How to beat the Tories at the general election

By James Melville.

While the Tories are favourites to win a December General Election, it poses a huge risk for Boris Johnson. The Tories risk losing 10+ seats in Scotland and are vulnerable in pro-Remain seats across the South of England. There are only 13 Labour Leave seats that they are close to winning. It’s hard to see where they can gain enough seats to win a majority.

It becomes even riskier if the opposition parties end their tribalism and form an anti-Tory / Remain Alliance.

The main reason for the current Conservative lead in the polls is that the leave vote is largely united, while the remain vote is deeply divided. According to YouGov, the majority (53%) of leave voters say they will vote for the Conservatives, while the remain vote is split between the Liberal Democrats (32%), Labour (32%) and the Greens (12%). And the first-past-the-post electoral system punishes division on the same side of the fence. The only realistic, pragmatic and ruthless way to beat the Tories at the general election is to form an election pact.

Remain parties can combat the difficulties of first-past-the-post through an effective electoral pact strategy. These would work by all bar one of the remain parties standing aside in marginal seats to allow the strongest party in that area a clean run versus the Tories. The tactic was successfully used in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election where Plaid Cymru and the Greens stood aside to help the Lib Dems win the seat.

If Labour also signed up to an election pact, the Tories would lose a significant number of seats at the next general election if Labour joined forces with the pro-Remain parties in England and Wales, according to polling expert Professor John Curtice. If Labour joined a Remain / anti-Tory alliance and the other parties agreed not to field candidates in Labour-Tory marginals, the Conservatives would risk losing up to 50 seats, most of them to the Labour Party.

Such a result would make it impossible for the Tories to assemble a pro-Brexit majority in the House of Commons and would instead raise the prospect of Labour governing in coalition with one of the other parties.

There are 86 Tory held seats that voted Remain in the EU referendum. If Remain parties combined forces and only put up the most likely party candidate to defeat the Tories, it would be almost impossible for the Tories to win the general election.

An attempt to build an effective Remain Alliance has already begun. The Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru have discussed a non-aggression pact in up to 70 constituencies with one ‘Unite to Remain’ most likely to win candidate in each seat who will stand as a Liberal Democrat or Green and so on. 

Is this election pact with Labour likely to happen? Unlikely. Labour has given no indication that it is open to forming an alliance with Remain parties. At this stage we can only hope that their attitude changes. It may well be the only way to beat the Tories.


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