The results of the local elections show the Conservatives are surging towards a convincing victory on June 8th — but just how big a majority will Theresa May enjoy?
The election was called for purely political reasons — arguments about Parliamentary uncertainty over Brexit are evidently false.
The Prime Minister may say she’s not complacent, but Tory officials have done nothing to dampen talk of a majority above 100, and now anything below 80 would start to look like a disappointment.
The Tories were 11-points ahead of Labour in the local elections — a significant lead, but nowhere near the 20-points suggested by some polls. It implies a more modest majority, between 50 and 60.
But the stars are aligning in a way Mrs May could only have dreamed. Support for UKIP is in freefall, with her hard Brexit message tempting many of their voters to cross to the Tories, including many who 5 years ago were firmly Labour.
There’s some evidence the Conservatives are doing especially well in Labour targets in the north and midlands. Mayoral victories in the West Midlands and Tees Valley show even Labour’s safest spaces are under attack.
Places like Bridgend, Wakefield, Scunthorpe and Bolton could fall to the Tories. Towns with high Leave votes, where Theresa May’s war on Brussels will play very well.
Safe Tory seats will become safer, especially in the south and east, while others will get a chance to widen their majorities.
In Scotland, the Tories’ position as the main opposition to the SNP should be solidified. Pro-union voters are gathering behind the Tory banner, in a way that seemed impossible 20 years ago, when the party was wiped out across the country. Now, they could win as many as a dozen Scottish seats.
The key has been to finesse a message aimed squarely at the C2DEs - the working class voters who swung behind Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Theresa May’s name is everywhere, the Conservative name less so — still toxic in many of the areas her candidates hope to win over.
The party’s been blessed with a chaotic opposition, unable to work out their own position on Brexit, and unable to point to a credible leader ready to take over.
Will the Tories lose any seats? Certainly the Lib Dems hope to take a handful in London and across the south, but many of their targets were pro-Brexit, and the huge UKIP to Tory defection could help many to hang on.
So where are the risks? If voters decide the Tories have already won, they may not bother to turn out.
But, assuming the Tories do win a significant majority, that brings its own danger. Parties that feel unassailable can easily become arrogant and lazy, and start to make mistakes. And if Labour were ever to get its act together (which is by no means guaranteed), even a large majority may not be enough for Mrs May to sleep soundly at night…