- By Chris Mason, Political Editor
- BBC News
In the whirlwind of political conjecture in the coming year, there is one fact as solid as a lump of coal at the bottom of your Christmas stocking.
The election campaign is due to begin in 2024 and it is likely that it will also end in 2024 with the elections themselves.
Indeed, the Prime Minister told journalists just before Christmas: “2024 will be an election year”.
First, let’s look at the reasons why the campaign legally must begin in 2024.
Tuesday 17 December 2024 marks the fifth anniversary of Parliament reconvening after the last general election. So, if Rishi Sunak has not gone to the palace to see the king and request the dissolution of Parliament by then, Parliament will automatically dissolve itself and launch a general election campaign. would officially begin just before Christmas.
So there was an extract of concrete facts.
Once we enter the new year, the gears of general election fever will turn a few notches. For some at least.
Most people miss what’s going on in Westminster most of the time, but there is still a slight risk of becoming a little tired of the E-word.
I’ve tried to ration the number of times I use the E-word in 2023, aware that people might say, “Oh, shut up until you can tell us when this is actually happening.”
The fact is that once January arrives, all parties will think, behave and prepare as if the election would take place in the spring, until they legally cannot take place.
Same in summer, same in fall, and yes, same in winter.
The timing will obsess Westminster to the point of boredom, with only a handful of people around the Prime Minister aware and/or influential in arriving at an answer.
This means that opposition parties, notably Labor, will have to work towards potential election dates that could turn out to be phantom – repeatedly until polling day is actually called.
This has practical consequences for the campaign: if you are Keir Starmer – or one of the other opposition leaders – what do you announce, say, in March, when the election could be in two or seven months ? Or more, or less?
For the Labor Party, in particular, we are still at the beginning of scrutiny; this will increase more and more with each passing week next year.
So far, at least, they haven’t seemed to work.
Over the past century, no party has won five consecutive legislative elections.
Sure, David Cameron needed a little help from the Liberal Democrats to get over the finish line in 2010, but the last four general elections have led to a Conservative prime minister.
Rishi Sunak tries to win a fifth on spin.
Perhaps not surprisingly, these restarts lead to diminishing returns.
The electorate tends to tire of parties that have been in power for a long time.
History suggests that it will be very difficult for the Conservatives to win again.
But then again, Conservatives are incredibly good at winning general elections, including those many suspect they will lose.
And Labor is very good at losing general elections, including those many suspect it will win.
In 18 of the 28 general elections since 1918, the Conservative Party has won the most seats.
Labor won the most seats on the other 10 occasions.
And Labor is heading into the next election from what is its worst starting point in almost a century.
With Jeremy Corbyn as leader, they received 10.3 million votes, or 32.1% of the total – a lower share than in 2017, but higher than in 2015 and 2010.
But it’s the seats that count and there must be many more of them.
So when it comes to the history books, something will have to give.
The Conservatives are looking to make history.
From their perspective, Labor is seeking to win from the wrong generational starting point.
The Lib Dems hope
Next comes the Scottish National Party, which has been the colossus of Scottish politics for the last three general elections in a row.
And in government at Holyrood since 2007.
The Liberal Democrats are in great shape and hope to reduce the support and seats of the Conservatives, mainly in the south of England.
Reform UK, and its honorary chairman Nigel Farage, also continue to scare the Conservatives with their poll numbers.
The Green Party loses its only MP Caroline Lucas, who is standing down – but hopes to be competitive in a few areas.
Then there is Plaid Cymru in Wales and all the parties vying for Northern Ireland seats.
And speaking of Northern Ireland, could a devolved government return to Stormont at the start of the new year, with – for the first time – a Sinn Féin Prime Minister? Let’s see.
So much for politics in 2024.
I think it will be noisy.
I will try to guide you through this.
And sorry in advance for the E word. There will be quite a few.
Gn En world