Three questions immediately spring to mind after the General Election announcement.
First, is there a Lady Jane Grey Nine Day Queen scenario, whereby the Prime Minister loses office, having only acquired it so recently? Second, if the Conservatives are going to win, how big will the margin of victory be? Third, what will be the economic and political consequences?
Depending on the polling company, and the method of weighting the probability of voting, the Conservatives have at least a 10 percentage points lead in the polls and possibly a 20 point lead, with one poll putting the Conservatives at 46 per cent. To close and overcome such a gap, between now and 8 June, would require a herculean effort and an unprecedented turnaround by Labour. Jeremy Corbyn would have achieved one of the greatest political comebacks in history.
Labour polled 30 per cent of the vote in 2015, seven percentage points behind the Conservatives, who won with 37 per cent. The latest polls show the Conservatives up nearly seven percentage points since the General Election, and Labour down by a similar figure. Lady Jane is nowhere to be seen.
So if the Conservatives will win, how great will be their victory? On this question there is far less assurance. If during the campaign the Conservative share slipped back towards 40 per cent and Labour’s edged up towards 30 per cent, the electoral arithmetic could change dramatically, with the margin of victory much smaller. This possibility could be reinforced by tactical voting at the local level.
But there is another possibility that could significantly increase the Conservatives’ majority, if the Ukip vote holds up in some areas, thereby damaging Labour, but falls dramatically in others, thereby helping the Conservatives. The Brexit Sword of Damocles will hang over the General Election.
The Conservatives face their most fortuitous circumstances ever. It is like the winter of discontent (1979), the Falkland War (1983) and an economic boom (1987) all rolled into one. The Conservatives won 44 per cent of the vote in 1979, followed by 42 per cent of the vote in 1983, 1987 and 1992. In contrast, Labour won 37 per cent, 28 per cent, 31 per cent and 34 per cent of the vote in these elections. The 1983 Labour Party manifesto was described as the longest suicide note in history, and it shows that the Labour share of the vote can fall well below 30 per cent. The pressure is even greater now due to the Ukip threat in the north of England.
The Conservatives could win big, very big, with an overall majority of at least 100 and quite possibly 150. Labour could well experience the same morning after feeling the Conservatives felt, after their thrashing in 1997.
Of course “events dear boy, events” could intervene, but without a surprise, it’s difficult to envisage a big enough punch being landed by Labour.
So if the Conservatives win big, what will be the consequences? Here are just a few thoughts. First, it could result in a much more radical Conservative government, particularly with regard to public services such as education. Second, it could be the election which proves the tipping point for Scottish independence. Third, it could trigger a fundamental realignment of centre-left politics in the UK. Much could happen in the wake of 8 June.