. We should now go for a similar outcome in the rest of the U.K. and expose those who are prepared to vote for Jeremy “nasty piece of work” Corbyn.

    Jim Murphy for leader of an anti-Corbyn Lab-Con pact? Let’s go for it!

  10. John Wall says:

    To clarify one thing – I’m not now a member of any political party.

    As far as UKIP are concerned I identified that derailing or stopping Brexit could resurrect them.

  11. John Wall says:

    @Tafia – Grenfell Tower is a double edged sword. Look at Camden, similar work to Grenfell was done a decade ago by a Labour council under a Labour government – before the crash/austerity.

    Kensington and Chelsea didn’t do very well after Grenfell but Camden were evacuating residents in the early hours of the morning because they couldn’t guarantee their safety – and, effectively, telling them that they’d been living in a potential death trap for years.

    The work in Camden started in 2006 – nine years into a Labour government that had poured money into the public sector.

  12. John P Reid says:

    Yes,look at the students probably mostly remainers who didn’t read McDonnell’s views at the election were leavingthe single market

    If there’s more news of Muslim FgMbeung ignored, homophobia, rape sexism anti semetism, the leftignore it for votes thepolice are too scared to prosecute trough fear of being called racist, then Ukip will be the ones to benefit

    It’s all good saying labour got a higher percentage 70/30 of the under 45 year old working class vote if on,y one third of the under 45 working class voted

    If two thirds of the over 60 working class voted and it was 70/30 Tory votes then, it denounces the myth,that labour got as many working class votes in both demographics, as a lot more over 60s voted,

    PS when are you going to change the anti spam message, from us typing the war criminals name,

  13. buttley says:

    John P Reid says:

    But wint affect their majorities,then there’s, harrow or Dagenham in west and east London
    Labour got back the middle class ex Ukip vote in Wes Streetings Ilford north, but Garett Thomas and Jon cruddass’s majorities went down, from 5,900 to 4,000′ all it ties is si,e more Ukip votes going Tory,for them to grab those seats


    Gareth Thomas went from a 2000 majority, to a 13,500 majority.

    Over the last three (3) general elections UKIP in west harrow, have totalled 4,500 votes. (450 this time)

    And the Tory vote, remained steady at about 18,000.

    Gareth Thomas won because of

    A) The Corbyn effect, even though this campaign denied his existence.

    B) Unusually, Gareth Thomas grew up in his constituency & naturally exploited this to full effect, when his opposite Tory number doesn’t even live in the borough.

    C) The Tories for whatever reason, did not bother to fight this seat locally, when they have in the recent past, however at best, they might have scraped together another 2000 votes maximum.

    In West Harrow, it is safe to say, 11,000 came out for Corbyn.

    This was a surprise for Gareth too no doubt, who seemed to think he was representing the Co-op and not the Labour party, judging from his campaign literature.

  14. Tafia says:

    @John Wall @Tafia – Grenfell Tower is a double edged sword. Look at Camden, similar work to Grenfell was done a decade ago by a Labour council under a Labour government – before the crash/austerity.

    You misinterpret what I mean. In the Tories case, their main contenders for leader to replace May are directly involved to a greater or lesser degree – for instance Johnson was Mayor of the GLC. They will not challenge May until this is over and done with, file closed.

  15. John Wall says:

    @Tafia – I see what you mean, Boris has “promised” not to stand for the leadership until March 2019. Hopefully we’ll get some answers fairly soon – but I don’t think anybody or any party will be able to escape completely.

  16. Tony says:

    Corbyn needs to ensure that Labour drops its support for Trident replacement as soon as possible. It is an absolute nonsense policy.

    Even Margaret Hodge on yesterday’s Daily Politics was sympathetic to the idea.

    It is important to remember that Britain’s nuclear weapons are a status symbol and have nothing whatsoever to do with defending the people of this country. Indeed, their very existence puts us all at risk of extermination.

    Anybody who doubts this should recall Theresa May’s willingness to actually start a nuclear war. Isn’t it deeply disturbing that no interviewer asked her about this during the recent general election campaign?


  17. R malim says:

    And who thinks the next general election will be in University term time?

Leave a Reply