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 polls taken since the House of Commons voted on October 29 for a December 12 election, the Conservatives have led Labour by seven to 16 points, and would be likely to win an election “held now” with a majority. The good news for Labour is that they are now a clear second, with the Liberal Democrats a distant third.
This will assist in the argument that if Remain voters want to stop Boris Johnson’s Brexit, they will need to vote Labour in the vast majority of English and Welsh seats. The Lib Dems are likely to be “squeezed”; in first-past-the-post, minor parties can lose votes to major parties to keep the other major party out. Labour’s Brexit policy is for a referendum between Remain and a Labour-negotiated deal, which many Remainers have campaigned for.
Even if Labour wins a large share of the Remain vote, they still need to grab votes directly from the Conservatives to be in an election-winning position. Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing policies are unlikely to appeal as much as in 2017 owing to better economic conditions: 2.0% real wage growth now, versus -0.5% in May 2017.
In my opinion, Labour’s best chance to take votes from the Conservatives is a scare campaign against Johnson’s deal. The National Health Service (NHS), which Labour created in 1948, will be the focus of this campaign. In June, the US’s UK ambassador said the NHS would be “on the table” in a post-Brexit US/UK trade deal. US pharmaceutical companies would like access to the NHS. A hard Brexit would require the UK to negotiate its own trade deals, but other countries would be likely to extract as much as they could from the UK’s weakened position.
On October 31, Donald Trump said Johnson’s Brexit deal could rule out a US/UK trade deal. He also said Corbyn would be “so bad for your country”. Trump denied wanting to grab the NHS, but he is somewhat untrustworthy. While British opinion is closely divided on Brexit, 67% have a negative view of Trump and just 19% a positive view. Trump’s negative endorsement could assist Corbyn.
On November 1, Nigel Farage said the Brexit Party would run candidates in all 650 Commons seats unless Johnson drops his Brexit deal, which he almost certainly won’t do. The Conservatives have already squeezed the Brexit Party down to around 10%, and at least some of the hold-outs will be people who won’t vote Conservative.
Democrats perform better than expected at US state elections
At US state elections held November 5, Democrats won the Kentucky governor race by 49.2-48.8. Kentucky is a very white, rural, Trumpian state. Republicans won the Mississippi governor by 52.1-46.6. In Virginia, Democrats gained control of both chambers of the state legislature, the House by 55-45 and the Senate by 21-19. Democrats easily held the New Jersey legislature. Also of note: a New York City referendum introduced Australian-style preferential voting by 73.5-26.5.
I wrote for The Conversation Wednesday that a Siena poll of battleground states implies that Trump could be re-elected despite losing the popular vote, as occurred in 2016. The US economy is still performing well. Joe Biden has retaken the Democratic primary lead from Elizabeth Warren.
Spain: left parties’ failure to form government gives right a chance at new election
I covered the April Spanish election here. The centre-left Socialists and far-left Podemos were short of a majority, but appeared to have the numbers to form government with left-wing separatists abstaining. But in July, as covered on my personal website, Podemos abstained from a confidence vote, and the vote was lost. No agreement was reached by the September 23 deadline, and so there will be a second 2019 Spanish election this Sunday.
Spain uses proportional representation by region, which assists bigger parties. Polling suggests that national right to far-right parties (People’s, Citizens and Vox) have a realistic chance of winning more votes and seats than national left-wing parties (Socialists, Podemos and the new Más País). It is unlikely either side will reach the 176 seats required for a majority, with separatists holding the balance of power. This new election is likely to put the Socialists in a worse position than after April.