When politicians look desperate

When politicians are facing likely defeat they often desperately seize on an event or a development which they believe might turn the tide.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it can be counter-productive and sometimes it just looks desperate.

Arguably it worked for John Howard with boat turn backs and a hyperbolic campaign saying we would be overrun by terrorists and others if Labor was elected.

Today we don’t have to worry about boats as thousands – including many criminals – have arrived by plane while Peter Dutton was the Minister and Pezzulo the departmental head and managed to miss them all.

British PM, Rishi Sunak, after trying unsuccessfully the Howard type campaign about refugees crossing the Channel is now trying a desperate new climate policy related ploy, based on one by-election result which may or may not have been influenced by the policy he is now attacking.

The by-election was former Boris Johnson’s old seat which the Tories ended up winning by 495 votes after a 7.4% swing against them. The winning candidate said the result was due to the extension of the London Ultra Low Emissions zone into the electorate. This was a policy initiated by Boris when he was London Mayor.

Sunak decided therein lay an election winning formula and promptly dumped all of his previous climate policies. Sadly, that was just weeks before global temperatures soared and a remarkable result in a Scottish Parliamentary by-election up-ended thinking about how Scots would vote in the next UK election.

It looked uniquely ill-judged when September global temperatures soared to a new record following the hottest ever August and September ever recorded. Add a new El Nino to that and things are getting rather interesting on the climate front.

The Guardian (1/10) reported that Dale Vince, a green energy magnate, had announced he would stop funding direct action climate groups and instead direct his spending to getting out the vote for Labour at the next general election.

It also said that more than 100 companies – some of the UK’s biggest construction companies, property developers and estate agencies – wrote to Sunak warning that weakening and postponement of green policies such as low carbon prices for new construction would harm investment in housing and cause hardship for many people.

Shades of what those sectors of the economy say about any Labour (and Labor here) proposals for more taxes on property.

And it didn’t take long for the Sunak’s decision’s to flow through to the polls. The Guardian said an Observer poll found that a third of those who voted Conservative in 2019 now intend to switch to other parties. The lost voters are in areas such as their southern heartlands and the co-called ‘red wall’ seats in the Midlands won from Labour at the last election.

The poll found that 34% of Conservative voters are currently intending to vote for other parties. Voters who backed the Tories in the Midlands and south are now the least likely to stick with the party at the next general election – only 61% and 60% respectively will stay with the party and 20% of voters who backed the Tories in 2019 in the south of England said they had switched to Labour or the Lib Dems. A recent Opinium Poll (sample of 5000) has found that 88% of swing voters who supported the Tories in 2019 now intended to vote Labour.

Those findings flow into another Tory problem – tactical voting. The other by-election results at the time of the Boris by-election were marked by much tactical voting by both Liberal Democrats and Labour. We saw the same in Australia as Labor voters shifted their primary vote to Teal candidates to defeat Liberals.

At their September annual conference, the Liberal Democrats called for people to vote tactically in the next general election. A call which is now being supported by a variety of people and a tactical voting website called Stop the Tories has now been set up.

…..and if all that was not enough, memories of the couple of centuries of invasions of England by bloodthirsty Highlanders may be coming back in a new form to haunt the Tories. An October 5 by-election in a suburb south of Glasgow saw the SNP hammered by the Labour candidate winning 59% of the vote compared with the SNP’s 27.6%.

In the 2019 election Labour won only one Scottish seat. Now The Economist (6/10) reports that Sir John Curtice, a political scientist at the University of Strathclyde, had calculated that if the swing was replicated across Scotland in 2024 Labour could win 42 Westminster seats north of the border in the general election, and the SNP would be left with only six.

It is estimated that for every dozen seats Labour picks up in Scotland reduces several points off the lead it needs elsewhere in Britain to win a majority in Parliament.

Bookies are also putting long odds on a Tory win. The UK’s Betfair said at the time of the Tory conference that: “Punters on the Exchange are backing the Conservatives to lose more than 201 seats (5/2 – 29% chance) at the next general election.”

Betfair Politics Spokesperson (that’s one thing Australian bookies don’t have), Sam Rosbottom, said: “It’s been clear for some time now that punters have pretty much made up their minds about the outcome of the next general election. Labour has been heavily backed in the last two years, and they are the odds-on favourites at 8/15 to win a majority.”

So the big questions now are – how many other desperate rabbit out of the hat ploys will Rishi risk and how many of them will actually lose even more votes?