Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
In the June 13 first round of the UK Conservative leadership election, Boris Johnson won support from 114 of the 313 Conservative MPs (36.4%). He only needed 105 votes to ensure he reached the membership runoff, where he is strongly supported. In the field of ten candidates, Jeremy Hunt was second with 43 votes (14%) and Michael Gove third with 37 votes (12%). Three candidates – Mark Harper, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom – failed to win the 17 votes needed to pass the first round, and were eliminated.
In the second round, to be held on June 18, the threshold for continuing rises to 33 votes. In subsequent rounds the bottom candidate is eliminated until there are just two candidates left – these two go to the hard-Leave supporting Conservative membership. Johnson will gain further support from the elimination of hard Brexiteers McVey and Leadsom, who had 20 combined votes. Whichever of Hunt or Gove finishes second is likely to be thrashed by Johnson in the membership vote. Johnson is very probably Britain’s next PM.
On June 12, the Commons defeated a Labour motion that would have enabled Brexit to be debated on June 25, 309 votes to 298. Ten Conservative MPs voted with Labour, but eight Labour MPs sided with the Conservatives. Had the motion succeeded, legislation to potentially rule out a no-deal Brexit could have been moved on June 25. With the Commons failing to take action that would prevent a no-deal, and Johnson likely to be the next PM, a no-deal Brexit on October 31 is more likely.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have tanked in polls in the last month, with the Brexit party, Liberal Democrats and Greens surging. The latest poll, by ComRes, has Labour leading with 27%, followed by the Conservatives at 23%, Brexit party at 22% and Lib Dems at 17%. However, in a hypothetical question with Johnson as PM, the Conservatives surge to 37%, Labour drops to 22%, the Lib Dems are up to 20% and the Brexit party falls to 14%. Under first past the post, this would be a Conservative landslide.
Hypothetical polls like this are frowned on by many poll analysts as people are not good at predicting how they will react to an actual event. But given Donald Trump and Scott Morrison’s upset victories relied on appealing to those with a lower level of educational attainment, it would be folly for the UK left to dismiss this poll result. The only thing that is likely to break the hold of some right-wing politicians over the lower educated is what the UK left most fear: catastrophic economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
Labour holds Peterborough at by-election triggered by recall
At the June 2017 general election, Peterborough was a surprise Labour gain from the Conservatives, with Labour winning by 48.1% to 46.8%. However, on May 1 Labour member Fiona Onansanya was recalled after more than 10% of constituents signed a petition. Onansanya had been convicted of lying to avoid a speeding ticket. It is the first time a recall petition has succeeded. Under the 2015 Act, recalls can only be used for MPs convicted of crimes or serious parliamentary misdemeanours, not for MPs who change their party.
At the June 6 by-election, Labour won with 30.9% (down 17.2%), followed by the Brexit party at 28.9%, the Conservatives at 21.4% (down 25.5%), the Lib Dems at 12.3% (up 8.9%), the Greens at 3.1% (up 1.3%) and UKIP at 1.2%. This constituency voted Leave by over 60-40 at the Brexit referendum, so it was seen as a strong target for the Brexit party – bookies heavily favoured that party. Ironically, Labour owes its win to the 21% who stuck with the Conservatives rather than vote for the Brexit party.
Left wins Danish election, and other electoral events
I wrote on my personal website on June 6 about left-wing parties winning a total 99 of the 179 seats at the June 5 Danish election. Also covered: a new election in Israel is required after Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government, the German Greens have surged to a tie with the conservative CDU/CSU, and the left gained a Tasmanian upper house seat at May 4 periodical elections.