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Good day. Rishi Sunak has ruled out entering a coalition with the DUP. Similarly, I can rule out visiting the surface of Neptune.

I was the first person to start talking about hanging parliaments on local election night this year, because at 3am Thursday, that was what the results we were seeing suggested. But now that we have more data, I think I was wrong: and talking about who will end up in coalition with whom seems increasingly redundant.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and please send gossip, thoughts and comments to

A story told twice

Why did I say on the radio on election night and in this newsletter the next morning, the results suggested that the UK was headed for a parliament with no majority: with Labor in first position but no majority? Well, because that’s what a first look at the result suggested. For what it’s worth, here are my underlying assumptions about the upcoming election and what history suggests about the outcome.

1) Doubling down on the green vote from 2019, at the expense of Labour. Although Jeremy Corbyn was very unpopular in 2019, he was not unpopular with everyone. Corbinism had, and still has, an electoral constituency in the United Kingdom. The Green vote slipped back in 2017 after they posted their best ever performance in the 2015 general election. My guess is that a Keir Starmer-led Labor party will experience some slide towards the Greens as a result. Furthermore, the closest thing the Green Party has to a viable target seat in England is Bristol West, which is in Labor hands. I assume, therefore, that the national campaign of the Greens will be more critical of the Labor Party than in previous elections.

2) Increase the Labor vote from the 2023 local elections, at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. This is one of the oldest trends in British politics. Although there are significant ideological and philosophical differences between the two parties, most people who vote for these two parties will switch allegiance to the other when their preferred party has no chance of winning. While this trend benefits the Liberal Democrats in some seats, it benefits Labor in many more. This has been the consistent story throughout this parliament and I see no compelling reason to think that this will change. Recent elections mean the two parties are no longer competing for parliamentary seats in a major way, and Starmer and Ed Davey will mostly stay away from each other.

3) Increase the 2023 local election Conservative vote by five points, at Labour’s expense. The ruling party tends to recover in general elections, even in contests where they waited until the final moment to go to the country, as in 1997 and 2010, and even in 1979, where they lost control of the agenda. This is one of the most consistent findings in political science, and I suppose it will therefore hold up.

4) Assume that the Reformist party does not match your opinion poll rating — for the benefit of conservatives. Although I have met many people who hold reformist views, very few people have heard of Reform. I believe that the decision to change the name of Nigel Farage’s party is a catastrophic mistake for that party and its impact on the next election will be marginal at best.

Add them all together and you end up with an election that looks a lot like 1964 or 2010: the opposition party is clearly the biggest by far, but without a working-class majority.

But the more I look at the results, and the more I look at the old results on Andrew Teale’s invaluable local election archive project the more I think he was underestimating the degree of tactical voting between Labour, Lib Dems and Greens.

In Labor constituencies that won the Conservatives, the Libdems did as badly or worse than their absolute worst results during the coalition. In the neighborhoods where the Lib Dems won the Conservatives, the Labor Party did as badly or worse than its most disastrous performances in the waning days of New Labour.

What we’re seeing is best understood as “negative partisanship”: people forming their opinions around the party they don’t like, rather than the ones they do. Basically we have people pulling a Tory lever or an anti-Tory lever that comes in red, yellow or green depending on which part of the country you live in. That is the verdict of Rob Ford, one of the academics behind the UK general election exit poll, in your useful (and free!) substack. It’s the verdict of Stephen Fisher, one of the academics behind the projected national turnout in local elections.

And it is the verdict of the pollster Redfield and Wilton, in the latest edition of its magnified weekly newsletter:

We predicted “a tough night for the Tories” ahead of local elections across England. And indeed, the conservatives went on to lose more than 1,000 council seats, the worst-case scenario that members of the Conservative Party had relayed to the media beforehand in an attempt to manage expectations. Meanwhile, the Labor Party seized control of most councils across the UK for the first time in two decades.

However, the abundantly clear conclusion that should have been drawn from so devastating a defeat has been lost as a result. Instead, due to a highly publicized modeled extrapolation of local election results into a general election scenario, much of the Westminster bubble got involved last week with the possibility of a short-term parliament, which would likely make Labor will enter into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. to form a government.

Redfield & Wilton Note worth reading in full, but the short version is this: Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt rank below those of Starmer and Rachel Reeves, the government’s ratings in the policy areas voters consistently say will decide their vote (the economy, the immigration and the NHS) are consistently dire. And the local elections showed staggeringly high levels of (that word again) tactical voting, well in excess of what is required to achieve Labor victories in the right places.

I am aware that I am a record stuck on this part, so I will be brief. The biggest and most important story in politics right now is really a story of politics. Rishi Sunak inherited a party whose record of economic competition had been badly damaged by Liz Truss’s brief tenure. I met many people who were still angry with the Truss government as she traveled the country ahead of local elections. MPs from all parties have told me they heard the same thing.

To make matters worse, the UK is facing a series of external crises, we have had slow growth for a long time, public services are in a state and there is no prospect of Sunak delivering on his five promises to the public. .

That is not to say that the Conservatives cannot change things, or at least change them to the extent that Labor has to govern with the help of another party. But it is to say that on the morning after the local elections I thought that all they needed was the simple work of the usual trends and factors to get a hung parliament. Looking at both the election results in detail and the very challenging political background, I now believe that the Conservatives need something exceptional to happen to even achieve that.

now try this

Last night I attended a wonderful performance by the Philharmonia: two brilliant pieces by Sergei Prokofiev followed by a wonderful performance of Igor Stravinsky’s work The fire bird.

Stravinsky, in addition to his immense talent, lived a very long life: he was born in Czarist Russia, long before the Russian Revolution, and died in New York in 1971. He was still touring and performing at the same time as the Beatles. In fact, he survived them.

On the way home from the concert, I idly wondered on Twitter if Stravinsky had ever expressed any opinion about the Beatles. I was rewarded with a host of lovely answers, full of interesting bits and links. First of all, here, through Robert Groves, is a YouTube video of Stravinsky himself conducting the Philharmonia during a performance of the Firebirdon what was their last UK tour in 1965.

As I learned of this wonderful Gramophone piece from filmmaker Tony Palmer.During that tour, Stravinsky asked Palmer if she could help him set up a meeting with John Lennon. Palmer doesn’t know if the meeting took place, but Stravinsky certainly knew jazz musician Charlie Parker. The story of his brief meeting at the Birdland Jazz Club in New York is very encouraging and you can read about it here. As Parker said of Stravinsky: the cat knew what he was doing! and here it is a 1966 interview with the man himself in Commentary.


Stravinsky in Beverly Hills in March 1962 © AP

Another great composer who met a rising star whom he admired was Dmitri Shostakovich, who during his visit to the UK in 1975 enjoyment Jesus Christ Superstar so much so that he saw it twice.

Anyway, I’m going to listen the fire bird again. However you spend it, have a wonderful weekend.

Today’s best news

  • British expectations about the economy light up | UK consumer confidence increased for the fourth consecutive month in May at the highest level since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, according to a closely watched barometer.

  • UK £1bn semiconductor push | The UK government is offer chip companies up to £1bn over the next decade aimed at boosting Britain’s resilience in a sector that has suffered severe supply chain disruptions and faces the specter of worsening geopolitical tensions.

  • Will REUL bend even more? | After months of lobbying, Rishi Sunak changed plans to revise or remove all EU-era laws by the end of 2023. But after significant changes were passed to the EU Law retained bill ( REUL) in the House of Lords this week, there is still uncertainty about the final form of legislation and its impact on future investment and policy making.

  • water fault | The UK government has told water companies to put “consumers before profits” after the industry admitted that homes it will be asked to foot the bill for a £10bn investment program to reduce wastewater discharges.

  • Wallace: ‘Conflict is coming’ | Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has warned of the threat of broader global conflict by the end of the decade as he called for a firm timetable for increasing UK military spending to 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product.

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