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UK elections a sure thing for Conservatives? Maybe not.

According to polls and the results of local elections, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative Party should win big and easily in the June 8 UK elections. As recent history has shown, however, polls don’t always get it right. Looking at crowd sentiment, the outcome may not be as positive for PM May as the polls might indicate.

Article by Ryan Shea, head of Research, Amareos

PM May surprised most people by calling for the June 8 election, saying, “The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.” Her concern is that such large and all-too-visible parliamentary divisions over Brexit hinder her government’s ability to get the best deal out of Brussels.

This all sounds very laudable — PM May putting the UK’s economic and financial interests before her personal political ambitions. However, the move is not entirely selfless, it is also sound politics. 

By calling an early election, the Conservatives are hoping to capitalize on the year-long spat between Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his parliamentary colleagues that has undermined public confidence in their party and its ability to govern.

According to polls conducted by research firm ICM, the Conservative Party has opened up the biggest lead on record suggesting it is on course for a sweeping win in a national election in a month’s time.

Other parties wanted the UK election, too – but why?

Despite their dire polling, the Labour party sided with the government to secure the two-thirds majority required to approve the June election. So why would they do that? Part of the reason is bravado: Foregoing the opportunity to allow voters to exercise their democratic right would be viewed as a sign of weakness.

The opposition parties could be gambling on the fact that the underlying reality may not be quite as comforting for Theresa May (and therefore not as dire for them) as the polls predict.

Taking a look at the latest reading of UK government anger sentiment – see exhibit below – there is a very strong reservoir of public discontent. Such discontent is often associated with negative economic conditions. However, the UK economy has been doing much better than many expected; although some negativity in public perceptions about UK growth crept in after Article 50 was triggered.

That said, it is not hard to fathom the source of this discontent –the unhappiness of the 48 percent who did not want the Brexit outcome May’s Conservative government has pledged to deliver.

Government anger sentiment – UK

Chart shows anger directed at the UK government from 2010 to 2016, with a rise in public outrage from 2014 to 2016.
Source: Amareos

In many ways this was (and almost irrespective of the outcome) an inevitable consequence of holding a referendum on such an emotive and profound issue – a deep chasm between those who backed leaving the EU and those who wished to stay.

Despite PM May’s words to the contrary in her press conference, this division shows little sign of narrowing in the country – Britain is far from a united nation on this topic.

As a result of such polarization, the snap general election will become, in effect, a second Brexit referendum vote, something many politicians and Remainers have been actively seeking.

Given the tensions within its party, and the lack of a clear stance in relation to Brexit, it is difficult to see how Labour will capitalize on the June 8 general election becoming a second Brexit referendum. It should, however, be a major positive for the Lib-Dems – a strongly pro EU political party that was nearly wiped out in parliament in the 2015 general election as voters backlashed against the compromises made during their stint as the minority coalition partner in the Cameron government.

Indeed, the response by Lib-Dem Leader Tim Farron, to the news of the snap election makes it clear that this is how his party intends to shape the narrative around the June 8 election: “If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance…. Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”

So, while their solid support in the polls suggests Conservatives will win big in June, the strongly negative tone of crowd sentiment towards the current government, which is largely attributable to Brexit fears, is a clear area of weakness for them – one that other political parties will exploit to the maximum.

If they succeed in turning the snap election into an implicit second Brexit referendum vote, it suggests the outcome may not be as favorable for the Conservative Party as they (and many others) seem to think given the opinion polls.

It will do also little to heal the deep divide within Westminster that Theresa May is aiming for if there are greater numbers of pro-EU Lib-Dems sitting as members of Parliament come June 9 as seems highly probable.

So enjoy the rally in GBP triggered by expectations of a landslide Conservative victory and a smoother Brexit path for now, but don’t expect it progress too far, especially as the crowd’s persistently bearish assessment of the currency has now been largely unwound – see exhibit below.

Crowd-sourced sentiment – GBP

Chart shows crowd sourced sentiment for the UK pound sterling against EERI GBP
Source: Amareos

All views are those of Amareos, not Thomson Reuters

Learn more

Available in near-real time, crowd-sourced sentiment indicators which are included in the Amareos app on the Thomson Reuters Eikon App Studio (see screenshots below), use automated processes to extract crowd sentiments from over one million articles published daily from up to 50,000 sources including mainstream press, blogs and social media.

Amareos Eikon App screenshots

Exhibit 1: Amareos Eikon App Screenshots
Country Heat Map – A cross-sectional graphical representation of the most recent crowd-sourced sentiment data, collated into six different categories and color coded accordingly.
Dashboard – A more detailed picture of crowd-sourced sentiment for a specific country or financial asset. It provides a broader range of sentiment data, even down to the level of an individual emotion, such as fear, and shows how sentiment has evolved over the past several years.
Layers – A graphic which displays a chosen crowd-sourced sentiment indicator across a pre-defined basket of countries/assets at two user-defined points in time.


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