Would a United Left Have Defeated the Tories in 2019?

Could a united left coalition have prevailed in the 2019 United Kingdom general election? A recent TLDR News video, calculated that 65 seats would flip from the Conservative Party’s real results. 17 of these seats would have been Liberal Democrat, 5 SNP, and the rest to the Labour Party. This, of course, is theoretical and so analysis is vital to understand the problems with this concept.

The Surface Level

Under this hypothetical scenario, the Conservative Party would have lost 65 seats, giving them a total of 300 seats, which would be short of an overall majority by 26. However, due to Sinn Féin, who do not sit in Parliament, and the Speaker, who is technically an Independent and doesn’t vote on legislation, that would basically mean they would be short by 22. This would also mean that the amount of seats that the united left would have is 331, which would be enough to govern in a broad multi-party coalition.

In theory, then, the numbers of a unified left would in fact result in the Tories being ousted – the primary goal of any alliance. This, though, is predicated on the basis that the people would in fact vote the same as they did in that election, which might not be what would actually happen.

Looking Deeper 

There would be massive issues with getting people to vote for this, as many factors would likely sway people away. First and foremost, a massive amount of Scottish seats could go to the Conservatives, as the unionist vote would entirely coalesce around the Tories. This could result in many seats currently held by the SNP going to the Conservatives. Tactical voting has occurred in Scotland in the past to promote the most viable unionist candidate. It is my presumption that seats such as Aberdeen South, which was an SNP gain in 2019, may not actually be a gain for them due in this scenario to this factor of a united unionist vote. 

The SNP question would also likely have an impact in England. In 2015, many commentators felt that Labour failed to make drastic inroads in Conservative seats due to the fear over a SNP and Labour coalition. It’s likely that similar fears may actually boost anti-Labour sentiment. This would also suppose that Liberal Democrats would in fact support Labour; however, this is an oversimplification. In particular, the involvement of separatist parties in Wales and Scotland in the united left could result in issues for some Lib Dem voters. My belief is that many of the more centrist Lib Dem voters would not want to effectively cast their votes for then-Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a figure of the hard left. In other words – voters wouldn’t be certain to back the same parties as they did in 2019.

The Brexit Party

The final important aspect to consider is the Brexit Party. This party famously made a deal with the Conservatives to stand down in Conservative seats from the 2017 election, so that they wouldn’t lose seats to the Liberal Democrats in places such as Surrey and London. This pact likely saved Domanic Raab. Therefore, it is not much of a stretch in imagination to suppose that Farage would likely stand aside entirely in order to ensure that a Brexit-supporting party had a majority in Parliament – his stated desire at the time. This would give the Conservatives a lot more votes in the North and generally pro-Brexit areas, which could offset the united left alliance.

For example in the seat of Bollsover, where in 2019 the combined percentage of the vote of the Conservatives and Brexit party would be 56.4%. This could allow the Conservatives to still make some of the gains they had done in real life, and possibly make some more in seats they were not able to in 2019, such as Hartlepool.

The Other Side

There is one plus, though, of having a united left alliance: in seats where Labour and the Liberal Democrats split each other’s vote, that would be less effective. Constituencies like Cities of London and Westminster and Kensington would probably be harder for the Conservatives to have held and gained, respectively.

Despite this, it would appear to me that this gains might just not be enough to win a majority for the united left, or at least enough to make up for the problems I mentioned above. However, it might be enough to put more pressure on a government that would have a reduced majority to one the see now. The government would be under more stress with backbenchers, much like the times of the 70s and 90s.

Aaron is an objective journalist who does analysis on the current climate of politics and political party successes and looks back at recent political history to see where we are headed for. You can find him on Twitter @aaron_gsmith.

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