Right now, filed somewhere in a Civil Service cabinet in Whitehall, is a folder containing several envelopes, all detailing the different scenarios that could come from the General Election result. Although Interel has not yet been tasked with running the Government, it is worth going through what the different scenarios could be, and what their political consequences might be.
Scenario 1: Conservative majority of over 50
This result, and arguably only this result, would be considered a successful result for the Conservatives. It would also be the simplest result in terms of the status quo, and we will soon find ourselves back in the position we were before Theresa May decided to call a snap election.
The Brexit negotiations will begin 11 days after the result, and David Davis would be heading into these negotiations with a clear mandate. The challenge ahead will be significant, but with a healthy sized majority, the Government will likely be able to handle any negative fallout from the Brexit process.
A reshuffle is also likely. Rumours have circulated that Amber Rudd may replace Philip Hammond as Chancellor, whilst there is talk that Michael Fallon, Damian Green, and Ben Gummer are being lined up for promotions, with Chris Grayling, Sajid Javid and Andrea Leadsom possibly moving down or out.
Scenario 2: Conservative majority of between 1 and 50
After losing a twenty point head start in the polls, anything less than a fifty seat majority and Theresa May will find herself under a dark cloud. Talk of a leadership challenge will be likely, though one will probably not be imminent. It seems probable that this would take place before the next election, but after the Brexit negotiations, as having a new leader now would mean another adjustment period and cause the same mandate questions Theresa May faced when she took over from David Cameron.
A small majority will also mean many of the controversial policies in the manifesto will be ditched or watered down, such as plans to charge the cost of care to the value of people’s homes (dubbed the “dementia tax” by the opposition), a free vote on fox hunting, boundary changes, reintroducing selective schools and cutting free school lunches.
For Labour, this result would be bittersweet. It would be considerably better than what many anticipated back in April. It would, however, be a third General Election loss in a row. Jeremy Corbyn and his team would be determined to cling onto the leadership, arguing he is only two years into a five year project; moderates will no doubt be considering whether they can unite behind a candidate who actually stands a viable chance of winning.
Scenario 3: Hung Parliament, Conservatives the largest party
Recent forecasts have suggested this is not impossible. There would be a great deal of uncertainty in this scenario.
The Conservatives may reach out to their conservative allies in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionists, to try and form a small working majority or large enough minority to govern as a minority. However, the UUP are not forecast to win many seats, and it is hard to envisage the Conservatives forming a coalition with any other parties.
Labour would likely try and mobilise the other opposition parties, primarily the SNP, the Lib Dems and Plaid to form an alliance that could outnumber the Conservatives. A fully fledged coalition similar to 2010, though not impossible, is unlikely. There is stark difference between Labour and the SNP on the nationalists’ prime issue: independence. Meanwhile the Lib Dems have already said they will not serve in a coalition. Therefore, a supply and demand, anti-Conservative alliance would be more likely.
If neither party can form any kind of majority, it is likely that the Conservatives will rule as a minority government, seeking parliamentary majorities for individual votes. Opposition parties could, however, trigger a motion of no confidence at any time if they can outnumber the Conservatives, potentially forcing another election.
Scenario 4: Hung Parliament, Labour the largest party
Although a Labour coalition government would still be unlikely, it would possibly be simpler to form an alliance in the House of Commons with the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid, and the SDP.
There is more crossover between the parties on their manifestos in broad terms, primarily on easing austerity, retaining membership of the Single Market and tighter environmental regulation. There would likely be a period of protracted negotiations between the leadership of the parties to get broad agreement on bills before they go to the House. The first year of this Parliament would no doubt seek to pass legislation on areas of consensus, but they may well run out of steam on more divisive areas of legislation before we get to 2022.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives would hold a leadership election and seek to quickly set themselves up as a credible and coherent opposition, whilst defending their legacy from this new centre left alliance.
Scenario 5: Labour Majority
It seems nearly impossible that this scenario will happen. No polling company has found anything to suggest that this is a realistic outcome. For this to happen, all of the major polling companies and bookies would have had to overlooked critical data sources which indicate true public opinion. The Westminster bubble would have to be so far removed from genuine public opinion that the bubble itself would burst. Polling companies, the media, political campaigning, and the markets would all have to remodel or risk becoming irrelevant.
As we say though, this is highly unlikely. It is possibly worth thinking back to how suddenly the value of the pound fell to a record low after Sunderland voted to leave the EU by a much greater margin than expected. The result took the entire establishment by surprise and indicated that they had misjudged public opinion.