With just under a month until the general election, all parties have been finding out just how difficult it is to mobilise volunteers on a cold November day. If anything will save the much-maligned Fixed Term Parliament Act, it’s the promise of future polling days only taking place in the spring.
This hasn’t stopped parties filling up their candidate vacancies, however, with a new generation of eager recruits. And, with the deadline for registrations passing this week, we now have a good idea of the political make-up of the parties after the election.
The trend of the Labour party in recent years towards a more full-blooded socialism is well understood, but parallel changes have been happening on the Conservative side – albeit in a subtler way.
While there’s been the usual sprinkling of army officers, doctors and barristers in this year’s Conservative candidate cohort, the increasing success of local councillors and association members – beating out flashy counterparts in London – has been noticeable.
Chris Loder in West Dorset, Suzanne Webb in Stourbridge, and David Simmonds in Ruislip are all examples of this change, replicated in safe seats across the UK.
The attitudes and outlooks of these people gives a good overview of the shift the Tories has been through in recent years, and what it’ll fight for in the years ahead. The cosmopolitan conservatism of the Cameron premiership has slowly been replaced by a more traditional approach, rooted closely to the sentiments and beliefs of the membership.
The election will also serve to flush out many of the party’s rebels, replacing them with those who will closely follow the party line – at least early on. The same is true on the Labour side, and this increased cohesiveness may preclude the need for a big majority on either side.
Aside from the trials and tribulations of the selection process, the other big news this week is on how the Brexit Party has stood down in Tory-held seats. It will, however, continue the fight in Labour and Lib Dem held marginals.
Commentators have been at pains to point out that this won’t necessarily lead to a Tory landslide. And some Conservative MPs have privately stated that Ukip votes have previously won them their seat, as they drew more votes away from Labour than the Conservatives.
While that may be the case, looking at raw electoral dynamics (and the ever-helpful electoralcalculus.com), this looks like a very good thing for most Conservatives. It should also more than balance out the ‘Remain coalition’, which has only seen limited coordination between the Greens and the Lib Dems.
It does beg the question of why Farage has only gone halfway. If his rationale is that the Tory deal is good enough for him to countenance, then why would he insist on sabotaging their prospects in Labour and Lib Dem marginals?
Aside from the Brexit Party, attention on Brexit itself has been limited this week, and at times it’s felt like being back in the golden age of when elections were fought on such prosaic issues as the NHS and the economy.
Given how many MPs have already fallen victim to the shifting political sands after the EU referendum, the new generation will be hoping that this indicates a decisive move on from the debates of the last three years.
With only 25 days from the election to the next Brexit deadline, however, they may have to wait a while longer yet.
by Georgeâ€‹ Robinson, Associate Partner