When Theresa May became Prime Minister she spoke about wanting to make the JAM’s (Just About Managing) feel confident about voting Conservative. As she departs as Prime Minister, let’s see if the electorate have taken that message to heart.
Local Government By-Elections: July 2016 – July 2019
During the last three years there have been close to four hundred local by-elections up and down the country, each of those by-elections sees thousands of people walk into polling stations and cast real votes into real ballot boxes which are then counted and elect real councillors. Before the 2016 EU referendum, the 2016 local elections were deemed a success for the Conservatives recording a 2.5% swing to the Conservatives compared since the 2012 local elections. Since then of course we have had an EU referendum, a general election and European Elections we were never meant to have and yet, surprisingly, in terms of vote cast, the Conservative can emerge with their heads held high polling 33% of all votes cast (4% ahead of Labour), however there is one small problem and that is they’re not the ones making the gains. That belongs to the Liberal Democrats who, over the last three years, have put on an extra 7% of the vote (taking them from 11% to 18%) and making it only to clear that they are the biggest gainers and who has the Liberal Democrats been gaining seats from? The Conservatives. Comparing last time with the by-election, the Conservatives have made a net loss of 41 seats, Labour a net loss of 22 seats, UKIP a net loss of 21 seats and the Liberal Democrats making a net gain of 62 seats. The Liberal Democrat message of “B******S to Brexit” has worked wonders in local government.
And in terms of the share of vote, the same is true for the parliamentary by-elections since the arrival of the Prime Minister, however this is where the Liberal Democrats always have problems. Yes, no one can deny that by polling 19% of the vote in all the by-elections since Mrs. May entered Downing Street, they have increased over 13% on their score last time, but with only one gain during that time (Richmond Park) the fact that they have not had by-elections in their former heartlands means that gains have been very thin on the ground, but you certainly can’t dismiss a 11.5% swing from Con to Lib Dem nor a 9.5% swing from Lab to Lib Dem. However what is more noticeable is that despite there being a 2% swing from Con to Lab in those by-elections, Labour also has the same problem, indeed they are down one (having lost Copeland to the Conservatives which partly prompted the decision to call the 2017 general election). And what of the new boys, Brexit? Well, up 4% from a standing start isn’t bad, but until they win a seat (something that UKIP did twice in 2014) they will just be classed as “Also rans”
Opinion Polling July 2016 – July 2019
When the Prime Minister entered Downing Street, the Conservatives could do nothing wrong. A lead of 9% in the first month soon expanded to a staggering 19% in April 2017 and led to the decision to call a general election. And from that moment on it all went horribly wrong. UKIP’s vote collapsed during the campaign (precisely as the Conservatives hoped) falling from 11% in March 2017 to just 5% in May 2017, but instead of it all going to the Conservatives (+2%), it was Labour who made headway (+8%) and even when the election produced a hung Parliament Labour still climbed at UKIP’s expense getting a 2% lead in July 2017. From that moment on Britain was stumped. The Conservatives and Labour were virtually tied for a good 18 months, the Lib Dems, UKIP and Greens all bumping around between 4% and 9% and then it happened. First Change UK launched and instantly Labour took a dive (384% in Jan 2019 to 34% in Feb 2019) and then along came the Brexit Party and the Conservatives got hit for six dropping from 39% to 23% in a matter of weeks) with Brexit soaring overtaking the Liberal Democrats, but just as they overtook them, the Liberal Democrats started to soar and now we have a situation where instead of the two main parties getting 82% of the vote, we have four parties (Con, Lab, Lib Dem and Brexit) in a virtual dead heat within the margin of error.
So, what should we make of May’s premiership? Well, the one thing we can agree on is this. If Johnson’s premiership is as frantic as May’s, we are going to see a lot more “Too close to calls” and a lot fewer “Landslides”