Who Would Win a Snap General Election? Odds & Analysis
We still don’t know precisely when, but a UK General Election is imminent. William Hill offer a best price of 10/11 about it taking place in October, whereas Paddy Power are best at 15/8 about a November election.
That small difference in the date is extremely significant. Indeed, punting on the result before we know the date is fraught with risk in political betting - or it can be an opportunity if correctly predicting it!
Britain Readies For Most Divisive Election Ever
Britain will never have seen an election like it. Last weekend’s protests against the suspension of parliament are just the start. Our country is already divided like never before and the campaigns will exacerbate the friction.
Last month I confidently tipped the Conservatives to win Most Seats at 4/5 with Royal Panda, based on expectation that Johnson’s clear ‘No Deal’ rhetoric would unite the Brexit vote, whereas Remainer parties will split several ways. That is precisely what the polls are showing and the market has moved my way with 2/5 now the top price with the best political betting sites.
Those odds feel correct and until meaningful, contrary evidence emerges, that remains my prediction. However this isn’t a situation to be betting at heavily odds-on and I have numerous, serious doubts about Johnson and his strategy.
Johnson Is Losing The News Cycle
Events of the last few days may offer a guide to the scale of the gulf between the engaged minority and the rest. Bar the most hardcore Brexiters, virtually every commentator has been aghast at Johnson’s early behaviour as PM.
Suspending parliament was unprecedented and undemocratic - offering a juicy bone to critics on the Left. The sackings of advisors by Dominic Cummings shocked a media that is normally quite friendly to the Tories. The sacking of dozens of Tory MPs for voting against the leadership took the controversy to a new level. Johnson’s first PMQs was a car-crash.
Whether any of that cut through, let alone offended, the vast majority of relatively disengaged voters, remains to be seen. Parliament rarely does so. Public opinion seems to react dramatically to spikes in the news - failure to Brexit on time had a huge impact on polls. If the public aren’t up to speed with the new rhetoric and dividing lines yet, they soon will be under the light of an election.
Hence why opposition parties have incentive to delay the election until November. The Tory vote collapsed, defecting en masse to the Brexit Party, after missing the March deadline. Johnson’s honeymoon period has seen a comeback, presumably based on his ‘do or die’ commitment to 31st October. Any delay could signal the end of his premiership.
No Deal Warnings Provide An Awful Election Backdrop For Johnson
A further problem is that Johnson’s spiel about Brexit negotiations has already fallen flat. Parliament and media know them to be a sham. Therefore the Tories will have to run an election campaign committing to no deal - which entails denying the evidence from their own civil servants predicting chaos in order to sell an unpopular policy with no mandate.
I assume the threat of no deal will monopolise the election agenda. As now, experts will be warning of deaths, shortages, recession and chaos at ports. That hasn’t caused many Brexiters to think again so far and there’s little to suggest the contempt for experts seen in the 2016 referendum has dissipated.
Little evidence that Farageism or Trumpism is electorally smart
However no deal remains unpopular, supported by around a third of the electorate. While the Brexit Party performed brilliantly to win 5M votes at the Euro elections, that represented less than a third of Leave voters. Before the Tories fully become the Farage party, they should check the 2015 election, where 4M UKIP votes failed to translate into a single seat.
As elsewhere in Europe, the far-right are a substantial minority with a ceiling around 30% - and toxic enough to drive tactical opposition. Countering that weakness is Jeremy Corbyn’s own toxicity. A recent Yougov poll showed that, when the choice is between no deal and a Corbyn government, the Labour leader loses badly. A terrible signal for any tactical Remainer alliance.
Nevertheless, this trend could change. Labour made historic, rapid advances during the 2017 election amid a fairer news cycle. In addition to the relentless anti-Corbyn coverage, Tories have enjoyed a mass of free media lately. First there was a leadership contest, then a series of big spending announcements. It smacks of the honeymoon enjoyed by Theresa May prior to her disastrous 2017 campaign and she started from a much stronger position.
Moreover, the jury must remain out over Johnson’s style and tactics. I’m surprised at just how Trumpian he has been. Ultra-divisive, unapologetic about extremism, rude to opponents, contemptuous of scrutiny. It is a remarkable turnaround for those of us who remember his term as a relatively liberal London Mayor.
Will that work in Britain? Again, I’m sceptical. The Tories seem to have bought a highly dubious assumption that Trumpism is successful. In fact, it has won merely one election against a fatally damaged opponent, by a statistical fluke. The Republican Party are in turmoil.
Johnson does have that fatally wounded opponent. However by adopting this extreme positioning, Johnson risks detoxifying Corbyn. My instinct - in the absence of polling evidence to date - is that the last few days have been tremendous for Labour and Remainers.
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Opponents Are Beginning To Unite
The protests - on the streets or online - are slowly creating what seemed an impossible alliance just weeks ago. Both left-wing Momentum supporters and Peoples Vote campaigners are united against what they see as a right-wing coup. Together, they could have a devastating impact on social media.
Ultimately, that online messaging is how this election will be decided. The Tory/Brexit Party pact will swamp Facebook with another slew of dark-funded adverts. A tactic that has worked in country after country. However their weakness is a lack of grassroots activists and lesser numbers willing to devote time online, creating and sharing content.
In 2017, Corbyn’s mass movement dominated online. Since then, Remainers have become more prolific, efficient and organised online. The latter will implore people to vote tactically. There will be a stack of information telling Remainers precisely how to stop the Tories in each seat.
I’m confident that will work in Scotland and to some extent in Con-held marginals where the Lib Dems are the main rival. I remain doubtful that it will work in the Con-Lab marginals. Added together, those trends overwhelmingly point to another hung parliament. Back No Overall Majority at 4/6 with Bet365.
- Back Conservatives to win Most Seats at the General Election - 4/5 with Royal Panda
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