There will be no rerun of 2017 – the Tories are heading for a majority

Boris Johnson. Picture by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency (CC BY 2.0)

Keith Darlington

In the General Election of 2017, a late swing to Labour denied the Tories a majority. Jeremy Corbyn was largely credited for this because of his appeal to the younger vote.

Despite polling poorly over the last six months Labour supporters have always pinned their hopes on a similar late surge sweeping Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10.

However, there is little evidence to show that the same is going to happen in this election. In fact, despite starting from a lower level the Tory lead over Labour has been moving in the opposite direction – up – as support for the Brexit Party has eroded.

This means that Johnson’s path to a majority at Westminster is almost unassailable. Even the polling guru, John Curtice, who correctly predicted the outcome of the last four elections, said that the chances of a Labour majority are almost zero.

Those who think that Labour’s late surge of 2017 could happen again should remember that the circumstances are now very different. Unlike 2017, this is, whether we like it or not, the Brexit election. It was invoked for this very reason.

After three and a half years of endless negotiation, voters on both sides are suffering from Brexit fatigue, as it is known. Johnson understands this and constantly pumps out his simple mantra of “Get Brexit Done”. This is a misleading claim given that we have endless negotiations still to come after leaving the EU, but even those who did not want Brexit may well be tempted by this slogan.

Isolated

Labour meanwhile have wanted this election to be about everything apart from Brexit. But they don’t seem to be succeeding in that goal – even after announcing a radical manifesto full of big, eye-catching and popular policies, the poll dials are mostly moving the other way.

Corbyn has always had a problem with resolving Brexit. This is no surprise to many because he has never shown any enthusiasm for the EU – voting against the 1975 referendum, against the creation of the EU, against the Maastricht Treaty, and so on.

Yet, he leads a party where most of his MPs are Remainers. He has managed to get by during the last three years by formulating convoluted, ambivalent, policies on Brexit. But that position became untenable after Labour’s abysmal EU election results earlier this year.

Those election results clearly had many members of the Shadow Cabinet concerned to the point where even the vast majority of them have now become passionate Remainers. The failures to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the UK Parliament has concentrated minds to the point where they know the only way forward is to campaign for Remain in a second referendum.

This has left Corbyn looking more isolated than ever because he reluctantly agreed to a second referendum but, unlike most of his Shadow Cabinet colleagues, not to campaign for Remain. Even John McDonnell and Dianne Abbot, both close associates of Corbyn, supposedly appealed to him to “come off the fence”. They made an allotment pact – so-called because it was made in his allotment – to back Remain.

But he did not follow the agreement through. Some say that he wants to appease both sides but his reasons may be more complicated than that. Whatever the case, it seems to annoy many voters who want leadership and clarity.

The polls have consistently shown a gradual decline in Labour’s vote share.  Corbyn’s popularity with the electorate has also nosedived – recording record low levels of support.

On a recent TV leaders debate, he declared neutrality on any future Brexit referendum if Labour is elected. This could well turn out to be a turning point in this election, because it will be seen by many voters as prolonging uncertainly over an issue which requires urgent settlement.

Claiming to be a neutral bystander, aside from the abdication of responsibility of leadership, will also fail to convince voters, because his record shows that he always had strong views on the EU before becoming leader. He claims that he wants to be neutral to bring both sides of the country together. This makes little sense, because, ultimately either we stay or go, and that means half the UK will be dissatisfied whatever he does.

Some of Corbyn’s apologists say that his stance is similar to Harold Wilson’s on the referendum in the 1970. But this is untrue. Wilson clearly stated that his preference was to remain in what was then known as the Common Market. Wilson did, however, offer other Cabinet colleagues the freedom to vote as they choose.

Wilson was not neutral at all – even though it suits Corbyn to claim that he was. I suspect Corbyn would gain more credence from doing the same as Wilson did and stating his own preference – even if that means endorsing Brexit.

Wales

Mark Drakeford, to his credit, has now committed Welsh Labour to campaign for Remain in a second referendum. He recently stated that no form of Brexit is better than Remain.

This is very different to the views he held when he won the Welsh Labour leadership election almost a year ago. For at that time, he appeared to echo the Corbyn line sounding ambivalent on Brexit. However, his tribal loyalty to Corbyn has changed since the EU elections earlier this year when Labour finished third in Wales for the first time ever. These abysmal results were followed by a series of polls that saw Labour’s vote share in the Assembly collapsing.

However, unlike his predecessor Carwyn Jones who fought a higher-profile campaign for Welsh Labour in 2017, Welsh Labour have been very quiet during this campaign to date.

Who are Remain-supporting voters in Wales going to be listening to – a muted Mark Drakeford, or Jeremy Corbyn?

Adam Price and Plaid Cymru meanwhile deserve much praise for having the courage to say that we will all lose out in Wales if we implement any form of Brexit. He made a strong case advocating Remain in a second referendum.

He told angry Brexiters in a recent TV Welsh leader Question Time that he is not prepared to tell them what they wanted to hear when he knows that its consequences for Wales will be very harmful.

But for all this good work and the way that Plaid, the Greens, and the Liberal Democrats have tried to work together to prevent a Tory Brexit majority, I fear a Tory majority with the Johnson deal is now inevitable.

If Corbyn had done what most of his party wanted and taken a clear stance, one way or the other, perhaps the polls would be telling a very different story now.

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Alwyn J EvansHethin BennettSteve Dugganjr humphrysSibrydionmawr Recent comment authors
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Plain citizen
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Plain citizen

Bojo the clown appears as a bumbling incoherent half wit whenever he opens his mouth on the campaign but the Tories are still a long way ahead according to the polls. The Tory Brexit policy is still to tie us to many EU rule makers and treaties take (a lot of) time. The other parties have really only got themselves to blame if they cant deny Bojo a majority. Either poor policies (eg: Labour spend, spend,spend), bad people, or both.

jr humphrys
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jr humphrys

Thing is, the Tories have a tremendous advantage with constant support of “news” papers owned by their
friends. This make a mockery of the election expenses stipulations.

A prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg
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A prophecy is buried in Eglwyseg

All changes so much, all will change so much, that all Plaid Cymru believes becomes part of what our world was before these changes came to pass. Its principles are milk in water in an age of might over virtue, and it shall be thus.

I do not wish it so. It is merely what comes.

Merlin
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Merlin

Good point

Sibrydionmawr
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Sibrydionmawr

What a load of tosh! At least make a valid point instead of talking balderdash in riddles!

Leigh Richards
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Leigh Richards

A timely and prescient post. Too many in UK labour believed this would be a rerun of 2017 – indeed despite all the evidence to the contrary some still believe it. The ineptitude of the UK labour leadership in allowing their brexit policy to be determined by stalinist lexiters like Seamus Milne – alienating so many remain supporters and other remain supporting parties in the process – and a bloodyminded unwillingness to tackle anti semitism in their party are the main reasons they trail the lying clueless buffoon johnson by almost 20 points in the polls. This all means that… Read more »

Sibrydionmawr
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Sibrydionmawr

Cut the hyperbole, please! Milne might not be the most savoury of people, but he’s hardly a Stalinist FFS. None of the Labour policies is really that radical, unless you’re looking at them through a Tory lens – which far too many are, albeit at best semi-consciously. After 40 years of neo-liberal rhetoric and ideology a majority now think within the confines of the mindset, the hegemony that Thatcher deliberately set out to put in place. Thus we have otherwise intelligent people buying into the lies that Corbyn’s poliices are somehow those of the exdtreme left, when those of us… Read more »

jr humphrys
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jr humphrys

Remainers wish to live among the civilised people of Europe, 27 nations and counting.
They wish to better the lives of all people in Europe. Part of this bettering will come from finding the huge amount of hidden tax money, using the European Tax Avoidance legislation.
Much of this may lie in certain “British” territories. That’s why the Tories will try to push through Brexit quickly without a second referendum.
Labour are dithering over this. So vote for a Remain candidate if you think they have a chance.

Walter Hunt
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Walter Hunt

“Get it done” was what my ol’ mam used to say this time of year. Christmas shopping she meant. Like many she didn’t relish the thought, but it was something that she knew had to be done. There was an inevitability about it. So the slogan “Get It (Brexit) Done” is particularly apposite for an Advent general election and probably another winner from the same stable as “Take Back Control”

Paul
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Paul
Sibrydionmawr
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Sibrydionmawr

That’s an interesting article, with good comments, bar the one that is rather sarcastic about Labour’s freebies ‘paid for by someone else’. These things will be paid for from the taxes that we all pay. And though there are some big sums being talked about, they’re pretty small beer in an annual economy of £2.1 trillion, and would become increasingly affordable as the economy recovers and more people have money to spend. Corbyn isn’t popular, for some obscure reason. To me he’s not done himself any favours by sitting on the fence over Brexit which will have lost him some… Read more »

Hethin Bennett
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Hethin Bennett

STOP PRESS !

LATEST WELSH POLL

Labour – up 9
Conservatives – up 4
Plaid – down 1

Curtains for Hywell ?

Steve Duggan
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Steve Duggan

This election is too unpredictable to call. Yes people want to see the end of this Brexit nightmare but not at any cost. So I believe there will be far more tactical voting which will probably lead to a hung Parliament. But as I said -who knows! If the Tories do gain a majority it will be disaterous for Wales., we’ll be faced with our farmers annihilated by no deal or blocked ports as a result of the border down the middle of the Irish sea. Either way, the only up side will be the resulting surge for Welsh independence.

Hethin Bennett
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Hethin Bennett

Ignoring the fact wales voted to leave

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

Wales didn’t know what it voted for, now we do, we can have a referendum to confirm we still want to leave.

Alwyn J Evans
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Alwyn J Evans

The polls are never a prediction but a projection. They always have a much higher turnout than elections and do not include newly registered voters. Both of these factors will be crucial and are likely to make the result a lot closer than any poll.