MPs desert sinking ship as polls predict historic Labour disaster
In yesterday’s piece, I looked at the first reason why UK Prime minister Teresa May opted for a snap election.
Looking at the parliamentary arithmetic, she may have seen little room for manoeuvre faced with the more extreme demands of those favouring a hard Brexit.
That was one of three motivating factors. Today we look at the second and perhaps most obvious. The opinion polls look good both for her – and her party, and the opposition Labour Party is crumbling from the inside and the outside under leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The opinion polls show historic lows for Labour
Since Teresa May took over from David Cameron who resigned the day after the Brexit vote, her polling numbers have been consistently good. In contrast to the unpopularity of Labour leader Corbyn, May gets high polling numbers both for strength of leadership and ability to handle the economy.
This is more than reflected in her party’s standing.
The final opinion poll, conducted by YouGov before her shock announcement has her Conservative Party on 42% with Labour trailing badly on 23%. On the question of who would make the best Prime Minster, she led Corbyn by a massive 50% to 14%.
The betting markets predict a comfortable win for her, with a 90 seat majority over all other parties being the result.
IG GROUP ELECTION PREDICTIONS
Conservatives – 370 seats (a gain of 40 seats)
Labour – 177 seats (a loss of 52 seats)
Liberal Democrats – 34 seats (a gain of 25 seats)
Scottish National Party – 50 seats (a loss of 4 seats)
UKIP – 1 seat (gain of 1 seat)
If those numbers can be dismissed on the grounds that betting markets reflect desire for the punter to make a profit, the website Politico Daily has based a seat projection based on another poll conducted by ComRes for the Independent.
It sees May’s Party reaching an unthinkable 400 seats, gaining 69. Labour would lose 70 and the much vaunted Liberal Democrat pro-European revival would not materialise. Her majority would be 150.
If there is any threat to any current Conservative incumbent, it may come from the Liberal Democrats.
48% of the UK voted to remain in the EU. There had been occasional signs that some of them were beginning to move to the Liberal Democrats as a way to slow down or possibly halt Brexit.
It’s a process that has begun slowly but is gathering steam. It is possible that Mrs May thought it a good idea not to hang around until that movement developed a fuller head of steam, especially with people deserting Labour and looking for an alternative.
It seems however the early election may constrain the Liberal Democrat fight back to a few seats in the south west of England and maybe prosperous suburbs in the south and south west of London like Twickenham. Most of these are in their former heartlands and victory there would represent little more than them winning back seats they won in 2010.
That said, there are still over 50 days to go and an election campaign gives them more access to the minds of voters than normal. The downside for the Liberals is that only half of their top 40 target seats are in areas that voted to Remain. An anti-Brexit rebellion is hardly likely to materialise elsewhere.
There is a smaller possibility that Labour might launch such an incompetent campaign that diehard anti-Tory voters grudgingly vote Liberal Democrat.
It’s not just the polls; Even Labour MPs cannot bring themselves to support the party
It is hard to overstate just how bad a mess Labour are in. In an article in the Independent partly entitled Corbyn is heading for a bigger defeat than 1983, John Rentoul writes:
“Our ComRes opinion poll at the weekend suggested that the Conservatives have a 21-point lead over Labour. The same figure as was produced by YouGov this morning.
“The last time a Tory government was that far ahead was on the eve of the 1983 election, when Margaret Thatcher won a 144-seat majority. And there are reasons for thinking that Labour is in an even weaker position this time.”
It’s not only pollsters that are looking at the stars and seeing disaster.
Current Labour MPs are already announcing they will not stand in June, shedding the value of incumbency and often rendering their seats more vulnerable to loss.
Tom Blenkinsop MP wrote:
“I have made no secret about my significant and irreconcilable differences with the current Labour leadership. It is because of these differences I feel I cannot in good faith stand as the Labour candidate for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland.”
He has already been joined by Alan Johnson (Hull West and Hessle), Iain Wright (Hartlepool), Pat Glass (North West Durham), Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston), Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge), Fiona McTaggart (Slough), Rob Marris (Wolverhampton SW), Andy Burnham (Leigh), Dave Anderson (Blaydon) and Andrew Smith (Oxford East). The list is still growing.
Stuart’s majority is just 2706 and her successor will be hard pushed to retain the seat. In Wolverhampton Marris beat the Conservative candidate by just 801 and that seat is likely to fall.
Ten Labour seats have a majority of under 1000. Strongly anti-Brexit Cambridge has a majority of just 599 over the Liberal Democrats and in nine others, the Conservatives have very little extra to do.
These range from a majority of just 93 in Chester to that 801 in Rob Marris’ seat.
Just 85 seats would fall to the Conservatives with a swing of 10% and a further eight to the Liberal Democrats. A total wipeout, akin to Kim Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives in Canada in 1993, is unlikely as there are still many safe Labour seats. That’s probably a worse case scenario for Labour, still leaving them around 140 MPs.
Among Labour’s mostly centrist MPS, the blame for this falls squarely on leader Corbyn.
John Woodcock, MP for Barrow-in-Furness MP, hasn’t stood down but his words on his own party leader were even more damning than many who have:
“I intend to seek re-nomination from my local Labour and Co-operative parties to be their official candidate.
“But I will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s Prime Minister. I realise that Jeremy has been elected and then re-elected as the leader of my party, but my first duty is to you, my constituents.
” … I cannot countenance endorsing him for a role which I think even he, although he may say differently in front of the cameras, does not think he is fit to carry out.”