Four weeks from now, voters will be heading to their polling station, and the result of this election remains unpredictable. Today’s NHS stats and the recent flooding are reminders of the particular dangers of a winter election to the governing party. But a week into the campaign, the chances of a Tory majority have increased, I say in the magazine this week.
When parliament voted for an election on 29 October, Tory strategists were still worried about how the public would react to Boris Johnson’s failure to meet his ‘do or die’ deadline of 31 October for getting the UK out of the EU. Two weeks on, it’s clear there’s been no great public backlash. This has denied the Brexit Party a chance to become major players in this election, which has led to demands from his own donors for Nigel Farage to stand his candidates down.
Farage has half-acceded to these requests by standing down his candidates in Tory held seats. By trying — even halfheartedly — to help Boris Johnson, Farage is conceding that the Tory leader is ‘trying to get Brexit done’ and absolving him of blame for the fact that Brexit did not happen on 31 October. He has also given the Tories the perfect message with which to squeeze Brexit Party support down in those all-important Labour held marginals: even Nigel Farage admits that a vote for the Brexit Party might result in a Corbyn government and no Brexit.
Nigel Farage isn’t the only opposition party leader offering the Tories assistance. Nicola Sturgeon is doing the same. By majoring on how she’ll use a hung parliament to secure IndyRef 2 she is helping the Tories. In Scotland, she is reinforcing the case for unionist tactical voting. In England, she is reminding voters of the power that the Scottish Nationalists would wield in a hung parliament.
There are still four weeks of this campaign to go, and we live in volatile times. As one senior Tory cautions, ‘odd things could trigger big shifts’. But the first week of this campaign has undoubtedly seen the chances of a Tory majority rise.