It is squeaky bum time at Conservative campaign headquarters.
According to the pollsters, the lead of 20 or more points that the Prime Minister started with has been eroded to at best the low teens, or at worst – as data from YouGov now suggests – a Conservative win but without a majority.
Having sought her own fresh mandate from the British public, it would be very difficult for Theresa May to soldier on. Her personal authority would be shot to pieces and her reasoned proposals for Brexit negotiations holed below the water line. The remaining Conservative MPs would be looking at the results of a shambolic campaign and there would be no doubt who to point the finger at. By 9 June, those Tory men in grey suits would surely be bundled in a cab and on their way to Downing Street.
A Conservative win without an overall majority would present two alternatives: the Conservatives form a minority administration, for they are unlikely to attract the support of the Liberal Democrats thanks to their differing views on Brexit; or, the much vaunted “Progressive Alliance” of Labour, SNP and any other fellow travellers, putting Corbyn into number ten with Nicola Sturgeon playing the role of Queen of Scots.
A minority Tory administration would require some really deft footwork in Westminster, and with the knives already out for May, a more emollient leader who can cut deals and charm the birds out of the trees would be needed. Oh how David Cameron and George Osborne would be laughing. It would be a very big challenge with the prospect of a fresh General Election later in the year, just like in 1974 when Ted Heath went to the country for a mandate and was not given one.
No obvious Tory leader looks available. Boris? Emollient? The beleaguered chancellor Philip Hammond? Maybe ex-SAS reservist David Davis would take the torch? At least he would be a true leaver.
If Corbyn and Sturgeon could do a deal then there’s enough in the Labour and SNP manifestos to know what would happen. A Progressive Alliance would mean the reversal of various welfare cuts and reforms that will push up the deficit, the prospect of a slow process of renationalisation of various utility companies, and significant state intervention in all walks of commercial and private life.
While the progressive platform will be decided by Corbyn, the timetable will be up to Sturgeon.
Forget any thoughts of reducing inter-generational debt, and expect a hugely expensive expansion of public spending and the raising of many direct and indirect taxes to pay for it. Once the tax hikes hit and the revenues have consequently fallen rather than risen, we could expect a meltdown in international confidence and a further run on sterling, which would already have gone lower than par with the euro.
The most costly price would of course be a second Scottish independence referendum in 2019 – after Corbyn has negotiated his Brexit agreement. His “deal” would keeps us in the Single Market and Customs Union, where we would be unable to strike those much needed free trade agreements. We would have to pay for the privilege, with no changes to free movement of people, and maintain ECJ jurisdiction over Britain.
Brexit would certainly not mean Brexit. Leaving would in fact mean staying.
The time taken to negotiate our capitulation to Brussels would give the SNP leadership the opportunity to get their ducks in a row while the public witnesses the embarrassment of the UK going cap-in-hand to the IMF and its creditors.
Despite their own parlous public finances, the Scots would get the message that the UK is all washed-up and make the emotional leap of faith that independence would require. Independence would be rough – but no rougher than being in Corbyn’s Britain.
Independence would be rough – but no rougher than being in Corbyn’s Britain.
The self-professed peacenik Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the UK’s military forces? Diane Abbott in charge of counting the immigration numbers at the Home Office? John McDonnell in charge of the treasury – and Len McCluskey telling all of them what to do? Of course this nightmare scenario might not come to pass. The frightful thought of it may get any complacent souls out of their beds with a such a start on 8 June that their will be polling station queues forming to keep Corbyn out.
Or it may just be that YouGov’s data is not the true story and that the other pollsters are closer to the truth with a Tory majority in the low hundreds. The bookies odds will certainly be worth a fresh look.