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.
An early July YouGov poll of Conservative members gave Boris Johnson a massive 74% to 26% lead over Jeremy Hunt. Ballot papers for the leadership election started being sent out late last week, and must be returned by July 22. The result will be declared on July 23. Johnson’s overwhelming lead in this poll means that the remote chance of a Hunt victory has gone, and Johnson will be the next Conservative leader, and thus British PM.
An early July YouGov poll of general voting intentions gave the Conservatives 24%, the Brexit party 23%, the Liberal Democrats 20% and Labour was fourth with just 18%. An Opinium poll was better for Labour, as they had 25%, followed by the Conservatives at 23%, Brexit at 22% and the Lib Dems at 15%. In both these polls, the combined Conservative and Brexit vote was 45-47%. This makes sense as, in the previous Opinium poll, 48% favoured a “no-deal” Brexit if no deal can pass the Commons by October 31, while 40% wanted more delay and a second referendum.
I believe Labour’s decline can be explained by their positioning on Brexit. At the 2017 general election, Labour adopted a pro-Brexit position, and this helped them to retain seats that voted Leave. As the Brexit debate has played out this year, Labour has been forced to adopt a more pro-Remain stance. However, this stance has cost Labour votes with Labour Leavers, while not being emphatic enough a rejection of Brexit for Remain voters.
Once Johnson becomes PM, the question is whether the Commons will act to prevent a no-deal Brexit. While there has been talk of some Conservative MPs voting against their government to prevent no-deal, defections from Labour MPs in Leave seats could frustrate any attempt to prevent no-deal. In mid-June, such an attempt was defeated by 11 votes because, while ten Conservative MPs voted with Labour, eight Labour MPs voted with the Conservatives. Labour’s weak polling will make many MPs wary of risking a general election by obstructing Brexit.
Brecon & Radnorshire by-election: August 1
A by-election will occur in the Conservative-held seat of Brecon & Radnorshire on August 1, after more than 10% of constituents signed a petition recalling MP Chris Davies following his conviction for making false expenses claims. Despite this, Davies will again be the Conservative candidate.
From 1997 to 2015, Brecon & Radnorshire was a Lib Dem seat. When the Lib Dems collapsed in 2015, the Conservatives won it by a 41% to 28% margin, reversing a Lib Dem 2010 margin of 46% to 37%. The Conservatives retained this seat by a 49% to 29% margin in 2017, an election where the major parties were historically strong. With the collapse of the major party vote since 2017, this by-election is a big opportunity for the Lib Dems to gain from the Conservatives. This by-election will occur nine days into Boris Johnson’s premiership.
Right wins Greek election, left wins Turkish Istanbul mayoral re-election
I wrote on my personal website that the conservative New Democracy won the July 7 Greek election with 158 of the 300 parliamentary seats, ousting the far-left SYRIZA. In Turkey, the left won the June 23 Istanbul mayoral re-election by a much bigger margin than originally.