So the vote has been held and the motion has passed and the General Election 2017 is up and running, pending the Queen’s consent. Over the last 24 hours there has been a lot of speculation as to what the final result will be. I have heard some people suggest that there may well be a swing of over 20% to the Conservatives from Labour, which I have to say is a bit far fetched but you can’t discount it entirely. If this were to happen, and assuming a uniform swing then we are looking at another 150 plus Conservative MPs and that would really change everything and wouldn’t necessarily be in the best interests of the United Kingdom as a whole. I suspect that things will be somewhat more complicated because we no longer live in a simple Conservative v Labour world but a much more pluralistic environment. Given this I think that there are a number of things to watch out for as the election develops:
How big is the size of the UKIP collapse? 2015 was the high watermark for UKIP. They had a significant share of the vote even though they didn’t gain any MPs. How different things look in 2017. The party itself is in utter disarray for the one simple reason: Britain is leaving the European Union. If this is the case then what is the point of voting UKIP? It doesn’t help that the party is collapsing before everyone’s eyes: Their one nationally known figure, Nigel Farage, is intent on building a career outside of UKIP; Their main donor, Arron Banks, is refusing to cough up anymore money and is talking about forming UKIP 2.0; Their new leader has been shown to be less than honest when it comes to his claims and their only MP has resigned from UKIP, although many would argue that he was the least UKIP UKIP member going. All in all the party is in disarray.
That being said there is still a hard core of voters that probably will vote for UKIP should they get the chance and the size of this will really matter as many Labour marginals have a large UKIP vote. Given the current state of UKIP there is a possibility that they may well be unable to field a candidate in a number of constituencies but even if there was a candidate just how many votes would Labour gain from a UKIP collapse? If they don’t gain any the most likely place for the UKIP vote to go to is the Conservative party as they have stolen most of the UKIP arguments. If this were to happen then the size of the labour representation in the House of Commons could become so small as to threaten the chance that they would form the official opposition as they could be looking at losing 150 plus seats – mostly to the Conservatives – this seems unlikely but cannot be discounted at this time.
How big is the size of the Liberal Democrat revival? If 2015 proved a high water mark for UKIP then the reverse is the case for the Liberal Democrats. Constituency after constituency show a double digit swing against them. This is unlikely to be the case in 2017 as the results of local elections has shown that the swing to the Lib Dems has been in the positive column which if this were the case could be a mild irritant to the Conservative but could prove to be another nail in the coffin of Labour as it is reasonable to assume that there are fewer Conservative voters who would move back to the Lib Dems than Labour voters. If this assumption is correct then any Lib Dem surge in Labour marginals would be disastrous, especially if the UKIP vote moves to the Conservatives as well. The most likely places where the Lib Dems pick up seats is in the South West of England and London. There is an outside chance that they might make a gain in Scotland – see below.
How many seats will the SNP lose? The biggest single winner from the 2015 election was the SNP. They all but swept the board in Scotland and whilst I am sure they will claim that they will keep every seat it is unlikely given how the Scottish political landscape has changed since 2015. Nonetheless the SNP are a formidable political machine and it would be foolish to discount their ability to present any change at the UK level in a light to support their overall claim for Scottish independence. This being said there is a reasonable chance that they may well lose maybe three seats which would hardly be disastrous but could be awkward if they go to the Conservatives as the SNP are likely to frame their appeal by painting the Conservatives as the enemies of Scotland. Again this may be aided by any swing back to the Lib Dems. Indeed if the swing back to the Lib Dems is significant, say 10% they may find that they win back a couple of seats in the far north.
So having looked at the data it would seem that any likely Labour revival is remote. The SNP are likely to lose some seats but will still be the largest party by far in Scotland. What happens to the UKIP vote is probably the key to just how bad things get for Labour. If it holds up then they have a chance to keep some of the seats in the north of England. However, if there is no UKIP candidate then there is only one place for most of the UKIP voters to go, assuming they turn out at all, and that is unlikely to be the Labour party. Just to add to the Labour worries any revival of the Liberal Democrats would also draw votes away Labour which could make many more Labour marginals very unsafe. As for the Conservatives this may well prove to be up there with 1983 when they really do sweep all before them only this time the opposition will be splintered so will make their win even more sweet.
It will be very interesting to revisit this analysis on Friday June 9th to see just how things worked out because there is only one thing that can be predicted now – elections are unpredictable and what looks certain at the start may well change over the next seven weeks. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.