Dr Hugh Pemberton
Reader in Contemporary British History, University of Bristol, Department of History
Writing on the morning after the election, the fog of war has lifted to reveal a battlefield on which all sides are claiming victory but nobody has actually won.
Others more prescient than me wondered before the election if it did not have a whiff of another ‘snap election’ – 1974.
It turns out they were right.
Then Ted Heath went to the country to secure a strong mandate to deal with an issue of national importance (in those days, union power) but found that he ended up with fewer not more MPs.
Ted held on in No.10 for a while but eventually Labour formed a minority government.
But the arithmetic and the politics this time are not those of 1974.
Screenshot of UK General Election 207 results, taken from BBC News website.
The British prime minister Theresa May called a snap general election in the expectation that it will deliver her a substantially increased parliamentary majority. This in turn would give her the “strong and stable government” she hopes for as she enters the crucial Brexit negotiations.
So far, opinion polls suggest that the Conservatives have a large lead over Labour. But in order to attain the desired majority, they need to win a substantial number of seats from Labour. There were, however, fewer marginal seats following the 2015 general election than after any previous election since World War II – just 42, for example, where Labour won by a majority of less than ten percentage points over the Conservatives.
If the Conservatives were to win all of them, they would have 374 MPs in the new parliament compared to Labour’s 195 and a majority over all parties of 98.
So how winnable are those 42 seats? The likelihood of many Labour voters from 2015 switching to the Conservatives in 2017 is small, so the Conservatives will have to gain most of the extra votes from other sources. One likely source is those who last time voted for UKIP. Continue reading