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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Three-figure majority looks unreachable mark for Tories

Margaret Thatcher gained more than 100 seats in 1983
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Theresa May's motivation for calling a snap election may have been dressed as an opportunity to gain a mandate for the Brexit negotiations, but there is little doubt that a 20-point lead in the opinion polls last month was a massive factor too.

Before the Fixed-Terms Parliament Act was introduced in 2011 to stop the Conservatives abandoning their coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the chief motivation for Prime Ministers to go to the country has always been that they think they are going to win.

Those hanging on by the skin of the teeth, like John Major in 1997, avoid the polls until the last possible moment.

Everyone has had to tread carefully before predicting political results over the last couple of years and a lot can happen before June 8.

But it is difficult to believe that May and her cabinet colleagues are as confident as they were when she trotted off to Buckingham Palace on April 18 to get a dissolution.

A Conservative majority government appears the most likely result of next week’s poll, but it may be worth selling the size of that majority with Sporting Index at 99.

Although the Tories’ lead in the polls is still comfortable – we may not trust them that much but we have little else to go on – history shows us gaining such a comfort zone is far from easy.

Just four governments have had a majority of more than 100 since Clement Attlee led Labour to glory in 1945. Two of those were led by Margaret Thatcher and the other two by Tony Blair.

On three of those occasions, the winning party were already in office and only once did they make a significant gain on their previous figure.

That came in 1983 when Thatcher’s Conservative majority rose to 144 from 43, but there were significant factors that contributed to that.

Many could point to the parallels from 34 years ago as the opposition was split by a left-wing Labour Party and the embryonic SDP/Liberal Alliance, but that was also a time when not only was the Prime Minister’s standing boosted by defeating Argentina in the Falklands War, but also the seeds of an economic recovery.

May is unable to enjoy those positives. Rather than a time when her hardcore support are convinced good times are just around the corner, the looming Brexit brings uncertainty.

For many, the strong and stable leadership message may be wearing a bit thin, the dementia tax has gone down like flatulence at a funeral and perhaps stoking up the fear factor about Jeremy Corbyn can only get the Tories so far.

That could be far enough but there will still be plenty of groups out to give them a bloody nose from remainers to Scottish Nationalists to young Corbynistas.

They have just got to get to the polling stations and make sure they put their money where their mouth is.

May has a week to assert her position and may be able to do so. Major recovered to grab an unlikely victory in 1992 when he got out on his soapbox and became more approachable but that may not be in the Prime Minister’s armoury.

The experience of the last six weeks, though, suggests the tactic could be to simply play it safe, not panic and try not to throw all the hard work down the drain.

If that is the case, a nice profit could be made if the Conservatives claim a majority of say 60 or 70, which would delight May, so the majority size is worth a sell.

For the other parties, the seat prices look about right. Labour may not suffer a meltdown and a modest buy of their seats at 188 would be preferable to going low, but there is little motivation to get involved.

The Scottish Nationalists meanwhile are on a hiding to nothing after gaining a whopping 56 seats last time and the Liberal Democrats appear to be making up the numbers.

Tim Farron’s troops have targeted key seats where they hope to build on Remain support as the chief challengers to the Tories.

That worked well in last year’s Richmond by-election but
they were able to boost their number of seats to just nine having gone into battle two years ago with 57.

The Lib Dems claimed 23 per cent of the vote on that occasion, a figure that seems a mile away this time and they are also likely to see the wind taken out of their Remain sails by the Nationalists north of the border.

There seems little profit to be made in selling them at 13 and certainly no motivation to believe they will get many more than the 16 that can be bought with Sporting Index.

Sell size of Conservative majority
at 99 Sporting Index

It is difficult to believe that May and her cabinet colleagues are as confident as they were when she trotted off to Buckingham Palace on April 18
E.W. Terms
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