My initial reaction to the news that Theresa May was to hold a snap general election was too profane to publish – I can’t deny that it took me by surprise. On the face of things there seemed no need for this, but thinking about it now, whether or not Theresa May was to call an election the opportunity for a massive victory was there. A lot can change in three years, and by calling an election in two months’ time the Tories have a huge opportunity to crush their opposition and cement their power for the next five years.
Looking at the opinion polls, with the Conservatives hovering at 45% and Labour flapping around with 22%, the result of the election seems to be a forgone conclusion already. Theresa May will undoubtedly platform herself as the hard Brexit candidate, and quite frankly, who knows what Jeremy Corbyn will do. UKIP is beginning to trail behind the Lib Dems once again at a meagre 9-10%, and ever since the successful vote to leave the European Union in June last year, they have become much of a muchness.
Ukip still have a chance to make one or two gains in the smaller, more working-class, pro-Brexit constituencies of the country, but if the patterns of the last General Election are anything to go by, disillusioned voters from other parties will swing towards the Conservatives. In the run-up to elections in Britain, voters generally seem to swing somewhat more towards the status quo, and if this is to continue as I believe will be the case, UKIP might as well write itself out of history now, and any seats it does gain will be worthless in the face of the massive Conservative majority which is sure to be won regardless.
At a very conservative (if you will pardon the pun) estimate, the Conservatives can certainly win seats well over the 326 needed for a majority, and may win over anything between 380-390 constituencies. Their potential to do even better than that, however, is astounding, and if the election goes very well for Mrs May and voters buy both her pro-Brexit and anti-Corbyn slate, we could be talking about well above 400 Conservative MPs.
What will be interesting to watch are the results in Scotland. The SNP made headlines in 2015 for winning every Scottish seat besides three. However, with Nicola Sturgeon’s endless harping on about another independence referendum and Ruth Davidson’s Tory machine beginning to take root across the country, the nationalists may not find it quite so easy to hold onto their vast representation this time. The lowlands, which tend to swing towards the Tories anyway, will likely return completely to their former party, and the areas of Scotland which did vote to leave the EU in large numbers (and trust me, there were some sizeable ones!) may vote Conservative, being the major unionist party in Scotland, in order to have their voices heard in amongst the great clamour that Scotland voted to Remain.
In Northern Ireland, as is so often the case, it will be hard to predict on the border territories between Eire and the UK. We will see a contest between those who will wish to see Britain leave the EU at all costs, and those who worry about the status of the border with the Republic. Old divisions between the highly conservative and traditional unionists and more liberal republicans may begin to sour once again, and it is not something we should be looking forward to, especially at a time when Theresa May says we ought to be united.
What perhaps worries me the most is the possibility of arrogance from Theresa May and the Conservatives. It seems so much like this election will be a foregone conclusion that we may, as a party, forget that we deserve to be held to account just as much as any other. Great popularity and success does corrupt, and it inspires leaders to rash acts. A lot can change in two months as much as years, and there is a chance that the Conservatives will not do as well as is predicted. However, they are in an incredibly strong position, and it would be the shock of the century if they did not.
It should be an incredibly exciting time to be a Tory: the Conservative Party will be riding on the back of a huge surge of right-wing sentiment, a natural national disposition to vote for the status quo, and complete disillusionment with the opposition parties. However, the Tories must remember that good government is as much built on policy as it is votes. If the Conservative Party surges to victory as I think it will, it must not be taken as an excuse to stop pushing for real conservative values – an election is just an election, and it does not define the party itself.
There is still a lot of work to be done to make the Conservative Party a truly dynamic yet traditional force in British politics, and if it completely neglects its duty to the British people in giving them the government that they have repeatedly indicated that they want, then I dare say it may not deserve the huge victory which seems to be on the horizon.