The Likely Determinants of the British General Election Results
Even though the upcoming British general election was instigated by Brexit, its outcome will be determined by several factors as the fear of post-election political impasse continues to grow. Already many political analysts have warned that the situation is quite uncertain with the likely outcome being a hung parliament with Conservatives as the largest party, a hung parliament without a clear winner or a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
So far most opinion polls have given Boris Johnson’s Conservative party a comfortable lead of 37% against Labour’s 24%. With this kind of lead the Tories can be assured of a decisive majority in the House of Commons which would allow them to easily pass the Brexit deal negotiated by Johnson in Brussels.
The only reservation is that opinion polls are no longer accurate judging by previous results. A case in hand was the 2015 elections when pollsters suggested a hung parliament but Tories ended up with a majority. In the 2016 Referendum most polls predicted a victory for Remain but when the actual results came out, Leave was ahead with 51% while Remain was at 48.1%. In general, out of the 168 opinion polls conducted, only 16 predicted the accurate results.
Therefore, although the opinion polls have created a public perception of a possible Tory victory, the following factors are likely to play a great role in determining which party forms the next government.
Withdrawal from the EU has been a major electoral weapon by the two parties to win votes. Corbyn has promised that if Labour wins the elections he will renegotiate Johnson’s deal and put it to a referendum which would allow people to choose to leave or remain. He is, however, facing rebellion in his party where over 25 MPs have warned him that another referendum would be a waste of money and would result in the party losing its support base. Furthermore, some members of his party believe that Brexit should be cancelled and that Britain should remain in the EU. Corbyn is trying to avoid antagonising the two camps in his party by steering away from the Brexit debate and focusing more on other domestic issues such as the NHS to win votes.
Boris Johnson has abandoned his earlier threat of a no-deal in a well-calculated move by the Conservatives to attract Liberal Democrat party voters who are opposed to a second Brexit referendum, and also to allay fear among Remainers in the Conservative party who are considering voting for the Liberal Democratic party. Instead, the Prime Minister is pledging to deliver Brexit as soon as possible by passing his deal through parliament after elections. As the outgoing Culture Secretary told the Times: “If you vote Conservative at this election, you’re voting to leave with this deal, and no deal has been effectively been taken off the table.”
Pacts whether failed or successful will have a major influence on the outcome of the elections. One of the most discussed pacts was the one proposed by Nigel Farage, the leader of Brexit party, to Boris Johnson suggesting a “Leave alliance” between the two parties. His only condition was that Boris should drop his Brexit deal and in return the Brexit party would not field candidates in most Conservative constituencies. Unsurprisingly this proposal received the backing of US President Donald Trump who urged Boris and Nigel to join hands and form an “unstoppable force” to prevent Corbyn from taking over the premiership. However, the proposal was rejected by Boris who stated, that he wouldn’t enter into an election pact with any party. Farage reacted to Johnson’s refusal of his suggestion by announcing that his party would be fielding candidates in all constituencies during the elections. The likely effects of this on the final results of the election is that, leave votes will be divided between the Brexit party and Conservatives, thus allowing Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to form a government.
In Britain factors such as age, ethnicity, geographical location and social status are major predictors of vote choice. Labour is likely to receive its support from young people, lowly skilled workers, people who live in council estates, and ethnic minorities. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are likely to draw their support from the old professionals working in the private sector. This is due to different factors according to Dr James Tilley who teaches political science at the University of Oxford. For example, old people are more likely to vote Conservatives because as people age they become more conservative and resistant to change. Young people will vote for Labour because of the increasing social liberalism, and the growth of tertiary institutions that impact on liberal values. However, It is also worth noting that some voters in the categories mentioned above do not follow the trends and are likely to vote the opposite way.
Geographically, the Conservatives have always enjoyed support in Scotland and North East of England. Nevertheless, this support has been on the decline mainly because of its failure to adapt to changing social and economic circumstances in Scotland. Many opinion polls are currently predicting that the Conservatives are likely to lose almost all their seats in Scotland to the Scottish National Party.
The perception voters hold about a political party has a great influence on the election outcomes in Britain. The Conservative party has always been considered as the party of the rich and hostile to immigrants. Positively, the party has always been considered as a party that champions low taxation and also inspires economic growth. Its reputation as the party of the rich, coupled with high austerity measures it introduced in the wake of a recession, will deny it support among the low-income earners, and immigrants.
Labour, on the other hand, is known for championing for social justice, worker’s rights, and state intervention. That’s why it draws great support from the working class, ethnic minorities, immigrants, and low-income earners who partly depend on social support.
To attract voters from these groups, Johnson is planning to get rid of some elements of the austerity measures introduced by the previous conservative governments. He is promising to lift the freeze imposed on social benefits and also to raise working-age benefits.
The popularity of the candidates and how they address local issues will have an impact. Boris Johnson as the current Prime Minister offers his party incumbency advantage over Labour. Although this gives him a head start over Corbyn, their success at the elections will depend on how they perform on the campaign trail and their plan to address local issues such as security, health and housing. At the moment National Health Service (NHS) is one of the main campaign items, with Boris Johnson promising to inject £1.8billion cash in the scheme.
According to Johnson, £850m would go to repairing 20 hospitals in England and upgrading dilapidated facilities and equipment. Corbyn has countered the pledge by promising that he would remove all traces of privatisation from the NHS, and warning that Johnson is likely to sell the NHS to Trump in a post-Brexit trade which could cost £500m a week. Some voters will compare the policies of the two parties on such key issues, then decide on how to vote.