And we’re off. This parliament which has fought on with no overall majority since June 2017 has now been dissolved and Britain heads to the polls on the 12th of December, the first election held in this month since 1923. This election has been seen by pollsters and commentators as the most volatile and difficult to predict in a generation.
The only thing that does seem clear is that it is the performance and the manner in which the smaller parties operate that will decide this election. The latest poll by YouGov had smaller parties—by this I mean parties other than Labour and the Conservatives—on 33 per cent. This would be a huge increase on the 2017 election where the figure stood at 17.6 per cent. It is this high level of support among smaller parties which is making this election so difficult to predict. Our first-past-the-post system is not designed with smaller parties in mind and as such it makes General Elections incredibly hard to predict when their level of support is high.
The most puzzling thing is that you would expect that a strong performance by say a right-wing smaller party would be incredibly damaging for the Conservatives. However, in the last two elections, the opposite has proved true. In the 2015 election UKIP performed very strongly with a 12.6 per cent vote share and nearly 4 million votes, yet the Conservatives won their first overall majority since 1992. On the other hand in 2017 UKIP were obliterated. They acquired a mere 1.6 per cent of the vote share with not even 600,000 total votes and yet the Conservatives lost 13 seats and their majority. This trend is also seen on the Left; the huge majorities of the New Labour years were also coupled with a very strong Liberal Democrat party who consistently acquired a vote share in the high-teens and maintained around 50 seats.
What this all suggests therefore is that it is the manner in which people vote for these smaller parties that will be decisive. If the left—or even just voters on the left—are able to group together by voting Lib Dem in say Cheltenham, Labour in say Hastings and Green in Brighton Pavilion then it seems likely that a progressive or remain coalition could find a way to a majority. On the other hand however if Labour voters in its traditional heartlands of the ex-mining towns move toward The Brexit Party and if progressives in marginal seats aren’t able to hold their noses to vote for a party they may not necessarily support, then Boris Johnson’s gamble of holding this election will pay off.
It is this thought of a Boris Johnson-led majority Tory government implementing a hard Brexit that tramples on workers’ rights, slashes taxes on the wealthiest in society and opens our NHS up to American pharmaceutical companies in a dodgy trade deal with Donald Trump that must motivate progressives to work together. There is a lot that divides the Left, even just within Labour. However there is far more of a divide between all the progressive parties as a whole and the Tories and this is where our focus must lie. Squabbles between the parties of the Left will just lead to a strong Tory majority come December. Progressives must therefore unite in order to win because there is too much to lose if they don’t.
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