Labour is still going to lose this election – albeit by a smaller margin – so the real battle is the long-game between now and 2022.
When Theresa May called the election on April 18th, it was thought that the snap election would be a foregone conclusion. May was thought – by many Conservative and swing voters – to be Margaret Thatcher 2.0 in the making who oozed the strength, tenacity and resilience necessary to lead Britain into the brave new world after severing its ties with the EU. On the other hand, Jeremy Corbyn was perceived by the electorate as someone who deviated so far from the norms of British politics that voting for him was unthinkable and who was going to lead the Labour Party into certain oblivion, culminating in a generation of Tory hegemony.
This narrative was propagated by pundits across the political spectrum, and now it seems far from the truth. May – after repeatedly denying she would have an early election – called one on April 18th to capitalise on the Conservatives’ 23 point lead in the polls, thinking she could easily transpose the percentage points into a majority so large that the inevitably bad Brexit deal would pass through the Commons unopposed. This no longer seems to be the case; the Conservatives will likely increase their majority, but not to such an extent that this election won’t seem like a frivolous use of time, which has already begun to eat into the two-year time-frame allocated to Brexit negotiations. Additionally, this election cycle has exposed May for being a mediocre politician at best who is weak on a number of issues that the Conservatives’ have typically been strong on such as security and pensioner benefits.
Despite the shoddiness of the Conservatives’ election campaign, do not harbour any fantasies that Labour is heading for a surprise victory this week; don’t let the polls and newspapers with sensationalism as their business model fool you – Labour is going to lose. Let me apply a dose of realism cure you of your echo-chamber fuelled delusions. The odds are stacked in the Tories’ favour. The Conservatives have the advantage of incumbency – they benefit from the demographic make-up of the nation and have the reluctant support of a significant minority of the electorate. Human nature is distrustful of change, we crave the security of the familiar; it is in-built into our DNA to favour continuity and dislike disruption. In this case, although Theresa May and the Conservatives have made a series of unforced errors, the electorate will still favour her over drastic change, especially at a time of great national insecurity. One of the iron laws of British politics is that older people turn out and vote, and they overwhelmingly vote Tory. In 2015, 37 percent of 55-64-year-olds and 47 percent of 65+ voted Conservative, and each of them had a turnout of 77 and 78 percent respectively. Assuming this trend continues, the power of the grey vote will once again scupper Labour’s chances. All known evidence points to one certain outcome: Conservative victory.
Despite Labour’s impending loss, however, all hope is not lost. Labour may lose this battle, but they can still win the hearts and minds of the British public and seize power in 2022. This campaign has exposed the weakness of the Conservative party on several issues which have become increasingly pertinent throughout the election. Remember, May called this election in order to substantially increase her current majority of 17 to one of triple figures; anything less that this will be perceived by voters as a massive waste of time. Brenda, an elderly woman from Bristol, responded to the news of a snap election by saying “you’re joking, not another one? Oh for God’s sake I can’t stand this. There’s too much politics going on at the moment”. Brenda’s sentiments reflect the opinion of the majority of British voters who are suffering from democratic fatigue; they have been politically overwhelmed these past two years with the two general elections and a referendum. Therefore if May fails to achieve a wipe-out, it will be perceived by the public as a colossal waste of time and resources that could have been allocated to something more significant, like the Brexit negotiations, perhaps?
Since April 18th, May has successfully debunked her own myth that she projected to the public; her U-turn on a manifesto pledge, unprecedented in modern political history, refusal to debate the other party leaders or attend rallies which allow journalists to ask non-scripted questions have been the antithesis of strong and stable. Additionally, this campaign has also grounded abstract notions of austerity into people’s realities; the electorate is starting to make connections between de-funding of the police force and increased threat posed to society by terror organisations. Ultimately, it will diminish her and vicariously weaken her party’s reputation and they will enter the new Parliament on the back foot.
Labour was never going to win this snap election, it is still too divided and focused on internal issues. Nevertheless, If Labour capitalises upon the events of the past few weeks, they should be able to highlight the weakness of the Conservatives’ governance and the inevitable negative repercussions of pursuing a ‘Hard Brexit’. Through this, Labour can position themselves as the natural party of government for 2022.