Peter Bingle asks whether the concatenation of recent issues has helped manufacture the perfect rationale for the Prime Minister to call an early election?
We live in a time when all the old certainties in politics have been turned on their head. The momentous events of last week are testament to that.
The PM and her closest aides have been adamant for many months that there will not be an early election. The PM is determined to stay the course and go to the country in 2020. Perhaps the growing early election speculation is therefore nothing more than idle chatter among the residents of the Westminster village. Or perhaps a concatenation of issues has created the perfect rationale for the PM to go early…
I always suspected that the reality of the government’s small majority and the fickle nature of Tory MPs would in the end persuade the PM to go early. The Great Repeal Bill is the perfect vehicle to create a ‘constitutional crisis’ which would force a reluctant PM to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament. For what it’s worth, I do not believe that a majority of MPs – let alone Peers – will vote to repeal the 1972 European Communities Act. That will cause the PM a massive problem.
More recently, other issues have come into play which strengthen the intellectual as well as the political argument for an early election:
The first concerns the Scottish First Minister’s call for a second independence referendum. Number 10 will have been stung by Nicola Sturgeon’s jibe that unlike the PM she has a mandate. What better response than to win a large overall majority in a general election and win in the process seats off the SNP in Scotland?
The second concerns the PM’s Cabinet: several senior ministers are not performing. Too many needless mistakes are being made. The PM needs a more able government much more in her image.
The third concerns the government’s policy agenda. Theresa May is a very different Tory to Dave & George. The 2015 manifesto is no longer the policy agenda the PM wishes to pursue. Grammar schools are just one example. The PM needs a policy agenda that encompasses and justifies her much more state interventionist form of Toryism.
The fourth concerns the nagging issue of general election expenses and the embarrassing fact that many MPs representing marginal seats are being interviewed by the police. This has the potential to go toxic for the PM and her Party Chairman. Far better to draw a line and have an early election.
Lastly, the PM won’t need to deal with the difficult issue of boundary changes. She will win a huge majority on the current boundaries and then have five years to reduce the number of MPs in the next Parliament.
There will be some, including many Tories, who will caution the PM against going early. They will point to the hapless Jeremy Corbyn and say that the longer things go on the worse it will get for him. May be but the government has just endured a terrible week and there will be many more in the months ahead. This is not currently the most competent of governments. Another very strong reason to go early and secure a massive majority.
A stunning election victory will also strengthen the PM’s Brexit negotiating position with the EU…
So will she go, or won’t she? I suspect that realpolitik will settle the matter. The irony is that the Labour Party has no choice but to agree to any request for an early election.