Revoke Article 50 Petition shows that a General Election is not an option for the Conservative Party

An analysis of the Revoke Article 50 petition conducted by the Conservatives for a People’s Vote campaign reveals that over 20 Conservative MPs are likely to lose their seats in the event of an election.

***UPDATE: This article was based on an initial analysis conducted on March 25 that only included seats in which the petition received more than 9,000 signatures. Final analysis of the full data at 15.00 on March 26th revealed that twice as many seats are under threat. The petition had 5.725m signatures at that time, rising at 123 signatures per minute.***

The Revoke Article 50 Petition reached 5.5 million signatures yesterday, and it is still rising by 150 signatures per minute, easily breaking the records for the highest number of signatories on the parliament petition site.

Its size far exceeds any polling that has been undertaken since the 2016 referendum, and as it automatically breaks down the signatories into their constituencies in a convenient map, it provides the best indicator of how opinion among Remainers has not changed since 2016. The strength of its message, just to revoke Article 50 rather than holding a People’s Vote, reflects the strength of sentiment among the Remain-voting public.

As with any petition, the question is whether it will be taken seriously by politicians or just be ignored.

An MP’s duty is to act in the best interest of the country, but they will always weigh any decisions they make against other factors, most notably their instinct for self-preservation and keeping their party in power.

What matters therefore is whether this petition presents any electoral threat to MPs, especially in view of the possibility of a coming election.

Simply comparing the size of their own majority to the number of signatories doesn’t give a meaningful indicator of that threat. Most will not be Conservatives: Firstly, in most constituencies they won, the Conservatives did not get more than 50% of the vote and, secondly, Conservative voters are more likely to support leaving and so be less likely to want to Revoke.

All that needs to be done is to take the current majority, divide it by two, and then work out what that number is a share of the petitioners for that seat.

The challenge to that methodology is that it assumes all the switches vote ‘en bloc’ for the party that came second in their seat. However, that assumption is not too much of a stretch as any voter motivated enough to change would do so with a purpose (to remove their Conservative MP) and would be more inclined to vote for the candidate who is best placed to do that.

That said, it is possible to look at the data and calculate what proportion of those signing the petition would need to be 2017 Conservative voters who are prepared to switch their vote in order to Remain in the EU.

*note: the initial analysis only included Conservative seats which had received over 9000 signatures. The analysis of the whole MP base paints an even bleaker picture. (see excel sheet)

The full petition data is available for download as an Excel Spreadsheet below:

Realistically, there are at least 20 of these seats that must be considered to be at a real risk. Losing those would make a majority for the Conservatives out of reach at the next election, even if they picked up a few Brexit-leaning seats.

The data indicates that the MP most likely to lose his seat is Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park, as just 0.1% of the petition signatories in his seat need to be Conservative voters. For other Brexit-supporting MPs, such as Stephen Kerr, Theresa Villiers and Stuart Andrew, it is similarly difficult to see how they have any hope of retaining their seat.

We can also assume that MPs who have not ruled out a second Brexit vote, such as Amber Rudd and Justine Greening, are likely to be less at risk than an ERG member such as Dr Matthew Offord in Hendon.

A number of MPs who have been Remainers but continue to toe the government’s line, notably Mark Lancaster, Alex Chalk and Stephen Hammond, may also find that putting loyalty to Theresa May over loyalty to their own principles is a career-shortening move.

One MP has already taken the threat of the petition seriously. Mark Field announced on Radio 4 on Sunday that he would back Revoke on the strength of the petitioners.
(image from Parliament TV)

As we saw in 2017, nothing is certain and, when you get into an election campaign, anything can happen. However, this analysis suggests that rather than giving the Conservatives an unassailable lead in the next parliament, which some polls have suggested, Brexit is likely to hit their prospects. They could remain the largest party, but with no hope whatsoever of forming a government.


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