March 20, 2017

Prepare for a snap election

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.

4.50 avg. rating (89% score) - 8 votes
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Peter Bingle
Peter is the Founder of Terrapin Communications. With a career in politics and communications that has spanned almost four decades, he is one of the country's leading public affairs practitioners. His career has seen him advise many top companies, including McDonald’s, HSBC, L’Oreal, Permira, Motorola, Camelot, Rolls Royce & Kellogg's.
  • Jolly Radical

    . . . another 2 to 3 months delay, prevarication and yet more dilution of opportunities.

    The referendum was 9 months ago. We could have been out of the malarial swamp of the EU and trading on proper WTO terms by now . . . but the so-called ‘Conservatives’ have to add complication to everything they do . . . this is what happens when you have a gang of public sector office workers posing as a government.

  • Jonathan Munday

    A GE will take 3 weeks. As long as the Article 50 letter has been sent first there need be no additional delay. All the points Bingle makes are completely valid. May has missed a trick in not having the Peers defy her over Article 50 which would have been a much simpler GE to fight. Going in the midst of the confusion of Brexit in 2020 is a recipe for disaster.

  • John Smith

    I think shell wait till the EUSSR reject our deal

    then shell say we should just leave the EUSSR

  • John Smith

    Yes, she needs to be more radical
    Later this year would be good

  • Chris McLaughlin

    The electoral boundary mess will also play a factor. Many MPs would like an election before they are redrawn, placing the winners safely for another 5 years.

    In addition, Mrs May needs a much larger majority to drive Brexit and to clean out the House of Ancient Socialists, next door in the Red Leather and Ermine.

    Time for a Spring clean Peter…

  • Trojan

    Will the fixed term parliament act cause any problems?

  • Andy

    Yes. The blo*dy thing needs to be repealed.

  • PierrePendre

    If senior ministers are incompetent, the fault is May’s. She chose them less than a year ago and has been their colleague for years so knew their strengths and weaknesses when she named them. Perhaps their names are appearing elsewhere in the media but I haven’t seen them identified which is unusual since colleagues and journalists aren’t usually so careful of others’ feelings. They wouldn’t by any chance be female and protected by their sex and the feminist claque?

  • CheshireRed

    Sorry but disagree. First off I believe the PM can only get a dissolution by losing a vote of no confidence? Hardly an inspiring start!
    Brexit needs complete focus from now to 2019 and then during the first year outside the EU. The run-in to the 2020 GE is also keeping Sturgeon at bay (sorry Nicola, can’t do Brexit, a GE AND IndyRef2 so you’ll have to wait ’till 2022-3) plus boundary changes will favour the Tories. Oh, and Corbyn simply isn’t going anywhere until the GE either. May can change her cabinet any time she chooses, so that’s not a reason either. Deliver Brexit and revised boundaries plus inept Opposition will return a landslide. It’ll all-but lock-in a win in 2025 too.
    In short there’s ZERO need to go to the country early.

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