Can PM BoJo win back CON to BREX defectors?
One of the extraordinary features of UK politics at the moment is just how much is going on. Not only will this week see the outcomes of two party leader elections but there’ll be a new PM and in just over a week’s time there’ll be the first CON defence in a Westminster by-election since 2016. Inevitably this battle,in Brecon and Radnorshire will be portrayed as a Swinson versus Johnson.
At the weekend Number Cruncher Politics published an online poll on the by-election – the results are in the panel above and indicate that the LDs could win back the seat the lost at GE2015 from the Tories.
This is more than a battle for bragging rights but one which could have serious ramifications. A loss would make the Tory parliamentary situation even more precarious than it already is and might add to the pressure on Johnson to go for a general election.
The key numbers that the LDs are en route to regaining the seat are not that much of a surprise to but fieldwork took place before the leadership changes. Their national polling is substantially better than two years ago and they’ve been doing very well in local by elections.
The figure that stands out is the second place for the Tory candidate – an ex-MP whose criminal conviction for expenses fraud triggered the recall petition that created the vacancy. Farage’s Brexit Party can only manage third.
Given the Brexit Party’s huge success in the May Euro elections and how near it got last month in the Peterborough by-election you’d have expected it to be a lot closer. Like Peterborough Brecon voted leave in the referendum and like Peterborough the vacancy was created by a successful recall petition triggered by a criminal conviction for the incumbent MP Unlike Peterborough Brecon was not a marginal at GE2017 when the Tories retained it with a 19,5% majority,
A key factor for Boris is whether he is able to appeal to Tory voters who have defected to BREX and the by-election should give us an indication of that.
Farage’s parties have a long history of struggling with first past the post elections and the only times they’ve ever won Westminster seats were in 2014 when two Tory MPs resigned their seats after switching to UKIP. One wasn’t retained at GE2015 and the other saw the incumbent MP, Douglas Carswell, quitting Farage’s then party and not standing at GE2017.
I should add that single constituency polls are very difficult for pollsters because of the challenge of finding a big enough sample. They have been somewhat out of favour since GE2015 when many were tested against real results and failed.
The LDs are now 1/8 favourite to regain the seat.