Next week, voters across the country will go to the polls to decide who they want to run the country for the next five years (provided there isn’t another snap election). Currently the polls vary from a six point lead for the Conservatives to as much as 19 points ahead of Labour.
So what elections might the exit poll on December 12 look similar to, and what might the outcome be if those results happened today? Here are three possibilities:
2010 – Hung parliament
Although the hung parliament of 2010 surprised almost nobody, the fallout from the result was unprecedented for many decades, with a coalition government being formed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
A possible situation similar to 2010 could be the Conservatives gaining some seats from Labour but failing to keep hold of enough seats in Scotland against the SNP for an overall majority.
A deal with the Liberal Democrats would come at the cost of a second referendum, which the Tories would be unlikely to agree to, and the DUP would be unlikely to support the government with its current Brexit deal. The only alternative would be a Labour-led government but, like 2010, there would be questions over whether the party could find the numbers to be able to govern.
2015 – Slim Conservative majority
In an election where the polls tightened in the run-up to polling day, the Conservatives pulled off a surprise majority after taking seats from their former coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
In a 2019 context, a result very similar to 2015 is well within the realms of possibility, with the Conservatives keeping hold of seats in Scotland, seeing off the threat from the Liberal Democrats in the south of England, and making some in roads into Labour marginals in the Midlands and the north of England.
A majority of 12 would give Prime Minister Johnson just enough clearance to get his Brexit agenda through the House of Commons, but would leave him vulnerable to rebellions as the government moves towards its domestic proposals for the country. In particular, the Conservatives’ plans for a large increase in public spending could face enough opposition from more economically right-wing Tory backbenchers to cause the government to backtrack.
1983: Conservative landslide
Thatcher and the Conservatives, facing an openly socialist agenda presented by Labour, swept to a second term in office in 1983. Labour were left with (currently) their worst post-war election result, having lost 60 seats, and it took the party three more elections and three party leaders before Labour became re-electable once again.
Labour could face a similar defeat next week if the party is unable to defend their ‘red wall’ of seats in the north and constituencies in Wales from the Conservatives, as well as making losses to the SNP and the Liberal Democrats in seats like Cambridge.
Such a result, a majority of 80, would be unprecedented for a party going into a third term of office, particularly given the gains made by the governing party after almost a decade in office.
Looking ahead to 2024…
The likely outcome of the general election is a Conservative government with some form of majority. Should the next election take place in 2024, as planned, the Tories would have been in office for 14 years – comparable to that of Labour when they lost power in 2010.
By the next election, Johnson would have lost his ability to position himself as the voice of change and unable to distance himself from the administration of previous years, as he has done in this campaign. Meanwhile, Labour will be fighting the election (almost certainly) with a different leader and without the same baggage that Jeremy Corbyn has brought into the current election.
Whilst next Thursday’s election could result in a 1983-style defeat for Labour, 2024 could hold the potential for a 1997-style comeback should Brexit cause economic hardship and spending promises by the Conservatives fail to materialise.