It is not down to effective leadership, but a return to two-party politicsby Peter Kellner / May 15, 2017 / Leave a comment
Much of the coverage of the weekend polls has concerned the rise in Labour’s support, to more than 30 per cent. In fact, their more important, potentially historic, message is that Theresa May is on course for the biggest mandate won by any prime minister for half a century. The latest polls give the Conservatives 48 per cent on average, up three points since the PM called the election. If the Tories hold their gains until 8th June, theirs will be the highest vote share won by any party since 1966.
Neither Margaret Thatcher nor Tony Blair won this level of support in their landslide victories. They both achieved their biggest wins with 44 per cent of the vote—Thatcher in 1983, Blair in 1997. May is on course to overtake them by four percentage points, equivalent to more than a million votes. We have to go back to Labour’s victory under Harold Wilson 51 years ago to match May’s current vote share.
The biggest reason for the Tories’ current huge lead is the collapse of the Ukip vote. With the Liberal Democrats stalled at under 10 per cent, we are seeing a return to two party politics, in England at least. (Scotland is a different story.) For the past 35 years, there has been a significant third force—the Liberal/SDP Alliance in the 1980s, the Lib Dems between 1992 and 2010, Ukip two years ago.
Unless either the Lib Dems or Ukip make a late surge this time, more than 85 per cent of English voters will vote Labour or Conservative. This would be the biggest two-party vote share since Edward Heath won the 1970 general election.
That, however, was a close-run thing, with both Labour and the Tories winning more than 40 per cent of the vote. If the Tories’ current poll lead holds, then their victory will not only be the biggest in terms of vote share for half a century, it will flow from the biggest gap between the two main parties since Labour’s near wipe-out in 1931.
It is in that context that we should judge the view of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters that he will be justified in remaining party leader if Labour’s vote share this time equals that obtained by Ed Miliband two years ago. The weekend polls, showing a modest…