Due to some personal train wrecks yesterday (car vandalized, and that wasn’t the only mess), this post will be cursory, which I very much regret given the importance of this election day for the UK and potentially for Brexit.
As readers know, the election hasn’t gone according to forecasts. The Brexit Party was anticipated to pose a threat, potentially significant, to the Tories. That collapsed with surprising speed. So to have the LibDems (albeit apparently not to the same degree), in parallel with the “People’s Vote” campaign. However the LibDem’s reversal of fortune is in large measure due to voters liking Jo Swinson less and less the more they saw of her.
Or maybe not regarding the Brexit Party. Will Farage have his revenge? This scaremongering may be a “get out the vote” ploy, but as we’ll see below, Craig Murray makes a case that this election is more in play than the press would have you believe. From the Telegraph:
The Telegraph has identified nearly 50 seats where the Brexit Party appears to be blocking a potential Tory victory, piling further pressure on Nigel Farage to stand candidates down after pollsters refused to rule out a hung parliament on Thursday. The Brexit Party leader is already facing calls to put country before party after two of his prospective MPs stood down in Lincoln and Redcar – which are both on the list of viable Tory targets – to make way for the Conservatives.
It’s odd that voters and the press seem bored about this campaign. The stakes, of a certain Brexit that is also certain to be badly managed and leave most UK citizens poorer, is pitted against Labour’s shambolic-seeming two referendums which could lead to no Brexit or if the EU can stomach more negotiations, a softer Brexit.
But Brexit fatigue has resulted in it being almost a sideshow. As Chris Grey said last week:
As the election campaign enters its final days my warning at the outset that, despite this being an election defined by Brexit, there would be no substantive discussion of Brexit has come true.
Labour have failed to fill out what their ‘sensible Brexit’ would look like, especially as regards the single market. But at least they are being clear in offering voters the choice, if and when the time comes, of whether they want this Brexit or not … Meanwhile, the Conservatives have said little beyond their ‘get Brexit done’ slogan, apart from Johnson’s usual blustering non sequiturs.
Even so, within that bluster can be seen the outlines of some of the real and difficult choices which, if he is elected, Johnson would immediately face over Brexit. The most obvious and widely discussed example is the insistence that no extension will be sought to the transition period. Beyond that, a piece by Denis Staunton, the London Editor of The Irish Times, argues that statements made by Johnson in relation to a possible future US trade deal, to the abandonment of EU state aid and public procurement rules, and to post-Brexit UK-EU arbitration mechanisms could all significantly affect the options open to him if he wins the election.
In particular, Staunton argues, Johnson is setting up a scenario in which the UK is too distantly aligned with the EU to achieve decent terms of trade with them, whilst – partly because of the promises he has made about the NHS, and agriculture and food standards –being too closely aligned to the EU to achieve a meaningful, or any, trade deal with the US.
The early predictions, that the Tories would win by 90 seats, now look very much in doubt. Labour has managed to pull off a late-in-the-game surge by making the election about the NHS and the gutting of social services. From Tory hopes of decisive majority in doubt as voters head to polls in the Financial Times:
The prime minister’s Conservative party has sustained a comfortable 10-point average lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour but in recent days some polls have suggested the gap is narrowing….
The FT poll tracker, which gives the Tories a 10-point lead over Labour, suggests Mr Johnson is on course for the biggest Conservative majority since John Major’s 21-seat victory in 1992.
A YouGov survey, using modelling that was successful in predicting the result of the 2017 election, said on Tuesday the Tories were on course to win 339 seats, Labour 231, the Liberal Democrats 15 and the Scottish National party 41. That would suggest a Tory majority of 28, down sharply on the 68 figure predicted two weeks earlier.
Admittedly, the lousy weather forecast for today traditionally would favor the Tories, but with the Tories expecting a boost from tactically-voting Labourites (presumably due to disappointment with Labour’s incoherence on Brexit), that cohort may also be less motivated to brave the elements.
Craig Murray, an unabashed Labour fan, has argued from early on that Boris Johnson having declared war on moderate Tories would make the national polls less reliable than usual as a guide to results, since that would tend to take votes from seats where the Tories didn’t have a strong position to being with. He still thinks the election will be close, and that the fact that the LibDems are unlikely to join a coalition with the Tories means he deems it decently possible to deny them the Government.
A few thousand tactical votes in key seats can really make a serious difference.
This is a much larger list than would normally be sensible. Generally not that many seats are in doubt in our grossly inadequate electoral system. But the Tory campaign to go after broadly northern working class Brexit votes at the expense of broadly southern liberal voters, has put many more seats in doubt. This is my personal selection of where you might make a real difference – it is my list and I have compiled it with great care and without consulting any other such advice out there. My list is informed not just by polls (and my own interpretation of those polls), but on data from the ground and so includes more Tory seats than other lists, as I believe the Tories will lose quite a few. Tomorrow night will be very exciting because so many individual results are uncertain.
Admittedly, some readers who are Labour-leaning think it would be fine for the Tories to win and own the mess they’ve created. But the costs of the Brexit they will implement on the UK and the EU are extremely high. As much as either a Tory or Labour minority government may produce more citizen-frustrating dithering, the faux decisiveness of moving towards a messy, poorly managed, destructive divorce is an illusory advantage. As bad as it is to see the UK’s leadership more and more unable to navigate a sensible course, it’s much worse to bring that level of division and incompetence to extremely high stakes negotiations.
And I wonder if our tea-leaf-readers can interpret this one:
— Richard Littler (@richard_littler) December 12, 2019