If the Lib Dem, Labour and UKIP votes align, Labour could form a minority government
All pollsters and pundits seems to be discussing how big May ‘s majority will be? How many seats will Labour haemorrhage in their heartland and is the Lib Dem revival being overestimated. These are main questions in play
But this election in many respect is more unpredictable than it first looks. The seats Labour currently hold are its base. If Labour can hold these seats and the Lib Dem can achieve a revival in the south west, then Labour could form a minority government.
On the current polls any Labour seats with less than a 10,000 majority will be vulnerable. But because of First Past the Post, they are less vulnerable than they seem. Labour holds 60 seats with under 5,000 majorities and then 53 with under 10,000.
The Conservatives path to victory in the seats where they are in contention is by picking up Labour leave voters and sweeping up all the conservatives who went over to the UKIP whereas Labour hope they can hold on to their core vote and that Lib Dem’s and Green voters will decide to vote tactically.
Two by-elections Copeland and Stoke on Trent show that both could be in play. Copeland exemplifies the nightmare situation for Labour. The UKIP vote goes down from 6,148 in 2015 to 2,025 in 2016 and the Lib Dem vote goes up from 1,368 in 2015 to 2,525 in 2016. As we know the Conservatives were the beneficiaries.
In Stoke on Trent show Labour could hold on to seats in their heartland. Not increasing their vote but by holding on. This is mainly because the Conservative and UKIP vote cancelled each other out. Labour won with 7,835 votes with the Conservatives on 5,154 and UKIP and 5,233.
Current polling from the West Midlands Mayoral election, where Labour leads, is a nightmare scenario for the Conservatives, with UKIP vote holding up better than national polls would indicate. It’s a two round system so those with highest in the first round go through to the second round. In the first round UKIP are third with with 15.7 per cent of the vote with Labour just ahead of the Conservatives on 32.8 to 32.3. In the second round Labour would win by 53 per cent to 47 per cent.
Two factors may make Labour vote hold and the UKIP vote stay strong. Firstly, Corbyn is going to run on a Sanders campaign, pitching himself as taking on the establishment. If he can turn this into a positive campaign, not just a treatise on zero-hours contracts, talking about the opportunities of a post-Brexit economy, he maybe able to hold the Labour vote.
Secondly, the Tories Brexiteers feel that May is trying to get an increased majority to achieve a softer Brexit. This could mean civil war could break out in the Tories ranks and that UKIP becomes a resurgent force holding on to the Tories voters they have gained to save the core principles of Brexit.
One big caveat is how Lib Dem voters will respond to Corbyn’s Bernie Sanders approach. Lib Dem voters are mainly socially liberal and economically conservative. They don’t want Brexit or high taxes. Labour at best equivocal stance on Brexit could mean the Lib Dem refuse to lend Lab their vote in marginal such as Croydon Central and Halifax.
However, a Labour minority government will not be possible without a Lib Dem revival in the southwest. The Lib Dem have won dozens of local council by-elections of the Conservatives. Even in areas such as West Somerset which voted for leave by 60.6 per cent to 39.4 per cent, the Lib Dem won a council seats of the conservatives by a 49.7 per cent increase in their vote share. This was through an implosion of both Green and Conservative votes.
The Lib Dems hope that a combination of former Lib Dem voters who switched to the Tories in 2015 and Tory remainers will come over their side and take them over the finishing line. If the Conservatives take a further lurch to right by for example by relinquishing their commitment to ring-fencing 0.7 per cent of the budget to international aid this could swing these seats in their favour. But again UKIP vote will be crucial. If May can take the UKIP votes then she could just about retain these seats.
In North Cornwall UKIP are the third parties with 6,121 votes, with the Lib Dem on 15,068 and Conservatives on 21,689. The Green and Labour voted combined is 4,684 so a progressive alliance may not be enough to take them over the line.
But just like 1923 when Labour first took office as a minority government. 2017 maybe the year when 1923 becomes a reality again. If Labour can hold on to most of their 231 seats, the Lib Dem hold their nine and gain back 26 seats they lost from the Tories, plus the SNP 54, the SDLP three and Green one and then that would equate 324 seats.
This will be enough to give Labour a working majority, and to see Corbyn in Number 10.
Sam Pallis is a writer and a activist. He tweets @SamPallisSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.