3 misconceptions about the 2019 general election

Although the contest to enter Number 10 is in its infancy, there are already a number of dominant narratives beginning to take shape – and perhaps mistakenly so.

‘Boris Johnson is heading for a majority’

Despite Jeremy Corbyn stating that Labour have been ready for an election ever since the last, the party has long given the impression it is running scared of an early general election, with more than 100 MPs either abstaining or voting against the vote in parliament for a December 12 national poll.

Labour currently trail the Tories by more than 10% in most polls, and with the Labour leader suffering the worst poll ratings of any opposition leader in recent political history, his ability to bounce back (although Corbyn was 20% behind at the stage of the last campaign) is being seriously questioned.

But British voters are incredibly volatile, and it is likely that they will be much more inclined to shift away from the two major parties than ever before. Corbyn is at his most comfortable when in campaign mode, and thanks to the Electoral Registration and Administration Act of 2013, this contest will run for six weeks – and as we saw in 2017, a lot of things can change.

‘Johnson will be Prime Minister if the Conservatives win the most seats’

Arguably the most important aspect of current polling is that Boris Johnson leads Jeremy Corbyn on almost every metric possible; he leads on “preferred Prime Minister”, he leads on competence and he leads on running the economy.

However, whilst Johnson is currently more popular with the public than Corbyn, he and his party has run of out friends in Westminster, which could ultimately come back to haunt him in the event of a hung parliament.

Johnson has declared that a December election is vital to end the “paralysis” at Westminster and to deliver Brexit; it remains a high-stakes gamble that could end up producing the opposite result.

The alliance that has seen the DUP prop up the Conservative minority government since 2017 has been well and truly shattered, with Arlene Foster’s party twice tilting Westminster votes on Brexit against Mr Johnson. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, could therefore be a powerful kingmaker.

In the event of a hung parliament, Swinson has already rejected any formal coalition with Labour, and is instead likely to seek to do a “deal” with opposition parties to deliver a second EU referendum.

It is therefore possible that Corbyn, with a smaller number of seats than Johnson, could make a common cause to form a majority opposed to a hard-Brexit and deliver on the party’s promise of a second EU referendum.

‘This election will be defined by Brexit’

The key starting point of any discussion about Corbyn’s prospects is an understanding that whilst the Conservatives (and the Liberal Democrats) will be framing this as a “Brexit election”, the Labour leader will be doing his upmost to talk about anything else.

Take the final prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Corbyn focused his questioning of Johnson solely on the NHS, traditionally Labour’s strongest ground with the public.

In the early days of the campaign, Labour’s message has been that under a Johnson Premiership the NHS would be “on the table”, framing the recently agreed Brexit deal as a policy that would lead to a “toxic Trump trade deal”.

The fact that the election is happening in December also opens up the risk that voting will take place against a backdrop of a NHS “winter crisis”. It will certainly be a risk that will worry Johnson.

The Labour party’s pledges, would require a complete transformation of the UK economy and for the Conservatives, focusing solely on “getting Brexit done” a la “Brexit means Brexit” in 2017 would risk repeating that very same electoral mistake.

See more articles by Jack Sansum