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From first impressions to tactical voting: win or lose the UK election | 2024 general election

From first impressions to tactical voting: win or lose the UK election |  2024 general election


Let's start again. The Conservative Prime Minister fired the starter gun early for the general election for the third year in a row. Theresa May started far ahead, but she lost almost everything. Boris Johnson started far ahead and took the lead for the bank. Rishi Sunak does not start with the strengths of his predecessor. It's the gamble of a man with nothing to lose.

Victory will require an unprecedented twist. All the evidence suggests that it is Sunak's Labor opponent Keir Starmer who is trying to make history instead. But he too faces the enormous task of trying to lift Labor to a majority in the coming weeks from its worst House of Commons defeat in 90 years.

When looking at the challenges the two have faced, it cannot be left out that they have been since 1997. Sunak's Conservatives face their biggest poll deficit since 1997. This is the first Tory government to trail Labor on the economy since 1997. Starmer's Conservatives are gaining support on every major issue for the first time since 1997. Percentage of voters who say it's about time The current government is the most unpopular since 1997. To defeat them, the opposition needs its biggest changes since 1997.

But because the current government fell so quickly, the prospects for the Conservatives are not entirely bleak, nor are those for Labour.

Sunak takes his party to the polls with a healthy majority. Starmer goes into the contest knowing that to secure his actual majority he will need to win 150 seats. It's a huge mountain to climb and it's likely the Labor leader will have to match or exceed Tony Blair's election performance just to secure a slender Labor majority.

Sunak starts the campaign far less popular than John Major, but Starmer is no Blair Polls convey grudging respect rather than the exceptional enthusiasm found in Blair's early approval ratings.

Neither Sunak nor Starmer have had their leadership tested in the furnace of a general election campaign before. Many voters who only watch as polling day approaches will be examining both for the first time. First impressions can be especially important for many voters who say they are undecided or may change their minds yet. Unusually, this time the Tories skewed undecided, with many who supported Johnson telling pollsters they had not yet made their choice. This group could yet provide an opportunity for Sunak and a challenge for Starmer.

Labor starts the campaign with three big opportunities. Two are familiar to Mr Blair and one is not.

The first is that Labor has recently developed a knack for making the most progress where it needs to make the most progress. This pattern, known as a proportional swing, is crucial if Labor is to move ahead and make big gains in areas it needs to win, making the opposition vote much more effective. Any swing offers more seats and lowers the bar for winning.

The second pattern reinforces this mass tactical voting, in which voters are sufficiently determined to get rid of Conservative incumbents and unite behind whoever is best positioned to defeat them.

Both patterns reflect the strong anti-Tory mood familiar to Blair and his team. But the anti-incumbency mood may be encouraging Labor on an unfamiliar battlefield in Scotland, a New Labor veteran whose seat has been held by the SNP since an independence referendum a decade ago. Opinion polls now predict a massive move against the nationalists, which could sweep dozens of Scottish Labor MPs into the House of Commons.

The SNP is not the only small party facing a crucial election. Tactical voting and a strong anti-incumbency mood give the Liberal Democrats their best chance of restoring their fortunes in the House of Commons as third parties target dozens of Conservative incumbents.

The Green Party will fight to keep the current Brighton Pavilion site and achieve its top goals for Bristol Central. Here, the fight between Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer and Labor shadow cabinet member Thangam Debbonaire provides one of the most interesting subplots. election.

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The shift in the balance of power between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland could have a major impact on the Dublin election, which the pro-unification nationalist Sinn Fin is expected to win for the first time.

Next comes the British Reformation. The latest Nigel Farage outfit is a huge headache for the Conservatives. That's because it threatens to split the Tory vote by fielding candidates in hundreds of Tory seats where there were no Brexit party candidates in 2019.

The reforms are weaker than Ukip's overall, but they are more threatening to the Conservative Party, which now relies more on the immigration hardliners who find Farage the most attractive. But sticking to the right to ignore this challenge risks further damaging the Tory brand with moderate voters who do not prioritize immigration.

Like all elections in our diverse and divided country, this one will be messy, noisy and complex. But at the heart of it all is a simple choice: change, or something more. Governments set records and sometimes fall. This Congress has seen incomes fall and bills rise. They don't have access to health care and they can't afford housing.

Sticking to a plan that delivers those results is not attractive. Change is attractive when the status quo has clearly failed. Ronald Reagan asked: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Voters know the answer to Reagan's question. They've been taking their time for a while. That's why, unless a miracle or disaster occurs during the campaign, a change of government is only a few weeks away.

Robert Ford is Professor of Politics at the University of Manchester and co-author of British General Election 2019.




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