Unlike the Labour leader, the PM has no potential coalition partners leftby Rachel Sylvester / November 19, 2019 / Leave a comment
Just as in asymmetric warfare there is a discrepancy between the rival powers, so in this election campaign there is an asymmetrical political battle underway. Boris Johnson must win an outright parliamentary majority to be able to stay as prime minister, Jeremy Corbyn needs only to secure a hung parliament to be seen as the winner and have a good chance of getting into No 10. The imbalance between the two main party leaders means that victory for either of them will be defined in different ways.
This makes the outcome far more unpredictable than it currently seems. The Conservatives are clearly ahead of Labour in the polls, and Johnson has a significant lead over Corbyn when voters are asked who would make the best prime minister. According to the YouGov “favourability” tracker, the Labour leader has a rating of minus 42 compared with minus six for the Tory leader. Only 22 per cent of voters prefer the idea of Corbyn in Downing Street. But this gives a false impression of the strength of Johnson’s position.
The electorate is more volatile than ever before and there will be huge variations between different constituencies around the country, so the national poll rating may not translate into seats. There are also likely to be high levels of tactical voting, particularly among Remain voters keen to block a hard Brexit. One report this week suggested that almost a third of voters are planning to cast their ballot tactically to keep out a candidate or party they dislike. Even the most optimistic Tories are expecting to lose seats to the SNP in Scotland and to the Liberal Democrats in London and the south east, meaning they need to win the same number and more from Labour in the north and midlands.
And the bar is set higher for Johnson than for Corbyn. The prime minister does not only have to match the Conservative result in 2017, he must do significantly better than Theresa May. He could win the most votes and the most seats in the House of Commons but if he does not have a parliamentary majority then he will almost certainly still lose office. He cannot afford to spend many more months bogged down in Westminster trench warfare,…