This high-stakes Brexit election of gambles is currently too tough to call

With the party manifestos now released, the respective party positions on Brexit remain an area of contention. 

The Labour Party – sticking with its position of “Brexit triangulation” – have pledged to renegotiate the UK’s withdrawal deal with the EU if it is elected to power, and subsequently put this new deal to the British people in a referendum (with the option of remaining in the EU being offered). 

Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s central hope is this: when it comes to the crunch, it will not be “Brexit identity” which plays a decisive factor in how people vote. It will be anxieties over the inequalities reproduced by market capitalism, the chipping away of workers’ rights, under-resourced public services, and the botched roll-out of universal credit, which will help Labour win deprived Remain-voting seats in Britain’s “core cities”, as well as Leave-leaning constituencies in the deindustrialised provinces. Enough seats to end Boris Johnson’s brief reign as Conservative prime minister.

And in his defence, there is evidence which suggests that the core tenets of “Corbynomics” enjoy their fair share of public support. But this strategy is fraught with problems. Pro-Brexit habitual Labour voters in the provincial Midlands, Northern England and Wales, are very likely to hold such anxieties over market capitalism and provision of public services. But they are also likely to share little common “cultural ground” with Labour. Are their anxieties over issues such as immigration and crime well represented by the party? How satisfied are they with Labour’s approach to Brexit? In addition to this, while Corbynomics may be reasonably popular, Jeremy Corbyn’s personal leadership ratings have plunged well into the depths of negative territory. 

A recent Centre for Towns/YouGov study showed that Labour was trailing the Conservatives in “ex-industrial towns” by 5 percentage points. Recent polls in Brexit-voting, Labour-held constituencies such as Workington and Great Grimsby make for positive reading – for the Conservative Party. In a recent YouGov poll, the Conservative advantage over Labour is stronger among C2DE voters, when compared to voters in the ABC1 social grade. Quite remarkably, it also shows that the Conservative share of support is higher among C2DEs than it is within the ABC1 bloc.  

For the Tories, who have consistently enjoyed double-digit percentage-point leads over Labour in broader national polling, the formula is clear for the remainder of their campaign: press on with its central “Get Brexit Done” message, adopt an understanding attitude towards the economic anxieties held across working-class Leave-voting territory, and present Corbyn-led Labour as a fundamental liability in three specific areas – immigration, crime and national security. 

If the Conservatives successfully articulate an uplifting, patriotic “Red Tory” vision for a post-Brexit Britain – well-funded public services, ambitious state investment in infrastructure projects, a regimented points-based immigration system, the introduction of tougher sentences, and a robust British defence policy – Labour could find themselves in a world of trouble. Whether or not this happens, however, remains to be seen. 

There really is no room for the complacency for the Conservatives. A recent YouGov poll showed a 9 percentage-point spike for Labour’s share of support in Wales (with a 6 percentage point lead over the Tories), with an ICM Unlimited poll showing a narrowing of the Tory national lead to only 7 percentage points. 

There is the possibility that a growing number of left-leaning Remainers – who are constantly being reminded of Jo Swinson’s parliamentary voting record under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition – may be able to stomach Labour’s position on Brexit. There is also the possibility of pro-Leave voters in former coal mining and steel communities which have not fared well under free-market globalism and seriously felt the pinch under austerity, reaching a personal compromise on Brexit and voting for Labour in order to end nine years of Tory-led rule. 

In a volatile and unpredictable electoral marketplace, this high-stakes election of gambles is simply too tough to call. 

If Labour manages to win enough seats to cobble together a “second-referendum alliance” which commands a parliamentary majority, Jeremy Corbyn will be walking into Number 10 as the UK’s new Prime Minister – with Boris Johnson becoming the third Conservative party leader to step down during Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader.

And the Conservatives will be left wondering: “how did this happen?”

However, if the Conservatives win the parliamentary majority they so desperately crave – gaining seats such as Ashfield, Bishop Auckland, Dudley North, Crewe & Nantwich, Great Grimsby, Workington and Wrexham in the process – it would represent a fundamental realignment in our politics. 

And the Labour Party will have to ask itself this: “what have we become?”

The post This high-stakes Brexit election of gambles is currently too tough to call appeared first on BrexitCentral.

* This article was originally published here


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