So I returned from lunch yesterday and, while waiting for my coffee, I quickly glanced at Newsthump. It seems appropriate, somehow, that I learned of Theresa May’s snap election from a satirical article.
I was surprised. Given the number of times that May has ruled out a snap election, along with her delusion that no Brexit deal would somehow be better than a bad deal, I was expecting her to go into the 2020 election having “delivered Brexit” and worry about the consequences once the Labour Party were gone and forgotten. So there is a possibility that it has finally sunk in that extricating the UK from the EU will be a lot more complex than the bonkers wing of the Tory Party keep claiming, and that having everything done and dusted by the middle of 2019 might not be as realistic as she had led herself to believe.
Of course, with the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, May can only have her snap election if two thirds of MPs vote for it. Will the Labour Party vote for its own demise. Of course it will. I have to admit, though, that I was surprised when only 9 Turkeys voted against Christmas (the other four belong to other parties).
Brexit is, of course, the big issue for this election as the New Statesman’s Helen Lewis notes:
On the steps of Downing Street, the prime minister said that her decision was driven by Labour and Lib Dem “threats” to vote against the final deal on Brexit.
… which also says a lot about May’s dislike of Parliamentary democracy. It’s the government’s job to convince Parliament to support, not demand that MPs blindly rubber-stamp every decision like some North Korean politburo.
On a related note, Tom McTague and Charlie Cooper in Politico observe that a larger majority would also enable May to push through a domestic agenda that is far more statist than many in her own party would like:
She has no manifesto of her own to deliver reforms such as an industrial strategy supporting struggling sectors, an increase in the number of selective schools, and tighter rules on big business governance.
An election that delivered a larger majority would make it less likely that a relatively small number of Conservative MPs could derail government policy, as occurred when the Chancellor Philip Hammond was forced to reverse tax increases on the self-employed in last month’s budget, to ward off a backbench revolt.
Although how much of a domestic agenda she can implement while Brexiting the economy to pieces remains to be seen.
And then there’s Scotland. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon has called the election a ‘huge miscalculation’ and framed it as an attempt to finally kill off Labour in England:
That means that this will be – more than ever before – an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.
Whatever the arguments in England, the election in Scotland will inevitably be about whether or not the SNP has a mandate to call a second independence referendum. As Alex Massie notes:
The case for independence itself remains unproven, of course, but that is a matter of secondary importance right now. Right now the argument is over whether or not there is a case for a second referendum. Until now, Unionists had on the whole the better of that argument, not least because a referendum inspired by Brexit could not sensibly take place until such time as the impact of Brexit is felt and understood.
Theresa May burnt that argument this morning. She did so as a Conservative, not as a Unionist. That is her choice, her prerogative. But it remains something she did not have to do.
I have a blog and an opinion which clearly qualifies (if not obliges me) to offer up my predictions. So here’s my take on what happens next.
The Tories will be returned to power with a three digit majority.
Labour will haemmorage seats across the country, but will still be the second largest party after June. Regardless of the size of the defeat, Corbyn will cling to the leadership of what remains of the Labour Party. Assuming there are enough moderates left in the party to prevent the McDonnell amendment from being inserted into the rules, Corbyn will refuse to resign and will probably lead them into another glorious defeat in 2022. If the far left do pass the amendment, then the Labour Party will cease to exist as a poilitcal organisation.
2015 was probably the high point for the SNP and they will probably lose a few seats, but will still send at least 50 MPs to Westminster. That said, I’m not sure who wll take seats off the SNP — maybe an unashamedly pro-Union, pro-Brexit Conservative Party will see a continued upswing in their fortunes.
The Lib Dems will do phenominally well in terms of votes and will increase their number of MPs. That said, for a party that currently has 9 MPs, doing well means double figures. The number of MPs the party gains will depend largely on how their share of the vote is distributed and I expect them to remain the the forth largest party in the Commons
In the aftermath, we will finally see what sort of Brexit Theresa May really wants. Scotland will see another independence campaign — and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone can blame the Scots if they do decide to leave the UK.
And, if I’m really optimistic, the fact of the Tories’ overwhelming majority will encourage the sane wing of the party to
grow a spine develop the same sort of rebellious streak that the anti-EU Tories have displayed for so long. And then maybe, just maybe, it may be possible for a combination of Moderate Tories, LibDems and the SNP to reign in the worst excesses of the Brexit Delusion.
We live in hope.