AHC: 1997 Election-Conservatives Finish Third In Voteshare

Preface: For chunks of 1993 and 1994, the Conservatives did fall to third in the polls, behind the Liberal Democrats. While it would be unlikely that the Conservatives would fall to third in terms of seats, a situation where they collapse down to a level where they are overtaken at around 25% of the vote is...less implausible.

Challenge: With a POD after Major's win in 1992, have the Conservatives finish third in the election by voteshare. Or more directly, just how much more badly can 1997 go for the Tories than it actually did......
 
Either having the Currie affair come out just before polling day or a bigger vote split caused by Tories defecting to the Referendum Party could push Tory numbers down to 120 seats but would be v hard to get them third in voteshare.
 
It's always hard to discern what, if any, impact debates have on elections but if Blair had agreed to one in 1997, then it arguably would have helped to presidentialise the debate. This would be a boon for Ashdown in allowing him unheard of national exposure whilst arguably legitimising the Lib Dems as a serious alternative. These were two things that arguably worked for Clegg in 2010 but as mentioned it's hard to gauge to what extent a good Ashdown performance would really matter. However, debates have the potential to be disastrous by potential pitfall for Major. Major's favourability in 1997 was bad but not terrible, it was roughly around the same level as Thatcher in 1987 and Blair in 2005, two elections were those pople won big majorities. If the Currie affair is leaked shortly beforehand, Major is no longer going to be more popular than his party, as the Tories are going to have their national face be associated with yet another affair story. All the old muck about the previous fiascos and 'Back To Basics' could get dug up once more as an image emerges not of a decent guy in charge of a rabble of misfits but a party that's become full of sleaze from top to bottom.
 
The Tories aren't going to fall into third in seats or come closer to that but, given the level of tactical voting at that election, I think it's probably easier to degrade the Tory seat to an embarrassing level than produce some artificial popular vote equivalence. I just don't see the Lib Dems catapulting forward in the vote, not with Blair leading Labour.
 
Sometimes, but not always, it seems like a fall out of major party status can be a blessing in disguise for parties. The Liberals recovered well from it in 2011, and Stephen Harper probably never quickly gains influence in the new Conservative party without the complete power vacuum created by the PCs getting eviscerated in 1993. I wonder if the Tories would have responded better to New Labour if they had been beat worse and forced to really make major changes.
 
Sometimes, but not always, it seems like a fall out of major party status can be a blessing in disguise for parties.
Whilst coming third in the popular vote would be a disaster for the Tories, it wouldn't equate to them ceasing to be a major party. There are only so many more seats the Tories can lose on top of the 1997 wipeout and in all likelihood whoever replaces John Major as Tory leader will still become Leader of the Opposition despite a (even more) reduced party.
 
You could have a more serious breakaway from one wing of the party leading to a successful vote of no confidence around 1994 when Blair was really at his height, and the subsequent split in the vote helps the Lib Dems to leapfrog the Tories. Maybe a strong Referendum Party, or a load of the centrist wing packing their bags and heading over to Labour, or better yet, the Lib Dems. Problem is I'm not sure how you would get that to happen. I don't think the mere fact that Clarke or Heseltine is PM would do it for the right of the party, and I'm not sure how realistic someone like Redwood becoming Tory leader is.

Alternatively, you could have a car full of Tories from marginal constituencies drive off a cliff or something. Unlikely, but not ASB. By elections take place (helping the LDs to build momentum), followed by a vote of no confidence in the government, and a crushing victory for New Labour where they get around 50% of the vote, and the Lib Dems just edge out the Tories, with both parties being on around 22%.
 
Whilst coming third in the popular vote would be a disaster for the Tories, it wouldn't equate to them ceasing to be a major party. There are only so many more seats the Tories can lose on top of the 1997 wipeout and in all likelihood whoever replaces John Major as Tory leader will still become Leader of the Opposition despite a (even more) reduced party.
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Putting the numbers into Electoral Calculus, it's rather interesting to see that to overtake the Tories, the Lib Dems didn't even need to win more votes than them, provided Labour did well enough in other constituencies. On a result as lopsided as this, which is more or less in line with what the polls were showing at one point in the parliament, tactical voting would be enough to see Ashdown become leader of the opposition.
 
Sometimes, but not always, it seems like a fall out of major party status can be a blessing in disguise for parties. The Liberals recovered well from it in 2011, and Stephen Harper probably never quickly gains influence in the new Conservative party without the complete power vacuum created by the PCs getting eviscerated in 1993. I wonder if the Tories would have responded better to New Labour if they had been beat worse and forced to really make major changes.
We are not Canada. The Tories were neither going to fall into third place, nor would they have easily sprang back if they had somehow contrived to do so. As it was, it took them a decade, and Labour massively discrediting themselves and loosening its own voting coalition, for them to even vaguely have a shot at government.
 
We are not Canada. The Tories were neither going to fall into third place, nor would they have easily sprang back if they had somehow contrived to do so. As it was, it took them a decade, and Labour massively discrediting themselves and loosening its own voting coalition, for them to even vaguely have a shot at government.
Well, my point was if (per the OP question) it happened, perhaps you'd see a vastly different leadership structure in the Conservative party, and just looked at Canadian politics as an example of the shakeup that happens when all your older party leaders get discredited/actually lose their seats. If that happened to the Tories in 1997, you'd have an interesting power vacuum.
 
Well, my point was if (per the OP question) it happened, perhaps you'd see a vastly different leadership structure in the Conservative party, and just looked at Canadian politics as an example of the shakeup that happens when all your older party leaders get discredited/actually lose their seats. If that happened to the Tories in 1997, you'd have an interesting power vacuum.
The OP was asking about the Tories coming third in vote share, not seats. (I don't think Electoral Calculus is accurate on this one - for one, even with the strong tactical voting of 1997, I don't see the Lib Dems getting twenty or twenty-five more seats than Kennedy and Clegg managed at their peak on the same share of the vote) And the Tories were partially decapitated IOTL. Portillo went, and a possible fallback leader beyond him, Rifkind, did too. Unless you're assuming that the Tories are beaten so ludicrously badly that Hague's 20% majority goes and they disappear as a party, most likely things would just play out as in OTL on a worse defeat. (I guess if Ken goes down to defeat in Rushcliffe, it's technically possible a less objectionable One Nation figure might emerge, like Sir George Young - but as they wouldn't have Ken's disadvantages, they wouldn't have his advantages either)
 
Sometimes, but not always, it seems like a fall out of major party status can be a blessing in disguise for parties. The Liberals recovered well from it in 2011, and Stephen Harper probably never quickly gains influence in the new Conservative party without the complete power vacuum created by the PCs getting eviscerated in 1993. I wonder if the Tories would have responded better to New Labour if they had been beat worse and forced to really make major changes.
It should be remembered that from 2000 onwards the Conservatives won at both local and European elections and continued to do so until after they formed a national government, by 2003 they were the biggest party in local government.

They never had a chance to recover at general election level until the Labour government had been discredited both economically and at leadership level.
 
The OP was asking about the Tories coming third in vote share, not seats. (I don't think Electoral Calculus is accurate on this one - for one, even with the strong tactical voting of 1997, I don't see the Lib Dems getting twenty or twenty-five more seats than Kennedy and Clegg managed at their peak on the same share of the vote) And the Tories were partially decapitated IOTL.
I don't think you should ever read too much into vote tallies under FPTP, especially for the Lib Dems. The more important thing for the purpose of seat totals is the swing in marginal constituencies, and the Lib Dems have always had more of those with the Tories than with Labour. So it's the swing between them and the Conservatives that really matters. Once you realise that, the lack of gains in 2005, and the loss of five seats in 2005, make a lot more sense, because the Tories were on the up at those elections too. The flip side of that is at an election where the Tories collapse, they will pick up far more seats even if their vote share doesn't change or actually goes down (as in 1997). So I think Electoral Calculus is fairly plausible here when you consider that we are looking at a 7% swing to the LDs in most of their target seats.
 
I don't think you should ever read too much into vote tallies under FPTP, especially for the Lib Dems. The more important thing for the purpose of seat totals is the swing in marginal constituencies, and the Lib Dems have always had more of those with the Tories than with Labour. So it's the swing between them and the Conservatives that really matters. Once you realise that, the lack of gains in 2005, and the loss of five seats in 2005, make a lot more sense, because the Tories were on the up at those elections too. The flip side of that is at an election where the Tories collapse, they will pick up far more seats even if their vote share doesn't change or actually goes down (as in 1997). So I think Electoral Calculus is fairly plausible here when you consider that we are looking at a 7% swing to the LDs in most of their target seats.
Not putting too much store in the vote tally is precisely the point, no? The problem is distribution. The Lib Dem vote is ineffectively distributed and relies on the whims of marginal voters, as the big seat change between 1992 and 1997 without an accompanying vote shift demonstrates. I guess it's possible tactical voting compensates completely for this vis a vis the Tories and their vote becomes about as equally well-distributed, but I don't think so. EC is relying on a uniform swing, so you're looking at an exact replication of that 7% swing (or more) *over the baseline OTL results* in all those net gains to make that result workable. Possible, but given constituencies don't perform in a uniform way, unlikely. After a certain point, it becomes a resource question.
 
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