The Times/YouGov poll of 100,000 Britons predicts that the political map of the United Kingdom may redraw along the lines of the 2016 referendum, with the Conservatives penetrating the so-called ‘Red Wall’, and Farage’s decision to stand down candidates protects Boris Johnson, in his 67-vulnerable constituencies.
The only parties that will feel optimistic are the Tories and the SNP, as the Liberal Democrats are set to wave goodbye to all of their defectors, and Labour is forecast to make zero-gains. Yet, Boris Johnson cannot become complacent; otherwise, a hung parliament may be on the horizon.
The Conservatives are expected to reach a similar vote share to Theresa May, at around 43%. However, unlike in 2017, there lead over Labour is expected to enter double-figures at 11%, rather than approximately 2%. When translated into seats the Conservatives will expect 359 seats, their largest share since 1987. Labour will tally at 211; the SNP will remain the third-largest party in Westminster, and the Liberal Democrats will win a dire 13-seats. However, if Johnson’s lead shrinks to around 7%, or YouGov’s ‘danger zone’, then there is a possibility that we will enter another hung parliament.
Since the Brexit referendum, political identities in the United Kingdom have evolved, away from party politics of left versus right, and towards the Leave, vs Remain axis. This change helps to explain some of the projected gains by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
Across Conservative gains, there are some enormous swings. The former deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson’s, the seat of West Bromwich East transforms from a Labour majority of 20% to a Tory majority of 1%. Furthermore, by defeating Dennis Skinner, in the former mining town of Bolsover. But at the other end of the scale, the Liberal Democrats should win St Albans, previously held by Lord Lilley, overturning a Tory majority of 11%, into a majority of 13% for the pro-Remain party.
However, this election may be won because of the marginal seats needed to win an election, around 2/3 of them backed the Vote Leave campaign in 2016. Moreover, this may explain why, of the 67-seats that the Tories have a majority of 10% or less, they are expected to retain all but three, with the SNP gaining two, and the Liberal Democrats winning in Zac Goldsmith’s seat. There is a similar message in the 63-seats that the Tories are chasing. Of the 63, Johnson is projected to pick up 36 of them, including Bassetlaw, Wakefield and Bishop Auckland.
The Brexit Party only outpoll the Tories in one-seat, Barnsley Central. Despite all pollsters predicting that Farage’s night will be bleaker than 2015, his impact on the 30 seats where the Tories currently lead by 5% or less, could decide the future of Brexit, and the future of this country. According to YouGov, those backing the Brexit Party tended to support the Conservatives, over Labour in 2017, at a ratio of 2:1. His impact in Labour-Conservative marginals has potential to kill-off Brexit. In eight-seats, including Keighley, Bedford and the Gower, the gap between the two major parties is around 1%, but the Brexit Party polling at approximately half-a-dozen means that the seats are a toss-up and eyes will be glued to them when results come in. Nonetheless, Farage’s decision to stand down in the 317-seats is a blessing for Johnson. Remain-leaning seats like Chipping Barnet and Cheltenham, would be lost if a fraction of constituents had voted for the Brexit Party, and leave-backing Thurrock saw its majority of <1%, grow to over 20%.
In Scotland, where electoral contests are fought on three fronts, including Scottish independence, the SNP and Tories will again be happiest. Nicola Sturgeon’s party are expected to gain and emerge with 43 seats. In comparison, the Tories will lose two, on 11, and the Liberal Democrats and Labour will trail on three and two. This is also expected on polling day as Scotland, once a stronghold for Labour has transformed. Now the stark choice of a nationalist SNP, vs the pure unionists in the Conservative Party, have consigned the other parties into the political wilderness.
Finally, Wales, while remaining a beacon of British socialism, is polled to witness Conservative gains, especially in north Wales. According to the MRP model, the Conservatives will gain four seats from Labour and regain Brecon and Radnorshire, which they lost in a by-election last August. However, there is no real change of hands in Brexit-backing south Wales, but the Conservatives are polling at a higher average. In Llanelli, a scarlet-seat since 1922, the Conservatives are polling at 27%, their highest vote share since the 1936 by-election. This is similar in Keir Hardie’s former seat of Merthyr Tydfil where the Tories are expected to win their most votes since the 1950s.
While the poll is happy reading for the Tories and Brexiteers, there are still two-weeks until Britons go to the polls. If the Conservatives continue to see their lead shrink, to a margin of 7%, then the paralysis in parliament will only continue.
By J Walters