So, our trustworthy Prime Minister Theresa May has done what she said she definitely wouldn’t do, and, subject to parliamentary approval, called a snap election for 8 June.
The reasons seem fairly obvious: take advantage of an opposition Labour party with dismal current poll ratings, increase the Conservative majority, and give herself an easier ride for the next two years of Brexit negotiations.
But, if we’ve learnt anything in the past few years, it’s to a) not take any notice of polls and odds and b) not predict anything in politics.
So naturally we’re going to look at the odds of various scenarios, consult the polls and predict what will happen.
Current odds: 1/10
Now, the bookies occasionally get it wrong. They had us remaining loving partners with our European buddies. They imagined Hillary Clinton snugly sitting on that big chair in the Oval Office. They honestly think that Elvis won’t return riding Shergar on an alien spaceship. Oh hang on, that last one I think might be right. But anyway. The Tories are a massive ten-to-one on to win the forthcoming election and everything points to this being correct.
Why? A YouGov poll from the weekend put the Tories at 44 per cent, with Labour having just 23 per cent, while 50 per cent had Theresa May as their preferred PM, with just 14 per cent backing Jeremy Corbyn. These numbers seem to be a measure of Labour and Corbyn’s wider unpopularity rather than any ringing endorsement of the Tories, who have lurched from one U-turn to another, culminating in chancellor Phillip Hammond’s recent Budget omnishambles.
Of course, it’s that latter reason that May is calling the early election: she can take advantage of Labour’s problems, put all manner of things in the manifesto – such as the unpopular call for a return of grammar schools - and expect to be able to enact all of them with a fresh mandate, using a larger majority than she currently enjoys. Meanwhile, the Article 50 negotiations will be easier with fewer opposition MPs criticising her in the commons. Frankly, it’s strange that she took this long to call another election.
If things stand as they are: a divided Labour party and a distrust of Corbyn, then this is the only result to expect.
Current odds: 10/1
There’s no doubt about it. If not Leicester City-winning-the-league territory, it’s not far off. Internal research showed that they didn’t win in 2015 because they were too left-wing and that people didn’t see Ed Miliband as a Prime Minister, so naturally the party responded by moving even more leftward and electing an even more unpopular leader in the form of Jeremy Corbyn.
Since then, Labour MPs have been in open revolt against the party members who voted him in, while the EU referendum has left Labour in a shocking position with their vote split down the middle of Leave and Remain, leaving a ‘nice Brexit’ as about the only thing they can stand for which doesn’t seem to be particularly appealing to either Leavers or Remainers.
However, as this explains, their domestic policies are popular, so if they can somehow pull together, change the public’s perception of Corbyn, convince the public once and for all that austerity is the real cause of their problems and May’s government commit hara-kiri, then they could pull off a shock.
Liberal Democrat win
Current odds: 33/1
It’s been a long time since everyone agreed with Nick when they thought (correctly) that they were going to need his merry yellow band to form a coalition, with the bruising experience of somehow being blamed for everything bad that the Tories did (despite almost certainly stopping them from raining down austerity even harder than they did) decimating them at the last election.
However, Brexit and Labour’s split has opened up a clear and easy messaging path for them: they are now definitively the anti-Brexit party – or at the least, the ‘stay in the single market, which basically means accepting all of the EU’s rules and regulations’, so for those still clinging to the hope it can all be reversed, they are your go-to guys.
Which is handy as there’s 48% of the country’s votes to potentially net. But also slightly limiting, seeing as that’s not the majority of the country, so they’re fighting for a minority of the nation’s votes.
So 33/1 seems unduly low odds for an outright victory, but they’ll almost certainly improve on their 2015 showing.
Current odds: 100/1
Given the Leave vote and the Tories’ apparently wholehearted commitment to a hard Brexit, UKIP have rather lost their reason for existing, so it would leave only the truly paranoid ‘LEAVE THE EU NOW AND WHY DO WE HAVE TO PAY ANY MONEY’ merchants who think Theresa May will give over our entire sovereignty to Brussels the second their backs are turned who would vote for them this time.
Regardless of that, they had their best shot in 2015 and couldn’t manage to get a single MP elected so unless Paul Nuttall stands aside to let an alien-endorsed, Shergar-riding Elvis lead the party, we can’t see them winning anything. A seat. The election. A pub quiz. You name it.
Current odds: 5/1
Such was the surprise – according to the polls – of the Brexit and Trump votes that we’ve almost forgotten how virtually every political pundit predicted a hung parliament two years ago. It didn’t happen last time but equally, despite predictions of a Tory landslide this time around, it could go the other way this time: remember, the Tories currently have a slim majority, so any loss of popularity by them will mean a hung parliament.
And these are the potential party hookups that could happen if it does.
Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition
Current odds: 6/1
6/1 seems ridiculously low odds, seeing as we don’t believe for a second that this could happen. Given that the Tories and Lib Dems will be diametrically opposed on both Brexit and most domestic policy, this is a different kettle of fish than in 2015. If the Lib Dems went into power as the junior partner of the Tories, ‘softening’ up a Brexit, they would be immediately disowned by all who had voted for them on their ‘Remain’ ticket. While we’re ruling nothing out, we can say this: even if the Lib Dems score enough seats to make an impact and the Tories don’t win what they expect, they were burned once, surely there’s no chance they’ll do it a second time?
Labour/Lib Dem/SNP coalition
Current odds: 25/1
This would truly be a mish-mash of a coalition, but it could happen. The SNP are all but guaranteed to sweep Scotland and have to maintain a ‘Remain’ position. The Lib Dems, as discussed, will be ‘Remain’ and could hoover up some seats on that ticket. If Labour commits to a hard-ish Brexit and holds on to its Brexit-heartlands whilst holding on to those constituencies that can swallow it as they’d never vote Tory, then they could amass a decent amount between them and form a centre-left, anti-austerity coalition.
Unfortunately, the whole thing would immediately fall apart due to those good old Brexit faultlines. What on earth would this coalition’s position be? Labour, having adopted that pro-Brexit positioning, would have to pursue it or risk truly alienating most of its core vote, while the Lib Dems and SNP would be duty bound to oppose it. Maybe the EU, after the French vote, will have collapsed by then anyway?
As with everything to do with politics right now: who knows?