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 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 minus eight weeks: is it election time?

What’s next in the Brexit gridlock, plus updates from Italy and the Democratic race in the US. 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.

To try to ensure Boris Johnson follows Parliament’s laws, it needs to be sitting in late October, and not be dissolved for an election.

On September 3, the Commons changed the order of business to allow legislation opposing a no-deal Brexit to be debated by 328 votes to 301. As a result, the 21 Conservative MPs who opposed the government were kicked out of the Conservative party and will not be able to stand as Conservative candidates at the next election.

On September 4, the legislation passed the Commons comfortably, and has gone to the House of Lords, where it will pass easily. Boris Johnson attempted to call an early election, but won far fewer votes than the two-thirds majority needed to dissolve parliament.

Once this legislation clears Parliament and receives royal assent (expected on Monday), the question is whether Labour should support an early election. No other party can give Johnson the two-thirds majority he needs. Although a simple majority could pass legislation setting the election date, that legislation would also have to go through the Lords before prorogation. According to The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn is poised to reject Johnson’s October 15 election.

Once Parliament is dissolved, Johnson could call the election for November 1 – the day after Brexit – and refuse to implement Parliament’s legislation attempting to force him to request a Brexit extension. The right-wing British newspapers and a large share of the public would applaud Johnson if he blatantly broke the law in this way. This applause would be very different from most cases where politicians flagrantly break laws. Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than extend Brexit.

If Johnson honours the October 15 election, his message would be simple: Vote Conservative to stop all the Brexit talk after October 31. Corbyn would have a more complex message on Brexit that would probably not appeal. At the 2017 election, Brexit was a comparatively minor issue. Asked which would be worse in a poll, 43% selected Corbyn becoming PM, while 35% chose a no-deal Brexit.

On October 14, the Queen reopens Parliament. On October 17-18, there is a European Union summit – the last chance to make a deal before Brexit day. If Johnson does not make a deal with the EU, or request an extension, and Parliament is still sitting, it is likely he would face a successful no-confidence vote. If the Commons did not vote for confidence in a new government by October 31, Britain would crash out.

In this scenario, an election would take place several weeks after a no-deal Brexit. My view is that people will not turn against Brexit until they are personally inconvenienced. A no-deal Brexit is likely to cause significant inconvenience. An election held several weeks after a no-deal Brexit will probably result in a Labour landslide and PM Corbyn.

Another scenario is that the Commons elects Corbyn or someone else to be PM, request an extension and hold an election. Corbyn is unlikely to allow someone else to be PM so close to an election, and many Conservative rebel MPs would still prefer no-deal to Corbyn. If, despite these problems, Corbyn became PM before an election, he could enact some of his popular policies by executive order, and use these policies as an election platform. Labour would never have done so well in 2017 if Corbyn did not have popular policies.

Trump trails leading Democrats by record margins; far-right Salvini loses power in Italy

I wrote for The Conversation on September 5 that Donald Trump trails the leading Democrats in a Quinnipiac poll by far bigger margins than any previous incumbent president at this point – sourced from CNN analyst Harry Enten. Joe Biden still leads the Democratic primary despite one outlier poll.

In Italy, there was a coalition between the far-right League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. I wrote for my personal website on September 4 that League leader Matteo Salvini broke this coalition to force early elections, but the Five Stars allied with the centre-left Democrats to form a new government. Also covered: Israeli polls ahead of the September 17 election, and the far-right surges in two German state elections.

US mid-terms minus zero days

One last overview of the US mid-terms situation, and a thread for discussion of events as they unfold.

As the big day dawns (if that’s the right way to put it, taking time differences into account), here is a thread for discussion of the US mid-terms – and a piece I wrote for Crikey yesterday that proved surplus to their requirements. I will possibly supplement this post with live coverage tomorrow, depending on how I go. Also find at the bottom of the post a guide to when polls close, repasted from Adrian Beaumont’s previous post.

On the eve of America’s mid-term elections, all signs point to a dramatic upsurge in turnout compared with four years ago – something that would ordinarily be seen as a sign of robust democratic good health. However, the last few years of American politics have made a mockery of the word “ordinarily”, and this circumstance is no exception.

The high pitch of interest can instead be seen as a symptom of the dangerous polarisation that increasingly defines American society – one effect of which has been to raise the stakes as Republicans and Democrats vie for control of Congress. Unhappily for liberal America, the dice are loaded against the Democrats tomorrow, for reasons fair and foul.

Continue reading “US mid-terms minus zero days”

US mid-terms minus four days

Democrats remain likely to win the House, while Republicans are likely to hold the Senate at US mid-term elections on Wednesday (Australian time). Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The US mid-term elections will be held on November 6, with results coming in on Wednesday from 10am, Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT). In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.3 points in the race for Congress, slightly up from 8.2 points last week. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Model, Democrats have an 85% chance to win the House, unchanged on last week, but down from 86% on October 30. Strong fundraising for Democrats has affected the classic model’s fundamentals calculation, and the polls-only “Lite” Model gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, unchanged since last week.

Continue reading “US mid-terms minus four days”

US mid-terms minus 11 days

Democrats continue to perform well in the House, but the Senate looks increasingly difficult for them. Guest post by Adrian Beaumount.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

The US mid-term elections will be held on November 6. In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Democrats lead by 8.2% in the race for Congress, slightly down from 8.4% last week. In the FiveThirtyEight Classic Model, Democrats have an 85% chance to win the House, up from 84% last week, but down from 87% on October 22. Strong fundraising for Democrats has affected the classic model’s fundamentals calculation, and the polls-only “Lite” Model gives Democrats a 77% chance to win the House, unchanged since last week.

Democrats are rated just a 17% chance to win the Senate in the FiveThirtyEight Classic Model, down from a 19% chance last week. They have gained ground in Florida, West Virginia and Montana in the last week, but lost ground in Indiana and North Dakota. Trump won North Dakota by 36 points in 2016, and it is likely Democrats will lose it. If they lose North Dakota, Democrats will need to win all the currently close states – Florida, Missouri, Indiana, Arizona and Nevada – to win the Senate. They would also need one of either Texas or Tennessee, where FiveThirtyEight rates Republicans over a 75% chance.

The best chance for Democrats to win the Senate, or Republicans to win the House, is either a late surge in the final days, or a party overperforming the polls across the board on election day. Turnout patterns could be crucial here: if turnout is very high with Democrat-aligned voters, and more moderate with Trump-aligned voters, Democrats probably overperform the polls. Another crucial issue is how the remaining undecided voters in polls break. If Democrats overperform in the House, they will probably win a far bigger majority than the current 234-201 estimated outcome, owing to a long “tail” of Republican-held seats they could win.

Trump’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 42.4% approve, 52.5% disapprove, for a net approval of -10.1%, down from -9.5% last week. On October 23, Trump was at 43.1% approve, his highest approval rating since March 2017. Trump has probably benefited from an increase in inflation-adjusted wages. However, the recent slump in the Dow Jones, which has been partly blamed on Trump’s tariffs, could undermine his economic credentials, as people worry that the stock market falls signal worse economic conditions to come.