Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Political suicide?

It's been my view since Theresa May became Prime Minister that an early general election is not likely for several reasons, the most important one being that I took her at her word when she said that it is not in the national interest to have one now and Britain needs some stability.

A second reason, to which most of the press have not paid enough attention, is that the PM no longer has the power to call a general election whenever she likes: the Fixed Term Parliament Act makes calling an early election much harder.

Under the FTPA to call an early election normally needs a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons. In the present House of Commons this means that both the Conservatives and Labour have to want one, which until this week seemed impossible.

An election can be triggered if the government loses a vote of confidence and no new government can be formed: in theory therefore a government with a small majority and strict party discipline could propose and pass a vote of no confidence in itself but refuse to allow anyone else to form a new government. This has been done once or twice in other countries - Helmut Kohl did something of the kind in Germany about a quarter of a century ago - but it looks dreadful and would almost certainly be controversial (as it was when Kohl did it.)  To say the least it would be a high-risk strategy.

So I am convinced that there will be no general election in 2016 and until this week thought it unlikely the next election would be before 2020 since any circumstance in which the Conservatives wanted an early election would require Labour MPs to act like turkeys voting for an early Christmas to make it happen.

But the prospect of turkeys voting for an early Christmas has just increased slightly ....

According to BBC Newsnight, if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as Labour leader, he says he will put the party on an election footing and instruct Labour MPs to support any motion calling an early election, possibly in Spring 2017.

Whether he would actually do so when the chips were down, and whether enough Labour MPs would obey the order, could be quite a different matter, of course!

Nevertheless this is what might be called a WTF moment.

As Toby Young put it on twitter, there are three possible reasons for Corbyn to support an early election:

1) He thinks Labour can win

2) He wants a smaller Parliamentary Labour party, or

3) "He's a bit dim."

Answers on a postcard ...


Jim said...

At the moment I think the only feasible result of a general election now would be to increase the conservative majority. So i cant see why any of the other partys would want one.

I have not asked anyone, but I also have not heard any one suggest it would be a good idea to have one now either.

I just cant see why a GE would be in the public interest.

Chris Whiteside said...

No, I can't see any good reason why it is in the interests of the country to have an early election at the moment.

That opinion might change if we hit a parliamentary deadlock on Brexit or on anything else, but let's not cross that bridge before we come to it.