The party has a history of picking the wrong person for the jobby Peter Kellner / May 23, 2017 / Leave a comment
Here is a thought experiment. Suppose that the recent narrowing of the Conservative lead continues. The four polls conducted since the launch of the Tory manifesto report an average Conservative lead of 11 per cent. Some, perhaps all, of the narrowing may be a short-lived response to the “dementia tax” headlines. Maybe the gap will widen again, following the prime minister’s “clarification”—or U-turn—on capping social care costs; we shall see. But suppose we end up on 8th June with the Tories seven points ahead of Labour—the same margin as two years ago. What then?
The most immediate consequence will be a modest increase in the Conservative majority. My scenario implies a 43-36 per cent division of the Tory-Labour vote. I reckon that around ten Labour MPs will lose their seats in the Midlands, North and Wales, where the Tories will benefit from the collapse of a large Ukip vote. The Conservatives may also pick up a few seats in Scotland, as well as regaining Ukip’s sole seat, Clacton. If the Conservatives gain 15 seats overall, this will lift their majority from 12 two years ago to 42. It will not be the Tory-rebellion-proof majority that Theresa May wants, but she will have more room for manoeuvre than she has today.
What about Labour? It faces the bitter-sweet prospect of more votes (36 per cent, compared with 31 per cent in 2015) but fewer seats. Jeremy Corbyn will doubtless claim it as a mandate to continue as party leader.
There is, however, another way to view such a result—as the third election in succession that Labour could have won with a different leader.
Should Brown have resigned in 2009?
As chancellor, and in his early months as prime minister, Gordon Brown enjoyed high personal ratings and a reputation for economic competence. Fairly or unfairly, his ratings on both counts fell sharply after Britain’s economy fell into recession in 2008. After the 2009 local elections, James Purnell resigned as a cabinet minister, having lost confidence in Brown’s leadership. Had two or three other cabinet ministers followed suit, Brown’s position could have become untenable.
A new leader would have given Labour a fresh start and called an early election (something Brown famously decided not to do when he became PM in 2007). Labour might not have won an…