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

Yesterday, we heard from G.S. in Basingstoke, England, UK about the British general election campaign that comes to a close today, and from S.T. in Worcestershire, England, UK about how events today will unfold. And now, the third musketeer (well, third redcoat), A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK, on the various parties' best-case and worst-case scenarios:

The British general election precedents worth keeping in mind this week are 1906, 1931, and 1997. 1906 marks the worst result in the history of the Conservative Party, when they won only 156 of the 670 seats in the House of Commons in a landslide victory for Campbell-Bannerman's Liberal Party—the last time that the party of Gladstone and Lloyd George won a majority before being replaced as the main center-left party by Labour after the First World War. 1931 was the most crushing victory for any party and any government in a modern election; Stanley Baldwin's Conservatives won 470 seats in their own right, and if Baldwin's partners in the National Government coalition are included, the government won 554 (just over 90%) of the seats. Labour provided the opposition after 1931 with just 52 seats—the smallest number of seats held by the official opposition in any modern parliament. 1997 was Labour's best-ever victory, with Tony Blair winning 418 seats and a 179-seat majority. If the polls are right, there's a strong chance that several of these records will be challenged this Thursday.

For Labour, the main goal is to win the election outright. An excellent result would be winning 450 seats, coming close to Baldwin's 470-seat single-party record of 1931, while a good result would be to least match Tony Blair's 1997 total of 418 seats. Realistically, everything you need to know about the polls in (and expectations over) this election is that merely meeting the best-ever result in the party's history would only be considered "good" rather than "excellent," and that coming close to 1931 is considered possible. A bad result would be for Labour to emerge the largest party, but fail to win the 326 seats necessary for a majority. The polls would, however, have to be disastrously wrong for this to happen.

For the Conservative Party, the main goal is to maintain some sense of dignity. An excellent result would be to beat the previous worst result in the party's history, and win somewhere between 150 and 200 seats. A good result would be to win more than 100 seats—still substantially below that 1906 total. And a bad result? The ultimate humiliation would be to finish third in number of seats to the Liberal Democrats, and third in vote share to Reform UK. Astonishingly, several polls are suggesting that this is within the bounds of possibility.

The main goal of the Liberal Democrats is to return to their traditional role as the third-largest party in the Commons, a status they lost to the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 2015, and which comes with some additional privileges in Parliament. That, however, would merely be a good result. A combination of tactical voting by those willing to vote for the candidate with the best chance of defeating the Conservatives, rather than the party they might usually support, (something which will likely also benefit Labour), and ruthless targeting of winnable seats, means the party might match their previous 2005 high-water mark of 62 seats; if they can combine that with overtaking the Conservative seat total, with party leader Ed Davey becoming Leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and they'll have had an excellent night. A bad result would be winning only a handful of new seats and finishing fourth in seat total behind the SNP.

The SNP will be aiming to remain the largest party in Scotland, and using this to continue to advocate for independence. A combination of scandals and poor political judgement, however, means the party is struggling to maintain its dominant position north of the border. An excellent result would be to win an outright majority of Scottish seats, which the SNP would likely use to argue they've won a de facto referendum in favour of holding a second independence referendum. A good result would be to win a plurality of Scottish seats. A bad result would be to come second to Labour in Scottish seats, and fourth in seat total nationally. Polling for Scottish seats has been a little hard to gauge, but an excellent result (as summarised here) currently appears unlikely, with most polls suggesting a bad result is on the cards.

Reform UK are the rebranded Brexit Party, hard-right pro-Trump populists who've never contested a UK general election under their current name, and their main goal is to elect some MPs in a general election for the first time. A good result would be to simply win 2-3 seats, including a seat for party leader Nigel Farage. An excellent result would be to overtake the Conservatives on share of the overall vote while winning at least 10 seats. A bad result would be failing to win any seats at all. At one point, an excellent result seemed within reach, but a recent combination of some worryingly anti-Ukraine positions and scandals involving supporters making racist and homophobic remarks while campaigning has caused a support wobble. But however many seats the party wins, they've arguably helped Labour and the LibDems at least as much as they've hurt the Conservatives simply by splitting the right-wing vote.

Elsewhere, the Green Party of England & Wales (the Scottish Greens are a distinct pro-independence party) have hopes of winning up to four seats, improving on their current single seat. Plaid Cymru (the Welsh nationalists) will hope to win their near-traditional four seats in the Principality's Welsh-speaking heartlands. Northern Ireland politics are unique and difficult to summarize quickly, but the main issue will be whether Sinn Féin overtake the Democratic Unionists as the party winning the most seats in NI—though their abstentionist policy means that SF won't take up seats they win at Westminster.

As to what the polls are suggesting: They all agree that Labour will win a huge majority, but there's some disagreement over seat totals. As of this writing, Electoral Calculus is currently predicting 465 for Labour, 71 for the LibDems, 65 for the Conservatives, 18 for the SNP, and 6 for Reform. ElectionmapsUK, meanwhile, has 453 for Labour, 81 for the Conservatives, 69 for the LibDems, 17 for the SNP, and 3 for Reform. Others have the Conservatives hanging on to as many as 150 seats. Regardless, it looks like being a very, very long night for Rishi Sunak after what will likely go down as the most disastrous British election campaign in recent memory; in my lifetime, only Labour's 1983 "Longest Suicide Note in History" even comes close.

Thanks, all! The trio will have a follow-up next week, once the dust has settled. (Z)

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