UK General Election prediction

The UK General Election is tomorrow, and it’s time again for your sloth on the ground to give his predictions. Now this might seem like a silly and strange thing to do given my previous well-documented mistakes on Brexit and Trump. Nonetheless, I am nailing my colours to the mast and providing you a detailed breakdown of how I think each party will do (I’m a sucker for punishment).

Polls in the week leading up to the big day have ranged between a Tory lead of one to twelve. These figures are mainly drawing from the same underlying data, but it depends how many young people each polling company thinks will turn out. Those who think many young people will turn out give Labour better chances; those who think fewer young people will turn out give the Tories better chances. Now, call me a cynical old git, but I’m pessimistic on youth turnout – therefore my low prediction.

So my prediction is – drumroll – a Conservative majority of 72. Why do I think this? Let’s go through it in lurid detail.

Conservatives: 44% – 361 seats  

The Conservatives will do better than anticipated, though nowhere near as well as people thought going into this campaign. The more people have seen of the ‘strong and stable’ Theresa May the more they have concluded she is: ‘weak and wobbly’. Despite this I think many people will be unwilling to lend Labour their support and the Conservatives’ unhinged message on Brexit will see them through on the day.

Labour: 33% – 212 seats

Compared to where this campaign started it has to be said Labour are going to do really well. Seven weeks ago, when May called the election, Labour was around twenty points behind. The campaign has definitely increased their support, the question is how much. My prediction has them coming in rather lower than the Labour team will hope and losing seats in fact on 2015. Maybe this is the worst of both worlds for the Labour moderates. Corbyn increases their vote share, while taking them further from power than ever. They will remain stuck in this awful limbo where they can’t get rid of Corbyn, but the party can’t win either. I hope my prediction doesn’t come true, but I fear it will.

Lib Dem: 8% – 9 seats

They really haven’t taken off in the way we would have expected. They will lose some seats in Brexity seats and pick some up in London Remainy seats, but they won’t have a very good night compared with their early expectations.

UKIP 5% – 0 seats

One of the big stories of this election is the almost complete meltdown of UKIP. Having had their reason for existence satisfied by Cameron’s reckless referendum, there is no longer any point in UKIP.  On Brexit, the Conservatives are going for UKIP’s favoured damaging and hard Brexit, while the Conservative have also lapped up some of their key social conservative issues such as Grammar Schools and reducing immigration. Why vote UKIP when your abhorrent views have become mainstream in the new Conservative Party? In short, they’ll do badly.

Green: 2% – 2 seats

Their vote share will be artificially depressed due to them gallantly stepping aside in several seats and Labour and the Lib Dems not so gallantly stepping aside in seats the Greens may win. My prediction has them winning Brighton Pavillion and also Bristol West. Might be optimistic, but the rest of the prediction’s a bit depressing so completely rationally I put in a sweetener towards the end.

SNP: 48 seats

It’ll be interesting to see how many of their 56 seats the SNP can hold on to. I think the unionist tactical voting will be enough to lose the SNP a handful of seats, but they will still be the largest party by quite a long way. The interesting thing to see will be whether the result is spun as a rejection of independence. Unjustified though it may be, the Tories use any SNP losses as proof that Scots don’t want independence. Let the spin begin.

Scottish results: SNP 42%, Con 29%, Lab 23%, Lib Dems 5%, UKIP 1%, Green 1%

Much as I hope I’m wrong, and tomorrow is a great day for progressive politics, my fear is that my prediction will prove correct. It’s highly likely that’s for sure is that my prediction will be somewhat off – but analysing why, where and how my prediction is wrong will be the source of much fodder for the sloth to come.

Happy voting!

Labour’s Problems

People critical of the current Labour leadership sometimes speak as though the reason for their dismal showing in the polls and string of poor results in by elections is solely the fault of Jeremy Corbyn. Change him out and talk about the NHS some more and we’ll have a winning combination, they say.

They are deluding themselves.

If Labour lose the two by-elections today and Corbyn takes this as his cue to leave (although he’s ignored every other cue to leave), the Labour Party will still be facing an existential threat.

Corbyn leaving will not suddenly make Scotland think “Hang on a tick, let’s give these social democrat types another shot.”

UKIP voters in the North and Midlands will not think “I know Corbyn and co didn’t understand us, but clearly this other bunch of public school boys in suits do.”

The Corbynistas will not pack up their pistachio coloured shirts, put the sandals back on the shelf and say “Oh well, turns out Third Way was the most electable option after all.”

Even granted that Corbyn goes quietly, and the membership somehow chose someone charismatic and charming, the party would still be in existential danger. The people who make up the ‘Labour coalition’ are just too disparate.

On the one hand there’s the metropolitan, liberal group who have done well out of the globalisation. The sorts of people who have the time and disposable income to buy lattes and think hard, yet do little, about social justice. They are relaxed about immigration and are not terribly interested in their identity as British or English; they are far too cosmopolitan to worry about that sort of thing.

On the other hand, there is Labour’s old heartland vote. The bedrock of loyal working people who followed the party through many tough years, but who have done less well out of globalisation. They’ve been struggling for a while and are resentful of the fact that politics doesn’t work for them. They are sceptical about immigration, and concerned by a lack of loyalty to Britishness and Englishness.

The problem is that these two groups are not only different, but they want mutually exclusive things. On immigration, social policy, and Brexit their priorities are simply incompatible. I fear that no amount of talking about the NHS and funding for education can create a bridge between these two groups.

Labour’s problems are made worse by having an unelectable leader, but those who think a new chief with a clean score-card and a charming smile will save the party are deluding themselves.

 

Why is Clinton so unpopular?

I can see why Donald Trump is so unpopular. He’s rude, abnoxious, vulgar and many other dreadful things besides. But as someone observing from the other side of the Atlantic, I never could get my head a round why Hillary Clinton is such an unpopular candidate for president.

She currently has the lowest favourability ratings of any person to run for president in modern history, only surpassed by Donald Trump. But to a casual osbserver she is a centre of the road Democrat, maybe not the most charismatic person in the world, but she has heaps of experience and policy knowledge. You’d think would be just what the doctor ordered for the presidency.

In order to understand this wierd phenomenon, I think it helps to start with one basic question. What does Clinton  do for fun? We know that Obama enjoys a game of basketball, we know that Bush likes his golf and we have a little too good an idea what Trump does for fun.

But when it comes to Clinton people don’t know. They may have a sneaking suspicion that what she does in her spare time is to pour over policy papers and read brieing notes. I imagine they’re not actually too far wrong on that score.

They also suspect that the rest of her time is taken up in champagne receptions schmoozing with the elites and taking massive donations. In other words, being a typical politican.

In this year of political outsiders (see Sanders and Trump), however, it’s not too surprising that a quintisessential politican might have a hard time. Clinton has been in the game for a very long time, something that makes her superbly well-qualified to be president. It also means that a lot of the resentment that has built up against Washington and political elites can be projected onto her.

People talk about the email scandal and Clinton Foundation as big problems for her, but they are just symptoms of a broader ‘credibility problem’ that she has. She might have been careless when it came to the email server, but she did nothing criminal. She may have schmoozed closely to bring in money for the Clinton Foundation. But again, that’s what politics is like. It’s just rather unpleasant when we see the dirty laundry aired through some of the leaked emails.

Clinton has done nothing wrong beyond being a politican in an anti-politican year. Had the Republicans had a candidate able to exploit Clinton’s actual weaknesses, rather than fictionalised version of them, they would have had a good chance in this election. As it is, however, it looks as though the politican will win out. Just.

Why First Past the Post caused Brexit

For anyone who is young, idealistic and cheerful, I would not recommend visiting Britain at the moment. There is a pall of gloom in the air, mainly because a misguided political gamble by a handful of elites in the Tory party has lurched our economy off a cliff. Those who grabbed the steering wheel have no idea how to avoid the crunch and those relegated to the backseat are wringing their hands and praying that we get another referendum on whether we have a soft landing.

In a previous post, I laid out how we got into this rather unfortunate situation, but now taking another self-righteous stride backwards, and, taking what one might call the long view, I would suggest that the real cause of our troubles is a seemingly innocuous element of our constitution, namely our electoral system.

The UK has First Past the Post. I go into this profoundly bizarre system elsewhere, but the long and short of it is that one party can get 35% of the vote and receive 65% of the seats in parliament, while another party gets 12% of the vote and only receives one solitary MP.

Proponents of the FPTP argue that one of the benefits is that it prevents extreme parties being represented in parliament. For example, UKIP, a thoroughly undesirable bunch of xenophobes and Little Engladers, are a party we don’t want sitting on those blush seats. So the Conservatives argued that a system of proportional representation would lead to UKIP getting 60-80 seats in parliament. Cue moral outrage from decent middle class folk.

It might seem very sensible to exclude a party with thoroughly unethical and bigoted ideas. The only problem is that at the last election 4 million people voted for them, and in return for 4 million votes they received exactly one MP. This lead to a perfectly understandable groundswell of resentment and frustration with the British political system among UKIP’s electorate. Those that were then ostracised and excluded mobilised and collectively thumbed their nose at the political establishment that had ignored them for so long. The Brexit vote was to a large extent a scream of frustration from people who feel they have not been listened to.

Brexit was caused by FPTP the post in a direct way, because Cameron was scared of Labour coming through the middle in some constituencies, he promised people that the only way of getting a referendum was a vote for him. But it was also caused by FPTP in this indirect way because a majoritarian system ignores large parts of the population and that resentment will come out sooner or later.

Good old Blightly, we have an electoral system that manages to keep out parties from government that want to hamper out economy by restricting immigration, want to endorse little Englandism by forcing companies to declare foreign workers, want to cripple social mobility by introducing grammar schools. Good job we’re able to keep a party like that out of power with FPTP…

The problems of the Labour Party

The Labour Party in the UK is facing an existential threat. They have lost Scotland to the SNP, they are in danger of losing the North to UKIP and they have only a few seats left in the south outside of London. The party has been taken over by the far left and their leader seems unable to attract support outside his core base of lefty enthusiasts.

To many the crisis facing the Labour Party could be changed if only they got a new leader; someone who at least could appear prime ministerial. That was the idea behind the leadership challenge this summer. More of the same left-wing policies, but with an electable leader.

I don’t think the problems of the Labour Party would be much different with an electable leader. They are facing a much larger, philosophical problem. There have been two elements of the Labour Party for a long time and now the incompatibility between them is becoming increasingly apparent.

On the one hand there’s the metropolitan, liberal group who have done well out of the globalisation. The sorts of people who have the time and disposable income to buy lattes and think hard (but do alarmingly little) about social justice. They are relaxed about immigration and are not terribly interested in their identity as British or English, they are far too cosmopolitan for that sort of thing.

On the other hand, there is Labour’s heartland vote. The bedrock of loyal working people who followed the party through many tough years, but who have done far less well out of globalisation. They have been struggling for a while and are resentful of the fact that politics doesn’t seem to work for them. They are sceptical about immigration, worried that it suppresses wages and concerned by a lack of loyalty to Britishness and Englishness.

The fundamental philosophical problem for Labour goes far beyond who the leader is, it is rather that these two groups have too little in common for it to make sense that they are in the same party. It’s just very hard to see how to bridge the gaps between these two voter groups. Labour’s problems are made worse by the fact that their leader is unelectable, but I’m afraid to say that their problems run much deeper than just that.

The Populists (Fremskrittspartiet)

The Populist had a very nasty shock when they entered government three years ago. Before coming into power, they had been promising more welfare, less taxes, more workers in healthcare, and unlimited use of Norway’s oil reserves. And, alarmingly enough, their leader became Minister of Finance.

Luckily some dull, stolid chaps at the Treasury sat her down and carefully explained that her policies were unworkable. Now their leader seems to be leading an exhausting double-life of keeping the maniacs in her party’s grassroots under control and appearing to be a responsible member of government.

Unfortunately, the recent refugee crisis has led to a knee jerk reaction meaning the Populists have been able to force through some bans on being humanitarian and showing compassion. The Conservatives and Labour Party, in fear of being accused of having a backbone, are on board with this agenda, leaving the smaller parties powerless to do more than ‘tut tut’ in the background.

The Conservatives (Høyre)

The Conservative Party’s base is poshies living around Oslo who don’t want too much change from one election to next, but maybe want to pay a little less tax on daddy’s yacht and the family’s second second home.

They’re not very conservative from a UK perspective (or any perspective really) and manage to temper monetary self-interest with a sensible social justice focus. In fact, the Conservatives and the Labour Party have become increasingly similar, and like many other countries the two largest parties only really exist in opposition to each other. The policy differences aren’t that big, but they have to pretend they are in order to create a little excitement around election time.

Their leader, the current Prime Minister of Norway, is agonisingly competent; it’s hard to imagine her lying awake at night worrying about the next big debate. She knows exactly what to say and how to spin it for the government. Listening to her paper over the cracks between sensible conservatives and nutty populists in her administration is impressive.