Back Change UK For A Wipeout In The European Elections

Back Change UK For A Wipeout In The European Elections

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Three months ago, they were the biggest story in Westminster. A group of high-profile defectors from Labour and the Conservatives, standing for moderation, centrism and cross-party collaboration in an era of unprecedented division. Finally Change UK, or the party formerly known as The Independent Group or TIG, will face their first electoral test at the Euros.

Expectations are falling fast and accordingly, the betting odds with the best political betting sites aren't exactly positive either. On the morning that seven Labour MPs defected, parallels were widely drawn with the 1980s and the SDP - a breakaway of four Labour defectors which soon morphed into an alliance with the Liberals, specialising in by-election upsets and regularly polling beyond 20%.

Such hype now seems laughably optimistic and from 2/1 on Friday, Ladbrokes have cut the odds on them earning 5% to 11/10 and offer Evens they win no seats at all.

Poor strategy destroyed early optimism

There are numerous reasons for their failure to date, much of which is self-inflicted. They only recently decided on a name and even that simple process was problematic. They failed to register in time for the local elections - the perfect setting for any new or protest party. They haven’t even got a candidate for next month’s Peterborough By-Election.

Any small party faces an uphill struggle being noticed or heard. Support from celebrities outside politics could have achieved that and there were early rumours of J.K. Rowling taking a role.

Nothing materialised so instead, they CUK became merely synonymous with Remainer rebels whose support for Labour or the Tories was no longer tenable. The fact none called a by-election - which any of them would struggle to win - handed opponents an easy target.

So does a lack of policies beyond Brexit. It has become easy for opponents as self-important opportunists, obsessed with Brexit and offering no answers to wider problems. The Left called them Tory-lite while the Right dismissed them as anti-democratic ‘Remoaners’. The likes of Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry became hate figures to many Labour and Tory voters.

Missing the locals handed momentum to rivals

Then by missing the locals, they lost another chance to cut through, put some arguments forward, and give voters the chance to consider forming a new habit. Instead, they ceded that ground to rivals. The big winners from the locals were the Lib Dems, Greens and the spoilt ballot party.

That mistake will particularly, in my view, be ruinous. Both sets of elections are perfect for a Remainer backlash. With Labour sitting on the fence, one must expect parties with a clear anti-Brexit stance to thrive. The five parties committed to a second referendum - Lib Dems, Greens, CUK, PC and SNP - are already taking around a third of all votes.

This segment of the electorate is highly motivated and engaged. They voted tactically in the 2017 general election on an unprecedented scale and the locals were a dry run. Led by campaigners such as Gina Miller, they will largely vote for the highest placed Remain party in their region.

Whereas that could have been problematic - there was little to choose between Lib Dems, Greens and CUK in the polls until very recently - it is clear from recent surveys that the first-named are pulling away. The Lib Dems are now consistently recording double-digits and are up to 14% with Comres. From a consistent 8%, CUK are down below 4% in two weekend polls.

Lib Dems poised to dominate the Remainer vote

Plus, the Lib Dems are winning the PR war. Using the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ slogan was a rare masterstroke and the fact some complained made it even more so. The challenge for all politicians is to grab the attention of largely disengaged voters. Any talking point helps if it earns the party just a few extra minutes of coverage.

This all means that there is some decent odds on offer about the Lib Dems in the political betting markets.

I strongly fancy the Lib Dems to thrive in these elections. Finishing third ahead of the Tories is realistic and 11/10 with William Hill about them winning more than seven seats is an absolute steal.

Green support is also rising across England while the Scots and Welsh have their own Remainer option via the nationalists.

That leaves very little room for CUK to be heard and no reason for voters to back them. For those genuinely interested in a new centrist party, there will be future opportunities but, right now for these Euro elections, their presence is a handicap to their own cause.

Despite the shortening odds, both negative bets with Ladbrokes are recommended. 5% is plausible but I would make it odds against. As for winning a seat, even this proportional electoral system will be hard to crack. In order to win one - London or the South East are their best chances - they would need to finish ahead of the Greens, whose base is far more solid.

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