Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is still comfortably ahead in the parliamentary election on Thursday, but his lead is narrowing. This could lead to a hung parliament and keep Johnson from maintaining his position as prime minister.
The last survey by YouGov before the polls open project the Conservatives to win as many as 376 seats, with 326 needed for an absolute majority. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party’s share of the vote will decline to 34 percent, or 231 seats while the Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats will win 41 and 15 seats respectively.
But Johnson’s majority has been shrinking the last 10 days as a scandal at NIH-administered hospitals has shone a spotlight on government mismanagement of health care. Corbyn has his own problems as an explosive story in the London Times about Labor’s failure to deal with anti-Semitism in the party has come to light.
But the bottom line is that Johnson needs that big majority to push through his Brexit plan.
Possible outcomes range from a landslide victory for Johnson to a hung parliament with no party in control, YouGov said, given the possibility of “tactical voting” in dozens of closely fought constituencies to deny a Conservative victory.
“It could not be tighter,” Johnson, the face of the Leave campaign in the 2016 referendum, said on Wednesday when asked about the opinion polls showing a tighter race. He delivered milk to voters before sunrise.
In a last minute pitch for votes, both Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn went on whistlestop tours of the country.
Corbyn called on voters to reject the politics of despair and division he said the Conservatives had sown and urged Britons to vote for justice and equality.
The key, according to one election analyst, is swing districts in Labor strongholds. If the party’s “Red Wall” shows some cracks, it will be a big night for the Conservatives.
Of Labour’s 50 most marginal seats, as many as 39 voted in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum. In 16, more than 60% voted Leave.
These leave-inclined marginals – in north-east Wales, the Midlands and the north of England – are said to form Labour’s “red wall”.
They are seats in which Labour came only narrowly ahead of the Conservatives in the 2017 election. Many, such as Bishop Auckland, Workington, and Wrexham, have traditionally been safe Labour seats. Indeed, some of them have never returned a Conservative in a post-war general election.
However, although none was won by the Conservatives in 2017, in many of them there was a marked swing in the party’s favour, making them marginal. This was part of a wider tendency for the Tories to advance most strongly in the most pro-Leave areas.
Brexit has scrambled British politics more than any other issue in recent memory. If the pro-Remain forces do better than expected and the Conservatives fall short of an outright majority, could there be a grand Remain coalition including Labor, the SNP, and LibDems, denying Johnson the prime minister’s office? The SNP’s price would be steep: Labor’s agreement to support another independence referendum for Scotland. This is unlikely but it’s a scenario that is not impossible to imagine.
More than likely, Johnson will get his pro-Brexit majority and be able to ram his plan through Parliament. That would be good news for Great Britain and the United States, which stands to benefit from a bilateral trade deal with the UK.
As for the EU, they will be left to pick up the pieces of a broken dream as other nations, encouraged by London’s example, following Britain to the exits.