Who will win the 2017 UK election?

7 June 2017

As the UK prepares to head to the polls for the general election, University of Sydney experts weigh in with their predictions for the Prime Minister and the country's future.

London parliament

When UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced a snap election in April, polling showed the ruling Conservative party was in for a comfortable win.

Now, less than two months later, the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour party has etched away at the Tories lead. With continuing questions over the UK's exit from the European Union, the election is becoming increasingly harder to call.

UK election result will have major consequences

“This is an election overshadowed by the tragedy of the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester," says Associate Professor Nick Rowley, a Lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations and a former adviser to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Yet, from appearing to be the easiest election to predict with a popular, new Prime Minister in Theresa May eager to seek a mandate, up against an Opposition woefully disunited behind an unpopular leader, it now appears it might be closer than thought.

“The implications of the result for Britain are as high, or possibly higher, than at any election. With the complex and fraught negotiations on the terms upon which Britain will leave the European Union having an impact on almost all areas of domestic economic, environmental and social policy, who wins, and how well they win, will have major consequences.”

From utterly unelectable to a slight chance for Corbyn

“The UK election started with Theresa May and the Conservatives looking to build a sizable majority, but ends with some opinion surveys suggesting a hung parliament after a run of back-flips and ill-judged campaign moments," says Dr Stewart Jackson, a Lecturer in the Department of Government and International Relations.

Clearly it would be a shock result for May to even come close to losing, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – once derided as utterly unelectable – has finally turned some of his critics around.
Dr Stewart Jackson

"Equally, the impact of the attacks in London and Manchester will be hard to predict, especially given May was a former Home Secretary prior to becoming Prime Minister," added Dr Jackson, whose specialisation includes party development and politics.

“Clearly it would be a shock result for May to even come close to losing, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – once derided as utterly unelectable – has finally turned some of his critics around, and moved the party to a far sounder electoral position than might otherwise have been expected.

“But if we think May is having a poor election, spare a thought for some of the other would-be parliamentary parties. The Liberal Democrats look like barely increasing their meagre seat numbers. UKIP faces a vote collapse post-Brexit. And the Scottish National Party are losing support rapidly, but must also be thankful the next Scottish parliamentary election is still four years away.”

Signs of UK and EU flags pointing in opposite directions

Business as usual for the EU

“Following Saturday night’s terrorist attacks in London, the politics of fear will certainly give Theresa May and the Conservative Party a boost," predicts Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter from the School of Languages and Cultures.

"Whether it will be enough to comfortably win Thursday’s election is another question."

"There has been a steady rise in support for the Labour Party and even their (until-recently) unpopular leader Jeremy Corbyn. With Labour once again a force to be reckoned with, and with May’s lacklustre performance and ongoing dissent over Brexit, the UK election may still be very close indeed," added Associate Professor Winter, an expert in European studies and politics.

"And the winners will have their work cut out for them in what has become, since the Brexit referendum, an increasingly divided Britain.

“Across the Channel, with Brexit now apparently a done deal, the work of regrouping in an EU-minus-Britain (and faced with a newly hostile US) is well under way. Following Macron’s election to the French presidency, a renewed Franco-German power axis is planning for a stronger Europe: economically, politically, environmentally, even militarily.

"Whatever the outcome of the UK election, in the EU, it will likely be business as usual—and then some.”

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