I can already feel it: I will regret writing this article. Partly because I was so wrong last time, being sure right up until the reveal of the exit poll that the Tories had won a huge majority. I’ll also regret it partly because making any sort of prediction on how this election is going to turn out is madness. The information we are getting from the polls and on the ground is difficult to graft onto how many seats each party will get, and that’s before we factor in any large, late swings of the kind we saw last time out.
But I feel the need to do this, just because. I guess I feel like there is a lot of random crap being written at the moment, most of which I feel is coming from a position of propping up either the Tories or Labour. I need to get this off my chest.
Headline: I think there will be a hung parliament with the Tories the largest party. I say this with the following caveat: this is also what I would ideally like to happen. So, take the rest with that in mind.
I think Labour will do badly but not as badly as some people think (hope). Although I don’t think the way they managed to squeeze 40% of the vote in 2017 is possible in 2019, the polls are already showing how much they can squeeze things. They probably only need around 29% or 30% to hang onto most of their seats. It seems to me this is where the Labour leadership think the party will end up: losing the election, but not by too much. Certainly not enough to lose their status as one of the two major parties. A Tory majority might be even desirable to Corbyn and co as it would keep Labour completely out of the Brexit shit. The Lib Dems ideally get destroyed so as to prove there is no escape valve; see what happened to Chuka and Luciana? That’s what will happen to you if you defy the will of the Milne! Labour hang onto enough seats to justify Corbyn retaining the leadership until Rebecca Long-Bailey can take over the reins. If this really is Labour’s ambition, I think it will come good for them.
I think the Lib Dems will do better than people expect, but not by much. And they won’t do better because of some sudden campaigning nous. “Build a Better Future” is a truly terrible slogan even by Lib Dem standards. Here we have an election in which the Lib Dem messaging should be all about immediacy: you have this one election to stop horrible stuff from happening. Vote Lib Dem to stop it. Instead, they decided to burn their small pile of political capital getting people to think everything is fine; we all just need to look wistfully to the future (insert face slap here).
No, I think the Lib Dems will do slightly better than expected simply because the main two parties are so unbelievably terrible, with unbelievably awful leaders, and the Lib Dems should be able to gain from this if they target resources successfully at local level. When I say better than expected, I’m thinking the Lib Dems end up on between 40 and 65 seats.
I think the Tories end up somewhere between 280 and 300. Beyond Boris’ faults, it is very difficult for governing parties to gain seats, as we saw in 2017. Labour will end up with between 210 and 230 seats. Again, bad, nowhere near winning, but not enough to consider it some sort of historical loss.
What happens if what I have just predicted comes true? Many Tory MPs will want to replace Boris immediately; most of them don’t really like him and he’s only there because he’s considered a sure winner, or at least, as sure a winner as existed in the Conservative parliamentary party. But it will be difficult because he will still be prime minister, trying to run, for the moment, a minority administration. Corbyn will almost certainly try and hang on to guide Rebecca Long-Bailey into the leadership. It is possible that if the Lib Dems do really well, like 70+, there will be huge pressure on Corbyn from members of the PLP for him to step down immediately in order to allow a new leader to try and form a government. The Lib Dem escape valve will have been proven to be viable if most of the Labour defectors keep their seats, so the PLP will have a weapon to use against the leadership.
It could be chaos. We’ll find out relatively shortly.