UK election minus three weeks

The Conservatives extend their large poll lead — and do the Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit, or stop Corbyn? Also featured: Spain, Israel, Louisiana and Sri Lanka. 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 six UK national polls released last weekend. Four gave the Conservatives 13 to 17 point leads over Labour, with a Conservative vote in the mid 40s and a Conservative-plus-Brexit Party vote at 48-51%. The remaining two polls were better for Labour, but still had the Conservatives eight points ahead. It’s looking like a Conservative landslide on December 12.

My opinion of what has gone wrong for Labour is that the average voter doesn’t like politics, but there has been far too much front-page politics in the last year, which has been blamed on the 2017 election’s hung parliament – see this Guardian article by a BritainThinks founding partner.

Kevin Bonham has discussed the Tasmanian “bandwagon” effect, in which undecided voters go to the major party most likely to win a majority to keep the Greens from holding the balance of power. So UK voters may be moving to the Conservatives to prevent another hung parliament. Also, Labour’s left-wing proposals are exciting when most voters want politics to return to being boring.

On November 14, Labour announced a policy to make broadband free, paid for by a greater tax on tech giants. It would involve part-nationalisation. I think this is an attempt by Labour to increase youth turnout and win back voters who have turned to the Lib Dems over dislike for Labour’s Brexit policies.

There will be several TV debates, with the first one on Tuesday at 8pm UK time (Wednesday 7am AEDT). This debate will feature Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn head to head. The main risk for Johnson is that Corbyn can use this debate to consolidate the votes of those opposed to Johnson’s deal behind Labour.

Lib Dems: do they want to stop Brexit or stop Corbyn?

On November 12, Liberal Democrat candidate Tim Walker withdrew from Canterbury. In 2017, pro-Remain Labour candidate Rosie Duffield won Canterbury by just a 45.0% to 44.7% margin over the Conservatives, with 8.0% for the Lib Dems. However, the Liberal Democrats nominated a replacement candidate by the November 14 close of nominations. On November 5, party leader Jo Swinson said she was “absolutely categorically ruling out” Corbyn becoming PM via Lib Dem votes.

Commentator Stephen Bush says the Lib Dems are attempting to appeal to affluent voters in the south, who dislike both Brexit and Labour. I have two issues with this strategy. First, better-educated voters globally are more likely to swing to the left, so Labour may not be such a negative with these voters. If the Lib Dems won’t assist Corbyn, what is their plan to stop Brexit given they will win far fewer seats than Labour?

My second issue is that there are still some natural Labour voters in the southern seats the Lib Dems are targeting. The Lib Dems need these Labour supporters to tactically vote Lib Dem. But if Labour voters see it as a contest between “Blue Tories” and “Yellow Tories”, will they move to the Lib Dems?

Election updates: Spain, Israel, Louisiana and Sri Lanka

On November 12 – two days after the second 2019 Spanish election – the leaders of the centre-left Socialists and far-left Podemos reached a tentative deal to form a government. The two parties have 155 of the 350 lower house seats. A small leftist party would bring the left total to 158, but the stability of the government will depend on mostly leftist regional parties, which won 42 seats. Right-wing parties combined won 150 seats.

In Isreal, left-leaning Blue & White leader Benny Gantz has until Wednesday to form a government. If he fails, Israel likely faces its third election in a year.

At Saturday’s US Louisiana state election, the Democrats held the governorship by a 51.3-48.7 margin. Louisiana is normally a strong Republican state. Democrats won the highest office in four of five state elections this November.

At Saturday’s Sri Lankan presidential election, the right-wing Gotabaya Rajapaksa defeated his liberal opponent by a 52.3-42.0 margin. Rajapaksa is the brother of a former authoritarian president.

UK election minus four weeks and Spanish election results

The Conservatives still have a large poll lead as the Brexit Party slumps. Also: the left wins again in Spain; now can they cooperate? 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.

Four UK national polls were released last weekend from Panelbase, Opinium, Deltapoll and YouGov. These polls gave the Conservatives a ten to 13 point lead over Labour, little changed from the November 2-3 releases of these polls, although the Conservative lead fell from 16 points to 12 in Opinium. The UK election is December 12.

The fall in support for the Brexit Party is assisting the Conservatives in remaining well ahead of Labour. In Opinium and Deltapoll, there would have been a significant two-party boost for Labour if the UK used Australia’s preferential voting. Those polls previously had Conservatives plus Brexit at 51%, but it is now down to 47%. However, the Conservative/Brexit vote is up three in YouGov to 49%, and down just one in Panelbase to 48%.

My opinion is that, if the Conservative/Brexit combined vote is in the high 40’s or above, the Conservatives will win a Commons majority. If this vote falls into the low 40’s, there will be a live contest. Too many people would be supporting Labour or the Liberal Democrats for the Conservatives to be confident of a majority. If the Conservative/Brexit vote falls to or below 40%, Labour will form the next government.

Last week, there were claims made about Labour antisemitism by ex-Labour MPs Ian Austin and John Woodcock. Alleged antisemitism has dogged Labour under Jeremy Corbyn since 2016, but it does not appear to have hurt Labour electorally. Labour performed far better than expected at the 2017 election, and were competitive with the Conservatives through 2018.

Labour’s 2019 poll crash was caused by the polarisation between Remainers and Leavers. During 2019, Labour has reluctantly become a more pro-Remain party, but Leavers dislike any shift towards Remain, and many Remainers want Labour to be explicitly pro-Remain. Under Theresa May, the Conservatives also crashed in the polls, but Boris Johnson has restored Leavers’ trust in them.

I disagree with the proposition that being explicitly pro-Remain would have solved Labour’s problems. Leavers would have detested such a move, and it would be contrary to respecting the Brexit referendum result. Labour would then have been portrayed as an elitist party.

As I said previously, I believe Labour’s best chance is to keep attacking Johnson’s Brexit deal by highlighting its negative aspects, particularly in regard to the National Health Service. They should attempt to turn the election into a question of whether to Leave with this specific deal.

Left wins second 2019 Spanish election, but can they cooperate?

 Spain uses proportional representation by region, which benefits bigger parties relative to vote share. At the November 10 election, the centre-left Socialists won 120 of the 350 lower house seats (down three since the April 2019 election), the conservative People’s Party (PP) 88 (up 22), the far-right Vox 52 (up 28), the far-left Podemos 35 (down seven), the right-wing Citizens ten (down 47) and the new left-wing MP three.

National left-wing parties won 158 seats (down seven) and right-wing parties 150 (up three), with 42 seats going to mostly left-wing regionalist parties. If the Socialists and Podemos can reach an agreement, they should be able to form a government with regionalists abstaining. But these two parties were unable to cooperate in the last parliament.

Popular votes were 28.0% Socialists (down 0.7%), 20.8% PP (up 4.1%), 15.1% Vox (up 4.8%), 12.8% Podemos (down 1.5%), 6.8% Citizens (down 9.1%) and 2.4% MP. The Citizens’ move to the right backfired; they were attempting to replace the PP as the party of the right.

The Senate is elected by first-past-the-post with four seats for most provinces. The Socialists won 92 of the 208 elected senators (down 31) and the PP 84 (up 30), with regionalists winning almost all the rest. With regional appointees, the Socialists have 110 of 265 senators, the PP 98, Citizens eight, Podemos six and Vox three.

Bolivian president resigns after vote count irregularities

On Sunday, left-wing Bolivian president Evo Marales resigned after “serious irregularities” were found in the October 20 presidential vote count. See my personal website for more.

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.

Brexit, Argentina and elsewhere

Does Labour have any chance of winning the likely upcoming UK election? Yes. Also: the left wins in Argentina, plus Israeli and US election updates. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Update Wednesday morning: With Labour finally backing an election, the Commons overwhelmingly passed on Tuesday a bill setting the election for Thursday, December 12.  An amendment to hold the election on December 9 was rejected by 315 votes to 295.  The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where it is expected to pass quickly.  The Commons will be dissolved next Wednesday.

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.

On Monday, despite some objections from French President Emmanuel Macron, the European Union agreed to a Brexit extension until January 31. However, Labour still does not appear to want an election, and so Monday’s vote on whether to hold an election will not achieve the two-thirds majority required.

However, the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party (SNP) will assist by voting for a bill setting a December 9 election date. Legislation only requires a simple majority to pass. The government is likely to support this bill if they cannot win Monday’s vote. Commentator Stephen Bush wrote that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is likely to pass eventually if parliament continues sitting, and so it makes sense for Remainers to vote for an election in the hope that the Conservatives will be defeated.

The Conservatives currently have a double digit lead over Labour in the polls. This partly reflects the greater unity of the Leave vote, with Labour and the Lib Dems both opposed to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal and no-deal, but the Lib Dems appealing to pure Remainers. The Conservatives received a further boost after agreeing the deal with the EU. Voting with the Conservatives to hold an election could damage the Lib Dems with Remain voters.

As we all know, Leave won the 2016 Brexit referendum by 51.9% to 48.1%. The trouble since then has stemmed from Leave being undefined. But had there been a clear proposal for Leave at that referendum, it would probably have lost – see the Australian 1999 Republic referendum. There would have been people who wanted to Leave in principle, but not with that particular deal.

Now that there is a clear Brexit proposal, it will be attacked during an election campaign by both Labour and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. And there is plenty about the deal to attack from a left perspective.

Bush wrote that the proposed deal would mean a hard Brexit. If the UK leaves under this deal, a no-deal Brexit could occur in December 2020 once the transition period ends. If the Conservatives win the next election, there will probably either be a high-divergence Brexit, or a no-deal Brexit by December 2020.

The more Labour can turn the election into a referendum on Johnson’s deal, the greater their chance of winning.

Left wins Argentine presidential election

At the October 27 Argentine election, the centre-left candidate, Alberto Fernández, defeated the conservative incumbent president, Mauricio Macri, by a 48.0% to 40.5% margin. 45% or more was needed to avoid a runoff. Polls had predicted a Fernández win by almost 20 points. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was a controversial left-wing president from 2007 to 2015, returns as vice president.

Left-wing parties have performed well in recent national elections in Portugal, Canada, Argentina, Switzerland and Bolivia (see below). Does this mean the general trend to the right globally can or will be halted?

Election updates: Israel, the US, Switzerland and Bolivia

Right-wing Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government, and returned the mandate on October 21. On October 23, the Israeli president nominated the left-leaning Blue & White leader Benny Gantz to attempt to form a government, and he has four weeks from that date. Expectations are that Gantz will also fail, and that elections will be required for the third time in a year.

Most US states hold their elections concurrently with federal elections, but there are a few state elections on November 5. Virginia and New Jersey will hold legislative elections, while Kentucky and Mississippi hold gubernatorial elections. Given presidential leans of these states, I expect Democrats to hold New Jersey and gain Virginia’s legislature, but Republicans to hold Kentucky and Mississippi.

On my personal website, I wrote about the Greens’ surge at the October 20 Swiss election, where a unique system of executive government is used. Also covered: the left-wing Bolivian president was re-elected for a fourth successive term, the far-right dominates Hungarian local elections despite a setback in Budapest, and the far-right surges in German and Italian October 27 state elections.

Canadian election results live!

Live commentary on results from the Canadian election. 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.

Wednesday 10:16am Back to Brexit, and the government lost a crucial vote on Tuesday that means it is unable to guillotine the Brexit bill through the Commons by Thursday.  The second reading of the Brexit bill passed by 329 votes to 299, with 19 Labour and most independents voting with the Conservatives.  However, the guillotine motion failed by 322 to 308, along similar splits as Saturday’s Letwin amendment.   In both cases, opposition from the ten DUP MPs was critical in swinging these two votes against the government.

A long delay to Brexit is now very likely.  Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour will agree to an election once such a delay is in place.  Polls currently give the Conservatives a large lead.

Wednesday 9:56am The final seat result was as below.  The final popular votes were 34.4% Conservatives, 33.1% Liberals, 15.9% NDP, 7.7% Quebec Bloc and 6.5% Greens.  Turnout was 66.0% of eligible voters (down 2.8%).

6:23pm The Liberals lead in the last two undecided seats, and are likely to win 157 of the 338 seats, losing just one net seat in Ontario.  The Conservatives have 121, the Quebec Bloc 32, the NDP 24, the Greens three and one independent.

5:57pm So Canada is likely headed for a Liberal government supported by the more left-wing NDP.

5:55pm Antony Green has an overall summary of vote and seat changes since the 2015 election.  Currently Liberals and NDP have 180 seats combined, easily exceeding the requirement for a majority (170 seats) (post modified).

4:50pm Assuming current figures are near final, here’s how they compare with the CBC Poll Tracker (in brackets)

Libs 156 seats, 33.0% (137, 32.0%)

Con 122, 34.5% (124, 31.6%)

Quebec Bloc 32, 7.9% (39, 7.0%)

NDP 24, 15.9% (35, 18.4%)

Green 3, 6.4% (1, 7.5%)

So the Conservatives exceeded their polling in popular vote terms, beating the Liberals by 1.5% instead of losing by 0.4%.  But they lost the seat count by 34 instead of 13.  Far too many votes wasted in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while the Liberals won Ontario easily.  And probably some tactical voting.

3:28pm It greatly helps to be regionally concentrated if you’re a minor party in a single-member system.  The Quebec Bloc currently have 32 seats on 8.1%, the Greens just three seats on 6.3%.  The Bloc won 33.0% in Quebec, the only province they contested.

3:14pm Not much change in the results.  156 Liberal leads, 121 Conservative, 32 Quebec Bloc, 25 NDP, three Greens, one independent.  Conservatives lead Liberals by 1.3% on popular votes; could also be some tactical voting by left-wing supporters.  If these results hold, Liberals plus NDP will have a majority (170+ seats).  I hope the NDP will push the Liberals to electoral reform.

2:25pm I’m going for a walk on a (rare) sunny day in Melbourne.  See you in 30 minutes.

2:24pm The Conservatives currently have a 0.6% lead over the Liberals in popular votes despite trailing by 35 in seats leading.  It’s possible that there are big vote sinks for the Liberals in the cities still to be counted, or that the Conservative vote was too inefficiently distributed (see Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan).

2:14pm Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, voted for a right-wing government at the June 2018 provincial election, but the Liberals are currently leading in 77 of the 121 seats from that province.  Another example of state elections not correlating strongly with federal results.

2:00pm Maxime Bernier broke away from the Conservatives to form the far-right People’s Party during the last term.  CBC says he’s lost his seat.

1:53pm 152 Liberals, 118 Conservatives, 35 Quebec Bloc, 24 NDP, three Greens seat leads.  Called elected are 82 Liberals, 75 Conservatives, 18 Bloc, three NDP, one Green

1:31pm A big problem for the Conservatives is massive vote wastage in Alberta.  They currently have 72% of the vote there, but there are only 34 seats in that province.

1:22pm 140 Liberals, 107 Conservatives, 30 Bloc, 20 NDP, one Green seat leads.  22 losses for the Liberals, enough to cost them their majority.

1:11pm CBC News calls a Liberal government, probably a minority but we’ll see!

1:09pm 122 Liberals, 95 Conservatives, 21 Bloc, ten NDP, two Greens.  Liberals shown losing 16 seats, enough to cost them their majority (had 184 of 338 in 2015)

1:00pm 93 Liberals, 69 Conservatives, 18 Bloc, nine NDP, one Green

12:53pm 71 Liberals, 44 Conservatives, 12 Bloc, eight NDP, one Green leads

12:51pm 58 Liberals, 40 Conservatives, 12 Quebec Bloc, eight NDP, one Green seat leads.

12:46pm 48 Liberals, 29 Conservatives, eight Quebec Bloc, six NDP and one Green seat leads.

12:03pm Will have lunch now, so I’m back in time for the 12:30pm deluge!

12:02pm In Atlantic Canada, the CBC Poll Tracker had voting intentions of 37.1% Liberals, 26.8% Conservatives, 20.0% NDP and 12.1% Greens.  Results so far are 41.3% Liberals, 29.7% Conservatives, 16.7% NDP and 10.1% Greens.

11:57am One seat in Quebec closed at 10:30am, and that puts the Quebec Bloc on the board (very termporarily).  Seat leads are 26 Liberals, five Conservatives, one NDP and one Green.  Called seats are 17 Liberals, three Conservatives, one NDP

11:45am Greens are on the tally board, leading in one seat.  25 Liberals, six Conservatives, one NDP, one Green.  In 2015, all Atlantic Canada seats went Liberal.

11:35am 24 Liberals, seven Conservative, one NDP leads.  Ten Liberals, two Conservatives, one NDP called elected.

11:27am Antony Green tweets that these provinces are showing a 12% swing from Liberal to Conservative, but the Liberal vote was huge in 2015, and it may not carry to the rest of the country.

11:22am 24 Liberals, six Conservatives, one NDP seat lead, including eight Liberals called elected

11:09am 22 Liberals, six Conservatives, one NDP seat lead, including five Liberals called as elected.

11:03am Now 16 Liberals, nine Conservative and one NDP seat lead.  Polls in most of Canada do not close until 12:30pm, with British Columbia (42 of 338 seats) closing at 1pm.

10:50am Welcome to a live blog of the Canadian election results by Adrian Beaumont.  The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has up-to-date figures.  Polls closed at 10:30am AEDT in four eastern provinces (32 of 338 seats), and the Liberals have leads in 12 seats, to two for the Conservatives, and one NDP.  These eastern provinces are pro-Liberal compared to Canada overall.

In the latest on Brexit, Commons Speaker John Bercow did not allow the government to bring back its meaningful vote motion after it had been amended on Saturday.  The government will now attempt to ram the Brexit legislation through the Commons by Thursday, but even if it succeeds, and the legislation is not unacceptably amended, the House of Lords is a big problem.

The Lords is far more pro-Remain than the Commons, and does not like to be rushed.  As the Letwin amendment states that approval of the deal is delayed until all legislation passes parliament, it is likely that the government will need to accept at least a short Brexit extension.

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