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This is the Brexit election. That won’t be good for everyone

April 18, 2017

This will be the Brexit election. Labour may try to ignore the issue – judging by Jeremy Corbyn’s initial reaction – and shift the focus to the NHS, austerity and living standards but they will remain minor issues. It will be about Brexit. The fate of parties and individual MPs will hang on how they play this divisive, toxic issue.

Tories

The Tory manifesto will commit them to a hard, uncompromising Brexit. This will suit those MPs in favour of leaving the European Union but it will be a tough campaign for those who backed Remain and who might be feeling the hot breath of the Lib Dem passion for Europe on their necks.

The two big prizes to be gained for backing Brexit will be winning back votes lost to UKIP in the last two elections and potentially gaining large numbers of anti-EU Labour voters, although I can’t see that actually delivering many Labour seats into Tory hands.

The Tory strategy, especially regarding the Lib Dems, is likely to remain fairly fluid until after the local elections in the first week of May. Any hint of a major Lib Dem revival will see them commit significant resources to the constituencies deemed to be most under threat with blunt accusations about ignoring the will of the people. If that doesn’t happen then they will likely extend their targeting of vulnerable Labour seats.

Labour

The only thing that could have been worse for Labour would have been if Theresa May had waited until the boundary review was completed. By undoing the gerrymandering of the Blair government this threatens to wipe out dozens of Labour seats. New boundaries or old, Labour is in complete disarray: all over the place on Brexit, crippled by infighting and with an organisation that is incapable of managing the office tea round let alone a General Election.

All the signs are that Corbyn will stubbornly stick to his anti-austerity agenda. This may be very worthy but surely he hasn’t the ability to drag the campaign away from its Brexit core? If there is a little caution in answering that question it is because of the way he triumphed against the odds twice in Labour leadership elections.

It is still hard to see Labour doing anything other than losing 20 to 30 seats, mainly to the Tories who will work hard to attract anti-EU Labour voters.

Liberal Democrats

Tim_Farron

Farron: big test for inexperienced leader

The strong anti-Brexit stance of Tim Farron has already brought the Lib Dems electoral success in Richmond Park and is likely to do so in other former Lib Dem seats. They should regain several of the seats they lost in the 2015 meltdown, especially where they can exploit strong pro-EU sympathies against an equivocating or Brexit supporting Tory MP. The hopes of many in the party of emerging with 50 to 60 seats seem wildly optimistic at this stage: half that number would represent a major success.

The election has probably come too soon for their over-stretched organisation to exploit Labour’s potential vulnerability in some urban seats over its hesitant response to Brexit.

The biggest unknown is how the relatively inexperienced Farron will perform and whether he can impose himself on the campaign from a very weak position.

UKIP

Virtually leaderless and with its main paymaster having gone off in a huff this election could mark the end of UKIP as an even vaguely credible political force. They will find their vote relentlessly squeezed by the Tories and even with Labour performing poorly it is very hard to see any prospect of the once much trumpeted UKIP threat in Labour heartlands amounting to anything.

SNP

The SNP will remain the dominant force in Scotland, the only question being just how dominant? The strong pro-EU majority in Scotland won’t be easily attracted to the Tories and Labour hasn’t done anything to win back its once loyal voters. The Lib Dems could take back a couple of seats with their anti-Brexit, pro-Union message but we can be certain of a strong SNP presence at Westminster for several more years.

There will be twists and turns, the odd rogue opinion polls and possibly some shockwaves from the French presidential elections but as the starting gun is fired on a seven week campaign the smart money has to be on May being re-elected with an increased – but not overwhelming – majority and a renewed mandate for a hard Brexit.

From → Politics

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