7 bizarre things that may actually happen in the general election
- Credit: PA
If there’s one thing you can predict in British politics these days, it’s that you can’t predict anything.
In pretty much every election from 2010 onwards, what the so-called expert pundits said would happen didn't. We didn't end up with a Conservative majority in 2010. We didn't get another coalition in 2015. Remain didn't win the referendum, and Theresa May reversed rather than extended her majority in 2017.
I'm therefore perhaps a little foolish to attempt my own set of premonitions about what will happen at the polls in a few weeks time. But one thing I do know if that if the so-called "Westminster bubble" makes assumptions about the future, well, frankly on past evidence I'm not sure we should buy them.
Here then are a few things not many people are saying which, behind all the talk of a Conservative majority and a Brexit election, could impact the result more than you might think.
Note my use of the word "could" - I'm already starting to sound like a politician…
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1. The election might not be about Brexit
The great assumption being made so far is that 2019 will be the Brexit election. How could it possibly be about anything else?
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Brexit will certainly play a big part, both in the parties' campaigns and how people vote. However, it's worth remembering that elections often do not end up being about the issue people think it will be at the start of the campaign. 2017, for instance, was also supposed to be a Brexit election, but ended up being about much more than that.
It's easy when Brexit dominates so much of the media to think that's all people care about. However we must remember that the vast majority of voters who are switched off from the Westminster village actually care about many other things. It could be these which are decisive in the outcome.
2. We could end up with the worst parliament ever
For those disenchanted with the state of politics, the idea things could get worse might sound implausible. But just think about it for the moment.
Whatever you may think of them, dozens of experienced MPs from all sides of the House are standing down. Some, such as former chancellor Ken Clarke, bring not only years of experience as MPs but a wealth of knowledge and expertise as ministers. That was all lost when parliament was dissolved.
In their place will come new, inexperienced parliamentarians. It is often said it takes years for new MPs to learn their way around the Commons, let alone how the system works. At a time of national crisis, our legislators will spend ages simply working out what on earth is going on.
In some ways, perhaps it's good to have a fresh set of people with a different perspective. Yet candidates have been selected at such short notice, are we really going to end up with the very best MPs? I guess we'll find out.
3. Boris Johnson might lose his seat
This intriguing situation could well be the most fascinating scenario to face any new Conservative government. What if the Tories won a majority but Mr Johnson lost his seat?
It's not impossible. His majority in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is 5,034. We saw many similar majorities fall in 2017.
If that happened, who would be prime minister? Would we have to wait for another Conservative leadership election? Would that delay Brexit further? Or would Mr Johnson go into the House of Lords?
4. A few thousand voters could change the political landscape
Many seats in 2017 were won with slender majorities. Labour's in Ipswich is just 831, while the Conservatives in Norwich North are defending just 507.
With parliamentary arithmetic on such a knife edge, a handful of voters in key marginal constituencies could decide the outcome of the election.
5. Turnout might actually be higher
Everyone is saying the cold, dark conditions we are likely get on December 12 will put people off voting. However I'm not sure I buy that people will put off their democratic right because of a bit a poor weather, particularly when many polling stations are just round the corner. Indeed with so much at stake in this election, turnout could be higher.
6. The TV debates could stifle actual debate
They're seen as a great way of bringing democracy to the people, yet the reality is that politicians will spend many hours locked in darkened rooms preparing their attack lines and soundbites when they'd otherwise be meeting the public. David Cameron thought they sucked the life out of the 2010 campaign.
We should have TV debates as they're the only way many voters will get the measure of the party leaders, but you have to wonder whether the two by the BBC and one each from ITV and Sky News - equivalent to one a week - will sap up too much time.
7. Don't forget the ground war
Much is said about the importance of social media, and it will play a crucial role. But even in this hi-tech age, people are still more likely to remember a face-to-face conversation with a canvasser than a Facebook post amongst hundreds of others. Which party can get more people out knocking on doors in the depths of winter may be the winner of this election.