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 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.

Why Brexit?

On the 23rd of June this year the Brits rather upset political pundits, betting markets and our international allies by voting to leave the EU. I will save the reasons for this decision for another post (/rant), but I thought I’d start this jolly (and not at all bitter) series by laying out why Britian decided to hold a referendum in the first place.

In the heady and blissful days of 2013, the Conservatives were in a coalition government with the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems are pretty relaxed about the EU, but the Conservatives have always been rather divided on the issue of Europe, to put it mildly.

The Conservatives were facing an electoral challange from a smaller anti-EU party called UKIP. In fact, in 2013 it seemed like the Labour Party’s best chance to win an election would be the Conservatives losing votes to UKIP and pro-EU Labour coming through the middle.

So in darkened smoke-filled room the Conservative elite figured out an ingenious strategy: They would promise to hold a referendum on EU membership if they won the 2015 election. If you wanted to leave the EU, they argued, you shouldn’t vote for the anti-EU party, but for the Conservatives, because then you would get the referendum you so badly craved, and if Labour won there would be no referendum.

The then Prime Minister could tell older provincial people that he had their back while telling financiers, who were reasonably worried about planting a bomb under the UK economy “No worries, we’ll win the referendum, unite the party, cut your taxes and reach for the champagne.” Nudge nudge, wink wink. All good so far.

It also seemed likely in 2013 that the Conservatives would need the support of the Lib Dems to stay in power after the 2015 election. The Lib Dems would never support a referendum on EU membership, because they’re imminently sensible and don’t have a wing of xenophobes harking back to the days of empire. (Comes with the liberal turf, I suppose).

It seemed, then, that this was a great, low risk strategy to win voters. However, it turned out the plan worked a little too well. Partly as a result of their carefully designed message, the Conservatives won the election, had to hold the referendum and managed to lose it!

That is briefly how we came to have a referendum. In coming posts I will explore more deep-seated reasons for why the UK, usually so content with following authority sent a massive two fingers up to Conservatives and their crew of high financiers and political elite.

 

Where were you when…?

I will start my posts, updates and occasional rants about post-Brexit Britain, by saying where the Philososloth was at the time of the referendum six weeks ago. Being a supposedly savvy latte-sipping, middle class, London-living political pundit I was sitting in the bar of the Marriott Hotel, confidently expressing to anyone who would listen that Remain would win and win comfortably. “Probably 55 to 45” I was telling my friends, suavly sipping at my not-so-suave Dark and Stormy. In the background Big Ben chimed merrily, as I expanded on my theory. “Could be even more of a blow out. 58 to 42, maybe” privately delighted at my mathematical dexterity of numbers adding up to 100.

On the bus home I was listening to the news, becoming more and more sure of myself as I heard talk of the markets going up, confident Remainers and Brexiters already scrabbling around for some good excuses. I went to bed early and set my alarm to 2 15 in the morning. I couldn’t miss a moment of this exciting and decive victory for common sense.

My alarm went off at 2 15 and I groggily got out of bed and put the kettle on. To my consternation the internet wasn’t working and after some swearing and banging the machine I finally got IPlayer up and running and found to my disbelief…. that Remain were 200,000 votes ahead.

Now that might sound like a comfortable lead, but, as the harrowed-looking political commentators were telling me, this lead was nowhere near large enough. The votes already in had been from places predicted to vote Remain in far larger numbers. Only problem was, they hadn’t, Remain was ahead by a whisker in the grand scheme of things and solidly Leave voting parts of the country were still to declare.

My disbelief turned to consternation as the votes came in. I was shocked. How could I have gotten it so wrong? Surely Twitter hadn’t been lying to me. All my Londonite friends had been banging on about how awful Leave was and how everyone they knew would vote Remain.

The results, when they finally came in, showed me why I had been so mistaken. I was living in a Remain bubble! Pretty much only London and Scotland had voted to Remain, along with a few other trendy university cities. I was horrified. Not only because of the win for Leave or the fact that I had been so badly mistaken in my predictions, but because Britain was a different country to the one I thought it was.

My upbringing of occasional visits to the Home Counties with cream teas at stately homes was a far cry from the disillusionment so many people felt with the country’s direction. Areas that had been left behind by the benefits of immigration and increased gloabalisation had voted heavily to Leave the EU. They had attached, it seemed to me, any grievance with modern Britain to the EU.

In the coming posts I will explore this sense of being left behind. I think it maps neatly onto Brexit, the Labour Party’s existential crisis and, across the pond, why Trump is doing so well in the States. So buckle up and prepare for some Moderate-Lefty rants about the state of the world.

The return of the Philososloth (again)

It seems like too much has been happening recently. The Philososloth, used to calm sprinkles of news coming in at a gentle pace, has practically been blown off the branch by the avalanche of news stories. In the last few weeks Britain has voted to leave the EU; the Prime Minister has resigned; UKIP, the Greens and Labour are having a leadership elections and the Tories, who were going to have a leadership election, but decided that their lust for power was more important, have chosen their new leader and Prime Minister.

If I had the savviness of a Tory spin doctor, I would say that my delay in covering this news has allowed me the distance for refelection and chewing the political cud to deliver top drawer analysis. In truth, however, I have suffered from the apathy and incompetence of a Labour leadership challenger and have simply been caught in politics limbo at the sheer rate of news.

Anywho… in the coming weeks (more likely months, at this rate) I shall be covering the recent developments in UK politics with the leisurely tone that only hindsight can provide.  I will cover Brexit, the Labour leadership election, the Conservative leadership election (for what it was) and the other twists and turns of recent political developments.

That’s all for now, but watch this space for updates from the Philososloth. But don’t hold your breath, I wouldn’t want to be held responsible for the unfortunate results.