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.
The result of the Conservative members’ ballot for leader was declared on July 23. Boris Johnson defeated Jeremy Hunt by 66.4% to 33.6%, out of the almost 139,000 valid votes cast. Johnson will become British PM on July 24, after Theresa May formally resigns. He has repudiated the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement in Theresa May’s deal. It is very unlikely that an agreement with the European Union can be reached without such a backstop, making a no-deal Brexit more likely.
On July 18, the Commons voted by 315 to 274 to accept an amendment that would make it more difficult for Johnson to prorogue (suspend) Parliament to force a no-deal Brexit. Just one Labour MP voted with the Conservatives while 17 Conservative MPs voted with Labour, and there were notable Conservative abstentions, including current Chancellor Philip Hammond.
While this was a decisive defeat for Johnson’s position, commentator Stephen Bush says that Johnson’s big gamble is not that the Commons will oppose no-deal, it is that the Commons will be unable to agree on something (revoking Brexit, a second referendum, a general election or making Jeremy Corbyn PM) that will actually prevent no-deal occurring. The Commons will rise on July 25 for its summer recess, and is not scheduled to return until September 3. There is a three-week recess for party conferences from mid-September until early October, so there will be less time for Parliament to deal with Brexit. It is unlikely there will be a no-confidence vote before the summer recess.
In five of the seven most recent national polls, Labour had two to six point leads over the Conservatives, but trailed the Conservatives by four points in two YouGov polls. YouGov is the most Conservative-leaning pollster, and it is no coincidence that Labour’s 18%, which I mentioned in my last UK politics article, was from a YouGov poll. There has been some drop in the Brexit party and Liberal Democrat vote, so it has become more of a standard two-party contest.
The most recent ComRes poll had a clear warning for Johnson. Current voting intentions in that poll were 28% Labour, 25% Conservative, 19% Brexit party and 17% Lib Dem. When asked how they would vote if a new election were held before October 31 with Brexit undelivered, vote shares became 28% Labour, 22% Brexit, just 18% Conservative and 18% Lib Dem. If Brexit is delivered before the next election, vote shares are 32% Conservative, 29% Labour, 18% Lib Dem and 10% Brexit.
Hypothetical polling should be taken with a grain of salt, as people are not good at predicting how they will react to an event. If Parliament is seen as obstructing Brexit, the Conservatives could do better in the first scenario, although the number of Conservative rebels in such a scenario could itself be damaging. In the second scenario, serious negative economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit would be likely to hurt the Conservatives.
The Brecon & Radnorshire by-election, which I covered in more detail last time, will be held on August 1. A poll has the Lib Dems easily winning with 43%, followed by the Conservatives on 28%, Brexit party 20% and Labour 8%. This result would be a Lib Dem gain from the Conservatives. I will be writing about this by-election result and post-Johnson polls on August 2.
US Democratic presidential primaries and Trump’s re-election prospects
I wrote for The Conversation on July 18 that Joe Biden is leading the Democratic presidential primaries, and is followed by Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Donald Trump’s ratings are well below where they should be given the strong US economy. Even with the current economy, he will probably lose in November 2020. If the economy tanks, e.g., due to a no-deal Brexit, he is far more likely to lose.