What if Remain Had Won...?

What if Remain Had Won...?

By David Runciman and Catherine Carr

This week Helen and David explore some counterfactuals: What if Remain had won in 2016? What if Corbyn hadn't got on the leadership ballot in 2015? What if Scotland had voted for independence in 2014? We consider whether British politics would be very different or whether a lot of what we are seeing in 2019 was coming anyway. Plus we explore if there are any circumstances in which the stranglehold of the two main parties could be broken in a general election and why the Lib Dems have so spectacularly failed to break it this time.

Talking Points: 

What would have happened if Remain won the referendum?

Cameron would have remained prime minister.UKIP probably wouldn’t have collapsed. Johnson would still have been in a good position to become prime minister.

What if Corbyn hadn’t been on the ballot for Labour leadership?

The membership supports him, but he almost didn’t make the ballot. The next leader probably would have been Andy Burnham.Burnham would have fought the referendum with more enthusiasm, but the problems in the base would have remained the same.Corbyn expanded the membership by being on the ballot; he didn’t rebuild the old Labour coalition.

What if Scotland had voted for independence?

This would have been a disaster for Cameron: he’s a unionist to the core. Negotiations would have been extremely complicated, especially over the currency question.Scottish independence would have posed an existential question for the Labour party.

Can a third party break through?

It looked like the Lib Dems might do it, but the two main parties have pulled away. Is this a structural problem, or a contingency problem?First Past the Post forces voters to make hard choices, often between two unpalatable options.The revoke position is tricky, even if the donors like it. There’s no real way to reach hard core remainers in this electoral system.The Remain vote is more geographically concentrated. There are also voters who prefer remain but respect the referendum result.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Ken Clarke talking about First Past the Post

Further Learning: 

David’s review of Cameron’s memoirs for the LRBWho is Jo Swinson? 

And as ever, recommended reading curated by our friends at the LRB can be found here: lrb.co.uk/talking

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