It didn’t take long for Labour’s leader to hit his stride in the election campaign. Unfortunately for him, it was downhill.

As Corbyn launched Labour’s campaign this morning, he pointedly refused to answer if he would hold a re-run referendum (assuming he wins this election – Telegraph). Thus did the Leader of the Opposition appear pusillanimous to die-hard Remainers while ensuring the wrath of the 17-million-plus who voted Leave.

All in a morning’s work for Corbyn.

UPDATE: According to the BBC (9:36AM), Labour is now ruling out a second referendum, despite Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John earlier refusing to do so. 

Labour’s weakness is bringing out calls for a “progressive coalition” (much like Nicola Sturgeon’s intervention yesterday) and anti-Brexit tactical voting. The latter has brought back Gina Miller, previously known for winning a Court case forcing Parliament to vote for triggering Article 50 (Telegraph).

Now, this isn’t the first time tactical voting has been a part of a British election. It was supposed to stop Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s (it didn’t) and John Major in the 1990s (its record was mixed – in 1992 it actually moved LibDems in Scotland to the Conservatives, adding to Major’s majority, while in 1997 it exacerbated a Tory wipeout).

Here’s why I don’t think an anti-Tory tactical drive will be as successful this time.

First, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have less support combined than the Conservatives. UK Polling Report shows the data in its right-hand column, and for the left, it’s brutal. Every poll since 14 March has the Conservatives with more support than the total of Labour + LibDem. That was never the case in the Thatcher-Major era.

Secondly, the right can vote tactically, too. UKIP’s vote, based on recent UKPR data, appears to have fallen since the election call yesterday, a clear sign that the pro-Brexit vote is consolidating behind the Conservatives. Given that the two right-of-center parties have had over 50% between them since 14 March, a polarizing campaign could help the Tories as much as hurt them.

Third, there’s the Scotland effect. As mentioned before, in 1992, the prospect of Labour in power bothered enough center-right voters in Scotland to return to the Tories (as such, Major actually won a higher Scottish share and more Scottish MPs in 1992 than Thatcher did in 1987). This time, the anti-Brexit tactical campaign will run into an open push by Scottish Conservatives for anti-independence tactical voting. Moreover, in England, May can rerun Cameron’s “vote Labour, get SNP” line, which certainly helped him pull votes off Labour.

Finally, anti-Brexit and progressive still translate to Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn. That will be enough for large numbers of British voters to steer clear of it. In addition, it’s likely that the Liberal Democrats (still trying to make the claim as the anti-Brexit party) will want to steer themselves clear of any affiliation with Corbyn (UPDATE: Labour’s confused position on Brexit itself – including major Labour figures refusing to rule out a second referendum while the party apparatus says it is ruled out, is likely to make Liberal Democrats even more skittish of anything remotely resembling a Labour link-up).

So, while the anti-Brexit tactical campaign is hardly a surprise, don’t expect it to succeed.

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  • The Jaded JD

    You’re right that the Liberal Democrats (which, perhaps confusingly for some of your readers, are neither “liberal” nor “Democrats” in the American sense) will reject any progressive alliance to formalize tactical voting. Their message is more likely to be, “Vote LibDem to increase the likelihood of a second coalition government, where we can rein in the worst of the Conservative excesses.” That’s admittedly a tepid and relatively uninspiring message, but as effective as any of the opposition parties’ (except the SNP’s, for its target voters) at attracting support because their goal would not be to keep Theresa May out of power (or put Jeremy Corbyn in it) but to limit the effect of an unfettered Conservative Party manifesto.