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The Conservatives are not unbeatable - they've just been lucky

Despite appearances, the Tories haven't smashed Labour. They've benefited from the collapse in support for smaller parties such as the Lib Dems and UKIP.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

The Conservatives aren’t unbeatable.

They’ve just been lucky.

It feels like the Tories have been in power for a long time - and everyone expects them to win the general election on June 8.

But in 2010, of course, they failed to win a majority. Instead, they became the largest party in a Coalition government.

And when the Tories finally won a majority in the House of Commons in the 2015 general election, it wasn’t because their share of the vote rose significantly.

And it certainly wasn't because they made gains at the expense of the only other party capable of leading a government, the Labour Party.

In 2010 Conservatives won 36.1% of the vote, while in 2015 they won 36.9%.

But Labour’s vote also increased, from 29% in 2010 to 30.4% to 2015.

And that’s the UK-wide figure. Labour’s vote collapsed on Scotland, losing 40 seats to the SNP, but this had nothing to do with the Tories.

In England, where the Conservatives and Labour compete for seats, Labour’s vote actually rose by 3.6% while the Conservative vote rose only by 1.4%.

Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg
Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg

So the Tories didn’t smash Labour. Of course it’s true that Conservatives got more seats and more votes than the Labour Party, but if you look specifically at the battle between the Tories and Labour then what you see is that Labour actually made progress in 2015.

Despite this, the Conservatives came out of the election looking like the big winners.

There are two reasons for this. One, as noted, is Labour's failure against the SNP in Scotland.

The other is the collapse in the Lib Dem vote. Voters punished the Lib Dems for going into coalition with the Conservatives, and the result was that Conservatives gained seats.

Tories won eight seats in 2015 which Labour had won in 2010. But they also lost ten seats to Labour, which means Labour was actually up by two seats against the Tories.

Conservatives got a majority because they took 27 seats from the Lib Dems.

All credit to the Tories for realising the Lib Dem vote was weak and targeting their seats. That was smart.

But they won a majority because a third, smaller party saw its support collapse - arguably nothing more than a stroke of luck for David Cameron.

What’s happening now?

We hear a lot of talk about opinion polls showing Labour is in real trouble.

Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to the nation in Downing Street
Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement to the nation in Downing Street

And this is true. Many polls put Labour support at around 27% or 28%, clearly down - if the polls are right - from the 30.4% they got in the last election.

But the polls also show that Tory support is massively up - perhaps as high as 49 per cent.

And this is because support for UKIP has collapsed.

UKIP got 12.6% per cent of the vote in the last general election, and 14.1% in England.

It seems that UKIP voters have abandoned them, and chosen to back the Tories instead.

An analysis of the West Midlands mayor election results confirms this. Labour support in the West Midlands was down marginally, but UKIP support fell significantly, with voters apparently transferring to the Conservatives.

Nigel Farage signing autographs at Birmingham's Bull Ring market
Nigel Farage signing autographs at Birmingham's Bull Ring market

It’s certainly a failure on Labour’s part to win those former UKIP voters over to their side, particularly when the voters may have been former Labour supporters in the past.

UKIP appears to be acting as a “gateway”, helping people switch from Labour to Conservative by giving their loyalties to a third party along the way.

But it was the strange charisma of Nigel Farage and his brand of populist politics that convinced voters to abandon Labour in the first place - not the brilliance of Theresa May.

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