Your vote is pointless. The party you’re rallying behind is doomed to fail. The election has already been decided, and not in your favour.
Well, unless you’re a Tory, that is. Which, of course, is perfectly possible and reasonable; unlike the particularly spiteful campaign that has sneaked into Manchester Pride over the last few years, I actually have kissed a Tory, and it was decent. It was strong, it was stable, and he could well have been a better kisser than Jeremy Corbyn – I can’t possibly say for sure.
The important element in all this, however, is that Tories are everywhere. Conservative voters will live on your street, on my street, and on the street next door. They’ll turn up at the polling stations next month as they do whenever required, they’ll mark their cross next to whatever non-entity the party has put forward, and then they’ll head home for a cup of cocoa.
They won’t talk about it, they won’t boast about it, they won’t even let pollsters know about it, but they’ll hand the Conservative Party this election as they did in 2015 without all too much thought.
The problem with this is that the bulk of Conservative voters – at least as far as social media is concerned – are largely invisible. If your Facebook and Twitter streams are anything like mine, you’ll be able to count the number of people proudly waving their true blue flags on one hand. Labour supporters, however, appear to be everywhere. If I skim down my Facebook chat window, I can see a whole line of avatars emblazoned with distinctive, bright red “I’m voting Labour” banners. On social media, Corbyn is being treated to a landslide.
None of these people will be celebrating come June 9th, however, even though there’s a growing sense amongst them that Corbyn might actually have a chance.
I’ve witnessed the tone of pro-Labour posts evolve during this election campaign, moving from desperation and resilience to genuine hope and expectation. As those supporters will soon discover, it’s the hope that kills you.
There is a burgeoning belief amongst these people that the polls have got it wrong, and Corbyn is advancing on Tory territory – it’s the exact same phenomenon that rallied around Miliband in the last few weeks of his 2015 campaign.
Back then, people started to believe their social media bubbles. Because all they could see were friends posting pro-Labour, pro-Green or pro-Lib Dem posts, so the belief grew that the media wasn’t accurately reflecting the views of the British public and the Tories were in trouble. In the last few days, people across my social media openly suggested Miliband might actually sneak it, eating in to a slight Tory lead and taking up the post of Prime Minister on the back of a hung parliament. In reality, the Conservatives secured their first majority Government since 1992.
The next day, people claimed to have taken their medicine. No longer would they believe the polls, no longer would they trust their social media. They’d wised up. Oh, how I wish that were true.
Without wanting to rain on anyone’s parade, there is absolutely no chance the Labour Party will win this election. The party is going to lose seats. Every indicator out there illustrates the election will be lost by a distance, but people increasingly don’t want to see it. As a result, I’m going to explain why (if you happen to be one of these Labour supporters who thinks the result of this election is up in the air) your gut feeling is way, way off the mark, and your passion for Corbyn is entirely misplaced.
1. The Polls are Wrong
One thing I hear constantly from friends whenever I suggest Corbyn has no chance is the idea that “the polls are wrong”. In one respect, they’re utterly right – more than likely than not, the polls do not accurately reflect how people will vote on June 8th.
Indeed, pollsters have some cataclysmic form on this, stretching back decades. Not only did almost all of the polls call the 2015 election wrong, they also misjudged the EU Referendum, the 1992 general election and the 1987 general election, too. The one, common factor in all of these erroneous polls, however, is not that they underestimated the Labour vote, but rather they underplayed the Tory vote.
Case in point: Even the most optimistic of polls two years ago put the Tories on just 300 seats, well short of a majority. the bulk of the polls painted a picture even less rosy than that for Cameron, putting the party no higher the high 200s. In reality, the Tories proved the polls wrong and won 330 seats, comfortably taking control of parliament.
Similarly, in 1992 most opinion polls gave Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party a healthy lead in the run up to the election – a whopping 20 point lead in some polls, in fact. As Labour held a massive rally in Sheffield a week before the vote celebrating their victory, the popular narrative was the country had had enough of 13 years of Tory rule and Major was sunk. Even the exit poll on the night of the election suggested the best the Conservatives could do was a hung parliament, with the Liberal Democrats likely to be courted by both sides to enter into a coalition.
Just hours later, the real results revealed the Tories had actually performed much better than all the polls had indicated, winning 336 seats and an impressive 42 percent of the popular vote, comfortably ahead of Labour’s 34 percent. In response, the concept of the ‘shy Tory’ – the idea that people vote Conservative without boasting about it – entered the public consciousness.
That’s something we seem to have forgotten about now. It’s telling, however, that the most recent polls out this week that hand the Labour Party the highest percentage make no allowances for turnout. Tory voters traditionally are more likely to head out to vote on polling day than Labour voters, meaning while plenty of people might say they intend to vote Labour when stopped in the street or called on the phone, a notable proportion of them will stay at home on polling day.
All this means that, if the polls actually are wrong, recent history suggests it will be the strength of the Labour vote that they’ve over-egged, not the Conservatives. If Theresa May’s party is polling at between 45 percent today, you can guarantee she’ll actually poll higher than that on election day itself.
2. Labour Has Lost Scotland
The UK’s First Past the Post electoral system means not all votes are equal, and winning power is a question of maths.
In elections gone by, the Labour Party could rely on the majority of the 59 seats in Scotland turning out in their favour. Indeed, their last election victory in 2005 saw Tony Blair scoop up a total of 41 seats in Scotland – equal to 12 percent of all the seats Labour won across the UK. Without those 41 Scottish seats, Blair’s majority in 2005 would have been 25 or less, and the likelihood of the Government staying in office for a full five years would have been greatly reduced.
Fast forward to the last election, and Labour won just one seat in Scotland. What’s more, polls suggest it’s unlikely to win any more than that this time around. Indeed, all indicators suggest it’s the Tories that are advancing north of the border and are likely to come second in the election, behind the SNP.
This means Corbyn and co have to try to win enough seats elsewhere in the rest of the UK – essentially England and Wales – in order to form a majority. Mathematically, this is an impossible task; Ed Miliband won a total of 231 seats in England and Wales combined in 2015. If we accept Labour is only likely to win one seat in Scotland in 2017, that means Jeremy Corbyn will need to gain a total of 94 additional seats across England and Wales without losing a single one in reply in order to secure a majority of just one.
To put that sort of jump in context, that’s an advance that’s happened just once in our lifetime, when Labour managed to net gain 140 seats across England and Wales in the 1997 election. It’s important to note, 1997 was a once in a lifetime election; Labour blew the Tories away, securing 43 percent of the popular vote to the Conservative’s 31 percent – an almost exact reversal of where polls put the two parties today.
The long and short of it is, in order for Corbyn to win the seats he needs in England and Wales, he’ll need to not only close the 10 to 15 point lead May boasts right now, but also open up a 10 to 15 point lead himself, all within a couple of weeks. And all that, just in order to win a paltry majority of one single seat.
On those terms, it’s no great leap to declare that this is simply not going to happen. Without the 40 to 50 seats in Labour used to count on in Scotland, the party cannot currently win power down in Westminster, no matter how strong Corbyn’s performance in England and Wales. Ultimately, Corbyn’s failure is that he’s made no ground on the SNP in Scotland over the last couple of years, and his inability to rebuild Labour’s base there will ultimately keep the party out of power in the UK as a whole for many years to come.
3. First Past the Post Means the Polls are Irrelevant Anyway
One other element people also keep losing sight of is the fact that, for the vast majority of people reading this piece, their vote simply won’t matter.
For some context, I’m writing this blog post while sat in the centre of Manchester – one of the safest Labour seats in the country. Whoever I vote for here will have no impact on the result whatsoever – Labour will win it regardless. Likewise, my very first votes were made in a Tory heartland – yet another seat my vote had no impact on. In fact, I’ve never lived in a seat where my vote has made a blind bit of difference. This is the case for the vast majority of people living across the country.
Thanks to First Past the Post, this is the case for the vast majority of people living within the UK – only a handful of seats can be considered genuine marginals where just a few hundred votes lie between the two main candidates, and an even smaller of those seats will actually change hands on June 8th.
For the passionate Labour supporters who live in safe Labour seats like Manchester, their drive and will to support Corbyn will count for nought. It’s a peculiarity of our constituency-based system that was perhaps best illustrated by the late Labour MP Gerald Kaufmann. He represented first Manchester Ardwick and then Manchester Gorton from 1970 through to 2017, boasting a comfortable majority in every single election in which he stood. Indeed, between Thatcher’s victory in 1979 through to Labour’s fourth successive election defeat in 1992, Kaufman managed to grow his majority from 6,284 to 16,279.
As he later detailed of Labour’s period in the wilderness, his majority may have risen with each election, but it had no impact on the final result. Labour lost election after election, and successive Labour leaders – from Michael Foot to Neil Kinnock – focused on galvanising support for Labour within areas where the party was already strong rather than making any ground in the Tory held seats the party needed to snatch for victory. A rise in the polls did not result in a rise in the number of seats Labour won – the party spent decades preaching to the converted.
As writer and journalist Charles Moore detailed on Question Time last week, this is exactly what is happening with Corbyn this election. He may well draw crowds of thousands in a way May can only dream of, but he’s fallen into the exact same trap.
“What they have to persuade is the people who are not persuaded,” said Moore on the show, making reference to Michael Foot’s inability to win the 1983 election despite similarly attracting huge crowds wherever he campaigned. “Mr. Corbyn is the absolute classic ‘preacher to the converted’. He can’t reach out beyond that, and he’ll lose.”
As a result, we’re going to be left with a lot of disillusioned voters on June 9th who simply don’t recognise the result, or understand how it has come to pass.
What they, and others, need to understand is, First Past the Post is an unrepresentative system and, instead of throwing their weight behind leaders who stand no chance of winning and then complaining when they’re trounced, that energy would be better placed campaigning for a change in how we vote for our MPs once this election has concluded.
Only then will each and every vote count and will people be rewarded with a parliament that actually reflects the will of the people.
In essence, what we need here is a reality check.
Thanks to a number of different factors (including those laid out above) that may not immediately be apparent to everyone, this election had already been decided the moment the campaigning began. Jeremy Corbyn has no chance whatsoever of winning it, and the Labour Party is destined to lose seats on June 8th. Ignore any pick up in the polls, ignore your social media – that is the reality.
Still don’t believe me? In 1983, Margaret Thatcher enjoyed her high water mark, bringing home a whopping great majority of 144. She managed that on the back of less than 43 percent of the vote.
In 1997, Labour’s greatest ever result – a 179 seat majority for Tony Blair – was achieved with just over 43 percent of the vote.
As things stand, Theresa May is polling anywhere between 45 and 49 percent of the vote. Even if we ignore the historical evidence that suggests the Tory vote is always underestimated and take the low end of those predictions, she’s still going to amass a majority of 150 or more, thanks to the way our democracy works. As Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has said since the starting pistol was fired last month, this election is not a contest, it’s a coronation.
When Labour crashes to defeat in June, the real battle will be over what happens to the party over the next few years. There’s a real danger Labour will be torn apart by another SDP-style split, leaving the UK with no viable opposition and handing May a Thatcher style procession to election victory after election victory. .
My message to Labour voters, therefore, is simple: stop fighting for candidates who never stand a chance of actually winning over Tory voters – that is the key not only to winning an election, but also serving as a competent opposition holding the government to account.
Corbyn is a principled man and a respected politician, but he’s not going to win. All those pushing his agenda are doing is condemning the country to decades of Tory rule.