As Parliament dissolves and campaigning for next month’s general election begins in earnest, Boris Johnson and the Conservatives are very much the favourites. Current opinion polls suggest that the government will not only get a majority but their largest since the days of Thatcher.
However, the stark contrast between polling at the start of the last election and the final result is still present in the minds of many, with suggestions that December’s election will result in another hung parliament.
There are many reasons to see how this is not out of the realms of possibility.
Firstly, Johnson wanted to call this election two months ago, with a pitch to the electorate of leaving the EU on October 31st with or without a deal. Now, as December 12th approaches, the Prime Minister will be going to the public after breaking his promise of not calling for an extension to Article 50 and with a deal that will be open to criticism.
As well as this, Johnson’s claim of being the party to ‘save Brexit’ will also appear pretty hollow, considering he managed to get a majority of votes in Parliament to push his Withdrawal Agreement Bill to a second reading. The only reason why the deal has not passed is due to Johnson pulling the bill so it could not progress further.
Among those who have been the biggest critics of Johnson’s Brexit deal is the Brexit Party under Nigel Farage. In his party launch, he was extremely critical of the deal as not being Brexit, and his pledge to stand in every seat in Great Britain could pose a serious threat to the Conservatives. A strong vote for the Brexit Party among leave voters will hit both main parties to different degrees and will cause the Tories to lose their potential monopoly on leave votes.
But then there is a challenge in an election that the Conservatives wouldn’t face in a second referendum; Brexit will not be the only issue voters will be asked to decide on and all the parties will have their own manifestos on issues that face the country that can be picked apart.
Only two years ago, Theresa May tried to call a Brexit election which backfired in dramatic style, with the party getting caught in controversy over its so-called ‘dementia tax’ manifesto policy.
While the Conservatives perform best on Brexit, Labour is strongest campaigning on the range of other issues and will make the most of interventions from Donald Trump and leaked documents regarding trade deals involving the NHS to convince voters the Tories cannot be trusted with the health service.
At the election, the Tories will not only have to gain seats to win a majority, but they will also have to make up seats they will likely lose in Scotland to the SNP and across England to the Liberal Democrats, in places like Cheltenham, Lewes and the south west of England. A Remain alliance, looking to challenge the Conservatives in 60 seats, could also result in a greater number of seats the party will need to flip to win a majority in Parliament.
Johnson is pinning his hopes on winning seats held by Labour for decades, which voted leave at the referendum. Whilst he may have some chance of winning some of these, polling has suggested that only one sixth of Labour leave voters feel Brexit is an important issue for them, and there is a possibility that these voters will favour Labour over Johnson and his promise to ‘get Brexit done’.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, almost half of the electorate now fall into the category of ‘floating voters’, meaning that regardless of what the polls show now, the election campaign will be essential in determining how a large proportion of voters will cast their ballot.
The Conservative Party may be buoyant at the current state of the polls but, like Theresa May before him, Johnson is making a big gamble that may not pay off.