The moment some thought wouldn’t happen has arrived: an early general election. I myself put the likelihood of this happening in 2017 at a mere 20% in my book, so I am as stunned as anyone. Unless somehow Labour whips a vote against (and Corbyn has already publicly said Labour will vote for it tomorrow) and the whip holds, a set of events that seems very unlikely, we’re going to the polls in a few weeks time. This poses several questions, obviously.
One, will the Conservatives win a large victory – or a massive one? I tend to think the latter, but I can’t totally discount the former. I suppose if the Labour vote holds up enough in the north, despite everything, and in Wales as well, combined with the Lib Dems managing to take some of their old seats that are Tory held at present, I guess we could see a Conservative majority of only 30-50. But I don’t think that’s what will happen.
It will almost certainly be a Tory victory resulting in them having a majority of 100+, and in fact, I think that the majority will probably be north of 150. I think Labour will do worse than most pundits and polls are suggesting, probably in the region of 100-120 overall. I even hold out the small possibility that they will dip below 100 seats, although I think this is remote. This poses a question about the Lib Dems, and how many of those gains will fall to them. My guess is, not all that many. Enough to establish a positive narrative around the party, particularly after the gains at the locals in a couple weeks time, but not anything spectacular. I would put the LD Westminster seat count after June 8th at around 15-20, and most likely in the late-teens. Anything north of that would be extremely good for the party – and would almost certainly happen as a result of successful targeting of Labour seats as opposed to solely trying to win back West Country Tory held seats.
All parties will have selection problems. The Tories are nowhere close to having candidates in every seat – and given a whole bunch of seats that would have previously been considered unwinnable will be now in contention for the Conservatives, this makes selection all the more pertinent. Labour will struggle to get candidates in a lot of places; in seats that were considered unwinnable even in 2015, I can imagine a lot of those candidates will not want to bother again. How the NEC solves this problem in such a short period of time will be interesting to watch.
Over the next few weeks, I expect the following to occur: the Tories will go up in the polls with the spectre of the election now in view. They will gain a lot of this from UKIP, but expect the Labour polling numbers to go down further, probably stabilising in the low twenties, around 21/22 – although again, I hold out the remote possibility of the numbers dipping into the late teens even.
Finally, I make this prediction: even after a very bad general election defeat on June 8th, Corbyn will not stand down as leader of the Labour Party. He will make the excuse that the poll was sprung on him; that he hasn’t been given enough time, and besides, the loss is all down to the PLP fighting against him as they have. I don’t think a loss in 2017 will shift the membership either (as a 2020 loss may have), so even if there was another coup attempt, I think Corbyn would win another leadership contest, were it held in 2017 as well.