Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Britons Are About to Rain on Sunak's Parade

Rishi Sunak lasted close to 2 years as prime minister. Or, if you prefer, he was good for 56.3 Scaramuccis, or 12.5 Trusses. But the jig is up. After more than a decade of Conservative rule, the people of the United Kingdom are eager for change. They will head to the polls tomorrow and will make Labour's Sir Keir Starmer the new PM. There is a very good chance that he will outlast a head of lettuce.

Our three regular British correspondents have provided a thorough overview of the things you should know if you want to follow and understand the election. First up, G.S. in Basingstoke, England, UK, on the General Election campaign:

American readers of this site will, of course, be familiar with the train wreck that was the first 15 minutes of the presidential debate last week. U.K. political watchers, however, have watched effectively the same thing unfold in slow time over the last 6 weeks; specifically, Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party's attempts to hang onto power with their general election campaign.

Where to start? Well, the Prime Minister elected, in common with all the party leaders and multiple foreign heads of state, to travel to France for the D-Day commemorations early in June. Nothing wrong with that, of course. What provoked absolute fury and ridicule, however, was his decision to leave said commemorations early to conduct an interview with a national news channel. Veterans were furious, opponents gleeful, about his lack of judgment, and we had our first seminal photo of the campaign, with the President of the United States, Chancellor of Germany, the President of France together with the er.... UK Foreign Secretary:

The photo is exactly as described

Not content with this blunder, the PM then sat for an interview attempting to portray him as a "man of the people." A reminder: Sunak is a multimillionaire, with his wife well on her way to being a billionairess. When pressed on the ostensible hardship of his childhood and what he had "gone without", Sunak revealed that he had been deprived of—no, REALLY—a Sky TV subscription so that... he could be sent to one of the poshest private schools in England, Winchester, where the PER-TERM (not yearly!) fees approach $20,000. Given the 94% increase in food bank usage in the U.K. over the last 5 years, this revelation just might have shown something of a tin ear.

Eager to get in on the act, Sunak's advisors then gave him another headache. It was revealed that (and the intimation here is that the protagonists have inside information) a number of Sunak's aides and other Party members had made (successful) bets on the timing of the general election. Sunak was visibly furious and said anyone guilty would be thrown out of the Party, but opposition members were keen to point out that the "investigation" will not be completed until after that date and so is effectively rendered moot. The Conservatives subsequently suspended the two candidates caught up in the scandal anyway, but they remain listed as "Conservative" on the ballot, and the suspension begged the question of why Sunak hadn't acted more directly when the allegations first surfaced, if he was as angry as he claimed.

When not pressing the self-destruct button, the Tories have been launching all kinds of easily falsifiable claims about the aspirant Labour party. To take one example, they claimed Britons' taxes would go up by £2000 per household per year. Ouch! Now this is true... but only if all households pay the same level of tax (they don't) and only if you count the tax bill over the ENTIRETY of the next Parliament—so 5 years, not 1, as the claim seemed to imply. Secondly, the Tories have been attacking Labour over taxing pensions—a tax which would be avoided if the tax thresholds (the point at which you don't pay tax) had risen in accordance with inflation. As Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak might just have had something to do with those tax thresholds in the past. Hypocritical, much?

We get to this week, and the Tories are now in full defense mode. The even-more-right-wing-than-the Tories "Reform" Party are polling at parity or even ahead of the Conservatives; Tory MPs are openly warning about the consequences of a Labour supermajority and the loyal Tory newspapers carry pretty much the same warning. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Honourable Member for the 18th Century, who is in very real danger of losing his seat, issued forth today that "I'd want to build a wall in the English Channel" (and you thought the Rio Grande was going to be tough terrain). Sir Keir Starmer, the aspirant PM is, true to form, treading very carefully, warning constantly that change will only come if we vote for it. We go to the polls tomorrow, and shall see on Friday morning whether he is right.

Next, S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK, outlines how events will likely unfold tomorrow and Friday morning (all times British Summer Time, so EDT +5):

At 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, thousands of polling stations across the 650 parliamentary constituencies in the U.K. will open for voting in the 2024 General Election. At that point millions will have already voted. Any elector in the U.K. can claim a postal or proxy vote, no questions asked, if they submit a request by set deadlines. Much of Election Day itself is oddly quiet due to legal limits on reporting. We can expect films of prominent politicians going to vote, pictures of unusual or quirky polling stations, and cute animals outside them. There will probably be rumors of high turnout, which almost invariably prove incorrect. More concerning is the new requirement for in-person voters to bring ID documents with them. This is frankly an unwelcome and unnecessary import from the States which may yet cause problems on the day.

At 10:00 p.m. the polls will close. Shortly after, the main U.K. broadcasters will issue details of a joint exit poll which has been carried out throughout the day. In three of the last four elections, this has proved remarkably accurate, and it was not THAT far off in 2015, either. This time it may prove more difficult due the expected sharp fall in the Conservative vote, a larger than normal number of seats appearing to be heading for tight finishes, and the result of major boundary changes. The latter vary from "nip and tuck" all the way to wholesale dismemberment of previous seats and the creation of new ones in areas of population growth. Less than 100 constituencies are completely unchanged. As results are only ever published at constituency level, it is hard to establish the base line for the revised seats. Most of the U.K. media will use the estimates produced by Professors Thrasher and Rallings who have had a decent track record in this area after previous boundary changes.

By now the vote counting all by hand—no voting machines in the U.K.—will be underway. Readers wanting to follow the results as they come in are probably best served by the BBC or Guardian websites, neither of which have paywalls. A list of the estimated time of each declaration, which is inevitably an approximation and often subject to delay, is here.

Several of the earliest declarations are usually in the northeast of England. Sunderland prides itself on rapid counts. These seats, mostly held by Labour, are, however, a weak guide to the national picture, often having lower than average swings.

The first drama of the night (estimated declaration 12:15 a.m.) may improbably happen in the Essex seat of Basildon and Billericay, 30 miles east of London. The retiring Conservative MP notched up a majority of over 20,000 in 2019. The local party waited several months for a letter from party HQ listing the authorized candidates they could select a replacement from. When the list turned up, several days after the election was called, it consisted of one name: Party Chairman Richard Holden MP. Holden won one of the "Red Wall" seats in northern England, traditionally Labour constituencies, in 2019. Unfortunately it was one of those dismembered in the boundary changes. Nevertheless his transfer to another seat over 250 miles away, which he has no link with, and the manner of his "selection" has gone down badly with locals and the seat now appears to be a 3 way marginal with Labour and the right-wing-populist Reform party in contention.

The first conventional Conservative/Labour marginal to declare may be Swindon South (12:30), 80 miles west of London. Former minister Rob Buckland, a Conservative, has a majority of circa 5,000 and looks very vulnerable.

In Scotland the battlefield is different, with the main protagonists being the Scottish National Party and Labour. The fight will be particularly intense in Glasgow and its surrounding urban sprawl. The first Scottish declaration (1:00 a.m.) may be Rutherglen, just south of Glasgow, which has already changed hands between the SNP and Labour 4 times in 9 years! It will be the first indication of how that fight will pan out.

The first London seats to declare may be Putney and Tooting (1:30 a.m.). Putney was Labour's sole gain anywhere in 2019. With polls suggesting Labour lead the Conservatives by over 30% in London, the Conservatives may be struggling to hold even 10 of the capital's 75 seats.

Swindon North follows its twin (1:45 a.m.). It has a far larger Conservative majority, circa 14,000. If Labour take this, they are winning big. At around the same time the first Conservative seat being targeted by the Liberal Democrats, Harrogate and Knaresborough, also declares.

2:00 a.m. is due to see a clutch of seats declare. Darlington and Redcar are two "Red Wall" seats in the north east, both with Conservative majorities around 4,500. Both easy pickings for Labour? In the West Midlands, Cannock Chase and Warwickshire North are seats held by Labour from 1997-2010, which have both swung heavily to the Conservatives since (majorities of 18,000 and 20,000). If they fall, as some MRP polls suggest, Labour is heading towards landslide territory. Vale of Glamorgan is a rare "bellwether" seat in South Wales, with a sickly Conservative majority of circa 2,500. Wales may become a Conservative-free zone before the night is out. Torbay in southwest England is a long shot Lib-Dem target. Their ability to win seats from the Conservatives in this region will depend crucially on Labour voters being willing to vote tactically.

After a brief lull, the floodgates open at around 3:00 am with nearly two-thirds of all declarations probably in the next 150 minutes, including your UK correspondents' seats at Lichfield (3:00), Wyre Forest (3:30) and Basingstoke (4:00). Two results stand out. In a new seat, south of London, Godalming and Ash, (3:30) Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt is, despite an estimated 10,000 majority, at great risk of losing to the Lib Dems. If that does happen, it will be the first time a serving Chancellor of the Exchequer has lost his seat in a General Election since at least the 19th century. And in the Essex seat of Clacton (4:00), Reform Party leader—and friend of Donald Trump—Nigel Farage will be making his eighth attempt to be elected an MP, after seven misses.

By 5:30 am, possibly much earlier, if the polls are correct, Labour may have secured the 326 seats to give them a majority in the House of Commons, in which case the U.K. will have a new government. If things go really badly for the Conservatives, one last seat to watch out for—a late declaration—may be Norfolk South West. The defending Conservative MP there got 68.7% of the vote back in 2019. Since then her popularity has diminished somewhat. She is Liz Truss.

Thanks, S.T. and G.S.! Tomorrow, we will have a piece from our third British correspondent, A.B. in Lichfield, discussing the floors and ceilings for the various parties, and then later in the week we'll have the actual results. (Z)

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