Over the course of the campaign, this election has been likened to many from the past. Inevitably, comparisons were made with Margaret Thatcher, with the early and betting implying Theresa May would even improve on the Iron Lady’s 1983 personal best – a majority of 144. Even if the Tories underperformed, their 1987 majority of 102 was easily within range.
Much has changed. The current size of majority estimate is closer to Labour’s last victory in 2005, when Tony Blair won a working majority of 66, but well below his two previous landslides. Given earlier expectations, May would probably take it. For while the Tories remain heavy favourites to win, their lead has significantly narrowed. According to Yougov’s new model, rather than emulating the glory years of Thatcher, May is on course for a similarly inconclusive win to David Cameron in 2010.
However there is one gigantic obstacle to a hung parliament. Cameron was denied a majority in 2010 because the Lib Dems retained 57 seats – 46 in England. Five years later, that tally was reduced to just eight, following their controversial decision to join Cameron’s coalition. Having started out talking of tripling that number, with high hopes in at least a dozen CON-held marginals, even doubling it looks a very big ask now. Over 14.5 seats, for example, is rated only 25% likely.
Campaign weaknesses are well documented. Positioning themselves as the Remain Party alienated 52% of the population and, with the other 48% largely moving on from the referendum, it works in a handful of seats at best. Tim Farron hasn’t cut through. However rather than recent strategic effects, we need to look a lot further back to understand what is happening.