In today’s edition of The Times, it was claimed that if a general election was held today, Theresa May and the Conservative Party would win a majority in Parliament. Well, sort of. With 321 seats, as the projection suggested, the party would only have a working majority, as Sinn Fein don’t take their seats in parliament.
This was based on a YouGov poll, similar to the style they used to (pretty accurately) predict a hung parliament in 2017, which puts the Conservatives five points ahead of Labour on 39% and 34% respectively.
So, that’s a clear route to breaking the deadlock over Brexit, right? Well, no.
Firstly, YouGov’s poll putting the Tories five points ahead is a lot higher than the average. According to Britain Elects, the average lead the Conservatives have is just over one percent ahead of Labour – a much narrower race. Project that into actual seats (with some help from Electoral Calculus) and you end up with a bit of a nightmare scenario. The Conservatives lose 13 seats, Labour gain 2, with the Lib Dems and the SNP gaining six more each. The Conservatives remain the largest party, but 21 seats short and with no clear partner to support them. With the DUP on only 10 and the Lib Dems on 18 and unwilling to help out, it could fall on Labour to form a government, which could end up relying on several parties for support – not a basis for the strong government needed to handle Brexit.
And this is with a poll that still puts the Conservatives ahead. Others that put the two main parties neck and neck or with Labour in front result in situations where, in all probability, they may find themselves unable to make the numbers add up. All of which does not account for how the polls may act during an election campaign (let’s not forget predictions of a Tory landslide in 2017!)
Even if YouGov’s poll was completely accurate, there is still another problem. May’s divided party means that governing even by a majority of one is not a majority at all. With over 100 of her own MPs no longer willing to back her, she would need a majority on a Blairite scale to even come close to having a real majority to pass Brexit with.
Whichever way you look at it, with the closeness of the polls and deep divisions in both political parties on this most fundamental issue, there is no doubt that a general election – whatever its result – would cause more issues than it would resolve.