With one week to go before the election it is becoming less and less clear as to whether Prime Minister Theresa May’s move to capitalise on polling popularity will have paid off.
From the heady spring polls where the Conservatives enjoyed a 22 point lead many in the party has been calling for a snap election to boost the number of seats held and secure continuous governance throughout the Brexit negotiations and the short term subsequent destabilisation.
May’s personal popularity combined with the Conservative Party’s popularity in comparison to Labour Leader Jeremey Corbyn’s left-wing ideology, which has been divisive within his own party, left most anticipating a Conservative landslide.
The Conservative Party has been frequently described as the most successful political party in modern western democracy. It’s the oldest political party in the world, a well-oiled machined first dominating the Parliament in the 1880s. Labour, by contrast, is a party in turmoil, where the leadership, bolstered by its blooming membership and not one but two mandates, has found itself split and at odds with its own Members of Parliament.
Electoral success seemed almost inevitable for May. And yet the closer we move to the election, the less certain the outcome looks. Crucially, this seems to have relatively little to do with a strong Labour campaign. There have been a range of Labour gaffes demonstrating a disconcerting lack of preparedness by the leadership – both Jeremey Corbyn and Diane Abbott have been raked across the coals for disastrous policy launches. This has, however, always been Therese May’s election to lose. From an audacious bid to gain the whole of the centre ground with energy bill caps to tighter immigration, May’s pick and mix attitude to policies could have been successful were it not for the care home cost announcements. A u-turn on a political manifesto before a party had reached power appeared to be the first of its kind, and has been greeted with incredulity by the public. The latest in a series of policy changes, May’s premiership is looking weaker and less decisive than ever before.
Brexit looms over this election, and is one of May’s strongest arguments for a Conservative vote. The Liberal Democrats have appeared to misjudge the mood of the nation by focussing on resisting Brexit, alienating their West Country voters and significant proportions of the 48% who voted to remain in the EU but do not think there should be another referendum. The SNP look set to continue their stronghold on Scotland although a few seats may return to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The latest polls show a real mix of fortunes, but what is clear is that a Conservative landslide is unlikely and an increased majority is no-longer a given. This week’s YouGov poll, based on current voter intention, suggests that the Conservatives would lose seats resulting in a hung Parliament where neither a Conservative/Liberal Democrat nor a Labour/SNP would be able to form a majority Government. While it’s possible this poll is an outlier and may well spur voters to turn back to the Conservatives to avoid a Labour victory, it is clear that this election is not the smooth sailing May expected when she called this snap election.