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.
For a UK Conservative leader to be ousted, the first step is for 15% of the party’s MPs to send letters expressing no confidence to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady. As there are currently 359 Conservatives in the House of Commons, 54 letters expressing no confidence in Boris Johnson are required.
If this first threshold is met, there is a secret ballot of all Conservative MPs. If the leader wins this confidence vote, they cannot be challenged for another year, although this rule could be amended. If the leader loses, they would be expected to be a caretaker PM until the next leader is elected.
Last week there was speculation that an announcement that Brady had received the 54 letters was imminent, but it did not occur. Johnson’s danger is due to the parties that were held while the UK was in COVID lockdown at Downing Street. This caused a slump for the Conservatives in the polls in December. The Conservatives regained some ground in early January, only for even more party revelations to crash their vote again. Some Conservatives may be waiting for Sue Gray’s report into the parties, expected next week, before moving against Johnson.
It was bad timing for Johnson that these party revelations came when the UK was suffering another COVID wave due to Omicron. This made people’s memories of past lockdowns more vivid, and so the parties resonated more than they would otherwise. In good news for Johnson, the Omicron wave is subsiding, with cases way down from their peak and hospitalisations also starting to fall.
I am dubious that ousting Johnson would be in the Conservatives’ electoral interests. While Johnson is very unpopular now, voters tend to move past non-recurring issues. The parties occurred in the last two years, and are unlikely to cause voters additional pain in the future. As the UK COVID situation improves, voters are likely to move past the parties.
Another argument against removing Johnson is that he “got Brexit done”. At the 2019 election, non-uni whites swung strongly to the Conservatives over Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” – see my Conversation article last May. Will these voters remain Conservative under another Conservative PM?
Democrats gain in US redistricting, but Biden’s ratings remain poor
A US Census is held every ten years, with the boundaries of Congressional Districts set for ten years by that Census. Most states have completed redistricting of their CDs from the 2020 Census. The FiveThirtyEight tracker says that there are 129 Democratic-leaning seats, 124 Republican-leaning seats and 21 highly competitive seats in the new maps so far. The changes from the old maps are Democrats up seven, Republicans up one and competitive down six.
While some states use nonpartisan commissions to draw their maps, in most states redistricting is up to politicians. If one party holds the governor and both chambers of the legislature in a state, that party can gerrymander. Republican-controlled Florida (28 CDs) and Democratic New York (26) are the two biggest states still to complete redistricting. A Republican gerrymander in Ohio was rejected by the state courts, and this could also occur in North Carolina.
Biden’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 53.5% disapprove, 41.9% approve (net -11.6). They have worsened recently owing to the recent COVID surge. There has been no recent progress with the Democratic legislative agenda. Inflation over the full 2021 year was 7.0%, the highest since 1982. A recent CBS YouGov poll indicates voters think Biden is not focussed enough on combatting inflation.
French, Portuguese and Chile developments
The first round of the French presidential election is on April 10, with a runoff between the top two on April 24. Conservative Valérie Pécresse has slipped behind the far-right Marine Le Pen in the race for second with incumbent Emmanuel Macron well ahead in first. Macron easily beats Le Pen, but it’s closer against Pécresse.
A Portuguese election will be held on January 30, with 230 seats elected by proportional representation. Polls indicate a close contest between the overall left and overall right. Portugal currently has a left government.
At the December 19 Chilean presidential runoff election, left-wing Boric defeated the far-right Kast by 55.9-44.1.