Brexit – if UK retains two party system it could be LibDems vs Brexit

The first YouGov poll for the next general election gives the following for % party support, weighted for likelihood of voting (and excluding Northern Ireland where the Unionist parties allied with the Tories are likely to lose some seats to the Alliance party allied with the LibDems):

LibDem 25 (including Change UK 1), Brexit 23 (including UKIP 1), Lab 19, Tory 19, Green 8, Nats (Scots and Welsh together) 6.

The Scotch and Welsh Nationalists are both regional parties that will win seats in their regions. The Greens are not and won’t.

I think it is reasonably safe to assume that Change UK voters will switch to LibDem and UKIP to Brexit but that Green voters will vote to save the planet and Scotch and Welsh Nationalists will not influence seats outside the regions they dominate. So I am counting only the top four groups as above, plus either the Scotch or Welsh nationalists in their regions in detailed regional analysis below.

Details with regional breakdown:

Click to access TheTimes_190529_VI_Trackers_w.pdf

These poll results are a better reflection of likely votes at a general election than the EU election results and are, as expected, less catastrophic for the two previous “mainstream” parties of the two party system. But they are still catastrophic and at face value show both facing obliteration with a new pair comprising the future “two party” system with LibDems as the government and Brexit as the opposition. More careful study shows it is far worse for the Tories than for Labour, despite identical % votes at a national level because the regional differences matter a lot in a system of single member electorates.

This is immediately after the EU election and with 65% picking “Britain Leaving the EU” as among the 3 most important issues out of more than a dozen. If Brexit is resolved before a general election the collapse of the old parties may be less extreme. If it isn’t it may be more extreme. If ,as is most likely, a second referendum is held which results in Remain, the Tories are likely to be worse affected than Labour by their “failure”.

Detailed polling of individual seats towards the end of an election campaign will give a far better indication. But party support in the UK varies greatly by regions and the regional breakdown of this very early poll is of considerable interest.

The four main groups are in in the following order in each region. That order should be reflected in greatly amplified proportions of seats for the largest groups. If each region was completely homogenous the first group listed would win ALL the seats of that region in the absurd system of single member electorates:

London (LD 35, Lab 24, Brexit 18, Tory 14). That would be a VERY big swing to LD from both Lab and Tory, without much going to Brexit.

Rest of South (LD 33, Brexit 23, Tory 21, Lab 14). VERY big swing mainly to LD with some to Brexit mainly from Tories (with few Labor seats to lose and very few Tory seats left either).

London and especially the Rest of the South were strongly Remain so the Tories as well as Labour lost votes to the LibDems and the Brexit party gains least. Coming first in these two regions is sufficient to make LD one of the two “mainstream” parties of a two party system. Coming third and fourth does not necessarily give the Brexit party or the Tories any seats at all in London and coming third and fourth does not necessarily give the Tories and Labour any seats at all in the rest of the South.

North (Lab 29, Brexit 27, Tory 17, LibDem 16). Big swing from Labour to Brexit in a Labour stronghold. This would still leave Labour as the slightly larger party in that region and therefore as a surviving major party while not leaving many seats for Tories or LibDems.

Midlands/Wales (Brexit 29, Tory 21, Lab 19, LibDem 18, PCY 6). Big swing to Brexit at expense of both Tories and Labour. Coming first in this one region is sufficient to ensure the Brexit party becomes a major party.

Scotland (SNP 44, Tory 19, LibDem 12, Lab 12, Brexit 8). Even more of an SNP stronghold with very few seats left for others.

So Tories would not be a major party in ANY region. LD likely to be strongest and form coalition government with Labour and SNP. Brexit party likely to be the main opposition, with more seats than Labour. Any Tories would only be a minor party and not the official opposition.

Even Labour might think it would now be better off with Proportional Representation! The Tories certainly would. This is the best opportunity yet for an end to the two party system as majority of current MPs now stand to lose from it.

Labour’s tactics of remaining ambiguous about Brexit have given it a good chance of surviving as one of three major parties following a general election while getting rid of the Tories. It could even lead a coalition government with LibDems as junior partner although it currently looks more likely to be the junior partner initially along with Scotch and Welsh nationalists. This is because it is still marginally the largest party in the North, as a result of retaining most of its Leave supporters, at the cost of alienating Labour Remain supporters defecting to LibDems and Greens in London and the south (which were previously Tory strongholds and are now currently LibDem strongholds). The Brexit party would dominate Wales and the midlands as well as picking up other seats from the Tories in London and the South while the Tories would not be the largest party in ANY region and therefore unlikely to remain relevant as either part of a government coalition or as a major opposition party.

This poll is quite consistent with a detailed survey earlier this year that concluded there was space for two new major parties to emerge with policies similar to those of the LibDems and Brexit party. It is worth studying the detailed links at the end of the report below. Looks to me like those two parties have very carefully positioned themselves accordingly:

The space for a new party isn’t just in the centre of politics

My expectation was that as well as surviving, unlike the Tories, Labour would remain more important than the LibDems because the surge towards LibDems was a specific response to Labour’s ambiguity at the EU elections. It is early days but so far it looks like the LibDems could become more important than Labour and the Brexit party at least comparable to it.

Greg Sheridan had shut up about Brexit for a while but is now back in The Australian Thursday 2015-05-30, p12. He is no longer explicitly saying that both “No Brexit” and a “No Deal Brexit” are equally likely but manages to convey the impression that the results of the EU election were a great victory for his own views:

“But the plain fact is that Eurosceptic parties fiercely critical of the EU won the EU parliament elections in Britain, France and Italy”.

As far as I know the right wing nationalist party in France dropped its policy to leave the EU and never had such a policy in Italy. As for the UK, here’s the actual swing in seats out of 73 in the two recent elections for UK MEPs:

Eurosceptic parties (Tory, Brexit, UKIP, DUP, UUP):

2014: 19, 0, 24, 1, 1 total 45

2019: 4, 29, 0, 1, 0 total 34

That is a major swing against them.

Big swing to Brexit party increased by 5 over previous incarnation as UKIP was dwarfed by collapse of Tory party from 19 to 4.

It is so blindingly obvious that there is no possibility of “No Deal” now that Greg Sheridan merely claims:

“The British electorate has understood in a way May never has, that the only coherent choice now is a no-deal Brexit or staying in the EU after all”.

Actually that is precisely what May said was the necessary result of the inevitable rejection of the ridiculous proposals for BRINO as a vassal state of the EU whereas Sheridan was saying “nobody knows”.

Two months ago Sheridan said:

Only one prediction is certain: the Brexit mess, which has already exhausted the patience of the British public, has a long way to run.

Now he says:

“The next weeks, with the election of a new Conservative leader and therefore prime minister, will be crucial in British history”.

Ending the two party system by introducing PR would indeed be a significant development, but he certainly hasn’t got that possibility in mind or he would have mentioned it.

I cannot guess what he thinks might change about the UK Parliament’s adamant rejection of “No Deal” as a result of the temporary appointment as Prime Minister of the leader of a party that has collapsed to 19% of the vote and that lost control of the House months ago.

Neither can he, or he would have blithered about it.

But if the “next weeks” will be crucial he must at least no longer be “certain” that the Brexit mess “has a long way to run”.

4 thoughts on “Brexit – if UK retains two party system it could be LibDems vs Brexit

  1. Brexit party support has probably been underestimated in above poll as they only asked about it if voter responded “Other” to list of the old major parties.

    Today’s poll has:

    Brexit 27 (including UKIP), Labor 22, Tory 17, LibDem 17 (including Change UK), SNP 4, Plaid Cymru 1 (Welsh nationalists – Remain)

    I haven’t looked at the details and don’t know if weighted for likely voters or regional distribution. But above margin would give Brexit party close to a parliamentary majority and Tories close to wipeout with a “Grand Coalition” needed to keep Brexit party as Opposition rather than government. Another route to PR.


  2. Great that it was published!

    Sadly the comment pages there are largely useless. I recognize the first 3 commentators as “regulars” who create an atmosphere that makes discussion pointless.

    I don’t want to post comments there but it would be useful if you added links to the rest of the Brexit series here.


  3. Pingback: Brexit – stumbling towards a “Final Say” | C21st Left

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