I think I can assume everyone reading this is already aware there will likely be an early general election on the 8th June. There will be lots of polling ahead, but here are a few initial thoughts:

The overall polling position is a strong lead for the Conservative party. There is some variation between different polling companies, but all the polls are showing robust leads for the Conservative party, most are showing extremely strong leads up in the high teens, a few breaking twenty. As the polls currently stand (and, obviously, there are seven weeks to go) a Conservative majority looks very, very likely. The size of it is a different matter – the twenty-one point lead in the recent YouGov, ICM and ComRes polls would produce a majority in excess of a hundred, a nine point lead like in the Opinium poll at the weekend would only see a small increase in the Tory majority.

It’s harder to tell from the polls how well the Liberal Democrats will do. The swing between Labour and the Conservatives will normally give us a relatively good guide to the outcome between those two parties. The Lib Dems are a trickier question – the polls generally show them increasing their support, and this has been more than backed up by local by-elections. How it translates into seats is a more difficult question, my guess is that their support will be concentrated more in areas that voted Remain and the Lib Dems have a history of very effective constituency campaigning. I would expect them to do better in terms of seats than raw swing calculations would suggest.

The elections will be the test of to what degree pollsters have corrected the problems of 2015. The BPC inquiry into what went wrong at the general election concluded that the main problem was with sampling. Polling companies have reacted to that in different ways – some have adopted new quotas or weighting mechanisms to try and ensure their polls have the correct proportions of non-graduates and people who are have little interest in politics; others have instead concentrated on turnout models, moving their turnout models to ones based upon respondents’ age and social class, rather than just how likely they say there are to vote; some have switched from telephone to online (and some have done all of these!). The election will be a chance to see whether these changes have been enough to stop the historical overestimation of Labour support, or indeed whether they’ve gone too far and resulted in a pro-Tory skew. I’ll look in more detail at the different methodological approaches during the campaign.

Elections that look set to produce a landslide results may bring their own problems – in 1983 and 1997 (both elections that mostly relied on face to face polling, so not necessarily relevant to today’s polling methodologies) we saw polls that largely overstated the victorious party’s lead.

The local elections will still happen part way through the campaign. The local elections will still go ahead at the start of May. It’s been a long time since that happened – in recent decades general elections have normally been held on the same day as the local elections – but it’s not unprecedented. In 1983 and 1987 the local elections were in May and the general elections followed in June. Notably they were really NOT a good predictor of the general election a month later. Comparing the Rallings & Thrasher estimates for the local elections those years with the subsequent general elections, in the 1983 local elections the Conservatives were ahead by 3 points… they won the general election the next month by 14 points. In the 1987 local elections the Conservatives were ahead by 6 points, in the general election a month later they were ahead by 11 points. In both cases the SDP-Liberal Alliance did much better in the locals than the general a month later. In short, when the local elections happen in May and Labour aren’t 20 points behind don’t get all excited/distraught about the polls being wrong… people just vote differently in local elections. It may well give the Lib Dems a nice boost during the campaign though.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act probably ended up a bit of a damp squib. There is still a vote to be had tomorrow and the government still need two-thirds of all MPs so it’s not quite all tied up, but as things stand it appears to have been much less of an obstacle than many expected. There was no need for a constructive vote of no confidence, the opposition just agreed to the election. The problem with the two-thirds provision was always the question of whether it would be politically possible for an opposition to say no to a general election.

The boundary changes obviously won’t go ahead in time for the general election. However, it does not mean they won’t happen. The legislation governing the boundary reviews doesn’t say they happen each Parliament, but that they happen each five years. Hence unless the government change the rules to bring them back into line with the election cycle the review will continue to happen, will still report in 2018, but will now first be used in the next general election in 2022. If the election results in an increased Tory majority it probably makes it more likely that the boundary changes will go ahead – getting changes through Parliament always looked slightly dodgy with a small majority.


309 Responses to “Some thoughts about the general election”

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  1. CANDY

    Like you I voted for Brexit and want to see it delivered but I’m just looking at the bigger picture. Everything you have said is correct but it could be challenged in the courts if the Tories election win was indeed unlawful then they had no lawful mandate to hold the EU referendum.

    It’s about the circumstances leading up to the EU vote, and not the parliamentary process which delivered the vote.

  2. Pete “the point is it won’t get swept under any carpet.”

    But it will be from an electoral standpoint as there won’t be any by-elections unless of course they are sent to prison en masse, which is highly unlikely.

  3. Allan Christie – “Like you I voted for Brexit and want to see it delivered but I’m just looking at the bigger picture. Everything you have said is correct but it could be challenged in the courts if the Tories election win was indeed unlawful then they had no lawful mandate to hold the EU referendum.”

    It really couldn’t be challenged.

    Manifestos only constrain the Lords.

    There are NO manifesto contraints on the Commons at all, it can do as it pleases. For example the Fixed Term Parliament Act was in no-one’s manifesto, but the Commons voted it through and it became law.

    The EU Referendum Act was voted through by the Commons 544-53. So unless all 544 who voted Aye were wrongfully elected, it is lawful.

    Those who are wrongfully elected usually have to face a new election – and we are having one now…

  4. @Allan C “if the Tories election win was indeed unlawful then they had no lawful mandate to hold the EU referendum. It’s about the circumstances leading up to the EU vote, and not the parliamentary process which delivered the vote.”

    I disagree. Winning the election and passing an Act are not necessarily synonymous. You don’t have to be in Government to bring a bill before Parliament.

    At best you could argue that those convicted MP’s votes didn’t count. That still doesn’t mean the Act does not stand due to the weight of votes for.

  5. The other thing is, once each constituency has held a new election they can’t automatically be repolled. There’s the possibility that where individuals stand and win in the latest election and are then charged and convicted of an offence to do with the 2015 GE they will likely have to resign their seats and a byelection will ensue.

  6. @ AC @ Candy

    The referendum was non-binding so whether it was lawful or not is of little consequence.

    What matter is whether the vote to trigger article 50 was legitimate. As Candy points out the HoC voting numbers on Article 50 leave no wriggle room other than for a counterfactual novelist..

  7. CHRISLAINE, why would Corbyn stay on if he lost the election? Is he some secret Tory whose plan is to destroy labour?

  8. Interesting that Clive Lewis was one of the 13 that voted against an election.

  9. Chrislane
    ‘I hink Corbyn will go on after the Election if he loses..’

    He may try but the membership will not support him.

  10. @ExileInYorks

    You realize that Brexit will be in the current Conservative manifesto and the govt can easily vote again to trigger it with a bigger majority, right?

    So what do you gain by messing everyone (including the EU) around like that?

    If the Remainers really want to make this election about whether Brexit was lawful, then Game On, I;m sure the Brexiteers in northern england would love to take a whip to those who would block the referendum and return a pure Brexity Parliament…

  11. @ Candy

    You realize that I agree with you on this point?

    HoC voted to authorise triggering article 50 by a huge majority – what came that vote before is irrelevant.

  12. @Graham

    “Chrislane
    ‘I hink Corbyn will go on after the Election if he loses..’
    He may try but the membership will not support him.”

    I have a lot of contact with Corbynistas, and I’m pretty sure they will continue to support him whatever happens. Their belief in him is religious. And he loves them back, like a proper guru.

    But what about the perfectly sensible and able centre left MPs in Labour? What will they do? I think the party must split, and bitterly, but I’m not sure which side will retain control of the organisation.

  13. @ExileInYorks

    Yes, sorry.

    I just saw red at all the court cases to try to stop Brexit. I wonder if they realise that they are riling a bunch of people that were on the verge of going back to normal politics? Now it’s all about cleaning Parliament out of all the nay-sayers

  14. CANDY, why not just have firing squads? We wouldn’t want people to have an opinion and disagree with brexit.

  15. @Millie

    I’m sure it is in no way so that he can say afterwards “It wasn’t down to me, I voted against having the election”.

  16. @ Candy

    Apology accepted.

    I can understand, but don’t share, the frustration of those who voted for Brexit and just want to get on with it.

  17. I am not convinced that the membership’s patience with Corbyn is infinite.
    Of course, there is precedent for leaders staying on after election defeats, but unless the defeat is narrow, I personally doubt he could hold on after a defeat (other than temporarily).

  18. @Pete

    It’s so much more sporting to do these things by ballot these days – that way your opponents have the small chance of putting up a fight before they meet their fate. :-)

  19. I’ll keep reading this, but won’t post anymore. The last few times I’ve tried (about 3 times in 6 months) I’ve gone straight into moderation. So by the time it’s let out of jail (a) nobody knows it’s there to read it, and (b) it’s no longer current anyway.

  20. @ExileinYorks

    I find such frustration entirely unreasonable. Just because they may have a clear idea of the sort of Brexit they want doesn’t mean that is the sort of Brexit there should be. You can’t “get on” with a process that has yet to be decided.

    And the 48% have a legitimate voice in deciding what form Brexit should take. Which is why IMHO the only legitimate form that Brexit should take should be for the UK to leave the EU but remain in the EEA. there is no mandate beyond that. It would only require 2% of the Leave voters to find that acceptable and there would (notionally) be a majority for it.

    As far as I am concerned, that is the “Best Possible Deal”. But I’m quite sure that isn’t what May has in mind when she uses this vapid platitude that means absolutely nothing (why would anyone suppose she wanted less than the best?) and which will be entirely inadequate during the eleciton campaing. One of the things she is going to have to spell out is exactly what she *does* mean by “Best Possible Deal”. And in doing so she is going to p1$$ off an awful lot of voters.

    And as May continually dodges the question, I think UKIP are going to be resurgent. They will say that she’s not a true Brexiteer, and the the only way to hold her to account is to maintain the pressure on her by voting UKIP.

    Meanwhile, Farage will probably “decide” that the job isn’t finished, and that he needs to stand again in Thanet (with non-stop references to fraudulent campaign funding), quite possibly with Nuttall standing down to allow him to also resume as leader.

  21. @Robin – UKIP are in electoral chaos, no organisation at all.

  22. why did corbyn accept the motion? without even requiring a no confidence vote? does anyone have an explanation please

  23. The European Union Referendum Act 2015 (c 36) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that made legal provision for a non-binding referendum to be held in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, on whether they should remain a member of the European Union or leave it. The bill was introduced to the House of Commons by Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 28 May 2015. The Act was subsequently passed by 544-53 votes on its second reading on 9 June 2015, a ratio of six to one in the Commons and was approved by the House of Lords on 14 December 2015,[5] and given Royal Assent on 17 December 2015.
    (Wiki)
    What possible grounds are there for suggesting the referendum was not legal?

  24. Robin

    I have a similar opinion about the phrase “best possible deal” which is why I have no confidence that the “best possible deal” will be anything I want to be a part of. It smacks of “I define whatever I achieve as the best possible deal”.

    If she could highlight specific ways in which the UK would benefit, I’d listen. Currently it seems to revolves around trade deals with Fiji which unsurprisingly I’m not too interested in. I suspect TM will ask for a blank cheque in this election and I’ll be none the wise after than before the election.

  25. @toh

    “Assuming May wins the GE then their will not be a lawful Scottish referendum during the nexy UK Parliament”

    You have had a preview of the Tory manifesto? But essentially you are saying that English votes will.determine what people in Scotland are allowed to do. That will be very helpful to the SNP. Please make sure it happens.

  26. The idea that there is a range of opinions 1 to 5 on Brexit is flawed.
    It assumes a statistical bell curve type of distribution.
    but 3 “in the middle” is not a valid position.
    It means either you can’t make up your mind or that you do not recognise that you must be either in or out.

  27. @Dave

    None. The referendum act was won by 544-53 – unless you can prove that the 544 were wrongfully elected it was legal.

    The referndum itself was certified legal in conduct and counting.

    And as @ExileInYorks points out Article 50 was triggered by the Commons on a 494 – 122 vote. You would have to prove all 494 were wrongfully elected to overturn that.

    God bless Gina Miller for forcing Parliament to vote for Article 50.

  28. Huffington Post reporting statements from BBC and ITV that they will run Leaders’ Debates anyway.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/bbc-itv-general-election-debate-2017-theresa-may_uk_58f772afe4b029063d35a543?w7p&

    In a free society, any of them can choose whether to participate or not – but can’t insist that no one else does!

  29. DAVE
    What possible grounds are there for suggesting the referendum was not legal?

    Presumably that Cameron had no mandate to remain PM in 2015 because he did not have more than half of the HoC legally elected. If so, May also had no right to succeed him as PM and specifically no mandate to consider the referendum binding.

  30. “@ExileInYorks points out Article 50 was triggered by the Commons on a 494 – 122 vote. You would have to prove all 494 were wrongfully elected to overturn that.”

    Just on a point of accuracy, the Commons didn’t trigger A50. The A50 simply granted the prime minister the authority to trigger A50, which she proceeded to do. So, if one could prove that May was not the lawful prime minister, then of course A50 wouldn’t have been triggered legally. But it seems very likely that even if the courts retrospectively nullified her Commons majority (itself still a big ‘if’) then her position as lawful prime minister still wouldn’t be retrospectively affected.

  31. @OldNat

    They certainly can hold a debate with only Lab, LibDems SNP and Greens present.

    But because of the “even coverage” rules, will then have to devote a special program to the Conservatives and UKIP.

    Is that better than not having a debate, or worse?

  32. @RP

    Well we’re holding a brand new General Election, and we can make the legality an issue in it: vote a Brexit Parliament so it can vote again to trigger Article 50 and make Mrs May the lawful Prime Minister.

    But apart from riling Leavers and mobilising the leave vote in northern england, what do Remainers gain from this strategy?

  33. @CANDY

    “If the Remainers really want to make this election about whether Brexit was lawful, then Game On, I;m sure the Brexiteers in northern england would love to take a whip to those who would block the referendum and return a pure Brexity Parliament…”

    Many parts of the north did not vote for Brexit and even in those who did the margins were not as big as you might think.

  34. @ PATRICKBRIAN

    I have a lot of contact with Corbynistas, and I’m pretty sure they will continue to support him whatever happens. Their belief in him is religious. And he loves them back, like a proper guru.
    ————————————————————————-

    I also have a lot of contact with Corbyn supporters and I’m quite sure that they will continue to support him after the GE because Corbyn is backing properly funding education, reinstatement of the NHS, an investment bank, mitigation of climate change etc etc (I won’t list all his policies here). His supporters would equally well back another personality with the same policies.

    It is very convenient for you to demean Corbyn supporters as some sort of cult but frankly it adds nothing to any sensible debate.

  35. Media coverage of the LibDems will surely be more limited this as a result of their very weak performance at the 2015 election and their continued low standing in the polls.The coverage given to them by Broadcasters in 2015 was determined by their 2010 performance.

  36. I would love the 2015 GE to be ruled unlawful – and consequently the Brexit vote. But I don’t really think this is remotely possible. The government would fight to the death to stop this happening, and we would have serious constitutional crisis that would make Watergate look like a children’s tea party.

  37. @ Robin

    Something can be unreasonable. but also understandable.

    The quickest and cleanest way for the Brexiteers to achieve their goal is to follow a constitutionally legitimate and legally sound path.

    Unfortunately for them, that means letting the 48% and all our elected representatives fully participate in the process. The sooner they realise and accept this, the less frustrated they will be.

    As Candy notes above – triggering article 50 properly thanks to Gina Miller puts Mrs May in a much robust position. Constructive opposition will deliver a better result. Brexiteers who see every objection as obstructionism are doing no one any favours, least of all themselves.

  38. CANDY

    “But because of the “even coverage” rules, will then have to devote a special program to the Conservatives and UKIP.”

    Yes, I think that’s correct. I do not see any significant downside for Mrs May and plenty of upside for her in not taking part in the debates if they happen.

    On the question of legality or otherwise of the government I think all this talk about MP’s being disqualified is all “pie in the sky”. The authorities have to prove that ondividual MP’s knowingly took part in electoral fraud. Notoriously difficult to prove.

  39. @Graham

    “Media coverage of the LibDems will surely be more limited this as a result of their very weak performance at the 2015 election and their continued low standing in the polls.The coverage given to them by Broadcasters in 2015 was determined by their 2010 performance.”

    I don’t think this is true. From a Media perspective there are likely to be 3 main stories:

    – The (probable) Tory landslide
    – The (probable) Labour collapse
    – The LD revival in the South and South West.

    To some degree the main story may well be how much 3 mitigates the effect of 1 &2.

  40. Candy,

    Here is the Ofcom guidance.

    https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/25643/section6.pdf?lang=cym

    I’d read it as giving May the opportunity to participate, but if she doesn’t take up the offer then they are in the clear. They only need to give them the chance.

    Peter.

  41. @Millie I did not realise N.Devon voted so decidedly conservative in the 1950s. Thinking about it I realise I don’t know how my father-in-law voted then. He certainly supported Thorpe before his disaster and he remembered fondly the Liberal elections in the early 1900s. I think tactical voting took a hammering in the West Country last time round. I hope the region returns to it now.

  42. Working with some centrist Labour people on some devolution issues, to me it is clear that many switched from Corbyn (well, to an abstract unity). These people financially, and with activism supported Corbyn in the summer. Some, with tendencies to conspiracy theories, consider him to be a double agent. Of course, there are some for whom Corbyn is JC – some of them are actually not LP members, because they are still suspended.

    The reason I emphasised “centrist” because during the last 18 months or a bit more, Labour definitely moved to the left in the NW.

    So, providing that there is a centrist candidate, there wouldn’t be an issue of getting rid of Corbyn after an election defeat as he constantly fails to engage the membership.

  43. Pleased May isn’t doing TV debates. It’s Americanised X factor garbage. The only people who benefit are the broadcasters.

  44. @Candy

    “But because of the “even coverage” rules, will then have to devote a special program to the Conservatives and UKIP.”

    There is no rule that requires “evan coverage” between all UK parties. As Ukip no longer have any MPs and as their support has been falling, there is little justification to give them more or even equal coverage to the Greens.

    Indeed, had Ofcom not departed from existing practice at the last election, Ukip would have had far less coverage even then. The previous approach was based on parliamentary seats and Ukip had none.

  45. SYZYGY

    Fair enough – they’re not all like that, I know. Some do support the policies rather than the man, and I agree it was a bit of a cheap jibe. But there also not a few (at least among my circle) whose support is deeply personal, and don’t really understand much about policy anyway. Would you deny that? At least we seem to agree that both groups will continue to support him whatever the election result, though. My point, as a reply to Graham and Chris Lane, was that the assumption that he will resign/ be got rid of is not well founded.

  46. SYZYGY

    Fair enough – they’re not all like that, I know. Some do support the policies rather than the man, and I agree it was a bit of a cheap jibe. But there also not a few (at least among my circle) whose support is deeply personal, and don’t really understand much about policy anyway. Would you deny that? At least we seem to agree that both groups will continue to support him whatever the election result, though. My point, as a reply to Graham and Chris Lane, was that the assumption that he will resign/ be got rid of is not well founded.

  47. @Peter Cairns

    The reality is that a leaders debate not including the PM is pretty nonsensical.

    That’s why we have rarely had any such debates. The PM only participates where there is a chance of defeat.

  48. @Rich

    “Pleased May isn’t doing TV debates. It’s Americanised X factor garbage. The only people who benefit are the broadcasters.”

    Opposition parties usually gain some benefit. Particularly those we don’t often see so much on TV. The SNP and Ukip were big gainers last time.

  49. I am not too sure about a south western revival for Lib Dems.

    Their strength was built on the tenacity of popular belief incumbents. So seats lost in 1997 turned into strongholds. Will the old incumbents be standing again? Have their Tory successors done well? Your average LibDem in the southwest is a very different sort to the more metropolitan liberals of the capital.

    The LibDems were always a little quiet in the south west on their pro- Europeanise. So recapturing their old stamping grounds while trying to bring down Brexit may not be a good play. They’d need to change their stance of fairly unconditional support for EU demands, which would be welcome.

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