Jo Swinson yesterday confirmed that the Liberal Democrats were moving towards running on the platform of explicitly revoking Article 50. They also continually have said that even if a second referendum, labelled the ‘People’s Vote’, the Liberal Democrats would still refuse to accept the result of the referendum. So much for vox populi.
Of course, this will all be bad news to Jeremy Corbyn. Not only is Corbyn already in a pickle over the fact that he has one of the most hardened Brexit credentials in the House, he is part of the dying breed of Pre-Blairite leftists who consistently saw the European Union as a neo-liberal protectionist bloc, he now has a youth vote which both powers his Momentum group and is intent on remaining in the European Union; or, if they want to leave to stay in the Single Market, Customs Union - in other words, to stay in the EU but without any voting power or rights. Jo Swinson’s move has made a coalition with Labour impossible as Labour remains committed to a second referendum and has many constituents (especially in the North) who are strong Brexiteers. And whilst these dyed-in-the-wool Labour counties have always taken pride in being red on the map they may, just this once, switch sides to tackle what they see as a ‘Westminster Bubble’ and what should be an anti-elitist Labour appear to appease the trope of a ‘liberal metropolitan elite’. Whilst that remains unlikely, Boris Johnson managed to win the mayoralty London not once, but twice from the hands of the well-established Ken Livingstone in a Labour stronghold (compare that to the solid defeat of Zac Goldsmith to Sadiq Khan in 2016, or even of Ken Livingstone against Steven Norris in 2004).
New polling data suggests that Labour really should not be vying for an election at the moment. YouGov, the only pollster to correctly predict the hung parliament result of the 2017 General Election, a week ago has polled the following:
Nigel Farage on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today has pledged a commitment to a non-aggression election pact, and we could see the developments of an alliance which (if done well) could coordinate Tory strongholds remaining Tory, whilst strong Labour Leave areas could see a Brexit party ticket which would have the endorsement of the Conservatives and would have the appealing pull of both having a clear, single-issue message, as well as without the stigma which many Labour areas may have towards ever voting Tory.
This is, of course, speculation but if we look at the arithmetic it is not looking good for Labour. The Conservatives and the Brexit party could collectively pick up 46% of the votes easily if they entered into an electoral pact, just to start with. On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats are splitting Labour Remain voters, and even if they were somehow to combine they would only have 41% of the vote - and, at best, we could hope for a ‘confidence-and-supply’ agreement but even so the chances of this remain slim. Of course, some will say that this does not include the Scottish National Party (SNP) which whilst having very few percentage points in a popular vote, has a disproportionately high number of seats due to the population of Scotland and the nature of first-past-the-post. But, Corbyn was unable to get the arithmetic necessary to form a coalition when he had 40% of the popular vote (at a time when the Lib Dems and the SNP would have had a real prospect of working with Labour). And even if the Scottish Conservatives get wiped out, which they may do, the SNP would only gain an additional 13 seats which is a meagre number in the grand scheme of things.
In short, then, Corbyn’s chances of actually being able to take over are so slim it is no surprise that he does not want an election now. The opposition parties keep moving the goalposts, once they wanted an election now, then they were afraid Johnson was going to move it past 15th October to delay a 31st October exit, but now they want one in November or at some other point on the proviso that No-Deal is guaranteed to be off the table (which it is with Royal Assent being granted to the Benn Bill) yesterday. And, of course, this doesn’t make any sense as the real way to stop a No-Deal Brexit from a Boris who seems committed to trying to keep it on the table is to have pushed for an election on 15th October, ready for the EU Summit where a new Prime Minister could go to Brussels armed with their extension letter.
But, of course, Corbyn knows he can’t win and so the will of the people, the election he has been desperate for since 2017, must be put on hold in the hope that the Johnson government totally collapses. This could work, it is the only hope for the opposition, but with a Brexit process which is constantly changing, perhaps France will actually live by its words this time and block an extension - if so, then the opposition gamble will have dreadfully backfired.