It’s nearly done. The snap election has nearly snapped, and in exactly one week we’ll know whether Theresa May’s gamble to strengthen her mandate has paid off.
Right now, Team Corbyn will be wondering if they can pull off a Trump-style victory – challenge the media, overcome the public’s low expectations, and reach out to a core vote that converts on polling day.
On the other side of town, Team May are working against the clock to make sure she doesn’t do a Hillary, and that this election doesn’t turn from hers to lose, to completely lost. If Corbyn does prevent May from securing her healthy majority – expect commentators to draw out the Hilary / May and Trump / Corbyn comparisons at length.
Like Clinton, May’s main message is her “strong and stable” presidential leadership – her subtext being why gamble on chaos, when you can have experience? And like Clinton, May believes that her experience speaks for itself – in this case her track record in Brexit negotiations and her success as Home Secretary. But experience can’t speak for itself, and the silence has created opportunity for Corbyn to fill.
Add to the mix that May isn’t a natural campaigner. Unlike Corbyn and Trump – she’s not naturally impassioned, and she’s not been able to generate the same groundswell of support that Corbyn or Trump enjoyed. Veteran campaigner Corbyn has grown a loyal and impassioned following – of nearly 500,000 members and 20,000 alone in his Momentum movement. A personal support that May has never been able to generate, and one the Hillary struggled with continually.
The biggest irony remains that despite how she comes across, Theresa is relatively well liked on a personal level by many MPs outside her own party – but her lack of warmth and failure to communicate has put voters off. Expect a post-election mockumentary entitled “How to lose voters and alienate people in 28 days”.
So what does this add up to? The truth is – no one knows. Until the voters go to the polls on Thursday, predictions are useless and frustratingly futile.
And if you read the polls correctly, they don’t talk about predictions but talk instead of probability. The probability of a Conservative government is still statistically more likely, based on polling data coming in. However, the probability of a Labour Government – although low – has increased significantly from what it was at the beginning of the campaign.
Still not sure? Then the smart money would look at regions and considering swings and voter patterns locally.
In Wales, Labour holds 25 of the country’s 40 Parliamentary constituencies. But Labour’s popularity has taken a bashing. Holding onto Labour seats here could prove difficult for the party, and we should expect Labour to return the lowest number of MPs since 1931. Where these seats go remains to be seen – but they are likely to fall to both Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives.
Scotland will probably prove good news for the Conservatives. The SNP are likely to lose seats here after their landslide in 2015. And despite the strong Remain vote at Brexit last year, the swing is expected to go in the Conservatives’ favour.
For Labour to do well they need to gain ground in core urban areas of England. In London, voters tend to identify with leftist policies, and the city voted strongly in favour of Remain. Four core seats in London to watch are the current Housing Minister’s seat of Croydon Central which is likely to switch to Labour; Hendon where we’re likely to see the Conservatives’ Matthew Offord lose to Labour’s Mike Katz; Kingston and Surbiton where former climate secretary Sir Ed Davey will be fighting for his old seat and hoping to disrupt James Berry; and finally in Twickenham, where Sir Vince Cable will be hoping to de-throne Conservative Tania Mathias.
Elsewhere in England, rural areas are likely to remain strongly Conservative. Corbyn hasn’t been able to reach out and convince these voters that he can lead the country. But urban English areas could prove the seats to watch. If Labour can hold firm here, and pick up seats lost in 2015 – as well as other 2015 target seats, then Corbyn will do the unthinkable – and create a real threat for May’s hold on Number 10.
What that threat looks like is cause for another debate. A hung parliament, or minority government, is far more likely than a Labour outright control. And I even suspect that Corbyn himself doesn’t expect to gain an overall majority. After all, success – even during elections – is always relative.