STAR PREVIEW: The General Election

It is often said that the next general election is crucial, but perhaps it has never been truer than now. The result of the first December election since 1923 is likely to have an effect on the UK for decades to come, not only in a political but cultural sense. At stake is not only Brexit, but the potential Independence of Scotland in the near future – along with Northern Ireland and Wales – the direction of the UK economy, health service, transport and of course climate policy.

It’s also likely to be one of the biggest political betting events in history. Punters have been able to bet on the results at the ballot box for many years but the last decade has seen an explosion in political betting with momentous results seeing huge sums won and lost, and this upcoming campaign will be no different. So given that all the candidates have submitted their papers, and all the campaigns are fully underway, without further ado, here’s the Star Sports Guide to the General Election.

Background

STAR PREVIEW: Political Round Up

In August, we took a detailed look at the markets for the General Election. The feeling was that we’d have one this year, and our odds on wager has proven to be correct. At the time we also had a lefty lump on a Hung Parliament, which has drifted as the Tories have built up a big lead in the national polls. If there’s a narrowing of the polls, then there’s still a chance for another Hung Parliament, but it seems like the most likely option is Boris Johnson returning with a majority.

Issues

Brexit is obviously for the reason for this General Election, but it would be unwise to underestimate the role that domestic policy can and will play during the campaign. See a list of issues here from Deltapoll (data taken from 6-9 November) of the issues that people care most about not only when considering themselves, but also their families and the country too.

Crises can also occur at any time during elections. The awful flooding in Yorkshire is an example of one story that can suddenly jump to the head of an election campaign, and there will be plenty of others that have the potential to break through the political bubble and define a campaign. 2017 saw this on more than one occasion, to the detriment of the Conservatives in the eyes of many.


Polling:

The Conservatives are out in front, although they start from – technically – a lower position than in 2017. However, the vote is more fragmented.

The Britain Elects poll tracker currently gives the Tories a 10-point lead, which is enough for a majority – and fairly comfortably so. These numbers were taken on the eve of the first election debate, and the changes are with the previous tracker update on the 15th of November.

CON: 39.9% (+0.8)
LAB: 29.0% (+0.2)
LDEM: 15.4% (-0.5)
BREX: 7.0% (-0.9)
GRN: 3.2% (+0.3)

The SNP and Plaid are not included here, as they are not standing nationwide, but a Scotland specific poll from YouGov (taken 5-6 November) shows the SNP with a big lead.

Conservatives: 22%
Labour: 10%
Liberal Democrats 8%
SNP: 47%
Brexit Party: 5%
Green Party: 8%

Another Scotland poll, with fieldwork conducted from 17 October – 4 November:

Most Seats:

Conservatives: 1/33
Labour: 12/1
Liberal Democrats: 66/1
The Brexit Party; 125/1
Green Party: 500/1
Independent Group For Change: 500/1
UKIP: 500/1

The Tories are the shortest they’ve been to be returned as the largest party, and the size of their lead according to even the most pessimistic poll would suggest that it would be an astonishing collapse if they did not return as the largest party at least.

Overall Majority

No Overall Majority: 15/8
Conservative Majority: 4/9
Labour Majority: 28/1
Liberal Democrat Majority: 150/1
The Brexit Party Majority: 250/1
Green Party Majority: 1000/1

The Tories are on course for a majority as things stand, with either that or a Hung Parliament the two overwhelmingly likely options based on most forecasts.

State Of The Parties

Conservatives

The Case For

An operation that still bears the scars of 2017 has gone to great lengths to ensure a repeat is impossible, with Theresa May – seen as rather stoic and reserved – replaced by Boris Johnson, twice elected Mayor of London and seen as a far more engaging figure for not only the party base but the wider public.

The cabinet that Johnson selected has been built for this campaign and this campaign only, with Vote Leave faces Priti Patel (Home Secretary), Dominic Raab (Foreign Secretary), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Leader of the Commons), Michael Gove (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), Andrea Leadsom (Business Secretary) and Theresa Villiers (Environment Secretary) all central to the campaign message.

They have already proven to be far punchier than the May cabinet and are electoral assets that appear to be uniting the Leave vote to a far greater extent than any Remain party is:

*Leave Supporters Voting Intention:

Conservative: 71%
Lab: 10%
Brexit Party: 8%
Lib Dem: 4%

Remain Supporters Voting Intention

Labour: 46%
Lib Dems: 25%
Conservative: 17%
Green: 6%
SNP: 5%

*Data from The Times, supplied via YouGov: 12th November

They have also been boosted by the decision of the Brexit Party not to stand in any of the 317 seats they won in 2017, but the Leave vote must still be fought for in Labour held seats that backed Leave – the only realistic route to a majority based on demographic trends.

However, these are entirely realistic targets; there are 41 seats with a 2016 Leave vote of over 55% and where the Conservatives need a swing of under 7.5 percentage points from the winner, many of them (32) in the Midlands and North of England.

Much is said about the role of the press, and whilst newspaper circulations are dropping, the biggest print media outlets by circulation, if not online reach, are all Tory backers and the will be plenty of negative press for the others through the campaign.

The Case Against

As with all political parties, there are flaws in the Tories. Opinions about Boris Johnson might be well baked in but he still has the potential to blow up and whilst comments about Grenfell from Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrew Bridgen didn’t cut through quite as much opposition parties would have hoped, they are just one of a number of senior Tories who have made very ill-considered remarks.

It can be difficult for incumbents to keep being elected, and directly or indirectly, the for the Conservatives have been in power for nine years. The government has a long record to defend domestically and it is not impressive – see the dire performance stats of the NHS, for example.

The October figures for the NHS showed, for example:

  • 4.42 million patients on the waiting list at the end of September, the highest number ever
  • 84.8% of them waiting under 18 weeks – below the 92% target and the worst performance since the target was introduced, in 2012
  • 76.9% of cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days – below the 85% target
  • 83.6% of A&E patients admitted or transferred within four hours in October – below the
  • 95% target and the worst performance since the target started was introduced, in 2004

The health service, which has suffered every winter for the past 10 years (something to be expected as the population ages and we get sicker when it’s colder), has the potential to be a serious thorn in the side of the Conservatives, especially as this election is being held in deepest winter.

The domestic record is ripe for opposition parties to attack the Tories and an IPSOS Mori poll did show the NHS as the top issue over Brexit, with a whole host of domestic issues glued together. If this becomes even more of a domestic issue election, then there are gaps for the opposition to attack.

Labour

The Case For:

After nine years of Government, the electorate should be ripe for a change and there’s plenty to attack the Government with away from Brexit. This election has seen a whole host of domestic issues take centre stage, many times with Labour policy announcements.

Their manifesto launch will need to grab the discourse and the public imagination in the same way that it did in 2017 – A week after Jeremy Corbyn and Labour launched their manifesto in 2017 their poll rating jumped 5 points, from 31 to nearly 36% – but it was an incredibly bold offering which has policies that should allow the party to get into every single domestic conversation between now and polling day.

The large member base will be crucial given the difficult canvassing conditions, and they have a strong online presence too to spread messages, even if Facebook’s algorithms mean they won’t get as much change out of the website as they did 2 years ago.

In Jeremy Corbyn they have someone who’s at his best on the campaign trail, and his performance in the ITV leaders’ debate won’t have hurt – when asked how the two leaders had performed individually in the debate, some 71% the undecideds said the Labour leader had done well and 29 % badly, compared to a much closer 51% well and 49 % badly for the prime minister. He also performed well, certainly better than the Prime Minister or Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, in a Question Time Leaders’ Special.

Opinions about Corbyn are much more baked in than they were two years ago but the debates do offer him a chance to advance himself once again to the wider public and if he can put a couple of good performances out he’ll do himself no harm.

The Case Against

Corbyn may have seemed fresh when he jumped onto the scene in 2017 but he isn’t so fresh now and his personal ratings are an issue. His net satisfaction ratings are at -60, by far the lowest going into an election since IPSOS Mori started tracking them in 1970. The gap in support between Labour policies and the favorability of their leader is a problem which the party doesn’t have the time to fix before polling day.

Johnson is more trusted on the economy and the NHS than Corbyn and one of those two will need to change if he’s to get close to or over the line.

All this is added to a very narrow electoral map. Labour are on course for their worst-ever set of results in Scotland, and are under heavy pressure in Wales to retain the 28 seats they hold there. This means that the bulk of their seats will have to be won in England, with a mix of Leave-voting seats to be fought for and defended. Their position is much more clearly Remain favouring now, but trying to tread in-between the deepest dividing line in British politics could cost them dearly.

Equal broadcast rules will help with coverage of policy, but only the Daily Mirror could realistically be described as a Labour-supporting paper and they will need to rebut plenty of negative coverage such as the £1.2 trillion figure that was attached to their spending plans, and more will surely be coming.

There’s also a divided remain vote. 28% of Remainers (YouGov for the Times) are still intending to vote Liberal Democrat according to Sky and that will have a negative impact in a number of marginal seats such as Canterbury for one example. Labour’s position of a Second Referendum and a new deal is workable – although whether it is in six months Remains to be seen – but the Liberal Democrats in England and the SNP in Scotland have very effectively managed to crowd out the claim to be the party of Remain, and Labour needs to make gains in that area.

All parties have had their issues with discipline, and candidate comments, but the anti-Semitism issues that have dogged the party have definitely put off a number of voters and we have already seen a number of very uncomfortable questions on the campaign.

The Liberal Democrats

The Case For

After years of Brexit chaos, they have an election in which they can become a home for disaffected Remainers. The pivot to a Hard Brexit from the Conservative party has left a good few voters who are economically conservative & socially liberal without a party to call home and many of them have already joined the party, which has seen its member base grow in recent months.

The FBPE movement has given the Lib Dems an online base that can certainly match the Lib Dems and Labour in terms of energy, if not size and scope.

They have form in the book too – they gained 700-plus councillors in the local elections and the European elections saw them finish second, on nearly 20% of the vote – and a by-election win (in Brecon and Radnorshire) oo, along with a series of defections from other parties that increases the quality of their candidates as a starting point.

Their manifesto might not have gone as far as Labour’s did, but it should have enough for them to get into the thick of domestic debates and their offerings on the environment (to Generate 80% of electricity from renewables, a tax on frequent flyers, and making all new cars and small vans electric by 2030) and education (20,000 more teachers within five years, Adult skills allowance, ditching Ofsted) should give them a chance of keeping the Labour voters who had switched over to the Lib Dems too.

The leaders of the two main parties might help them as well; Boris Johnson may have reasonable approval ratings which are much higher than the Government’s but he’s an incredibly polarizing figure and Corbyn has very poor approval ratings by any traditional standard too; The ground should, in theory, be ripe for Lib Dem gains.

The Case Against

The Jo Swinson strategy isn’t working as well as they’d have hoped. Only July 23rd and 24th – just a day after Swinson became leader – YouGov found that 21% of people had a favourable opinion of her, and 29% an unfavourable one. A significant number of people were unaware of her or had no opinion, as one would expect for a new leader of a third party.

Fast forward to last week and awareness of Swinson had grown, and the unfavourable figure had also risen by 19 percentage points to 48%, but the favourable figure was essentially unchanged at just 24%. The news from YouGov gets worse too – Remainers now see her less favourably too.

Whilst there are plenty of Lib Dem domestic policies for the voters to consider, the fact that this election hasn’t been as dominated by Brexit as some might have thought beforehand and the Lib Dems would probably have stood to benefit if the country was solely having an extended debate about the future of Brexit.

Much of the discourse has moved on from the immediate threat of No Deal, which perhaps makes the position of Revoking Article 50 – a headline policy intended to grab attention given the outlandish odds of a Liberal Democrat majority (150/1 with Star Sports) – more extreme in the mind of the electorate,

They are suffering the traditional party squeeze that tends to take place during elections – which is to be expected – but the move of Labour at their conference to endorsing a Second Referendum at least has given many disaffected Remainers a chance to return home, and their likely voter pool has been diminished.

SNP

The Case For

If there was a better case for Independence than the last four years, it’s very hard to think of one. The Brexit Referendum – where 52% of the population as a whole voted to Leave, but 62% voted to Remain in Scotland – has caused a deep split between Scotland and Westminster and the last two years of chaos, with successive governments seeking what can reasonably be described as a Hard Brexit, has emphasised to many Scottish voters the disconnected between Holyrood and Westminster.

The SNP have a rock-solid record in the ‘formbook.’ They have won the last three elections to the devolved Parliament at Holyrood and they have ‘won’ the last two General Elections in Scotland.

Their 35 seats in the 2017 election felt like a failure – it was a loss of 21 seats – but they still had a comfortable majority and they won an astonishing 56 seats the election before.

Continued attacks from other Westminster parties may block the path to another Independence Referendum but they will also fire up the base and simply remind many people who didn’t turn out for them in 2017.

The opposition also looks weaker. An aggressive unionist campaign from the Conservatives, led by Ruth Davidson, played a big part in driving Tory votes in the north-east of Scotland two years ago but Davidson is gone now and the case for the union inevitably weaker, especially with a Conservative deal that gives Northern Ireland different access to the EU on the table if the Tories win a majority.

The SNP also hold a firm anti-austerity stance, and have implemented many socially progressive policies, drawing the sting from Labour’s arguments in this area.

The Case Against

For all the talk of Independence, the arguments against it can and have been deployed through this campaign. Questions over energy, a fiscal budget, being granted access (will the EU let Scotland join if Catalonia can’t join?), and of course keeping the pound are all questions that Unionists will raise.

Whilst the SNP are pro-Remain, in the longer term not every Remain supporter will back Scottish independence, and that presents an additional dilemma, particularly as the Lib Dems – a unionist party – do have some standing in Scotland. The SNP should feel confident about being able to hold off Labour (who also back a union institutionally) votes but a particularly radical manifesto will make that conversation a tougher one for the party.

Tactical voting hurt them in 2017 and it could be the case this time around if voters once again fear for the union. It is also often forgotten that a third of SNP voters backed Brexit in the EU referendum and they might not vote for an unashamedly pro-Remain option.

There’s also a lot of fighting for the SNP to do. Of 38 seats that the House of Commons considered three-way marginals in 2017, 30 of them were in Scotland, and only 13 of the country’s 59 seats have a percentage majority which is into double figures – in other words, well over 75% of the seats will be up for grabs.

Other Parties:

The Brexit Party have hugely reduced the number of seats that they’re standing in – they’re now standing in 275 seats, having initially pledged to stand in 600 – but they could still have a big effect on the outcome of this election, especially as they’re confirmed to be standing in a number of marginal seats and crucially Labour Leave seats. The policies today were wide ranging and appeared to be targeting traditional

Their appeal has been significantly diminished by the movement of the Conservative party to a stronger Brexit position and the absorption of Vote Leave figures by the Government, however and 70% of Leave voters back the Tories.

The Green Party’s long term work in making the environment a major political issue has paid off with nearly all mainstream big environmental pledges. They have the raw end of the Remain alliance though – Among the nine seats in which Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley’s Green party will run unopposed, the smallest deficit they have to overcome is in the Isle Of Wight, which voted 62% Leave in 2016.

UKIP and the Independent Group For Change have been dismantled with their MP’s absorbed by other parties.

Seats and Battlegrounds

One of the most important potential factors of this the intensely tight nature of many seats. In 2017 there were 51 ultra-marginal: places where the majority is under 2%. Of the 650 Parliamentary constituencies, 97 were won by a margin of 5% or less of votes cast.

Extend that definition to marginal – to a majority of 10% of the vote or more – and you have well over 100 seats in play for one or more parties.

As an example, there were nine key constituencies that were so tight that the Conservatives could have won an absolute majority on the basis of just 533 extra votes; Indeed, spread a handful of votes differently and a working majority could have been achieved on just 75 additional votes in the right places – basically 0.0017 percent of voters choosing differently.

There are a huge amount of seats for each party to target, and especially the three biggest nationwide parties.

There are 41 seats where the 2016 Leave vote was more than 55 % and where the Conservatives need a swing of no more than 7.5%, many of them Labour held seats. The 17 constituencies which have a 2016 Remain vote of more than 60% will be Lib Dem targets, especially as only two have what could likely be called insurmountable majorities. Labour are eyeing 12 Conservative held, remain-voting marginal which would require less than a 4.5% swing. The SNP are eyeing 18 Remain-voting seats in Scotland which would need a swing of less than 8%, and all 13 of the Tory seats in Scotland went Remain – in other words, very fertile ground.

In Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionists are hoping to take Fermanagh and South Tyrone from Sinn Fein; and the SDLP is hoping to take Belfast South from the DUP; Sinn Fein is targeting Belfast North from the DUP; the Alliance Party is hoping to win Belfast East from the DUP; the DUP is looking to fill the gap left by Lady Hermon, who is standing down in the appropriately named seat of North Down.

A selection of marginals:

Under 1,000 Majority

Airdrie & Shotts, Arfon, Broxtowe, Calder Valley, Chipping Barnet, Dunfermline & West Fife, Glasgow East, Glasgow South West, Inverclyde, Hastings & Rye, Motherwell & Wishaw, Norwich North, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Pudsey, Stoke on Trent South, Telford, and Thurrock, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Aberconwy, St. Ives, Pudsey, Thurrock, Hastings & Rye, Chipping Barnet, Norwich North, Calder Valley, Stoke on Trent South, Telford, Northampton North, Broxtowe, and Bolton West.

Between 1,001- 2,000 majority

Aberconwy, Blackpool North & Cleveleys, Bolton West, Camborne & Redruth, Copeland, Crawley, Corby, Edinburgh North & Leith, Finchley and Golders Green, Glasgow North, Glasgow South, Harrow East, Hendon, Mansfield, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Milton Keynes North, Milton Keynes South, Morecombe & Lunesdale, Morley & Outwood, Northampton North, Northampton South, Pendle, Putney, Stevenage, South Swindon, Vale of Glamorgan, Watford, and Worcester.

Best Bets:

1) 5 pts SNP to win Over 46.5 Seats at 5/6 with starsports.bet

The SNP may not get their Independence Referendum anytime soon but it won’t be for lack of tying and Nicola Sturgeon’s party look set for another big election in Scotland. They came down from the heady heights of 2015 when they lost a third of their seats to a Tory surge. Since then we’ve had two years of Brexit chaos, including the threat of No Deal on more than one occasion. Support for Independence is now at about 50% and a number of less than warm responses from Labour to the idea of a second Independence referendum early in the next Parliament could harden opinion in favour of Sturgeon’s party.

All of the 21 seats lost by the SNP in 2017 were lost with what could be called a marginal majority, and of course Scotland’s heavy vote to Remain in the EU referendum (62%, compared to 48% for the UK) so the SNP’s anti-Brexit stance could help it to recapture as many of them as possible.

2) Back Turnout to be from 65% to 69.99% 4 pts at 6/4 with starsports.bet

Turnout and voter participation at this election has been much discussed. At the time of writing, one in three people under 25 aren’t registered to vote and there are still nine million or so voters who aren’t on the electoral roll at last count. However, for those are registered, this election is going to be absolutely vital and despite the December date and poor weather, the importance of the result could see another high turnout election. We might get less than the 68.7% who voted last time out, but in 2015 66.1% of the population turned out and 65.1% went to the polls in 2010. Polls have already shown that people consider the result of this election more important than the last two, and the 6/4 on another respectable turnout could be worth taking.

3) Back Labour Over 203.3 seats 3 pts at 5/6 with starsports.bet

The Labour lines are currently at their lowest point of this election, with Star predicting a loss of basically 60 seats. The current polling averages have Labour at anything from 171 seats to 200 seats based on forecasts, but it is entirely possible that a modest closing of the gap by the opposition – say three to four %, perhaps gained by a squeeze on the Lib Dems – could bring them to the parentage needed to pass 200. The Brexit Party standing in Labour Leave seats will prove to be a help to the party too in many circumstances.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK SNP to win Over 46.5 Seats at 5/6 5 pt at 5/6 with starsports.bet
BACK Turnout to be from 65% to 69.99% 4 pt at 6/4 with starsports.bet
BACK Labour Over 203.3 seats 3 pt at 5/6 with starsports.bet


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