As the late United States President, LBJ once said “Politics is the ability to count”. Currently the polls and the betting markets have a Conservative Majority as the most likely outcome, but these are fallible; the manifestoes are not out yet and the nation may not be comfortable with the idea of a large Tory Majority Gov’t.
In this thread I will examine the numerology of the next election working through various scenarios:
First up 326 + CON MPs – If the Conservatives gain any sort of majority, they are into power and Johnson’s agreement is getting passed. There is a difference between this parliament and the last when May also took over with a small majority – all the rebellion on the anti-europe side is gone, Steve Baker, Owen Patterson, Rees Mogg and Priti Patel are all completely onboard the Johnson project in a way they never were with May. On the other side, the Soubries and even Grieves and Letwins are gone. The most europhile Tories present will likely be Stephen Brine, Stephen Hammond and Greg Clark, possibly fewer than those three if the Lib Dems have a particularly good night and Labour a very poor one.
There still may be no majority for “No Deal” in the house, and that could affect things later in the parliament as we move toward the internal deadlines of the transition period but that is tomorrow’s problem. For now it looks rosy aboard the Tory express.
323 – 325 CON MPs – The exact numbers depend on the number of Sinn Fein MPs re-elected. At present this looks likely to be six but might be another number, seven or five depending on F&ST and Foyle. Each Sinn Fein MP is effectively worth 1/2 to the party closest to a majority as they do not take their seats. Let us assume for the sake of argument it is six Sinn Fein MPs. This sets the effective majority bar for the Tories (Or anyone else) at precisely 323 MPs and the maths then works as above.
322 CON MPs (Or possibly 321) – This is where the numbers start to get “interesting”, and this is the lowest possible number of Tories I make it that can pass the Johnson deal. It is true that though they are not the Tories greatest fans at present, neither the DUP nor the Lib Dems are particularly keen on Corbyn getting into Number 10 Downing Street. In the end a Johnson Queens Speech would probably get through though.
Just as Conservative remainers have been purged, so too have Brexiteers amiable to any Johnson deal on the other side of the house. Barron, Campbell, Mann, Fitzpatrick all gone. The Lisa Nandys of the parliament would quickly fall into line with the Labour whip, secure in another five years of tenure and assured by the fact Labour voters in northern towns would evidently have put other issues largely ahead of Brexit. There are left two possible ‘rebels’ on the opposition benches, Caroline Flint and possibly Jason Zadrozny. I make it these two would be allies to Johnson in terms of Brexit though he could not rely on Flint for confidence or anything else. The numbers might work with 321 if both Flint and Zadrozny are elected but that is the absolute de minimis.
313 – 320 CON MPs (Possibly 321) – A similar number to May you may say. The electoral dynamics this time round are different though. The Letwins and Gaukes are vanquished and the Tories old friends the DUP are likely back and able to influence events. At 320 MPs I don’t believe Johnson’s deal will get through, but the likelihood of ‘No deal’ is also probably at it’s highest. A ‘No deal’ Brexit works for the DUP and the tangible need to deliver some, any form of Brexit is palpable for the Tories. As we drop below 320 MPs, the likes of Greg Clark may again pop their head above the parapet to prevent “No Deal”, and for each number below there is another opposition MP to add. The danger is very much there though in the above range.
295 – 312 CON MPs – The chances of a “No deal” exit are lower beyond this point, but Labour are still well well short. Sturgeon’s demand of a Scottish referendum for Labour support being something the Lib Dems are strongly against and also the idea of putting Corbyn into No 10. The Lib Dems hold the whip hand in this scenario and they can now demand a confirmatory referendum on any deal.
Fundamentally there is a rum choice for Johnson to take – either have case by case support from the Lib Dems, no Brexit and a weak administration for five years with the possibility of it collapsing at the most inopportune moment or face a 2020 election against a new fresh faced Labour leader that the Tories will likely lose. His party may baulk at the idea of doing any sort of deal with the Lib Dems, but it is likely also in this scenario that Labour won’t have done particularly well and might be looking for another leader. There always needs to be a PM, quite who it is in this scenario I’m not sure.
294 or less – The numbers for any sort of functioning Labour minority Government are very tricky and don’t become any easier till Labour + SNP start to approach 325. Nevertheless I think someone from the opposition benches (Probably Corbyn, maybe someone else) will be put in place at least long enough for a second referendum to be put through. The key point is below this level there is surely no way Johnson can carry on, he doesn’t really have any choice but to resign and send for Corbyn and one of the weakest Labour Governments in history.
Labour’s ability to affect the sort of change Corbyn is looking for will be minimal, but Johnson at this point surely has to send for the Leader of the Opposition having been soundly defeated on his platform for the election.
So in short
322+ = Tory Gov’t + Deal
313 – 322 = Tory Gov’t + No deal danger zone
295 – 312 = Second referendum on Johnson or Corbyn’s deal
294 or below, Second referendum on Corbyn’s deal