On Friday morning on the Exchange, the betting for the Next General Election – whenever that may come to pass – was perfectly tied, with both Conservatives and Labour available to back at [2.06] to win most seats. An accurate reflection of the stalemate seen in polls, reinforced at local elections, since the 2017 election. Is this duopoly the new normal or the calm before the storm? What, in particular, will be the effect of Brexit?
Brexit endgame will test fragile party unity
Ever since the referendum, both party leaderships have been walking a tightrope, trying to unite deeply opposing factions among their MPs, members, voters and constituents. As Brexit reaches its endgame, those ties will be tested like never before. The fallout could have profound implications for the entire party system, particularly for the Tories.
Tory divisions over Europe are deep, longstanding and played out in public on a daily basis. It is very hard to see any course of events that eases tensions, re-unites the party and keeps their voter base happy.
Polls suggest a a ‘No Deal’ Brexit would best please the 52% that voted Leave – who largely voted Tory in 2017 – but that would surely change if economic disaster awaits. Regardless of any chaos at the ports or food and medicine shortages, merely talk of a deep fall in house prices will cut deep into the national psyche. Especially among older homeowners, who overwhelmingly vote Conservative.
Another referendum would be toxic for any Tory leader and, if parliament forces it, a split becomes realistic. Even avoiding both awful scenarios by backing Theresa May’s deal would merely kick the can down the road. Conservatives will continue to obsess and fight over the future EU relationship during the transition period.