UK election minus five weeks, US state elections and Spain

The Conservatives have a large lead in the UK polls, but there is still hope for Labour. Also: US state election results and Spain’s second election this year on Sunday. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

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.

54 comments on “UK election minus five weeks, US state elections and Spain”

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  1. Farage not standing candidates in 317 seats the tories win in 2017.

    Thats exactly to avoid vote splitting and the opposite party coming up thru the middle on fptp.

    Farage is smarter than Corbyn & Swinson appear to be thus far.

    My fear is we’ll be dissecting a decent Tory majority on Dec 13 counting the number of seats they won with 50%.

    If this transpires, Lab and Libs have noone to blame but themselves. But unlike throwing an ordinary election, this time they are throwing away the chance to wrest Brexit control from Tory hegemony. Inept, incompetent, self harm as a deliberate conscious choice… I just dont know how else to describe it. Retarded.


    If anything this backflip from Farage is a sign of weakness. For one thing he knows that his idiotic argument that Boris’s brexit is not “real” brexit isn’t flying with the public. This announcement just confirms that. More importantly though, the BPs polling is crashing, to the extent that (according to one poll) there are now more leavers voting for labour than there are voting for BP (15% to 12%). Thus with labour leavers seeming to return to labour, the idea that BP can smash labour in labour-held seats may not be all its cracked up to be. In any case, this move by Farage says more about the backlash he is getting for opposing Johnson’s WA than it says about any tactical brilliance of the move.

  3. “Farage is smarter than Corbyn & Swinson appear to be thus far.”

    Only if you are assuming that the first priority of both is to stop brexit. It is not. Corbyn is understandably going all out for a labour majority. In that game he doesn’t do tactical with the lib-dems. In most part, the lib-dems stand in his way. As for Swinson, even if she was dead serious about stopping brexit (which I’m not convinced), in almost all cases that would involve standing aside her candidates to allow labour candidates to win. Why would she do that? Imagine that – to have a serious shot at forming a remain majority, she would have to shelve virtually all her ambitions to win more seats – and probably lose a whole swathe of their existing ones in the process. Furthermore, she would have to stop bagging Corbyn, which would kill about 50% of her current election strategy.

    Lets face it, this ‘vote tactical’ fantasy is a pipe dream, conjured up by a few centrist-elitists who are generally out of touch with most mainstream voters – and whose modus operandi is to demand that the two main opposition parties sacrifice themselves in favour of an elitist wet dream . Both Corbyn and Swinson are wisely steering clear of such pipe dreams. The only ‘tactical’ remainers need to bother with is to vote labour. Thats literally their one and only shot.

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