25 April 2024
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Both Starmer and Sunak might well be happy about “Super Thursday”

Malcolm Mackerras
5 July 2023

On Wednesday 7 June Switzer Daily published an article by me titled “Both Cook and Fadden are blue ribbon Liberal”. I begin by apologising for my wrong prediction on Cook. Scott Morrison has not resigned, but I repeat my prediction that Peter Dutton will have a good night on Saturday 15 July when the Fadden result comes in. Queensland is the only part of Australia where Dutton is still popular!

Five days after Fadden there will occur in the United Kingdom an event which the British used to call “a mini general election”. Given the Americanisation of so many things in the West, I imagine it would now be called “Super Thursday”. Anyway, there should be four by-elections on Thursday 20 July which will test both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Three of the four seats were won by the Conservative candidate in December 2019 while one was won by the Scottish National Party. My prediction is that Labour will gain two seats, one from the Conservative Party and one from the SNP. The Liberal Democrats will gain the rural Somerset seat of Somerton and Frome from the Conservative Party. That would leave Sunak reasonably happy in that his party would have at least retained the Yorkshire seat of Selby and Ainsty.

When I write about Australian elections, I typically quote the most recent statistics of the two-party preferred vote. That is because minor party votes effectively become big party votes under our preferential voting system. I don’t do that for American, United Kingdom, Canadian or New Zealand by-elections because they have first past the post voting and counting of votes. Under such a system minor party votes effectively go into the rubbish bin. So, I quote the two-party vote instead. The only problem is that the two-party vote is often not between Conservative and Labour.

Anyway, here are the two seats where I confidently predict gains by Labour. The first is Uxbridge and Ruislip South in west London where the by-election has been created by the resignation of Boris Johnson. The second is the Scottish seat of Rutherglen and Hamilton West (a commuter seat, south-east of Glasgow) where the SNP member Margaret Ferrier was caught travelling 400 miles on a train during lockdown when she knew that she had Covid. She was suspended from the SNP in October 2020 and has now lost a petition, which loss has forced this by-election.

Uxbridge and Ruislip South (west London)

Boris Johnson (Conservative)              25,351 votes            58.29%

Ali Milani (Labour)                             18,141  votes           41.71%

Conservative majority                           7,210 votes

Rutherglen and Hamilton West (suburban Glasgow)

Margaret Ferrier (SNP)                       23,775 votes             56.18%

Ged Killen (Labour)                           18,545 votes              43.82%

SNP majority                                        5,230 votes

So, Labour needs a swing of 8.3% to take Johnson’s old seat and 6.2% to take Ferrier’s. That should be no problem for Labour. The new member for Uxbridge will be Danny Beales and the new member for Rutherglen will be Michael Shanks.

The seat I predict the Conservative Party will hold is the north Yorkshire rural seat of Selby and Ainsty. Here are its statistics:

Selby and Ainsty (Yorkshire)

Nigel Adams (Conservative)                      33,995 votes            71.04%

Malik Rofidi (Labour)                                13,858 votes            28.96%

Conservative majority                                20,137 votes

So, Labour needs a swing of 21.1%. The by-election was caused by Nigel Adams resigning on Friday 9 June, the same day as Johnson - and in sympathy with Johnson. The two men are allies. My prediction is that the new member will be Keir Mather (who is only 25 and will take over as the youngest MP in the House of Commons). However, I qualify that prediction a little by noting that the old seat of Selby (whose boundaries were roughly the same as this seat) was won by Labour in 1997, 2001 and 2005. It would be truly catastrophic for Sunak if this seat fell to Labour.

The other “blue ribbon” Conservative seat is likely to fall. It is the rural Somerset seat of Somerton and Frome. Here are its statistics:

Somerton and Frome (Somerset)

David Warburton (Conservative)                36,230 votes           68.04%

Adam Boyden (Liberal Democrats)            17,017 votes           31.96%

Conservative majority                                 19,213 votes

So, the Liberal Democrats need a swing of 18.1%. This by-election was caused by the former member resigning over cocaine and a sex scandal.

I predict Sarah Dyke of the Liberal Democrats will win. However, again I qualify. She recently did a very poor podcast interview. It was a very soft interview, and when asked to describe the economy of the seat she couldn’t think of anything to say. It was described by one commentator as “Sarah Dyke’s excruciatingly embarrassing car-crash of an interview”, so she’ll get the blame for any loss, not the party nor its leader Sir Ed Davey. If perchance the Conservative candidate Faye Purbrick were to hold the seat there would be great joy at number 10 Downing Street.

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