With one day to go before the 2017 General Election, the squeeze across the opinion polls appears to have bottomed out. In spite of the media frenzy over Corbyn’s apparent successful campaign (admittedly against low expectations), we still expect a Conservative majority Government to be returned on 9 June. Opinium’s final poll, released on Tuesday, has the Conservatives on 43% and Labour on 36% – a lead of 7 points. This, based on uniform national swing would give the Conservatives a 52 seat majority in the Commons. We think this is a fair assessment. Indeed, there is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that the Labour campaign outside London is in real difficulties, with many seats till now thought safe still in play. Lansons is therefore predicting a majority for Theresa May of between 50 and 80 seats.
Despite a poor campaign, a victory of this scale for the Tories can be explained by virtue of the fact that the fundamental landscape still favours the party, and reports on the ground suggest that sufficient Labour marginal seats – particularly in the North – are likely to fall. Although Corbyn has done a decent job of stiffening the Labour vote in areas like London – so Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) is expected to retain her seat – the party is clearly in real trouble outside London, with seats such as Bolsover (Dennis Skinner) quite likely to go to the Conservatives. Labour look likely to capture City Minister Simon Kirby’s seat (Brighton Kemptown) – but this will probably be a lone triumph.
Despite increasing the Conservative majority, Theresa May risks returning to office a diminished figure. Her performance has been widely criticised and her team have been blamed for a catastrophic manifesto which has clearly dented chances of a larger victory. In particular, anything below 50 seats will be looked upon as a marked failure. This would limit her freedom for manoeuvre (for example, in reshuffling her top team) and may ultimately shorten her time in office unless she dramatically changes her management style to ensure she retains the support of her Cabinet.
Given Corbyn’s unexpectedly strong performance, we expect him to remain in position unless the Conservative result dramatically exceeds expectations. Despite expected seat losses, the hard left will present their campaign as a victory in the face of a range of handicaps, including the ‘biased’ media and a divided party. The party membership will likely rally behind him, giving him the freedom to continue remaking the party in his image – with real questions around the long-term viability of Labour as an electoral force.