Well apples and pears, bless ’em all, eyes down for a full house, it’s only the bloody British election, innit?
In three days — the results will start coming through Friday morning Australian time (half-hour earlier in Adelaide, 1973 in Perth) — the Great British Public will know if they are heading for a new period of conflict and instability, or a new period of instability and conflict.
Currently, Boris Johnson and the Conservative and Unionist Party is leading by anything from eight to 12 points, depending on the poll, having come in from a lead as high as 18 points by some polls. Labour is badly lagging on 33%, the Lib-Dems are back down to 13%, the Scottish Nationalist Party is hoping for a clean sweep once again, and the Brexit Party — the new Farage/Revolutionary Communist Party outfit — has collapsed to around 3% as Johnson’s strong pro-leave position drags Leavers back into the Tory fold.
The campaigns have been scrappy, messy and self-discrediting, with Boris and the Tories having the clear advantage of a simple message: get Brexit done. Boris has made himself over into a strong pro-Leaver in the public image, despite having once publicly dithered about it. Labour is led by a left Leaver at the head of a Remain parliamentary party and membership, and a split Leave/Remain voter base.
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Boris’ policy is to end, as quickly as possible, a process that has become a national agony, and at no matter the cost. Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s policy is to negotiate a new exit deal they won’t campaign for when they put it to a second referendum everyone is dreading. Sweet policy, dude.
Boris’ policy and leadership team, led by ex-Revolutionary Communist Party member Munira Mirza, has succeeded in switching the party away from “free market” austerity to a nation growth/Promethean pitch, which has somewhat pulled the platform out from under Labour.
That has left the Tories free to focus on Brexit as a means to getting other stuff done, while Labour has to argue both its kludged-up Brexit position, and attack the Tories on the NHS, etc. It’s a tricky thing to do, and Jeremy Corbyn is not the “Absolute Boy” of the 2017 election, when Brexit served to protect him from internal party conflict (on immigration, Corbyn — an internationalist — could simply say that “we will respect the referendum result” and that was enough for Labour’s Anglo-nativist voters).
What he has spent the last two years doing is keeping the party in one piece by pursuing a strategy that appears diffident and indecisive compared to Johnson’s bluster. But Boris had the luxury that the Tory party is substantially in the Leave camp, and could afford to let go/sack 30 or so Remainers in its ranks. Labour is split down the middle.
Corbyn has also been battered by anti-Semitism charges, initially against the party and now against Corbyn himself. Corbyn and the leadership can be faulted for not realising that Labour’s huge new intake had trawled in bog-standard anti-Semites, as part of the general spread of the phenomenon, and he was careless in some instances (such as not taking a careful look at an anti-Semitic protest mural, which he defended from being painted over, thinking it merely anti-globalisation).
But the campaign has gone from hysterical to psychotic to brain melt in recent weeks — fed within Labour by a right faction furious at losing party control, and from without by electoral calculation.
The truth is, as with 2017 and 2015, we don’t know how the election will go. That the Tories are the largest party seems without doubt, but beyond that… well… the UK now has the most variable-ridden electoral system in da house — voluntary voting, multiple major parties, first past the post voting, single-member constituencies, a 2:1 spread on constituency-size variation, and weekday voting.
To this can be added a major issue cutting party lines; grandees on both sides campaigning against their own outfits; well-organised tactical voting; and an edge-of-winter election on the ninth shortest day of the year two weeks before Christmas. Any more for any more?
The chances of a Labour majority are low to none (if that happens, just shoot polling — it’s over). But the Tories are up against everyone. Even the Democratic Unionist Party hates them now.
So if the national overall lead figure is not catching residual party loyalty in Labour seats (making them less flippable than it appears) and underestimating Remain-voter tactical switching and turnout-suppressing factors (the old and the cold, for example), then the Tories could fall short.
Labour actually needs only 250 seats to cobble together a Coalition — say, 50 Scottish National Party seats, 15 to 20 Lib Dems and five to 10 minors — once the Tories have tried and failed to form government (if Boris can’t get the DUP back).
But on the other hand Boris might blitz it, and send Labour south towards 200. Even better, the UK count only gets going at about 10pm, and goes all night, so it always goes haywire from exhaustion. Stop off at a supermarket near a backpackers’ and pick up some of their range of sad British comfort foods — pickled sprog, arggghmite, gruffnut crisps — and make a morning of it!
Ere we go, ere we go, ere we go! Eyes down — for an irremediably hung Commons and a new poll in six months. Oi!
Tomorrow, the campaign: lies, pies and the boy on the hospital floor.
Does Labour have any chance at the ballot box, or are we in for more of Boris’ Britain? Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name for publication.