The New Year starts with little cheer for any of the parties

The New Year starts with little cheer for any of the parties

My big 2018 prediction: The stalemate will continue

The above Wikipedia table shows all the final polls of 2017 with the exception of the latest YouGov which had LAB 2% ahead.

So at the close of an extraordinary year in British politics which saw a shock General Election the signs are that the two main parties are very close to each other.

Labour and its leader Mr Corbyn can take some satisfaction that it wasn’t annihilated, as many, though by no means all, of the polls were predicting, on June 8th. But they still ended up 56 seats behind a fact that seemed to be ignored in the post election period. Brown’s LAB at GE2010 came within 48 seats of the Tories and that was regarded as a disaster for the party.

Even though Labour has led in most polls since the general election it has not seen the sort of leads that many were expecting given the divisions within the Tories. Back in conference season in September many were predicting that Labour would be at 50% by now. Well they’re not and the margin is very close to what it was after the summer. Also a 2-3 point margin isn’t going to be enough for Corbyn to secure a majority.

    Labour’s big hope that the Brexit splits in the Tory party will lead to an early election will be frustrated by the Fixed Term Parliament Act. Corbyn’s declared goal of becoming PM by Christmas 2018 looks very slim indeed.

Mrs May can take some comfort from the fact the Tories ended up as top party and are still in government with her at the helm in spite of her failed election gamble. The deal with the DUP makes a successful no confidence motion, which would almost certainly be required for an early election, against the government highly unlikely. There simply aren’t the MP numbers there amongst the other parties.

That they are only a couple of points behind Labour has certainly helped Theresa May’s position and the talk of a challenge to her position, which was widespread just 3 months ago, has evaporated. While there is no credible alternative she is safe.

One of the little noticed features of the June 8th election was that the SNP suffered proportionately massive losses from holding 56 of Scotland 59 seats in 2015 to just 35 in the general election. Many of the seats they do hold have wafer-thin majorities that could be vulnerable to even quite narrow swings.

The widespread pro Union tactical voting in Scottish seats which drove the losses could be even more strong next time. Voters appear to back the party most likely to stop the SNP and Sturgeon’s party didn’t secure a majority of the GE2017 vote in any Scottish constituency – the highest vote share was 46%.

The Lib Dems might have increased their MP total on June 8th from the 8 of 2015 to 12 in the general election but the performance was nothing like the expectations given the fact that they are the only party which is unequivocally against Brexit and for a another referendum. The new leader, Vince Cable, is getting a bit more attention than Tim Farron before him but they struggle to be part of the political conversation. Whilst they appear irrelevant there’ll be no improvement in the polls.

The Green Party managed to hold onto their only seat in the general election but the overall vote share fell sharply and they have been polling poorly ever since.

UKIP only chalked up 1.8% at the General Election and came away with no seats. Whether they can do anything under their new leader remains to be seen.

So much now depends on Brexit and how that is perceived to be going. My guess is that the next round of leader ratings will see a small uptick for the PM.

Mike Smithson

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