A Christmas election is upon us

As the UK gears up to return to the polling station in December, will tactical voting swing the results?

At last, parliament has finally been able to agree on something, and so we are to have a general election on 12 December – the first time since 1932 that an election has been held in the run up to Christmas.

At the start of the campaign, the result of this election is almost impossible to predict. The polls – to the extent that anybody believes them these days – tell us that the Conservatives have a comfortable lead over Labour of around 12 points, but as we saw in the 2017 general election these leads can be easily eroded.

Tactical voting

Moreover, I suspect that we will see far more tactical voting in this election than normal, and already the Lib Dems have indicated they may not put up candidates against die-hard Conservative (or Independent Conservative) MPs.

While, as I write, the Brexit Party is mulling over whether to only target a small handful of strong Leave constituencies held by Labour – a huge boost for Boris Johnson if that emerges as the party’s strategy.

There is little doubt that Brexit will be a dominating factor in the election campaign, and the Remain-supporting campaign group Best for Britain has estimated that, based on a seat-by-seat poll of 46,000 voters, Mr Johnson could win an overall majority of 44 – so already the campaign group has set up a web-site to advise Remain voters how to vote tactically.

A Lib Dem breakthrough?

The party to watch, I think, is the Lib Dems. Is it on the verge, yet again, of a real breakthrough, or will its vote falter once again?

Certainly, some commentators expect the party to perform well in the South West, a region that it traditionally performs well in, with the 2017 election being a notable exception. But I find this expectation slightly odd as the South West was a strong Brexit region in the 2016 referendum and, as we know, the Lib Dems are committed to reversing the referendum result.

The other big question is whether Mr Johnson will be punished for failing to deliver Brexit “do or die” by 31 October. He will blame Labour for this failure, of course, and will surely campaign on a “parliament versus the people” message. But how much traction this will get with the electorate is, as yet, hard to tell.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are a large number of marginal seats. The Conservatives are targeting 63 seats where they need a swing of less than 5% to win. For Labour, there are 79 seats where it would win with a swing to the party of less than 5% and for the Lib Dems there are 18 seats. Put all these considerations together and I reckon it’s near impossible to predict what the outcome will be.

We have a Prime Minister who has regularly declared his love of buses. Will bus policy therefore feature in the campaign I wonder? Perhaps not; transport policy rarely features in election campaigns.