Theresa May has called an early election. This took my surprise – this is true of most of the commentariat. Why is it that pundits got it wrong? They took the Prime Minister at her word. Mrs May repeatedly avowed that she would not call a snap election. She was part of the cabinet that in 2010 brought in the Fixed Terms Parliament Act. This piece of legislation sought to prevent Prime Ministers from calling elections at a time to suit their own party. By a two-thirds vote the House of Commons can permit a premature election.
Why is T May calling this early election despite her persistent insistence that she would not do so? The ostensible motive is that she needs a clear mandate to deliver Brexit. She says that the Lib Dems will vote against almost any version of Brexit as will the SNP. Labour might vote against it depending on the terms. In the House of Lords most peers will vote agin Brexit no matter what form it takes. None of this matters overmuch as she has a majority in the COmmons. She can invoke the Parliament Act to overcome opposition from the House of Peers. The Lords can only delay a law by up to a year. There will not be many Tory Remain rebels in the Commons. The Labour Brexiteers would make up for Conservative Remainers.
Mrs May’s reason for calling an election is not the putative one. The ulterior one for going early is that condition are very favourable to her party. She is at 44% in the opinion polls – her party is. Even the worst poll for the Tories gives them an 11% lead over Labour. This is too much ground for Labour to make up in 6 weeks.
It is a racing certainty that the Conservatives will win this election. It looks like a landslide such as the Conservatives have not enjoyed since 1983. That too was a time of high unemployement and cutbacks in defence spending. Thatcher romped home because Labour was led by a left wing extremist with a bad dress sense.
The Tories have seen that so good an opportunity might never come again. May would be mad not to call an election. Labour’s leader galvanises the far left but beyond that he has no appeal. He repulses floating voters. Not all his policies are bad. His plan to raise tax for the super rich and increase the minimum wage to 10 pounds an hour goes down well with most people. His talk of re nationalising the railways also plays well with Middle Britain. The Lib Dems are led by a political pygmy called Tim Farron. He is the invisble leader. Farron has no stage presence. Corbyn at least has a track record and public recognition. He is also an effectual orator. Farron lacks any leadership qualities.
If May left the election much longer then the opposition parties might chuck out their leaders and get themselves credible ones. The Tories were riding so high in the polls they could only come down. The economy is growing but might tank. There is little prospect of economic growth speeding up any time soon. Mid term blues would set in. May’s personal approval rating might tumble as Brexit negotiations stall.
Brexit is supposed to be finalised in March 2019. The EU would know it had the Tories over a barrel. That is because the EU could offer unreasonable terms and challenge the British Government to leave without any deal. This would be during the countdown to an election. By calling an election now the Conservatives can negotiate Brexit without time pressure. There will be ample time after Brexit to consider an election. The Tories can agree an unpopular deal and then have up to three years for the public to forget about it before facing an election.
One fascinating question is how the Conservatives will do in Scotland. They might gain a seat.
The SNP still rules the roost in Scotland. The SNP’s popularity has slipped only a little. The SNP holds 56/59 constituences at Westminster. Most of those are seats they took off Labour last time. Labour will probably only regain a handful and the Liberal Democrats might gain a couple two. The SNP is so stratospherically strong that it cannot get any stronger. It will decline but the question is by how much? Maybe only a tiny bit.
In Northern Ireland Sinn Fein might consolidate the gains they made at the Northern Ireland Assembly elections. The need for the DUP and UPP to merge is more urgent than ever. There is a needless duplication of resources. Do not expect any dramatic changes in Ulster.
May is hypocritical in calling this election. She is doing so to advantage her own party. She blocked a second referendum in North Britain. Why? She said because it would queer the pitch during Brexit negotiations. Yet her calling an election does not distract her from these negotiations?
The Conservatives have a bare majority. They will add at least another 20 seats to this.
The fewest seats Labour had in modern times was 209 in 1983. Labour will not go below that. The Liberal Democrats may claw back a few.
UKIP have no Members of Parliament and are unlikely to gain any. UKIP will probably go into terminal decline. AFter Brexit is completed the party will probably dissolve.
May is calling the election for partisan reasons. It is all about gain for her party.