Sunday, April 30, 2017

It's on!

Theresa May announcing the general election - Getty Images
On a move that even shocked members of her cabinet, Prime Minister Theresa May has called a general election in the United Kingdom that will be held on June 8. Since becoming prime minister after the resignation of David Cameron and the Brexit vote, May has told the country that she is guaranteeing a departure from the European Union.

Since then, things haven't been always going smoothly. This is partly the result of the 2015 general election. The Conservative Party managed to win a surprising majority, but it was still very narrow. The Conservatives only lead by four seats in the House of Commons. You need 326 members to hold a majority. Here's the numbers as of now:

Conservative Party (Theresa May) - 330
Labour Party (Jeremy Corbyn) - 229
Scottish Nationalists (Nicola Sturgeon) - 56
Liberal Democrats (Tim Farron) - 8
DUP (Arlene Foster) - 8
Sinn Fein (Gerry Adams) - 4
Party of Wales (Leanne Wood) - 3
SDLP (Colum Eastwood) - 3
UUP (Mike Nesbitt) - 2
Green Party (Caroline Lucas) - 1
UKIP (Paul Nuttall) - 1

The reasons she called a general election are obvious. Theresa May is widely popular and the Conservatives now hold double-digit leads over Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party. If she continues to lead in the double-digits, then she could enter the House of Commons after June 8 with a massive Conservative majority of over 100 seats. It's a gamble, but in my view only an idiot wouldn't call an early general election with soaring poll numbers.

Since her announcement, it is true that the Conservative Party's lead has reduced slightly, but this is not too significant at the moment. The latest poll from YouGov/Sunday Times poll has them up by a margin of 13 percent, with 44 percent of the vote to Labour's 31 percent. Another poll from ICM/Sun on Sunday indicates the Conservatives with a 19 percent lead over Labour (47 percent to 28 percent).

Though these margins are smaller than before she made the election announcement (she often led by margins of 20 percent or more), her party still performs better than Tony Blair's Labour Party in 1997, which won by a margin of 12.5 percent. She also runs better than Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives in the 1983 general election, which won by a margin of 14.8 percent.

In many ways, this election looks a lot like 1983. A popular female prime minister who leads the Conservative Party is going up against an elderly leftist leading Labour. This election might just end up being a reenactment.

Labour itself is going to find it difficult to climb back up and control Westminster. This is partly because of the Scottish Nationalists. Currently, the Conservatives are set to make gains in Scotland rather than Labour. The Scottish Conservatives, led by Ruth Davidson, are unlikely to win the most seats in the northern region of the United Kingdom, but they are expected to make a breakthrough that has not been achieved since all their seats were lost in 1997.

With Labour no longer appealing in Scotland, it will be difficult to make any gains. Then there's what's happening with UKIP, which looks like it will lose about half their supporters to the Conservatives. This is because May is guaranteeing the country Brexit. It makes more sense to back the party in power, even if UKIP was instrumental in pushing Britain towards leaving the European Union.

The Liberal Democrats might make gains from their massacre in 2015 and they have decided to position themselves as the only anti-Brexit party. This could peel votes on the left away from Labour, another thorn in the side of Corbyn's campaign.

Lastly, the Labour Party's own supporters aren't even that loyal. This is largely because of Corbyn's weak leadership and his left-wing ideology. By moving away from the center, many moderates (people who strongly supported the party under Blair) are not willing to support Corbyn. Simultaneously, polling data has found that working class voters are abandoning the party in droves for the Conservatives in addition to their support among middle class voters.

May's decision to hold a snap general election is a gamble, but it is a very good gamble. With her poll numbers high, it looks like she will sail easily into Downing Street. Yes, she has some faults. She is very repetitive (sort of brings up memories of Marco Rubio) and might not hold the line on taxes, but has very easy opponents. It looks good for the Conservatives, with the election just over a month away.

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