• The election is Labour’s to lose.
  • What are the possible scenarios and can Labour secure a sizeable majority?
  • An opportunity for Labour in Scotland.
  • Party discipline remains a challenge regardless of the size of any majority with foreign policy a particular Achilles heel for Labour.
  • Does everything stop now for the next six weeks? If you are hoping for answers on development projects, don’t expect too much from local councillors, they will all be out campaigning.

They say a week is a long time in politics. The next six weeks will be sure to bring up a number of surprises. The Prime Minister has called a General Election for 4th July. Notwithstanding that polling day will fall on American Independence Day, the last General Election held in July was 1945, where Clement Attlee secured a significant Labour victory, beating Winston Churchill in the process. With the Conservatives 20 points behind Labour in the polls, what can Rishi Sunak do to turn it around?

Whilst anything can happen during an election campaign, we have broken down the likely scenarios:

A large Labour majority – 132+ seats

With a large majority Labour’s position is much more secure and Starmer will be able to begin to push his key policy changes through the House which may include planning reform and the six key pledges he announced last week (click here to read our piece on this announcement). However, it is important to note that Labour require a swing of over 12.7%, the largest swing in modern General Election history to overtake the Conservatives as the largest party in the House of Commons. A majority of this size would require Labour to gain over 200 seats. If Starmer does secure a majority similar to Tony Blair in 1997, we can expect to see many new and inexperienced Labour MPs similar to the Conservatives after the 2019 General Election. In 1997, Labour gained 146 new MPs, not including new Labour MPs who succeeded retiring Labour MPs.

The challenge for any party with a large majority is maintaining discipline within its own ranks – Boris and Sunak experienced this with his 80-seat majority and for Labour, right now there are huge tensions in relation to foreign policy and in particular the Gaza conflict. Add to this the potential for another Trump Presidency, Starmer has a difficult line to tread managing his own party. We have seen this in microcosm in local elections. Take Oxford City Council for example, where 9 Labour councillors broke away to other independent groups, due to the national party position on Gaza.

The fall of the SNP: an opportunity for Labour

With the current crisis of the SNP, there are 43 SNP seats up for grabs in Scotland. Labour should be able to capitalise here having lost most of theirs in 2015 to the SNP. If Labour manages to gain half of the seats in Scotland, this will make it much easier for them to secure a majority and take some of the pressure off winning back more of the former Red Wall seats in the north.

A smaller Labour majority – 36 seats

Although Labour appear to be over 20 points ahead in the polls, there is the potential for this gap to narrow the closer we get to polling day. Theresa May had a 20 point lead over Jeremy Corbyn when she called the 2017 General Election and that gap narrowed to 2 points on polling day, resulting in the Conservatives losing their majority. Now in 2024, it is worth considering the impact that Reform UK may have. In Hartlepool, Reform UK prevented the Conservatives from keeping the seat, but they could equally take some of the votes that Labour need to win back some of the Red Wall seats. With a small majority, the impact of ill-discipline within the party is felt far more – just as we saw with Theresa May post-2017. In this scenario, backbench Labour MPs will have more of an impact if they decide to rebel and the more outspoken left-wing Labour MPs such as John McDonnell could suddenly become more present in the press and media.

A Hung Parliament

In the event of a hung parliament, the Conservatives would remain in power until it could be determined that they do not have the confidence of the House. During this time, and in the run up to the King’s Speech, Labour and the Conservatives will negotiate with smaller parties to try and form a coalition or a confidence and supply arrangement. Similar to 2010, the Liberal Democrats could hold the balance of power. This time however, a Labour/Lib Dem pact feels the more likely scenario. If no government can be formed, then Parliament will be dissolved, and a further General Election will be held.

The next six weeks

Does everything stop for the next six weeks during the campaign? Parliament will be dissolved tomorrow and all candidates will be pinned to their constituencies while leading politicians and those with safer majorities will focus on bringing campaign messages to target seats. Don’t expect all that much from local councillors, they will be out knocking on doors for their party’s candidate. Although decision making doesn’t stop, as ever, you can guarantee that local issues, such as controversial planning applications, will be discussed with constituents.

There is all to play for. Is there any way Rishi can pull the rabbit out of the hat and keep a majority? He will certainly point to interest rates expected to fall, deportation flights to Rwanda due to take off, and better news on inflation. He may also hope Keir Starmer crumbles under the scrutiny of a General Election campaign and be thankful Nigel Farage enjoys his spot on GB News too much to lead Reform UK, although the latter appears less than hopeful as Farage is taking time out from GB News to campaign for Reform UK. Labour on the other hand will be wanting to play it safe – why rock the boat now when they are so far ahead in the polls. Equally, they will repeat time and again, that the election is far from a done deal – they need a big swing, and they need their voters to turn out.

Whilst we can expect some surprises, what is certain is that no one can confidentially predict the make up of the House of Commons before the ballots have been counted. If anyone has told you otherwise, they are lying.