Click here Part 1: Introduction
…here for Part 2: Tories and Brexit Party
…here for Part 4: SNP, Plaid Cymru and conclusion.
Labour head into this election well behind in the polls and with at least some of the energy having drained out of the Corbyn project by the internal tensions over Brexit, problems over anti-Semitism and the ongoing, concerted campaign to discredit Corbyn himself, which has had some success in pushing down his personal approval ratings. So there are some challenges.
On the other hand, the urgency of getting rid of the Tories surely outweighs any concerns members have about the Brexit policy. The imperative to prevent Johnson forming Britain’s most right-wing government in a very long time and the promise of genuinely transformative Labour government is more than enough to motivate Labour’s huge membership (around half a million people) to go all out in the campaign. As so often happens in UK politics, the latest campaigning techniques are being imported from the US for this election.
In this case, it's Momentum taking up the ‘distributed organising’ model from Bernie Sanders’ 2016 primary campaign. This involves opening up many internal campaign functions to volunteers, like researching Tory candidates, organising canvassing, and trawling through broadcast media to find good clips. If this works, it really could be a not-so-secret weapon that has a big effect on the election. Where in the previous campaign in 2017 it took a while for enthusiasm and optimism to build in the Labour effort, there has been no such delay this time.
Labour will release its manifesto very soon and it will likely be more radical than in 2017, although in both cases this is only relative to the ever more right-wing ‘centre ground’. Compared to the peak of social democratic interventionism in the 50s and 60s, the manifesto is likely to be fairly gentle Keynsianism with some nice new ideas about decentralising control of publicly owned services. The Tories, of course, have already pre-emptively denounced Labour’s program as akin to Stalinist purges of the Kulaks, so Labour may as well embrace the radical label to a certain extent!
A Labour majority requires everything to go right. They are almost certain to lose seats in Scotland to the SNP, so winning the election outright would require them to minimise these losses, hold off the Tories and Brexit Party in Wales and the north of England while also holding off the Lib-Dems in places like London. This is not an easy nut to crack. Much like in 2017, Labour will likely effectively run different Brexit messages in different places - emphasising in leave areas that they will do a better Brexit deal and in remain areas that a Labour government will give them the chance of a referendum to remain in the EU.
It may well be too late for Labour to be a credibly pro-Brexit party though, given how extreme that position has now become, and the forces of remain have expended so much energy attacking Labour as pro-Brexit that they may struggle in remain areas too. This is why their campaign will pivot away from Brexit at every opportunity, focusing instead on the social and economic issues which can appeal across the Brexit divide.
The Lib-Dems might as well rename themselves the No-Brexit Party. After being destroyed following their disastrous coalition with the Tories, they have quite reasonably lit upon the hardest of remain positions as their route back to some measure of electoral success.
They aim to take centrist, remainer votes from both Labour and the Tories and, in their dream scenario, would come out with dozens of seats, maybe even into the 50s. This would make them, alongside the SNP, king-makers in a hung parliament.
In theory there is no chance they would help Johnson form a government, for obvious Brexit reasons. But they are also running hard against Corbyn’s Labour and have welcomed a number of former Tories into the party alongside some virulently anti-Corbyn Labour figures. So they would not want to prop up a Corbyn government either, although they might do so in order to get their 2nd EU referendum and while trying to stymie Labour’s radical economic agenda.
The Lib-Dems face their perennial challenge in UK elections, especially ones like this where there is stark choice between the two main parties. Even the most Corbyn-sceptic, pro-remain voters in many places will know that voting Labour is the only way to defeat the Tories and that only Johnson or Corbyn will come out of this as Prime Minister.
The desperation with which the Lib-Dems have been trying to fight against this is reflected by their currently spreading of deceptive polls and misleading tactical voting advice, claiming that they are best positioned to beat the Tories in seats where they came a very distant third in the last election.
So it is quite possible the Lib-Dems will get squeezed by the harsh realities of first-past-the-post and only increase their seats by a handful. It is also possible that they will serve only to split the anti-Tory vote in key marginals and deliver Johnson a majority.