Election 2017: The Headland half-time report

The Headland half-time report

Only three weeks to go. After the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, a General Election in 2015, the Brexit referendum last year and now another General Election campaign, you can understand why many swathes of the British population are drained by the prospect of another three weeks of campaigning. But, with the manifestos now published, we’re not far from the finishing line. So, let’s take stock to see where the parties stand against their objectives.

Shifting shades of May

Theresa May will be disappointed by the latest polls. Her lead is still big but, to the surprise of many, it is being eroded by Labour, particularly since the party manifestos were published last week. The reasons behind this shift are complex. There is little doubting the Prime Minister’s popularity over Jeremy Corbyn. And her strategy of taking her tanks onto the red Labour lawns of the North of England had initially paid dividends. But criticism around the Tory “U-turn” over social care plans has set off something of the midpoint wobble for the Conservatives. Make no mistake, May needs a big majority, both to justify her decision to go to the polls and in the context of steering a pathway through complex Brexit negotiations.

Will it really be Mayday for Corbyn?

The talk is that Corbyn is focusing on the share-of-the vote percentage as the core metric, with the theory that if he hits 30 per cent or more, his position as Labour leader is safe post 8th June. Under Ed Miliband’s leadership, the party polled 31.2 per cent of the vote in 2015 and Labour moderates will be increasingly alarmed that Corbyn’s hard-left manifesto commitments seems to have struck a chord with many. But Corbyn’s approach does ignore some basic arithmetic which many will jump on. First, a loss in seats. The predicted 10 per cent swing of voters from Labour to Conservative would lead to the loss of a significant number of Labour seats in Parliament. Secondly, this could still arguably be an even worse performance for Labour since the combined share of the two main parties is at a recent high of 78 per cent according to current polls. With small parties so weak, Labour should be picking up more of their disenchanted voters.

Small comfort

And this leads to the one big story of this campaign – the decline of the smaller parties. In recent election campaigns, we’ve become accustomed to surges in popularity from one of the smaller parties (e.g. Lib Dems in 2010, UKIP in 2015). This time round, the share of the vote of the smaller parties is falling: UKIP are obliterated; the Lib Dems are flailing in their Remain wind; the SNP look like they will lose seats; and the Greens yet again are not cutting it in a UK campaign.