Keir Starmer grilled by host on Blair and Corbyn stance
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Elections guru John Curtice, along with his colleagues Stephen Fisher and Patrick English, argue Mr Farage’s Brexit Party stopped some loyal Labour voters backing Boris Johnson. They say the third party gave voters a different option to voting Conservative while still showing their support for leaving the EU.
The polling experts say if Mr Farage had stood down candidates in all constituencies, Mr Johnson may have won a majority of up to 130 seats.
Modelling showed that in constituencies without a Brexit party candidate, about 70 percent of Labour leave supporters backed the Tories, while 30 percent stuck by Mr Corbyn.
Writing for a chapter in a new book, “The British General Election of 2019”, the three pollsters say: “As a result, the Brexit Party may have cost the Conservatives about 25 of the seats that Labour managed to retain – most of them Leave-voting seats in the north of England and the Midlands – and thereby enabled Labour to avoid an even heavier loss of seats.”
At the ballot box in December 2019, 365 Conservative MPs were elected, compared to Labour’s 203.
It gave Mr Johnson an 80 seat majority in the Commons and was seen as an overwhelming endorsement of his Brexit deal.
The election marked Labour’s worst defeat in terms of seats since 1935 and forced Mr Corbyn’s resignation.
Mr Farage repeatedly attempted to force the Conservatives to form an electoral pact ahead of the 2019 ballot.
It would have seen the Brexit party not stand in seats where there was an incumbent Conservative candidate but would have given Mr Farage’s candidates a free-run in Labour heartlands.
The Tories refused to agree to any deal and in the end the Brexit Party withdrew its seats from Tory held seats unilaterally.
According to the election experts, while the decision to withdraw from Tory seats did not have the same impact on the election result as standing in Labour areas, it may have helped ensure a few high profile MPs secure election.
“There was just a handful of seats where the decision of the Brexit party to stand down might have helped avoid a Conservative defeat, though they include the seats of two prominent Brexiters, Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford & Wood Green) and Dominic Raab (Esher & Walton),” they said.
Mr Raab was returned to the Commons with a majority of just 2,700 votes.
A very pro-EU seat in the 2016 referendum, the Lib Dems had been targeting the constituency when campaigning.
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The new analysis also supported Mr Corbyn’s assertion that the result was largely down to Mr Johnson’s pledge to “get Brexit done”.
Critics of the Labour leader accused his manifesto commitments and personal leadership of also playing a large role in the defeat.
But constituency-by-constituency analysis indicated Brexit was by far the largest factor.
“The Conservatives’ share of the vote increased by nearly six percentage points on 2017 in seats that are estimated to have backed Leave most heavily in 2016, while the party’s vote fell by a couple of points in constituencies where most had voted Remain,” Mr Curtice, Mr Fisher and Mr English found.
“While Labour’s vote fell by six points where most voters had backed Remain, it dropped by nearly nine points where a majority had supported Leave.”
They added Brexit had been such an disruptive issue electoral that “all of Britain’s parties often recorded some of their best performances in relatively unfamiliar territory”.
“The British General Election of 2019”, edited by academics Tim Bale, Robert Ford, Will Jennings and Paula Surridge, was published yesterday.
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