9 April 2020
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Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The battle of Britain

Malcolm Mackerras
5 December 2019

I refer to my article “Who will be the British PM on New Year’s Day 2020?” published in Switzer Daily on Wednesday 6 November. My reason to refer to it is to acknowledge that the campaign for the British general election next Thursday has not gone as I guessed it would when I wrote that article.

Here, therefore, are my final predictions for the number of seats won by each party in the House of Commons: Conservative 340, Labour 195, Scottish National Party 50, Liberal Democrats 35, Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party 11 and Others 19. In other words, the House of Commons will have 340 Conservatives and 310 for the combination of all the rest.

Readers may note that the SNP is the only party for which this prediction is the same as my last one. I still think the SNP will win 50 of the 59 Scottish constituencies, up from 35 in 2017 but down from 56 in 2015. Indeed, my entire prediction for Scotland remains as before, with the Conservatives retaining the same three seats as nominated before and Jo Swinson retaining Dunbartonshire East for the Liberal Democrats.

In terms of national vote shares I predict 41 per cent for the Conservatives, 30 per cent for Labour, 16 per cent for the Liberal Democrats and 13 per cent for the combination of everyone else. So, as usual Conservatives and SNP would be the big beneficiaries of the electoral system, the Conservatives winning 52 per cent of seats for 41 per cent of votes and the SNP winning eight per cent of seats for five per cent of votes.

This is the fourth election contested on the same set of electoral boundaries for which the total has been 650 seats. These have been the numbers for Conservatives: 306 in May 2010, 330 in May 2015, 317 in June 2017 and (predicted) 340 in December 2019. For Labour the equivalent numbers have been (will be) 258, 232, 262 and 195. For Liberal Democrats the respective numbers have been (will be) 57, 8, 12 and 35.

As to how history will see this election I can only say that it will be recorded as the time when Brexit was done, but the most unsatisfactory Brexit that it would be possible to imagine. The biggest loser will be Northern Ireland which will be treated as a foreign country – in much the same way as Australia treats Norfolk Island as a foreign country. However, whereas Norfolk Island has no option but to stay as part of Australia, Northern Ireland will need to consider carefully the idea of integration with the Republic of Ireland.

Scotland is impossible to predict. My guess is that it will become part of the European Union and independent of the United Kingdom, leaving the UK as England and Wales only. Unlike Northern Ireland, however, Scotland would continue as a constitutional monarchy with the Queen having the same status as she has in respect of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Barbados and Jamaica.

It continues to be my view that both Brexit and the Donald have been big mistakes by the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively – but let me not repeat the views I have expressed in earlier articles.

(Malcolm Mackerras is Honorary Fellow of Australian Catholic University. malcolm.mackerras@acu.edu.au)

Peter Switzer's book Join the Rich Club is on sale for 30% off from the Switzer Store until the end of Easter. Click here to pick up a copy today!

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