The polls look dire for anyone but the Conservative party. Labour are floundering, as they were always going to, and the Lib Dems have been effectively squeezed. The latter has come about due to a combination of the fact that both the Tories and Labour have an interest in seeing the Lib Dems crushed, the Tories in order to win, Labour in order to destroy any nascent centrist uprising, and the fact that the Lib Dems have not run a good campaign, at least at national level.
The Lib Dems are so fearsome of attacking Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in any meaningful sense that I am starting to worry that this is intentional. When I was working on the Yes to AV campaign all those years ago, focus groups told the campaign that when it was explained to them, people on the whole didn’t really like AV. So, the campaign decided it would avoid talking about AV as much as possible. Which meant that the No side slammed the AV voting system mercilessly, while our side talked about making MPs work harder. It wasn’t a surprise we lost 68-32. I fear that the Lib Dems have got some focus group shite telling them that people really like Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Instead of realising that this was what they needed to break down, they thought “Let’s talk about building a better future instead. Everyone loves us again and has totally forgotten about what they didn’t like about the coalition.”
The one thing the Lib Dems have managed to communicate effectively is that they won’t put Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10. I could have thought of less painful ways they could have gone about doing this than making a bad puppet video, but I do have to hand this to them. And this factor could be key. If it looks like the Tories are headed for a landslide and potential Lib Dem voters really don’t think Labour has any chance of winning, this combined with good local campaigning could mean there are enough Lib Dem MPs returned to deny the Tories a majority.
The difference between the Tories getting a majority and being in a minority situation is truly epic in terms of the future of the UK. If they get a majority, even a tiny one, BoJo will have five years to do what he likes with. The Lib Dems will fall to pieces while Corbyn carries on as leader for a bit, just long enough to install Rebecca Long-Bailey in his place. The Tories will know that not only do they have five years to govern ahead of them, no matter what problems hit them during the first half of the 2020s they will most likely face a Rebecca Long-Bailey led Labour Party at the next election. It would be a dominating position to be in.
A hung parliament, which could only mean a handful of seats less for the Tories, and we’re in a whole different political universe. Boris will have lost, his credentials as a winner permanently damaged. If the Lib Dems have done reasonably well, Corbyn is in trouble, as his plan to hang on to install RLB could be met with angry MPs not taking it, looking at the fact that Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna managed to stay in parliament despite walking out on Labour. Although it’s a long shot, Labour moderates might even be able to get hold of the party again after a brief civil war.
The Brexit landscape would be completely different as well. Everyone is assuming Johnson wouldn’t allow a second referendum, but I find this puzzling. This is a man who breaks promises all the time and is known to do whatever it takes to hang onto power. Maybe he’ll want to pack it in and ask Labour to try and form a government. But this seems out of character. Also, if Labour takes the reins, Brexit is seriously imperilled. Would the ERG types risk that? If they oust BoJo, who could they replace him with as leader that wouldn’t cause the party to have its own civil war?
The fate of the nation rests on about 20 Tory-Lib marginals, whether anyone likes that fact or not. It could see the Tories triumphantly restored to majority status, having vanquished all competitors; or it could see them humiliated, Raab taking the place of Portillo this time out. If you care about Brexit not happening, I would go and canvass in those seats.