UK election minus 16 days

The Conservatives maintain a large lead owing to opposition vote-splitting. Was there any politically good move for Labour on Brexit? Also featured: updates from Israel, the US and Hong Kong. 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.

There were seven UK national polls released last weekend. In six of these, the Conservatives held leads of ten to 13 points, while Opinium gave them a 19-point lead. The Conservative plus Brexit party vote has dropped to the mid 40’s from the high 40’s to low 50’s in most of these polls. Opinium is the outlier with a Conservative/Brexit vote of 50%. The Conservatives remain likely to win the December 12 election with a majority.

The Conservatives are being assisted by two factors. First, Brexit Party support is at just 3% in five of the seven polls. Second, the Liberal Democrats have about 15% and the Greens 3%, with Labour on 30%. In Britain’s first-past-the-post system, those who want Labour to adopt a pure Remain position are likely to deliver a Commons majority for a hard Brexit. Some Conservatives who would never vote Labour will vote for the Liberal Democrats, but most Lib Dem votes are at Labour’s expense given Labour won 40% in 2017 and the Lib Dems 7%.

The Conservative vote in six of the seven polls was 41-43%, with 47% in Opinium. With the split in the opposition, a Conservative vote below 40% is probably needed to avert a Conservative majority. The drop in the Conservative/Brexit vote has been taken partly by the Brexit party, but any further drops will impact the Conservatives directly.

On November 19, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn had their first head-to-head debate. Perhaps Labour’s campaign on the National Health Service is biting, but Corbyn reopened Remain divisions in that debate. On November 21, Labour’s manifesto was released; Labour will hope its left-wing agenda will win back some Lib Dems and Greens.

On November 22, the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Scottish National Party participated in BBC Question Time, with each leader getting 30 minutes to answer questions from the public. Jo Swinson of the Lib Dems was strongly criticised for her performance, and this failure could benefit Labour. There will be a three-way debate between Johnson, Corbyn and Swinson Thursday UK time, and a seven-way debate Friday.

Why are Remainers such a problem for Labour and Corbyn?

A YouGov poll gave Johnson a net -4 rating, up two points since August. Corbyn’s net rating was -42, up 17 points. Swinson’s net rating was -18. With Leave voters, Johnson had a +50 rating, while Corbyn was at -21 with Remain voters and Swinson +9. These ratings explain why the Leave vote has consolidated behind the Conservatives, while Remainers are split.

Labour’s current Brexit policy should appeal to Remainers. Labour will negotiate a soft Brexit, then put that to a referendum against Remain. It is likely Remain would win such a referendum. Labour’s problem is much more about the process of getting to the current policy. Corbyn is a known Eurosceptic who was reluctant to move from Labour’s successful pro-Brexit 2017 policy.

Ironically, the Conservatives are likely to win the election because the socialist Corbyn was centrist on a deeply polarising issue. But as I said before, an explicitly pro-Remain Labour would have been accused of disrespecting the 2016 Brexit referendum result and being an elitist party.

Was there any way for Labour to escape its Brexit predicament? I have a very cynical suggestion. Labour needed the economic crisis of a no-deal Brexit before the election, not after. If the Conservative hard right wanted a no-deal, Labour should not have got in the way. It is likely a no-deal will effectively occur after the transition period ends in December 2020.

Election updates: Israel, the US and Hong Kong 

  • In Israel, left-leaning Blue & White leader Benny Gantz failed to form a government by the November 20 deadline. There will be a third election in a year if nobody forms a government by December 11. On November 21, right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted for bribery and fraud.
  • I wrote for The Conversation on November 20 that Pete Buttigieg had surged to a clear lead for the February 3 Iowa Democratic caucus.
  • At Hong Kong local elections held Sunday, pro-Democracy councillors gained control of 17 of the 18 councils, to just one council held by pro-Beijing councillors.

75 comments on “UK election minus 16 days”

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  1. Swamprat,

    The pro-Remain group Best for Britain have published a new seats projection based on an MRP analysis of a large number of polling interviews – similar to the method YouGov used in 2017, and that proved to be more accurate than conventional polling results. The headline figures are:

    Conservatives 366
    Labour 199
    SNP 44
    Liberal Democrats 17
    Plaid Cymru 4
    Greens 1

    But Best for Britain claims, if 4,000 people vote tactically in the most vulnerable seats, we could get:

    Labour: 244 seats
    SNP: 52
    Lib Dems: 21
    Plaid Cymru: 4
    Greens: 1

    That leaves the Tories on 309 and denies them a majority.

    Very interesting calculation. Do you know if Best for Britain will be targeting seats where tactical voting is needed to prevent the Tory majority?

  2. Douglas and Milo

    “ Very interesting calculation. Do you know if Best for Britain will be targeting seats where tactical voting is needed to prevent the Tory majority?”

    I only discovered that site today. It seems to be focussed on tactical voting for the purposes of remaining in the EU. I do not know How it is implementing it.

    Best for Britain seems to be more supporting all remainers and therefore includes support for the SNP, by far the staunchest remain party in Scotland.

  3. I’m no Corbyn fan but he’s certainly ripped by the Tory media even when he makes quite reasonable comments. A free Press , not. Mi

  4. A very nice ipsos-mori telephone poll on Scottish voting intentions. Showing SNP with an 18% lead over the Tories

    Scottish voting intentions for general election (Ipsos-Mori):

    SNP 44%
    Conservatives 26%
    Labour 16%
    Liberal Democrats 11%
    Greens 2%

    Resulting Seat projection:
    SNP 48 (+13),
    Conservatives 6 (-7),
    Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c),
    Labour 1 (-6)

    And a 50:50 on Independence.

    Should Scotland be an independent country?

    Yes 50%
    No 50%

  5. I just realised this being a Westminster poll, it would not include 16 and 17 year olds. They are overwhelmingly “yes” for independence so the yes vote would be above 50%. 🙂

  6. Id just abt given up any chance of a hung parliament but the needle has moved ever so slightly in my preferred direction!

    Tories will pick up a swathe Lab seats… qn of how many and offset by what.

    SNP will take a few off them in scotland.

    I don’t think Lab can pick up many. Would need a tactical help from LibDem voters to both maximise gains or to limit losses.

    Lib Dems have a chance in many but will need help from Lab voters. Their prospects looking worse… this helps the Tories far more than Lab in terms of seat deliverance.

    Ive never seen such an election where the nat polling is so meaningless relative to what is happening in each seat. 2015 was kinda interesting, Lib Dem vote collapsed in their seats not necessarily all to Tory but the Tories won just abt all of them.

    Im no fan of the austerity-appeasing legacy wing of the Lib Dems but i really do hope defectors like Umunna and Gymiah can stay on as mps.

    As for Lab, swap Corbyn for Starmer and McDonnel/Abbott for anyone and i think they would be threatening majority govt here

  7. I thought previous the Tories would win at least a modest majority. However now, I am increasingly leaning towards another hung parliament.

    In addition to a hung parliament, If there is a fair amount of tactical voting, then the SNP could win 50 seats or more and the Liberal Democrats winning as many as 20. Also, some of the results could be surprising, with perhaps Boris Johnson losing his own seat.

  8. Well, Labour in Scotland will retain a seat they were not expected to hold. They won Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath last time by only 300 votes. The SNP candidate has been disendorsed because of post he made on social media two years ago.

    His apology:

    “……I posted…. a news article from Sputnik News relating to Mr George Soros which, I have since been advised, contained an image which is considered an anti-semitic trope. On this occasion I did not give any thought to Mr Soros’ faith and did not consider the connotations of the image in that context. I fully accept that this was wrong and I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused. While that was not my intention, that was the effect and I accept full responsibility for this serious misjudgement.”

    The offence and wording of contrition smacks of a “liberal” version of a Soviet show trial of the 1930s. 4 candidates have been dis-endorsed in Scotland so far in this campaign for what has been perceived as anti-semitism or anti-islamic posts on social. The others were more overt in that they were direct quotes of the candidate.

  9. soooo then of course we get the obligatory election campaign terror attack 🙁

    This sort of tragedy normally helps the government, especially conservative ones. That said, Im not that disheartened for labour, given that the attack last election, which was far worse, had no noticable impact on labour’s improvement at the time.

  10. Panelbase poll was taken after the antisemitism ruckus on Tuesday and the Andrew Neil/Corbyn interview. Tory lead narrows from ten pts to eight. Can Labour’s NHS scare campaign move things further in their favour? They need to take some of the Leave vote from the Tories. There will be lots more polls tomorrow.

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 42% (-)
    LAB: 34% (+2)
    LDEM: 13% (-1)
    BREX: 4% (+1)
    GRN: 3% (+1)

    via @PanelbaseMD, 27 – 28 Nov
    Chgs. w/ 22 Nov

  11. more evidence for my theory that media-bubble obsessions like the antisemitism gotchas just really aren’t that important to real life voters.

  12. Surprised that one issue that Boris can’t seem to shake off is those offensive remarks he made as a columnist before he entered politics. Worse for him has been his rsther piss weak dismissal of them, “oh that was years ago”, “its taken in isolation”. If it doesn’t let up I wonder if he will get to the point where he just says “yes I can see now it was offensive” and just apologise for it.

    I suspect there is a deeper more concerning undercurrent here for him in this, to do with the perception of his dishonesty. And if he doesnt nip it in the bud, it just might cut through.

  13. Twitter currently losing its shit over this little number:

    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 39% (-2)
    LAB: 33% (+5)
    LDEM: 13% (-5)
    GRN: 5% (-)
    BREX: 4% (+1)

    via @BMGResearch, 27 – 29 Nov
    Chgs. w/ 21 Nov

  14. The other polls out today were quite a bit better for the Tories than that BMG poll above. Tories at 43-46%, with Tories plus Brexit 45-48%. In BMG, it’s Tories just 39% and Tories plus Brexit 43%.

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 43% (-)
    LAB: 34% (+2)
    LDEM: 13% (-)
    GRN: 3% (+1)
    BREX: 2% (-2)

    via @YouGov, 28 – 29 Nov
    Chgs. w/ 26 Nov

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 45% (+2)
    LAB: 32% (+2)
    LDEM: 15% (-1)
    BREX: 3% (-)

    via @DeltapollUK
    Chgs. w/ 23 Nov

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 46% (-1)
    LAB: 31% (+3)
    LDEM: 13% (+1)
    BREX: 2% (-1)

    via @OpiniumResearch, 27 – 29 Nov
    Chgs. w/ 22 Nov

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 43% (+2)
    LAB: 33% (-1)
    LDEM: 13% (-)
    BREX: 4% (-1)
    GRN: 3% (+1)

    via @SavantaComRes, 27 – 28 Nov
    Chgs. w/ 26 Nov

  15. Five seat polls from Deltapoll. Dominic Raab is in danger from the Lib Dems in Esher & Walton, and there’s actually a five point gain for Labour in Portsmouth South. The Tories are crushing Tory defectors Gauke and Grieve.

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    South West Hertfordshire, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 50% (-8)
    LAB: 17% (-9)
    IND (D. Gauke): 16% (+16)
    LDEM: 13% (+1)
    GRN: 2% (-1)

    21 – 26 Nov
    Chgs. w/ GE2017

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Beaconsfield, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 53% (-12)
    IND (D. Grieve): 36% (+36)
    LAB: 7% (-14)
    GRN: 1% (-2)

    21 – 26 Nov
    Chgs. w/ GE2017

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Berwick upon Tweed, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 60% (+7)
    LDEM: 20% (-1)
    LAB: 17% (-8)
    GRN: 2% (-)

    22 – 26 Nov
    Chgs. w/ GE2017

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    Esher & Walton, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 46% (-13)
    LDEM: 41% (+24)
    LAB: 9% (-11)

    21 – 26 Nov

    Britain Elects@britainelects
    Portsmouth South, constituency voting intention:

    LAB: 46% (+5)
    CON: 38% (-)
    LDEM: 11% (-6)
    BREX: 2% (+2)

    via @DeltapollUK, 22 – 27 Nov
    Chgs. w/ GE2017

  16. portsmourh south looks like it would normally be in play for the tories if not for that 5 point labour bounce. AB do you know if that seat is on the Tori target list?

  17. If anyone’s still paying attention to this thread, which is now far from the top of the main page, a Survation poll has the Tory lead down from 11 to 9, due to a three-point rise in Labour’s vote. New thread tomorrow.

    Europe Elects @EuropeElects
    UK, Survation poll:

    CON-ECR: 42% (+1)
    LAB-S&D: 33% (+3)
    LDEM-RE: 11% (-4)
    GREENS-G/EFA: 4% (+1)
    SNP-G/EFA: 3%
    BREXIT-NI: 3% (-2)
    PC-G/EFA: 1%

    +/- vs. 20-23 Nov

    Fieldwork: 26-30 November 2019
    Sample size: 1,065

  18. Additional Survation questions

    Europe Elects @EuropeElects
    UK, Survation poll:

    “What would you say is the number one issue for you when it comes to deciding your vote?”

    Brexit: 29%
    Health (“NHS”): 17%
    Party leader: 7%
    Economy: 5%
    Welfare: 3%
    Environment: 3%
    Education: 2%

    Europe Elects @EuropeElects
    UK, Survation poll:

    Preferred Prime Minister

    Johnson (CON-ECR): 43%
    Corbyn (LAB-S&D): 25%
    Swinson (LDEM-RE): 11%

  19. LDs with quite a dive there.

    No surprise that labour strategists are shifting their focus to winning over leavers -since remainers don’t seem to need any prompting in understanding that their only shot at stopping brexit is by blocking a tory majority – and voting labour, not lib-dems is the only viable way to do that.

    As I keep saying tactical voting = voting labour. Its really that simple.

  20. With the occasional exception, the polls seem to be in broad agreement that Labour’s vote is edging upwards. They’re not closing the gap much because the Conservative vote looks to be rising slightly too, although more patchily and at a slower rate. With the Brexit Party’s vote bottoming out, so there’s less for the Conservatives to gain from here on, there’s an outside chance the election won’t be the walkover everyone was expecting.

    But only an outside chance.

  21. Chkn in on this thread every day.

    Big A, tactical = vote Labor is just wrong if applied universally. Look at Esher poll above… Raab losing would be so sweet. There were 25 Tory seats vulnerable to Lib Dems before this slump. Even 10 of them switching thru Lab tactical voting would be instrumental in preventing a Tory majority.

    Tragic that Gauke and Grieve will both be lost. They have been heroic figures in this Brexit calamity and their skills could be v valuable in a future hung/tight parliament

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