Johnson in the Lead as U.K. Election Campaign Enters Final Days

December 9, 2019by Robert Hutton and Greg Ritchie
England's Prime Minister Boris Johnson pins a poppy to his jacket after purchasing it from The Royal British Legion Downing Street on October 28, 2019, in London. (George Cracknell Wright/London News Pictures/Zuma Press/TNS)

LONDON — With four days until the U.K. goes to the polls in a general election that will determine its relationship with the European Union, polls suggest that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to win a majority — unless Brexit opponents can find a way to coordinate votes against him.

Polls in the Sunday newspapers all put Johnson’s Conservatives in the lead. There were some signs that Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition Labour Party was closing the gap, but not by enough yet to keep the Conservatives out of power.

“No one can rule out a surprise, especially after the surprise of 2017, but on the face of it, Johnson is headed for victory,” said Anthony Wells of polling firm YouGov. “There’s a spread in the polling, but it’s between polls that show Johnson getting a big majority, polls that show a medium majority and polls showing it’s touch-and-go for a majority.”

One possible catalyst for a Tory upset: If opponents of Brexit manage to persuade people to vote “tactically” for the candidate most likely to defeat the Conservatives. But that’s made more difficult because in tight races, it’s not always clear which party has the best chance of beating the Conservatives.

That’s far from being Labour’s only problem. Treasury spokesman John McDonnell acknowledged on the BBC that the emergence of a strain of anti-Semitism in the party under Corbyn’s leadership was hurting the party in the election. “I worry that this has had its effect,” he said.

Johnson strove to brush off issues about his Brexit deal, denying that products traveling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would need to undergo inspections. “There won’t be checks,” he told Sky News. “There’s no question of there being checks on goods.”

Johnson Sows Confusion Over Northern Irish Trade After Brexit

The prime minister’s campaign message of the final weekend was that he will curtail immigration. But the details of his “Australian-style points-based immigration system” suggest its workings will change little from the U.K.’s existing points-based system. Both involve offering a smooth pathway into the country to the highly skilled and the rich and a route to citizenship for those who have skills that are needed.

The new plan expands an existing third route for temporary unskilled workers, which is currently restricted because it’s easy for employers to get unskilled workers from the EU.

Labour meanwhile said it would introduce free care for all elderly people. This is an increasing problem in the U.K., but one that parties have struggled to solve as costs of looking after the aging population rise.

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©2019 Bloomberg News

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